Modesto Area Car Accident: Negligence To Blame In Wrongful Death Of Child

January 12, 2014

On Christmas Eve 2013, a 9 year old Manteca Girl was died as a result of a car accident in Escalon, California, just north of Modesto. As reported by the Modesto Bee, nine year old Mariah Izzo of Manteca, California suffered fatal injuries when the Toyota Rav-4 in which she was riding with her aunt at the wheel was rear ended at 35 MPH by another driver, after the light at which they were stopped turned green. Although alcohol and drugs have been ruled out as a contributing factor to the cause of this crash, a determination of the actual cause has yet to be made. It seems, however, that this collision is of a type that could have been avoided by the exercise of due care. The family is devastated which can be sensed in the video posted on youtube celebrating the life of Mariah Izzo.

Family Raising Money To Pay For Her Death And Medical Expenses

Notwithstanding any legal remedies the family might have, they are being proactive with trying to offset the costs associated with her death and medical intervention. If you would like to donate you can find the link here to GoFundMe. The typical funeral cost between $8,000 and $10,000 in California. In addition we have seen medical bill running into the hundreds of thousands of dollars in cases not leading to death. Depending on what type of medical intervention was done here will dictate the amount of the bills. But promise you this, they are not cheap.

Wrongful Death and Negligence In California

In California civil law, the term of art we use for a lawsuit for a death of a loved one is called a Wrongful Death Lawsuit. Wrongful Death can be based in many theories of law, but int his case it appears to be based in a Negligence Theory. Civil law dictates that the a negligent party can be held liable for Wrongful Death. In order to prove Negligence, a plaintiff must show that a duty owed by the defendant was breached, and that the breach was both an actual as well as the proximate cause of their loss. The purpose of a wrongful death action is to compensate survivors of the departed, deter future wrongful conduct, and to define which damages are recoverable. In other words, if negligence is proven by preponderance of the evidence in a civil suit for Wrongful Death, then the survivors who bring the lawsuit can be compensated for such loss. The amount of compensation depends on the value of such life as determined by the parties or the jury. The problem is that a child's life is much more difficult to put a value on and therefore generally receive less recovery than an adult whose life value is much more easily calculated.

Calculating Damages For Death Of Child In California For Wrongful Death

It is easier to calculate the monetary loss of an adult whose death was caused by the negligence of another in California. The family of an adult who has died and bring suit for Wrongful Death, the family can calculate how much economic benefit the of that now deceased member. They know how much money that person made from their job and potentially how much that person could bring over their lifetime. A child who sues for the wrongful death of their parent can allege loss of support, guidance, care, love and income of the deceased parent.

Compare this to the loss of a child. The parents of a child who had died at the result of the negligence of another is limited in their recovery for a wrongful death lawsuit. The law does not leave the potential negligent party unaccountable. The parents of a child can bring a Wrongful Death lawsuit against a negligent party who causes the death of their child. In a wrongful death action involving the death of a minor child, there are two categories of damages which may be recoverable. The first of those two categories is 1) economic damages which include loss of future financial support, loss or benefits or gifts from the departed, funeral and burial expenses, as well as the value of household services the departed would have provided. The second category is 2) non-economic damages which account for the loss of the child's love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society and moral support. As illustrated in the Modesto Bee's story about Mariah's life and tragic death, the value of her existence was priceless to her family.

The law provides no recourse for the deep pain that the Izzo's are undoubtedly feeling. Yet, this beautiful and vibrant soul has left a legacy, not only in the hearts and memories of her loved ones, but also for recipients of organs donated by her family.

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Car Accident Near Modesto Kills Young Woman

March 27, 2013

Hitting the Road
As the spring weather heats up, more and more Modesto and Stockton families and 'weekend warriors' will be 'hitting the road' to their respective recreational destinations. Unfortunately, some of these families will be injured in an car accident. As traffic increases along with the seasonal temperatures, so too does the risk of being involved in vehicle collisions which may cause personal injury. These circumstances necessitate enhanced vigilance with regard to road safety by those behind the wheel or otherwise on the road. Driving defensively and maintaining constant awareness of one's surroundings while driving greatly decreases the risk of being involved in an accident. The following tips should prove helpful:


  • Maintaining an appropriate distance from the car ahead

  • Ensuring that lane changes and turns are made only when it is completely safe

  • Avoiding driving while under the influence of alcohol, drugs or heavy medication

  • No driving when suffering from exhaustion or fatigue

  • Eliminating driving distractions such as eating smoking and cell phone use.


