Potholes: Exhibit A

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schmenjamin
Participant
#

This happened to a friend of a friend this morning in Lawrenceville:

Bicyclist Taken To Hospital After Lawrenceville Accident

He says the report is slightly off: he didn’t swerve to avoid the pothole–he hit the pothole and then wiped out into a parked car. He is apparently being held responsible for the damage to the car.

Is there any protection for cyclists in situations like this, where poor road maintenance is the primary cause?


chemicaldave
Participant
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Did the newspaper get the report wrong or is the actual report wrong? If they’re trying to make him pay for it for swerving to avoid a pothole then they certainly can’t make him pay for actually hitting the pothole.


chemicaldave
Participant
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Unless of course they intend to make him pay for in either case.


jonawebb
Participant
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Let’s be fair. I’m pretty sure that if the roles were reversed — driver hit a cyclist while swerving to avoid a pothole, or because of hitting a pothole — you would be seeing this differently. I think the person in control of the vehicle (bike or car) assumes certain risks while travelling on the streets.

You can file a claim against the city for damage to a vehicle caused by potholes etc. So you could argue, after paying for the damages caused by crashing your bike, that the city bears ultimate responsibility because of poor maintenance of the streets. But that claim would be made by you against the city, not by the owner of the car. His claim is against you.

BTW I don’t know if a claim by you against the city is actually something you could pursue. But I’m pretty sure that you should pay for the car repairs.


AviS187
Participant
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The government agency responsible for maintaining the particular roadway CAN be held liable for an accident (involving motor vehicle or bicycles) which occurs as a result of a road hazard or other unsafe road condition. Proving liability, however, is not easy. You have to show that the agency was negligent in their maintenance of the roadway. They must have been aware of the hazard and have failed to properly mark or correct the problem.

As jona said, the owner of the car’s claim is against you. You could, in turn, file a claim against the city for damages to yourself, your vehicle, and any other property damaged in the accident, as well as your legal fees. If someone in the neighborhood previously filed a complaint about the hazard in question and no action was taken, you have a reasonable chance, but even then you’re going to need alot of patience and a good attorney.


mpm
Participant
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This is an excellent reason to report to 311 any hazards as soon as you notice them. You’ll have a email record of the city’s response in case something happens. Then again, accidents don’t generally happen around hazards you’re aware of, although maybe someone else can volunteer their 311 reports in cases like this.


helen s
Participant
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At least the comments were not from people ranting about cyclists being dangerous. At least not yet.


reddan
Keymaster
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“This is why cyclists need to carry liability insurance, so they can be held financially responsible for the damage they cause.”


Marko82
Participant
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^ I agree, we should carry liability insurance – if it existed. Since I got rid of my car I have thought of the possibility of something like that happening. Imaging the medical bills that would result from running into an ederly pedestrian for instance.


jonawebb
Participant
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You can get a rider to your homeowners policy to cover bicycle liability, BTW.


Eric Lundgren
Participant
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If you have car insurance that will cover you. Not going to help Marko though.


jonawebb
Participant
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Marko82
Participant
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@jonawebb, they do not write policies for PA. My homeowner’s policy only covers the cost of my bike if it is stolen from my home, or from my car (WTF). I use to keep insurance on the junker parked in the driveway, maybe I should consider doing that again, or maybe getting a motorcycle.


jonawebb
Participant
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You might check into getting a general liability rider added to your homeowner’s policy, if they don’t offer a bicycle-specific rider. That should cover any damage you cause.


Marko82
Participant
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Yea, we’ve been over this subject a lot in the past. Without a vehicle with a registration plate your options are limited.

See: http://bike-pgh.org/blog/2011/03/14/protect-yourself/


ejwme
Participant
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I never realized potholes had paths. Is it just me being me, or is that a weird turn of phrase that makes no sense?


steevo
Participant
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After recently purchasing a motor bike, I

really think that the cycling lobby needs to

team up with the motorcycle lobby to tend

to the roads. If they have the lobby to

overturn the helmet law, they can get some

potholes patched.


jonawebb
Participant
#

OK, I just checked, and you can get a Personal Injury Liability rider on your homeowner’s insurance. At least, I had this option clicking through the online application on the State Farm web site. It “Provides liability coverage up to the limit for amounts the insured is legally obligated to pay arising out of the a variety of personal injury offenses.”


Steven
Participant
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I never realized potholes had paths. Is it just me being me, or is that a weird turn of phrase that makes no sense?

There’s some weirdness. “He tried to swerve out of the path of a pothole” makes the pothole the actor. Like “I tried to avoid the rapidly approaching arboreal feature, but was unable to swerve from its path” instead of “I hit a tree”.

ETA: And personal liability is also included in this Renter’s Insurance.


scott
Keymaster
#

the “protect yourself” page linked above talks about it, but you can get “non owners car insurance.”


anon123
Participant
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In relation to car-insurance-as-bike-insurance, I would recommend reading the exact bike language in your insurance declaration very carefully. It’s not all created equal. In particular, some policies (maybe most or all, IDK) will categorize cycling incidents under your “pedestrian” coverage, and depending on how narrowly the pedestrian coverage is defined, you may be SOL in bike wreck scenarios that don’t fit that exact definition.


scott
Keymaster
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Some more info. I’m not giving legal advice, it’s just info.

Unless the bike rider was negligent, he is not liable for the damage to the car. The collision may have been unavoidable even with due care on his part. It is possible that a commonwealth agency is liable for his injuries, if they had timely written notice of the pothole. By statute, potholes can be an exception to sovereign immunity.

“Potholes and other dangerous conditions. –A dangerous condition of highways under the jurisdiction of a Commonwealth agency created by potholes or sinkholes or other similar conditions created by natural elements, except that the claimant to recover must establish that the dangerous condition created a reasonably foreseeable risk of the kind of injury which was incurred and that the Commonwealth agency had actual written notice of the dangerous condition of the highway a sufficient time prior to the event to have taken measures to protect against the dangerous condition. Property damages shall not be recoverable under this paragraph.”

42 Pa. C. S. § 8522 (b) (5).

Also, to sue a government unit you must give notice within six months of the injury or you will lose your right to sue. 42 Pa. C. S. § 5522. There may be an argument that a police report or EMS intervention may be sufficient notice, but you don’t want to rely on that. You should do a formal notice if that’s the route you’re going to take.

You should probably take pictures of your injuries, bike and the pothole (including a ruler to show its size and depth).


jonawebb
Participant
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So are you saying the guy with the car that has a broken rear window has no recourse against the cyclist? This doesn’t seem exactly fair to me. If the roles were reversed, driver hit a cyclist because of a pothole, would the cyclist have no recourse against the driver?


Anonymous #

I agree with jonawebb here: the correct way to resolve the situation is for the cyclist to pay for the damage to the car and then take action against the city (or whomever owns that road) to recover what he paid to the car’s owner (and what he paid in medical bills and for the broken bike).


ejwme
Participant
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mmm… I’d watch the language when reversing situations. If it were reversed, the driver would hit an unoccupied bike locked up, not a cyclist, and his (assumed present and adequate) insurance would cover any damage done. His (assumed) insurance would then sue the city or whatever they thought was reasonable to get their money back, likely with little involvement of the driver.

The cyclist would have recourse, but insurance should cover it. I’m not a big fan of the way insurance is practically applied in general, but if situations were reversed, it seems like it would be easier for both cyclist and driver (assuming the driver were adequately insured).

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