Articles Posted in Bicycle Accidents

Determining who is at fault in a serious or fatal accident is not always as easy as it may seem. In many cases, there are several parties involved, each with their own role in the accident. In some cases, the injured party may also be partially at fault for the accident. Each of these considerations is relevant in determining what, if anything, the injured party is entitled to receive from the negligent party or parties.

Bicyclist in RoadGenerally speaking, Washington, D.C. employs the doctrine of joint and several liability. This means that all wrongdoers can be held responsible for the total amount of damages suffered by the plaintiff. This favors plaintiffs because it allows for an injured party to receive full compensation from any one of several liable parties involved.

However, Washington, D.C. also uses the strict doctrine of contributory negligence, which acts to prevent an injured party from recovering at all if they are even the slightest bit at fault. This means that if a person is determined by a judge or jury to be just 5% at fault, they may be prevented from recovering a penny for their damages, no matter how serious.

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Earlier this month in the DC area, an Annapolis woman was arrested and charged with driving under the influence after she crashed into two bicyclists, seriously injuring one of them. According to a report by CBC DC, the accident occurred back in June 28 on the Governor Ritchie Highway.

girl-silhouette-1122906-mEvidently, for an unknown reason the woman veered out of her lane and drove onto the right shoulder, which is designated as the Baltimore & Annapolis trail. Once she crossed into the right shoulder, she hit two bicyclists who were riding on the trail, a 28-year-old and a 27-year-old. Both of the victims were flown to Shock Trauma.

One of the victims was released shortly after she was admitted. However, the other victim was held in the hospital for almost a month before staff felt that she was in good enough condition to return home.

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The recent phenomenon of bike-sharing has caught many of the nation’s largest cities by storm. Rather than purchase a bike to travel around the city, bike sharers opt to pay a fee to use bikes at stations around the city. In most cases, riders can pick up a bike at one location and drop it off at another, making the system very convenient for commuters, shoppers, or those just looking to see the sights.

brisbane-boardwalk-1444580-m.jpg

However, a recent article explains that the convenience may come at a cost. As bike shares pop up around the country, the instances of bike-related head injuries are increasing as well. The most cited reason is that, while the bike shares offer bikes, riders must bring their own helmets, something many riders are not doing.

The Study

An NPR article cites a study that looked at Montreal as well as four U.S cities, including Washington DC, both before and after the bike-share program was implemented. The result was a 14% increase in the proportion of head injuries compared to the total number of serious biking injuries. The bottom line is that a larger percentage of bike-related accidents are involving head injuries than before.

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Earlier this week, the American Academy of Pediatrics made a press release about the results of a study regarding the effectiveness of laws that require bicyclists to wear helmets. bicycle.jpgThe data revealed that fewer deaths occurred among youths who were involved in bicycle-motor vehicle crash within those states that had mandatory helmet laws in place.

Researchers set out to determine the efficacy of mandatory bicycle helmet laws in reducing injuries and death rates nationwide by analyzing data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System for all U.S. bicyclists. They looked at data for all accidents involving children under the age of sixteen who were either severely injured or died during the period of January 1999 until December 2009. They compared data for states with mandatory laws versus those without.

During the relevant period, a total of 2,451 children suffered incapacitating injuries or died in bicycle-motor vehicle crashes. States with mandatory helmet laws had a lower rate of incapacitating injuries or death at approximately 2 per 1 million, versus 2.5 per 1 million. The associated lower rates held true even after adjusting for certain relevant factors.

Maryland is one of the 21 states that requires bicyclists to wear helmets, which could have a direct impact on residents who bicycle in the DC area.

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GPS09152011.jpgA bike ride on the San Francisco peninsula during the 4th of July weekend turned disastrous for New York Times writer John Markoff when he crashed on a downhill at over 30 miles per hour. Paramedics took him to the hospital, where he found that he had a 20-minute gap in his memory surrounding the crash. He could not remember the circumstances of the crash at all, despite physical evidence such as road rash on his hands and a deep skid mark on his helmet.

