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Fatal Santa Clarita Motorcycle Accident


Michael Douglas De St. Jean, 39, was killed in a Los Angeles car accident after a van struck his motorcycle at a street intersection. According to a news report in The Signal, the fatal motorcycle accident occurred the evening of May 17, 2012 at the intersection of Rutherford Place and Decoro Drive in North Valencia. De St. Jean was traveling eastbound on Decoro Drive when his motorcycle collided with a Penske van that was making a turn from northbound Rutherford to westbound Decoro. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene. The investigation is ongoing.

Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to the family and many friends of Michael Douglas De St. Jean, who will mourn this loss.

Motorcycle Accident Statistics

According to California Highway Patrol’s statistics, five motorcyclists have been killed on Santa Clarita Valley streets just since January 1, 2012. In 2010, 361 people died and about 11,000 were injured as a result of motorcycle accidents in California. Officials say that the three leading causes of motorcycle accidents in California are unsafe speed, improper turning and failure to yield the right-of-way. Also, CHP statistics show that more than 1 million motorcycle riders are registered in California.

Right-of-Way Issues

Based on this news account, it is not clear precisely how or why the collision occurred. The intersection of Decoro Drive and Rutherford Place is a T-intersection with motorists on Rutherford Place requiring to stop and yield the right-of-way to traffic on Decoro. It is not clear if the driver of the Penske van failed to stop at the stop sign or if the driver failed to yield the right-of-way to the motorcyclist.

California law requires drivers to come to a complete stop at a stop sign and proceed with caution. 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

If the driver of the van is determined to have been at fault, he or she can be held liable for De St. Jean’s wrongful death. If the driver of the van was on the job at the time, his or her employer can also be held liable. A knowledgeable Los Angeles personal injury lawyer will be able to determine if a dangerous roadway or intersection caused or contributed to the incident. If that was the case, the city or governmental agency responsible for maintaining the roadway can be held liable. Under California Government Code Section 911.2, any personal injury or wrongful death claim against a governmental entity must be filed within 180 days of the incident.

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