When a vehicle gets into an accident with a bicycle, the size and force difference between the two modes of transportation means the bicyclist could take the brunt of the impact. It would seem logical that the vehicle would be liable, not the bicyclist. That’s often–but not always–the case. Here’s what you need to know about being involved in a bicycle accident in Nova Scotia.

What Are Nova Scotia Drivers Required to Do When Sharing Roads with Bicyclists?

Nova Scotia has requirements for bicyclists and drivers who share the roads. Drivers must:

  • Stay one meter away from a bicyclist at all times. This means they can’t pass a bicycle unless they can still maintain that one-meter distance while passing. They can cross center lines when passing a bicycle as long as that part of the road legally allows vehicles to pass.
  • Drivers are not allowed to either drive in a bicycle lane nor to park in one.
  • The driver might be liable if an accident occurred when one or more of these were violated.

What Are Nova Scotia Bicyclists Required to Do When Sharing Roads with Drivers?

These are the requirements for Nova Scotia bicyclists.

  • They must ride in the same direction as traffic and stay in a single file unless passing another bicyclist.
  • If there are marked bike lanes, the bicyclist must use them unless there’s an obstruction of some kind (for example, construction debris) in the way. The cyclist is allowed to leave the bike lane long enough to avoid hitting the obstruction but must return to the bike lane once it’s safe to do so.
  • Where there is no marked bike lane, bicyclists must stay on the far right side of the road.
  • Bicyclists must obey the same traffic laws and road signs they would have to follow if they were driving a vehicle.
  • Bicycles must be walked through crosswalks.
  • Hitching a bike to a car and riding the bike that way is illegal.
  • Only one rider per bicycle is allowed unless the bike is built for more, such as a tandem bike.

Violating any of these could put the bicyclist at risk of being found at least partially liable for the accident. However, that can be harder to prove. Read on for the reason for that, and know that working with an experienced bicycle accident lawyer is in your best interests.

What Is Reverse Onus?

Reverse onus is a legal concept that applies in Nova Scotia and is often used in bicycle accidents. In many other types of cases, the person accused of doing something harmful or illegal is considered innocent until the other side proves that they’re guilty. But in bicycle accidents, the Highway Traffic Act states that the driver is considered liable for the accident unless they can prove they were not.

In turn, the bicyclist needs only to prove that the accident happened and that they were harmed, whether physically or financially. Part of the reason the Highway Traffic Act includes this wording is to (hopefully) encourage drivers to be more cautious around bicyclists, but also because a bicyclist injured in an accident may have little or no memory of the event.

What if the Bicyclist is Determined to be At Least Partly at Fault for the Accident?

The bicyclist may still be awarded damages and financial compensation in that situation. Still, that amount would be reduced in proportion to the amount of fault they carry for the accident. In personal injury cases, Nova Scotia follows what’s called contributory negligence. This means that each party in an accident may be deemed at fault and judged to be a specific percentage of fault.

For example, a speeding driver hit a bicyclist who was not riding in the marked bike lane. The driver may still be assessed as 70% responsible for the accident, but the cyclist is 30% liable. If the cyclist is awarded $10,000 in damages, that amount is reduced by 30% to $7,000–another reason it’s essential to work with an experienced lawyer.

What Should I Do if I’ve Been Injured in a Bicycle Accident in Nova Scotia?

Your first step is to have yourself evaluated by a physician as soon as you can. Some injuries, including serious

Then call us at 902-706-5205 to schedule a free case review. If the vehicle’s owner is working with their insurance representative or lawyer, they may try to find ways to claim the accident was your fault. The best plan is to have an experienced, knowledgeable bicycle lawyer working on your behalf to look out for your best interests. At NOVA Injury Law, we’re not only experienced lawyers, but we’re also avid bicyclists ourselves–and we want to help you.

Something you should not do: Have any communication with the vehicle owner’s insurance rep or lawyer. Because it’s in their best interests to try to make you at fault for the accident, they may try to get you to say something that could be interpreted as taking the blame. They may also try to convince you to agree to a much lower settlement than you might be eligible for. If you receive any phone calls or written communications (letters or emails), don’t answer them but forward them to your lawyer.