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California Jury Orders Caltrans, City of LA to Pay $9.1M to Bicyclist Left with Brain Damage After Crash

By: Allan M. Siegel

Earlier this month, a California jury sided with a seriously injured cyclist by awarding him $9.1 million in compensation for damages sustained after he crashed while attempting to avoid debris on the Pacific Coast Highway near the Santa Monica Mountains. The jury found that Caltrans and city of Los Angeles were liable for the crash.

As court records show, the crash occurred in July 2014 as the bicyclist was riding home. An experienced cyclist who rode his bike to work for years, the man had been following traffic signs instructing bicyclists to ride on the shoulder of the highway between lanes of traffic and the nearby cliff. While riding in the designated path, the man was forced to swerve to avoid a pile of rocks and sand on the pavement, and was struck by the side mirror of a passing truck, causing him to lose control and crash. He suffered significant brain damage, and was left unable to work, the lawsuit notes.

During trial, it was discovered that Caltrans (the California Department of Transportation), which owns the highway, contracted with the city of Los Angeles to sweep the pavement on a monthly basis in order to keep it free from debris. The route where the accident occurred is a popular path for bicyclists, and officials had been aware for years that debris from the hills commonly create hazardous conditions on the pathway and highway.

Two city street sweepers who testified at trial noted that they often swung around rocks, sand, and debris near the cliff, rather than remove it, and that the city often ignored such roadway hazards instead of having them cleared and hauled away. The jury ultimately found the city of Los Angeles 60% liable for the crash, and Caltrans 40% liable.

Bicycle Accidents & Government Liability

The $9.1 million judgment is one of the largest jury awards in Los Angeles history for an injured cyclist, and it mirrors similar high-figure cycling crash verdict and settlements that are increasing throughout the nation. Though the financial award is substantial, the case best serves as an important reminder about the devastating consequences of preventable bicycle accidents, and that injured riders have the right to seek justice, accountability, and a recovery of their damages through the civil justice system.

As personal injury lawyers active in the local cycling community and bicyclist advocacy organizations like the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA), our team at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. knows that bicycle accident cases are high stakes matters, and that injured riders often suffer catastrophic harm and traumatic brain injuries. In many cases, cycling crashes result from preventable car accidents and the negligence of motorists, including those who fail to yield, drive distracted, or drive under the influence. In others, however, they may involve government entities that failed to meet their duty of care when performing their duties and taking steps to reduce risks on public roads.

Personal injury cases involving government liability can create unique challenges for victims. Not only do cities, public utilities, transit authorities, and other government agencies or contractors fight these claims aggressively by disputing fault and liability or transferring blame to cyclists themselves, there are also different rules and procedures involved. This includes a shorter statute of limitations, meaning victims have a limited amount of time to file lawsuits in pursuit of damages.

Over the years, our award-winning attorneys have secured millions of dollars in compensation for victims injured in bicycle and pedestrian accidents across the region, and as a result of the negligence of government entities, including the District of Columbia, the Alexandria Transit Company, WMATA, and other local government and public agencies. If you or someone you love has suffered harm due to dangerous roadway conditions, government negligence, or any other type of preventable accident, our team is available to help you through these difficult times, and fight for the compensation you deserve.

Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. represents victims throughout Washington, DC, Virginia, and Maryland, and offers FREE and confidential consultations. Learn more about your rights and how we can help by contacting us online or calling (202) 644-8303.