Free-For-All to Injure Bicyclists Because They “Assume the Risk”?

In May 2009, the New York Appellate Division, Second Department, issued a ruling in an interesting case involving one of our clients who was injured by dangerous construction conditions while bicycling in Southampton. She was hurt during a 72 mile ride she was taking with her bicycle club. She fell while trying to avoid hitting another cyclist who had fallen in front of her because of an unmarked 1 inch lip in an under-construction road.

She sued the Town of Southampton, the construction company who was working on the road, and the Suffolk County Water Authority which arranged for the work. The defendants argued that the bicyclists “assumed the risk” of possible negligently maintained roads when they chose to ride on a public road.

In general, “assumption of risk” means that one cannot sue for injuries that are an inherent and normal part of a voluntary activity. For instance, one boxer cannot sue another fighter in the ring for breaking his nose. He assumed the risk by entering a boxing ring. Similarly, one football player cannot sue another when he is hurt while being tackled. Here too, the defendants argued that cyclists assume the risk of negligent road conditions and therefore cannot sue for injuries sustained while biking.

The court disagreed, holding that the defendants’ position would have the effect of eliminating any duty to pedestrians, cyclists or others on public roadways when the injuries are considered inherent to the activity. The court affirmed the lower court’s decision to allow our client’s case to go to trail and solidified the common sense notion that municipalities, other government entities, construction companies, motor vehicle operators, and others must exercise reasonable care to avoid injuring pedestrians, runners, and bicyclists.

Contact the Nassau and Suffolk Personal Injury attorneys Rosenberg & Gluck

The Long Island personal injury attorneys at Rosenberg & Gluck, LLP have experience with all different types of accidents. Give us a call if you are injured in a bicycle accident or in any other way. Personal injury is all we do. For a free initial consultation, email us or call our office at 631-451-7900.