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Test Your NY Bike Law IQ By Reading My Column At The Odessa File

Odessa File

A few months ago, I began writing a column for The Odessa File (photo above), a must-read community news website in Schuyler County. Since my wife and I live there now, I wanted to find a way to connect with my fellow residents, and I know that everyone in the county reads it. Charlie Haeffner has created a great resource for county residents, and I will say it again: Everyone. Reads. It.

The feedback has been great and people are coming up to introduce themselves on the street when I am out in the community. It’s been a great icebreaker.

0411reedPicI just published my fifth column this year. I write about legal news that people can use in their everyday lives. I have written about a great insurance change in state law for New York State drivers; about how a woman’s tragic death has led to a positive change in another state law; and about how writing wills can be a messy process for families.

My latest column is a wake-up call for New York motorists and bicyclists. The hibernation is over.

The snow is gone for good (I hope) and bicyclists are getting their bikes out of the garage and checking their brakes and tires. As we all prepare to hit the road again, and dodge the horrible potholes that winter left behind, it’s time to remind everyone on the road what the law says about the rights of motorists … and bicyclists!

So please. go read the terrific Odessa File website and read my column.

As a bonus, I have a brief quiz in the column that will test your knowledge about basic bike laws in NY. If you email me your answers, I will enter you in a drawing for a $50 gift card to a great Watkins Glen restaurant.

You can also email me at [email protected] f you’d like a very readable and easy-to-understand primer on NY laws for bicyclists. It’s a great refresher so we all have another safe year of sharing our roads with drivers, motorcyclists, and pedestrians.

Thank you for reading!

Jim

James B. Reed
NY & PA Bike Crash Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
            NYBikeAccidentBlog.com

Tragic PA Bicycle Accident Kills 7-Year-Old Troy Boy Riding With Father, Says NY and PA Bicycle Lawyer

My heart goes out to the parents of 7-year-old Haydin Antonio Riggins of Troy, who was struck and killed last week while riding in a bicycle trailer with his sister.  This sad story hits home for many cyclists like myself who remember fondly the days of riding their bikes with their kids in either a cycling trailer or child seat– my three kids each spent many hours in our tow-behind bike trailer and I can only imagine the horror and grief felt by this boy’s father and family……

generic_graphic_crime_accident_cyclist_bike_bicycle_hit_and_run_png_475x310_q85Based upon the news accounts, it sounds like the pickup truck driver who struck the bicycle and trailer failed to yield the right of way to the bicycle that was already within the intersection.

As we have discussed before on this blog, the driver of a vehicle entering an intersection has the legal obligation to yield the right of way to any vehicle (including a bicycle) that is already within that intersection.

In other words, the driver of the pickup truck that struck the bicycle ridden by Haydin’s father Marcell Riggins had a legal duty to yield the right of way to the Riggins bicycle and the driver’s failure to do so is a violation of the law.

According to news reports, a truck driven by David Edwards of Mansfield struck the bicycle shortly after 6 p.m. on Sept. 3 at Elmira Street and Porter Road in Troy, Bradford County.

Police said the impact of the crash threw the father clear of the bicycle but the bicycle trailer with Haydin and his 6-year-old sister, Skylar, was dragged a distance before the pickup truck finally came to a stop.

Haydin was pronounced dead at the scene. Marcell and Skylar were treated at Troy Community Hospital for injuries that were not considered life-threatening, police said.

Edwards and a passenger, Ryan Johnson, also of Mansfield, were not injured.

Per newspaper accounts, the police investigation continues but one has to wonder why at least a Failure to Yield ticket has not been issued to the pickup truck driver.  Hopefully, Haydin’s family is keeping in close contact with the police and the District Attorney’s office to make sure appropriate charges are filed in this tragic collision.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Riggins family……

Jim

James B. Reed
NY & PA Bike Accident Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
            NYBikeAccidentBlog.com

 

 

 

 

 

Your Guide To N.Y. Bicycle Safety For ALL Ages, Says NY and PA Bicycle Law Attorney

Ziff_Bike_Infographics new

 

 

It’s unfortunate that most people talk about bicycle safety for just children, as if adults don’t ride.

