Legally Speaking – with Bob Mionske
By Bob Mionske
This is the first in what will become a regular column on VeloNews.com from attorney Bob Mionske, who handles sports-related legal issues. Mionske is inviting readers to submit legal questions faced by cyclists and other endurance athletes to firstname.lastname@example.org. He will answer a cross-section of questions each Thursday here on VeloNews.com.The information provided in this column is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute formal legal advice (see notice below).
Hello Mr. Mionske;
My wife and I were on an a group ride on a quiet country road in NorthCarolina when a large mixed breed dog ran out of the ditch without warningand knocked my wife off of her bicycle. She fractured her hip and arm asa result.We have health insurance, but what else can we do in terms of recoveringdamages? I have contacted the dog owner and he was apologetic and toldme he wants to cooperate. What should I we do next?
Goldsboro, N.C.Dear C.H.,
Sorry to hear about your wife’s accident. What atavistic trait indogs causes them to throw a shoulder into a bike wheel? I mean, is thishow wolves act in the wild?Anyway, Kujo’s owner should be able to cover your damages from hishomeowner’s insurance policy. You are fortunate the owner of the dog iscooperative and is willing to report the accident to his insurance agent.A representative from the dog owners insurance company will soon contactyou. This insurance representative will likely request a recorded statement.Before your wife agrees to this request, she should understand thatjust because the insurance company has accepted coverage, it does not necessarilyhave to accept liability (pay your wife’s damages). The recorded statementis an opportunity for the insurance company to get information about theaccident in order to assess liability of their insured (the dog owner).There are defenses to liability in cases like your wife’s and youcan be sure that the insurance company will be looking for them. For instance,if she have ridden this stretch of road several times and been chased bythis same dog, the insurance company can assert that your wife contributedto the accident by choosing this route.The insurance company will want to know whether your wife was warnedor saw the dog before the impact and if so, what she did to avoid the collision(in North Carolina any contribution on the part of the plaintiff will sinkyour case, so be sure to check with a North Carolina attorney on this).A recorded statement can be used against your wife in the determinationof liability as well as in a legal proceeding.Some bicycle accidents can be settled between the injured cyclistand the responsible insurance company without the assistance of an attorney.To determine whether your wife needs an attorney, I suggest she obtaina free consultation with a qualified personal injury attorney. Preparea list of all of your questions in advance of the consultation. Be sureto include questions about the applicable law, his/her experience in handlingbicycle accidents and the fee to be charged for these legal services. -BobLess-than-adequate coverage
I was on a training ride and (literally!) run over by a guy followingme in a pick-up truck. He has insurance, but his policy limit is only $15,000!My medical bills are likely to cost me more than that. My rib cage wascrushed and the doctors say I will be dealing with this for the rest ofmy life not to mention how it will affect my racing career. On top of that,my bike was totaled and I am going to lose income because of this accident.I don’t think the driver has much money and I am not thrilled about suinghim personally. Can you help me?
Santa Rosa, CAHi Pat,
The driver only has $15,000 in total liability coverage? That won’teven replace your lost prime money on the master’s racing circuit nextseason, will it?Okay, don’t worry yet. If you drive an insured vehicle it will likelyhave Uninsured/Underinsured (UM/UIM) motorist coverage. UM coverage allowsrecovery from the costs of damages and injuries resulting from being hitby an uninsured driver (or hit and run driver). UIM coverage will pay fordamages that exceed the amount of coverage carried by the underinsureddriver (the guy drafting you in the pick-up).
It gets a bit tricky here. Before you take the $15,000 and sign therelease thereby letting the pick-up driver off the leash, you need writtenconsent from your insurance company. Failure to obtain this expresspermission prior to accepting the $15,000 policy will mean the UIM coveragewill not be available to you. YOU don’t want to end up driving a pick-up, doyou?
Clients are surprised and saddened to learn that the at-fault driver’spolicy is subtracted from what their policy lists as the total UIM coverage.By way of example, if your auto insurance policy has $100,000 in UIM coverage(which is pretty typical) and you obtain $15,000 from the guy who hit you,there is only $85,000 available under the UIM.-Bob
Bob Mionske is a former competitive cyclist who represented theU.S. at the 1988 Olympic games (where he finished fourth in the road race),the 1992 Olympics, as well as winning the 1990 National Championship RoadRace.After retiring from racing in 1993 he coached the Saturn ProfessionalCycling team for one year before heading off to law school. Mionske’s practiceis split between personal injury work, representing professional athletesas an agent and other legal issues facing endurance athletes (traffic violations,contract, criminal charges, intellectual property etc).If you have a cycling related legal question please send it to email@example.com.Bob will answer as many of these questions privately. Additionally, hewill select a few questions each week to answer on Insidetri.com. Generalbicycle accident advice can be found at www.bicyclelaw.com.Important Notice:
The information provided in the “Legally speaking” column is not legal advice. The information provided on this public web site is provided solely for the general interest of the visitors to this web site. The information contained in the column applies to general principles of American Jurisprudence and may not reflect current legal developments or statutory changes in the various jurisdictions and therefore should not be relied upon or interpreted as legal advice. Understand that reading the information contained in this column does not mean you have established an attorney-client relationship with Attorney Bob Mionske. Readers of this column should not act upon any information contained in the web site without first seeking the advice of legal counsel.