What I Learned In Texas

Years ago the notion of committing one’s entire law practice to representing people who ride bicycles perhaps seemed a little nutty.  Or worse, like a some sort of marketing gimmick.  My, how times have changed.

Earlier this month I attended the First Annual Bike Law Summit in Austin, Texas.  “Summit” sounds a bit pompous.  A Summit is something held to end a war, or eradicate some worldwide nastiness.  In this case, it was a formal gathering of bicycle lawyers from around the country who got together to examine how best to represent people who ride.  Present were bicycle lawyers from every region of the country; each bringing experience and commitment to the cause, protecting cyclist’s rights and making it safer to ride.  Our bicycle law firm was the proud and only representative from Illinois.
Peter Wilborn leads the
discussion in Austin. Also
Seen (from right: Ann, Bob,
Peter,Timmy and Ben
The range of experience was fascinating to listen to.  Generally, lawyers focus their practices on one or two states.  We all tend to practice in a bubble.  It is often eye opening to listen to attorneys from other parts of the country.  Ann Groninger, for example, practices bicycle law in North Carolina.  That state’s laws make it difficult for injured people to receive just compensation.  North Carolina is one of only a few states which adheres to the doctrine of strict contributory negligence. This means that if the injured person’s own negligence contributed in any way to cause their injury, even if the defendant was more negligent, then the plaintiff receives nothing for their harms and losses.  In contrast, in states like Illinois, a plaintiff’s comparative fault only serves to reduce the amount of compensation their may receive, so long as the defendant is shown to be more at fault.  North Carolina’s somewhat draconian law means that Ann has a lot less leverage with insurance companies to negotiate resolution of a claim.  She therefore ends up trying cases in front of a jury fairly often.  As a result she had a great deal to offer group in terms of trial tips and techniques.  She seems to be very good at what she does.
Bryan Waldman racing at
the CX National
Championships happening
in Austin during the Summit
Charlie Thomas is a bicycle lawyer from New Orleans, Louisiana and former president of the Texas A & M Cycling Team.  He explained that his city and state are relatively new when it comes to bicycle advocacy.  His efforts in teaming up with local bicycle shops to increase the visibility of bicycle advocacy served as a useful primer on connecting with people at a grass roots level.  Bob Mionske was the superstar of our group.  A bicycle lawyer in Portland, Oregon, he is a former USA Olympic cyclist and author of THE  book on bike law, Bicycling And The Law.  He was the first lawyer of note in the United States to identify as a “bicycle lawyer.”  His considerable experience representing bicyclists makes him a fountain of knowledge and wisdom.  Peter Wilborn, a bike lawyer in South Carolina, was the leader of our group.  Himself a veteran in the battle to better bicycling, his primary and invaluable role was bringing us all together.  As a coordinated group of like minded attorneys we bring greater resources, energy, experience to each individual fight on behalf of the injured cyclist.  As issues, problems and challenges arise for any of us there is a network of people an email or phone call away with advice and guidance.  Also present at the Summit were the following bicycle lawyers:  Jim Reed, New York; Amy Benner, Tennessee; Bryan Waldman, Michigan; Vance Preman, Missouri; Randy Knutson, Minnesota; Timmy Finch, South Carolina; and Ben Dodge, Arizona.
Also present to offer his insights on bicycle advocacy was Andy Clarke, President of the League of American Bicyclists.  He has committed his esteemed organization to working hand in hand with Bike Law toward better bicycle advocacy.  With the League behind us we are that much stronger in our ability to represent cyclists and biking

Originally posted at What I Learned In Texas

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