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$5.25M Wrongful Death Verdict is First For a Fatal U.S. Bikeshare Accident

By: Allan M. Siegel

What’s believed to be the nation’s first wrongful death award over a fatal bikeshare accident was recently handed down by a jury in Cook County, Illinois. According to Chicago Business, the jury awarded $5.25 million to the family of a 25-year-old woman who was killed in July 2016 while riding a Divvy bike in Chicago.

The verdict stems from a 2016 accident in which the young woman was struck by a flatbed truck. Her family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the truck driver and the trucking company. The bikeshare service and the City of Chicago were not named as defendants in the case.

Though the trucking company and its insurer initially offered the family a $500,000 settlement, the case was taken to trial. The family’s attorneys sought $13 million in damages, and the jury awarded a total of $7 million in its verdict, later reduced to $5.25 million after 25% fault was allocated to the victim.

The North American Bikeshare Association released a public statement after the verdict, stating the result is believed to be the first over a fatal bikeshare accident in the country.

Bikeshare Companies Face Growing Scrutiny

While the verdict provides a sense of accountability and closure to the young woman’s family, it certainly does not detract from their tragic and preventable loss. As advocates note, the case highlights the dangers of requiring cyclists to share the road with motor vehicles and large commercial trucks, especially without sufficient safety protections. The case is also adding to the growing conversation about bikeshare services and safety.

In recent months, bikeshare services have made headlines over growing safety concerns. Cities and large metro areas where sharable bikes, and sharable scooters, are available have seen an increase in accidents and injuries.

Earlier this month, Citi Bike, which is owned by Lyft and is now one of the country’s largest bike share programs, issued a public statement about its removal of its pedal-assist e-bikes in New York City after they were linked to front wheel braking problems and several accidents and injuries. Other Lyft-owned services, including those in San Francisco, and Capital Bikeshare in the District of Columbia, also pulled e-bikes from the roads.

Though bikeshare services make for convenient and cost-effective transportation, there are a number of risks associated with them. In addition to risks all riders face when sharing the road with automobiles, bikeshare riders may also suffer harm caused by:

  • Defectively designed or manufactured bikes
  • Braking and steering malfunction
  • Improperly maintained and repaired bikes
  • E-bike accidents, including burns and fires
  • Unfamiliarity with bicycle operation or local roads

Representing Victims of Bikeshare Accidents Throughout the DMV

Bicycle accidents commonly make for complex personal injury and wrongful death cases, not only because they often cause serious injuries and significant damages, but also because it can be difficult to determine fault and liability and recover full and fair compensation. That’s especially true when cases involve defective products, bikeshare services owned or operated by local government, disputes and denials from corporations or insurance companies, and other issues.

At Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C., our legal team has long been committed to fighting on behalf of bicycle accident victims and their families in cases throughout DC, Maryland, and Virginia – including cycling accidents involving bikeshare services like Capital Bikeshare and third-party companies.

If you have a potential accident case you wish to discuss, our attorneys are available to speak with you personally about your rights and options. Contact us for a free consultation.