Unfortunately, many motorists fail to keep an eye out for bicyclists traveling on our roads. Both adults and children on bicycles may suffer death and serious injuries as a result of the powerful forces which occur during an impact between a motor vehicle and a bike. This article discusses the factors around accident liability and the importance of a full investigation, but if you or a loved one were injured in a bicycle crash, please reach out to a Worcester bicycle accident lawyer today.
Bicycle Crash Liability in Worcester
The liability of the driver of a motor vehicle may be predicated upon the following factors:
- Failure to yield the right of way
- Failure to obey the speed limit or other traffic directives
- Driving drunk or recklessly
- Failure to adjust driving due to weather conditions or traffic
- Failure to take special account for the activities of children
- Failure to consider road conditions
- Failure to adjust for driver visibility limitations
- Failure to pay appropriate attention to traffic
Responsibility for bicycle accident are often highly disputed by insurance companies. One of the central issues in a bicycle injury case is who had the right of way, the bicyclist or the motorist. Other issues to investigate include driver hazard recognition, visibility, as well as misjudgment of time, space, and speed.
An investigation into a bicycle accident by an experienced lawyer can be critical in obtaining the best possible outcome for your case. Peter Ventura is a seasoned trial lawyer who can investigate your specific case facts, and assert the applicable provisions of Massachusetts law which protect the rights of all bicyclists on the road.
What to Do If You are Hit by a Vehicle While Riding a Bicycle
- Seek out medical help. Even though you wear a helmet, a bicycle exposes you to a higher risk of injury. You don’t have the same amount of protection offered by a car, but can achieve car-like speeds and enter areas with heavy traffic. See a doctor after any crash, even if there are no visible injuries; Injuries to your neck, head or back may not be immediately apparent but your doctor can help determine the extent of the damage and document your injuries as well.
- Document the incident. If possible, take photos of everything, including your bike and any damage done to it, the location and conditions where the accident occurred and the car or vehicle that struck you. This documentation can help you if you need to file a lawsuit or deal with the insurance company later and can clearly show what the day was like and the conditions of your accident.
- File a police report. Make a police report to comply with the law and document your claim; the officer will collect the contact information from all parties and witnesses. You will need this information later.
- Gather witnesses. Who saw your accident or even the aftermath? Takedown the names of those involved in the crash, those who witnessed it and those who arrived to help; you may need this information if you file a lawsuit later.
- Don’t apologize or accept blame. Even if someone accuses you of being in the way or contributing to the accident, never apologize or accept responsibility without having a full and complete picture of all relevant facts which you will typically not have without an attorney’s thorough investigation; a bicycle accident is a complex case and accepting blame could undermine your eventual lawsuit.
- Check out your bike and gear. Don’t ride the bike again without getting it checked out; the impact could have caused significant damage and even contribute to another accident. If you fell from the bike, replace your helmet as well (but keep it to show the damages if needed).
Why Bicycle-Vehicle Accidents Occur in Worcester
- Motorists merging or turning into the paths of bicyclists. Nearly half of merging/turning accidents involve drivers turning left in front of bicyclists approaching from the opposite direction.
- Motorists attempting to overtake bicyclists and misjudging the space needed to pass safely
- Bicyclists merging or turning into the path of a vehicle
- Drivers failing to yield the right of way to bicyclists at street junctions
- Bicyclists failing to yield the right of way at intersections. Usually, the bicyclist stops for a light or sign and then continues into the intersection, where they are struck by a vehicle
Massachusetts Bicycle Accident Resources
If you have a question about the Massachusetts laws regarding ownership, helmets, safety, or operation, please see our Massachusetts Bicycle Laws page.
Adding More Bike Lanes
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation has recommended that cities construct protected bike lanes to decrease the risk which motorists pose to bicyclists. The issue, however, lies in the planning of Boston’s architecture. While cities such as New York can implement solutions to street layout in a relatively uniform way, Boston (as well as other major cities in Massachusetts) needs to create bike lane solutions which differ across each street. This difference means that it will take state and city departments of transportation longer to implement permanent solutions for bike lane safety.
5 Tips for a Safer Bicycle Commute
- Study hot spots: Areas such as Inman Square and Porter Square in Cambridge are notoriously congested, and therefore, dangerous to bicyclists. Keep an eye out for such areas in your route and be sure to exercise extra caution while riding there.
- Slow down: Most avoidable accidents in the bike lane take place because the bicyclist didn’t have enough time to react. When riding on the main streets, stick to the middle of the bicycle lane and pump the brakes a bit.
- Suit up: Accidents are called accidents because they go unplanned. Make sure you’re adequately protected by a strong, secure, and comfortable bicycle helmet.
