Articles Posted in Car Accidents

Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a California car accident case requiring the court to discuss whether the lower court was proper to dismiss the plaintiff’s claim in a pre-trial motion for summary judgment. The lower court based its decision to dismiss the case on its finding that the defendant did not owe the plaintiff a duty of care. Ultimately, on appeal, the court concluded that the defendant may have owed the plaintiff a duty of care, and therefore it reversed the lower court’s dismissal of the plaintiff’s case.

Traffic LightThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured in a car accident when the vehicle in which she was traveling entered an intersection during a power outage and was struck by another motorist. At the time of the collision, the traffic light was not illuminated despite the fact that the traffic light had a back-up battery power source.

The defendant was a private company that was contracted by the city to perform the necessary maintenance on the back-up battery systems in all of the city’s traffic lights. Evidently, earlier in the year, the back-up battery system in the traffic light at the intersection where the accident occurred was failing to hold a charge. The defendant eventually installed a new battery pack in the light in August. However, a new battery was not placed in the unit, so the light was left without a functioning back-up power source.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a California car accident case involving the allegedly negligent acts of an employee and whether his employer could be held liable for the wrongful death of the plaintiffs’ loved one. After discussing the doctrine of respondeat superior and applying it to the facts of the case, the court ultimately determined that the employer could not legally be responsible for the employee’s actions. Specifically, the court noted that the “going and coming” rule precluded liability because the employee was traveling to work when the accident occurred.

Golden Gate BridgeThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the surviving family members of a woman who was killed when the vehicle in which she was riding was struck by another driver while crossing the San Mateo Bridge. The other driver was employed by the defendant.

On the day of the accident, at around 3:30 a.m., the employee was driving to work in San Francisco when he struck the vehicle carrying the plaintiffs’ loved one. The employee worked the night shift, which began at 7 p.m., and it was undisputed that this trip to work was not for the employee’s regular shift.

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Earlier this month, the Court of Appeal for the First Appellate District issued a written opinion in a California car accident case involving the use of a video deposition for a witness who became unavailable during the pendency of the lawsuit. The court was tasked with determining whether the plaintiff’s objection to the use of the video deposition was valid, and if so, whether the video deposition should have been excluded at trial. The court ultimately held that the defendant complied with the applicable court rules and that the video deposition was properly admitted.

HourglassThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was involved in a low-speed car accident when the defendant rear-ended him on a California highway. Immediately after the collision, both drivers made their way to the road’s shoulder, where the plaintiff explained that he was not injured. However, once the vehicles were moved to a nearby parking lot, the plaintiff began to complain of severe neck pain.

The plaintiff was taken to the hospital by ambulance, and an X-ray confirmed that no bones were broken. The plaintiff sought medical treatment once, about a month after the accident. No further treatment was sought. Approximately two years later, the plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant, seeking compensation for the injuries he sustained in the accident.

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When a Southern California car accident case is filed against a government entity based on the alleged negligent conduct of a government employee, issues of sovereign immunity will often arise. Sovereign immunity is a concept that was built into the Constitution during the formation of the country, and it essentially stands for the proposition that a government entity cannot be sued without its consent.

Highway PatrolIn California, the state legislature has passed a series of bills that waive sovereign immunity under some circumstances. For example, the California Tort Claims Act contains a broad waiver of immunity and permits lawsuits against government entities in situations in which the negligent act of an employee results in injuries, as long as the employee was acting within the scope of their employment at the time of the accident.

While the California Tort Claims Act grants broad immunity, other statutes limit that immunity. For example, California Vehicle Code 17004.7 grants immunity to law enforcement agencies for injuries or deaths that occur while an officer is in pursuit of a driver whom the officer suspects has violated the law. A recent case discusses section 17004.7 as it pertains to a city’s policy to handle fleeing motorists.

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Late last month, three people were killed in a Southern California car accident involving three vehicles, one of which belonged to an off-duty LAPD officer. According to a local news report covering the tragic accident, the collision occurred on the southbound 605, in West Whittier, just south of Saragosa Street.

Accident SceneEvidently, the off-duty police officer was driving a sports car in the carpool lane of the southbound 605 when he rear-ended a Nissan that was in the adjacent lane. The officer’s vehicle then continued into the next lane, where it struck a Scion. The Nissan caught fire after the impact, and the occupants were unable to escape. Emergency responders pronounced all three occupants dead at the scene. The other driver involved suffered only minor injuries.

Responding police officers noticed that it looked as though the off-duty officer had been drinking, and he was arrested and required to submit to chemical testing. Accident reconstructionists have begun an investigation into the fatal collision, and they believe that the Nissan and Scion were both traveling at approximately 65 miles per hour at the time of the collision. Investigators have not yet determined how fast the off-duty officer’s vehicle was traveling.

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Earlier this year, the California Court of Appeal for the Sixth District issued an interesting opinion in a California workplace accident case. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss the limitations that a defendant faces when seeking pre-trial discovery in a California personal injury case. Ultimately, the court concluded that the defendant’s requested discovery was beyond the scope of what was included under the relevant statute, and the request was rejected.

StanfordThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a delivery driver who was scheduled to unload several packages at Stanford University. While he was unloading the packages, a car that had been parked by a Stanford employee rolled down a nearby hill and collided with the plaintiff. He sustained multiple fractures to his right femur and pelvis, and he underwent surgery as a result.

