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Articles Posted in Personal Injury Claims

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Personal-Injury-Claims-Attorneys-CaliforniaIs an insurance company required to disclose and tender policy limits in California?  When insurance companies receive accident claims that are likely to involve damages far exceeding their policy limits, they are required to try to settle the claims within their insured’s policy limits. In Hedayati v. Interinsurance Exchange of the Auto. Club, Cal. Ct. App. Case No. G058189, the Court of Appeal considered whether an insurance company had acted in bad faith when it refused to disclose its insured’s policy limits and to communicate a settlement demand that had been made.[1]

Factual and procedural background

Maryam Hedayati was a 43-year-old woman who had recently graduated from medical school. While taking a break from studying for her medical board exam on Oct. 1, 2012, she took a walk. As she crossed the street in a crosswalk, 45-year-old Maurice Vanwyk struck her with his vehicle. The collision severed one of Hedayati’s legs, shattered the other, and left her in a coma and on life support.

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California-Personal-Injury-LawsIn California, family members who witness their loved ones’ serious injuries may file claims against the responsible parties for negligent infliction of emotional distress. In the past, the California Supreme Court has held that people must be present at the time of the incidents and witness them before they will have valid claims of negligent infliction of emotional distress. However, technology has advanced since the California Supreme Court established its bright-line rule for NIED cases. Today, family members might observe their loved ones’ injury incidents by video on their smartphones or other mobile devices. In Ko v. Maxim Healthcare Services, Inc., Cal. Ct. App. Case No. B293672, the appeals court considered whether virtual presence at the time of an incident was enough to satisfy the California Supreme Court’s physical presence requirement.[1]

Factual and procedural background

Dyana and Christopher Ko were the parents of three children. Their youngest child, Landon, was born with Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder. The Kos both worked outside of the home and contracted with Maxim Healthcare Services to provide an in-home health care aide to care for Landon when they were at work or elsewhere. One of the in-home workers who was sent by Maxim to work in the Kos’ home with Landon was named Thelma Manalastas. After Manalastas had provided care for Landon for a year, the Kos went with their older two children to a basketball tournament on April 22, 2017.

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People who suffer injuries while they are engaged in recreational activities or sports are generally prevented from recovering damages in a lawsuit by the primary assumption of the risk doctrine. However, this doctrine does not apply when a defendant’s actions increase the risks beyond what is normal for the sport or intentionally injures someone else. In Szarowicz v. Birenbaum, Cal. Ct. App. Case No. A156312, the appeals court considered a case in which the trial court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment based on the primary assumption of the risk doctrine.[1]

Factual and procedural background

Michael Szarowicz and Jeremy Birenbaum both participated in a recreational ice hockey league in San Francisco in 2017. The league was a no-contact league, meaning that the players were prohibited from body-checking one another. During a recreational hockey championship game on Jan. 30, 2017, Birenbaum and Szarowicz were on opposing teams. The league that their teams played in was for teams of the next to lowest skill level. Szarowicz’s team, the Icehounds, was ahead by five points during the final minutes of the game. The puck shot across the ice towards the bench where the players sat, and Szarowicz followed it. He intended to hit it toward the opposing team’s goal. Birenbaum had been guarding the goal when he took six strides across the ice towards Szarowicz. As Szarowicz turned to hit the puck, Birenbaum collided with him, causing him to be tossed into the air and fall to the ice. He was knocked unconscious for a few moments but was eventually able to get up and to be helped off of the ice. He remained on the bench until the game’s end. He was then taken to the hospital and was found to have suffered extensive injuries, including six rib fractures, three fractures in his shoulder, a shoulder dislocation, a sternum fracture, a scapular fracture, and a collapsed lung.

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Under California’s premises liability laws, California property owners owe a duty to keep their premises safe and to warn visitors of hazards in most cases.[1] However, when people are permitted to enter the land to participate in a recreational activity, the landowners are immune from liability. The immunity from liability does not apply in cases in which the landowners expressly invite others to enter their land, however. InHoffman v. Young, Cal. Ct. App. Case No. B292539m the appeals court considered whether an invitation by a property owner’s son to a friend to come to his parents’ home was enough to overcome his parents’ liability after his friend was injured.[2]

Factual and procedural background

Mikayla Hoffman was invited by her 18-year-old friend, Gunner Young, to Gunner’s parents’ home. At the time, Gunner still lived with his parents, and Mikayla was a minor. Young drove to Hoffman’s house and loaded her motorcycle in his truck for her. He then drove her to his home. On some of his parents’ land next to his home, the Youngs had built a motocross track. Young and Hoffman road their motorcycles on the track together. Young collided with Hoffman’s motorcycle, causing her to suffer serious injuries. Hoffman’s parents filed a lawsuit against Young and his parents.

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Many people in California enjoy going to amusement parks and waterslides. When people are injured on a ride or waterslide, they may have grounds to recover damages through personal injury lawsuits. However, it has previously been unclear the type of duty owed by the operator of a waterslide to its customers and whether operating a waterslide should be viewed as offering a service or offering a product. In Sharufa v. Festival Fun Parks, Cal. Ct. App. Case No. H044064, the appeals court considered these questions when it handled an appeal from a summary judgment order in a claim for injuries related to a waterslide accident.[1]

Factual and procedural background

Sean Sharufa went to a theme park called Raging Waters that was operated by Festival Fun Parks. While there, he went down a waterslide on an inner tube. During his descent down the slide, he fell out of the inner tube and onto his stomach. When he hit the splash pool at the bottom of the slide, his feet hit the bottom of the pool with sufficient force to break his pelvis and hip.

