Bicycling is no longer viewed as purely a recreational sport. Many commuters in today’s cities rely on bicycling as a means of avoiding traffic congestion and contributing to a healthier environment. There are also numerous health benefits for bicyclists, including a reduction in the risk of stroke or heart disease.
While most cities have created separate paths and lanes for bicycling activities, most bicyclist still share the road with motorists. In fact, according to a national survey conducted in 2002 by the US Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 48.1% of bicyclists used paved roads, not shoulders, during their riding activities.
Invariably, the combination of bicyclists and motorists sharing the same road space creates the opportunity for accidents. According to NHTSA, there were approximately 51,000 people injured in motor vehicle crashes while riding bicycles and other modes of pedal-powered, non-motorized vehicles in the U.S. in 2009. New Mexico records approximately 200 to 300 injuries among bicyclists each year.
The physics behind an auto accident involving a bicyclist do not bode well for the cyclist. The injuries to the cyclist can be and often are severe. Often times, there is shared fault for the auto/bicycle accident. Fortunately, New Mexico follows comparative negligence standards of liability.
Under comparative negligence standards, fault on the part of the cyclist will not necessarily defeat a personal injury claim. This is particularly so in cases of catastrophic injuries or wrongful death where even a small percentage of fault on the part of the driver can result in significant liability.
Unfortunately, even where a lawsuit is possible, the limits of liability are generally defined by the driver‘s auto insurance policy liability limits. Due to the severity of injuries in most auto/bicycle accidents, these limits are typically grossly insufficient to cover the cyclist‘s full injuries and damages.
So be careful out there! Cycling and traffic are a dangerous mix.