Thomas G. "Woody" Sampson II, Atlanta (Courtesy photo)  Woody Sampson, Atlanta (Courtesy photo)

A motorcyclist who hit a stretch of disintegrating pavement on Interstate 20 settled his personal injury claims against the Georgia Department of Transportation for $550,000.

In addition to suffering severe “road burn” on his arms and abdomen as he skidded down the highway, Reginald Rogers of North Carolina suffered an open fracture of his right ankle and a torn tendon requiring surgery that left him with a permanently weakened ankle, according to attorney Thomas “Woody” Sampson II of Thomas Kennedy Sampson & Tompkins.

The portion of I-20 at the intersection with I-285 on the west expressway “had deteriorated and gone through a process known as ‘raveling,’ where the binding material breaks down and you essentially have gravel and rocks instead of pavement,” said Sampson.

Rogers, now 52, was on his way to visit relatives and was unfamiliar with the road’s condition as he drove west in the early evening on July 25, 2015. He was in the left lane on the bridge crossing I-285 when he hit the rough patch, and his 2007 Yamaha slid out from under him.

Rogers was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital, and Sampson said he underwent two surgeries within a week. An ante litem notice Sampson sent to GDOT in 2016 said he had a permanent limp and scarring and had accrued more than $15,000; it demanded the $1 million statutory limit of the state’s insurance coverage.

When no settlement was forthcoming Sampson filed suit in Fulton County State Court last year.

In response pleadings, GDOT denied that the roadway “was defective at any time relevant to this lawsuit,” a position it maintained throughout the course of the litigation, Sampson said.

“They claimed there was no defect, and we got some video from a month and a half after the accident showing that the conditions were still the same,” he said.

A GDOT contractor had been working on the bridge around the time of the accident, he said.

“We were able to get an inspection report where they had taken pictures showing the gravel on the roadway,” he said. “Their representatives admitted it was gravelly but said it wasn’t dangerous.”

Judge Eric Richardson had placed the case on his January trial calendar when the parties were able to strike a deal, he said.  

“Rather than go to trial and deal with apportionment issues and people’s general bias against motorcyclists, he just wanted to put it behind him,” Sampson said.

GDOT was represented by Assistant Attorney General Kathleen Turnipseed. Neither the AG’s office nor a GDOT spokeswoman immediately responded to requests for comment on the case.

Sampson said the settlement was reached “a few days ago.”

“I’m going to pick up the check today,” he said Thursday morning.