Bikes and The Law

While it shouldn’t be, riding a bike can occasionally be a dangerous affair. This page serves as a resource where you can find some advice, best practices, and legal contacts when the worst happens and you’re involved in an incident. We are lucky here in Northeast Ohio to have two passionate and experienced lawyers who not only work hard on a daily basis to advocate on the behalf of cyclists, but are riders themselves and understand the reality of what life is like on two wheels.

At the bottom of the page you will find links to our portable resources; our Crash Card and the Laws That Apply to cyclists and motorists.

Ken Knabe

PRO 2

Ken has over 35 years of experience as a highly qualified personal injury trial lawyer and former President of the Cleveland Academy of Trial Lawyers. Ken is also an avid cyclist across numerous disciplines. His legal practice now focuses on protecting Greater Cleveland cyclists. He represents cyclists who are needlessly injured, or worse, by unsafe drivers. Ken also supports the bike community through membership in, and corporate sponsorship of Bike Cleveland. However, his involvement in the cycling community goes beyond himself and support of Bike Cleveland. He co-sponsors several local bike race teams including Spin-Litzler and VeloFemme, a woman’s cycling team focused on education and opportunities for women cyclists; he is also a Kilo Level sponsor of Cleveland Velodrome and an Advocate sponsor of the League of American Bicyclists. He has published numerous articles on bike law and safety and has lectured at many local bike clubs on the rights and duties of cyclists under Ohio Law. He has also taught seminars to Ohio personal injury lawyers on bike law accident handling. Finally, he is active with Cleveland’s Vison Zero legislation, focusing on commercial truck side guards that would prevent a cyclist from falling under a commercial truck – a type of accident which usually has catastrophic consequences. His commitment, empathy and zest for cyclist justice and safety are the driving forces of his law practice.

Ken specializes in representing Ohio cyclists seriously injured or killed by inattentive, distracted or impaired drivers, and has recently launched his “No Excuses Initiative.” Ken can be reached through his firm’s website Knabe Law Firm Co., LPA, or directly at ken@klfohio.com. Please also call him at his Century Law Office in Lakewood on Madison Avenue at 216-228-7200.

Looking for Ken’s summary of bike statutes from his Bike Smarts class? Find them HERE.

Joe Dunson

joedunson

Joe has represented corporations, insurance companies, and individuals in complex and diverse litigation matters. Joe graduated from St. Ignatius High School, received his BA from Canisius College, cum laude, and his JD from the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, where he received awards for his work in Remedies and Trial Advocacy.

He serves on the Board of Directors for River’s Edge, a Ministry of the Congregation of St. Joseph, and as Legal Counsel to the Cleveland Area Veterans Association (CAVA).  Joe volunteers for the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland and the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association as a Prosecutor for the Certified Grievance Committee.

Joe loves trail riding, backpacking, kayaking, and canoeing. He can be reach through his firm Dunson Law, or by email at joe@dunson-law.com


Below you will find some articles and information written by Ken and Joe, along with some of the applicable laws that pertain to cyclists in the State of Ohio:

Essential Laws for Cyclists

By: Cyclist Attorney Kenneth J. Knabe of Knabe Law Firm Co., LPA

Ride to right of lane unless unsafe or lane too narrow, ORC §4511.55(A) & (C).

Bike Crash: Protect your Rights!

By Attorneys Joseph Dunson and Kenneth Knabe

As cyclists, we have all thought about getting hit by a car while riding.  Most bike accidents occur when drivers do not see you due to inattention, poor eyesight, distracted driving (texting, emailing, using the cell phone) or driving under the influence. Will the troglodyte driving the “Behemoth” V8 cut a hard left and turn directly in front of us? Will we catch a glimpse of the texting teeny-bopper as she sideswipes us?  Will we even have a chance to swerve?!

As too many riders already know, getting hit by a car while riding your bike is no joke. A cyclist always loses in a crash with a three- to four-thousand-pound vehicle. If you are hit, the following eleven tips will help you to pick up the pieces and protect your rights.

