Hit and run legal resolution~~
Wrapped up the court case for a bicycle accident I was in this past November, and I think the results are useful enough to share.
A car struck me as I had the right of way crossing Liberty in Bloomfield. Bike was more or less undamaged, but my hand got gashed breaking through the car’s headlamp. The car left the scene but I got the plate and filed a police report.
The attorney gave me the option of pressing “striking an unattended vehicle and leaving the scene,” a summary offense. This meant I only had to go to one court hearing, but didn’t reflect what the driver actually did. So I asked them to press for a misdemeanor.
The defendant’s attorney asked for a dismissal because no monetary damage had been done to my vehicle. The prosecutor said that because I was riding a bike this was a special case, and personal injury should be considered.
Instead of issuing the misdemeanor charge, the judge awarded me financial restitution. The driver apologized profusely to me, and throughout the case he was honest about having been drinking, which I respected. I didn’t expect to benefit financially from this – what I wanted was some kind of permanent reminder for this driver to be more careful, because he could have killed me. I’m satisfied that this will teach the guy a lesson just as well as a misdemeanor would.
PA law does state that if there is personal injury a driver cannot leave the scene, so perhaps they could have prosecuted it further. The fact that they were trying to create an exception for bicycle riders who aren’t totally protected by a metal shell is great. Recommendations include don’t be super eager to dismiss the ambulance if you get hit by a car, even though it’s expensive, because it’ll help establish wrongdoing and the driver’s insurance will have to pay for it.
Thanks for sharing. If you don’t mind me asking, did you have a witness or something? I can here the driver saying -nope, wasn’t me- then it’s your word against his.
Hey, financial restitution is a lot less onerous than losing your license or going to jail for DUI. SO I’m not sure the lesson learned is the one we would prefer.
“Hey, financial restitution is a lot less onerous than losing your license or going to jail for DUI. SO I’m not sure the lesson learned is the one we would prefer.”
Better than nothing/It’s a start.
Re: witness, it was just me seeing this, but the pieces of headlight lens the police collected at the scene matched the driver’s busted light “like a jigsaw puzzle” (the driver agreed).
Also, yeah, I realize that if this guy is a habitual DUI’er, nothing is going to make him stop except losing his license… I’m not sure that could’ve happened unless I had been severely injured. So here’s hoping that this was a one-time terrible screwup, and he’ll be vigilant for cyclists from now on.
Also, yeah, I realize that if this guy is a habitual DUI’er, nothing is going to make him stop except losing his license
In my experience dealing with several drivers prosecuted for multiple DUI’s, nothing will stop them except abstinence from alcohol.
Thanks so much for posting this, mangmang. Good info and I’m happy about the judgement. Amidst so much bad news about drivers not getting prosecuted or handed down punishment it’s great to see there is some justice for bicyclists in Pittsburgh.
I recently talked to a lawyer who stressed over and over how important it is for bicyclists who get hit to go accept the ambulance and get checked out at the hospital. 1. Often because of adrenaline in the system victims don’t know they are hurt until the next day 2. Going to the hospital automatically triggers a police report and 3. People’s car insurance will pay for a victim’s trip to the hospital if the victim does not have health insurance of their own.
I am going to talk to him again to discuss the un/under-insured driver issue. Supposedly 15 percent of PA drivers are uninsured. That sounds high to me, but you can read it yourself here: http://www.wtae.com/news/22847243/detail.html
Since 85% of the respondents to our membership survey said they owned a car, the very least they can do to protect themselves against this is to add un/underinsured coverage to their policy.
I’ll try to figure out what recourse people have who do not have car insurance and report back.
Semi-related to this thread – Some interesting developments for the youngster who drove his vehicle into another on E. Carson:
Mr. Isiminger’s lawyer countered that a murder charge is unjustified in a case like this, and should be reserved for defendants accused of crimes like intentionally running down a pedestrian.
“It was serendipity that this woman and her poor family were on the roadway that night,” Charles Lopresti said. “But certainly there is no malice here.”
“We’re not here to insult anyone to say that it’s not gross negligence …” he continued. “However, to raise it to the level of third-degree homicide is to take it into a whole ‘nother realm.”
I will never understand how we are allowed to throw the book at impaired drivers, but not completely lucid drivers who cause harm. If driving and killing someone while “under the influence” raises the bar from a small fine and possibly no points on the license to 30 or 40 years in jail, then the logic should hold that either:
1. Anyone stopped by the police and found driving under the influence should be immediately thrown in jail for a few years, or;
2. Anyone operating a motor vehicle, crashes and causes harm or death to another person should be thrown in jail for a few years.
I’ve noticed from a few bike/car events that were “covered” on this board this past summer, that when the cyclist was taken in an ambulance, their bike was just sort of put aside and seemingly left at the scene, until some good samaritan from this board said, hey, I’ll go get the bike.
Is there some way we/BikePgh can sort out a protocol with the local PD’s for the bikes to be taken somewhere safe from which they can be retrieved later?
I am pretty sure that unless I were knocked completely loopy, i’d decline the ambulance out of concern for what would become of my bike. Having it stolen from the scene would be the ultimate insult on top of the injury.
@AtLeast. Let’s talk about this further. I’ll give you some people to contact and you can cc me on it. I’ll help how I can. Please call the office next week.
I am going to talk to him again to discuss the un/under-insured driver issue. Supposedly 15 percent of PA drivers are uninsured.
The state minimum coverage for medical is $5k. I’m guessing very few people have anything higher. My ambulance ride from the middle of Schenley park back to Oakland was over $700. You can imagine the hospital bill, just stepping (rolling) in the front door. The other driver’s minimum $5k coverage didn’t go very far. You can imagine if you have a severe injury and end up in the hospital for weeks, this $5k would be laughable. If you have health insurance, it will cover the gap, but they can file a claim on your behalf against the other driver’s insurance. Any money you get then from the auto insurance would go directly back to your health insurance company. You’re last in line.
If you go over this $5k amount, you have to file a personal injury claim. The minimum coverage for that is $15k. Any of your pain and suffering, lost wages, or overage from the hospital above comes from this pool. But remember that in most cases your health insurance company gets first crack at it. When the money is gone, the insurance company doesn’t have to do anything, as far as I can tell. You’d probably have to go after the individual in court to recoup your losses, and hope they have any money to pay you even if they don’t have money for decent auto insurance.
add un/underinsured coverage to their policy.
Add a lot, and make sure you get full tort coverage. It is well worth it.
Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer. Some of this might be wrong. It was tough for me to understand how messed up our insurance industries are.
I’ve noticed from a few bike/car events that were “covered” on this board this past summer, that when the cyclist was taken in an ambulance, their bike was just sort of put aside and seemingly left at the scene
A data point on the other side. The cop at the scene of my accident asked me about my bike. I said my wife could come get it and he tried to call her. When she didn’t answer he said he would take it to the station. It was waiting in Sq. Hill when I went to pick it up.
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