WE ARE ATTORNEYS AND WE ARE RIDERS
WE REPRESENT WISCONSIN CYCLISTS
HAD A BICYCLE CRASH IN WISCONSIN?
Contact Ben Dodge to see if the bicycle crash lawyers at Bike Accident Attorneys (BAA) can help. Unlike other lawyers who attempt to represent cyclists, our BAA lawyers actually ride and race their bicycles as well as appear and win in court. Most attorneys are just pencil pushers. We are court room litigators who are passionate about riding our bikes and we have associated local counsel in other states to allow us to help you in your state. Based on our expertise and experience we have also been admitted in other states to appear in court for our bicycle crash clients on a case by case basis. We can help you directly or ensure that you get the quality help you need in your state. Contact Ben Dodge now to see how we can protect your rights.
3 Tips on Choosing the Best Bicycle Crash Lawyer and Avoid Being Scammed
So how do you know if you have the best lawyer? There are 3 things to investigate when hiring a bicycle lawyer that can help you avoid a scammer. Some of that depends on what you think the “best” really means. To me, it is simple. The “best” lawyer will get you to the most advantageous position possible with as little cost as possible. That’s it. Nothing else to it. I have seen too many lawyers give up or miss out on incredible opportunities for their clients because of their own egos arguing the irrelevant issues or pushing too hard in a direction that only generates their own fees as opposed to the results the client would rather have.
The most advantageous position is sometimes not even what the client comes in asking for. I can’t tell you how many times I probably talked myself out of a job in an initial consult because what the client wanted actually puts them in a worse position and I wasn’t afraid to tell them so. It would have been so much easier to just tell them what they desperately wanted to hear, help them feel heard and let them vent a little. All just tell them we better hurry up and rush to court so they can be vindicated. When in reality, that won’t help them at all. So that is what many lawyers do- they try to figure out what the client wants emotionally and then sell them a legal service that matches that emotional need and of course charge them for it based on whatever they think the client is able to pay.
Obviously not all attorneys are this cold-hearted. Many of us actually care. Many of us strive to do right by the client as opposed to just trying to do right by the pocket book.
Here are some general things to watch out for when looking for an attorney, especially a bicycle accident lawyer (I don’t like the word accident, I prefer “crash” – but most of the world uses the term accident and I understand why, so I sue it too). Here are the issues to watch out for:
1) Specific Knowledge
Do they have the specific knowledge required to handle your case? Just because they graduated from law school doesn’t mean they know anything about cycling! In fact, in my opinion, most of the country doesn’t know anything about cycling. It is crazy that all sorts of professionals from police offices charged with enforcing cycling safety to insurance adjusters responsible for finding fault don’t know anything about cycling laws. This is especially true with local rules, ordinances, and even more so with knowledge of local customs and implied expectations of cycling culture and more. Now fast forward to the moment when you are looking for an attorney to help you with your crash (your bicycle accident case) and you see a billboard on the side of the freeway, or a TV commercial, or even a Google search where the words cycling lawyer were used… How much specific knowledge of bicycle cases do you think they really have? Ask them how often they ride? Ask them what their favorite route is? Ask them if they could buy any bike on the planet what would it be and why? These questions will help you quickly identify if they are even remotely plugged into the cycling community and whether or not they have specific knowledge relating to cycling. Why is this important? SIMPLE- as a cyclist you already know that most people (drivers) hate that we are out on the roads. You already have an uphill court battle of public opinion. Being right on some traffic issue isn’t enough for us. Your lawyer must know this intimately in order to successfully navigate the complex negotiations of your case with the insurance company and opposing attorneys and then ultimately in a court room where you can bet no one on the jury will be a cyclist.
Also on the topic of specific knowledge. How many cases like this issue have they handled? What were the outcomes? How confident do you feel with their answers to these questions? Specific case knowledge is helpful. Do they have experience with the opposing insurance company? With that specific police department? With your judge? And on and on.
Specific knowledge is very helpful and you can’t buy it with expensive marketing on billboards, commercials, etc. It is earned with blood, sweat, and sometimes tears through years of experience.
2) Desk or Courtroom
The next thing to investigate is whether or not the attorney you’re thinking about hiring is a desk lawyer (I fondly refer to these lawyers as pencil pushers) or a courtroom lawyer. There is a need for all sorts of lawyers. But unless you are planning on having your bicycle accident attorney draft a will or some contract for you, then you want a courtroom lawyer not a pencil pusher.
