Articles Posted in Bicycle Accidents

Earlier this month, an appellate court affirmed the dismissal of a plaintiff’s case against the University of California Santa Cruz based on the university’s absolute immunity in building and maintaining a bike path. In the case, Burgueno v. The Regents of the University of California, the court determined that a bike path used by students to get to school was a “trail” designed for recreational use, and therefore the university was entitled to immunity from lawsuits arising on the trail under state law.

Burgueno v. The Regents of the University of California:  The Facts of the Case

The accident giving rise to the case occurred on the Great Meadow Bikeway, which is a bicycle-only path that runs through the university’s campus. On the day of the accident, the plaintiff, a full-time student at the university who lived in off-campus housing, was riding his bike on the Great Meadow Bikeway when he was fatally injured in a bicycle accident that occurred on a downhill portion of the trail. As a result, his family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the university, alleging that the dangerous condition of the Bikeway resulted in the student’s death.

In a pre-trial motion, the university sought to dismiss the lawsuit based on governmental immunity. Government entities cannot always be held liable for injuries occurring on government land, and recreational use statutes grant immunity to governments when the land at issue is open for general recreation purposes. However, this would not apply if the bikeway’s main purpose was for transportation and not recreation. Thus, the issue in this case was whether the Great Meadow Bikeway was a “trail” under the recreational use statute, or whether its primary function was to transport people to and from campus.

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Earlier last month, a lead singer for the legendary pop band U2 was involved in a serious accident while riding his bicycle in Central Park in New York City. According to one report by Rolling Stone Magazine, the singer had to undergo a five-hour surgery, requiring 18 screws to be put into his shoulder and hand. He also fractured his orbital socket and his left arm.

Evidently, the singer was riding his bike in Central Park when he attempted to avoid another cyclist. In doing so, he lost control of his bike and ended up crashing. He was immediately taken to the hospital, where doctors addressed his broken arm. Several days later, he underwent a surgery to repair a broken pinky finger.

The doctor describes the accident as a “high energy cycling accident” that was caused by Bono’s attempt to avoid another oncoming cyclist. He said that while the accident was extreme, and the singer’s condition was serious, he expects Bono to make an eventual full recovery. It is expected that Bono will require several months of rehab and recuperation time. It is unclear if his injuries will interfere with any of his tour dates.

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Police are investigating a fatal bicycle crash that happened the evening of Friday, October 7, 2011 in Severna Park, Maryland. A 40 year-old cyclist sustained fatal injuries after a car struck him from behind on northbound Veterans Highway. The collision drove the man into the car’s windshield. Police responded shortly after 7:30 p.m., and the cyclist was pronounced dead after arriving at the hospital by helicopter.

The initial investigation has not shown any evidence of speeding or alcohol use as a factor in the accident. Police named “bicyclist visibility” as the accident’s cause, noting that the cyclist was dressed in dark, non-reflective clothing and that the accident occurred in a dark area of the highway. The driver of the car apparently simply could not see the bicycle, according to the investigation.

The Maryland Department of Transportation reports that there were 686 reported bicycle crashes in 2009, the most recent year for which statistics are available. Of those, there were 10 fatalities and 578 injuries. The Department notes that 40% of all bicycle crashes and 57% of all fatal crashes occur between 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. The cyclist was found to be at fault in 86% of all fatal Maryland crashes and 52% of the total crashes. “Fault” in bicycle accidents is determined the same way as in accidents involving only automobiles.

Maryland law treats bicycles the same as automobiles. Cyclists must take reasonable safety precautions, and car drivers must give the same consideration to a bicycle as they would to another car. For an automobile, reasonably safe driving in the evening or at night involves the use of head- and taillights and extra attention to surroundings that may be obscured by darkness. For cyclists, reasonably safe operation involves not only lights but some form of reflective clothing. Riding a bicycle at night is particularly dangerous, given the difficulty of seeing bicycles in the dark. Maryland law only requires helmets for people under the age of 16, but it applies all the same rules of the road to bicycles as to cars. Bicycles must obey traffic lights and signs, and cyclists may not wear headphones while riding.

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According to an email from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Engineering Dean Nicholas Jane, 20-year-old student Nathan Krasnopoler is not expected to recover from his brain injury that he sustained when he was injured in a Baltimore bicycle accident on University Parkway last month. Krasnopoler has been in a coma since the February 26 traffic crash, when a driver abruptly turned into the marked bike lane where he was riding.

Per a statement by Krasnopoler’s family, his brain damage “appears to be permanent” and it is not likely that he will regain any “cognitive function.” They have filed a $10 million Baltimore brain injury lawsuit against Jeanette Marie Walke, the 83-year-old driver that hit him. Walke has not been charged over the Maryland bicycle accident. However, plaintiffs’ attorneys contend that she violated a number of traffic laws when the collision happened.

