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Making Mt. Diablo Safe for Cyclists: A Model For All Communities

Mt. Diablo’s the tallest mountain in the Bay Area, and the view from the summit is world-class. Most days the whole Bay Area is laid out for you, and on particularly clear days you can see all the way to Yosemite, Mount Lassen or Mount Shasta.

Thousands of people visit the Mount Diablo State Park every week to hike, bike, picnic and sightsee. Therein lies the rub: the park’s Summit Road is famously twisty, narrow (lanes are 8 to 9 feet), and shared between motorists and cyclists. Before 2014, Mt. Diablo saw an average 23 collisions reported per year, about one every two weeks. 2017 saw 10 in total, and only one car-and-bike accident. 2018 is on track to have even fewer accidents thanks to road safety improvements, and, as of this writing, no vehicular collisions at all (keep those fingers crossed!).

The trend is not random chance, statistical noise, or fewer people visiting the park—in fact, 700,000 people visit the park annually.

What changed, why did the number of accidents drop?

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3 Year Old Killed in Sears Parking Lot, Antioch

Her name was Angela Nguyen and she was just 3 years old.

She was in the Sears parking lot on Somersville Road when she was hit by a car. An eyewitness told KPIX 5 that “the vehicle barreled through the parking lot at a high speed when the child and her parent were coming out of the Sears store”.

The driver remained on the scene, and apparently no drugs or alcohol were involved.

This deserves a deep pause here.

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Are drivers still liable if they are hit a cyclist riding on the sidewalk?

Law enforcement officers sometimes mistakenly cite cyclists who are involved in traffic accidents for violating Vehicle Code §21650.1.

In general, under California law, if someone is riding a bicycle on a roadway, he or she must ride in the same direction as motor vehicles (Vehicle Code §21650.1).

Sidewalks, however, are not legally considered part of the roadway (Vehicle Code §555). Therefore cyclists do not violate Section 21650.1, even if they are riding against the flow and direction of traffic along and within a sidewalk.

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You crossed the street on a red light and got hit and hurt.

Who is liable? Can you, the pedestrian, sue?

My client was an elderly Dublin pedestrian who was struck by a car while in the crosswalk. The investigating officer concluded that my client was at fault.

The motorist had the green light when she struck my client in the crosswalk. We took on the insurance company against all odds. We won.

But not all pedestrians can be judged by the same standards. My client was elderly, and while she stated the she started crossing six lanes of traffic with the light in her favor, she was unable to get to the other side safely.

Complicating the case, there was a witness who said she started crossing against the light.

The indisputable fact was that she was struck by a woman driving a car – who had a green light – before she could finish crossing. She was seriously injured, needing significant medical care. What could she do against the motorist’s huge insurance company? It seemed hopeless.

Who’s liable here?

The investigating officer concluded that my client was at fault, and the motorist was without fault. He had tested the timing of the light and found that he was able to cross all six lanes in the time given by the green light. The officer also relied on a witness who stated my client did not have the green light when she entered the crosswalk. The case looked grim but we stayed resolute.

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California Supreme Court overturns “no duty” rule

Cabral v. Ralph’s Grocery

In Maria Cabral v. Ralph’s Grocery Company, S178799, filed by the California Supreme Court on February 28, 2011, the Court held in favor of an accident victim and took a very restrictive view of the “no duty rule”.

Cabral arose from a motor vehicle collision in which a truck driver, working for Ralph’s Grocery Company (“Ralph’s”), stopped his tractor-trailer rig alongside an interstate highway in order to have a snack. The plaintiff’s husband, decedent Adelelmo Cabral, for reasons unknown, veered off the highway and collided with the tractor-trailer, resulting in his death. The case was tried to a jury. The jury found both parties to be negligent, but allocated 90% of the fault for the accident to Cabral and 10% of the fault to Ralph’s tractor trailer driver. Under California’s comparative fault law, the trial court entered a judgment for Cabral’s widow for 10% of her damages.

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