Articles Posted in Bicycle Accidents and Defects

Jurors in Pennsylvania awarded $5.4 million to a man who suffered a severe traumatic brain injury after a bicycle accident caused by a purported road defect.

That damages award, according to The Legal Intelligencer, included $2.5 million for medical expenses and lost wages, as well as $2 million for pain and suffering and $1 million in damages to the plaintiff’s wife for loss of consortium. State law caps damages for civil litigation against government agencies at $250,000, but the total damages collected will be $500,000, since the plaintiff and his wife each will receive the maximum amount for their individual claims.

According to court records of the incident, the plaintiff was riding his bicycle on the road when he hit a patch of road that was reportedly uneven. This, his attorneys would later argue, constituted a dangerous defect in the road, causing him to be ejected from his bicycle and land on his head. In addition to a broken vertebra and broken ribs, the plaintiff suffered brain damage leading to post-traumatic seizure disorder. This was despite the fact he was wearing a bicycle helmet. Since his initial treatment, he’s been hospitalized again numerous times due to seizure-related injuries.

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An Indiana bicycle accident claim will go no further after the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled the trial court was wrong to deny summary judgment favoring the defendant city.

According to court records in the case, the plaintiff, a mountain biker, suffered injuries to his kidney and spleen after falling from his bicycle on a portion of the Town Run Trail Park that runs through Indianapolis. The city contracts with a local mountain biking association to maintain the trails, which are rated based on difficulty and skill level required. In early 2011, an Eagle Scout designed and constructed a technical feature on the trail. The feature is best described as a berm. It created a banked wooden turn. Approaching riders would have three options:  avoid it by staying on the dirt path, enter and ride on the low grade, or negotiate the turn and take the more challenging higher grade.

That summer, the plaintiff and his girlfriend went to the trail to ride for the first time since this new feature was constructed. He had about five years of experience riding, and he’d been on this trail before. However, he had not encountered this new feature. He noted in his deposition that he would usually try to get an idea of a trail’s technical requirements before riding, particularly if he was concerned about a potential danger.

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Many states have bicycle helmet laws, although many of those pertain solely to children under the age of 18. Indiana is not one of those states. 

However, in the wake of an increasing number of bicycle accidents across the country, questions are being raised about whether bicycle helmets should be mandatory for all riders. It’s a controversial topic.

We know that people on bicycles are far more likely to suffer head injuries and traumatic brain injuries than people in cars. Cyclists are inherently more vulnerable than other road users, and the lack of a helmet leaves them without protection – and at greater risk of a serious injury – when they strike their heads on vehicles, pavement, or other objects. However, there are some who argue mandatory bicycle helmet laws only serve to drive down the number of people who choose to bicycle. Others say wearing a helmet makes cyclists more confident, more likely to take risks they wouldn’t otherwise.

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Attorneys for a severely injured cyclist have succeeded in securing a $38 million verdict against the valet service that employed a driver who reportedly took a shortcut and brazenly sailed illegally across two lanes of traffic. As a result of the crash, the 51-year-old cyclist suffered severe injuries, including traumatic brain injury, a shattered hip, broken ribs, and internal bleeding. 

The bike accident occurred four years ago in downtown Seattle, but the circumstances could easily apply to any similar service in any city here in Indiana, where an increasing number of bicyclists occupy the roads. A recent report by Smart Growth America and the National Complete Streets Coalition, Dangerous by Design 2016, indicated that of the top 105 largest metro areas in the country, Indiana’s Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson area ranked 50th. Comparing state-to-state rankings, Indiana ranked 22nd in the country for pedestrian danger index (PDI), which looks at the number of people who bike and walk to work relative to the number of injuries and fatalities of those travelers. Our rate was 46.3 in 2016, just beneath the national average of 52.5.

But of course, there is no safe state. Consider that Washington, where this devastating bicycle accident happened, ranked 36th on the state comparison list.

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Each year, more than 5,000 trucking accidents result in roadway fatalities. In addition, more than 700 bicyclists are killed annually, and many of those incidents involve large trucks. 

Just recently, as reported by WISHTV-8, a kindergarten teacher from Indianapolis was killed on State Road 37 in Greenwood when she was struck by a large box truck while riding her bicycle. The 38-year-old teacher was hit from behind at around 9:30 a.m. as she traveled northbound on the road. The 56-year-old truck driver is believed to have swerved into her as she rode in the shoulder lane. She was pronounced dead at the scene. The investigation remains open.

These types of tragedies are by no means unique to Indiana. Recently in Chicago, Streetsblog reported a spate of bicycle vs. truck accidents, many of them involving the dreaded right-hook scenario, in which a trucker made a right turn and collided with a cyclist riding to the truck’s right. (Left-hook bicycle accidents at intersections are also a big problem.)

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A bicycle accident proved fatal for a 64-year-old rider struck by a 92-year-old driver. The elderly motorist insisted he didn’t see the yellow-t-shirt-clad rider, who was the last in a group of riders traveling from the Daviess County Airport to the Glendale Fish and Wildlife Area. The elderly driver was operating a sport utility vehicle. Police responded to a report of a bicyclist who wasn’t breathing. He was rushed to a local hospital, where he died of massive internal injuries.

Cyclists who are injured in collisions with motor vehicles may have a number of legal options worth exploring, which could include:

  • Claims against the at-fault driver;
  • Claims for uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (from the cyclist’s own insurer);
  • Dram shop law claims against a provider of alcohol (if the driver was drunk);
  • Vicarious liability claims against a vehicle owner or the driver’s employer (if applicable).

In this case, the cyclist was a U.S. Air Force veteran, married for 35 years and an electronics technician, who, according to his obituary, enjoyed not just cycling and mountain biking but also climbing, yoga., and hiking, as well as spending time with his five children, 12 grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren.

