Archive for Guest Columns

Bikes Have Rights™*

The Danger in Dog Day Afternoons

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

   
By James L. Pocrass, Esq.
Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP 
 

Recently, at the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition Open House, JJ Hoffman was telling me a story about her daily encounter with dog a couple of years ago. JJ said every day when she was riding to work she’d meet up with this same woman who was walking her dog unleashed.

Every day the dog took after JJ, which set the woman off who would run yelling behind her dog. It got so bad that JJ had the pepper spray out before she got to the street where she’d meet up with the dog. All that dog wanted, JJ said, was a taste of her calf.

JJ really didn’t want to spray the dog, though spraying the owner was tempting, and, luckily for everybody, JJ never actually had to take action.

Like JJ, I really like dogs. The dogs are doing what their instincts tell them to do: to chase prey. Irresponsible dog owners are another matter. They put the cyclist, the dog, and especially themselves in danger.

Bitten by a Dog

In California, if you are bitten by a dog, the owner is at fault. It doesn’t matter if the dog is leashed or not. It doesn’t matter if the owner knew or didn’t know that the dog had a “vicious nature.” California holds owners to “strict liability.” If you are bitten, the owner is liable for your injuries. There is no “free bite” in California.

Collision with or because of a Dog

When a dog begins chasing a cyclist, most cyclists tend to try to outrun the dog. When that happens, the dog’s brain goes into get-the-fleeing-prey mode, and the race is on.

Whether or not you can really outrun the dog, the real danger is in possibly colliding with the dog or colliding with something else because you lose control of the bike or you hit a pot hole or even getting hit by a motor vehicle when swerving or not being able to stop at a light or an intersection.

If you suffer serious personal injuries or your bike is damaged, again, the dog owner can be held liable. Your bicycle accident attorney should be able to obtain compensation for your injuries.

Compensation for Dog-related Collisions or Bites

The dog owner may be held negligent for:

  • Ineffective control of the dog.
  • Violation of the leash law and other Animal Control Ordinances.
  • Inadequate supervision or management of the dog.
  • Putting the dog in a condition in which the owner could have seen that the dog could cause injury to somebody.

Individual cities also may have their own animal control ordinances. For instance, one city limits the number of dogs that can be walked by one person at a time and a number of cities consider it a misdemeanor if a dog is tied to a parking meter, sign or bus bench without food or water nearby.

Some cities have ordinances specific to a breed. In Santa Monica a pit bull on public property must be muzzled.

The dog owner may be held responsible for compensating you for:

  • Medical bills from doctors, emergency rooms, hospitals, therapists, plastic surgeons, and for prescriptions.
  • Future medical bills to remove scars or to repair disfigurements. If the money for medical care is not recovered at this time, your health insurance might not cover any future medical procedures you need later, calling them “cosmetic.”
  • Time you had to take off from work resulting in lost income.
  • Lost future earnings because of disfigurement or disabilities.
  • Emotional counseling.
  • Pain and suffering.

Of course you can only recover compensation for injuries you suffer and care you actually need.

Hesitations to Holding an Owner Liable

One of the major hesitations a cyclist who is bitten by a dog often has in reporting a dog bite is the fear that the dog will be destroyed. A dog that has no history of biting is rarely “put down.”

The court takes into account the severity of the bite and the number of times it has bitten. It may rule that a dog must be muzzled in public or restrained in a particular way, such as kept behind a certain type of fence of a certain height.

Self-Defense

We all have heard that we have the right to defend ourselves against an attack from another person. What few people realize is that the law says you can defend yourself as much as is necessary to foil the attack. Your defense must be proportionate to the attack, and when the danger is past, so is your right to defend yourself.

This is a common law concept, and there is no explicit statement in common law that this also applies in a dog attack. More and more dog owners are counter-suing for compensation when their dog has been injured either intentionally or through someone else’s negligence.

So if you are going to use self defense, be sure that it is proportionate to the attack and that once the attack is over you stop, similar to how you would defend yourself with a human. That is a legally defensible act, though you could still find yourself in a lawsuit with the dog owner.

Personally, I subscribe to the belief that it’s rare to find a bad dog, but bad owners are much too plentiful.

*Sponsored post

 

Guest Post: A view from the courtroom

It’s one of the more heartbreaking cases in recent history.

It was just two days before Christmas last year, when a young Australian man working in Chicago was flying back home for the holidays, leaving his girlfriend of five years behind. Faced with an extended layover at LAX, James Rapley decided to rent a bike on a sunny Sunday morning for a ride along the beach.

He never made his flight home.

Rapley was riding in the uphill bike lane on Temescal Canyon Blvd when he was run down from behind by another young man, who was allegedly under the influence at 9 am, and reportedly admitted to texting behind the wheel when he drifted into the bike lane, taking the Aussie’s life in an instant.

I’ve often wondered what James Rapley’s thoughts were in those last few moments as his life drifted away. Whether he thought of the woman he loved, or the family he would never see again.

Or just wondered why.

Mohammed Kadri, the driver who took his life, was recently charged with vehicular manslaughter.

Our anonymous South Bay correspondent volunteered to be in the courtroom for Kadri’s Preliminary Setting on Thursday. Here’s her report.

……..

This morning, Mohammed Kadri was actually present in court. I didn’t see anyone in the tiny courtroom who looks 20 years old, because Kadri is kind of hirsute, so he looks older; the kid probably has a 5 o’clock shadow by noon. He’s not very tall, but his suit fit well, and posture is good and it indicated that he understands the gravity of his situation.

The Deputy DA assigned to the case requested a continuance. The judge asked a little impatiently why they shouldn’t proceed today. The prosecutor stated that she needs time to speak with the victim’s family. (Because what better time than the holidays?!?) The next court date is Friday, January 16th.

Incidentally, the prosecutor is Danette Meyers. She’ll prosecute viciously. The victim impact statements will be absolutely integral to the case, though. Even if the family can only provide written statements.

From the glass elevators at the courthouse, you can see planes coming in to LAX. I looked at those tubes of tin and thought of all the souls on board. James had flown into LAX a day early because he was worried that bad weather would delay his flight home to Australia. I wondered if any of today’s arrivals had chosen an early flight for the same reason, to play it safe so they can get home to their families for the holidays. And then I prayed every single one of them will be on their connecting flights. Because James Rapley never got the chance.

Just as an aside, and I could be wrong, but… In the hallway outside the courtroom, an older guy intercepted Kadri’s lawyer as we (me & the guy who turned out to be the lawyer) reached for the courtroom door at just about the same moment. This older guy may be a relative. Right after Kadri’s appearance, I went into the hallway to type some quick notes on my laptop. This same older guy walked by, very clearly looking down at the screen. I scowled at him and he pivoted away. I think he noticed the LACBC sticker on the front and suspects I’m some agent of theirs. Well, let the defense worry that so many eyes are on them.

I’d love to see Kadri quake beneath the gaze of an angry guardian angel the size of the Bike Coalition.

The Airport courthouse has no bike parking, but the security at the garage entrance suggested locking up to the handicap parking sign. The courthouse is conveniently nestled in the armpit of the 105/405 interchange, and miserable to reach by any way but car. If you look at Google Maps, it’s right there by the Green Line station, but you can’t access it by 116th street (unless you scale two chain link fences, and people clearly do this.) Nope, you have to go down to 120th and head back north. If you’re on a bike on 120th & La Cienega, it’s terrifying to wait in the eastbound left turn lane (whose sensor doesn’t register bikes), because the westbound traffic shooting out from the freeway underpass seems to be COMING RIGHT AT YOU thanks to the wacky angle at the intersection. By the time that oncoming wall of FedEx truck zoomed at me like Jaws, my heart rate was about 160. It’s not much lower right now, what with the rage about how we practically require vehicular manslaughter defendants to arrive at the courthouse by automobile.

……..

After I got her report, I emailed a member of Rapley’s family in Australia to let them know about the January 16th court date.

The response I received broke my heart.

The next court date will be just days after the one year anniversary of his funeral. And six years to the day that he’d been with his girlfriend. 

……..

The ghost bike for James Rapley is still there, 355 days later.

Maybe you’ve seen it at the corner of Temescal and PCH, and wondered who it was for, or stopped to read the inscription.

