Reaction: Biker Injured and Gets $125,000

I read an article written by Peter Passi of the Duluth News Tribune titled, Duluth pays $125,000 to settle bike injury lawsuit. I have attached a link in case you missed the story.

Let me start by saying, it is very sad the woman in this story was injured. I am by no means saying the woman deserved to be injured because of her actions, but I do have a reaction.

I will never try to pretend I am an expert when it comes to riding a bicycle, but after many and I do mean many conversations with my friend who is very knowledgeable, dare I say an expert, in the area of bicycles and bicycle saftey. He has educated me greatly in the area. I do have an idea of the expectations of people who ride bicycles on the road.

After reading this story a couple questions pop into my mind. Why was she riding a bicycle at night without a light? Why wasn’t she wearing a helmet? Why didn’t the city put up a sign to warn of the hazard? Is she required to use a light at night? I don’t think so. Is she required to wear a helmet? I don’t think so. But from conversations with my friend, people who are avid bikers, dare I say educated bikers, wear a helmet and would use a light when biking at night. Ms Olson was clearly taking some pretty big risks in this case. By not protecting herself with a light and/or helmet she sustained some serious injuries that maybe could have been less severe had she adhered to very common bicycle safety measures.

The Duluth News Tribune reported, and I am paraphrasing, the city decided to settle because it could have gone either way in front of a jury.

It is difficult for me to understand why the city is liable for the pot hole because she was on a bike, but not liable for the pot hole when I am in my car and the pot hole causes me to get a flat tire. Would I be given the same liberties if I didn’t have my lights on or wasn’t wearing my seat belt? Nope I would be given a ticket because I broke the law. Would the city pay for my flat tire? NO WAY. Maybe if people are going to bike in the road some more clear cut rules/laws should be in place. Maybe there are and I am not aware of them. So please if you have some information please share. If you are going to be on the road then you need to be safe and if you don’t want to be safe, you are going to get a ticketed like the drivers in a car.

I would have liked to see this case go to a jury because as stated in the story, both parties had some negligence and who knows which way it could have gone? Was Ms Olson going to sue for more money if the city didn’t settle? Was Ms Olson negligent? I think so. Was the city negligent? Sure was. I hope this case will cause some changes to be made because this isn’t the last case we will see of an injured biker due to pothole.

What do you think?

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Eddie Bashaw

Living in Duluth, Minnesota and I love writing about it.

4 thoughts on “Reaction: Biker Injured and Gets $125,000”

  1. We have become a society of “it’s not my fault, it’s yours!”

    and it is sure hard to see the transformation of a country where it used to be the opposite.

  2. Bicycles are legal vehicles on all streets and roads in MN unless otherwise prohibited, which is only the interestate freeways. Cyclists are REQUIRED to obey all traffic laws, just like motorists. Of course, not every individual in either group does so all the time. Cyclists should be issued tickets for breaking the law just like motorists are.
    The cyclist was wrong in not having lights, front and back, while riding in the dark. Not only for her own safety, but for the safety of other road users. It’s the law. Helmets, however, are not required in MN for either bicyclists or motorcyclists.
    The city/county/state have reasonable responsibility to maintain streets and sidewalks to be safe for all users.
    Don’t get into “cyclists” don’t pay taxes, because we do. So do sidewalk users. Most of us also drive cars. There is no more highly subsidized transportation mode than individual cars/trucks. No way gas or license taxes cover the cost. Not to mention that the wear a bicycle causes to pavement is zero, compared to cars and trucks. All we ask is respect to share the road and reasonable safe space to do so.

  3. Here are a few points that I hope will increase your understanding.

    Under MN law, bicyclists have the same rights to the road as motorists, and the same duties as well. Of course this is subject to some common sense limits; bicyclists can ride on most local streets, but are excluded from freeways, for example. You can get an overview of the state’s laws here: In addition, I’m sure the city of Duluth has additional rules for biking as well.

    However in our legal system, you’ll get an incomplete picture if you just read the written law, because there are many other factors at play. To name just one example, our courts actually do generally consider the extent to which the plaintiff was responsible for her own injury (sometimes this idea is called “contributory negligence”). Different jurisdictions have different rules, but the basic idea is that if this case gone to trial, the plaintiff’s award ($) would have been reduced to some extent because she arguably shared some of the fault (though I can only speculate, based on the scant information in the article). I would guess that the fact she didn’t have a light would not be a big factor in reducing her award, because most bike lights are meant to make the biker more visible to cars, not to illuminate the ground in front of the biker, and therefore would not have been much help in avoiding the accident. The fact that she was not wearing a helmet is a bigger factor, I think, because most reasonable people know that wearing a helmet will reduce the risk of a serious head injury. Again, I can only speculate here based on what little information is available.

    These factors come into play only AFTER the plaintiff has successfully proved her case for negligence. In the law, the term “negligence” has a very special meaning; it includes a step-by-step process the plaintiff must go through, proving each element along the way. The first two elements are that the defendant owed her a duty of care, and breached that duty. Evidently the city felt that this plaintiff had a strong enough case where it could get to a jury, and it would be cheaper just to settle.

    I am sure there are many motorists who have successfully sued the city for damages to their cars caused by negligent road work.

    Finally, one reason why you hear so much about personal injury lawsuits is that we have a lousy healthcare system. Oftentimes the plaintiff does not want to sue but feels they have no other choice because they’re uninsured or underinsured. I have no idea if that was the case here, but it happens every day.

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