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San Francisco Personal Injury Law Blog

Safety on two wheels: Helmet laws differ but basic rules do not

Do we sound like a broken record? We wonder, because we try to take every opportunity to encourage safe driving, motorcycling and biking behaviors. More and more, two-wheeled vehicles share the roads with sedans, semis and SUVs, and so many traffic accidents involving motorcycles or bicycles are avoidable.

When it comes to avoiding accidents, though, are some tactics better -- more effective -- than others? Multiple sources, including the California Highway Patrol's Motorcyclist Safety Program, say that motorcycle helmets save lives. Indeed, California law requires helmets on all riders, regardless of age. The law has been in place for more than 20 years.

Motorcyclists faced with unique risks on the road

Motorcyclists can be found on just about any road across California. Unfortunately, there are still many people who fail to see these bikers and share the road responsibly with them. Too many motorcycle accidents are caused by motorists who simply fail to operate their own vehicle safety; but it is often the motorcyclist who pays the price.

Not surprisingly, motorcyclists can suffer catastrophic injuries if they are struck by a car. Bikes are smaller and offer little protection to riders in the event of a crash. This is why so many riders take such great care to be safe on California roads. 

California bikin' on such an autumn day

In an accident between a car or truck and a bicycle, chances are that the bicycle will lose. The motor vehicle is heavier and faster, and it has four wheels (or more). Bikes may be more maneuverable, able to respond quickly to avoid a collision, but they haven't the bulk of a car, and they are more likely to topple in an accident or even while trying to avoid an accident. Still, even if there is no impact, there is still a risk to life and limb.

The state of California has adopted a number of laws to make the roads safer for bikers. For example, riders under age 18 must wear helmets. Another law dictated that motorists reduce their speed and pass bikers at a "safe distance."

Sports injuries: When kids play it's not always child's play

Parents are funny about their kids and sports. Even in laid-back California, you hear about parents who push their children to be better and better, to outshine everyone else on the field. Other parents are just happy their kids are running around outside and having fun.

There are probably as many reasons parents allow or encourage their children to play sports as there are parents. If they agree on anything, it would be that the children be safe, that no one be carried off the football field on a stretcher, that no player is knocked unconscious.

Sports carry a certain amount of risk with them, though. A scrape or cut or the occasional minor sprain may not be something to cheer about, but it is tolerated. This is what happens in sports.

NFL must show and tell how concussion payouts were determined

The NFL has done the math and come up with what the court believes is the right answer in the concussion class action filed by former players and their families. Now, the judge overseeing the settlement has ordered the league to show its work.

In a ruling on Sept. 8, the judge ordered the league to make public the details of the calculations and economic analyses used to determine the payouts to the plaintiffs. The action came in response to the plaintiffs' very vocal complaints that the $765 million settlement is just not enough.

We represent dog bite victims in San Francisco

Dogs can be lovable and make great pets, but they are also capable of tearing through human flesh with one bite. After many people were seriously injured by dog bites and attacks in California, state law was changed to make it easier to hold dog owners responsible for the damage caused by their unruly pets.

Today, dog owners in California can be held "strictly liable" for injuries caused by their pets. What that means is that it doesn’t matter if the dog owner did anything wrong or knew the pet was dangerous, the owner can be held liable if the dog attacks a person and causes injury.

Are fatal truck accidents the new normal? p3

We have been talking about the increase in tractor-trailer accidents and some of the reasons for the uptick offered by industry experts and analysts. From the outside -- from the perspective of the accident victims and their families -- it looks as if regulators and trucking companies are wary of addressing the issue at all.

In their defense, the solution is not clear. And consensus is a few exits down this highway; no one seems to agree on anything. For example, if regulators succeed in holding on to the current hours-of-service rules -- the rules that include the 34-hour restart -- industry leaders say that there will be more trucks on the road, which will necessarily increase the risk of a crash. Any talk of mechanical problems with the trucks meets with resistance from the industry as well.

Are fatal truck accidents the new normal? p2

Continued from our last post.

The number of fatal tractor-trailer accidents in the U.S. has been increasing since 2009. CNBC suggests that the loss of life is the cost of doing business -- more goods and materials are moving as the country recovers from the recession, and both the industry and government regulators are trying to avoid any action that could impede that growth. In some cases, unfortunately, that inaction translates into neither following nor enforcing safety guidelines.

For example, CNBC spotlights one terrible accident that occurred when a semi slammed into a minivan that had slowed for traffic. Five people died, one of them the truck driver. Investigators discovered that the driver had a string of accidents and safety warnings on his record. Yet all of those red flags, including the driver's record of several rear-end crashes, did not result in the trucking company or regulators suspending him or taking him off the roads completely.

Are fatal truck accidents the new normal?

CNBC recently ran a story about truck accidents that we thought was intriguing. The premise is that, in spite of the number of lives lost or changed forever, no one is alarmed by the uptick in tractor-trailer accidents. Rhetoric meets rhetoric; rationale matches rationale. The debate will continue, but meaningful change is unlikely.

The report relies on Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration data to support its thesis. There are about 11 fatal truck accidents every day in the U.S. The death toll from these crashes is close to 4,000 people every year; the number of people injured in truck accidents is at least 100,000 annually. All of this adds up to the equivalent of one commuter jet crashing every week for an entire year, according to the story.

This study says texting bans work if they're primary offenses

On the heels of the California cellphone ban study comes a study showing that texting bans do reduce the number of fatal car accidents. In this study, researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham looked at the impact of different kinds of texting bans, including whether the law makes texting while driving a primary or secondary offense.

With a primary ban, police are allowed to pull a driver over just for texting while driving. California's ban is a primary law. A secondary ban means police must pull a driver over for another violation -- say, drunk driving or speeding -- before ticketing for texting. Parsing the data this way allowed for an apples-to-apples comparison of texting-related accidents from state to state.

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