Archives for December 2013

A Type of Bike That Needs Fixing

Fixed Gear Bicycle
We represent bicyclists who’ve been injured due to the negligence of others. Most of the time these accidents are caused by drivers of cars or trucks or government entities responsible for road conditions that lead to accidents. Riding a bike is not without risks and sometimes those risks are created by the bike itself.

Ventura County is mulling a ban on fixed-gear bicycles on park trails after a hit-and-run accident that left a rider with severe injuries, according to the San Francisco Examiner. Parks director Ron Van Dyck says the September crash involved two bicyclists on the Ojai Valley Trail. He told the Ventura County Star the rider who fled the scene was on a “fixie,” or fixed gear bicycle without brakes.

The Chinese city of Xiamen has banned these bikes. The action is in response to the death earlier this year of a 13 year old girl riding a fixie. Last year a 17 year old San Diego boy was killed while riding a fixie. CBS 8 in San Diego reported,
Richie Ditta at Brooklyn Bicycles says they’re different from a normal bike because the pedals are always in motion when the bike is moving, meaning you can never stop pedaling and just coast.

“The bike has direct drive, so when I peddle forward or backward, that’s how the chain makes the wheel move back and forth,” he explained.

What potentially makes a “fixie” dangerous is stopping. Your legs have to be strong enough to instantly stop the pedals.

“You gotta build muscles up to stop properly, and even then, it’s not really enough,” a rider said.

Some “fixie” riders add a hand brake to help slow the bike down. Others do not. And when there’s a problem, the results can be fatal.

Seventeen-year-old Francisco Sanchez Porras was killed last week when the Bonita High School student’s “fixie” crashed into a car at an Encanto intersection.

“We have numerous witnesses that are pretty consistent. The bicyclist entered the intersection without stopping,” SDPD Sgt. Art Doherty said.

Lucien Gregg, an 18 year old college student, was killed while biking on a fixie in Santa Cruz in 2008. He was struck and run over by a FedEx truck. In his blog, Rick Graves, the owner of a Santa Cruz bicycle messenger service, writes, “Let’s face it, fixed gear bikes take longer to stop, and if you have to skid to a halt you are less likely to yield to motorists and pedestrians who may have the right of way.”

These bikes may violate the California vehicle code, which states in part, “no person shall operate a bicycle on a roadway unless it is equipped with a brake which will enable the operator to make one braked wheel skid on a dry level (or) clean pavement.” In 2006, an Oregon judge, interpreting a similarly worded Oregon statute, found that fixie bikes violated state law because of its lack of a brake. The judge ruled in a case where a bike messenger was ticketed for riding a fixie bike without a brake.

If you’re a bicyclist using one of these bikes, or considering buying one, you might do yourself, pedestrians and motorists a favor by installing and using brakes. If you injure someone while riding a fixie, it may be you who could be sued if you, and your bicycle, caused the accident.

The personal injury attorneys at the Weber & Nierenberg law firm are well-experienced in bicycle accidents, as well as motorcycle, bus, truck, and pedestrian accident cases, and will work hard and competently to obtain complete compensation for your injuries and losses.

The Costs and Benefits of Discovery

Scale & Gavel
In most civil litigation, a process takes place by which both sides learn about the facts, opinions and legal positions of each other. This discovery process takes place in state and federal court normally after a complaint and a response to it have been filed with the court.

Discovery rules are fairly broad, because the idea is to get as many facts out in the open as possible, because cases are decided on the facts and applicable law. Once the facts are available, they also give the parties a good handle on the case so they can decide if they want to settle, and if so, on what terms.

In order for a plaintiff to bring a case, there must be some kind of harm or damages, either physically, mentally and/or financially. When a plaintiff makes a damages claim, it opens up questions the defendant can ask. If there are claims for medical or psychological harm, the defendant may probe into a plaintiff’s medical and psychological history to try to verify the claims or come up with an alternate cause. If there’s a claim of lost income, your financial history will be at issue. There are limits to discovery, and we zealously represent our clients to make sure defendants don’t go beyond those limits, but the reality is the filing a lawsuit results in a degree of lost privacy.

Defendants or their insurance companies may also hire private investigators to follow plaintiffs, hoping to find evidence they are not as injured as they claim. That also includes viewing postings on social media. If a plaintiff claims to be limited to being homebound due to an injury, but is video recorded riding a bicycle down his street or posts pictures on Facebook of himself hiking, that plaintiff’s case will probably come to a premature end.

Also due to discovery, plaintiffs will lose some time. Our attorneys and staff will go into great detail asking about the circumstances of an accident and the resulting damages. That better prepares us for the case, helps us decide which path it should take and is also used to answer questions posed by defendants during discovery.

More time will be needed to prepare for, and testify at, a deposition. A deposition is the questioning of a party or witness, under oath, by attorneys for both sides. A court reporter is present to make sure there’s an accurate record of the testimony and it may also be video recorded. We will prepare you for the deposition so you can respond as accurately and as honestly as possible. We will also share with you our experiences with opposing counsel so you’ll have an idea of that attorney’s approach and style so there should be no surprises.

The discovery process is a double edged sword. There are downsides, like the time, energy and loss of privacy it takes to respond to the defendant’s requests. But there’s a greater upside, because it’s an opportunity for the plaintiff to tell his or her story. We also ask defendants questions, too, and get information and documents from them as well. In the end, because of the discovery process, in most cases, the parties have to put their cards on the table and whomever has best hand will win.

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

1999 Harrison Street, Suite 1800 Oakland, CA 94612
P. 510-663-6000

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