Mechanic, Failure, Negligence, Injury, Claims, CaliforniaA recent Los Angeles jury verdict illustrates how negligent repair of a vehicle can cause serious injury for which the repair shop may be held liable. The facts and nature of the ruling were as follows:

Background Of The Case

On September 1, 2015, a California jury awarded Kenneth Fry over $2.1 million in damages for an auto repair negligence suit he filed against Larry Miller Toyota. This is a very significant case because it proves that mechanic negligence has a serious outcome when these actions lead to accidents and personal injuries.

Mr. Fry used the mechanic services of Larry Miller Toyota to replace a rear propeller in the driveshaft of his 1990 Toyota 4Runner. This repair was completed entirely at this dealership. Eleven months later, while Mr. Fry was driving on the freeway, the driveshaft fell out of his vehicle which caused him to be involved in an accident and become injured.

Mr. Fry sued Larry Miller Toyota for mechanic negligence citing that the dealership was guilty of auto repair negligence because they failed to use thread-lock bolts when securing the driveshaft to the transfer case per manufacturer instructions and because of this, the driveshaft was not tightened properly and ell off of the vehicle. The defendant denies all allegations.

Mr. Fry suffered spinal and shoulder injuries in the accident that required multiple surgeries and extensive physical therapy.

The Verdict

After nearly three years, this case went before a jury and the jury found in favor of the plaintiff 12-0. It was the jury’s belief that the injury that Mr. Fry sustained to his neck and shoulder was the direct result of the mechanical failure of the vehicle and that this failure was caused by a negligent repair. Mr. Fry was awarded $2.1 million for damages and $70,930 for past medical bills.

Accidents And Equipment Failure

Properly maintained vehicles are necessary for the safety of the driver and others on the road. It is the responsibility of the vehicle owner to always keep their vehicle mechanically sound. Countless accidents occur each year in California because of mechanical issues, such as broken tail lights, that could easily be avoided. For a compete overview of how mechanical failures cause unnecessary accidents, please review my related blog post: Mechanical Failure Traffic Accidents In California.

However, as any lawyer will inform you, if the owner of a vehicle has all the required maintenance performed on their vehicle to keep it safe and mechanical failure still occurs, mechanic negligence may be responsible for the accident and any injury that is caused by this mechanical failure.

If a repair facility is found to be negligent with their repairs, the facility may be held responsible for the following civil damages:

• All medical costs related to the accident. This will include future medical care costs if continuing treatment or therapies are necessary for the injured party.
• Loss of income. This includes any losses that the victim incurred immediately after the accident and any losses they may have in the future because of the injury. A lawyer may also ask for compensation for losses to retirement funds or investment accounts that are part of an income package of the victim’s employer.
• Pain and suffering. Depending on the severity of the accident and resulting injuries, the amount that the attorney may ask for in pain and suffering can only be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Mechanical Failure Is Not Just Restricted To Negligent Repairs

Sadly, negligent repairs are not the only issue that vehicle owners face when it comes to having work performed on their vehicle. There has been a large amount of OEM and aftermarket vehicle parts that have caused problems on vehicles around the country. Defective replacement parts can lead to injuries and death to the unsuspecting vehicle owner who thought they were properly maintaining their vehicle.

Falling under product liability law, these defective replacement parts have been connected to many accidents and deaths throughout the United States according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. When this occurs, the manufacturer of the defective part is held responsible for the accident and not the mechanic or the repair facility that installed the part.

When To Speak To An Attorney

If you believe that you have been injured as a direct result of negligence by a repair your mechanic made, you are encouraged to speak with a lawyer about your case. Under California law, you may be entitled to specific types of compensation for your injuries and losses, however, time is of the essence in these cases.  An attorney needs to have your vehicle inspected by proper experts prior to any modification or further repairs being done to obtain the necessary evidence required to prove mechanical negligence.

Does CA "Lane Splitting" Cause Motorcycle Accidents? Los Angeles Injury Lawyer Explains“Lane-splitting” occurs when a motorcyclist between lanes of slow-moving or stopped traffic. This practice is against the law in 49 states and the District of Columbia, and California is the only state in the country that does not have a law specifically outlawing lane-splitting. California also does not have a law specifically stating that lane-splitting is legal and, therefore, many motorists become angry when motorcyclists engage in this behavior. Though lane-splitting can be distracting to motorists and can lead to accidents and injuries, the practice can be safe when done in a prudent and safe manner. If a motorcyclist fails to be careful or reasonable when lane-splitting and a collision occurs, any injured victims should contact a California motorcycle injury attorney as soon as possible to discuss a potential case.

