Thomas G. WitkopLaw Offices

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Insurance Company Proved Wrong, Bicyclist Wins His Case after Trial

Kudos to the Washington Area Bicycle Association. They were kind enough to inform a fellow cyclist of my services after he was struck by a car and injured.

This isn't so much a case about winning. It is more a case about the prejudice that bicyclists suffer on an almost constant basis.

My client was bicycling to work as he usually does. He was in Washington DC heading straight on one of the avenues. The Avenue had to travel lanes and to parked car lanes. As is legal in Washington DC at the time he was passing the parked cars and in the traveled portion of the roadway. Traffic was medium and sometimes cars were passing him and sometimes he was passing cars. One of the cars decided to either pass or at least make a right turn directly into my client. It was an impact between the right front quarter panel and my client bicycle. He was thrown off his bicycle onto the ground.

The driver of the car apologized. That was very nice of her but he was still suffering from a shoulder injury.

The initial prejudice began when the police officer arrived. He gave my client a ticket for riding his bicycle in an improper manner. The police officer thought that it is illegal to pass cars in the same lane. The District of Columbia municipal regulations which regulate the flow of traffic both for cars and bicyclists make it very clear that it is perfectly legal for a cyclist to pass vehicles in the same lane if it is safe to do so. In this particular case my client was simply heading straight down the Avenue. It was the car that made the right turn when it was not safe to do so.(My clients ticket was eventually dismissed).

This was argued to the insurance company and the specific statutes were provided to the insurance company. The insurance company continued the prejudice by denying the claim without even giving a legitimate reason.

We filed suit in the District Court of Maryland for Montgomery County because the defendant lived in Maryland. That is an important thing to consider. The case was not a large case and filing suit in Washington DC for anything over $5000 involves a great deal of pretrial discovery and court time. Filing suit in the District Court for $15,000 assures that the case will stay in District Court and that discovery is limited and usually you can take care of it in one court trip.

The case was called for trial and my client testified very effectively and credibly. The defendant testified on cross-examination that she never saw the bicyclist before she made the turn.

In my mind the case was very clear in terms of negligence on the defendant. The defendant has a duty to look before changing lanes and clearly she did not do that. The cyclist had a right to ride his bicycle in the lane and clearly he did that.

The judge agreed with this analysis and awarded damages in favor of the cyclist. I was pleased with the result. The defendant insurance company never offered any money on the case. I made a demand to the insurance company which was less than the judgment of the court.

I am a longtime cyclist and an experienced trial attorney. If you get hurt while riding your bicycle please contact me and I might be able to help you.
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