Motor Vehicle Negligence:
Collision With Bicyclist
Fractured bone in nose, concussion, broken teeth
Name of case:
Tried before judge or jury:
Most helpful experts:
John Allen, bicycle expert
Attorney for plaintiff:
Andrew M. Fischer, Boston
Attorney for defendant:
Other useful information:
The plaintiff, a 40-year-old freelance writer and copy editor, was reportedly knocked unconscious and suffered other injuries when the defendant began a left turn from Chickatawbut Road onto Route 28 in the Blue Hills Reservation and struck the plaintiff broadside on her bicycle with his Chevy Blazer.
The insurer initially denied the claim, as the plaintiff, an experienced bicyclist, had no memory of the accident when she regained consciousness. Liability turned on whether the defendant had turned left into the oncoming plaintiff and struck the plaintiff and her bicycle broadside, or whether, as the defendant claimed, the plaintiff drifted into the left lane and rode into the defendant’s SUV.
The plaintiff was initially unable to refute the defendant’s claim. First she obtained a report from the specialty bicycle shop where she purchased the bicycle. The report showed that the bicycle frame was dented on the left side and there were traces of paint chips, both of which were consistent with the bicycle being broadsided. Moreover; the shop's mechanic was unable to determine that the SUV was moving more than 10 to 15 mph, by comparing his measurement of the impact on the frame with the manufacturer’s specifications for the graphite reinforced bicycle frame. The insurer responded by saying that the report was from a bike mechanic who was not a certified accident reconstructionist.
The plaintiff then retained John Allen of Waltham, a nationally recognized bicycle accident expert. Allen not only corroborated the bike report but strengthened it. The plaintiff had obtained the police accident report, including a drawing of the intersection and photos taken at the scene, both showing the defendant’s Blazer across the center line. Allen, using a geometric reconstruction from the police photographs and his own measurements taken at the scene; determined that the SUV, as pictured, had entirely crossed the plaintiff’s lane and failed to yield the right of way to her — and did not hit her near the middle of the intersection as shown on the police report. At this point, the insurer made its first offer.
After the parties were deposed, the plaintiff subpoenaed cellular telephone records that contradicted the defendant's account of what he was doing in the Blue Hills Reservation. The insurer offered policy limits shortly thereafter.
© 2000 Andrew M. Fischer
Originally published in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, October 23, 2000
Contents (except introduction, police photos and diagram)
© 1999, 2000 John S. Allen
Last revised 31 December 2000