Being injured in a bicycle accident can have long-lasting consequences, including medical bills and chronic pain. Seeking to recover compensation for injuries by filing a lawsuit is often necessary. But in a trial, the at-fault party will likely raise the argument of comparative negligence to reduce the driver’s liability.
Comparative negligence is a legal defense
Most traffic accident cases in Nevada focus on the question of whether the defendant was negligent. A typical bicycling accident case involves an injured cyclist (the plaintiff) seeking to recover damages (that is, a cash payment) from a defendant driver’s insurer. The plaintiff must show that the driver failed to exercise a reasonable level of care under the circumstances, causing the plaintiff’s injuries, which in turn resulted in damages like medical bills, pain and suffering, and property damage.
Nevada’s comparative negligence law recognizes that one party rarely is solely responsible for an accident or its resulting injuries. Under Nevada’s comparative negligence statute, NRS 41.141, a defendant may ask a jury to consider how the plaintiff’s negligence contributed to the accident. The jury must first determine the total amount of damages in the case. It then assigns a percentage of fault to each side of the dispute, with the plaintiff’s share of the fault reducing the final recovery from the defendant. Under Nevada’s so-called modified comparative negligence rule, if the jury determines that the plaintiff is more than 50% at fault, the plaintiff recovers nothing).
Bicyclists have lots of opportunities to behave negligently
Here are a few ways a cyclist can Defendants can make a strong legal case for contributory negligence when the cyclist-plaintiff was breaking the law at the time of the accident.
- Breaking the law. Perhaps the easiest way a defendant can show the plaintiff-cyclist’s negligence is by proving that the plaintiff was breaking a law at the time of the accident, and that breaking the law contributed to the plaintiff’s injuries. For example, a cyclist who rides at night without the required headlight or tail and side reflectors will be much harder to see. Cyclists in Nevada are required to obey all traffic signals and road signs.
- Not wearing a helmet. Nevada does not require cyclists to wear helmets. However, a defendant can still argue that a cyclist’s failure to wear a helmet contributed to the cyclist’s head injuries. Because head injuries can be especially devastating, wearing a helmet is a wise health choice as well as a good legal strategy.
- Getting overtired or riding with an injury. Insurance company lawyers will look for any angle to support their comparative negligence defense. They’ll ask questions like, how long was the cyclist riding before the accident? Was the cyclist in good enough health to be riding that day? They will use any bad facts they can to establish that the rider was not behaving reasonably at the moment the accident occurred.
Cyclists who are injured in an accident need to talk to a lawyer
GGRM has represented injured Las Vegas residents for over 45 years. If you have been involved in a serious bicycling accident and would like to speak to a lawyer about your legal options, call us today for a free consultation. We can be reached at 702-388-4476, or through our contact page.