It’s been maintained all this time by a grieving father from Oxnard, whose own six-year old son was killed while riding his bike. Since then, Anthony Novarro has dedicated his life to remembering other bike riding sons and daughters who have lost theirs.

He stops by every few weeks to clean the site, and remember a young man none of us ever knew.

But all ghost bikes are removed or stolen sooner or later; it’s unusual that one lasts this long.

There’s a discussion currently underway to make the memorial permanent by installing a bike rack in the shape of a bicycle in Rapley’s honor.

So far it hasn’t gotten past the discussion stage.

But its another reminder that James Rapley hasn’t been forgotten in the City of Angels, even if he died a stranger to us all.

……..

Something else that hasn’t gotten past the discussion stage yet is a proposal to build the city’s first parking-protected bike lane on that uphill side of Temescal Canyon where Rapley lost his life.

Such protected bikeways were just approved by the state legislature earlier this year, and signed into law by Governor Brown. This would be the ideal location for one, with no conflicting intersections or cross traffic for nearly mile from PCH to Palisades High School.

Whether it would have saved Rapley’s life at that early hour is impossible to say; there may not have been enough beachgoers parking their cars to form a protective barrier so early on a winter weekend.

But it might help prevent a similar tragedy in the future.

And if there’s a better way to honor someone who needlessly lost his life in the few short hours he spent in our city, I don’t know what that would be.

……..

Update: A comment below from Jeffrey reminds us that a memorial fund in Rapley’s name has raised over $15,000 for Australia’s Amy Gillett Foundation to improve bike safety, with a goal of eliminating bicycling deaths. And it tells his all-too-brief life story, letting us know just who this man we never knew was.

More impressively, his family donated his life insurance and joined with friends to contribute over $250,000 to establish a scholarship at Whitley College for a Rural Student studying either Engineering or Science at Melbourne University.

But more funds are needed to increase the amount of the annual award, and help make a difference in the world that James Rapley never got the chance to make.

 

Guest Post: Deep data analysis reveals the real causes of LA bike collisions

The key to improving bike safety is understanding how and why collisions occur.

Which has been almost impossible to figure out here in Los Angeles, where no one was keeping track of such vital statistics until recently. Let alone analyzing them.

I tried digging the data out of the statewide SWITRS traffic collision database before giving up, as have others before and since.

Now long-time LA bike advocate Dennis Hindman has dug through data compiled by the Los Angeles Police Department to uncover the causes of collisions — at least as determined by LAPD traffic investigators — with surprising results.

And makes the commonsense suggestion bicycling infrastructure should be installed first where cyclists ride, and collisions occur. At least until we have a fully built-out bicycling network.

I’m sharing the results of Hindman’s investigation, with his permission.

It’s a must read for anyone who cares about bike safety, and ensuring that everyone who goes out on a bike ride comes back home in one piece.

……..

The Census Bureau’s American Community Survey data results from 2007 through 2013 have a doubling of commuting by bicycle from 0.6% to 1.2%. Los Angeles Police Department reported 1,335 bicycle collisions in 2007 and 2,413 in 2013. That’s a 81% increase. Although the bicycle collisions have significantly increased, the rate of collisions per total number of bicycle riders has no doubt fallen.

I did a totaling of type of collisions in the first 100 pages (about 500 collisions) of the 484 page 2013 bicycle collision report that mentions each collisions individually and found the reported collision type or primary factor in the collisions to be:

  • 220 broadside
  • 110 wrong side (usually got hit by driver turning right)
  • 146 Right of Way auto
  • 70 stop sign
  • 40 improper turn
  • 48 sideswipe
  • 30 head on
  • 22 rear end
  • 10 improper turn
  • 8 too close
  • 5 improper driving
  • 10 lane change
  • 29 unsafe speed (usually unclear when that refers to bicycle or motor vehicle)

I haven’t seen anything in the report that mentions hitting a parked car door. There are several reports about hitting a parked vehicle though. I’ll try to figure out how many times that occurred in the total. Its much less frequent than getting broadsided.

Right of Way auto and broadside I assume would mean a bicycle running a stop sign or running a red light and a motor vehicle that had the right-of-way hitting the bicycle. I have yet to see a collision report state ROW bicycle, although it occasionally mentions ROW pedestrian.

The report does mention collisions when a motor vehicle was making a right-turn as a bicycle was going straight. I’ll try to see how frequently that occurred in relation to all types of collisions. This also seems to be a small proportion compared to the number of broadsides.

A Los Angeles Department of Transportation bikeway traffic engineer recently stated that they do not do treatments for bicycles at intersections. The bike lanes are striped where there are no crossing points for motor vehicles such as driveways, freeway on and off ramps, and cross street intersections.

The MIT Media Lab made a great looking map of all the LAPD reported bicycle collisions for 2012:

http://youarehere.cc/p/bicycle-accidents/losangeles

When I look at that map it seems to me that the bulk of the LADOT resources for bicycling should be concentrated in the areas of the city where the bicycle collisions are densely packed together. That’s also where the most bicycling occurs. If there are few staff members and a very small budget, then why try to install bicycle improvements across the whole city at once. That dilutes the effect by spreading out the improvements so much that they don’t connect into a network of any sort and the quality of the infrastructure won’t be as good because the emphasis is on quantity.

……..

Hindman followed-up with a brief email providing a little additional information and clarification. 

When I mentioned 70 crashes involving a stop sign it should be stop sign or traffic signal. I’m getting better at understanding the abbreviations in the crash data and hopefully I can tabulate the primary collisions factors and collisions types for 2013. I counted 16 bicycle fatalities for 2013.* One pedestrian was killed by a bicycle rider in 2007 and in 2012, but none in 2013. Both of these pedestrians were in their 80’s.

Spot checking the MIT Media Lab results of 54 bicycle crashes for Van Nuys Blvd I noticed that any time the LAPD bicycle crash data mentions Van Nuys as the primary or secondary street it was counted by MIT as a crash on Van Nuys Blvd. I have to assume that all the street crashes mentioned were totaled the same way.

……..

*Editor’s note: My records show 18 bicycling fatalities in the City of Los Angeles in 2013. The discrepancy may be due to one rider killed in a train collision, and another who was walking his bike when he was hit by a car; it’s possible neither was classified as a bike collision in the LAPD stats. Two of the cyclists killed in 2013 died as a result of doorings. 

 

Morning Links: Dangerous SaMo corner, LA Calbike board members, East LA man killed in bike dispute

I count on my readers to keep us appraised dangerous situations.

Especially now when health issues continue to keep me off my bike.

For instance, Santa Monica cyclist Bill Jordan writes about a dangerous intersection after seeing a cyclist down Wednesday morning.

Wanted to make you aware of a bike car collision that occurred this morning at the bottom of the 23rd street hill behind the Santa Monica Airport where it intersects Dewey St. Two cars were stopped with multiple police officers on the scene and a crumpled bike in between the two cars.

Samo MapI’m quite familiar with the intersection, as I bike commute 1-2 days per week past it in both directions, and I can safely say it’s the spot I’m most concerned about on every ride. It’s also easily solvable with a little adjustments to traffic flow. As you can see in this crude graphic, evening rush hour traffic backs up 23rd St. (highlighted in red), typically all the way to Ocean Park Blvd.

This encourages people to use the comparatively empty 21st St, and then cut across Dewey, Navy, Marine, or even the alleyway between Navy and Dewey (highlighted in yellow). This would be fine, except drivers rarely remember to check the unimpeded southbound bike lane on 23rd before turning out into the stopped traffic. Since it’s a 3% decline, I often find myself riding the brakes to avoid running broadside into a car that didn’t realize there was more than one lane of traffic they were turning across. It is not surprising at all that the Strava Segment for that downhill section is called “Ocean Park – Rose Kamikaze.”

As for why the traffic backs up, you don’t have to go far to find the solution. The intersection at Rose Avenue and Walgrove has a light that is timed for the morning rush, when a number of people are coming west on Rose Avenue and turning north on Walgrove/23rd. However, that traffic doesn’t exist in the evening, but of course the lights follow the same pattern. This leads to lots of red light time for cars heading southbound on 23rd/Walgove, and creates the three quarter mile backup that encourages the unsafe neighborhood cut-throughs. Obviously with the morning collision the backup wasn’t the problem here, but it does show how unsafe the bike lane there is. Would love to know who could help fix this issue.

