Articles Posted in Car Accidents

Head-on collisions make up a small percentage of the overall number of California car accidents; however, they are also among the most deadly. Those that survive a head-on collision typically require extensive and long-term medical care. During recovery, many head-on accident victims cannot work, presenting significant financial burdens, as treatment is often costly. California car accident victims should contact an attorney to discuss their rights and remedies after a head-on collision.

Head-on collisions occur when a front-end of a vehicle collides with the front-end of another vehicle. The speed rate can affect the extent of damages; however, even collisions at a slow speed can result in serious damages. California head-on collisions’ most common causes involve driver fatigue, speeding, driver distraction, texting and driving, and poor road conditions. Even if an airbag deploys, these accidents can still result in extensive injuries. The most common types of injuries include broken bones, spinal cord injuries, abrasions, organ damage, and traumatic brain injury.

California law requires drivers to operate their car safely and use due care to avoid causing injuries to others. Drivers must obey safety laws and modify their driving to comport with weather and traffic conditions. When a driver engages in negligent or reckless driving, they may be liable for negligence. Although insurance may cover some damages, the at-fault driver may be responsible for paying damages that the insurance company will not cover. In some cases, head-on collision lawsuits proceed to a jury trial.

People often get frustrated when the check engine light appears on their car, along with many other motor vehicle issues. However, when a person purchases a vehicle, it often comes with an express warranty that the manufacturer will fix the car if issues arise within a certain period of time. A willful violation of a car’s express warranty occurs when a manufacturer performs an inadequate solution to the issue and knows the fix is insufficient. In a recent California appellate case, the court was tasked with deciding whether a manufacturer willfully violated the terms of the express warranty when they knew about an issue with the vehicle and did not fix it. Ultimately, the court decided that the manufacturer committed a willful violation of the express warranty – and thus was liable for greater damages – by not fixing the problem with the plaintiff’s car.

The plaintiff purchased the car from the manufacturer with a three-year, 36,000-mile warranty. Within days of buying the car, the plaintiff had issues with the fuel pump, which helps regulate the power to most of the systems of the vehicle. One time the plaintiff brought the car to the shop, the manufacturer attempted to fix the faulty fuel pump, but in doing so, caused the battery to fail. There was evidence presented at trial that the manufacturer knew about the battery failure but sent the car home with the plaintiff regardless. After further issues with the car, the plaintiff then brought a lawsuit against the manufacturer, alleging a willful violation of the express warranty.

The plaintiff specifically relied on the Song-Beverly Act, arguing the defendant committed a willful violation of the express warranty. The Song-Beverly Act is a California consumer warranty statute that applies to the sale of consumer goods. The Song-Beverly Act requires manufacturers to repair a vehicle within a reasonable amount of time if the good does not conform with the express warranty made by the company. If the manufacturer is unable to repair the vehicle in order to conform with the express warranty after a reasonable number of attempts, the manufacturer must either replace the vehicle or repay the buyer. The plaintiff can recuperate additional damages if they can establish the failure to comply was willful, meaning the repair was intentionally inadequate.

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a lawsuit stemming from a fatal California car accident. The record indicates that the victim was driving around 70 miles per hour on a highway in the same lane as the defendant. The defendant saw a car stopped in the middle of the highway in front of him and moved over to pass the stopped vehicle. When the defendant was about 300 feet past the car, he saw the victim’s car collide with the stopped vehicle. The collision caused the victim’s car to leave the lane it was in, colliding with another vehicle. The defendant saw the accident in his rear-view mirror, and called 911.

The victim’s representative filed a complaint against several parties, including the driver of the stopped car, the driver of the car that hit the victim, the owner of the stopped vehicle, and the owner of the vehicle that hit the victim. Sometime after the original complaint, the plaintiff added the defendant as a party, reasoning that the defendant’s late lane change prevented the victim from noticing the vehicle stopped in the middle of the road. In response, the defendant cited California’s sudden emergency doctrine. The trial court agreed that the doctrine provided the defendant with a complete defense, and the plaintiff appealed.

California’s “sudden emergency” or “imminent peril” doctrine protects defendants from liability in a negligence lawsuit. It typically applies when a defendant, who was otherwise acting with reasonable care, is suddenly and unexpectedly faced with an emergency that the defendant did not cause. To prevail on this defense, a defendant must establish three main elements. A defendant must prove that the events arose when there was a sudden emergency where someone was in actual or imminent injury, the defendant did not cause the emergency, and the defendant acted with due care, even if an alternative action was safer.

