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What are your legal/moral/ethical responsibilities if you hit(18 posts)

What are your legal/moral/ethical responsibilities if you hitAllisonHayes
May 17, 2002 4:34 AM
someone? What if the person seems OK?

Legally, is a cyclist required to stop and give or exchange your name and address? Morally & ethically, what should you do? Render aid? Offer to help? Show compassion? Be considerate?

On the flip side, what should you NOT do? To me, leaving the scene immediately is something you should not do, even if the person seems OK.

Also, should cyclists carry special insurance? Does homeowners insurance cover a cyclist? What liabilities does a cyclist have?


If this happened to you, what would you do?
Great question!EJC
May 17, 2002 4:44 AM
I don't want to speak on the legalities of what to do as I am not a lawyer nor exceptionally familiar with thhe intricacies of American Law (I live in the states but I am from a different country.)

HOWEVER, I would like to toss in my thoughts regarding the ethical and moral responsibilites. First, it is important to note that LAW and MORALITY are not synonomous. Having the LEGAL right to do something does not make it the MORALLY right thing to do. That said, it seems to me that if there is a collision between cyclists and pedestrians, the cyclist should stop, see if the person is alright, REGARDLESS OF WHO CAUSED THE COLLISION. There is someonme down, and potentially hurt. Doesn't it make sense to see if they are alright or need medical assistance? Seems to be a bit of a no-brainer to me.

After that, I would imagine you would be clear to go.

As for insurance and the like, again, I am not intimate with the 'Murican way of dealing wiith such issues, so I don't think I could comment. However, knowing the fashion that the American Medical Insurance syystem works, I would imagine it would be shrewd to carry some sort of coverage/liability to assure that you cannot lose your personal assets should someone decide to file legal action agaisnt you to cover their medical costs.

Great Question Alison!

Cheers,

EJC
Another aspect is marginal & unacceptable behavior.AllisonHayes
May 17, 2002 6:16 AM
To me, it is marginal--and maybe unacceptable--behavior if your first reaction is to split the scene: taking care of "no. 1"; not to mention wanting to avoid further complications by not wanting to get involved in "no 2." That just frosts me to no end. It is a total abrogation of responsibility and reflects a spineless character.

As someone stated, the moving object generally causes the greatest damage.

I am not stating that everyone should become an ambassador, but I do believe that if you are posting on this board, you are a lot more aware of "all things cycling." And with this greater awareness, you should operate by a higher standard. I would think that it is unacceptable for anyone-- particularly anyone on this board--to not be an ambassador.

I don't want to sound as though I am on a soap box, but there is so much hostility out there and I don't want to contribute to it. This board has been a superb vehicle for increasing my knowledge and awareness about cycling. It is also a lot of fun. I just think we owe it to others to operate on a higher standard and give a little back to the community as well.

Maybe it is also the Ugly 'Murican part you mentioned as well--I just don't want to be a part of those histrionics.

btw, where are you from originally? down under?

Allison
Agreed! And no...EJC
May 17, 2002 10:10 AM
...I am not an antipodean!

I am a British-Canadian! My folks are from UK, still UK nationals, but P.R.'s of Canuckleheadland, so that makes me 1st generation Canuck with a 'bent towards the Brits (living in the shadows of the overachieving cycling nations...*sigh* between my two countries of heritage, we are perennial brides-maids! Steve Bauer, Daivd Millar...someday...)!

Good post Alison!

Cheers,

EJC
my .02SteveO
May 17, 2002 5:10 AM
I think it would be tough to state LEGAL obligations, as matters like this tend to vary from state to state. My generalized guess would be that if you're on a public roadway, the law would expect you to abide by the local regulations governing roadway traffic (e.g., my state doesnt REQUIRE an exchange of information, though it does require police notification personal injury or phyisical damage is assessed to surpass [i think] $200).

Regarding morality; only YOU can answer that. Bicycling or not, your fault or not, i personally feel all people needing help should be tended to.

Insurance... again, thats up to you. Anytime you cause injury or financial loss to another, you're at risk of being held liable in civil court. If you feel you can cause more damage than your personal assets can cover, perhaps you should consider insurance. This is true with life in general; not specific to bicycling.

What would I do? If the victim (whether it be he/she or myself) states they're ok, it would end there. We're becoming a culture of complaint in which (what was once) non-matters become liability nightmares.
lots of ??DougSloan
May 17, 2002 5:31 AM
In many ways, cyclists must abide by and benefit from the states' motor vehicle laws; I'm not certain, but my guess is that you would be required to stop, just as a motorist would; you may not "leave the scene of an accident," if there are personal injuries or property damage.

Morally, I'd say you absolutely must stop and give assistance if needed. What's odd about your question is that I'd be 99% of the time it's the cyclist that will need help, even in a pedestrian collision.

