02

Blog

DC to End “Contributory Negligence” for Cyclists?

Today, DC votes on whether to end "contributory negligence" for cyclists and pedestrians.

11:30 am UPDATE: Act pulled from today’s Agenda in last minute move.  This means it HAS to come up at the July 12th meeting.  We will be there! 

IMG_1740


Today, the DC Council will vote on the “Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act of 2016.”  If passed, the act will end the antiquated legal doctrine of contributory negligence for cyclists, pedestrians and others making their way through the city under their own power.

Contributory negligence is an extremely harsh legal doctrine that can serve to bar recovery for injured parties if they are deemed to be even 1% at fault for the collision that injures them. If that seems unfair, it is.  As a DC bike crash attorney, I know first hand how unjust this doctrine really is.  

There are only four states that still retain contributory negligence. Unfortunately for DC cyclists, two of those states neighbor the district; Maryland and Virginia. The other states are North Carolina and Alabama. The other states apportion damage awards according to the percentage of fault. In some states, you must be 50% or less at fault to recover.

Denial of the injured cyclist’s claim against an at-fault driver based on 1% negligence can be devastating. Medical bills can pile up. The cost of fixing or replacing the bicycle can become cost-prohibitive. A few hundred dollars can upset many household budgets nowadays.

The vulnerable users that the Act seeks to protect are likely to be the most severely injured in a motor vehicle collision as well as those that are less likely to carry insurance that protects them. Whether cyclists, for instance, are choosing to ride for any of its myriad benefits or they are riding out of necessity many may be doing so without the protection of insurance mandated for motor vehicles.

What is interesting and appreciated about the DC Act is that it recognizes the roads’ vulnerable users, as it does not apply to motor vehicles. The council and the people of DC have recognized that the contributory negligence doctrine is particularly harsh to the non-motorized—read; not boxed in a metal cage—users.

This change to the law to protect vulnerable users has been a long time coming: The bill was introduced by Councilmember Mary Cheh in early 2015 after a similar bill introduced the year before was tabled. The Washington Area Bicyclist’s Association (WABA) and other advocacy groups have been advocating for the change for years. Members of the DC Council have worked to get the Act through the legislative channels to keep it mostly intact.

Some other, good elements of the bill have been lost along the way: For example, a “Stop as Yield” provision” was dropped during the markup phase in April 2016.

However, the bill also includes the “last clear chance doctrine” which provides for recovery for a cyclist that is deemed negligent, if the motor vehicle involved had the last clear chance to avoid the collision.

The full council will be voting on a strong bill that will have a great impact on vulnerable road users in the District. If passed and signed by the mayor, the Motor Vehicle Collision Act of 2016 will bring fairness to the claim process for cyclists and pedestrians. It will keep insurance companies from denying claims to injured parties based on an unfair balance of negligence. It will allow cyclists and pedestrians to be fairly compensated for injuries caused by the negligence of others.

This is an extremely important development in the protections for cyclists and other vulnerable users on the roads of DC.  We will update the blog with results from the hearing.

Comments

Pat Brown May 10, 2018

Strength, ambition, and courage are just a few words that come to mind when we think of Anthony Lue.  Growing up, Anthony enjoyed playing competitive sports such as baseball, volleyball, basketball and mountain biking, but his true passion was discovered on his high school track.    After winning gold for 100m hurdles at the provincial championships […]

Read More
Lauri Boxer-Macomber Apr 30, 2018

Following a horrific bicycle crash in 2016, Dr. Michael Rifkin has become a new type of bicycling advocate — one who is deeply committed to ending distracted driving. Read his op-ed on Making Distracted Driving in Maine Taboo here. Dr. Rifkin’s piece reminds us that we can be distracted by our phones and other electronic devices even […]

Read More
Brian Weiss Apr 26, 2018

On November 21, 2017, I saw a TV news story about how the Broomfield District Attorney’s Office was routinely offering lax plea deals to drivers that injure cyclists.  In bicycle crash cases with injuries, the DA was offering plead deals to “broken headlight” or “defective vehicle” charges. A “defective vehicle” sentence is one of the […]

Read More
Atlanta's Bike Czar
Bruce Hagen Apr 19, 2018

Who is looking for a great job in a dynamic city with a great opportunity to make bicycle advocacy not just a passion, but a full time, rewarding and well-paying job?   The City of Atlanta is in search of a a new Chief Bicycle Officer to replace the outgoing CBO, Superstar Becky Katz, who after […]

Read More
Joe Piscitello Apr 04, 2018

Piscitello Law – Bike Law PA is pleased to share highlights from the third annual Vision Zero conference, held March 17 in West Philadelphia.  The event was hosted by Philadelphia Bicycle Coalition and opening remarks by the Executive Director Sarah Clark Stuart encouraged 250 participants to “listen, learn and be inspired….”   Mayor James Kenney […]

Read More
Lauri Boxer-Macomber Apr 03, 2018

The first issue is that many bicycle crashes are not being reported into the State of Maine Crash Database, which leads to incomplete and inaccurate state-wide crash reporting data and arguably also leads to uninformed priority setting and budgetary decisions.  The crashes that are unreported and/or underreported on a state level are sometimes, but not […]

Read More
Lauri Boxer-Macomber Mar 25, 2018

Foundational Principles Bicycles are Traffic and Belong on Maine’s Roadways In Maine, bicycle riders are included within the definition of “traffic” and should be treated as part of Maine’s traffic system.  See 29-A M.R.S.A. § 101 (82).   Rights and Responsibilities In general, a person riding a bicycle in Maine has all of the rights […]

Read More
Joe Piscitello Mar 20, 2018

Vision Zero (VZ) is multi-nation initiative with a guiding principle that death and serious injury should not be an acceptable outcome of transportation.  Vision Zero plans often draw attention to flaws within the transportation system such as dangerous traffic patterns, speeding and a lack of sufficient protected bike/pedestrian lanes.  VZ action plans utilize data to […]

Read More
Danny Feldman Mar 15, 2018

I will not pretend to speak for all cyclists, but I feel pretty confident in saying that being passed by cars on the road is a primary area of concern. Most of the time there is no problem and the vehicle passes safely. Nevertheless, I personally have been “buzzed” more times than I wish were […]

Read More
Bruce Hagen Mar 14, 2018

Georgia Bicycle Laws   I find myself in what some people might describe as an odd position.  As a lawyer, I represent people who have suffered injuries while riding bicycles due to the negligent actions of others, mainly car drivers.   However, as an advocate for safe cycling, I spend a lot of time trying to […]

Read More
DC Bike Lanes
Amy Benner Johnson Mar 12, 2018

The star of the 2018 LAB Summit was hands down dockless bikeshare. Prior to even picking up their nametags at the registration booth, summit attendees encountered the wealth of dockless options available to them as a result of DC’s dockless bikeshare trial period, which is nearing the end of its seven month test run. Social […]

Read More
Bike Delaware
Peter Wilborn Feb 11, 2018

We understand the importance of good Rules of the Road when it comes to protecting cyclists in court. Changing the laws that protect cyclists is one of the most important ways to make the roads safer and promote better biking. And there has been some notable progress in this area over the last 10 years. […]

Read More
Load More