I’ve forwarded his email to Cynthia Rose of LACBC neighborhood chapter Santa Monica Spoke.

Any other suggestions for who he should talk to?

Update: I’ve just gotten word that the cyclist involved in this collision was popular LA rider Nate Loyal, who came out on the losing side of a collision with an SUV.

I’m told he was rushed to the hospital with a broken tibia, tibia and collarbone — but thankfully, no head injury. He’s scheduled for surgery today, but expected to be okay.

Best wishes and prayers for full and speedy recovery.

………

Calbike gets four new board members, including San Diego’s Elayne Fowler, Silicon Valley’s Janet LaFleur, and our own Dorothy Wong and BikinginLA sponsor Josh Cohen.

………

Sad news from Portland, as a beloved recumbent bike shop owner takes her own life, two years after she suffered a severe brain injury in a collision while riding her ‘bent. Thanks to David Wolfberg and Megan Lynch for the heads-up.

………

LASD sketch of the suspect

LASD sketch of the suspect

Just heartbreaking. A 76-year old East LA man suffering from dementia was beaten to death last August in a dispute over a bicycle, which did not belong to him.

His killer, identified only as a Hispanic man with a trimmed mustache and beard — which he probably shaved off if he’s seen the news — rode away on the bike.

………

Canyon Velo Cycling will host a Remembrance Ride for fallen OC cyclist Sherri Norton, three years after she was killed in a highly disputed collision. Thanks to Jeffrey for the news.

………

Local

Mayor Garcetti promises to step up street repaving, and assures Streetsblog the new and improved streets will have the most recent approved designs, including bike lanes and continental crosswalks. Meanwhile, a city council proposal would allow residents to tax themselves to pay for road and sidewalk repairs.

Santa Monica approves the county’s first Smart Bike bike share system.

More on Friday’s planned crackdown by Santa Monica police to improve bike and pedestrian safety; and yes, for a change, they’re targeting drivers as well as cyclists and jaywalkers.

Peloton looks at last Sunday’s Feel My Legs, I’m a Racer competition up some of the city’s — and the nation’s — steepest hills.

 

State

The San Diego Reader looks back at fallen cyclist Udo Heinz and the bus collision that needlessly took his life.

Sometimes you’re just in the wrong place. An El Cajon bike rider suffers serious injuries when he’s collateral damage in a collision between two vehicles.

A San Bernardino bike rider is killed in a pre-dawn shooting.

Santa Barbara police issue nearly 100 citations to drivers and cyclists alike in a crackdown to improve bike safety.

It’s not all bad news, though, as Santa Barbara will build a new bike station at the city’s Transit Station. Thanks again to Megan Lynch for the link.

San Francisco will expand their bike share system while upgrading equipment.

The long-planned Bay Bridge bike path connecting Oakland and San Francisco could be in trouble after authorities choke on a $400 million-plus price tag.

 

National

Wired offers up nine things drivers need to stop saying in the debate over bikes vs cars. To start, we could stop positioning it as bikes vs cars. Or cyclists vs drivers.

A big-hearted, yet anonymous Oklahoma cop buys a boy a new bike after his was stolen.

New York looks at the progress made in the first year of Vision Zero, while Portland moves forward with their plan.

If I rode with a knife like that, I'd probably get more respect from drivers, too

If I rode with a knife like that, I’d probably get more respect from drivers, too

People for Bikes unveils a new bike safety campaign based on popular Pittsburgh series.

Caught on video: Just days after a Boston aggro bike filmmaker survives a brush with a road raging cabbie, he barely survives a right hook in the rain — then wishes the driver a happy Wednesday.

A Philadelphia cyclist intervenes to stop a bike thief, even after the outlaw flashed a gun.

The writer of Brooklyn Spoke explains why he’s opposed to the proposed New York ban on cellphone use while bicycling.

A Florida father files suit against FedEx after a driver kills his bike-riding special needs son; the driver was allegedly looking down while he accelerated, and didn’t even know he’d hit someone.

 

International

Bikes are an economic powerhouse, as Europe’s cycling economy has created 650,000 jobs. And could reach one million in just six years.

Brit cyclists plan a die-in and faux funeral to call attention to the need for safer streets.

Your next bike could be a junk. Literally, as Brit firm specializes in upcycling scrap cars into handmade bicycles.

Dublin is hiring a new cycling czar. Don’t bother applying, I’m taking it.

Germany considers sending convicted dopers to jail for three years, with 10 years for the doctors who help them.

Cycling Weekly looks at a bike that isn’t quite the one the won a stage in the Tour de France in 1959, and offers solutions to embarrassing problems on a bike. Just make sure no one is drafting on you when you break wind; then again, if you’ve got a wheel sucker behind you, it’s a good defense mechanism.

An Aussie councilmember proposes a boxy, so-called “smart helmet that would comply with the country’s mandatory helmet law, while providing a licensing registration number that can be read by road cameras. And it has built-in turn signals, brake light, visor with wiper blade, and offers a warning when the rider gets too close to pedestrians. Seriously, you can’t make this shit up.

 

Finally…

A Seattle website asks whether a bike rack has been circumcised; looks like it to me. So much for the common argument that no one rides in winter weather.

And fair is fair: A Chicago columnist is incensed that dog owners must carry proof of a license when their dogs go out to poop, but cyclists don’t need one — to ride, not poop. But maybe bike-hating writers should have one to write crap like this.

 

Guest post: South Bay cyclist brings down a prolific bike thief. And pays a cool grand for the privilege.

A happy ending to a long tale of a stolen bicycle; photo by Mike Bike.

A happy ending to a long tale of a stolen bicycle; photo by Mike Bike.

Last week I stumbled on a couple of news stories with an unusual twist.

According to stories in the Daily Breeze and Easy Reader News, a Redondo Beach man had been arrested for stealing a number of bikes from garages in Redondo and Manhattan Beach.

I don’t think anyone would complain about getting a bike thief off the streets.

But the interesting thing was the way the thief was uncovered, when a man simply walked into the Redondo Beach Police station and told them he’d bought a hot bike.

It seemed like there must be more to the story.

And there was.

The next day, I found an email in my inbox from South Bay cyclist Mike Bike, who identified himself as the man in question. And offered a detailed explanation of his role in the convoluted tale.

Yes, it’s a long read. But it’s a great story, and well worth the time.

And fair warning to anyone tempted to buy a bike of questionable provenance.

………

Caveat Emptor

Strange day today. Very strange, indeed.

It started out so well. Jane and I are training for a couple of tours at the end of the month and we had been frustrated trying to get her new bike to fit her. Today’s ride was going very well, though, after we finally got it dialed in: up the west side and back to the South Bay where we’d finish up the long weekend with this long ride.

Then it got weird. But let’s go back a ways.

A month ago we’d started training in earnest after Jane’s school year ended. We had done a serious climbing day up on the hill. We were headed home and Jane was in a hurry because she had some prep to do for a summer class. As we passed ‘the corner,’ I saw some bikes chained to sign posts on the right side. One of them caught my eye because it was a small women’s frame. The issue with Jane’s bike was that it’s a 52cm men’s frame that we thought was just a tad long in the top tube and with the standard diamond frame didn’t give her much stand-over clearance. I pulled over but Jane kept going. It turned out the guy selling the bikes was strolling up to show it to some other guy who just came there and must have called (both bikes had hand-written signs with a phone number). I asked the guy “how much for the Specialized?” He said he had checked on Craigslist and it was worth a lot and he’d have to get $1000 for it. It was a new looking Specialized carbon fiber WSD with Shimano stuff on it. Nothing looked abused. It had eggbeater pedals on it. I told him I was in the market for something like this but that my girlfriend had just ridden by. I wanted her to look at it and test ride. I jotted down the phone and model stuff and left him there.

