US Cyclist received almost $4 million after following old signs on ‘dilapidated’ road

The Summary

A Rabbi who suffered permanent traumatic brain injuries after his bicycle was struck by a car has received US $3 million (AUD $3.77 million) in compensation.

Shelaim Furst was riding his bike along Victory Boulevard, San Fernando, USA on 25 August 2010 when Antoine Shehata tried to change lanes behind him, the LA Times reports. Rabbi Furst hit Mr Shehata’s vehicle’s windshield and was thrown 27 feet (8 metres) into the street.

The Rabbi sustained a brain injury and memory loss.

In previous years, Victoria Boulevard was a designated bicycle route. By the time of the accident, it was no longer used for those purposes. But the bicycle route signs remained in place while the route was left to fall into disrepair.

It was alleged that the city of Los Angeles had allowed Victory Boulevard to fall into “dilapidated” conditions, and had created a false sense of security for cyclists by leaving bike route signs in sight.

The L.A. City Council decided not to fight the matter in Court, and instead agreed to the US $3 million settlement without any discussion.

Queensland Cyclist Rights vs Californian Cyclist Rights

Before the histrionics start that Australia is becoming a litigious society like America, let us remind you of the differences. For example, parties that lose a case like the one outlined above do not have to pay legal costs in America. In Australia, the losing parties are required to pay these costs and often the costs of the winning party. Typically, this means bogus or weak cases that are unlikely to stand up in a Queensland Court are never pursued.  So for a case to get up in Australia means that a Judge has considered the defence lawyers argument to be weaker than the claimants argument

In this instance, the Rabbi sued the local Council rather than the driver. Although not reported, it is widely speculated that Mr Shehata’s (the negligent driver) insurance policy was not sufficient to cover the compensation required by the Rabbi, or was not insured at all.

The case would be different in Queensland, where drivers are required by law to have CTP insurance. Therefore, if any claims would be against the driver of the at-fault vehicle (or their insurer).

If you are struck by an uninsured vehicle in Queensland, your claim can still proceed against a body called the Nominal Defendant. The Queensland Government created the Nominal Defendant in 1961, so that persons injured by unidentified or uninsured drivers could still seek compensation.  The Nominal Defendant is funded out of the compulsory third party system.

Had the Rabbi fallen because of the ‘dilapidated’ conditions, only then would he have been able to raise a claim against the local council.

What this means for Queensland cyclists

If this case occurred in Queensland, and it was the case that the driver was uninsured, the claim for compensation would likely have proceeded against the Nominal Defendant. However, the Nominal Defendant would have recovered its costs from the driver.

This claims process is very similar to the process for claiming compensation from a third party insurer.

LA City Council
Los Angeles City Council in 2015 (Source: LA Times)

Written by Claire McHardy | Solicitor