I was hit by a car on a Bike in Georgia; What are My Rights?

bicycle riding

Bike riding has never been more popular in Atlanta and Georgia with the growth of the PATH and the Atlanta Greenbelt. Whether for commutes, health or fun, bike riding is exploding in popularity.

Unfortunately, Atlanta drivers are notoriously bad about watching out for bike riders. Georgia bike laws are constantly evolving and make litigating these case more complex. Most drivers and police officers are ignorant of the special rules.

Here we will discuss some examples of bike accident injury cases that our lawyers have handled.

Bike Rider Crashes Because of Improper Sewer Grate Installation

In 2014, we settled a case against the City of Atlanta where our client crashed his bike on North Avenue because the City installed the grate parallel to the street rather than perpendicular, as is required by a 1978 law. The crash broke multiple facial bones and required surgery.

The City fought the case for two years, arguing that they had no duty to replace the grate. Finally, we defeated them on motions and settled the case.

Bike Rider Hit by Mirror on a Truck

We represented a rider who was struck by the mirror on a truck that was passing him and was badly injured. The police officer was ignorant of the law and did not ticket the truck driver. We were able to use the law to prove to the insurance company that their driver was responsible for the injuries. Here is the relevant law.

OCGA 40-6-56.

  1. As used in this Code section, the term 'safe distance' means not less than three feet.
  2. Notwithstanding any provision of this article to the contrary, when feasible, the operator of a motor vehicle, when overtaking and passing a bicycle that is proceeding in the same direction on the roadway, shall leave a safe distance between such vehicle and the bicycle and shall maintain such clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle.
Failure to Yield to Bike Riders is a Frequent Cause of Accidents

In two recent cases we represented drivers who were struck by cars that failed to yield the right of way. One crash resulted in a broken shoulder blade and the second resulted in bad facial scars. Both cases were litigated to a successful conclusion.

Dog Attacks on Bike Riders

The firm has represented triathletes in two different dog attacks over the last few years. The common fact pattern is dogs are territorial and will try to chase away people from the property. Although the dogs likely mean no harm they can cause enormous injuries when running into a bike going 25 miles per hour. Both of these riders were thrown from the bike, one resulting a broken shoulder requiring surgery and one resulting in a broken pelvis. In the second case, the insurance company refused to settle and argued that the dog was too "nice" to have done this. We had to dig up facebook photos to prove that the dog's nose was injured in the incident before the insurance company would settle the case in litigation.

Recent Verdict for Biker Killed in Accident Illustrates Jury Attitudes

A case tried in Federal Court in Macon in July 2014 where an SUV driver hit and killed a 68 year old asian man shows how hard juries can be on bike riders. In this case the driver contended the sun was in her eyes and claimed the bike rider veered into her path. The Plaintiffs put forward expert testimony and the family testified that the rider was always cautious. The jury clearly held down the wrongful death verdict based on doubts on liability, awarding only $463,000. To add insult to injury, they put 49% of the blame on the bike rider, which in Georgia reduces the verdict by that percent, so the Plaintiff only ended up with a $239,000 verdict in a wrongful death case. The case was tried by the Boston firm out of Macon and it just illustrates 1) the bike rider has to be rock solid on liability because jurors relate to resenting bikes on the road, 2) having language barriers often reduces verdicts, 3) Macon can be a tough venue.

Bike Rider Hits Barrier and Loses Life and the Appeal to the Courts 

The Georgia Court of Appeals recently issued an opinion that sheds considerable light regarding the standard for establishing liability for the negligence of recreational landowners. In the case, Stone Mountain Memorial Ass'n. v. Amestoy, 788 SE 2d 110 (2016), the plaintiff's husband was riding his bike one morning in Stone Mountain Park. Stone Mountain Memorial Association ("SMMA") had put into place various traffic control measures in preparation for a race event that was set to take place that morning. Thus, the officers had set up two striped barricades, which had do not enter signs and had a narrow passageway between them. A public safety officer was stationed next to the barricades but stepped away briefly to use the bathroom. At some point while the barricades were unattended, the plaintiff's husband approached the barricades, reportedly with his head down. The plaintiff's husband's bicycle handlebar became caught on one of the barricades, which caused him to be thrown from his bicycle. The plaintiff's husband suffered a massive head injury, despite wearing a helmet. He later died from the injuries.

