For the majority of Americans who drive on the 5 freeway in Los Angeles, road debris and road hazards can be an annoyance causing minor damage to their cars. However for motorcycle riders, road debris and hazards can be deadly, and should never be taken lightly.
Road debris, which can include small rocks created from highway construction, parts of blown out tires, or goods that fall off a truck, can be driven over by most automobiles without any damage. Road hazards like potholes, slippery roads, or uneven road conditions can also generally easily be overcome by cars. For motorcycle drivers however, any debris or hazard can rise to the potential of getting caught within the motorcycle, or disrupting the balance of the motorcycle, leading the bike rider to fall off his bike and become injured. Bike riders need to be especially careful of the road conditions and be constantly avoiding any large objects in front of them, which will disrupt their balance.
Motorcycle accidents and road debris
Typical motorcycle accidents involve collisions with an automobile, which allow a motorcyclist to sue the other driver for their damages. If you have been injured in motorcycle accident caused by debris or hazards however, who can you sue? Can anyone be held liable? The answer is yes, and is determined by who’s at fault.
Who’s responsible for road debris?
In California, public governmental organizations headed by Caltrans have the duty of maintaining the highway in a safe condition for all California citizens. In order to successfully sue a public entity, the road hazard must have been known to the government agency, and they must have failed to repair it in a reasonable time. Though this can be difficult to prove, fault has been held in certain cases. In January 2017, Caltrans was ordered to pay $35 million dollars to an ex-UCLA football player, Nick Ekbatani, who was injured on his motorcycle while riding on Pacific Coast Highway in Redondo Beach CA. Nick sued Caltrans, stating Caltrans knew of the road hazards at that particular intersection he was injured at, and did nothing to repair the hazard. A jury sided with Nick, and awarded him damages.
Fault can also be placed on other drivers who cause road debris to fall off their vehicles causing obstruction in the roads and causing motorcycle accidents. The California Vehicle Code makes it illegal for any driver to operate a vehicle whose contents on the vehicle, “are not safely loaded, presenting an immediate safety hazard.” In plain English, if a driver has secured some type of cargo on his car, and it has come loose and fallen into the road (like the random couch or blown out tire you see on the highway), the owner of that cargo or tire can be held liable for the damage that debris causes to anyone.
Proving fault against a debris owner, or a public entity causing a hazard can be a very extensive, difficult and complicated process. If you or someone you know has been injured due to a road debris or hazard while riding a motorcycle or driving in a car, it is important that you understand your legal rights. Contact the experienced accident attorneys at the Ghozland Law Firm for a free consultation today.