The Washington DOT in a settlement with an Olympia motorcycle rider agreed to pay 2 million to settle a defective road design claim in a Washington motorcycle accident lawsuit.
Back in 2006 John Lancaster of Olympia, WA was riding his motorcycle on US Highway 101 near Shelton. At the intersection of Highway 101 and Lynch Road, a car pulled out in front of Mr. Lancaster cutting him off and leaving now where for him to escape. Mr. Lancaster ran into the driver side of the car and nearly died that day in a severe Washington motorcycle crash.
Shockingly this was not the first serious accident reported at this intersection. There had been repeated accidents at the very same spot, 55 accidents since 1996 including two fatal accidents. The Washington DOT knew there was a problem but failed to do anything.
Mr. Lancaster was severely injured, he was legally dead for a 3 minute period of time at the accident scene before being resuscitated. Mr. Lancaster had to be transported to Harborview Medical Center via helicopter where he eventually fell into a three week coma. For two months following the accident, Mr. Lancaster could not walk. Today, he is still unable to use his right arm and has limited usage of his left hand. Mr. Lancaster’s medical bills totaled over $600,000 for his hospital treatment alone.
Mr. Lancaster filed a lawsuit against the WADOT for its failure to fix the dangerous intersection. You can bet that the insurance company for the car that caused the accident had already paid its policy limits, but the insurance availlable likely didn't even come close to covering the medical bills. The WADOT had ignored an April 2001 study that showed that the intersection was unsafe and recommended closing the left turn lane from Lynch Road onto Highway 101. An engineer working with the DOT, Robert Thuring, stated that there was a large amount of pressure from Mason County residents to fix the intersection.
Taylor Shellfish and the Squaxin Indian Tribe both offered to donate land to construct a safer route. Taylor Shellfish currently does not allow its trucks to use the dangerous intersection, instead utilizing its own road constructed to bypass the defective road intersection.
It will be interesting to see how this issue unfolds over the years, especially given that the DOT has numerous other roads and intersections that have been flagged to be unsafe but are yet to be fixed. Hopefully this intersection that has caused so much damage to the friends and families of the Olympia motorcyclist will eventually be fixed.