Government Responsibility For Bicycle Accidents
Besides motorists who ignore traffic laws, resent the presence of bicyclists or simply fail to take their presence on the roadways into account, you have other road hazards to contend with if riding a bicycle.
In recent decades, the federal government and many states have encouraged and even legislated policies to integrate pedestrian and bicycle safety for roadways and other areas of their communities. These include construction of bicycle lanes, trails, bridges, and access to transit. The goal is to have communities that are more livable, promote physical health and activity and reduce fuel emissions. Part of this requirement is to avoid just meeting minimum standards so as to create safe and attractive pathways and networks.
Along with constructing convenient and accessible bicycle network according to regulations or the applicable codes, the government entity has a duty to maintain them. This includes keeping roadways, lanes, bike bridges and trails free of debris, ice and snow and repairing potholes and damaged signs. Guardrails are needed over bridges or areas alongside cliffs. Signs warning motorists about pedestrian and bicycle use are required as well. Most of these requirements are in local or state codes. If an investigation reveals that the entity violated code standards, then you may have a claim for injuries.
Another claim against a city, county or state is that it failed to maintain the bridge or trail where cracks in the asphalt caused an accident, did not put proper signage in place or left debris on trails or roads.
Presenting and obtaining compensation from a government entity is not the same as a claim against a private individual or entity. According to most state laws, you have first to file a written claim within a certain period after the accident to the appropriate government agency responsible for road design, construction or maintenance that you allege is responsible for causing your accident. The entity must also have had some kind of notice of the hazard, which you may demonstrate if you can show it existed for a long period of time.
Most localities or government subdivisions require notice of your injury claim within 180-days of the accident and that you include information on yourself, the date and time of the occurrence, involved parties, a description of how it occurred and your claimed injuries and damages.
The agency or department has a period of time to consider your claim, usually about 45 days, before accepting or rejecting it. If the claim is rejected or you do not hear from the agency within this time, then you may bring a lawsuit in court.
Some states have sovereign immunity statutes where injury claims are not permitted against it or will limit liability. In such cases, other responsible parties may have to be identified such as private contractors who may have been delegated certain tasks such as maintenance and construction.