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Articles Posted in Bicycle Accidents

Above: Central NY Injury Lawyer on bike leg of a triathlon.

Spring has sprung in Central New York, and despite the “shelter-in-place” orders in some cities, in Central New York we are at least allowed to go outside and get some good old-fashioned exercise.  For me, that means biking.

I’ve been out three times so far. With the coronavirus keeping many motorists off the road, it’s very safe out there.  So few vehicles to watch out for.  I’ve even been taking advantage of the light traffic to travel some roads around Geneva, New York, where I live, that I normally avoid because of heavier-than-average traffic or because there are no good shoulders to ride on.

That’s a photo of me on my bike above.

Yes, I am an avid cyclist (150 road miles a week in the good weather) and a Central New York bicycle accident lawyer representing injured cyclists all over Upstate New York. So a New York Times article about a recent horrific car-on-bike crash, caught on camera, also caught my attention.

Before you read on, you might – or might not – want to take a look at the video of the crash.  You will see a car run a red light and T-bone an SUV, plowing it right into the cyclist:

Me finishing up a triathlon race a few years ago

Hello fellow cyclists.  Hope you have been as lucky as I have been and have found time dust off that winter-stored bike for your first ride of the season.  Actually, I have already been out three times and logged over 150 miles.  The wind has been a bit stiff – sometimes more than 20 miles per hour – which sure makes it tough going out (I usually start out into the wind) but a “breeze” heading back in.

In case you’re not familiar with any of my bicycle blog posts, let me explain that I am not one of those self-proclaimed “bicycle accident attorneys” who has never been on a bike since they turned 12 and who barely knows the front from the back of a bicycle.  Nope, not me.  I am an avid cyclist who understands cycling and the dangers we cyclists face, and to boot knows the New York bicycle law inside and out.  My firm and I have recovered millions of dollars in compensation for injured cyclist in the Syracuse and Finger Lakes area.  I live in Geneva NY – where I do most of my cycling – and work mostly out of our Auburn NY office.

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”.

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.

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:

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.

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.

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 . . .

I 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.

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