Florida is one of the most dangerous places in the country for bicyclists, with 133 killed in traffic accidents in 2013, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The only state with more bicyclist fatalities was California, a state that has double the population of the Sunshine State. Nationally, 48,000 people are injured in bicycle accidents.
Whenever our injury lawyers examine the facts of a bicycle crash case, we look at all possible defendants. If the accident involved a motor vehicle driver, will look to see whether that person acted recklessly. If so, we will look to see whether the driver has adequate insurance to cover the cyclist’s damages. if not, we might be able to pursue UM/UIM coverage, which is available to victims struck by drivers who are uninsured or don’t have enough insurance. If a person other than the driver owns that vehicle, they could be liable too. And in some cases, depending on the location of the accident, the property owner or other third parties could be liable.
That was reportedly the case in Carmicia v. City of Mercer Island, a case out of Washington State.
According to a local report of the case, it all began in 2006, when the cyclist sustained severe injuries in a bicycle accident that occurred when she struck a wooden bollard while trying to maneuver around temporary construction fencing along the trial. At the time, the city was building a bicycle garage at the edge of the trial.
As a result of the accident, plaintiff was left permanently paralyzed from the waist down.
She filed a personal injury lawsuit against both the city and the construction company.
The city tried to assert immunity per the state’s Recreational Use Statute. Florida has one too, and it basically states that if a property owner allows free access to that land for recreational purposes, that property owner can’t be held liable for dangerous conditions or injuries that result. The only exception is if the property owner displayed maliciousness or tried to purposely harm people.
Trial court granted a summary judgment in favor of defense, but the appeals court reversed, holding immunity could not be determined as a matter of law because there was dispute as to whether the trail on which bicyclist was riding served as a “recreational” space, or whether its purpose was “transportation.” The Washington State Supreme Court affirmed the appellate court’s ruling, and remanded the case back to the lower court for trial.
The “recreational use” issue would have been a matter of fact for the jury to decide, and the case was slated to go to trial this month. However, weeks in advance of that, plaintiff and defendants entered mediation. The construction company reached a settlement with plaintiff for an undisclosed amount. Following that, the city agreed to settle the case for $6.95 million.
Factoring into that decision, undoubtedly, was the fact the city had already been sanctioned for withholding or destroying records in connection with the case. The court fined the city $10,000. But this kind of action, known as spoliation of evidence, entitles plaintiffs to a number of remedies, including an assumption that the evidence lost or destroyed would have supported the other party’s case.
Bicycle accident cases may present a number of complex challenges, and it’s imperative for victims to work closely with an experienced injury lawyer.
If you have been a victim of a traffic accident, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.
City settles bike injury lawsuit, Oct. 26, 2015, Staff Report, Mercer Island Reporter
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