Dec 2

Cyclist Harassment Gets You Freewheeling Compensation

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Hands off! The L.A. cyclist harassment ordinance entitles victims to freewheeling compensation.

Hands off! The L.A. cyclist harassment ordinance entitles victims to freewheeling compensation.

L.A. is a frightening place to ride a bicycle. Hit-and-runs against bicyclists “surged” 42% in L.A. County between 2002 and 2012.1 Meanwhile, hit-and-runs against everyone else fell 30 percent.2 If you’re one of the city’s 17,500 bike commuters, you don’t have to fly off the handles when a motorist sends you flying off your bike. The L.A. cyclist anti-harassment ordinance entitles you to so much cash that you’ll pop a wheelie. Moreover, you can petition the DMV to strip a harasser of his driver’s license if he won’t pay up.

How Much Can You Get for Cyclist Harassment in L.A.?

The L.A. cyclist anti-harassment ordinance prohibits anyone from engaging in certain conduct against another person because of that person’s “status as a bicyclist”: (1) physically assaulting or attempting to physically assault a bicyclist; (2) threatening to physically injure a bicyclist; (3) intentionally injuring, attempting to injure, or threatening to physically injure a bicyclist; (4) intentionally distracting or attempting to distract a bicyclist; or (5) intentionally forcing or attempting to force a bicyclist off a street for purposes unrelated to public safety.3

If a harasser causes you to lose your balance, he’ll owe you a balance. The cyclist anti-harassment ordinance entitles any “aggrieved person” to: (1) the greater of $1,000 or triple his actual damages for “each and every” violation; (2) punitive damages; and (3) attorneys’ fees and litigation costs.4 For example, a bike commuter who incurs $20,000 in medical expenses will automatically get $60,000 in treble damages and a separate award of attorney’s fees and costs. Moreover, he may obtain an award of punitive damages.

How Can a Cyclist Strip a Harasser of His Driver’s License?

California law empowers a cyclist to strip a harasser of his driver’s license for failing to pony up. The DMV must suspend a judgment debtor’s driver’s license if the judgment creditor submits: (1) a certified copy of the judgment or of the register of actions in an action resulting in a judgment for damages; and (2) a certificate of facts indicating that the judgment debtor has failed for a 30-day period to satisfy the judgment.5 The suspension must remain in effect until the judgment debtor gives proof of financial responsibility and satisfies judgment.6

The DMV may reinstate, or refrain from suspending, a judgment debtor’s driver’s license if: (1) he was insured at the time of the “accident”; (2) his insurance company is liable to pay the judgment but hasn’t done so; and (3) he files a copy of his insurance policy and any other documents that the DMV might require to show that his policy covered the loss, injury, or damage.7 But cyclist harassment, an intentional act, is uninsurable.8 Consequently, a judgment debtor can’t avoid a suspension just because his insurance company won’t chip in. 

  1. Armand Emamdjomeh, Laura J. Nelson and Joseph Serna. Hit-and-Runs Take a Rising Toll on Cyclists, L.A. TIMES (Nov. 29, 2014). 

  2. Id

  3. LAMC §45.96.02. 

  4. LAMC §45.96.03(B). 

  5. Veh. Code §16370. 

  6. Veh. Code §16371. 

  7. Veh. Code §16375. 

  8. Ins. Code §533. 

Ben Rothman, Esq.

Ben Rothman is a Los Angeles-based attorney practicing in the areas of personal injury, employment, and workers' compensation on a "no recovery, no fee" basis. Call him at (424) 465-2948 for a free, no-obligation consultation.