Attorneys for a severely injured cyclist have succeeded in securing a $38 million verdict against the valet service that employed a driver who reportedly took a shortcut and brazenly sailed illegally across two lanes of traffic. As a result of the crash, the 51-year-old cyclist suffered severe injuries, including traumatic brain injury, a shattered hip, broken ribs, and internal bleeding.
The bike accident occurred four years ago in downtown Seattle, but the circumstances could easily apply to any similar service in any city here in Indiana, where an increasing number of bicyclists occupy the roads. A recent report by Smart Growth America and the National Complete Streets Coalition, Dangerous by Design 2016, indicated that of the top 105 largest metro areas in the country, Indiana’s Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson area ranked 50th. Comparing state-to-state rankings, Indiana ranked 22nd in the country for pedestrian danger index (PDI), which looks at the number of people who bike and walk to work relative to the number of injuries and fatalities of those travelers. Our rate was 46.3 in 2016, just beneath the national average of 52.5.
But of course, there is no safe state. Consider that Washington, where this devastating bicycle accident happened, ranked 36th on the state comparison list.
According to The Seattle Times, the company that employed the valet has many such operations nationally and reported a gross profit of $129 million just in the first nine months of the year. Despite this, the plaintiff alleged, the company turned a blind eye to what were clearly unsafe and illegal practices by its employees, who were under high pressure to deliver vehicles quickly back to patrons at a nearby hotel from an off-site parking lot. In fact, the company had received a number of complaints about the recklessness of the valets, particularly in taking the shortcut in question. However, the plaintiff alleged, the company never intervened.
Specifically, the cars for which valets were responsible belonged to customers at a local hotel. However, there was more room at an off-site parking lot. So drivers took the vehicles from the hotel across the street and into a surface parking lot. But instead of making a longer – and legal – trip across the streets and through four intersections, the drivers cut through alleys, drove across lanes, and pulled other illegal maneuvers.
The plaintiff at the time of the incident was riding in a lane marked by “sharrows” when the 21-year-old valet employee drove a customer’s vehicle across a one-way street, perpendicular to traffic, and didn’t see the cyclist approaching from his right. The cyclist was struck and suffered severe injuries in the car accident. The driver was cited by police for failure to yield.
At trial, the plaintiff argued that while the company never directed drivers to take this route, it never issued directives to stop them from doing so either, even after receiving complaints and notice of it. Based on the timing of the other complaints, the plaintiff’s lawyers argued, the company did have a reasonable time in which to take action on this issue and yet failed to do so.
The defendant attorneys, meanwhile, argued the plaintiff was at least partially responsible for his failure to react to avoid the crash. The plaintiff’s lawyers presented evidence showing he would have had just four seconds to react.
Ultimately, the jury decided the defendant should pay a substantial sum to compensate the plaintiff for the injuries sustained as a result of the driver’s negligence.
Indiana Injury Attorney Burton A. Padove handles personal injury claims throughout northern Indiana, including Highland, Gary and Hammond. Call Toll Free 877-446-5294.
Bicyclist severely injured in crash with parking valet is awarded $38M, Dec. 15, 2016, By Mike Lindblom, Seattle Times
More Blog Entries:
Trucks and Bicycles: A Too-Often Lethal Combination on Indiana Roads, Nov. 2, 2016, Highland Bicycle Accident Lawyer Blog