Tips like these and more can be found at the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA)

Your Rights as a Victim of Negligence
However, in the event that a person does find themselves in such an unfortunate circumstance, they may have means of recourse in a Personal Injury Attorney (through Civil Litigation). In vehicle collisions, as well as other accidents (incidents) involving negligence, wrongdoers and negligent parties may be held accountable through the Civil Justice System. Negligence involves the breach of a duty which causes damages or injuries to innocent parties. In the following case, The Modesto Bee reports that a 31 year old Murphy's Woman crashed head-on into a tree in an attempt to avoid a deer. At a glance, any negligence would appear to be absent from the case, yet, upon further investigation or discovery as it is called in Civil Litigation, facts may be revealed to show not only that the driver was not at fault, but that another entity (aside from the deer, of course) may be at fault.

Hypothetically, the area surrounding French Gulch Road in Sonora, a rural and moderately forested area, may have a dense deer population, which arguably presents a hazard to drivers. Such a hazard could be considered a dangerous condition, and a failure to warn drivers on the part of the entity with domain over it, could impute liability.

Governmental Liability
In all likelihood, the road in the case mentioned above is maintained by a government entity, an issue which presents its own legal hurdles. There is a possibility that the road was not maintained correctly or the government failed to warn drivers of known hazards. For example a deer crossing waring sign is an example of when the government properly warns drivers of dangerous conditions. deer crossing blog post.jpgA person with a potential civil claim against a local government entity, for instance, must comply with the California Government Tort Claims Act (Government Code §814, et Seq.) or The Federal Tort Claims Act. The time limits and procedural requirements under which a lawsuit subject to these regulations are very strict. For example, in order to sue Stanislaus County or Modesto, or one of their employees, the complainant must first file a claim with the local government entity concerned. Under California Law, such local claims must be filed within 6 months of the harm to the complainant, without fail. In the event the claim is not filed under these deadlines, the injured party may not proceed to file a civil lawsuit. Once the government entity has received the claim, it has 45 days to either honor or deny the claim, and in the event of a denial the injured party must adhere to another 6 month time constraint within which the civil claim must be filed with the Superior Court. Again, failure to adhere to the time limitations at this juncture eliminates the complainant's ability to recover through litigation.

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U.S. Judge In California Approves 1.1 Billion Dollar Class Action Settlement Against Toyota

December 30, 2012

Class Action Settlement

As a Modesto personal injury lawyer, this writer was all ears when he was informed that Toyota was settling a class action lawsuit for 1.1 billion dollars. The settlement may be the largest ever against an automaker according to attorneys representing some of the plaintiff's. file5001254688763.jpgA U.S. judge in Santa Ana, California granted preliminary approval on December 28, 2012 to Toyota's $1.1 billion settlement of a class-action lawsuit. The lawsuit was brought by Toyota owners who claimed they lost value on their cars due to unexpected, sudden and unintended acceleration. U.S. District Judge James Selna has scheduled a hearing in June of 2013 regarding the final approval of this settlement.

Millions Of Automobiles Covered
According to class action court papers there are over millions of Toyota brand automobiles covered by the settlement, including Toyota, Lexus and Scion vehicles sold in the United States between 1998 to 2010. Toyota has maintained in press releases previously and continue to maintain that actual gas pedal electronics are not at fault, but blame poor fitting floor mats. In addition, a study commissioned by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and NASA found no link between alleged reports of unintended acceleration and Toyota's gas peddle electronics.

Wrongful Death and Personal Injury Cases Not Included
This settlement does not affect the over 300 wrongful death and personal injury claims stemming from allegations of sudden acceleration which caused injury or death to persons. This writer of this blog although fascinated by the billion dollar settlement by Toyota is more interested in the outcome of the 300 plus personal injury lawsuits against Toyota.