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Bike share programs have been cropping up across Indiana in recent years, most recently in Fort Wayne.

These programs have generally been regarded as safe, with the number of bicycle accidents and injuries reported among larger cities being quite low. Still, more bicycles on the road means a higher risk of bicycle accidents. This is especially true when drivers aren’t paying attention, particularly in urban areas. 

Officials in Fort Wayne report that its downtown is slated to launch a small bike share operation, with 25 bikes available at five locations across the city, including the Arts Campus and the St. Francis downtown campus. Users there will pay $3 hourly – up to $30 each ride – to rent a bike, or they’ll have the option of a less expensive monthly or annual membership. The program cost $45,000 to start.

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Fall is about to arrive in Northwest Indiana and the Chicago Area.  I have previously blogged concerning safety tips for bicyclists and believe that with the change in seasons that this is a good time to do so, once again.  Those of us who are bicyclists need to take extra precautions as daylight decreases and the need to be observant and observed increases.

In fact, a study published tin the September 1, 2015 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association and cited in a recent Science Daily posting indicates that bicycle injuries during the 15 year period from 1998 through 2013 increased substantially. Continue reading

Last summer, two teenage bicycle riders were killed in Northern Indiana by an intoxicated driver. Fort recently reported that the impaired driver who caused the deaths has now pled guilty and will serve 18 years in prison for his actions. While this sentence brings justice for the families of the bicycle riders who were killed, it doesn’t bring back the teens who lost their lives.Unfortunately, these two teens were not the only ones to die in bicycle accidents in Indiana last year. Our Highland accident attorneys know that bike accidents are far too common, especially as the weather grows warmer and more people are out on their bicycles enjoying the spring and summer months.

While bicycle riders may not be able to protect themselves from drunk drivers or prevent every bike accident that occurs, there are some things that riders can do in order to reduce the changes of being seriously hurt or killed in a crash. Drivers of motor vehicles also need to be aware that there may be more bicycle riders out-and-about over the summer and should adjust their driving behavior accordingly to make sure everyone is safe.

Bicycle Safety Tips

To protect themselves, bicycle riders should follow some basic safety tips when riding including the following:

  • Always wear a helmet when riding.
  • Try to ride in areas where there are sidewalks, bike lanes or trails and to avoid areas where you will be forced to ride along the shoulder of the road.
  • Obey all driving safety laws including speed limit and right-of-way laws.
  • Wear bright colored clothing and use reflectors if necessary in order to ensure that cars can see you.
  • Refrain from bicycle riding at night whenever possible. If you must ride at night, you should have a light on your bicycle and/or reflective strips and clothing.
  • Check your bicycle carefully before any bike trip to ensure that the bicycle is in good working order. You should focus especially on the brakes and the tires to ensure they aren’t in need of maintenance.
  • Wear comfortable clothing that is not too loose fitting and that will not get caught in the pedals of the bicycle.

By following these tips, bike riders can hopefully avoid getting into a crash. Drivers of passenger vehicles must also be on the lookout for bike riders and need to be aware that bicycle riders deserve respect just as any other vehicle on the road does. This means yielding the right-of-way when required and giving bike riders sufficient space to navigate safely.
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As we recently reported on our Indiana Injury And Family Lawyer Blog, students across the state are heading back to school this month and motorists need to be cautious these young ones on our roadways. A great number of children walk and bike to school, or use these forms of transportation. Motorists are asked to be extremely cautious on our roadways to avoid an accident that results in child injury in Indiana.

“The most precious thing we have as parents is our children. We want to make sure that when our children go to school…they arrive at school safely,” said Sgt. Steve Whitaker with Indiana State Police.Our Highland personal injury lawyers understand the dangers that pedestrians face on our roadways. These risks are greatly increased when the pedestrian is a young child. Young children don’t fully understand the workings, patterns and dangers of passing traffic. We ask that all motorists be extreme cautious during the school year to help keep our young ones safe.

Here are some safety tips, from the National Safety Council, for your child that is walking to school this school year:

-Remind you child to always use a sidewalk if one is available.

-If there is no sidewalk for your child to walk on, make sure that they know to always walk facing traffic.

-Remind them that they should always cross the street at an intersection or at a street corner.

-Always accompany children that are 10-years-old or younger on their walk to school.

-Make sure that your child knows to look both ways for oncoming cars before stepping into the road to cross the street.

-Make sure that they continue to look left and right as they’re crossing the road.

-Require that your child walks across the road. Never allow them to run. Running makes them more likely to trip and fall in the path of traffic.

Students that ride a bike to school need to be cautious as well. Parents are urged to talk to their young students about the following bicycle safety tips:

-Make sure your child always wears a helmet.

-Check to see if their helmet fits correctly. You should only be able to fit the width of two fingers between their eyebrows and their helmet.

-Make sure that your child is familiar with the bicycle laws in your area.

-Require that they always bike on the right side of road. Multiple bikers should always ride together in a single file-line traveling in the same direction as traffic.

-Bike riders should come to a complete stop before crossing the road.

-Bicyclists should not cross the street until they’ve received an okay from stopped motorists.

-Make sure your child is wearing brightly colored clothing so motorists are more likely to see them.

-Ride with your child if they’ll be traveling before the sun rises or after it sets.

-Make sure your child’s bike has lights and reflectors.

-Practice bike riding with your child so they’re more experienced and knowledgeable when they hit the road alone.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, traffic accidents are the number one cause of death for children between the ages of 3 and 16. This cause of death accounts for approximately 20 percent of fatalities of young ones ages 5- to 9-years-old. Your child is most likely to be involved in an accident with a motor vehicle mid-block and within residential neighborhoods. Talk with your child and make sure they understand the importance of safe travel habits. Again, we wish everyone a safe and happy school year!
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