Children are required to wear helmets in N.Y. and many other states but I would like to see EVERYONE wearing helmets now. Riding has become more challenging with difficult road conditions with distracted, impatient and careless motorists so every little bit of safety improvements help.  That’s why I think everyone should wear a helmet whenever they ride.

With that said, I do recognize that in many bike crashes and collisions, a helmet would not have helped prevent injury but in those cases when a helmet could help, it seems to me to be worthwhile to wear a helmet.  At least that is my two cents on the helmet topic….. and that is why I ALWAYS wear a helmet.

I’ll say it again: bicycle safety is not just for children!

We are happy to provide the graphic above to the folks in the Twin Tiers and beyond. If you follow those tips closely, you have a much better chance to ride and arrive safely at any age!

Here is a PDF of the graphic you can download: Ziff_Bike_Infographics

Thanks for reading,

Jim

James B. Reed
NY & PA Bike Accident Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
            NYBikeAccidentBlog.com

 

Bike Accident Lawyer’s Powerful Article Shows The U.S. Has Much To Learn From Europeans About Bicycle Safety!

Bob Mionske

Bob Mionske

My fellow bike accident lawyer colleague from Oregon, Bob Mionske, a former Olympic and pro cyclist, wrote a great article for Bicycling magazine’s website that I thought was excellent and is real food-for-thought as to how the U.S. could learn a lot about bike safety from our European friends who have a very different (and better!) approach to bike safety.

Bob has graciously given me permission to re-post his article in its entirety:

“There’s Another Way”

In the U.S. and the Netherlands, two children on bikes are struck by cars — and the responses couldn’t be more different.

Guest Column By Bob Mionske

The driver who hit Burgess Hu never saw him.

She was making a right turn, and the police assume she was looking left. In other words, she wasn’t looking where she was going.

As he biked into the driveway of Excelsior Middle School in Byron, California, 12-year-old Burgess was knocked down and dragged some 60 feet before the driver came to a stop. He never made it to school that day. Instead, as the school day began, Burgess lay dead under the wheels of the black GMC Yukon.

In this country, “I didn’t see the cyclist” is the negligent driver’s universal get-out-of-jail free card. It shouldn’t be. If you say you were driving and didn’t see somebody, it’s almost always because you weren’t paying attention. Maybe you were reaching for something in the front seat, or maybe even the back seat. Maybe you were daydreaming. And then suddenly, there’s a cyclist who “came out of nowhere,” smashing into your car.

When the driver says, “I didn’t see the cyclist,” that’s usually enough for everybody to call it a “tragic accident” — and we don’t want to hold people accountable for accidents, do we? Certainly not. Not if you’re a legislator. Not if you’re on a jury. And not if you’re the California Highway Patrol, investigating the scene where an SUV just ran down a kid at a school. No, it’s not that the driver wasn’t looking where she was going. It was just a “tragic event” and the driver is “devastated.”

You want to know what’s really tragic? We allow this to happen. We make excuses, and offer up empty condolences, and don’t hold negligent drivers accountable, all because we’re afraid that we, too, might be held accountable for not paying attention. For not watching where we are going. For fiddling with the stereo, or shaving, or texting, or just daydreaming while driving, and not seeing what we should have seen, had we only been paying attention.

And we shift the blame, from the driver to the cyclist. If Burgess had been riding on the right side of the road, this would never have happened, we say. We don’t stop to think about the reason Burgess was riding on the left-hand shoulder: The school sits on a two-lane highway with no safe way to cross from the right side to get to the school. No traffic signal. No contra-flow bike lane. No multiuse path so kids could walk or bike to school. No Safe Routes to School program. So yeah, blame the kid. That way, we won’t have to blame the adults who let him down.

It’s the American way. But there’s another way.

Hananja Konijn, 12, was riding his bike home from school. A turning truck right-hooked him, knocking him from his bike and dragging him for a few feet before it came to a stop. Konijn died the next morning. In the U.S., we would have called it a “tragic accident” and that would be that. But this crash didn’t happen in America. It happened in the Dutch city of Zoetermeer. And in the Netherlands, accident investigations are required for every bicycle fatality. So when young Hananja was run down, police went to work.

