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Thread: Hit by car on Columbia Pike,driver at fault/ticketed.Officer changed fault on report.

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    Default Hit by car on Columbia Pike,driver at fault/ticketed.Officer changed fault on report.

    HELP NEEDED.

    TLDR; I am in need of some advice after being struck by a car that was at fault. I was hit by a car in June and ended up in the hospital. The driver admitted he was at fault to myself, the EMT, and the responding officer. The officer verbally agreed that the driver was at fault, and issued the driver a ticket. However, the officer later changed his story on the police report and listed me as being at fault. When asked about this by my attorney, the officer said that he did so based on an assumption of excessive speed and position entering the intersection, regardless of what both parties (cyclist/driver) attested to at the scene. I also have my Strava data to disprove the officerís assumption.

    Long version below:

    On June 21st, I was riding east down Columbia Pike on the left hand sidewalk approaching the Queen St intersection, the crosswalk before the underpass at the bottom of the Marriot. On my commute, I take Columbia Pike to Orme to Southgate, I then take the path next to the Pentagon to get into town via the Arlington Memorial bridge. I've been doing this commute for years now. I keep my Strava data, which I use for running and biking. When traffic is packed on the Pike, I will take a sidewalk, ride my brakes, and coast slowly down the hill. Occasionally, as cyclists, we know this has to be done for safety. I'm extraordinarily careful when I do this.

    On this particular morning, I was on the sidewalk, as the road was backed up all the way past S Courthouse. As I coast into the crosswalk of S Queen St and Columbia Pike, I have the crossing signal. I see there is a car stopped to my left at the red light. I coast into the crosswalk as the car is stopped. Then suddenly, the car jolts forward and strikes me, T-boning me. I was thrown onto the hood of the car and my bike was hurled into the street. The driver gets out and is immediately apologetic. He repeats that itís his fault, calls 911, and then sticks around to talk to the emergency response crew. As Iím on the curb getting assessed, I can hear him repeating to the EMT, the police, and the fire crew that it was his fault. He was completely stopped when I entered the crosswalk, and he gunned it and drove right into me. All I can guess is that he was texting, or he was looking left to see if traffic was coming so he could make a sharp right turn onto Columbia Pike. Regardless, he didnít see me at all, hence me being thrown onto the hood of the car before he even stopped.

    I was put in an ambulance and taken to Virginia Hospital where I was diagnosed with a fractured patella. The officer came to the ER and told me that he had given the driver a citation for failing to yield to a pedestrian, and that the driver was at fault. State Farm recommended I get an attorney to handle everything because my wife was due to give birth the following week. Fast forward to August, and my attorney calls me and tells me that there is a police report that says I was at fault. My attorney tells me he has tried calling the officer and he wonít reply. My wife finally emails his sergeant and the officer responds to my attorney now that more eyes are on the situation. According to my attorney he was very defensive, and almost rude. He tells my attorney that he made an assumption because I was traveling down a hill, that I entered the crosswalk too fast, and the car was already moving and struck me. THIS IS NOT TRUE. The car was at a stop when I coasted into the crosswalk at 12mph. The average runner travels between 10 and 15 mph. I was going no faster than a runner. My Strava shows me at 12mph when I was hit.

    What makes this worse is that the Maryland driver was UNINSURED and lied about it. Searching his name for the citation, I found that he has past speeding tickets, driving with a suspended license, and driving an unregistered car. Not one consequence has happened to this person. Someone could have been seriously hurt or killed, and you can see a pattern of negligence behind the wheel based on his prior tickets. Meanwhile, Arlington County Police did nothing to defend me or make the area safer for cyclists. My wife gave birth the following week, and I was in a wheelchair unable to drive her to the hospital or care for her or our baby for months. I am still unable to run a significant distance and am still in physical therapy. Iím incurring thousands of dollars of bills that are unpaid due to insurance and litigation. To put it in perspective, on the day I was hit, I had run 460 miles so far in 2017. Iím still unable to run a full mile today without walking.

    The fact that Iím listed at fault is making my insurance claim much more difficult. I'm having trouble accepting the fact that the officer changed his story based on nothing but an assumption. I have data that can disprove this. What can I do? This intersection is MAYHEM for cyclists. Two weeks after I was hit, a driver sent a cyclist into a coma, driver at fault. Another week later, and a cyclist was thrown from his bike after being hit by another car who was at fault. Same intersection. What can we do about this?

