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How a Southern California Mother Managed to Revive Her Case Against a Local Government Following Her Son’s Fatal Bicycle Accident

We write frequently in this blog about identifying all of the people and/or entities who are potentially liable to you in a personal injury lawsuit. It’s hard to overstate just how important this can be, especially if you’ve suffered extensive harm. If you have suffered millions of dollars in damages, then you need to get more than just a few thousand dollars. However, a few thousand dollars may be all you get if you’re proceeding only against a driver with very few assets and a minimum-coverage auto insurance policy. That’s where a skilled San Mateo injury attorney helps, as wecan put our extensive experience and knowledge of the law to work potentially finding entities or people who have possible liability to you that you would not have identified.

Another way this can help is if the driver who hurt you (or killed your loved one) didn’t do anything wrong at all. If that’s true, then that driver isn’t liable and owes you nothing. However, that doesn’t mean there may not still be others out there against whom you can bring a successful legal action.

A tragic bicycle accident case from Southern California is a good example of how this works. An engineer from Redondo Beach was bicycling through Rancho Palos Verdes when his bicycle crashed into a big-rig truck from a major moving company. According to a bikinginla.com report, the moving truck made a right turn on a green light and the bicyclist “apparently rounded a blind curve” and was unable to stop before hitting the semi-truck. The bicyclist died at the scene.

Sheriff’s deputies concluded that everything “the driver was doing was legal at the time,” according to NBC 4.

In a case like this, you have some options. Certainly, you can pursue the truck driver and the moving company. Just because the police at the scene concluded that the driver did “nothing wrong” legally, that doesn’t necessarily mean he and his employer have no possible liability in a civil lawsuit. With the proper discovery, you might find that there were subtle errors the driver made (that the police didn’t notice,) or that there were maintenance issues with the truck. Either of these could allow you to recover something.

Finding another pathway forward

What the legal team for the late bicyclist’s mother did was to identify someone else entirely with possible liability: the City of Rancho Palos Verdes.

The legal team for the mother advanced a case that said the city government “created a dangerous condition on public property” in violation of Section 835 of the Government Code when it removed a bicycle lane on the street where the bicyclist died. The plaintiff’s case also asserted that the city was liable because it failed to warn users of the street about the dangerous condition.

In response, the city asserted that it was immune from the mother’s lawsuit due to a type of governmental immunity called “design immunity.” The appeals court ruled that design immunity did shield the city from any liability to the mother for its decision to remove the bike lane, but it did not protect the city from potential liability for its failure to warn users about the dangerous condition at that location.

In sum, the mother’s failure-to-warn case against the city was still viable and that meant she still had the potential to recover much-needed compensation for her profound loss.

If you have been hurt (or a loved one killed) in a vehicle accident, you probably have lots of questions. How long do I have to file a lawsuit? Where should I file my lawsuit? Who should I name as defendants in my lawsuit? For reliable answers to these and other critical questions, count on our team. The knowledgeable San Mateo truck accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos have the knowledge, the skills, and the experience you need. To set up a free consultation with one of our helpful attorneys, contact us at 650-345-8484 or through our website.

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