Jane was interested. She thought it would be worthwhile to look at a bike just a mile from the house. So I collected my mad money, $700, and got in the van to go look. We brought her pedals and a pedal wrench and Allen keys to make it a little better for a test ride. We called ‘The Guy’ and he came on out from somewhere. I asked if I could swap pedals and he said, “sure.” We chatted a bit and he said he rode regularly up on the hill. He had bought the bike for his wife and she loved it but they were forced to move since his dad was dying of cancer in New Jersey. He was moving back there to take care of him and they needed to get rid of stuff. I could sympathize with that. Jane came back from her spin and said she liked it. I told ‘The Guy’ that I only had $700 or so on me, could he take less? He said he needed the grand. I told him I could go to the ATM down the street. Jane stayed and I went to the ATM. I came back and gave him the cash and we did the deal. I asked about cleats for those pedals; he said they had never bought those. His wife only rode it a few times and he had bought the bike like that used, with the pedals. OK, I was a little suspicious; but it was a plausible story.

After a week off for travel, we got on it in the middle of June. It was clear that the stem was too low. On a ride back from the hill, we saw ‘The Guy’ out by still more bikes for sale. We stopped and told him that we were really pleased with the bike but were still dialing it in. Jane asked about these two ‘new’ bikes; He said they had found two more stashed in the back of the garage. We rode away thinking that things weren’t as plausible as they were earlier. As for the stem, I thought it was an 80 mm but it was actually a 60. It turned out a friend at work had an adjustable stem he wasn’t using. And he wanted the pedals so we made a swap.

I did the wrenching and things were better but she was still cramped and getting a sore back. She wanted the seat further back. We moved it as much as possible but she wanted more. I was thinking we bought the wrong size bike. I looked at set-back posts but thought maybe one of my other posts could yield a cm or so. I swapped to a different post with a little more space but it was not enough. Looking at the bike, it was obvious that the bars should be moved forward if she wanted more space. My work friend had an array of stems and he was pleased with his pedal deal so he agreed to lend me all his OS stems. Over two rides we eventually gravitated to the longest of the lot, a 120 mm. We were even able to switch back to the original post.

In the mean time I had purchased side loading bottle cages due to the extreme smallness of this little compact frame, along with a new top-tube bag and seat bag. We had her Garmin on there and a new bell (which didn’t fit so well on the OS bars but I rigged it with a zip tie). Saturday night she declared it finally dialed and she looked at the tour profile and said “We need to do 71 miles tomorrow.” A quick calculation showed the west side run with a trip to Hawthorne would do it. The hot weather would help with heat conditioning though the breeze kept us from getting too hot.

Sunday morning we got underway about quarter to eight. We turned at the plaza and headed north along the coast, and were going much better than other recent rides because the bike was finally dialed. What a difference! Jane held my wheel while I kept an eye on her with my relatively new helmet-mounted rear-view (really nice unit: http://www.safezonemirror.com/install/). Great day.

Coming back, we rode the beach south taking our time through the crowds. Then we rode by the plaza on our way to completing the 71 miles. I did the mental math and it looked like we were right on target. Go to Hawthorne, hit Trader Joes for some cold drinks and then home.

Then it got weird. As we crested PV West I noticed a small female rider on a bike that looked too large for her; she was rocking her pelvis on the saddle and just looked awkward. I passed her and didn’t say anything. I looked back and Jane was off my wheel a bit then I heard the ladies talking. I got to the overlook and pulled off thinking I might give the lady advice. They both pulled up and I thought I heard the lady ask how long Jane had been riding. I told her about 5 years. She looked displeased. It became apparent she was interested in the bike and wanted to know how long we had it. I said we bought it used about a month ago. She said “that’s my bike!” Well, what do you say to that?

She said it was stolen from her house nearby a little over a month earlier along with other items and she had resorted to riding her old bike which had been re-fitted for a daughter (she did not wrench). Then she started obsessing. I asked her about the stuff I had replaced, could she tell me what the original equipment looked like? She could not. But she claimed she had the police report and the serial number in her phone.

The serial numbers matched. Crap. I bought a stolen bike for cash. But I still had the guy’s phone number and I had seen still more bikes at the lot on Friday.

The lady insisted she wanted her bike back right there. I said that we were out on a ride and I understood it was her bike but could we please finish our ride and we’d give it back with the original equipment on it (provided I could trade back to get the pedals!). She wasn’t buying it. She wanted the cops. We agreed, police were needed to resolve this, but she had no idea where she was. I helped her out giving her reasonable instructions on our location (you say Paseo and PV West and it could be about 5 different places). She kept insisting that I should have known the bike was stolen and I should have checked the stolen bike data bases before purchasing. Maybe so, but I’ve been stymied too many times trying to buy well-priced used merchandise on web-sites that I tend to move quickly.

The cops arrived and at first wanted to know who the perp was. Thank goodness they didn’t draw weapons or cuff us. We explained the situation several times to several officers and since the numbers matched (and they checked the report online) they said the lady needs to have her bke. I asked again if we could please finish up our ride and we’d get the bike restored and returned; they said no. They said we should remove our stuff from the bike and they’d impound it.

Fortunately, I had spotted Greg (another guy who’s ridden with us many times and done construction work for us) parked nearby. I went over and he had just finished his ride and I explained some of what was going down. So with Greg’s pedal wrench and my multi-tool, I started taking off pedals, stem, bags, computer, and bell; leaving the bars dangling by the cables. The lady exclaimed “are you going to let that asshole take parts off my bike?” The cops said, yes, they were my parts so I could have them. I explained yet again that I would make the bike whole and I really wanted to finish the ride but if you are going to be like this, this is how it will be done. So Greg loaded up our stuff in his truck, the cops carted the stolen bike off in the back of the police cruiser and I was left to ride home. I passed the lady on the ill-fitting bike and waved. She had my phone number and address and would stop by to let me fix the bike later.

I thought it couldn’t get any stranger. I started mulling over a visit to the roadside bike sales lot to chat with ‘The Guy’; but what to say? Basically, the lady was going to be more-or-less whole; but I was out $1000 and the PV cops had no interest in helping me. At least they didn’t shoot me! Down the hill I went. What to do next. I had to get the pedals back; shouldn’t be a problem. I had to talk to more cops in the south bay; never much fun talking to cops. I turned and headed toward home. I was mulling things over as I crossed an intersection. Someone yelled from a car window “Hey, I’ve been looking for you!” I looked over and there’s the guy! He pulled a left turn and parked the wrong way behind me.

He says his buddy just came up with a high-end bike and he thought I might be interested. A month later and he recognizes me!?! In any case, here he was saying he wants to talk to me I said, yeah, I’m real interested. His wife was in the passenger seat and she offered to take my phone number again since he didn’t have it anymore. He remembered that he sold us the Specialized and that we’d stopped to say how much we liked it. I asked him, again, where did you get that. He said it was his wife’s and said “where’d we get that, honey? Was it Huntington?” She said it was. I asked about how his dad was doing. He said “it is what it is.” Very profound. I was less sympathetic this time. He said “Yeah, we’re leaving in a couple of weeks.” Then they drove up a side street as I noted their vehicle license and make and color. Tres bizarre.

I got home and Jane wasn’t home yet, so I called her. Greg had to drop some stuff at Ray’s house. They were just looking at bikes at ‘the lot’. I told them to forget that; I was going to get a call from him this afternoon to see a bike. They drove to our street. We talked it over and decided first things first, get the pedals. Then the bike lady called and said she had the bike and was stopping by. I said I had the stem but no pedals yet but I’d get them. After 45 minutes and a trip for pedals, she was set. I went back home and we contemplated our next move. No call from ‘The Guy’ so I called the local cops. Cops on the phone don’t really want to chat so I said I’d stop by the station.

Jane and I went down and after some screening at the front desk and sitting on their hard bench, got to talk with first one officer and then a pair. They seemed somewhat disinterested in my bizarre tale; maybe because it sounded like I made it up. But they took down all the info I had: stolen bike police report number, phone number for ‘The Guy,’ plate number, description and times. Then they told me I was SOL; that I was lucky I wasn’t arrested for possession of stolen goods! I thanked them for their compassion and we left figuring ‘The Guy’ was going to have a long career as a salesman.

We cleaned up and decided to go out for dinner with Jane’s daughter. We ended up driving by the sales lot. The bikes that I’d seen earlier were gone. Crap, maybe he’d gotten wise and pulled up stakes after my questions. Then I glanced right and saw a police car parked. Hey, I said, half in jest, maybe they’re visiting my friend. Jane’s daughter said it wasn’t one car but two. We went to dinner and talked about the day.

