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Los Angeles' Problem with Bicycle Accident Lawsuits Highlighted by Recent $9.1 Million Jury Verdict


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.