self-driving cars, auto accidents, CaliforniaGoogle’s self-driving cars are here, but if you are in a state other than California, you wouldn’t know it from personal experience. To this date, California is the only state to allow these vehicles to be tested on the open roads.

Of the 50 vehicles that received permits to be driven on the roads and highways since September of 2014, four of them have been involved in collisions. To be fair, only two of the accidents occurred while the car was not being controlled by a human being.

Three of the four accidents involved Lexus SUVs that Google equipped with computing power and sensors. Delphi Automotive is an automobile parts supplier that owns two self-driving vehicles. One of these was involved in the fourth crash. Executives with Google and Delphi denied that their vehicles were at fault in these collisions. They also both claimed that the crashes were insignificant.

Collision Reporting and Self-Driving Vehicles

In September, the Department of Motor Vehicles began to require the owners of self-driving automobiles to report every collision to the agency. Agency officials confirmed that four of these automobiles were involved in crashes, but they could not discuss who was at fault because California’s laws prevented them from doing so. At any rate, one official who read all four reports did corroborate the statement that two of the vehicles were in self-driving mode.

Google Executives Refrain from Telling the Whole Story

Google executives did not volunteer very much information about the accidents, and this has caused some people to protest. One is Consumer Watchdog’s project director John Simpson. He is aware that Google executives eventually would like to manufacture a car that doesn’t have any pedals or a steering wheel. According to Simpson, riders will not be able to manually operate this type of vehicle if the car loses control. Before Google executives are allowed to pursue their ultimate goals, Simpson believes that the public should know that early versions of the driverless car have been involved in accidents.

The truth is that Google’s 23 SUVs did not experience their first collisions this past year. Executives started to test these vehicles several years before they received permission from the state. Last year, the head of Google’s driverless car program admitted that three other vehicles were involved in car collisions between the times that they began testing them unofficially and May of 2014.

Google’s Protestations

Google executives continue to downplay this matter. In a recent statement, they declared that people must expect accidents to occur in vehicles that have traveled several miles on the roads. According to their calculations, Google’s vehicles have been driven the equivalent of 140,000 miles or 15 years. They insist that the accidents have only resulted in slightly damaged fenders because human drivers were not paying attention. They deny that anyone was hurt physically.

The numbers tell a different story when one consults the National Traffic Safety Administration. According to this agency, car crashes that only result in property damages occur at a national rate of 0.3 per 100,000 miles. Compared to the national average, Google’s three property damage collisions per 140,000 miles is much higher, but executives had an answer for this challenge as well. They stated that it’s possible that as many as 5 million unreported accidents could have transpired. If this is the case, it would be difficult to know whether or not Google’s accident statistics are high.

The Reason Google Doesn’t Want You to Know

Google executives added laser sensors, radar and cameras to their vehicles to give them an advantage over humans. This technology allows these automobiles to know what humans cannot discern with their eyes and ears. In theory, driverless cars are supposed to be able to react more quickly to dangers than humans can, and when they sense that a crash is imminent, they must be able to react by honking the horn and tightening the passengers’ seat belts.

Since current technology does not seem to live up to expectations, scientists believe that the next step is to create a driverless car that will not provoke a serious collision. Anything to the contrary will mean that people will not want to volunteer to operate self-driving vehicles and that politicians will be reluctant to approve their use in the near future.

Additional Resources:

Click here for legal assistance with any motor vehicle collision claim in Los Angeles or anywhere in California

 

Dog Bite, Dog Attack, Attorney, Los Angeles, California

While a dog can be man’s best friend, this domesticated animal can also exhibit aggressive behavior toward them. Countless studies have been conducted to determine if there is a connection between certain breeds and their inclinations to bite. At all times, you should be cautious around unfamiliar animals, but here is a quick look at various breeds to help increase your awareness and avoid potentially dangerous encounters.  As with any heavily populated urban environment, especially one like Southern California, where dog owners are numerous and breeds are highly varied, these types of incidents can and do occur quite often in places like Los Angeles, Orange County and the Inland Empire.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the following dog varieties are most commonly involved in biting incidents:

  • German Shepherd
  • Pit Bull
  • Jack Russell Terrier
  • Saint Bernard
  • Rottweiler
  • Spaniel
  • Collie
  • Chow
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • Labrador Retriever

Over a 20 year period, the Center for Disease Control studied the correlation between certain classes and fatal attacks. Their results showed that pit bull-type canines and rottweilers contributed to more than 50 percent of these assaults. The AVMA’s findings are similar in that pit bulls are most frequently involved in serious or fatal attacks. However, the AVMA goes on to state that it is unsuitable to pass judgment on an animal’s aggressive disposition based solely on their pedigree. Within breeds, there are often many factors to take into account when determining a canine’s individual temperament.

Large vs. Small Canine Breeds

According to owner surveys and behavioral tests, it is actually smaller or medium-sized varieties that are more hostile toward humans. Due to their petite stature, the bites of spaniels, collies and similar pets inflict less harm than those of larger canines, which may explain why these smaller types don’t top the list of aggressive animals. Likewise, owners of such canines are less likely to report aggression issues or pursue therapy because their pets seem too small to seriously injure someone. Due to a possible lack of training or restraint, these smaller classes are grossly overlooked when evaluating biting habits.

Of course, the sizable build of pit bulls, rottweilers and German shepherds make their inflicted injuries potentially devastating or even fatal. For this reason, attacks by larger canines are reported most often. Tracing back to their ancestry, their personalities are predominantly fearless and territorial, which is a combination that can lead to aggressive behavior when provoked or threatened.

Background of Animal As Contributing Factor to Dog Attack

When determining an animal’s tendency to attack, it is important to investigate its background, lineage and genetics. The term “pit bull” encases many different varieties such as the Staffordshire bull terrier and the American bulldog. Many of these sub-types were developed for the use of baiting bulls and fighting. With this in mind, it is easy to see why pit bulls are involved in more than half of all fatal canine attacks. Bred for their intelligence, German shepherds without proper training have a tendency to become overprotective and excessively territorial. If they are not properly socialized, their genetic instincts may lead them to attack someone that they deem an intruder. As for rottweilers, their risk factor lies in their remarkable strength. The AKC admits that this type of animal does not take kindly to strangers, and they require special training to develop appropriate social skills.

The Need to Consult An Attorney After A Dog Mauling Incident

As with most animals, mature and responsible owners play a key role in their pets’ behavior. When owners do not properly train their pets, a canine’s animal instincts are more likely to take over, which can lead to serious or deadly injuries. According to California Civil Code 3342, a canine’s owner may be held responsible for their pet’s actions regardless of whether or not the owner had any prior indication that their animal was prone to biting, and a quality attorney can help you obtain financial compensation in the event of an attack. If you have been attacked or bitten by a dog while on residential or commercial property, contact a California attorney experienced with dog bite and animal attack claims with regarding any potential civil actions for money damages to which the victim may be entitled.

Home Depot, California, Accident, AttorneyA correctional officer was shopping in a Home Depot store in California when a palm tree for sale fell onto her back, which caused her injuries requiring surgery and left her unable to work. A welder in Boston broke his shoulder after falling off a ladder purchased from a Home Depot when the top rung collapsed. A man driving in Tennessee was hit head-on by a Home Depot delivery driver nearly costing him his life.

What do these people have in common besides their connection to Home Depot? They all received six-figure payouts from the company.

Regular Home Depot shoppers got a shock last year when the company revealed that customers’ credit card data had been compromised, but that isn’t the only accident the company is trying to clean up. The trend of customers incurring injuries at the retail chain’s stores or from using their products has been less high-profile.

Statistics on Home Depot accident claims are difficult to find because the company keeps those numbers highly confidential. Lawyers who work for Home Depot are required to sign confidentiality agreements so that information does not see public light. The most recent statistics come from a court ordered disclosure in 1998, which documented 185 accident claims every week in stores across the country for that year.

From a realistic standpoint, accidents are bound to happen when you have hundreds of stores with thousands of customers in an environment with heavy machinery and many potential hazards. However, that does not excuse store owners of responsibility, and accident attorneys have played a big role in keeping companies on their toes to prevent accidents and making them pay up when they do occur.