The intersection where Konijn was killed was closed by accident investigators, who painstakingly re-created the crash, as reported in the Boston Globe:

Along with clipboards and cameras and measuring tape, they brought with them an 18-wheeler and a child-sized bicycle. Over and over, they maneuvered the two around the corner, recreating the all-too-common “right hook” accident in slow motion, each time adjusting the truck’s mirrors or the angle at which it struck the bike.

This intense attention to detail was not conducted simply to determine who was at fault in the crash. Under Dutch law, the driver is automatically at fault, unless it can be proved that the cyclist was at fault. The greater responsibility for safety is placed upon the driver because the driver is operating the more dangerous vehicle. Even if the cyclist is at fault, the driver’s insurance is still responsible for at least 50 percent of the damage to the cyclist and the bike. And if the cyclist is a child, the driver’s insurance pays 100 percent of the damages. Coupled with more serious attention to driver education, the Dutch system produces drivers who are very careful to avoid the kinds of preventable crashes that we routinely excuse as “accidents.” And by encouraging careful driving, the Netherlands is one of the safest countries for cyclists.

Still, accidents do happen, even in the Netherlands. But when they do, the authorities respond, and drivers are held accountable. The truck driver who right-hooked Hananja Konijn was charged within days. A year later, the judge handed out the maximum sentence of 240 hours of community service and a suspended sentence of two months in prison. His driver’s license was revoked for 18 months.

The Dutch response to the fatality didn’t end there. Remember that painstaking accident reconstruction? The intersection where young Hananja Konijn had been killed was redesigned within a month of his death. A mirror was installed beneath the traffic light to help drivers see approaching cyclists. A bike box was also installed, so that cyclists would be able to cross the intersection before a driver could right-hook them. And the bike lane was doubled in width by removing an automobile lane, and painted bright red.

As one Zoetermeer resident explained:

“When you have an incident with such an impact on the community, with such feelings of anger, you have to show the people you’re taking it very seriously. You actually have to change the situation to make it less dangerous.”

Can we do the same here? The choice is ours.

Research and assistance by Rick Bernardi, J.D.

Thanks for reading!

Jim

_________________________________

James B. Reed
NY & PA Bike Accident Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
            NYBikeAccidentBlog.com

 

 

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Pennsylvania Bike Accident Lawyer Discusses Legal Resources for PA Bicyclists

In discussing a Philadelphia bicycle accident case with a new client, we talked about some great Pennsylvania resources that are helpful to get an understanding of the PA laws applicable to bicyclists and drivers. I thought these resources might be useful to my readers who live in Pennsylvania or ride their bikes there.

However, before talking about the specific resources, I thought it would be useful to emphasize one important point I have made about the laws that pertain to bicycles in BOTH New York & Pennsylvania:

BICYCLES HAVE A LEGAL RIGHT TO BE ON THE ROAD AND ARE SUBJECT TO THE SAME RULES THAT ARE APPLICABLE TO OTHER VEHICLES USING THE ROADS!

This is a critically important point because it is important that cyclists, politicians and motorists, all understand that our roads are to be shared!  That means motorists need to be respectful of cyclists AND cyclists need to be respectful of motorists.

OK, let’s talk about those Pennsylvania resources that may be important in assessing PA bicycle laws and Pennsylvania bike accident cases.

A great starting point for PA bike laws is the PA Department of Transportation (PENNDOT) BikeSafe website. I have pasted the page pertaining to PA bike laws below for your convenience. You can quickly review the applicable laws.

Another good resource is the PA Bicycle Driver’s Manual where there are discussions of driving and bicycles. You can download a copy of the PA Bicycle Driver’s Manual here. There are many helpful illustrations in the PA Driver’s Manual like the one I posted with this blog entry.

Thanks for reading, and be sure to check out the important information after my sign-off here,

Jim

PS:  What is up with Pennsylvania referring to bicycles as “pedalcycyles”?  Talk about antiquated……  🙂

_______________________________________

James B. Reed, Esq.
NY & PA Bicycle Accident Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William St., Elmira, NY 14901
Tel: (607) 733-8866
Fax: (607) 732-6062
Toll Free: 1-800-943-3529
Email: [email protected]
Web: www.zifflaw.com

Please visit the New York Injury Law Blog at www.NYInjuryLawBlog.com
E-mail me at [email protected] for two free books:
NY Car Accidents and NY Car Insurance Secrets YOU Need to Know.

