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Cyclists: The Accident Might Not Be Your Fault! The Legal Requirement of Sharing the Road

Bicycle accidents tend to cause very severe injuries. Cyclists don’t have the same physical protection as people riding in cars or trucks. A cyclist who is struck by a vehicle is vulnerable to orthopedic fractures, brain injury, serious road rash, and damage to internal organs. Who is at fault in a bike/vehicle collision? The law in Ontario recognizes that while we all share the road, drivers need to be extra cautious and watch out for cyclists.

Ontario driver must disprove negligence when hitting a cyclist

Ontario law has a special rule if a cyclist is struck by a motor vehicle on a road or highway and decides to bring a lawsuit against the vehicle’s driver. In those types of lawsuits, the rule is that the cyclist gets the benefit of a presumption of fault against the driver. That presumption is found in s. 193 of Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act, which reads as follows:

Onus of disproving negligence

193 (1) When loss or damage is sustained by any person by reason of a motor vehicle on a highway, the onus of proof that the loss or damage did not arise through the negligence or improper conduct of the owner, driver, lessee or operator of the motor vehicle is upon the owner, driver, lessee or operator of the motor vehicle.

In an accident involving two motor vehicles, the onus is typically on the person who starts a personal injury lawsuit to prove two essential elements: (1) the fault or liability of the other driver, and (2) the injuries, damage and loss, caused by the accident. In a bike/vehicle accident situation, the cyclist doesn’t have to prove the first element. Instead, section 193 creates a “reverse onus” in that it presumes the driver was at fault for the accident unless the driver can prove otherwise.

Disputing negligence and pinning fault on the cyclist for bike injury

Oshawa lawyers at our firm have been representing injured cyclists for over 50 years. We see firsthand how complicated these cases can be, despite the seemly clear-cut reverse onus and presumption of negligence against the vehicle driver. The vehicle driver will deny negligence or improper conduct on their part and attempt to gather evidence to pin fault on the cyclist. If the driver can prove that they acted reasonably and properly given the circumstances, the presumption is rebutted (i.e., spent).