How To Prove a Retail Accident Claim

Home Depot wants to avoid lawsuits at any cost. If you have a legitimate claim against them, an aggressive attorney may get Home Depot to agree to pay you a reasonable sum to avoid going to trial. If a store manager or other employee tries to suppress evidence by erasing surveillance footage, an attorney can help you get to the bottom of it. Whether it’s a trip or a slip inside the store or in the parking lot, you deserve retribution if an employee could have prevented the circumstances leading to your injury.

Negligent Maintenance of Property

For a store owner to be liable for negligent maintenance of property, all of the following must be true:

-A hazardous condition creating undue risks was present
-An employee knew about it, or they would have noticed it had they used reasonable care
-The condition was not addressed or repaired
-No effort was taken to warn patrons about the potential risk

“Reasonable care” is up to some interpretation, which is why hiring a lawyer is so important when pursuing an accident claim. Tort law in California requires proof that the dangerous condition persisted for long enough that someone should have noticed. So, for example, if a plaintiff can prove that the hazardous condition persisted because an employee failed to do a routine safety inspection, that could possibly indicate a lack of “reasonable care.” If an employee directly causes the hazardous condition, then they legally “knew” about it, even if it was unintentional. For example, if an employee stacks inventory too high and it collapses on the customer, the employee knew about that hazard and the store may be liable.

Accident Attorneys Fight for Just Compensation

No one wants to get rich by getting injured. When accidents do happen, you want to make sure they don’t ruin your health or financial future. Large retailers have deep pockets and a legal team of their own. They need to be punished with big fines when they make mistakes so accidents remain rare. If you have been injured at Home Depot, call an accident attorney to make sure you not only get your day in court but are adequately compensated.

apple watch, personal injury lawTrial attorneys learn early in their careers that each group of jurors is a blank canvas waiting for the evidence that will paint a picture of events as their clients seek to portray them. It is the task of the attorney to convince the jury that allegations are facts that can be believed and relied upon.

Needless to say, personal injury cases offer the greatest challenge to lawyers who must prove the effect an accident had on a client’s ability to go about his or her daily activities. In the past, attorneys resorted to commissioning professionally prepared videos portraying what purported to be an average day-in-the-life of the accident victim. The video could be played in court to offer jurors visual proof to support the testimony of the victim.

Wearable Data Offers an Alternative to Videos

The recent introduction of the Apple Watch to consumers represents the latest step in a technology trend that began when GPS capability was introduced into cellphones. The ability to track a person’s movements by monitoring the location of their cellphone could prove to be valuable in a criminal case to establish an alibi for the defense, or it could be used by the prosecution to place someone at the scene of a crime.

Of course, as with any data derived from a traceable device, other proof would be needed to counter the argument of a skilled attorney that all the data proves is the location of the device at any particular moment. It is not conclusive proof that the device was worn or used by a particular individual at the time it was being traced.

Wearables, such as Apple Watch and Fitbit, offer data that might be of use in proving damages in accident claims. For example, heart rate, distances and other such data could be offered as proof that an individual’s daily physical activities have diminished following injuries suffered in an accident. Unlike a day-in-the-life video that is limited in the number of days or hours that can be depicted, data from wearable devices can be gathered to show activity over longer time periods covering weeks or, depending on the type of case, even months.

The Importance of Authentication

The information obtained from a wearable device may be the piece of evidence that jurors hearing accident claims need to award compensation to plaintiffs trying to prove that a personal injury has affected their ability to function as they did before. The problem lies in proving the legitimacy and accuracy of the data.

As in cases involving GPS devices where a map tracing a person’s every step from one location to another might be a very persuasive in convincing a jury that someone was exactly where they claim to have been, data from wearable devices is subject to interpretation. An increased heart rate picked up by an Apple Watch might be used to prove that the wearer was engaging in strenuous activity. It does not, by itself, prove who was wearing it at the time the data was collected.

