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Wow! Unreal. Did they ever identify this driver?

Um, don't these attorneys work on a contingency basis? That is, if there is any money in it.

I'm trying to model in my head damages in this case. $5? $10?

The law would make it possible for lawyer's fees to be collected separately from the damages.

Can we just pass a decent CCW law? Seems like a clear cut case of self defense if the cyclist shot him to me....

Would also be nice on the MBT

I'm glad the cyclist wasn't killed. Man, that was brutal. Could have been worse, and I hope they find the guy - how about someone analyze the video for a look at the driver and the model of the truck?

I hate to be the curmudgeon (although I am good at it), but this seems like a case of assault and battery even without any new anti-harassment law.

It is. But this law would make it easier to pursue in civil court (I think).

Late-model Toyota Tacoma. Good luck though, there's about a billion of them out there and there's nothing identifiable from the video. Could always try and get the plate off another car in the video and reach out to them as witnesses but I really doubt the police are going to go that far.

@washcycle; again, what is the damage? No injuries. I could see punitive but hard to prove as a matter of fact. You'd need a pattern.


The problem you have is the damages are too small and the facts are not easy to ascertain. Giving legal fees to one side isn't going to change that.

Should have read Dcist. It is treble damages plus attorneys fees, which is a bit more.

Again, I don't think the problem is the existing law. The problem is getting a settlement in a hard-to-prove case, against defendants who are sometimes judgement proof.

DC license plate "DK 2193"

charlie, why doesn't it surprise me that you don't think the proposed solution to something is actually a solution. Even when your understanding of it changes, that's still your position.

@Bossi,

Unfortunately just getting the license plate would not be sufficient to sustain an assault charge. You have to be able to place someone in the driver's seat.

Maybe he video does that as well - it's not too clear to me.

I think proactive policing would attempt to question the vehicle's owner and get them to admit to being the driver. But if their smart they will just play dumb and admit nothing.

And assault has to be intentional or reckless. Maybe it was just an "accident".

From the cyclist's point of view - if there were no or little damages what is their motivation to pursue?

JeffB.
I'd argue that the driver's behavior was reckless. At least, I'd like to see the MPD arrest the driver and question him, based on the video and witness testimony. Even if the case is eventually dropped, the driver will think twice before doing it again.

Apparently neither of you have been hit by a two ton vehicle before. What you viewed was assault with a vehicle. I would hate to have you on a jury considering that you have missed the facts in the case.

I'm with Lydia. There is no one that driver can claim "I didn't see him." That was, at a minimum, negligent driving, but surely worse.

@SJE; there are two standards here: criminal assault and civil assault. The WABA proposed legislation just deals with civil assaults.

From a criminal point of view, potential criminal charges. Hard to make it stick, I doubt it is worth prosecuting. If you did get it into a courtroom, you might get convicted. A reasonable person could view this tape and shrug it off, another might see it.

Civil charges. Always a bit easier in proof, but I don't see an easy way to establish damages. WABA's proposed legislation doesn't really help here either. You've got the same factual issues, and if you do get a judgement there is a good chance the defendant is judgement proof. Tripling damages or adding attorneys fees isn't going to change that.

The closest analogy I can come up with is your in a line for a bar, the bouncer doesn't like you, charges you, and you fall. What would your damages be?*

* I use that example because apparently in DC bouncers -- 5 of them -- can beat a man to death and not face criminal charges. Gives you an idea how high you need to jump on the criminal side. No idea what happened to that case on the civil side.


This driver would probably be glad to tell a detective exactly what he did, in great detail, given an opportunity and the right approach. Never underestimate a good interrogator's ability to get signed confessions, given (1) command support for bringing a suspect in and (2) anything to go on.

The video is far more than adequate to get a suspect talking. Command support? That's the problem.

I can see that the driver of the truck went out of his way to put the guy on the bike in great danger. Assault would be hard to prove in criminal court but thankfully there are other laws. I don't know DC law like I know Virginia law but there should be a hit and run or leaving the scene of an accident charge that would stand a much better chance of sticking. I agree that the driver tried to take the biker out but it would be very hard to prove. Also hit and run is a worse charge in VA then an assault charge. I would like to see a DCPD bike lesion office of one or two officers kinda like the LGBT office they have now.

