Joseph Rose has more information about a TriMet passenger who was injured in the “panic stop” incident earlier this month. As you probably have heard, on December 2nd, a bike darted directly in front of the #9 bus, which was standing-room only, forcing the driver to panic-stop. The driver narrowly avoided missing the cyclist, who rode off off and is to this day unknown to authorities; but several passengers on the bus were injured. Including one whose injuries appear to be serious; he is reported to still be in ICU at OHSU, though hospital officials are unable to comment much more on his condition beyond that.
And he may be in an area of insurance “no-mans-land”. TriMet’s own liability policies only cover incidents where the TriMet operator is liable, given that the operator did the correct thing to avoid a collision, the insurance carrier will likely argue that they are not liable for the man’s injuries. TriMet also has an uninsured motorists’ policy, but that kicks in only kicks in when an “uninsured motorist” is at fault. Under Oregon law, bicyclists are not “motorists” for insurance purposes, so apparently that coverage doesn’t apply either. (Also, there’s ample case law that motorists who may cause collisions, but aren’t involved in them, have zero liability).
While I don’t want to start yet another debate about Should Bike Riders Be Licensed And Insured–the balance of harms suggests not, IMHO–but this brings up some interesting issues:
- Should bike riders be treated as “motorists” for the purposes of uninsured motorist coverage?
- How much liability should TriMet assume for passenger safety, particularly in no-fault incidents such as this? (TriMet has indicated that its insurance carriers are not likely to pay; but whether the victim or his family could sue TriMet regardless, I have no idea).
- Given the no-win nature of the incident–the bus driver was essentially forced to choose between striking a road user, and placing standing passengers at risk, should any changes to safety measures be made? (No, I’m not suggesting that mowing down bikers to protect passengers is a viable option–I don’t want to go there; I’m wondering how better to protect passengers in panic-stop situations).