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Young man’s back country car accident results in long-term injuries. Machelle proves Forest Service road was known to be unsafe.

One dark night on a Forest Service mountain road, a horrific set of coincidences came together – a “perfect storm” of unfortunate events. Our client (let’s call him Rob) spent the evening in the mountains with friends. Late that night, he drove down a rural Forest Service road northwest of Colorado Springs. (There was no alcohol or drug use.) It had rained a great deal, and a portion of the road had washed out.

The night was pitch-black, and Rob could not see that approximately one-third of the road had collapsed. His car careened off the road and down a 200-foot ravine. Badly injured – including broken bones, a fractured skull, and a brain injury – Rob was able to crawl out of the car but could not crawl out of the deep, muddy ravine. He spent a long, cold night alone and in pain.

The next day, a Good Samaritan saw suspicious tire tracks that ran off the side of the washed-out portion of the road. He took time to investigate, and discovered Rob at the bottom of the ravine. He called for emergency rescue and, eventually, Rob was rescued and transported to a hospital.

In terms of recovery, however, Rob was not out the woods. He spent considerable time in intensive care, his life hanging in the balance. Due to severe physical injuries and his brain injury, it remained questionable whether Rob would be able to work or live a normal life.

Rob’s parents turned to Machelle Gielarowski. They knew they needed a lawyer who would relentlessly pursue their case. A lawyer who would conduct exhaustive research on Rob’s behalf. A lawyer who was willing to take on the US Forest Service.

Machelle notes that extensive research and legwork went into this project prior to filing the case. To lay a groundwork of solid evidence, here are just a few examples of The Gielarowski Law Firm’s activities:

  • The team researched multiple other cases against the US Forest Service.
  • To understand more about rainfall in the area, they hired and interviewed a meteorologist.
  • Machelle hired a geologist with expertise in soils to investigate the road.
  • The firm interviewed off-road motorcyclists who frequented that road. Many reported that this section “was always bad.”
  • They hired an engineer to learn more about how that section of road had been engineered. He discovered this portion was significantly lacking in drainage and that, with a downpour, it was clear a washout was likely.
  • Machelle filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the federal government to obtain all background information possible on that road as well as all information regarding this specific car accident. This represented thousands of pages of documents, which Machelle combed through, page by page.

Machelle uncovered evidence that the US Forest Service should have known this road was in disrepair and was likely hazardous. Machelle and Rob’s parents decided to file suit against the US Forest Service. Clearly, the agency had direct knowledge that this road was not safe for travel. Machelle argued that the Forest Service was negligent by not addressing this particularly bad section of road and its significant drainage issues. She argued that the agency has a duty to ensure the road was safe for public use – and this duty was breached.

Machelle and Rob’s parents settled with the US Forest Service. Rob is now on Social Security disability due to his brain injury. Soon after this case was resolved, Machelle’s team learned the road had been repaired and the drainage issue had been addressed.