Articles Posted in Car Accidents

When someone is injured in a California car accident, the initial focus is on recovering from the physical and emotional injuries caused by the accident. However, once those heal, the financial stress of the accident begins to set in. Often, an accident victim has missed work and has mounting medical expenses that must be paid.

Car AccidentIn the vast majority of car accident cases, one of the parties involved has car insurance that can provide compensation for a victim’s injuries. Indeed, under California law, all motorists are required to carry a certain amount of liability insurance to cover the costs of an injury that the driver causes. This mandatory coverage, however, does not necessarily cover the costs incurred by the insured if the at-fault driver does not have insurance. For that type of protection, uninsured motorist protection must be purchased.

Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Protection

As noted above, the bare-bones insurance requirement in California does not mandate that a driver insures against an accident caused by an underinsured or uninsured motorist. However, all insurance companies are required to offer this type of insurance. Uninsured motorist insurance protects drivers and passengers in the event that the at-fault driver does not have insurance coverage or has inadequate coverage limits to fully compensate an accident victim for their injuries.

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Each year, over 3,000 people die in California car accidents. While there are many potential causes of car accidents, certain causes routinely appear near the top of the list each year:  aggressive driving and intoxicated driving.

Police CarOf course, all motorists are required to drive in a safe manner and remain free from the intoxicating effects of drugs or alcohol. However, in reality, tens of thousands of California motorists engage in this prohibited conduct each day, putting everyone with whom they share the road at risk of being involved in a serious or fatal traffic accident.

When a motorist causes an accident due to intoxicated or aggressive driving, anyone injured as a result may be able to pursue a claim of compensation through a California personal injury lawsuit. These cases generally require that an accident victim establish that the other driver engaged in a negligent act that resulted in the accident victim’s injuries. In many cases involving intoxicated or aggressive driving, the fact that the other driver violated one or more traffic laws leading up to the accident can help an accident victim establish the other driver’s negligence.

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As of January 1, 2018, California residents will be able to purchase marijuana for recreational use. This means that it will no longer be against state law for Californians to have a small amount of marijuana in their possession for personal use. Of course, marijuana remains heavily regulated by the government.

CannabisIt is undisputed, however, that marijuana has an effect on the motor skills of those who use it. Under California Vehicle Code section 23152, it is against the law for anyone “who is under the influence of any drug to drive a vehicle.” This includes marijuana. Of course, it may not be easy to determine if a driver is under the influence of marijuana because the indicators of intoxication are not necessarily as readily identifiable as alcohol intoxication.

Marijuana, like alcohol, remains in a driver’s system for some time after ingestion, and it can continue to affect the motor skills of a driver for many hours after consumption. Unlike alcohol, however, there is no convenient method for a driver to determine if they are still under the effects of marijuana. Thus, uninitiated consumers of marijuana may find themselves getting behind the wheel of a car when they are still under the drug’s influence, creating a serious risk of causing a California drugged driving accident.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a California work injury case involving the enforceability of an arbitration agreement that was signed by the plaintiff’s employer and the defendant, but not the plaintiff. Ultimately, the court concluded that while the accident would otherwise have fallen under the arbitration agreement, since the plaintiff was not a party to the contract, he could not be forced to submit his claim to arbitration and was entitled to use the court system.

ContractThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured in a car accident when a tire on the U-Haul truck that his employer had rented blew out. The employer had rented the truck and instructed the plaintiff to deliver massage chairs to the state fairgrounds. This was the first time the plaintiff, who was normally a warehouse worker, was asked to deliver merchandise.

Prior to taking possession of the truck, the plaintiff’s employer signed the U-Haul rental agreement, which contained an agreement to arbitrate any claims arising from the use of the truck. The rental agreement specified that it applied to “agents and employees” of the party signing the contract.

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California, and Silicon Valley in particular, has long been a hot-bed for technology, starting back in the 1970s with the development of semiconductors. In recent years, California has broadened its focus to all kinds of technological advancements. Perhaps one of the most anticipated technologies brewing in the state has been that of the driverless car.

TeslaGiven the recent advancements in the technology, the day when driverless cars are a common sight on the road is not far away. When driverless cars do become common, there are going to be a host of legal issues that need to be resolved. For example, who is in charge – and thus, who is liable – in the event of an accident involving a driverless car?

In anticipation of the arrival of driverless cars, California lawmakers have started to wrestle with some of the issues the technology will present. According to a recent article, the California Department of Motor Vehicles is in the process of creating specific rules for driverless cars. The tension seems to be between fostering an innovative environment in which companies are encouraged to develop new products and the safety concerns presented by autonomous vehicles.

