In California personal injury cases, there are two types of damages awards. The first type, compensatory damages, attempts to put the plaintiff in the position in which they were prior to being involved in the accident. The second type, punitive damages, is less common and focuses on deterring especially bad conduct by the defendant.

California Truck DriverWhen it comes to determining compensatory damages, a jury will review the evidence and make the final decision. However, a jury’s damages award must comply with the law. When it comes to determining the type and amount of damages that a personal injury victim is entitled to receive, courts often have to deal with the issue of insurance.

Insurance can complicate the damages calculation process because in many cases an injured plaintiff’s insurance company – or the insurance company of the at-fault driver – will reimburse the plaintiff for the costs of the medical expenses. Further complicating the matter is the fact that insurance companies have often negotiated discounted rates, such that the book value of the services provided is far greater than the amount actually paid out by the insurance company.

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In a recent California wrongful death case, an appellate court dismissed a claim against a hospital after it failed to follow a woman’s health care directive stating that she wanted all life-saving measures to be taken. The 70-year-old woman was suffering from terminal pancreatic cancer and was being treated at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla when she died. Her advance health care directive stated that she wanted all measures taken to prolong her life. The woman designated her son as the person who could make health care decisions for her, and he also told the doctors that he wanted everything done to prolong her life.

Doctor's ComputerHowever, the hospital did not provide the woman with certain life-support measures because her doctors believed that the measures would have been ineffective and would have caused her to suffer more harm than good. One of her doctors believed that continuing to treat her would cause her additional pain and suffering. He entered a do not resuscitate (DNR) order, but he did not tell the woman’s son about the order at the time. The woman’s son understood that her death was imminent and that she was not going to survive, but he still wanted her advance health-care directive to be followed. The woman’s condition continued to deteriorate while she was at the hospital, and she died several days after her arrival.

Her children sued the hospital, alleging that the hospital failed to provide the life-sustaining treatment she had requested in her advance health care directive, arguing in part that the hospital committed elder abuse by neglecting and physically abusing her.

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Earlier this month, a nine-year-old boy was injured when the inflatable bounce house that he was playing inside was lifted off the ground and blown onto a nearby highway. According to a local news report, the inflatable toy was blown from a residential neighborhood in Adelanto about a quarter-mile away onto Highway 395.

Bounce HouseAs the bounce house was falling back toward the ground, the young boy fell from the house onto the ground, sustaining minor injuries. The bounce house then rolled into a car. The driver of the car reported being “shook up” but was not injured. It is not clear whether any California personal injury claim will result from the events.

This was just the most recent of several accidents involving inflatable bounce houses over the past few years. The article discusses two other incidents in which bounce houses were blown away. In both cases, the children inside at the time suffered serious injuries.

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Southern California has long been known for some of the worst traffic in the country. In fact, according to most studies, Los Angeles and the surrounding area ranks worst in the entire world for the amount of time spent in traffic. However, according to a recent news report, Southern California roadways are not just among the most congested; they are also among the most dangerous.

L.A. FreewayAccording to a local news report discussing the results of the most recent National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, about 10% of all fatal traffic accidents occur in California. What’s more, all five of the California counties with the most accidents are in Southern California:  Los Angeles County, Riverside County, San Bernardino County, San Diego County, and Orange County. Los Angeles County saw approximately 800 fatal traffic accidents in 2016, which was about three times as many accidents as Riverside County, which was the second-place county with about 260 fatal accidents.

Motorists and researchers alike place most of the blame for these high numbers on speeding, which accounts for just under a third of all fatal California car accidents. Drunk driving, distracted driving, and aggressive driving also rank high among the causes of fatal traffic accidents.

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Earlier this month, the Foundation for Traffic Safety released the findings of a study regarding the frequency of hit-and-run collisions in the United States. The Foundation compiled crash data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA’s) reporting systems. The study shines a light on the unpleasant fact that California hit-and-run accidents occur much more frequently than most people believe.

Wrecked CarThe Methodology and Results of the Study

The Foundation analyzed the NHTSA’s systems, containing data about all reported motor vehicle accidents occurring on public roadways and resulting in a death within 30 days of the accident.

The study revealed that in 2016 alone, there were 1,980 hit-and-run accidents across the country. These accidents resulted in over 2,000 fatalities. It was noted that this was the highest number of hit-and-run fatalities since the NHSTA began keeping records on fatalities in 1975.

