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ALAMEDA, CA – Two people were killed and six others injured when a truck and minivan collided Monday morning in downtown Alameda, according to authorities.

Alameda police and the County Coroner’s Bureau both confirmed that two deaths occurred as a result of Monday’s accident.

Tuesday the coroner’s office said the fatalities were Simon Sotelo, who most recently lived in Union City and Briana Ortega who was from Hayward, both 17 years old. 

The other passengers in the pickup with Sotelo and Ortega are all in their teens to early 20s and were still in the hospital as of Tuesday morning, according to police.

The collision took place at Lincoln Avenue and Park Street and police said on Facebook that speeding might have been a contributing factor in the accident reported around 8:00 a.m.

The truck had seven occupants, of which two were killed and five others seriously injured, according to the Facebook post. Law enforcement has not disclosed where Sotelo and Ortega were sitting in the truck.

Ortega died at the scene, while Sotelo later succumbed to his injuries at Oakland’s Highland Hospital, according to the post.

Carol Ziogas lives in the neighborhood where the crash occurred and she, her daughter and son-in-law immediately rushed over after hearing the vehicles collide. They observed first responders putting a tarp over the female passenger, while a male passenger was having a neck brace put on.

Fatal car crash alameda, ca

Ziogas said, “There were shoes scattered all over the street, along with papers and other kinds of debris,” adding, “The Jaws of Life had to be used to remove the roof in order to get the last passenger out.” She went on to say, “He was in a daze just sitting there.”

The truck’s five other occupants were all transported to local hospitals in critical condition.

The truck ended up in Alameda Bicycle’s parking lot on Webb Avenue and Park after the collision.

Ole’s Waffle Shop is nearby and that’s where Matt Clay was dining when he heard the crash.

“All I could see was someone on the ground,” he said. “It was a horrific crash.”

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According to the Facebook post, the female who occupied the minivan was transported to an area hospital. Her injuries were not considered life threatening.

Ziogas explained that this was not the only fatal crash occurring within one block of their home. She said that the locals in town are understandably worried about drivers’ exceeding the speed limit, which happens all the time on Park Street.

According to the Traffic Incident Mapping System run by UC Berkeley, May 24, 2015 was when the last fatal accident happened at this intersection. That’s when a vehicle hit a pedestrian walking across the street inside the crosswalk. The system indicates that four fatal collisions have occurred in Alameda, just in the last four years.

Area streets were closed to traffic for several hours on Monday. At 6:30 p.m. they reopened Park Street.

(Source: East Bay Times)

Published on behalf of O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley LLP

If you’ve ever been in a car accident you know what a hassle it can be just dealing with your own insurance company. But if the accident isn’t your fault, just think what you’ll be dealing with when it comes to the insurance company of the stranger who plowed into your car. 

Here are a few tips to help you file a claim with the other party’s insurer, which would be a third-party claim:

Get complete information
Whoever caused the accident is supposed to report it to their auto insurance company. But, sometimes they’re reluctant to do so. To play it safe, you should also call their insurance company and advise them of the accident.

To do this you are going to need the other driver’s complete information, which you should gather at the scene of the accident. This is what you should get:

  1. Name and address of the other driver
  2. The name of the other driver’s insurance carrier and policy information
  3. If there are witnesses, get statements from them as well as contact information
  4. Take photos of the scene of the accident using your smartphone

This is the evidence you will need to substantiate your position on who caused the accident. Some auto insurance companies have mobile apps that help motorists document an accident on the scene right after it occurs. Some of these apps provide a checklist telling you how to gather the information for your claim with them or the other driver’s insurer.

Furthermore, there is a free smartphone app called WreckCheck provided by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners that can help gather the information you need and provide yours to the other driver.

 car accident insurance attorney

Make the proper notifications
Take it upon yourself to notify the other driver’s insurance carrier that there has been an accident involving one of their policyholders and that you were involved as well. Just give them the facts of what happened, even if you are convinced the other driver was at fault.

It is up to the police to decide who was at fault and whether they should issue a ticket. On their own, the insurance company will make their own determination as to who was at fault. This might or might not agree with the assessment made by law enforcement. In making their determination, the insurance company will consider the police report and statements from the drivers and any witnesses as well as physical evidence.

Even if you think you were not the cause of the accident, it is always best to call your insurance company to inform them of the accident. This shows good faith on your part and this will help you if the other driver’s insurance carrier denies that their policyholder was responsible for the accident, in which case you would need to file a collision claim.

