A Los Angeles jury has ordered Caltrans and the city of Los Angeles to pay $9.1 million to a man who sustained brain damage after he swerved to avoid debris and lost control of his bicycle on Pacific Coast Highway in Pacific Palisades. According to a news report in the Los Angeles Times, Robert Jeffrey Watts suffered a traumatic brain injury in the incident that occurred July 2014 as he rode toward his home in Topanga Canyon. Watts was reportedly following signs that instructed cyclists to ride on the shoulder of the highway between the travel lanes and the cliff.
Debris on Pavement Caused Crash
However, when he came across a pile of sand and rocks on the pavement, he steered into the travel lane to avoid the debris and was struck by a truck’s side mirror losing control of his bicycle. This crash left him with a significant amount of brain damage, according to the lawsuit filed in 2015 in Los Angeles County Superior Court. His attorney said Watts was a seasoned rider who rode his bike to work in Culver City for years to keep fit. After his injury and disability, he was not able to work.
The LA Times reports that this jury verdict is one of the largest bicycle accident verdicts in Los Angeles history. The city has been paying out a lot of money in bicycle accident cases recently. State and local officials have apparently been aware of debris on the pavement in the area Watts got injured.
Caltrans owns the highway and had hired the city of Los Angeles to sweep the pavement at least once a month and get rid of the debris. However, information presented to the jury during this trial indicated that it’s not clear how often and how effectively the cleanup was done. Two city street sweepers testified during the trial that they often ignored this area, failing to clean it. The jury found the city 60 percent liable and Caltrans 40 percent liable for Watts’ crash.
Bicycle Accidents and Serious Injuries
This case is an example of why bicyclists and motorcyclists are much more vulnerable to debris on roadways compared to others on the roadway. In this case, the victim veered his bicycle to avoid the debris and ended up collided with another vehicle, which resulted in his traumatic brain injury. Brain injuries are often catastrophic, which means they result in permanent injury and disability.
As Los Angeles bicycle accident lawyers, we are pleased to see the jury make the right decision in this case and awarding monetary compensation to this victim who has not been able to return to work or earn a livelihood. This incident is a tragic reminder of the devastating consequences bicycle accidents and acts of negligence can have on people’s lives.