Motorists can take precautions to avoid accidents

Motorcyclists are not the only ones who can cause accidents and injuries when lane-splitting occurs, as motorists can also behave in a negligent manner and cause injury to motorcyclists. The California Highway Patrol (CHP) offers several guidelines1 directed at motorists for safe lane-splitting practices. Some of these guidelines include as follows:

  • Understand that lane-splitting is not illegal.
  • A driver should not decide to try to discourage lane-splitting on their own and, in fact, it is against the law to intentionally impede or block a motorcyclist in a manner that may cause harm.
  • Do not open the door of your vehicle in an attempt to block or impede a motorcyclist.
  • Avoid distractions that may keep you from noticing a lane-splitting motorcyclist.
  • Signal and check your mirrors before changing lanes. 

If you are a motorcyclist injured by a motorist who intentionally or negligently caused you harm, you should never hesitate to contact a California victim’s lawyer to learn about your legal rights.

Lane-splitting law tabled until 2016

The legislature in California tabled a proposal2 until next year to codify the legality of lane-splitting into law. The law would include speed limitations for lane-splitting motorcyclists such as only driving 15 miles per hour over the pace of traffic and not lane-splitting at speeds higher than 50 miles per hour. Despite this delay, lane-splitting is not illegal and motorcyclists should be able to ride safely and without injury.



pedestrian accident, los angelesIn the Los Angeles case of Joesph Butenhoff v. Rae Anne Bautista, the jury demonstrated how just because a police report states that one party is at fault doesn’t mean that the other party won’t still have to pay repercussions for their actions in court. In this particular case the plaintiff was a pedestrian, and the defendant was the operator of a mobile vehicle. The plaintiff was reportedly in the street after dark helping a dog owner and his injured dog when the defendant struck him with her vehicle. The pedestrian suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of the accident.

He Said

According to the plaintiff, the defendant failed to watch the road, and she had been present in the lane with the injured dog and his owner while other vehicles were passing slowly by the scene in the adjacent lane. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant kept driving in the lane that contained himself, the injured dog and the dog’s owner to pass the other vehicles in the slower moving lane and then struck him when she swerved to avoid hitting the dog.

She Said

The defendant, on the other hand, stated that the plaintiff was at fault since he had been found 100% at fault by the investigating officer for violating CVC 21954 pertaining to pedestrians in the roadway. She further stated that she attempted to the best of her ability to avoid the incident by swerving when she spotted the plaintiff. She further alleged that his injuries weren’t as extensive as he portrayed since he returned to work at a physically demanding job after just 7 months.

The Result

In addition to the traumatic brain injury, the plaintiff also complained of a fractured hip, torn meniscus, other cuts and lacerations and depression and anxiety as a result of the accident. The Los Angeles jury ultimately found that the defendant was 65% at fault for the incident, whereas the plaintiff was 35% at fault, which worked out in favor of the plaintiff, who ended up receiving a verdict for $3 million.

The Importance of an Attorney

This case illustrates the importance of seeking the advice of a personal injury attorney when you’ve involved in an incident in which one of the parties sustained an injury. Even though the investigating police officer didn’t find the defendant at fault for the incident at the scene, it didn’t free her from having to pay punitive damages later on in civil court when the plaintiff decided to seek compensation. If the plaintiff had simply taken the verdict of the investigating officer, then he would have forfeited his right to millions in compensation for his injuries.

Anytime you are involved in an accident, you should seek the representation of a personal injury legal expert. Legal experts have the intricate knowledge of personal injury law and the skills to aggressively fight for your case in court. It is important to remember that just because someone isn’t criminally charged in a case doesn’t mean that a jury won’t find he or she responsible for some of the damages you suffered when your case goes to trial in civil court. A qualified personal injury legal expert can help you build a strong case by obtaining the evidence needed to prove your claims through investigation of the incident scene, evaluation of your injuries by medical experts and compilation of any applicable cases and verdicts in the past that pertain to your own case and strengthen it.

