I suspect my holiday will be like holidays at a number of Central Texas homes. One of the gifts for one of my children will be a new bicycle (please don’t tell them). And kids all over Austin will be getting new bikes too.
Unfortunately, a horrific bicycle accident that occurred this week is a sobering reminder about the dangers that bicyclists of all ages face. In that wreck, 40 year old Vincent Hamala was enjoying his new bike when he was hit by a drunk driver, Francisco Esteban Casarez. Mr. Hamala is now at Brackenridge fighting for his life.
Over the years, we’ve represented a number of clients who have been injured in bicycle accidents. There are always a number of questions that have to be answered in the process of pursuing the claim: Were the bicyclist and the driver both following the rules of the road? Was the bicyclist using proper hand signals? If the wreck occurred at night, did the cyclist have proper lights? Unfortunately, cyclists also face somewhat of a stigma. Althought Austin fashions itself a bicycle friendly city, in many cases it seems that there is a bias against cyclists that we have to overcome (that shouldn’t be a problem for Mr. Hamala since the driver that hit him is being accused of driving drunk).
The other thing that often arises in these cases is a question of where a potential settlement might come from. Obviously, in this situation, the bicyclist has a claim against the other driver. But bicycle cases usually involve severe injuries so a typical auto liability policy might not be enough to compensate for the victim’s damages. If that’s the case, and the bicyclist has a car that has uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, then the bicyclist may also make a claim on that policy.
As for those of us getting our kids’ bikes, do what you can to keep them safe. Make sure they wear helmets, bright clothing and lights if riding at night. Also, make sure you or someone else teaches them about bike safety, including tips for looking out for cars. Kids need to understand the risks of potential injuries they might sustain if they don’t follow biking rules.
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