Bicycle Injuries Caused by Road Hazards and Defects in Boston
Even if you are a skilled and experienced bicyclist, there is not always time to be able to avoid every road hazard. Potholes, uneven road surfaces, drainage grates or debris in the middle of the road can create a serious and unexpected hazard.
While cars and trucks can cruise over potholes or a fissure in a roadway without much difficulty, the same isn’t always true for people riding bicycle. In many cases, roadways that have been defectively designed or poorly maintained can be treacherous to an unassuming cyclist.
The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration has reported that 43% of cyclists who believed that their personal safety was at risk during their most recent ride blamed uneven road surfaces for their fears.
If you have been seriously injured in a bicycle crash in the greater Boston area that was caused by a roadway hazard or defect, the bicycle injury attorneys at Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman can help. Our bike injury attorneys are not only experts when it comes to protecting the rights of cyclists, but they are cycling enthusiasts themselves.
We encourage you to contact us today for a free and confidential consultation.I Was in a Bicycle Crash Caused by a Road Hazard. What Should I Do Now?
First and foremost, make sure that you get medical attention for your injuries.
Next, document the crash scene to the best of your ability by taking photos or even video footage. Roadway conditions can change rapidly and it is important to document the conditions that caused the crash. If your injuries prevent you from taking pictures, return to the scene as soon as possible to document the hazard or defect or ask a friend or family member to do so for you.
You should also take pictures of your injuries and the damage to your bicycle.
Request contact information for any witnesses at the scene.
Do not speak to any insurance companies until you have a chance to talk to an attorney about your case.
Because public roads are owned and maintained by states, cities and other municipalities, road hazard cases often involve government entities and claim limitations under state law. It is important to note that the statute of limitations in lawsuits against government entities is shorter than in other injury cases. You should contact an attorney as soon as possible to ensure that you protect your legal right to recover for your injuries.Who is Liable for the Road Hazard and My Bicycle Injury?
Depending on the specific facts of your case, a number of parties may be liable for your injuries. In Massachusetts, potential liable parties include:
- Commonwealth of Massachusetts
- City of Boston or neighboring city
- Another municipality
- Construction company contracted to perform maintenance, repairs or construction work on behalf of a government entity or private party
- Private property owner (this can be a business or an individual)
In most cases, the injured cyclist will need to establish that the at-fault party was negligent. To prove negligence, the cyclist must show that:
- The road hazard or defect caused the bicycle crash.
- The party responsible for maintaining the roadway had a duty to keep the road in a reasonably safe condition.
- The party responsible for maintaining the road breached that duty.
- The breach of duty caused the cyclist actual damages.
The claim must be filed within the applicable statute of limitations, which changes depending on defendant. More than one party may be liable for your injuries.Potholes, Sinkholes and Other Road Hazards Can Cause Serious Injuries
States, cities and other property owners have a duty to keep roads in a reasonably safe condition for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. Similarly, business owners have a duty to keep parking lots and other property free of defects, debris and other dangers.
Potential roadway hazards and defects are numerous. Here is a short list of some of the more common hazards that present a risk of injury to cyclists:
- Loose gravel on the surface of the road
- Uneven road surfaces
- Sewer grates
- Railroad and trolley tracks
- Malfunctioning traffic lights
- Overgrown bushes or other foliage
- Improperly designed shoulder
- Improperly designed or placed median barriers
- Improperly designed intersections
- Incorrect lane width
- Uncovered ditches
- Areas with poor drainage
- Construction site violations
- Debris or other obstacles in roadway
Whether a government entity can be held liable for a bicyclist’s injuries caused by a pothole or other road defect most likely will depend on how long the pothole has been present and whether the government entity knew or should have known about it. If the pothole has been around for a week or more, the injured cyclist has a better chance of holding the municipality responsible for his or her injuries.
