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    Biking laws (and lawyers) in the US

    Hello, first post here on the forum...

    So i am a biker who primarily bikes for transportation needs. About 2 months ago I was involved in an accident with a car. Being ignorant of biking laws, I was convinced by the driver that I was at fault and, fearing liability for the small amount damage to their car (some small scratches and a dent), agreed with the driver that it would be mutually beneficial not to have a police report filed. Miraculously I was not injured despite completely flipping over the hood of the car, but things could have been much different (note: was riding on the street, not sidewalk).

    Rather than describe my specific situation, I'd like to throw some questions out there on the forum to educate myself more generally on biking laws in the US.

    1) Most generally, where can I find detailed information on biking laws in the US? (hopefully in plain language if possible...)

    2) To what degree do laws regarding biking on roadways differ (by state, by county, by municipality/city)? For example, do I have to worry about different biking laws when traveling between towns, etc?

    3) What kind of lawyer does one seek in the case of a bike accident where the car is at fault and causes injury/damage? One who specializes in car accidents? Or are there specialized bike-accident lawyers?

    4) Where could I search for such lawyers in the case of such an accident? (sorry, never had to hire a lawyer before...)

    Thanks in advance for any insight/answers you can provide here. Answers similarly enumerated according to question would be appreciated as well....

  2. #2
    Senior Member CommuteCommando's Avatar
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    Google "[your state] vehicle code" Once you get there do a site search for "bicycles" (in CA it is CVC 21202 and 21208)

    Also, never admit fault in an accident. You should have got his insurance info, then gone home and done some research. It may not have been your fault. Of course, if there were no injuries, or significant property damage, an agreement to call it "no-fault" is often the best course.

    Laws in most states are very similar. The biggest differences are regarding bikes on sidewalks. In CA this issue is left up to local jurisdictions.
    As much as you paid for that Beemer [Mercedies, Audi, Escalade], I'm surprised it didn't come equipped with turn signals.

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    Vehicle and bicycle laws vary by state, so as stated above you need to specify the state and look up the vehicle code for that state. Many states also publish pamphlets which summarize the vehicle laws pertaining to bicycles and are in plainer language. But note that such pamphlet information is not always complete or totally correct and the actual vehicle code wording is what carries weight in court. States also vary with regard to how much towns, cities, and counties can add regulations beyond what's in the state vehicle code.

    There are lawyers who specialize in bicycling cases. One is Bob Mionske who writes a legal column for Bicycling! magazine. You'd need to find one who practices law in your area - possibly Mionske could help you locate one. Or give a bit more information as to your location here and someone may know of a local lawyer. But note that lawyers do want to get paid - in cases where there's the possibility of a large settlement because of long-term disability or similar injury they may work on a commission basis, but that's unlikely if there's only limited property damage. Do you have the driver's information (name, DL and/or insurance info, address) so that you'd be able to file a claim if you become convinced that he was at fault?

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    Quote Originally Posted by dajjorg View Post
    Hello, first post here on the forum...

    So i am a biker who primarily bikes for transportation needs. About 2 months ago I was involved in an accident with a car. Being ignorant of biking laws, I was convinced by the driver that I was at fault and, fearing liability for the small amount damage to their car (some small scratches and a dent), agreed with the driver that it would be mutually beneficial not to have a police report filed. Miraculously I was not injured despite completely flipping over the hood of the car, but things could have been much different (note: was riding on the street, not sidewalk).
    In a basic way, you riding a bike on the road are equivalent to a driver. That is, if you would be at-fault (or not) if you were driving, the you'd be at-fault (or not) while riding a bicycle.

    Car drivers tend to assume that it's always the cyclist that is at-fault.

    Quote Originally Posted by dajjorg View Post
    2) To what degree do laws regarding biking on roadways differ (by state, by county, by municipality/city)? For example, do I have to worry about different biking laws when traveling between towns, etc?
    Basically, the traffic laws and the bicycle-specific laws are largely the same in all states. There can be differences in whether you are supposed to be "as far right as practicable" by default or only if there's other faster traffic. Another difference is whether you are required to use a bicycle path (if one exists) or if it's optional.

    If there's any differences locally (by city), it appears that typically it's a "must ride single file" requirement (that is, you can't ride two abreast). There are often signs to that effect but it's not clear that there is any local law behind the signs.
    Last edited by njkayaker; 11-19-13 at 02:12 PM.

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    No, I did not collect license/contact information. Even if later convinced that she was at fault, since no injury/property damage happened, I saw no reason to.

