Cycling has become an increasingly popular mode of transportation and recreation in New Mexico. With its stunning landscapes and scenic routes, it's no surprise that many residents and tourists alike opt to explore the state on two wheels. However, as the number of cyclists sharing the roads with motor vehicles grows, so does the potential for accidents. When a bicycle accident occurs, determining liability is crucial to ensuring justice for the injured parties.
Shared Road Responsibilities
New Mexico, like most states, adheres to the principle of shared road responsibilities, which means that both cyclists and motorists have a duty to follow the rules of the road and exercise reasonable care to avoid accidents. Bicycles are considered vehicles in the eyes of the law, and as such, cyclists must obey traffic laws, signals, and signs, just like any motorist. They are required to ride in the same direction as traffic and signal their turns. Failure to adhere to these rules may lead to a determination of comparative negligence if an accident occurs.
Negligence and Comparative Fault
Negligence is a central concept in personal injury law. To establish liability, the injured party (plaintiff) must demonstrate that the other party (defendant) breached their duty of care, causing the accident and resulting injuries.
In bicycle accidents, negligence could arise from various circumstances, such as:
- Distracted Driving/Cycling: If a motorist or cyclist was distracted by texting, talking on the phone, adjusting the radio, or engaging in any other activity that diverted their attention from the road, they may be held liable for the accident.
- Failure to Yield: Accidents can occur when motorists fail to yield the right of way to cyclists, especially at intersections or when making turns.
- Dooring Accidents: A dooring accident happens when a parked car occupant opens their door without checking for oncoming cyclists, resulting in a collision.
- Speeding: Excessive speed by either a motorist or a cyclist can lead to accidents that cause serious injuries.
In New Mexico, the concept of comparative fault comes into play when multiple parties share blame for an accident. Under comparative fault rules, the court determines the percentage of fault attributed to each party involved. The injured party's compensation is then reduced by their assigned percentage of fault. However, if the injured party is found to be 51% or more at fault, they may be barred from recovering any compensation.
Helmet Laws and Liability
New Mexico has helmet laws in place for certain age groups. Cyclists under the age of 18 are required to wear helmets while riding. Failure to wear a helmet does not automatically make the cyclist at fault for an accident. However, it can impact the severity of their injuries, and it may be considered a factor in determining comparative fault.
Dedicated Cycling Infrastructure
In some cases, the presence or absence of dedicated cycling infrastructure may also influence liability. If a cyclist is involved in an accident while using a designated bike lane or pathway, it could strengthen their case against a motorist who veered into the bike lane or failed to yield to them. On the other hand, if a cyclist chooses to ride on a road without dedicated cycling infrastructure, they must be vigilant and follow traffic rules to reduce the risk of accidents.
Injured in a Bicycle Accident in Albuquerque?
Understanding liability in bicycle accidents in New Mexico requires a careful examination of the circumstances surrounding each case. Determining fault involves analyzing the actions of both the cyclist and the motorist to ascertain whether negligence played a role in the collision.
If you have been involved in a bicycle accident and need guidance, don't hesitate to reach out to Martinez, Hart, Sanchez & Romero. Our experienced team is here to provide you with the support and expertise you need to navigate the complexities of your case successfully.
Contact us today at (505) 806-1780 to schedule a free consultation.