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Boy struck by car while biking sues Palo Alto

Original post made on Aug 30, 2013

A 12-year-old boy who was critically injured on a Palo Alto bicycle boulevard last November has filed a lawsuit against the City of Palo Alto, its contractor, the driver who struck him, Izzy's Brooklyn Bagels (the driver's employer), and others, according to court papers.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, August 30, 2013, 9:29 AM

Comments (30)

Posted by best wishes, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 30, 2013 at 10:30 am

Best wishes to the victim. I hope that he is able to get the medical care that he needs, even if that requires lawsuits against the parties partly responsible for this collision.

Is it true that the driver was never charged with a crime, despite running down a bicyclist that was right in front of him?


Posted by commonsense, a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Aug 30, 2013 at 10:44 am

best wishes - charged with what, causing an ACCIDENT?


Posted by frustrated, a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 30, 2013 at 11:06 am

I am terribly sorry for what happened to the child, and I hope that he recovers. And if the family does not have sufficient insurance to cover the treatment, then that is another good case for solving our messed up medical insurance mess.
Now to the lawsuit.
I first want to ask when the once-truly-American concept of PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY got thrown out the window. Have we as a people gotten to the point where we do not think at all? Knives cut; plastic bags suffocate; fire burns; electricity shocks; bicycle riding on streets with cars is dangerous; and so on. When did it become society's responsibility to have to warn everyone to the common dangers of life? When did the parents no longer have to teach those things to their children?
"There were no signs to warn bicyclists of the danger ..." ??
Yes, children daydream, their attention wanders. We do try to protect them. But ACCIDENTS HAPPEN and society cannot be every child's parent nor can society be held responsible for everything bad that happens to anyone.
If it can be shown that the driver did something wrong, that he failed to take precautions that any normal person would be expected to do in those circumstances, then maybe there is some fault to be attached there. And if the only way to deal with that is a lawsuit, well, that is unfortunate but sadly the way of things in the USofA these days.
But to blindly "sue them all! someone else is at fault!" has got to stop.

Sigh ... All done now.


Posted by Marta, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 30, 2013 at 11:25 am

I feel bad for the situation, and specifically the boy that has to deal with this.

However, what's problematic is the lawsuit strategy of forcing the parties to pay. They have named anyone and everyone, here; whatever sticks to see who is afraid enough to settle out of court. The system is sick, and at some point this legal way of settling things needs to be fixed. In this country anyone can sue any one else for whatever reason they pleases. The plaintiffs should at least be responsible for everyone's legal costs in case of frivolous lawsuits.


Posted by sallyann, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 30, 2013 at 11:27 am

What about the personal responsibility of driving an SUV with a suspended licence at 35 mph in a residential area with roadworks when you ADMIT you can't see because the sun is in your eyes? It wasn't the victim's fault! It's a kid riding his bike to school at 7.20am! So yes, until innocent victims can get correctly compensated for their pain and suffering, sue the lot of them because someone else is clearly clearly at fault here.


Posted by Brian, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 30, 2013 at 11:29 am

"If it can be shown the driver did something wrong...." What is not wrong with hitting another vehicle (the bicyclist). The vehicle in the front has the right of way. The cyclist was hit from behind. It is every motorists responsibility to have control of their vehicle. If you can't see while driving into the sun you shouldn't be driving. If you make an honest mistake, which we all do, you should be willing to except the consequences.

The city was sued because it has the deepest pockets. I disagree with this mentality but if there was construction in the area (which it sounds like there was) often the cyclist is pushed out into traffic to make room for the Caution or Lane Marking signs. Very ironic and sad.

Being a cyclist AND driver I see this situation very often. It would not be hard to redesign the signs to take up less space but it will not happen unless there is financial motivation. Maybe a few lost lawsuits will instigate change.


Posted by Donald, a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 30, 2013 at 11:32 am

From earlier reports, the fault was entirely the driver's and the boy did nothing wrong. The driver had a suspended license, was speeding with the sun in his eyes, and he swerved into the bike lane and struck the boy.

frustrated said "bicycling on streets with cars is dangerous", which is true because we allow drivers who run over bicyclists to get away with no penalties. If we got serious about holding drivers responsible for their actions then the streets would be a whole lot safer for bicyclists.


