Spokane cyclists have to fight the traffic, weather and road conditions when they travel the city streets. Sometimes personal injuries happen, and any of the three can be the cause. When the injury comes from a pothole or other road maintenance, then the cyclist may want to sue the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) or the city where the incident occurred.
Suing a fellow citizen or a company happens all the time and is allowed by state law. However, when it comes to suing the state of Washington, like all states in the Union, Washington has a law called “sovereign immunity” which protects them against their citizens’ lawsuit. Also like most other states, Washington passed a law that allows for certain lawsuits, but the law also places limitations and requirements on those suits.
Bicycle Injury Claims Exception
Washington’s claims law, RCW 4.92.100 exempts certain claims from their sovereign immunity. Some examples of these exceptions relating to cyclists are:
- Accidents caused by government vehicle
- Accidents by government cyclists
- Injures suffered on government property
- Any area of a construction zone that was controlled by the government
- Trees, shrubbery maintained by government
- Negligent design or maintenance of roadways, traffic signs or patters, guard rails
Washington’s exemption for personal injury suits is fairly broad compared to some other states, but the law doesn’t just allow any lawsuit, rather only those that arise out of the “tortious conduct to the same extent as if it were a private person or corporation.”
An example would be a cyclist is riding in a bike lane and her front tire catches on a root sticking up from under a crack in the sidewalk. If the cyclist sustained injury, then she may sue the state because the maintenance of the sidewalk is under the ultimate control of the government.
However, to be successful in the claim, she would have to show that the “tortious conduct” came from the negligence of the state. If she can, then she will be compensated by the state for her injruies.
Washington law places limitations on claims made against the state, and one of these is a notice requirement. A written notice must be presented to the Office of Risk Management from the injured person requests compensation for the person’s injury.
At this point, the person must wait 60 days before they can file a suit in the proper court. Failure to follow these rules can result in the dismissal of the person’s claims.
The Pothole Problem
One of the problems facing cyclists are potholes. These can cause serious injury and even death when a cyclist hits one and is spilled off their bike. Washington state allows pothole claims, but they are tough to show that the state was responsible.
To do that, the injured person must locate the municipality responsible and make a claim for damages done by the pothole. In cases where the state itself has responsibility, a claim form can be filed with Washington State’s Enterprise Services. Spokane, like other state municipalities, have their own procedures, and a claim against Spokane can be made online on their website.
Few Claims for Potholes Prevail
The tough part of potholes, and any road maintenance problem is that the injured person must prove the state was negligent. This means that the state must have done something that was outside their usual duty of care and the problem wasn’t by natural causes.
Basically, the plaintiff has to prove:
- That the state repaired something negligently, or
- That the state was made aware of a dangerous condition and failed to repair it in a timely manner, and
- That either of these caused the injuries to the plaintiff.
Proving that the repairs were made negligently is tough to do, so most claims it comes down to whether the state had notice of a certain dangerous pothole or other dangerous maintenance problem.
Contact a Spokane Bicycle Accident Lawyer.
If you’ve been injured while riding your bike in any of the cities in the valley or metro area, speak to a Spokane Bicycle Accident Lawyer from Crary, Clark, Domanico, & Chuang, P.S., They have the knowledge and experience to help you make a claim against the state of Washington or any of its cities.