Baltimore Automobile-Bicycle Injury Accidents

As automobile and commercial trucking accident attorneys, the law offices of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, understand the risk that each and every person takes when getting behind the wheel of a car, truck or motorcycle. The on-road hazards and ill-timed driver errors that influence the outcome of many serious roadway collisions are all too prevalent these days. From Annapolis to Baltimore and Rockville to the District of Columbia, as drivers, we all must face the possibility that any one of us could be involved in a bad injury accident.

Of course, the thought of being hurt badly enough to require prolonged hospitalization is not something that many drivers actively worry about. One reason is that because automobiles are made of steel and equipped with a variety of modern safety devices, most people probably feel the odds are in their favor. Not so with those who are not protected as well; individuals who travel by motorcycle, scooter or bicycle, for instance.

Pedestrians and cyclists can easily be injured or killed by a thoughtless motorist in a passenger car, or by a commercial delivery truck driver who is preoccupied with completing his rounds as quickly as possible. There are numerous causes of pedestrian-related traffic collisions. One of the more common reasons for many car-pedestrian and car-bicycle crashes is distracted driving. A driver who talks or texts while traveling on city streets is far more likely to hit a person in a crosswalk than a motorist who is paying full attention to the traffic situation in front of him.

At Lebowitz & Mzhen, our experienced legal staff knows that talking or texting -- and event eating, adjusting the car radio, or fiddling with a navigation system – can lead to a very serious collision, which could change another individual’s life forever. It is a fact that distracted drivers often never see those people whom they have struck with their car or truck. Some of the blame can be placed on inherently dangerous roadway intersections, but the driver’s actions (or inaction) are often mostly to blame.

An important part of any pedestrian injury case is determining who pays for the victim’s medical and rehabilitation costs, as well as other damages suffered by that injured person. When it comes to pedestrian- and bicycle-related traffic accidents, the responsible party will usually be held liable for the victim’s injuries; and in cases of negligent driving, that party is quite often the motorist who struck the victim.

As personal injury attorneys, we have seen the results of pedestrian accidents. The aftermath of these kinds of collisions are not pleasant to look at. Certainly, as a victim who survives such a crash, the pain and suffering that follows such an incident can be excruciating and long-lasting. In fact, some victims never fully recover from the terrible bodily injuries that accompany a car-to-pedestrian crash.

For drivers themselves, it is clear that many thoughtful motorists have a healthy respect for the dangers that pedestrians, and bicycle riders in particular, face on a regular basis, both in our urban centers and in rural areas as well. For those who worry about the possibility of hitting a bicyclist the following are a few safety tips that may help to save a life or keep someone out of the emergency room in the future.

Recognize the Cyclist’s Vulnerability

Considering the increasing use of bicycles for exercise and transportation over the years, it is not surprising that the frequency of car-bike collisions in cities such as Baltimore and Washington, D.C., has been increasing. Not only are young adults taking to the streets, but also baby boomers and senior citizens, whose resilience following a crash may not be very good due to their more fragile bone condition.

Because of the increase in bicycle use, plus the addition of bike lanes on higher speed thoroughfares, it is important for motorists to consider the vulnerability that bicyclists face when close to vehicular traffic. Remember that even the lightest car is many times more massive than any bicycle-rider combination; in the event of an impact with a two-ton passenger car, a person on a bike will almost always come out on the losing end.

Understand Bicyclists' Rights

It is safe to say that a large percentage of motorists have next to no knowledge of bicycle-related traffic laws. Some drivers think that bicycle riders should stay on the sidewalk with other pedestrians; but this is an incorrect assumption. Surprisingly to some, many urban areas do not allow bikes on the sidewalk. Furthermore, when a bicycle is on the street, it is considered a vehicle; as such, the rider must follow the rules of the road, just as the drivers of automobiles and commercial trucks are required to do.

The national Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that bike riders 10 years of age and older should operate their bicycles as if they were any other vehicle on the roadway. That is, riding in the same direction as the rest of the vehicle traffic, and obeying the same traffic safety rules as other motorists. Still, there are important differences, especially those based on the visibility and vulnerability of cyclists on the road.

While cyclists may be on the same level as motorists from the standpoint of the law, passenger car and commercial truckers still need to keep an eye out for those smaller, lighter and more vulnerable vehicles. In particular, motorists should check for bicycles before making any turn, when merging into a designated bike lane, and even when opening a vehicle door next to moving traffic. Being aware of the potential accident situation presented by a bicycle rider will help to reduce the likelihood of a serious or even fatal car-bike crash.

Reevaluate Your Attitude

A common problem for many bicycle riders is that many passenger car and commercial vehicle drivers tend to think of cyclists in some way, shape or form, as being “in the way.” This feeling of superiority over the lowly bicycle rider can get some drivers in big trouble. The correct way to look at bicycles is to consider them as being on an equal footing with their motor-driven cousins. This is sometimes very difficult for many motorists, however.

Perhaps the best way to change this potentially destructive attitude toward cyclists is to remember that each and every bike rider is a human being, not unlike the motorist himself, or his spouse, or his child. Of course, it is easy to become impatient with these often slow-moving commuters, but remembering that a human being is pedaling that bike can help put things back into perspective.

Humanizing the rider may help to diffuse any potentially injurious situation that could arise due to irritation or impatience on the part of a motorist. Also, it might help to calm one’s nerves to think of the overall benefit of riding a bike; surely, a commuter on a bicycle is, simply put, means one less car on the road -- from the standpoint of reduced roadway congestion, this is actually a good thing.

Always Signal Your Turns

As auto injury specialists, the lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen know full well that intersections are one of the primary places where bicycle-car collisions occur most often. This is especially true when making a right-hand turn. Keeping an eye open for an approaching cyclist can go a long way toward preventing a tragic accident.

It is a common occurrence that as a car slows to make a right turn, a bicycle rider in the far right-hand bike lane may begin to overtake the automobile for just a moment. However, if the driver failed to signal his or her intention to make a right-hand turn, there is a possibility that the cyclist may be hit by the turning vehicle.

Furthermore, in cases where a driver is making a left-hand turn and sees an oncoming cyclist, it is very important to carefully assess the speed of the approaching bike and whether or not you can actually make the turn in front of the rider without a collision.

Regardless of the cause of a bad bicycle-car wreck, the injuries sustained by the bike rider will likely be significant. Our personal injury attorneys are ready, willing and able to assist victims and their families recover damages following severe traffic collisions involving a car and bicycle. We urge anyone who has been badly hurt by a negligent driver to contact a qualified auto injury attorney. It should also be noted that having a lawyer at one’s side when fighting for compensation following an injury-related car or trucking crash is not just a good idea, it can make a great deal of difference in the final outcome of the case.

The legal team at the law offices of Lebowitz & Mzhen has the skills and training to help clients who have received severe injury in a bicycle-car or pedestrian-car crash. If negligence can be proven, then you owe it to yourself and your family to take advantage of our free, no-obligation consultation. Please take the time to call us toll-free at (800) 654-1949; or you can e-mail either Jack Lebowitz or Vadim Mzhen to arrange a meeting to discuss your personal injury case.