Kentucky no-fault insurance and comparative negligence rules can affect your bike accident claim
Have you tried the Kentucky Bourbon Trail?
It’s a bike trail that passes by 9 distilleries, combined with views of rolling hills and thoroughbred horse farms. The trail even takes you through the Perryville Battlefield and Old Fort Harrod State Park. It’s a scenic way to capture the Kentucky experience.
Regardless of whether you’re an experienced cyclist, a casual rider, a bike commuter, or someone who occasionally bikes with family and friends, it’s important to be familiar with Kentucky road rules for both bicyclists and drivers.
You should also know the laws regarding insurance and personal injuries, just in case you ever suffer a bike accident injury. If that happens, it’s a good idea to contact a bike accident attorney because each case is different and your lawyer will help you reach the best resolution.
Common causes of Kentucky bike accident injuries
More than ⅓ of Kentucky bike accidents in 2019 were caused by a driver’s negligence. Although the drivers caused these accidents, there are things that cyclists can do to avoid being injured. Understanding how accidents happen can be one way to keep yourself safe while on 2 wheels.
Here’s a look at the 5 most common causes of bike accidents:
1. Distracted driving/bicycling
Distracted bicycling is a big problem, just like distracted driving.
We’ve all become so attached to our phones and devices that the temptation to use electronics, even while biking, is a strong one. It’s always dangerous to look at your phone or device while cycling because taking your eyes (and mind) off the road and any oncoming traffic, even for a moment, can be a tragic decision.
Like drivers, cyclists should ride in a way that allows them to be in control of their bikes at all times. A safe speed will depend on road conditions, weather, amount of travel, speed of vehicle traffic, and other factors.
3. Riding too close to traffic
Some states have laws that clearly state the amount of space a driver must allow as clearance between a vehicle and a bicyclist. Kentucky does not have a law on this issue. However, driving responsibly includes traveling at a safe enough distance from other road users to avoid a collision.
4. Intersections and lane merges
Bicyclists should follow the road rules just like motorists. Intersections, lane merges, and other situations where cars are turning or traveling outside of a single lane can be dangerous. It’s important for cyclists to be aware of not only where they’re going, but what the motorists around them are doing, too.
5. Sidewalks, parking lots and driveways
Some drivers (and bicyclists) think that because cars tend to move more slowly in parking lots or when backing in or out of a driveway, those areas aren’t dangerous. But because these scenarios often involve backing up and unexpected movement, they can present risks.
Kentucky bike laws
You probably have a general idea about bike and road rules, and many are similar from state to state. But here’s a look at some of Kentucky’s specific bike laws.
Bike equipment required by Kentucky law
- Lights and reflectors. A bicycle must have 1 front light that is visible for 500 feet and capable of revealing substantial objects at least 50 feet ahead when riding after dark. A bicycle must also have a red reflector or light visible from at least 100 feet from the rear and 1 red light or flashing light visible from the rear for at least 500 feet if riding in low light.
- Horn or bell. A bicycle may have a bell or horn but may not have a siren or whistle. The rider should shout or use their bell or horn to signal pedestrians or other cyclists as they approach.
- Brakes. A bicycle must have brakes that can control the movement or stop the bicycle within 15 feet at a speed of 10 miles per hour on clean, level, dry pavement.
- Seat. A bike must have an attached seat. No additional riders may be on a bike unless it’s equipped with a seat for each person.
- Carrying items. A rider may not carry anything that prevents them from keeping 1 hand on the handlebars at all times. You are not permitted to ride on a bike attached to a motor vehicle.
A bicyclist should follow the same road rules as if they were driving a car, except that a bike may be ridden on a road’s shoulder. No more than 2 bicyclists may ride abreast in a single lane unless part of that lane is designated for bicycle use.
A bicyclist is expected to keep to the right-hand side of their lane unless:
- Preparing for a left turn,
- Passing a slower vehicle,
- The lane is too narrow to be shared,
- To prevent overtaken vehicles from attempting to pass in the same lane if it's too narrow, or
- To avoid a hazard.
A bicyclist using a sidewalk must follow the same rules as a pedestrian, which includes slowing to an ordinary walking speed when near pedestrians and obeying traffic devices and signals in crosswalks.
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet sets forth this list of rights and responsibilities for bicyclists:
- Obey all traffic laws
- Be predictable
- Stay alert at all times
- Look before turning
- Watch for parked cars
- If you are riding on a sidewalk, make sure sidewalks are permitted for bicyclists in that municipality or jurisdiction.