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The fact that seatbelts can save lives or reduce the severity of injuries in a California car accident is common knowledge. Indeed, California law requires all cars to have properly functioning seatbelts and also requires drivers and passengers over the age of eight to wear a seatbelt at all times.

SeatbeltWhile seatbelt use can save the life of a motorist involved in a car accident, the act of wearing a seatbelt does nothing to decrease the chance of being involved in an accident. This has led states to come to differing conclusions about whether a defendant in a car accident lawsuit can use the fact that the plaintiff was not wearing a seatbelt as a defense or as a way to limit their own liability.

California’s Approach to Seatbelt Non-Use Evidence

California takes an interesting approach when it comes to seatbelt non-use evidence in that courts allow a defendant to argue that a plaintiff’s failure to wear a seatbelt should factor into the jury’s determination of the reasonableness of the plaintiff’s conduct. To understand how this works, it is necessary to understand California’s comparative fault statute.

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Earlier this month, a charter bus carrying upwards of 30 people to a workplace holiday party was involved in a serious accident on Highway 101, near the Cesar Chavez St. off ramp in San Francisco. According to a recent news report, the accident occurred shortly after 8 p.m. after the bus began fishtailing for an unknown reason. Once the driver of the bus lost control, the bus flipped over onto its side, blocking all of the lanes of traffic. Thankfully, no other cars were involved in the collision.

Bus SeatsIn total, nearly 30 people were taken to the hospital with varying injuries. Witnesses to the accident told reporters that at least two people were unconscious and trapped inside the bus until emergency responders arrived on scene and were able to remove them from the bus.

Police spoke with the driver of the bus, who told them that he was not sure why the bus began to fishtail, but it may have been due to “excessive speed.” The driver remained on the scene and assisted the victims before getting any medical treatment himself. Police do not believe that alcohol was involved, but the accident is still under investigation.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued an opinion in a California car accident case involving the alleged negligence of a police officer. The case required the court to discuss the Government Claims Act and whether the plaintiffs’ non-compliance with the Act should prevent the plaintiffs from proceeding with their case against the government defendants. Ultimately, since the court determined that the government officials involved in the case may have made misleading statements to the plaintiffs and their attorney, the court permitted the plaintiffs’ case to proceed in order for a jury to determine whether the plaintiffs should be excused from compliance with the Act.

Police CarThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were seriously injured when a car driven by a police officer with the L.A. School Police Department (LASPD) ran a red light and crashed into their vehicle. After the accident, but before the plaintiffs were taken to the hospital in an ambulance, the plaintiffs were provided a business card indicating that the responsible party was LASPD. The card listed the LASPD address and website.

Four days after the accident, the plaintiffs’ attorney filed a claim for damages against LASPD. The attorney obtained the complaint form from the LASPD website. The plaintiffs later filed a personal injury case against LASPD. Once the case was filed, certain information was passed, including the name of the officer responsible for the accident as well as the name of the government organization that owned the vehicle, the L.A. Unified School District (LAUSD). The plaintiffs then amended their complaint to add LAUSD.

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Despite the efforts of the state and federal governments to curb intoxicated driving, drunk and drugged driving account for a large percentage of the overall traffic deaths caused by California car accidents. Indeed, according to the Center for Disease Control, between the years of 2003 and 2012, over 10,000 Californians lost their lives in car accidents involving an intoxicated driver.

Nighttime HighwayResearch conducted over the past several decades has confirmed what most Californians already knew – that driving in an intoxicated state greatly reduces judgment and reaction time. This has led the state’s lawmakers to enact a strict set of penalties for drunk drivers. In California, it is illegal to operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol content of .08 or greater. Similarly, motorists are prohibited from driving while they are under the influence of any drug or medication – even if the medication is lawfully prescribed. This includes marijuana.

When a motorist causes an accident due to their intoxication, they may be subject to both criminal and civil liability. Criminal cases are brought by the State of California, and while there may be some restitution ordered as a result of a criminal case, compensating a victim of a California DUI accident is not necessarily the goal of a criminal trial. Accident victims seeking compensation for their injuries should file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit against the allegedly drunk driver.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Georgia issued a written opinion in a car accident case requiring the court to determine which state’s law applied to the case. While the opinion is from a Georgia court, the choice-of-law issue is one that could potentially arise in any California car accident case.

Insurance ContractThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was formerly a Georgia resident who was attending school in California. Prior to leaving for California, the plaintiff’s parents bought her a car. The car was licensed and insured in Georgia.

One day, the plaintiff was involved in a car accident that she claimed was caused by the other driver’s negligence. The plaintiff settled her claim with the other driver and executed a general release of liability pursuant to the negotiations between the parties. However, the plaintiff claimed that her injuries exceeded the amount she recovered from the other driver, so she filed a claim with her own insurance company under the underinsured motorist provision.

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