I know this is a guess, but in my experience it seems like 95% of lawyers, especially the ones who end up on billboards and commercials, are just pencil pushers. Once their cases get to tough they refer them out to a real lawyer to finish the courtroom stuff for them. Most attorneys talk a big talk in their consult with potential clients about how good they are, but when push comes to shove and they have to actually prove it to you in a courtroom with you watching, their peers (opposing lawyers on the other side of your case) and in front of a judge and jury- they simply freak out and completely drop the ball or settle for less than you should ever take just to avoid the scary courtroom.
Don’t mistakenly hire a pencil pusher. Hire a bicycle accident lawyer who thrives in the courtroom. One simple question to help catch them off guard is ask them when is the last time they were in court? What was it about? What kind of hearing was it? What was the argument they proposed and made to the judge? How did it turn out? These simple questions will help you find out if they are pencil pushers or not. Their hesitation or odd answers are a dead give away that they are likely misleading you on their courtroom abilities and experience.
We are courtroom lawyers, sometimes even going multiple times per week to court. We file lawsuits, we don’t just write a few meaningless settlement letters and sell our clients on how good the settlement is- we prove it to our clients.
3) Do You Recognize Them from a Billboard or Commercial?
Yes I said that right, do you actually recognize them from a billboard or a TV commercial? Why is this even a thing? Well, it sounds harsh but those lawyers out there spending hundreds of thousands of dollars per year (for some they spend that per month) just to recruit new clients may be struggling to get their current and past clients to even refer to them… Yep, what if your lawyer was so good and you were so impressed that you happily sent business to him/or her? See how powerful that is? I’m not saying that everyone who advertises in our line of work is a horrible lawyer. What I am saying is that it is a bit suspect since advertising is NOT cheap and it begs the question as to why they have to advertise in the first place? Is their reputation with their own clients so bad that they have to find an alternative source to finding clients? Possibly. I’m one of those guys who avoids, in fact runs away from any professional I see on a billboard. I’d much rather consult a trusted friend and get their opinion as to whom I should see or NOT see based on their experience.
Not all lawyers who advertise are bad. But like I said, I personally run away from any professional on a billboard or TV commercial. A good old fashioned referral has always proved to be much better much more often. Just sayin’.
These are just 3 of the many things to look out for when you hire a bicycle accident lawyer. Call my office up and we can chat over the phone sometime about all the other million things to look out for like attorney billable hour quotas, bonus structures, professional reputation among peers, and so much more!
We are here for you. We got your back. We protect our own like you’re a member of our tribe. Good luck. Be safe out there and keep the rubber side down.
Contact Ben Dodge and let the lawyers in the Bike Accident Attorneys National Network help you. We will assist you in your case and/or find someone for you in your state that we can trust and recommend. We have your back. We are here for you.
(Wisconsin State Flag)
WISCONSIN BICYCLE ACCIDENT STATISTICS
Percentage of Total Traffic Fatalities
Pedalcyclist Fatalities per Million Population
WISCONSIN BICYCLE STATUTES
The bicycle is defined as a vehicle. [340.01(5)]
The operator of a vehicle is granted the same rights and subject to the same duties as the driver of any other vehicle. [346.02(4)(a)]
Always ride on the right, in the same direction as other traffic. [346.80(2)(a)]
Ride as far to the right as is practicable (not as far right as possible) [346.80(2)(a)]. Practicable generally means safe and reasonable.
Article 346.80(2)(a) lists a few situations when it is not practicable to ride far to the right:
- When overtaking and passing another vehicle traveling in the same direction
- When preparing for a left turn at an inter-section or driveway
- When reasonably necessary to avoid unsafe conditions, including fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards or substandard width lanes [defined as a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and a motor vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane].
- When going the same speed as motorized traffic
One Way Streets
Bicyclists on a one-way street with two or more lanes of traffic may ride as near the left or right-hand edge or curb of the roadway as practicable (in the same direction as other traffic). [346.80(2)(b)]
Bike Lanes and Use of Shoulders
(12) Driving on bicycle lane or bicycle way. No operator of a motor vehicle may drive upon a bicycle lane or bicycle way except to enter a driveway, to merge into a bicycle lane before turning at an intersection, or to enter or leave a parking space located adjacent to the bicycle lane or bicycle way. Persons operating a motor vehicle upon a bicycle lane or bicycle way shall yield the right-of-way to all bicycles and electric personal assistive mobility devices within the bicycle lane
Bicycles may be ridden on the shoulder of a highway unless prohibited by local authorities. [386.04(1m)]
The Bike Fed recently changed the law in Wisconsin so it is now legal for bicycles to ride through red lights after stopping and waiting for 45 seconds if they suspect the light is actuated but is not tuned to detect bicycles.
