If a pedestrian is struck while walking outside of a crosswalk, is the pedestrian automatically wrong? The answer is no. Is San Francisco the worst city for pedestrians? The answer may well be yes, if we look at the rash of recent pedestrian deaths here in San Francisco.
Unfortunately, I must once again report the death of another San Francisco pedestrian, this time a 25-year-old woman named Suzanne Monaco. Our sincerest condolences go out to her family and loved ones.
According to the San Francisco Police Department, on Sunday evening May 6th, Suzanne Monaco was struck and killed by a pickup truck traveling south on Masonic at around 5:20 p.m. while she was reportedly walking outside the crosswalk at Masonic and Euclid in this Laurel Heights neighborhood.
So, most people reading that story might conclude that if she was outside the crosswalk, that Ms. Monaco was automatically negligent and at fault. This is not necessarily true.
While I was not there and cannot say here whether this San Francisco pedestrian was behaving in a negligent manner, I can say that crossing mid block is not always illegal and pedestrians outside the crosswalk are often foreseeable to drivers on the road. Might this San Francisco pedestrian death have been avoidable if the pickup driver had maintained a better lookout? Might there be many pedestrians crossing mid block in Laurel Heights? Should this driver have seen her? Did this driver have the opportunity to stop in time, if he had been looking? Or was the pickup driver on a cell phone, checking texts or doing something else distracting? I am not casting accusations. I am only raising possibilities in the hope that Ms. Monaco will not be automatically judged too harshly and her death not be viewed as something automatically her fault.
As a San Francisco Pedestrian Accident Attorney, I see so many cases where the party who has been injured or killed has been automatically blamed, because of one factor seized upon by the police or the press. Then that party is judged by the public as at fault and a tragic and preventable death is dismissed. The truth is that many factors contribute to causing injury and sometimes death and often fault is shared between the parties involved.
My view is and has always been that if it is predictable, it's preventable.
So, who was at fault in this incident? Although the police closed the intersection for several hours to investigate, and the male driver remained on the scene, no arrest has been made. Does this mean the driver is not negligent? That conclusion is not for me to make here in this blog.
I personally do not think that a pedestrian is automatically completely at fault just because they may have been struck outside the crosswalk. Might she have been outside the crosswalk because she was trying to step away from the oncoming truck? Might she have been thrown out of the crosswalk by the impact with the truck? I would like to see a thorough investigation of this pedestrian fatality, and hope that the SFPD undertakes to give Ms. Monaco’s family the courtesy of a complete investigation into this tragic death.
I plan to include an article on Jaywalking and unmarked crosswalks in our site soon.
America Walks is a non-profit organization with 501(c)3 status dedicated to promoting walkable communities. In its mission as an advocate for the victims of traffic accidents, FindMyAccident has partnered with America Walks to protect pedestrians in California and across the United States.
If you would like an official copy of the police report, request a copy with this form.
About the author: Claude Wyle is an aggressive advocate for San Francisco and Bay Area pedestrians. 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.
Claude A. Wyle is a partner of Choulos Choulos, and Wyle, a San Francisco based law firm dedicated to representing clients who have been injured by the wrongful conduct of individuals, corporations, public entities, and businesses. Mr. Wyle also frequently sits as a Judge Pro Tem for the city and county of San Francisco.