PENNSYLVANIA BICYCLE LAWS

Title 75 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes contains the laws which govern the operation of vehicles on Pennsylvania roads.

In Pennsylvania, a bicycle is considered a vehicle and, as such, is governed by a general set of rules (common to all vehicles) and a specific set of rules (designed for bicycles). The following annotated list provides all of the important sections of the Vehicle Code which a Pennsylvania bicyclist should know. Keep in mind that the laws themselves often describe only what a bicyclist is required to do, not how to do it. This manual addresses how to bicycle safely and efficiently by following the rules of the road.

Chapter 35 – SPECIAL VEHICLES AND PEDESTRIANS

Subchapter A – Operation of Pedalcycles (Bicycles)

Section 3501. Applicability of traffic laws to pedalcycles.

(a) General rule. — Every person riding a pedalcycle upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this title, except as to special provisions in this subchapter and except as to those provisions of this title which by their nature can have no application.

(b) Application of subchapter. — The provisions of this subchapter apply whenever a pedalcycle is operated upon any highway or upon any path set aside for the exclusive use of pedalcycles subject to the exceptions stated in subsection (a).

Comment: Bicycles are considered vehicles under Pennsylvania Laws and must obey all the rules of the road which apply to vehicles. These are the “responsibilities” mentioned above. The  “rights” refer to the roadway space required to operate the bicycle in a safe, lawful manner.

Section 3502. Penalty for violation of subchapter.

Any person violating any provision of this subchapter is guilty of a summary offense and shall, upon conviction, be sentenced to pay a fine of $10.

Section 3503. Responsibility of parent or guardian.

The parent of any child and the guardian of any ward shall not authorize or knowingly permit the child or ward to violate any of the provisions of this title relating to the operation of pedalcycles.

Section 3504. Riding on pedalcycles.

(a) Use of seat by operator. — A person propelling a pedalcycle shall not ride other than upon or astride a permanent and regular seat attached to the pedalcycle.

(b) Number of riders. — No pedalcycle shall be used to carry more persons at one time than the number for which the pedalcycle is designed and equipped, except that an adult rider may transport a child in a pedalcycle or in a child carrier which is securely attached to the pedalcycle or in a trailer which is towed by a pedalcycle.

Section 3505.

(a) General rule. — Except as provided in subsections (b) and (c), every person operating a pedalcycle upon a highway shall obey the applicable rules of the road as contained in this title.

Comment: This statement reiterates the necessity for cyclists to conform to the expectations of other road users in order to ensure the safety of all.

(b) Operation on shoulder. — A pedalcycle may be operated on the shoulder of a highway and shall be operated in the same direction as required of vehicles operated on the roadway.

Comment: A bicycle may be operated on either a shoulder or on the roadway (the travel lanes). The locations will be based upon traffic volume, the physical condition of the travel lanes or the shoulder, traffic speed, the bicyclist’s intended direction, and other safety factors.

(c) Slower than prevailing speeds.– A pedalcycle operated at slower than prevailing speed shall be operated in accordance with the provisions of Section 3301(b), unless it is unsafe to do so.

[3301(b). Vehicle proceeding at less than normal speed. Upon all roadways, any vehicles proceeding at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place under the conditions than existing shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic, or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway, except when overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction or when preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into an alley, private road or driveway. This subsection does not apply to a driver who must necessarily drive in a lane other than the right-hand lane to continue on his intended route.]

Comment: Taken together, 3505 (c) and 3301 (b) state that slower vehicles should keep to the right, which is the normal expectation of all road users, while permitting bicyclists to make movements consistent with their intended route.

(d) One-way roadways. — Any person operating a pedalcycle upon a roadway, which carries traffic in one direction only and has two or more marked traffic lanes, may ride as near the lefthand curb or edge of the roadway as practicable, exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction. Comment: Bicycles may ride in the left lane of a one-way street which contains two or more lanes. However, this does not apply to pedalcyclists on freeways. See Section 3511(d), below.