- Know your lane: Riding alongside other bicyclists can prove tricky. Make sure you’re aware of bicyclists both in front of and behind you. You’ll be prepared to move if someone’s door flies open unexpectedly.
- Keep up to speed: Keep track of developments in your town towards building safer bike lanes. If there isn’t one, ask why. You deserve a safe commute from beginning to end as a bicyclist, make sure that your town or city representative knows it.
Tips for Bicycling Safely and Lawfully in Massachusetts
Spring is here! As the thermometer finally begins to creep upward, we here in Worcester and other parts of Central Massachusetts are hauling out our bikes, ready to enjoy the feel of the sun’s rays on our faces after a long winter.
Biking is a great way to get the heart pumping and an environmentally-friendly way to get around town, but there are risks, too.
Early last winter, all of Massachusetts was stunned and saddened by two tragic bicycle crashes in Boston that lead to the deaths of two Boston University students, each accident occurring with one month of each other. And last July here in Worcester, a 48-year old musician and dedicated cyclist died from head injuries after colliding with a moving vehicle on Park Avenue. Such accidents are unhappy reminders to observe safe biking practices no matter how comfortable you feel on your bike, and to remain especially alert when riding among car traffic.
In Worcester, our lack of bike lanes and busy traffic pose a particular challenge for cyclists. Many motorists aren’t aware that bikers not only have a right to be on the road, but often have no other legal option. Unfortunately, this means that some drivers behave disrespectfully toward rule-abiding cyclists (honking, yelling “get off the road!,” failing to yield, etc.), sometimes increasing the risk of causing an accident.
While there’s little you can do about rude or dangerous drivers, you can help protect yourself by observing these five bike safety tips.
- Observe traffic laws. It’s tempting to whiz through a stop sign or red light when the coast seems absolutely clear, but resist. First of all, it’s the law. Second, you never know when a pedestrian or vehicle will dart out unexpectedly.
- Watch out for open car doors. Getting “doored” is a common cause of injuries to cyclists. By law, drivers are responsible for ensuring that no one is in their path before opening their vehicle door, but cyclists should ride at least three feet from parked car doors whenever possible. Scan parked cars for brake lights, and keep your hands on the bike’s brake levers rather than the bars for quick stopping.
- Make yourself highly visible. All Massachusetts cyclists must use a headlight and taillight (white in front, red in back) on their bikes when riding after dark. It’s also a smart idea to wear brightly-colored reflective clothing, particularly jackets and ankle reflectors. Do as much as you can to make yourself visible to motor traffic.
- Ride with the flow of traffic. When you ride against the flow of traffic, your collision risk increases because drivers will be looking for traffic coming from the lawful direction, not the wrong way. Also, you won’t be able to see traffic lights, thus increasing the risk of an accident.
- Wear a helmet. Only children age 16 and under are required by Massachusetts law to wear a helmet when riding a bike. But wearing a helmet might save your life at any age. A 2012 study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal showed that cyclists that died of head injuries were three times less likely to be wearing a helmet compared with those who died of other injuries.
Hopefully, one day Worcester will follow Boston’s lead and start implementing life-saving, bike safety-initiatives. Such initiatives might include posting advisory/cautionary signs warning drivers of high bicycle traffic or reminding them to share the road; installing well-marked bike lanes, and installing highway reflectors on the pavement outside of the bike lanes.
In any event, stay extra-cautious and alert!
Peter Ventura: Massachusetts Bike Crash Attorney
At the Worcester law firm of Peter Ventura, we work with people who need advice and representation about their right to compensation following a bicycle accident. Worcester bicycle accident lawyer Peter Ventura has practiced in central Massachusetts since 1985, and he is known throughout the region for his ability to handle complex challenges concerning the proof of liability, the calculation of damages or the availability of insurance coverage.
Peter Ventura is a former Worcester County Assistant District Attorney and a current member of the Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys, as well as Worcester County and Massachusetts Bar Associations. He has also taught law courses at several local colleges. A Worcester native, he has spent his entire professional career in the city.
He works directly with each client of the firm through every stage of the case. To learn more about his professional background and interests, see his profile below. To find out how you can benefit from the counsel of this experienced bicycle crash lawyer, contact us in Worcester for a free consultation.
Peter did an excellent job reviewing and handling my case. He was clear and honest regarding the legal climate and chances for a satisfactory outcome in court, in mediation and in general which is very refreshing. He also took the time to walk me through the process so i knew what to expect so I didn’t feel lost or intimidated.
Even though I hope to never experience another personal injury in the future I would not hesitate to call Peter again if I had to. He would definitely be my first call to make sure I knew my rights.