The Maine Supreme Judicial Court recently upheld a jury award obtained by a Maine lawyer on behalf of a bicycle accident victim. A jury had awarded Monica Semian $750,000 for her losses stemming from a 2010 bicycle accident.
The then-20-year-old Romanian exchange student was riding her bicycle when she was struck by a school bus owned by Ledgemere Transportation. Semian had been riding to the right of the school bus on Route 1 as she and the bus approached an intersection. The bus attempted to make a right-hand turn at the intersection, colliding with Semian.
The young woman sustained severe injuries in the crash and required multiple surgeries. Her medical expenses totaled more than $200,000 and she sued for $1 million in compensation with the help of a bus accident attorney in Maine. The five-day trial took place in September and October of 2013 in the York County Superior Court. The jury found in favor of the plaintiff; however, they reduced her award from the desired $1 million to $750,000 because Semian acknowledged some wrongdoing for the bicycle accident, although the primary responsibility lay with the bus driver. The defendants appealed the verdict and the case was then sent to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.
Decision praised as a boon for road safety in Maine
Maine accident lawyers have praised the decision in the case as having established a legal precedent that may improve the safety of bicyclists across the state. Maine law states that bicyclists who are passing vehicles “shall exercise due care by leaving a distance between the motor vehicle and the bicycle or roller skier of not less than three feet.” Another Maine law states that bicyclists can follow along to the right of traffic with the exception of “when proceeding straight in a place where right turns are permitted.” The bus company had used these laws to argue that Semian assumed the risk of passing the bus on the right when an intersection was approaching, and that therefore, she was liable for the horrific crash.
However, in his ruling, Justice Jeffrey Hjelm determined that these particular statutes are not applicable to this case. “We conclude that (state law) by itself does not insulate a motorist from liability under these circumstances.” The judge went on to note that the law is too vague to apply because it does not determine liability issues, only the actions of bicyclists. In handing down this ruling, the Supreme Court acknowledged the responsibility of motorists to uphold the safety of bicyclists and their liability when they fail to do so.
Bicycle accident attorneys at Hardy, Wolf & Downing
For more than forty years, families in Maine have turned to the personal injury lawyers at Hardy, Wolf & Downing to provide expert legal guidance and solutions. If you or a loved one has sustained injuries in a bicycle accident or other type of traffic accident, you can explore options for legal recourse by scheduling an appointment at our firm. When you partner with our personal injury law firm, you’ll gain a powerful ally who will aggressively pursue justice on your behalf to help you get your life back on track. Call us today for your free, no-obligation consultation.