Samuel Surles, 69, was killed in a San Bernardino motorcycle accident in Hesperia the morning of May 23, 2009, the San Bernardino Sun reports. Surles was riding a 2009 Harley Davidson motorcycle and had stopped for a red light at the intersection of Main and E streets in Hesperia. The driver of a 2001 Ford Explorer was stopped at the intersection as well. But as the light turned green, both drivers entered the intersection at the same time. The driver of the Explorer made a left turn in front of Surles causing him to crash into the front portion of the SUV. Surles was taken to an area hospital and was pronounced dead shortly afterward, according to San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department officials.
My heart goes out to the family of Samuel Surles for their sudden and tragic loss. I offer my deepest condolences to the motorcycle accident victim’s family and friends. Please keep them in your prayers.
According to California Highway Patrol’s 2007 Statewide Integrated Traffic Reporting System, there was one fatal motorcycle collision and seven personal injuries involving motorcycle accidents in Hesperia. In San Bernardino County as a whole, 28 fatalities and 627 injuries were reported as a result of motorcycle accidents in 2007.
If this newspaper report is accurate, it appears that the driver of the Ford Explorer was at fault for this fatal motorcycle-SUV accident because he failed to yield right-of-way to the motorcyclist. California Vehicle Code section 21801 (a) states the following requirements for drivers making a left turn or a U-turn: “The driver of a vehicle intending to turn to the left or to complete a U-turn upon a highway, or to turn left into public or private property, or an alley, shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles approaching from the opposite direction which are close enough to constitute a hazard at any time during the turning movement, and shall continue to yield the right-of-way to the approaching vehicles until the left turn or U-turn can be made with reasonable safety.”
Apparently, the driver of the Explorer failed to see the motorcyclist going straight through the intersection. In this case, the motorcyclist had the right of way. But the driver of the SUV did not yield. So he or she could be held liable for Surles’ fatal personal injuries. I trust police are looking into whether the driver was distracted, impaired or driving recklessly at the time of the accident.
Surles’ family would be well advised to retain the services of experienced California motorcycle accident lawyers, who will help determine the facts of this case and hold the negligent parties accountable for their actions. The family could file a wrongful death claim seeking damages for funeral expenses, loss of wages, loss of companionship and other related damages. Skilled motorcycle accident lawyers will also look into whether a dangerous condition at that intersection caused or contributed to this fatal motorcycle accident. If that was the case, the city or governmental agency responsible for maintaining that roadway could also be held liable. Please remember that any claim against a California governmental agency must be filed within six months of the accident/injury.