A Fresh & Easy big rig hit and killed a child on a bicycle on Saturday.
The accident happened about 7:30 p.m. near the intersection of Alamo St. and Tapo St. in Simi Valley. Two boys, ages 12 and 8, were riding their bikes. A Fresh & Easy tractor trailer was pulling out of a nearby store parking lot when his truck struck the 12-year-old boy. The truck had just left a Fresh & Easy dock.
The boy was pronounced dead at the scene.
Police are still investigating the cause of the collision. It is not yet known whether police believe the truck driver or the bicyclist was at fault for the accident. The police could conclude that the driver and bicyclist each bear some fault for the accident.
The statement of the 8-year-old friend, as well as any other witnesses to the accident, will be critical in determining fault.
It is not yet being reported which direction the truck driver was turning as he exited the parking lot driveway, or whether the 12-year-old was riding his bike on the sidewalk or on the street when he was struck. In California, no statewide law prohibits riding a bicycle on a sidewalk. California Vehicle Code Section 21206 allows local governments to regulate the operation of bicycles on pedestrian facilities. Some cities, like Santa Monica, prohibit bicycle riding on sidewalks anywhere in the city. Other cities, like Long Beach, prohibit bicycle riding on sidewalks in business districts.
The reason that some California cities prohibit or otherwise regulate bicycle-riding on sidewalks is because, in general, riding on a sidewalk is more dangerous that riding on the roadway. A bicyclist on a sidewalk is at greater risk for being hit by a car exiting or entering a driveway. Why? Motorists aren't looking for anything on the sidewalk moving at more than 3-4 mph. Additionally, visual obstructions (trees and sign posts) often impede a motorist's view of what's approaching on a sidewalk, particularly something approaching at a fast clip from the motorist's right.
The Simi Valley Municipal Code prohibits bicycles with wheels 20" or more in diameter from being ridden upon city sidewalks, unless traffic engineering signage allows it. (Code Section 4-3.22). A 12-year-old bicyclist would likely be riding a bike with 20" diameter wheels or greater. Therefore, if the boy was riding his bike on the sidewalk when the tractor-trailer struck him, police, and the trucking company, will likely apportion some, if not all, fault on the bicyclist.
If the bicyclist was riding on the sidewalk opposite the flow of traffic, the trucking company will certainly try to use that additional fact against him in order to argue the big rig driver was not at fault. Up until recently, that argument would have carried weight. But a recent California Appellate Court decision held that a bicyclist riding on the sidewalk is not required to ride in the same direction as the flow of traffic. Spriesterback v. Holland, (2013) 13 S.O.S. 1789.
If it turns out that the 8-year-old was not just a friend, but a brother of the 12-year-old, then the 8-year-old may very well have a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress. The claim is called a "bystander claim." Under California law, bystander claims have three requirements:
- The family member must be closely related by blood or marriage to the injury victim;
- The family member must have been present at the scene of the injury when it happened and been aware that the victim was being injured; and
- The family member must have suffered serious emotional distress as a result of what they observed.
McGee, Lerer and Associates is a personal injury law firm specializing in catastrophic injury and wrongful death claims. Lawyers Daniel McGee and Catherine Lerer are a husband and wife team of accident attorneys with over 38 years of combined experience. We have four office locations to serve our clients:
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