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Examining liability for bicycle accidents involving children

With the change in season from summer to fall comes the start of a new school year for many Albuquerque families. Many children ride their bicycles to school instead of walking or taking the bus. While most children find their way safely to and from school, some children aren't as lucky and can be involved in a bicycle accident involving a motor vehicle. There are differences in how bicycle accidents are handled when it involves a child.

Bicycle accidents involving a child are viewed differently from a bicyclist who is of legal age. Children aren't expected to exercise a standard of care that a grown adult would, and, thus, drivers are expected to be extra cautious in areas where children ride bicycles. Since children are often not held responsible for actions they take while riding their bike, the driver of the vehicle involved in an accident with them could hold the majority, if not all, of the blame for an accident involving injuries. Since there could be serious consequences for a child involved in a bicycle accident, like broken bones and medical expenses, understanding how fault is apportioned is important.

The child who was injured on the bicycle need not have even been seen by the driver to find fault. This is because drivers are expected to practice 'unusual care' in areas where bicycles may be ridden by children even if a bicycle isn't in the view of the driver. For example, school zones and neighborhoods are areas that are typically considered areas where drivers should practice unusual care since children could likely be riding their bicycles there. Even if a child made a mistake riding a bike, their contributory negligence is usually held to a minimum since their ability to reason isn't considered equal to that of an adult. For instance, a driver could be found negligent in a case involving a child in which an adult would have been found equally at fault for the bicycle accident.

In short, drivers involved in a bicycle accident with a child are held to tougher standards than they would be if they were involved in an accident with an adult. Children are not considered equal to adults under the law. This idea is commonly found across NM law involving children and is not exclusive to bicycle accidents. Hopefully, every child makes it home safe this school year.

Source: FindLaw, "Child Bicycle Accident Liability," Accessed September 19, 2016

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