No Warning of Hazardous Road Conditions Causes Bicyclists to Suffer Serious Injuries
Death and taxes—those are givens. Most of us anticipate them, even plan for them. But what happens when the unexpected occurs? For several clients of Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP, it proved disastrous. For the responsible party—Caltrans—it means legal action.
The story unfolded on a sunny weekend last August. The firm’s clients were four of many bicyclists who set out for a ride on Pacific Coast Highway that ended unexpectedly. Like most experienced cyclists, they went through their pre-ride routines—checking tire pressure, filling water bottles, packing an extra tube, identification and a cell phone in their jersey pockets. What they didn’t know, and couldn’t plan for, however, was that a stretch of PCH—at the bottom of an incline—was left in a dangerous state of disrepair caused by a Caltrans road construction project. There was no warning of what many cyclists referred to as a “death trap.” No signs, no delineating tape, no cones. The result? Cyclists went down…hard and suffered everything from severe cases of road rash to concussions, broken bones, punctured lungs, even paralysis.
“Caltrans did not do their job,” says Personal Injury Attorney Howard Krepack, an avid cyclist who is handling the cases. “Pursuant to policy and directive, they are responsible for issuing warnings about highway construction projects, and they dropped the ball…big time. Call it oversight, carelessness, stupidity or indifference…it still comes down to many innocent people being seriously injured.
“It’s all about safety. We elect representatives who hire bureaucrats and expect them to keep us safe. Safety went out the window here. And, this is just one example of what has become a systemic problem. Policies are set to protect the safety of the public, but all too often there is no implementation or enforcement of the policies. They’re just words, empty promises that lead to, in cases such as this, dire consequences for innocent victims.”
To add insult to injury…literally, Caltrans said they were not aware of the hazardous conditions, which existed from Friday through Sunday, until Monday morning because they were closed due to the state-mandated furlough.
“Caltrans left the road in a condition that was an accident waiting to happen. There was a total breakdown in communication. Messages were left on their hotline, e-mails were sent informing them of the conditions, and still nothing was done until Monday. When you have bicyclists being airlifted to hospitals, it’s difficult to believe that the powers that be weren’t aware of the problem.”
Caltrans will have to face this issue head-on as claims have been filed against the governmental agency by Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton and Goldstein on behalf of its clients.
“This is the same kind of negligence on the part of Caltrans that led to the death of bicyclist Scott Bleifer more than four years ago. They have a Bike Coordinator, there is a PCH Task Force, and yet they fail to warn cyclists of hazardous road conditions or remedy the situation in a timely fashion.”