Monday, April 19, 2010

Representing The Competitive Cyclist In Personal Injury Litigation

Competitive cyclists are a hardy bunch. Years ago I did a bit of mountain bike racing. It was very amateur stuff and I generally got my butt kicked, but even at that level there was definitely a hard-ass, nothing-will-slow-me-down attitude among the competitors. Like any other athlete, bicycle racers get hurt. They crash, lose skin, break bones. But following an injury many of these folks will want to just rub some dirt on it then get right back on their bikes. I admire that attitude, but it can get in the way of a personal injury claim. Say, for example, you are out training before a big race, get hit by a car and suffer a shoulder separation and ankle fracture. You hire an attorney who brings a claim against the driver. Grimacing with each pedal stroke you participate in and finish the big race, though you don't do as well as in previous contests. When your attorney begins negotiating resolution of the case, the motorist's attorney (hired by the insurance company) pushes back against your demand for a significant settlement by pointing out that you raced soon after your accident; your injury must not be too bad.

Wait, what? thinks the bicyclist's attorney. How the heck did he know about the race? Many insurance companies will look up a competitive athlete's race history online to learn if they've raced soon after sustaining a injury. The defense will use this information to suggest that the injury wasn't very serious after all. In front of a jury of coach potatoes, you can imagine the type of impact this information may have.

The attorney of an injured competitive cyclist must take into account that the defense will learn his or her client's race history when devising a case strategy. The client must me made to understand that racing after an accident may negatively impact the case. Perhaps it should be avoided. If the race is just too important then care must be taken early in litigation to gather evidence to help a jury understand the competitor's mindset and to appreciate how a serious athlete endures pain. If the cyclist had to be taped, casted or otherwise specialty outfitted in order to race, take some photographs depicting this. Catalog race statistics and results from before the accident and be prepared to compare those to race results afterward. Was performance compromised by the injury? The bottom line is that the attorney must be ready to teach a jury (or a claims adjuster) about the athletes' mindset. An athlete endures pain, but suffers nonetheless.

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