In our society we hope that people will tell the truth when they are at fault in a collision. A lot depends on it. I recently became the lawyer for a cyclist, whom I will call John, who was involved in a serious collision with a tow truck. The cyclist never fares well in that sort of a collision and this was no exception.
By way of background John is a man in his mid -thirties who commutes to and from work on his bike. He does not own a car. He is the married father of two children and he is the primary wage earner in his family. He cannot afford to be out of work. On the date in question, he was riding his bike to get his second Covid vaccine. It was a beautiful day. He was riding in the bike lane. Suddenly a tow truck to his left swerved into the bike lane and knocked John off his bike and onto the roadway where he lay seriously injured. He was taken to the hospital by ambulance. The police did not come to the hospital to speak with him. The police did, however, speak with the tow truck driver and adopted his version of the collision which was completely different from what John told me over the phone. John was not provided with the opportunity to give his version of the collision to the police department before the police report was written.
Two weeks after the collision I obtained the police report which contained, and adopted as true, the tow truck driver’s version of the collision. The report stated that the tow truck was stopped on the bike lane for three minutes, flashers illuminated, waiting for traffic to clear so that the driver could pull over to the right to get in position to tow a car. Suddenly, the driver claimed, the tow truck was hit by a bicyclist causing the cyclist to fall from his bike onto the roadway.
When I shared the report with John, he became distraught. Not only was he was seriously injured and disabled from work for at least six months, but to make matters much worse he was being blamed for causing the collision meaning that he would be unable to obtain compensation for his injuries, out of pocket medical bills and lost earnings. His family would be in financial trouble. According to the police report there were no witnesses who came forward and identified themselves as having witnessed the collision. It would be John’s word against the tow truck driver’s word and the police had already adopted the driver’s account of the incident which put John in an inferior position in trying to prove the truth as he knew it.
I retained a private investigator to scour the area for any video camera that would have captured the collision. He spent two days in area going store to store, business to business, parking lot to parking lot searching for a camera that might have the evidence we were seeking. He found nothing. He had one more place to check: the police department. He found a helpful clerk who checked the traffic light cameras in the area and found one clip that he said might contain the collision. He sent it to me. As I watched the 20 second video John come into view riding his bicycle in the bike lane. Then the tow truck came up on his left and swerved into the bike lane hitting John and propelling him violently onto the roadway. He was seriously injured.
I sent the video to John. He watched and then cried. He felt vindicated. He knew that although he would be unable to work for a long time due to his injuries, and would likely have permanent damage from his injuries, he would eventually recover compensation that would help his family avoid financial disaster.
Then I called the police department. I requested that the video of the collision be sent to the officer who had “investigated” the collision and written the report. I was told that it would be done. I intend to follow up to make sure that the record is corrected.
In this case, the presence of a camera at the intersection will mean the difference between a family suffering financial ruin and not. The tow truck driver should be ashamed of himself. His employer should consider disciplining him at the very least. His operation of the truck in causing the collision was careless and unfortunate. But people make mistakes and those can be forgiven. However, lying to the police and putting another person’s family in peril is reprehensible.
I had my first conversation with the tow company’s liability insurer the other day. At first the adjuster said that her review of the police report confirmed that the driver was not at fault and they would be denying liability. I then told her that I had the video of the collision that told a different story and revealed the truth. She asked me if I would send it to her. I said I would do so on one condition… that we stay on the phone while she watched it. She agreed. I sent it to her and waited patiently while she watched the 20 second video. I then heard the adjuster exclaim ”oh my G-d”. Her visceral and honest reaction to the video demonstrated just how clear the driver’s responsibility was for causing the collision. The truck’s insurance company has reversed its initial position on the case and accepted liability. The case will ultimately be resolved in favor of my client. His family will be spared financial ruin. Thanks to the camera!
Stay well and ride safely.
If you have questions about a particular incident or more generally about the subject matter of this column, feel free to contact Ron Gluck at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ron Gluck is a founder and principal at Breakstone White and Gluck in Boston. Throughout his 35 year legal career Ron has represented seriously injured individuals in a variety of cases including cycling accidents involving catastrophic injury and wrongful death. Ron is a member of the Charles River Wheelers. He wrote this article for the club's newsletter, WheelPeople, July 2021