    Between the uninsured motorist, the indignant officer who changed his story with no witnesses to back it up, and a useless attorney, Iím really in a difficult situation. Iím only reaching out now, months later, because my baby is finally sleeping at night, my knee is healing, and I have some time to dedicate to this issue now. I need advice on next steps. Do I have any recourse regarding my Strava data that can disprove the officer? What about making Columbia Pike safer? What about getting rid of my attorney who is not working in my interest? What about repercussions for the driver? Any advice is welcome. Going through our first child birth when I was in a wheelchair unable to help, or drive, or walk, was really hard on us. I have lost countless nights of sleep due to how upset I am at this situation. It still hurts to take the stairs, despite my PT work. How come Arlington county doesn't do anything to make the Pike safer for cyclists? The "bike boulevard" is a band aid and a joke. We need a lane OR a safer way to get to the Pentagon, or at least the Sheraton/Orme where cyclists have access to South Gate Rd.

    Thanks for reading, everyone. Iím sure I missed some points, I will update as needed in my replies.

    PS - If you look at my only other post in this forum, it was a year ago and regarding my frustrations of the lack of safe options on Columbia Pike.


  2. #2
    mstone is offline I really need to log off the internet and go for a ride.
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    Get another lawyer.

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    You can get a better lawyer, but you probably won't get much in damages from an uninsured motorist. There's a reason they are uninsured, and it's not due to having enough assets to self insure.

    What will probably matter is how large your uninsured motorist policy is, if your insurance covers while biking. This is an area that is easy to overlook in coverage as the minimums are really low.

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    First of all, I'm so glad it's not worse, and congratulations on the new baby. The timing really, really sucks.

    Secondly, you should probably flip through WABA's What To Do After a Crash: http://www.waba.org/resources/what-to-do-after-a-crash/

    Sounds like you have a number of different threads to pursue:
    1) your claim -- it sounds like you need a new lawyer -- there are some recommended on WABA's explainer (Cory does a lot in Arlington)

    2) improving ACPD response. It sounds like what's happened is very frustrating. I would wait until you have a lawyer you trust, and go through strategy with that person, but in general, it's worth a wider discussion with the Police about what they base their citations on and what sources of information they may not be looking at. We talk to ACPD through BAC and we will bring this up.

    3) improving the Pike. Again, a common topic at BAC, and one that will probably be a big factor in the update to the Bicycle Element, once we get to the point where we're talking about specific locations (right now we're talking policies). If you have any thoughts about policies that you'd recommend to address your situation, definitely let the Working Group know -- bikeplanupdate@arlingtonva.us

    And please, tell your story. Right now, the plan for that end of the Pike is a 10-12' wide sidewalk trail (see e.g. page 150 of this report. It sounds like that infrastructure would not only have not helped in your case, but would probably lead people biking to be going faster, leading to more conflicts. That plan was based on a study that's now 5 years old, and was completed before Fort Myer effectively closed its gates to cyclists, and before the removal of Southgate Road was certain. countyboard@arlingtonva.us is a quick way to tell the Board; countymanager@arlingtonva.us is a quick way to tell the Manager; des-teo@arlingtonva.us is a relatively new way to report issues like this to the Department responsible for fixing it. (And police@arlingtonva.us is for ACPD)

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    I hate being the turd in the punch bowl, but if your claim of no fault includes going 12 mph in the crosswalk against the flow of traffic, the officer's revised claim of excessive speed will be accepted without much pause by any judge or court. Probably enough that the fault is shared pretty evenly. I know cyclists in crosswalks are supposed to be treated as pedestrians, but pedestrians walk 3 mph. A vector moving at 12 mph is not moving like a normal pedestrian. It's very unexpected. It allows the driver to claim with some reason that "he came out of nowhere." I would claim you were moving at 3 mph if you can.

    Your account sure sounds like the driver was only looking left when they gunned it to turn right on red, and that really sucks, I face that same situation every evening near the Arlington Cemetery Metro, so I sympathize. In my case even, the cars are coming off of VA-110 so they roll through without stopping because they treat it like an exit ramp. I've been commuting 25 years and that sort of crossing is my most dangerous. I don't proceed until the car is stopped and I make eye-contact.

    So I really do sympathize, but it's hard for that to not sound snarky on an anonymous message board. So I'm saying it: I'm sorry this happened to you. I just don't think you're going to be able to reel this one back in your favor. I hope you do, I just don't think so. Good luck.

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    If you were on the south side of Columbia Pike, the light has a no turn on red sign, which would give you much better claim on the vehicle being entirely at fault. On the north side, right turns are allowed on red, so if you were going at a decent pace, then it's possible the driver didn't look back right for bikes and could claim they didn't see you.