In theory, you should just need to notify the other driver’s insurance company of your damages plus any injuries, tow your car to the body shop, see a doctor and just wait for the insurance company to pay these bills.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t always play out as it should. Auto insurance companies often insist that you get their authorization for any car repairs and medical treatments. If their insurance adjuster does not give authorization for your car repair before it’s taken to the body shop, there can be a problem. At the very least, make sure that the insurance carrier has already accepted liability before you start having your car repaired. Get them to email all of this to you so you have their authorization in writing. 

You need to know that no insurance company can demand that you take your car to a certain repair shop. Most states allow insurance companies to recommend car repair shops, but they are not legally allowed to insist that you use the auto body shop they name. It is your choice.

You may need an attorney
The other driver’s insurance company may tell you to have your own insurance company pay for the repairs, claiming they have no reason to believe their policyholder was at fault. While there are laws in most states that make it illegal for an insurance carrier to deny a claim without making a reasonable effort to investigate the facts, or to deny a claim when it is reasonably clear that they are liable, it may not be easy to fight with the other driver’s insurance company.

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You may choose to file a claim with your own insurance company and they might very well decide to fight it out with the other insurance carrier for compensation if they determine the other driver caused the accident.

If you do decide to fight with the at-fault driver’s insurance company by yourself, you’ll need a good lawyer, especially if you have serious injuries. Your attorney will help you understand and navigate the insurance laws. 

You may have even collected evidence that proves the other driver was at fault, he may have even admitted this at the scene, but your claim is still denied by his insurance company. How can this be? Because he may very well have told them a different version of what caused the accident that does not fit with your version of events. His insurance company may prefer to believe him just to get out of paying your claim.

The truth is that sometimes the insurance carrier will side with their policyholder, even when their version of events conflicts with the police report.

It is not at all usual for an insurance company to side with their policyholder when there is no accident report by the police and it’s not clear who is at fault. In many states, the officer that shows up at the scene of an accident may look at the damage and determine that it’s only minor (usually under $500), and the officer won’t file any accident report. Estimates by body shops for that same damage can total in the thousands. You need to take your car yourself to a reputable repair shop in order to get an accurate determination of the extent of your car’s damage.

If the damage won’t cost a whole lot to repair, you can always file a case in small claims court against the other driver. Insurance companies are well aware that the longer they can drag out a claim, the more apt you are to cave and settle for less or just go away.

If you’re getting nowhere, turn to your insurance carrier
Even though you did not cause the accident, you can still file an accident claim with your own insurance company if you have this sort of coverage. The claim would be for them to pay for your damages and injuries.

You can do this if you are adequately covered with collision insurance. In this case your insurance company would pay for the repairs on your car or compensate you if your car is a total loss. If you decide to do this, you would still be responsible for paying the deductible towards the repairs. But, you may actually get that amount of money back if your insurance company ends up settling with the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier.

If the other driver has no car insurance and you have what’s called “Uninsured Motorist Property Damage” or UMPD coverage, you can file a claim with your insurance for the damage to your car. On UMPD claims you do not have to pay any deductible.

If an accident is not your fault and you are forced to file a claim with your insurance company, this does not necessarily mean that your insurance rates will go up.

There are laws in most states prohibiting insurance carriers from surcharging or raising their policyholders’ premiums for accidents that were not their fault. Unfortunately, these laws won’t stop your insurer from dropping you when it comes time to renew your policy if you’ve filed a slew of recent claims.

Understand your coverage for injuries
In most states, if you sustained injuries in a car accident in which you were not at fault, you would file your injury claim through the other driver’s insurance company. If they do not have any car insurance, you could file a claim under your coverage for Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury, but only if you are covered for this. You could also file a claim with your health insurance provider. 

 Walnut Creek Car Accident Lawyer

Do not pay too much for a rental car
Insurance companies naturally look for ways to cut costs, and saving money on reimbursing policyholders for the cost of a car rental is an easy target.

They do this by advising accident victims that they’ll only pay so much per day for a car rental. If you’ve been the victim of another driver’s negligence, you do have rights when it comes to recouping the costs involved in resolving the disruption in your life, and this includes the cost of a rental car while yours is being repaired.

If you rent reasonably you can avoid paying a portion of those costs. Do not buy a collision damage waiver if your rental company offers this because you are covered under your own insurance policy for any damage to a rental car.

If you rent a car at a reasonable price and your insurance company tries to short-change you somehow on the reimbursement, ask them to put their reason in writing. Insurance companies must advise you in writing when they decide to deny or somehow reduce payments to their policyholders.

