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Safety While Commuting on the Monon Trail

Safety While Commuting on the Monon Trail

It can be difficult sometimes to stay positive during the current COVID-19 crisis. However, experts recommend that it is not only good for our physical health, but also our mental health to get outside and exercise. With the decrease in motor vehicle traffic, many people are riding their bikes for exercise and enjoyment. In fact, the current pandemic has led to a tremendous surge in bicycle sales around the globe. If you have been shopping for a new bike lately you will know what I am talking about. We have a wonderful system of shared paths here in Central Indiana. As more and more people are using these paths, it is up to each of us to ensure that they are safe for all users and avoid personal and bicycle accidents or injuries whenever possible.

Passing safety on biking & walking trailsI have always enjoyed cycling, but had fallen away from the activity until recently. The pandemic has allowed me to renew my love for cycling, and I have used this as an opportunity to ride more frequently. I try to ride to work 2-3 days per week, as my schedule allows. With the Courts being closed to the public, and most hearings taking place via phone call or Zoom, I have not needed to wear a suit and tie every day. My current commute is about 25 miles round trip. This takes me about 1 hour each way, and I have found that my rides to and from work are a great way to relieve stress, enjoy the outdoors, and save a little money on gas.

Most of my commute is on shared paths, used by both cyclists and pedestrians, which allows me to avoid interaction with motor vehicles, for the most part. However, most of the accidents and close calls that I have observed were between two bicyclists or bicyclists and pedestrians.

The most common mishaps that I have observed can usually be narrowed down to 3 things: 1. Bicyclists riding too fast for the conditions; 2. Pedestrians who move suddenly out of their lane and in to the path of bicycle that they don’t know is approaching, and 3. Confusion between bicyclists and motorists at the intersections of shared paths and roadways.

I ride a relatively slow, fat-tired bike, with an average speed of 12-14 miles per hour. In my opinion, this is plenty fast for shared trails. To go faster than that in an area where pedestrians are walking is just a recipe for disaster. There are places on the Monon Trail, for example, where cyclists can go faster than that, but when there are crowds of people running and walking and crossing the trail, it is simply not safe.

The other danger that I have observed is cyclists overtaking pedestrians without warning them of their approach. In 2016, the Indiana Legislature removed the requirement at I.C. 9-21-11-8, that all bikes must be equipped with an audible signal device, that can be heard from a distance of 100 feet, such as a bell. I think this was a mistake. A simple bike bell is an easy way to alert others, particularly pedestrians, that you are passing them. In my experience, most pedestrians who walk on shared paths, appreciate the signal that a bike is approaching and will be passing them. Most pedestrians will usually give a hand signal that they heard the bell, and many will even say, “Thank you,” as I pass. Many people walk with their children and their pets. An audible bell gives them a heads up to keep their kids or their pets close as a bicycle passes.

Some pedestrians who are not as familiar with walking on shared paths may be startled by an audible bell. I have observed pedestrians jump upon hearing the bell, or quickly move out of the way. I have observed pedestrians turn suddenly, which can cause them to inadvertently move left and into the path of the cyclist. This can be dangerous. Just last week, I saw a runner, who had reached the point in her run where she was going to turn around and go the other direction. She quickly turned around just as a bicycle was overtaking her. The cyclist did not have a bell to alert his presence. The bell is only to alert pedestrians so that they know a bicycle will be passing on their left. It is not a call to get out of the way, or to even change your course in any way. If more cyclists used a bell, I believe pedestrians would be more attuned, and travel on our shared paths would be even safer. If you are walking on the trail, it is always a good idea to move to the right of the trail before stopping, and look both ways before crossing the trail and reversing direction.

Lastly, there is a lot of confusion about what motorists and cyclists are supposed to do when the shared path intersects with vehicular traffic. If you spend any time on Nextdoor, you will see raging debates about who should stop and when. Everyone needs to follow the rules of the road whether you be driving a car or riding a bicycle. All bikes and motor vehicles should heed the signs that pertain to them at each individual intersection. Bikes and pedestrians are required to stop and make sure the intersection is clear of vehicle traffic before proceeding. If there is a flashing yellow light, motorists need to be prepared to stop to allow pedestrians to cross. Usually, motor vehicle drivers will stop for a flashing yellow light if they see bikes or pedestrians waiting to cross. Always make sure it is safe to proceed before riding your bike across vehicular traffic.

If everyone takes a moment to make sure that their bike is functioning properly, and we all pay attention to the rules of the road, our great system of trails will be safer for everyone. Now get outside and ride your bike!

Chip Clark is a partner at Goodin Abernathy, LLP where he specializes in representing clients who have been injured in personal injury accidents. You can follow him on Instagram at @ChipClarkIndy

Injured – No Word from Insured

I Was Injured in an Accident Two Weeks Ago and Haven’t Heard from Anyone

Twenty plus years ago, the aforementioned set of circumstances would probably never have happened. In the past, the person who was at fault for your accident and injury, whether it be a motorist or a landowner, would have contacted their insurance carrier and reported the incident. That insurance carrier would have promptly assigned the matter to a claims adjuster who, more likely than not, would have contacted you within days, if not hours of the incident and worked with you to assure you that your medical bills and lost wages would be covered.

