Car Stops Short Causing Bicycle Crash
Settlement amount: $250,000, policy limits
Case handled by David White
Plaintiff’s injuries: Concussion; Face and neck lacerations with scarring; neck and back sprain; dental injuries; temporomandibular joint (TMJ) injury; severe wrist sprain.
Special damages: Approximately $55,000 in medical bills; significant lost earnings during disability.
Plaintiff was all set to enjoy a hundred mile training ride with a buddy on a beautiful summer day. As they were traveling through the suburbs of Boston on a narrow country lane, an angry driver pulled along-side and started screaming that the cyclists should get off the road. She fell back, the passed quickly, forcing the other cyclist off the road. Plaintiff chased the offending vehicle to get the license plate. As he neared, the driver slammed on her brakes and stopped short. The plaintiff was unable to slow in time, and went right through the back windshield. He suffered severe personal injuries and his bicycle was destroyed.
Plaintiff was transported to the local hospital by ambulance. He had loss of memory up to the time he was being treated in the Emergency Department. He was hospitalized for two days before being released to home in a hard collar for his neck sprain and in a splint for his wrist and hand injuries. Plaintiff’s treatment included occupational and physical therapy for the hand, wrist, neck, back and TMJ injuries, and dental treatment to replace a fractured tooth.
The driver was arrested and charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (the car), and negligent operation of her motor vehicle. Because of the criminal charges, the insurance company defended the claim under a “reservation of rights.” The insurance company contended that if the accident was caused deliberately, then only the minimal policy limits of $20,000 (versus the full policy limits of $100,000) would be available. Accordingly, the case moved slowly since the question regarding intent would not be resolved until the criminal trial.
The defendant chose to reject the plea offer made by the prosecuting attorney, and the criminal case went to trial. The jury found the defendant guilty on both counts, but specifically found that the accident was not caused intentionally, but rather by recklessness. As a result of that finding, the liability insurance carrier promptly offered its full policy limits of $100,000.
Remaining to be resolved was the plaintiff’s claim for underinsured motorist benefits against his own insurance company. Fortunately, the plaintiff had $250,000 in underinsured motorist benefits. The policy limits were offered after a brief period of negotiation and supplementation of medical records and bills. The settlement would likely have been significantly greater, but it was limited by the amount of insurance coverage available.
Plaintiff recovered well from the concussion and physical injuries, though he is left with scars on his face and neck that will need treatment at some point.
This case illustrates why cyclists should make sure their own auto insurance policies have adequate coverage for accidents like this. Read our article on how you can protect yourself with your automobile insurance.
From the Client:
“David White was absolutely terrific in handling my case a few years back and my wife's this year. Dealing with David is a totally seamless affair - he regularly communicates with you, provides superb counsel and is simply an easy person with whom to work. We were very satisfied with our respective outcomes and I highly recommend him.”