I was hit by a car while cycling. What can I do?

A: Warmer spring weather means that more cyclists will be sharing the road with vehicles. Inevitably, that means there will be a greater number of collisions between automobiles and bikes. If you are injured on Alberta's roads while cycling, contact us to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.

What is the first thing I do?

Let's say a car grazed your bike, and you lost control. You have been knocked down and possibly injured. If you are able, call 911 for medical assistance. You may be in shock and not realize the extent of your injury, so you need to take some time to assess the damage. Then move on to gathering evidence,

How do I gather evidence to support my case?

Take photos of any damage to your bicycle and the injuries you have sustained. If anyone witnessed the collision, collect their name and contact information, as their testimony may be crucial in the case. Also, document any weather or road conditions that may have contributed to the accident. If police are called to investigate the accident, ask them for a copy of their report.

Do I need to share my personal information?

Cyclists are not required to have insurance in Alberta, but damages to your bicycle may be covered under your car's policy if you own an automobile. Cyclists should always carry identification and their provincial health insurance number. If you are in an accident with a vehicle, exchange your information for their automobile driver's licence and insurance details.

What compensation can I expect?

Most bike/car accidents result from driver error and are handled cooperatively between parties. Your initial treatment costs will be paid by Alberta Health Care and by your private health insurance coverage if you have that. The "Section B" portion of the motorist's insurance and your automobile insurance is also the "Section B" insurance. 

In Canada, every automobile must be insured for public liability, thus providing some financial security for cyclists involved in an accident. In Alberta, the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims program assists victims when the vehicle at fault has no insurance. If you have suffered serious injuries that require lengthy rehabilitation or if your injuries interfere with work and your personal life for more than six months, you need to give our experienced personal injury lawyers a call.

Do I need to visit a doctor?

After any cycling injury, see a family doctor for a checkup. Symptoms may not be apparent for many months, so don't assume everything is fine. Ask your doctor to initiate any required treatments as soon as possible, possibly bringing in specialists such as a physiotherapist or chiropractor. If you struggle to complete regular daily activities or your work, ask for a referral to an occupational therapist. If you are experiencing psychological issues because of the accident (stress, anxiety, shortened memory, etc.), ask your doctor for a referral to a psychiatrist or psychologist.

Where does the onus of proof lie?

The plaintiff typically must prove that the defendant was negligent in civil cases. If that can't be shown to be the case, the plaintiff will not succeed in recovering any damages. However, s. 186 of Alberta's Traffic Safety Act reverses that onus, stating: "If a person sustains loss or damage by reason of a motor vehicle being in motion, the onus of proof in any civil proceeding that the loss or damage did not entirely or solely arise through the negligence or improper conduct of the owner or driver of the motor vehicle is on that owner or driver." 

That means the motor vehicle driver is presumed to be negligent unless they can prove that the loss or damage did not arise entirely through their negligence. This presumption introduces the concept of contributory negligence.

What is contributory negligence?

If you did not take reasonable steps to ensure you were safely operating your bicycle, that could be a factor when assessing who is at fault in a collision. Factors include:

  • Were you wearing a helmet? Cyclists under 18 must always wear a helmet in Alberta, and adults are advised to don one, although it is not legally required.
  • Were you distracted? If it can be shown that you were looking at your phone at the time of the collision, or if the music in your earbuds prevented you from hearing sounds that would have alerted you to possible dangers, an argument can be made that you were distracted and that contributed to the accident.
  • Did you go through a traffic light? Cyclists must follow the same rules of the road as motor vehicles, though many go through intersections without stopping if there is no cross-traffic. Most of the time, cyclists can get away with that behaviour, but not always.
  • Did you ensure you were visible? Any bicycle ridden in the dark or in poor weather conditions should be equipped with lights. You should also wear reflective clothing to ensure you are visible to drivers.

What legislation covers cycling?

Under Alberta's Traffic Safety Act, bicycles are considered vehicles. That means that cyclists have many of the same rights and legal responsibilities as other roadway users. Cyclists must also abide by any applicable bylaws in their municipality. In Calgary, for example, all bicycles must have at least one working brake and a bell or horn. If the bike is being ridden at dawn, dusk or in the dark, it must be equipped with a white-light headlight, a red-light tail light and a red rear reflector. Click here for more information on cycling regulations in Calgary or consult this city bylaw.

How often do cycling accidents occur?

According to information from Statistics Canada, 890 cyclists died in Canada between 2006 and 2017, an average of 74 deaths per year. Collisions with a motor vehicle made up 73 percent of fatal cycling events. Collisions with another cyclist or a stationary object accounted for 15 percent of those deaths.

Do I need a lawyer after a bicycle/car accident?

When automobiles and bicycles collide, the cyclist is typically the one who suffers the most. Our injury lawyers can help guide you through your options and help you obtain the best outcome. 

If you've been in an MVA, contact Kantor LLP, MVA Injury Lawyers, for a free consultation.