Archives for November 2011

California Motorcycle Helmet Laws

San Francisco Bay Area Motorcycle Accident Attorneys

Under California Vehicle Code, Division 12, Chapter 5, Article 7, Section 27803, motorcycle drivers and their passengers are required to wear helmets. According to California state law,

“(a) A driver and any passenger shall wear a safety helmet meeting requirements established pursuant to Section 27802 when riding on a motorcycle, motor-driven cycle, or motorized bicycle. (b) It is unlawful to operate a motorcycle, motor-driven cycle, or motorized bicycle if the driver or any passenger is not wearing a safety helmet as required by subdivision (a). (c) It is unlawful to ride as a passenger on a motorcycle, motor-driven cycles, or motorized bicycle if the driver or any passenger is not wearing a safety helmet as required by subdivision (a).”

While the law if fairly straightforward in what it requires, bikers may initially think wearing some kind of helmet complies with the law. However, Section 27803 goes on to specify what kind of helmet complies with the law:

“(e) For the purposes of this section, ‘wear a safety helmet’ or ‘wearing a safety helmet’ means having a safety helmet meeting the requirements of Section 27802 on the person’s head that is fastened with the helmet straps and that is of a size that fits the wearing person’s head securely without excessive lateral or vertical movement.”

The Consequences for not Complying with California’s Helmet Law

While the fine and penalties listed under Section 40303.5 (a $10 fine and promise to correct the violation) may seem inconsequential, if a California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer cites a biker for a violation of CVC 27803 (a violation that constitutes “an immediate safety hazard”), the fine increases to $250. Some motorcycle riders may still think this is inconsequential. So, is there no real “teeth” to California’s helmet law?

Violating California’s Helmet Law and Motorcycle Accidents

The real issues bikers – and car drivers involved in an accident with them – need to consider is what a violation of the helmet law means in motorcycle accident cases. Since motorcycle riders riding without a helmet or a helmet that does not meet the requirements of the law are more susceptible to brain injuries, severe concussions, skull fractures, and brain damage in an accident, what are the consequences for not complying with the helmet law?

Pure Comparative Negligence and Motorcycle Accidents

While failure to comply with California’s helmet law will not by itself bar an injured biker from recovering damages from injuries sustained in an accident, it may play a role in how the judge or jury apportions an award in a case. Since California is a pure comparative negligence state, a judge or jury can apportion a personal injury award based on the degree of fault assigned to a party. Here, the amount an injured person can receive is a function of the percentage of fault assigned to them.

For example, if you suffered $100,000 in losses but are founded to be 80% at fault, you can only recover $20,000. Now, if you’re a motorcycle rider and sustain serious head trauma as a result of not wearing a helmet, you may find your losses far exceed what you’re eligible to recover if you were partially at fault in a motorcycle accident. Likewise, if you were the driver of a car that hit a motorcycle, your insurer will be interested in determining who was at fault – particularly if the biker wasn’t wearing a helmet.

Contact San Francisco Motorcycle Accident Attorneys at Weber & Nierenberg

Not wearing a helmet could play a factor in assigning negligence to you, especially if your vision was diminished due to rain, bugs, or something else that wouldn’t affected you had you been wearing a helmet. To learn more about California’s helmet laws and how we can help you if you’ve been involved in a motorcycle accident, contact San Francisco motorcycle accident attorneys at Weber & Nierenberg.

Pedestrian Knockdowns Still Plague San Francisco

San Francisco named Second Most Walkable City

According to a July 2011 report issued by Walk Score – a group that promotes “walkable neighborhoods – San Francisco ranks second in the nation among the “most walkable cities.” In general, a “Walk Score” is determined by a number of factors that include proximity to restaurants, retail shopping, public transportation, and other amenities. In fact, out of a possible 100 points, San Francisco scored an 84.9, second only to New York. Across the Bay, Oakland came in tenth place with a score of 68.2.

While this is good news for San Francisco residents – especially since each Walk Score point has been shown to equal roughly $3,000 in home value – it also means accidents involving pedestrians is unlikely to decline.

Pedestrian Knockdowns are still a Problem in San Francisco

According to a May 2011 San Francisco Examiner article, roughly 52% of all traffic fatalities in San Francisco involve pedestrians. According to a March 2011 San Francisco Examiner article, a lack of coordination between officials and various departments in the city has delayed or prevented “traffic-calming” measures from being implemented across the city. After three pedestrian deaths spanning a six-day period in March, the San Francisco County Transportation Authority held a safety hearing.

While various calls were made for increasing pedestrian safety, the reality is millions of dollars are needed to implement intersection bulb-outs, countdown signals, and reduced speed limits. Additionally, at the present time no single agency is responsible for pedestrian safety; instead, about a dozen local agencies share in partial responsibility for pedestrian safety throughout the city.

Pedestrian Knockdowns – Holding Negligent Drivers Accountable

It’s not uncommon for car, bus, and commercial truck drivers to claim they didn’t see a pedestrian. In fact, if you listen to most drivers it’s the pedestrian’s fault for “coming out of no where” or “standing in the street.” These comments and others like them often betray distraction on the part of drivers who don’t always stop properly at intersections or ignore crosswalks. In other situations, talking on a cell phone, texting, or being otherwise distracted also factors into a failure to see pedestrians.