Potholes are perhaps the most common type of road hazard in Massachusetts. Potholes are holes in the road that differ in size and shape. This pavement damage is caused by the expansion and contraction of water after it has entered into the ground. As cars and trucks pass over these weakened spots in the road, the pavement breaks down and the pothole is created. Potholes are most likely to appear in late winter and early spring because of the fluctuation in temperatures. Roads most likely to be affected by potholes are those with poor drainage, heavy traffic and shoddy maintenance.
A website dedicated to pothole information reports that 39% of Boston’s roads have been ranked as “poor” (based on level of pavement smoothness).
In Massachusetts, you can report potholes to MassDOT by calling (877) 623-6846 or contacting MassDOT online.
In addition to potholes, sewer grates are another hazard that can prove treacherous for cyclists. When sewer grate bars are aligned in the same direction as traffic, bicycle tires can become stuck between the bars. MassDOT Construction Standards Drawing E 201.10.0 show the proper installation.
When the front wheel is trapped by the grate, the rider is thrown from the bike and into traffic or onto the ground. Although most municipalities have fixed this problem by changing the shape or direction of the grates or covering them with crosshatch safety bars, there are still many dangerous grates on roadways throughout Massachusetts.
Construction work in and around Boston is constant. Construction zones that are improperly set up or marked pose numerous dangers to cyclists passing through the area. Cones, fencing or other barriers should be used to keep motorists, cyclists and construction workers safe.
Roads that have been improperly designed can be dangerous for cyclists. Road design includes things like drainage, intersections, bridge abutments and shoulder placement.
Bushes and other vegetation near roadways that is overgrown can obstruct traffic signs and sightlines.Head and Face Injuries Are Common Bicycle Crash Injuries
Cyclists often suffer serious injuries in crashes caused by roadway hazards and defects. A cyclist who hits a pothole, uneven road surface or some other defect can be tossed from the bicycle and into oncoming traffic or the hard pavement. Head and face injuries are common as are:
- Broken bones
- Dental injuries
- Spine and neck injuries
- Concussions and traumatic brain injuries
- Internal injuries
Tragically, bicyclists can lose their lives as a result of a roadway hazard or defect.
While helmets and other protective gear provide some protection, they will not always shield the cyclist from serious injury.
A 2016 study of facial injuries in helmeted bicycle crashes empirically established that bicycle helmets do not reduced the number of nasial fractures, but does make a jaw fracture more likled. Stier, R. et.al. (2016). Effectiveness of Bicycle Safety Helmets in Preventing Facial Injuries in Road Accidents. Archives of Trauma Research, 5(2), 8.Safety Tips for Dealing with Potholes and Other Road Hazards
Cycling Weekly offers these tips for cyclists who are forced to deal with potholes on a ride:
- When riding into a “normal” sized pothole, lift yourself out of the seat, stay loose and allow the bicycle to travel over the other side of the pothole.
- Keep your bicycle’s tires inflated. Tires that are underinflated are more prone to puncturing on a pothole. Consider purchasing a set of rugged winter tires to navigate roadways that are known to have a large number of potholes.
- Stay alert. Look up ahead, scan for dark spots and make smooth adjustments to your riding line. Make a mental note of any potholes on your regular routes.
- Use a front light on your bicycle if you ride at night.
- Always wear a helmet.
- If the pothole is a large one, avoid riding into it. If it is too late to swerve around it and your feet are clipped in the pedals, you can “bunnyhop” by pulling up on the handlebars and the pedals at the same time.
- Practice bunnyhopping and pothole avoidance maneuvers by making small swerves with your bicycle so that you can learn to correct.
- If you are riding in a group, have the pack leader call out potholes and other road hazards to cyclists following them in the pack. It is also a good idea to go around puddles whenever possible. Not only will you avoid getting wet, but you’ll also avoid any holes concealed by the water. inside.
To learn more about how our bicycle injury attorneys can help with your roadway hazard or defect claim, contact The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman, LLC today at (617) 777-7777 or by using our electronic form.