Know what you are entitled to
It would be very helpful for you to become familiar with the prompt-payment law in your state. Every state has an Unfair Claims Settlement Practices Act that spells out the how long an insurance company can take to give you a check to cover your damages. 

One thing to consider: Unfair Claims Settlement Practices Acts very often do not give you the same rights if you are filing a claim against the other driver’s insurance company as opposed to filing your claim with your own insurance company. Check out California's Fair Claims Settlements Practices Regulations to find out more.

Sending a factual letter off to the at-fault drivers insurance carrier would be the best way to advise them of what you expect, letting them know that you know your rights. In the letter you would tell the insurance company that you expect them to cover all reasonable costs incurred by you due to the accident. This would include them paying for car repairs or the car’s total-loss value, diminished value, lost wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering plus the cost of renting a car. All of this points out the insurance company’s responsibilities according to public policy.  

Keep detailed records and copies of all correspondence. Make a note of the dates and times you speak to customer service reps as well as their names.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of motor vehicle negligence and would like to speak with an Automobile Accident Attorney, please contact us at O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley LLP. We are here to answer your questions and discuss how to protect your legal rights.


Published on behalf of O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley LLP. The information presented in this article is not legal advice, is not to be acted on as such, may not be current and is subject to change without notice. 

ANTIOCH, CA – Normal traffic resumed on Monday afternoon after the crash of two big rigs caused the temporary closure of the Antioch Bridge, reported California Highway Patrol.

The crash occurred just after 10:00 a.m. on Highway 160 (approximately two miles north of Antioch Bridge), with officers responding by 10:10 a.m., according to CHP Officer Michael Bradley.

Both lanes of the highway were closed to traffic from the bridge to Highway 12, with only local residents being allowed to use the highway if they showed proper identification.

A tractor-trailer driving southbound crossed into Highway 160’s northbound lane, hitting the front driver’s side of an oncoming truck and then sideswiped it, Bradley said.

The cab of the southbound big rig, along with part of its trailer ended up sliding down the embankment on the east side of the highway before it caught fire.

Truck Accident Attorney
Photo Courtesy KGO

The driver sustained very serious burns, Bradley added, saying that he may have been thrown from his vehicle. He was then taken to a Sacramento hospital by a CHP helicopter. The driver of the truck going northbound sustained minor injuries. Fire also damaged his truck.

Firefighters from the Rio Vista Fire Department got to the scene at 10:25 a.m. and went to work putting out the fires, extinguishing them by 10:45 a.m.

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As of 1:00 p.m. the damaged trucks still remained on the side of the highway while commercial vehicle inspectors from the CHP examined the evidence at the scene trying to determine the cause of the accident, Bradley said.

Drivers going between the area of Rio Vista and the eastern part of Contra Costa County were forced to use Hwy. 4 and Interstate 5 while the road was closed. By 4:35 p.m. the highway was completely reopened to traffic, according to a CHP spokesman.

If you or a family member has been involved in a big rig or trucking accident through no fault of your own, and want the advice of an attorney, please give us a call at O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley. Our personal injury attorneys have expertise in this area of the law and are happy to answer your questions, explain your legal rights and how to protect them.

Published on behalf of O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley LLP

If you can’t work because you’ve been injured in a car wreck caused by someone else, you are entitled to recover lost wages from that driver’s car insurance company. However there will be limits on how much money you can recover for lost wages due to the accident.

auto accident insurance payment

If the driver who hit you does not have sufficiently high limits to recover all your medical expenses plus the wages you lost from missing work, you can put in a claim on your own auto coverage for the balance. This would be done under your coverage for an “underinsured motorist.” If you reside in what’s termed a “no-fault state (California is NOT a no-fault state)” your lost wages can be paid by your PIP coverage up to whatever limit is specified on your policy.

When some other driver totals your automobile to the point where it cannot be repaired, that driver’s insurance company is supposed to pay you an amount equal to your car’s actual cash value prior to the wreck. The industry defines “actual cash value” as the “replacement cost” of the car minus the “depreciation” on the car. Replacement cost is how much it would cost to replace your car with one that’s similar. Depreciation would be how much your car has gone down in value over time.    

The insurance company should also cover the sales tax on the car that you bought with your insurance settlement money.

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It is possible that the other driver’s insurance company will tell you to have your own insurance company pay for the repairs, claiming they have no reason to believe their policyholder was at fault. If you decide to fight the other driver's insurer on your own you'll need a lawyer — especially if you've been seriously injured.

