Who is Liable in a Bike Accident in Alberta

Back in 2001, the Alberta government passed new legislation making it mandatory for cyclists under the age of 18 to wear helmets. If a child is caught on a bike without a helmet, parents may be charged a fine. Overall, these changes were welcomed as they promoted the health, safety, and wellbeing of our community’s children.

Once you are over the age of 18 in Alberta, you can decide if you want to wear a helmet or not while biking. Helmet laws vary across the country, with British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island making the use of bicycle helmets compulsory for all ages.

Though you may be a strong cyclist or biking on paved trails, accidents can still happen. According to the Canadian Automobile Association and Statistics Canada, around 7,500 cyclists are seriously injured in Canada each year. The majority of these incidents occur in the afternoon during rush hour.

Another stat provided by Statistics Canada stated that forty-two percent of Canadian cyclists claim that they wear a helmet when they go for a bike ride. However, that means about fifty-eight percent of Canadians put themselves at risk of more than just a head injury if they choose not to wear a helmet.

If you’ve been in a cycling accident, it’s important to know that you have rights as a cyclist. However, a few critical factors can affect liability (who’s at fault), resulting in you receiving reduced compensation for your injuries.

Who is liable in a bike accident situation?

All cyclist need to understand that under the Traffic Safety Act, bicycles are considered vehicles. What this means is that cyclists must obey all provincial rules that apply both to bikes and cars. In Alberta, cyclists must abide by the Alberta Traffic Safety Act rules and regulations.

In a typical motor vehicle accident, the plaintiff (the injured person) must prove that the defendant was negligent and caused their injury. However, when a driver hits a cyclist, the law presumes the driver is negligent unless they can prove that the cyclist contributed to the accident somehow. This is called the reverse onus.

If a cyclist has failed to take reasonable steps to look out for their safety, they may also be at fault for the accident, resulting in reduced damages awarded. These factors include:

  • Helmet: Was the cyclist wearing a helmet? Would a helmet have made a difference in preventing or reducing the severity of the injury?
  • Distracted Riding: Yup!You can be a distracted cyclist. Distracted cycling can include looking at your phone or wearing earbuds while riding your bike.
  • Follow the Law: As previously mentioned, a cyclist has the same road rules to follow as a motor vehicle. It’s vial to ensure that you follow road signs, traffic lights, and stay in your lane as a cyclist.
  • Visibility: What time of day were you riding your bike, and what were you wearing? As a cyclist, it is your responsibility also to be seen. For example, the court may consider the cyclist as contributing to the accident if they are biking at night, wearing black clothes, and do not have reflectors or flashing lights on their bike to help drivers see them.
  • Crosswalk Crossing: Did you walk your bike through the crosswalk or ride it? Choosing to dismount your bike and walk it across the crosswalk can have a better impact on your court case.

If a cyclist fails to take reasonable steps to look out for their safety, the court can divide the damages caused between both parties (i.e., 50/50 or 75/25), resulting in less compensation. This can be a devastating surprise to cyclist victims.

Whether you are cycling on the highway training for your next road race, biking to your local ice cream shop, or going for a leisurely ride in the River Valley, wear your helmet, follow the road rules, and be safe.

At McGuiness Law, our lawyers are fiercely compassionate in seeking maximum compensation for our clients. If you have been involved in a cycling accident, reach out to our team by calling (780) 900-7941 or visiting McGuinessLaw.ca.