Maryland injury lawyer Ronald V. Miller, Jr. forwarded a couple of interesting links.
They show that while the average jury award in a bike case is $279,970, the median is only $50,000, thanks to a handful of high verdicts that skew the average. And they reveal that cyclists only prevail in 41% of cases — something that hasn’t significantly changed in the past 20 years.
In case you wonder why, you only have to look as far the comment section of virtually any online story about bicycling. There are people who just don’t like cyclists and don’t think we belong on the roads — and believe anything that happens to us as a result is our fault, regardless of what the law says.
And those are some of the same people you’ll find in jury pools.
To put it in perspective, motorcyclists injured by cars — hardly a popular group in our society — prevail in court roughly two-thirds of the time.
Which means we’re even less sympathetic to jurors than your neighborhood biker.
As Miller’s legal partner, Laura G. Zois, put it,
The motorcycle thing (that) drives our lawyers crazy is when we know our client is a motorcyclist who did the right thing and the defense lawyer is just using the bias against motorcyclists in a way that completely ignores the real facts. But I’m amazed this same bias also exists to bike riders.
Miller himself adds,
I think the relatively low success rate of bicycle accident cases at trial is a general bias against bikes that may be even stronger than the bias against motorcycles. Many jurors, who typically drive cars, simply think bicycles shouldn’t be on the road.
However, one place I disagree with him is that, like our mayor, he calls for a mandatory helmet law.
While I never ride without one — and credit mine for saving my life in the Infamous Beachfront Bee Encounter a few years back — I think making helmet use mandatory would be counterproductive.
As others have pointed out, despite the low rate of helmet use in many parts of Europe, the injury rate is also significantly lower, which many people ascribe to the greater number of cyclists on the road and greater emphasis on accident prevention. And there is evidence to suggest that the reduction in injury rates in areas with helmet laws is due to a decline in ridership after the law takes effect, rather than an actual reduction in the rate of injuries per mile travelled.
I think a program to encourage helmet use — such as a tax break for buying a helmet or a discount on insurance rates for using one — would do far more to increase the number of riders who wear one, as opposed to a more punitive approach that might only increase the percentage of helmet use, while reducing the actual number cyclists on the road.
On the other hand, one study I haven’t seen yet is the effect helmet use has on jury verdicts.
I have a feeling most jurors would look far more favorably on an injured rider with a skid lid than one without one.
And be far more likely to blame the helmetless rider for his own injuries.
I love this comment from Meghan Kavanagh on her Facebook page; made, she said, in frustration after nearly getting run over from both directions while in a crosswalk:
We should not have to educate seniors, pedestrians, and cyclists on how to deal with reckless drivers. We should stop the reckless driving.
Pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it?
Cyclist and attorney Ross Hirsch updates his webpage, and looks like the bike attorney he is. Mayor Villaraigosa’s bicycle proposals go before the Metro board on Thursday. Car-less Valley Girl finds her bike helmet a useful prop for social interaction. Stripes hit the L.A. River Bike Path through Elysian Valley. The Claremont Cyclist discovers the joys of the unexpected. Turns out the “don’t touch my junk” guy is one of us. Bicycle cops are the best bet for improving campus security. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition gives out free lights to Ninja cyclists by the Bay. Cyclelicious demonstrates how to avoid the door zone; SF Streetsblog asks if you should say anything to riders who ride there.
An appropriately named Boulder, CO cyclist is arrested for biking under the influence with a BAC of .215. The ups and downs of bike commuting, and a look at Chicago’s Cocktail Party Ride. European car manufacturers are getting on the bike bandwagon; will Detroit follow suit? Can death and serious injury ever be eliminated from our roadways? An off-duty Connecticut police officer was drinking before he ran down a teenage cyclist, but fellow officers neglected to give him a blood test; link courtesy of Urban Velo. Advocacy group People for Bikes gathers their 150,000th pledge; you’ll find mine somewhere around 20,000 or so.
The lead investigator in the Lance Armstrong Inquisition meets with the French anti-doping agency. A London cyclist finds her stolen bike, only to have it slip through her fingers. Regular exercise, such as bicycling, is one of the best things you can do for your health.
Finally, after the year with no summer, this is what November looks like on the beach. And it turns out the reason we need a Subway to the Sea is that above ground rail has been permanently barred from Wilshire Blvd, as in forever.
A couple quick personal notes — a speedy recovery to Rach, who survived a silent collision with a Prius last night, and says she managed to capture a photo of the suspect. Welcome to Cheryl T, who recently bought a bike and joined the L.A. cycling community; remember, new girl buys the donuts. And happy anniversary to LAPD Chief Beck, who in one year has done more to improve relations with the cycling community than all the chiefs who came before.