Per the complaint, Krasnopoler wasn’t able to prevent his bike from hitting the passenger side of Walke’s vehicle as it turned. Her car then ran over him, pinning him. In addition to his Maryland brain injury, which occurred not from the impact of the crash but because his brain was deprived of oxygen when his lungs collapsed, Krasnopoler sustained serious burns because Walke allegedly left the engine on when her car was on him. Krasnopoler also suffered eye damage, facial fractures, and broke his ribs and collarbone. He went into cardiac arrest while the ambulance was dring him to the hospital.

According to Maryland lawmaker James Malone, the state’s law regarding handheld cell phones while driving is not tough enough. Delegate Malone, a Democrat from Baltimore County, is supporting a bill that would make using a handheld cell phone while operating a motor vehicle a primary offense. Hopefully, such a bill will stop more people from distracted driving with their phone or PDA so that they don’t cause a Maryland car crash.

Under the current law, talking on a handheld phone while driving is a secondary offense, which means that the ban can only be enforced if the driver is being cited for another violation. Also, although drivers are banned from sending text messages, they are allowed to retrieve and read them. Malone and others also want to make the text messaging ban tougher. Sen. Jim Brochin, D-Baltimore County is sponsoring a bill in the Senate that would make it illegal to also read texts while driving.

According to the Maryland State Highway Administration, in the past five years, there have been over 380 distracted driving fatalities in the state. Distracted driving, as described by US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, is an epidemic. It was the cause of 5500 fatalities in the US in 2009—yet many people, when they can get away with it, continue to text, talk on the phone, send emails, surf the Internet, or play games on their cell phone while driving. Although talking on a handheld device is not safe either, at least the driver has both hands on the steering wheel.

A distracted driver can be held liable for Baltimore County personal injury or wrongful death if his/her failure to pay attention caused a catastrophic Maryland car accident. There are steps that an experienced Baltimore personal injury law firm can take to prove that a driver was distracted when the Maryland traffic crash happened. For example, there may be phone records that can be obtained to match up when the crash happened and when a call was taking place. A witness may have observed the distracted driver texting.

Md. Bill to Tighten Cell Phone Use While Driving, ABC News/AP, February 16, 2011
Distracted driving epidemic: U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood calls issue a ‘personal crusade’, Sea Coast Online, October 24, 2010
Related Web Resources:
Cellphone Laws, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Related Blog Posts:
US DOT Holds Second Annual Distracted Driving Summit in Washington DC, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, September 22, 2010
Maryland Injury News: Distracted Driving Blamed for Increasing Number of Fatal Teenage Automobile Accidents, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, July 17, 2010
Maryland Auto Injury News: Distracted Driving Blamed in Baltimore Woman’s Death following Fatal Howard County Crash, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, June 26, 2010

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The family of John R. “Jack” Yates has settled their Baltimore truck accident lawsuit with Potts & Callahan Inc. and tanker truck driver Michael Dale Chandler. Yates, 67, died on August 4, 2009 when his bicycle got stuck in the truck’s large wheels. The terms of the Maryland wrongful death lawsuit are confidential.

Yates’s family had initially sought $5 million from the defendants. They had accused the excavation, demolition, and equipment rental company for negligence. Investigators, however, found that Yates was at fault in the Baltimore bicycle accident and charges were not filed against the trucker, who failed to stop at the Maryland truck crash site. Police did not think that Chandler knew he had struck Yates.

However, the family’s Maryland wrongful death lawyer has called the investigation “one of the sloppiest” involving a death that he has seen in a long time. He claims there was evidence that Chandler failed to signal before turning and that this was not included in the police report. Also, the intersection where the crash happened had two large signs warning that there were bicyclists in the area.

Maryland has several new bicycle laws that are now in effect. Lawmakers are hoping that this will decrease the number of traffic that occur each year. According to preliminary data, Maryland State Police says that 10 people were killed in Maryland bicycle accidents in 2009. Over 650 bicyclists are injured in the state each year.

Per the new laws:
• Except for on roads that are too narrow, drivers must give cyclists three feet of clearance when passing them.
• Bicyclists do not have to ride on the shoulder of the road.

• Bicyclists can use crosswalks in areas where they are allowed to use the sidewalk.

Also, bike paths or sidewalks in areas that are currently considered a safety risk will be added or enhanced when necessary. Balanced funding for pedestrian and cycling facilities will be provided.