Posted by skeptic, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 30, 2013 at 11:46 am

I don't see how the city is responsible for the accident, but they do have much deeper pockets than Hau or Izzy's Bagels. Good luck finding a PA jury willing to dip into the city's coffers for this frivolous lawsuit. I guess the family is hoping for a generous settlement.


Posted by Dan, a resident of Southgate
on Aug 30, 2013 at 12:11 pm

My condolences to this boy's family for his injuries, but asking their fellow citizens for $17M is just plain greed.


Posted by perspective, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 30, 2013 at 1:04 pm

@skeptic,
I would have felt like you, until we witnessed what has happened with the Maybell rezoning, and how the City completely abrogated all responsibility to review the impacts to the safety of the children walking and biking to school from a major development right along the only routes to 4 local schools.

The Council was reminded ad nauseum of the City policy of "heightened scrutiny" of developments along commute routes, but it made no difference, they want the development and don't want something as inconvenient as an official look at seriously overburdened infrastructure with known safety problems to muck it up.

The City designates safe routes to school (it's why it promises such heightened scrutiny) which are heavily advertised to the kids, promises to put safety first in the transportation element, the kids are constantly pushed and encouraged to take their bikes to school -- the City does have responsibilities. From what I witnessed in the Maybell situation, they aren't minding the store. Neighbors in the vicinity of Maybell have been belittled for even bringing up the safety concerns on a street that has over a thousand kids on foot and bike daily, with heavy traffic and not even enough room for a regular full-width bike lane or sidewalk.

I also think you have to take the $17million with a grain of salt. Injury suits have short time limits to file, there's no way to wait until a few years have passed and everyone knows how the child will recover. They have to make a guess, and figure what will compensate the child for medical care and possible permanent disability for the rest of his life. And cover the attorney costs. I think in these cases, the injured person is rarely even made whole financially even with a large recovery.


Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 30, 2013 at 1:05 pm

This is such a sad tragedy.

Universal health insurance is only the real solution to this kind of tragedy.

That the city and all Palo Altan's must pay damages for something that ( and I don't mean to be disrespectful but from the story I read ) was an accident and caused by the boy riding in the wrong place in front of a car that should have seen him but did not is not just. The driver of the car was shared partial fault with the bicycle rider. We end up with lots of ridiculous claims and no standard for justice or care, the worst of all worlds.

Rather than have to sue someone, it is just much better to have universal health care that will not rely on how good your lawyers are or how at fault those responsible were, or even if they were.


Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 30, 2013 at 1:09 pm

what is someone supposed to do if they are low income and there is no one rich to sue?

sallyann - the driver plainly is not going to ever be able to afford to pay a large settlement since he did not have insurance.

the solution to this that is fair to everyone is universal health care, and as a benefit the whole medical system which is now another big disgrace to America would get better.


Posted by Brian, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 30, 2013 at 1:24 pm

@ CresentParkAnon - How was the boy riding in the wrong place. Because he was on the street? If so, that is were he should have been. Until people realize bikes are not supposed to be on the sidewalk people will continue to get run over by people that do not understand the law. Bicycles are cars in the view of the law. Give us room!!!!


Posted by Dan, a resident of Southgate
on Aug 30, 2013 at 1:49 pm

The details of this incident haven't been in the Weekly for a while, but as I recall (some of this in my inference from the vague original article): there was construction project going on, a sign or equipment was placed so it blocked the designated bike path, the boy swerved out of the bike path to avoid the object and into the car portion of the roadway. The minivan was probably right behind him when he swerved out. An accident. No great villains. I do think there should be some kind of rule and training of construction workers to not place giant signs blocking the entire bike path. However, I'd urge the City to continue to not offer a settlement, as I don't think the plaintiff has a case.


Posted by no charge., a resident of Greater Miranda
on Aug 30, 2013 at 2:03 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by Me, too, a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Aug 30, 2013 at 2:18 pm

Something similar happened to me a couple of decades ago. I was biking to school and was hit by an unlicensed, uninsured foreign driver.

I had big medical bills I could not afford, and this driver was pretty well off, though irresponsible. I got a lawyer ( not cheap) and sued to pay my bills and get physical therapy. I won, easily.

