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Bicycling is the wave of the future for modern professionals who want to stay fit, avoid pollution, and get around tight city streets. It’s a great way to burn calories, your bike never requires gasoline, and you can always find a place to park. However, bicycling in a world of impatient vehicles is also incredibly dangerous. Vehicle drivers often don’t even register bicycles as part of traffic, even when they’re in road lines like cars and following all the traffic laws. Cars will merge into bicycles, cut them off in traffic, use the bike lane to pass on the right, and sometimes even rear-end bikes at intersections. The vast majority of the time motor vehicles and bicycles collide, the vehicle driver is found at-fault, and not just because the bicyclist is likely to be hurt quite badly from the collision.

Vehicles are notoriously careless about bicyclists and thousands of injuries and mangled bicycles happen every year as a result of aggressive, inattentive, and downright dangerous driving habits of motor vehicle drivers. However, if you have recently been hit by a vehicle while bicycling or are afraid that you might be, it’s important to realize that the tables could easily be turned on you even while you have to worry about medical treatments and physical recovery.

Bicyclists can and are occasionally found at-fault for debilitating accidents. Essentially, if the driver effectively claims that you were not following the laws of responsible cycling, that you are the liable party and will be held responsible not only for your own injuries, but also any scratches on the car’s paint job your mangled bicycle may have caused, and possibly even the driver’s ‘whiplash’ from hitting the breaks so as not to completely cream you.

When Bicyclists Can Be Found At-Fault

There are far fewer laws for bicycling than there are for motor vehicles, which is one of the reasons vehicles are usually found at-fault even in complicated traffic situations involving an injured bicyclist. However, there are still a surprising number of laws that govern what bicyclists should and must do while on or near active roads. If the driver or their insurance agency can prove or have a strong argument that you broke one these bicyclist rules, there is a far higher likelihood that you will see the tables turned and yourself blamed for the accident.

Auto Insurance vs Bicyclist Insurance

Of course, the biggest danger is the fact that the motor vehicle driver probably has a bigger insurance company than you do. Cyclists who use their bicycle as a primary form of transportation and bike often will usually have some form of insurance, but this is also generally very reduced from auto insurance standards and can easily be from a much smaller insurance company offering specialty packages. These insurance packages are generally arranged to cover ‘single-vehicle accidents’. In other words, they pay out for medical and repair bills if you accidentally hit somthing, go over a curb wrong, or otherwise tumble with no other vehicle involved.

However, auto insurance policies come from monolithic companies notorious for underhanded tactics in order to avoid paying an insurance claim. Even if their driver was at-fault, they often still target and try to smear the other party to avoid payment. This means lawyers, bout experts, and skewing the playing field in their favor when it comes to determining who is at-fault.

Protecting Yourself From False At-Fault Bicycle Accident Claims

In circumstances where it’s your insurance against theirs, your best defense is to have been provably where you were supposed to be following the laws of bicycle traffic. While some laws may vary from city to city, here are the basic “safe” behaviors for bicyclists directed by law.

Act As a Pedestrian

There are protected protocols for how pedestrians are treated by motor vehicles. Primarily, they must yield at crosswalks and can’t drive on sidewalks. This means that if you are within a pedestrian protected zone on or off the bike, you are effectively a pedestrian and should be yielded to as one.

Drive Like a Car

However, if you’re going from place to place using the roads, you officially become traffic. You must move with the pace of traffic and obey all the usual traffic laws, including stopping for pedestrians on cross walks. Bikes are not legally allowed to swerve between lanes, slow down traffic, or take any action that a car could not. Always maintain 30 feet between your bicycle and other vehicles. Both you and other drivers are responsible for this zone.

Bicycle Lanes or Stay Right

It has also been mandated where bikes should be when they are on the roads. If there are bike lanes, stick to these wherever possible. If you have to use a normal vehicle lane, stick to the right-hand side of the lane as close to the line as you can manage. This puts the most distance between you and other cars.

Hand Signals

Use hand signals when turning, changing lanes, or stopping whenever possible. It’s allowable not to if you need to control the bike with both hands but obvious neglect of hand signals will be noted.

Two Abreast

Bicyclists are allowed to ride side-by-side but only two per car-space in the lane. This means that if you have a friend or a group to ride with, no more than two people can ride beside each other but you can form a double-line in a single lane.

No Controlled-Access Highways

Watch out for controlled-access highways. Most Minnesota highways are accessible to bicycles but not all of them. Some freeway entrances will also have signs that indicate no bicycling and should be followed.

Safety and Liability Suggestions

In addition to following the laws, keeping yourself safe from both injury and turn-about insurance tactics can be achieved with the right amount of preparation. If you bicycle all the time and especially if it’s your primary form of transportation, it’s worth your time to get protected.

Wear Safety Gear

It’s not legally required in Minnesota for bicyclists to wear helmets, but bike accidents involving vehicles are very dangerous. For bicyclists who are out on the road, you may want to consider your health from the perspective of motorcyclists instead. Sturdy clothing or protective outer gear can keep you safe fron road rash even in non-vehicle accidents and a helmet can significantly reduce your medical concerns in the event of an accident.

Bike Dashcam

As for liability, this kind of problem is why many professional vehicle drivers have started installing dashcams. When it’s a matter of hearsay and rattled accounts of a collision, a dashcam will have a perfect account of the event from its perspective. Many bicyclists are investing in front and back bike dashcams for exactly this reason.

What to Do If You’re In a Bicycle Accident

If your bicycle has recently been hit by a motor vehicle, don’t put off your plan for legal defense and action. Their insurance company can be counted on to try and avoid paying for damages and you could find yourself at the end of at-fault accusations. Protect yourself and make sure you get the compensation you need to recover and repair your bicycle. For more information or legal counsel in this matter, contact us today.