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California Assembly Passes Limousine Safety Bill

The McClellan Law Firm

The tragic limousine fire that killed five California women this past May (2013) has spurred the passage of a new safety bill designed to provide limousine passengers with added protection. The California Senate Majority Leader announced that the limousine safety bill, SB 109, was passed in the Assembly this week and will now go to the full Senate for approval.

Recalling the Tragic Events of the San Mateo Limousine Fire

The limousine fire that resulted in the deaths of a bride and four of her close friends was caused by a defective suspension system, which burst into flame while the rented vehicle was crossing the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge in the San Francisco Bay Area. The limousine fire turned fatal when several of the women were unable to escape through the one open rear door, which was blocked by flames and smoke.

While four of the passengers were able to escape through the partition that separated the passenger area from the driver, the five remaining—including 31 year-old bridge Neriza Fojas—were trapped inside the burning vehicle and died of smoke inhalation while trying to exit through the partition.

According to a 59-page report published by San Mateo authorities, there was no criminal activity involved in the accident. Neither the limo driver nor Limo Stop, the limousine company that owned the vehicle, will face criminal charges at this time. The company was fined $7,500, however, because the limo was carrying two additional passengers beyond the number of seatbelts in the vehicle.

How Would the Safety Bill Protect Limousine Passengers?

SB 109 would require California limousines to be equipped with two rear side doors and one or two rear windows capable of being pushed out in an emergency. The limousines would also be required to have such a door on each side of the vehicle. Some limos could be equipped with a push out window on the roof, depending on the specifications of the vehicle. If passed, the bill would mandate that all limos built after July 1, 2015 come equipped with this safety gear.

The tragic limo fire in May was caused by a mechanical failure that allowed friction to ignite the floor of the vehicle. When the seating area began to smoke, the women pounded on the glass to alert the driver. By the time the vehicle stopped, fire and smoke made the inside of the limo difficult to navigate. Soon, the fire raged out of control and the women left inside could not escape. Hopefully, the safety bill will help to prevent similar tragedies in the future.

Updated January 2016

SB 209 passed. Limousines in California are required to have an increased number of exit options: Two rear side doors, as well as one or more rear push-out windows. Limousine operators must also educate passengers regarding these safety features prior to a departure.

Contact a San Diego Limousine Accident Lawyer if You Were Injured

If you or someone close to you was hurt in an accident involving any type of chartered vehicle, don’t hesitate to examine your options from a legal perspective. Our attorneys can answer your questions in a free consultation. Get ahold of our office: Contact The McClellan Law Firm today.