Michael Valenzuela, 18, was killed in a bicycle crash in Palmdale after a school bus struck his bike. According to a CBS Los Angeles news report, the fatal collision occurred the afternoon of March 25, 2013 at the intersection of East Avenue R and 55th Street East in Palmdale. Officials say Valenzuela was riding his bike across the street to soccer practice when he was hit by the school bus carrying 47 kindergarten through eighth grade children from a local school. Valenzuela was transported to an area hospital where he was pronounced dead. No one in the bus was injured. Friends described Valenzuela as a soccer aficionado who was friendly and funny.
The California Highway Patrol's 2010 Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS) data shows that were no fatalities, but 23 injuries reported as a result of bicycle accidents in Palmdale. In Los Angeles County, 25 people died and 4,201 were injured due to bicycle collisions during the same year.
Who Had the Right-of-Way?
Based on this news report, it appears that the collision occurred at a street intersection that is monitored by a two-way stop sign. While traffic on East Avenue R is required to stop, the traffic on 55th Street East is not. According to California Vehicle Code Section 21200, bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers of other vehicles.
The Vehicle Code requires motorists and bicyclists to come to a full stop at a stop sign. According to California Vehicle Code Section 21802 (a): "The driver of any vehicle approaching a stop sign at the entrance to, or within, an intersection shall stop as required by Section 22450. The driver shall then yield the right-of-way to any vehicles which have approached from another highway, or which are approaching so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard, and shall continue to yield the right-of-way to those vehicles until he or she can proceed with reasonable safety."
Fault and Liability
In this case, if the school bus driver is determined to have been at fault, the bus driver, his or her employer and the school district can be held liable. If a dangerous roadway condition caused or contributed to the incident, the city or governmental agency responsible for maintaining the roadway can also be held liable. Where negligence or wrongdoing is involved, families of deceased crash victims can file a wrongful death claim seeking compensation for damages. An experienced Los Angeles personal injury attorney will be able to better advise victims and families in such cases regarding their legal rights and options.