Category Archives: Motorcycle Accidents

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

May is Motorcyle Safety Awareness Month

The month-long NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) campaign to raise motorcycle safety and awareness during May reminds motorists to “share the road” with motorcycles. Drivers are asked to be extra alert to motorcycles on the road and motorcyclists are reminded to make themselves visible to other motorists. Motorcyclists are more exposed than other motorists and therefore their motorcycle collisions are more likely to be severe or fatal in an accident. According to the CHP (California Highway Patrol), fatal collisions involving motorcyclists in California have been increasing over the past few years – accounting for nearly 16 percent of the total number of collision fatalities. The CHP urges all riders to obtain safety training as a key component in reducing the number of motorcycle collisions. The California Motorcyclist Safety Program (CMSP), the state’s official motorcycle training program, offers courses throughout the state for both new and experienced motorcyclists.

The following video illustrates a common cause of motorcycle accidents and how attentive drivers must be to avoid them.

Highway 24 Crash Killing Driver of Disabled Vehicle Highlights Common Cause of Highway Deaths and Injuries

The female driver of a disabled Rav4 SUV was killed on 2/28/14 on westbound Highway 24 near the junction with 580 after being rear-ended by a Lexus at approximately 4:45 a.m. Witnesses reportedly told officers that the disabled vehicle’s lights were not operational immediately prior to the collision.

Collisions with disabled vehicles appears to be a common cause of serious and fatal injuries on San Francisco Bay Area highways, based on the many such cases I have handled on behalf of injured motorists and the families of deceased motorists. The CHP, in their traffic collision reports, usually faults the driver of the vehicle which rear-ended the disabled vehicle, finding that the vehicle to the rear was traveling too fast for conditions and/or too close to the vehicle in front of it. This is so even at night where the disabled vehicle had no lights on.

colllisions with disabled vehicles common cause of serious and fatal injuriesSuch accidents underscore the importance of traveling at reasonable speeds, several car lengths behind the closest vehicle ahead (the faster you are going, the more distance needed), and keeping your eyes peeled for dangers down the road. It is important to keep in mind that it takes time to perceive a threat, more time to react to the threat, and more time for your vehicle to come to a stop once you hit the brakes. All the while, your vehicle can travel quite a distance. It also underscores the importance of keeping your lights on, and seat belt fastened, if your vehicle becomes disabled in the roadway.

NTSB Recommends States Lower DUI Standard from .08 to .05 Blood Alcohol Concentration

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has recommended that states reduce the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) threshold for DUI from 0.08 to 0.05. Almost one-third of all traffic fatalities in the United States involve drunk driving, defined as BAC of at least 0.08. Thousands more fatalities and serious injury accidents involve alcohol impairment that does not reach the BAC 0.08 level. This would bring the states’ standards (0.08, mandated more than a decade ago) in line with the 0.05 standard which currently exists in most of the industrialized world.

NTSB recommends lowering BAC limitThe NTSB’s recommendations are aimed at further reducing traffic accidents, especially among young drivers, and are implicitly aimed at the social drinker as opposed to the hardcore drinker. According to the Board, drivers with a BAC of 0.05 are 38% more likely to be in an accident, and those with a BAC of 0.08 are 169% more likely to be in an accident. While most fatalities in the U.S. are caused by drivers under the age of 26, a higher percentage of the drivers in this age group involved in fatal accidents have alcohol in their system as compared to other age groups, suggesting that young drivers and their passengers have the most to benefit from a lowering of the BAC legal limit.

As a lawyer who represents accident victims of alcohol impairment, I see the devastation caused by alcohol related accidents and applaud the Board’s recommendations as a sensible and reasonable step to reduce the carnage that I unfortunately witness in my practice.

Sideshows Pose Danger To Bicyclists, Pedestrians and Motorists

Automotive sideshows are once again in the news as the northbound lanes of Interstate 880 near the Oakland Coliseum were taken over for a short period of time this past Saturday afternoon by drivers doing doughnuts and other sideshow stunts, as reported in an Inside Bay Area article. While no one was injured in that episode, sideshow stunts quite often seriously injure or kill innocent bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists.

As a lawyer who represents injured bicyclists, I recently represented a San Francisco bicyclist who was injured while bicycling on McAllister Street when a motorist put on a one-man automotive sideshow consisting of the performance of automotive stunts including “burnouts”. Burnouts are where the driver floors the accelerator while at the same time pressing on the brakes, the wheels spin at a high rate, causing a large amount of friction and smoke, with the car remaining relatively stationary until the driver “pops” the car into motion at which time the car speeds away, uncontrollably unless the driver is a professional driver. The driver in my client’s case lost control of the car, hitting my client head-on as he was bicycling home from his girlfriend’s house. The reckless conduct of the motorist constituted grounds for recovery of punitive damages, in addition to compensatory damages, and the case was amicably settled in a short period of time.

Reports of deaths and extreme injuries from sideshows abound. As one of many examples, three people in East Oakland were killed and three injured by an episode of sideshow reckless driving: The car veered toward oncoming traffic, slammed into a parked car, and overturned on the sidewalk, hitting a pedestrian. (As reported in an SF Gate article by Chronicle staff writer Carolyn Jones on 10/18/09.) Such stunts also frequently spawn violence immediately following the stunt. (See, e.g., as reported at SF Gate by Chronicle staff writer Jaxon Van Derbeken on 4/13/08.)

6/1/13 Update: A teenage girl is on life support after being shot at an Oakland sideshow event. (see http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2013/06/01/Teen-on-life-support-after-shooting-at-sideshow/UPI-44211370114204/

Such reckless driving may be punishable as a misdemeanor crime by imprisonment and fines. (See, e.g., Cal. Vehicle Code Section 23103.)

In 2007, the California Assembly, in recognition of the extreme danger to the public posed by sideshow conduct, voted 74-0 to revive California’s sideshow car seizure law that allows police officers to impound any car engaged in reckless driving, including those merely accused of spinning a tire. (See Cal. Vehicle Code 23109.2; 9/4/07 article at TheNewspaper.com.)

Motorcyclists Are Vulnerable By Being Under-Insured

In the course of representing motorcyclists injured in traffic accidents, I have found that bikers tend to carry very little motorcycle insurance. The reasoning employed by many bikers in choosing to purchase low levels of insurance is based on their belief that, in a crash with a car or truck, they are likely to inflict little damage on the other party.

Failure to maintain high levels of liability insurance often harms the biker since an underinsured biker tends to carry inadequate amounts of uninsured motorist (UM) coverage, a standard part of all motor vehicle liability policies. UM coverage provides a source of recovery if the at-fault driver of the other vehicle is either uninsured, has very low limits of liability insurance (quite common, unfortunately), or the accident is a hit-and-run and the other driver is never identified. The biker’s own UM coverage steps in the shoes of the other party to compensate the biker for his or her damages (medical bills, lost earnings, pain and suffering, etc). However, most insurance companies do not permit one to have UM limits that are higher than one’s personal injury liability limits. Since motorcyclists tend to have more serious injuries than car drivers, it is that much more important for bikers to carry high limits of UM insurance.

Other important reasons for motorcyclists to carry high limits of liability insurance include that it is the socially responsible thing to do and it also protects their assets in case the motorcyclist is deemed to be partially or wholly at fault for causing injury to a motorist, passenger, bicyclist, pedestrian or other person. A motorcycle can cause very serious injuries or death even to occupants of a much larger vehicle by not only colliding with the vehicle, but also causing the vehicle to collide with other cars, trucks, bicyclists or pedestrians.