@ charlie:
Really? Because a better analogy would be that someone walking down the sidewalk didn't like that he had to share the sidewalk with you and swung a lead pipe at you.

While I know that courtroom standards of proof are different and I'm no lawyer, I think your analogy deliberately paints the driver as a legitimate authority who has the right to use force against the cyclist who has no actual right to the road. Drivers are not bouncers, and cyclists not patrons hoping for a piece of the road pie. (Though sadly, that's how an awful lot of folks--and folks on juries--see it. Doesn't make it just, though.)

@jacquesmock: you seem to be the only one sharing in this discussion who has a head on their shoulders, and content inside to see the truth. Thank you for your comments. I know the difference between an intentional collision with a bicyclist, and an accidental collision. The injuries are long lasting.

Perhaps the driver will be driving the cyclist to work and back everyday as part of his learning opportunity. Bullying anyone with a 2 ton vehicle is inexcusable.

I think Charlies point is that if the police won't enforce existing law, what reason is there to expect them to enforce this one. I've had police elsewhere tell me the driver's offense is leaving the scene of an accident, not hit and run(I got a plate) - if they know the offense why isn't the driver cited?

Civil cases are harder if the police won't assign any fault at all, and if the police determine no damages (no hospitalization reported as no injury, not what I reported) and no medical bills, suing for $300 in damages vs. $100 is still insignificant.

As noted, police will admit the car is as deadly as a gun or a lead pipe, but point out the car is NOT a gun or lead pipe and is treated differently. Again, with flat out refusal to cite drivers for anything, is there a difference with another law police and drivers reject?

Does DC have a 3-ft passing law? If so, that's the only thing I can realistically see getting the driver for.

@Charlie: I am not following your damages argument. Under common law, the intentional torts do not require proof of actual damages (and punitive damages are possible with negligence claims). Has that been abrogated in DC?

License tag helps alot in a hit and run. We do not know whether the owner of the vehicle was the driver, but perhaps the cyclist could ID him in a photo array, and if so, then in a lineup.

@Froggie: Why do you not think that this is an assault? Do you think that no reasonable juror could find that the swerve to the right was done to intimidate the cyclist?

@JeffB-

I'd say the video identifies the driver quite well, in addition to the license plate. Appears to be a white male, medium build, middle age range of about 30-50... I wouldn't be terribly surprised if the license attributed to the plate were either the man himself or possibly his spouse.

Also- my familiarity is with MD law... does DC law target the driver or the vehicle owner? If the latter, that would surely simplify things.

Though I do agree with Froggie... while identifying information is plenty, it's tough to clearly identify the infraction. The verbal insults only offer context, but from what I see only a violation of a 3-ft passing rule might be something that could stand up, considering many folk likely wouldn't deem it assault if they can't actually see contact.

In the common law, assault does not require actual contact, but rather actions that intentionally put someone in fear of bodily contact. A pointed gun, a punch that misses, a thrown object that misses because you duck.

Context is everything--a gun could be pointed your way because the owner is checking the sites; but if he shouts an insult and points the gun, it is assault. A car might swerve to avoid another hazard, but if he shouts an insult, orders you to get out of the way, and then swerves to run you off the road, it is probably assault.

Has DC repealed common law assault?

@Froggie, you could probably get an aggressive driving charge as well.

You need intent to assault. I don't think the statement before qualifies.

I'm sure WABA will no propose a hate crime modifier to the assault laws to include statement made about bikes.

DC does have a 3 foot passing law.

I think it's important to note that what this does is create a new civil penalty. So what the police will and will not enforce and what a prosecutor thinks they can win becomes irrelevant. And that is the point as I understand it.

You need intent to assault. I don't think the statement before qualifies.

Nonsense.

If I'm walking towards you on a sidewalk, tell you to get the fuck out of the way, and throw a punch at you we wouldn't be having this conversation.

@charlie:

Just realized that last sentence was pretty much a confusing hot mess. What I meant to say was, in the scenario where we were talking about two pedestrians--rather than two vehicles--there'd be no ambiguity.

@JimT: I can see it being an assault. What I was saying, like charlie, is that it'd be difficult to prove that in court, even with the video. Though admittedly I couldn't follow the audio...just the video.

