In September, one of the largest bicycle accident jury verdicts in the
history of Los Angeles was awarded to a Topanga Canyon man who was seriously
injured while riding his bike along the Pacific Coast Highway. Finding
Caltrans and the City of Los Angeles both liable for the crash and victims’
damages, the jury ordered the public entities to pay a total of $9.1 million
in compensation to the victim.
According to documents from the case, the accident took place in July of
2014 when the victim was cycling home along the PCH. An experienced cyclist
who had been commuting by bike between his office in Culver City and Topanga
Canyon home for years, the man had been following traffic signs instructing
bicyclists to ride along the shoulder of the PCH, a pathway between lanes
of traffic and the Santa Monica Mountains.
While riding in the shoulder as instructed, the victim was forced to swerve
into a travel lane to avoid loose gravel, rocks, and debris on the pavement.
As a result, he was struck by the side mirror of a passing vehicle, lost
control of his bicycle, and crashed. According to the complaint filed
in L.A. County Superior Court and the victim’s attorney, the man
suffered significant brain damage and was left unable to work due to his injuries.
During the case, it was revealed that Caltrans, which owns the PCH, had
hired the City of Los Angeles to regularly sweep pavement along the shoulder
of the highway in order to keep it free from debris. Officials had known
for years such debris often came off the cliff and created hazards along
areas that have become popular routes for cyclists, but testimony and
evidence presented at trial made it unclear as to how often sweeping and
debris clearing was performed. In fact, two city employees stated that
workers would often avoid areas of the Tramonto slide and areas with heavy
debris rather than remove the gravel and rocks as they were contracted
to do. Ultimately, the jury found the City of Los Angeles 60% responsible
for the crash, and Caltrans 40% at fault.
Bicycle Accidents in Los Angeles
The City of Los Angeles has been working hard to rebrand L.A. as a bike-friendly
city, and promote bike paths, commuting programs, and other services geared
toward cycling. At the same time, however, the city’s costs to settle
claims or payout lawsuits involving bicycle crashes have skyrocketed over
the past several years:
- In 2017, the City of L.A. paid nearly $20 million to injured cyclists and
families of cyclists who died on local roads – the highest it has
paid over cycling crashes in a decade.
- There were 17 payouts for bicycle accident lawsuits against the city in
2017, compared to just 1 in 2007, which was settled for $16,000.
- The largest payout of 2017, a $7+ million settlement for a cyclist who
became a quadriplegic, happened on a bike lane created on a broken roadway
which went unfixed despite numerous complaints.
- According to the L.A. Times, nearly 20% of bike lanes and routes in Los
Angeles, totaling roughly 179 miles, are on streets that have a D or F
rating for being in such disrepair.
In many of these lawsuits, victims and attorneys say the city continually
fails to improve roadways and prevent hazards that pose risks to bicyclists,
and that workers frequently ignore obvious hazards while going about their
work. Until, the city takes meaningful action to fix the roads and protect
riders, accidents and devastating injuries are likely to continue.
Your Rights After a Bicycle Accident
Biren Law Group is comprised of award-winning personal injury lawyers who
represent injured victims and families throughout Los Angeles and other
Southern California cities following preventable accidents, including
bicycle accidents. While many of these cases involve claims against motorists who hit and
injure cyclists due to inattention, traffic violations, and other acts
of negligence, some involve dangerous and defective roadways and the negligence
of local government and public entities.
Personal injury cases involving government liability can create additional challenges
for victims and families. They also involve different rules and procedures,
and often have shorter a shorter statute of limitations (or time limit
for filing a lawsuit) than cases against individuals or private entities.
For these reasons, taking immediate action to work with experienced attorneys
is of the utmost importance.
If you or someone you love has been injured in a bicycle accident,
contact Biren Law Group to learn more about your rights and how we can help.