Bike East Bay’s Biketopia is This Thursday November 10th in Oakland – We Are the Presenting Sponsor

As our law office has done for years, we are once again proud to be the Presenting Sponsor of Biketopia, Bike East Bay’s winter party and fundraiser. It is at the Impact Hub located in Oakland at 2323 Broadway, 6:30 – 10:00 p.m. If prior year’s parties are any indication, this will be a genuine good time and for a great cause. There will be food, music, and a silent auction with lots of fun items. Mingle with like-minded bicyclists and biking advocates.  Hope to see you there.

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Pedestrian in Crosswalk Killed By Big Rig Truck in Emeryville

Tragically, Mahin Ashki, age 58, was killed while walking in a crosswalk in Emeryville on 11/1/16.  The incident occurred at the intersection of Christie and Powell Street when the truck, making a westbound right turn from Christie to Powell, hit Mrs. Ashki with the front of the rig, pulling her underneath the truck.  As I have previously written about, right-turning trucks are a common cause of fatalities and severe injuries to both pedestrians and bicyclists.  In the many pedestrian accident cases I have handled, accident reconstruction analyses and video evidence is utilized to prove fault and recover the substantial liability insurance available.  And it remains to be seen whether any dangerous road conditions may have contributed to causing the incident.  In any case, more training of truck drivers is clearly needed.  Any witnesses are asked to call police at (510) 596-3700.

Muni and Train Tracks in San Francisco Cause Numerous Bicycle Injuries

It is almost a rite of passage for San Francisco bicyclists to wipe out and be injured in Muni or railroad train tracks.  Bike tires quite easily get stuck in the grooves of Muni tracks, and both Muni and train tracks tend to be extremely slippery, much more so when wet by fog, mist or rain, common local weather conditions.  Stories abound in the media of such injuries, and on 3/7/2012 a cyclist was killed in downtown SF after his wheel got stuck in a Muni track and he fell underneath a passing bus.

As an attorney who represents injured bicyclists, I have received numerous calls from bicyclists severely injured due to encounters with Muni or train tracks. While such persons are sometimes tourists or new to town, and therefore more likely to be unfamiliar with the hazard, the vast majority of injuries are to cyclists who have lived locally for years. Bicycling techniques for avoiding such mishaps include crossing the tracks at a large angle, optimally perpendicular to the tracks, and riding at lower speeds when near tracks. However, mishaps are quite often unavoidable, especially since bicyclists are often forced into tracks by the opening of car doors or double-parked vehicles. Some of the most notorious streets where such incidents occur include 17th Street between Church and Sanchez, the intersection of 17th and Church (where a morass of tracks criss-cross), and Columbus Ave. Abandoned railroad tracks where injuries have occurred include Townsend Street and Illinois Street. The vast majority of track-induced injury incidents go unreported since usually no other vehicles are involved.

Governmental entities, which enjoy a variety of design and other immunities from liability, may be liable in limited circumstances such as where there is defective pavement surrounding the track, where a bike lane is crossed by tracks at certain angles, where the tracks are abandoned in areas in which the public is invited to ride, and in some other factual scenarios.

Louis Schaefer killed by CALTRANS debris on Highway 101 in Palo Alto

On 9/16/16, on northbound Highway 101 in Palo Alto, California, a heavy metal projectile approximately the size of a tennis ball smashed through the window of a minivan, killing the driver, the beloved 82-year-old Louis Schaefer, a Bay Area retired engineer.  Ironically, the at-fault party appears to be CALTRANS, the very entity responsible for keeping our highways free of dirt and debris.  It is reported that the projectile appears to be a cap to the tank of a CALTRANS water truck that detached while the truck was traveling on southbound Highway 101.

Surviving family members in fatal accident cases caused by governmental entities such as CALTRANS are entitled to bring claims for wrongful death.  While a two-year statute of limitations is applicable to accident claims against private parties, there is a governmental claims process applicable to CALTRANS that must be complied with pursuant to California State law which dictates that a governmental claim be brought within 6 months of the accident.

