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Bicycling and Assumption of Risk(10 posts)

Bicycling and Assumption of Risklc21998
Feb 3, 2003 12:44 PM
In February 1999, two cyclists were participating in the Death Valley Double Century. They were riding side-by-side and one swerved into the other to avoid a car. The non-swerver got hurt. In the spirit of sportsmanship, he sued. Among other things, he argued that because the other rider was riding next to him, and not fully to the right, she was breaking the traffic laws and should be liable for any injuries. Fortunately, the California Court of Appeals just rejected his claim: It held that the traffic laws were not designed to make cyclists liable for any injuries caused by failing to ride single file. Because the riders knew that cycling can be dangerous, the injured guy couldn't recover damages. The ruling about the traffic laws is an important one: In almost every situation one could find some traffic law that was violated. Fortunately, the ruling means that before someone has to pay damages, the circumstances need to be looked at more closely.

If you're really interested, here's the full court opinion:
Bet he didn't do any group rides againPaulCL
Feb 3, 2003 1:02 PM
Jeesh...we are suit happy. Suing your riding partner, what a jerk. I'm glad the California courts had a moment of clarity and threw it out.
maybe not personalDougSloan
Feb 3, 2003 2:16 PM
I'd imagine the plaintiff wanted to get at insurance money from the defendant; I wouldn't doubt there was no animosity between them over this. Not good, but it sort of changes how you look at them.

I'm reading the opinion.

Assumption of riskwillin
Feb 3, 2003 2:24 PM
Opinion should hold that those riders assumed the risk of participating in a risk sport.

Like skiing, motorcycle racing, etc.

But distinguish this: when grandma is out just putzing along on a single speed schwin and gets sideswiped by a pack of oxygen-depraved lunatic pack riders (heh heh heh), she might have a case to sue. And frankly, the law is there to help (believe it or not)...
different facts might have different resultsDougSloan
Feb 3, 2003 2:31 PM
The court here expressly did not address other fact scenarios, such as the one you describe. Grandma probably has a case, as she could not reasonably expect that to happen.

This is a $hitty decision for cyclists....Niwot
Feb 3, 2003 9:36 PM
True, the court did not address other fact scenarios, but look at the last sentence of the decision:

"By knowingly participating in a sporting event in which what occurred is an evident risk, Moser is not entitled to a recovery from Ratinoff."

That proclimation makes it difficult for cyclists to recover in a lot of scenarios. For example, suppose Moser was riding in the Death Valley Double and Ratinoff was not a cyclist, but an SUV driver not watching the road. Moser is plowed down by the SUV. Can he recover damages? Not according to this decision -- because, as anyone who has ridden enough of these events knows, an encounter between your bike and a motor vehicle is "an evident risk".

In fact, this decision is broad enough to preclude recovery by a cyclist who is riding along in the bike lane on Pacific Coast Highway (for example) and gets hit by a driver who is looking at the ocean or the female scenery instead of the road. Again, getting hit by a car while you're in the bike lane on a fairly busy road is "an evident risk".

This $hitty court decision is nothing but a gift to insurance companies who will no longer have to pay when their insured drivers, on their cell phones, eating a burger, fiddling with the radio, or whatever, plow into a cyclist.

According to the California Court of Appeal, it is now officially open season on cyclists. As if it wasn't already.
It's really not that badmickey-mac
Feb 3, 2003 9:44 PM
This case and the cases leading to it deal exclusively with the liability of co-participants in the same event.
Entirely different scenerios...timfire
Feb 4, 2003 5:44 AM
An accident between 2 cyclists both participating in the same event and an accident between an automoble are two different things. I don't know about other states, but here in Illinois cyclists are technically considered pedestrians. Thus the accident described would be one between two pedestrians and the court must decide who's at fault. One with a car would be the same as a car hitting a pedestrian. (I realize different states may deal with the issue differently, and so what I just said might not be very helpful.)

Also, as others have indirectly said, I bet a major factor in the decision was that both cyclists were participating the same event. If the cyclist had swerved to dodge the car and hit someone on a sidewalk, I bet he would have been found liable.

--Tim Kleinert
Feb 4, 2003 7:16 AM
This only dealt with accidents between co-participants. Also excludes gross negligence or intentional conduct between them.

I guess it's a good or bad decision, depending upon whether you are the one causing the accident or the victim.

Also, if you don't like it, you don't have to ride these events. Assumption of risk would not apply to being out by yourself and having another cyclist hit you.

maybe not personallc21998
Feb 3, 2003 3:10 PM
I've nothing against lawsuits, a good chunk of my living is from bringing and defending them (yes, I admit to being a lawyer). Of course we don't know all of the facts but it's probably true that the guy who fell had health insurance. If true, the additional coverage he was looking for was for pain and suffering, etc. Not to dismiss pain and suffering as always unjustified, but he probably was not looking just for a way to pay the doctor's bills.

(If I went down that way, I'd settle with the insurance company for a new Klein. But then I'd have to give my lawyer the wheels.)