The lawsuits against Toyota were consolidated in federal court and put into one of two categories (1) economic loss from falling car value and (2) wrongful death or personal injury claims. The settlement deals only with the first category and not the wrongful death or personal injury claims. Those other claims are still moving forward through the court system.

Since Toyota is not making an admissions of wrongdoing related to this issue, these lawsuits are likely to proceed, unless Toyota settles the personal injury suits, which this writer is doubtful. Toyota will most likely want a jury to decide actual liability related to the wrongful death and personal injury portions of the lawsuits.

As readers of this blog are familiar, in the California Supreme Court case of Greenman v. Yuba Power Products, Inc. (1963) 59 Cal. 2d 57, made it easier for injured parties to recover for products that cause injury to them. Previous to this case, the plaintiff had to prove that the product was negligently produced in order to recover for damages caused by a product. This case makes manufacturer's of products strictly liable for injuries cased by their products. Plaintiff's who are residents of California will be arguing for the strict liability rules for products should be applied to their lawsuits against Toyota.

It's not going to be an easy win for plaintiff's in the personal injury lawsuits. The plaintiff's still have the burden of proof to prove that the product is in fact defective which in turn caused the injury or death. This writer assumes there will be experts from both sides, the plaintiff and Toyota regarding the defect or lack of defect in the Toyota gas pedal. In addition, Toyota will surely argue that their product did not cause the injury at all and that it was caused by human error or other cause which the jury could find Toyota not liable.

If found liable, it could prove to be very costly for Toyota. If not found liable, the Toyota can put this issue behind them and move forward. The problem is the legal battle is far from over and the issue of liability will not be settled anytime soon.


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Dog Bite Liability & Halloween

October 28, 2012

Every year my family participates in Halloween from our Modesto home. We also have a dog in our family so I wanted to post a blog entry about Halloween and dog safety. Halloween can be fun for kids and parents alike. Dressing up like ghosts, pirates, zombies as well as princesses or cowboys can be exciting. Thumbnail image for trick or treaters.jpgHalloween can make some dogs nervous and anxious. When dogs normally protect the home from intruders, the dog owner would applaud them. A family dog confronted by a masked child is a receipt for disaster. A well meaning dog trying to protect the owner by biting that masked stranger can be costly to the dog owner, especially when that masked stranger is an 8 year old child.

Dog Statistics

According to a 2011-2012 APPA National Pet Owners Survey 62% of U.S. households own a pet. dog.jpgOf those homes with pets, there are 46.3 million homes in the United States with a least one dog. The Centers for Disease Control reports that more than 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs each year. The CDC also reveals that of those 4.7 million people, 800,000 of them seek medical treatment for those bites and half of those seeking treatment are children. There are more than 386,000 people that require medical treatment in an emergency room from dog bite injuries. Sadly, 16 people die each year from dog bites in the United States. Children are the most at risk for injury, specifically those children between the ages of 5 to 9. About 2/3 of the injuries to children ages 4 and younger are to the head and neck region.

Insurance Payouts

According to a press release by State Farm Insurance, one of the nation's largest home insurers, they paid more than $109 million on about 3,800 dog bite claims nationwide in 2011. The Insurance Information Institute (III) estimates that nearly $479 million in dog bite claims were paid by all insurance companies in 2011. In California alone there were 527 State Farm dog bite claims and 20.3 million dollars in payouts.

California Strict Liability Law

Under the scenario where the child is bitten by a dog while trick or treating, the dog owner is liable for any injuries caused by the dog. Under California Civil Code § 3342 a dog owner is strictly liable for injuries caused by their dog. That means that even when the dog is normally gentle and calm, when that calm easy going dog bites someone, the owner is on the hook for the damages caused by their dog. There are few exeptions and limited defenses. But at the end of the day, the dog owner would be liable if their dog bit a trick or treater, and that is the point of this blog post.

