Cycling Crash Investigations: Police & Adjusters Can Be Flat Wrong

Video Transcription:

We often get calls from someone who has been in a bike crash. Sometimes the evidence of who was at fault is very clearcut, the driver gets cited, the cyclist didn’t do anything wrong and there is no argument that they did. Those cases are in a separate category.

What I want to talk to you about today are some cases where the cyclist was told it was their fault or the police gave them a citation or it was stated it was their fault in the police report. What I’d like cyclists to know is that if this happens, you should still speak to an attorney who is knowledgeable about bike accidents because it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t bring a claim against the driver.

I’m going to share with you some cases we have investigated where they said the cyclist did something wrong. I’ll explain what we did, how we looked at it, and how we got it turned around completely and settled the case. In most of these cases we got it settled for the policy limits available from the driver's insurance company.

Evidence Proved the Driver, Police Report & Insurance Company were Wrong

This first case is a situation involving a cyclist who was riding on a two lane (in each direction) road. He was riding on the right hand side of the road and this is someone who knew exactly which direction he was going because he rides this same path multiple times a week. The driver was coming from the opposite direction. When the driver got to the intersection he made a left hand turn as the cyclist was going through the intersection. The cyclist contended that he was struck on his left side by the driver. He sustained serious injuries that required surgery.

In this case there was a child on the corner who told the police that the cyclist was coming from the opposite direction, in other words the same direction that the car was coming from. So, the police officer contended that my client was on the sidewalk, road off the sidewalk into the path of the turning car which would have placed the contact of the vehicle on his right side knocking him to his left.

The investigative photographs by the police officer indicated that there was significant damage to the bicycle but it was on the left hand side. The left front fork was bent and the left side of the frame was cracked. The photographs of the vehicle indicated that the damage was on the passenger side. So all of the damage to the car was on the front right, specifically to the lower right quadrant and across the hood on the right side.

The issue we faced with this particular case is that the cyclist said he was going northbound on the right side of the road and was hit by a turning driver on his left side. The police report indicated that the cyclist was riding on the sidewalk from the opposite direction. The insurance company took the position that it was not the driver’s fault because our client rode into the path of the turning vehicle. Our argument was that the insured driver turned left into our cyclist that was going northbound in the northbound lane.

Arguments that Supported Our Client

  • Left-sided injuries
  • Bicycle frame damage on the left side
  • Vehicle damage on right of hood and right lower front
  • Placement of blood stains on the road
  • Cyclist’s position after impact
  • Driver seemed oblivious to impact

The result of all of this was that the defense paid the driver’s policy limits which was substantial in this particular case.


Overreach of Liability

This next case is one that involves a very experienced cyclist riding on a two lane road. This was in a beach community where there was a single lane in each direction with a designated bike lane. The cyclist was riding in the bike lane almost at the speed of traffic. As the cyclist got to a side street, a car on their immediate left made a right hook striking him as he is entered the intersection.

The initial position by the insurance company was that the driver indicated that they never saw our client. Our client was passing the vehicle on the right, and therefore the insurance company took the position that my client was 80% responsible for the crash. My client had a $9000 property damage claim for his bicycle alone and they were offering him about 20% of the value of the bicycle.

The result of our investigation and when I pointed out the law to them that he had the right to be in that lane and that he had the right of way, the insurance company rescinded their position and paid the policy limits to my client.


Insurance Company Claims No Contact Equals No Liability

This next case is an interesting case because there was no contact between the vehicle and my client. And at the same time, the police said that the driver had done nothing wrong and there was no contact.

My client is an experienced rider and he’s in his eighties. He was riding on a two lane road with one lane in each direction. He was approaching an exit from a condominium complex and the driver was proceeding out of the complex. The driver came to a stop immediately before entering the street. In other words, she drove to the edge of the street and slammed on her breaks. At the same time my client was riding along just as she approached the street and he swerved to the left because he thought he was going to get hit and fell off his bicycle.

The driver took the position that she never touched him and that she didn’t do anything wrong. This was bolstered by a witness that was following the driver who basically said the same thing. The argument by the claims adjuster was that the driver made no contact with the cyclist, they did nothing wrong and that my client simply fell off his bike because he’s an older guy. Those arguments really incensed me.

There’s a strong case law in Florida that if a driver sets up a zone of danger (and my client was in that zone of danger) then the liability rests upon the driver. So, even though the driver didn’t make contact with my client, she came close enough to frighten him and cause him to fall off his bike. As the result of the argument that we made and the demand that we made, the insurance company paid the policy limits in this case as well.


Cop Get It Wrong & Fails to Record Any Cycling Witnesses

This last case points out another interesting problem and that's when the police sometimes make a mess out of doing the investigation. This case is still pending but the issue in terms of liability has been resolved in terms of people accepting responsibility.

This case involves a roundabout, specifically a two lane roundabout. A lot of people get confused in roundabouts. The driver in this particular situation entered the roundabout in the left lane. The law in Florida states that when a driver enters a roundabout in the left lane they can’t exit at the first right outturn. They have to go to at least the second outturn.

My client was coming into the roundabout on the right hand side as they are required to do, single file in a line of cyclists. The driver passed them in the left lane and as she approached the first outturn on the right she turned across my client causing a pretty significant crash and injury to him.

When the police arrived at the scene they believed that my client was at fault. This seems to happen repeatedly where the police arrive at the scene of a bike crash and their impression is that the cyclist has done something wrong, so they try to find that evidence and then their investigation is over. The police report indicated that my client was traveling with a group of cyclists who "possibly" weren’t riding in a single file. But, he didn’t have any evidence that they weren’t riding in a single file, which they were but he still put in the police report that they “possibly" weren’t.

One of the contributing factors in the police report was the cyclist failed to yield the right of way. What’s interesting is that when going into that roundabout where the crash occurred is a street sign that shows that a driver entering the left hand lane can’t take the first right hand turn, they have to go to the next one. So, the officer basically got the law wrong and it’s very clear the driver was totally at fault.

Even though we have a police report that states my client failed to yield the right of way and failed to find that the driver had done anything wrong, the insurance company for the driver has accepted responsibility for the crash when we pointed out what the law is when driving in a two lane roundabout in Florida.


In Conclusion

I think the takeaway from all these cases is that if you or someone you know is ever involved in a bicycle crash, it really doesn’t matter what the facts are. Even if the driver or the police say the cyclist did something wrong, I would always urge you to speak with an experienced bike lawyer. I have just pointed out some of these cases and I have many others I could talk about with similar situations. These cases are kind of driven by the facts. The more serious the injuries are, the more at stake there is for the insurance companies.

Free Cycling Infromation & Goodies for Florida Cyclists

We offer some great information and free goodies for Florida cyclists on our website. Below is a list of things we offer that every cyclist should have in case the worst happens.

Lastly, be careful who you speak to after a cycling crash. Make sure you gather evidence. Take photographs of the scene, your bicycle and gear. When you start receiving phone calls from the driver’s insurance company I would definitely speak with a lawyer before you start making statements that could ruin your case.

If our law firm can ever be of help to you, answer questions or satisfy any concerns related to a cycling incident, just give us a call. We hare here to help. There is never a fee to talk to us. We only get paid if we represent someone and settle their case. We are paid a percentage of that settlement.

Jim Dodson
A Florida injury lawyer, family man and avid cyclist who clients have trusted for over 25 years.