Articles Posted in Bicycle Accidents

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I am an avid cyclist and a personal injury lawyer who represents a fair number of New York bicycle injury victims. Maybe that’s why, whenever I read about a cyclist getting clobbered by a car, I think, “there but for the grace of God, go I . . .”.

It is therefore with special sadness (and also surprise) that I read in the New York Times the other day about a 36-year-old investment banker, Dan Hanegby, who was killed in Manhattan when the Citi Bike he was riding collided with a charter bus.  He seemed like a successful and loving husband and father of small children.

It should be obvious to my readers why I was sad, but maybe not so obvious why I was surprised.  I was not surprised that a cyclist was killed.  Rather, I was surprised that this was the FIRST fatality (according to the Times) in the history of the City’s four-year-old bike-share program called “Citi Bike”.

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I tend to get a lot of immigrant and Spanish speaking clients.  Could be because I speak fluent Spanish and am married to a Guatemalan.  I hope it is also because word spreads in the immigrant community that I get good results.

Anyway, the guy standing with me in the photo above is from Nicaragua.  One day as he was riding his bicycle to work (on the shoulder of the road, just as he was supposed to) near Rochester, NY, a car swiped him from behind and never bothered stopping.  We call that a hit and run.  The next thing he remembers is waking up all bloodied in a ditch, with a piece of broken car mirror next to him.

My Nicaraguan friend had bad injuries but also has a tough, fighting spirit.  He got back to work only five months after his accident so he could put food on the table for his wife and two children. Hard working Nicaraguan immigrant! I admire him and all the other hard-working immigrants I have had the privilege of representing.

Bicycle accident, wheel in front of car low angle shot, focus on car Lenklypse 2012
I have been blogging recently about how auto insurance protects bicyclists who are injured by automobiles.  For my previous blogs on this subject, click here and here.  In my last blog post, I discussed what remedies a bicyclist hit by a car has when the car either leaves the scene and cannot be identified (hit-and-run vehicle) or is uninsured.  I said that the injured cyclist can claim both no-fault  (basic medical expenses and lost wages up to $50,000 limit) and “uninsured motorist” benefits (pain and suffering compensation and any medical expenses and lost wages no-fault that go beyond the no-fault limit up to $25,000) from his or her own auto insurer or, if he does not own a vehicle, from the auto insurer for any relative who lives with him or her.  And as I discussed in the previous blogs, if the injured cyclist has Supplemental Underinsured Motorist coverage in his auto policy, he will have even higher levels of compensation available.

Today I am going to discuss what happens in the same scenario, but where neither the cyclist nor  anyone who resides with him owns a vehicle, and thus there is absolutely no auto insurance available.  Is the injured cyclist completely without a remedy?

No!  At least not in New York State.  And here’s why:

Bicycle accident, wheel in front of car low angle shot, focus on car Lenklypse 2012
I blogged just the other day about four ways auto insurance can protect you if you are hit by a car while on your bicycle.  Actually, there is a fifth way I did not tell you about.  Here it is:   Hit-and-run insurance, a/k/a “uninsured motorist” coverage.

It’s pretty unusual for one motor vehicle to strike another one and take off from the scene of the accident.  Even if that happens, the hit-and-run driver is likely to get caught if he takes his car in for repairs.  The police will be canvassing local body shops and repair shops for cars that match the description of the hit-and-run vehicle.

But things are different when a car strikes a bicycle.  There is usually little or no damage at all to the car (although the bike and cyclist are crushed!).  The driver can easily just drive away.  For example, a terrible car-on-bike hit-and-run happened a few years ago right near my hometown in Geneva, NY. The hit-and-run driver was eventually caught and prosecuted, but the bicyclist ended up losing his leg.

Bicycle accident, wheel in front of car low angle shot, focus on car Lenklypse 2012
I know it seems strange that auto insurance can protect you while you are on your bicycle, but believe me, it really does.  To be precise, there are four ways NY auto insurance can protect you if you are struck by an automobile while on your bike.

First, New York’s so-called “No-Fault Law”, a/k/a Mandatory Personal Injury Protection (“PIP”) (Article 51 of New York Insurance Law) requires that the insurance on the vehicle that strikes a pedestrian or a bicyclist provide insurance coverage to the injured cyclist/pedestrian up to a maximum of $50,000 in medical expenses and lost income, regardless of whose fault it was.

