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”).

 

 

Bicycle Accident, Bike Accidents Lawyer, Bicycle Crash Attorney, Los Angeles, CaliforniaThe first U.S. state to require bike helmets for adult riders could be California. The bill that Senator Carol Liu introduced would impose a $25 fine on adults who ride their bicycles without helmets.

Statistics on Bike Helmet Laws and Serious Injury to CyclistsCollisions caused many fatalities on U.S. roads, and two percent of these were to bicycle riders. In these instances, head trauma was the most common serious injury. With this being the case, a helmet law may reduce the severity of head injuries that many bicyclists suffer in accidents. In a study, researchers discovered that helmets reduce the risk of head trauma by as much as 85 percent.

The District of Columbia and 21 U.S. states have laws requiring that bicyclists wear helmets. The difference between these laws and the proposed California law is the fact that they only apply to children, and it appears as if they make a difference. Since 1975, bicycle rider fatalities under the age of 20 decreased by 86 percent. In contrast, deaths of bicycle riders 20 years old and above increased by 195 percent during the same period of time.

Research shows that 20 percent of bicyclists who died in a collision with a motor vehicle were at least 20 years old or older. In addition, officials learned that only 17 percent of bicyclists who perished in crashes were wearing helmets at the time of the collision. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, in 2013, crashes between bicycles and motor vehicles resulted in 741 deaths of bicycle riders. This figure is two percent higher than the one for the previous year.

The Opposing View

Although there are local bike helmet ordinances in some states that apply to everyone who rides a bicycle, some people believe that this is insufficient and wish to expand state laws to include adults. This idea does not appeal to bicycle advocacy groups. Executive Director of the California Bicycle Coalition Dave Snyder stated that people can ensure that cycling is safe by enacting measures that create safer roads. He suggests that officials do this by lowering speed limits or separating cars from bicycles by introducing more bicycle lanes.

Others believe that there is a contradiction within bicycle helmet laws. According to Policy Director for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition Eric Bruins, legislators are telling California residents that riding a bicycle is excellent for their health. At the same time, they are suggesting that riding a bike is also extremely dangerous, so they must protect themselves with bicycle helmets. He believes that the latter statement will prevail, and people will decide not to ride.

The opposition to the proposed bike helmet law does not mean that bicycle advocates are opposed to wearing them. Some advocates wear helmets, and they suggest that other people do the same if they believe that helmets will help them feel more secure. Their only objection is the fact that a law will take their choices away from them.

The Limitations of Scientific Research

Although the Department of Transportation and other agencies cite statistics that demonstrate a reduction in fatalities when people wear bike helmets, researchers have not been able to definitively state that the cause of the decrease in fatalities is the bike helmet.

The medical community has even participated in this debate. According to a report that was featured in the medical journal BMJ, researchers couldn’t determine that there was a direct correlation between a reduced fatality rate and the existence of bike helmet laws. They also agree with bicycle advocates who state that bike helmet laws prevent people from riding their bikes.

A Confusing Message in the Medical Community

Everyone in the medical community doesn’t agree with the studies listed in the BMJ report, including those associated with the Journal of Pediatrics. Researchers studied the data over a 10-year period and found that child bicycle fatalities and injuries did decrease by 20 percent. This occurred in states that had bike helmet laws on their books.

A research study performed in Great Britain adds to the confusion. Ian Walker is a psychology researcher from the University of Bath who placed sensors on bicycles that can record the distance between the bikes and other vehicles. He found that motorists made sure to give volunteer cyclists who were not wearing helmets an extra 3.3 inches of space that was not given to subjects who were wearing helmets. His conclusion was that bicyclists who wear helmets have an increased risk of being involved in a bicycle accident.

What is the explanation for the phenomenon described above? The professor believes that it may be because motorists think that a rider who wears a helmet takes his or her riding very seriously and is unlikely to do anything unexpected.

If the California Law Passes…

Legislators from several U.S. states have considered mandatory bike helmet laws for adults, but these laws failed to pass. If the California law does pass, the money collected in fines will be designated toward bicycle-related causes. For example, some of the money will fund a program to help families with limited resources obtain bike helmets for their kids. The final one-fourth will be designated toward the city’s general fund.

Were You Hurt in a Bicycle Accident?

If you have been involved in a bicycle accident, it will be in your best interests to contact a bicycle accident attorney. As a bicyclist, you may have suffered very serious injuries in a collision with a motor vehicle, and you may have large medical bills you need to pay because of it. This becomes difficult or even impossible when you are unable to work. To add insult to injury, the at-fault driver’s insurance company may have denied payment of your claim, or they may have offered an amount that is much lower than you deserve.

If one of the scenarios described above resembles your situation, call a bicycle accident attorney today. You are also within your rights to contact an attorney if you lost a loved one in a bike accident. Your attorney will work tirelessly to ensure that you receive a fair settlement in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.

car accident, accident prevention, car accident lawyerVehicle safety has come a long way during the past 50 years. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration both conduct several safety tests for new vehicles every year. Their tests determine ratings, and safety ratings are a key role in many families’ buying decisions. However, these features are not enough to provide a 100 percent safety guarantee on the road.

