Saturday, 9 July 2011

Court backs a biker's complaint against road safety rails

(Photo: El Pais)
SPAIN (El Pais) Juan Miguel Pizarro is (yet another) motorcyclist fallen victim to a highway guardrail post. Ten years ago, on the highway from Tossa to Blanes, he skidded and fell off the bike, and his back hit one of the H-section steel posts that support the guardrail. He was left paraplegic. The Supreme Court has now ruled that Pizarro is responsible for the injuries he suffered. But only in part. So is the Generalitat (Catalan regional government) which is responsible for the safety of the highways. The court has ruled that the regional government must pay the victim 319,409 euros in compensation for his injuries.>>>
"I went out for a ride with a friend. I wasn't going fast. Apart from my back, which was what hit the post, there were only bruises," recalls Pizarro, morally supported by the professional motorcyclists Nani Roma, Isidre Esteve (himself in a wheelchair since 2008 due to another accident), Xevi Puigdemont and Miki Arpa. Pizarro felt "a sharp blow" to his back and slid into a small ravine. In his view, as the motorcyclist associations have long claimed, the post did not protect him. On the contrary, it aggravated his injury.
Pizarro appealed the ruling of the High Court of Justice of Catalonia, which held him solely responsible for taking the curve at a speed higher than that recommended - 40 km/h. The Supreme Court now agrees with Pizarro that there is a cause-and-effect relation "between the functioning of a public service and the harm caused," so that responsibility for the spinal lesion falls 50 percent on Pizarro's driving and 50 percent on the Catalan administration.

This is the second ruling issued by the Supreme Court in which the administration has been held jointly responsible for injuries suffered in striking guardrail posts. The ruling sets jurisprudence, says the victim's counsel, Sebastián Martínez Farriols, concerning a longstanding demand made by motorcyclist associations: the substitution of H-section posts, which have sharp edges, by C-section or a tubular posts, which are less harmful to fallen bike riders.

"When a public service generates injuries that have been technically and scientifically demonstrated, the administration bears a share of responsibility," said the president of motorcyclist group Asociación Mutua Motera, Juan Manuel Reyes. "The guardrails are a safety measure for cars, but they are just the opposite for motorcycles. Our friend's life has been ruined."

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