Articles Posted in Car Accidents

the-crash-1415222.jpgIn Delgado v. Las Lomas Spanish Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, a woman in a car crashed into a bike rider. The woman had just finished preaching door-to-door as a Jehovah’s Witness. She was a member of the religion and the Bancroft Congregation, which shared its Kingdom Hall with other congregations, including Las Lomas Congregation.

This ruling by this California appellate court is an unpublished opinion, meaning it is only binding on the case which they ruled. Although the ruling is unpublished, it does illustrate the rules when suing the employer of an employee.

Members of the religion engage in field service, which involves preaching door-to-door and distributing religious literature. While performing field service, members don’t ask for donations, although they can accept them. The congregation was made up of elders, ministerial servants, pioneers, and publishers. The last were rank and file members. Pioneers were an appointed volunteer position with slightly more hours in preaching work than publishers. Watchtower was the publisher of the religion’s written materials and, prior to the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses overseeing the governing body, was the managing entity.

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According to the Los Angeles Times article published on October 27, 2014, California leads the nation in bicycle accident deaths. The LA Times article references a study by the Governors Highway Safety Association. In that study Dr. Allan Williams, found that today 84% of bicycle fatalities were people 20 years and older, vs. 40 years ago when that number was only 20%.

These numbers show us that more and more adults are riding bicycles than ever before. This is particularly true in urban areas such as Modesto, California, which boasts many impressive bicycle trails. In addition, the summertime brings upon more bicyclists which can lead to more fatalities or injuries.

If one is injured in a bicycle accident, what limitations are placed on an uninsured California bicyclist’s rights to recover damages, if he or she is hit by a car and severely injured? The calculation of damages can be complex, especially when an accident victim is an uninsured bicyclist who has not been able to pay his or her own substantial medical bills after a serious accident.

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

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

Class Action Settlement

file5001254688763As 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. A 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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVQg5_gyOgM

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.

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.

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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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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?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdgQpa1pUUE

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.

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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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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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