Bicycle Accident Law: Frequently Asked Questions
Cyclists in New York certainly don’t have it easy, especially if they are ever victims in a serious accident.
If you have been injured in a bicycle accident, you may have many unanswered questions running through you mind. While we encourage you to contact us at Edelman & Edelman, P.C., for answers, feel free to also review the commonly asked questions below:
What parties may be liable for a bike accident?
- Negligent driver: Unfortunately, not every street in New York has a bike lane, meaning many bicyclists are forced to ride in traffic. As you can imagine, a bicyclist has little chance of coming out on top when hit by a negligent driver. And even when there are bike lanes, that doesn’t guarantee a negligent motorist won’t hit a bicyclist riding in a bike lane. But, when bike accidents are caused by negligent or careless drivers, the bike accident victim may be able to seek compensation from the driver.
- Bike manufacturer: If your bike was poorly designed or it used a defective bike part, and this was the cause of your bike accident, you may be able to seek damages for your injuries from the bike/part manufacturer. This type of lawsuit is more commonly known as a products liability claim.
- New York City: If the city’s actions put you, a bicyclist, in danger, you may be able to hold them legally accountable for your injuries. For example, if your bike accident was caused by poor signage, negligent bike lane placement or poor street design, the city may be liable.
You need to keep in mind, however, that these are merely a few of the parties that may be legally responsible following a bike accident. In fact, depending on your situation, there may be other liable parties as well, which is why it is always best to speak with an experienced attorney who can explain what your legal options me be. But you need to act fast since you have a limited time to bring a possible bike accident claim, especially if the city is involved.
How long do I have to file a bike accident claim?
Most personal injury claims in New York must be filed within three years of your injury. Therefore, if your bike accident was caused by a negligent driver, you typically have three years to bring a lawsuit.
Similarly, products liability claims must also be brought within three years. So that means you have three years to file your claim if your injuries are attributed to a poorly designed bike or a defective bike part.
However, if your claim is against a government body — such as New York City — other time limits may apply, some of which as short as 90 days. These types of claims often involve allegations of poor street signage or the negligent design of a street/bike lane. Given the short window with these claims, you need to contact an attorney as soon as possible.
Do bicyclists have a right to the road?
under New York law — specifically New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 1231 — “[e]very person riding a bicycle […] upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights […] applicable to the driver of a vehicle.”
But, just because you may have a right to the road doesn’t mean there aren’t restrictions. In fact, New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 1234 specifically states:
- Bicyclists must use bike lanes, when available.
- If there are no bike lanes, bicyclists must ride near the right curb, on the right shoulder or close to the right edge of the road, except they can move left if they need to avoid unsafe conditions or when preparing to take a left turn.
- Bicyclists cannot ride more than two abreast when riding on the road, and they must ride single file when a vehicle passes them.
- Bicyclists can ride more than two abreast when riding on the shoulder or a bike lane/path, so long as there is sufficient space to do so.
In addition, bicyclists in New York City need to remember that there may be city rules and regulations that apply to them, beyond the state laws mentioned above.