Can Bicyclists be held Responsible for Traffic Accidents?

Accidents involving a bicycle and a car can be extremely detrimental to the rider. But, is the driver always to blame when such a collision occurs? Apparently, not, according to Washington State laws. Police and attorney investigations may occasionally point to the rider being on the wrong at the time of the accident. This means the bicyclist will have to pay for any property damage incurred and injuries sustained during the accident. Read on for a nodding acquaintance with bicycle accidents in Washington and what it means to be held liable for a collision.

Cases where the cyclist is to blame

Cyclists can be at fault for an accident generally if they violated a traffic law at the time of the accident. Such violations include using the wrong side of the road, ignoring traffic lights, or just riding carelessly. While you can be sued for negligence, especially if someone else is injured in the accident, cyclists are usually prevented from seeking damages, and it ends there.

Note, however, that cyclists are held to a lower standard of care than drivers for the sheer reason that the former are more likely to suffer injuries during an accident. When investigations show that the cyclist’s negligence contributed to their injuries, they are assigned what is referred to as contributory negligence.

This rule prevents them from recovering restitution regardless of the severity of their injuries. In Washington, fault is distributed by percentage to all involved parties under the comparative negligence theory. This means you will recover damages for the portion or percentage of the accident you did not cause. Your bicycle accident lawyer in Kent will help you understand where your case falls and determine your eligibility for restitution.

Negligent behavior on the cyclist’s part

You could be forgiven to think traffic laws apply more to drivers and less to cyclists since the latter are not in a vehicle. Well, cyclists in Washington State are obligated to adhere to rules of the road as much as car drivers. Here is a list of behaviors that can shift the blame onto the cyclist during a collision:

  • Running traffic lights
  • Using the vehicle lane instead of the bicycle lane
  • Riding on the left side of the road or against the direction of traffic in freeways
  • Instant turns
  • Failing to yield

If you are driver and collide with a child bicyclist, responsibility will automatically be shouldered on you. Minors are not bound by comparative and contributory negligence laws as they are incapable of exercising an adult’s level of care while cycling.


If you have been involved in a bicycle accident in Washington, get in touch with an attorney as soon as you can to help you file a claim, that is, if you believe someone else’s negligence led to the collision. As a cyclist, the lawyer will help you know if you are at fault and prepare you for potential lawsuits from other involved parties. The most important thing is to be aware that anyone, including you, could be at fault for the accident.