(e) Limitation on riding abreast. — Persons riding pedalcycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast, except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of pedalcycles.

Section 3506.

No person operating a pedalcycle shall carry any package, bundle or article which prevents the driver from keeping at least one hand upon the handlebars.

Section 3507. Lamps or other equipment on pedalcycles.

(a) Lamps and reflectors. — Every pedalcycle when in use between sunset and sunrise shall be equipped on the front with a lamp which emits a beam of white light intended to illuminate the pedalcycle operator’s path and visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the front, a red reflector facing to the rear which shall be visible at least 500 feet to the rear, and an amber reflector on each side. Operators of pedalcycles may supplement the required front lamp with a white flashing lamp, light-emitting diode or similar device to enhance their visibility to other traffic and with a lamp emitting a red flashing lamp, light emitting diode or similar device visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear. A lamp or lamps worn by the operator of a pedalcycle shall comply with the requirements of this subsection if the lamp or lamps can be seen at the distances specified.

Comment: Many car-bike crashes occur at night and involve a poorly illuminated bicyclist.

Bicyclists should understand that headlamps serve two purposes: a) primarily, they advise other road users of their presence (vitally important to prevent unsuspecting motorists from cutting across the paths of cyclists they cannot even detect), b) secondarily, illuminate the bicyclist’s path.

Section 3508. Pedalcycles on sidewalks and pedalcycle paths.

(a) Right-of-way to pedestrians.– A person riding a pedalcycle upon a sidewalk or pedalcycle path used by pedestrians shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian and shall give an audible signal before overtaking and passing a pedestrian.

(b) Business districts.– A person shall not ride a pedalcycle upon a sidewalk in a business district unless permitted by official traffic-control devices, nor when a usable pedalcycle-only lane has been provided adjacent to the sidewalk.

Section 3509. Parking.

(a) Sidewalks.

(1) A person may park a pedalcycle on a sidewalk unless prohibited or restricted by an official traffic-control device.

(2) A pedalcycle parked on a sidewalk shall not impede the normal and reasonable movement of pedestrian or other traffic.

(b) Roadways.

(1) A pedalcycle may be parked on the roadway at any angle to the curb or edge of the roadway at any location where parking is allowed.

(2) A pedalcycle may be parked on the roadway abreast of another pedalcycle or pedalcycles near the side of the roadway at any location where parking is allowed.

(3) A person shall not park a pedalcycle on a roadway in such a manner as to obstruct the movement of a legally parked motor vehicle.

(4) In all other respects, pedalcycles parked anywhere on a highway shall conform with the provisions of Subchapter E of Chapter 33 (relating to stopping, standing and parking).

Section 3510. Pedalcycle helmets for certain persons.

(a) General rule.– A person under 12 years of age shall not operate a pedalcycle or ride as a passenger on a pedalcycle unless the person is wearing a pedalcycle helmet meeting the standards of the AmericanStandards Institute, the American Society for Testing and Materials, the Snell Memorial Foundation’s Standards for Protective Headgear for Use in Bicycling or any other nationally recognized standard for pedalcycle helmet approval. This subsection shall also apply to a person who rides:

(1) upon a pedalcycle while in a restraining seat attached to a pedalcycle; or (2) in a trailer towed by a pedalcycle.

Comment: The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation strongly recommends that all bicyclists wear approved helmets whenever they ride.

Section 3511. Pedalcycles prohibited on freeways.

(a) General rule.– No person shall ride a pedalcycle on a freeway.

(b) Exceptions.

(1) On State-designed freeways, pedalcycles may be authorized under the following limitations:

(i) The pedalcycler is 16 years of age or older and is accompanied by a pedalcycler 18 years of age or older.

(ii) A written request for review of the freeway route based on the potential unavailability of a reasonable alternate route is made to the department.

(iii) The department determines that no reasonable alternate route exists.

(iv) The department publishes a notice in the Pennsylvania Bulletin authorizing pedalcycle access to the freeway. The notice shall constitute approval for the persons authorized under subparagraph (i) to ride a pedalcycle on the State-designated freeway.

