Jury Awards $5.4M to Brain-Damaged Bicyclist

Jurors in Pennsylvania awarded $5.4 million to a man who suffered a severe traumatic brain injury after a bicycle accident caused by a purported road defect.

That damages award, according to The Legal Intelligencer, included $2.5 million for medical expenses and lost wages, as well as $2 million for pain and suffering and $1 million in damages to the plaintiff’s wife for loss of consortium. State law caps damages for civil litigation against government agencies at $250,000, but the total damages collected will be $500,000, since the plaintiff and his wife each will receive the maximum amount for their individual claims.

According to court records of the incident, the plaintiff was riding his bicycle on the road when he hit a patch of road that was reportedly uneven. This, his attorneys would later argue, constituted a dangerous defect in the road, causing him to be ejected from his bicycle and land on his head. In addition to a broken vertebra and broken ribs, the plaintiff suffered brain damage leading to post-traumatic seizure disorder. This was despite the fact he was wearing a bicycle helmet. Since his initial treatment, he’s been hospitalized again numerous times due to seizure-related injuries.

The case underscores the fact that state and local governments may in some instances be held liable for failures to maintain the roadways. Furthermore, single-person bicycle accidents aren’t necessarily always the sole fault of the rider. Legal options are often worth exploring.

Indiana courts have similarly held government agencies liable for dangerous road conditions leading to serious injuries or death. Consider the 2008 Indiana Court of Appeals case involving a fatal car accident that killed an 18-year-old girl who was a passenger in a car that overturned in a ditch and filled with water after encountering a steep slope. The decedent’s estate sued the state for wrongful death. When the state sought summary judgment on sovereign immunity grounds, the trial court granted it, but the appellate court reversed. The appeals court noted that while the Indiana Tort Claims Act does shield the state from claims based on defects in roadway designs or redesigns that occurred 20 years or more prior to the accident, “the State still has a duty to provide reasonably safe public roadways.” In this case, the question of whether the road was in a reasonably safe condition was a matter of fact that needed to be decided by a jury, rather than a matter of law for the trial court. The case was remanded for trial.

Bicycles are especially susceptible to accidents stemming from dangerous road conditions. They have relative instability and thin tires, and any unexpected or abrupt difference in the road surface can be catastrophic, even for cyclists who are experienced and careful. Indiana is susceptible to dangerous road conditions, particularly in the spring, due to the freeze-and-thaw cycle that causes the roads to expand and contract, resulting in damage over time. Road hazards likely to cause a motor vehicle collision in Indiana include:

  • Pot holes
  • Sewer grates
  • Uneven road surfaces
  • Railroad or trolley tracks

If you are injured in a bicycle accident caused in whole or in part due to unsafe road conditions, our injury attorneys in Highland can help.

Indiana Injury Attorney Burton A. Padove handles personal injury claims throughout northern Indiana, including Highland, Gary and Hammond. Call Toll Free 877-446-5294.

Additional Resources:

Delco Jury Awards $5.4M to Brain-Damaged Cyclist, March 9, 2017, By Max Mitchell, The Legal Intelligencer

More Blog Entries:

Mandatory Bicycle Helmet Laws: Do They Help?, March 19, 2017, Bicycle Accident Attorney Blog

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