Unfortunately those days are long behind us, and today we commonly hear from our new clients that weeks have gone by since their injury occurred; they’ve not heard from anyone; their medical bills are mounting up, and they are losing income.

The reasons for this difference in the claim handling procedure are numerous, but the bottom line is that in today’s world the insurance carrier for the at-fault party is rarely going to be of any assistance to you whatsoever.

We even had instances where the injured party has attempted either by mail or telephone to contact the at-fault party to start the claim handling procedure only to run into a stone wall.

Personal injury lawyers are not magicians, however, they are well-trained and experienced in representing people who have been injured through no fault of their own. More importantly, we know how to “get the attention” of the insurance carriers for the landowners, the businesses, or the motorists who are responsible for the injuries sustained.

In addition, most people now assume that there is insurance coverage available for the at-fault party when in fact that is not always the case. The alternative to having the at-fault party’s insurance carrier pay for medical bills and lost wages often involves a claim against the injured party’s own insurance carrier through either uninsured or under-insured motorist coverage, medical payments under the injured party’s own policy.

Quite often in premises liability cases there is also medical payments coverage available to pay the injured party’s medical bills irrespective of who is at fault.

All of these different possibilities require knowledge of how the insurance industry works, of the various forms of liability insurance coverage available, and how those coverages interplay with the facts of any particular accident involving injury.

The absolute worst thing that a layperson can do is to try to traverse these obstacles by themselves, as it is all too easy to commit a fatal mistake in the claim even after you determine to whom the claim is to be made.

For all these reasons, it is extremely important for injured parties to consult an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after any event which causes personal injuries.

*Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Bicycle Safety

Bicycle Safety

The weather is finally turning, and Spring Break is almost here. Both mean children and adults alike will be dusting off their bicycles and riding through our neighborhoods and streets. Bicycling is a fun and healthy activity, but precautions should be taken to avoid personal injury and automobile accidents.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has created the “Roll Model” program. As listed on their website, this if for everyone to adopt advanced bicycle safety.

In this program, being a “Roll Model” means:

• Riding and Driving Focused – never distracted.
• Riding and Driving Prepared – always expect the unexpected.
• Putting Safety First – we never know when a crash will occur, regardless of skill level or age; always wear a bicycle helmet when on a bicycle and a seat belt when in car.
• Following the Rules of the Road — a bicyclist is considered a vehicle on the road with all the rights on the roadway and responsibilities of motorized traffic.
• Expecting law enforcement officers to monitor and address unsafe behaviors between motorists and bicyclists that put bicyclists at risk.
• Sharing the Road – both vehicle drivers (motorist and bicyclist) should look out for one another and show mutual respect.

The website also has pledges that children, youth and parents may take to be good “Roll Models.”

While these precautions are great, if you or a child have been injured in a bicycle accident, please call Goodin Abernathy, LLP to discuss your situation.

Image courtesy of khunaspix at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Running Safety Tips

Running Safety Tips

Running Safety TipsAbout once a week, I hear about a pedestrian struck by a car in Indianapolis. Often these accidents result in personal injury, including traumatic brain injury, broken bones, spinal cord injury, or even death. I often wonder how this happens and whether it is due to driver inattention, cell phone use / texting or road conditions.

Then last night, after dark, in winter, while driving home on a busy street, I saw a person who was dressed head to toe in black with no flashlight or reflective gear to alert drivers to his or her presence, running through traffic. Since I am a runner also, I did recognize a nice running form, once I recovered from the shock of this person not taking basic precautions and running safety measures.

As the weather warms up, please remember as a runner, these rules that will help you avoid personal injury. These tips may also be applied to prevent bicycle injuries, as well.

Follow These Simple Running Safety Rules:

• Wear reflective material before dawn and after dusk. If your running gear does not have running gear, carry a flashlight.
• Run against traffic and stay observant to make sure vehicle drivers see and acknowledge your presence. Do not assume the driver of a vehicle sees you.
• Do NOT use headphones.
• Carry a cell phone or change for a phone call.
• Run in familiar areas and vary your running location. Avoid unpopulated areas, deserted streets, and trails that are not regularly used.
• Use your instincts. If a situation or person gives you unease, do what you need to do to stay safe. This could range from simply leaving an area or calling the police.

Exercise and running are great, but please stay safe.

Headsets and Personal Injury

Smartphones and media players are convenient ways for people to listen to music or talk with friends while on the go.   However, if earbuds or other headsets that prevent sound from entering the ear are used, the music and conversation can be the cause of personal injury.

Currently, state laws are all over the place regarding the use of headsets while driving.  (See AAA’s Digest of Motor Laws, available at drivinglaws.aaa.com/laws/headsets/).  However, just because it is not illegal, this does not mean it is safe.

Anytime a person’s senses, whether it is sight or sound, are distracted from paying attention to road conditions, on-coming traffic, sirens of emergency vehicles, or children playing, there is additional risk to the motorist, bicyclist or walker.  When earbuds or headsets that almost or completely drown out other sounds are used, there is no way for a person to hear anything that would alert them to these conditions.

At Goodin Abernathy, we want you to enjoy music and talking with your friends, but we want you to do so safely.