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Road Rights- No More Bullying

A new type of anti-harassment law holds aggressive drivers accountable for their behavior

By Bob Mionske


Although the roads belong to everybody, some motorists don’t see it that way. Maybe you’ve had a run-in with a driver who threw something at you or even tried to force you off the road. Such acts are illegal, but unless a police officer witnesses the crime, it’s very difficult to bring the motorist to justice.

That’s starting to change. Last year, the city of Los Angeles passed an anti-harassment law—the first of its kind in the nation—that empowers cyclists in new ways. Lawmakers elsewhere are starting to take notice: In February, Berkeley, California, passed its own version of the law. Last fall, cyclists in Washington, DC, fought for one as well, although it has not yet passed. Here’s how the new type of legislation evens the playing field—and why you should encourage your local or state representatives to enact a similar law.

DEFINES HARASSMENT The law identifies specific types of behavior—such as yelling, honking the horn, passing too close, swerving toward a cyclist, or throwing objects out the window—that qualify as harassment, so drivers can’t argue that what they did wasn’t really against the law.

HELPS YOU SUE The new law makes it financially easier for cyclists to pursue justice in civil court. It specifies that you may sue for triple the actual damages—or $1,000, whichever is higher—for each violation. You may also seek punitive damages. You still need to provide evidence, such as an eyewitness account, that the driver harassed you. But because it is a civil trial, you don’t have to prove the driver’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. It is enough to prove that the driver probably harassed you.

MAKES IT EASIER TO GET A LAWYER The law also allows cyclists to sue aggressive drivers for ­attorney’s fees. This makes these cases more appealing to lawyers because they know there’s a better chance they’ll get paid for their work.

Research and assistance by Rick Bernardi, J.D.
 

This article, No More Bullying, was originally published on Bicycling on August 8, 2012.

Now read the fine print:
Bicycle and the Law, Bob MionskeBob Mionske is a former competitive cyclist who represented the U.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 road race.
After retiring from racing in 1993, he coached the Saturn Professional Cycling team for one year before heading off to law school. Mionske's practice is now split between personal-injury work, representing professional athletes as an agent and other legal issues facing endurance athletes (traffic violations, contract, criminal charges, intellectual property, etc).
Mionske is also the author of Bicycling and the Law, designed to be the primary resource for cyclists to consult when faced with a legal question. It provides readers with the knowledge to avoid many legal problems in the first place, and informs them of their rights, their responsibilities, and what steps they can take if they do encounter a legal problem.
 
If you have a cycling-related legal question, please send it to mionskelaw@hotmail.com Bob will answer as many of these questions privately as he can. He will also select a few questions each week to answer in this column. General bicycle-accident advice can be found at www.bicyclelaw.com.
Important notice:
The information provided in the "Road Rights" 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.

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