Whether you were on the bicycle at the time of the collision or were in the safer and more fortunate position of being in the vehicle, a collision between a car and a bicycle can be a frightening experience. As the bicyclist, you may have sustained serious physical injuries and trauma. As the driver, you may live with emotional stress caused by all the “what-ifs” and “what-could-have-beens.” Regardless of your position, you may wonder if you can file a personal injury claim for whatever damages you acquired. The answer is almost always going to be yes. However, the bigger question is, should you?
Whether you should file a personal injury claim following a car/bicycle collision depends largely on who was at fault. Determining fault boils down to who broke what laws, which entails understanding the rights and responsibilities of both bicyclists and motorists in New Mexico. It’s also important to familiarize yourself with the most common causes of bicycle accidents.
Bicyclists’ Rights and Responsibilities on the Roadways
Not only do bicyclists have a right to be on the roadways in New Mexico but also, it’s the law that, where and when possible, they and motorists share the roadways. According to N.M. Statute 66-3-705, bicyclists on a roadway must do the following:
- Abide by all the rules and responsibilities applicable to motorists, except as provided by law
- Ride as near to the right side of the road as practicable
- Exercise appropriate care and caution when passing a stopped vehicle or a vehicle travelling in the same direction
- Equip their bikes with lamps, reflectors, a bell (or other signaling device) and appropriate wheels for roadway braking
Regardless of what the law states, bicyclists should avoid travelling on a roadway if doing so would create a public safety hazard. If you, as a bicyclist, fail to honor your responsibilities while sharing the roadway, you may assume partial or all fault for the accident.
Drivers’ Rights and Responsibilities on the Roadways
Drivers enjoy the same rights when sharing the roadways with bikers as they do when sharing with other motorists, which is to expect bicyclists to abide by the rules of the road. Likewise, they have a responsibility to drive with caution, remain vigilant for bikers and otherwise drive in a way to promote the safety of themselves and others. When sharing a roadway with bikers, drivers must do the following:
- Always give cyclists a three-foot berth in when passing them and when in front of or behind them
- Always overestimate how fast a bicyclist is travelling, as underestimating driver speed is one of the most common causes of bike/car collisions
- Always double check before entering a bike line
- Always look before opening your door
If you, as a driver, fail to uphold your duties and collide with a bicyclist, you may be at fault for the accident.
Common Causes of Bicycle-Car Collisions
Bicycle/car collisions are almost always a result of a driver or bicyclist ignoring their responsibilities and/or ignoring the rights of the other. Below are the top causes of car/bike collisions in New Mexico:
- Distracted driving, accounting for 28% of these types of accidents
- Failure-to-yield, accounting for 16% of accidents
- Bicyclist error, accounting for 10% of accidents
- Alcohol use, accounting for 8% of accidents
- Traffic signal violations, accounting for 6% of accidents
- Other improper driving, accounting for 4.5% of accidents
In most car accidents involving bicyclists, the motorist is to blame. Interestingly, though, in the majority of accidents that involve drug or alcohol use, bicyclists are to blame.
Collecting Compensation After a Bicycle Accident
Regardless of who is at fault in a car/bicycle accident, one thing is almost guaranteed to be true, and that is that the bicyclist will sustain the most harm. If you are the injured biker, and whether you assume zero fault, 50% fault or 99% fault, you can still recover compensation for your injuries. This is due to New Mexico’s pure comparative negligence statute, which allows injured parties to recover compensation so long as they do not assume 100% liability for the accident.
What this means for drivers is that they will likely have to compensate injured bikers, even if the biker was mostly to blame for the incident. However, it could also mean that drivers stand to recover compensation for any property damage that resulted from the accident or for any mental duress they experienced as a result of it.
Hire an Albuquerque Bicycle Accident Lawyer
Any car collision that involves a bicyclist is bound to result in legal complexities that most people are not equipped to deal with. If you were in a car/bike accident, seek the help of a knowledgeable lawyer.