Even with new technology, the traditional skill of the trial attorney in laying a proper foundation for the introduction of evidence is as crucial as ever. The data speaks for itself, but proof of its authenticity and its application to the party introducing it to support or refute accident claims must also be presented at trial.

Use of Wearable Data in Its Infancy Stages

Courtroom use of data collected from Fitbit and other wearable devices is in its infancy stages. Judges and lawyers are still learning how and when it can be used properly and to its fullest advantage. One issue that lawyers expect will eventually arise from the collection of this data will be efforts by opposing parties to compel its being turned over by the device wearer as part of routine discovery in personal injury cases.

Chances are that judges will compel disclosure of the data on the theory of fairness. Its availability as proof of damages for the wearer of the device should make it available to the opposing party as well.

Takata Air Bag, Lawsuits, California, Injury AttorneyTakata Corporation recalled its air bags in 2008, but officials with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or NHTSA found this to be insufficient. These officials decided to request an expansion of the recall in a stern letter on November 18, 2014. At that time, Takata executives claimed that the expansion was unnecessary.

In October, NHTSA officials strongly urged owners of vehicles with faulty air bags to have the bags replaced, but in February, they learned that approximately 90 percent of vehicles with Takata air bags had not been repaired.

The Problem

Takata air bags contain defective propellant devices and inflators that aren’t employing properly when there is a crash. Instead, the air bag’s steel canister fractures and then explodes. This sends plastic and metal parts in the direction of the driver and passengers, and it has resulted in several very serious injuries and fatalities.

Because the danger is higher in locations that experience high levels of humidity, residents of Florida, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, the Virgin Islands and the South Pacific are particularly vulnerable. These were the first locations to be warned about the need for repairs, but NHTSA officials requested that the warning apply to every American car to ensure that there is no further risk to anyone. Executives with the former Chrysler, Honda and Toyota voluntarily expanded their repair efforts to include all 50 states.

A Shortage of Replacement Parts

Car manufacturers are suffering from a shortage of replacement parts, and this is contributing to the reason that more vehicles have not been serviced. Takata executives are increasing production of these necessary parts, but they stated that it would take at least two years to complete all of the repairs. NHTSA officials vowed to do what they can to help manufacturers obtain parts so that they can complete these repairs as soon as possible.

Vehicles with Faulty Air Bags

The list of vehicles that contain faulty air bags is extremely long, and it includes cars made by BMW, Honda, Ford, the former Chrysler, General Motors, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, Toyota and Mazda. However, Honda has more automobiles with these apparatuses than any other car manufacturer. Some of the Honda cars that have been recalled in 2014 and 2015 include the following:

• The 2003 to 2006 Acura MDX
• The 2002 to 2003 Acura TL
• The 2002 to 2006 CR-V
• The 2001 to 2002 Accord with V-6 engines
• The 2001 to 2005 Civic
• The 2001 to 2007 Accord with 4-cylinder engines

Toyota executives also listed specific models that contain these faulty air bags, and they are the 2001 to 2004 Lexus SC, Tundra, Sequoia, Matrix and Corolla.

Air Bag-Related Injuries

NHTSA officials took action in November because they are aware that people tend to forget about warnings to have their vehicles repaired after a little time goes by. Also exacerbating this problem is the fact that these vehicles are older and may not be under warranty. Because of this, the manufacturer cannot remind these owners that there is a recommendation to have the air bags repaired in place.

NHTSA officials could not allow this situation to continue because these air bags are so dangerous that they are injuring people who are not even in a vehicle when a collision occurs. For example, several workers at salvage yards in Japan sustained injuries when air bags exploded in these locations.

Air Bag-Related Fatalities

The third air bag-related fatality to be reported in the United States occurred in Los Angeles in September of 2013, and it involved a 2002 Honda Acura TL. The driver passed away in a collision in a bank’s parking lot although his seat belt was fastened. The coroner determined that the fatality was due to facial trauma caused by objects that came from the air bag. A Houston resident lost his life on January 18, 2015 because of the faulty air bag in his 2002 Honda Accord.

Although the NHTSA currently lists five air bag-related deaths, others believe that there may be more. It is also difficult to estimate how many injuries resulted from these faulty apparatuses, but some people claim that there have been at least 160 injuries.

