Ironman Athlete Able to Settle Bike Crash on Race Course Case!

Despite signing all sorts of waivers and Releases, it is still possible for an athlete injured through no fault of their own, to get reimbursed for their losses caused by an injury during competition.

An ABRAMS LANDAU client was injured badly at the Ironman Musselman 70.3 race in Geneva, New York. Doug Landau had trained and raced with her here in Northern Virginia, and as part of the Herndon Virginia SportFit Labs Team. As a volunteer at the Tri It Now and Kinetic Multisport events, Doug had seen this determined woman’s determination and improvement in actual race conditions. He also saw firsthand he enjoyment of multisport competition, travel and comraderie.

Unfortunately during the Ironman race, she was thrown from her bike between miles 31.3 and 42 of the course. She was immobilized, and had to be transported by ambulance to a local hospital. She was then taken to another hospital an hour away in Rochester, New York, due to the extent of her injuries. The injuries included:

  • Right scapular fracture
  • Right clavicle fracture
  • Scattered road rash
  • Right rib fractures and right pneumothorax

She spent two nights in the New York State Hospital (not far from where Doug Landau’s son is an Emergency Room physician!), was discharged, and was then driven home to Virginia. While the clavicle injury, also known as the “collar bone,” is a common finding after a bike crah, the rib fractures made it painful to sneeze, cough, hiccup, and get comfortable. Ribs cannot be casted, like other broken bones, so most patients are pretty miserable during the healing process. She then sought treatment for her extensive injuries closer to home.

Even experienced triathletes like Potomac River Running Store Road Racing Team member Aaron Church & his daughter, who are both accomplished multisport athletes, know that when they sign pre-race releases, they may be giving up valuable legal rights in order to compete. However, when a dangerous condition is caused by someone other than the race staff or volunteers, there may be an avenue to bring a claim and get reimbursed for injuries incurred during a race.

The road conditions on this course were deplorable. Ironman had a sign about 1-2 miles before the crash, noting rough road conditions. This segment of the road contained a series of potholes covered with gravel. Cyclists were having to dodge each other, then the potholes. Before this Virginia athlete’s crash, she was traveling on a long, steep, downhill section of road. She did not see any road hazards or signs. At the bottom of the hill was an intersection with volunteers. As soon as she reached the bottom of the hill, the road was extremely bumpy, causing her to lose control and fall off the bike. Volunteers witnessed the accident as her body was skidding on the ground and immediately called for help. The injured triathlete was told by a volunteer that another man was being treated at the same intersection for a broken finger.

When she called Doug Landau, she acknowledged that as athletes we all sign waivers with Ironman, so she was not sure there was much that could be done there. The concern was more about the general safety of participants under these road conditions which were not suitable for a 70.3 race that day. She found several postings on the Facebook Musselman page referencing this stretch of road and how dangerous it was before and after this event. Lawyer Landau advised her that he would not be able to take on a case against the race company or the folks working the event. Doug Landau does not sue Race Directors or volunteers, as he feels this would be a conflict of interest. Landau has been a Race Director and sponsors/volunteers many races throughout the East Coast.  However, since the race directors and sponsors were not in charge of the road maintenance and repair, Landau associated with a friend who is an experienced local government lawyer in upper New York State and brought a claim on behalf of the injured victim.

As much as Doug Landau likes getting valuable prizes at triathlons and running races, he gets even greater joy from getting checks for injured and disabled clients after winning or settling their cases.

One of the big hurdles in these kinds of cases is that the County/City/Municipality is often afforded “Sovereign Immunity” from claims, even where they are negligent. Even so, Landau and his co-counsel were able to overcome this defense. They were able to show that: the road was defective for a long time, the governmental agency knew about the dangers, and that the gravel fill and bumpy surface was unsafe for a bike race. Depositions over the summer helped develop the evidence needed to get to a jury. When insurance defense counsel realized that the “sovereign immunity defense” was not going to lead to a dismissal of the lawsuit, and that the injured triathlete was going to be able to present her case to the jury, they began settlement negotiations.

By overcoming the defenses, the triathlete’s counsel was able to secure a settlement for this age group athlete. It is hoped that this ABRAMS LANDAU client will make a good recovery from her physical injuries so that she can participate again in events near and far.

If you or someone in is an Ironman Triathlon or other sporting event, and have questions about law, injuries, etc., please do not hesitate to contact us at 703–796–9055, or email