Bicycle Accident - Cyclist Suffers Multiple Fractures
The plaintiff was an experienced cyclist out on an evening training ride in the late spring. She was riding down a hill in Lexington, Massachusetts, traveling with the flow of traffic in accordance with the law, wearing bright colored cycling clothes. She was aware of a minivan approaching from the opposite direction. She was also aware of another van which had stopped in her lane of travel to make a left-hand turn.
The approaching vehicle never signaled its intention to make a left-hand turn. For a brief moment the approaching minivan was out of view as the cyclist passed the stopped vehicle in her lane, passing it on the right as allowed by law. M.G.L. c. 90, Sec. 14. In that moment the approaching minivan began a swift left turn in front of the plaintiff, cutting her off completely. She was unable to stop, and struck the side of the minivan.
Plaintiff suffered severe personal injuries, including multiple fractures to her jaw, her arm, and her ribs, as well as abrasions on various parts of her body. She was admitted to the hospital for surgery on her arm and jaw. She later suffered infection of the facial injuries she sustained.
The case was vigorously defended by the driver's insurance company, requiring the plaintiff to file suit in Superior Court. The defense maintained that the defendant driver had signaled his turn and had slowed to make his left-hand turn. The defense claimed that the accident was caused by the plaintiff passing the other vehicle on its right, despite the fact that bicycles are specifically allowed to pass on the right. The defense claimed that the minivan had entered the intersection first, and therefore had the right of way though this is also contrary to Massachusetts law—there is a duty to yield to on-coming vehicles, and a turn cannot be made in front of another vehicle, or bicycle, unless it can be done safely. The defendant also maintained that the plaintiff was at fault for traveling unreasonably fast, which is why he did not see her before turning. This was, of course, pure speculation on the driver’s part. Although plaintiff was going down a hill, she was within the speed limit.
The case was settled prior to trial.
Massachusetts law was recently changed to increase the duty on motor vehicle operators to operate their vehicles safely when bicycles are present. The amendments to M.G.L. c. 90, Sec 14, now state that it “shall not be a defense” that a bicycle was passing a stopped motor vehicle on the right. It also makes the “right hook” illegal. A right hook occurs when a vehicle overtakes a bicycle, then turns right before it is safe to do so, cutting off the bicyclist. The amendments also made “dooring” illegal. Drivers and passengers are required by law to check for on-coming cyclists before opening a door. We recommend the Dutch Reach: Use the hand that is away from the door to open the door; this will cause you to turn towards the door, and will give you a better view of any on-coming cyclists.
For more information on choosing a bicycle accident lawyer, please refer to our page on Choosing an Experienced Massachusetts Bicycle Accident Attorney.