After dinner and some shopping, we drove back by the place. Wow! Now there were four police cars and a police pick-up truck! And it was loaded to the gills with bikes! Holy crap; not in my wildest dreams did I expect that outcome. We pulled around the corner and parked and got out with cell phone cameras ready. We chatted with the official looking officer on the front steps. He indicated that they took the guy down and he was a major operator. He had been carted away and would spend the night in jail. Wow. Then the two officers from the PD visit emerged with big smiles. They thanked me and said it had been a big help. I told them that ‘the Guy’ hadn’t called me back. I got the police report number so I could cite it for my income tax loss; that’s about the only way I’m going to recoup any monetary benefit on this one. Small claims court seems a long shot. No offense, but I’m not a fan of courts, lawyers or law enforcement. But I’ll give them kudos on this one.

I sent a text message with the pick-up full of bikes to the bike lady. She called back to say she was very excited and glad they got ‘the Guy’.

Reflecting on it now; it was one very strange day. Jane has got a new Specialized from a local dealer; costs more but nobody is going to stuff it in the back of a police car in the middle of our ride.

Oh, and if you’ve lost a bike to theft in the south bay, contact the Police department, (310) 802-5124.

Don’t expect sympathy.

Bikes Have Rights™*

Insurance Companies Are Not Your Friend

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

 
By James L. Pocrass, Esq.
Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP
 

Behind the warm and fuzzy jingles, the precocious animal mascots, and the deep-voiced spokespersons, insurance companies are faceless, heartless corporations whose one purpose is to increase premiums and to decrease payouts in order to make the biggest profits possible.

Simply put, THAT is why you need your own lawyer if you have a bike accident.

If insurance companies were “fair,” I’d be out of a job. I am pretty confident that unemployment due to insurance companies deciding to do the “right thing” is not something I have to worry about in my lifetime.

The reality is, after you have had a bike accident and the friendly insurance adjuster calls you, his (or her), goal is to come up with a reason not to pay you. If he can’t outright deny you compensation for your damages, he wants to diminish your case so the company has to pay you as little as possible.

Rest assured, everything you say to that nice insurance adjustor can and will be used against you in a court of law. That is why I – and every other personal injury lawyer – will tell you to refuse to speak to an insurance adjuster or insurance representative. Give the adjustor your lawyer’s name and phone number and hang up.

If you cooperate with the insurance adjuster and you are offered a settlement, it is likely that you are getting 10 cents on the dollar of the value of your case. I was once told by an adjuster that he received a bonus if he could settle a case within 48-hours.

Let me tell you about a case I handled. A client who had a Los Angeles bike accident injured his shoulder. He talked with the kindly insurance adjuster who sympathized and sent him to a doctor (an insurance company sending you to a doctor is a rare occurrence).

SURPRISE! The doctor recommended by the insurance company said my client’s shoulder was fine. The company offered my client $5,000 to settle his case.

My client’s shoulder really hurt. He finally engaged a lawyer (me), and I sent him to a doctor. The doctor I sent him to diagnosed a torn rotator cuff. He underwent surgery. We settled the case for $150,000.

Never forget that insurance companies have more knowledge than you do. They also employ an army of lawyers. They can throw more resources at your case than you even know exist. They have all the power, all the money, and the wherewithal to fight you when you are fighting alone.

You need an experienced personal injury lawyer to level the playing field. I have written here before about how to choose a lawyer, but it bears repeating to say you should look at how or where you got the referral, the lawyer’s experience in your type of case, and the results the lawyer has achieved.

Now go increase your uninsured motorist insurance to the maximum the insurance company will permit, and the next time you see an insurance company commercial, remember, they are not your friend.

*California Vehicle Code 21200: A person riding a bicycle or operating a pedicab upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle. . .

For more than 25 years, Jim Pocrass has represented people who were seriously injured, or families who lost a loved one in a wrongful death, due to the carelessness or negligence of another. Jim is repeatedly named to Best Lawyers of America and to Southern California Super Lawyers for the outstanding results he consistently achieves for his clients. Having represented hundreds of cyclists during his career, and Jim’s own interest in cycling, have resulted in him becoming a bicycle advocate. He is a board member of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. For a free, no-obligation consultation, contact Jim Pocrass at 310.550.9050 or at info@pocrass.com.

*Sponsored post

 

Guest Post: Bikes Have Rights™*

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Civil vs. Criminal Bike Lawsuits: How They Differ

 
By James L. Pocrass, Esq.
Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

 

Streetsblog LA reported recently on the 3-year and 8-months plea deal that was struck by Wendy Villegas, the drunk driver who struck three bicyclists, resulting in the death of one of them, Andy Garcia, on the bridge on Cesar Chavez Boulevard last Sept. 14. Villegas never even stopped. It is only because a witness followed Villegas and was able to get her license plate number that she was apprehended. When the police booked her at 7:15 a.m., it is reported that she was still intoxicated.

The post talks about the effect of the plea deal on Garcia’s family and friends. How they weren’t consulted about the deal and that their only permitted involvement was that they were allowed to read statements at the sentencing hearing about how Villegas’ actions affected their lives.

I bring this up because it is important for you to understand the differences between a criminal case and a civil case. There is a growing outcry that drivers who commit hit-and-runs should get stiffer penalties. Personally, I agree. However, when you are calling for stiffer penalties, do you mean stiffer criminal or stiffer civil penalties?

A criminal lawsuit is filed by the government (district attorney), not by the person or persons who have suffered at the hands of the accused. The district attorney is acting for the state (read as “society”) and ensuring the stability of society by punishing wrongdoers and deterring them and others from offending.

The hard truth is that you, as the victim or wronged party, are witnesses, at best, in the trial. The criminal case is about the wrongdoer being accused by the state of a criminal offense against society. Punishment for crimes against the state can be incarceration, fines, community service, or, in extreme cases, the death penalty.

In a civil suit, the lawsuit is brought by the wronged party (or parties). They are appealing to the court for relief. They are telling the court, “We have been injured because of the negligence or carelessness of the accused.”

The civil court’s response is to give the victim (the plaintiff), the chance to show how the accused (the defendant), harmed them. If the victim can prove they were harmed, then the court’s duty is “to make them whole.” This is usually accomplished by awarding the victim compensation for their injuries.

Before I discuss the issue of compensation making anyone “whole,” I want to talk about one more significant difference between criminal and civil lawsuits.

Everyone is familiar with the “O.J. trial.” O.J. Simpson was found not guilty by a jury for the murder of his wife Nicole Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman in a criminal trial. Yet in the civil jury trial, O.J. was found guilty and was ordered to pay the Brown and Goldman families approximately $40 million.

How did that happen? There are probably numerous reasons, but the prominent reason I want you to know is the differences in “standard of proof” in criminal versus civil trials.

In a criminal trial the “standard of proof” is that the district attorney must convince the judge or every member of the jury that the accused is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

In a civil trial, the “standard of proof” is that the victim must demonstrate that there is a “preponderance of evidence” that the accused is guilty. It only takes a judge or a majority of jurors to find the accused liable in a civil trial.

In the O.J. example, it is obvious that the jurors in the criminal trial had doubts of O.J.’s guilt, where in the civil trial, the lawyer’s for the families of the victims had to convince the jury that the evidence of guilt was “beyond the balance of probabilities.”

Returning to the issue of compensation of the law making anyone “whole,” everyone knows that money cannot bring back a loved one or heal the catastrophic injuries the victim and their family suffered, or give anyone back the time they have lost due to the wrongdoer’s actions.

Every client I have ever had for whom I obtained a multi-million verdict or settlement has told me that they would give back every penny to have their loved one back or the injury they suffered to never have happened.

In legal terms, “made whole” means through compensation (which is the only currency that is available to the court), to bring the injured party to the place they would have been if they had not been injured by the wrongdoer.  What “making whole” means in a legal sense varies by state laws.

In the Streetsblog post referred to earlier, the families are quoted as saying they are not interested in bringing a civil case. They have no interest in money. I understand, and they should do what is best for them. But never think that the compensation obtained for clients doesn’t matter to them. This isn’t “jackpot justice” as the public relations machines of Big Business and Big Insurance would like you to think.

