Famous golfer Tiger Woods was driving a borrowed Genesis SUV at nearly twice the posted 45 miles per hour (mph) speed limit when the SUV hit a sharp curve and collided with multiple objects in Palos Verdes, California, causing Woods severe injuries, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and reported by the Los Angeles Times newspaper on April 8, 2021, Section A1.
Tiger Woods reportedly sustained multiple car accident injuries, some apparently were life threatening and or career threatening, including fractures to his leg and ankle, and at some point Tiger Woods relocated to Florida where he remains now for his recovery.
The Sheriff’s department supposedly found NO use of alcohol or drugs contributing to this vehicle crash, although results of any hospital or other blood tests were NOT released.
This police report, in California often officially called a Traffic Collision Report, was released later than many wanted or thought, supposedly because of privacy concerns for Mr. Woods. It was reported that the report was only released after Mr. Woods authorized its release. It is understandable that Mr. Woods might want to keep such information private; who wouldn’t? But given the obvious cause of the traffic accident (excessive speed) and his public notoriety, Woods and his team of advisors may have felt it would be better to release it than to create greater speculation by trying to keep it away from the public. Given the speculation about the use of alcohol or drugs that may have contributed to this crash and the fact the sheriff’s report did not find any such use, there are substantial benefits to its release for a person with the fame and reputation of Tiger Woods.
Further, given how such reports often find their way into the public domain despite attempts to keep them private, perhaps the Woods team believed it better to try to take the high road and release it. Don’t forget everything that came out after the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash in our City of Calabasas, and the deeply sensitive photographs that some first responders reportedly released. Sometimes such records are released in exchange for payment or simply because some people feel a need to share and exploit some horrific or embarrassing situations.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva stated driving at an unsafe speed on this steep downhill curvy road and failure to safely navigate the roadway curve caused this crash. It is reported that during the year before this crash there were 13 other crashes on this stretch of road, and 11 of those drivers were considered at fault. Query how accurate that is? Were there only 13, and in determining fault were other factors considered, such as the downhill steep grade, possible design and construction defects, proper placement of maximum speed and other warning signs, etc?
Sheriff Villanueva also reportedly stated that the part of this road where this crash occurred is “hazardous by design” and has had “more than an average number of collisions.” Of course, this raises the obvious issue – Is there any liability of any public entity or entities that designed, built, owned, controlled and or maintained this road?
This is an issue that experienced personal injury lawyers may look into, starting with investigators and accident reconstruction experts inspecting the scene and also conducting public records searches for all records relating to the ownership, design, construction and maintenance of the road, and all crashes, accidents and incidents that have been reported over an appropriate and reasonable period of time, which in this unique situation may be since this road was constructed.
Sheriff Villanueva was careful to also add, “Drivers are also responsible for considering the conditions.” However, this stretch of road is known to be deceptive, catching unsuspecting drivers by surprise, and Woods, not being a resident of the area and spending the night at the beautiful Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes might not have known of this dangerous condition, but still would be responsible to drive carefully and within the posted speed limit of 45 mph. The location and design of the speed limit signs (and other warning signs, such as “sharp curve ahead”) may also be an issue – that is, were they conspicuously placed so that someone like Tiger Woods would have or should have seen them before the site of the collision?
Apparently, Woods was accelerating down the steep grade (instead of decelerating and braking). Some specific facts were given by James C. Powers, Captain of the Lomita Sheriff’s Station that covers the area of the crash. Captain Powers stated Woods’ SUV hit the median, then a Rolling Hills sign, and then the west curb before striking a tree 71 feet off the roadway.
The SUV was equipped with a vehicle data recorder, sometimes called a “black box”, which indicated the SUV was travelling at speeds from 82.02 mph to 86.99 mph when the airbags were activated. Powers also stated that the data recorder captured pressure applied to the SUV’s accelerator during this incident at 99%. Does this mean the accelerator was pressed 99% full down when instead of accelerating Woods should have been braking? If so, one would think the SUV’s speed would be greater than 87 mph or perhaps it had been greater and this was a reduced speed after some impact? Perhaps the accelerator was accidentally pressed instead of the brake, which has been shown to occur in other vehicle collisions. We may never know the answers to these questions.
Regarding evidence of impairment, such as from use of alcohol, medications or other drugs, the sheriff’s department stated there was no evidence of impairment (including no open containers or drugs in the vehicle or on the person of Woods), and usual field sobriety tests were not conducted due to Woods severe injuries, including fractures to his leg and ankle.
Some wonder why Woods was not cited given the clear evidence of speed from the nature of the impact corroborated by the vehicle data recorder? One explanation given is that the sheriff does not want to cite for speed without an officer witnessing the violation. Query – how does that mesh with red light violations based upon red light cameras without any eye witness testimony? Well, we certainly do not want our own equipment, in this case our own vehicle’s data recorders, used against us. Further, there are many problems with and objections to the use of red light cameras—perhaps the topic of a future blog?
Should you be injured in any accident, including in any car accident involving speed or road design defects, please contact us for a FREE consultation at our Beverly Hills/ Los Angeles law offices at 310.279.5255, our Valley/Calabasas law offices at 818.222.3400 (after hours, dial”1”), or toll free at 866 INJURY 2 or 866.465.8792 (after hours, dial”1”).
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