Living in California I know how bad the roads can be and they can be pretty bad. I hear of motorcycle accidents all the time in regards to road conditions so I thought I would ask an expert on the legal side what that would mean to a motorcyclist. Here is what Chuck Koro, of Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys® had to say…
As biker injury lawyers we have been confronted with virtually every type of motorcycle accident imaginable, including those that arise from hazardous road conditions. In most of these cases, the claim must be asserted against a governmental entity such as the county or state.
These cases are often problematic because governmental entities have statutory immunities and additionally, it must be shown that the entity had notice of the condition within a reasonable time before the accident and failed to timely correct, or warn of, the condition. Also, there is always a question as to whether the so-called hazardous condition caused the accident as opposed to rider error. We recently resolved three such cases, obtaining settlements for each of the involved clients.
Case Number One
In this case the rider and his wife went down on a freeway overpass. The city had removed the asphalt from the top of the overpass, leaving a significant seam with a variation in the level of the road surface. Our client was a seasoned rider and did everything right, but still went down. He sustained relatively minor injuries, but his wife broke her ankle.
After inspecting and photographing the scene, we proceeded with the case. We took the deposition of the city official in charge of maintaining the roads and learned that the asphalt had been removed six months before the accident and had not been fixed because the city had been waiting for the state to do the repairs — even though it was the city’s responsibility.
At his deposition, the city official looked at the photographs of the road as it existed at the time of the accident, and conceded that the road was in bad shape. He had no sound explanation as to why a sign wasn’t placed on the roadway to warn of the hazard. These combined factors were crucial in getting the case resolved.
Case Number Two
In this case, our motorcyclist was riding with his wife on an interstate highway late at night and pulled over to the shoulder to turn on the reserve tank. Unfortunately, he was confronted by an edge trap, a two to three inch lift that stepped up to the shoulder. The bike went down and he and his wife sustained injuries.
Photos were taken the next day, and the lip was measured. The photos not only showed the lip but they also confirmed that there were no signs warning of the hazard.
The lip had been created by a private contractor who had been hired by the state to re-pave the roadway. We asserted a claim against the contractor and the state. The state claimed it was not at fault because the contractor had created the lip. The private contractor claimed that it had complied with all the necessary specifications for warning of the hazard.
Crucial to resolving case was the deposition of the responding police officer. He testified that, in his opinion, the accident was not caused by driver error, but by the darkness and lack of signs, which caused the rider to have a reasonable expectation of a level surface. With the photos and the officer’s testimony, the case was resolved to our clients’ satisfaction.
Case Number Three
This case involved a motorcyclist who hit a large pothole on a surface street and was thrown to the ground, resulting in a serious shoulder injury. Our investigation revealed that the street maintenance supervisor for the county had responded to the accident scene and told the responding police officer that he had noticed the hole that morning. Yet, he had apparently done nothing to correct the situation. We proceeded with a claim against the governmental entity responsible for maintaining the road.
Incredibly, at his deposition the maintenance supervisor testified under oath that the hole had gotten deeper and wider between the time he saw it that morning and the time of the accident later that day.
We then took the deposition of the officer, who testified that had he seen the road in that condition before the accident, he would have immediately blocked off the hole to protect unsuspecting motorists. Given the notice and the extent of the hazard, the case settled.
Road hazard cases are often difficult. The key in resolving these cases is showing that the condition is indeed hazardous and that the responsible party had sufficient notice of the condition to warn the public or fix the problem in a timely fashion, but failed to do so. To show the hazardous condition, it is imperative that photos of the hazard are taken immediately.
Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys® can help you nationwide. Call 1-800-424-5377 if you have been injured in a motorcycle accident and remember to TAKE PICTURES.