California Court of Appeals Rules in Car Accident Award Appeal

In a recent California Court of Appeals decision, Bean v. Pacific Coast Elevator Corp., 234 Cal. App. 4th 1423 (2015), an employee of the Pacific Coast Elevator Corporation reportedly crashed his vehicle into the plaintiff’s truck, which was stopped at a red light.

The plaintiff suffered serious injuries as a result of the car accident and sued the defendant’s employer. At trial, the jury found the defendant, as an agent of his employer, negligent, and it awarded the plaintiff $1,271,594.74 in damages, which included $126,594.74 in economic damages, and $1,145,000 in noneconomic damages. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion for a new trial and granted the plaintiff’s motion for prejudgment interest and also awarded costs.

While not discussed in the case opinion explicitly, when an individual is involved in a car accident in the course of their employment, they can often be held accountable on behalf of their employer by the doctrine of respondeat superior. Respondeat superior means that the employer answers for the employee, in the legal sense of the term.

On appeal, the defendant argued that the jury’s noneconomic damage award was excessive, and also that the trial court erred in instructing the jury on basic speed law, and furthermore that the plaintiff’s counsel engaged in misconduct during the trial. The defendant also alleged that the trial court erred in finding the plaintiff’s pre-trial settlement 998 offer was reasonable and in good faith.

The statute at issue in the decision was Section 998 of the Code of Civil Procedure:

“If the plaintiff makes an offer pursuant to Section 998 of the Code of Civil Procedure which the defendant does not accept prior to trial or within 30 days, whichever occurs first, and the plaintiff obtains a more favorable judgment, the judgment shall bear interest at the legal rate of 10 percent per annum calculated from the date of the plaintiff’s first offer pursuant to Section 998 of the Code of Civil Procedure which is exceeded by the judgment, and interest shall accrue until the satisfaction of judgment.”

The Court found that the point of awarding prejudgment interest was in regards to a lost potential award that the plaintiff was foregoing, and therefore it was inappropriate to extend that logic to costs.

The Court of Appeals ultimately agreed with the defendant that the trial court erred in the awarding of prejudgment interest on the costs, but it rejected the remaining challenges. It thus reversed the judgment regarding the awarding of prejudgment interest on costs only, and it remanded on that basis.

If you have been injured in a car accident, it is important to understand your rights so that you can ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. In addition to medical expenses, you may be entitled to additional compensation, such as lost wages. The lawyers at Sharifi Firm, APC have significant experience in handling car accident cases throughout California.  If you have been involved in a car accident, contact us today for a free consultation. We can be reached through this website or by calling (866) 422-7222.

More Blog Posts:

California Court of Appeals Sides with Doctor in Malpractice Action, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, published July 2, 2015

California Court of Appeals Upholds Decision to Grant New Trial on Damages in Bus Accident Case, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, published June 26, 2015

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