Children can be involved in bicycle accidents with other vehicles. When it comes to children on bicycles, drivers have to exercise increased care. Drivers are always required to exercise reasonable caution regarding others on the road. However, the amount of care drivers must reasonably show increases when children, particularly young children, are involved. Likewise, children are held to a lower standard in terms of the carefulness they can be expected to show while riding bicycles.
Drivers' Increased Duty of Care around Children
In bicycle accident cases involving either adult or child bicyclists, the driver's liability most often depends on whether they were negligent, and whether that negligence caused the accident. Whether the cyclist was a child or an adult, the driver must exercise reasonable care in the given circumstances.
When children are present, the amount of care and precaution which is reasonable increases. For example, drivers should expect that young children might suddenly cross into the street or get scared if the driver approaches too fast.
If a driver knows or reasonably should expect that children may be present, the driver must show increased care, sometimes called "unusual care." If a driver sees children on bikes or drives through a place often frequented by children, the driver must pay closer attention and be prepared to stop or turn suddenly. Drivers must be on increased lookout when driving in or around schools, parks, school bus stops, residential neighborhoods, trailer parks, and other places where children can be expected.
This doesn't mean that drivers are presumed negligent any time they collide with a child on a bike. In cases where the driver showed all the precaution which can be expected but still could not avoid the accident, the driver may have satisfied the increased duty of care and should not be found negligent.
Children and Contributory Negligence in Bicycle Accidents
Defendants in bicycle accident lawsuits often claim that the bicyclist's negligence specifically, contributory or comparative negligence, caused the accident. However, just as drivers are held to a higher standard when children are present, children on bicycles are often held to a lower standard.
State laws vary widely on whether and when children may be held responsible for contributing to the cause of accidents. Under the "tender years" doctrine, most jurisdictions hold that very young children (up to age 4 in many places) are incapable of contributory negligence because they are incapable of exercising care for their own safety or that of others. This applies to child bicycle accident cases, meaning that a driver found negligent may not argue that contributory negligence by such a young child caused the accident.
Between the "tender years" and early teenage years (often from 4 to 14 years old), many states apply a presumption that the child is incapable of contributory negligence. Even where a child is capable of negligence, the court may apply a standard of conduct of that which is reasonable to expect of children of like age, intelligence, and experience.
An Attorney Can Help Determine Liability in a Bicycle Accident Claim
A biking accident involving a child can be very serious. As a parent, you may be worried about your child's safety and want to know your legal options. If your child is hit by a car while riding a bike, it may be in your best interests to contact an experienced injury law attorney in your area.