Kentucky does not have a helmet law for bicyclists. Helmets are widely recommended as a safety measure, but Kentucky is one of a few states that does not require them for any type or age of rider.
Idaho stop law
Yes, you read that right.
There’s an Idaho stop law that’s also followed in Kentucky. It says that a bike may go through a red stop light if the stoplight doesn’t detect the bicycle. In other words, if a light is on a sensor and the bike’s weight is not enough to trigger the cycle, the bicycle may proceed through.
When do Kentucky bicyclists have the right of way?
- A motor vehicle may not drive in a bike lane unless it’s a government maintenance vehicle.
- A cyclist is required to stop at a red light or stop sign in order to avoid collisions with other traffic.
- A cyclist should not weave in between cars but should pass from the left lane.
- A cyclist should signal 50 feet before a turn in order to provide drivers plenty of notice.
- A motorist is required to use caution when passing a cyclist. You’re required to leave 3 feet between a car and a bicycle when passing under Kentucky’s safe passing law.
- If a motor vehicle is about to make a right turn, the driver must either make sure they have enough time to complete the turn before the bicyclist reaches the intersection, or wait for the cyclist to pass before making the turn.
- A motorist is expected to check for oncoming bicyclists before opening the door of a parked car.
Kentucky’s pure comparative negligence rule
Kentucky follows a pure comparative negligence standard. Under this rule, damages recovered by a plaintiff will be reduced according to the plaintiff’s percentage of fault.
What this means in bicycle accident cases is that the bicyclist is not always “right.” It can be a difficult process to acquire damages (costs) related to a bike accident and fault can be disputed.
Kentucky is a no-fault state, which means that each person involved in an accident turns first to their own insurance to collect damages. That’s fine if you have insurance that covers you as a bicyclist, but if you don’t own a car and you’re injured, then what insurance do you use?
The motor vehicle driver’s Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance should also cover you as a bicyclist if they caused an accident and you don’t have insurance. But if they are uninsured or underinsured, or if the cost for your injuries amounts to more than the policy limits, then your only recourse is to file a personal injury lawsuit.
A personal injury lawsuit is based on establishing who is at fault for an injury and how much the injury is “worth,”—or its financial cost to the plaintiff.
In a comparative negligence state like Kentucky, the plaintiff’s damage award will be reduced by their percentage of fault.
For instance, even if a car collides with a bike, the bicyclist could be partially liable if they were riding too fast to be safe in that particular instance. If the cyclist is found 20% liable, then their damage award would be reduced by 20%.
Bike accident injuries and damages
If you’re involved in a Kentucky bike accident, there are steps you can take to preserve your legal claim. First, get the medical treatment you need. Your physical well-being after an accident is always your first priority.
If you’ve been injured, you’re entitled to recover costs for:
- Medical treatment
- Lost wages
- Property damage or loss
- Pain and suffering or other emotional distress
- Funeral and burial expenses if the accident resulted in the wrongful death of a family member
- Other costs related to the accident
What to do after a bike accident in Kentucky
If you’re able to do so, take these steps after a bike accident:
- Call 911. A police report is an important piece of evidence. Even if your injuries are minor (or you feel uninjured), you’re entitled to (and should get) a police report at the scene.
- Obtain information from the driver. Just like you would after any motor vehicle accident, be sure to write down the driver’s name, address, phone number, email, insurance information, license plate number, and driver’s license number. If you have your phone with you, it’s a good idea to take photos of these documents as well in case you copy down the information incorrectly.
- Gather witness information. Any person who observed any part of the accident (including events leading up to it or following) can be valuable as a witness. Be sure to write down these people’s names and contact information.
- Take note of the conditions at the scene. Weather, road conditions, traffic patterns, signals, and other things could all be factors in a bike accident. The police report should include some of this information, but you should take your own notes and pictures, too.
- Get a medical examination. Whether you think you’re injured or not, go to a hospital, your primary physician, or an urgent care center for a medical exam. Some symptoms might not appear until days or weeks after an accident. Full documentation by a medical provider can be crucial to your legal claim. If your condition isn’t documented, it can be hard to prove that your injuries were caused by the bike accident.
- Call a Kentucky bike accident lawyer. A bike accident lawyer is trained and experienced in helping you avoid liability and recover damages.