For the second consecutive year, our law firm is the Presenting Sponsor of San Francisco’s Walk To Work Day (4/9/15) organized by SF’s pedestrian advocacy organization Walk San Francisco.
For the second consecutive year, our law firm is the Presenting Sponsor of San Francisco’s Walk To Work Day (4/9/15) organized by SF’s pedestrian advocacy organization Walk San Francisco.
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.
A San Francisco City Employee, Priscila “Precy” Moreto, was killed in front of City Hall at approximately 11:00 a.m. on October 23, 2014, while walking in a heavily marked crosswalk as the result of being struck by a tourist bus shaped like a cable car operated by Classic Cable Car Charters. This tragically adds to the ever mounting toll of pedestrian fatalities in San Francisco.
According to City officials, the City had decided to install a light at that crosswalk due to its long history of traffic injuries, but that installation will still not happen until sometime in mid-2015. This highlights the fact that it takes sometimes years to install a mere traffic light in San Francisco following a decision to do so, as illustrated by the plight of several dangerous intersections along Sunset and other high-danger streets. This is particularly frustrating to me as an attorney who represents the victims of pedestrian accidents and their families, as these accidents are preventable and avoidable.
Update: The driver, Raymond Lucas, a 65-year-old Menlo Park resident, has been arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter.
Update (2/20/15): Traffic light to be installed this summer where this accident occurred.
An accident involving two pedestrians hit by a car on 6/21/14 in San Francisco is one of the most recent examples of how pedestrians are getting seriously injured in a variety of ways in San Francisco. This time, a 75-year-old man and a 3-year-old boy were rushed to San Francisco General Hospital with severe injuries after a car jumped onto the curb where they were walking on the 1900 block of Grant Ave in San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill neighborhood. According to SFPD, the driver, a 40-year-old male, is reported to have claimed that he thought he had shifted his Acura into park.
As a San Francisco pedestrian injury attorney who has handled numerous severe injury and death cases on behalf of victims and their families, I am unfortunately seeing more and more instances in which pedestrians are injured in places other than roadways or crosswalks, including many instances in which cars drive out of control onto the sidewalks.
Our law firm is proud to sponsor Walk To Work Day (WTWD) 2014 in San Francisco, being put on by Walk San Francisco, San Francisco’s effective and hard-working pedestrian advocacy organization. The purpose of WTWD is to encourage walking as a means of transportation and to raise awareness of urban planning, pedestrian safety, and other pedestrian-related issues generally, many of which have been the focus of governmental and media attention especially in the past few months as pedestrian injuries and deaths have mounted and more pedestrian-related infrastructure improvements are being considered. Our firm’s pedestrian injury lawyers encourage all to participate in WTWD, make walking a more integral means of transportation, and to support Walk SF and its efforts to make SF a more walkable city.
View Walk to Work Day 2014: Hubs Map in a larger map
I previously reported on the incredible frequency of fatal and serious injury pedestrian accidents in San Francisco in December 2013. It was my hope that this represented an anomaly rather than a trend in pedestrian accidents in San Francisco, but this unfortunately appears not to be the case, as indicated in part by the events of the past several weeks.
On 2/4/14, during daylight hours, a pedestrian, Isaak Berenzen, age 78, was killed while crossing Sunset at Yorba. The impact was such that he was impaled in the windshield of the car that hit him which was driven by 71-year-old Jenny Ching who lives in the area. That intersection is governed by a blinking yellow light but no red light, a condition which the SFMTA has intended to remedy with installation of a regular traffic light manually triggered by pedestrians – reportedly to be installed by the end of 2015. The SFPD cited Ms. Ching on suspicion of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter and failure to yield, in accordance with the SFPD’s newly adopted policy regarding pedestrian and bicycle accidents. Numerous pedestrians and bicyclists have been struck by vehicles on this road (reportedly 44 pedestrians struck on Sunset between 2005 and 2011, with a quarter of them taking place between Vicente and Sloat), calling into question potential liability of the City of San Francisco for maintaining a dangerous condition with notice of the numerous accidents. Update: On 5/8/14, yet another pedestrian was struck and injured by a car at Sunset and Yorba.
On 2/5/14, a male pedestrian in his 50’s was critically injured by an unidentified hit-and-run driver of an SUV at Van Ness and Grove in San Francisco, next to City Hall. The pedestrian was walking in a crosswalk at the time of the collision, and was taken to San Francisco General Hospital. As I have previously written about, injured pedestrians may be covered by their own uninsured motorist insurance where the identity of the at-fault driver is unknown.
Also on 2/5/14, a 7-year-old boy walking to school was hit by an SUV while crossing O’Farrell near Leavenworth, but the injuries to his leg are reported to be relatively non-serious.
On 2/7/14, a female pedestrian, age 64, was critically injured near 26th and Clement in the Richmond District of San Francisco, when the driver of a car lost control and slammed into a parked car, pushing the parked car into the pedestrian.