(1) Don’t Panic

Sailing over the hood of a car or finding yourself pinned underneath one are equally terrifying events.  Your brain is flooding your body with adrenaline.  Your mind is racing a mile a minute. Do not panic.  Take note of your surroundings.  Are you a sitting duck, lying in the middle of a lane of traffic?  Do you have a strong physical barrier between you and oncoming cars?  Make sure you are out of the way of moving traffic.  Get someplace safe and triage your injuries.

(2) Call 911

If you are injured, you will likely need immediate medical care.  Paramedics are trained to evaluate acute injuries.  Let the professionals check you out.  Often, injured victims cannot immediately report the extent of their injuries, due to adrenaline or shock.  Take the ambulance to the ER if you need it.

(3) Always Call the Police

Call the police to document and map out the collision scenario, take measurements, photos and witness statements to ensure that you will be able to establish a liability case against the negligent motorist.  If you are a victim of a hit-and-run and have Uninsured Motorist coverage, you need independent corroborative evidence, ideally from a witness.  Make sure you or the police have identified witnesses and secured their contact information before leaving the scene, if possible.  Try to record the license plate number, color and model of the hit-and-run vehicle.

It is helpful if you, or someone else takes photos of the scene before it is cleaned up.  Hand off your iPhone to a Good Samaritan or enter the witness information in your phone.  Always insist that a police report be made.  You will regret later if you do not!  The police should record the driver’s name, address, and insurance information.

(4) Preserve Your Damaged Bike

Your bike just went from trusted transportation source to potentially critical piece of evidence.  Preserve it in its collision condition to avoid an eventual argument that you tainted the very evidence required to support your claim.  Collect your cracked helmet, torn bike clothes and bent rims for evidence.  You will probably notice scuffs on your bike shoes and damage to your bike computer.  Photograph it and preserve it, not only for property damage compensation but to corroborate your physical injuries.

(5) Get the Medical Treatment You Need

We never tell injured victims to get medical care if they do not need it.  We do, however, tell our clients that they had better get the treatment they need, or insurance adjusters and lawyers will argue that they simply were not hurt.  Unless you have medical records and reports to back up your claimed injuries, settlement negotiations will not be fruitful.  Do not delay in getting the care you need.  Do not miss your physical therapy or doctors’ appointments.  Comply fully with the course of treatment prescribed by your medical providers.  You need to help your medical team for it to most effectively help you heal.  Take photos of your bruises, cuts and scrapes.  If you have suffered a head injury see a concussion specialist right away, as many various forms of treatment are recommended early on to promote proper recovery.

(6) Keep Track of Your Medical Expenses / Lost Wages

Remember when having health insurance meant the doctor would see you for a $10 co-pay? Modern insurance has grown complicated.  Now we have Health Savings Accounts, higher deductibles, different network rates, and co-insurance.  Keep good records of each of your out-of-pocket expenses, including medications and medical devices, to ensure that you do not pay for care that you received due to someone else’s negligence.

If you miss work because of your injuries, reach out to your employer to calculate the wages that you lost.  Work a commission or sales job?  Use historical figures to help bolster your argument for expected earnings.

(7) Pain Journal / Chart of Lost Enjoyment

A daily journal describing your pain level and loss of activities will help establish your loss of enjoyment.  We include everything from scheduled road races or triathlons, gym records, and softball league schedules to demonstrate how injuries impact our clients’ lives.

(8) What is Subrogation?

In this context, subrogation means the right to be paid back by the negligent party for expenses incurred to help the non-negligent, injured party. Think of it like this: your health insurance policy likely gives your insurer the right to be reimbursed for the care you received due to your bike crash injuries.  Theoretically, you could compromise your future health insurance coverage if you do not assist your insurer in its quest for reimbursement out of any settlement that you receive. Be extra careful if you receive governmental health care benefits. The government’s right to reimbursement is protected by state and / or federal law.