Contact a Lawyer

If you sustained injury in a vehicle that contains the air bags in question and sustained injury or death from its deployment, you should contact an injury attorney. You may have lost a loved one in a crash that he or she would have survived if the vehicle did not have faulty air bags. You may be entitled to initiate a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of your loved one. It is within your rights to file a claim against the Takata Corporation for monetary compensation because the executives knew about the defect in their air bags in 2004 and did nothing to address the issue. Your personal injury attorney will hold them accountable for this inaction.

physical abuse, sexual abuse, nursing homes, elder abuse, CaliforniaPhysical and sexual abuse in California nursing homes, assisted living institutions and adult day care facilities is still a huge problem. Elder abuse is a silent epidemic that’s prevalent in nursing homes and long-term care facilities in every city and state. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, 3.2 million Americans spent time in nursing facilities in 2008. Within the next few decades, some 5 million aging adults will move into assisted living and long-term care facilities. Even now, millions of moms, dads, aunts, uncles, grandparents and loved ones risk being abused by their caretakers. This is one problem that’s not going away or getting better. Experts have called elder abuse one of the greatest law enforcement challenges of the 21st century. The statistics on the issue are shocking.

• One in three nursing facilities was cited for multiple violations that caused harm or had the potential to harm residents.
• Fewer than 2 percent of certified nursing facilities had no violations.
• According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, nursing facilities in California had 8.8 deficiencies on average.
• About 10 percent of citations were serious enough to injure residents.
• Approximately 40 percent of cases were discovered after family members, residents and community ombudsmen made reports.
• Nationally, more than 1,000 nursing facilities hired staff who had been cited for abuse previously.
• More than one-fifth of complaints involved injuries inflicted by other residents.
• Physical abuse was cited in one-third of the complaints.

Problems like this happen because nursing facilities are understaffed and don’t have adequate patient safety measures in place. Sadly, many elderly patients are reluctant to report maltreatment. They often feel ashamed or embarrassed, particularly in cases of sexual abuse. They may also fear retaliation and believe that the problems will worsen if they make a report. That’s why it is so important for friends, relatives and other residents to voice their concerns. Physical and sexual abuse can happen at any nursing facility, and these problems can take many forms.

What is nursing home abuse?

The California Welfare and Institutions Code has an extensive definition of abuse that’s outlined in section 15610.63. Physical abuse doesn’t only encompass instances of assault and battery. It also includes neglect, such as unreasonable physical constraint and prolonged or continual deprivation of food and water. Under this definition, withholding medications, failing to provide food and water, ignoring patient hygiene and neglecting to move patients or prevent pressure sores is considered abuse. Sedating, overmedicating and chemically restraining patients are other forms of physical abuse. Instances of sexual assault, battery and rape as defined within the Penal Code of California are considered abuse and will be treated as criminal offenses.

What should I do if I feel that a loved one is being abused?

The first thing you should do is familiarize yourself with the signs of abuse. Visiting your relatives and communicating with them often is helpful for protecting them and uncovering problems as quickly as possible. Varying visiting times and days can give you a better picture of how things really are. Depression, poor hygiene, isolation, bruising and changes in personality or behavior are just a few of the tell-tale signs of elder abuse. You have a right to review treatment records and accident reports. If you suspect that abuse is taking place, report it to a local ombudsman or law enforcement agency. For assistance investigating maltreatment and recovering compensation for medical treatment and emotional trauma, contact a qualified personal injury attorney with experience handling elder abuse cases.

Nursing facilities and caretakers should be held accountable for their actions or inactions. If you believe that a relative or loved one has been physically or sexually abused while in a nursing home, assisted living facility or long-term care facility, contact an elder abuse attorney to discuss your case.

sexual abuse, sexual assault, California Attorney, VictimsTwo patients of Cottage Rehabilitation Hospital filed complaints against Cottage Health System in 2013 for alleged sexual abuse. Just recently, a third patient filed a lawsuit against the company for the same reason. The lawsuit alleges that nursing assistant Pedro Hernandez sexually abused a disabled patient who is only being identified as “Manuel T.” According to the complaint, Mr. Hernandez began abusing 69-year-old Manuel T. in a sexual manner in 2012 and that the abuse continued until 2014.

