As more and more Maine residents take to the notion that protecting the environment is a necessity, an increasing number of commuters are turning to their bicycle in order to travel about in an eco-friendly manner. One side effect of this increase in environmental awareness is the unavoidable increase in the risk and occurrence of tragic and debilitating bicycle accidents around the Portland, Maine area. Of all travelers on the Maine roadways, bicyclists are uniquely vulnerable to accident and injury due to their lack of protection and the potential carelessness of motorists.
If you have been injured in a bicycle accident and believe another party may be at fault, a personal injury lawsuit may be the best course of action for securing just compensation.
As your bicycle accident attorney will more thoroughly explain, legal action can help you recover some or all of your financial losses incurred as a result of the incident. If your accident was particularly disabling, Hardy, Wolf & Downing may be able to help you recover additional damages to compensate for your pain, suffering and mental anguish.
Issues Facing Maine Cyclists
As mentioned above, cyclists are in a unique class of personal injury victims and – even in the context of a low-impact or low-speed collision – often endure very serious, life-threatening injuries.
The Maine Department of Transportation offers the following statistics on bicycle crashes:
- The vast majority of bicycle accidents and personal injuries occur in urban areas, however, more fatal bicycle crashes are reported in rural areas;
- The most common month for bicycle crashes in Maine is in August, followed by July and September;
- The highest number of bicycle crashes occur on Thursdays;
- The most common time of day for a crash is between 3pm and 4pm;
- The most common age of a bicycle crash victim in Maine is between 15 and 19 years old;
- The number of male victims of bicycle crashes far exceeds the number of female victims;
- While over 94 percent of crash victims were reportedly in “normal” condition, medical issues affecting bicycle crashes include fatigue, intoxication, illness or handicap;
- The most common scenario giving rise to a bicycle injury is motorists’ failure to yield to a cyclist with the right-of-way. Driver inattention ranked a close second;
- 85 percent of all accidents occur during the daytime, the vast majority under clear, dry conditions
Establishing liability in a Maine bicycle accident lawsuit
In order to succeed in a bicycle accident lawsuit, the plaintiff must successfully establish the elements of negligence – thereby holding the other driver responsible for the resulting injuries and/or property damage. First, the plaintiff must show that the defendant, at the time of the crash, was under a legal duty to act cautiously and safely toward the plaintiff.
In general, those who use the roadways are under a duty to operate their vehicles cautiously, taking care not to injure other people. This element may be easily met by establishing that immediately prior to the crash, both participants were operating vehicles adjacent to one another, therefore triggering the duty to act safely.
Second, the plaintiff must show that the defendant breached this duty. Facts showing that a collision occurred are generally sufficient to establish the breach element, as drivers acting cautiously are not usually engaged in catastrophic bicycle crashes.
Third, the plaintiff must connect the drivers’ unreasonable conduct (e.g., failure to yield, inattentiveness) to the resulting injury. Lastly, the plaintiff must show he was, in fact, injured physically, financially or both.
Under Maine laws, it is also possible for a plaintiff to contribute to his own injury and thereby reduce his overall recovery amount. Under a doctrine known as comparative negligence, a jury may find the injured plaintiff a certain percentage at fault for his own injuries. In this event, the verdict amount will be adjusted accordingly to represent the plaintiff’s contribution to the accident. Examples of comparative fault could include riding on the wrong side of the road, failure to use reflectors at night or failure to abide by traffic laws.
Maine law also supports a cause of action known as “wrongful death” to help compensate surviving immediate family members of a victim killed in a bicycle crash. To recover in a wrongful death lawsuit, plaintiffs must essentially put forth the same evidence as required by a negligence cause of action, as well as show that the death of the victim has adversely impacted the survivor’s quality of life.
Recent Bicycle Accidents in Maine
Sadly, bicycle accidents are far too prevalent in Maine, and one recent fatality illustrates how quickly a bicycle ride can turn from charitable to chilling.
In June 2013, a cyclist participating in the American Lung Association’s Trek Across Maine was killed by an oncoming tractor-trailer after veering into the opposing lane while sipping water. Witnesses recalled seeing the cyclist head toward the wrong lane with only one hand on the handlebars. The driver of the tractor-trailer was reportedly not criminally charged in the crash, and Maine State Police reminded all cyclists to stay as far to the right as possible.
A Maine Bicycle Accident Lawyer That Can Truly Help
If you or a loved one recently endured a debilitating or fatal bicycle accident, the Maine car accident lawyers of Hardy, Wolf & Downing can help you with your claim. We offer full-service representation for personal injury victims and will help you and your family navigate the bicycle injury lawsuit process from start to finish. For more information or to make your appointment at one of our Portland or Lewiston law offices, please call and schedule a free legal consultation.
[Christian] Mike S. came to Hardy Wolf & Downing because he knew he had a case that was going to be difficult. There was disputed liability. He was a bicyclist riding on the side of the road. The driver of a pick up truck drifted over and struck Mr. S, Mike. And Mike immediately knew he was going to need help with this. Mike had what its called a mild traumatic brain injury. These are very difficult to prove because if you look at the person they look fairly normal. But in reality, Mike had some pretty profound and life-changing injuries. He lost his sense of smell and taste which as we can all imagine can really affect ones enjoyment of life. He had a change in personality. I talked to his wife. She really noticed a change in Mike’s ability to verbalize some things. He was mixing words up. He really had some profound changes.
[Mike] I would ride my bicycle just about every day. And I was riding down Main Street. And I was on the side of the road and all of a sudden this pickup truck going about 45 miles an hour rammed right in the back of me and I went up on the hood of his vehicle and landed in a ditch on the road.
>[Christian] The insurance company was willing to pay very very little. And Mike originally went to a different attorney. That attorney encouraged Mike to take a very minor settlement. That’s when he called Hardy Wolf & Downing and he decided to talk to me about doing better for him. In a case like this, it’s important to talk to witnesses. Often times that’s the real difference between being able to recover for a client in a meaningful way and not being able to. So it’s important to get that information out quickly. It’s important to act upon it. Its important for an attorney to have all the information from a very early point in a case and being able to capture those facts.
[Mike] Hardy Wolf & Downing covered everything. Every time that there was any question, I’d call them up and they had all the answers. I had all the confidence in all of them. It was a very very good experience actually.
[Christian] In a case like Mike’s, it was important for the insurance company to know that I was going to file suit and I had every intention to. In his case, we didn’t need to because they knew my ability to do that. I’ve dealt with them many times before and they knew that that was not an idle threat.
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