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California motorcycle hit-and-run case affected by alcohol test

Vehicular accidents can be complex. There may be damage to the vehicles involved, and maybe to surrounding property, as well as injuries to those in the vehicles and also to pedestrians. The fault for many cases can seem clear, while in other cases it gets complicated. The latter is true in a motorcycle accident case in California.

A firefighter, 43, was driving the fire truck when he hit a motorcyclist, 49. The accident occurred last summer at the corner of Howard and Fifth; the motorcyclist was severely injured. Unfortunately, the firefighter fled the scene. He was spotted guzzling a container of water shortly after at a nearby bar.

It was two hours later before he returned to his station. When he did, an in-house breathalyzer was used to test his blood alcohol content twice. The result was 0.13 percent. That is substantially above the legal limit for driving, which is 0.08 percent.

However, others at the station say the firefighter did not seem to be impaired. Additionally, there are questions about whether the machine used to administer the test was properly calibrated and if it was done at the time by a competent administrator. Also, results from Fire Department machines have not been used in court before.

All of these factors throw the firefighter's condition at the time into doubt. Further, at a hearing about whether the firefighter's license should be revoked, a toxicologist testified that it wasn't possible to prove that the firefighter was drunk. So, he was able to retain his license.

This motorcycle accident case has a variety of issues, including sorting out the possible negligence on the firefighter's part. Other California cases will have their own unique elements that affect liability. If the firefighter is found liable in a civil suit for negligence, the city fire department may have their own legal liabilities to deal with.

Source: SFGate, "Firefighter's alcohol test blurs motorcycle hit-run case" Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross, Feb. 16, 2014

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