Whether or not you were deemed to be at fault for an incident, always seek the professional services of a personal injury attorney when you find yourself in such situations.

Bus Stop, Accident, Claims, CaliforniaOn July 30, 2015 a verdict was finally given regarding a case of a 15 year old boy who died after being hit by a car at a dangerous crossing while heading for the school bus stop in San Bernardino County California. The jury awarded the adoptive mother of the boy $20,000,000.00 for her losses.

Summary Of Facts In The Case

In December of 2010, the 15 year old high school sophomore was on his way to his designated school bus stop which required him to cross an uncontrolled five-lane highway. This bus stop was designated by the school system and was the only stop that the young man could use to get to school. During his attempt to cross the highway, the boy was struck by a vehicle and suffered catastrophic injuries. This young man slipped into a coma and died from his injuries 15 days later.

The adoptive mother of the boy filed a wrongful death suit naming several defendants. When the case went to trial, the school district and the driver of the vehicle that hit the young man were the only defendants left on the case.

The Plaintiffs attorney stated that the school district had created a dangerous condition of public property. To prove this allegation, the Plaintiff showed that prior to the 2010 school year, the school district had a bus stop on the other side of the road which eliminated the need for the children to cross the busy highway. Her attorneys showed that by their careless elimination of this bus stop, the children had to cross this dangerous road where vehicles moved at rates of speed from 56 to 71 miles per hour. Therefore, by eliminating the bus stop, they created a dangerous condition of public property.

The Defendant denied all allegations and stated that there was a different bus stop that the boy could have used that would have eliminated his need to cross the major highway. They believed that they were not at fault and that the driver of the car should be held at least 50 percent responsible for the accident and that their responsibility, if any, should be shared with the decedent. This basically stated that they believed the boy was at least partially at fault for the event.

It was soon discovered that the school district had hidden many documents that they were supposed to produce to the Court. When they were produced, it was discovered that they were aware of their responsibility for the death of the young boy due to their elimination of the bus stop. It was also discovered that they bus stop that they claimed was available for the young man to use and not have to cross the street was not designated a stop until after the death of the boy. The Court found that the school district was 100 percent liable for the wrongful death of the boy because they created a dangerous condition of public property.

California Civil Jury Instructions 1100 – Dangerous Conditions On Public Property

For a jury to find that a person or entity has created a dangerous condition of public property, they must abide by the rules set down in the California Civil Jury Instructions. In this type of case, the jury could only find the defendant’s guilty of this charge if they could prove that the following events occurred:

• The defendant owned or controlled the property. – In this case the school district controlled where the bus would stop to pick up and let off children
• The property was in a dangerous condition at the time of the event. – In this case, the location was on the opposite side of a major highway, forcing the young man to cross in an uncontrolled area.
• The dangerous condition reasonably created a foreseeable risk that this type of accident may occur. – The school district should have known that making children cross a busy highway is dangerous
• The wrongful conduct of the person, employee, or entity created the dangerous condition. – The school district’s elimination of the other bus stop created this dangerous situation.
• The plaintiff was harmed from these actions – In this case, the boy lost his life.
• The plaintiff succumbed to a majority of their injuries due to these actions. – The Court found the school district 100 percent responsible.

In regard to this case, the plaintiff met or exceeded all of the requirements for the jury to find the defendant liable for creating a dangerous condition of public property.  In general these tend to be difficult cases that require expert analysis and opinion as to whether prior accidents or injuries at or near the same location warranted changing the conditions of the property.  Such changes are usually “discretionary” with the government entity but, if it is shown that it was “reasonably foreseeable” that a change needed to be made, the government entity can be made to pay as they were here. In this case, the defendant school district apparently impeded discovery of the fact that a prior death had occurred due to removing the bus stop in question.  I think the amount of the verdict is probably a reflection of the jury’s anger at not just the fact that this made the incident at issue “foreseeable” but, that it could be argued that they were “covering up” for their negligence.

Speak To A San Bernardino Wrongful Death Attorney

If you have lost a loved one to a similar type of event, you are encouraged to speak with a San Bernardino County wrongful death attorney about your loss.