Thereafter, the plaintiff filed suit, claiming SMMA was liable for her husband's death, due to its alleged failure to warn of a dangerous condition. SMMA then filed  a motion for summary judgment, claiming immunity under the Recreational Property Act. The trial court denied the motion, finding genuine issues of material fact remained. The Recreational Property Act, found in OCGA § 51-3-22, insulates recreational property landowners from premises liability. However, there is an exception for a willful or malicious failure to warn or guard against a dangerous condition. The court has clarified that a willful failure is conscious, knowing, or intentional, rather than a mere oversight or unintentional failure. Furthermore, the malice aspect requires an actual intention to produce harm, with the knowledge that there is a strong potential for injury or harm.

The court found that the plaintiff particularly failed to meet the standard required by the exception test, namely that the defendant had actual knowledge that the alleged potential danger posed by the barricades was not openly apparent. An SMMA officer testified that the barricades were plainly visible for a considerable distance and that visibility conditions were clear on the day of the accident. Additionally, another officer conducted a visibility test, which concluded that on the day of the incident, taking into account the relevant variables, the barricades would have been visible from a considerable distance. Additionally, the plaintiff's expert witness testified that he did not know how far back the decedent could have seen the barricades themselves.

Based on the various testimony, the court found that the plaintiff failed to establish that the defendant had actual knowledge that the barricades were not apparent to park users. Thus, there was no evidence that the officers knew that the barricades presented a potentially dangerous condition.Lastly, regarding the plaintiff's argument that the officer stationed at the barricades was objective proof that the barricades represented a potential threat of injury to bicyclists, the individual who offered testimony on behalf of SMMA stated that the officer's role was to turn cars and bicyclists around from the area, in an effort to protect the walkers who were participating in the event that day.

The court further clarified the point that even if the decedent could not see the barricades from his particular position at the speed that he was riding on the day of the incident, the relevant standard regarding whether a dangerous condition was open and obvious is based upon the objective knowledge of a reasonable person, rather than on the plaintiff's subjective knowledge. Thus, the statements regarding visibility on the day in question and estimates based upon photographs serve as the objective standard for determining the potential dangerousness of the conditions.

Therefore, based upon the court's judgment of the nature of the conditions, and the plaintiff's failure to satisfy all of the elements of the exception for recreational landowner liability, the court reversed the trial court's denial of SMMA's motion for summary judgment.

Even though landowners of recreational property can be protected from liability, if you have been injured on recreational property as a result of the landowner’s possible negligence, you should still consider finding experienced counsel to help you determine whether the Recreational Property Act does, in fact, preclude your claims. The Atlanta premises liability attorneys at Christopher Simon Attorney at Law have represented a number of litigants who have been injured on both public and private property, and they are prepared to help you assess the viability of a possible claim. Contact us today for your free initial consultation.

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My wife and I were hit by a tractor trailer in 2014. After extensive research online, we were deeply impressed with the various reviews we read on Google and Avvo and chose Chris to represent us. We could not have a made a better decision. Chris and his firm treated us like we were their only clients, soothed our worries, and instantly gained our trust. Chris settled both of our cases for more than we expected.
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A co-worker of my wife recommended Chris to us. At the very beginning Chris showed that he cared and his knowledge is priceless. Going through this process can be aggravating but Chris did a great job guiding me through this and was always available to answer my questions. Chris fought to get what I deserved even though at times I wanted to give up. Tracy
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I want to express my deepest sense of gratitude and appreciation to Attorney Chris Simon & Attorney Chris Carsten, for all the hard work that they put forth into my case (car accident filed after being hit by drunk driver). Their attention to detail and professionalism far surpasses their firm's reputation. Because of their diligence and dedication to their craft, they were able to bring my case to a successful close, one that I could live with. You will not find a better team for your case. Should I have a need for their services again in the future, or know of anyone looking for a top notch Auto Accident Law Firm, I would not hesitate to recommend them!!!! Elle
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Wow...Chris is a very good attorney. Me and my son was in a very bad car accident an I was clueless on how to handle the situation. It's very hard to find an attorney who allows you to contact them personally instead of you contacting their asst. I was told that I didn't have a case because the hosiptal put a lien on my acct. Chris prove different and I was able to file my case with the insurance company. The process was very quickly and Im glad I selected the right attorney..Thanks Chris A Car Accident client
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