Articles Posted in Car Accidents

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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Earlier last month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a California car accident case discussing whether an employer could be held vicariously liable for the allegedly negligent acts of an employee. The court ultimately concluded that vicarious liability was appropriate, and allowed the plaintiff’s case to proceed to trial.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was injured after being involved in a car accident. Evidently, the plaintiff was riding as a passenger in the pick-up truck that was being driven by his father. The truck was provided to the plaintiff’s father as a company car.

The plaintiff’s father was a maintenance worker for the defendant corporation, which operated several farms in the area. The plaintiff’s father reportedly worked six days a week, but was on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to attend to any maintenance issues that arose at any of the defendant’s properties. The plaintiff’s father kept a toolbox in the pick-up truck, and was told by the defendant that he was expected to respond to any maintenance issue immediately. Thus, the employer allowed the plaintiff to use the pick-up truck for personal use.

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Self-driving, or semi-autonomous, cars are becoming a reality in some states. Although proponents tout the technology as safe, recent incidents have raised concerns and brought up new questions concerning liability in the event of a California car accident. One question that often arises is who is at fault in a semi-autonomous car crash if, for example, the car fails to stop? Is it the driver who failed to stop or the designer or manufacturer whose system failed to stop? These cases present complicated issues, as crashes involving self-driving cars continue to occur in California and nationwide.

Investigation Finds Tesla Model X Sped Up Before California Crash

An investigation conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found a Tesla Model X sped up just before it crashed earlier this year in Mountain View, California, according to a news report. The semi-autonomous car crashed into a barrier on U.S. Highway 101 back in March, killing the 38-year-old driver.

The report raises questions about the cars’ ability to operate safety, as well as the driver’s role in the crash. According to the report, the car sped up from 62 miles per hour to 70.8 miles per hour in the last three seconds before the crash. The driver was using the autopilot system for almost 19 minutes before the crash. His hands were only on the steering wheel for 34 seconds of the last sixty seconds before the crash, and he had programmed the car to drive at 75 miles per hour. However, according to the NTSB, the car’s system did not recognize his hands on the steering wheel for six seconds before the crash. The NTSB report was a preliminary report and did not come to a conclusion about what caused the crash.

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In many California car accident cases, the causes of the accident are readily apparent. It may be that a drunk driver crossed over the median into oncoming traffic, causing a head-on collision. Or a truck driver tried to push his physical limits by driving more hours per day than the federal requirement allows, falling asleep behind the wheel.

Other accidents, however, present many unanswered questions that require an in-depth investigation to uncover the true facts. While a police-led investigation is a good start, often law enforcement lawyers are trying to answer different questions. For example, law enforcement is typically looking for evidence of criminal misconduct. If the investigation reveals that there was no wrongdoing, an investigation is often concluded without a determination as to what the real cause of the accident was.

Investigations in personal injury cases, however, require a deeper analysis as to why the accident occurred. Accidents can be caused by a number of factors, including negligent drivers, poorly maintained roadways, and defective vehicles. Each of these causes may result in a different party being responsible for the victim’s injuries, so it is important for an attorney to determine what caused an accident.

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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.

According 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.

The 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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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.

Not 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:

  • Pure 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).

Late last month, a car accident in Huntington Beach killed three and injured several others. According to a local news source covering the tragic accident, the collision occurred at around 1 a.m. on the Pacific Coast Highway.

Evidently, the victims’ vehicle had come to a complete stop at a red light when a car crashed into it from behind. Police told reporters that it did not appear that the at-fault motorist attempted to slow down at all. The victims’ car exploded upon impact, and three of those inside died in the blaze. The fourth passenger was taken to the hospital with serious injuries. The driver of the other vehicle was not seriously injured but was taken to the Huntington Beach jail, where she was charged with several DUI-related offenses.

California DUI Accidents

Despite decades of campaigns attempting to inform the public about the dangers of drinking and driving, there are still on average over 1,000 alcohol-related fatalities per year in California alone. This represents approximately one-third of the total number of traffic fatalities in the state.

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