Arizona’s Laws for Bicycle Accident Cases
Learn About Your Legal Rights After a Bicycle Accident in Arizona
In Arizona, bicycle riders are entitled to share the road with motor vehicles. Drivers must respect bicycle riders’ right to share the road, and they must avoid putting cyclists in harm’s way. Learn more about bicycle accident cases in Arizona.
Unfortunately, the data show that accidents involving cyclists and motor vehicles are common. According to the Arizona Department of Transportation (AZDOT), around 1,000 bicycle riders are injured in accidents annually. Additionally, each year dozens of bicycle riders also lose their lives in accidents that could—and should—have been avoided.
Along with motor vehicle accidents, bicycle riders can suffer serious or fatal injuries in various other scenarios as well. Dangerous bike paths, unsafe recreational facilities like skateparks and BMX parks, and bicycle equipment defects can all present hidden risks for riders.
Injured Bicycle Riders and Their Families Can (and Should) Seek Just Compensation
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured while riding a bicycle in any scenario, it is important to understand your legal rights. Arizona has several laws that are designed to protect cyclists, and riders and their families will be entitled to financial compensation in many cases.
With this in mind, here is an overview of Arizona’s laws that apply to bicycle accidents:
4 Types of Bicycle Accident Claims in Arizona
After a bicycle accident, one of the first steps toward asserting your (or your family’s) legal rights is to determine why the accident happened. Once you know why the accident happened, then you can determine who (or what company) is responsible.
In Arizona, bicycle accident victims and their families have four primary options when it comes to seeking just compensation. The four main grounds for filing a bicycle accident claim in Arizona are:
- Negligence Per Se
- Premises Liability
- Products Liability
Most bicycle accident cases—and most accident cases in general—are governed by the law of negligence.
Under Arizona law, all drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians owe a duty of care when using the state’s public roadways, bike paths, sidewalks, and trails. This duty of care requires them to act as a reasonably prudent person would act under similar circumstances. If someone breaches this duty of care—and if their breach results in a bicycle accident—they can be held liable for negligence.
There are four “elements” to a negligence claim under Arizona law:
- Duty – Drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians all owe various duties of care. Examples include the duties to: obey the speed limit, observe stop lights and stop signs, observe pedestrian traffic signals, comply with crosswalk laws, always drive sober, and never drive while distracted.
- Breach – A breach occurs whenever a driver, cyclist, or pedestrian violations a duty owed under Arizona law. Speeding, running red lights and stop signs, and driving while drunk or distracted are just a few examples of breaches that can justify claims for negligence following bicycle accidents.
- Causation – The third element of a negligence claim is causation. In order to justify a claim for damages, a breach must cause (or at least contribute to causing) a bicycle accident. If there is no “causal relationship” between someone’s breach and someone else’s injury, then a claim for negligence is unjustified.
- Harm – Finally, to justify a claim for negligence, a bicycle accident must result in harm. Let’s say a pedestrian cuts you off in a crosswalk and you have an extremely minor collision. Even though you may have technically been in an accident, if you and your bike are okay, the lack of harm means that you don’t have a claim.
An Example of Driver Negligence Resulting in a Bicycle Accident
To illustrate how Arizona’s negligence law works in bicycle accident cases, let’s look at an all-too-common scenario:
A cyclist is riding on the right side of the road (as required under Section 28-815 of the Arizona Revised Statutes in most circumstances). A distracted driver approaching from the rear doesn’t see the cyclist, and the driver hits the cyclist’s back tire. The cyclist suffers serious injuries in the accident.
In this scenario, the cyclist would have a strong claim for negligence. The cyclist was complying with the law, and the accident happened due to circumstances completely beyond the cyclist’s control. The distracted driver should have avoided the accident, and his or her failure to do so establishes a claim for civil liability.
An Example of Pedestrian Negligence Resulting in a Bicycle Accident
Pedestrians can cause bicycle accidents, too. One of the most common scenarios involves a pedestrian entering a crosswalk without the right of way. Frequently, pedestrians will look for cars but won’t think to look for cyclists. If a pedestrian stepped out in front of you and you weren’t able to swerve or stop in time to avoid an accident, the pedestrian could be liable for any injuries you suffer in a collision or fall.
An Example of Cyclist Negligence Resulting in a Bicycle Accident
In some cases, injured bicycle riders can also have negligence claims against other cyclists. For example, let’s say you are on a group ride, and you approach an intersection at speed. You squeeze your brake lever, but the rider behind you doesn’t. If this rider hit you because he or she was planning to fly through the intersection without stopping, you could have a negligence claim against the rider.
Companies and Government Entities Can Be Liable for Negligence, Too
While we have focused our discussion on drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists so far, it is important to know that companies and government entities can also be liable for negligence in Arizona. Companies and government entities can (and frequently do) engage in many forms of negligence, and they can be held accountable under Arizona law. Some examples of potential claims against companies and government entities in bicycle accident cases include:
- Hiring unqualified, unlicensed, or inexperienced drivers
- Forcing employees to spend too many hours driving
- Improperly designing roads, intersections, or crosswalks
- Failing to install road signs or traffic signals
- Failing to adequately maintain roads, bike paths, sidewalks, and trails
2. Negligence Per Se
The second type of claim in bicycle accident cases is a claim based on negligence per se. As explained by the Arizona Court of Appeals:
“A person who violates a statute enacted for the protection and safety of the public is guilty of negligence per se.”