It is important that drivers and bicyclists remember that they share the roads with one another. A bicyclist is often at a disadvantage and at high risk of injury during a traffic crash. A bike helmet and protective clothing often are not enough to prevent a cyclist from sustaining broken bones, a head injury, a back injury, a traumatic brain injury, a spinal cord injury, or some other serious injuries. Our Baltimore injury lawyers are familiar with the toll that getting hurt in a Maryland can have on the victim and their families.

Steps that drivers can use to avoid becoming involved in a Baltimore bicycle accident:

• Obey the laws.
• Be on the look out for bicyclists while driving and when getting out of a parked car.
• Slow down when overtaking a bicyclist.

• Be extra careful when there are child bicyclists.

New Maryland bike and cycling laws, Examiner, October 4, 2010
New Bicycle Laws Take Effect Friday, October 1, Southern Maryland Online, October 1, 2010
Related Web Resources:
Bicycle Safety, Choose Safety for Life
Traffic Safety Laws, Department of Transportation: State Highway Administration

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently issued its 2009 Traffic Safety Facts Research Note, which includes its motor vehicle traffic crash statistics for the year. According to the NHTSA, 33,808 people were killed in auto collisions in the US, which was a 9.7% drop from the 37,423 people that died in traffic crashes in 2008. This is the lowest number of US highway deaths to occur in a year since 1950.

The drop in traffic deaths happened even as estimated vehicle miles traveled went up by 0.2% in the past two years. NHTSA also says that the lowest injury and fatality rates at 1.13 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled occurred last year.

Locally, our Maryland motor vehicle crash lawyers and Washington DC car accident attorneys are happy to report that there also was a decline in the number of traffic deaths for the year. There were 549 Maryland traffic fatalities last year—down from the 591 motor vehicle deaths in 2008 and 29 Washington DC auto crash deaths in 2009—a drop from the 34 Washington DC motor vehicle traffic deaths the year before.

The nation also saw a reverse in the yearly increase in motorcyclist deaths, which has been on the rise for 11 years. In 2009, there were 4.462 US motorcyclist fatalities. Compare that to 2008 when there were 5,312 motorcyclist deaths.

More 2009 US Traffic Facts:
• 23,382 passenger vehicle deaths
• 503 large truck crash fatalities
• 4,092 pedestrian accident deaths
• 630 pedalcyclist crash fatalities
• 2,217,000 traffic crash injuries
• 1,976,0000 passenger vehicle injuries
• 17,000 large truck injuries
• 90,000 motorcyclist injuries
• 59,000 pedestrian injuries
• 51,000 pedalcyclist injuries
• 10,839 drunk driving deaths
• 162 Maryland drunk driving deaths
• 10 Washington DC drunk driving deaths

Highlights of 2009 Motor Vehicle Crashes, Traffic Safety Facts (PDF)

2009 Data Show Major Across-the-Board Declines in all Categories
Despite a Slight Increase in Road Travel
, NHTSA, November 9, 2010
Related Web Resources:

Maryland Department of Transportation

District Department of Transportation

Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog

Maryland Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Blog

Trucking Accident Lawyer Blog

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Police have identified the pedestrian killed in Thursday’s Baltimore tractor-trailer crash on Interstate 95 as Michael A. Coll, 36.The cause of the Maryland traffic crash is still under investigation. Following the deadly collision, all northbound roads were temporarily closed.

Coll’s death comes just two days after New Windsor bicyclist John Martin Jr.,51, was fatally struck in Union Bridge on Route 75 by a semi-truck that was making a right turn. According to a preliminary probe, trucker Anthony Edward Woodie failed to yield to the bicyclist when turning. He may face criminal charges.

Our Baltimore truck crash lawyers want to remind you that it is important that you not speak with the other party’s insurer without exploring your legal options first. Many trucking companies will take persuasive action to get you to settle for less than you may be owed for your injuries or a loved one’s death. It is important that you have a Maryland personal injury law firm advocating on your behalf.

Three members of a family of four who were on a bicycle ride on Sunday morning were injured in Anne Arundel County when they were hit by a car driven by a Laurel woman who lost control of her 2001 Nissan Altima. The driver of the vehicle, 63-year-old Laurel resident Romota Olumemisi Koletowo, died from her Maryland car accident injuries. She had to be extricated from her car, which had rolled over.

According to police, Koletowo drove her vehicle off the road, struck a light pole, and crossed a bike path before hitting the bench where 36-year-old Franz Clementschitsch was sitting. He was thrown some 38 feet and had to be rushed to the hospital for treatment of his life-threatening injuries.

Clementschitsch’s wife, Susanne, 38, and one of their 4-year-old twin sons, sustained injuries from the flying debris. All three of them were taken to Maryland hospitals, where they were admitted in serious condition.

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