Even though Washington state law treats bicycles and motor vehicles as equals with respect to traffic laws, Seattle residents probably recognize a certain degree of tension when it comes to sharing the road. That tension comes to the forefront in the aftermath of any car accident involving a bicyclist. More often than not, the central issue in litigation over accident-related damages turns out to be a determination of who is at fault.

Washington State applies the rule of comparative negligence when it comes to assigning liability for damages. Comparative negligence means that each of the parties involved in an accident may be liable to other injured parties to the extent that their own carelessness or negligence contributed to the accident. Insurance companies and defense attorneys know that they can reduce their clients’ exposure to damages by shifting blame to others.

An accurate determination of fault can be particularly difficult in bicycle accidents. Motor vehicle drivers often point the finger at cyclists for taking liberties with the rules of the road. Conversely, bicyclists accuse automobile drivers of forgetting that they have a responsibility to share the road and failing to pay attention and maintain awareness of bicycle traffic.

As one recent study shows, there may be good reason for both sides to blame one another. A recently released report about automobile-bicycle accidents in the city of Minneapolis showed that both driver and bicyclist shared some of the blame in the majority of bike accidents.

Accidents between bicycles and motor vehicles can result in serious injuries with long lasting financial and emotional impacts. As the recent study shows, it can be a challenge to sort out the truth and properly assign fault to the negligent party. Washington bicyclists who have been injured in a car accident may need experienced legal representation to make certain that a negligent driver is held properly accountable to pay fair compensation for the costs of an accident.

Source: Southwest Minneapolis Patch, “Everyone’s to Blame in New Bicycle-Car Crash Report,” James Sanna, Jan. 14, 2013