Category Archives: Motorcycle Accidents

Left-turning vehicles major source of death and injury to motorcyclists as in recent fatal San Jose motorcyclist death at McKee Road

Left-turning vehicles are a major cause of motorcycle accidents, as was the case on a fatal July 14, 2018 daytime collision between a motorcyclist and a Honda CRV at McKee Road and Challenger Avenue in East San Jose.  In my experience as a motorcycle accident lawyer, automobiles way too often negligently fail to notice or yield to oncoming motorcyclists.

Scooter Accidents in San Francisco Bay Area | Liability and Insurance Issues

Motorized scooter use in the San Francisco Bay Area is rapidly becoming a primary form of local transportation. Electric scooter on-demand rental companies such as Bird and LimeBike have infused the Bay Area with thousands of scooters to fill an ever-increasing consumer demand heightened by over-burdened and inadequate mass transportation services.  As a San Francisco pedestrian, bicycle and scooter accident lawyer, I see many liability insurance issues raised by the increased use of scooters.

By FASTILY [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia CommonsAlong with this increased scooter use inevitably comes an increase in injury accidents involving scooters. Such accidents may involve collisions between scooters and pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcycles, automobiles, or other scooters. Although scooters are prohibited by law from driving on sidewalks pursuant to California Vehicle Code (CVC) Section 21235(g), news reports indicate that scooters are being ridden to a very large degree on sidewalks, raising the risk of injurious collisions between scooters and pedestrians. Unless local law otherwise more strictly prohibits, California State law allows scooters to be operated in bicycle lanes, and in fact mandates they be ridden in Class II bicycle lanes if such lanes exist, and where such bicycle lane does not exist the scooter may be operated on the road as long as the speed limit on the road is 25 mph or less. (CVC 21229, 21230.) Thus, scooter ridership also raises the risk of injurious collisions between scooters and bicycles, and scooters and motorists. San Francisco trauma hospitals have noticed an increase in scooter related serious injuries and are setting up a scooter-related injury tracking system, as reported by the New York Times.

Unfortunately, there are some significant gaps in liability and uninsured motorist insurance coverage for accidents involving scooters. In California, there is no requirement that motorized scooters (as distinguished from mopeds) be registered or that the scooter or scooter operator carry liability insurance. Based upon my research, I am not aware of any scooter rental companies which provide their users with any significant liability insurance. This would leave someone injured due to a collision with a scooter to look to the scooter operator’s homeowners or renters insurance, as is the case when someone is injured due to the negligence of a bicyclist, or perhaps to the scooter operator’s personal assets if they are substantial.

While pedestrians, bicyclists and scooter operators may utilize whatever uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) insurance they may have on their motor vehicle policies should they be injured in an accident for which the operator of a motor vehicle is at fault, their UM/UIM coverage almost certainly will not apply when injured by the operator of a scooter. This is because California law requires only that insurers offer, in their motor vehicle policies, UM/UIM coverage for liability arising out of the use of a motor vehicle, and the Insurance Code limits its definition of “motor vehicle” to include only those vehicles which are required to be registered under California State law, and scooters are not required to be so registered. (California Insurance Code 11580.2, 11580.06.)

Another potential source of recovery for those injured in scooter accidents are the scooter rental companies or manufacturers where the accident was caused by a scooter’s mechanical defect or malfunction, or where the scooter was illegally rented to an unlicensed and un-permitted driver.  (An operator of a motorized scooter must possess a valid drivers license or instruction permit [CVC 21235(d)].)

Study Shows Hit-And-Run collisions injuries and deaths at highest levels

A recently released AAA study reveals a record amount of hit-and-run injuries and deaths, the majority of which are to bicyclists and pedestrians. This raises a confluence of issues related to a lack of adequate bicycling and pedestrian safety infrastructure, the prevention of DUI driving, public video surveillance, and uninsured motorist coverage.  According to AAA, there were 2,049 hit-and-run related fatalities in the United States in 2016, and 65% of those were bicyclists or pedestrians.  Twenty percent of all pedestrian deaths were hit-and-run related. The reasons that a driver may flee the scene often relate to the fact that many of the drivers are intoxicated with prior DUI records. The study notes that a large percentage of hit-and-run collisions occur in the hours between midnight and 4 a.m. when drivers are more likely to be intoxicated, it is easier to flee the scene due to lighter traffic, and there are fewer witnesses out at that hour.

