Bicyclist Injured by Parking Valet Awarded $38M

A bicyclist suffered a traumatic brain injury when a parking valet took an illegal shortcut across two lanes. Now, a jury in Washington State has awarded him $38 million. bicycle

Plaintiff alleged the valet’s employer failed to give him the proper training to ensure he could do his job safely. The illegal shortcut used in the October 2012 incident was caused in large part because the company kept vehicles off-site and pressured drivers to return the vehicles as quickly as possible.

According to the complaint, the company knew its workers were taking cars between the garages downtown using the shortcut to the off-site lot. Others had complained about this practice, pointing out it was dangerous, but the company “turned a blind eye” to the practice. 

Plaintiff, a 61-year-old avid bicyclist, reportedly rode more than 200,000 miles on his bike. He regularly rode home from work by the downtown convention center in Seattle. It was on this route where he was struck by one of defendant’s employees who cut across the two lanes without yielding.

Plaintiff suffered severe injuries in the bicycle accident. Those included:

  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Shattered hip
  • Broken ribs
  • Fractured shoulder
  • Internal bleeding
  • Fractured pelvis
  • Additional injuries to his back and abdomen.

Amazingly, he survived. At this point, he has had to undergo three major surgeries, and his doctors believe he will likely need to undergo at least five more. Even today, following years of rehabilitation surgery, he continues to suffer from severe pain that is not only sharp but chronic. Not only can he no longer ride a bicycle, he can only walk short distances. His cognitive ability is also substantially diminished.

Plaintiffs alleged that not only did defendant driver violate traffic laws and city rules, the company failed to take any action regarding the shortcuts, even after it received a number of notifications and complaints about it. The valet employees, who primarily worked for visitors at a local hotel, were reportedly under significant pressure to return vehicles to owners as quickly as possible. That meant that instead of traveling on city streets and having to wait for traffic lights, the company then chose to cross two sidewalks and two lanes of traffic into an adjacent alley before turning into the off-site parking.

The route cyclists took jeopardized many different road users, and the safety of both its drivers and other motorists, as well as bicyclists and pedestrians. City laws require drivers to turn into the nearest lane and stay in that lane, signaling for at least 100 feet before switching lanes.

Additionally, plaintiff alleges the driver was distracted. He failed to see the bicyclist approaching because he wasn’t paying attention.

The driver was ticketed $191 for failure to yield, but the company reportedly continued to allow its employees to use that shortcut even after the bicycle accident.

Plaintiff’s medical bills topped $427,000 as of the middle of 2015, and they are only going to continue to grow.

Defendant had argued the bicyclist was partially responsible for his own injuries because he didn’t see the vehicle or react quickly enough prior to the collision. However, the cyclist was using a shared lane marked with “sharrows,” while the 21-year-old driver was operating his vehicle perpendicular to traffic. The valet company also disputed the extent and cost of injuries.

This case is indicative of the fact that claims involving bicycle accidents can often extend into the millions. It also illustrates that bicyclists are vulnerable road users. They don’t have a mass of metal and glass protecting them from wayward drivers. Even a helmet can only do so much.

Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

Bicyclist severely injured in crash with parking valet is awarded $38M, Dec. 15, 2016, By Mike Lindblom, The Seattle Times

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