Jury Verdict Research conducted a study of its database of verdicts and found that the average jury award in a bicycle accident case is $279,970. Underscoring how high jury verdicts distort the average verdict, the overall median money awarded in bike accident cases is $50,000. The plaintiffs only prevail in 41% of the cases that go to trial.
I think the relatively low success rate of bicycle accident cases at trial is a general bias against bikes that may be, bizarrely, even stronger than the bias against motorcycles. Many jurors, who typically drive cars think bicycles shouldn’t be on the road.
Obviously, the big problem with bicycle accidents as opposed to car and truck accidents is the lack of a strong steel foundation designed to withstand an impact. But the low hanging fruit to reduce the extent of injuries in bicycle accidents is wearing a helmet. The most serious bicycle injuries – and there were 630 fatal bike accidents in this country last year – usually involve a head injury. Wearing a bike helmet is estimated to reduce head injury risk by 85 percent. Maryland has a bike helmet law for those under 16 years old but no law for adults.
I think there should be a mandatory bike helmet law in Maryland. To make my point, I will slide down what libertarians call the slippery slope of paternalism. I really appreciate their concern about creating (or furthering, as they would argue) a nanny state. But… that said… we already have helmet laws for motorcycles and seat belt laws in Maryland. A bike helmet law on public roads just makes sense because it would save lives at the cost of such a minor imposition.
Bicycle Accident Verdicts and Settlements
- 2020, Oregon: $9,658,893 Settlement. A 31-year-old Canadian citizen was on a biking trip in Oregon with his then-girlfriend. They rode on the side of Interstate 84 as they reached their campground. A tractor-trailer drove past them and struck the man. The man suffered a mangled leg that was almost amputated. A nurse arrived at the scene moments after the accident, which prevented the amputation. The man now experienced chronic pain and used a cane to help him walk. He continued to work as a brewmaster in Vancouver, British Columbia, but could no longer ride his bike to work. The man sued the trucker, alleging that he crossed the center line and struck him. The defense counsel claimed that the man was intoxicated, as he and his girlfriend drank beers throughout the day. However, his BAC read .00 at the hospital. The jury awarded a verdict totaling $9,658,893.
- 2019, Oregon: $47,768 Verdict. A woman operated a self-powered bicycle in the bike lane in Portland, heading eastbound. She was struck by a westbound vehicle. The woman suffered undisclosed head and knee injuries as well as soft-tissue neck and back injuries. She also sustained a hand contusion. The woman claimed that the driver failed to yield the right-of-way when attempting a left turn. A jury awarded the woman $47,768, exclusively in economic damages.
- 2019, Massachusetts: $150,000 Verdict. A woman was struck by a car while riding her bicycle on a busy street in Provincetown. She suffered an injury to her L5-S1 disc and other undisclosed soft-tissue injuries. The record did not clarify how the collision occurred. A jury found the driver at fault and awarded $150,000 in damages.
- 2019, California: $10, 172,391 Verdict. A married couple comprising a 69-year-old man and a 72-year-old woman was riding a tandem bicycle on a bike trail. They approached two pedestrians, a man and a woman, who were side by side. The husband rang his bicycle bell. The male pedestrian went left and the female pedestrian went right. When the male pedestrian noticed that the female pedestrian went to the right, he summoned her to move to the left. As she moved left, she moved in front of the bicycle and was struck. The bicycle crashed. The male cyclist suffered a concussion and a broken rib. He only required minor treatment. The man was seven months away from retiring as an airline pilot. His wife suffered a traumatic brain injury, a broken clavicle, broken ribs, a broken vertebra, and a liver laceration. She underwent brain surgery and was placed in long-term intensive care. The woman noted that she could no longer work as a teacher. She claimed that she would need long-term rehabilitation and in-home care. The couple sued the pedestrians for violating the trail’s rules. A jury determined that male pedestrian was 40 percent liable, the male cyclist was 24 percent liable, and the female pedestrian was 16 percent liable. They determined the damages amounted to $10,172,391. However, the couple could only recover $4,062,097.
- 2018, Michigan: $30,000 Settlement. A 53-year-old handyman was struck by a car while riding his bike in Ann Arbor at dusk. He was not wearing a helmet at the time. An ambulance transported him to the hospital, where staff diagnosed him with a concussion, soft-tissue neck and back sprains, a left knee sprain, and right thumb tears and fractures. He wore a cast on his thumb for a few months. The man also underwent two months of physical therapy, which addressed his right hand and neck. He claimed residual neck and thumb pain from the accident. The man claimed that he could no longer ride his bike, and he was now limited in his ability to work as a handyman. He sued the driver for negligence, claiming that the driver failed to yield to him at a crosswalk. The defense counsel contended that there was poor visibility and the man should have had lights on his bike so drivers could see him. However, the driver admitted in a deposition that the area had streetlights. This case settled for $30,000.
- Personal Injury Verdicts (average personal injury verdicts in specific jurisdictions)