How to establish fault and secure damages after a bike accident
According to the League of American Bicyclists, Missouri falls somewhere in the middle of the peloton when it comes to bike-friendly states.
Roughly 0.2% of commuters bike to work, although there are signs that this number may be increasing. There are 9 bicycle-friendly communities, 13 bicycle-friendly businesses, and 3 bicycle-friendly universities.
Whether you recently made the transition from 4 wheels to 2 wheels, you’re a seasoned bicyclist, or you are a motor vehicle driver who shares the road with cyclists, there are some things you should know about bicycle accidents and laws in the Show-Me State.
Missouri bicycle accident statistics
Although more and more people are choosing to commute by bike in the United States, bicycle accidents have been trending downward in Missouri over the last 2 decades.
This is great news!
Unfortunately, the nature of bicycle-car collisions means that bicyclists are more likely to be injured or killed in bike crashes compared to other types of collisions. Almost 2% of all bicycle accidents in Missouri are fatal and almost 85% of crashes result in at least 1 injury:
Common causes of bicycle accidents
Bicycle accidents can be caused by a number of factors, including driver distraction, poor road conditions, and inclement weather.
Here are some of the most common causes of bicycle accidents in the United States:
- Distraction. You might have already heard that the number of accidents caused by distracted motor vehicle drivers increased dramatically over the last few years. What you may not be aware of is that there has also been an increase in distracted bicyclists. Whether you’re driving a motor vehicle or operating a bicycle, no text is worth your life.
- Improper lane use. Although bicycling is becoming increasingly popular, many drivers are still not used to sharing the road with cyclists. Whether it’s the fault of the bicyclist or the driver, many bike accidents are caused by unsafe lane changes or improper lane use.
- Failure to yield. As is the case with pedestrians, there are state laws that dictate when a bicyclist is supposed to yield to a motor vehicle and vice versa. When these laws are ignored, accidents often result.
- Dooring. The term “dooring” refers to the act of opening a car door into the path of a bicyclist. Dooring can be avoided if motor vehicle drivers check their rearview mirror before opening their car doors, but this, unfortunately, doesn’t always happen.
|Missouri bicycle crashes by contributing circumstance (2019)
|Improper lane usage
|Wrong side or wrong way
|Failure to yield
|Failure to use lights
|Improper clinging to vehicle
|Failure to secure load
|Too fast for conditions
|Following too closely
|Source: Missouri State Highway Patrol Statistical Analysis Center
Missouri bike accident laws
Bicyclists have the same rights and obligations as motor vehicle drivers when navigating Missouri’s roads. In addition, there are some bicycle-specific laws that cyclists and drivers should know.
Every bicycle operated during the period from 30 minutes after sunset to 30 minutes before sunrise must be equipped with:
- A front-facing lamp that emits a white light visible at 500 feet,
- A rear-facing red reflector with at least 2 square inches of reflective surface area or a rear-facing red lamp visible at 600 hundred feet,
- Reflective material or lights on any part of the bicycles pedals or the bicyclist’s shoes (or lower leg) visible at 200 feet, and
- Reflective material or lights visible on each side of the bicycle or bicyclist visible at 300 feet.
Are bicycle helmets required in Missouri?
Missouri has no statewide law requiring the use of bike helmets, but many cities and counties throughout Missouri require them.
- Every bicyclist shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a motor vehicle except those provisions which by their nature can have no application.
- Every bicyclist operating a bike slower than the posted speed limit or flow of traffic must ride as near to the right side of the road as possible.
- Bicyclists may ride abreast so long as they’re not impeding other vehicles.
- Bicyclists must ride in the same direction as vehicles are required to drive on the road.
- Bicyclists must not ride on the sidewalk.
- A bike lane shall not be obstructed by a parked motor vehicle or any other stationary object.
- A motor vehicle must not drive in the bike lane unless it is to cross the lane safely.
- The operator of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on the road must leave a safe distance when passing the bicycle.
Establishing legal liability (fault) after a Missouri bike accident
To recover damages after a Missouri bicycle accident, you need to prove that someone else was legally liable (or “at fault”) for your accident.
Who may be at fault and how fault is established depends on the nature of the bicycle accident. There are 3 common types of bicycle accidents.
1. Bike accidents caused by motor vehicles
The vast majority of personal injury claims made by bicyclists against motor vehicle drivers after a bike accident are negligence claims. To prove that a motor vehicle driver was negligent in Missouri, a bicyclist must show that:
- The driver owed the bicyclist a duty. All drivers have a duty to exercise reasonable care to avoid harming others on the road.
- The driver breached their duty. To prove that a driver breached their duty, the bicyclist will have to show that the driver failed to exercise a reasonable degree of care. For example, if the driver ran a red light or was texting while driving, this may constitute a breach of duty.
