New DC law could help bikers get paid after accidents

New law to help bike crash victims get paid

With more bikers on D.C. roads than ever, there are more chances for bicycle accidents.

According to the D.C. Department of Transportation, more than 1,000 bicyclists and pedestrians are injured in the District each year -- 26 are killed -- and it's rare that bicyclists are compensated in accidents that are not their fault.

But a new law passed by D.C. City Council aims to remedy that. Bicyclists like Cam Spooner are thrilled.

Spooner has a pretty daunting reality.

"I ride to school every mornings and I know some mornings I've been in the hospital and some mornings I've made it to school successfully," explained Spooner.

One morning, he wasn't so successful.

"I was riding to school one morning and got ran over by a truck. I spent two days in the hospital," he said.

Spooner says he was cut off by a car, forcing him into traffic where he was hit by the truck. He was never compensated.

I had to pay for the hospital bills and the bike," said Spooner.

That's pretty common in the District under a law that does not allow cyclists to collect insurance after a collision with vehicle unless the driver of the vehicle was 100 percent at fault.

"And it could be a behavior that's legal or not even legal - legally required - if you're even one percent at fault then insurance companies can deny coverage," said Greg Billing, Executive Director of Washington Area Bicyclist Association. "This is one of those laws that most people don't know exists."

It was a law that insurance companies fought to keep.

"Insurance companies have incredible power to deny coverage to injured victims," explained Billing.

But the new law approved by D.C. City Council Tuesday calls for responsibility of a collision to be shared between those involved.

The measure doesn't call for automatic funds, you still have to prove your case but supporters say it gives bikers a chance.

Insurers and other opponents say it'll give D.C. residents higher insurance premiums. Bicyclists seem to be willing to take the risk.

"The guy who hit me should be paying for it. I shouldn't be stuck with the bill of thousands of dollars in hospital bills. Hundreds of dollars to replace my bike," said Jay Crockett, another D.C. biker.

The measure is now headed to Mayor Muriel Bowser's desk. If she signs the bill, and she has been a supporter, it will then spend 30 days under Congressional review. If it survives that, it will become law in the District.



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