However, the driver filed for bankruptcy, and never paid. Then he returned to Saudi Arabia. I was 24 years old by this time, and my life was ruined.

So, you see, you can sue, you can win, but you cannot make them pay!


Posted by Donald, a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 30, 2013 at 3:27 pm

The original article (July 13) said that the boy had left the (blocked) bike lane to go around the construction and had just moved back into the bike lane when he was struck. The driver was in the bike lane at the time of the collision. Driving in a bike lane was one of his violations that the DA chose not to pursue.

What good are bike lanes when they are full of parked cars, blocked by construction, and drivers are allowed to go into them and run people over with no consequences?


Posted by Nora Charles, a resident of Stanford
on Aug 30, 2013 at 4:33 pm

Posted by frustrated, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, 5 hours ago

I am terribly sorry for what happened to the child, and I hope that he recovers. And if the family does not have sufficient insurance to cover the treatment, then that is another good case for solving our messed up medical insurance mess.

Now to the lawsuit.

I first want to ask when the once-truly-American concept of PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY got thrown out the window. Have we as a people gotten to the point where we do not think at all? Knives cut; plastic bags suffocate; fire burns; electricity shocks; bicycle riding on streets with cars is dangerous; and so on. When did it become society's responsibility to have to warn everyone to the common dangers of life? When did the parents no longer have to teach those things to their children?

"There were no signs to warn bicyclists of the danger ..." ??

Yes, children daydream, their attention wanders. We do try to protect them. But ACCIDENTS HAPPEN and society cannot be every child's parent nor can society be held responsible for everything bad that happens to anyone.

If it can be shown that the driver did something wrong, that he failed to take precautions that any normal person would be expected to do in those circumstances, then maybe there is some fault to be attached there. And if the only way to deal with that is a lawsuit, well, that is unfortunate but sadly the way of things in the USofA these days.

But to blindly "sue them all! someone else is at fault!" has got to stop.

Sigh ... All done now.
-------------

Beautifully said, frustrated. Personal responsibility seems to have gone with the wind.


Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Aug 30, 2013 at 7:37 pm

@Me Too,

You said: "I got a lawyer ( not cheap)", so I assume the lawyer got paid. True?


Posted by Louise68, a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 30, 2013 at 10:25 pm

That poor, dear boy! I really hope that he makes a full recovery. My heart goes out to him and his whole family.

However:
Riding a bike on streets where the only protection from +2,000-pound cars, trucks, etc., is a painted line is dangerous beyond belief! Neither parents not schools have any business pushing children into riding bicycles to and from school, instead of walking. Or, better yet: don't we really need to bring back school buses, or provide some form of safe transportation to and from school for our precious children?

And I agree that universal health care is a must -- Medicare for all. That would help that boy's family, at least financially.


Posted by Unsafe, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 31, 2013 at 12:03 am

Palo Alto is generally an unsafe city to bicycle from one end to the other. Whether its going down El Camino or Alma, the routes are very unsafe.

Los Altos, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Cupertino, and Santa Clara all have safe ways for bicyclists to travel from one end of the city to the other.

In Palo Alto, there is no bike lane on El Camino nor on Alma, and the right lanes on Alma are very small.


Posted by Donald, a resident of Professorville
on Aug 31, 2013 at 3:32 pm

Louise68, you seem to have drunk the Koolaid of the "incompetent driver" crowd. These people believe that drivers are incapable of controlling their vehicles and will always weave around on the road and run over pedestrians and bicyclists, and that we should accept that and plan for it. Of course if that is what you expect, that is what you get, but it is not necessary. Other countries hold drivers to much higher standards and get better drivers as a result, with car-bike crash rates 30 times less than ours.


