Bicycle Coalition

Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Jason Laughlin recently reported that if someone is killed or hurt due to an illegally-parked public vehicle in the right of way, the municipality is legally at fault.

As noted in the article:

The Aug. 21 ruling shifted a 30-year standard that a public entity could be sued over a vehicle crash only if the vehicle was being driven at the time of the incident.

“If a car is parked illegally on a road, and you hit it, before, you couldn’t bring suit against that person, and now you can,” said Michael Shaffer, who brought the case on behalf of the family of a man killed under those circumstances. “It’s changed the entire landscape of what plaintiffs are going to argue now.”

Bicycle Coalition

Illegally-parked cars in the Ben Franklin Parkway with municipal placards. Government vehicles have been illegally parking in the Ben Franklin Parkway bike lane all summer long.

What’s that mean for you? If there’s a public vehicle in the bike lane and it causes you physical harm, the government or agency responsible for the vehicle may be at fault. And, if you decide to, you can sue them for damages.

The article continued:

Before last week’s decision, someone had to be in the act of driving the vehicle for there to be the possibility of liability. Commonwealth Court upheld that definition in Medina-Flores’ case, leading to an appeal that rose to the Supreme Court. The court ruled that even how a vehicle is parked falls under the umbrella of operation.

The decision will affect government entities throughout the state, said Scott Gottel, who is representing CWA. “It’s just now a change that will have to be taken into consideration,” he said.

Bicycle Coalition

Parking placard on car illegally parked in the bike lane on the Ben Franklin Parkway

This makes your decision after a potential crash (God forbid) as important as ever. If you are ever in a crash on your bicycle, and you believe the illegally-parked vehicle in the bike lane potentially made you merge into motor vehicle traffic was responsible, it’s important you call the police, call a lawyer, and take pictures—assuming you’re able.

Check out our “What to do in a crash” page.

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