By Bob Mionske
Posted Dec. 12, 2002
Legally Speaking – with Bob Mionske
This is part one of the first in what will become a regular column on VeloNews.com from attorney Bob Mionske, who handles sports-related legal issues. Mionske is inviting readers to submit legal questions faced by cyclists and other endurance athletes to firstname.lastname@example.org. He will answer a cross-section of questions each Thursday here on VeloNews.com.The information provided in this column is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute formal legal advice (see notice below).
Hello Mr. Mionske;
My wife and I were on an a group ride on a quiet country road in NorthCarolina when a large mixed breed dog ran out of the ditch without warningand knocked my wife off of her bicycle. She fractured her hip and arm asa result.We have health insurance, but what else can we do in terms of recoveringdamages? I have contacted the dog owner and he was apologetic and toldme he wants to cooperate. What should I we do next?
Goldsboro, N.C.Dear C.H.,
Sorry to hear about your wife’s accident. What atavistic trait in dogs causes them to throw a shoulder into a bike wheel? I mean, is this how wolves act in the wild? Anyway, Kujo’s owner should be able to cover your damages from hishomeowner’s insurance policy. You are fortunate the owner of the dog iscooperative and is willing to report the accident to his insurance agent. A representative from the dog owner’s insurance company will soon contact you. This insurance representative will likely request a recorded statement. Before your wife agrees to this request, she should understand that just because the insurance company has accepted coverage, it does not necessarily have to accept liability (pay your wife’s damages). The recorded statementis an opportunity for the insurance company to get information about the accident in order to assess liability of their insured (the dog owner). There are defenses to liability in cases like your wife’s and you can be sure that the insurance company will be looking for them. For instance, if she has ridden this stretch of road several times and been chased by this same dog, the insurance company can assert that your wife contributedto the accident by choosing this route. The insurance company will want to know whether your wife was warned or saw the dog before the impact and if so, what she did to avoid the collision (in North Carolina any contribution on the part of the plaintiff will sink your case, so be sure to check with a North Carolina attorney on this). A recorded statement can be used against your wife in the determination of liability as well as in a legal proceeding. Some bicycle accidents can be settled between the injured cyclist and the responsible insurance company without the assistance of an attorney. To determine whether your wife needs an attorney, I suggest she obtain a free consultation with a qualified personal injury attorney. Preparea list of all of your questions in advance of the consultation. Be sure to include questions about the applicable law, his/her experience in handling bicycle accidents and the fee to be charged for these legal services.
Bob 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 RoadRace. After retiring from racing in 1993 he coached the Saturn Professional Cycling team for one year before heading off to law school. Mionske’s practiceis 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). If you have a cycling related legal question please send it to email@example.com. Bob will answer as many of these questions privately. Additionally, he will select a few questions each week to answer on Insidetri.com. General bicycle accident advice can be found at www.bicyclelaw.com.
The information provided in the “Legally speaking” 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.