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.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.
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.
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. Continue reading
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.
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 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.