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An excellent analysis from Shane.

Two thoughts:
1. Judicial interpretation of the law can be overturned by legislative action. So the Council could overturn Garcia v. Washington. Not to make more work for Shane, but this should probably be a legislative priority as well as overturning contributory negligence.

2. There is some possibility that Garcia v. Washington is no longer good law. The current DC Code says:
"1200.3 Operators of bicycles have the same rights as do operators of other vehicles and in the additional rights granted by this chapter." Garcia v. Washington created a "duty of self-preservation" for cyclists, and it created it out of thin air. Since this is a duty imposed only upon cyclists, it directly contradicts the DC Code which says that cyclists have the same rights and duties as operators of vehicles.

The question becomes which came first -- the court case or the law. If the law is more recent than the court case then it supersedes it. The section of the DC Code dealing with cyclists has been changed many times in the past two decades, it would be important to see when that language was inserted.

As far as I know, Garcia v. Washington was last affirmed by the appeals court in Washington Metro v. Young in 1998 (See http://washcycle.typepad.com/WashingtonMetrovYoung.pdf)

I no longer have access to Westlaw, but the operative questions would be when the language was inserted into the DC code, and whether Garcia v Washington has been affirmed more recently.

Of course, the Council acting to affirmatively overturn Garcia v. Washington would make the question moot.

So I went back and read the decision in Washington v. Garcias and answered my own question. The court actually addressed the issue:

Bicyclists are "subject to all the duties applicable to the drivers of motor vehicles," 18 D.C. M.R. § 1201.1, except those which "by their nature, can have no reasonable application to a bicycle operator." Id. Among the regulations applicable to bicyclists are the following.

18 D.C.M.R. § 2200.4 (1981):

In every event speed shall be controlled as may be necessary to avoid colliding with any person, vehicle, or other conveyance on or entering the street or highway in compliance with legal requirements and the duty of all persons to use due care.

18 D.C.M.R. § 2213.4 (1981):

An operator shall, when operating a vehicle, give full time and attention to the operation of the vehicle.

We refer to the 1981 edition of the D.C.M.R. because it was in effect at the time of the collision in September 1983.

So they grab onto the clause "except those which by their nature, can have no reasonable application to a bicycle operator" and basically use it to turn the statute on its head, by continuing their argument that bicycles are not like other vehicles. It's circular logic. But it stands as valid case law.

The whole thing is worth a read at http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=16293024415077622150&q=williams+garcias+trash&hl=en&as_sdt=4,9#[2]

The "Garcias" in Washington v Garcias is the same trash company that killed Alice Swanson 10 years later.

And the injury was the same way: cyclist in lane, trash truck turned right. The difference is that Swanson died.

The idea of contrib negligence is to encourage people to be careful first, sue later. But with vulnerable road users (bikes, peds) there is already a good incentive to be careful: you are likely to be mangled or killed. Likewise, the contrib negligence regime removes the incentives for KMG Hauling to drive carefully, or even check that its drivers are not on drugs, and are not working illegally. Thus, you get the death of Alice Swanson.

Now, the same case is cited to prevent recovery even when there is clear evidence of hostility from a driver to a cyclist.

Time for the law to be changed.

Looks like a KMG Hauling driver also struck and killed a pedestrian in the crosswalk back in January of this year near Metro Center: http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Pedestrian-Struck-by-Garbage-Truck-in-DC-240748001.html
It's insane that this company is still allowed to operate.

Sounds like driver turning, crushed pedestrian. Like Washington, Swanson.

Can anyone find out what happened to the KMG driver? Was he not tested for drugs and alcohol?

I see nothing in the news. Is driving over a pedestrian, and continuing on for half a block with him stuck in your wheels, just not worthy of criminal charges??

@contrarian: Agreed on the goal of overturning the caselaw by legislation. But as mentioned in the piece, there isn't much appetite for that.

As you've pointed out here before, I've avoided bringing the caselaw into the contrib discussion before, as the whole issue is already confusing enough to most people.

The goal of this piece was to pull it all together to explain how the problems compound one another.

But yes: fixing the caselaw is also a goal.

Insurance companies can way whatever they want to say when denying payment to a customer, but that does not mean that their legal reasoning is valid.

In this case, even if Evan was negligent, the driver had the last clear chance. The relevant case is WMATA v. Young, 731 A2d 389.

But I do not think Evan was negligent, since he did keep a look out. A driver on a highway has no duty to presume that another driver will make a reckless turn.

But I do not think Evan was negligent, since he did keep a look out. A driver on a highway has no duty to presume that another driver will make a reckless turn.

But what Garcias v. Washington says is that a cyclist has a greater duty than drivers to look out for other road users, "for his own safety."

Indeed. It was a badly decided case and one would hope that it would be limited to the narrow circumstances where the cyclist can not be sure that the driver of a big truck sees him. Here we know, and we know they Evan knew, that the driver knew he was there.

No love here for the insurance company, and there's no argument with the law being bad precedent, but didn't the cyclist in effect rear end the truck, and isn't it almost always legally considered the fault of the one doing the rear ending? If so, does the truck driver causing the accident by his behavior change that?

No it is not always the fault of the person who does the rear-ending. Fault lies with the person who acts in an unreasonable way. Usually crashing into the rear of another vehicle is unreasonable, but not always.

If someone suddenly pulls in front of you and brakes, so that you can not help but crash into their rear, it is not unreasonable to crash into them. It is never unreasonable to do something that you could not avoid doing.

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