The Reason NHTSA Released 2016 Traffic Fatality Data but Not 2016 Injury Data

In past years, the NHTSA has released annually an overview of motor vehicle crashes for the prior calendar year which includes both injury and fatality data. However, the NHTSA recently released its overview of 2016 fatality data without including the 2016 non-fatal injury data. I contacted the NHTSA to find out whether the 2016 non-fatal injury data is currently available and if not when it will become available. The response from NHTSA was as follows:

In a nut shell, there is no 2016 injury data at this time. NHTSA’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis (NCSA) redesigned the nationally representative sample of police-reported traffic crashes, which estimates the number of police-reported injury and property–damage-only crashes in the United States. The new system, called the Crash Report Sampling System (CRSS), replaced the National Automotive Sampling System (NASS) General Estimates System (GES) in 2016. However, the 2016 estimates are not currently available. NHTSA is currently processing the file to ensure the data is accurate and complete and is finalizing the new weighting and calibration procedures to produce national estimates. Once completed, NHTSA will release the data and publish the estimated number of police-reported injury and property-damage-only crashes that occurred during 2016.

 

 

Noteworthy Items from NHTSA’s 2016 Fatal Motor Vehicle Crash Data

The NHTSA recently released its 2016 fatal motor vehicle crash data.  Noteworthy among the data are the following:

Nationally, there were 37,461 fatalities during 2016, a 5.6 increase from 2015. Pedestrian fatalities increased by 492, a 9.0% increase from 2015 and the highest number since 1990. The fatality rate per 100 million Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) increased by 2.6% from 1.15 in 2015 to 1.18 in 2016. Fatalities in distraction related crashes were 9.2% of total fatalities in 2016. Approximately 28% of all fatalities were in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes (29% in California). There were 11.5 times as many un-helmeted motorcyclist fatalities in States without universal helmet laws (1,923 un-helmeted fatalities) as in States with universal helmet laws (166 un-helmeted fatalities).

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.

Motorcyclist Killed on Hwy 680 in San Ramon in Chain Reaction Accident Involving Honda and Big Rig

Tragically, on 9/21/15, a 39-year-old motorcyclist was killed in a chain-reaction accident on Highway 680 in San Ramon which reportedly began with a Honda rear-ending a big rig, spinning out and becoming disabled before colliding with the motorcyclist who was soon thereafter run over by a second big rig.  As SF Bay Area motorcycle accident attorneys, we have handled strikingly similar accident cases on behalf of the families of the deceased motorcyclists.  These cases typically involve complex issues of accident reconstruction and human factors analysis, insurance issues, and legal issues of comparative fault.  We have overcome much finger-pointing, adverse police reports, and denials of fault by insurance companies, in obtaining for the families the justice and compensation they deserved.

NHTSA’s 2013 Crash Data Revelations

The final 2013 crash data was recently published by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).  The data reveals that in California, in 2013, there were 3000 total crash related fatalities, 29% of which involved alcohol-impaired driving.  As compared to 2012, the number of fatal and injury crashes in the United States dipped only slightly, both absolutely and per vehicle mile traveled (VMT).  The relative distribution between rural and urban remained unchanged.  A whopping 49% of passenger vehicle occupant fatalities were unrestrained.  And 41% of motorcyclist fatalities were not helmeted. There were 4,735 pedestrian fatalities in the United States in 2013 (13 per day) and 66,000 pedestrian injuries (181 per day).  The statistics for bicyclists are equally sobering, with 743 killed and 48,000 injured.

NHTSA 2013 Accident Data