Attorney Doug Landau at a bike rodeo teaching proper bike safety to Cub Scouts at Dogwood Elementary School

Distracted WALKING is a Thing?! Walker Distracted by Cell Phone Causes Biker’s Brain Injury

First of all, what happened?

Distracted walking can lead to disastrous results! In a recent bike race, the leading cyclist was taken out by a pedestrian right in front of the Finish Line. Going full speed to the finish line of a 54-mile race, racers are focused on the cheers of the crowd and giving every last ounce of effort. Yet a woman, apparently oblivious to the action, and with cell phone in hand, stepped right in front of the leader practically under the finish line banner. Distracted drivers, cyclists, runners, and even walkers pose a risk of unnecessary danger to others legally on the streets and sidewalks. 

In this particular case, the effects of not looking when crossing the road could have been catastrophic. As it turns out, no one died, but that was more through sheer luck, the wearing of a bike helmet and quick reflexes by the athlete. The biker sustained a moderate head injury and memory loss, in addition to abrasions and contusions. He was taken to the hospital. The woman who crossed the road was treated at the scene by medical personnel covering the race.

Video of the incident is contained in the New York post article about this crash.

When Doug Landau gives new helmets & bicycles to students, he ensures they know the proper, safe hand signals, and to look in all directions before crossing the street. Failure to look where they are going or give the proper hand turn signal can lead to preventable harm. Likewise, pedestrians must look to see what is coming and not cross the road when it is unsafe to do so. Looking at a cell phone or other distraction when crossing a street can have catastrophic consequences.

Does the cyclist have a case?

Bike injury lawyer Doug Landau was asked whether there could be any lawsuits as a result of the crash. While athletes are normally deemed to have assumed the risk of harm from overexertion, failing to maintain their bicycle, and not knowing the course, in this instance, the cyclist might have a case against the pedestrian, who stepped out directly into his path, without any warning. The injured biker may also have a claim against the race organizers, for failure to have any kind of rope, barrier or other demarcation to keep spectators off of the actual race course and out of the finish line area.

Most every race Doug Landau has ever sponsored or competed in, anywhere in the world, has at least rope, ribbons, balustrades or other barriers to keep competitors separated from onlookers. Any release the athlete may have signed to enter the race may prevent such a lawsuit, but certainly the law of the jurisdiction where this crash occurred would determine whether or not the injured athlete had a viable claim.

Landau was asked by several doctors who watched the video with him whether or not the pedestrian would have a viable lawsuit. Under Virginia law, both “assumption of the risk” and “contributory negligence” would block such a case. Looking at a cell phone while walking across the street would likely be fatal to the case in Circuit Court.

What about the pedestrian — does she have a case?
Attorney Doug Landau at a bike rodeo teaching proper bike safety to Cub Scouts at Dogwood Elementary School
At an October bike safety rodeo, Herndon and Reston lawyer Doug Landau taught the Dogwood Elementary School Cub Scout pack about bicycle turn signals, bike safety, and the proper way to wear their helmets. ABRAMS LANDAU distributed turn and stop hand signal literature and coloring books to the cub scouts and their families. The scouts had to demonstrate their ability to signal correctly before moving on to the next station, a bike obstacle course on the school blacktop. Lawyer Landau has taken part in both indoor and outdoor school safety programs in order to help prevent unnecessary injury to these developing youngsters. If you have a school or other group that could benefit from the ABRAMS LANDAU educational programming, please contact us.

Whether the pedestrian has a case against the Race Director, however, for failure to have barriers, is another consideration. But it is unlikely that the pedestrian’s case would be successful, for the reasons stated previously. Furthermore, if the pedestrian brought a case against the cyclist, it would likely be a loser, as the biker was lawfully in the road. The road was apparently closed to traffic, which would seem to be obvious to onlookers (even though another person crossed the road moments before the crash). The cyclist even unclipped his right foot from the pedal in an effort to try to avoid the crash. 

Virginians: Pay attention, or you might pay consequences!

Under Virginia law, cyclists, drivers and even pedestrians are charged with a duty to be aware of their surroundings. “Failure to pay full time and attention” is one of the charges a distracted driver can be cited with during crash investigation. Both sides in a lawsuit are expected to exercise reasonable care for their own safety, and the safety of others. That means exercising the level of safety that a reasonable person would exhibit under the circumstances. In this video, it does not appear that the injured pedestrian exercised “reasonable care” under the circumstances. Because of her unsafe conduct, a bike racer did not win the race, and more importantly, may have a permanent brain injury.

If you or someone you know was severely injured due to no fault of your own while you were bicycling, running, or driving, please give us a call (703-796-9555) or email us at Abrams Landau, Ltd. and we will try our best to help you receive the compensation you deserve.