Markoff relates the story of Ryan Sabga, a bike racer, who was hit by a car in Denver in 2010. The driver of the car claimed she did not think she had hit him, and police concluded that there was not enough evidence to issue a citation to the driver. Sabga was able to use data from the GPS device to establish where he was at the time of the accident, and to demonstrate exactly how the car hit him (including a spike in his heart rate at the moment of impact). Although police still did not want to pursue the case, this evidence was enough to get the driver’s insurance company to accept responsibility.

Markoff similarly used his GPS device to reconstruct his bike ride and figure out what had happened to him. Both Sabga and Markoff used a Garmin GPS device that recorded location, speed, and other information, and allowed the option of uploading data to a web service where it could be shared with other users.

Forbes columnist Kashmir Hill notes that an increasing number of people use devices like a Garmin GPS to record data about their daily lives and often share that information through social media. Widespread use of such technology is often known as “the Quantified Self” or “self-tracking.” While such recording and sharing can serve any number of useful purposes such as allowing support for fitness plans or tracking health conditions, it can also be useful for accident victims. This applies to accident victims who may use their own data, much like Markoff and Sabga, to determine what happened, or to those who may obtain data from another party to establish liability or challenge a conflicting description of an accident.

Social media information is the subject of a growing number of discovery requests in litigation. Courts, while often slow to adapt to new and quickly-changing technologies, are beginning to understand the importance and ubiquity of social media, and are allowing discovery of personal social media information that is relevant to the case at hand. Data collected by “self-tracking” technologies, particularly those shared on popular social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, are undoubtedly relevant in establishing the circumstances of an accident. This information can cut both ways. Information that could prove liability in a personal injury matter could also disprove a claimant’s account and clear a defendant of liability. Either way, this segment of social media technology, when used by people involved in accidents, is an invaluable fact-finding tool.

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According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, up to 25% of motor vehicle accidents in this country occur because motorists were distracted driving and more often than not using cell phones and other handheld devices. The GHSA’s report, which was released last week, is called “Distracted Driving: What Research Shows and What States Can Do.”

As our Washington DC personal injury law firm has reported in past blogs, distracted driving is very dangerous and can dramatically increase the chances of injuries or deaths. It also can be grounds for a DC car crash lawsuit against the driver. Other findings from the study:

• Some drivers are distracted as much as 50% of the time they are on the road.
• Texting while driving, which is both a manual and visual distraction, is even more dangerous than talking on a phone.

• Examples of other common types of distracted driving behavior include talking to other passengers, looking for tapes or CD’s, switching radio stations, drinking, eating, reading directions or a map, reading books or newspapers, dealing with kids or pets, shaving, putting on makeup, shuffling through an iPod, and reading your GPS.

Many people don’t realize that distracted driving impairs their ability to drive safely. This does not change the fact that this behavior can result in very deadly consequences.

Should other parties aside from a distracted driver be held liable for DC personal injury or wrongful death? A couple of years ago, one woman sued Nextel, Samsung, and Sprint for her mother’s distracted driving death. The plaintiff claimed products liability because the three companies allegedly failed to warn the driver that using a cell phone wile driving is a safety hazard. Samsung countered that it did include safety warnings on its websites and packaging and in its user manuals and advertising.

Report: Gadgets Linked To 25 Percent Of Car Accidents, AutoGuide, July 13, 2011

Read the GHSA’s Distracted Driving Report

Related Web Resources:
Distracted Driving, US Department of Motor Vehicles
Cell Phone and Texting Laws, Governors Highway Safety Association
More Blog Posts:
US DOT Holds Second Annual Distracted Driving Summit in Washington DC, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, September 22, 2010
Preventing Maryland Car Crashes: State Senate Approves Ban on Reading Text Messages While Driving, Maryland Accident Law Blog, March 9, 2011
Maryland Lawmakers Want Texting While Driving Ban to Block Drivers From Reading Messages, Maryland Accident Law Blog, February 20, 2010

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DC officials are kicking off their Street Smart campaign this spring to combat last year’s increase in pedestrian and bicycle crashes. Last year there were 83 cyclist and pedestrian fatalities in the Washington region—a 9% rise from the year before. This year, at least four people have died in DC pedestrian accidents.