(9) Dealing with the Negligent Motorist’s Insurance Company

Insurance adjusters are trained to get as much information from you as possible, and to use that information against you.  They will try to get you to provide a recorded statement and blanket medical authorizations for them to dig into your private health history.  Do not fall for it.  Past medical records for treatment that bears no relation to the parts of your body that are injured in the collision simply are not relevant to the case.  Do not give a recorded statement until you have spoken to an experienced bike injury Attorney.

(10) Do I need a Lawyer?

Yes, if your accident is serious.  Hiring an experienced injury bicycle lawyer will facilitate this complicated process and usually result in 4-5 times more compensation.  Attorneys handle personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis.  That means you do not pay the Attorney directly to handle your case.  Rather, the Attorney takes a fee of any eventual settlement or award that you receive.  The standard fee is 33 1/3 % of the gross recovery if no lawsuit is filed.  If a lawsuit is filed, it is 40% of the gross recovery.  Attorneys generally front the expenses for the case, but are then paid back out of the settlement (exclusive of the fee).

Attorneys should not take cases unless they feel they can add value to a cyclist’s claim.  Most of the time, it makes best sense for injured cyclists to hire an aggressive bike trial lawyer to work their case. Sometimes, in very minor cases, it may not.

Pick a bike lawyer with whom you are comfortable and who will actually represent you all the way to trial, if necessary.  Many lawyers push you off to a junior associate or paralegal after the first meeting.  Hire a lawyer who (1) will personally handle your case and (2) who is not afraid to try it to a jury.

(11) Signing on the Dotted Line

Insurance companies demand global releases of liability in exchange for settlements.  That means you get one shot at the apple.  Once you settle, you will not be able to come back and ask for more money, even if you require future medical treatment, miss more work, and/or continue to experience pain and suffering from a collision.  Be very careful about accepting a settlement before you are absolutely certain that its terms benefit you.  One more reason to hire an experienced bicycle injury lawyer!

Stay safe out there!

CYCLIST LAW: RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES

By: Cyclist Attorney Kenneth J. Knabe of Knabe Law Firm Co., LPA

Road bicyclists are many varying types: commuters, messengers, urban cool, social, hard-core and recreational.  With the “green” revolution in alternate transportation, the proliferation of bike lane access, and the social and fitness benefits, bicycling is very popular in the Greater Cleveland area.

Ohio law requires cyclists and drivers to share the road within the following legal parameters.  Knowing your legal rights and responsibilities is vital for all cyclists’ riding safety, enjoyment and experience.

A bicycle is defined as a vehicle: a cyclist must obey all traffic rules applicable to vehicles. Ohio Rev. Code Ann. (ORC) §§4501.01(A) & 4511.01(A).  For example, a cyclist must stop at red lights and stop signs (ORC §4511.43); yield to pedestrians on a sidewalk (ORC §4511.441); use a specified front white light, rear red deflector and light from sunset to sunrise and when visibility is low due to weather conditions. (ORC 4511.56); and ride in the direction of road traffic (ORC §4511.25).

FYI: cyclists that follow traffic laws are in 75-80% fewer accidents!

No points can be assessed for a cyclist who violates traffic laws unless the cyclist is driving under the influence (DUI) (ORC §§4511.52 and 4511.19).  Often times, a police officer may cite a cyclist and inadvertently fail to delineate the citation as a no point violation.  All cyclists should be leery of waiving an appearance on a bicycle traffic citation to avoid being wrongfully assessed points for a moving violation.  Also, if a cyclist is cited in a car-bike accident, an Attorney should be consulted before a cyclist waives an appearance, or appears in court, to assess the validity of the citation.

A cyclist must ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable and obey all traffic rules and exercise due care when passing. However, a cyclist is not required to ride at the right edge of the roadway when it is unreasonable or unsafe due to surface objects, hazards or when the lane is so narrow that a car cannot safely pass the cyclist (ORC §4511.55(A) & (C)).