In July of 2014, authorities filed charges of sexual battery against Mr. Hernandez for sexually assaulting Manuel T. and another patient, but the wife and conservator of Manuel T. claims that she did not learn this information until after several months had passed. The complaint specifically states that administrators deliberately withheld this information from the patient’s family members.

The History of Complaints against Pedro Hernandez

People began to accuse Mr. Hernandez of sexual abuse in 2010, but Cottage Health System’s administrators neglected to fire him at that time. One of the male victims sued Hernandez and Cottage Health System in civil court in 2011. The plaintiff received an undisclosed settlement. In the current civil lawsuit, the latest victim’s attorneys accuse Cottage Health System’s executives of fraud and negligence.

Other Victims of Sexual Abuse

This latest civil lawsuit is the third time that Cottage Health System has been sued because of alleged sexual misconduct at its facilities in the past two years. Two female patients who are partially paralyzed complained to staff members that they were sexually assaulted by nursing assistant Jose Carrillo. When the executives did not take any action against this employee, these patients filed complaints against Cottage Health System. Their court trials will begin in September and October of this year.

Manuel T. is equally as vulnerable as the female patients described above according to his lawyers. Manuel T. was paralyzed and suffered from a brain injury after experiencing a stroke in 2011. He was receiving treatment for these issues at Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital when the abuse occurred. His attorneys were “extremely shocked” that Cottage executives allowed a nursing assistant who has been accused of sexual abuse to care for Manuel T.

Legal Responsibilities

In the state of California, 24-hour medical facilities have the legal responsibility to protect their patients from sexual assault. This means that they have the duty to properly train and supervise their new hires. Also, when they learn that an employee has been accused of sexual assault, they are required to release this person from his or her duties. Those who do not take these actions are guilty of negligence.

In order to prove negligence, the plaintiff’s personal injury attorneys will need to demonstrate to the court that the supervisor was aware or should have been aware that the employee was not fit to perform his or her current job. When the lawyers do this successfully, their clients are entitled to receive compensatory damages and possibly punitive damages under the California Dependent Adult Abuse Act.

The attorneys who are representing Manuel T. are also working for the two female sexual assault victims, and they plan to ask for punitive damages, general damages and attorneys’ fees to compensate their clients for “extreme and severe emotional distress.”

The Outcome of the Criminal Case

Mr. Hernandez’s criminal case ended last week when he decided to plead guilty to misdemeanor charges of battery. He will serve three years of probation as a result. He will never be able to work as a certified nursing assistant because the California Department of Public Health revoked his license, and he will not be able to volunteer to work with the elderly or patients in a healthcare setting.

According to Juryverdictalert.com , a jury in Sacramento California rendered a verdict of approximately $360,000 in a case of “disputed injury”in the matter of “Doe v. Landis” Case No. 34-2012000133121.  (See jury verdict summary here ).  The summary of this case and the things I find interesting about the claim are as follows:

Facts of the Case: Plaintiff was rear ended while sitting at a stop light.  She claimed immediate neck pain at the scene of the accident.  She underwent several months of physical therapy and, when this did not fully resolve her pain, she underwent trigger point injections.  At the time of trial, she still claimed to have residual pain.  The plaintiff had a history of fibromyalgia and chronic pain and headaches prior to the car crash.

Rules of Law that Can Be Drawn from This Verdict: Cases where a party is injured due to negligence or wrongdoing but, had a pre-existing medical condition prior to the incident are not uncommon.  California law basically states that the defendant is not liable for prior medical problems, but, to the extent that these problems were exacerbated by the incident complained of, the defendant is still liable.  Furthermore, if any prior medical condition caused the plaintiff to be more susceptible to injury, it is immaterial to liability.  Specifically, these rules are stated as follows:

California Civil Jury Instruction 3927: Plaintiff is not entitled to damages for any physical or emotional condition that [he/she] had before defendant‘s conduct occurred. However, if plaintiff had a physical or emotional condition that was made worse by defendant‘s wrongful conduct, you must award damages that will reasonably and fairly compensate [him/her] for the effect on that condition.

