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Bike Injury

Los Angeles Settles Cyclist’s Pothole Injury Lawsuit for $6.5M

Peter Godefroy was riding his bicycle on Valley Vista Boulevard in Sherman Oaks, California two years ago when struck a pothole, crashed his bike, and suffered "severe traumatic brain injury and numerous broken or fractured bones throughout his body." Godefroy sued the City of Los Angeles, claiming poor lighting and even worse maintenance led to a simple pothole becoming a "concealed trap for bicyclists." The L.A. City Council settled that lawsuit last week, voting 11-0 to approve granting Godefroy $6.5 million in damages. It's the second such settlement this year, after the council also awarded $4.5 million to the family of a man killed after he was thrown from his bike when he hit uneven pavement in the city. Bike Suits Bicycle accidents are sadly more common than you would hope. And if you don't have cycling insurance (yes, those policies do exist), you may be wondering about your legal options. In a crash scenario, hopefully the other party -- whether it be a driver in their car, a business-owned vehicle, another cyclist, or even a pedestrian -- will be insured and that will cover your injuries. If not, you may have to file a lawsuit in order to recoup medical bills and lost wages. Most cycling accidents can be treated just like car accidents: exchange insurance information with the other party or parties, document the accident and any injuries as thoroughly as possible, and consider contacting the police if there are serious injuries or property damage. And the work doesn't stop the day after an accident -- make sure to track initial ambulance or hospital bills, additional or ongoing medical expenses, and lost work or wages as well as future income. City Liability It may sound daunting, but you can sue city hall. You may have to file a claim of injury with the city before filing a civil lawsuit to give the city a chance to compensate you or respond to the claim, and you'll have to do so within specific statutes of limitation. If the city fails to respond or denies your claim, you can move on to a full-blown lawsuit. As a general rule, municipalities are responsible for maintaining roadways (including bike lanes and sidewalks) so that they're safe for cyclists, and can be held liable for injuries caused by dangerous conditions on public roadways. If a city or municipal entity fails to exercise reasonable care in keeping the roadways in good repair, they can be found liable for injuries that occur. However, in order to prove a city was negligent in repairing the road, you would also need to prove the city had or should have had notice of the dangerous condition and failed to fix it. If you're considering a bike injury lawsuit against a city, talk to an experienced attorney first. Related Resources: Find Personal Injury Lawyers in Your Area (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Severely Injured Cyclist Settles Broken Sidewalk 'Launch Ramp' Case for $4.84M (FindLaw's Injured) San Diego Cyclist Injured by Pothole Gets $235K Settlement From City (FindLaw's Injured) NYPD Accused of 'Hit and Lie' on Cyclist (FindLaw's Injured)
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Do Cities Have to Plow Snow on Bike Lanes?

Cities are responsible for keeping streets clean and safe, including clearing the snow. But bike lanes are usually in the part of the street where snow plows push all the snow. So if you are a cycling commuter, you may find getting around on your bike difficult in winter. The extent to which a city must clear its bike lanes of snow and can be held responsible for injuries that occur due to plowing negligence depends on local laws. As bike commuting becomes more common, and cities are encouraging alternative transport, municipalities will also have to make room for bikers on snowy streets and roadway planners will keep cycling commuters in mind. The future roadway may look different. The Buffered Bike Lane According to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, and other experts, buffered bike lanes are an increasingly popular roadway design that provide safe cycling conditions but present unique maintenance issues. The buffered bike lane is physically separated from the street by a physical buffer, as opposed to just the abstract one made of painted lines and designated by the law. The physical separation between the bicycle lane and auto lane solves the problem of plowing snow into the buffered lane, as it is physically distinct. But buffered bike lanes require special narrow plows to clear them and present unique risks to cyclists, as they accumulate debris more easily. Bikers have difficulty avoiding the debris in the narrower lanes because they are stuck in the buffered area. Injuries can and do occur on buffered lanes. Who can be sued? The Massachusetts transportation experts write, “Responsible parties may include one or more state agencies and municipalities, as determined by right-of-way ownership, abutting land ownership, or the number of jurisdictions spanned by the separated bike lane.” Alta Planning and Design’s Perspectives in Planning is a series on non-motorized transport and design. In 2014 it focused on winter bike lane maintenance across the US and made a number of suggestions for how cities can improve snow removal without endangering non-motorized drivers on two wheels. Alta, too, highlighted the buffered bike lane as the wave of the future of cycle commuting. Injuries This Winter If you are injured this winter from a bicycling accident on a buffered bike lane or any other roadway, speak to an attorney. Many personal injury attorneys do not charge for a consultation and will assess your case at no cost. Related Resources: Injured in a bike accident? Have an attorney review your claim for free. (Consumer Injury) Bicycle Buffer Zone Laws (FindLaw) Is Motorcycle Lane Splitting Legal? (FindLaw)
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