More and more towns and cities are accommodating bicycle traffic by building trails or providing bicycle lanes on city streets. With congested traffic a major headache for commuters and everyone else, traveling to work or running errands by bicycle is a convenient and economical mode of transportation. Unfortunately, Swampscott bike accidents are sometimes caused by unexpected dangers in the roadways that may not necessarily constitute a hazard for motor vehicles.
Roads are designed, constructed and maintained by the state, county or municipal agencies. If a road hazard was a contributing factor in your bike accident, then you will generally have to file a notice of your claim under the provisions of the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act, which governs claims and lawsuits against the state, county or municipalities. You will have to identify the appropriate agency responsible for the flawed roadway design or construction if that was the causative factor. If the failure to maintain the roadway is alleged, then that agency or state subsidiary that is responsible for it has to be notified within a certain time. Contact attorney Deborah Gold-Alexander if your bike accident occurred in Swampscott or any of the surrounding communities.
Potholes are the bane of many town and city streets. They cause considerable damage to tires and undercarriages and occasionally can result in a motorist losing control if the car was traveling too fast. For cyclists, potholes can cause more than tire damage. It is easy for a bike rider to lose control and be ejected to the road surface or into the path of a vehicle when stumbling upon a pothole.
Bicyclists have a right to the use of most roadways and to have a safe road to ride on. A government entity that maintains that roadway has an obligation to inspect the roads and to repair them. Liability, though, generally rests on how long the pothole was present so that the responsible government agency or department had sufficient notice of its existence. If it was there for several weeks or months, then the responsible department would have had at least constructive notice of it and should have taken steps to repair it. Prior complaints or incidents of other accidents involving the pothole are strong evidence supporting liability.
Sewer grates are another road hazard that can cause serious injuries to cyclists. Bike advocates, who have strong lobbying organizations in most major US cities, cite these as prominent hazards that need to be eliminated or made safer. Many cities have either covered up sewer grates with crosshatch safety bars or changed their shape so as not to interfere with a bike’s tires. There are inexpensive ways to cover these hazards and the failure to do so could expose the city to liability in an accident.
At one time, numerous towns and cities across America had trolley or cable car tracks on its roadways. Only a handful like San Francisco have retained them though there are indications that they are making a comeback in Portland, San Diego, Sacramento and other cities. For some cities that did have them, some rails remain exposed on the roads where they once traversed, presenting hazards to cyclists.
Some exposed rails run in the direction of traffic while others cross at an angle. Since the rails are no longer used, it is the responsibility of the city to recognize that they constitute a hazard and to cover or remove them. If not, the city should at least prominently post warning signs so that cyclists are aware of them. If the rails cross a bike path, the city has been placed on notice of its danger since cyclists in this situation may have no other choice but to cross the rails.
An overriding concern in many bike accidents involving road hazards is the responsibility of cyclists to exercise reasonable care for their own safety, including obeying all traffic laws and being on the lookout for obvious hazards. Cyclists are considered motor vehicles, so you can be cited for speeding, entering an intersection on a red light, failing to stop at a stop sign or for driving while impaired. Many cyclists ignore traffic laws believing that they do not have to abide by them and are surprised when they are ticketed or found comparatively liable for their own injuries if they violated a traffic law.
If a cyclist was aware of a pothole that had existed for some time on a street that the cyclist travelled every day, or was previously aware of any other hazard that was open and obvious but for some reason encountered it and was injured, then the bicyclist might be held comparatively negligent. The only exception might be if the cyclist had no choice or lacked any other way to avoid the hazard.
In Massachusetts, your own degree of causal responsibility in an injury accident must be no more than 49%. If you and the defendant are each 50% at fault, you will not recover any compensation. Also, your percentage of fault will decrease your award by that amount so that an award of $100,000 would be reduced to $60,000 if you were found to be 40% at fault.
Damages in a Bike Accident Claim
Injured bicyclists are entitled to compensation if another party was negligent in causing their injuries. Damages include:
- Medical expenses
- Loss of earnings
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
- Spousal loss of consortium claim
Damages, like liability, need to be proved by reliable and valid evidence. Let Deborah Gold-Alexander handle your injury claim so that your damages can be professionally presented to substantially increase your chances for maximum compensation.
Deborah Gold-Alexander is a Swampscott bike accident lawyer who understands the unique circumstances and hazards that cyclists encounter. Bike accidents caused by road hazards usually require special consideration since the state or a municipality is usually the defendant and who generally deny such injury claims. Like so many Swampscott residents and those in the surrounding communities have done, trust your injury claim to Ms. Gold-Alexander who will ensure your claim gets the attention and care it deserves.