The automobile accident attorneys at O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley are well known and respected throughout the legal community and among our clients. From our offices in Contra Contra Costa County, San Francisco and Sacramento, we serve clients throughout Northern California. Our experience and expertise are available to you.

Published on behalf of O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley LLP

EL CERRITO, CA — A section of San Pablo Avenue was closed temporarily on Sunday evening as a result of a multi-vehicle accident that resulted in severe injuries to a passenger.

Police officers closed down a section of San Pablo Avenue between Waldo and Burlingame Avenues when responding to reports of a vehicle hitting a pedestrian. When law enforcement arrived on the scene, they found the man lying in the middle of the street going southbound on San Pablo Avenue, with three vehicles on the northbound side of the street.

El Cerrito Accident Injury Attorney

Officers eventually determined that the man lying there had been ejected from one of those three vehicles. He was taken by emergency helicopter to a nearby trauma center and was said to be in critical condition with multiple broken bones. Sgt. Jose Delatorre with the El Cerrito Police Department reported that he is expected to pull through.

After talking to the driver whose vehicle the man was ejected from, police suspected he had been drinking. They did a DUI investigation, which resulted in the arrest of the 20-year-old San Pablo man.

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According to someone who witnessed the accident, the young man who’d been ejected was sitting on the roof of the car with his legs “dangling down through the moon roof” while the driver was wildly swerving the car from one side to the other and back, causing the passenger to suddenly fly off the roof, landing in a crumpled heap on the street. At that point, the car quickly spun around, crashing into another vehicle, which was a minivan according to the El Cerrito Fire Department.

“Seeing this was horrible,” said Scott Hacker, a witness from El Cerrito.

The minivan that was crashed into then slammed into another minivan on the road.

Police plan on forwarding the DUI case to the Contra Costa County D.A. once they complete their investigation.

If you or a family member has been injured in a motor vehicle accident in El Cerrito, CA due to negligence and need to speak to an experienced El Cerrito auto accident lawyer, please contact us. We will answer your questions; discuss your situation and how we can be of help in protecting your legal rights.

The auto accident lawyers at O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley have many years of experience successfully representing clients who have been the victims of auto accidents. We are very well respected in the Northern California legal circles and have offices in San Francisco, Sacramento and Contra Costa County. Our expertise in this area of the law can be put to work on your case. Please give us a call today.

Oakland City officials had many reasons to visit the Ghost Ship in the years prior to the fire that took the lives of 36 people inside the building. They were there to investigate 10 complaints of code violations, among others, according to detailed records released by the City on Wednesday.

Despite growing evidence that someone had converted the warehouse into an unlawful residence and entertainment venue, the City chose to turn a blind eye and never took any action to shutter the Ghost Ship, records reveal. A number of complaints had been submitted to the City claiming that the conditions inside the building were not safe. People had reported mounds of trash piling up and faulty wiring.

Media outlets, including The Times, requested the release of these records amid mounting criticism of Oakland’s apparent lax enforcement of codes at the Ghost Ship as well as other warehouses that have been converted into illegal residences across the city.

On December 2, 2016 the Ghost Ship was hosting a concert when the warehouse caught fire, trapping everyone in attendance and scores of other people. 

Ghost Ship Fire
Photo Courtesy SF Chronicle

In looking at the records, the fact that illegal concerts were being held there should not have come as any surprise to City officials.

Oakland police responded to a call in March 2015 that an illegal rave was going on at the Ghost Ship where drugs and alcohol were being sold. The report reveals that the police officer who responded claimed he did not issue any citations or even enter the building. Later on that same night police were called back to the scene after getting a complaint that “several people inside his warehouse were refusing to leave the premises.”

Police just stood by waiting while everyone who was not supposed to be there left, according to the heavily redacted report.

The records reveal the content of a 911 call describing the same 2015 event, which was taken by the California Highway Patrol. The caller related “as many as 15 people were barricaded inside the building,” adding “the owners are preventing people from leaving.” The caller went on to say that they heard what seemed like a Taser being used and people being threatened.

Family members of some of the victims as well as certain Oakland officials said that the records offer clear evidence that the city failed in its oversight duties.

South San Francisco resident, David Gregory, whose daughter Michela was killed in the fire said, “I’m outraged, absolutely outraged that the city did nothing all these years, which made this tragedy inevitable. They allowed it to occur. Just put yourself in my place. What if your 20-year-old son or daughter, or your niece or another loved one was there? The more you find out about what happened, the more you’re convinced that this should never have been allowed to happen.”

