Bicycle accident litigation frequently involves devastating injuries. The local laws and ordinances that apply to the operation and use of bikes are different than what may apply to motor vehicles in some instances. Any attorney handling these types of claims needs to know those areas of the law. For a free consultation call us or contact us.
In 2009 630 bicyclists were killed and 51,000 were injured in bicycle accidents involving motor vehicles according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
For the year 2011, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that there were 677 deaths from bicycle accident and 48,000 injuries from such accidents with motor vehicles.
The city council in the District of Columbia recently enacted new legislation giving greater protection to pedestrians, bicycle riders and other persons using a non-motorized vehicle on the public highway. The protection comes in the form of converting the contributory negligence law in the District of Columbia as to those users to what is called comparative negligence.
The specific language in the statute is: “The negligence of a pedestrian, bicyclist, or other non-motorized user of a public highway involved in a collision with a motor vehicle shall not bar the plaintiff’s recovery in any civil action unless the plaintiff’s negligence is:
The laws relating to DC bike accidents can be somewhat confusing. Part of this is due to the different surfaces that cyclists can ride on. They can ride on the roadway, bike lanes and in some instances on sidewalks. Within DC, cyclists are forbiddedn from riding on the sidewalks in the central business district. That central business district is specifically defined.
In any bike accident case the facts and details are significant. The type of clothing that the cyclist is wearing may be important. Likewise what the bike looks like may be important. All of those factors and many more need to be taken into consideration.
Under DC law and regulations bicycles are treated as vehicles. Cyclists have to follow the same laws as do the drivers of cars, trucks and motorcycles. That means that a bicyclist has to stop at a stop sign. A bicyclist has to stop at a red light. A bicyclist must adhere to a yield sign. There are also special regulations dealing with bicyclists entering and exiting bike lanes.
All of those things are important in order to understand DC bike accidents.
Bicycle accident cases are sometimes a product of the type of bicycle that is being used. Increasingly popular are fixed gear bicycles which are single speed bikes which do not have a traditional braking mechanism. Bikes of this type can be somewhat problematic if in fact speed or ability to stop is an issue in a bicycle case.
Many jurisdictions have mandatory helmet laws that apply to children and some that may apply to adults.
Common safety features on bicycles include reflectors which are mandatory on bikes sold in the United States, puncture resistant tires and also rear and front lights.
An increasing cause of bicycle accidents is that of motorist opening a door into the path of the bicycle. In most jurisdictions if a motorist does that and is thereby impacted by an approaching motorist then the person who opened the door is the one who is liable. That is, it is incumbent upon the stopped motorist to make sure that the opening of the door is not going to impact any other motorist. The same should apply to an approaching bicyclist.
Bicycle accident prevention is an increasingly important issue because of the increasing number of bicycle accidents.
The Washington Post, on September 16, 2012, reported that in the last 80 years there have been 44,000 bicycle fatalities nationwide and between 2006 and 2010 there were 29 bicyclists killed in the Washington region.
There are a number of things that both bikers and motorists should adhere to:
The most compelling challenge that a injured bike rider has in Virginia is the defense of contributory negligence. That defense can bar the claim for bike injuries. Simply put what that defense says is that if there is fault on the part of the injured party that caused the injury that may bar the claim.
At least one Virginia statute addresses the issue of contributory negligence. The statute allowing local governments to impose helmet requirements on children 14 or younger has a saving clause. Within the statute it says that the failure to wear a helmet cannot be used as evidence of contributory negligence.
A law passed in July 2014 requires motorists to pass bike riders at a reasonable speed and at least 3 feet to the left of the bike rider. The motorist is not to return to the right side of the road until safely clear of the bicyclist. There is case law that says the motorist should not return to the original lane of traffic until the motor vehicle is 30 feet in front of the overtaken vehicle.
It is not uncommon in a bicycle case that pedestrians or other observers may attempt to give an estimate of speed of the bicyclist. It is important to beware that even a bicyclist who is in reasonably fit condition is probably not going to maintain a speed of over 15 to 20 miles per hour on flat ground. Any bystander or witness who projects the speed of the bicyclist much more than that certainly needs to be challenged.
Another significant defense to bicycle injury claims in Virginia is assumption of the risk. If the bike rider voluntarily and knowingly assumed the risk of injury that may bar any claim. This can be seen in instances where a bike rider is to the right of a right turning vehicle. If the bike rider knew or had reason to know the vehicle was turning right then yielding would be appropriate. Cyclists also must be sensitive to the use of turn signals when they intend to turn. The failure to use a signal may bar a claim.
Between the years 2000 and 2012 the number of people riding to work nationwide has increased. The increase is more than 250 percent. The DC area ranks third in the percentage of the population who bike to work.
In looking at bicycle accident cases there are a number of factors that need to be considered:
All of these factors are significant ones to consider in terms of bicycle accident cases.
See bicycles for a review of Virginia case law on this subject.
Brien Roche is an experienced vehicle accident attorney, and is knowledgeable in collisions involving bicycles and cyclists. We serve all of Northern Virginia, including Fairfax, McLean, Vienna, Burke, Annandale, Falls Church Reston, Centreville, Manassas, Alexandria, Herndon, Arlington, and Loudoun County. Call, or contact us for a free consultation. At Brien Roche Law, we put your interest ahead of the insurance company. You should not sign any Releases relating to your personal injury claim without having them reviewed by counsel. Likewise, you should not accept any checks from the insurance company unless you are prepared to reach a settlement with them. Typically, it is not advisable to do that until you know the full extent of your injury.
For more information on bicycle accidents see the pages on Wikipedia.