You have no legal obligation to render aid. However, typically if you do undertake to render aid, you must do so carefully. Don't go performing a tracheotomy if you don't know what you are doing. Some states protect "good Samaritans" from liability for rendering aid. (example: http://www.vdh.state.va.us/oems/GoodSam99.PDF -- Adobe Acrobat file)

Not do? Don't leave the scene until things have resolved -- the other person is ok and you discuss what to do; help arrives; police release you; or you must summon emergency help. Don't admit liability to anyone, not even "I'm sorry", at least at the time.

Typically, your homeowners or renters insurance contains a liabilty coverage section, where the insurer will defend and indemnify (reimburse) you for claims against you for negligent damage to property or personal injury to others. It doesn't cover intentional acts or punitive (punishment) damages or fines. Your auto liability coverage probably does not apply, but I'd want to take a look at the policy to be certain. In any event, any policy will have limits of liability, and you are responsible for paying any claim in excess of that. The best insurance is bankruptcy, though :-)

What liabilities do we have? In general, we all have a duty to be careful, and if we don't, and we injury someone or damage property, then we can be responsible for paying for the foreseeable damage we cause.

For me, my first priority in any accident situation would be to render or obtain aid for the injured, regardless of the law, if the law conflicted. No doubt about it. I'd try to say as little as possible in the process, too, and not babble on about how "I just wasn't watching" or anything like that.

Doug
lots of ??Jon Billheimer
May 17, 2002 6:23 AM
Doug and Allison,

I think those are great comments! It would be wise for all of us, from time to time, to review John Stuart Mill's comments on ethics and "boundaries of concern," as well the Golden Rule.
Doug Has the Law 100% Correctsidley
May 17, 2002 9:10 AM
As an attorney specializing in insurance coverage litigation and with some tort background, I can say that Mr. Sloan is absolutely correct on all legal questions.

Of course, as an attorney, you probably don't want to hear what I think about morality.
now there's a real oxymoron: attorney and moralityAllisonHayes
May 17, 2002 10:32 AM
just kidding. but did you hear the one about the attorney...:)
I would certainly stop and do what I could to help.dzrider
May 17, 2002 6:26 AM
My conscience would demand it and life is better for people who accept responsibility for their actions. I would offer my name and number and exchange them if the hittee were willing. If I, the hittee, or my bike, were damaged I would try to get the police to the scene. I don't present this as advice for others, just what I would do.

I don't know what the law requires. Our lawyer is a cyclist, so I suspect he does already or would be interested to research it. I carry no special insurance, nor do I intend to. I think insurance is a rip-off and have no more than a bare minimum.
A little humor: just be glad you're not from the SouthAllisonHayes
May 17, 2002 6:57 AM
I posted this below in the, "ever get a ticket?" A little humor, I suppose.

My Cousin Vinny?

"Yesiree Bob, I think we got us a capital crime here boys. Uh, so, you good ol' boys are not from around here, eh? Well, you boys look like you'se up to no good and if I can't figure it out, I can at least solve those murders that were committed up at the Conroy place last month."

"Yesiree, I gots you boys good. Think you can come into my parish and have a good time, use up all our oxygen and fresh dairy air? Well, I got your dairy air right here and somethin' else in store for ya as well."

"The town folks are going to be right pleased that I solved this case so fast. Yesiree Bob! Heck, I might even make Chief of Pooolice out of this, maybe even Mayor. I gots to thanks you boys for giving me this great chance to further my career. Yesiree Bob!"

