Who is Liable for a Bicycle Accident in AZ?
How Can I Recover My Losses if I was Injured in a Bicycle Accident in Arizona?
“I was injured in a bicycle accident. I was riding on the right side of the road, just to the side of the outer lane line. I was going around a bend at about 18 miles per hour when I got hit from behind. A work van took the bend too sharp and hit me on the inside, sending me flying off of my bike. Apparently the driver stopped and called 911, but all I can vaguely remember is riding to the ambulance in the hospital.”
“It’s been a few days and I am still recovering in the hospital. I don’t know how much my medical bills are going to be, but I don’t have good health insurance, so I’m sure that I’m going to end up with bills I can’t afford to pay. My doctor says it will be six months until I’m riding again. I can’t work—I can’t really do anything—and I’m worried about the future.”
“What should I do?”
Unfortunately, we get calls like this all the time. While Arizona has great cycling weather and some incredible places to ride, riding on the state’s roads can also be dangerous. Each year, there are well over 1,000 reported bicycle accidents in Arizona—and, not surprisingly, nearly all of these accidents leave the rider injured. Many riders suffer serious injuries, and situations like the one described above are not uncommon.
Seeking Help is the First Step for Determining Liability After a Bicycle Accident
In this situation, seeking help is important. The rider has already taken one key step by seeking medical attention (although it appears that she may not have been aware initially). While it is good to collect information at the scene of your accident if you can, for many cyclists this simply isn’t possible. In our scenario, the rider is lucky that the van driver stopped and called 911. This means that there should be a police report we can use to identify the driver.
Along with seeking medical attention, the other key aspect of seeking help after a bicycle accident is to talk to a lawyer. As our rider is anticipating, the costs of getting treatment and recovering after a bicycle accident can be substantial. But, these costs can also just represent a small fraction of a rider’s losses after suffering serious injuries. This makes seeking just compensation extremely important, and this starts with determining who is liable for the accident.
The Key is To Investigate Your AZ Bicycle Accident as Soon as Possible
“I said it was a work van, and I’m pretty sure it was. Just about a minute before the accident, I passed an intersection where a white van was waiting to turn right. I hadn’t seen any other cars behind me for a while, so I’m assuming it was the van driver who caught up and hit me.”
“I’m also pretty sure I remember seeing a white van briefly after the accident while I was on the side of the road. Although, I guess that could have been the ambulance—I really can’t remember. Is that important? I wish I could tell you more, but my memory is fuzzy.”
Our rider doesn’t need to feel apologetic. She was laying on the side of the road with a concussion and multiple broken bones—there was no way she could have possibly done anything (nor should she have done anything) other than wait for the ambulance to arrive. She did the right thing by seeking help as soon as she could, and now it’s her lawyers’ job—our job—to figure out who is responsible.
The key to determining who is liable for a bicycle accident—or, rather, one of the keys—is to investigate as soon as possible. If this hypothetical scenario was real, we would send an investigator to the site where the accident happened right away. At the accident site, our investigator would look for evidence such as:
- Tire Marks – In this type of scenario, where a driver hits a cyclist on the inside of a bend, the driver will usually overcorrect to the left and slam on the brakes. This usually leaves tire marks on the road, and an investigator can document these markings to show exactly how and where the collision occurred.
- Accident Debris – While the police will usually clean up a crash site, it isn’t unusual for them to leave some things behind. Our investigator will spend time scouring the accident site to find broken parts of the cyclist’s bike and any other debris that may still be available.
- Other Evidence on the Side of the Road – If the cyclist hit bushes, signs, a guardrail, or anything else on the side of the road, these items may still be damaged. Documenting this damage can help with proving the direction and force of impact—which will both point toward the driver’s liability.
- Road Measurements – In this type of accident scenario, our investigator would also typically take measurements of the road. Typically, these measurements will help with proving that the driver had plenty of room to avoid the collision, even if the driver’s vision may have been obstructed by the bend in the road. But, in some cases, we will use these measurements to show that the road was negligently designed—which can point to liability on the part of the local or state highway authority.
- Any Other Relevant Details – When investigating a bicycle accident (or any type of accident), it is important to take a step back. What else is there to see? This is one reason, among many, why it is always important to have an investigator visit the accident scene in person. Oftentimes, there will be unexpected evidence that points toward liability.
While our investigator was at the scene, we would also be working on obtaining a copy of the police report (which should identify the van driver). This type of scenario is usually indicative of driver negligence—which means that the driver should be liable. But, as we’ll get to below, there are a variety of other possibilities as well.
