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Collisions between bicycles and motor vehicles can result in severe injuries for the bike rider. At a minimum, the bike rider will be knocked to the ground. Unfortunately, these collisions can also result in permanent injury or even death.

While it may seem fairly straightforward to conclude that the motor vehicle driver will be at fault, the fact of the matter is more complicated. The other driver’s insurance company may even try to argue that the accident was partially your fault.

Chapel Hill bicycle accident attorneys work with individuals who have been injured in bicycle accidents and assist them in recovering the compensation that they deserve. An experienced injury attorney can help you begin the process of filing a claim right away.

Bicycle Accident Laws in North Carolina

While there are certainly some scenarios where a driver intentionally collides with a bicyclist, most bike/car accidents are exactly that: accidents. However, this does not mean that the car driver does not retain liability under the law. In cases where a party was injured in an accident, the claim will be brought under the legal theory of negligence.

Simply put, negligence is when a person has a responsibly to protect another and by breaking that responsibility, causes injury. From the legal perspective, there are five parts, or elements, that must be met for a successful negligence case:

  • Duty – In some situations, a person is given a legal responsibility to protect others. This is known as duty. All drivers of cars have a duty to protect other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. Of course, this includes bicyclists
  • Breach – A breach of duty occurs when a person who has a duty commits an action that places the protected person in harm’s way. This element can also be fulfilled by not taking action to prevent harm. Examples can include running a stop sign, speeding, or not properly checking side view mirrors before changing lanes
  • Cause – The plaintiff must be able to demonstrate that their injuries were caused by the breach of duty. At times, defendants’ insurance companies will argue that the injuries were not caused by the accident, but were preexisting
  • Scope – The injuries suffered must have been foreseeable under the facts of the case. Since severe injuries can often result from car/bicycle collisions, this is rarely at issue
  • Damages – The plaintiff must suffer actual physical harm. While mental anguish can be added onto a claim, it cannot stand on its own

Contributory Negligence in Chapel Hill Bicycle Accidents

North Carolina is also a “Contributory Negligence” state. This is a theory of negligence that allows a defendant to avoid liability if the plaintiff was even slightly responsible. In Newton v. Hanover County Bd. Of Educ., 342 N.C. 554, 564 (1996), the court stated that, “A plaintiff is contributorily negligent when they fail to exercise such care as an ordinarily prudent person would exercise under the circumstances in order to avoid injury.”

If a jury does not place 100 percent of the blame in a case on the defendant, then the plaintiff cannot recover damages. For example, if a person is hit while riding their bike in the crosswalk, but the jury believes that the bike rider did not look both ways, the plaintiff may have a difficult time recovering damages in their case.

One other aspect of North Carolina law to keep in mind is the statute of limitations. This is a time limit within which a plaintiff has to file a case in court for damages.

North Carolina Law Chapter 1-52 defines this time limit as three years for all personal injury claims. While this may seem like a long time, recovery from the accident and subsequent settlement negotiations can take months, or even years. Chapel Hill bicycle accident attorneys can assist a person with contributory negligence.

How a Chapel Hill Bicycle Accident Attorney Can Help

If you have been injured in an accident while riding your bike, Chapel Hill bicycle accident attorneys are available to help. Your focus should be on your recovery. Unfortunately, the piles of paperwork and aggressive insurance adjusters can make this process difficult.

Let skilled attorneys handle the details so that you can get better. By gathering all of the evidence, talking to witnesses, and forming a strong demand package, most claims for bike accidents settle before going to court.

If the case does need to go to court, the litigators will be at your side every step of the way. Do not take any chances with your case. Contact an attorney today.