Caitlyn Jenner, Accident, Bruce Jenner, Car Crash, California LawThere have been conflicting statements that have been submitted concerning the initial factor that caused the accidental death of 69 year old Kim Howe. One theory is that Caitlyn Jenner was talking or textin on a phone prior to the incident. The fatal accident occurred in early February of this year on the Pacific Coast Highway in Los Angeles. Jenner was cited as the being the primary cause of the crash when she rear-ended Ms. Howe.

California Vehicular Manslaughter Statute

There are three types of manslaughter that an individual can be charged with in the state of California. Depending on the situation and the individuals involved, the charges executed can affect the life of the assailant for a short or long period of time. Charges are basically determined based on the intent of the crime. One major concern is whether a person actually intended to commit the alleged crime or if the incident was an accident.

When an incident relates to vehicular manslaughter, gross negligence can be considered as criminal conduct.  In making this determination there are several things that are taken into account. According to California law specifically penal code 192(c), certain factors are evaluated as key indicators that can determine the outcome of a vehicle manslaughter case. For instance, crime involvement can be considered based upon the implication that a defendant was involved in another crime which prompted the negligent operation of a vehicle which caused a death or injury of another person. Some examples of this may include drunk driving, fleeing a crime scene, chasing another vehicle which results in a crash affecting other drivers or, in this case, the alleged illegal use of a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle.

Possible Conviction in Jenner’s Case and Affect it May Have on the Pending Wrongful Death Claim Against Her

Reports indicate that Ms. Jenner will be charged with misdemeanor manslaughter and face one year of jail time. Although jail time is a possible consequence, Jenner may only have to pay a fine. In Jenner’s case, prosecutors must prove that Jenner was either distracted, hit by another vehicle or if Jenner intentionally caused the accident.

If Jenner is found guilty of vehicular manslaughter in a criminal court, it would have a huge impact on the pending civil claim for wrongful death pending in Los Angeles Superior Court.  California’s Civil Jury Instructions section 418, the so-called “negligence per se” instruction, could be read to the jury as follows:

If you decide

1. That [name of plaintiff/defendant] violated this law and

2. That the violation was a substantial factor in bringing about the harm,

then you must find that [name of plaintiff/defendant] was negligent [unless you also find that the violation was excused].

The attorneys for Ms. Howe’s family would clearly argue that a criminal conviction by a higher burden or proof (i.e. beyond a reasonable doubt), should automatically be deemed “negligence” under a civil standard.  This may result in a judgment for money damages being entered against Ms. Jenner that could also include punitive damages for conduct shown to be “reckless” and “despicable conduct which is carried on by the defendant with the willful and conscious disregard of the rights and safety of others.” (See California Civil Code Section 3294).

CA Vehicular Manslaughter Case Challenges

This situation raises awareness of how a sudden event can create deadly and unfavorable results for individuals involved in auto accidents. Regardless of who was at fault in the auto accident involving Jenner and Howe, the application of the law will bring to light intricate details that witnesses may have missed when submitting their statements. The outcome of Jenner’s case will be an example of how a split second of inattention can lead to severe consequences for all involved that affect people’s lives forever!

Additional Resources:

Legal Claims for Money Damages in Distracted Driving Accidents in Los Angeles

Los Angeles, Street Accidents, Injury Attorney

Los Angeles – California City Skyline

The Los Angeles City Council finally seems to be taking its culture into account when dealing with the laws of the road. The proposed Mobility Plan 2035 no longer treats the car as the king of the highway – city planners and other transportation professionals would now be mandated to design and construct the transportation modules with bikers and pedestrians in mind as well as people who are on public transit. The community has long been calling for a multimodal transportation plan from the city, and the cries of people who prefer to bike or walk seem to finally be heard.

If Mobility Plan 2035 goes into effect, it would completely replace the plan that Los Angeles adopted just before the turn of the millennium in 1999. That plan was more focused on cars in general, with plenty of rhetoric focused on getting cars to their destinations as fast as they could get there. However, many people have actually completely removed the car from their lives in Los Angeles. Public transit is more popular than ever. Bicycles have always been popular yet underserved. Although the city is still as stretched out as it ever was, many people are actually choosing to live without a car.