Yellow Taxi Severely Injures Muhammed Saleem Bae and other Pedestrian at Market-Sutter-Sansome Sidewalk in San Francisco on 8/23/16

Two pedestrians, including Muhammed Saleem Bae a 66-year-old operator of a shoeshine stand and his assistant, are severely injured after being struck by a Yellow Taxicab which jumped the curb onto an area of sidewalk bordered by Sutter, Sansome and Market Streets (right outside of my office building) in the Financial District of downtown San Francisco on Tuesday August 23, 2016. The reason the cab driver, reported as John Diesso, who was also hospitalized and later released, jumped the curb has not been officially declared but while the SFPD, which is investigating the crash, has indicated that the driver may have suffered a medical emergency, it appears from witness statements that the taxi may have been speeding on Market Street immediately prior to the crash. It has also been intimated that the driver may have been on his cell phone at the time. Sadly, as a lawyer who specializes in pedestrian accident injuries, I know that this type of occurrence is all too common in San Francisco where vehicles travel at unsafe speeds and/or are driven by distracted drivers. It is also the opinion of many that barriers to protect pedestrians, such as concrete posts, should have been installed on this pedestrian-exposed corner of two high-injury corridors. Reducing the number of such tragedies is one of many reasons I support Walk San Francisco, our local pedestrian advocacy organization, which works tirelessly to reduce traffic injuries and deaths. My heart goes out to the victims and their families and friends, and my hat goes off to the first responders and hospital trauma teams.

Lane Splitting By Motorcyclists Now Legal in California

Governor Brown just signed into law Assembly Bill 51 which officially makes it legal for motorcycles to lane split. The new law gives the California Highway Patrol authority to develop guidelines with respect to absolute speed as well as speed relative to adjacent traffic. The CHP used to have guidelines of 50 mph absolute speed and a maximum 15 mph faster than adjacent traffic, but scuttled those guidelines a while ago. Awareness of the new law will hopefully increase safety for motorcyclists. In any case, the new law will undoubtedly affect determination of fault and liability in personal injury cases brought by motorcyclists injured while lane splitting, predominantly in favor of the motorcyclists.

The Golden Wheel Awards 2016 – Please Attend – We are Sponsoring

We are proud to once again be sponsoring the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s Golden Wheel Awards.  Please join us at the Awards this Wednesday July 13, 6:30-9:00 p.m. in the Green Room of the SF War Memorial at 401 Van Ness Ave.  Free bicycle valet services will be provided.  The Awards will specially honor some of the many individuals who have made great strides and effort to improve bicycling infrastructure in our great City.

Heartbreaking and Avoidable Death of 6-year-old Aniket Gadre

As reported by several news agencies, Aniket Gadre, a young boy, was tragically killed while walking with his mother in the parking lot of San Jose’s Westfield Oakridge Shopping Center during the evening of June 30, 2016.  According to witnesses, a Mercedes automobile traveling at low speed, apparently looking for a parking spot, fatally struck Aniket.  As a Bay Area pedestrian accident lawyer who has handled many such cases, distracted driving is a huge factor in many fatal and severe injury incidents. While we frequently see drivers take their eyes off the path in which their vehicle is traveling, it is negligent to do so.  This comes at the same time that the NHTSA has released its crash data showing a dramatic increase in pedestrian fatalities, as I reported in my earlier blog post.

Pedestrian and Bicycling Deaths Increased Dramatically in 2015 Nationally and Statewide

The NHTSA has released their preliminary analysis of 2015 crash data. Traffic deaths nationally increased 7.7% over 2014, 6% in California, with 9 out of 10 geographic regions reporting increases. Bicycling deaths nationally increased a startling 13%, while pedestrian deaths increased an equally troubling 10%. The data is still being analyzed but the NHTSA reports that human factors such as distracted driving and young drivers to be primary factors. This of course comes as no surprise to San Francisco Bay Area drivers who constantly witness distracted driving activity on our roads due to drivers’ use of smartphones. Congressional action and local strict enforcement are clearly needed.

Heather Miller and Kate Slattery Killed Riding Their Bicycles in San Francisco on 6/22/16

This week has been especially tragic as two young bicyclists, Heather Miller and Kate Slattery, were killed in two separate hit-and-run incidents on Wednesday 6/22/16, one on JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park near 30th Ave and the other in SOMA at 7th and Howard Streets.  In both cases, police are intensively investigating as the cars involved in both accidents have been left behind, one with dealer plates.  This is a very sad time.

As a San Francisco bicycle accident lawyer who has handled multiple wrongful death cases arising from traffic accidents, I know that the emotional impact upon the victims’ families is unfathomable. Where, as here, a dealership’s car appears to be involved in one of the crashes, a claim on behalf of the victim’s family can be made against the dealership and the dealership’s large business insurance policies.  Also, where as here the incident was hit-and-run, punitive damages, in addition to compensatory damages, may be claimed against the drivers.  My heart goes out to the families of Ms. Miller and Ms. Slattery.

Update:  The drivers in both crashes have been apprehended and charged with either murder and/or other felonies.