Common Legal Questions for a Portland Bicycle Accident Liability

Bicycle and Car Collision Liability:

When a car and a bicycle are in a collision, it can mean serious injuries for the bicyclist. Despite popular belief, most bicycle accidents do not involve cars  – they only involve the cyclist – but the most serious injuries are sustained in a car/bicycle collision. And the majority of these injuries occur at intersections.

In Oregon, bicycles are legally considered to be “vehicles” for most purposes and are therefore subject to most of the same laws as cars (ORS 814.400). Therefore, in many cases the same laws apply for establishing liability, so whichever “vehicle” operator was negligent and caused the accident will be held accountable for losses.

Bicycle Riders without Insurance:

Many serious bicycle riders do not have auto insurance, and therefore cannot collect on their auto policy’s Personal Injury Protection Coverage or Uninsured Motorist Coverage. But if you were not at fault for the collision, you may be able to receive compensation from the at-fault driver’s auto insurance company.

Until that point, you can use your own health insurance to pay any medical bills. Be careful, however, as sometimes the health insurance company will want to be reimbursed from any settlement you receive from the auto insurance company.

If you are worried about receiving a fair settlement for your injuries from the auto insurance company, you can contact an experienced Portland bicycle accident attorney for help and often, this attorney can assist you in negotiating down any later medical liens from the health insurance company if needed.

Dangerous Roads/Intersections:

If you believe you were injured because of poorly maintained roads or a dangerous intersection, you may be able to receive compensation. If you have been injured or a loved one has died in a bicycle accident due to the actions or negligence of public employees, publicly-owned vehicles (like buses), or dangerous road conditions (like poorly designed signage or improper maintenance), you may be able to file a claim against the public agency.

Cities, counties, and other government bodies are responsible for ensuring that vehicles are able to travel safely. In some cases, if negligence is apparent, an attorney can file a Tort Claim Notice for you but these must be filed with 180 days and can be very complicated. We recommend calling a Portland personal injury attorney if you feel you have a claim against a public agency.

Investigation of Opposing Accounts:

In Portland, as with many other cities around the country, there sometimes seems to be a war raging between cyclists and drivers. Unfortunately this means disagreements about right-of-way, bicycling laws, and who is liable for accidents. When liability, or fault, is questioned in a bicycle accident, a Portland bicycle accident lawyer can investigate for you to ensure that if they other party is liable they are held responsible for any damages.

This investigation can be time-consuming, but a good lawyer will know the procedure and which experts to hire for help. There are bicycle accident forensic specialists, for example, that can identify the causation and sequence of events in a crash. And while you might be able to hire such a specialist yourself, you might prefer to leave that task to professionals.

Defective Bicycles and Components:

Sadly, there is always the possibility of a defective bicycling product. If some part of your bike malfunctions and causes you to crash, you may have a product liability case. And if some protective gear does not protect you as well as it should, you may be able to hold the manufacturer responsible as well.

For example, if you are riding down the street, hit a bump, and fall over your handle bars, your helmet should (to some degree) protect your head. But if your helmet splits in two and you end up with a traumatic brain injury, you may be able to file a claim against the helmet company if a defect is found in the design, manufacturing, or even marketing. Cases like this are much rarer than cases against insurance companies, but when something like this happens it is important that the manufacturers be held responsible for shoddy goods.

Hit by a Car Door:

If you have been injured by someone opening a car door into the bicycle lane, you may be able to get compensation for your injuries. According to ORS 811.490, this can be illegal if the person who opens the door does not pay attention to bicycles approaching. The law says:

ORS 811.490

(1)A person commits the offense of improper opening or leaving open a vehicle door if the person does any of the following:

  • (a) Opens any door of a vehicle unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so and it can be done without interference with the movement of traffic, or with pedestrians and bicycles on sidewalks or shoulders.
  • (b) Leaves a door open on the side of a vehicle available to traffic, or to pedestrians or bicycles on sidewalks or shoulders for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers.

Cars In the Bike Lane and Right Hooks:

Since there seems to be some confusion about whether cars are allowed to be in the bicycle lane, let us help clear it up. According to Oregon law, cars cannot move into the bicycle lane and stop before making right turns, although the car can cross the lane during turning if need. Interestingly, TriMet buses, mail trucks, emergency vehicles and delivery trucks are sometimes exempt from the rules of stopping in the bicycle lane.

There is some controversy about this, because of the wording in ORS 811.440, but Joseph Rose, a writer for the Oregonian, talked to Portland Police Capt. Todd Wyatt about this, and he agreed that the bike lane is meant to protect bicyclists, and therefore cars should not be in them.

Cars should, when making a right turn, look for bicyclists and let them pass before making the turn. Many bicyclists have been injured by drivers who have taken a right turn without looking, and this dangerous maneuver is called a “right hook.”