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Dangerous roadways in bicycle accident lawsuits

August 25, 2012 by Steven M. Gursten

Roadway issues that can cause bike accidents, and how to establish your case

I’ve been blogging about tips for Michigan injury attorneys handling bicycle accident cases. Today’s post is about understanding how dangerous roadways can affect your case.
I previously wrote about the most common causes of bike accidents.  One of the common causes of bike accidents and biker injury is dangerous roadway issues. But there’s more to this than most lawyers think.

And it is here that Michigan law is very different, and far more challenging than it is for people injured by defective roadways in other states.  For the lawyers reading this blog, the last paragraph has the relevant notice and statute of limitations information you will need to bring a lawsuit for an injured bicycle rider if it is due to roadway issues.

Bike accidents can be caused by roadway issues that don’t affect automobiles, such as:

  • Potholes,
  • Trenching,
  • Bad pavement transitions,
  • Debris,
  • Overgrown trees and foliage, which can cast a shadow blocking bikers from drivers and obstructing vision.

Once you have outlined the issues that caused the bike accident, you can establish the following:

  • Whether multiple defects caused the accident or if it was just one;
  • How the defect occurred;
  • How long it existed;
  • Whether there was a history of crashes at the site;
  • Whether the road design is to blame (a civil engineer expert can tell you this);
  • Whether the roadway transitions were up to code (state highway design manuals and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials “Greenbook” can help you).

Defendants in bike accident lawsuits involving dangerous roadways

Now you need to figure out who is at-fault. There can be several potential defendants. First think about who was responsible for maintaining the road issues. Your defendants could include:

  • City,
  • State,
  • County,
  • General contractors,
  • Subcontractors,
  • Project managers,
  • Architects,
  • Engineers,
  • Property owners.

Once you’ve established your defendant(s), get all contracts, which will contain standards for the materials and surface, safety requirements and road closure plans. These contracts may also have information on the warning and signage that was required for construction and traffic control.

Regarding private property, trees on private property that block a stop sign can contribute to a bicycle accident, and the property owner could be liable for not maintaining his property. Debris that falls onto the roadway can also cause a crash. This is where you would inquire about private contractors.

When you go after a private entity, like a contractor with insurance, a bicycle accident lawsuit will be easier to pursue than public entities, which are often self-insured.

You must take photographs of the defect (both close-up as well as at a distance).  You should also draw a map of the location and take measurements as to the exact location of the defect.

If any governmental entity (i.e. village, township, county, state, etc.) is responsible, there are additional written notice requirements.  The state of Michigan requires six (6) months notice to the Court of Claims in Lansing.  All other governmental entities require 120 days notice.  You must include the defect location details in your official notice to the appropriate government agency.  If you do not, your case can be dismissed for lack of specificity.

– Steven M. Gursten is an attorney handling auto and bicycle accident lawsuits. He is head of Michigan Auto Law and president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association. He frequently writes and speaks on bicycle safety.  On weekends, you can often see Steve on his bike at Kensington.

Related information:

What happens if I’m injured in a bicycle accident in Michigan?

Michigan Auto Law is the largest law firm exclusively handling car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state. We have offices in Farmington Hills, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Sterling Heights. Call (248) 353-7575 for a free consultation with one of our lawyers.

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