"I wants you boys to know that we just don't hang folks around here. Nosiree Bob! We first gives 'em a fair trial--and then we hangs 'em. Yesiree Bob, we are law abiding citizens around here."
Most states impose the same obligations, with certain exceptionsbill
May 17, 2002 10:09 AM
on cyclists as on motorists. So, you must not leave the scene of an accident (which is a felony if personal injury is involved, a misdemeanor if only property damage), etc. Although these laws may vary some state by state, my guess is that they are much more alike than they are different in most imporatant aspects.
In Virginia, particular rules applicable to cyclists include:
a cyclist should stay to the right, cannot ride two or more abreast, but MAY pass another vehicle on either the left or the right. When you pass the other vehicle, you may do so in the same lane or by switching lanes. I'm not sure how you can reconcile all of these, but the rub is repeated throughout -- in a SAFE manner. So, it appears that, even if you are in the right by the letter of the law, the spirit of the law stands ready to smack you down.
A few other thoughts. If you get into a civil lawsuit -- the result of which may or may not, by the way, turn on the motor vehicle code -- you know all of those yahoos out there who can't stand cyclists? Some fair number of them is going to be on your jury. So, being right may have to be consolation for losing.
Last summer, I struck a roller blader on a multi-use path. Sure I felt bad about it, although she was BLADING two abreast on a frigging multi-use trail. At first I took the attitude that there was nothing I could have done and that she was totally in the wrong. Now, I realize that, although I continue to believe that she was wrong and that there was nothing I could have done given the situation in which I had placed myself, I probably should not have placed myself in that situation (reasonably blind corner, 18-20 mph, multi-use trail; although it WAS 7:15 a.m. on a Sunday morning, for heavensake). We both were wrong.
What did I do?
Me: "I'm so sorry."
Friend (of blader): "You're darn right you should be sorry."
Me: "Wait a minute; I'm sorry it happened. I'm not sorry because I'm at fault, because I'm not at fault. She was in the absolute middle of the path, moving to my side. I yelled, I slowed down, and she kept on going to her left, my right. I tried to split the difference between you, and that's when she decided to move back to her side of the path. There was nothing I could do."
Blader: I'm okay. I'm okay. But, my glasses are broken.
Me: I'm sorry. I'm glad you're okay.
Blader: Who's going to pay for my glasses?
Me: (Shrug, neutrally as possible)
Blader: You're a mean person. You're nothing but a mean person.
(Blader and friend teeter away. My stem is messed up, I am fixing it. They return.)
Blader: Look at this scratch on my forehead. How am I going to explain this to my husband, to my kids?
Me: I'm sorry, but I really don't think that this was my fault. (While thinking, "Huh? You'll tell them that you were being a dope and they'll say mom we told you you were too old for that crap, which is what I'll hear when I get home.)
(Blader and friend teeter away, muttering about mean people. I chase after them, give my name and phone number.)
Me: Look, I don't think that this was my fault, and I don't know what should happen here, but here is my name and phone number.
Blader and friend again teeter away. Never heard from them.
Thanks for sharing your story.AllisonHayes
May 17, 2002 10:53 AM
Meany, eh? I wonder what she told her hubby? "Here I was, minding my own business, beautiful day and this meany just busts my butt. On top of that, he didn't offer to pay for my broken glasses or offer any sympathy whatsoever for my cuts and bruises. I tell you it was just awful. Ruined my day!" Hubby, "Well Martha, did you at least get his name and number?" "I sure did, here it is." "Great, we'll send Uncle Guido after his ass," commented Hubby. (Unfortunately, Uncle Guido was run down by an errant rollerblader on his way to your house. Died on the way to hospital. The rollerblader didn't bother to stop, however.)

Someone told me when you are on a MUT you are expected to ride at a "promenade" pace, which is under 10mph. Otherwise, you may be at fault for reckless behavior. Cyclists just don't mix with dogs, rollerbladers, kids and joggers on MUTs.

Bummer.
MUT = Mindless Use Trail nm.dzrider
May 17, 2002 12:43 PM
Well done man.EJC
May 17, 2002 11:04 AM
At least you took the high-road and got them your information, whether or not they deserved it.

I cannot COUNT the number of times I have encountered clueless wonders on multi-use paths, or even worse, on dedicated BIKE PATHS (clearly marked BIKES ONLY, 2 lanes, one for coming and one for going, yet pedestrians casually stroll along, five abreast cheerily blocking BOTH lanes, and typically around blind corners!).

The scene usually plays out with the other parties spread out across the paths getting a shade beligerent vis a vis cyclists. I wish I could say that I don't get a bit snippy back at them, but I am human, and more often than not, give them some verbal retaliation.

Ah well, if we all lived in a perfect world...

Cheers,

EJC
The interesting thing about Multi-Use Trails *MUT's* and the lawbill
May 17, 2002 12:07 PM
is that, legally, they are no-man's lands. Because they are not public highways, or even sidewalks, they are neither, in law professor jargon, fish nor fowl. I found no regulation of MUT's in Virginia other than a few odd provisions about, well, nothing much that is relevant (I think that there is a provision giving pedestrians the right of way -- but is a blader a pedestrian? I think that the law actually defines bladers as distinct from pedestrians.)
So, because it was not a public highway, I probably did not have a legally enforceable obligation to stop after injuring someone on a MUT. And there are no speed limits, technically.
Asked myself the same questions last yearTypeOne
May 17, 2002 7:35 PM
I hit another cyclist on my commute home on a bike trail. Well, he wasn't a cyclist but rather some helmetless guy on a bike, wobbling like Charlie Sheen on Saturday night. I slowed, called out my pass twice, waited, then went around just as the guy wobbled into what must have been a U-turn. I gashed my leg on his pedal and banged up my hand on his bars, but he was the guy who went down. I circled back, saying "I'm sorry! I'm sorry? Are you ok?!?" As I got closer, I saw it was a 40-ish Asian guy and he was jumping up and down, screaming at the top of his lungs in a language that wasn't English. He took an aggressive step toward me and I took off. Screw that. He certainly looked ok. So I guess he didn't understand my saying "On your left!" or my apology, but I returned and made sure he was ok. I guess I was probably 70% in the wrong, legally. I have wrestled with the morality of this one, and I guess it comes down to this: he seemed ok, the bike looked unharmed, he wouldn't have understood if I tried giving him my name and number, and he threatened me.
Sounds ok to meDougSloan
May 18, 2002 3:46 PM
Hey, anyone threatens you, and you are well justified to leave. The law does recognize a degree of common sense.

I don't think you were wrong at all, either. The other guy made the sudden move. What more could you have done, but to come to a stop and then creep around him?

I would not sweat this one.

Doug