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One of the most important considerations in any California personal injury case is understanding when the claim must be filed. In a recent case, an appellate court allowed a California motorcycle accident case to proceed to trial despite the defendant’s argument that the claim was filed after the relevant statute of limitations had expired.

MotorcycleThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff hired an accounting firm to manage her finances. As part of the agreement, the firm was to purchase insurance for the plaintiff and her family. The plaintiff asked the firm to obtain uninsured/underinsured insurance with a $5 million policy limit, but the firm obtained a policy with a limit of only $1.5 million.

The plaintiff’s son was later involved in a motorcycle accident, resulting in his sustaining serious injuries. The plaintiff only then found out that her insurance policy was limited to $1.5 million. After receiving the $1.5 million payout under her insurance policy, the plaintiff sued the accounting firm, alleging that she and her son suffered damages because they could not collect the additional money under the policy that she had requested.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a California car accident case discussing the element of causation. Specifically, the court was tasked with determining if a party responsible for an accident that occurred several years earlier could be held liable for a subsequent accident that was caused in part by the accident victim’s inability to avoid the accident, due to the injuries they sustained in the initial accident years before.

Motorized ScooterNot surprisingly, the court determined that the plaintiff’s theory of causation was too attenuated to hold the party that was allegedly at fault for the initial accident responsible for the later accident.

The Facts of the Case

In 2005, a man was seriously injured when a tire on the vehicle in which he was riding as a passenger blew out, causing the vehicle to collide with a telephone pole. As a result of the injuries he sustained, the man’s mobility was severely limited, and he was forced to get around by using a motorized scooter.

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Any time an individual files a California personal injury lawsuit, they must be able to provide evidence of each element of their claim. In a traditional negligence case, this means establishing that the defendant violated a duty of care that was owed to the plaintiff. While the outcome of a case can vary greatly depending on the jurisdiction, generally, states follow one of four basic theories regarding fault:

  • Parking LotPure Contributory Negligence – a plaintiff cannot recover damages if they are found to be even the slightest bit at fault.
  • Pure Comparative Negligence – a plaintiff can recover damages if they are partially at fault (even 99% at fault).

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a California personal injury case involving the question of whether a landlord of a building that rents space to a health club has a duty to ensure that the club has a defibrillator device on hand. Ultimately, the court concluded that while the operator of a health club is legally obligated to provide the defibrillator devices under a state statute, that duty does not extend to the landlord.

Boxing GlovesThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the surviving loved ones of a man who died of a heart attack while working out at a boxing gym. The defendant was the owner of the building where the gym was located. Following the death of their loved one, the plaintiffs filed a case against the defendant landlord. The plaintiffs claimed that the defendant was negligent in failing to ensure that the boxing gym installed defibrillator devices, as is required under Health and Safety Code section 104113.

Specifically, section 104113 requires that all “health studios” maintain defibrillator devices on hand. The statute defines a health studio as “a facility permitting the use of its facilities and equipment or access to its facilities and equipment, to individuals or groups for physical exercise, body building, reducing, figure development, fitness training, or any other similar purpose, on a membership basis.”

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In a recent case, the California Supreme Court determined that colleges have a duty to protect students from foreseeable harm. In that case, the court considered a California personal injury claim against the University of California at Los Angeles, after a girl was stabbed by another student during a class.

College ClassroomThe Facts of the Case

The student had been experiencing auditory hallucinations, which were first brought to the attention of a professor, the department chair, and the dean of students. He complained that other students were insulting him and told the dean of students that if the university failed to discipline the other students, the matter would likely “escalate into a more serious situation,” and he would act in a way that would “incur undesirable consequences.” He then complained to other professors and a teaching assistant (TA). The TA noted that the student was frequently talking to himself and displayed what she believed were signs of schizophrenia. The student was urged to use the school’s counseling services. The assistant dean of students also contacted the university’s response team, which advises campus members who are concerned about the well-being of a student.

The student later told his resident director that he was advised to hurt other residents and that he had thought about it, but he had decided not to hurt anyone. Campus police came and searched his room but did not find a weapon, and they brought him to the emergency room for a psychiatric evaluation. He was diagnosed with possible schizophrenia and major depressive disorder. The student agreed to begin treatment at the school’s counseling service and to take an antipsychotic medication.

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