There was an error in this gadget

Thursday, August 25, 2011

An update to the previous post...

In case you read my earlier post and would like help drafting an email or letter to your State Senator imploring them to oppose Senate Bill 125, I attach my email to Senator Leah Vukmir.  Also, here is website to find your senator's contact information.  (I thank my friend Steve for assisting me with this).

http://legis.wisconsin.gov/w3asp/contact/legislatorslist.aspx?house=senate



Dear Senator Vukmir, 

I am writing to encourage you to oppose Senate Bill 125.  As you know Wisconsin Statute § 893.83 provides a citizen or other user of a highway (road, sidewalk, bridge) in Wisconsin to obtain compensation for injuries he or she may have sustained due to a highway defect.  There is a cap in place of $50,000, which is incredibly minimal and does not always fully compensate an injured individual.  As you also know, proposed Senate Bill 125 completely obliterates all accountability by a municipality for any highway defect, leaving a citizen injured by a highway defect with absolutely no recourse for compensation.  This is hardly "justice", something we pride ourselves on in Wisconsin.  In fact, what this truly is is the Wisconsin government doing away with accountability in the name of saving money.

This bill protects the government only, and not its citizens.  The government is elected to protect its citizens.  While the current climate favors a bill that could potentially save government dollars, this bill lacks any proof of savings for municipalities.  The only hardcore proof is that if this bill is passed, municipalities will no longer be accountable for their negligent acts relating to highway defects.  

Should Senate Bill 125 pass, there will be no municipality to be held accountable for the injuries such negligence caused to a citizen.  I would rather pay a tiny fraction of an occasional award knowing that if my family or I were in an accident, I would be entitled to a similar award.

This bill will affect every user of the road- car, motorcycle, bicyclist, rollerbladder, scooter operator, etc.  I hope you vote against this bill and change your current trend of enacting laws that say "Screw Accountability, Save Money".

I encourage you to check out my blog for more information: http://spokesconnectingthebikingandlegalhubs.blogspot.com/




Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"SCREW ACCOUNTABILITY, SAVE MONEY!" A current trend in legislative actions in Wisconsin...


While my posts normally deal with cyclists and cycling rights, today has to do with ALL USERS of roads and sidewalks. 

The Republican majority government, this year, has already severely limited the ability for injured people in Wisconsin to obtain reasonable compensation for their injuries. 

Now, legislators in Wisconsin want to do away with the minimal liability cities, villages, towns and counties have for injuries sustained as a result of highway defects.  The Assembly and Senate introduced separate bills, which say the same exact thing.  The links to the PDF’s are attached here:



The bills propose ELIMINATING MUNICIPAL LIABILITY for highway defects.

Why should I care, you ask?  Why should I continue to read this left-leaning blogger? 

Well, this bill, if passed WILL AFFECT ALL USERS OF THE ROAD!  I’m not talking just cyclists here, but drivers of cars, scooters, motorized wheelchairs, pedestrians, etc.  So unless you spend your days and nights cooped up in your home, this will affect YOU!

So, what exactly is going on here, you ask.  I’ll tell you.  Wisconsin Statute § 893.83 provides liability for damages up to $50,000 to a person or property resulting from an insufficiency or want of repair (“defect”) of a highway, which includes shoulders, sidewalks and bridges.  Thus, if you are injured while travelling upon a highway due to a defect, you can sue the proper municipality and recover up to $50,000, depending on your injuries and property damage.  This compensation is terribly minimal and may not cover all of your damages, but it is something.

However, the proposed changes to Wis. Stat. § 893.83 do not modify what a defect is, what parts of the highway are subject to liability or what the cap on damages is under this section.  No, what the proposed legislation does is COMPLETELY REMOVE LIABILITY on the part of cities, villages, towns and counties, for injuries caused by defects in a highway.

Instead of the possibility of up to $50,000 (an incredibly small amount of compensation for most personal injuries) for injuries sustained as a result of a highway defect, you will now have the wonderful possibility of receiving absolutely nothing for the injuries you sustained as a the result of a municipality’s negligence.  Maybe you will get lucky and receive an “Oops, sorry we failed to repair that bridge, but at least that pile of rocks broke your fall” letter. 

Why the proposed change?  The people who introduced the bills, Sen. Glenn Grothman (R- West Bend) and first-term Rep. Andre Jacque (R- Bellevue) claim that money saved on lawsuits will be spent on repairing roads and bridges.

As a counter-point, there is no evidence that insurance rates will drop for local governments just because municipal liability is obliterated for highway defects.  Second, very few lawsuits are filed and won against municipalities for highway defects, so it is hard to understand what, if any, money is being saved by eliminating liability. 

In fact, just look at the fiscal estimates to see that all they can do is speculate on what amount of money eliminating liability might save a municipality.  (The potential money saved is not listed, just a vague “it may save municipality money” is discussed).




Third, there is no guarantee that any money saved because of this proposal will go straight into repairing bridges and highways.

Finally, this is bad public policy and such a proposal removes ALL ACCOUNTABILITY municipalities have to those who use its highways, roadways, sidewalks and bridges.  A cap of $50,000 is not much to compensate those who sustain serious, or minor, injuries due to highway defects, but it was something.  It at least forced a municipality to BE ACCOUNTABLE FOR ITS ACTIONS (OR LACK THEREOF). 

So, even if you are not a cyclist, this proposed amendment to a statute AFFECTS ALL USERS OF THE ROAD, and as a user of the road, you should be very concerned what this might mean for you. 

