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Lawsuit filed in case of bike that flew off auto rack on I-5

Posted by on March 12th, 2014 at 10:04 am

The Oregonian is reporting this morning that a woman has filed a $49,000 lawsuit to recover damages caused when she had to make a panic stop while driving on I-5 in order to avoid a bicycle that had fallen off someone’s rack.

Here’s more from The O:

“A bicycle that tumbled off a rack and onto Interstate 5 at freeway speeds caused Dawn Martin to suddenly slam on her brakes in March 2012.

She was able to avoid a crash. Unfortunately, however, the driver behind her wasn’t. He slammed into her 1992 Nissan pickup, causing her to suffer a long list of whiplash-type injuries…

She took that legal route, her attorney says, after two years of wrangling with insurance companies and is seeking $49,000 in damages.

Martin is suing not only the driver who struck her for allegedly tailgating, but the driver whose car was carrying the bicycle for allegedly failing to secure his load.”

We published a story about this incident when it happened just over two years ago. At that time, the driver of the car that was carrying the bike, Todd Foreman-Kinder, was unaware that his bike had caused any collision. He told us that by the time he could exit the freeway and survey the scene, all he saw was a skidmark. The bike (which belonged to his girlfriend) was nowhere to be seen and he reported it as stolen.

This case should serve as a reminder to always double-check your straps and rack fittings to make sure your bike is secure.

Read more about the lawsuit at OregonLive.com.

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  • Phil Kulak March 12, 2014 at 10:54 am

    Pretty sure the driver who slammed into her from behind is responsible for all damages. You know, since he’s the one who’s at fault for the crash…

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    • Chris I March 12, 2014 at 12:30 pm

      Partially. I think it is safe to say that the driver who did not secure the bike (and broke a state law), and the driver behind who was following to closely are mostly at fault. The lady may be at fault if she swerved into an adjacent lane without enough space.

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  • q`Tzal March 12, 2014 at 11:12 am

    This sounds like bike news but really is “automobile driver didn’t secure their cargo” news.
    This is a big deal for truckers and is covered under federal FMCSA rules 393.106 & 393.110. Even if nothing falls off it is is a violation that goes on your record.
    But passenger car drivers aint got nuttin to worry bout; inattention and ineptitude are authorized by law.

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    • Granpa March 12, 2014 at 11:26 am

      Correct. If the driver, or following motorist had been on a motorcycle it could have been a fatality or paralyzing accident. Unsecured loads can be real bad.

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    • meh March 12, 2014 at 12:32 pm

      Why would the original article on Bike Portland be bike news when the cyclist reported his bike stolen after it fell off his rack and now that injuries and damages are incurred it’s no longer bike news???

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      • q`Tzal March 12, 2014 at 1:23 pm

        For the same reason that a story that describes what happens when a 2 year old fingerpaints the dining room with their birthday cake is actually a story about a messy child in which a cake is a passive object that could be replaced by anything else without affecting the theme of the story.

        In this case the bike that fell off the motor vehicle could be replaced by anything that could be manually lifted on a roof and the story would be identical except that it wouldn’t be on Bikeportland.org.

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        • meh March 12, 2014 at 3:38 pm

          Didnt see any posting from you complaining about the original story not being bike related. But then again it was a whiny piece about a bike being “stolen” after it fell off the rack on I-5, not really anything to do with the injury and damage to property the improperly securec bike caused.

          But it is a bike story in that many of us here secure our bikes to racks on a regular basis and odds are most of us dont check those racks and straps often enough to ensure that they doing what they were designed for. So yeah it’s a bike story.

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          • q`Tzal March 12, 2014 at 4:59 pm

            I’ll cop to hypocritical apathy regarding the initial article. Doesn’t make my analysis any less valid.
            This entire article could be summed up as “secure your bike or you could get sued.” but as I followed up afterwards we all need to secure our outboard cargo better.
            Their ain’t nothing I can do in a big truck to dodge someone’s furniture or mattress or anything that will cause a collision. As a matter of official corporate training we were advised to NEVER ATTEMPT to swerve to miss wildlife because it is far too easy to Jack knife and/or flip a tractor and trailer when attempting such a maneuver with a heavy truck.
            Lose cargo falling from a vehicle is equally unpredictable and suddenly very dangerous. Is it incumbent upon every driver to follow so far back as to be able stop safely if an oil tanker truck spills? Anything between your tires and the road surface above 45mph might as well be oil or ice from your sudden inability to stop.
            We can only rely on the person loading their own cargo not to lazily endanger everyone on the road behind them.

