personal injury

Jefferson County Taking A Tough Stand Against Drivers Who Injure Cyclists

A collaborative blog by Hottman Law Office, Steven Lykens and the Jefferson County DA’s office

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Steven Lykens—husband, engineer, competitive cyclist—made a point of attending and speaking at the sentencing hearing of a driver who caused him serious bodily injury.  He wanted to emphasize to the court, the district attorney’s office, and to the driver that the outcome of the case mattered to him and to the cycling community as a whole. 

On May 16, 2019, Steven addressed Jefferson County Court Judge Mark Randall and asked him to order 200 hours of community service as part of the driver’s sentencing. Considering the time that he spent in the hospital, at appointments with doctors, as well as time spent working to heal his injuries, Steven felt 200 hours was fair.

The driver, Miranda Lewin, was sentenced to 120 hours of community service to be completed in 120 days on the charge of careless driving. Her public defender argued for fewer hours, but Judge Randall did not back down. In fact, he told Lewin she is a terrible driver based on her previous (and subsequent) traffic convictions and warned her that she would be back in court if she did not serve her community service. Judge Randall reminded Lewin that drivers have a responsibility to their community, including cyclists. 

Lewin, who was 20 years old at the time of the collision with Steven, was previously convicted of driving a vehicle while impaired by alcohol/drugs in 2016, careless driving, and operating a motor vehicle as a minor driver with an unauthorized passenger in 2014. Her driver's license was revoked in 2016 due to the alcohol offense, but it had been reinstated prior to this collision.

On the morning of September 2, 2018, Steven was riding in a bike lane in Lakewood when Lewin turned right, directly in front of him, into a 7-11 parking lot. Steven collided with Lewin’s vehicle and was thrown from his bicycle, landing in the 7-11 parking lot. He was unable to move and yelled for someone to call 911. Lewin remained at the scene and was later cited by Lakewood Police for careless driving causing bodily injury. Steven considers himself “lucky” that he went over the hood of the vehicle instead of under it or into oncoming traffic.

He was transported by ambulance to St. Anthony’s Hospital with lacerations to his right ankle and right elbow, road rash, and an abrasion to his right cheek. Officer Barefoot of the Lakewood Police Department, who responded to the scene, was advised by the emergency room doctor that Steven had sustained a lumbar spine fracture.

As a result, Steven was in a back brace for eight weeks. He now suffers from permanent scoliosis from two fractured vertebrae and is one inch shorter than before the crash. His life and physical body are forever altered, and he is in constant pain. The collision has altered his mental state as well. Driving and cycling are still difficult for him, and he is worried it could happen again. 

During the sentencing hearing, Steven also thanked the Lakewood Police Department, the Jefferson County DA, and the court for holding drivers accountable when cyclists are injured. Often cases involving bodily injury are pled down to minor infractions, leaving victims to feel doubly wronged. 

The Jefferson County DA’s office did a fantastic job handling this case. Jefferson County DA Pete Weir wants the driving public to recognize their obligation to share the road with cyclists.

We take these cases of careless driving with injury involving cyclists very seriously and treat the victims with the same respect and dignity we treat victims who are covered under Colorado’s Victims’ Rights Amendment (VRA) which protects the rights of victims in violent crimes. Often these injuries are life-changing for victims and their families, and we do everything we can to help them through the criminal justice process.
— - Pete Weir, Jefferson County DA

In Jefferson County, careless driving/cycling cases causing serious bodily injury are generally treated as VRA cases by the DA’s office, thereby involving the victims throughout the process. Deputy DA Kate Rhodes, who handled this case, believes that the appropriate outcome was reached, and justice was served. 

Steven shown with Deputy DA Kate Rhodes (L), Megan Hottman, and Tracy Drake (R)

Steven shown with Deputy DA Kate Rhodes (L), Megan Hottman, and Tracy Drake (R)

My goal for this case was to get the defendant to realize the impact she has had on Mr. Lykens’ life and the gravity of his injuries. Mr. Lykens showed incredible patience and professionalism throughout the process.
— Deputy DA Kate Rhodes

A newly passed law, sponsored by Senator Mike Foote of Boulder and Representative Dylan Roberts of Eagle and Routt Counties, is aimed at making Colorado’s roadways safer for vulnerable road users (VRU), including cyclists, pedestrians, construction workers, scooter riders, and peace officers. Governor Jared Polis signed SB 19-175 into law on May 29, 2019. 