By the following year, the plaintiff had not returned to work and filed a personal injury lawsuit against several parties, including Stanford University, the owner of the vehicle that struck him, as well as the person who parked the vehicle. In a pre-trial motion, several of the defendants filed a motion seeking to compel the plaintiff to undergo a “vocational rehabilitation examination” conducted by one of the defendants’ expert witnesses.

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Recently, the California Court of Appeal analyzed an appeal brought by plaintiffs in a California wrongful death case.  The plaintiffs included the daughter of a deceased motor vehicle accident victim, as well as the victim’s parents and fiance. In their complaint, the plaintiffs alleged that the defendant driver and the employer were legally at fault for the accident that caused the victim’s death.  They alleged they suffered injuries and damages due to the defendant driver when his vehicle struck the vehicle of the victim, resulting in her death. The plaintiffs brought claims for motor vehicle negligence and general negligence, as well as a survivorship action.  The plaintiffs’ claims against the employer were based on the doctrine of respondeat superior. The employer moved for summary judgment, and the trial court granted the motion, dismissing the employer from the case and leaving only the defendant driver. The plaintiffs appealed.fatal crash

On review, the appellate court stated that they view the evidence in a light favorable to the plaintiffs, since they oppose the summary judgment motion.  Here, the applicable law involves the legal doctrine of respondeat superior, which holds employers vicariously liable for the tortious conduct of employees within the scope of their employment.  According to California law, the “scope of employment” has been broadly interpreted.   Generally, those acts that involve the employee’s own business may remove them from the scope of employment unless it appears they could have served their employer.

An exception to the respondeat superior legal doctrine is the “going and coming” rule. According to this doctrine, employees who commute to work are not considered to be within the scope of employment. Their employer, therefore, is not liable for the employee’s torts.  However, according to the special errand exception, those employees who are performing an errand as part of their regular duties, or at the request of their employer, may be found to be within the scope of employment.  California law requires that errands be part of the employee’s regular duties, or undertaken at the request of the employer.

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The California Court of Appeal recently concluded that a plaintiff’s complaint against the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System and the San Diego Transit Corporation (MTS) was barred by the doctrine of res judicata.  This doctrine bars re-litigating the same cause of action between the same parties when there has been a final judgment on the merits. In this lawsuit, the court held that the plaintiff’s two California car accident lawsuits were based on the same primary right to be free from injuries associated with the bus system.

bus stop

The plaintiff in this case alleged that on April 14, 2012, an MTS bus driver negligently operated the bus and that this alleged negligence included letting the bus operate with defects in its video system.  She was injured when the bus pulled away from the bus stop as she was banging on the side window of the bus, attempting to get the attention of the bus driver.  That case went to trial, and the jury found in favor of MTS, so a final judgment was entered in favor of MTS. Then, the plaintiff filed another action, seeking relief for her injuries arising out of the April 2012 accident.  That complaint alleged that a dangerous condition of public property caused her injuries and that the location of the bus stop was a dangerous condition of public property because the bus drivers could not see prospective passengers.

In response, MTS filed a motion for summary judgment on the ground that the action was time-barred by the Government Claims Act filing requirement.  According to law, there is a two-year statute of limitations period for injuries under the Government Claims Act.  They argued that a delay due to the plaintiff’s failure to perform a diligent investigation does not delay the accrual of a cause of action.

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Nine months after an accident on a city-maintained road, the plaintiff brought a personal injury claim for damages against the City of Los Angeles.  The Court of Appeals recently affirmed an order set forth by the lower court in that case, dismissing the plaintiff’s Los Angles bicycle accident case and his request to file a late claim. The appellate court analyzed the evidence and found that the plaintiff had not complied with the filing requirements of Government Code section 946.6.  bicycle crash

On June 16, 2014, the plaintiff was struck by behind by a vehicle while biking on La Tuna Canyon Road. He suffered serious injuries and was in a coma for one month after the accident.   After investigations, the plaintiff’s attorney alleged that, among other things, the City was liable for improperly marked bicycle lanes, which were inadequately maintained.  The plaintiff also filed for a petition for an order that would relieve him from the claim filing requirements of section 946.6, on the ground that his failure to present the claims on time resulted from mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect.

The lower court denied the petition and held that the incident report provided to the plaintiff’s counsel was sufficient to identify the location of the accident.

After plaintiffs filed a personal injury complaint against a defendant for injuries sustained in a California car accident, the defendant demurred to the complaint on the ground that the statute of limitations had run.  The lower court sustained the demurrer and entered judgment in favor of the defendant. On appeal, the plaintiffs argued that their attorney had shown an excusable error that justifiecar accidentd relief against the statute of limitations bar. In the alternative, they requested a ruling that would toll the applicable limitations period.

An accident occurred on January 18, 2014, and the plaintiffs filed their complaint on February 16, 2016.  In opposition to the defendant’s demurrer that stated that the statute of limitations had run, the plaintiffs filed an opposition on the day before the hearing. They argued that settlement negotiations had occurred, and there had been a delay in receiving medical records. Additionally, the plaintiffs’ attorney stated he had personal problems and had relied on staff personnel.  While the plaintiffs argued these excuses qualified as “excusable neglect,” by law, the court sustained the demurrer for the plaintiffs’ failure to state facts sufficient to state a cause of action.

On appeal, the court stated that in the situation of a demurrer based on an affirmative defense, the court asks if the complaint makes clear the action is necessarily barred. Regarding the statute of limitations, there are policy considerations in favor of stopping tardy claims, while also disposing of claims on the merits.

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