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Can a Bicyclist Injured by a Pothole Sue?

Riding a bicycle on city streets exposes the rider to many kinds of hazard. Distracted drivers, pedestrians walking dogs, roadway debris, and even other cyclists can all pose dangers. Issues with the surface of the road, like potholes and cracked pavement, can be especially dangerous. But if a cyclist is injured by a fall caused by a pothole, can the person or entity responsible for maintaining the road be sued?

Nevada’s recreational use statute limits suits against private landowners

Under NRS 41.510, someone who is injured on private property while engaged in a recreational activity, including riding bicycles, cannot sue the property’s owner, lessee, or occupant for injuries caused by the inadequate maintenance of the property. A private property owner has no obligation to keep roadways safe for use as cycling paths. Nor is the owner required to post warning signs or take other steps, like applying bright paint around hazards. This is true even if the owner has given express permission to the person using the road, unless the rider paid the owner a fee for access.

An exception to this rule will apply if the owner has maliciously or deliberately created an unsafe condition or done nothing to remedy a known, serious hazard. For example, if the owner of a property digs a trench across a roadway but doesn’t take steps to cover the trench or provide warnings, a cyclist who falls into the trench probably has a good cause of action despite Nevada’s recreational use statute.

Limitations on recovering from state and local government agencies

The state of Nevada has waived the sovereign immunity of the state and its political subdivisions, theoretically allowing individuals to bring lawsuits to recover for damages caused by a government agency’s negligence. NRS 41.031. However, state law has limited when government agencies or the employees can be held responsible for civil damages. For example, government agencies are shielded from liability for failing to inspect roadways for potential hazards. NRS 41.033.

Potholes can develop rapidly, especially on heavily used roadways. The agency responsible for the roadway’s maintenance may not discover the hole in time to do anything about it. However, once an agency has actual notice of a hazard, the shield against liability no longer applies. This rule gives cyclists an added incentive to call cities or counties to report roadway problems.

Cyclists should note that in lawsuits against both government agencies and private landowners the most that can be recovered in a lawsuit is $100,000. NRS 41.035. Damages can only be calculated based on the plaintiff’s actual costs (medical bills, lost earnings, etc.). An important lesson to take from this limitation is that cyclists need to make sure their personal health insurance policies cover cycling injuries, which can pile up medical bills well in excess of $100,000.

GGRM is a Las Vegas accident law firm

The attorneys at the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez are experienced in handling personal injury and accident cases. If you have been injured in a bicycling accident we would be happy to talk to you about your options. For a free attorney consultation call us today at 702-388-4476 or ask us to reach out to you through our contact page.

Comparative Negligence and Bike Accidents in Nevada

Comparative-Negligence-and-Bike-Accidents-in-Nevada

Being injured in a bicycle accident can have long-lasting consequences, including medical bills and chronic pain. Seeking to recover compensation for injuries by filing a lawsuit is often necessary. But in a trial, the at-fault party will likely raise the argument of comparative negligence to reduce the driver’s liability.

Comparative negligence is a legal defense

Most traffic accident cases in Nevada focus on the question of whether the defendant was negligent. A typical bicycling accident case involves an injured cyclist (the plaintiff) seeking to recover damages (that is, a cash payment) from a defendant driver’s insurer. The plaintiff must show that the driver failed to exercise a reasonable level of care under the circumstances, causing the plaintiff’s injuries, which in turn resulted in damages like medical bills, pain and suffering, and property damage.

Nevada’s comparative negligence law recognizes that one party rarely is solely responsible for an accident or its resulting injuries. Under Nevada’s comparative negligence statute, NRS 41.141, a defendant may ask a jury to consider how the plaintiff’s negligence contributed to the accident. The jury must first determine the total amount of damages in the case. It then assigns a percentage of fault to each side of the dispute, with the plaintiff’s share of the fault reducing the final recovery from the defendant. Under Nevada’s so-called modified comparative negligence rule, if the jury determines that the plaintiff is more than 50% at fault, the plaintiff recovers nothing).

Bicyclists have lots of opportunities to behave negligently

Here are a few ways a cyclist can Defendants can make a strong legal case for contributory negligence when the cyclist-plaintiff was breaking the law at the time of the accident.

