Fatal Watsonville Bus Crash May Cost Santa Cruz Transit District $500K

-Posted On January 29, 2012 In Bus Accident-

A fatal bus crash in February 2010 has resulted in a lawsuit filed by the family of the deceased 79-year-old Watsonville man who was killed.  The Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District is now facing a $500,000 fine. First of all we extend our heartfelt condolences to the family of this elderly gentleman.

The victim of this fatal Watsonville bus crash, Salvador Lopez Chipres, was using his walker while crossing in a crosswalk near the Metro Center, on Rodriquez Street and West Lake Avenue, on February 4, 2010 when he was struck by the bus driver as she was making a left turn.  The bus driver, 57-year-old Mary Ellen Miller, was determined to be at fault by the police investigation because she “failed to yield the right of way to a pedestrian crossing within a marked crosswalk.”

While police reports are very often not the final word on liability, this report points out some very clear factors to consider. This would seem to be another example of a driver failing to keep a proper lookout. How could the driver have missed seeing a slowly walking pedestrian with a walker? In the crosswalk? Ms. Miller was most probably distracted by something or her mind was on something other than her driving. This pedestrian death is all the more frustrating because we expect that a bus driver who is a professional driver with extra training would pay more attention than the average driver. Why is this so rarely the case? Why do we have so many pedestrians run over by buses, particularly here in San Francisco?

ElderlyCrossing.jpgAs a San Francisco Bay Area Wrongful Death Attorney and Brain Injury Lawyer, I of course take cases such as these very seriously. This pedestrian collision caused Mr. Chipres a severe head injury nd, after a 2 month coma, death. The question to ask is could this pedestrian death have been avoided? I believe that this collision was predictable if the driver had but maintained a proper lookout. And if it is predictable, it is preventable. The Santa Cruz Transit District is being made accountable for this tragedy for a number of reasons:

  • Pedestrians in a cross walk usually have the right-of-way
  • Extra caution should be used with elderly people with walkers
  • This crosswalk was clearly marked and the bus driver failed to see it or to allow the pedestrian his safe passage
  • Chipres’ family spent at least $427,000 in medical, funeral and burial expenses

A potential wrongful death claimant should speak with lawyer who is experienced with the procedures involved in making the wrongful death claim itself as well as the nature and extent of the damages which can be recovered under California law.

Once again, my condolences go out to the Chipres family.

About the author: Claude Wyle is an aggressive advocate for Bay Area Mass Transit safety, particularly pedestrian safety. Claude has decades of experience representing those harmed by the wrongful conduct of others, and, as a San Francisco personal injury attorney, has fought to protect the rights of injured adults and children throughout his legal career.

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