Bicycle accidents can result in serious injury. Chris Richard, the managing partner of Graves and Richard, talked with host Lee Sterry on Legal Matters recently about how the law encourages motorists to take extra precautions to ensure the safety of cyclists on the road through the creation of a presumption that an accident between a motorist and a cyclist is the fault of the motorist. Chris also talked about situations in which motorists may beat this “reverse onus” and establish contributory negligence on the part of the cyclist.
Reverse onus of proof in accidents involving cyclists
The starting point for any cyclist car accident case requires an examination of the “reverse onus” provision contained in s. 193(1) of the Highway Traffic Act. This section provides that the motorist presumed negligent if they hit a pedestrian with their car. For the purposes of this section, cyclists are considered pedestrians.
This “reverse onus” is not impossible to beat. The motorist has the opportunity to rebut that presumption and to produce evidence as to why the cyclist was negligent in creating a situation in which he or she may be found partly, or wholly, responsible.
There are several instances in which the actions of the cyclist can, in a court action, be deemed to be contributing to his or her negligence. One example is if a cyclist is riding a bicycle at night without a light or without adequate reflectors, and the cyclist is involved in an accident with a motor vehicle. The absence of a light or reflectors will not be relevant in all circumstances, however. For example, if the intersection is clearly lit and the bicycle was clearly visible, the presence or absence of light is not relevant to the cause of the accident.
Another example of when the actions of a cyclist can be deemed to be contributorily negligent is an accident that occurs when the cyclist is not wearing a bike helmet. In Ontario, cyclists under the age of 18 are required to wear a helmet. From a civil law perspective, however, if the cyclist who is over the age of 18 is not wearing a helmet, he or she may be found to be contributorily negligent regardless of the law. If a cyclist involved in an accident with a motorist receives a head injury, the question of whether that cyclist was wearing a helmet is entirely relevant. If that same cyclist, however, injures his ankle, the question of whether a helmet was worn at the time is not relevant.
Cyclist at fault
If a cyclist is entirely at fault, which would be the case if, for example, a cyclist riding on the sidewalk collides with a pedestrian, the liability provisions of the cyclist’s homeowner’s policy will provide coverage for the injured pedestrian.
No fault accident benefits coverage for cyclists
If a cyclist is involved in an accident with a motor vehicle, the cyclist is entitled to make a claim for no-fault benefits for injuries sustained in the accident. If a cyclist has a vehicle of his or her own, or if the cyclist is a minor whose family-member owns a vehicle, that cyclist is entitled to make a claim for no fault benefits from their own auto insurer. If a cyclist does not have their own automobile insurance policy, that cyclist will be able to access no fault accident benefits through the vehicle’s insurance policy. Regardless, there will always be no-fault benefits available to a cyclist involved in an accident with a vehicle.
Personal injury lawyers work with both cyclists and motorists in their claim for damages for injuries suffered. If you’d like to speak with a personal injury lawyer in St Catharines because of a car accident insurance claim, speak to one of the personal injury lawyers at Graves and Richard. We understand that car accident insurance claims are stressful, and we aim to ensure that our clients receive the information and support they need for their claim resolution process. For a consultation with our experienced personal injury lawyers in St Catharines, contact us.