To benefit from this law, you have to submit a “no-fault application” to the insurance carrier within 30 days of the crash.  If you have a good excuse for not complying with this time limit, you can overcome it, but you should make every effort to comply.

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This guy’s helmet is over the top!  Don’t worry; I don’t recommend it.

Fellow veteran bikers and newbies alike, it’s a new biking season.  Excited?  Good.  Now don’t get so excited that you forget safety.  Here’s a quick set of reminders (or for newbies, a primer):

Check your bike.  Sure, it’s a simple machine (compared to, for example, a car), but still, things can go wrong if you don’t take care of maintenance.  Bikes — compared with cars — require little maintenance. Are the breaks working? That’s the most important thing.  But for smooth and fun riding, you want all the parts to work together in harmony, like a symphony.  It might be worthwhile taking your bike in for an annual tune-up at the local bike shop.  If you are in the Finger Lakes region, I strongly recommend the Geneva Bicycle Center.  You’ll never find a more talented, fair and friendly gang . . .

dogI have a love/hate relationship with dogs. I love my dog, but I hate dogs who chase me on my bike or who snarl at me on my runs. When I go bike riding out on the country roads near Geneva, NY where I live, I even carry a small pepper spray canister to defend myself from man’s best friend.

Yes, I protect myself from “unleashed” dogs.  But unfortunately, New York State negligence law does not.  Believe me.  As a NY personal injury lawyer who handles dog bite / attack cases, I know first hand!

The problem in New York – unlike in other states – is that to hold a dog owner liable for injuries, you need to show the owner knew or should have known the dog had “vicious propensities”. If you do, the owner is “strictly” liable to you for your injuries.  That’s all well and good where a dog with a history of biting or attacking bites you, but not much else.

bicycle mike.jpgWell, spring is finally here (I think . . .)! Yesterday I pulled the bike (bicycle) out, cleaned it up, lubed the chain, and I’m ready to roll. (That’s me on my bike in the photo!) What about you? Ready to roll?

Before you get out there and become a moving target for distracted drivers, remember these safety tips:

LOCK EYES WITH THOSE GUYS: At intersections and driveways, try to “lock eyes” with motorists to be sure they see you. Don’t assume they see you. Assume you are invisible. Unfortunately, to many motorists, you are!

I’ve recently been blogging about New York bicycle law and how to investigate and prove bike accident cases in New York. Today I am going to answer a common question I get from other cyclists.

Because I am both a New York personal injury lawyer and an avid bicyclist, my biking buddies often ask me about bicycle laws in New York. One thing they often want to know is whether it legal for them to “take the lane” rather than stay to the far right.

The answer is “sometimes”. Section 1234(a) of New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Law (not applicable in New York City) provides that, “upon all roadways, any bicycle . . . shall be driven either on a usable bicycle . . . lane or, if a usable bicycle . . . lane has not been provided, near the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway or upon a usable right-hand shoulder in such a manner as to prevent undue interference with the flow of traffic except when preparing for a left turn or when reasonably necessary to avoid conditions that would make it unsafe to continue along near the right-hand curb or edge. Conditions to be taken into consideration include, but are not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, in-line skates, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards or traffic lanes too narrow for a bicycle or person on in-line skates and a vehicle to travel safely side-by-side within the lane.”

bicycle helmets.jpgIn my recent blog post about how bicycle accidents happen, I promised to blog next about how to properly investigate a bike accident to prepare a New York bicycle accident case against the at-fault motor vehicle driver. I keep my promises!

The first rule is to preserve the evidence. This is important not only to prove your case, but also to prevent the defendant from later arguing that your case should be tossed out because you destroyed evidence. So save the bike! Don’t use it or fix it. Preserve it!. The damage to it may help show where the car struck the bike and the force of the impact among other things.

Of course you should get any police accident reports. Equally important, but more time consuming, go to the scene and explore it carefully. Bring a camera and photograph and film everything in sight. Look for skid marks. Have an accident reconstructionist or investigator with you to take measurements. Have someone take a video as he or she rides or walks along from the cyclist’s point of view. Do the same, from a similar car, for the driver’s point of view. Look to see if it should have been obvious to the driver that there would be bikes and pedestrians in the area. For example, are there marked bike lanes? Are there sidewalks or crosswalks?

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