Bicycle Accident Attorney

Fairfax Injury Lawyer Brien Roche Addresses Bicycle Accident Cases

Brien Roche

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.

What to do if you have a bicycle accident:

  • Keep the damaged bicycle secure.
  • Do not try to repair the damaged bicycle.
  • Take as many photographs of the bicycle as you can.
  • Take as many pictures of the scene of the accident as possible and do this as soon as possible as the conditions at the scene may change quickly. These pictures become important items of evidence that may make or break your case.These pictures need to be turned over to your attorney promptly.
  • Gather all documentation relating to the purchase of the bike as there may be a basis for a product defect claim.
  • Gather all documentation as to the service of the bike if there is any chance of improper service having contributed to the accident.
  • Contact Brien Roche Law, Northern Virginia and Washington D.C.’s trusted bicycle accident litigator.

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.
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.

Bike Riders In DC Have Greater Protection

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:

(1) A proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury; and
(2) Greater than the aggregated total amount of negligence of all of the defendants that proximately caused the plaintiff’s injury.”
The overall effect of this is that contributory negligence on the part of the user is no longer a bar to recovery in a civil action.  In most other negligence claims in the District of Columbia any negligence on the part of the plaintiff that contributes in a substantial fashion to the injury is deemed to be a bar to that person’s claim.  That rule of law no longer applies to these particular users.
Some question exists as to whether or not this new statute which is found at DC Code § 50-2204.52 is retroactive.  The statute is not clear in that regard but it does indicate that it applies to “any civil action” which would certainly suggest that it applies to pending civil actions and also contemplated civil actions, even though the underlying accident may have occurred before the enactment of the statute.

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.
What is important to keep in mind in regards to DC bike accidents is that all of the laws relating to the motorist apply to bicyclists.  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.  For more information on bicycle accident reconstruction see the page on Wikipedia.

Bicycle Equipment

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.

Bicycle Accident Prevention

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.

Bike 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:

  • Helmets are for the bike riders safety. If you value your brain, you should wear one.
  • When motorists stop before making a right turn they should look not only for pedestrians but also look for bike riders that may be coming up on the right.
  • Motorists should not expect a bike rider to necessarily hear a car horn. A bicyclist is exposed to a lot more noise than the motorist is in a windows up vehicle. Make sure the bicyclist has actually seen you.
  • Correspondingly bike riders need to be sensitive to the sounds around them. Listening to an iPod or radio while you are bike riding detracts from that.
  • Bicyclists are sensitive to the possibility of parked motorists opening a driver’s side door into their lane of travel. Because of that most bike riders stay several feet away from parked cars thereby putting them in the middle of a travel lane. Motorists should be sensitive to that. In addition, any experienced bike rider is going to try to stay away from the curb area simply because there may be trash, pot holes or sewer grates in that area. All of this results in the bike rider coming out into the travel lane.
  • Bike riders should make sure that motorists see them. Wearing reflective gear and flashing lights all enhance that possibility.
  • Bike riders should signal their turns well in advance of the turn. The more notice you can give nearby motorists as to what you are doing the safer you are.
  • In many jurisdictions it is illegal for bike riders to ride on the sidewalk. If that is the case, then stay off of the sidewalk.Bike injuries are on the rise. In Virginia, bicyclists have the same rights as motorists. Virginia code section 46.2-800 states that every person riding a bicycle on a highway is governed by the same rights and duties as a motorist unless the context clearly indicates otherwise. Virginia law does require a bike rider to ride in the extreme right side of the road. These laws are designed to promote bike safety and also prevent bike injuries.

    Bike Injuries – Contributory Negligence

    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 a 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.

    Bike Injuries – Assumption of Risk

    Another significant defense 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 bike rider pulls 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.

    Bike injuries may also involve product liability issues. For instance, misrepresentations as to the type of bike frame can lead to injury. If the biker thinks the bike is made for all-terrain use when in fact it is a city bike and injury results that may be evidence of a product defect.

    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.

    Bicycle Accident Factors

    In looking at bicycle accident cases there are a number of factors that need to be considered:

    • There are certain biases that exist with many motorists that bicycle riders are risk takers and rule breakers and therefore are not entitled to equal rights.
    • The use of helmets is mandated in most states and therefore the lack of use of a helmet by a bike rider may defeat or minimize the chance of recovery.
    • Some states have developed what are called “vulnerable user” laws which protect bicyclists and also pedestrians from motor vehicles on the theory that the person operating the heaviest vehicle is responsible to operate that vehicle in such a way to avoid contact with the vulnerable user. Even if this law does not apply in your state, that theory may be of some value.
    • Preservation of the actual bicycle that is involved in the collision is critical as is thorough documenting of the conditions that existed at the scene of the accident. This can be done both through video and still photos.
    • There may be publicly or privately operated cameras that may actually show the collision.
    • It is important to visit the scene of the collision with the victim so that all of the details of the collision can be recounted.
    • The client should write out a detailed memo reconstructing the events as best as he/she can.
    • Any safety courses that have been taken by the client may be of relevance in terms of showing the overall safety tendencies of the client along with whether or not the vehicle had reflective tape, reflectors, lights and other safety gear.
    • Whether or not the motorist knew of the use of this area or roadway as an area frequented by bicyclists may be of significance.
    • Whether the motorist worked for a large company that has some special training dealing with bicycle safety and how to be on the lookout for bicyclists may be of some importance.

    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.

    Contact An Experienced Bicycle Accident Injury Attorney

    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.

Contact Us For A Free Consultation

Bicycle Accident Attorney

Contact Us For A Free Consultation

Contact Us For A Free Consultation