  • Breaking the law. Perhaps the easiest way a defendant can show the plaintiff-cyclist’s negligence is by proving that the plaintiff was breaking a law at the time of the accident, and that breaking the law contributed to the plaintiff’s injuries. For example, a cyclist who rides at night without the required headlight or tail and side reflectors will be much harder to see. Cyclists in Nevada are required to obey all traffic signals and road signs.
  • Not wearing a helmet. Nevada does not require cyclists to wear helmets. However, a defendant can still argue that a cyclist’s failure to wear a helmet contributed to the cyclist’s head injuries. Because head injuries can be especially devastating, wearing a helmet is a wise health choice as well as a good legal strategy.
  • Getting overtired or riding with an injury. Insurance company lawyers will look for any angle to support their comparative negligence defense. They’ll ask questions like, how long was the cyclist riding before the accident? Was the cyclist in good enough health to be riding that day? They will use any bad facts they can to establish that the rider was not behaving reasonably at the moment the accident occurred.

Cyclists who are injured in an accident need to talk to a lawyer

GGRM has represented injured Las Vegas residents for over 45 years. If you have been involved in a serious bicycling accident and would like to speak to a lawyer about your legal options, call us today for a free consultation. We can be reached at 702-388-4476, or through our contact page.

A Bicyclist’s Responsibilities After Causing an Accident in Nevada

A Bicyclist’s Responsibilities After Causing an Accident in Nevada

As bikes have grown in popularity as day-to-day transportation, accidents involving bicyclists have also become more common. A bicyclist faces a lot of dangers: mechanical problems with the bike, hazards in the roadway, and the other vehicles sharing the road. But a bike can also pose a danger to pedestrians, other cyclists, and even motorists. Bicyclists must be mindful of how Nevada law assigns accident liability.

Bicyclist responsibilities in Nevada

The question of fault for many traffic accidents in Nevada often focuses on whether the individuals involved in the accident were obeying the applicable rules of the road at the time of the incident. Quite often, a bicyclist who causes an accident is breaking one or more state or local rules.

Although Nevada law doesn’t characterize bicycles as “vehicles,” their riders still must obey traffic signals and signs, which includes speed limits. In most places in the state it’s lawful to ride a bike on sidewalks as well as on the road, but local regulations can alter this default rule. Cyclists must pay careful attention to roadway signs. Cyclists are also required to use hand signals to indicate when they are turning.

Ordinarily, cyclists are required to ride as far to the right as possible in the roadway. This rule doesn’t require cyclists to ride on the shoulder, which is often full of hazards. It also doesn’t require cyclists to ride through debris, potholes, or other obstructions. On multilane roads, cyclists are allowed to take an entire lane. On the other hand, if a roadway includes a clearly marked bike lane, cyclists are required to use them.

Riding a bicycle at night can be especially dangerous. Nevada requires cyclists who ride at night to have a front-mounted white light, a red rear reflector, and reflectors on both sides.

Negligence per se

When a cyclist causes an accident while breaking a law or regulation, like running a red light or speeding down a hill in excess of the posted limit, the injured party likely will argue that the cyclist committed negligence per se. In Nevada, negligence per se applies if the defendant has violated a statute that was designed to protect a class of persons to which the plaintiff belongs, and as a consequence of the violation proximately caused the plaintiff’s injury. Barnes v. Delta Lines, 99 Nev. 688, 690 (1983).

If the injured plaintiff can show these elements, the burden of showing why the events of the accident were not negligence per se shifts to the defendant cyclist. The cyclist must show that the actions leading to the accident were excused (for example, the cyclist swerved to avoid hitting a child and instead hit the plaintiff). Alternatively, the defendant can try to prove that the plaintiff isn’t in the class of people the traffic law was designed to protect. Needless to say, these are often challenging standards to meet, requiring careful marshaling of facts.

Get legal advice right away after an accident

Whether you have been in an accident involving a cyclist or you are a cyclist who has potentially caused an accident, consulting with a local attorney who knows Nevada accident law is essential to preserving your legal rights. The personal injury attorneys at GGRM have given personalized legal advice to members of the Las Vegas community for over 45 years. For a free attorney consultation call us today at 702-388-4476, or send us a request on our contact page.