The compensation allows people who have been injured at no fault of their own – or families who have lost a loved one due to the negligence or carelessness of another – to rebuild their lives. In some cases it has meant being able to adapt a home and car for a wheelchair or for retraining for another career or for paying for quality childcare. It invariably means being able to pay the hundreds of thousands of dollars for current and future medical care. In some cases the compensation is put in trust for a child’s future use, for college or other advanced education.

Just as importantly, when the wrongdoer is a government entity or a corporation, it sends the only punishment either of those understands: a hit to their bottom line.

There is no doubt in my mind that we need stronger criminal penalties against hit-and-run drivers. I also believe that we need to bring these people to justice in a civil court. It is only when their insurance companies start seeing what these people cost THEM (yes, I know that’s horrible, but that’s how companies work), will the insurance companies start applying their own form of punishments.

I know, after 30 years of representing some of the most wonderful people who never deserved the injuries and losses they suffered, that the compensation mattered to the victim and it punished the wrongdoer. That’s really all the courts can offer us.

*California Vehicle Code 21200: A person riding a bicycle or operating a pedicab upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle. . .

For more than 25 years, Jim Pocrass has represented people who were seriously injured, or families who lost a loved one in a wrongful death, due to the carelessness or negligence of another. Jim is repeatedly named to Best Lawyers of America and to Southern California Super Lawyers for the outstanding results he consistently achieves for his clients. Having represented hundreds of cyclists during his career, and Jim’s own interest in cycling, have resulted in him becoming a bicycle advocate. He is a board member of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.  For a free, no-obligation consultation, contact Jim Pocrass at 310.550.9050 or at info@pocrass.com.*

*Sponsored Post

 

Guest Post: Bikes Have Rights™*

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Make Sure You’re Protected Before You Need To Be

 
By James L. Pocrass, Esq.
Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

 

I recently represented a cyclist who was the victim of a hit and run accident that broke almost every bone in his body and caused traumatic brain injuries. The driver of the car turned out to be a 19-year-old woman who was driving drunk. She claimed not to have known that she hit my client, in spite of his leaving nine teeth in her SUV’s back seat.

My client’s medical bills were astronomical and because of the brain injuries, his life would never be same. The compensation my client received from this case would be his primary source of income for the rest of his life. The woman’s insurance company wanted to settle the claim for “policy limits,” which is the maximum amount they are required to compensate a victim of serious personal injuries or even a wrongful death.

Policy limits is how much insurance you bought in a specific category. In California, you are required to carry car insurance of $15,000 per person for bodily injury liability; $30,000 per accident, which covers all persons hurt in one accident; and $5,000 for property damage liability for one accident. It is likely that your insurance policy includes a minimal amount of uninsured and under-insured auto insurance, but rarely is it a significant amount.

If you suffer catastrophic personal injuries or a family member is lost in a wrongful death due to a motor vehicle accident (car, bicycle, motorcycle, truck, bus, boat), your damages (medical and economic) could cost hundreds of thousands – or even millions – of dollars.

The person who was negligent is responsible for your damages. (In some cases, negligence may include one or more companies or a public entity like the state or a county, but for the purposes of this article we are focusing on individual drivers.) Their insurance company will cover those damages only to the limits of the individual’s insurance policy.

If the person who caused your accident owns a house or other property, you may be able to recover some monies from them after a long and expensive court process. You might even be able to garnish any money they earn or receive in the future.

But many drivers own nothing – or not enough – to ever come close to compensating you for your injuries or for your lost loved one.  You will be on your own to pay your medical and therapy bills, to subsidize your living expenses either for the short or long-term, to pay childcare expenses, and to replace your destroyed property.

The best way to protect yourself from this disaster is to carry as much uninsured and under-insured auto insurance as your insurance company will permit you to buy. The cost is pennies on the dollar.  The more you have to lose (meaning the more you own or could own in the future), the more uninsured and under-insured auto insurance you should have.

Uninsured and under-insured auto insurance protects you when you are hit by a driver who has no insurance (and a Los Angeles County sheriff told me recently that in approximately 50 percent of all motor vehicle accidents he sees the driver is uninsured). It also kicks in when you reach the maximum the OTHER driver’s insurance will pay. It compensates you for the difference between what the other driver’s policy limit is and the actual compensation you need to recoup from the damages caused by the accident.

Uninsured and under-insured auto insurance also protects you if you suffer serious personal injuries (or worse) in a hit-and-run accident. With the frightening rise in hit-and-runs, it is critical that you protect yourself.

In my client’s case, I was able to negotiate additional monies from the woman’s family. Though I was able to recover a multi-million dollar settlement for this client, it is still nowhere near what he should have received considering the damages she inflicted on him and for which he will have to live with for the rest of his life.

My hope for you is that you never need to use your uninsured and under-insured auto insurance, but I urge you strongly to get as much uninsured and under-insurance auto coverage that your insurance company will allow you to purchase, before you need it.

*California Vehicle Code 21200: A person riding a bicycle or operating a pedicab upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle. . .

For more than 25 years, Jim Pocrass has represented people who were seriously injured, or families who lost a loved one in a wrongful death, due to the carelessness or negligence of another. Jim is repeatedly named to Best Lawyers of America and to Southern California Super Lawyers for the outstanding results he consistently achieves for his clients. Having represented hundreds of cyclists during his career, and Jim’s own interest in cycling, have resulted in him becoming a bicycle advocate. He is a board member of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.  For a free, no-obligation consultation, contact Jim Pocrass at 310.550.9050 or at info@pocrass.com.*

*sponsored post

Guest Post: Bikes Have Rights™*

The Bike Accident Lawyer You Choose

Can Make Or Break Your Case

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

By James L. Pocrass, Esq.

Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Last Sunday we attended the Los Angeles Bicycle Commuter Festival & Summit, which was organized by the Bicycle Culture Institute and its L.A. Bike Trains program. After helping to set up the Pocrass & De Los Reyes booth, I wandered around saying “hello” to old friends and making new ones.

As I was thinking about the many conversations I had with a variety of people at the festival, I was struck by the two things they all seemed to have in common: 1.) they all ride bikes and 2.) every one of them told me they’d been in a bicycle accident at some time in their life.

You wouldn’t think this would be such a revelation to me. After all, as a recreational cyclist, I, too, have been yelled at, “flipped off,” and only avoided a collision (so far), because I was more aware than the motorist was.

As a bike accident lawyer, I have handled hundreds of bike accident cases, which has allowed me to develop a relationship to many people who have suffered life-altering injuries, because of the negligence or carelessness of another. I see their struggle to heal: physically, emotionally and financially. As one of the exhibitors, whose accident left him with numerous pins in his leg and with a limp, said to me Sunday, “You heal, but you’re never the same.”

It’s a peculiarity of human nature that when we meet someone and they tell us their career, we have an urge to tell them our personal experience with their profession. We tell doctors our symptoms. We tell IT people our computer problems. And we tell bike accident lawyers about our bike accident case.

I never mind when people want to tell me about their bike accident case, even if it was resolved years ago. I am, though, very careful of how I respond. After all, I am hearing someone’s perspective, and I haven’t reviewed the case. I don’t want to Monday-morning-quarterback another lawyer.

There have been a few times (one of which happened last Sunday, which was the genesis of this post), that inside I was just shaking my head trying to figure out what the person’s lawyer was thinking. But I’m not going to go into that here.

Instead, I am going to give you the secret code of how to choose a lawyer. And though this information generalizes to all practice areas, I am going to use bike accident lawyers as an example.

Bike Accident Experience: does the lawyer have experience in handling bike accident cases? Just as you wouldn’t go to a foot doctor for a heart condition, you don’t want to go to a business attorney for a bike accident.

A bike accident attorney is very familiar with bike accident and motor vehicle law. These laws can be complicated, especially if a bicyclist is hit by a truck and then all sorts of federal or state laws could apply.

Another example is California’s comparative negligence law. This means that the court (or jury) can apply percentages of fault in a motor vehicle accident and a bicycle accident. So even if the cyclist is found to be 10 percent at fault, other entities could be found to be 90 percent at fault, and compensation is proportioned out on that basis.