In a recent opinion, a California court refused to hold a ridesharing company liable for an accident caused by one of its drivers. The driver was using a car made available to him through the ridesharing company when he caused a California car accident resulting in injuries to two other motorists. The injured motorists filed a lawsuit against the ridesharing company, as well as the driver, arguing that the ridesharing company should be held liable for the driver’s actions while using a car provided through the driver’s employment. The ridesharing company denied legal responsibility, arguing that the driver was engaged in purely personal activity at the time of the accident.

The main issue, in this case, was whether the driver was acting within the scope of their employment when the accident occurred. An employer may be held liable for injuries wrongfully caused by an employee where the injured party filing the lawsuit proves that the person who caused the injury was acting “within the scope” of their employment. Conversely, an employer is not liable where the employee’s activity was “purely personal.

California uses two tests to determine whether an employee was acting within the scope of their employment at the time of an accident. The first is the Purton test, which considers whether the employee’s activity was undertaken with the employer’s permission, and whether it was of some benefit to the employer or typical within the context of employment. The second test is the Halliburton test, which considers whether the activity was required or incident to the employee’s duties, or whether the employee’s misconduct was reasonably foreseeable by the employer.

Recently, a national news report released updates on a tragic trick-or-tricking California pedestrian accident. A young family was walking back to their condo in Long Beach when an SUV crossed onto the sidewalk and slammed into the family. Sadly, the family was just steps away from their condo when the driver struck them. Law enforcement arrested the driver at the scene of the accident, and he was arrested for driving under the influence. In addition to drunk driving charges, the man is facing gross vehicular manslaughter criminal charges. The husband died shortly after impact, his son died on Saturday, and his wife died the following morning.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) in conjunction with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) collect, study, and report motor vehicle accident statistics. As the access and ease of public transportation in California increases, many more people walk as part of their daily commute. The increase in daily pedestrian traffic in combination with the prevalence of street and community events makes it even more crucial that motorists engage in safe driving.

Unfortunately, almost 20% of California accidents involve pedestrians, which is nearly 60% higher than the national average. The most recent data compilation reveals that there is an average of 238,000 fatal and non-fatal traffic injuries in California, and over 13,000 of those accidents involve severe injuries to pedestrians. Various factors impact the likelihood that a pedestrian will be involved in a traffic accident. Some factors include lighting, time of day, season, and pedestrian location. Most California pedestrian accidents occur during daylight, weekday business hours at non-intersections.

In a recent written opinion, a California appellate court discussed when evidence from an expert witness who is not on a party’s expert-witness list can be considered in a personal injury claim. According to the court’s opinion, in 2013 the plaintiff was an incarcerated in a county jail and was taken to and from court on a county bus. The plaintiff testified at trial that the bus hit a beam while parking, causing the inmate to whom the plaintiff was chained to sway, ultimately pulling the plaintiff off of his seat and onto the floor of the bus. A videotaped interview after the accident showed the plaintiff saying clearly that he was not injured in this accident, but the plaintiff asserts that shortly after the interview he began to feel pain. According to the plaintiff, this injury required he see both a doctor and a chiropractor regularly, amassing significant medical bills.

At trial, the plaintiff’s doctor testified that he believed the plaintiff’s injuries stemmed from the 2013 bus accident, and that the plaintiff required future surgery, estimated at around $90,000. The defendant county called another doctor as an expert witness to testify, but this doctor was not on their list of expert witnesses submitted to the court. Under California law, he was allowed to testify, but only in order to “impeach” the evidence of the plaintiff’s doctor. Impeachment testimony is permissible if it focuses on negating a specific fact used by another party’s witness to draw their conclusion. However, impeachment testimony cannot be simply used as pretext for offering a contrary opinion. The defendant’s added witness testified, stating that the plaintiff’s doctor had reached the wrong conclusion and misunderstood or misapplied medical science. At the end of trial, the jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff but awarding him far less damages than he sought, seeming to rely on the defendant’s expert witness’s testimony undercutting the plaintiff’s doctor.

The plaintiff appealed the verdict, in part arguing that the defendant’s expert witness’s testimony was beyond the scope of permissible impeachment and should not have been considered. The appellate court agreed, finding that the defendant’s witness, when discussing the plaintiff’s doctor testimony, did not aim to negate or deny a specific fact used by the doctor. Instead, according to the court, the defendant’s doctor offered his own, contrary opinion, which went beyond the scope of permissible impeachment. As such, the jury should not have been allowed to consider the testimony, and the court remanded the case for a new trial.

