Washington, DC asked in Personal Injury for District of Columbia

Q: Is a cyclist totally at fault if they didn't stop at a stop sign so when I went through I hit him?

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3 Lawyer Answers

Timothy Fizer

Answered
  • Baltimore, MD
  • Licensed in District of Columbia

A: You have not provided sufficient details about the accident to prompt a reliable answer. There is no doubt, however, that you should report the incident to your insurance company, in the event the bicyclist decides to make a claim against you for any injuries he sustained.

Mark Oakley

Answered
  • Rockville, MD
  • Licensed in District of Columbia

A: What do you mean, "you went through"? Went through what? If you were the cyclist who ignored the stop sign and didn't stop, you are negligent. If you were driving a car on the favored street and did not have a stop sign, and hit the cyclist who ran the stop sign and entered into your lane of traffic, then you would not be at fault. For civil cases based on negligence in the District of Columbia, if a party's negligence contributes in any degree to the accident, that party is barred from making a damage claim, so even if both the driver and the cyclist were negligent, neither could recover against the other. However, there is another doctrine, known as "last clear chance," which can defeat the defense of contributory negligence. In your scenario, if the driver that struck the cyclist had the last clear chance to observe and appreciate that the cyclist was vulnerable to be hit, and the driver actually had a clear chance to avoid hitting the cyclist but did not do so, then the cyclist could still make a claim and would not be barred based on their own negligence in running the stop sign. That's not an easy thing to prove, and every case turns on their peculiar facts. Opinions and observations in these cases differ from witness to witness, and from driver to cyclist.

John Mesirow

PREMIUM
Answered
  • Washington, DC
  • Licensed in District of Columbia

A: I am a cyclist, so this "hits" close to home. The law in DC changed a couple years ago. In the "bad" old days, if a cyclist contributed to the accident, he/she could not recover due to a doctrine called contributory negligence. Now, fortunately, the law has changed as set forth below.

§ 50–2204.52. Contributory negligence limitation.

(a) The negligence of a pedestrian, bicyclist, or other non-motorized user of a public highway involved in a collision

with a motor vehicle shall not bar the plaintiff's recovery in any civil action unless the plaintiff's negligence is:

(1) A proximate cause of the plaintiff's injury; and

(2) Greater than the aggregated total amount of negligence of all of the defendants that proximately caused the

plaintiff's injury.

So, depending on the facts, the cyclist could have a claim. If you have not already done so, you should report this to your insurance carrier. You don't want to blow your coverage.

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