As personal injury lawyers that represent cyclists we have found that some jurors viewed cyclists as menaces that didn’t belong on the road. However, two(2) recent verdicts suggest that sentiment might be changing.
The first verdict was in favor of Peter McGarry, a 68 year old cyclist who fractured his neck and was rendered quadriplegic when he rear-ended a parked tractor-trailer. Florida law holds that there is a presumption of negligence on the trailing vehicle(or bicycle) in a rear end collision. McGarry was able to rebut the presumption by alleging that the tractor trailer stopped in an unsafe location near a roundabout and that the driver should have put out warning triangles. The defendant ‘s alleged that McGarry was riding with his head down, which allowed no reaction time. While the jury found McGarry 85 percent liable and Jones 15 percent liable, the verdict of $750,000 is still significant given the very difficult liability scenario.
The second case involves that accident that all cyclists fear; the opening of a car door into the bike path. Believe it or not, the difficulty with these type of cases is that sometimes the jury view these accidents as funny. Thankfully that was not the case for John Gelland, who was awarded $3 million by a Palm Beach county Jury. Gelland was riding his bike along the bike lane of northbound State Road A1A, when a car door opened suddenly in front of him in. Gelland collided with the door and was thrown 20 feet onto the pavement. As a result of the accident Gelland sustained five fractured ribs, a collapsed lung, right arm fractures and nerve damage to his dominant right arm and hand. While Florida traffic law requires drivers who parallel park next to a bike lane to make sure they have a clear path before opening their door, few drivers ever check.
Again, the cases seem to reflect an understanding by the citizens of Florida that cyclists have a right to share the road, and careless motorists should be held accountable for their actions.