It is easy to think “so what, I will never be injured by a highway defect.”  However, the time may come when you need accountability for an injury you sustained while on a highway, and it is better to have the option to hold someone accountable then to not have the option at all.


So please, oppose these bills and protect all users of the road.  The current legislative attitude of “SCREW ACCOUNTABILITY, SAVE MONEY” needs to stop.  Attitudes, and new/proposed laws like these bills, adversely impact all citizens of Wisconsin.  Officials are elected to act in the best interests of the residents of Wisconsin, and this proposed legislation does not accomplish this responsibility. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Short, Illustrated, Story...

Alas, we are growing closer to the fall season.  How do I know besides my calendar telling me so?  Because when I am out riding during the week, the sun is slowly waking up.  Yes, now when I get out of bed at 5:15 am,  I look out the window and the sun does not greet me.  Instead, the sun-free-sky tells me I should go back to bed and try again later. (Then I recall I had some of these last night and was up until 11, so maybe I should crawl back into bed)



However, like Johnny Hoogerland, I persevere.  A quick espresso, get the gear on, and I'm out the door.


As I make my way, leisurely, to downtown T-town, I can't help but notice that, not only is the sun not really out yet, but also the temperature has been slowly declining in the morning hours.  (Note: get long sleeve jersey out of storage.)

Next I see lots of yawns, bleary eyes, and slow moving legs.  And no, I am not talking about college kids (or my uncles) just heading home from a night out at Leff's (or Tom Boonen for that matter).  I meet the group (Tuesday and Friday at Cafe Hollander in Tosa, 5:45 am), and off we go to tackle this...

Nothing like the burn of 21 switchbacks in the morning.  It is awesome you can find climbs like this right outside of Milwaukee.

As we roll on, I am reminded that, most days, the view is totally worth the 5:15 am curtain call.



(Picture most definitely taken halfway up Alpe d'Huez, just ignore Miller Brewery in the background)





Unless of course, the view looks more like this...




Ahh yes, good times.  After a great ride and even better views, I'm ready to dominate the day.  And of course, after a day of domination, I get to enjoy a glass or two of this... 


Then, lather, rinse and repeat almost every day.

Doesn't that make you want to join me for a morning ride?  Get out and on the bike and see what you are missing while sleeping in- before old man winter arrives.

Friday, August 5, 2011

IS YOUR BIKE A "VEHICLE" OR A PEDESTRIAN"? TIS THE QUESTION...


            When riding your bicycle, it is important to know what your duties and obligations are to other users of the road.  Also, you need to know what duties and obligations other users have to you as a cyclist. 

            What your duties and obligations are, and what rights you have with respect to other users depends on how/where you are riding your bicycle- either “upon a roadway” or in a “pedestrian-like” capacity.[1]

            If a bicycle is being pedaled on a roadway or highway, it is a vehicle.  When the bicycle is a vehicle, its rider is entitled to the same rights and subject to the same responsibilities as the driver of a car (many rights and responsibilities I have discussed in earlier blog posts- but I know you know that dear reader because you have already read those posts many times over and memorized them). 
           
            There are additional rights, restrictions, and duties for users of a bicycle- such as you cannot go UCI pro style and hold on to a car to grab a couple extra water bottles for your mates up the road, or Cavendish style and have the team car take you up Brookfield Road (this was alleged to have happened to Cavendish during the Tour (not on Brookfield Road) and has never been confirmed through any evidence). 

            So, when is a cyclist acting in a “pedestrian-like” manner?  Well, if a cyclist dismounts, he or she becomes a pedestrian.  A cyclist can also act in a “pedestrian-like” manner when the cyclist operates on a sidewalk and also within crosswalks.  Since the cyclist is a pedestrian in a scenario like this, the rules of the road, including the right-of-way, differ, than when a cyclist is a vehicle.

            If the cyclist is a pedestrian, and at an intersection or crosswalk where traffic is controlled by traffic control signals or by a traffic officer, the operator of a vehicle (car, bike, motorcycle, etc.) shall yield the right of way to a pedestrian, or to a person riding a bicycle in a manner which is consistent with the safe use of the crosswalk by pedestrians, who has started to cross the highway on a green or “Walk” signal.[2]  The same goes for pedestrians or cyclists who are crossing in a marked or unmarked crosswalk at an uncontrolled intersection.[3]

            Further, if the cyclist is acting in a “pedestrian-like” manner, the cyclist crossing a roadway at any other point other than within a marked or unmarked crosswalk shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway.  This only applies to cyclists acting in a “pedestrian-like” manner and not bicyclists operating “upon a roadway”.[4]

            Thus, it is important to know, while riding your bicycle, whether you qualify as vehicle or a pedestrian, because the rules of the road may differ depending upon the capacity in which bicyclist chooses to operate.  Ultimately, that may mean the difference of who is at fault should a bicyclist be involved in a collision. 


[1] See Chernetski v. American Family Mut. Ins. Co., 183 Wis. 2d 68, 515 N.W.2d 283 (Wis.App. 1994)
[2] See Wis. Stat. § 346.23(1)
[3] See Wis. Stat. § 346.24
[4] See Wis. Stat. § 346.25 and Chernetski

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Can't argue with this Mayor's style...

In case you don't follow my law firm's twitter account (AikenScopturSC) or mine (JamesScoptur), I thought I would post this video.

This mayor came up with an ingenious way to remove cars parked in/obstructing bike lanes.  Question is... anyone here have a tank?

http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/26184891/vp/43988242#43988242