Many of the recent energy problems in the city have brought awareness to more green ways to use energy. For instance, the entire state of California has committed itself to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. This means that the entire state is backing any vision or legislation that reduces the amount of traditional driving that people do in cars that use fossil fuels. State law is behind the idea of the so-called “Complete Street,” that has served as a forefather of the Mobility Plan 2035. These Complete Streets are designed not around the car, but around pedestrians, cyclists and riders of public transit. No longer is the notion of better transportation encompassed completely in a wider street for a car.

– Provisions in the Mobility Plan 2035

One of the most effective measures in the Mobility Plan 2035 is the goal to completely eliminate traffic abilities by the year 2025. City streets will feel safer and more people will be willing to bike or walk themselves where they need to be, purveyors of the Mobility Plan are saying. Literally hundreds of miles of lanes for buses only will be created. There will also be newly protected lanes for bicyclists. Pedestrians will get drastic improvements in the scope of their streets that have been known to have a lot of pedestrians.

In order to pull off all of these changes, the city planners will need a great deal of data from the people who are actually going to be affected by these changes. Currently, the city has a great deal of public outreach form. The changes of Mobility Plan 2035 are just lines on a map right now: however, there are efforts to move this plan forward and gather the data that is necessary from the inhabitants of the city.

One aspect of the plan that are worried about is the fact that it only targets around 10 percent of the major streets in the city. The lane reductions as they are planned today may actually cause more congestion for people who continue to ride in cars. However, this sacrifice is seen as a necessary one that will still help to accommodate the majority of people who are looking to transport themselves efficiently in Los Angeles.

Pedestrians and bike riders definitely have more rights in Los Angeles, and you should take advantage of these rights if they are ever violated. If you are ever injured while you are walking or on a bicycle, then make sure that you contact a Los Angeles personal injury attorney immediately. You are no longer second-class citizens on the road anymore, and you must make your voice heard in order for those new rights to count for anything.

The injuries that you may incur from a vehicle crash while walking or biking are not ever to be glazed over. Make sure that you have a proper Los Angeles personal injury attorney on your side so that full compensation as well as the resources that you need to heal emotionally.

DUI, Accident, Injury, California, Attorney, LawyerA verdict was recently reached in Los Angeles County in the case of Cardona v. Cortes. The three plaintiffs, Jose, Irene and Eduardo Cardona, were awarded $20 million for damages they collectively sustained after their vehicle was struck by a drunk driver. The trial lasted a total of 13 days, and the jury deliberated for two more before reaching a consensus on June 15, 2015.

Los Angeles Superior Court

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the plaintiffs in Los Angeles Superior Court on Friday, November 30, 2012, as an action resulting from a traffic collision that occurred in February 2011, with the defendant, Navarro Cortes. The Honorable John J. Kralik presided over the case.

Before the case went to trial, the plaintiffs had asked for $5 million, but the defendant’s insurance company refused to offer them even the policy limit of $30,000 before the demand expired. This was accepted as a bad faith action against the insurance company, which opened the limit, and the plaintiffs set a new demand of $33.5 million for Jose Cardona and $16 million for Irene.

DUI Collision

On February 6, 2011, Jose Cardona, a 59-year-old welder, was driving with his wife Irene, a 53-year-old homemaker, and their 22-year-old son Eduardo. Cardona had just executed a left-hand turn on 47th Street from Ft. Tejon Road in Palmdale and was travelling southbound at a speed of 15 to 20 mph.

Navarro Cortes was driving northbound on Ft. Tejon Road at approximately 50 mph when he lost control of his SUV and crossed into the opposite lane where it collided head-on with Jose Cardona’s sedan.

The Cardonas contend that Cortes was negligent because he was driving under the influence of alcohol. The defendant admitted that he was liable, but he contested the extent of the injuries the plaintiffs suffered and the amount of damages.

Serious Car Crash Injuries Sustained

As a result of the collision, Jose Cardona sustained several injuries, including multiple fractures to both legs. Both of his knees and his right ankle were also fractured. He went into surgery that evening where he had his talus bone removed and his fibula repaired. Several days later, he went into surgery again to repair a torn meniscus, another severe fracture in his right tibia and both patellas. Because of these injuries, Jose can only walk very short distances with the assistance of a walker before experiencing intense pain and fatigue, and he must use a wheelchair to travel longer distances. He has also been unable to work his job as a welder.

