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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, spinal cord injury, brain injury, damage to internal organs, and other catastrophic impairment injuries. 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).

It is also important to note that fault is not all or nothing. The vehicle driver will often try to blame the cyclist by arguing that the cyclist caused or contributed to the accident (this is known as “contributory negligence”). If the vehicle driver can prove that the cyclist was partially responsible for the accident, then the damages awarded will be reduced by that amount. For example, if the driver can prove that the cyclist was 10 percent at fault for the accident, the cyclist’s damages will be reduced by 10 percent.

Obligations on cyclists when sharing the road

Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act classifies a bicycle as a vehicle. That means a bicyclist has the same rights and responsibilities as other vehicle drivers. Cyclists are also responsible for their own safety. To avoid allegations of fault and contributory negligence, cyclists should:

  • Obey all traffic laws

  • Yield the right-of-way to other road users

  • Wear a well-fitted safety helmet and any other safety gear

  • Dismount when going through a crosswalk

  • Maintain a proper lookout

  • Be visible. Wear reflective gear and use lights/reflectors when cycling between dusk and

  • dawn.

What if the accident was the cyclist’s fault?

Even if it is determined that the bike/car crash was caused by the fault of the cyclist, the cyclist is not totally out of luck. A cyclist is entitled to claim accident benefits from the vehicle driver’s insurance if the cyclist does not have their own insurance. These accident benefits are part of every auto insurance policy in Ontario and cover things such as income replacement benefits and payment for medical and rehabilitation expenses.

Connect with us today if you or a loved one has suffered a bike injury

Oshawa accident lawyers from Kelly Greenway Bruce ensure that legal rights are protected and that you or your loved one receives fair compensation for pain and suffering, wage loss, medical bills, and more. It’s important to connect with our bike injury lawyers in Oshawa as soon as possible so we can gather evidence and guide you through the complicated insurance claims process. Contact our dedicated team either in Oshawa or Lindsay for a free case evaluation today.


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