On 2/12/14, Paul Lambert, age 35, was struck and killed by a speeding motorist at Van Ness and Pacific Avenues in San Francisco. The driver, 27-year-old Mageb Hussain of Emeryville, is reported to have attempted to flee the scene. Mr. Hussain was arrested by S.F.P.D. for felony vehicular manslaughter and felony hit and run.
On 2/14/14, a UCSF van struck a pedestrian who was crossing 6th Avenue at Irving. The S.F.P.D reports that the pedestrian was in a crosswalk and had a green when the UCSF van turned left onto 6th Ave from Irving. The pedestrian was taken to a local hospital with injuries which are said to not be life-threatening.
On 2/20/14, 90-year-old Mildred Lusardi was killed while crossing the street due to being hit by a cement truck on Fillmore Stret at California Street.
On 1/7/14, 38-year-old Antonio Cancino was killed crossing Van Ness Ave near Grove Ave.
Update: On 3/10/14, a 5-year-old boy sustained a head injury and his babysitter an injury to her leg, both requiring hospitalization, when they were reportedly struck in a crosswalk by a car at Fulton and 37th Ave in the Outer Richmond District. The SFPD cited the driver of the vehicle.
Update: On 3/12/14, a teenage male was injured as the result of being struck by a car while he was walking within a crosswalk at Ocean Ave and Junipero Serra Blvd in SF. In accordance with its newly adopted policies, the SFPD cited the driver for failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.
Update: On 3/16/14, a San Francisco tour bus struck and seriously injured a pedestrian in the mid-Market neighborhood.
Update: On 3/17/14, at approximately 9:45 p.m., a car without headlights on, driven by an unlicensed driver, hit and seriously injured a 60-year-old pedestrian in a crosswalk on Ulloa Street close to 39th Ave. The SFPD cited the driver.
Update: On 3/20/14, a woman in her 60’s was hit and killed while walking in a crosswalk at Bayshore Blvd and Visitacion Ave. This was a hit-and-run by an identified driver in a Dodge pickup truck or SUV.
Update: On 3/30/14, at approximately 2:45 a.m. a hit-and-run driver of a Volkswagon Passat severely injured a pedestrian at or near 10th and Division Streets in San Francisco.
Update: On 4/4/14, a middle aged man was severely injured while in a crosswalk at Sacramento and Stockton Streets when struck by a vehicle which had run a red light.
Update: On 4/6/14, a man was killed crossing Van Ness Ave at or near Golden Gate Ave after being struck by a motorist.
Update: September 2014: Another pedestrian, 78-year-old Pui Fong Yim Lee, was killed in a crosswalk at the intersection of Stockton and Sacramento Streets, a site of previous fatal and severe injury pedestrian incidents. The driver, who was making a left turn onto Stockton from Sacramento, was arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter.
Update: October 2014: On 10/20/14, 87-year-old Louis Van Velzen died following being struck by a car as he crossed the street at 43rd and Sloat in San Francisco, a crossing he makes a few times a week.
According to the SFMTA, 60% of pedestrian-involved vehicle accidents occur on 6% of San Francisco’s streets. Those streets are the obvious target of safety improvements which will hopefully be made in the not to distant future.
Update: All in all, 18 pedestrians were killed in San Francisco in 2014, only a slight reduction from the 21 killed in 2013.
Many pedestrians and bicyclists are injured in hit and run accidents in the Bay Area each year. For example, this week, a man was critically injured by a hit and run driver while walking in a crosswalk at Lombard and Steiner Streets in the Marina District of San Francisco. Most people think that, if the driver or owner of the car at fault is not identified or found, there is no source of insurance compensation for their injuries other than their own medical insurance. However, this is not the case where the pedestrian or bicyclist has uninsured motorist coverage under an auto insurance policy. Yes, that’s right, uninsured motorist coverage (which includes UNDERinsured motorist coverage) covers you as a pedestrian, bicyclist, motorist, sitting in a lawn chair, jumping on a pogo stick, whatever, if you are injured by a motorist.
As a lawyer who represents injured pedestrians and injured bicyclists throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, I lecture and write on this topic in an effort to spread the word, not only to benefit those who have already been injured, but also to encourage people to increase their uninsured motorist coverage in case they or a family member are ever in such an accident. I explain how it all works in an article I have written on the subject. I encourage all to re-examine their auto or motorcycle insurance coverage in this light, and am happy to answer (free of charge) questions you may have.
It is important to keep in mind that most Uninsured Motorist Insurance polices have strict accident reporting requirements. Typically, one involved in such accident must report it to the police within 24 hours (call the police from the scene and file a written report) and report it to their insurance company within 30 days (I recommend reporting to the insurance company IMMEDIATELY). Failure to do any of the above may result in the denial of your claim. Also, you will need to provide your insurance company with evidence of the collision, so do not repair your own vehicle until your insurance company has been given an opportunity to inspect it. Also, provide as much information as you can regarding the offending vehicle as well as the contact info for any witnesses. Look around for video surveillance cameras which may have captured the incident. Call an attorney for advice ASAP.