Wisconsin statute 346.37(1)(c)(4) outlines the one exception to general rule of stopping for red lights for operators of bicycles, motorcycles, mopeds and motorbikes. The exception is for intersections where the lights are controlled by vehicle-actuated sensors – that is, the light will only change when it senses that a vehicle is present. Some sensors do not pick up smaller vehicles, such as bicycles and motorcycles, and therefore will not change no matter how long the operator waits at the light. If you are on a bicycle and have waited at least 45 seconds at a red light, and you believe the light only changes color when it senses the presence of a motor vehicle, you may proceed through the intersection if it is safe to do so.
Here’s exactly what the statute says:
“a motorcycle, moped, motor bicycle, or bicycle facing a red signal at an intersection may, after stopping as required under subd. 1. for not less than 45 seconds, proceed cautiously through the intersection before the signal turns green if no other vehicles are present at the intersection to actuate the signal and the operator of the motorcycle, moped, motor bicycle, or bicycle reasonably believes the signal is vehicle actuated. The operator of a motorcycle, moped, motor bicycle, or bicycle proceeding through a red signal under this subdivision shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicular traffic, pedestrian, bicyclist, or rider of an electric personal assistive mobility device proceeding through a green signal at the intersection or lawfully within a crosswalk or using the intersection.”
Riding 2 abreast is permitted on any street as long as other traffic is not impeded. When riding 2 abreast on a 2 or more lane roadway, you both have to ride within a single lane. [346.80(3)(a)]
Bicyclists are required to use the same hand signals as motorists [346.35] or the alternate and more intuitive right hand to indicate right turn.
Hand signals are required within 50 feet of your turn.. They are not required continuously if you need both hands to control the bicycle [346.34(1)(b)]
A motorist passing a bicyclist in the same lane is required to give the bicyclist at least 3 feet of clearance, and to maintain that clearance until safely past. [346.075]
A bicyclist passing a stopped or moving vehicle shall exercise due care when passing. [346.80(2)(c)]
Use of Sidewalks
State Statutes allow local units of government to permit vehicles on sidewalks through local ordinances. 346.94(1)]
When bicycles are allowed to be operated on sidewalks, bicyclists must yield to pedestrians and give an audible warning when passing pedestrians traveling in the same direction. [346.804]At intersections and other sidewalk crossings (alleys, driveways), a bicyclist on the sidewalk has the same rights and duties as pedestrians. [346.23, 24, 25, 37, 38]
Bicycling at Night
Bicycling at night requires at least a white front headlight, a red rear reflector and/or a red rear light. Specifically: “No person may operate a bicycle, motor bicycle, or electric personal assistive mobility device upon a highway, sidewalk, bicycle lane, or bicycle way during hours of darkness unless the bicycle, motor bicycle, or electric personal assistive mobility device is equipped with or, with respect to a bicycle or motor bicycle, the operator is wearing, a lamp emitting a white light visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the front of the bicycle, motor bicycle, or electric personal assistive mobility device. A bicycle, motor bicycle, or electric personal assistive mobility device shall also be equipped with a red reflector that has a diameter of at least 2 inches of surface area or, with respect to an electric personal assistive mobility device, that is a strip of reflective tape that has at least 2 square inches of surface area, on the rear so mounted and maintained as to be visible from all distances from 50 to 500 feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful upper beams of headlamps on a motor vehicle. A lamp emitting a steady or flashing red light visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear may be used in lieu of the red reflector. [347.489(1)]
Duty to report a crash (accident) [346.70]
The operator of a vehicle involved in a collision resulting in injury to or death of any person, or total damage to property owned by any one person of $1,000 or more shall immediately give notice of such collision to the police.
- “Injury” means injury to a person of a physical nature resulting in death or the need of first aid or attention by a physician or surgeon, whether or not first aid or medical or surgical treatment was actually received
- “Total damage to property owned by one person” means the sum total cost of putting the property damaged in the condition it was before the accident, or the sum total cost of replacing such property.
