summit county

Breckenridge Road Rage Nets Driver Mere 24 Hours of Comm Svc

On September 26, 2015, around 1:00pm, Adam was riding his bike in Breckenridge, headed west on Boreas Pass towards Highway 9, when a white Ford Pickup truck drove up right behind him and then passed him on the left, coming within 2 inches of Adam.  The truck then stopped at the next intersection.  Adam approached the intersection, stopped next to the truck, and asked the driver why he passed so close to him.  The driver – a Mr. Clifton – yelled, “go F*** yourself and your cycling kit.”  He then got out of the vehicle and yelled at Adam, “why don’t you do something about it, I’ll kill you, you F***ing pussy.” 

The passenger in the truck yelled at Clifton to get back in the truck.  Clifton got into the truck and drove it forward.  Adam had the bike in front of him, and when he realized Clifton was going to drive the truck towards him without stopping, he put the bike out front of his body to protect himself.  Clifton’s truck ran over the rear wheel, chain stay area and down tube, luckily just missing Adam’s legs by inches.  Adam says he is lucky his legs were bent and tucked in, otherwise they too would have been run over.  The impact from the truck broke the rear wheel, bent the bike frame, and also injured Adam’s wrist.  Adam believed that Mr. Clifton was absolutely trying to run him over. 

Clifton drove his truck away.  Luckily, there was a witness who recorded Clifton’s truck license plates as Adam was lying on the ground.  They called police immediately.

The police ran the license plate of the truck and tracked down Clifton.  They issued him a citation for criminal mischief, harassment, and accident involving Damage. 

On August 11, 2016, the traffic case was heard in Grand County before Judge Casias.  The DA – Dominic Perrino, presented the facts of this incident, and Mr. Clifton appeared with his defense counsel, J.B.Katz.  

I want to point out the defense counsel’s statements, starting on the bottom of page 9.  She starts by saying, “Breckenridge has won a bunch of awards for being a bicycle-friendly town.  But Breckenridge is unusual in that they have past (sic) an ordinance that allows cyclists to use the entire lane, as opposed to, you know, you even see the license plates “Share the road.”

Huh?

Counsel goes on to say, “That doesn’t excuse what happened, but it does sometimes lead –you know, Mr. Clifton did not live here at the time in Breckenridge.  There is paintings (sic) on the road that say you can take up the – a bicyclist can take up the entire road.  And there is signs (sic) at different points, but there is not signs (sic) on a regular basis along a road.” 

Again –say what? 

Counsel continued, stating, “I’m not saying that excuses what happens (sic), but it does lead to some tempers flaring at some point, especially with people - -well, even for a lot of people that I know that live here.”   … “I want to put it into context that Breckenridge is unusual.”  

Wait, so... the city that wins awards and paints its roads with bicycle symbols in a state with “share the road” plates, somehow invites tempers to flare?  And how is Breckenridge unusual again?  I must’ve missed something… ? 

Judge then says, “I think there are times, even if you are a cyclist, with a cyclist’s behavior may get on your nerves.”  He goes on to say, “But you know, letting him push your buttons puts you into a dynamic that sort of has had you paying, you know, for awhile.”  … “Bicyclists are going to be here.  They do come up here to ride” … “The stronger, better one (sic), and even some of the not so strong, ride the road.  And whether they should be doing that or not, they have the right to.” 

Ultimate outcome:  Mr. Clifton charged a vulnerable cyclist with his pickup, enough to bend the frame of Adam’s bike, and received just 24 hours of community service, some driving points and fines.  24 hours!  That is 3 days of service.  That’s it.  When a suggestion was made that perhaps the service could be done in a cycling-specific context, the Judge said to Clifton, “if you do it with a cycling group and they find out (about this incident), it makes it unproductive for everybody.  You don’t need to listen to them jawing, and you don’t need your buttons pushed.” 

On the civil side of the case, it took from August 2016 when we tendered our demand, until March 2017, to get Clifton’s insurer, State Farm, to evaluate this claim fairly.  They started with a lowball offer and it took months -and finally our statement that we would be serving Clifton with a lawsuit (in Colorado, insurance companies don't get named as the defendant, their insured does)  – before they arrived at a reasonable number.  That is 6 months that we spent attempting to get State Farm to evaluate this file fairly.  Their initial offer was about ¼ of the final settlement number.  One-fourth! 

Then, once the settlement was reached on the amount, State Farm attempted to withhold settlement funds until we would give them Adam and his wife’s SSN#s and DOBs.  (This is not done for any other reason than to record their information in the insurance databanks, which insurance companies use to research future claims).  I pressed back, asking SF for their legal reason why they were entitled to this information and even stated that, if they made it a pre-condition to sending the settlement funds, we did not have a deal.  Funny –they went ahead and mailed the check without responding to my request.

This is the reality of dealing with insurance companies and this is why, when people ask us if they should handle a claim on their own, or hire a lawyer, we recommend involving counsel.  Insurance companies can be bullies, and it should be evident here that Clifton was a bully.  Adam did not deserve the treatment he received at the hands of either one.  We are glad he can finally close this chapter of his life and move on.