California Civil Jury Instruction 3928: You must decide the full amount of money that will reasonably and fairly compensate [name of plaintiff] for all damages caused by the wrongful conduct of [name of defendant], even if [name of plaintiff] was more susceptible to injury than a normally healthy person would have been, and even if a normally healthy person would not have suffered similar injury.

It is often difficult to explain these two concepts to a civil jury and to reconcile the two rules.  Apparently, the plaintiff’s attorney in this case did a good job through his medical experts in conveying that, even though the plaintiff did have prior problems with neck and back pain, being struck from behind while at a stop clearly made these conditions worse.  In addition, the fact that she was more susceptible to injury than someone without prior neck and back issues, is immaterial to the defendant’s liability.

 

Visit our website for additional information on California auto accident and injury claims.

 

 

pedestrian accident, attorney, lawyer, los angelesMany pedestrian accidents occur every year in Los Angeles, and their numbers are increasing. The organization “Los Angeles Walks” studied this issue carefully and developed a map that lists the busiest intersections where many of the collisions between pedestrians and motor vehicles occur. Their purpose is to make walking in this city safer for everyone.

According to the organization, 49 pedestrians were hit and killed by motor vehicles in the popular Hollywood and Highland intersection. However, this was not the worst. A total of 51 such collisions occurred at 7th Street and Spring Street in downtown LA. This means that there were exactly 100 pedestrian deaths in just these two intersections, and Jessica Meaney of the organization mentioned above thinks that this “not acceptable.” She hopes that the city’s leaders will take the map to heart and do something to reduce the number of pedestrian injuries and deaths. This expectation is a tall order because 19,000 pedestrians were hit by motor vehicles between 2003 and 2009, and many of these people lost their lives.

Santa Monica Boulevard and Vermont Avenue is another example of a dangerous intersection where an average 40 pedestrians are hit by motor vehicles each year. Local resident Kelly Smith is well aware of the danger because she spends a lot of her time walking and jogging in the area. She complained that cars come very close to hitting her on a regular basis because motorists often drive carelessly and are not paying as much attention as they could to what is going on around them.

Jacob Gago has learned that he has to “look twice” before he crosses the street at another of the most dangerous intersections. Approximately 41 pedestrians lose their lives in Downtown LA’s Wilshire Boulevard and Flower Street intersection near where Mr. Gago works. He stated that many of these motorists are talking on their cell phones while they are driving.

The Most Dangerous Intersections in Los Angeles for Pedestrians

The most dangerous intersections and average number of fatalities are listed below:

• 7th and Spring with 51
• Hollywood and Highland with 49
• Hollywood and Western with 48
• Broadway and Sunset with 46
• Flower and Wilshire with 41
• Vermont and Santa Monica with 40
• Sunset and Logan with 38
• 8th and Alvarado with 38
• 7th and Vermont with 37
• Kenmore and 3rd with 35
• Vermont and Vernon with 32

Statute 710. Duties of Care for Pedestrians and Drivers

The California Judicial Council considered and addressed this issue previously and enacted 710 of the California Civil Jury Instructions, which is based upon both CA statutes and case law. According to this instruction that is entitled “Duties of Care for Pedestrians and Drivers,” motorists must take every precaution to avoid causing injury to pedestrians. This instruction acknowledges the fact that pedestrians need to be aware that a motor vehicle can cause great harm to them and that they must also conduct themselves cautiously when they are on the roads. However, the motorist must know that he or she can inflict great bodily harm or even death on a person with his or her vehicle. Therefore, the motorist has the responsibility of taking greater care than the pedestrian.

California Vehicle Code 21950

According to California Vehicle Code 21950, pedestrians have the right-of-way. This means that drivers must stop their automobiles for pedestrians who wish to cross the street at a corner or a crosswalk. The crosswalk can be in the middle of the block. It does not have to be painted, and it does not have to have a traffic light. Furthermore, a motorist must exercise great care when approaching pedestrians who are crossing the street within a marked or unmarked crosswalk. Therefore, they are required to reduce their speed or take other precautions to ensure that the pedestrians are safe.