Intent almost always must be inferred. The driver slowed down and opened his window to talk to the cyclist, made a hostile statement, then his car veered, and the cyclist fell. To use another common law phrase, res ipsa loquator: the thing speaks for itself.

@Froggie,

You need the audio to provide context. It's pretty unambiguous.

Again: the video and cyclist's statement would only be the start of an criminal investigation in this case.

This driver wants to talk. He wants to tell the world how big, tough, and righteous he is. He knows he's right. Put this driver in a room with an interrogator, and he will blithely waive his rights, tell the detective exactly what he did, and set down on paper the way that he wanted to show the cyclist who's boss.

David R, so the driver was Jack Nicholson from "A Few Good Men?"

Playing amateur psychologist, I'd say the motorist was annoyed that the cyclist didn't move into the right lane for the block or so before there were cars parked there.

What cyclists see as a safety measure, drivers see as unwarranted selfishness.

I think WashCycle hit the nail on the head. What the civil option puts on the table is the opportunity for the victim to seek justice (civil court recourse) regardless of whether the police/D.A. pursue criminal charges. Getting this evidence directly in front of a civil court judge/jury takes out the middleman that is the police/D.A. In my (hauntingly similar) hit and run experience in another state, the inaction of the police/D.A. in spite of overwhelming evidence (three witnesses and a matching license plate/driver description) led me to consider civil charges to pay for my busted rear wheel. However, the court fees and the minute risk of losing the case made it not worth my time and effort. With ability to collect attorney's fees, you make it much easier for the victim because they have an advocate working for him (with a carrot dangling in front).

I think @Crickey makes a very good general point (though this driver might have been as bad even under other circumstances.)

We would probably should have included that issue when we wrote the bike section for the MD driver manual--maybe next time. Is there something approximating a good rule of thumb for when you should weave into the parking lane/shoulder?

I almost always move over if I am certain that the entire line of cars will pass before I get to the parked car. Yet I admit I probably make longer lines of cars wait because I don't want to have to squeeze back in. Otherwise, I think my cutoff is about 500 feet.

@charlie: you seem to think the video indicates no-harm-no-foul. I have two points for you about this. First,let's say you do something that I don't like,so I kick you in the groin. Now,you're going to be in significant pain,unable to breath,nauseous,etc,but after awhile,you'll get up and be ok. You won't have any marks or permanent damage. So does that mean I shouldn't be charged with a crime?

Second,I sure there was damage. I wiped out two weeks ago do to a flat front tire. Immediately afterwards I got up and pulled my bike onto the sidewalk. I was banged up pretty good,but adrenaline kept me moving. Although I didn't have any serious injuries,I was laid up for a couple days and wasn't 100% for a good week. You can't tell from the video above how bad/if the cyclist was injured. Also,did you note that he was riding a drop bar bike? Very likely that the left brifter was damaged. Have you priced these things out lately? Very possible he has a couple hundred dollars worth of repair costs.

I agree with an easier path to civil suit, but I really do think that there should be some more action on the criminal front. Civil suits are only good for (a) to stop an action (b) recover damages. They are not good when the action has already occured, and the damages are low or difficult to quantify (like assault).

Criminal law is MEANT to police behavior, irregardless of damages to others. With drivers, you also have a licenced activity, and so (in theory) you have other means to act. But nothing happens. Its more important that d-bags like this driver are taken off the road (e.g. revoke his license for 1 year) than harm him financially.

The other reason that this should be through traffic or criminal courts is that it comes with the imprimature of the state. We the people don't approve of your behavior, we are punishing you now and we will punish you more severely next time. With a civil suit, it just continues and escalates the driver/cyclist conflict, without ever stating that the behavior was wrong.

Like Jack Nicholson, but quieter, slower, and with much less screaming and spittle.

One of the consequences of idiotic shows like CSI is that we tend to overestimate the value of physical evidence in police investigations.

Inherent in criminal behavior is a sense of superiority. People violate social codes because they think they can get away with it, even if rational analysis suggests otherwise. It never makes sense to talk, and yet people do, to the police and to their peers: to boast, because they think they're in the right, or to help justify their actions.