Ohio law sets a three-foot safe distance for a car passing a bicycle. (ORC §4511.132; 4511.27).  Also, check your local ordinances.  For example, Cleveland Ordinance §431.03 also requires a 6-foot passing distance for commercial trucks. I have successfully used this law to establish liability when my client cyclist client was hit by a passing car that obviously did not leave three feet of safe distance – despite allegations that my client was weaving

Ohio law does not mandate the wearing of a helmet, but some local authorities i.e. cities, require helmets, especially for minors.  Though it is generally legal for an adult to operate a bicycle without wearing a helmet, two-thirds or more of fatally injured bicyclists were not wearing helmets.

Ohio law provides that its state traffic laws do not prevent local authorities from reasonably regulating the operation of bicycles; however, no regulation can be fundamentally inconsistent with the state traffic laws.  No local regulation can prohibit the use of bicycles on any roadway with the exception that a cyclist cannot ride on a closed access highway or freeway (ORC §§4511.07 (A)(8) & 4511.051).

Ohio Law permits cycling on the sidewalk, but many local ordinances have restrictions mostly in business districts aimed at inherent safety concerns when cycling on a sidewalk.

No local authority can require that bicycles be operated only on the sidewalk (ORC §4511.711 (A)).

Ohio law allows cyclists to ride two abreast (ORC §4511.55(B)) but many local ordinances prohibit it.  Query, are these local ordinances fundamentally inconsistent with state law?

A great resource for contrasting state law and local authority ordinances is contained in http://bikelaws.org/neo-bikelaws.htm

Drivers, please watch for cyclists on the road — look three ways! Look to the left, look to the right, then look for a cyclist in front of you, behind you when you turn right, and when you turn left.

If you see a pack of cyclists passing you, look for another pack or even a single straggler.

A driver can legally pass a cyclist providing they don’t exceed the speed limit and it is safe to do so; they must allow at least three feet when passing a cyclist. It is legal for the driver to cross over a double-yellow line when passing. http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/4511.31 (B) (1) (2) (3) Finally, every cyclist who owns a car or is insured under an auto liability policy as a household/family member, should be sure to have uninsured motorist coverage (‘U’ Coverage). This is coverage which applies if you are hit on your bike by a careless uninsured or underinsured driver.  Your U coverage should be at least 100,000.00 or more. You have to ask your insurance agent or company for U coverage, as there is no longer any requirement to automatically offer this coverage.

If a cyclist is hit by a careless hit-and-run driver, U coverage will also apply if you have independent corroborative evidence besides your word that it happened.  A witness would satisfy this evidence need, or it could be cumulative such as the police officers’ observations, bike damage with paint transfer, your statements made immediately following the crash, and medical records.  A cyclist who is the unfortunate victim of one of the many hit-and-run accidents in the Cleveland area, should always call the police and secure a witness name and contact info, if possible.

Knowing your legal rights and responsibilities as a cyclist will serve you well on the road and help keep you safer.

WHAT A CYCLIST SHOULD DO WHEN HIT BY A CARELESS DRIVER

By: Cyclist Attorney Kenneth J. Knabe of Knabe Law Firm Co., LPA

Remember this handy acronym: “P.H.O.N.E.”!

  1. P — Police: call the police and insist on a report, no matter what!
  2. H — Healthcare: seek immediate medical treatment for injuries.
  3. O — Observation: get the driver’s contact and insurance info, and names of all witnesses, or make sure the police obtain this vital information.
  4. N — Notify: call a bike injury attorney (Ken 216.272.8595) BEFORE you talk to a liability adjuster. The adjusters are pros for the insurance agencies – hire a pro for yourself!
  5. E — Evidence: don’t let the at-fault party move their car or your bicycle. Keep all damaged property including bike, cracked helmet, ripped clothing and damaged accessories.