- The bicyclist was injured as a result of the driver’s breach. It’s not enough that the driver failed to exercise reasonable care, the bicyclist must prove that the failure caused their accident and resulting injuries.
2. Bike accidents caused by poor road conditions
Missouri premises liability laws require property owners to keep their property free from dangerous conditions.
If a bicyclist is injured as a result of a dangerous condition on a road (such as a large pothole or obscured traffic signal), the owner of the road may be held liable.
Keep in mind that public roads are owned by the town, city, or state. When suing the government, plaintiffs must follow strict procedures. If you think a public road condition caused your accident, it’s a good idea to talk to an experienced personal injury attorney immediately.
3. Bike accidents caused by a defective bike component
If your bicycle accident is caused by a defective bike component (such as a faulty brake system), the manufacturer or even the retail store may be held liable.
According to the lawsuit, the woman purchased the adult tricycle for $149 and took advantage of the “free in-store bike assembly” offered by Walmart.
Several months later, the woman took her tricycle for a spin. As she approached an intersection, the brakes did not work and she had to turn abruptly. The woman went over the handlebars and crashed head-first into the pavement.
The lawsuit is still pending at the time of this publication.
Pure comparative negligence in Missouri
What happens if the bicyclist is partially responsible for their bike accident?
Missouri adopted the pure comparative negligence system, which means that a plaintiff’s damages are reduced by their percentage of fault.
Consider the following example:
James is riding his bicycle in the middle of the night without a headlamp and without reflective gear. Michelle, who is on her way home from a party, is driving while intoxicated. She swerves on the road and hits James.
James suffers a lower back injury and sues Michelle for $100,000.
The jury finds that Michelle is 90% at fault for the accident (for driving while intoxicated). The jury also finds that James is 10% at fault for the accident (for operating a bicycle without a headlamp and proper reflective gear).
Because Missouri follows the pure comparative negligence system, James is only allowed to recover $90,000 ($100,000 minus 10%).
Will insurance cover my bicycle accident?
Missouri has a fault-based insurance system, which means that whoever causes an accident is responsible for paying the damages.
If a motor vehicle driver causes a bike accident, the injured bicyclists can file a claim against the at-fault driver’s auto insurance policy.
But what happens if a bicyclist causes an auto accident, or if the at-fault driver fled the scene and cannot be found? Who pays for damages then?
Generally speaking, your car insurance policy will NOT cover an accident that you caused while riding your bicycle. However, some car insurance policies have additional coverage (such as MedPay coverage) that might apply.
What’s more, homeowners’ and renters’ insurance policies sometimes cover damages to your bicycle. Health insurance typically does not cover damages to your bicycle, but it will cover certain injuries.
If you’re involved in a bike accident, it’s a good idea to review your insurance policies and contact your insurance agents to see if there is any available coverage.
Bike accident injuries and damages
Bicycle injuries range from minor scrapes to traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and even death. Some of the most common bike accident injuries include:
- Abrasions (road rash)
- Skull fractures
- Brain contusions
- Intracranial hemorrhage
Fortunately, Missouri allows bike-accident victims and their families to recover 3 types of damages:
- Economic damages represent the monetary losses caused by an accident (medical expenses, lost wages, property damage).
- Non-economic damages represent the non-monetary losses caused by an accident (pain and suffering, loss of consortium)
- Punitive damages are intended to punish a defendant and are typically only available if the defendant acted willfully.
Missouri bike accident statute of limitations
When you’re involved in a crash or accident, you only have a certain amount of time to file a personal injury lawsuit. This time limitation is called the statute of limitations.
In Missouri, the statute of limitations for most bike-accident lawsuits is 5 years.
To put it another way, you have 5 years from the date of your bike accident to file a lawsuit or your lawsuit will be forever barred.
Exceptions to this deadline are rare, though there are a couple of situations in which the 5-year statute of limitations may be longer or shorter. It’s always a good idea to talk to an attorney as soon as possible following an accident to make sure you don’t ruin your best shot at recovery.
Do I need a bike accident lawyer?
Much like motorcycle accidents, insurance companies and jurors tend to have a bias against bicyclists. What’s more, bike accidents tend to result in significant and catastrophic injuries. For these reasons, it’s usually a good idea to hire a bike accident lawyer to handle your claim.
If you’re not sure you need a lawyer, schedule a free initial consultation. Personal injury attorneys typically work on a contingent fee basis (meaning they don’t get paid if you don’t get paid), so the lawyer you meet with will tell you honestly whether you have a valid claim and need an attorney.
Find a Missouri bike accident attorney using our free online directory.