Update: On 9/3/14, a 20-year-old bicyclist was injured by a it and run driver at Oak and Stanyan Streets in SF near Golden Gate Park.
Update: A bicyclist was killed by a hit and run driver on June 17, 2013 in San Jose. The bicyclist, 55-year-old Glenn Arnold Earnest, was hit from behind along the Taylor Street over-crossing of Highway 87. Although the police have a general description of the vehicle, as of 6/26/13 the driver had yet to be identified.
Update: A 63-year-old pedestrian was seriously injured by a hit-and-run driver in Gilroy on 6/21/13, and as of 6/26/13 the identity of the driver remains unknown.
Update: The entire Bay Area saw a marked increase in hit and run accidents in the last half of 2013 causing death and serious injuries to bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorists. In many of these cases the identity of the offending motorist has not been determined, further underscoring the need for everyone to carry high limits of uninsured motorist coverage.
Update: Police arrested a man in a hit and run accident seriously injuring a pedestrian on January 17, 2014 at the intersection of Trousdale and Martinez drives.
Update: A man was very seriously injured on February 5, 2014 by a hit-and-run driver at Van Ness and Grove in San Francisco.
Update: On 2/16/14, a male pedestrian was killed by a hit-and-run driver near The Woods Drive and Snell Avenue in San Jose.
Update: On 5/6/14, a pedestrian and car occupant were injured in San Francisco’s Marina District when the driver of a stolen car crashed into them and a building and then fled on foot.
Update: On 10/19/14, a hit-and-run driver injured two pedestrians, a 50-year-old man and an 80-year-old woman, at Turk and Mason Streets in San Francisco.
Year 2013 was a tragic one for Bay Area pedestrians generally, with San Jose and other municipalities reporting record or near-record numbers of fatal or injury-producing pedestrian incidents. San Jose had 26 fatalities involving a pedestrian or bicyclist, the highest since 1997; San Francisco had 21 pedestrian deaths (more than half of all SF traffic fatalities), the highest since 2007 and continuing an upward trend. Of San Francisco’s 21 pedestrian deaths in 2013, 7 occurred in December. Approximately 50% of all of San Francisco’s traffic related deaths in 2013 were pedestrians. The year ended with several such accidents on the very last day of the year.
On New Year’s eve, a 6-year-old girl (Sophia Lu) was killed, and her mother and brother injured (the mother critically), reportedly as the result of being hit by a right-turning car while the family was lawfully walking in a crosswalk crossing Polk Street at Ellis Street in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. Astoundingly, the Uber driver, Syed Muzaffar, reportedly [and clearly erroneously] insisted that he was in the right since he had a green light, which indicates an utter lack of understanding of even the basic rules of the road and which, if true, constitutes gross negligence – he was subsequently arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter. Mr. Muzaffar reportedly had previously been convicted of reckless driving in Florida.
Earlier the same day, in San Francisco, an 86-year-old male pedestrian (San Francisco resident Zhen Guang Ng) was killed by a Ford pickup truck at Rolph and Naples streets in the Crocker-Amazon neighborhood – the 69-year-old driver of that vehicle, Giampaolo Boschetti, was subsequently arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter. And, in Fremont, a 19-year-old woman (Ashley Capuchin of Diamond Springs) was killed, and the three-month-old baby she was carrying was severely injured, at or near the intersection of Paseo Padre Parkway and Mowry Avenue after being struck by a Ford pickup truck driven by a 64-year-old male.
Tragically, a young woman was killed on Thursday, September 5, 2013 after being run over by a San Francisco City Recreation and Parks truck as she lay in the grass at Holly Park with her baby daughter and dog. She has been identified as 35-year-old Christine Svanemyr, a beloved ordained Zen monk working as the director of development for New Ventures West, an integral life coaching company. She was widely known and respected as a vibrant, peaceful, giving, interesting, compassionate and loving being.
The driver fled the scene but was soon thereafter apprehended and jailed. His actions appear to have constituted not only gross negligence but also felony hit and run.
Based on the reported facts and my experience handling such claims for decades, liability of the City of San Francisco for wrongful death appears to be clear, as employers are liable for the conduct of their employees under the doctrine of respondeat superior. Bernal Heights neighbors have for a long time complained to the City about City employees driving off of the paved paths and it has been reported that at least one complaint has been made about the specific driver involved in this incident. Thus the City has been on notice of such conduct, deepening the City’s responsibility and liability. Claims can be brought by her husband on behalf of himself and also on behalf of his infant daughter (the claims of minors can be brought by their guardian ad litem, usually the surviving parent in cases like this). While for private defendants the statute of limitations for wrongful death resulting from automobile or pedestrian accidents is normally two years, claims against a governmental entity must be brought within 6 months.
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.
The 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.