There was an interesting article in the local daily paper on Sunday, about car-bike accidents, and attorneys who represent cyclists in those situations. It was written by Keith Ridler of the AP, who focused much of his attention on Boise (and other northwest cities).
(The local version was condensed; I found a better one at the Seattle paper's website - click HERE to link to the article.)
Interesting, and disturbing, tidbits from the article:
Mike Colbach, a Portland attorney, says, "It's almost never the cyclist's fault, and they tend to get pretty significantly injured. Wrist, arm, and unfortunately sometimes brain injuries from hitting their head."
The Idaho Transportation Department reported 333 bike-car collisions in 2006. (By comparison, Washington state has around 1250 each year. In 2006, 123 cyclists were unable to leave the scene under their own power, and six died.)
Boise attorney (and cyclist) Kurt Holzer describes one of the challenges he faces: "It's a car culture. There's this sense that the car didn't do anything wrong - it's the cyclist."
On the bright side, when a bike-accident case arrives in the courtroom, it's relatively easy to convince a jury that the cyclist is truly a vicim, and just wants to ride... he's not there trying to milk the legal system.
I've been in three car-bike accidents in 22 years, 117,000 miles of riding.
One was my fault. I got a ticket for failure-to-yield, and a minor laceration where my sunglasses gouged my eyebrow. No damage - as is typical - to the poor lady's car. My helmet saved me from debilitating injury... my head bounced off the pavement hard, but I hopped right back up. The paramedics came, but I declined to take a $500 ride to the hospital. I could have left on my own power, but for my ruint rear wheel. (I was riding again later that same afternoon.)
A lady in a Pontiac Firebird rear-ended me at an intersection. No injury. Ruined rear wheel. She blamed her screamin' car-seat baby for distracting her. I stayed until the cops arrived and issued her a citation; she paid for a new rear wheel.
An airhead high-school girl blew through a downtown stop sign and clipped my rear wheel. (What's with my rear wheels in accidents?) I was VERY lucky in this instance... if she'd been a half-second earlier, I would've almost certainly gone through her windshield. As it turned out, I was unscathed, but I was mad! She pleaded with me not to call the cops, and told me she'd take me and my bike anywhere I needed to go, and would go right then and get a new rear wheel for me. Against my better judgment, I didn't involve the police. She drove me to my office (where I'd been headed) and true to her word was back a half-hour later with a shiny new wheel from George's.
If I had it to do over, I'd call the cops. (She seemed totally freaked out - I hope she learned a lasting lesson, without getting a ticket.) People need to accept responsibility for their actions, and recognize how vulnerable cyclists are.
If I'm never in a car-bike accident again, that will be fine with me. I make a habit of "riding defensively." (A cyclist is a loser in such an accident, no matter who's at fault.) If I am - and I have to face the reality that it's a risk I'm willingly accepting - it's highly likely it will be the motorist's fault. And I will have absolutely no qualms about making sure the motorist pays for any damage to my bicycle and/or myself.