James Mitchell Waller, a former Westminster police chief and city manager, was killed in a bicycle accident in Laguna Beach June 28, 2013. According to The Laguna Beach Patch, Waller and his friend, Kevin Beach, were riding southbound toward the city on Laguna Canyon Road. California Highway Patrol officials say the collision occurred in the long, open stretch of the highway south of the 405 Freeway and north of the 73 toll road when a 25-year-old woman driving a Toyota Corolla swerved and struck them.
The Corolla’s driver was traveling at about 60 mph. Police are still trying to determine what caused the driver to swerve. Waller of Mission Viejo died at the scene while Beach was transported with serious injuries. Police do not suspect the involvement of drugs or alcohol. No arrests or citations were reported. The investigation is ongoing.
Bike Accident Statistics
There were no fatalities, but 13 injuries reported as a result of bicycle accidents in Laguna Beach, according to CHP’s 2010 Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS). During the same year, three people died and 1,187 were injured due to bike crashes in Orange County.
What Caused This Crash?
Based on this news report, it is unclear as to why the driver swerved and struck the two bicyclists, fatally injuring one and seriously injuring the other. There are several unanswered questions here. Was the driver under the influence? Was she distracted as the result of using a cell phone, texting or for any other reason? Did fatigue play a part in this crash? Did the driver lose control of the vehicle because she was traveling at an excessive rate of speed? I trust officials are looking into these and other issues in order to determine precisely what occurred here and why.
Fault and Liability
In such cases where negligence may be involved, families of deceased accident victims can file a wrongful death claim seeking compensation for medical and funeral costs, lost future income and benefits, loss of love and companionship and other damages. Injured victims can seek compensation to cover medical expenses, hospitalization costs, rehabilitation and pain and suffering.
A knowledgeable Orange County bicycle accident lawyer will also be able to determine whether a dangerous roadway condition caused or contributed to the accident. If that was the case, the city or governmental agency responsible for maintaining the roadway can be held liable. Please remember that any such claim against a public entity must be properly filed within 180 days of the incident.