(c) Action by local authorities.– Action taken by local authorities regarding permission to use pedalcycles on freeways under their jurisdiction shall be: (1) by ordinance of the local governing body; or (2) by a commission or public official authorized to act on specified matters.

(d) Operation on shoulder.- – If the department authorizes pedalcycle access to a freeway, the pedalcycle shall be operated upon the shoulder of that freeway whenever practicable. Comment: Bicycles may be permitted on freeways in Pennsylvania with permission of the Department. The applicant must submit a written request (form) to the Department for review. In addition, Section 3511(d) requires the bicycle to be ridden on the shoulder of the freeway.

Beware of Car Doors: Amazing Animated Video Has Safety Message for Bicyclists

A bicyclist is happily rolling along city streets. A bouncy beat sets the pace. It’s a happy scenario, until – “Blam!” – a careless car driver’s mistake means a serious injury to the bicyclist.

“Doored,” a YouTube video by artists and bicyclists Eric Arnstein and Jeff Ryan, starts off being just neat to watch – with a quirky soundtrack and a neat photo-collage animation style.

You can’t miss the message while you’re being entertained, however. Everyone needs to see “Doored,” but no-one should get doored.

“Doored” has a point to get across: Car doors, opened carelessly, present a danger to bicyclists! Drivers, please watch out for bicyclists when you open your doors into a bike lane. All too frequently, people aren’t paying attention when they open their doors – sometimes right into the path of a bicyclist.

This video – which took its creators about 160 hours to make – is obviously a labor of love. So be warned and be entertained by “Doored.” Check it out here and share it with anyone who rides – or drives!

Thanks for reading and RIDE SAFELY,

Jim
_______________________________________
James B. Reed, Esq.
NY & PA Bicycle Accident Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William St., Elmira, NY 14901
Tel: (607) 733-8866
Fax: (607) 732-6062
Toll Free: 1-800-943-3529
Email: [email protected]
Web: www.zifflaw.com

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Finding Fault with the Term “Bike Accident” – “Collision” Is Closer to the Truth

bicycle-on-the-roadA friend forwarded me a great article, “Traffic Injustice,” from fellow bicycle accident lawyer Bob Mionske ‘s excellent Road Rights blog. This is a great read for all cyclists but particularly for those of us who have ever had the misfortune to be in a bicycle riding “accident.”

Bob raises an excellent point about how the use of a single word — the word “accident” – can influence our perception of an event. After describing the manner in which several cyclists were killed by careless drivers, Bob points out that the investigating officers in each case concluded it was “just an accident,” as if that was some sort of excuse for the unnecessary and tragic death of the bicyclists.

Bob correctly observes:

“Many cyclists object to the use of the word ‘accident’ in describing collisions, because they too believe that ‘accident’ means nobody was at fault. So one thing that needs to be cleared up is this mistaken notion.

The word ‘accident’ does not mean that nobody was at fault. Except for the occasional Act of God, most ‘accidents’ are the result of at least one person’s negligence; somebody is almost always at fault.

‘Accident’ is actually used as a means to distinguish between collisions that are unintentional (in other words, collisions that are “accidental”) and collisions that are intentional — what we call assault with a deadly weapon, or attempted homicide or even homicide.

Nobody — especially nobody in law enforcement or the justice system — should be confusing the unintentional nature of accidental collisions with an absence of fault.

And once we understand that somebody is always at fault in the vast majority of accidents, we can start to question why negligent drivers who injure and kill are rarely, if ever, charged with an offense reflecting the severity of the harm they have caused.

I have banished the word “accident” from my vocabulary when discussing bicycle vs. motor vehicle collisions. Sure, “accidents” DO occur, but…

it’s not an “accident” when a left-turning driver fails to see a brightly dressed cyclist with lights all over his bike,

it’s not an accident when a driver drifts 3 feet onto the shoulder, rear-ending a law-abiding cyclist at 55 mph,

it’s not an “accident” when a driver “squeezes” a cyclist in to a curb when making a right-hand turn.

Those are “collisions” that could have been (and should have been!) avoided had the driver just paid attention and obeyed the law.

