LARGO — A bicyclist died early Saturday along Starkey Road after he was hit by a van, according to Largo police.
News outlets report that the van, a 1996 GMC driven by 62-year-old Lonnie Baumbach, was going northbound on Starkey Road when it hit Gregory Gancarz, 55, at 4:48 a.m. ending in yet another fatality on our Florida roads. It was pitch black at the crash site as there were no streetlights to be found. That, coupled with Gancarz’s bicycle not having a headlight or taillight on his bicycle, ended in a fatal accident. The police are still investigating the accident but stated that the van’s speed did not appear to be a factor in the accident.
Baumbach of Largo works independently delivering for the St. Petersburg Times. According to St. Pete times staff, he has been an independent contractor for more than eight years.
Florida, being a tropical climate and a magnet to many tourists wishing to escape the cold climates draws a huge number of bicyclists every year. However, our beautiful state leads the nation in bicycling and pedestrian fatalities.
This fatality makes Gancarz approximately the 20th bicyclist to be killed since July 2010.
A report written for Hillsborough County earlier this year concerning cyclist-vs.-car accidents shows the blame of accidents occurring on our Florida streets as being evenly split for accidents which occurred in the four year span starting in 2005 and ending in 2009.
While statistics like these are probably close, I do not always take them at face value. Often times, the pedestrian or bicyclist is injured to the point that they cannot adequately remember the accident or defend themselves.
While it appears by news outlets that failure to have lights on his bicycle is considered a contributing cause of this crash, another issue is when, such as the case of Baumbach / Garcarz collision, the city may have some exposure for causing this crash by failing to maintain street lights.
Making a claim against any government entity in Florida brings up a number of issues. For instance, any time you sue a government entity in Florida, the claimant is usually capped at $200,000. Furthermore, the Plaintiff’s personal injury attorney is not allowed to accept more than 25% of the recovery, which is an extreme pay cut for successful attorneys who typically are paid between 33.3% and 40% of the recoveries they obtain. Many reputable trial attorneys are reluctant to even take a case against the government due to this limitation, forcing people to hire new law school graduates, attorneys with little experience, or personal injury attorneys who do not actually file suit, but settle all of their cases for what an experienced personal injury attorney would consider an insult.
We will not know if a claim for wrongful death can be made against Mr. Garcarz automobile insurance carrier without more information, but regardless, our prayers go out to his surviving family and friends. Hopefully in the future, more will be done to make the roads safer places for bicyclists in Tampa as well as Saint Petersburg, Florida.
The number of cyclist and pedestrian accidents over the years have prompted the Florida Department of Transportation to launch a print, radio and television campaign to promote pedestrian and bicycle safety and awareness for the public.
Many deaths can be prevented if cyclists, pedestrians and drivers of automobiles showed just a bit more awareness. Proper attire and safety equipment should be used at all times to avoid such serious life threatening injuries that often lead to fatalities.