Early this month, a young couple, Rob Lemon, 25, and Hilary Michalak, 25, were struck by a motorist while riding their tandem bike on the Memorial Causeway in Clearwater, Florida. According to reports, the force of the impact shattered the bike and threw the pair over 50 feet. Although both individuals were wearing helmets, Lemon later died at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa and Michalak fell into in a coma.
The vehicle that struck Lemon and Michalak did not stop, however, two days after the incident, Christopher Patrick Weed, 29, of Clearwater, came forward and admitted he may have been involved. According to police, Weed claimed that he had blacked out on the way home from and didn’t remember hitting anyone.
Upon seeing news coverage of the incident, Weed went to police, who later discovered Weed’s vehicle had a missing windshield and damage to the front end. Weed was arrested on two felony charges of leaving the scene of a crash.
According to those close to the victims, both were aware of the danger posed by bicycling on Florida’s roadways. Both Lemon and Michalak always wore helmets and usually rode their bike on trails to avoid the dangers posed by traffic. Lemon also wore an anklet engraved with his father’s name and phone number so that he could be identified and family contacted if he was ever seriously injured.
According to a report published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA), in 2011, 677 bicyclists were killed and another 48,000 injured in motor vehicle traffic accidents. Further, bicyclists accounted for 2% of all motor vehicle traffic fatalities and 2% of individuals injured in traffic crashes. In Florida, 125 bicyclists were killed in motor vehicle traffic accidents in 2011, accounting for 5.2% of all traffic fatalities.
A 2003 report by the Florida Department of Transportation found that Florida’s pedestrian and bicyclist fatality rate consistently exceeded that of the rest of the United States and often ranked highest among the states. The report concluded that the high fatality rate is largely attributable to the fact that Florida’s temperate climate and seasonal variation in length of day, i.e. nights set in earlier in the South, results in increased exposure to traffic during more hazardous dark hours. Further complicating this problem is the fact that, as this blog has previously mentioned, Florida suffers from some of the worst traffic congestion in the nation.
With ever-increasing traffic congestion and the tendency of Florida residents to ride bicycles or walk where they need to go, bicyclists are at greater risk than ever for being injured or killed in a traffic accident. If you, your family or friends have been involved an accident in which you sustained injuries, you may need legal representation to protect your right to compensation.
The attorneys of Gerson and Schwartz, P.A. have extensive experience representing individuals who have been injured in motor vehicle accidents. If you or someone you know has been injured in automobile accident, contact the attorneys of Gerson and Schwartz, P.A today.