I've known defense attorneys who insist that there is no such thing as a genuine confession. I've also met prosecutors, police detectives, and criminologists who say that suspects will generally waive their rights and talk, given the opportunity and the right pressure. Whether this involves unlawful coercion is another matter. Evidence doesn't need to stand up in court, not when 90% of criminal cases end in a plea bargain - an injustice, to be sure, and improbable for a case like this, but now we're getting too far afield.

Point is: if a detective tracked down the owner of the car, that person would give him the driver, and the driver would probably admit to exactly what he did.

I'm harping on this not to be pedantic, but because we have the means to prosecute these cases already, if police and prosecutors wanted to.

SJE, I agree with your point, but most of these incidents are "he said/he said" cases. You just can't get a conviction with that. It has to meet the standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt." So, I don't think you can fix that without significantly weakening the rights of the accused.

Washcycle: I agree. The majority of cases are just that, and you shouldnt prosecute. There are, however, also cases where there is sufficient evidence to at least go forward. In this one, you have the victim, a second witness (red car) and video testimony.

And whether or not you have to prove damages with an intentional tort, you don't with this form of assault and battery. The insurance rates on that driver are sure to go up, especially if he already has a few tickets on his record. People who drive that way usually are not model drivers even when no cyclist is on the road. AAA is well aware that most victims of aggressive drivers are other motorists and their passengers.

I hope that ubiquitous R4-11 signs will help.

As Jim knows, I am much more about acting on the drivers license to drive than any other remedy. If you cannot drive responsibly, perhaps we should take away your license for at least a few months.

In a better world we'd have authorities willing to prosecute these types of cases criminally.

But if we have this civil route how does it play out? Does the cyclist have to find a lawyer willing to take the case on contingency?

Assuming the cyclist wins how is the lawyer paid?

Does auto insurance cover liability from *intentional acts* ???????

@Bossi

I'd say the video identifies the driver quite well, in addition to the license plate. Appears to be a white male, medium build, middle age range of about 30-50... I wouldn't be terribly surprised if the license attributed to the plate were either the man himself or possibly his spouse.

Well you have better eyes than I :) (I'm getting new glasses next week!)

On a different tact I'd like to comment on the cyclists lane positioning.

Lane 1 is occasionally blocked by parked cars so the cyclist chooses to ride straight thru on Lane 2 rather then weaving in and out. Bonus points for him!

But in Lane 2 he hugs the dashed line with lane 1 - trying to be a good citizen, I suppose, and share lane 2 with *responsible* drivers.

But lane 2 appears to me to be the typical narrow DC lane. Such lanes can not be safely shared with automobiles and still maintain a 3 foot clearance.

I would have taken lane 2 and ridden the center. Especially since drivers have another lane to pass and traffic is very light.

This might have irritated our friend in the black pickup even more. But it also would mean that if his goal was to sideswipe the cyclist then to any witness (i.e. the driver in the red car) it would clearly be seen as a more intentional act.

Where to position where there are occasional parked cars is a toughie. It really depends on how far away the next parked cars are, whether you think you can slot back in, and how narrow the travel lane is.

Personally, I probably would have been a little farther to the right if there were a full block before the next parked car and traffic were kind of light, so that I knew slotting back in wouldn't be too difficult. But that is each rider's call, and certainly doesn't excuse a driver hitting someone.

Guys: debating where the best position would be is responsible, but I am concerned that you are starting to put the onus back on cyclists. This guy was doing nothing wrong, and wherever he was it would have irritated Mr. A-hole driver. Its like debating how short a skirt can be before you are asking to be raped.

@SJE,

No intent to blame the cyclist. But if I have to choose between having an irritated driver in the next lane or one in the lane beside me I'll choose the former.

@JeffB "Assuming the cyclist wins how is the lawyer paid?"

Having been hit by a taxi last month (in the PA Ave bike lanes of course) I happen to have investigated this recently. This is what I was told by a firm I asked about my case: out of the pot of money awarded in the settlement (or court decision) the lawyer takes their cut (often a percentage of the total), then the victim's insurance companies recover their costs, then the victim gets whatever is left.

The proposed anti-harrassment law would allow for recovering legal fees separately in the case of an attack, like in this video. It wouldn't affect a "regular accident" like my crash, which was due to plain old negligence and illegal driving.

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