Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

There are times in our community when tragedy strikes and we all feel it. The horrific limo fire and loss of life on the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge last week is felt by many across the Bay Area. So much so that the California Highway Patrol has asked that the public mourn in ways other than placing memorials on the bridge where the accident happened. This itself presents a road hazard that could lead to more injuries and accidents.

In our work as California injury and wrongful death lawyers, we have counseled many families after serious and fatal injuries have occurred. The family and friends of those killed and hurt in this tragedy will have a very long road ahead to deal with the scope of what has happened.

There were nine women in the limo as it traveled on the bridge. Smoke apparently began in the back of the limo and some of the women attempted to get the driver’s attention about it. He misunderstood and then realized that there was smoke in the back of the vehicle. He pulled over, but the situation worsened quickly and the smoke quickly turned to fire. Only four of the women were able to get out of the limo and survived this terrible accident. The other five were not able to leave the vehicle.

Part of the reason this accident has reached the hearts of so many is that the victims were on their way to a bridal party. Another victim was recently married. Eight of them were nurses. This particular limo was licensed to carry eight passengers, not nine. This could well become a problem for the limo company in the aftermath of this horrific situation.

From tragedy could come some change. The accident will likely cause reform in the limo industry and perhaps even laws and regulations to improve safety. The accident is currently under investigation, but something went terribly wrong to cause such a horrific fire. Some speculate that the cause related to a short in the electrical system.

The California Highway Patrol and the California Public Utilities Commission have jurisdiction over the regulation of transportation firms. We know that the 1999 Lincoln Town Car was not required to carry a fire extinguisher and it is now anticipated that State Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) will introduce a bill to make it mandatory that limousines have fire extinguishers.
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The recent death of an elderly pedestrian in San Francisco is causing sorrow for all involved, but it is also causing a big conversation in the Bay Area about pedestrian safety and bicycle riding in our congested city. Last month, a San Bruno man was walking across the intersection at Castro and Market and was struck by a bicycle. He was hospitalized and passed away from his injuries.

The bicyclist, whose lawyer says he is devastated by the accident, has said online that he was not able to stop as the light changed and the crosswalk began to fill with pedestrians … instead he plowed through the intersection and hit the elderly man. There are now accounts that video surveillance from the area might contradict his version of the accident.

According to a recent piece in the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco officials have determined to “hold errant cyclists accountable and to redouble efforts to get everyone – pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers – to travel more safely.” The new plan is reported to include allowing bicyclists who violate traffic safety laws to pay lower traffic fines if they agree to take safety classes instead.

Earlier this week, a San Francisco Muni bus driver was charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter under California Penal Code section 192(c)(2) for an accident that occurred last August. A criminal charge in a case like this is somewhat unusual. The charge of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter carries a jail term of up to one year.

What happened last August in a Castro district intersection is tragic. The bus, which was not carrying passengers at the time, was traveling to a new assignment when it made a left turn and struck a female pedestrian who was nearly to the curb. According to a report in SFGate, the driver was relatively new to Muni and was, in the District Attorneys’ view, negligent in not seeing the young woman in the street. The deceased pedestrian was new to the city, she had moved here from Atlanta and was working for a local business.

Neither alcohol nor drugs were involved in the tragic accident. Sadly, it is believed that the pedestrian was distracted and did not see or hear the bus. In addition, the bus was not on a normal route, as the bus driver had determined his own route across town to get to his new assignment.

As consumer and injury lawyers, we have been at the forefront of protecting consumers, including children and infants. Just before the Christmas holiday, a number of national retailers joined Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. in removing a specific batch of Enfamil Newborn formula from shelves and distribution centers.

The reason? A newborn baby in Missouri died after consuming the formula from lot number ZP1K7G which was purchased by the baby’s parents at their local Wal-Mart in Lebanon, Missouri.

The infant contracted and died from what medical professionals have determined to be a rare bacterial infection. The manufacturer of the formula Mead Johnson Nutrition Co., is reported to have tested the formula prior to shipment, but no bacteria was found. Additional tests are being performed by the manufacturer which has not recalled the product.

This morning we posted on the contaminated turkey that, since March 2011, has sickened over 75 individuals and caused the death of one person in what the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) had identified as a drug-resistant strain of salmonella related to consuming ground turkey.

