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Bike Cleveland

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 2Ken has 35 years of experience as an injury trial lawyer, and he is Past President of the Cleveland Academy of Trial Attorneys and has lectured and written numerous articles  on Tort law for the Ohio Association for Justice.   His commitment, zest and empathy for cyclist justice is his driving force in his law practice.

Ken’s is an avid cyclist across a number of disciplines, but his involvement in the cycling community goes beyond himself and support of Bike Cleveland. He is a sponsor of a number of area teams including local race teams and VeloFemme, a women’s organization dedicated to promoting women’s cycling and education. 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 Brown and Szaller , or directly at knabe@brownandszaller.com

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:

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 Brown and Szaller

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 leary 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 currently does not have a state wide law that sets a specific distance for a car passing a bicycle.  Passing a cyclist generally must be done to the left at a safe distance (ORC §4511.27).  However, check your local ordinances.  Cleveland Ordinance §431.03 requires a safe distance when passing – NOT LESS THAN THREE FEET {Cleveland’s 3-Foot Buffer Rule}.  I have successfully used this Ordinance to establish liability when my 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.  See also Cincinnati Ordinance §506.71 & Toledo Ordinance §331.03. House Bill 145 seeks to pass the three-foot buffer rule statewide, but it has stalled in Committee.

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. Wearing a helmet is critical for cyclist safety and survival.

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 Freeway (ORC §§4511.07 (A)(8) & 4511.051).

Ohio Law permits cycling on the sidewalk, but many local ordinances have restrictions 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

Finally, Ohio law prohibits texting or emailing while driving, subject to some exceptions.  A minor with temporary or probationary driver’s license is prohibited from using a cell phone while driving (ORC§§4511.204 & 4511.205).

If a cyclist is hit by a car and the driver was distracted i.e. (on a cell phone) or impaired (any evidence of drinking or drugs) please let your Attorney know.

A driver is liable for a bike crash if that driver was negligent.  Negligence means being careless or inattentive.  If a driver violates a traffic law, that is considered negligence.  A cyclist, on the other hand, must be vigilant not to violate any traffic laws that apply to cyclists.  Make sure you have your front and bike lights on whenever it is dusk or dark out.  Stay very visible.  I have represented cyclists hit from behind whose red rear lights were still flashing when the police arrived, cementing the cyclist’s visibility and compliance with the law.  Please read my “NO Excuses “Article.

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 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 to do after a Bike Crash Caused by an Unsafe Driver?

By: Cyclist Attorney Kenneth J. Knabe of Brown and Szaller

1. Call 911 if injured!

2. Call the Police!

3. Absolutely and unequivocally insist that a police report is filled out and filed for the crash. Do not let the at-fault driver or even the police talk you out of it no matter what they say. The only one that benefits from not having a police report is the at-fault party who may later deny everything. If they do, where is your proof without a police report? Amazingly, some police officers discourage reporting or may even try to broker a deal between you and the at-fault party. Don’t buy into anything but a full report on the incident and an appropriate citation to the at-fault driver.

4. If able, record the driver’s name, address, and insurance information, including the insurance policy number. Record it in your cell phone if you have no other means.

5. If able, take or have someone take pictures of the crash scene, your damaged bike and the driver’s license plate with your cell phone.

6. If the driver fails to stop, try to record the license plate number, color and model of the vehicle. Absolutely look for witnesses that saw it happen and get their full name and address so you have independent corroborative evidence of the hit and run. Then, you can collect under your auto policy coverage for being hit by an uninsured motorist. (Make sure you have “U” coverage under your auto policy!)

7. Record the responding officer’s name, district and the report number.

8. Obtain the name of all witnesses, their phone numbers, and addresses. Don’t assume they are identified on the police report!

9. Preserve all evidence. Don’t discard your damaged bike, helmet or torn clothes. In a hit and run, look for paint marks from the car on you bike to help prove a car hit you.

10. Do not talk to the at-fault insurance company until you consult with a bicycle accident personal injury lawyer. I will help you with the property damage and preserve it as evidence, for no cost, if I am also handling your serious injury claim.

Can you buy a separate bike insurance policy and do you need it?

According to Kenneth Knabe of Brown and Szaller:

“This coverage is available and here is the a link to the company I recommend:

https://velosurance.com/

I talked to the Velosurance Cyclist owner Dave Williams (954 773 9099). You can call  him direct if you have any questions.

My take on bike insurance in Ohio is that If you have car insurance and elect  “U” (Uninsured/Under-insured) coverage and medical payments coverage, and also schedule your bike under your homeowners policy, you certainly don’t need it.

If you don’t own a car and are not a family member covered under an auto policy, may be wise to get it. Covers all the basics: up to 100,000.00 in liability coverage (you are at fault and  hit a pedestrian on your bike or another vehicle); medical payments coverage ( covers medical bills not covered by health insurance)  and physical contact insurance ( acts as “U” coverage but only goes up to 25,000.00 which is not enough if you get creamed by an at fault driver who does not have insurance or only has minimal insurance). Also provides coverage if your bike is lost stolen or damaged even if you are racing.  No bike coverage for bike messengers though.

Finally, no auto insurance covers an electric bike, so would be prudent to get this coverage if you ride one.

Bottom line if you cycle on the road and own a car, please elect for “U” coverage Uninsured/Under-insured  coverage as high as you can afford. If you have no car and are not an insured under a household or family policy, probably wise to get bike coverage.”

Thanks, Ken!

HOW CAN A MOTORIST AVOID HITTING A CYCLIST?

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

www.brownandszaller.com, 216 228 7200

As a bike attorney many concerned motorists ask me how can I avoid hitting a cyclist.

Most bicycle crashes occur when a driver:

Lessons learned:

HOW CAN A CYCLIST AVOID BEING HIT BY A MOTORIST?

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

www.brownandszaller.com, 216 228 7200

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

www.brownandszaller.com, 216 228 7200

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

www.brownandszaller.com, 216 228 7200

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