In addition to the injuries he sustained in his legs, Jose also suffered a torn rotary cuff in his right shoulder, and damage to his brain was identified several years after the accident. This brain injury causes Jose to suffer from headaches, dizziness, depression and anxiety, and he has problems with memory, concentration and mood management. He also suffered a motor-speech disorder known as dysarthria, which causes him to slur his words and experience facial numbness and difficulty swallowing.

Irene Cardona suffered a complex fracture of her right wrist from the crash, and she was taken into surgery the following day. The doctors fused the broken bones in her wrist, but she continues to experience severe pain in the area. In October 2014, Ms. Cardona had the plates and other hardware removed from her wrist, and she was diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome. At the time of the trial, the pain had extended from her wrist to her arm and shoulder, and it has been so intense that she has lost consciousness.

In addition to her injured wrist, Irene sustained multiple abrasions and a traumatic brain injury that causes her to suffer from frequent headaches and blurred vision.

Eduardo was also injured in the collision. His abdominal wall was ruptured, which caused internal bleeding and anemia, and he had lacerations on his chest. He was immediately taken to surgery to repair the complex hernia, but afterward, he experienced an intestinal blockage that required a second surgery. He was in the hospital for a total of six days and continues to experience pain in his abdomen.

Jury Awards Family $20 Million

After deliberating, the jury found Cortes 100 percent liable for all damages sustained by the Cardona family. Jose was awarded $4.6 million in economic damages and $9.5 million in non-economic damages, Irene was awarded $1.8 million in economic damages and $4.5 million in non-economic damages and Eduardo was awarded $600,000 for pain and suffering.

DUI Accidents: A Serious Matter Requiring Quality Legal Representation

DUI accidents are a serious matter, but the laws surrounding such cases can be very complex. The legal standard, however, is very clear to experienced attorneys, such as those at the Law Offices of Steven M. Sweat. Visit the firm’s website for further information on DUI accident claims involving injury or death in California.

Additional Resources:

DUI Accidents Involving Commercial Vehicles in California

Electrical Shock, Accident, Lawsuits, California, AttorneyIn a recent Riverside County case, a jury awarded the estate of a migrant farm worker $4.7 million in damages for his electrocution death while working at a fruit orchard. The 31-year-old man was working as a fruit harvester at the time of his death. He had been provided with a ladder by his employer that he was using to gather fruit from upper branches when it came in contact with a low-hanging power line, electrocuting him.

The Lawsuit

The lawsuit was filed by the decedent’s estate, the man’s wife and two children as well as a coworker against several defendants, including the site’s supervising company, S&R Farm Labor Contractor, Inc.; the Southern California Edison Company, or SCE, and the property’s owner, Circle K-5 Citrus Ranch/Kelley Trust. Reportedly, the jury took one day to deliberate before coming back with their decision following the five-week trial. In apportioning damages, the jury determined that SCE was 80 percent responsible, the man’s employer was 15 percent responsible and the site’s supervising company was 5 percent responsible. The jury did not hold the property’s owner responsible for any of the damages.

What the Plaintiffs Argued

The power lines were at a height of 18 feet and 10 inches, which the plaintiffs argued were too low. They also argued that SCE did not maintain the lines at 25 feet and also failed to either remove or trim trees that were growing beneath the power lines running over the property. The plaintiffs pointed to current regulations issued by the Public Utilities Commission requiring that power lines be no lower than a minimum of 25 feet. Finally, the plaintiffs argued that the jury should not consider that the man was a migrant worker, that his family spoke no English or that he was frequently away from his family for extended periods due to his work.

What the Defendants Argued

The defendants attempted to rely on former PUC regulations dating to 1946, the time the lines were installed, which at the time designated the minimum height of the lines from the ground to be 17 or 18 feet. SCE also argued that the line clearance had been changed in 2009 when an electrical pole was damaged. Further, the company argued they were only required to have their lines clearing trees by 18 inches. The defendants all argued that the man’s employer was at fault for not keeping workers at least six feet apart and by providing the man with a 20-foot ladder, as the trees, according to them, were only between 12 and 14 feet tall. The defendants also argued that the damages should be less because he had apparently been away from his family for a year, and that the man’s coworker did not suffer any emotional distress due to witnessing the accident.

