Product Liability: Motorcyclist Sues Caltrans for Dangerous Highway
Most product liability lawyers will agree that dangerous roadways pose a hazard to a variety of motorist everyday. In 1998, a Sacramento motorist, confused as to where she should go as she approached a construction area, lost control of her vehicle. She struck a barrier, careened to the right and struck another vehicle. Motorists behind the car collision started braking. Officer Jungsten, a 33-year-old sheriff's deputy, was driving his motorcycle when he rear-ended a tractor-trailer that had stopped in response to the car crash. Tragically, he suffered fatal injuries and is survived by his wife and two minor children.
Caltrans had hired a contractor to work on a highway construction project in the area. Their agreement specified that the left shoulder be blocked off and traffic shifted to the right using striping, tall orange tubular delineators, and eight temporary concrete barriers covering at least 150 feet.
Jungsten's wife sued Caltrans and the Construction Company. Her product liability attorneys alleged that the highway in question constituted a dangerous condition. Specifically, that the construction company had failed to properly install barriers, which in fact consisted of only three barriers covering 60 feet; that the construction company had failed to place striping and delineators to guide motorists to the right; and that Caltrans had failed to properly inspect the area.
Caltrans countered, contending that the barriers were indeed properly installed and that Jungsten was comparatively negligent for failing to stop and avoid the car accident. The jury sided with Jungsten, finding Caltrans and the construction company each 50 percent responsible. The jury awarded Jungsten's wife and children approximately $6.5 million.
"Caltrans and the construction company they employed failed to work together to create a safe construction zone," observed John Bisnar, motor vehicle defect lawyer. "Timely construction-area inspections and follow-up by Caltrans could have averted this tragic motorcycle accident."
According to California Highway Patrol's Statewide Integrated Traffic Reporting System (SWITRS), as recently as 2006, there were 204 motorcycle fatalities and 16,282 injuries caused by improper traffic signals and signs. Moreover, there were 12 fatalities and 559 injuries involving motorcycles in Sacramento County alone.
"Mrs. Jungsten displayed tremendous courage amidst unimaginable grief in going after Caltrans and the construction company to hold them accountable for her husband's tragic death," noted California motorcycle accident attorney and motorcycle enthusiast, Brian Chase. "Our hope is that this lawsuit, and the similar lawsuits we have filed against CalTrans, will motivate them and their contractors to properly safeguard the motoring public while conducting their work of maintaining and improving our highways. Taking these prudent steps will reduce motorcycle accidents and fatalities."
If you or a loved one has suffered serious injuries as the result of a defective auto part or vehicle, contact the experienced California auto products liability attorneys at Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys for a free consultation. We will use our extensive knowledge and resources to achieve the best possible results for you and your family.