Road Debris and Bicycle Accidents
A hazard of bicycle riding is encountering debris on the roadway. It could be excessive amounts of gravel, tire tread or items that either fell off a truck or car, were thrown out of a vehicle or were left over from a car accident.
A bicyclist has to be on the alert for road debris since hitting it or riding over it can cause you to lose control of your bike. Also, a passing vehicle could strike the debris and cause it to flip up and strike you or your bike.
If you are injured from road debris, you may have a claim for compensation if you can show that the debris was the responsibility of a particular party. For instance, if you saw debris suddenly fall off a vehicle or was thrown from it and into your lane and you had no opportunity to avoid it, then you may have a claim provided you can identify the vehicle. Otherwise, you may have no recourse to file a claim.
Most road debris accidents occur, though, because items have been left on the roadway. A city or town usually has the responsibility to maintain its roadways, which includes ensuring their safety and clearing off debris that poses hazards to autos, pedestrians, and bicyclists.
Bringing a claim against a municipality requires that you follow certain rules on filing your claim and in proving negligence. Most states have a tort claims act pertaining to claims against it. These generally have time limits of about 6-months to file your claim against the appropriate city, county or state agency or department and include the time and date of the incident, facts of the accident, names of involved parties, claimed damages and reasons why the agency is responsible. You have first to file this claim before you can file a lawsuit in court.
Your accident may also involve a claim under premises liability. This means your lawyer may want to show:
- The municipality was responsible for maintaining the roadway including clearing debris
- The debris posed an unreasonable risk of harm to cars or bicyclists
- It had direct notice of the existence of the debris or should have been aware of it provided you can somehow show that it had been on the roadway for an unreasonable period of time and failed to remove it or to warn users of the roadway
Depending on the jurisdiction, the municipality or whatever political subdivision is involved may have governmental immunity from injury claims under most circumstances, or may have limited liability.
You could bring an uninsured motorist claim against your own auto policy provided you can prove that the debris came off a vehicle. You will likely need corroboration of this from a neutral eyewitness. If you can produce a witness or other corroboration and the vehicle owner is never located, then you may bring an uninsured motorist claim.