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Panel awards paralyzed California bicyclist $15.5 million

Anyone who lives in California understands why people like to ride bikes here. The state is picturesque and much of it hugs the Pacific Ocean. Unfortunately, some negligent parties don't abide by laws that give bicyclists the road rights they're entitled to have.

Bicyclists can sustain some extremely serious injuries, despite taking all precautions to avoid accidents. Bike riders make up less than 1 percent of all road users but have a disproportionately high risk of getting hurt. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 515,000 cyclists visited U.S. emergency rooms in 2010 and nearly 800 people were killed in bike accidents.

A San Juan Capistrano man was paralyzed for life in a 2009 bike crash on a poorly surfaced Malibu Road. The victim and four other injured bicyclists filed claims against contractors responsible for paving the public roadway. The plaintiffs agreed to settle the case and settled the claims in November for $16.9 million.

The division of the settlement was decided through an agreement and a ruling by an arbitration panel. Three plaintiffs accepted $400,000. A panel of three judges decided how the rest should be shared between the remaining two parties.

The panel decided the 58-year-old Orange County bicyclist, paralyzed after suffering a shoulder separation and fractures to his backbone and collarbone, should receive the greater portion. The wheelchair-bound man was awarded $15.5 million for his injuries. The second plaintiff was given $988,000.

Injury claims, settlements and damage awards consider an accident victim's past and future suffering. A victim with permanently disabling injuries may require a lifetime of costly care. The only way finances can be secured to fund those long-term expenses may be through a legal action.

Requests for millions of dollars are not designed to be greedy. Compensation is a substitute for what courts cannot give plaintiffs – the health they had before an accident caused by negligence.

Source: Malibu Patch, "Man Gets $15 Mil Settlement for Malibu Bicycle Accident that Left Him Paralyzed" City News Service, Mar. 07, 201 

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