Sometimes there are collisions between bicyclists and pedestrians which result in injuries, such as a recently reported collision between a bicyclist and teen pedestrian at Market and Third Streets in San Francisco. I am often asked whether there is any liability insurance which may cover the bicyclist or pedestrian in such circumstances. While motor vehicle liability or uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage applies when a pedestrian or bicyclist is injured by a motorist, such insurance does not apply to a bicycle vs. pedestrian accident. However, the bicyclist’s or pedestrian’s Homeowner’s or Renter’s liability insurance may cover the at-fault party in a bicycle vs. pedestrian accident.
Our office mourns the death of Konstaninos “Gus” Vardakastanis, the owner of a number of San Francisco markets, who was killed this morning 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 family and entire neighborhood are saddened. He will be missed very much.
Pedestrians and Bicyclists Injured in Hit And Run – Insurance Coverage And Reporting Requirements
The San Francisco Department of Public Health has produced an updated map showing the streets in the City where the most high-injury traffic incidents have occurred, based on data from San Francisco General Hospital and the San Francisco Police Department.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Our law office is once again proud to be the Presenting Sponsor of San Francisco’s Walk To Work Day, April 7, 2016. As lawyers who represent the unfortunate pedestrian victims of unsafe driving and dangerous conditions on public property, we wholeheartedly support and encourage the public’s participation in this event being put on by our wonderful pedestrian advocacy organization Walk San Francisco. Details at WalkSF’s website.
Tragically, another life has been taken by an elderly unfit driver purportedly suffering from so-called “pedal confusion”, i.e., hitting the gas pedal instead of the brake. Kathy Baker, the beloved CFO of Lawrence Livermore Labs, was killed on 9/22/15 during her early morning workout at the LifeStyleRx Fitness Center in Livermore when an 80-year-old female Livermore resident (identified by ABC News as Mineko Deakin) drove her Mercedes ML350 SUV through the front of the gym and kept going, evidently mentally confused. Five or six others were reportedly injured.
Unfortunately, this scenario of an elderly person who, due to mental or physical disabilities brought on by age or illness, injures or kills innocent victims, is all too common and too little is being done to prevent such accidents. In my decades of practice as a car accident lawyer, I have found that drivers quite often drive long past the point at which they are competent to do so. According to ABC News, Ms. Deakin reportedly had approximately 18 months previously jumped the same curb and nearly run into the same fitness center but no police report was made due to lack of injuries or damage.
While much can be recovered by the victim’s family from the driver’s car insurance, umbrella insurance, assets, and under certain circumstances even from the driver’s physicians or the premises owner’s insurance, nothing can fully compensate the victim’s family for their immeasurable loss.
As reported by ABC News and other news media, three bicyclists and two cars, one parked, were struck by a Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV being wildly and recklessly driven by an unidentified hit-and-run driver. The collisions occurred on 4/2/15 in San Francisco, first on Fell Street (car rear-ended) and then three bicyclists were hit on Scott Street while the SUV was driving on the wrong side of the road. One of the bicyclists is reported to be in critical condition. The SUV has since been found but the driver not yet publicly identified.
As a lawyer who specializes in the representation of injured bicyclists, I have written extensively in the past on the fact that bicyclists and pedestrians can recover compensation for their injuries (or death) even if both the driver and the motor vehicle that caused the injuries were never identified. If the hit-and-run driver is identified, the injured bicyclists can also recover punitive damages based on the driver’s felony hit-and-run violations. However, punitive damages are not payable by the driver’s or car owner’s auto insurance, but rather from the driver’s personal assets. And, of course, the bicyclists can recover from the driver’s and car owner’s auto insurance for all of their compensatory damages, including economic, bodily, and psychological injuries. If there is inadequate insurance available, injured parties may also receive some compensation from the public Victims Compensation Fund as well as restitution paid by the driver as part of the criminal proceedings.
Update 4/29/15: The driver, Bianca Lopez of Fremont, age 25, has been arrested and charged with felony hit and run.