Noel Gallo, Oakland City Councilman whose district includes the section where the Ghost Ship was located, admitted that the documents point out where City Hall failed to respond properly to many longstanding complaints in the neighborhood about the warehouse.

“The merchants and neighbors who have been residing in the area are certainly aware of all the issues, but the City would not accept responsibility, they did not want the liability,” Gallo said on Wednesday, “What was known about the warehouse went far beyond just one city department. There weren’t just one or two times that people called in to complain.”

The City had been investigating a report of illegal housing there only two weeks before the tragedy. A code inspector was dispatched to the scene, but he said he couldn’t get into the property or even “see whether there was an illegal building from outside on the sidewalk.”

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City files show that the owner of the building, Chor N. Ng, was cited for the condition of the front yard and sidewalk.

Apparently City inspectors did not bother to assess the conditions inside the building until after the fire, according to records. Several weeks after the bodies had been removed from the warehouses’ burned husk by coroner’s officials, code enforcement inspectors went back and issued several new citations against building owner Ng.  

On December 22nd Ng was told she needed to remove the debris and repair the walls, ceiling and roof. For the very first time, she was cited for “unapproved alterations” she had made throughout the building.

“There are bedrooms created throughout the second floor and also a kitchen,” the code inspector wrote. “There are makeshift paint booths being used as toilet stalls, new partitions built for walls etc.,” he wrote.

He also reported “unsafe and exposed” wiring, electrical panels, and fixtures for which he faulted the building, according to records.

Although all the records were requested by the Media, Oakland officials only released some, saying that the others were being withheld due to the pending criminal investigation of the fire, which was among the worst in California’s modern history. The December 2nd fire happened during an unlawful concert. Many of the records that were release are heavily redacted.

The Ghost Ship and the vacant lot next door have been subjected to 10 code enforcement complaints plus 39 code enforcement inspections going back to 2004, according to City records. Inspectors from the fire department had also paid visits to the building 16 times going back to 1999, with the most recent visits in 2016.

Although City code inspectors never ventured into the warehouse, they did speak to the “tenant” once in 2014 when they went out in an attempt to get Ng and her daughter to have discarded pallets, furniture and debris removed from the sidewalk out front, as it was piling up and blocking pedestrians.

In February 2015, the City did receive an explicit complaint saying that the building had been turned into an illegal residence, according to police records. There is a transcript of a 911 call reporting a man with a shotgun was hiding somewhere near the warehouse. The caller went on to describe the Ghost Ship as “a warehouse that has been turned into an illegal shared housing facility.”

Former tenant, Shelly Mack who had a dispute with the landlord, Derick Ion Almena, claims she was the one who made that 911 call. Mack claimed in an interview that a police officer went inside the building at that time and saw the deplorable conditions in the warehouse, although that is not confirmed in the reports that were released on Wednesday.

“He came right inside and he looked around and saw everything,” she said. “The officer that came and escorted me and my son when we moved out of the warehouse a week or so later came inside too. He saw and was told everything. Whenever authorities were called to the building, they usually came inside.”

Mack openly criticized the Oakland police for not doing more.

“The police are on the front lines everyday,” she said. “Why would they not connect all these dots? There were millions of dots.”

Mayor Libby Schaaf, in releasing the reports, said that she hoped the information would help answer all the questions residents have asked about the City’s oversight and actions.

“I realize that the Media and many others have felt frustrated by how long it has taken to gather these documents from all the different departments. We wanted to cast a wide net so that all relevant information was seen. We must take a thorough look at not only the warehouse, but the adjacent properties as well,” she stated. “Transparency is a must. Our community has been severely impacted by this incident and deserves to know everything there is to know about this tragic event.”

If you have lost a loved one in an accident caused by another, you may be eligible to seek a remedy and payment. Protect your rights, contact an experienced wrongful death lawyer. The wrongful death attorneys at O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley are well known and respected throughout the legal community and among our clients.

(Source: LA Times )

Published on behalf of O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley LLP

RICHMOND, CA – A female passenger in a vehicle that crashed while exiting the I-80 off-ramp passed away Sunday morning as a result of her injuries. The driver was arrested and is being held on suspicion of driving while under the influence, according to a spokesperson for the California Highway Patrol. CHP Officers arrived on the scene of the accident at 11:30 p.m., which was in close proximity to the Cutting Blvd. off-ramp from Highway 80 westbound. Officers responding came upon an overturned 2003 Lexus sedan.

fatal dui crash 1-80 cutting blvd
1-80 at Cutting Blvd in Richmond

The passenger, whose name is not being released at this time, was fully ejected from the vehicle, according to Officer Sean Wilkenfield of the CHP. An ambulance rushed her to the hospital, where she ultimately died as a result of her injuries.