    I hail from New Bunswick, NJ. There must be some lawyers in the immediate area specializing in biking accidents since there is heavy bike traffic in my city (lot of it being college students), and since it is also the county seat and hence littered with courthouses.

    I will look into this. Thanks for the info...

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    Quote Originally Posted by CommuteCommando View Post
    Google "[your state] vehicle code" Once you get there do a site search for "bicycles" (in CA it is CVC 21202 and 21208)
    While one needs to look at the bicycle-specific code, one also needs to realize that the other traffic laws (like speeding, etc) apply to bicyclists as well as drivers.

  7. #7
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    Welcome to A & S from General Cycling.
    Quote Originally Posted by Cyril View Post
    Ride what and in what manner pleases you. Those that mind don't matter, and those that matter don't mind. srsly.
    Community guidelines

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    Quote Originally Posted by dajjorg View Post
    No, I did not collect license/contact information. Even if later convinced that she was at fault, since no injury/property damage happened, I saw no reason to.

    I hail from New Bunswick, NJ. There must be some lawyers in the immediate area specializing in biking accidents since there is heavy bike traffic in my city (lot of it being college students), and since it is also the county seat and hence littered with courthouses.

    I will look into this. Thanks for the info...
    http://www.state.nj.us/transportatio...lingmanual.pdf NJ DOT Cycling manual.

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    As you educate yourself on bicycle laws, remember that not all law enforcement officers and few non-cyclists actually understand the legal place of bicycles on the roads. It is also true that many people who are involved in an accident are convinced that it is the other persons fault and will not budge from that position. I was hit (in my car) at a traffic light and we were both sure we had a green light. It took a year for the insurance companies to sort it out.
    As has been said, never admit fault at the scene and always get information.

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    There are many personal injuries that specialize (at least partly) in bicycle related cases. One way to find these is to find a local, or within the state bicycle advocacy group, because many "bicycle" lawyers advertise on their sites or publications.

    One bit of evidence that cycling has reached mainstream status is that one major PI law firm (Jacoby & Meyers) now runs TV ads referencing bicycle/car accidents.
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  11. #11
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    http://www.lependorf.com/bicycle-accident.shtml

    One of several I found googling "new jersey bicycle lawyer"
    Current Rides, Look 566 & d' Arienzo-Basso Daily Rides. Cannondale 800 Optimo, utility bike.

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    This link is good for learning how to cycle safely:
    http://www.bikexprt.com/streetsmarts/usa/
    Land of the Free, Because of the Brave.

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    Quote Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
    In a basic way, you riding a bike on the road are equivalent to a driver. That is, if you would be at-fault (or not) if you were driving, the you'd be at-fault (or not) while riding a bicycle.

    Car drivers tend to assume that it's always the cyclist that is at-fault.

    Nicely said.

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    Most states see bicycles as vehicle; therefore, you must obey all traffic laws when riding on a road. When the accident occurred, think about what you did and what the other driver did, just like you would when you are in a car accident. IMO, you're still a "vehicle" on the road. The only difference is you're not operating a 2,000 lbs machine.

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    Senior Member CommuteCommando's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by look566 rider View Post
    http://www.lependorf.com/bicycle-accident.shtml

    One of several I found googling "new jersey bicycle lawyer"
    I've actually met two of them at cycling events. http://www.bicyclelawyer.com/ http://www.911law.com/ I liked the first one, the second comes off as a typical lawyer.
    As much as you paid for that Beemer [Mercedies, Audi, Escalade], I'm surprised it didn't come equipped with turn signals.

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    Senior Member dougmc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
    Car drivers tend to assume that it's always the cyclist that is at-fault.
    Really, this would be better stated as: People tend to assume that the other party is at fault in a collision, whatever the types of vehicles involved.

    Quote Originally Posted by dajjorg View Post
    No, I did not collect license/contact information. Even if later convinced that she was at fault, since no injury/property damage happened, I saw no reason to.
    Then I would have to ask ... why are you talking lawyers now? Educating yourself on the laws is wise, but why would you be asking about lawyers? If the person is pursuing legal action against you, you should have their contact information by now. And if not, and there's no damage or injuries ... what do you hope to gain?

    As for educating yourself on the laws, unless you're familiar with reading laws and have a lot of time, you might do better to just find a summary of the laws that are relevant to cyclists in your city/state. Local cycling advocacy groups tend to have such summaries on their web sites. Now, if there's a specific question about what exactly the law says, there's no substitute for reading the actual law itself, but for most purposes the summaries are accurate and all you need.

    You certainly don't need to talk to a lawyer to learn the laws -- you can do that yourself.

