In our auto accident practice, we sometimes have cases where the fault for a crash lies not with a driver but with the road itself. Poor design, construction or maintenance can make a road unreasonably dangerous, and when a road defect causes an auto accident, the municipal authority responsible for the road is accountable to the victim. A clear example of unreasonably safe road design in the Los Angeles area was the infamous “Dead Man’s Curve” in Beverly Hills on the northern edge of the UCLA campus.
In 1964, the singing duo Jan and Dean had a hit with “Dead Man’s Curve,” a pop tune that chronicled a drag race between teens in a Corvette Stingray and a Jaguar XKE that began in Hollywood at Sunset Boulevard and Vine Street and ended in tragedy somewhere west of Doheny Drive. The song made Dead Man’s Curve famous nationally, but it had been notorious locally for some time.
The stretch of Sunset Boulevard just north of UCLA’s Drake Stadium was particularly dangerous for eastbound traffic. The road ran downhill and bent sharply left, making it easy for a vehicle to accelerate above the posted 35-mph speed limit. The curve was not banked sufficiently to keep cars from veering right into a wall of trees, so many drivers overcorrected to the left, causing their cars to spin out or swerve into oncoming traffic.
Perhaps the most famous victim of Dead Man’s Curve was Mel Blanc, the actor who was the voice of Bugs Bunny and innumerable other Looney Tunes characters. Blanc was driving his Aston Martin east on Sunset one evening in January 1961 when he suffered a head-on collision with another car. He sustained multiple fractures and head trauma that left him in a coma for weeks and a body cast for seven months.
Blanc filed a $500,000 lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles, citing three fatal accidents and a total of 26 accidents, including his own, at Dead Man’s Curve in a two-year period. The lawsuit prompted the city to allocate funds to restructure the curves along that section of road.
Dead Man’s Curve is now a thing of the past, which is fortunate for Los Angeles drivers. It’s also a testimony to the power of personal injury law to force negligent defendants to correct hazards and cease dangerous practices.
If you or a loved one has been hurt in a serious car accident, the Law Offices of Larry H. Parker can help you get the compensation you deserve. With offices in Long Beach, Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange County, Bakersfield, Fresno, Phoenix, and Tucson, we are ready to serve. Call us at 800-333-0000 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.