Halloween Tips For Dog Owners

  • Keep dogs indoors and away from the front door where trick or treaters knock
  • If you want to have your dog near the door to greet visitors, keep them on leash
  • Keep a firm grip on the leash; many dogs are frightened by people in costumes
  • Many dogs will run after trick-or-treaters so be sure to put up a gate to prevent escape
  • Place your dog in a quiet room especially if you dog is aggressive or is anxious
  • If the animal is very high-strung, consult your vet about tranquilizing for the night
  • Give the dog a new chew toy to keep them occupied
  • Play music or leave a TV or radio playing in the dog's room to help mask Halloween sounds
  • Close drapes so that the dog does not see people coming and going through the window
  • Try to watch and anticipate trick or treaters so they don't ring your door bell or knock on the door

Tips For Trick or Treaters

In addition from taking precautions at home to prevent your dog from biting trick or treaters, it is equally important that you take precautions to prevent dogs from biting your own children. The main thing to remember is that Halloween can make dogs unpredictable so children should be aware of that fact. Here are some additional tips:

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Car Accident Near Modesto: 1 Child Dead

September 1, 2012

In a horrific tragedy, a child was killed in a car accident 30 miles north of Modesto in Stockton, California. The accident occurred on Highway 4, known as the "cross town freeway" which connects Highway 99 and Interstate 5 in Stockton.

The name of the child was not released nor would it be blogged here anyhow. In any event, local news outlets such as the Stockton Record and News 10 in Sacramento have reported two children were in the back seat of a Ford Fusion which was hit from behind by a two truck traveling the same direction on Eastbound Highway 4. Once child, a toddler was killed and the other was placed in critical condition as of Friday night. The California Highway Patrol has also reported that the tow truck driver was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The tow truck company is out of Manteca, California, which is located between Modesto and Stockton.

This accident will surely lead to a civil liability on behalf of the two truck driver and the company for whom he works. In light of this tragic event, it is still important to review the legal principles behind accidents such as this.

Negligence
Again as written in previous blog entries, negligence is the failure to exercise the care that a reasonably person would under the same circumstances. The question is whether the driver of the tow truck acted as other drivers would under the same circumstances. To prove the tow truck driver civilly liable under a negligence theory the plaintiff must prove (1) The driver owed a duty to other drivers (2) The driver breached this duty (3) The case of the accident was the driver's breach of this duty and (4) The plaintiff sustained injury.

Under the facts known here, there was some type of traffic jam on Highway 4 in Stockton. The tow truck driver although traveling under the speed limit, still ran into the back of the Ford Fusion, containing the two children. An ordinary prudent driver would have slowed in time to avoid a collision. This is especially true since the driver was from a local company and should have been away of the frequent traffic jams on this particular stretch of highway. Even if he or she was unaware of the usual traffic jams on this highway, a prudent driver would not hit someone from the rear anyhow. The driver of a car who hits another car from behind is almost certainly held civilly liable for damages. This theory of rear end collisions is almost common knowledge.

Vicarious Liability
If readers remember from previous blog entries, then they will remember that vicarious liability is when one person is held civilly liable for the wrongs that are done by people who they direct or control. The most common example of vicarious liability is with the employer-employee relationship.

Under this theory of liability, employers can be held liable for their employee's wrongdoing when the employee is acting "within the scope of employment." There are several questions the law tries to answer when determining whether the person acting was acting as an employee or as an individual. (1) Did the conduct occur during the time limits of the employment? (2) Did the conduct occur within the space limits of the employment? (3) Was the individual serving the needs of the employer? (4) Was the conduct which caused the harm something that the employer hired the employee to do?.

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Car Crash: 100 Year Old California Driver Backs Into Children At School

August 31, 2012

Before I head to the Modesto or Stockton office, I drop off my daughters at school. There is always lots of traffic, but somehow through the chaos, I am able to get them off to school unscathed. Students in southern California weren't so lucky when 100 year old California driver, Preston Carter backed his blue Cadillac onto the sidewalk injuring children in front of Main Street Elementary School in South Los Angeles.

OLD LADY.jpg
This blog entry is not going to take a position on whether elderly drivers should or should not be allowed to drive. I wanted to write about the legal issues that rise out of this type of car accident.

NEGLIGENCE
The law does not require that older persons refrain from driving. What is required though is that each driver exercise care when operating a motor vehicle. In order for the people to recover for damages sustained by this 100 year old driver, they have to prove the driver acted with negligence when the car ran out of control injuring them. It's not a question of whether the person is old who is behind the wheel, it is a question of whether the driver acted negligently.

