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Looking for Signals in Bicycle Cases

February 25, 2014 News Articles

By Thomas D. Penfield – Published in Trial Magazine, February 2014

While it shares some similarities with auto crash cases, bike accident litigation contains its own nuances, from juror perceptions of cyclists to the unique mechanics of a crash. You need to steer through the bumps you may encounter along the way

Cycling has become a popular alternative mode of transportation, and the National Sporting Goods Association estimates that 39.3 million Americans, age seven and older, rode their bikes six times or more in 2012. Bike crashes now account for a significant number of serious injuries.According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2.1 percent of traffic fatalities (677 deaths) in the country were cyclists in 201, and 48,000 cyclists were injured in crashes with motor vehicles.  (NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts).  Some cyclists believe it is not a matter of whether you will crash, just when.

If you are handling a bicycle crash case that involves a third party, you have many factors to consider. In some respects, bicycle cases are similar to many other collision cases involving third parties. Time limits for filing claims against governmental entities, general traffic investigation, and medical experts are similar. But bicycle litigation requires sensitivity to the peculiarities of bicycle riding, its function, and the general public’s perceptions of riders.

Proper handling of a bicycle case starts with understanding the widely held biases you ultimately will have to confront. Start to pick a jury, or even talk to the average car driver, and you will learn that riders of alternative means of transportation (including bicycles, motorcycles, and skateboards) often are perceived as eccentric, arrogant risk takers and rule breakers. They are portrayed as combative nuisances who feel free to disregard the rules of the road when it suits them. Many members of the public do not understand the limitations bicycles have in turning, stopping, and travel speeds and misunderstand the traffic laws that apply.

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