Accident investigators concluded that she had not been wearing a seatbelt when the crash occurred, Wilkenfeld said.

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Twenty-one year old Lexus Taylor, the driver, was also taken to the hospital after suffering major injuries in the accident, where officers determined that she was drunk. Taylor was put under arrest, but remains hospitalized in stable condition.

Vehicular manslaughter occurs when an individual recklessly causes the death of another person through the use of any type of motor vehicle. If you or a family member has been victimized by motor vehicle negligence and need to consult with an auto accident attorney located in the Bay Area, please reach out to us. We are available to answer any questions you have, advise you of your legal rights and how best to protect them. We at O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley have more than 50 years of experience handling the litigation and going to trial representing victims of auto accidents. We have the right expertise along with a proven track record of prevailing in auto accident and wrongful death cases.

(Source: KRON 4 News )

Published on behalf of O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley LLP

The San Francisco Department of Public Health is reporting that half of all injuries being treated by staff at SF General Hospital resulted from traffic collisions. The surprising report, which was picked up by The Examiner, covers the years 2012, 2013 and 2014 and said that the cost of treating those injuries totaled approximately $30.5 million each year.

Of patients observed, which were more than 4,000; treating the injuries of pedestrians took up 44% of the annual expenditures. Next were motorists, either drivers or passengers, who used up 22%, followed by motorcycle riders at 18%, and then cyclists who required 16%.


Nicole Ferrara, executive director of Walk SF, an advocacy group for pedestrians, said that the results from the DPH study did not sit well with them, saying "The fact that all other causes for injury including cuts/pierces, falls, assault, and firearms are greatly diminished when compared to injuries from traffic-related crashes is astonishing." 

This report brings more attention to Vision Zero and its effort to lower traffic fatalities in San Francisco city streets down to zero by the year 2024. By just focusing on how many traffic-related fatalities there are, rather than looking at the total number of injuries, it is far too easy to avoid recognizing the true scale of the dangers faced by people trying to navigate the streets of San Francisco.

"This report shines a light on how pervasive traffic crashes are in our society and how urgent the need is to invest in tried-and-true strategies for preventing collisions," Ferrara told a reporter for The Examiner.

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According to statistics provided by the city, approximately 30 people are killed and 200 sustain "serious injuries" each year on the streets of San Francisco. The chart below reveals that in the 2016 fiscal year, those numbers have tragically been surpassed. 

If you or a loved one has been the victim of motor vehicle negligence and would like to speak with a Bay Area auto accident attorney, please contact us. We are here to answer your questions and discuss how to protect your legal rights.

The Automobile Accident Attorneys at O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley are well known and respected throughout the legal community and among our clients. From our offices in Contra Contra Costa County, San Francisco and Sacramento, we serve clients throughout Northern California. Our experience and expertise are available to you.

(Source: SF ExaminerCity of San Francisco)

Published on behalf of O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley LLP

Lane splitting while riding a motorcycle is legal in California as long as it’s done safely. Lane splitting is also known as lane sharing, white-lining or filtering and refers to the practice of a motorcyclist weaving between the lanes of slower moving or stopped traffic or riding between lanes to get to the front of the traffic stopped at a light.

Experienced motorcyclists who want to practice lane splitting should abide by the following safety guidelines:

1. Never travel at more than 10 mph faster than the speed of the other traffic on the road. The faster you go, the more dangerous it is.

Motorcycle Lane Splitting
Photo Credit Eric Schmuttenmaer 

  • If you’re a competent motorcyclist travelling at no more than 10 mph faster than other vehicles on the road, you will have enough time to spot and safely react to the most dangerous driving situations you’re likely to face.
  • The faster you’re going over other traffic, the less time you have to spot and react to danger.

2. When the traffic is going 30 mph or faster, it really is not safe to lane split. As speed increases, so does the danger.

  • When going only 20 mph, in the 1 to 2 seconds it would take you to spot a hazard, you will travel another 30 to 60 ft. before being able to start any evasive maneuvers. To actually break or swerve will take more time and distance.
  • The distance it takes to put on the breaks and stop varies quite and depends on a number of factors including, the rider, the type of motorcycle and the environment. 
  • The faster you’re going, the more severe the crash is.