As explained to readers in previous blog posts negligence is simply the failure to exercise the care that a reasonably prudent person would in the same situation. In other words, did the driver proceed the same way other drivers would under the same set of facts? Readers are likely to remember that there are five elements to negligence (1) Duty (2) Breach of Duty (3) Cause in Fact (4) Proximate Cause (5) Harm or Damages.

Assuming Mr. Carter failed to stop as he backed he car onto the sidewalk where pedestrians were located, the question becomes, would a ordinary driver act the same way that Mr. Carter acted under those circumstances? The answer is a resounding no. An ordinary driver in those same circumstances would have not continued to back his car into pedestrians, plain and simple. Mr. Carter owed a duty of care while operating his vehicle and he did not exercise care. In other words he breached the duty he owed the community. 11 people where injured, including children that would not have been caused unless they were ran into by the car driving by Mr. Carter. Lastly, those who were hit were absolutely injured and many were put into the hospital. Therefore the argument can be made that Mr. Carter acted with negligence and could be held liable for such.

PRODUCTS LIABILITY
Mr. Carter is claiming that his brakes in his car had failed. As reported in the Huffington Post, Mr. Carter told KCAL, "My brakes failed. It was out of control." For the sake of argument assume that Mr. Carter is correct and his brakes did fail. Under that theory the people injured could potentially sue the car manufacturer or brake manufacture if the accident was caused by some manufacturing defect. An injured person is likely to see a greater recovery if successful by suing a big company because companies have much more money than Mr. Carter would have under his insurance company. That is an assumption but is true for most people driving today. A failure of brakes under this scenario is very unlikely. For the sake of this discussion we will revisit the principals of product liability.

If the readers remember from my earlier posts I have explained that under the California Supreme Court ruling in Greenman v. Yuba Power Products, Inc. (1963) 59 Cal. 2d 57, a plaintiff alleging manufacturing defect only has to show that there is a product that was manufactured and that product failed causing injury. This is known as "strict liability", meaning that a manufacturer is liable for any damages cause by the failure of their product even if the manufacturer took extraordinary care in producing the product.

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Modesto Boating Accidents & Safety Tips

June 8, 2012

Summertime is upon us and in Modesto, California many families bring their boats to the lake, reservoir or the Delta. But recently there have been some horrific accidents related to boating in California.

RECENT MAJOR CALIFORNIA ACCIDENTS
The first accident that comes to mind is in San Francisco, where a crew on a boat that was in a yacht race in the San Francisco Bay was lost at sea. Only 3 of the 8 persons on that boat made it to safety. This yacht race recently resumed. As reported in the San Francisco Examiner "Bay Area yacht racing to resume a month after fatal Farallon Islands accident".

The next accident is eerily similar, occurring soon after the first, but in Southern California. That accident involved yacht that was in a race from Newport to Ensenada. Although that death is the first in that race's history, it is certainly not the only death in boating recently.

CAUSE OF ACCIDENTS
The issue in both of those boating accidents is the cause of the accident. US Sailing is working with the U.S. Coast Guard to figure out what went wrong during these boating accidents. Whether the accidents were caused by operator error (negligence), by a poorly built boat (product liability) or by mother nature, the boating community is demanding answers.

If this blogger had to guess, the cause would be mother nature combined with some operator mistakes. But the main cause would be the large waves that sometimes envelope boats in the ocean. But this blog's entry's purpose is to discuss how boating accidents apply to the average person.

STATISTICS
Boating deaths shot up by 12.8 percent in 2011. Boat deaths are at the highest level since 1998, according the a report released by the U.S. Coast Guard. (US Coast Guard Report) According to that same report, in 2011, the Coast Guard counted 4588 accidents that involved 758 deaths, 3081 injuries and approximately $52 million dollars of damage to property as a result of recreational boating accidents. The most common types of vessels involved in reported accidents were open motorboats (47%), personal watercraft (19%), and cabin motorboats (14%). That means that by far the majority of accidents involve the boats that everyday people bring out to the lake and reservoir every summer.

SAFETY
Safety is very important when boating. Although the majority of boating accidents are caused by a boating operators negligence, death from that accident is usually because the victim of the accident was not wearing a life jacket. Although this blog focuses on the legal principals involved with boating, it is important to remember to always wear a life jacket when on the water.