A state appellate court recently considered when an “excuse” jury instruction is appropriate in a California car accident case. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was driving on the highway when a mattress suddenly flew at her vehicle, causing her to swerve and hit the barrier. Eye-witnesses stated that they saw the mattress come from the defendant’s truck, and the plaintiff sued. California law requires that vehicles be loaded so that the materials on them stay put. The plaintiff alleged negligence per se, which is a finding of negligence based on a violation of the law.

The trial court gave a jury instruction stating that a violation of the law is excused if it is found that the defendant was using reasonable care but was still unable to obey the law. The jury found that the defendant was not negligent. However, at trial, the defendant driver stated that there was no mattress in his truck on the day in question. The jury, in reaching its decision, did not state whether it was based on a finding that the defendant’s truck was not the source of the mattress or whether the defendant had an excuse, based on the instruction in question. The plaintiff appealed.

The appellate court agreed with the plaintiff that the excuse instruction was improper and remanded the case back to the trial court. The court explained that the situation at hand did not present the special circumstances necessary to warrant an excuse instruction. There was no evidence that the defendant used reasonable care to ensure there was no mattress in the back of his truck because he relied on his coworker’s word that the truck was empty, even though it would have been relatively easy for him to check himself. Nor was there evidence that the defendant was unable to comply with the law in question, requiring items in trucks to be secured. Because there were no special circumstances, the court held that the excuse instruction was improperly given. Additionally, the court’s opinion explained that the instruction was improperly worded in that it failed to make clear that the burden to establish the excuse is on the defendant, rather than the plaintiff.

California accident victims can pursue a claim for compensation against anyone they believe to be responsible for their injuries. To successfully bring such a claim, a plaintiff must be able to establish that the defendant’s negligence was the cause of their injury. This is referred to as the element of causation.

To establish causation, a plaintiff must prove that it is more likely than not that the plaintiff’s injury was a result of the defendant’s conduct. However, causation cannot be based solely on speculation. The mere possibility that the defendant’s conduct was the cause is insufficient to prove causation; a plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s breach of duty was a proximate or legal cause of the plaintiff’s injury. Generally, the jury must decide if the plaintiff has proved causation. However, if the issue of causation involves a legal determination, the court can decide whether causation is sufficient in a motion for summary judgment.

California injury cases can be complicated and may involve multiple parties. A defendant’s negligent conduct does not need to be the sole cause of the plaintiff’s injury in order for a jury to find them liable for the injury. California law follows the “substantial factor” test in determining cause-in-fact. That means to meet the causation element, the plaintiff must show that the defendant’s conduct was a substantial factor in bringing about the injury. If a defendant’s conduct took place at the same time as other acts, the defendant’s conduct may be a “substantial factor” if the injury would not have occurred but for the actor’s conduct. If the simultaneous negligence of two parties contributes to the plaintiff’s injury, each person’s acts will be considered the proximate cause, and the plaintiff may recover full compensation from either person, or both.

In a recent opinion, a federal appeals court was tasked with deciding whether a plaintiff whose Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”) claim was not properly filed as a minor could file his claim beyond the statute of limitations. The case is a precedential decision for cases in the court’s jurisdiction, including California car accident cases.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff’s father died in a car crash on an Arizona highway in 2005. The plaintiff’s mother filed a claim with the federal agency over two years later, and then filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Federal Highway Administration. She claimed deficiencies in the highway barrier involved in the father’s crash. The plaintiff was nine years old when his father died and sixteen when the suit was filed.

Filing a Claim Under the Federal Tort Claims Act

The Federal Tort Claims Act allows people to sue the United States government and its agencies for certain torts committed by federal employees while acting within the scope of their official duties. In an FTCA claim, a claimant must show that: (1) injury or property damages caused by a federal employee; (2) the employee was acting within the scope of his official duties; (3) the employee acted negligently or wrongfully; and (4) the act proximately caused the damages.

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A California appellate court recently considered a case in which a plaintiff claimed that the city was at fault for failing to repaint a city crosswalk. The plaintiff sued the city of Salinas, California after she was hit by a car while walking across the street. The plaintiff was in the crosswalk at the time she was hit, which had not been repainted in sixteen years and was almost completely faded. The plaintiff claimed that the condition of the crosswalk amounted to a dangerous condition.

Under a city ordinance, the city was required to maintain crosswalks at intersections with the appropriate markings. Based on the ordinance, the plaintiff asked that the jury be read instructions on the concept of negligence per se.

Negligence Per Se

Negligence per se refers to a finding of negligence based on a violation of the law. If negligence per se applies, the defendant is presumed to have breached the duty of care that was owed to the plaintiff. For example, there might be a finding of negligence per se in a California drunk driving accident.

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