Bicycle Accidents in Wisconsin: Who is Responsible?

On behalf of Peterson, Berk & Cross, S.C.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT), more than 90% of bicycle accidents are caused by human error. In other words, bicycle accidents and the injuries associated with them are largely preventable.

Automobile drivers are responsible for about 60% of bicycle accidents involving adult cyclists according to the Wisconsin DOT. However, cyclists can contribute to these crashes as well, making it difficult to know who is truly responsible under Wisconsin law. 

When Are Automobile Drivers Liable? 

In short, drivers are responsible when they operate vehicles recklessly or negligently and cause an accident. Reckless or negligent driving can include: 

-Excessive speed

-Failure to yield the right-of-way 

-Running red lights or stop signs 

-Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol 

-Driving while distracted (i.e., texting while driving) 

-Turning left into the pathway of an oncoming cyclist

When Are Cyclists Liable? 

Cyclists may be liable for accidents with vehicles even if they sustain serious injuries. In other words, negligence goes both ways and either party (the cyclist or motorist) can be responsible. Some forms of cyclist negligence include: 

-Not stopping at stop signs or red lights

-Riding against the flow of traffic 

-Cutting off vehicles / not using hand signals when required

-Riding on roads prohibited to cyclists (i.e., expressways or controlled access highways) 

-Riding under the influence 

That said, a negligent cyclist involved in a serious accident with a vehicle may still be eligible to recover damages. 

When Can Bicyclists Recover Damages After an Accident? 

In Wisconsin, injured cyclists may be able to recover damages even if they are partially responsible for the accident. This partial responsibility is called “contributory negligence.” According to §895.045(1), an injured person is not barred from recovering damages as long as their own negligence is not “greater than the negligence of the person against whom recovery is sought.” 

For a few simple examples, a cyclist who is 15% responsible for their own accident can still seek damages up to 85%. If a cyclist is 51% responsible for the accident, they are barred from recovering damages because they hold the majority of the liability for the accident. 

When to Contact an Attorney 

If you or someone you love was hurt in a bicycle accident in Wisconsin caused by the negligence of another vehicle’s driver, contact Peterson, Berk & Cross, S.C. today. Our priority is always the best interests of our clients, and we can help you seek maximum financial compensation.