Bicycle Accident | $950,000 Settlement
On a sunny afternoon, our client was lawfully riding his bicycle along the side of the street. There was no bike lane or sidewalk adjacent to the roadway. However, there was a fog line, and our client attempted to stay to the right of the fog line when he could.
The at-fault driver was traveling in the same direction as our client at approximately 35-40 mph. He told officers at the scene that he did not see our client before crashing into him. The forceful impact sent our client flying through the air, resulting in a violent landing. Our client was seriously injured, required multiple surgeries, and incurred over $750,000 in medical bills. His bicycle accident injuries are permanent.
Investigating officers on the scene noted less than a foot of roadway to the right of the fog line. There were also garbage cans and debris to the right of the fog line, leaving little room for bikes.
One witness to the crash was traveling in the opposite direction as our client and the at-fault driver. The witness told investigating officers that it was difficult to see our client due to shadows cast by nearby trees. He also informed the officers that our client was riding his bike near the fog line.
Another witness was driving behind the at-fault driver. She saw the at-fault driver veer to the right just before crashing into our client.
Another motorist called the investigating officer a few days after the wreck to report seeing our client riding his bike in the travel lane, about a half hour before the wreck. It was reported that our client was wearing dark clothes and was hard to see.
The at-fault driver’s insurance carrier hired a defense attorney for him. The defense attorney immediately tried to shift some blame from his client to ours. The defense arguments were:
- That our client was partially at fault for wearing clothes that were too dark (even though it was a bright and sunny afternoon);
- The property owner with the trees may have some responsibility since the trees cast shadows on the roadway, making it difficult to see pedestrians or bicyclists on the side of the road and
- Our client failed to ride his bike to the right of the fog line.
According to the Oregon Bicycling Manual that was prepared and published by the Public Transportation and Transportation Safety Divisions at the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), it is legal for bicycle riders to ride in the street when: (1) there is no bicycle lane; (2) there is no shoulder; or (3) when riding too close to the edge of the road presents a danger, causing the rider to fall. ORS 814.410 requires bicyclists to use a bike lane (if there is one) or bicycle path. However, the statute also carves out an exception allowing bicyclists to use the roadway instead of a bicycle lane or path when avoiding debris or other hazardous conditions.
Again, an officer inspecting the crash scene noted each lane of travel is about 11 feet wide, bordered by a white fog line. The blacktop continues for approximately 1 foot before it becomes a dirt shoulder. There were also areas with less room to the right, and there were garbage cans along the roadway in places.
THE AT-FAULT DRIVER FAILED TO KEEP A PROPER LOOKOUT:
UCJI 35.04 – Lookout: It is the continuing duty of a driver of a motor vehicle to keep and maintain a reasonable lookout for other vehicles or persons on the street or highway. A reasonable lookout would be maintained by a reasonably prudent person under the same or similar circumstances. A person does not comply with the duty to keep a reasonable lookout by simply looking and not seeing that which is plainly visible and which would have been seen by a reasonably prudent person under the same or similar circumstances.
Multiple independent witnesses observed our client riding his bicycle at or near the scene of the wreck. Although seeing him may have been difficult, our client was plainly visible. The only person who did not see our client was the motorist, who was directly behind him and wrecked into him without ever slowing or swerving to avoid hitting him.
THE AT-FAULT DRIVER FAILED TO KEEP AND MAINTAIN CONTROL OF HIS VEHICLE:
UCJI 35.03 – Control: An operator of a motor vehicle has a continuing duty to keep and maintain his automobile under reasonable control, that is, such a degree of control as would be exercised by a reasonably prudent person in the same or similar circumstances.
The independent witness driving directly behind the at-fault driver observed his vehicle veer slightly to the right shoulder, followed by a plume of dust, just before impact. An investigating officer on the scene observed about a foot of pavement to the right of the fog line and then dirt. Based on this witness statement, it appears the at-fault driver traveled over the fog line prior to crashing into our client.
The defense attorney asked if we’d be interested in mediation to resolve the case. We agreed and attended a mediation session. The mediator was unpersuaded by the defense arguments, and the case moved quickly from discussions about liability to the heart of the matter: damages.
In addition to getting all our client’s past medical expenses taken care of, we also reached an agreement with his health insurance provider to cover all future accident-related medical expenses. Lastly, we were able to net our client several hundred thousand dollars after attorney fees, costs, and medical liens.