Careless driving that leads to seriously injuring a VRU is now a class 1 traffic misdemeanor. Convicted drivers could face restitution and a one-year suspension of their license. Courts could require drivers to attend a driver improvement course and perform community service.

Many of Steven’s friends have been injured while riding their bikes due to the neglect of a driver of a motor vehicle. He hopes that someday cyclists can ride safely on public roads without having to worry about being injured by a driver. 

Given the nature and extent of our clients’ injuries, I have always advocated to District Attorneys and City Attorneys that the FULL “careless driving causing SBI” charge needs to stick. NO plea deals, not when the injuries are so serious. Careless causing SBI is only a 4-point violation, with minimal fines. We need the FULL Charge in order to ask the Judge for serious community service hours, restitution, (and now with SB 19-175, for the driver’s license, as well). My request to all DAs and CAs we encounter: Be like Jeffco and Boulder DAs. Treat these cases as VRA cases and please, stop offering plea bargains.
— Megan Hottman, The Cyclist Lawyer

Please remember to be cautious around cyclists, or any vulnerable road user, and look for cyclists before turning—whether they are riding in a bike lane or not! 

To read more about the Jeffco DA’s office, click here.

To read more about Judge Randall, click here.

The Dangers of Social Media in Your Personal Injury Case

By Maureen & Megan

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Social media has become part of everyday life for many people. First thing in the morning, you reach for your phone to check your Facebook, Instagram or Twitter accounts. You post vacation photos, share pictures of your new home or use these platforms to update friends and family or to voice your opinion. Social media is how we communicate nowadays.

However, we must be extremely careful with what we communicate on social media. Employees have been fired for posting disparaging remarks about their employers. Posts that breach confidentiality agreements have led to loss of settlements. Then, there are the photos of someone bungee jumping all the while claiming a serious injury.

That might sound extreme or even ridiculous, but there are plenty of personal injury cases that have been lost for this very reason. Any photos or posts that you have created - whether related to your case or not - can or may be introduced by insurance companies or defense counsel and used as evidence against you.

Do not post anything about your case - injuries, recovery, your equipment, etc. - until it is concluded. Every comment, photo or tag can only harm your case. Do not post old photos or old content as a “place filler” either during this time, as they can be damaging, too.

The list of cases where plaintiffs are losing good cases because of something they posted online is endless. Judges are forcing production of private online content ­from dating sites, family history sites like Ancestry.com and others like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.

(For example - Girl Costs Father $80k with FB post).

(Also -Tinkering with FB account costs Plaintiff over $700k).

After having a couple of our clients’ cases substantially undermined by their social media posts, our law firm now has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to clients posting anything to social media until their case is closed. This is so that we can achieve the maximum success and obtain maximum monetary outcome on our clients’ behalf. Any post-whether crash-related or not- threatens a client’s case. The point is: it simply isn’t worth it.

The reality is that most cards are already stacked against plaintiffs when we face insurance companies with unlimited resources. Insurance companies and defense counsel will go to great lengths to investigate you. They focus their investigations on social media posts and will often place people under surveillance. Anything you put on the Internet is not private and is absolutely going to be discovered by the insurance company we are working against.

While your account may be marked "private" now, the insurance company defense team will request the contents of your accounts, and they will get them. More and more courts across the country are ruling that there is no expectation of privacy for things shared on the Internet, and the judges are ruling that these socials must be produced­, private or not.

When you broadcast things online, the insurance company is going to find that post. Our firm has seen that become exhibit #1 at trial.

Social media that can be discovered also includes posts made by others who tag you in a post or photograph. To prevent this from happening, set your privacy settings so that tagging is not allowed or permission must be granted before tagging can be done.

Do not accept future friend requests from people you do not personally know. Insurance companies, their attorneys and private investigators will try to gain access to your social media in order to obtain information that can be used to defeat or damage your case.

Be advised, deleting social media posts is not an option while your case is being handled. You cannot take anything down that you have created on the Internet. It has been ruled by numerous courts across the country that when you create a social media post and then delete it, it is considered spoliation of evidence. It will likely result in hardship to your case and possibly financial penalties.

There is no post that will add value to your case, only posts that will detract. Online content posts offer zero upside for the client, or case or recovery. It is almost always 100% downside.

So, when your lawyer advises you to take a break from social media during the pendency of your case, please listen! Social media posts will be used against you to negatively impact your case and will result in the the loss of thousands of dollars. They can even cost you the entire case!

Don’t want to take our word for it? Here are just a few examples of what other lawyers have to say:

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Example 5

PODCAST EPISODE: HERE.