Articles Posted in Bicycle Accidents and Defects

As the country is still reeling from the pandemic, many employers continue to shift their expectations for employees. These changes have drastically impacted traffic patterns and commuting methods. Many Indiana commuters are finding alternative ways to commute to work and their daily activities. While biking continues to be a popular mode of transportation, it has also led to the steady increase of Indiana bicycling accidents.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that bike accidents comprise approximately two percent of all traffic fatalities in the country. Historically the majority of the fatalities involve young children; however, the rise in bike commuters has impacted the affected demographic. The NHTSA reports that around 700 individuals die every year in bike accidents, and nearly 48,000 suffer serious injuries. The average age of fatal bike accident victims is between 55 and 59 years old. Statistics also indicate that a disproportionate number of accident victims are males riding their bikes in urban settings. The majority of fatal bike accidents occur along major roadways. Further, historically, the evening rush hour is the most dangerous time of day for bikers. This may be because of the large numbers of commuters traveling home tired after a long workday. Finally, the most recent accident reports show that nearly 25 percent of fatal bike accident victims had a blood alcohol content of 0.01 or higher.

Not surprisingly, collisions between cyclists and large trucks typically result in the most catastrophic outcomes. For example, local news reports described a harrowing accident between an Indiana cyclist and a dump truck. Law enforcement received reports of the bicycle accident around 12:45 p.m. When they arrived, they discovered that a dump truck rear-ended the 67-year-old bicyclist. The woman suffered several broken bones and a head injury. She was life-flighted to a hospital; however, she later died from her injuries. Police do not believe that alcohol or drugs were involved in the accident; however, the case is still under investigation.

The League of American Bicyclists (LAB) ranks Indiana as the 24th most bicycle-friendly state in the U.S. When bikers and motorists are on the road together, both parties should take extra steps to ensure each other’s safety. However, cars have inherently more control over their vehicles and must take extra precautions to avoid a collision.

In addition to traffic regulations, Indiana maintains laws that apply directly to bicyclists. Specifically, Title 9, Article 21, Chapter 11 of the state’s code explains the rights and duties of bicyclists in Indiana. Most importantly, all road users should understand that bicyclists have a right to share the road with motorists. In the same vein, bicyclists must abide by the statute as well. For instance, bicyclists may not ride on anything besides the permanent and regular seat attached to their bike.

Further, bikers may not use whistles or sirens while on their cycles. Additionally, cyclists must ensure that their bikes have a working brake that will allow the cycle to stop on dry and level pavement. While most lawmakers understand the importance of bike safety, the law does not require bikers to wear helmets. Although the law does not require cyclists or passengers to wear helmets, bikers should err on the side of caution and wear a helmet.

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

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