Thanks for reading and RIDE SAFELY,

Jim
_______________________________________

James B. Reed, Esq.
NY & PA Bicycle Accident Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William St., Elmira, NY 14901
Tel: (607) 733-8866
Fax: (607) 732-6062
Toll Free: 1-800-943-3529
Email: [email protected]
Web: www.zifflaw.com

Please visit the New York Injury Law Blog at www.NYInjuryLawBlog.com

E-mail me at [email protected] for two free books:
NY Car Accidents and NY Car Insurance Secrets YOU Need to Know.

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NY Bike Accident Lawyer Discusses Study Showing More Serious Injuries to Cyclists

bicycle-commutersAs a New York and Pennsylvania bicycle accident lawyer, I was very interested in a recent article that discussed a disturbing trend– a significant increase in both the number of bicycle accidents and the severity of the injuries suffered in bike accidents.

The New York Times recently reported on alarming research results about the safety of American cyclists. Trauma doctors at the Rocky Mountain Regional Trauma Center in Denver, Colo., were struck by the number of bicycle accident victims they were treating – and the severity of the injuries. The doctors decided to track and analyze the injuries to see if they were noticing a real statistical change.

The doctors were not imagining anything. The Trauma Center was receiving more bicyclists hurt in road accidents. What’s more, the bicyclists’ injuries were more severe.

The study took all of the data on bicycling-related trauma admittances at the hospital and split them in two time periods: 1995-2000 and the other 2001-6. Some of the disturbing trends they discovered:

  • Applying a standard injury score, the severity of bodily damage to bicyclists had increased dramatically.
  • Chest injuries rose by 15%. Abdominal injuries tripled.
  • The average time spend in the ER for an injured bicyclist increased.

What is causing more injuries to bicyclists?

The Colorado study also came up with the following findings – important clues to the possible cause for the increased risks for bicyclists:

  • The average age of injured riders rose from 25 to about 30.
  • Looking at the sites where injuries happened, the researchers found that they massed not on bike paths – but downtown.

“What we concluded was that a lot of these people were commuters,” said Dr. Jeffry Kashuk, an attending physician at the trauma center and an author of the study. “If we keep promoting cycling without other actions to make it safer, we may face a perfect storm of injuries in the near future.” He was quoted in “Phys Ed: Do More Bicyclists Lead to More Injuries?” (10/27, Reynolds) in the New York Times.

Safety in numbers? Only over a certain level

The study points to a complicated conclusion. We are going through a period of rising risk as more bicyclists commute – but if enough bicyclists are on the road, driver behavior starts to change. International research points to increased safety for bicyclists on the roads of countries such as England and the Netherlands, where bicycling commuters are commonplace. As a British study put it: “Common events are safe, and rare events are dangerous.”

So what can we do during this – hopefully – transitional stage as employees take to bicycling to work? The two greatest safety factors for bicycle safety cited by researchers are:

  1. Vigilance/awareness of vehicles and road conditions
  2. Strictly follow all road rules. No weaving through traffic or running lights.

Those important strategies are going to stand us in good stead as our road culture changes – and bicycles become more and more the rule, not the exception, on our streets.

Thanks for reading and RIDE SAFELY,
Jim
_______________________________________

James B. Reed, Esq.
NY & PA Bicycle Accident Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William St., Elmira, NY 14901
Tel: (607) 733-8866
Fax: (607) 732-6062
Toll Free: 1-800-943-3529
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What is the Difference Between Civil and Criminal Cases in Bicycle Accident Cases?

Bicycle-traffic-warning-signThere is often great confusion about the distinction between civil and criminal law in bicycle accident cases so I wanted to address this issue and hopefully provide some clarification.

To put it simply:

  • Criminal cases involve intentional or criminally reckless conduct that violates a particular criminal law.  Crimes are punished by imprisonment, fines or other penalties imposed by law.
  • Civil cases involve a failure to use reasonable care that results in injury or damage to another person.  Civil cases involve payment of money to the injured party by the person (or his insurance company) who negligently caused the injury.

As with almost everything in the law, this simple explanation requires more explanation. Please bear with me as I explain the important distinctions with greater detail.

Civil Claims for Injured Bicyclists

As an avid cyclist myself, I know all too well the dangers we bicyclists face due to careless or inattentive drivers.  We all know them: the drivers who are busy talking on their cell phones … adjusting their radios … or simply not watching where they are going.

