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Wednesday, November 27, 2019

The Prejudice Against Bicycle Accidents

If you have been to a Boston Celtics or Boston Bruins game recently, you may have noticed an extensive (and relatively) confusing bicycle path lining Causeway Street and the surrounding areas.  Even in the suburbs, bicycle lanes which share the road with automobile traffic are becoming more and more commonplace.  Not surprisingly the more bicycles that are on the road, the more bicycle related accidents that have been occurring.  Unlike cases involving automobile versus automobile or automobile versus pedestrian, it is not always easy to determine liability in automobile versus bicycle cases.

There are many ways in which a bicycle accident can occur.  Drivers may fail to keep a proper look-out, they may have to leave a safe amount of room for bicycles, they may misjudge a bike's speed, they may assume bike's will yield the right of way, or they may make improper turns.  Another all too common cause of automobile versus bicycle accidents is when automobile drivers open their car doors without realizing a bicycle is coming by.  It is estimate that "dooring" is the cause of at least twenty percent of all bicycle accidents in the city of Cambridge alone. 

Bicycle accidents often lead to severe and debilitating injuries.  Traumatic brain injuries and permanent impairments are commonplace with bicycle accidents.  Victims of bicycle accidents have a much higher risk of permanent serious injury or death than victims of automobile accidents.

It may, therefore, be surprising to hear that bicycle accident cases are often difficult to win.  Lawyers have identified a significant problem with prospective jurors holding very strong and often negative opinions of having to share the roadway with bicyclists.  On the other side of the equation, there are many bicycling enthusiasts who cannot be impartial.  This makes selecting a jury quite difficult.

Massachusetts law does not provide the same protection to bicyclists that it does to pedestrians.  For example, if an automobile strikes a pedestrian in a crosswalk, it is almost certain that the automobile will be at fault for the accident.  However, there is no law in Massachusetts protecting a bicycle in a crosswalk. 

However, the tide may be turning.  Recently, a federal jury in Boston awarded $150,000 to Leslie Freeman, who was injured when she was struck by a pickup truck while riding her bicycle against traffic on Commercial Street, a one-way street in Provincetown.  The Plaintiff alleged that the Defendant was negligent in failing to maintain a proper lookout and for speeding.  The defense planned to invoke comparative negligence to combat the Plaintiff's claims.

A state regulation, 2720 C.M.R. 9.05, specifically provides that "no driver" shall proceed on a roadway designated for one-way traffic except in the direction indicated by posted signs.  While this would normally be fatal to Ms. Freeman's claims, Provincetown enacted a local ordinance in 1992 which permitted bicycles to travel in either direction on Commercial Street.  Had Ms. Freeman's attorneys not discovered this local ordinance, she would like have been one of the many bicyclists unable to recover damages in a personal injury claim.  That is why an experienced personal injury attorney should always be consulted when bringing a claim for injuries sustained in an accident.       

If you have any questions about bicycling law or personal injury claims, please feel free to contact the Law Offices of Samuel S. Reidy.

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