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Security Cameras Prove Case

I will never forget the day that I was told that my unconscious client should have called 911.

Bob Mionske recently authored an article about cyclists using on-board cameras for Velo News.  This is the article that I direct folks to when they ask me about riding with a camera mounted. CNN recently published a piece about helmet cameras — in which Bike Law Peter was quoted.

On-board cameras have been getting a lot of attention. Here is a video clip which I used to establish liability in a recent hit and run out of Memphis.

The Memphis Hightailers and I have teamed up to collect footage and data of, among other things, instances of drivers violating the three-foot law in Tennessee. After an encounter on the roadway, members can go online and submit an incident report, which goes to my inbox. I’m certain that this footage will be very useful in the future.

Dear Hightailers, please keep the submissions coming. I do not think enough has been written on these topics, and I look forward to the continued discussion and data collection.

But this particular story involves a surveillance camera that caught a motorist when he thought he might get away with not reporting an accident! There was no on-board video from the cyclist to capture the driver’s behavior, but he still got caught. This is my client’s story, and I am honored to be the one to share it for her.

In the latter half of January, my client came to my office with a broken hand, separated shoulder, cuts, scrapes, bruises, and a blurry memory of exactly what happened in the minutes after the crash. This crash occurred on the north side of downtown Knoxville, just after midnight. My client was commuting 1.5 miles home from a birthday party.  She had proper lighting and she was riding on a signed city bicycle route with ample street lighting. A driver began a left-hand turn across my client’s traffic lane, and to avoid a collision, my client had to slam on her brakes. She crashed.

My client was doing everything right at the time of the crash, but this was still a tough set of facts. My client was riding her bike at night, there was no accident report, and no witnesses who saw the crash. The driver is a local news reporter, and may have wanted to avoid publicity. What he did not know, was that the whole thing was caught on camera.

I was troubled that with injuries as serious as the ones sustained by my client, and the possibility of a brain or spine injury which comes with any serious bike crash, she had not been placed on a backboard and transported from the scene by an ambulance. I was troubled that my client recalled the driver blaming her for the accident. I was troubled that the driver had not exchanged insurance information with my client.

But I contacted him directly and put his insurance carrier on notice of the claim. As expected, the adjustor called the same day, was hostile, accused my client of being reckless, and denied liability. I was determined to obtain justice for my client and educate the adjustor on cyclist rights.

At the time of the crash, my client was riding a recently refurbished 1999 mountain bike, valued at approximately $300.00. She did not have a camera mounted on her bicycle. After her crash, I had the same bike mechanic who had generously refurbished her bike free of charge back in December, examine the bicycle, which he determined to be beyond repair. (In a small world note, this mechanic is also friends with our own Bike Law Peter, having formerly lived in Charleston).

On the day we first met, my client alerted me to the fact that there may be surveillance video camera footage, and sure enough, a local business owner and downtown Knoxville resident had video cameras set up which caught the crash. Thanks to some quick work on the part of a bystander who determined who owned the buildings, and fed me that tip, I was able to schedule a meeting with the business owner and view the video on his cellular telephone. The business owner put me in touch with his security company, Safe N’ Sound, who promptly sent me two videos of the crash, one with a fixed lens, the other on a rotation. The video revealed that after curling up in pain for several minutes following the crash, my client lost consciousness five minutes into the ordeal. The driver does nothing; his body language reveals an attitude of being inconvenienced. It is upsetting to watch.

I sent the video footage to the insurance adjustor, and I figured that as soon as the extent of my client’s injuries were known, surely the case would resolve quickly. I was looking forward to the opportunity to educate and advocate for cyclists, armed with proof.

Once I knew my client’s prognosis and outlook, I sent a demand package over to the insurance adjustor, noting that my client’s pain and suffering damages were worsened as a result of the driver not immediately reporting the accident. The adjustor was indignant and angry that I had suggested that the driver needed to have reported the accident. She stated that my client was just fine and should have called 911 herself if she had wanted the accident reported.

I will never forget the day that I was told that my unconscious client should have called 911.

Surely this insurance adjustor couldn’t have watched the video in its entirety? I cited the specific Tennessee statutes which require at fault drivers to give immediate notice of an accident to authorities, exchange registration and insurance information in an accident, and create the duty to render aid in an accident, and asked that the insurance adjustor view the video in its entirety. I gave a one week deadline after which I would file suit.

I heard nothing.

I filed suit.

The first business day after I filed suit, I received a phone call from an insurance adjustor. The case had been reassigned shortly after the original adjustor and my telephone call. This new adjustor did ask about the well-being of my client, and we have since resolved the case amicably.

If a bike crash occurs in an area with businesses, there well may be video camera footage, even if there is not a camera mounted on the bike. Even with the video footage in this case, my client was subjected to further victimization by a hostile insurance adjustor.

It was an honor to be the protective shield between my client and the original misguided adjustor.

It was an honor to use my sword to obtain justice for my client. Cyclists should not have to face further victimization by insurance companies, and this was an egregious instance of just that.

I am sharing my client’s story because this all too common scenario has to change. Do not assume that if you have on-board video footage, that your case will be resolved without a fight. Shield yourself from any further victimization with representation.

We are not bicycle lawyers because the cases are easy; most of the time, they are anything but easy. We are bicycle lawyers because we are prepared to fight for cyclist’s rights. Our job is to make drivers and insurance adjustors understand cyclists will no longer allow themselves to be marginalized or blamed for exercising their right to travel.

I am happy to report that my client has recovered from her injuries, and is back to teaching her early morning yoga classes. I hope that she resumes bike commuting soon. I will be glad to ride alongside her.

Comments

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