Every time an individual travels on a road in America, he or she takes a risk. Although road travel is relatively safe, car accidents still claim a staggering number of lives each year. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 35,000 people lost their lives on U.S. roads and highways in 2015 alone.

Most often, accidents are caused by drivers. Distraction, intoxication, fatigue and aggression all contribute to fatal and injurious motor vehicle accident rates. But sometimes, auto accidents are caused by cyclists, bikers and even pedestrians. Although it can be difficult to determine fault in some of these cases, non-motorists can be held liable in the event that they either contributed to the cause of an auto accident or were fully responsible for it. Similarly, if a motorist injures or kills a non-motorist, that driver can be held responsible for their behavior as well.

When cyclists are at fault

Cycling is great for the mind, body and spirit. However, it can be a dangerous way to travel. Most American roads were built with motor travel in mind. Bicycle lanes are almost always either added as an afterthought or are not present at all. It is therefore very important that cyclists are careful when traveling.

Unfortunately, cyclists are increasingly distracted by electronic devices. This phenomenon and similar challenges are indeed causing a number of cyclists to contribute to auto accident rates each year. Depending on the laws of the state in which each crash occurs, cyclists can be held partially or totally liable for a crash in both criminal and civil contexts.

When drivers are at fault

Most often, when a bicycle and an automobile collide it is the fault of a motorist or a third cause like poor road conditions. In an auto-bicycle accident, the motorist has the obvious advantage as that individual is insulated by a vehicle, whereas a cyclist may be hit without any protection at all.

As a result, the criminal and civil consequences of hitting a cyclist may be severe. However, each case is unique, which is why it is so important for individuals involved in serious auto-bicycle accidents to speak with an attorney as soon as possible after seeking medical attention.