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California Self Driving Car Legislation Passes Senate

May 25, 2012

The first step in having self driving cars in California has passed a hurdle by being approved by the the Senate. California Senate Bill 1298, introduced by Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima). The bill authorizes testing of the self-driving vehicle. The industry leader of the self-driving technology is none other than Google. In case you have been living in a cave without internet access, Google is a technology company based in Mountain View, California. The self-driving car is a departure from Google's focus, but shows they definitely have their eye towards the future.

Although self-driving Google cars are very exciting, our Modesto car accident law offices are more concerned about the liability aspects of such a car. This article focuses on the legal issues of this technology. Who is liable for an accident involving a self driving car?

Negligence
Self driving cars will still have the ability of having the operator take over the controls. So if the other driver was negligent, for example there was human error as the cause of the accident, then clearly the injured party can recover for their injury. Human error is the number one cause for auto accidents in California and the rest of the United States. But what if the accident in one of these self-driving cars was not human error, but manufacture defect? Who is liable then?

Products Liability

Negligence Theory (OLD)
Many years ago the law was that you had to have privity of contract to sue for a defect in a product. For example if you were in Modesto, California and you purchased a ACME lawnmower from the local hardware store and that lawnmower exploded and injured to you, then you could not sue ACME lawnmower company. Why? Because you did not contract directly with ACME to buy the mower, you bought it from a third party. Interesting right? Well now you can forget that concept because it is no longer the way things are done.

The first change in the law came with the famous New York case n the case MacPherson v. Buick Motor Co. (1916) 217 N.Y. 382, 111 N.E. 1050. In MacPherson, the plaintiff bought a Buick car from the local dealer. When driving the car's wood wheel broke and obvioulsy made the car wreck. MacPherson sued the manufacter of the car, Buick. Buick argued that there was no privity of contract directly with MacPherson and therefore they could not be sued. That argument was rejected not only did the court rule that Buick had a duty to inspect the wheel, which they didn't, but they were liable for the damages caused by their defective product, i.e the Buick car. Because of this case you can sue a manufacture of a product even though you did not buy it directly from the manufacturer. In fact, if you are a third party injured because of a defective product you can sue as well.

Strict Liability
Under MacPherson the plaintiff (the injured person) still had to prove negligence on the part of the manufacturer in order to recover damages. Fast forward from 1916 to 1963 and travel from New York to California. The California Supreme Court, in the case Greenman v. Yuba Power Products, Inc. (1963) 59 Cal. 2d 57, removed the requirement that the plaintiff prove negligence in order to recover damages from a manufacturer of a defective product. This case welcomed the theory of strict liability for products produced. That means that if someone is injured by a defective product the manufacturer can be found liable even if the manufacturer was not negligent in producing the product.

Liability Exceptions
The California legislature has not decided whether to exempt manufacturers of liability for cars produced that are self-driving cars. The most recent legislation at the time of this article is California Senate Bill 1298, introduced by Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima). The bill authorizes testing of the self-driving vehicle. Our neighbor to the east, Nevada has issued such an exemption of manufacturer liability. In Nevada for example the "operator" of the car is liable for damages caused by the self-driving car. The "operator" is liable even when it was not operator error that caused the accident. The "operator" is the person who commands or tells the car to drive.

Conclusion
It is still an open question as to whether the manufacturer of a self-driving car would be liable for an accident caused by product liability. It is almost certain that an exclusion to liability will be debated by the California Legislature, but it is unsure how the legislature will vote on that issue. Even if strict liability remains the products liability standard in California, Google or other companies will continue to develop this technology because the good from the technology will outweigh the bad. Human error will virtually be eliminated from the equation, which contribute for almost all car accidents currently. This technology will cut down on accidents and on balance it is better than what we have now.

Jury Finds Negligent Driver Liable For $ 1.68 Million Dollars

May 18, 2012

A jury awards Seven Schmidt $ 1.68 million dollars for the negligence of a power company employee. Although this award is from out of state, as a Modesto auto accident attorney, I want to remind readers of the importance of hiring an competent personal injury attorney when you are injured by the negligence of others. In addition, suing the government and their negligent employees is sometimes overwhelming if you don't have the right lawyer. The most common example of government employee negligence is where that employee is the cause of a car accident.