It is Important to Examine All of the Possibilities After a Serious Bicycle Accident in AZ
“I’ve ridden that road a hundred times; and, to be honest, that bend has always made me a little nervous. It’s sharp and on a downhill, and it gets slippery after it rains. Drivers always take the bend way too fast—the speed limit’s 45 mph, but it seems like they need to make it more like 20 mph. That’s as fast as I would go around on my bike.”
These are all great details for our injured rider to share. After a serious bicycle accident, it is important to explore all of the possibilities for filing a successful claim. While driver negligence is a common factor in bicycle accidents, it isn’t unusual for other factors to play a role as well. In Arizona, multiple parties can share liability for a bicycle accident, and injured riders will be able to file multiple claims in many cases.
Given what we know about our rider’s bicycle accident so far, the types of claims we would further investigate include:
- The Driver’s Insurance Policy – Based on the rider’s description of the accident, it seems highly likely that the van driver was at fault. If this is the case—and if the van driver is insured—the rider should be able to seek financial compensation from the driver’s insurance company.
- The Driver’s Employer – The rider mentioned that the van looked like a work van. If this is the case, then the van driver’s employer could be liable as well. In Arizona, employers are liable for their employees’ negligence on the job.
- Road Design and Construction Defects – Was the bend too sharp? Was the speed limit too high? Was the road improperly constructed, allowing the asphalt to become slippery in the rain? If the answer to any of these questions is, “Yes,” then the rider could have a claim for a road design or construction defect.
- Vehicle Defects – In all accident cases involving vehicles, we will also examine the possibility of a vehicle defect playing a role in the crash. Did the van’s brakes fail? Were the tires unsafe? Was there an issue with the brake or accelerator pedal? These are all issues that could establish claims for liability against the van’s manufacturer.
- Bicycle and Helmet Defects – Finally, in bicycle accident cases, we will also investigate the possibility of a bicycle defect. Since the rider suffered a concussion, we would have an expert examine the helmet for signs of defects as well.
Why is it important to know if you have multiple claims? Simply put, negligent drivers’ auto insurance policies often won’t fully cover the costs of serious bicycle accident-related injuries. Companies and government agencies are more likely to have coverage that riders need to collect just compensation for all of their accident-related losses.
What Can You Do After a Hit-and-Run Bicycle Accident in AZ?
“I’m curious—I guess I’m lucky that the van driver stopped, but what if he didn’t? I had a friend who got hit a few years ago, and the driver fled the scene. She assumed her situation was hopeless and never asked a lawyer for help. Is there something she could have done to avoid going into debt from her medical bills (which she’s still trying to pay off today)?”
This, sadly, is also an all-too-common scenario. While some drivers do the right thing after making a mistake, others do not. While they may claim that they didn’t know they hit a cyclist once they get caught, very rarely is this actually true.
Drivers flee the scene of bicycle accidents for various reasons. Sometimes, they are worried about facing criminal consequences. Other times, they are worried about facing financial liability because they are uninsured. According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), nearly 12 percent of Arizona drivers don’t have insurance—even though auto insurance is required under state law.
Regardless of why a driver flees the scene of a bicycle accident, this unfortunately presents additional challenges for the injured rider. In this scenario, the rider’s three primary options are:
- Try to Identify the Hit-and-Run Driver – After a hit-and-run effort, it is worth making a significant effort to try to identify the driver. From traffic camera footage to statements from eye-witnesses, there may be various ways to identify the driver and then work to hold him or her liable.
- Focus on Filing a “Third–Party” Claim – Claims against government agencies, vehicle manufacturers, and bicycle and helmet manufacturers are referred to as “third-party” claims. This is because the liable party was not directly involved in the collision. If the hit-and-run driver was only partially at fault, filing a third-party claim may provide a path to financial recovery.
- File an Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UIM) Claim – If you have an auto insurance policy with UIM coverage, you can use this coverage after a bicycle accident. While you can use UIM coverage when an at-fault driver doesn’t have the coverage you need, you can also use it when you can’t identify the at-fault driver.
Ultimately, when it comes to determining who is liable for a bicycle accident in Arizona, the answer depends on the specific facts and circumstances involved. As we said above, engaging a law firm to investigate the accident as soon as possible is the best way to protect your legal rights. At Phoenix Accident and Injury Law Firm, we have decades of experience helping injured cyclists recover. If you’ve been injured in an accident, we strongly encourage you to contact us for more information.
Call for a Free, No-Obligation Bicycle Accident in AZ Consultation
Do you need to file a liability claim after a bicycle accident in Arizona? If so, we want to help you recover the financial compensation you deserve. To start the process today, call 480-634-7480 or request a free consultation online now.