    Based on your accident and the others you describe, I would advocate for a no turn on red coming off the ramp and possibly bike crossing signs as well.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dasgeh View Post
    First of all, I'm so glad it's not worse, and congratulations on the new baby. The timing really, really sucks.

    Secondly, you should probably flip through WABA's What To Do After a Crash: http://www.waba.org/resources/what-to-do-after-a-crash/

    Sounds like you have a number of different threads to pursue:
    1) your claim -- it sounds like you need a new lawyer -- there are some recommended on WABA's explainer (Cory does a lot in Arlington)

    2) improving ACPD response. It sounds like what's happened is very frustrating. I would wait until you have a lawyer you trust, and go through strategy with that person, but in general, it's worth a wider discussion with the Police about what they base their citations on and what sources of information they may not be looking at. We talk to ACPD through BAC and we will bring this up.

    3) improving the Pike. Again, a common topic at BAC, and one that will probably be a big factor in the update to the Bicycle Element, once we get to the point where we're talking about specific locations (right now we're talking policies). If you have any thoughts about policies that you'd recommend to address your situation, definitely let the Working Group know -- bikeplanupdate@arlingtonva.us

    And please, tell your story. Right now, the plan for that end of the Pike is a 10-12' wide sidewalk trail (see e.g. page 150 of this report. It sounds like that infrastructure would not only have not helped in your case, but would probably lead people biking to be going faster, leading to more conflicts. That plan was based on a study that's now 5 years old, and was completed before Fort Myer effectively closed its gates to cyclists, and before the removal of Southgate Road was certain. countyboard@arlingtonva.us is a quick way to tell the Board; countymanager@arlingtonva.us is a quick way to tell the Manager; des-teo@arlingtonva.us is a relatively new way to report issues like this to the Department responsible for fixing it. (And police@arlingtonva.us is for ACPD)
    Thanks for all of this information! I really appreciate how cohesive it was. Correct, this is incredibly frustrating for me. Trying to stay positive.

    I'm in the process of trying to dump this attorney, but I'm locked in a contract. He's done no help and just wants me to stay in PT as long as possible, regardless of my progress. The knucklehead even missed our first face to face meeting. He doesn't care.

    I will email and share this story with the addresses you provided. One of my main concerns is the ACPD response, or the lack of response. I would love to acquire the services of a good attorney, probably Cory, or another individual listed in the "What to do.." resource. Because I don't have the advice of a decent attorney at the moment, I feel like my hands are tied regarding what to do about ACPD. I was considering filing a complaint to see if gets any traction, but I don't think it would go anywhere. It just seems unsettling how it's been handled. More eyes on this situation would potentially help improve this intersection.

    I just started biking to work again 2 weeks ago. It's a wonderful feeling, but I still tense up when I ride through that intersection. I hope we get a good alternative someday. A 5 year old study is not what we should be basing the next improvements on.

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    I noticed that you have Green Valley as your location. Have you considered riding on Army-Navy drive or even going the longer way around 4 Mile Run and the MVT. Both are much less congested than Columbia Pike.

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    Steve O's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mstone View Post
    Get another lawyer.
    Bruce Deming

    Bruce's website says he provides a free initial consultation, so unless your contract prohibits that, there's no harm in giving him a call.



    Last edited by Steve O; 11-03-2017 at 01:04 PM.

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  13. #10
    Steve O's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brendan von Buckingham View Post
    I hate being the turd in the punch bowl, but if your claim of no fault includes going 12 mph in the crosswalk against the flow of traffic, the officer's revised claim of excessive speed will be accepted without much pause by any judge or court. Probably enough that the fault is shared pretty evenly. I know cyclists in crosswalks are supposed to be treated as pedestrians, but pedestrians walk 3 mph. A vector moving at 12 mph is not moving like a normal pedestrian. It's very unexpected. It allows the driver to claim with some reason that "he came out of nowhere." I would claim you were moving at 3 mph if you can.
    I somewhat disagree with this. As a former runner, I could run a steady 9 mph, somewhat faster downhill and when doing intervals. A runner is a pedestrian I believe. There is no such thing as "against the flow of traffic" when a pedestrian. An attentive driver should "expect" that. The OP was moving at a similar speed and had the walk signal.
    If the driver had hit me, running at 9-10 mph, would you assign fault evenly, too? What if I were jogging with a jogging stroller and a baby?
    Last edited by Steve O; 11-03-2017 at 01:07 PM.

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