Call

Blog

Law
02

Blog

On Your Mark, Get Set, Waiver! When Bicyclists Sign Their Rights Away.

Illinois bicycle accident attorney Brendan Kevenides explains the law of event waivers.

As an Illinois attorney who represents injured bicyclists, and who also sponsors cycling clubs, race teams and bike events I love and hate exculpatory agreements.  These rights waiving documents can be devastatingly bad for the individual cyclist who has been harmed due to someone else’s negligence. On the other hand, such waivers protect cycling groups who invest time, money and resources in putting together events that bicyclists enjoy.

Generally, an exculpatory agreement is a document in which one party agrees to waive his or her right to seek compensation or sue for injuries caused by the other party’s negligence.  Sometimes these agreements are referred to as waivers.  Most bicycle race and event organizers require participants to sign such an agreement before hand.  Virtually all 50 states have their own set of laws regarding whether and when exculpatory agreements may act as a bar to liability.  Here in Illinois our appellate court had the opportunity in 2011 to consider the binding effect of a waiver used widely by USA Cycling, the national governing body for bike racing in the United States.

In Hellweg v. Special Events Managementa cyclist, Brian Hellweg, was injured during a bike race organized by the defendants. The race was to be on a “closed course” held on municipal streets.  Mr. Hellweg was injured when he crashed into a nonparticipating cyclist who had wandered onto the course during a warm-up session.  He filed a lawsuit against the race organizers alleging they failed to close the course as they had promised.  The defendants sought dismissal of the case citing a USA Cycling Event Release Form which Mr. Hellweg had signed.  The appellate court upheld dismissal of the case.  The Court was unpersuaded by the plaintiff’s argument that the manner in which the crash occurred was not reasonably foreseeable. Though the Court agreed that “foreseeability of a specific danger is” an important factor to consider when assessing the scope of an exculpatory clause, it held that it was not necessary to spell out every conceivable danger for the agreement to be upheld.  The Court looked at the language of the agreement which read in pertinent part:

“I ACKNOWLEDGE THAT CYCLING IS AN INHERENTLY DANGEROUS SPORT AND FULLY REALIZE THE DANGERS OF PARTICIPATING IN THIS EVENT, whether as a rider, official, coach, mechanic, volunteer, or otherwise, and FULLY ASSUME THE RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH SUCH PARTICIPATION INCLUDING, by way of example, and not limitation:  dangers of collision with pedestrians, vehicles, other riders, and fixed or moving objects; THE RELEASEES’ OWN NEGLIGENCE, the negligence of others; and the possibility of serious physical and/or mental trauma or injury or death associated with the event, I HEREBY WAIVE, RELEASE, DISCHARGE, HOLD HARMLESS, AND PROMISE TO INDEMNIFY AND NOT TO SUE the Releasees and all sponsors, organizers, promoting organizations, property owners, law enforcement agencies, public entities, special districts and properties that are in any manner connected with this event, and their respective agents, officials, and employees through or by which the event will be held, (the foregoing are also collectively deemed to be Releasees), FROM ANY AND ALL RIGHTS AND CLAIMS INCLUDING CLAIMS ARISING FROM THE RELEASEES’ OWN NEGLIGENCE….” (Emphasis in original)

The Court felt that the presence of nonparticipants in bicycle races was an inherent and reasonably foreseeable risk.  It also concluded that in any event the language of the agreement clearly contemplated the possibility “of collision with pedestrians, vehicles, other riders, and fixed or moving objects.”

While Hellweg was a clear victory for race and bike event organizers it is important to point out that it does not stand for the proposition that exculpatory agreements will bar liability in all circumstances.  They don’t.  Waivers do not bar liability for willful and wanton conduct; that is conduct in which one shows a reckless disregard for the safety of others.  For example, an organizer who threw ball bearings onto the course during a race would not be protected where his conduct caused injury to a rider.  Use of fraud to induce one to sign an exculpatory agreement would also void its protection.  The bottom line, however, is that before participating in a race or other bike event requiring a waiver of your rights, understand what you are getting into.  If you are injured have an experienced attorney review the waiver language and consider the circumstances of the crash to determine the likelihood that your rights have indeed been waived.

Email me if you have any questions.

Comments

Is It Illegal to Ride Your Bike on the Sidewalk bikelaw
Peter Wilborn Aug 01, 2022

The laws dictating whether you can ride your bike on the sidewalk differ depending where you live. Different states have different laws on this matter, and local ordinances also vary. Let’s take a look at the legal framework behind various state laws related to cycling on sidewalks. The laws of sidewalk-riding can be very complicated […]

Read More
Ebike crash
Bruce Hagen Apr 26, 2022

DRIVER ON METH KILLS 17 YEAR OLD BICYCLIST, BARROW COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY REFUSES TO CHARGE DRIVER WITH FELONY.   On August 23, 2020, at approximately 8:40pm, 17-year old Obianuju Osuegbu was on her way home from her summer job working at a grocery store. She had earned enough money that summer to buy herself a […]

Read More
Stop as Yield
Brian Weiss Apr 25, 2022

Finally, “Stop As Yield” (the much sought after common sense traffic law for bicyclists) is coming to Colorado in 2022, likely July 1st.   Stop as Yield, aka the “Safety Stop” After the Governor Polis signs the law and the Safety Stop becomes effective, anyone who rides a bicycle or scooter on public roads will […]

Read More
Contributory Negligence
Ann Groninger Apr 25, 2022

It took losing at trial and a long appellate process, but it ended in a blow to contributory negligence in North Carolina. We just won an appeal on a bicycle crash case that happened in 2016 and came to us in 2018. The case went to trial during the spring of 2021. Our client was […]

Read More
Bike accident on sidewalk
Ann Groninger Mar 03, 2022

At Bike Law North Carolina, we’ve seen our share of collisions between bicyclists and motorists at sidewalk intersections. Two recent cases, one which we tried and lost and the other, which settled favorably to our client, highlight the challenges, especially in North Carolina and other pure contributory negligence states (Alabama, Virginia and Maryland).   The […]

Read More
WALLER CRASH
Rachael Maney Nov 08, 2021

WALLER 6 UPDATE: November 20, 2021 The teenage son of Jason and Jennifer Arnold, who, with their permission, was operating his parents’ F-250 diesel truck when he plowed into our 6 clients while they were riding their bicycles on September 25th, 2021 in Waller, Texas, was released to his parents on Thursday afternoon (11/18/21) after […]

Read More
Atlanta Bike Crash
Peter Wilborn Oct 25, 2021

Many of you have heard about the horrific multi-victim crash from October 7, 2021, in which a Chattanooga driver brutally plowed her car into a group of 5 pedestrians as they were crossing a street, causing catastrophic and life changing injuries. In the chaotic aftermath of running a red light and almost killing an entire […]

Read More
Waller Bike Crash Carnage
Rachael Maney Oct 02, 2021

PRESS RELEASE FROM BIKE LAW’S NATIONAL DIRECTOR RACHAEL MANEY In light of the recent Waller Bike Crash in Texas, and in an effort to help untangle and unpack some of the emotionally-charged comments, questions, and inaccurate assumptions being made, we want to update you on the parts that we can share. I hope that this […]

Read More
Brother James
Peter Wilborn Sep 29, 2021

23 years ago today, the world lost my brother Jim. He was killed on his bike by an under-aged driver who blew through a red light. While the years don’t really blunt the loss, they foster gratitude for the gifts left behind. My brother blessed me with so much, but 3 things stand out:   […]

Read More
Load More