Legal Standard for Wrongful Death Damages in the State of California

In the state, juries can award both economic and noneconomic damages in cases in which a person dies due to the negligence of another. Economic damages include the financial support that the decedent would have provided if they had not died, any loss of benefits the decedent would have otherwise provided to the plaintiffs, burial and funeral expenses and the value of household services that would have been received by the plaintiffs. Noneconomic damages include such things as the loss of the love and companionship of the decedent, the loss of their guidance and the loss of consortium, or sexual relations, with the decedent. Juries are instructed that there is no fixed standard on the amount of noneconomic damages, but they should instead set them according to what they believe is reasonable and according to what the person’s life expectancy would have been if they had not been killed.


According to the Law Offices of Steven M. Sweat, an electrical wiring accident attorney, statistics from the National Safety Council and the Consumer Product and Safety Commission show that between 400 and 500 people die every year in the country from electrocution. Among the causes of such electrocutions in California are faulty wiring, which causes 20 percent of the cases, coming into contact with power lines and being shocked by consumer products and appliances.

When a loved one has been killed after being shocked by an appliance, a power line or faulty wiring, the family may be able to seek damages for their losses by filing a civil lawsuit against the persons or companies responsible. An attorney may be able to review the facts of the case in order to determine whether negligence likely occurred. They may then identify all of the legal grounds upon which to base the claims and file the civil complaint to initiate the case.


Jury Verdict Alert, “Migrant orchard worker electrocuted by overhead power lines, family in Mexico awarded $4.7 million,” Accessed Aug. 5, 2015.

Justia, “California Civil Jury Instruction 3921,” Accessed Aug. 5, 2015.

Law Offices of Steven M. Sweat, “Electric Wiring Accident Attorney,” Accessed Aug. 5, 2015.

computer hackers, car crashes

Hacking and cyber crimes are occurrences that frequently happen to innocent victims all over the world. More than 55 million people across the globe fall victim to computer hacking and other cyber crimes, according to a statistic provided by the Go-Gulf site. Hacking is the act of breaking into someone’s account and using it for malicious personal gain. Hacking can be a devastating experience that can ruin a person’s life, depending on the system that the hacker overrides. The types of accounts that hackers infiltrate are email accounts, social media accounts and financial accounts. Recently, consumers of high-tech vehicles learned that hackers have advanced to taking control of some computerized automobile systems.

Hackers Gain Access to a Vehicle

Automobile technology grows in innovations with each passing year. The Fiat Chrysler company is an example of a company that manufactures vehicles with the wireless technology. The dashboard connectivity system that comes with some of the newer vehicles was supposed to provide a high level of convenience to consumers. The system allows consumers to have access to the Internet via Wi-Fi connections. It allows consumers to connect to GPS systems, applications, cell phone connects and more. Unfortunately, some of the newer models were suffering from some great vulnerabilities and glitches. The company had to recall more than 1.4 million of its elite vehicles because of the glitches in the dashboard connectivity system.

“Hackers” Gain Total Control of a Jeep

Two technology researchers hacked into a new Jeep that had the dashboard connectivity system. The breach was not just a small breach. The hackers gained access to several vehicle components. They were able to obtain control of crucial components such as the engine, steering column, air conditioner, radio and the brakes.

The damage that a vengeful hacker can do with that much access is beyond frightening for consumers. Hacking antics can range from silly shenanigans with the radio, to deadly acts with crucial components. A hacker could certainly crash a vehicle with control of the brakes and steering wheel. Federal regulators such as the N.H.T.S.A. are realizing the severity of the problem and forcing immediate review and correction.

The researchers reported their findings to the company immediately, and the company took prompt action. The Fiat Chrysler Company stated that fixing the vulnerabilities is its top priority at this time.

Fiat Chrysler Makes the List of Firsts

Being the first to achieve something is usually a positive thing. Unfortunately, it is not so positive for the Fiat Chrysler company. The company made history as being the first company involved in a Vehicle recall for cybersecurity issues. The incident will inconvenience some of the vehicle owners, but it will help the company to build secure vehicles in the future, as well.

List of Affected Vehicles

The recall affects vehicles that were designed in 2013 and beyond. Some of the cars on the list of affected vehicles are the Dodge Viper, Dodge Durango, Ram pickup, Dodge Charger, Grand Cherokee and Chrysler 300 units. Specialists will install the patches that they developed to close the holes in vehicle security. Network specialists have agreed to take steps to increase network security on the Sprint network, as well. With Fiat Chrysler security tightening up from all angles, drivers can soon have faith in the vehicular technology.