This is particularly important in terms of liability. If you are hit by a car and the motorist’s policy limit is, for instance, $50,000, then that is all the compensation you could get regardless of the verdict or the settlement.

An experienced bicycle accident attorney knows how to determine if someone else could be partially responsible for the bike accident, in addition to the motorist. Maybe it is a dangerous road or signage is poor and that particular spot has a history of accidents. In those situations, a government entity may be brought into the case.

Verdicts and Settlements: check the attorney’s record of verdicts and settlements in bike accident cases. There are attorneys who have little or no trial experience and automatically settle with insurance companies. This will work to your detriment.

The insurance companies know which lawyers do not want to go – for whatever reason – to court. Lawyers who are known to avoid court give the insurance company license to low ball their offers, which means you may not get the full amount of compensation you deserve and which you may need desperately.

Resources: checking the attorney’s record of verdicts also tells you their experience at trial. Court trials are very difficult. Contrary to popular belief, juries do not automatically lean towards the plaintiff, which is, typically, you. In fact, because of the insurance companies’ decades-long public relations campaign of “jackpot justice,” juries are often prejudiced against people who bring lawsuits.

What evidence is admissible and allowed into “the record,” takes years of learning and skill. Trust me; it is nothing like what you see on television. Trials are a game of rules, and the outcome is often dependent on how well an attorney knows those rules.

But maybe most important for you to know is that going to court takes thousands and thousands – sometimes even more than a million – dollars. Medical experts (doctors) charge between $500 to $1,000 a day. Just filing a complaint with the court is almost $500. All of this money is typically paid for by your bicycle accident lawyer until the case is resolved.

If an attorney does not have the financial resources to fund your case, they may not take your case to trial. Especially in today’s economic climate, insurance companies are refusing to settle (hoping you will go away) or low-balling offers. It is critical that every case be prepared as if it is going to trial.

Today it is not unusual for the insurance company to “settle on the courthouse steps” or while the jury is deliberating. But I can guarantee, if the case was not taken to trial, the cyclist would get nothing or little in settlement in those types of cases.

Affinity with your Lawyer. It is very important that you are comfortable with your bike accident lawyer and with their staff. You will develop a very close relationship with all of these people. You want to make sure that they are there to respond to you in a reasonable amount of time, that they understand your particular needs, and that they explain the legal process in ways you can understand so that you can make informed legal decisions.

I am a great believer in the American justice system. Like most trial lawyers, I have seen justice prevail many more times than I have seen it fail. Yes, it could be improved (better funding for the court system would be the first place to start), but I believe in it. However, the one thing I know absolutely is that the lawyer you choose – for all your legal issues – can make or break your case.

*California Vehicle Code 21200: A person riding a bicycle or operating a pedicab upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle. . .

………

For more than 25 years, Jim Pocrass has represented people who were seriously injured, or families who lost a loved one in a wrongful death, due to the carelessness or negligence of another. Jim is repeatedly named to Best Lawyers of America and to Southern California Super Lawyers for the outstanding results he consistently achieves for his clients. Having represented hundreds of cyclists during his career, and Jim’s own interest in cycling, have resulted in him becoming a bicycle advocate. He is a board member of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.  For a free, no-obligation consultation, contact Jim Pocrass at 310.550.9050 or at info@pocrass.com.

*Sponsored post

Guest post: Taking the lane — a CyclingSavvy instructor explains her objection to bike lanes

I’ve often said that I can learn more from those who disagree with me than those who don’t. 

Case in point, today’s guest post from St. Louis CyclingSavvy instructor Karen Karabell. I disagree — strongly — with the idea that it’s riskier to ride in a bike lane than in the flow of traffic, which contradicts both my own experience and most, if not all, of the studies I’ve seen.

So I invited Karen to explain her approach to bicycling, and she graciously agreed, as follows.

………

Oh, the wonders of the Internet, abolishing time and space in nanoseconds!

On this site, Ted Rogers wrote: “A St. Louis cycling instructor claims that bike lanes are dangerous with no evidence to back it up.”

With lightning speed these words made their way to me (that instructor). I was indignant. I never said that bike lanes are dangerous. I said that riding in a bike lane is more dangerous than riding in the flow of traffic. I complained to Ted that he misquoted me.

Exhibiting the generous mark of a mensch, he invited me to write a guest post to clarify.  He wrote: “I personally believe riding in a bike lane is safer and more enjoyable than riding in the traffic lane, and have expressed that opinion many times. It would be good to have someone explain the other side of the debate, and you are clearly very articulate and able to do it without being argumentative—which seems like a rare quality these days.”

Thank you, Ted! Here goes…

1-bus_bike_lane_graphic-500

I cannot count the number of times this image from a Los Angeles Metro Bus has crossed my Facebook feed. “Did you see this?” one friend after another asks.

The vision promoted on the back of this bus is wonderful. “Every lane is a bike lane” is a powerful statement promoting cyclist equality on our public roadways. I am all for that!

My friends know that I am no fan of bike lanes. But before explaining why, I want to make an observation about our fellow road users:

Every second on this planet,

millions of motorists are driving along

and NOT hitting what is right in front of them.

Motorists do not hit what’s in front of them because that is where they are looking. I know. This sounds like a “duh” statement. But consider the illustrations below. The green area represents a motorist’s primary “Cone of Focus”:

Courtesy of Keri Caffrey

Courtesy of Keri Caffrey

As speeds go higher, a motorist’s “Cone of Focus” diminishes:

Courtesy of Keri Caffrey

Courtesy of Keri Caffrey

As I’m sure is true for all of your readers, I was heartbroken when I learned of the death last December of Milton Olin Jr., the entertainment industry executive who was struck and killed by a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy on routine patrol. Milton Olin was riding in a bike lane on Mulholland Highway.

We need to recognize a simple fact about bike lanes. They tend to make the people in them irrelevant to other traffic. When you are not in the way, you are irrelevant. At low speed differentials, irrelevancy might be OK. But at high speed differentials, the slightest motorist error can be devastating.

The speed limit on Mulholland Highway is 50 mph.

The last place a cyclist should be irrelevant is on a high-speed arterial road.

Regarding cyclist positioning on roadways, CyclingSavvy founders Keri Caffrey and Mighk Wilson made a remarkable discovery.

On roads with good sight lines—typical of most arterial roads—cyclists who control their travel lanes are seen by motorists from 1,280 feet away. Cyclists who ride on the right edge of the road—where most bike lanes are—are not seen by motorists until they are very nearly on top of them—about 140 feet away.

This is profound. We discuss this when we teach CyclingSavvy. The classroom session is incredibly engaging. Our participants soak up the information that we present. They understand exactly what we are talking about regarding traffic patterns and simple-to-learn techniques that make riding a bicycle in traffic very safe.

Most of them, however, don’t believe us—until we take them out on the road and show them.

After a classroom session last summer, a St. Louis newspaper columnist wrote: “The motorists in the training session are the rational, responsible ones. But what about the others—the ones who are speeding, talking on their cell phones and eating French fries, all at the same time?”

I loved that! In every session since, I have brought up his observation. I tell our students: “I would rather give those motorists the opportunity to see me from a quarter-mile away, rather than 140 feet!”

Being “in the way” works. Even the multi-tasking French fry eaters change lanes to pass.

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Last fall one of my favorite arterial roads was put on a “road diet” and striped with bike lanes. Manchester Road in the City of St. Louis used to have two regular travel lanes in each direction. It was easy to ride on. As I controlled the right lane, motorists used the left lane to pass.

Unless motorists are making a right turn, they don’t like to be behind cyclists. Yet I rarely experienced incivility on Manchester, because motorists could see me from many blocks away, and changed lanes well before they got anywhere close to me.

Now, when riding in the new bike lane, many motorists are so close that I could reach out my left arm and touch their cars as they pass. The bike lane places cyclists much closer to motorists than do regular travel lanes.

It is my understanding that in southern California, there are bike lanes that are eight feet wide. I have been told that these wide bike lanes are well marked, so that motorists merge into them well before reaching intersections to make right turns. That sounds lovely! I can envision bike lanes such as these being useful, especially on arterial roads with few intersections or driveways.

But this is not what we have in St. Louis.

The “new” Manchester Road in St. Louis (October 2013)

The “new” Manchester Road in St. Louis (October 2013)

Does this bike lane look encouraging? People who are afraid to ride in traffic don’t want to ride here, either.

