Most Bicycle accident lawsuits are against the driver/owner of the at fault vehicle. In organized race events a cyclist may try to sue the race organizer, however, most race organizers require competitors to sign releases/waivers, and those waivers are generally upheld in a court of law.
In a new twist, the family of a cyclist that was killed is suing a website (Strava) that promotes virtual races. The facts are that William ‘Kim’ Flint, from Oakland, had just lost his Strava ‘King of the Mountains’ title on a local downhill stretch when he crashed into a car and died. The lawsuit alleges that Flint was trying to re-gain his “King of the Mountain” title.
Strava is an application (or app) that uses GPS information collected from a smartphone or Garmin device to track your speed on a particular road, and as a result encourages competition among cyclists. Cyclist who ride with GPS devices, upload their ride to Strava, and Strava will post the cyclist time and rank for the particular segment.
Think of Strava as a social network for cyclist. The social aspect makes it competitive. Strava plots your performance over previously defined segments. Segments are often hills, but like in Flint’s case can be descents. You can generate your own segment, search for already defined segments in an area, and then observe your performance versus other Strava-mates who have ridden the same segments. Strava does this automatically. It knows and records your time over every segment.
Strava will then send out e-mail alerts to fellow riders letting them know of the newly posted result, and change in the leader board. The email reads as a challenge to a rider whose time was recently beaten.
I must admit that when I first heard about the lawsuit I was skeptical. Remember, I am a personal injury lawyer, a cyclist, and I routinely represent injured cyclist. That being said, I was still skeptical. There is a certain element of personal responsibility that we all must bear, and I felt this lawsuit ignored that fact.
In order to prevail in a personal injury claim, the Plaintiff must prove the following elements:
Breach of Duty;
Proximate Cause; and
Beyond the moral argument about personal responsibility, I was having a difficult time getting past the first element, i.e. Duty. What duty did Strava owe to the cyclist? I then read and heard more information about the lawsuit itself, and actually changed my mind.
My reasoning is as follows: Strava is a race promoter. Strava encourages you to ride as fast as you can on roads that may be dangerous. If you lose your ranking, Strava actually sends out a “teasing” notification that you are no longer the “King of The Mountain”.
Why should Strava be viewed any different than a local race organizer, that must try to insure rider safety? Surely, a local race organizer must inspect the roads, warn riders of hidden dangers, and properly lay out the course.
Strava does not monitor and/or inspect roads for safety. More importantly, Strava does not screen the particular “segments” for safety. Remember Strava selects which road segments it records and plots. While Strave selects the segments, it fails to inspect them. For example, Strava could eliminate descents from its map. The most serious accidents will occur on a descent.
I commend the lawyer who is representing this family. Thru her hard work she may help to change behavior and raise awareness, and in the end, that is what a good lawyer should do.