Should Consumers Worry?

The wireless technology for vehicles is still young, which means the industry is still working through the hiccups. Vehicle computers have weaknesses just as desktop units and cell phone processors have weaknesses. Drivers can look at this experience as a time to allow vehicle manufactures to work out the kinks. Future vehicles will have beefier security systems and more convenient options than ever before.


car crash, accident law, CaliforniaIn an interesting personal injury claim coming out of California, the Court of Appeal for the Fourth Appellate District, has reinstated a plaintiff’s case arising from injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident. (See Navarrete v. Meyer, (2015), CA Fourth District Court of Appeal, Case No. D067454).

Facts of the Case: On November 26, 2009, a vehicle driven by defendant, Brandon Coleman, was traveling with two passengers.  Defendant, Hayley Meyer, was riding in the front passenger seat and the second occupant was in the rear.  As the vehicle was traveling to a drug store, defendant Meyer is alleged to have encouraged the driver to turn down a street known to have a lot of “dips” and to go fast to attempt to “get airborne”.  Despite the stated speed limit of 25 m.p.h., the driver got the vehicle to an estimated 80 plus miles per hour, hit the “dip”, lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a parked vehicle.  At the time of the collision, plaintiff’s husband was standing alongside the parked vehicle attempting to strap a child into a car seat.  He was struck, his legs were both severed and he died of his injuries.  His wife brought a wrongful death claim initially against the driver and the County of Riverside, CA (claiming negligence operation of a motor vehicle and a dangerous roadway condition of public property, respectively).  The lawsuit was later amended to add passenger Meyer as a defendant under theories of “civil conspiracy” and violation of California Vehicle Code 21701, which states, in pertinent part as follows:

“No person shall wilfully interfere with the driver of a vehicle or with the mechanism thereof in such manner as to affect the driver’s control of the vehicle.”

Defendant, Meyer brought a Motion for Summary Judgment, claiming there were no “triable issues of fact” for a jury to decide on the claims against her and that she should have the case dismissed in her favor.  The trial judge granted this motion.  The Court of Appeal reversed holding as follows:

“The evidence here permits a reasonable jury to infer that Coleman accelerated the vehicle at Meyer’s request so Meyer (and possibly Calhoun) could observe and experience the car “gain air,” as she had experienced in past trips along that road.”

” … for purposes of joint liability under a concert of action theory, it suffices that Meyer assist or encourage Coleman’s breach of a duty, which Vehicle Code section 23109 impose upon him (and also upon her not to aid and abet Coleman).”

“We cannot say on Meyer’s summary judgment showing that the evidence is insufficient as a matter of law to support joint liability on a theory of civil conspiracy.   As we view it, the evidence raises a triable issue for a jury as to Meyer’s co-equal liability on such a theory.   Critically, the law imposed on Meyer personally an independent duty not to encourage or assist Coleman in engaging in an unlawful exhibition of speed.  (Veh.Code, § 23109.)”

My Analysis of this Decision as a California Accident Attorney and Injury Lawyer: Obviously, this was a tragic example of what engaging in and encouraging reckless driving can lead to (i.e. injury and/or, in this case, fatalities).  As personal injury attorneys, it is our job to zealously advocate for persons who suffer bodily harm or death as a result of the lack of reasonable care or outright wrongful or unlawful conduct of another.  Part of this advocacy process is to determine all the potential theories of recovery and decide who may have participated in the wrongful conduct or contributed to the incident giving rise to harm.

Given the facts of this case, I think the attorneys for the deceased were both thorough and creative in determining persons at fault and in crafting theories of recovery that went beyond a straight negligence claim against the driver.  Decisions like this one validate the reason for statutes which prohibit not only operating a motor vehicle in a reckless manner but, interfering with or encouraging other persons to engage in such reckless driving.

Under California Rules of Civil Procedure, the defendants in this case may seek a review of the decision by the Court of Appeal to the California Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court may agree to hear the matter or may let the ruling stand.  I am hopeful that the case will not be overturned and will remain precedent to be used by attorneys advocating for injury victims in California in the future.


Additional Resources:

Legal Theories of Monetary Recovery in California Auto Accident Claims