In 2016, a bump in the road sent a South Carolina motorcyclist careening off the Blue Ridge Parkway, wrecking his bike, breaking his ribs and puncturing a lung.
Dallas Fisher, according to a new court document, says he had next to no warning when he and his Harley-Davidson struck the bump in a curve of the scenic two-lane, not far from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, during a September 2016 ride with friends.
Now he and his wife Cherie want to be paid for his injuries and the impact the accident had on their family.
$1,727,827.94 to be exact.
In their new lawsuit, the Irmo, S.C., couple accuse the federal government of negligence in how it maintains and operates one of America’s best-known mountain byways.
In making their case against the National Park Service and the Department of Interior, the Fishers appear to have the backing of the law enforcement officer who responded to the crash. He concluded that Fisher may not have had adequate warning of the obstacle dead ahead, documents show.
“My investigation revealed the bump in the parkway was the main contributing factor to the cause of the accident,” National Park Service investigator Cody Skyler Marsh wrote in his report, which included some of his own personal experiences.
On the way to the wreck scene, “I happened to travel over the bump and even stated out loud ...’I didn’t see that coming,’” Marsh wrote “I believe a contributing factor besides the imperfect road surface is the fact that the (warning) sign is very close to the bump itself ... It’s possible that by the time an operator sees and reacts to the sign that they have traveled over the bump.”
The complaint says the warning sign in place on the day of the crash gave Dallas Fisher no more than 25 feet of head’s up before his front tire struck the bulge in the pavement. Federal Highway Administration guidelines say warning signs should be at least 100 feet ahead of any roadway impediment to give drivers time to adjust, the lawsuit says.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte, which will defend the federal government in the case, had not received a copy of the complaint as of Monday afternoon, spokeswoman Lia Bantavani said, adding that the office would not comment further on a pending legal matter.
With 469 miles of gentle grades, mountaintop views and 45 mph maximum speed limit, the Blue Ridge Parkway attracts thousands of motorcyclists every year.
In 2016, Dallas Fisher and his friends were among them. In his own hand and on the day of the accident, Fisher described the crash in terse terms that any rider would recognize.
“Going down mountain 40-45. Right before I wrecked saw bump in road sign,” he wrote, according to a copy of the statement included with his lawsuit. “Hit bump and turn me off to the side. On front brake. Hit dirt and it was all over.”
As his Harley flipped, Fisher slammed into the handlebars and he landed on his right hand, the lawsuit says. His injuries would not have occurred, he says, “if it wouldn’t have been for hump in road.”
At the time he produced his account, Fisher was in an Asheville hospital being treated for fractured ribs and a punctured lung, among other injuries. Despite surgery, he has not recovered the full use of his right hand, the lawsuit says.
Fisher says his medical bills have topped $500,000. Due to her husband’s injuries, Cherie Fisher is asking for $100,000 damages for loss of consortium.
According to the complaint, the bump in the parkway and the lack of proper warning signs have led to a series of wrecks near milepost 465.
More signs have since been installed, the complaint says.