The Department of Agriculture has reported today that Cargill Company has now recalled 35 million pounds of the turkey. Prior to the recall, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service had previously advised consumers to fully cook foods for greater safety. The specific recommendations made in the food safety warning include:

First, be sure to wash hands for at least 20 seconds using warm, soapy water. Also clean kitchen utensils with hot soapy water to avoid contamination.

The Centers for Disease Control recently published a list of the states with the highest cost of fatal motor vehicle crashes. California has the dubious distinction of being first on the list — and as lawyers who represent those impacted by serious accident, we know full well the costs to victims of these tragedies as well as to their families.

The total estimated cost of these accidents in $41 billion — and half this cost is from only ten states. California’s $4.16 billion in costs for medical and work losses exceeds all other states. We are followed by Texas, Florida, Georgia and Pennsylvania.

The findings were based on data from 2005 — the most recent available. The reason for the high costs is not explained in the findings, but it is clear that the costs of fatal crashes is very significant and in the opinion of the CDC, preventable. The CDC has issued some safety recommendations along with the findings.

As California consumer and injury lawyers, we have seen the tragic consequences of serious accidents of all kinds. Among the most likely to cause catastrophic injury, are those that occur when cars and people or bicyclists collide.

Recently, a Ventura County driver hit and ran after striking and killing a bicyclist — he was arrested in his driveway. Two other bicyclists were hit but not killed by this driver.

We are all aware that pedestrian accidents and injuries can happen at any time and tragically, can result in serious injury and even death. We sometimes forget how vulnerable we are when simply walking across a street or riding a bicycle on a country lane. But pedestrians and cyclists cannot protect themselves from a driver under the influence who is not obeying the rules of the road.

The Los Angeles Times reports that several important steps are being taken to protect pedestrians as they browse the Santa Monica Farmers Market. The system of protections will include signs, barricades and nets that are able to stop vehicles.

The planning for all of this started several years ago. It was prompted after 10 people were tragically killed as an elderly driver went off the road and crashed into pedestrians at the Farmer’s Market. Santa Monica and additional defendants paid $21 million in damages for the loss of life and other injuries. As injury lawyers, we know the shock and sorrow that families experience in tragic accidents.

The nets are reported to be relatively safe for those in the car or other vehicle, but are capable of stopping even a very heavy vehicle. They are similar to tennis court nets, and are strung with cables on the top and the bottom of the net.

As can happen with elderly drivers, the man who was driving at the time of the tragic loss of life, hit the accelerator thinking it was the brake. He was sentenced to five years probation after his conviction in 2007 of ten counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence.

After the elderly driver car accident, various entities concluded that not only were the signs inadequate, but there was no hard barrier system to keep traffic out of the market.
Other cities have used the nets to keep traffic out of areas such as construction zones.
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Last November, a Los Altos woman who was riding a bicycle in Portola Valley was struck and tragically killed when a truck hit her as she was traveling on property maintained by San Mateo County. The woman’s family has filed a wrongful death action against the driver of the truck and the company that employed him. But the driver and his employer are seeking to make sure that the County pays for any judgment against them that might be awarded to the woman’s family.

The defendants in the wrongful death case claim that the accident occurred due to a dangerous condition on public property. But it appears for now that the claim for indemnity could be rejected by the County, as they say the California Highway Patrol determined in their accident investigation that the truck driver made an unsafe turn and that the accident was not the result of any dangerous conditions. There were no eyewitnesses to the crash which occurred near an onramp to I-280.

On the other hand, the defendants in the wrongful death case say that the road is dangerous and poorly designed. And although a new investigation is still pending, there are some possible changes underway for the area in which the accident occurred. The County has met with the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition and has applied for grants to make changes to the area where the tragedy occurred.

The Sacramento Bee reported recently that an effort is underway in California to pass a consumer-related bill that would protect consumers from renting or buying a car from a rental car company that is subject to a federal safety recall.

California Assembly Bill 753 is supported by the mother of a young woman and her sister who were both killed in a tragic crash in Monterey County in 2005.

Carol Houck’s daughters were killed in a head-on collision on Highway 101 when they were driving a rented Chrysler PT Cruiser that had been subject to a safety recall. Ms. Houck has been dedicated to getting legislation passed to protect drivers from what happened to her children.