That’s why it’s important to work with an experienced personal injury lawyer who understands how to investigate pedestrian knockdowns, recreate what happened, on hold negligent drivers accountable. If you’ve been injured in a pedestrian knockdown, contact San Francisco pedestrian accident attorneys at Weber & Nierenberg today.

Vision Requirements and Driving in California

San Francisco Bay Area Impaired Driver Accident Attorney

In most car, truck, and pedestrian knockdown accidents, seldom does it occur to injury victims to ask if the driver who hit them should have been wearing glasses – if operating a car at all. While California state law lists vision requirements drivers must meet in order to drive legally, it may not be obvious at first glance whether a vehicle’s operator suffers from vision impairment. In fact, in California, drivers with a visual acuity of 20/200 or worse may not be licensed to drive. And, depending on the kind and severity of a driver’s vision impairment, certain restrictions may be placed on their license. Here, a driver may be restricted to driving between sunrise and sunset, required to wear corrective lenses, restricted from driving on the freeway, or required to put additional mirrors on their vehicle.

Vision Tests, the DMV, and the Evaluation Drivers must Undergo

In order to qualify for or get a driver’s license renewed in California, drivers must pass a vision test administered by the DMV. Drivers are first asked to read a line on an eye chart with both eyes open and then asked to read different lines with each eye individually. If a driver wears glasses (corrective lenses), they may take the vision test with their glasses or contact lenses.

If a driver has problems with their vision, the DMV will take into consideration the following factors before issuing them their license:

• The seriousness of the vision impairment
• The degree to which a vision condition affects a driver’s central and side vision
• Whether or not a vision condition affects one or both eyes
• Whether a vision condition can be corrected with glasses, contacts, or surgery
• Whether or not a vision condition is degenerative and will get worse

Vision Acuity Standards for Drivers in California

In order to meet the DMV’s visual acuity requirement, drivers must meet the following requirements:

• 20/40 with both eyes tested together and
• 20/40 in one eye and
• 20/70 (at a minimum) in the other eye

Drivers who are unable to meet the minimum visual acuity requirement must wear glasses or contacts that result in a better than 20/200 corrected in at least one eye. Drivers cannot wear bioptic telescopic lenses while driving.

Car Accidents and Vision Impairment

Vision impairments often translate into diminished visual acuity, especially at night. As a result, those who need glasses and haven’t been screened recently may have difficulty judging distances, negotiating lanes, or seeing peripherally. That’s why it’s important to determine if the driver who hit you has a vision impairment or should have been wearing glasses but wasn’t. Establishing vision impairment on the part of the other driver can help establish their fault in an accident, holding them fully financially accountable for your injuries.

If you’ve been involved in a car, truck, motorcycle, or pedestrian knockdown accident, contact San Francisco car accident attorneys at Weber & Nierenberg today.

Distracted Driver Fines Double in California

San Francisco Bay Area Car Accident Attorneys

The state Senate and House recently approved a proposal sponsored by Sen. Joe Simitian to double fines for distracted driving violations. Under SB 28, fines for using a handheld cell phone or texting while driving will increase to $50 for a first offense and $100 thereafter. A point will also be assessed against a driver’s license on second and repeat offenses. After court costs are figured into the equation, a first offense for talking on a cell phone or texting is $310 while repeat offenders can expect to pay $528.

Commercial truck drivers are also affected by SB 28. As of July 2011, truck drivers can no longer us “push – to – talk” cell phones that use wireless technology. In order to comply with the law, truck drivers will need to use accessories that allow for “hands – free” use of a cell phone.

Distracted Driver Laws in California – What’s Prohibited?

Under current California state law, the following prohibitions are in place regarding the use of a cell phone or texting while driving:

• Unless they have hands – free accessories, drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from using wireless phones while driving
• School bus drivers and transit bus drivers are prohibited from using or talking on cell phones while driving
• Drivers over the age of 18 are prohibited from using cell phones while driving (unless they use hands – free accessories)
• Drivers are prohibited from using a wireless device to transmit, write, or read a text message

Car Accidents, Serious Injuries, and Cell Phone / Texting

Despite legislation prohibiting the use of a cell phone or texting while driving, it doesn’t appear Californians are going to change their behavior any time soon. While Sen. Simitian claims California Highway Patrol data indicates a 40 percent to 50 percent drop in accidents involving cell phone use, many believe the fines and penalties are not enough to dissuade drivers from talking or texting on cell phones while driving.

As a result, car accidents involving drivers on cell phones are likely to continue. Fortunately, however, it’s easy enough to check a negligent driver’s cell phone use to determine if he or she was texting or talking on a cell phone at the time of an accident. This is especially important since it is more difficult for an insurer to dispute fault on the part of their insured when it’s clear he or she was on a cell phone at the time of an accident.

Contact San Francisco Bay Area Distracted Driver Attorneys

If you’ve been injured in a car, bicycle, motorcycle, pedestrian knockdown, or truck accident, don’t assume a cell phone wasn’t involved. If the driver that hit you was talking on a cell phone, you can bet he or she won’t admit it. At Weber & Nierenberg, we have the investigative resources needed to expose negligent distracted drivers. To schedule an appointment and discuss your case, contact San Francisco personal injury attorneys Weber & Nierenberg today.

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1 Sansome Street, Suite 3500 San Francisco, CA 94104
P. 415-788-3900

1999 Harrison Street, Suite 600 Oakland, CA 94612
P. 510-663-6000

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