Latest Crash Prevention Technologies

Auto manufacturers add very useful features to modern vehicles. Since the IIHS and NHTSA are continually tightening their safety requirements, newer vehicles must continually improve to keep up with them and earn the highest ratings. These are some of the latest safety features.

Forward Collision Warning

These collision warning systems use either a radar or camera to detect vehicles in front of a moving car. When the front of the car reaches a certain length of space between it and the rear of the vehicle ahead, an alert is initiated. Some vehicles also brake automatically when the gap closes in fast. However, they do not always brake fast enough, and drivers may still fail to manually brake in time to avoid a crash.

Blind Spot Detection

Using a sensor, this safety feature senses vehicles entering or lingering in a blind spot. When there is another vehicle in the blind spot, a warning light appears on the drivers side. It is typically on the door near within sight of the side mirror.

Lane Departure Warning

This safety feature uses a camera and software. When the vehicle comes too close to the lane markings from the camera’s perspective, the software initiates a warning to the driver. Depending on the vehicle or product, it may be a light or a verbal warning. The catch is that they usually only work when a turn signal is not on. If a driver leaves a turn signal on without realizing it and relies on this technology, a crash could still happen.

Lane Departure Prevention

Also called lane assist, this technology is similar to the aforementioned lane departure warning feature. However, it also manipulates the steering wheel to correct the vehicles’ position. However, these systems can have faults when there are improper road markings or the markings on the road are not visible. For example, when the roads are covered in snow or ice, these systems are not very useful.

Autobrake

This system automatically applies the brakes when a vehicle approaches another vehicle or object ahead. It may also brake in a variety of other situations with certain safety features.

Adaptive Headlights

Many crashes happen at night because drivers cannot see properly. Adaptive headlights automatically adjust the brightness based on the surrounding darkness and approaching vehicles. This eliminates the need to flick brights on and off, and some vehicles reposition the lights to enhance visibility. This may not always be enough to prevent collisions with deer, objects in the road or even other vehicles.

Adaptive Cruise Control

This type of cruise control combines crash avoidance technology with the benefit of maintaining a safe speed. In the past, drivers had to brake when approaching the rear end of a vehicle ahead. This technology automatically slows down and speeds up based on the distance of the vehicle ahead, which greatly reduces the chances of a rear-end accident. However, it may not prevent an accident if the driver does not manually brake and the vehicle ahead brakes too fast.

Crash Prevention Technology Statistics

While several vehicles earn Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick+ awards from the IIHS, there are still many vehicles that do not. Experts at the IIHS point out that these safety features help, but statistics show they do not always prevent crashes. It is best to think of them as assistance but not rely on them completely. Also, the IIHS recommends understanding limitations and vehicle-specific statistics.

Crash Victims Are Hardest Hit

Keep in mind that practicing safe driving and having safety features does not prevent the irresponsible or negligent actions of other drivers. Car crash victims are always hardest hit, and the effects of being in an auto accident may be forever. Following a car crash, a person may be completely disabled or have permanent injuries. A traffic collision attorney can help. Only a car accident lawyer can recover the most money for damages, because auto insurance companies never offer enough money to victims to cover a lifetime of medical bills after an auto accident. A traffic collision attorney can also recommend doctors, assistance programs and much more for injured victims. When safety features do not make the cut and other drivers are at fault, always contact a car accident lawyer for help.

San Bernardino, Car Crash, Accident LawyerInterested jury verdict reported today regarding a San Bernardino County auto accident .  The claim was brought on behalf of two persons injured driving along a county road in the desert near Barstow in the case of Branson et. al, v. County of San Bernardino and County of San Bernardino v. James Schult (Case No: CIVBS1200331)  My summary and analysis as a San Bernardino traffic collision lawyer is as follows:

Facts of the Case: This case arose out of a single vehicle accident which occurred on a dirt road near Barstow.  The driver, James Schult, was traveling down the towards a bridge over the Mojave river.  Unbeknownst to him, the bridge had been washed out by a flood and there were no warning signs or other indication not to proceed and no berms or barriers that kept cars from traveling towards the washed out bridge.  He crashed his truck in the ravine and both he and his passenger, Loren Branson, suffered serious bodily injury as a result.

Plaintiffs contended that the washed out bridge with no warning constituted a “dangerous condition of public property” for which the County of San Bernardino knew or should have known.  The County contended that the condition was not “dangerous” and/or  that they had taken sufficient measures to ensure the safety of travelers on the road.

Injuries Sustained: Plaintiff Schultz suffered several injuries including a fractured sternum and plaintiff Branson sustained orthopedic damage to her lower spine.  They submitted into evidence medical expenses approximating $125,000 to $140,000 each.