Electric assist bicycles are a rapidly growing segment of the market. In the United States of America, Congress has defined a low-speed electric bicycle as any bicycle or tricycle with fully operable pedals, an electric motor not exceeding 750 W of power and a top motor-powered speed not in excess of 20 miles per hour. An electric bike or trike that meets these limitations is regarded as a bicycle Ifil by Public Law 107-319.12] This Law defines electric bicycles only for the purpose of Consumer Product Safety and does not allow for their use on roads. It is a safety criteria that manufacturers should use in building electric bicycles, which helps protect manufacturers from the threat of lawsuits from within states that attempt to legislate more stringent safety requirements.
These are Federal regulations that put control of monitoring the safety of electric bicycles into the hands of the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), which supersede any state law that is more stringent, but only regarding safety equipment required on electric bicycles and not regarding whether electric bicycles are street legal. The states still decide what vehicles are allowed to use the roads in their state.
TEA-21 and SAFETEA-LU Specify that legal Ebikes, as defined above, are legal on urban bicycle trail systems getting any federal funding unless states or local entities have passed laws specifically dis-allowing electric assist bicycles. Under Federal Law, Ebikes are NOT considered motor vehicles unless the state or local entity has passed a law otherwise.
There is a MISCONCEPTION that when “motor vehicles” or “motorized vehicles” are disallowed by law or by signage, that this always means ebikes are illegal on trails. This is UNTRUE in many states; these terms do not include “legal low power electric assist bicycles”, and can only be banned by passing a specific state or local law. (See TEA-21 Federal DOT Law)
SAFETEA-LU is a 2005 Federal Re-authorization of the 1990s TEA-21, and renews the exclusion of legal ebikes from the classification of’motor vehicles’ from urban trail use unless a specific local ebike statute is passed.
“Motorized vehicles are not permitted on trails and pedestrian walkways EXCEPT FOR: maintenance purposes, motorized wheelchairs, and-when State or local regulations permit-snowmobiles and electric bicycles. Electric bicycles are defined for the purposes of this Act as a bicycle or tricycle with a low-powered electric motor weighing less than 100 pounds with a top motor-powered speed not in excess of20 miles per hour.”
(The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users, P.L.109-59 Available from the Government Printing Office or online at www.dot.gov. Title 23, United States Code. Available from the Government Printing Office or your local library system.)
There is some debate as to if and where the 100 lb rule applies. On the surface it appears to be valid on trails. Check your state and local laws for any recent changes.
As always, unsafe operation may be a specific illegal or civil matter to be handled by local courts.
Wisconsin E-bike Laws
Wisconsin state statutes have not been updated to reflect Federal laws, so you may run into trouble using an e-assist bicycle on trails. The Wisconsin Bike Fed will be working with our state legislature to amend and update our laws to bring them into compliance with Federal rules and modern e-bike standards. Currently Wisconsin laws are as follows:
Electric bicycles in Wisconsin are defined as motor bicycles. Motor bicycle operators are required to have a valid driver’s license. Motor bicycles cannot be used on bike paths unless they are being operated solely by pedal power, like a bike. When operating you also need to follow the rules of the road. Here are the relevant state statutes:
340.01 (30) Motor bicycle means any of the following:
(a) A bicycle to which a power unit not an integral part of the vehicle has been added to permit the vehicle to travel at a speed of not more than 30 miles per hour with a 150-pound rider on a dry, level, hard surface with no wind and having a seat for the operator.
(b) A 2-wheeled or 3-wheeled vehicle that has fully operative pedals for propulsion by human power and an electric motor of less than 750 watts and that is capable, when powered solely by the motor, of a maximum speed of less than 20 miles per hour with a 170-pound rider on a dry, level, hard surface with no wind.
343.05(3)(c) Operators to be licensed; exceptions.
(3) NONCOMMERCIAL VEHICLES
(c) No person may operate a moped or motor bicycle unless the person possesses a valid operators license or a special restricted operators license issued under s. 343.135 or a restricted license issued under s. 343.08. A license under this paragraph does not authorize operation of a moped or motor bicycle if the license is revoked, suspended, canceled or expired.
346.79 Special rules applicable to bicycles.
(5) No person may ride a moped or motor bicycle with the power unit in operation upon a bicycle way.
340.01(5s) Bicycle way means any path or sidewalk or portion thereof designated for the use of bicycles and electric personal assistive mobility devices by the governing body of any city, town, village, or county.
346.804 Riding bicycle on sidewalk is not allowed unless by local ordinance.
WisDOT also have other materials on their website about the rules of the road, where to ride, and general bicycle safety.
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