This code also addresses pedestrians and how they must conduct themselves on the roads. For example, pedestrians must not suddenly dart into the street when vehicles are traveling in their direction. Walkers who are proceeding through a marked or unmarked crosswalk are not allowed to delay traffic unnecessarily or stop before they have safely reached the curb. Although the actions of pedestrians were addressed in subdivision (b) of vehicle code 21950, this does not mean that motorists are relieved of their duty to exercise caution around pedestrians at all times.

Were You Injured in a Collision?

Although the state of California has taken this issue very seriously and enacted several laws to decrease the danger to pedestrians, motorists do not always follow these rules. If you were hurt in a pedestrian accident or you lost a loved one, it is within your rights to call a pedestrian accident attorney today to fight for monetary compensation for your injuries. You may also be entitled to file a wrongful death claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Whatever the case may be, your personal injury attorney will make sure that your voice is heard and that the insurance company does not take advantage of you.

 

Sources:

NBC Los Angeles – Mapping the Worst Hot Spots for Pedestrian Accidents

jury verdict, personal injury, CaliforniaIn what is believed to be a new record high jury verdict for a personal injury claim in Sonoma County, CA, a woman was awarded $13.4 Million related to a crash that happened approximately 4 years ago. (See article here).  The plaintiff alleged that a vehicle driven by her father wrecked and caused her major spinal trauma which required fusion surgery of four vertebrae and permanent placement of a metal rod to stabilize her spinal column.  The plaintiff alleged that she is still in constant pain and cannot sit for longer than 20 minutes at a time without feeling a high level of discomfort.  The jury award consisted of $6.4 Million to pay for past, present and future medical expenses and related out of pocket costs associated with future care and $7 Million to compensate for physical pain and emotional distress caused by the accident and the lingering medical issues.

Things I find interesting about this verdict as a California Personal Injury Attorney:

From the description of a horrific traffic collision and a spine injury causing permanent and lifelong pain, I am glad that the jury was able to see in their hearts to award a high amount.  More rural areas of California like Sonoma County, tend to have more conservative jury pools and this can lead to lower awards for plaintiffs.  I am glad this particular jury was able to understand the effect this event had on the plaintiff and what impact it will have for the rest of her life.  What is more remarkable to me is that the award was made in a  lawsuit by a daughter against her father.  Why is this?  We all know that, under California law, all drivers and registered owners of vehicles must carry automobile liability insurance.  What the jury was not able to know because of the CA rules of evidence is whether or not the father had any such coverage.  In fact, they were instructed on this issue as follows:

“You must not consider whether any of the parties in this case has insurance. The presence or absence of insurance is totally irrelevant. You must decide this case based only on the law and the evidence.”

California Civil Jury Instruction, 5001 – “Insurance”

Therefore, the jury in this case, had to put out of their minds whether or not the father had insurance or who would pay this verdict.  They had to simply assume that the verdict would be entered by a daughter against her father!  The fact that they were able to award a value this high given this restriction on evidence seems remarkable to me.

Not surprisingly, the father was insured by State Farm insurance and their spokesperson stated that the carrier “disagrees with the verdict” and is “considering their options” (i.e. potential for appeal.  Their argument during trial was that the plaintiff was at fault for allowing her father to drive while he was drowsy.  Specifically, they claimed that the plaintiff, “had twice that night asked her father if he was too tired to continue driving and both times he said he was fine. She was asleep in the passenger seat when the crash started.”

It is almost a certainty in my mind that the policy limits were exceeded by this jury verdict.  If the plaintiff (through her attorney) made a demand for the full policy limits prior to trial, it may be possible for her father to have a “bad faith” claim against State Farm.  He could then assign the rights of this claim to his daughter and she could pursue full payment of the judgment above and beyond the policy limits.  My expectation is that State Farm will simply choose to pay all or most of the judgment to avoid the risk of such an action, which could allow for imposition of additional damages to punish State Farm for failing to pay the full limits of coverage (so-called “punitive damages”).