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      • q`Tzal March 12, 2014 at 2:40 pm

        But yeah, secure your bike.
        And your skis
        And your lumber
        And your furniture
        And your tools
        And your ladder
        And your….

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  • meh March 12, 2014 at 11:34 am

    So when did he become aware there were damages and injuries from the incident?

    Is his insurance company stonewalling the victim?

    A more in depth follow up is required and would make sense with the previous article on how to handle insurance companies.

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  • dan March 12, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    Interestingly, my friend rear-ended another car that had panic braked because ODOT had left a — what do you call these things, a big orange pylon that’s supposed to be filled with water or sand — on the side of the road without any weights in it and it blew over and rolled into the road.

    He was 100% at fault, and ODOT had no responsibility. How does that work?

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    • dave March 12, 2014 at 12:22 pm

      If he can’t stop when the car in front panic stops, he was following too close. End of story.

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      • dan March 12, 2014 at 12:39 pm

        Yeah, no argument there. To be clear, I’m wondering why the creator of the hazard (ODOT in that case, Todd Foreman-Kinder in this case) bears responsibility in one case but not the other.

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        • dave March 12, 2014 at 1:01 pm

          Seems like a separate issue to me. IANAL, but it’s reasonable to expect that a driver should properly secure any load, and failure to do so places some burden of liability on them for resulting accidents. Roadside hazards on the other hand, are just that – hazards that cannot reasonably be controlled in all circumstances, even if ODOT had some hand in creating them.

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        • Pete March 12, 2014 at 9:59 pm

          Not sure what courts saw your friend’s case, but this is civil court – I could sue you for looking at me funny if I wanted to. I’m no lawyer, but I know that in typical insurance claim situations the two (or more) parties will enter into “subrogation” – a fancy word saying the claims get paid and then the insurance companies’ lawyers figure out who (which company) bears the burden based on weighing evidence of negligence by one of the parties (i.e. who caused the ‘accident’?). From what I read it seems this was already done but Martin was dissatisfied with the amount of her claims payment. In true whiplash situations there’re often recurring complications long after the incident and claims are settled, so this should come as no surprise.

          My friend blew a tire and rolled her custom van on I-5 in SoCal and was plagued by neck problems for years. During the investigation it was determined the load rating on the tires wasn’t adequate for the custom van, and she could have sued the van company but instead continued negotiations with her insurance company who continued to pay for her lengthy physical therapies. In this case I suspect the insurance company sued the van company, and I suspect insurance companies are experienced enough to know when claims will continue for lengthy periods of time…

          JMaus I agree it isn’t the “bikiest” of stories but do appreciate your tendency to follow through!

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      • Chris I March 12, 2014 at 12:51 pm

        Exactly. Do we still call it “panic stopping” when it’s a child in the street instead of a traffic cone? Make sure your brakes are working, people, and pay attention!

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  • Dan March 12, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    Shameless plug for RACK ATTACK, ha ha.

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  • scott March 12, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    If there’s any story we hear worse than bikes getting peeled off by a garage/low overhang, its bikes/kayaks/skis falling off on the highway. Thanks for the plug Dan, and yes, triple-check your load before you drive!!

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  • Paul March 12, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    If Martin didn’t crash into the bicycle, who did, and why weren’t they still there when Foreman-Kinder returned? If the bike wasn’t struck or damaged maybe somebody just helped themselves to it.
    Personally, I think it’s reasonable for Martin to go after both parties, but the rear-enders insurance should have covered Martin’s medical costs, etc. Doesn’t sound like an outrageous sum to me.

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  • michelle March 13, 2014 at 12:09 pm

    I was with a friend when his bike fell off the top of his car. Thankfully it didn’t hurt anyone and it was because he hadn’t secured it properly.

    A bike getting hurled off a car could kill someone. I can’t even imagine being on I-5, going 55+ and have a bike come flying out of nowhere onto the road.

    I don’t think Martin is asking for an unreasonable sum. One thing is clear, none of this is HER fault.

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  • Paul March 13, 2014 at 11:10 pm

    I once drove over a large ladder in the middle of I-5 in S. Cal. at 70+ mph. No way was I going to swerve or brake. Made quite a noise and bump but no harm in the end. Came close to hitting a sofa in the middle of the night too. Yes, please secure your belongings and don’t brake for a 25lb. bicycle. Your life and that of others is not worth a dent on your car.

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