We Mourn Pedestrian Konstaninos “Gus” Vardakastanis killed by Hit-And-Run Driver

Our office mourns the death of Konstaninos “Gus” Vardakastanis, the owner of a number of San Francisco markets, who was killed this morning reportedly by a speeding hit-and-run driver as he walked across Jerrold Ave near the SF Produce Market.  As one of his numerous admiring customers, I knew Gus as extremely hard working, family-loving, and forever wanting to please his customers in any way he could.  Our entire neighborhood is saddened.  He will be missed very much.

Preventing Brain Injury in Children

According to an analysis of data from more than 40,000 cases of brain trauma in children, as published in the New England Journal of Medicine (11/13/15), the most common cause of brain injury in children under 12 is falling, most often from a bicycle, scooter or other wheeled device. These findings highlight the importance of educating parents regarding the importance of having their children where helmets.

Two Bicyclists Severely Injured in Corte Madera by Left-Turning SUV – Marin County

Two bicyclists were severely injured while riding along Paradise Drive in Corte Madera during the morning of April 21, 2017, when an SUV traveling in the opposite direction made a left turn and collided with them. The driver of the SUV was reportedly a 16-year-old girl driving on a provisional license.

As I have described in a past blog post, left-turning vehicles are a common way in which bicyclists are injured in the Bay Area, almost always due to the inattention of the motorist. As a bicycle accident lawyer representing Bay Area victims, I have represented numerous cyclists injured in this manner, fending off the tendency of many motorists and their insurers to blame the cyclists.

The California Vehicle Code Section 21801(a) provides, and common sense dictates, that vehicles intending to make a left turn “shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles approaching from the opposite direction which are close enough to constitute a hazard at any time during the turning movement, and shall continue to yield the right-of-way to the approaching vehicles until the left turn or U-turn can be made with reasonable safety.”  Bicycles riding on the roadway are considered “vehicles” under the Code and thus have the right-of-way.

In cases involving severe injuries to bicyclists, the amount of liability insurance applicable to the vehicle and driver may be insufficient, especially where there are multiple victims making claims under the same policy. Bicyclists should be aware that in such circumstances the uninsured/under-insured motorist coverage provided by the bicyclists’ automobile insurance policies may provide them with an additional source of compensation.

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.