3. It is usually safer to confine your lane splitting to just the #1 and #2 lanes and avoid doing it between the other lanes of traffic.

  • Others using the road are more used to motorcyclists splitting between the lanes the furthest lanes to the left, which are the #1 and #2 lanes.
  • To be safe you should avoid splitting between lanes near freeway exits and on-ramps. 
  • When you notice another motorcyclist splitting lanes near you, avoid splitting because cars may allow more room for them and in doing so, accidently not leave enough room for you to split between lanes.

4. Before splitting, take in your entire environment, the width of each lane, what size the vehicles are surrounding you, the conditions on the road, the weather and if lighting is likely. 

  • Many roads have lanes that are so narrow that there just isn’t enough room to safely split between lanes. If your motorcycle won’t easily fit through, don’t split.
  • Vehicles on the road these days seem to be getting wider. It is not safe to split near large trucks. If you can’t easily fit by, then avoid splitting.  
  • Know your motorcycle’s limitations. If it has wide bars it would require more space, as would fairing and bags. If your motorcycle is just too wide to easily split, then don’t try it.
  • If you’re on an unfamiliar road, it’s best to avoid splitting since you might run into unsafe road surfaces or other unexpected surprises.
  • Wide or uneven seams in the concrete or pavement between lanes pose a hazard.
  • Impaired visibility, due to the weather or from darkness, makes it harder for riders to spot hazards in the road and for drivers to see motorcyclists.
  • Drivers can see you better if you wear brightly colored clothing and protective gear. If you use your high beams in daylight it makes it easier for drivers to spot you.
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5. Stay alert and expect the unexpected. Anticipate that other road users will change lanes and/or make other quick movements.

  • Be aware of what all the cars are doing around you. If a gap or space opens up in the lane next to you, be ready to react accordingly.
  • Be ready to take evasive action when a car changes lanes.
  • Make up for distracted or inattentive drivers by being overly vigilant.
  • Do not weave in and out of lanes or ride directly on top of a lane line.
  • Avoid lingering in someone’s blind spot.
  • Never ride your motorcycle while impaired, whether by fatigue, drugs or alcohol.
  • Continually scan your environment for possible changes.

The 4 Rs or Rules of Lane Splitting:

Be Reasonable, Responsible, Respectful and aware of the Roadway and traffic conditions.  

  1. Be Reasonable – Never ride more than 10 mph faster than the flow of traffic and never more than 39 mph.
  2. Be Responsible – You are the one responsible for your safety and the decisions you make. Do not put yourself in harms way by avoiding dangerous situations. If you can’t fit between the lanes, don’t split.
  3. Be Respectful – Understand that you must share the road too, that this goes both ways. Loud pipes will not necessarily keep you safe and often startle others. Loud pipes can cause drivers to have a negative view of motorcyclists. Other vehicles on the road have no requirement to make space for a motorcyclist trying to lane split.
  4. Roadways can be hazardous – Traffic on the road is always unpredictable. The pavement can be uneven, drivers get distracted, there are wide trucks to deal with, the weather can change in an instant, the road can dip and curve in unexpected ways, etc. Be careful on the roadway.

When NOT to Lane Split

  • If you won’t fit
  • When lining up at a toll booth
  • When traffic is unpredictable or moving too quickly
  • If the road conditions are dangerous: road under construction, grit or water making the road slippery, metal grates, uneven pavement, etc.
  • If an SUV or van is blocking your view or you otherwise can’t see where you’re going clearly
  • Between wide vehicles like buses, trucks and RVs
  • When going through or around curves
  • When tired or not totally sure of your surroundings
  • If you’re not able to instantly react under changing conditions
  • When you aren’t feeling comfortable about the situation

Safety Tips for Those Driving Other Vehicles

  • Motorcyclists are legally allowed to lane split in California if done prudently and safely.
  • It is not right for a motorist to discourage or prevent a motorcyclist from lane splitting. For a motorist to intentionally impede or block a motorcyclist in a manner that could be harmful to the rider is against the law (CVC 22400).
  • Opening your car door to block a motorcycle is against the law (CVC 22517).
  • Do not get behind the wheel when distracted.
  • Check your mirrors and blind spots before turning or changing lanes
  • Use your turn signal before merging into traffic or changing lanes
  • Allow yourself more following distance, perhaps 3 to 4 seconds, when driving behind a motorcycle so it has ample time to maneuver or even stop if necessary.