Posted by ndnorth, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 31, 2013 at 5:44 pm

Just one comment and it's about "being suddenly blinded by the glare of the sun in your eyes". I was involved in an accident as a passanger. The other car crashed frontally against our.Our car was totalled and there were injuries. The other car's driver said he had been suddenly blinded by the glare of the sun in his eyes. I accepted that explanation. It's absurd to me to say that if the sun glare impares your vision you shouldn't drive. That would be the case if the glare was extensive and for a long stretch, just like thick fog. But with trees and tree leaves you may be fine and suddenly you are in a glare area, next to a perfectly fine area, and so on, suddenly. What is there to do? Stop suddenly on the highway and wait maybe hours until the glare disappears putting at risk yourself and any car behind you? So if you are sun blinded for 1 second and get into an accident because of it how could you have avoided it? You couldn't.
The young boy doesn't seem to have been at fault, though he could have been if for example, he moved suddenly left or right without making
a signal in good time. The driver, despite his driving record may not have been at fault. We don't know if his explanation is true.Maybe the other parties are responsible maybe not. Maybe his parents are also responsible. I see so many kids doing dangerous and/or ilegal maneuvers that's a miracle more accidents don't happen. 12 year olds rarely have the experience and judgement necessary for traffic (that's why they are not allowed to drive cars). What this means is that we need health care for all, and a provision for reasonable compensation.


Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 31, 2013 at 10:58 pm

Brian:
> @ CresentParkAnon - How was the boy riding in the wrong place.

Brian, I don't mean to be mean, but he was in the wrong place, and not watching out. Maybe he was not competent to ride a bike, but that makes him partially responsible for his accident. I don't say that for any other reason than this is how the law looks at things.

The driver who was driving irresponsibly was mainly to blame, and I did not mean to absolve or ignore his responsibility, sorry if that is how you interpreted my post.

My post was mainly to say that socially, the lawsuit game is a crappy way to see that people who need permanent medicare get it. I would much rather see the costs of medical care covered for everyone by universal health care where it would not matter if a rich or poor person or no one at all was responsible for a major health problem and we all have a strong incentive to try to make things safer and less expensive for all of us.

The kid driving sounded like he has no business driving a car to me. Trying to push this off onto Izzy's does not sound reasonable, and I don't think it is the City Of Palo Alto's fault either.


Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 31, 2013 at 11:04 pm

ndnorth ... if one is driving one needs to be thinking about something like glare or whatever obscuring their view momentarily and not be traveling faster than they can project forward in time if it did happen.

The same thing - people drive and they pay zero attention to the two-second rule on the freeway, or as I think they are calling it now since now one does it, the three-second rule ... as if that will help.

When one behaves in a way that is safe, the bad drivers go running in and make a fool of them - that is one of the major problems on the road. The people who up the tension level and lower the reaction time for everyone are the bad drivers, but they just usually make other people get into accidents, and when they themselves get involved in an accident they don't really have to pay a price.

If we wanted to be sensible about traffic regulations we would be stricter, and fine people in accordance with their incomes in order to motivate them not to break the law like they do in Sweden. The US is just plain not really interested in enforcing any law, except as a way to punish, herd and keep track of working people and the poor.


Posted by Donald, a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 1, 2013 at 8:15 am

The boy was in the bike lane and was struck from behind. How is that "riding in the wrong place, and not watching out"? Why do people continue to blame the victim when the police and DA have indicated that he did nothing wrong and that the driver broke a half-dozen laws? I don't like the idea of suing everyone in sight, but when the DA won't even prosecute violations of our anemic laws, it leaves injured party little recourse.


Posted by Palo alto resident, a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 1, 2013 at 10:07 pm

I hope the boy recovers. I have a son the same age. Why the law suite? What kind of citizen needs 17 m? [Portion removed]


Posted by perspective, a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 1, 2013 at 10:33 pm

Now that I have seen how bicycling is so pushed in the schools, and so much is made of the "safe routes", as well as what a back seat safety takes to so many other development concerns in this town, and how there is no overarching "safety first" ethos at City Hall, I'm actually sympathetic to the view that the City may be negligent. They're being absolutely, foreseeably negligent at Maybell. I wouldn't at all be surprised if City policies or negligent failure to follow them was a factor. We shall see.


Posted by Teach Safety, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 2, 2013 at 9:16 pm

Just teach our children the good ways to safety issues; and our Drivers Must look out very carefully!


Posted by Robit noops, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 3, 2013 at 2:06 pm

It isnt a sue everybody mentallity. It is a fact that medical bills will be hundreds of thousands of dollars that insurance will probably not cover. The figures people sue for are usually huge figures because they will end up settling for lower numbers.

I drive on that street all the time, and I have never had a problem hitting a pedestrian?

The driver wasn't charged even though he had a suspended license and crystal meth in his system. That is a crime in itself.


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