What this means is that if someone (i.e., a driver) violates a law that is intended to promote public safety (i.e., the law against speeding), the violation is itself evidence of negligence. There is no question as to whether the violation constitutes a breach of duty. If someone violates a law intended to promote public safety and their violation causes an injury, they can—and should—be held liable under Arizona law.
By their nature, many bicycle accident cases involve negligence per se. Violations of Arizona’s traffic laws will typically justify claims based on negligence per se, as will violations of Arizona’s law on overtaking bicycles. Under Section 28-735 of the Arizona Revised Statutes, when passing cyclists, drivers have a legal obligation to “exercise due care by leaving a safe distance between the motor vehicle and the bicycle of not less than three feet until the motor vehicle is safely past the overtaken bicycle.”
What is the significance of negligence per se (as opposed to having a claim for “ordinary” negligence)? The short answer is that it removes one of the barriers to filing a successful claim. If you have a claim based on negligence per se, there is an even greater chance that you will be able to recover just compensation.
3. Premises Liability
In some cases, injured bicycle riders and their families will also have claims based on premises liability. As a general rule, property owners and tenants in Arizona have a legal duty to protect visitors from injuries caused by dangerous conditions on their property. This includes public parks, private skateparks and BMX parks, private neighborhood streets, driveways, and other public and private premises.
Under Arizona’s premises liability laws, different requirements apply in different scenarios. There are three main rules:
- Business Owners’ Duty to Customers – Business owners have a legal duty to warn customers of dangerous conditions on their premises.
- Private Property Owners’ Duty to Guests – Homeowners and other private property owners have a legal duty to warn their guests of any non-obvious dangers of which they are aware.
- Private Property Owners’ Duty to Trespassers – Homeowners and other private property owners have a legal duty not to deliberately harm trespassers. They must also prevent children from accessing “attractive nuisances” on their property.
But, while these are the general rules, there is an important exception that can apply in some bicycle accident cases. This exception exists under Arizona’s “recreational use” law. Under Section 33-1551 of the Arizona Revised Statutes:
“A public or private owner . . . is not liable to a recreational user . . . except on a showing that the owner, . . . was guilty of wilful, malicious or grossly negligent conduct that was a direct cause of the injury to the recreational user . . . . A recreational user or educational user accepts the risks created by the user’s activities and shall exercise reasonable care in those activities.”
The law also states that landowners are not liable for “unknown conditions” on their land in recreational use cases. Importantly, however, Arizona’s recreational use law does not apply when the property owner charges an admission fee, such as at a private skatepark or BMX park.
4. Products Liability
The fourth type of claim injured cyclists and their families may be able to file is a claim based on products liability. Under Arizona law, bicycle manufacturers, helmet manufacturers, and other companies are obligated to sell products that are reasonably safe for their intended use. When they sell products that are not reasonably safe for their intended use, they can be held liable without proof of negligence.
Products liability claims come into play when bicycle accidents result from (or when riders’ injuries result from) product defects. This includes defective:
- Bicycle frames and wheels
- Pedals, groupsets, and other components
- Bicycle helmets
It also includes defective vehicles, defective traffic signals, and other defective products. If you or a loved one suffered injuries in a bicycle accident caused by any defective product, you will want to speak with a lawyer about filing a claim against the manufacturer.
FAQs: Understanding Your Legal Rights After a Bicycle Accident in Arizona
What If You Were Riding Your Bicycle on a Sidewalk or Crosswalk?
While cyclists must follow the rules of the road when riding on streets and highways, they are also allowed to ride on sidewalks and in crosswalks under Arizona law (although local regulations may restrict sidewalk riding). When riding on sidewalks and crosswalks, cyclists have the same rights as pedestrians. This means that if you got hit by a negligent driver while riding in a crosswalk, you may be entitled to financial compensation.
Can Parents File Claims When Their Children Get Injured in Bicycle Accidents?
Yes, parents can file claims when their children get injured in bicycle accidents in many cases. Not only are children entitled to the same protections as older riders, but in some cases they are entitled to additional protections as well. If your child was injured in a bicycle accident, you should consult with a lawyer about your family’s legal rights promptly.
Can You File a Bicycle Accident Claim Against the State or City?
Injured bicycle riders and their families can file claims against state and local government authorities in some cases. If you believe that an issue with the road or a public trail or bike path is to blame for your (or your loved one’s) bicycle accident, you will want to consult with a lawyer in this scenario as well.
Discuss Your Legal Rights with a Phoenix Bicycle Accident Lawyer for Free
If you need to know more about the laws that govern bicycle accident cases in Arizona, we encourage you to contact us promptly. For a free, no-obligation consultation, call 480-634-7480 or tell us how we can help online today.