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Attorney Proves Washington State County Knew Hazards of Bike Path

The Green River Trail is a paved, multi-use pathway that runs for 19 miles from Seattle to Kent, Washington. Runners, walkers, and cyclists all use it to get out into scenic country along the banks of the Green and Duwamish Rivers. For decades, King County maintained the trail. However, they did so irresponsibly, often ignoring safety standards. Notably, the county painted bollards — the posts that prevent cars from driving onto cycling and walking paths — a shade of white that blended into the surrounding environment. Because the bollards were essentially camouflaged, there had been multiple injuries across the years, with cyclists hitting the bollards. Tragically, a cyclist named Carl Schwartz was rendered quadriplegic in just such an accident.

An experienced cyclist, Carl was cycling along a section of the trail on a typical, overcast Seattle day. Suddenly, he collided with a bollard in the middle of his path. The impact sheared Carl’s carbon-fiber bicycle in two and catapulted him into the air. He flew for ten feet before coming down hard on his head, breaking his neck in three places. He would never walk again.

Carl’s wife contacted Chris Davis, a Seattle attorney from Davis Law Group with thirty years of experience handling personal injury cases. Before agreeing to take the case, Chris visited the site of the accident. At first, he had a hard time believing a cyclist paying attention could miss seeing the bollard. Nevertheless, the attorney began to do some research and discovered that the metal poles were considered hazards by the federal government, and there are many safety standards in place to mitigate that hazard. He agreed to take the case.

Chris filed a lawsuit against King County. Immediately, the Defense argued for the case to be thrown out. It was. However, Chris appealed, and a judge ruled in the Plaintiff’s favor. The county then took the case to the Washington State Supreme Court, which also ruled in the Plaintiff’s favor, sending the case back to the lower court. That process alone took more than five years.

The county maintained that the tragic incident was Carl’s fault, who must not have been paying attention. Chris disagreed, entering into evidence a years-long pattern of bicycle accidents in King County involving bollards. The particular pole that Carl hit was not properly painted and had no warning markers, ignoring established state and federal standards.

Next, Chris brought in a dozen experts to bolster his case, including experts in cycling safety, biomechanical experts, accident reconstructionists, and people who could testify about the national bollard standards the county failed to follow. He also used focus groups to hone his argument. Then, he turned to DK Global for animations. Chris wanted to present a clear and succinct timeline showing that the Defense had been aware of bollard hazards in the past and did nothing to correct them. He also wanted to demonstrate how easy it would be to miss a white bollard in the fog and how a properly marked bollard would have looked by comparison.

DK Global prepared three videos. The first showed the accident itself, making it very clear how the white bollard blended into the surroundings in the foggy weather conditions. It also included a photograph of the beat-up old bollard, indicating that the only safety features on it — reflectors — were painted over, rendering them useless. The video then demonstrated how the post should have looked if it were up to state and federal safety standards. In one case, it was colored in yellow-and-black hazard paint; in another, the yellow-black striped bollard was coupled with yellow-striped pavement. The depictions demonstrated how these warnings would have been easier for the Plaintiff to see. Next, the animation proceeded to the injury itself, animating what the impact did to Schwarz’s body. The actual X-rays of Schwartz’s spine were displayed, indicating the catastrophic trauma he endured.

A second video took viewers through the surgery Schwartz endured after the accident, showing in 3D the extensive measures taken to fuse his cervical spine back together. Finally, the third video featured a timeline, including email and other correspondence, clearly indicating King County was aware of the hazards of bollards decades before Schwartz’s fateful collision. Nevertheless, they did nothing to correct the problem at the Green River Trail.

King County initially offered nothing, refusing to pay any money to the Plaintiff. The parties met for a full day of mediation, during which they saw the wealth of evidence Chris had amassed, as well as the DK Global presentations. Ultimately, the Defense agreed to settle for a sum of $10,000,000.

Chris Davis of the Davis Law Group has been practicing personal injury law for more than thirty years. He has a staff of 30, including six attorneys, based in downtown Seattle. Davis has received a “Superb Lawyer” rating from AVVO. The National Academy of Personal Injury Attorneys selected Davis as one of their “Top 10 Personal Injury Attorneys in Washington State”, and Super Lawyer Magazine called him a 2022 “Super Lawyer” and “Rising Star”. The National Association of Distinguished Counsel identified Davis as one of the “Nation’s Top One Percent” of lawyers, and he is routinely included among listings of the top attorneys in Washington state.

"A picture is a thousand words. Well, in my line of work, a picture is usually a million words, because it can leave indelible impressions on the juror's mind about what happened to my client."
Chris Davis - Davis Law Group, P.S.
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