While bicycle accidents between motor vehicles and bicyclists are certainly
capable of causing serious injury, an issue that is discussed less involves
bicycle accidents that are caused by dangerous conditions on private property.
According to the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were approximately 515,000 injuries related to bicycle accidents
treated in emergency departments around the country during 2012. When
bicyclists are involved in accidents, they can easily be thrown from their
bikes, often resulting in serious bodily injury. In some instances, these
accidents can be caused by a property owner’s negligence in the
maintenance of his or her property. When this occurs, bicyclists are often
able to successfully assert a legal claim against the party responsible
for the property on which their injury occurred.
Examples of Dangerous Conditions that May Cause Bicycle Accidents
Under general premises liability principles, a property owner who makes
his or her property available to the public has a duty to keep the premises
free from any unreasonably dangerous conditions or warn guests as to the
presence of such conditions. A common example of such a warning is “wet
floor” sign that many of us have seen when visiting the grocery
store after a spill or during routine floor maintenance. Of course, most
bicycling is done outdoors, so the types of hazardous conditions that
often cause bicycle accidents will be generally be found in parking lots,
driveways, walkways, or dedicated bicycle paths. Some of the more common
types of hazards that can cause bicycle accidents include:
Accumulations of ice or snow – While winter weather conditions are relatively rare in Georgia, they do
occasionally occur. Snow or ice can wreak havoc on pedestrians, motorists,
and bicyclists alike, often resulting in serious injury-causing accidents.
In certain cases, a bicyclist who is involved in an accident because of
ice or snow on public property may be able to recover for his or her injuries
and other losses.
Potholes – When bicyclists hit a pothole at any significant speed, they can easily
be thrown forward over their handlebars and onto the ground or into another
object. Because they are falling forward, pothole-caused accidents can
easily result in serious head, neck, or face injuries, including traumatic
brain injuries or spinal cord injuries.
Unmarked cables or utility fixtures – Private properties often have various utility fixtures and equipment providing
services to structures present upon the property. If these items are hidden
or obscured in a place where a bicyclist may reasonable travel, they can
easily cause serious accidents.
Cracked or uneven pavement – Similarly to potholes, hitting a crack or uneven piece of pavement has
the potential to throw a bicyclist off of his or her bike. The presence
of these conditions may indicate negligent maintenance on the part of
a property owner.
As with other types of premises liability cases, the determinative question
for the purposes of establishing legal liability in many bicycle accident
cases is whether the actions of the property owner were reasonable under
the circumstances. This is often an extremely fact-specific question and
requires significant legal analysis, which is best handled by an experienced
personal injury lawyer.