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Every state, including California, has statutes of limitations that govern when legal claims must be filed. The medical malpractice statute of limitations is three years from the date of the injury or one year from the date that the plaintiff learns that he or she has been injured or reasonably should have learned about the injury. However, the delayed discovery rule provides an exception to the statute of limitations in cases in which a person’s discovery of his or her injury’s cause is delayed for some period after the incident. In Brewer v. Remington, Cal. Ct. App., Case No. F076467, the court considered whether the delayed discovery rule applied when a woman became paralyzed after a routine surgery and subsequently sought treatment from a neurological surgeon.[1]

Factual and procedural background

Judith Brewer had carpal tunnel and shoulder surgery performed on April 22, 2013, at Doctors Medical in Modesto, California. The doctors who performed the surgical procedures were Drs. Bedi and Pistel. The morning after her surgery, Brewer suffered from paralysis and lost sensation in her arms and legs. She returned to Doctors Medical and had an MRI performed. The MRI revealed that she suffered from central cord syndrome, paraplegia, and incontinence and needed a cervical discectomy and extensive rehabilitation. Dr. Benjamin J. Remington saw Brewer on April 24, 2013. He noted in her chart that the functioning of Brewer’s lower extremities had further declined. Instead of performing an emergency spinal decompression procedure, Remington chose to wait to perform the surgery until May 30, 2013, to allow the swelling to go down.

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Under California law, emotional distress is a recognized category of injury that people can suffer and for which they can recover damages when it is negligently or intentionally inflicted by others. In Crouch v. Trinity Christian Center of Santa Ana Inc., Cal. Ct. App. No. G055602, the court considered whether statements made by the plaintiff’s grandmother amounted to intentional infliction of emotional distress and whether the grandmother’s employer was liable for the resulting damages.

Factual background of the case

Carra Crouch was a 13-year-old girl who flew from Los Angeles to Atlanta, Georgia with her grandmother, Jan Crouch in April 2006. Jan Crouch worked for Trinity Christian Center of Santa Ana, and she was in charge of a telethon that was scheduled to occur in Atlanta. Carra was planning to visit her cousins, Nathan and Nick. While they were in route, Carra received a message from a man named Steve Smith, a 30-year-old man who worked for Trinity Christian Center. Carra had previously been introduced to Smith by her two cousins, and Smith told her he hoped that he would get to see her during her visit.

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When personal injury cases in California go to jury trials, both the plaintiffs and the defendants are allowed to question potential jurors. The courts may also allow them to make opening statements so that they can present information about the facts and circumstances of their cases. However, as the case of Alcazar v. Los Angeles Unified School District, Cal. Ct. App. Case No. B281313 shows, the court is allowed to restrict the scope of the questioning and has discretion about allowing opening statements. People who have suffered injuries might benefit from consulting with experienced Los Angeles personal injury lawyers to obtain fair evaluations of their potential claims.

Factual background of the case

Edgar Alcazar was a 13-year-old middle school student with special needs. On May 7, 2013, Alcazar was swinging from a branch of a tree on the school’s campus that was growing inside of a concrete planter. Alcazar had been warned not to swing on the branches in the past and had been told that doing so was dangerous. Despite these warnings, he swang on the branch again, falling to the ground and striking his head on a pedestrian walkway during his lunchtime recess. The principal was called over a radio about the incident. When he got to the scene, he found Alcazar lying on his back next to a broken branch from the tree. The branch was about six feet long and 2 inches thick at its widest point.

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Corporate-Greed-Lawsuit-AvoidanceWhen corporations have potential liability in personal injury and wrongful death cases, they often aggressively litigate legal claims that are filed against them by the victims and their families. Businesses may try to limit their liability in several ways. The business owners may try to avoid personal liability by structuring their companies as LLCs or corporations.

Some businesses set up shell companies so that the businesses themselves have few assets and only minimal liability policies. Others, such as Ripley Entertainment in Missouri and MGM Resorts in Las Vegas, take aggressive approaches to the victims by filing lawsuits against them based on antiquated laws or novel interpretations of recent laws. Large corporations also use lobbyists to convince state and federal legislators to limit liability through tort reform. When a business entity is a defendant in a personal injury lawsuit, it is important for the victims to get help from personal injury attorneys who are experienced in handling complex tort litigation matters.

An attempt to avoid liability: Ripley Entertainment and the duck boat disaster

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When people in California are injured in accidents because of the negligence or recklessness of other drivers, they may face devastating injuries that require complex treatment. People who file lawsuits in California to recover damages may recover their past and future medical expenses. If they are insured, their damages recovery will be limited to the amounts that their insurance companies have paid rather than the actual value of the care that was provided. In Pebley v. Santa Clara Organics LLC, 2d Civ. No. B277893, the California Court of Appeals ruled in a case on whether an insured plaintiff is required to stay within his or her own medical plan when seeking treatment for injuries following an accident in order to mitigate the resulting damages.

Factual Background

Plaintiff David Pebley was returning with his wife from a camping trip in the couple’s motor home on May 9, 2011. While Pebley’s wife was driving the motor home east on the 126 Freeway in Ventura County, one of the tires flattened. Mrs. Pebley steered the motor home onto the right shoulder of the freeway, turned on her hazard lights and stopped. A portion of the motor home’s rear end was still extending into a part of the lane. Mrs. Pebley saw a tractor-trailer approaching the motor home while traveling at approximately 50 mph in her rearview mirror. The truck crashed into the rear of the motor home with enough force that the passenger seat where Mr. Pebley was sitting broke. David Pebley suffered serious injuries to his back, neck, face and teeth. He was treated at a hospital and then released, but he required ongoing follow-up treatment for injuries to the vertebrae in his cervical spine.

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