Verdict Result: After a seven day jury trial, the plaintiffs were awarded a total of $396,000.  This was comprised of economic damages (medical expenses) for Mr. Schultz at $141,228 and both economic and non-economic damages for both medical costs and pain and suffering for plaintiff Branson in the amount of approximately $240,000.  Apparently, the best offer for settlement from the county prior to trial was $10,000 for Mr. Schultz and $30,000 for Ms. Branson.

My Analysis of this Verdict: Dangerous roadway claims against government entities contending that they failed to design or maintain a thoroughfare in a safe condition are very tough cases from a liability standpoint.  Public entities like the County of San Bernardino are afforded a lot of leeway in how they maintain their infrastructure.  However, just like any other entity, they can be found negligent if the condition of public property is dangerous and they had notice in time to fix it or prevent harm.  From the summary, it appears that the county had a “technical” expert regarding the roadway but, the plaintiffs only hired medical experts. This would tend to show that the plaintiffs felt that the fact that a bridge was washed out and no warnings or barriers were placed was an obviously dangerous condition.  The jury clearly sided with this argument.  It should be noted that plaintiff Schultz had not auto insurance coverage at the time of the incident, thereby precluding any claim for “physical pain” or “emotional stress” under California’s “Prop. 213″ (now codified as California Civil Code 3333.3).  No such restriction applies to passengers in the vehicle of an uninsured driver, therefore, plaintiff Branson was entitled to full recovery including pain and suffering.

Elder Abuse, Nursing Home Abuse, California Laws, Los Angeles Nursing Home Abuse AttorneyIn a recent California Court of Appeal decision, Lemaire v. Covenant Care California, LLCthe court struck down a jury verdict in favor of the plaintiffs in a blow to patient’s rights.  My insight in this decision is as follows:

Facts of the Case: 

Patient, Laura Clausen, suffered a stroke and was admitted to a skilled nursing facility in California run by Coventant Care.  While in their care, she later died.  Her daughter brought an action against the nursing home alleging chronic understaffing causing substandard medical care.  She further alleged in the lawsuit that the nursing facility was in violation of California Health and Safety Code 1430(b) in failing to maintain clear and legible notes in the patient history records including notes of “how the patient responds, eats, drinks, looks feels and reacts.”  Plaintiff was awarded $270,000 as statutory damages under 1430(b)) and $841,842 in attorney fees along with $26,327.45 in costs.  Covenant Care California, LLC appealed this award.

Ruling:

The Court of Appeal rejected the award and ruled that statutory claims under CA H&S Code 1430(b) are limited to a “maximum of $500″ and that the court had discretion to redetermine the award of attorney’s fees and costs after the case was remanded back to the trial court.

My Analysis of this Ruling As A California Nursing Home Abuse Claims Attorney:

Thankfully, we live in a state that has many laws on the books that protect the elderly and the infirm.  As I have pointed out in other blogs summarizing the elder abuse laws in California, there are numerous provisions of law that require both skilled nursing facilities and assisted living institutions to provide and comply with a patient’s bill of rights, which includes the right to be provided with adequate health care and be treated with dignity and respect.  Principally, these laws are found in California Welfare and Institutions Code 15600 and following.  One of the requirements of these laws is that a patient be provided with a “bill of rights”.  The statute in play in this particular case was another law on the books in the Golden State that is meant to prevent elder abuse and neglect, namely, CA Health and Safety Code 1430(b), which is meant to provide some “teeth” to the requirement and enforcement of patient’s bills of rights and states, in pertinent part, as follows:

“A current or former resident or patient of a skilled nursing facility, as defined in subdivision (c) of Section 1250, or intermediate care facility, as defined in subdivision (d) of Section 1250, may bring a civil action against the licensee of a facility who violates any rights of the resident or patient as set forth in the Patients Bill of Rights in Section 72527 of Title 22 of the California Code of Regulations, or any other right provided for by federal or state law or regulation. The suit shall be brought in a court of competent jurisdiction. The licensee shall be liable for the acts of the licensee’s employees. The licensee shall be liable for up to five hundred dollars ($500), and for costs and attorney fees, and may be enjoined from permitting the violation to continue. An agreement by a resident or patient of a skilled nursing facility or intermediate care facility to waive his or her rights to sue pursuant to this subdivision shall be void as contrary to public policy.”

Fortunately, this provision does provide for a so-called “private right of action” (i.e. if the state entities and Attorney General are not taking action to enforce compliance of elder abuse laws, a private citizen may bring such a lawsuit).  Unfortunately, if such a “private action” is filed in civil court, the “statutory” damages are limited to a mere $500.  This alone would provide little, if any, incentive for a private attorney to take on such a case.  Therefore, the right to attorney’s fees and costs provides an additional incentive for a lawyer to take on this type of case on a “contingency basis”, with the hopes of prevailing and being awarded reasonable attorney’s fees for at a rate based upon the lawyer’s level of experience and amount of hours worked.  The ruling goes to show that even with all of the laws protecting elders in California, there are still limitations on what can be recovered.  This is why it is always best to consult with an attorney that handles nursing home and elder abuse claims to understand the various statutes and how they may be used if you believe that a loved one has been abused or neglected in a California nursing home or other elder-care facility.