More DC pedestrian and cyclists facts as reported in The Washington Post:

• There were 436 DC bicycle accidents in 2010.
• The number of bicyclists and pedestrians hit last year was 25% higher than in 2009.
• Ambulances answered 1,299 pedestrian collisions calls in 2010.
• 16 of the DC traffic fatalities were bicyclists or pedestrians.
• The intersection of Howard Road and Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE saw the most number of DC pedestrian accidents—13—with 1 of the victims dying.
• The intersection of New York Avenue and North Capitol Street saw 12 Washington DC pedestrian accidents.

• 11 Washington DC pedestrian injuries were sustained at the Seventh and H streets NW intersection and the H and North Capitol streets N.

Most DC pedestrian accidents take place at intersections when an auto is turning and a person is crossing the street while the “walk” sign is activated. Unfortunately, even if a pedestrian has the right of way, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the driver has seen him/her.

Pedestrians and bicyclists have little in the way of protection during a DC traffic crash, and the injuries are usually catastrophic. Spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, head trauma, severed limbs, and organ damage can be costly to treat and recover from. Some injuries are permanent.

Our Washington DC pedestrian and bicycle crash lawyers are familiar with the serious injuries can result. For years, we have helped many victims and their families prove liability and obtain the financial recovery that they are owed.

Hopefully, the Street Smart campaign will bring the DC cyclist and pedestrian injury toll down. In addition to new ads, the campaign will include heightened efforts by police to ticket drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians who don’t follow traffic laws.

Campaign to protect pedestrians, cyclists as number of crashes in the District rises, The Washington Post, March 30, 2011
Related Web Resources:

District Department of Transportation

Street Smart

More Blog Posts:
71-Year-Old Dies in Hit-and-Run Washington DC Pedestrian Accident, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, November 18, 2010
Washington DC Pedestrian Accidents At Higher Risk of Occurring After Daylight Saving Time Ends, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, November 5, 2010
68-Year-old Mount Pleasant Woman Killed in Bicycle Accident with DC Guard Truck, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, April 20, 2010

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The District intends to install more traffic cameras at street intersections. The main purpose of these new portable cameras is to catch motorists committing traffic offenses, such as failing to come to a full stop and not yielding to pedestrians. The cameras will be placed in areas where there is proven need for greater enforcement and control. D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier says the cameras will be put in place “within the next year.”

Intersections are a common site for traffic crashes. With vehicles approaching from opposite directions, pedestrians crossing the street, and people attempting to make left and right turns, the fact that the risk of collision goes up is no surprise.

Our DC personal injury law firm hopes that with additional cameras set up, more people will be discouraged from committing traffic violations that can lead to Washington DC car accidents. The knowledge that one can get caught on camera running a red light or not coming to a full halt at a stop sign, or turning left even when the left turn arrow is red will hopefully prevent such “minor” offenses, which are, in fact, among the most common causes of serious injuries and deaths at intersections.

How to Avoid Becoming Involved in an Intersection Accident:
• Pay Attention
• Don’t drive while distracted
• Be ready to stop or slow down even if there is no “Stop” sign or traffic light
• Yield to the pedestrian that is already crossing the street or the vehicle that is already moving through the intersection even if you technically have the right of way
• Always look in all directions before driving across the street or turning
• Obey traffic rules
D.C. to Add More Traffic Cameras, Government Video, February 7, 2011
Red-light cameras save lives, study says, Washington Post, February 1, 2011
Related Web Resources:

DC Department of Transportation

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

More Auto Accident Posts:
Washington DC Car Accident Involving Metro Bus Causes Injuries, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, July 6, 2010
Baltimore Injury Accident News: Alcohol Blamed in Fatal I-70 Car Crash that Killed Montgomery County Woman, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, February 6, 2011
Maryland Bicycle Injury News: Family Settles Wrongful Death Suit following Fatal Baltimore Cycling Accident, Maryland Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Blog, December 24, 2010

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While New Year’s Eve and Day are definitely occasions to mark with celebration, it is unfortunate that there are people who may end up dying or getting seriously hurt in a Washington DC car accident because another person was driving while drunk. Hopefully, the more aggressive push by lawmakers and law enforcement officials through their “Drunk Driving. Over The Limit. Under Arrest” campaign will help keep more people safe this year. That said, it is still up to motorists to refrain from driving drunk.