AAA JUSTIA IMAGE.jpg

Vicarious Liability
Vicarious liability makes one person liable for another persons actions. There are many times when this type liability applies. One common example is the employer-employee situation. In terms of the law this is called the doctrine of respondeat superior.

Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, employers are liable for their employee's wrongdoing and their torts when the employee is acting "within the scope of employment" To prove that the employee was acting withing the scope of their employment the moving party must establish (1) the conduct occurred within the time and space limits of their employment (2) the employee must have been serving the needs of the employer and (3) the act must have been for what the employer was hired to do.

Government Employees
The government is not liable for their employees actions under the common law theory of respondeat superior, but are liable because the government has passed legislation that allows a person to sue them. In order to sue the government or one of their employees you have to comply with the California Government Tort Claims Act (Government Code § 814, et seq.) or the Federal Tort Claims Act. There are very strict time limits in which to bring a lawsuit under these provisions. For example to sue a Stanislaus County, Modesto employee or any government employee, there must first be a claim made with the local government. In California, that claim must be made with the local governmental entity within 6 months of the harm. There is no flexibility with this rule. If it is not adhered to, then there cannot be a lawsuit filed in court. The local governmental entity has 45 days to accept or deny the claim. Once the claim is denied you have 6 months to file suit in a California court.

California Tort Claims Act & Federal Tort Claims Act
Under the California Tort Claims Act, a public employee is liable for injury caused by his act or omission to the same extent as a private person. (Cal.Gov. Code, § 820(a).) There are some exceptions, but that is for another discussion. The point here is that if the government employee could have been sued in a private capacity, then they can be sued for their negligence while working on behalf of the government. If found liable, then the government would be required to pay the verdict amount. (pending any appeals)

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California Uninsured Motorist Barred From Suing For Pain and Suffering

May 9, 2012

Our, Modesto, California car accident law firm is frequently asked whether an uninsured motorist can sue the at fault driver in California. The answer is yes and no. If you are an uninsured driver in California you CANNOT sue for pain and suffering. Even when it is not your fault, you are barred from getting money for pain and suffering if you are uninsured while driving. It doesn't matter if you are driving in Modesto, Sacramento, the Bay Area or anywhere in California, no insurance = no pain and suffering recovery. Technically the ban to these damages extends to pain and suffering, loss of life, emotional stress and other non-economic damages. Those drivers without insurance can still sue for lost wages and medical bills but not pain and suffering. PASSENGERS can still collect money for pain and suffering.

Pain and suffering damages are important. Injury from a car accident can be as little as a sore neck to paralysis or death. How much is the pain and suffering from a broken neck worth, may you ask? Well, if you were the driver of a car and you were uninsured, then zero according to California law. The reason you cannot collect non economic damages as an uninsured motorist is because in 1996 California voters passed Proposition 213 which was aimed at making more California drivers get insurance. This proposition which bars uninsured motorist from collecting non-economic was codified in California Civil Code § 3333.4(a)(2).

Not only have appellate courts continued to uphold this provision in the law and deny people from seeking non-economic damages, an appellate court recently extending denial of non-economic damages further. In Chude v. Jack in the Box, Inc. (2010) 185 Cal. App. 4th 37, is illustrative of this extension. In that case Teckla Chude suffered major burns on her body because of a scolding hot coffee from a coffee purchased in the Jack in the Box drive through had spilled from the cup from the unsecured lid into the seat of her pants.

The question is not whether Jack in the Box was negligent, but whether Chude could seek damages for pain and suffering. Chude was uninsured as she went through the drive through at Jack in the Box and was subsequently burned. This trial court granted Jack in the Box's motion for summary adjudication on Chude's non-economic damages claim. The Second District Court of Appeals in this above case upheld the ruling that non-economic damages are not allowed where the driver of the car is uninsured, even where there is no car accident.

The good news is that about 85 percent of motorists carry insurance. That means if you were in an auto accident and you were not at fault, then you can have your lost wages paid to you, your hospital bills paid and receive money for pain and suffering.

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