Archive for 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

Bikes Have Rights™
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

When You See A Cyclist Down

Today marks the second edition of the new guest column by LA bike lawyer Jim Pocrass. 

Yes, this is a sponsored placement. But he once again offers good advice — this time on how to help if you should come upon a downed rider.

……….

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Bikes Have Rights™
By James L. Pocrass, Esq.
Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP 
 

 

Someone in my office came to me recently to tell me that as she was driving home she saw a bike accident. The car that had hit, presumably, the cyclist was parked nearby. There were a few people helping the cyclist, who sat in the middle of the road. She could hear the sirens of emergency vehicles that were on their way.

She said that though she wanted to stop to help, she felt that since there were people at the scene already, it wouldn’t be useful. So she didn’t stop. She asked me if I thought she should’ve stopped.

Upon thinking about the question, I told her I thought she should have. Because we work with so many cyclists who have been in bike accidents, we know what information the cyclist needs if they want to pursue a legal case.

In the immediate aftermath of a bike accident, even the most knowledgeable cyclist is probably shaken and stunned. If the cyclist has suffered serious personal injuries, they may be incapable of collecting the necessary information.

Also, there is no guarantee that the people who stop really know what information the cyclist – or the cyclist’s family – is going to need for legal action. More than likely, the people assisting the fallen cyclist are most concerned, understandably and rightfully, with the cyclist’s injuries.

If you see a cyclist down, of course the first thing to do is to call the police and to get the cyclist emergency medical assistance. If that is being done by others, you can best assist the fallen cyclist by writing down the following information:

  • Time & Place: Notate the time the accident happened as well as the location. You want to include approximate address, the nearest cross street(s), and the city.
  • Vehicle Information: Most importantly, get the license plate number and state. Note: if the cyclist was hit by a truck, you need to get the license plate number of both the cab and the trailer. They may be different. Write down the make, model, year, and color of the vehicle that hit the cyclist.
  • Driver Info: Get the driver’s name, phone, address, email, and driver’s license number (and state). Get the driver’s insurance information, including company and policy number.
  • Witness Info: Get the name, address, phone, and email of any witnesses (including any passengers in the vehicle).
  • Photos: One of the most helpful things you could do for the cyclist is to take pictures with your phone. You want pictures of the bicycle and of the car (multiple views and as close as possible). Then take multiple pictures of the scene of the accident, from numerous angles, as it relates to street signs, lights, corners, and curbs.

Once you have collected this information, write down your contact information, with a brief note that you have witness information and photos, and give it to the fallen cyclist, tuck it into the cyclist’s pocket, or give it to a paramedic to put with the cyclist’s possessions.

The worse the cyclist’s injuries are, the more important this information will be to the cyclist or to the cyclist’s family.

BikeCrashReportBACK r1 (2)You don’t need our help to do this, but we did create a free, wallet-sized guide to carry with you should you have a collision or should you see a fallen cyclist. You can either download a version of it here, or send us an email and include your mailing address and we’ll mail you a hard copy of the guide.

A very experienced cyclist, whose case we are handling, told us that he had one of our guides in his wallet when he had his bike accident, and he was so shaken he never thought about using it.

So let’s help each other and gather the information necessary to strengthen each fallen cyclist’s legal case. If people will not be careful around cyclists because it’s the right and legal thing to do, maybe they will change their behavior when they feel the sting from their pocketbooks.

*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.
 

Police Reports: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Today marks the beginning of the new sponsor-supported BikinginLA.

In addition to advertising on this site, our first sponsor, Jim Pocrass of the law firm Pocrass & De Los Reyes, has agreed to write a semi-regular Wednesday column on the legal rights of bicyclists.

After talking bike law with him on several occasions, I can assure you he knows his stuff. In fact, the column below matches my own experience, when a bad police report resulted in the insurance company rejecting my claim when I was injured by a road raging driver.

So I hope you’ll join me in welcoming Jim to BikinginLA. And take his advice to heart — if it could happen to me, it could happen to anyone.

………

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLPBy James L. Pocrass, Esq.

Bikes Have Rights™
By James L. Pocrass, Esq.
Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP 
 
I recently took a Malibu bike accident case in which the driver of a motor vehicle made a left turn into the cyclist. The accident happened at dusk; it was not dark out yet. The police report states that the cyclist was cited for “unsafe speed conditions” because he was wearing all black.

Police blaming the cyclist for the accident is not unusual. I don’t think I have ever had a bike accident case – and I have represented hundreds of cyclists – in which the police report did not blame the bicyclist. Nevertheless, it is important that you file a police report if you are in a bike accident.

Though police officers are often biased against cyclists, they usually get the facts of an accident correct. Such details of the accident:  the time, place, weather, what direction each participant was going and where they were located when the accident happened, contact information for witnesses, confirmation of insurance, and any physical evidence at the scene, is usually recorded correctly.

It is the police officer’s conclusion that is typically wrong. Though I would much rather police officers would lose their cyclist bias, filing a police report is still beneficial to your legal case and to your insurance claim because it sets out in writing the basic facts.

Police reports with tainted conclusions may make the handling of your case or insurance claim more difficult, but the police report and the opinions and conclusions of the police officer are not admissible in court. They are all considered hearsay.

The problem comes in when the insurance company reads the police report and accepts the officer’s conclusions. They may refuse to settle your case or offer you much less compensation than which you are entitled. The result is that we have to file a lawsuit, gather evidence, and take the police officer’s deposition to prove the officer was wrong. Frequently it is during or after the deposition stage that the insurance company will offer to settle the case to avoid going to court.

So if you are in a bike collision, file a police report. In quite a few cities – including the City of Los Angeles – if you say you are not injured (and you should NEVER comment on injuries or guilt), a police officer will not come to the scene. In that situation, you need to go to the police station at your earliest opportunity (even sooner than that), and file a police report. Get the facts on the record.

Remember, filing a police report does not mean you have to file a legal case. It can assist you in collecting compensation for damages you incurred in the bike collision and, should you decide to take legal action later, it will be an important tool to give your bike accident lawyer as he is pursuing 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 in America and to Southern California Super Lawyers lists 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.
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