In a fall from a party bike vehicle one woman sustained a number of severe and life-threatening injuries, as well as a permanent impairment.
As temperatures rise and people want to be outdoors, the number of people riding “party bikes” will also rise. How dangerous are these bikes, are they vehicles, and who was negligent in this incident?
What is a party bike? Party bikes are wheeled devices of several configurations that are powered by passengers pedaling. Passenger seats are located above a pedal mechanism. While seated and either being transported or participating in a party that is serving food or beverages, passengers pedal together to power the device. Steering and braking of the bike is controlled by a driver who does not pedal. Some party bikes include a “floor” beneath the seats; others do not. Some party bikes serve alcoholic beverages; others do not. Some party bikes are equipped with seat belts; others are not.
The event. In the case at hand, the plaintiff was participating in a group tour on a party bike. Plaintiff was seated on an outer corner of the rear bench seat, facing forward. In the latter part of the tour, the bike was jolted, which in turn caused the plaintiff to be jolted. She fell from her seat and fell into the wheel well and the steps. The fall caused her to go under the party bike, at which time, she was crushed by the wheel of the party bike.
Plaintiff’s seat did not have a seatbelt. There was no stable floor for passengers. The bike was not equipped with any type of bar or railing that the plaintiff could have grabbed for stability and prevented her fall.
Plaintiff’s injuries. As a result of the fall, the plaintiff sustained numerous injuries. Some injuries were “severe” and others were “life-threatening.” The injuries ranged from broken bones and joint damage, as well as soft tissue injuries. The plaintiff required a long stay in the hospital, during which she underwent several surgical procedures and extensive physical therapy. She was left with some permanent impairment.
Charges and legal issues. The plaintiff and her attorneys claimed that the party bike was operating as a motor vehicle. Therefore, she argued, the absence of seatbelts was negligence per se. Other negligence charges were also made. The defendant (owner/operators of the party bike) claimed that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent in the event.
A major issue in the case was the plaintiff’s charge of negligence in the lack of seatbelts. This claim hinged upon the determination of whether the party bike was actually a motor vehicle, which would be required to be equipped with seatbelts for each passenger. This determination also created an issue in coverage issues for the liability and the Uninsured Motorist Insurance companies.
Before these liability and vehicle classification issues were clarified, the parties resolved the case in mediation. The plaintiff was paid a settlement of $885,100.
The takeaways from this case are:
- Think twice before riding a party-bike for a tour or event.
- Check the bike for safety features: seatbelts, stable floor beneath seats, grab bar or railing within reach of every seat.
- Use all provided safety equipment.
- Choose your seat carefully. I might be wise to avoid corner seats.
- Ask if the bike company has adequate liability and injury insurance.
If you or a loved one is injured on a party bike or any other novelty means of transportation, you may be entitled to recover damages for injuries, medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost income, and permanent impairments. Call trusted attorney Bettina Altizer to review your incident and advise you of next steps. Altizer Law, P.C., has been helping people recover from personal injuries sustained in a wide range of circumstances for more than 25 years. When you need representation call the Roanoke, VA attorney know for compassion and fierce advocacy for each client.