CAUSES OF BIKE CRASHES AND HOW DRIVERS MIGHT AVOID THEM

By: Cyclist Attorney Kenneth J. Knabe of Knabe Law Firm Co., LPA

It bears repeating that those who practice “Vehicular Cycling” – riding their bike the way they drive their motorized vehicle – are in 75-80% fewer accidents!

Causes of bike crashes include distracted driving due to:

Other causes include:

Types of bike crashes include:

HOW CAN A CYCLIST AVOID BEING HIT BY A MOTORIST?

By: Kenneth J Knabe, Bicycle Accident Attorney: Protecting Cleveland’s Cyclists

As a bike attorney many concerned fellow cyclists ask me how they can avoid being hit by a motorist.

A cyclist can help avoid getting hit by a motorist by following these guidelines:

Remember: Wear a helmet! Although not mandatory, most deaths occur to cyclists not wearing helmets.

Am. H. B. No. 154; Ohio’s 3-Foot Safe Passing law

By: Kenneth J Knabe, Bicycle Accident Attorney: Protecting Cleveland’s Cyclists

Many thanks to The Ohio Bicycle Federation, Bike Cleveland, the Ohio House and Senate, and the Governor for the passage of this much-needed bicycle safety law.

Ohio’s three-foot minimum safe distance passing requirement, Ohio Revised Code (ORC) §4511.27 and the “dead red” exception, ORC §4511.132 were signed into law by Governor Kasich on December 19, 2016 and become effective March 19, 2017

Under newly-enacted ORC §4511.27(A)(1) & (2), a driver of a car passing a cyclist riding in the same direction shall pass to the left at a distance of three feet or more, and shall not drive again to the right until the driver’s vehicle has safely cleared the cyclist.  (This rule does not apply at intersections controlled by traffic control signals.)  Upon the car’s audible signal, the cyclist being passed must give way to the right in favor of the overtaking car, and the cyclist shall not increase speed until completely passed by the car.  A driver that violates this section is guilty of a minor misdemeanor unless convicted of one or more “predicate motor vehicle or traffic offenses” which include most other traffic offenses. See ORC §4511.27 (B) & §4511.01 (III) (1). Cleveland already had a similar law but now it is a State wide requirement.

ORC §4511.132 was amended to permit a cyclist to stop and then safely enter an intersection on “dead red”. This occurs when a red light is not tripped to green because of failing to detect a vehicle, i.e. a bicycle.

Can a cyclist go through a red light after Ohio Revised Code § 4511.132 (A) goes into effect on March 19, 2017?

By: Kenneth J Knabe, Bicycle Accident Attorney: Protecting Cleveland’s Cyclists

Generally, “no”. However, if the traffic light detector does not detect your bike, you may ride through the intersection on red only after you make a complete stop, if you can do so safely and yield to oncoming traffic which has the right of way. You better be sure your bike is not detected before entering on red and that it is safe to enter!

The pertinent language of ORC § 4511.132 is as follows:
The driver of a vehicle…. who approaches an intersection where traffic is controlled by traffic control signals shall do all of the following, if… the signals are otherwise malfunctioning, including the failure of a vehicle detector to detect the vehicle;
1) Stop at a clearly marked stop line, but if none, stop before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or, if none, stop before entering the intersection;
2) Yield the right-of-way to all vehicles… in the intersection or approaching on an intersecting road, if the vehicle…. will constitute an immediate hazard during the time the driver is moving across or within the intersection or junction of roadways;
3) Exercise ordinary care while proceeding through the intersection.


Bike Cleveland offers a handy “Crash Report Card” you can keep on you in the unfortunate event you are in a crash. It will help you record all the necessary info. You can download a copy below by clicking on the images, pick one up at a local bike shop or email us and we will send you a copy. We also have a pocket card for motorists and cyclists that explains all the laws about biking in Ohio. Again, you can download it below, pick it up at your local bike shop or of course send us an email to get a few.

Crash Report Card Bike Cleveland Rule Card