Bicyclists & Hit and Run Drivers

At any given time about 20% of the cases we handle involve a hit and run driver.  My unofficial research and experience suggests that a driver is more likely to flee the scene of an accident involving a bicyclist, and even more likely than that to flee the scene of an accident involving a pedestrian.

If there is one thing I’ve learned from all the hit and runs I’ve handled it is that you can never predict who will flee the scene of an accident or why.  I’ve heard people speculate that a driver fled from the scene because they didn’t have insurance, but my experience is that hit and run drivers flee for any number of unpredictable reasons, lack of insurance being a fairly uncommon reason.Some drivers flee because they are drunk or otherwise intoxicated.  Some flee because they have an outstanding warrant or suspended driver’s license.  Some flee for no better reason than the fact that they can flee.  Some drivers simply leave the scene because they don’t, “…have time to deal with this.”Hit and run drivers span all social strata and races.  I’ve seen as many poor hit and run drivers as I’ve seen super wealthy.  I’ve handled hit and run cases against company executives and cell phone salesmen alike.  I’ve seen cases in which lawyers fled.  We’ve even had a case where a doctor-lawyer was alleged to have fled the scene.

Sometimes it is easy to identify the driver.  A fairly common occurrence in hit and run crashes is that the hitter’s license plate is dislodged in the crash.  They flee leaving the license plate at the scene of the accident.  This makes finding the vehicle owner fairly easy, which tends to yield the driver in due course.

Other times independent witnesses write down the license plate or pursue the hit and run driver.  Hit and runs are the one type of accident where witnesses are universally cooperative.  I almost never hear a witness to a hit and run say, “I saw it, but I would not be willing to testify…” or “I don’t want to get involved.”  Witnesses to a hit and run tend to be shocked and upset by what they saw.  They tend to really try to help the victim.  I’ve had a few cases in which a witness to a hit and run chased down a hit and run driver and reported their position to the police.

Hit and run drivers use predictable defenses.  There are three main defenses asserted in a hit and run:

  • The bicyclist was fine, or the bicyclist left first so I left.
  •  I was afraid for my safety, so I left.
  • I don’t know anything about this.

In my first hit and run case the driver hit my client while driving his 13 year old son to school.  He left her lying in the intersection with a broken arm.  What he said in his defense was that, “She was fine.”  I pointed out that he apparently made that medical diagnosis while driving away from the scene of the accident at 30 miles per hour, and that the girl was not “fine.”

In another early hit and run case a driver argued that my client had tried to attack him after he failed to yield to my client on a left turn.  My client had, in fact, chased down the driver after bailing out to avoid being hit by the left turning vehicle.  The driver knew that my client had gone down, but he continued driving down the road, only to get caught in traffic a few blocks away.  My client jumped up and pursued the driver.  When he caught up to the driver a verbal confrontation ensued and the driver fled into oncoming traffic to successfully flee the scene.  While it may have been believable that the driver fled becuase he was scared of a potential assault, I pointed out that he didn’t call the police.  He didn’t report the assault, and he didn’t seek and medical treatment.  In fact, he fled to his house without reporting the accident to his insurance, the police or anyone else.

The most difficult defense I’ve had to face in a hit and run is, “I don’t know anything about this.”  This basically requires me to work backward and prove my case.  This defense doesn’t admit they were at the scene, so we have to establish that through investigation and witnesses.  In such cases cell phone location data and (in urban areas) video is very helpful.

Once someone flees the scene of the accident it is important to conduct a thorough investigation as quickly as possible.  As soon as the accident happens evidence starts evaporating or is actively being destroyed by the hit and run driver.  There is no time to wait before trying to locate the hit and run driver.  My experience is that law enforcement may not do everything possible to locate a hit and run driver, which is why it’s so important to conduct an independent investigation in such cases.

If you’ve been involved in a hit and run crash in Iowa you should contact a lawyer.  A good lawyer will thoroughly investigate your Iowa hit and run collision and they will go about securing evidence immediately.  You should contact a lawyer even if your Iowa hit and run driver got away.  It may still be possible for a good lawyer to effectuate a recovery even if the Iowa hit and run driver was not found.  The only way to know fo sure is to contact a lawyer who handles hit and run cases in Iowa.

