Coloradoans ride bicycles to work, to run errands, or just for fun. Many Colorado towns and cities try to make their roads and/or sidewalks safe for bicycles, pedestrians, and vehicles alike. But sometimes roads and sidewalks create dangerous conditions for cyclists. Other times, maintenance work itself can create a dangerous condition if a worksite is not adequately safeguarded. Unsafe conditions or construction sites in the road cause bicycle accidents. When they do, the injured party may be able to recover the cost of his or her damages.
So who is liable, and how does that person recover? If the injury happens in a private roadway like a driveway or private parking lot, then the owner of the roadway or parking lot is responsible for its maintenance and preventing unsafe conditions. If the owner failed to make sure that the lot was safe, then the injured party typically can recover for those injuries directly from the owner. The owner usually will have an insurance policy like homeowner’s insurance. If so, the insurance company would step in the pay for the damage or negotiate the claim.
Things get trickier when a person is injured on a public road or sidewalk. In Colorado (and other states), the state and local governments are generally “immune” from liability. That means they don’t have to pay for injuries that might be caused by something they did. But governments might have to pay if there is an exception. And exceptions may exist where the government did not properly maintain a roadway and had notice of the dangerous condition that caused the injury. When an exception applies and a city could be held liable (forced to pay), injured persons are required to send “notice” to the government of the persons’ intent to bring a claim against the city. The notice must be sent within 180 days of the accident. It is important to strictly comply with the statute concerning governmental immunity. Your claim can be lost if the proper procedure is not followed.
Claims against cities for injuries caused by poor maintenance get even more complicated through private contracting. Many times it’s not employees of the city that perform the repair work, but employees of a private company hired by the city. In those cases, the question of “who pays for injuries caused by the repair work?” is determined by a contract between the city and the company. The company working on the project may also hire other, smaller companies to perform smaller parts of the work like putting up adequate signage. Liability for injuries caused by that work will be determined by the contract between those companies. Usually the companies agree to be liable for injuries caused by their repair work or construction sites. Here, as with the private owner above, the construction company’s insurance carrier will step in to handle the claim for damages caused by the accident.
If you are riding your bike and get in an accident caused by a dangerous condition or construction site, you may be able to recover for your injuries. You may have a claim against several defendants, including the city. Liability among the people or companies who are responsible, however, can sometimes get messy. You should consult with an experienced attorney to make sure that you fully evaluate all of your potential claims. You must be sure to fully comply with all of the requirements of bringing a claim. You want to hold the right people responsible and make sure that your claim is not lost on a technicality. Cheney Galluzzi & Howard lawyers handle claims against local governments and private owners for injuries caused by bicycle accidents. Call us today at 303-209-9395 for a free consultation if you or a loved one has been injured in an accident.