Bicycle versus motor vehicle collisions can lead to severe injuries for the cyclist, whereas the driver often comes out unscathed. Head injuries account for approximately 75% of all serious injuries and fatalities from bike incidents. While crashes with cars account for just 33% of all bike accidents, they account for most catastrophic injuries and deaths.
Like motorcycle and scooter incidents, most bike injuries are caused by drivers failing to see cyclists. Drivers pull out in front of them, turn in front of oncoming cyclists and merge into lanes occupied by cyclists. A bicyclist is subject to the same traffic law as drivers, but many drivers treat cyclists as a mere nuisance on the roadway. This can lead to tailgating, passing too close or failing to yield to the cyclists’ right-of-way. Proving the driver was the negligent party in a bike accident though case, though, can be difficult.
Often police officers will not write a narrative report or assign blame in a traffic incident. This is especially true if no one is cited. In these cases, proving liability might come down to your word against the driver’s. As your lawyer, I will thoroughly investigate the incident to give us every advantage in court. This includes going to the scene; recording video; taking photos of your injuries, any property damage and the scene; hiring expert witnesses when appropriate; and personally interviewing any witnesses.
It has been my experience in small-dollar cases insurance adjusters initially deny liability and interview witnesses only after being challenged by an attorney. Most injured people do not seek an attorney’s help and just accept the insurance company’s decision that the incident was their fault. That is why ignoring cyclist victims remains cost-effective for insurance companies. In the past this was particularly true, because it was not worth an attorney’s time to represent cyclists or other victims on small cases, even more so when liability was disputed. However, the legislature passed a statute allowing the payment of attorney fees when damages (injuries, medical treatment, lost wages, etc.) do not exceed $10,000. This statute, ORS 20.080, made it financially worthwhile for attorneys to pursue cases that, previously, would not have been cost-effective for their business. Nonetheless, insurance companies still play the game of denying liability without fully investigating cases, and many attorneys still cannot be bothered with cases they feel are “too small.”
A primary goal of my legal practice is helping individuals who have been injured or victimized and are unable–physically, financially or otherwise–to help themselves. This is why a large part of my practice is based on representing crime victims. In furtherance of that goal, I also represent accident victims who have been unfairly denied compensation by insurance companies. It is important for insurance companies to learn it is going to be more expensive for them to deny the smaller “nuisance” claims than it is for them to perform their due diligence and pay them early on in an appropriate manner.
In a strong bike town like Portland, there are a lot of bicyclists and, likewise, there are a lot of “bike attorneys” eager to help them. Some of these attorneys will insist you hire a “bicycle attorney” who actually rides a bike regularly. However, the most important criterion in deciding who to hire as your attorney is that your lawyer has actually been in trial and knows what they’re doing in a courtroom. If you truly want an attorney who is a cyclist, give me a call and I will refer you to attorneys who ride and have also actually tried and won cases. Otherwise, your lawyer might race or commute to work every day, but if they’re afraid to try cases, the insurance company will know and you will not be adequately compensated for your injury. To ensure you are paid what you deserve, seeing a case all the way through and proceeding to trial is the only way.
I have tried well over 100 jury trials. Throughout my private practice, I have represented cyclists injured by drivers, whether it be by a semi-truck or garbage truck driver on the job, a private citizen or a drunk driver. There are specific bicycle laws in Oregon pertaining to cyclists of which many lawyers are unaware. Such as, for purposes of Personal Injury Protection on your personal auto insurance, a cyclist is considered a pedestrian. Why does that matter? Because if you’re hit by a car as a pedestrian, your own car insurance policy will pay for at least $15,000 of your medical expenses until there is a determination of liability for the collision. I have had people come to me after they refused medical treatment because they do not have health insurance and they do not understand that their own auto insurance will cover treatment whether they are in a car, on a bike or on foot. In those instances, I was able to get them covered by their insurance until the negligent driver’s insurance accepted liability and paid the bicyclists.