Iowa code requires people involved in an accident with either property damage or a personal injury to stop and remain at the scene of the accident.  Any person who flees the scene of an accident involving a personal injury or death risks criminal prosecution as follows:

321.261 Death or personal injuries.

1. The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to or death of any person shall immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident or as close as possible and if able, shall then return to and remain at the scene of the accident in accordance with section 321.263. Every such stop shall be made without obstructing traffic more than is necessary.
2. Any person failing to stop or to comply with the requirements in subsection 1 of this section, in the event of an accident resulting in an injury to any person is guilty upon conviction of a serious misdemeanor.
3. Notwithstanding subsection 2, any person failing to stop or to comply with the requirements in subsection 1, in the event of an accident resulting in a serious injury to any person, is guilty upon conviction of an aggravated misdemeanor. For purposes of this section, “serious injury” means as defined in section 702.18.
4. A person failing to stop or to comply with the requirements in subsection 1, in the event of an accident resulting in the death of a person, is guilty upon conviction of a class “D” felony.
5. The director shall revoke the driver’s license of a person convicted of a violation of this section.

321.262 Leaving scene of traffic accident — vehicle damage only.

The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting only in damage to a vehicle which is driven or attended by any person shall immediately stop such vehicle at the scene of such accident or as close thereto as possible but shall forthwith return to and in every event shall remain at the scene of such accident until the driver has fulfilled the requirements of section 321.263. Every such stop shall be made without obstructing traffic more than is necessary. Any person failing to stop or comply with said requirements under such circumstances shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and punished as provided in section 321.482.


Contributory negligence Bike crash
Ann Groninger May 08, 2021

If you’ve met me, you’ve heard talk about contributory negligence many times, including here and here and here. My vocation and my passion as a bike crash attorney is representing injured bicyclists and families of bicyclists who have been killed by careless drivers. Contributory negligence severely impairs the right of these individuals and bicyclists to […]

Read More
Asian-American Triathlete
Rachael Maney May 04, 2021

Bike Month 2021 is setting the bar pretty high. Two days ago, Sika Henry became the first Black woman to earn her pro card in the sport of triathlon. And today, Bike Law and I are honored and excited to announce our sponsorship of the only Asian-American racing on the professional triathlon circuit, Clarice Chastang […]

Read More
Cycliq video close call
Rachael Maney Apr 22, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 23, 2021 Jon Korin, President Bicycle Advocates for Annapolis & Anne Arundel County (‘BikeAAA’) 443-685-4103, [email protected]   Rachael Maney, National Director Bike Law 410-382-7803, [email protected]   DRIVER CONVICTED ON CYCLIQ VIDEO EVIDENCE Christopher Lee Bradshaw of Lothian, MD was convicted of violating Maryland’s 3-foot bicycle passing law and negligent driving on […]

Read More
cycling friendship
Ann Groninger Apr 21, 2021

Cycling friendships are wonderful benefit to our sport and community.  A major part of our work as bicycle “accident” lawyers means putting a value on losses that our clients suffer as a result of injures from crashes. When it comes to past and future medical expenses, lost income and other financial losses, the job is […]

Read More
Contributory Negligence
Ann Groninger Apr 08, 2021

There is finally a positive development in the fight against Contributory Negligence in North Carolina. Last week a bill called the “Victims’ Fair Treatment Act” was filed in the North Carolina Senate. If passed, the bill would finally bring North Carolina into line with all but 3 other states by eradicating this deeply unfair law. […]

Read More
Bike Shop with wheels
Danny Feldman Apr 04, 2021

Birmingham is blessed to have a number of great bike shops.  Two of these shops, although very different, are the focus here.  Future blog posts from Bike Law Alabama will focus on some of the other great shops in Birmingham and throughout Alabama. A NON-PROFIT BIKE SHOP: REDEMPTIVE CYCLES Why choose Redemptive as your Bike […]

Read More
Dooring of bicyclist
Charlie Thomas Mar 24, 2021

Buena Batiste did not plan to be “doored.” She was knocked off her bike by a car door and then yelled at by the woman who opened it. Fortunately, we were able to take Buena’s dooring case to trial and win. And in doing so, we set a new precedent for bicyclists who suffer a […]

Read More
Bike Hand Signals
Peter Wilborn Mar 12, 2021

Before you get a driver’s license, you typically have to take a test that demonstrates your understanding of the rules of the road. This includes the importance of signaling your intentions when you are turning or changing lanes. Across the United States, bicyclists are required to use signals to let others know what they plan […]

Read More
Ash Our Streets
Daniel Brazil Jan 13, 2021

As a Minneapolis-based attorney, I live, work, play and bike in the city. Although my city might be known for its lakes and our infamous Juicy Lucy, Minneapolis’ dedication to having safer streets for all should be included in that list. To reach the safe streets goal, numerous non-profit organizations and groups are working tirelessly […]

Read More
Load More