According to new analysis from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, at about 80 drunk driver-related deaths on New Year’s Day, the average number of traffic fatalities where alcohol is a factor goes up by almost 150% more than if it were the same day of another week during the holidays. For example, in 2005 when New Year’s fell on a Saturday, there were more alcohol-related deaths at 98 fatalities than if the holiday fell on the season’s other Saturday. Last year, there were 73 drunk driving fatalities on New Year’s Day. New Year’s Eve fell on a Thursday night. Unfortunately, although many Americans don’t approve of drunk driving, AAA says that many of them do it anyway.

These fatality figures don’t take into account the number of injuries that can occur on New Year’s Day as a result of alcohol. Per the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, among underage drinkers alone, 1,980 of them went to the hospital on January 1. That’s a lot more than the approximately 546 who end up in the hospital on a typical day. Drunk driving, other alcohol-related accidents, and acute intoxication were among the causes. There are, of course, also adults and children who may have sustained injuries in a New Year traffic crash involving alcohol.

Steps motorists can take to drive safely into 2011:
• Appoint a designated driver.
• Don’t let your friends drive while drunk even if they think they can.
• Don’t get in the car with a drunk driver.
• Pack an overnight bag just in case you end up drinking more than you intended.
• Bring cab money just in case.

• Be careful if you choose to walk to or from your destination. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says New Year is the deadliest day of the year for pedestrians.

Beware of heightened drunk driving dangers this New Year’s Eve, Consumer Reports, December 30, 2010
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Announces Holiday Drunk Driving Crackdown, NHTSA, December 13, 2010
Underage drinkers a New Year’s hazard, Washington Examiner, December 30, 2010
Related Web Resources:
What to do after a car accident, MSN
Metropolitan Police Department, DC.gov

Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog

Trucking Accident Lawyer Blog

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U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced this week that thousands of law enforcement agencies across the US will be combating drunk driving crashes during the holiday season through the annual “Drunk Driving. Over The Limit. Under Arrest” campaign. Some $7 million in advertising will run between December 15, 2010 and January 3, 2011 to promote the campaign.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 753 US drunk driver-related deaths in December 2009. In total for that year, there were 10,839 alcohol-related traffic fatalities with one of these deaths occurring every 48 minutes. 7,281 of the those who died were drivers with a BAC of .08 or greater. 2,891 of those who were killed were motor vehicle occupants. 667 were nonoccupants. Our Washington DC car crash lawyers have reported on these developments in the past.

In addition to the national holiday crackdown campaign, a number of states have adopted the “No Refusal” strategy, which lets law enforcement officers quickly get warrants for blood samples from suspected drunk drivers who exercise their right to not take a breathalyzer test. Secretary LaHood is encouraging other states to adopt this approach.

Beginning Friday in Washington DC, the Washington Regional Alcohol Program will offer free taxi rides (a $30 limit) to people who call 1-800-200-TAXI. Participants have to be age 21 or older and the free service is available between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. weekly.

With the holiday season underway, people are likely to find themselves attending social and celebratory gatherings were alcohol is being served. During this time of the year, the last thing that anyone wants to have happen is to suffer serious injuries or lose a loved one in a Washington DC car accident because someone was driving while drunk.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Announces Holiday Drunk Driving Crackdown, NHTSA, December 13, 2010
Holiday crackdown on drunk driving, The Washington Post, December 13, 2010
Related Web Resources:

Alcohol-Impaired Driving, NHTSA (PDF)

40 Million in U.S. Driving Drunk or Drugged, US News, December 9, 2010

Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog

Trucking Accident Lawyer Blog

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