Unfortunately, those moments of carelessness or inattentiveness by drivers can mean the serious personal injury or even death of a bike rider who has virtually no protection against a huge car or truck.

In those cases of motorist carelessness or inattentiveness (lawyers refer to this as “negligence”) that harm a bicyclist, I am often hired as a New York or Pennsylvania bicycle accident lawyer to pursue a civil claim or lawsuit against the insurance carrier for the driver who hurt or killed the cyclist.

Civil Claims

A civil claim means a claim for compensation (money) to compensate the injured bicyclist for his or her injuries, disability, lost wages, medical expenses, damage to the bicycle or other damages.

A civil claim does NOT involve putting someone in jail, putting them on probation, taking away their driver’s license or forcing them to pay a criminal fine.  Those types of penalties are imposed by our CRIMINAL laws.

Criminal Cases

As noted above, criminal cases involve intentional or criminally reckless conduct that violates a particular criminal law.  Crimes are punished by imprisonment, fines or other penalties imposed by the applicable law.  Each state and or municipality enacts laws that are designed to prohibit behavior that is harmful or dangerous to the public.  Because each state/municipality has its own laws, there is often wide variation between the laws in one state versus the laws in another state.  That’s why you must be very careful in reading legal information on the Internet because a legal discussion that involves the analysis of the law in one state may be totally inaccurate in another state.

Criminal cases are prosecuted by “the State” — that is, the police and the criminal prosecutor’s office — NOT by your own private attorney.  Private, civil attorneys like myself, can certainly confer with the criminal prosecutor (called the District Attorney or “DA” in New York), offer investigative assistance and try to encourage prosecution of particular criminal defendants, but ultimately all strategic decisions are made by the prosecutor’s office.  This can be extremely frustrating to bicyclists and their personal civil attorneys when either the police or the DA decides not to prosecute a motorist’s crime against a bicyclist.  In the event that the prosecutor decides not to press charges, the cyclist’s only remedy is to pursue a civil claim.

Burden of Proof

In all cases, whether civil or criminal, the party bringing the lawsuit (the “plaintiff” in a civil case or the “prosecution” in a criminal case) has what is called the “burden of proof.”  That is the standard of proof that must be proven for the party bringing the lawsuit to win.  At the end of a case, either the judge (if it is a “bench trial” which is a trial to a judge only) or the jury (if it is a jury trial), must deliberate and reach a decision as to whether the plaintiff/prosecution met their burden of proof on every required element of the case.

There is a drastic difference in the burden of proof that is applicable in a criminal versus civil case:

  • In a criminal case, the burden of proof is “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”  This is a very high standard as it means that if a juror has ANY reasonable doubt about the proof of any element of the crime, then they must find that the prosecution has NOT met their burden of proof.  Accordingly, the defendant would be found innocent of the charged crime.
  • In a civil case, the burden of proof is “proof by a preponderance of the evidence”.  This is a much lower standard and it means that the plaintiff only needs to offer slightly more evidence than the defense in order to win.  Judges and lawyers often illustrate this burden of proof by asking jurors to imagine the scales of justice and if the scales tip just slightly more to the side of the plaintiff, then the plaintiff has sustained their burden of proving their case by a preponderance of the evidence.

I hope this explanation shines some clarity on the relation between civil and criminal claims.  In many of the bike accident cases I handle there is a close interplay between the criminal and civil cases:

  • The motorist who hit my cyclist client is charged with violations of the traffic law and the police and the DA’s office prosecute those violations.  If convicted, the driver can be fined (that money goes to the State, not the injured bicyclist) or ordered to pay restitution (that is money paid by the driver to the bicyclist as ordered by the criminal court).
  • I represent the cyclist in a civil claim for their disability from work, their medical bills, the damages to their bicycle, their pain and suffering, etc.

My goal on behalf of my injured bicyclist clients is to make sure that they are FULLY compensated for ALL damages suffered by them.

Thanks for reading and RIDE SAFELY,

Jim
_______________________________________
James B. Reed
New York & Pennsylvania Bicycle Accident Lawyer
Email me:  [email protected]
Call me:  800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)

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