By Jeff Johnson on
Bruce Deming is happy, mostly for the right reasons, to see Washington’s surge in biking. The trim, 59-year-old DC attorney is a once-avid road racer who still takes the occasional 50-mile weekend ride with the National Capital Velo Club.
But he also sees a market in the snarl of cyclists, drivers, and pedestrians jockeying for space amid construction sites, double-parked vans, and gridlocked intersections. Deming specializes in representing injured bike riders, and business is booming.
“The growth is primarily among new riders in their twenties and thirties who use bikes for transportation,” he says, adding diplomatically, “They’re less skilled in the art of accident avoidance. They also trust in bike lanes a little more than they should.”
Deming began his career suing oil companies for price violations at the Department of Energy 30 years ago. After leaving government in the mid-’80s, he “sort of fell into personal-injury law,” he says. “When I started my practice, I did everything, but I rode bikes daily and I raced. Biking friends called for help.” As Washington increasingly took to two wheels, “one case led to another,” he says. “Bicyclists are a social group, so your name gets around.”
Deming takes only about half of the 200 or so cases he hears about each year, earning about a third of damage awards that range from hundreds of dollars to millions: “I pick my fights—and it’s always a fight.”
What makes bike-injury cases difficult, according to Deming, is cops’ casual attitude toward reporting accidents. Last year, Jeanie Osburn,62, a longtime DC bike commuter, was pedaling near FBI headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue when a driver slowed while preparing to turn left and fooled Osburn into thinking he saw her. She was wrong—and went to the hospital with back and shoulder injuries. When it came time for Osburn to make a claim against the driver’s insurance company, the police report was inaccurate and incomplete. “There was a sea of blue,” she recalls of her accident scene, “but no officer took down witness names.”