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Roberta Walker speaks at Encinitas City Hall a week before suffering a tragic bicycling accident in the early morning hours of Dec. 8 in Leucadia. Photo by James Wang
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Roberta Walker, husband, file claim against Encinitas for bike accident

ENCINITAS — A prominent local leader who suffered critical injuries in a bicycle accident in Leucadia in December and her husband have filed claims against the city stemming from the accident, the first step towards a lawsuit.

Roberta Walker, the executive director of the Cardiff 101 Main Street Association, was injured before sunrise on Dec. 8 when a truck struck her when she was cycling in the “sharrow” lane on Coast Highway 101 near the Phoebe Street intersection in front of Leucadia Post Office. 

A Santa Ana-based law firm, Callahan and Blaine, filed individual claims on behalf of Walker and her husband, John Paul, on March 12. The firm, on its website, lists “complex litigation of all types, including catastrophic personal injury,” as one of its fields of expertise. 

The documents claim that the city is liable for the conditions that caused the accident. 

“There existed a dangerous condition of public property, including but not limited to the following: the pavement markings that were present were confusing and distracting to both drivers and bicyclists; the signage that was present was confusing and distracting to both drivers and bicyclists; there was an absence of proper pavement markings and signage; and there was no separate bicycle lane creating a dangerous condition on public property,” the claim states. 

According to the claim, the Walkers are seeking non-economic damages including for past and future physical pain, mental suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, disfigurement, physical impairment, inconvenience, anxiety and emotional distress, past and future medical an incidental expenses and damages for future loss of earning capacity.

“To date, (Walker’s) injuries have required extensive medical care, including hospitalization, multiple surgeries, in-patient physical therapy,” the claim states.  “It is further expected that, as a result of such injuries, Claimant will require additional medical care in the future and will also likely sustain a future loss of earning capacity.”

Claims like the ones filed by the Walkers are typically the precursor to a lawsuit against a government agency. Municipal tort claim law requires individuals to file a liability claim against the city before suing it. 

While the claim doesn’t list a specific amount for damages, it does state that they would likely file an unlimited civil liability case, which is reserved for cases where the damages are greater than $25,000. 

With the Walkers damages including both current and future medical expenses, the damages requested in the lawsuit could amount in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

The city has 46 days to respond to the claim, either accepting liability or rejecting the claim, which would set the stage for the Walkers to file a lawsuit. 

Encinitas typically fields 20 claims a year, most of them for relatively minor issues, risk management analyst Erin Chapman said. 

The Coast News contacted the firm and left a message seeking comment from Brian J. McCormack, one of the attorneys listed on the claim. We will update the story when we receive a response. 

The Coast News has also reached out to Mayor Catherine Blakespear for comment and will update the story as it is received.