  17. #17
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    IANAL and all that, but keep in mind that aside from specific duties that may be imposed on roadway users in the statutes (including responsibilities in the event of an "accident"), there also are theories derived from the common law in particular negligence torts which may have applicability.

    scott s.
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    Quote Originally Posted by dougmc View Post
    Really, this would be better stated as: People tend to assume that the other party is at fault in a collision, whatever the types of vehicles involved.
    True. Still, people tend to assume cyclists are at fault at a higher rate. Indeed, they often assume cyclists are at fault even before any accidents occur (cyclists are "accidents waiting to happen").

    Anyway, my point was that the driver's statement about who was at fault is not very useful because it is what they will tend to assume regardless of the facts.
    Last edited by njkayaker; 11-21-13 at 07:02 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dougmc View Post
    Then I would have to ask ... why are you talking lawyers now?

    ........

    And if not, and there's no damage or injuries ... what do you hope to gain?

    .......
    I never said I was talking to lawyers now, nor trying to talk to lawyers now. I am simply trying to educate myself on what the best way to quickly seek/find a lawyer in the case of a future accident, or potentially ask them for help interpretting the NJ State Vehicle code if I don't understand it.

  20. #20
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    Always get info if you took any kind of a significant impact to your body or your bike. Injuries sometimes take days to become apparent. People who have just been in an accident are not qualified to decide whether they've been injured or not - it's not uncommon to feel fine for hours or even days after an accident, then have significant pain come up.

    My brother is a paramedic and he says it's not uncommon for people to be walking around saying they're fine, when he can see that they have broken bones. Adrenaline is a hell of a drug.
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    OP
    Not exchanging info-probably was the smart move in this case.
    His damages-at worst a bike-$50-$500 maybe
    $500- isn't even a SCRATCH on a car.
    Considering the circumstances-and time pressure-smart play.
    The car driver-maybe was scared that the OP would claim injury later on-no witnesses-so strictly he/she said He/she said.
    So the driver was happy to eat his car repair cost.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by dajjorg View Post
    No, I did not collect license/contact information. Even if later convinced that she was at fault, since no injury/property damage happened, I saw no reason to.

    I hail from New Bunswick, NJ. There must be some lawyers in the immediate area specializing in biking accidents since there is heavy bike traffic in my city (lot of it being college students), and since it is also the county seat and hence littered with courthouses.

    I will look into this. Thanks for the info...
    Check out Gary Brustin. He's based in California, but has associate attorney relationships in most every state in the country, which allows him to practice nationwide. His Web site is at http://www.bicyclelawyer.com.

    Aside from that, most traffic lawyers will also handle bike-related cases, as the law that governs vehicles will apply to bikes as well.

  23. #23
    Senior Member dougmc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dajjorg View Post
    I never said I was talking to lawyers now, nor trying to talk to lawyers now. I am simply trying to educate myself on what the best way to quickly seek/find a lawyer in the case of a future accident, or potentially ask them for help interpretting the NJ State Vehicle code if I don't understand it.
    I didn't say talking to lawyers, just talking lawyers. You mentioned lawyer five times in a post that was seemed to be about a fender bender -- that's unusual. I'm glad to hear that you don't actually need one now.

    You don't need a lawyer to explain the laws to you -- as I said, summaries are available. Lawyers will want lots of money to explain the law to you, which you can spend if you want, but considering that you can get what you need for free, it's best to save the lawyers for when you have a specific situation that you need an experienced legal eye on. (For example, there's not much point in paying a lawyer to analyse your incident, as it's not likely to happen again. But you should work on knowing the general laws for your area.)

    And really, finding a lawyer is extremely easy. Most traffic lawyers can handle a bicycle case just fine (same laws), but if you want one that specializes in bicycle cases, just google for "bicycle lawyer [your city or state]". Asking the local cycling advocacy groups for who they suggest would be even better. But there's no need to work this stuff out beforehand -- the odds are, you'll never need it, and even if you do, it's only a phone call or two away.

    In general for most things you'll want a lawyer local to your city (if that's where the incident happened) -- somebody who knows the local legal system, knows the people involved, their personalities, etc. He may even know them on a first name basis. If somebody comes in from outside, they may be able to do a good job too, but a local guy is likely to have a big head start on the out of area guy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dougmc View Post


    Asking the local cycling advocacy groups for who they suggest would be even better........
    You've alluded to these local cycling advocacy groups twice now. Where can I find a list of them, or find which one is closest/most prominent in my area (New Brunswick, NJ 08901)?

    Thanks.

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    Start with a police report . . .

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