Bicycle road races can be lots of fun. The crowd watching on, the competitive feeling ala the Tour de France. But they can also be dangerous. Anytime you lump a group of people on bikes together in tight quarters you risk injury. The question is, if you suffer a serious injury during the race, do you have any legal options?
The answer, as usual, depends upon the facts of the particular situation.
You may be thinking to yourself, “why would I ever want to pursue legal action if I get hurt during a road race?”
This is a fair question. You don't go into a race thinking that you're going to sue someone. If, however, you happen to suffer a very serious injury (one which, for example, causes surgery, hospitalization, or worse) because of something that you did not expect, you might start to reevaluate your options.
Assumption of risk and the “participation injury”.
Some cycling injuries, of course, cannot be prevented, or are simply risks that come with the territory.
In New York, when you engage in a recreational activity, such as cycling, you assume certain risks that are inherent in the sport. In the sport of cycling, it is likely that falling off of your bike, for example, (in the absence of some other problem/malfunction) is a risk assumed in the activity. This is particularly true during a race, where you are positioned among a larger group of people, moving quickly, and literally racing towards a finish line. If you fall off your bike and get hurt during the race – because you lost focus, went to fast, were cut off by another rider – it is unlikely that you would have any legal recourse.
This is different from a fall that was caused by a faulty bike, brake, tire or something else. If, for example, the brakes on your brand new $2,000 road bike failed, you may have some recourse against the manufacturer of the bike/brakes.
The Unanticipated Accident
But let's look at a different example. A half hour into the race the field has started to spread out. At this point you're riding alone, and you're in a groove, feeling good. A bend is coming up, and as this is an open road race, this particular section of the roadway has not been blocked off from cars (there are, however, signs everywhere indicating that a race is going on). When you come around the corner you see – too late – a car coming in the other direction that has veered into your lane because (you later learn) the driver was reading a text message. You swerve to avoid a collision, and in doing so you lose control of your bike and go head over heels into a rock bed. You suffer, among other things, multiple broken bones.
This injury is not one that you would have reasonably anticipated, and is not one that is inherent in the sport. In fact, it's one that, but for the negligence of the driver in reading a text message while driving, would not have happened.
In this case it is unlikely that the “assumption of risk” defense would prohibit you from asserting a claim for negligence against the driver of the car. Whether that claim was something that was resolved before suit, after suit, or at trial, is for another day, but you would likely be within your rights to make a claim against the insurance company for the driver.
Cycling, like any other sport, has some risks that are inherent in the activity. If you are hurt because of one of those inherent risks, you may be out of luck. If, however, you are hurt because of something that is not an inherent risk, you may have a claim. And considering the severity of injuries that can come from a bicycle accident, you may very well want to pursue a claim to recover for your losses.
If you have questions about a bicycle accident call us today.