Case Revived: Injured Louisiana Bicyclist Defeats Driver’s Claim of Statutory Immunity on Appeal

In any injury case involving a roadway accident, there could be a wide variety of things that make the difference between success and failure. In the case of one bicyclist who was injured after a SUV made a left-hand turn and hit him, the defense tried to stymie the bicyclist’s case by arguing that the Louisiana Statutes granted them immunity from suit. The Louisiana Court of Appeal ruled that the defendant was not immune in this case, since the immunity statute only applied if the plaintiff was driving a motor vehicle, and a bicycle does not qualify as a motor vehicle in Louisiana.

The accident that was at the foundation of this case was a bicycle-versus-SUV collision in the “Strawberry Capital of the World,” Ponchatoula, Louisiana. The bicyclist was crossing a city street in the crosswalk when the driver of the SUV, who was executing a left-hand turn, crashed into him. The bicyclist went to a local hospital for an evaluation. As part of that evaluation, the staff did blood work. This testing revealed that the bicyclist had a blood-alcohol content of 0.084%.
In any vehicle accident case, a good defense will likely seek to use any and all tools and techniques available to scuttle the plaintiff’s case. The defense in this case was no different. The defendants (the vehicle’s driver, owner, and auto insurer) argued that they were entitled to summary judgment because Louisiana’s statutes made them immune from liability. Specifically, they argued that Section 9:2798.4, which triggers immunity when a plaintiff has a BAC of 0.08% or greater and was operating a motor vehicle, applied and immunized them.
The trial court agreed and issued the summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The plaintiff did not give up, though. He appealed, and he won at the appellate level. The flaw with the defense’s argument, and with the trial judge’s ruling, related back to the other part of the immunity statute beyond just the minimum BAC level term. The immunity statute required the plaintiff to be “operating a motor vehicle, aircraft, watercraft, or vessel.”
The plaintiff’s bicycle did not qualify as any of these four things. Even though Louisiana law instills in bicyclists all of the rights and responsibilities of motorists, that doesn’t mean that Louisiana law considers bicycles to be motor vehicles. The appeals court’s opinion pointed out that Section 32:1(40) of the statutes, which defined “motor vehicle,” specifically excluded motorized bicycles by name. If a motorized bicycle didn’t qualify as a motor vehicle, a regular bicycle certainly didn’t either. This left the plaintiff’s bike outside the coverage of Section 9:2798.4 and the defendants not entitled to statutory immunity.
When you are injured in an accident on the road, the other side will likely try to pursue every angle permitted by the law to achieve success. That’s why you need aggressive and knowledgeable counsel on your side to pursue every aspect of your case and contest each part of the other side’s defense in the most diligent and persuasive manner possible. The Louisiana bicycle accident attorneys at the Cardone Law Firm have been helping people injured in roadway accidents for many years and are here to fight for you and the compensation you deserve.

For your confidential consultation, contact us online or phone Cardone at 504-522-3333.
More Blog Posts:
Tips for Driving in the Rain, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, March 30, 2017
Knowledge is Power: How Knowing the Law and the Facts, Can Help You in Your Louisiana Injury Case, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, March 27, 2017

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