  1. These guidelines are designed to keep you safer, but there is no guarantee that they will keep you totally safe because riding a motorcycle can be dangerous in the best of circumstances.
    Inexperienced riders should never lane split. These guidelines are meant for people with a great deal of riding experience and who are very competent riders.
  2. The recommendations provided in these general guidelines do not cover all possible scenarios on the road, as there are too many combinations of variables and situations to imagine.
  3. Every rider is personally responsible for their own decisions with regard to their safety. Riders should at all times, consciously try to reduce their risk of crashing. California law requires that all motorcyclists and their passengers wear a DOT FMVSS 218 compliant helmet.  
  4. Motorcycle riders who lane split are responsible for obeying all traffic laws; otherwise they risk getting a ticket. Regarding any law enforcement action, it is up to the Law Enforcement Officer to decide whether lane splitting is or was being done safely and prudently.

To a motorcycle accident attorney the injuries that can result from motorcycle accidents are routinely catastrophic; including, brain and spinal cord injuries; fractures; abrasions; internal and soft tissue injuries; and severe burn injuries.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a motorcycle accident and would like to speak with an attorney, please contact us.


Published on behalf of O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley LLP

Oakland, CA – On December 2, 2016 at around 11:20 p.m. the Ghost Ship warehouse in the Fruitvale community of Oakland, California became engulfed in flames. The Ghost Ship had been illegally converted into residential units, ultimately becoming a well-known artist collective. At the time the fire broke out there was an unpermitted concert being held by 100% Silk, a popular record label.

Tragically, 36 people lost their lives in the fire, which was the deadliest ever in the city of Oakland. In fact, it was the deadliest commercial building fire in the U.S. since the nightclub fire at The Station in 2003, the deadliest fire in California since the San Francisco earthquake in 1906 and the deadliest event in Oakland since the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989.

Concertgoers desperate to escape the fire were slowed down due to a very narrow staircase, a difficult path impeded by an array of large objects and furniture.

The concert was being held in a space frequently occupied by underground musicians. At the time of the fire, the crowd was enjoying a performance by electronic musicians. 

Survivors described suddenly being engulfed in a blast of heat and smoke and crawling to the only way out, which was a narrow makeshift staircase located near the dance floor.

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Derick Almena, the leaseholder of the warehouse, who rented units out to others, lived in the area with his family, a wife and three kids. They happened to be staying at a hotel that night.

According to resident Carmen Brito, the front stairway was only a ramp in certain places, with two very sharp turns onto two small landings, with one she described as being a large pallet. 

The Ghost Ship did have a back staircase, but no one knows if anyone used it when fleeing. If it had been used, the people wouldn’t have been anywhere near an exit.

Ms. Brito said she saw the fire starting near her loft. Fire investigators believe the fire started in the back of the warehouse.

The real question is why more people weren’t able to escape. Omar Vega, who owns the auto shop next door, said that the residents themselves built the front stairway. He said there used to be a conveyor belt in that spot when the building was actually a functioning warehouse.

Ghost Ship Fir Oakland
Photo Credit LA Times

No Direct Path From Stairway to Exit

People rushing down the front stairway would have found themselves in the communal living room of the warehouse, an area with no direct path to get out the front door.

To get to the front door one would have to take two sharp left turns and a right around three pianos before seeing the door and finding safety on the street.

Survivors said they were confused crawling on the floor trying to escape the thick smoke, while looking for the door. Fortunately, someone kept shouting the location of the door, which helped to save a lot of lives.

Ms. Brito described the path from the staircase to safety as being a maze. “I myself got lost the first time I tried to find my way to the door,” she said.

There were only a few interior walls in the building. Sleeping lofts and working areas were partitioned off with window sashes, furniture and pallets that one visitor described as forming a “tinderbox.”

Pianos and organs were placed all over the warehouse. Ms. Brito described how hard it was for someone who wasn’t familiar with the Ghost Ship to find the exit, even in the best of conditions. Survivors who spoke to reporters described how hard it was to navigate the twists and turns of just getting to the stairs, the difficulty getting down them and finding a way out.

Premises Liability

A property owner can be held liable (legally responsible) for accidents, injuries and deaths that befall a tenant or visitor to his or her property if it is proved that negligence on the owner’s part caused the accident, injury or death.

We at O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley have more than 50 years of experience handling all forms of litigation. We have an outstanding record of success representing our clients. If you or someone you love has suffered injury or death due to premises liability and would like to consult with an experienced premises liability attorney in the Bay Area, please contact us. We would be happy to discuss your case, answer your questions, and explain your legal rights and how you can protect them.

(Source: New York Times)

Published on behalf of O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley LLP

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