Riding in a bike lane requires more cycling skill than riding in travel lanes. That’s why CyclingSavvy can teach novices to ride in regular traffic lanes, even on arterial roads. It’s easier and safer.

No discussion about bike lanes would be complete without reference to “right hooks” and “left crosses”—new phrases in our lexicon, thanks to bike lanes.

The last time I rode in the bike lane on Manchester Road, I was in the way of three right-turning motorists:

  • The first apparently did not see me. She would have right-hooked me, had I not slowed down to let her turn in front of me.
  • The second motorist saw me and stopped in the now-single travel lane, holding up a line of motorists behind him as he waited for me to get through the intersection. I stopped, too, because I wasn’t sure what he was going to do. He smiled kindly. We shook our heads at each other as he waved me on. I proceeded with caution.
  • I can’t remember the circumstances in which the bike lane put me in the way of the THIRD right-turning motorist. By this time I was disgusted, and emotionally spent. It is exhausting to be on the lookout at every single intersection and driveway when using a bike lane on an urban arterial roadway.

Travel was never this difficult on the “old” Manchester Road.

As cyclists, being in a bike lane increases our workload. We ideally need eyes in the back of our heads to constantly monitor what is happening behind us. I use an excellent helmet-mounted rear view mirror. I would not dare ride in a bike lane without one.

When I am controlling a regular travel lane, I find that I never need to exercise white-knuckle vigilance. Mindfulness, yes. Unfortunately there are a relatively small number of psychopaths and other unsavory types piloting land missiles on our roadways. It may seem counterintuitive, but lane control actually gives cyclists more space and time to deal with these rare encounters.

In a bike lane I have learned to ride at no more than half my normal speed to compensate for potential motorist error. My normal speed isn’t that fast—about 12 to 18 mph, depending on conditions.

This self-enforced slowdown for safety is irritating. I have somewhere to go, too! What makes people think the time of a motorist is more valuable than that of a cyclist?

We cannot ignore the danger of getting “doored,” another terrible feature of many urban bike lanes. Keri Caffrey has done a brilliant job illustrating the reality of space in a typical bike lane:

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Traffic engineers would not dream of manufacturing conflict between two lanes of motor vehicle traffic by placing a right-turn lane to the left of a through lane. Why is this acceptable when one of the lanes is for bicyclists?

An engineer friend who is painfully aware of the quandary presented by bike lane design argues that municipalities have a responsibility to warn users of their unintended risks, much as the pharmaceutical industry already does regarding the potential side effects of their products.

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On the bright side, my husband has taught me a great technique. We use bike lanes as “Control & Release” lanes.

“Control & Release” is a CyclingSavvy technique. We teach cyclists how to use lane control as their default position in managing their space on the road. But we also teach them how to determine when it is safe to move right and “release” faster-moving traffic.

How does this work with bike lanes? Because of traffic signalization, motorists tend to travel in platoons. Even the busiest roads have expanses of empty roadway, while motorists sit and wait at traffic lights.

When we are on roads with bike lanes, being aware of the “platoon effect” allows us to use the regular travel lane and ride happily along at our normal speeds. We typically cover a city block or two without having any motor traffic behind us. When a platoon approaches, we move over to the bike lane and go slow, very slow if it’s a door-zone bike lane. It takes only a few seconds for the platoon to pass.

Once they pass, we move back into the travel lane and rock on.

Harold Karabell using the regular travel lane in Buffalo, NY, but moving over to the door-zone bike lane as necessary to release motor traffic behind him (July 2013)

Harold Karabell using the regular travel lane in Buffalo, NY, but moving over to the door-zone bike lane as necessary to release motor traffic behind him (July 2013)

Because bicycling is very safe, accidents are rare, even in bike lanes. But the next time you hear about a motorist hitting a cyclist, pay attention to the details. Where was the cyclist on the roadway? Was the cyclist on the right edge of the road? If he or she wasn’t breaking the law—for example, by riding against traffic, disobeying signals or riding at night without lights—very likely the cyclist was riding near the right edge, where bike lanes are.

We who care about bicycling want more people to choose bicycling, especially for transportation. Half of all U.S. motor trips are less than three miles in distance. This is very easy to traverse by bicycle—usually just as fast and sometimes faster than using a car. Can you imagine the transportation revolution if Americans left their motor vehicles at home and used their bicycles instead for short trips? I for one would feel like I was living in paradise!

But how do we get there? Professor Andy Cline argues that we are making a grave mistake in our attempts to channelize and “segregate” cyclists from motorists. Indeed, as we are reframing U.S. roadways to accommodate bicycling, he warns that we must avoid “surrendering our streets.” This is what we are doing when we ask for cycletracks or special paint markings on the edge of the road.

If we keep asking, we are eventually forced into the bars of our own prison. California is one of eight states that require cyclists to use bike lanes when the lanes are provided.

If we would connect the dots and learn just one thing from the hundreds of bike lane deaths over the last 20 years, it would be this: Attempting to segregate by vehicle type does not work. It just makes transportation more difficult for both cyclists and motorists.

Make no mistake: Bicycles are vehicles. Most states define them as such. Some states define the bicycle as a “device.” But in all 50 states, cyclists are considered drivers.

What excites me is the vision put forth by I Am Traffic. We believe that people will choose bicycling when they feel expected and respected as a normal part of traffic.

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We recognize that we are outliers. We are not waiting for a future in which we hope to receive the respect of the culture. We respect ourselves now. We exercise that self-respect by participating in regular traffic, like any other driver.

Our experience has convinced us that cycling as a regular part of traffic works beautifully.

In a Utopian world this is well and good, a friend likes to say. But what if everybody starts using bicycles in traffic? How will motorists react then?

Our desire for on-road equality has been compared by some to the struggles fought by African Americans, gay people or other maligned minorities seeking acceptance and equality. On only one point does this “civil rights” comparison resonate for me: The prejudicial assertion that cyclists cause delay to other drivers.

Cyclists causing delay is a myth that must die. This pernicious stereotype oppresses us.  It simply is not true. As cyclists traveling solo, with one other person or even in a small group, we are incapable of causing significant delay to other road users.

The truth about on-road delay is just the opposite. Last December Harold and I were in Dallas. As our friends Eliot Landrum and Waco Moore escorted us to dinner, we were caught in one of that city’s routine traffic jams:

Evening rush hour on Oak Lawn Avenue in Dallas (December 2013)

Evening rush hour on Oak Lawn Avenue in Dallas (December 2013)

Lest anyone think that we cyclists were causing delay, I put the kickstand down on my bicycle and walked behind Waco, Harold and Eliot to take a forward-facing photo:

Forward view of rush hour on Oak Lawn Avenue

Forward view of rush hour on Oak Lawn Avenue

City lights and welcome company made this evening lovely. Otherwise, this was just another routine ride for cyclists who practice driver behavior.

Motorists delay motorists. The sheer number of motorists is what causes the most delay on our roads. Many things cause momentary delay, such as traffic signals, railroad crossings, and vehicles that make routine stops, like delivery trucks–and city buses.

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In a snarky moment I remember responding to one Facebook friend: “Thank God every travel lane is not a bike lane!”

Yet this marketing campaign from the City of Angels made my heart soar.

It will be a great day when every cyclist can—without fear or risk of harassment—use any traffic lane that best serves his or her destination.

I envision our existing roadways filled with people using the vehicles that best serve that day’s transportation needs. More often than not, these vehicles will be bicycles—because who needs a two-ton land missile to go to work, or buy a loaf of bread? I envision the people of Amsterdam and Copenhagen flocking to the United States to ask how we did it. How did we get cyclists and motorists to integrate so peacefully and easily on our roads?

We have discovered that when cyclists act as drivers, and when all drivers follow the rules of the road, traffic flows beautifully. This is simple. This is safe. This offers a sustainable and inviting future.

But don’t take my word for it. Come ride with me!

……….

13 Karen_Karabell_IMG_1858Karen Karabell is a mother, business owner and CyclingSavvy instructor in St. Louis who uses her bicycle year-round for transportation. She is passionate about helping others transform themselves, as she did, from fear of motor vehicle traffic to mastery and enjoyment. 

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