Articles Posted in Personal Injury

In California workplace injury cases, the general rule is that a workers’ compensation claim is the injured employee’s sole remedy against their employer. The idea is that the no-fault workers’ compensation program is a more efficient method of getting an injured employee the compensation they need while they recover from their injuries. However, damages are limited in California workers’ compensation cases to actual medical expenses and lost wages.

Grocery StoreCalifornia law also permits workplace injury cases to be filed against third parties that are responsible for an employee’s injuries. For example, if a truck driver is injured while unloading his cargo due to some hazard on the loading dock, the company receiving the delivery may be named as a third-party defendant in a personal injury lawsuit. However, special care must be taken in the preparation of these cases to avoid unintended consequences.

A recent case discusses the difficulties one plaintiff encountered after successfully obtaining a judgment against a third-party defendant. In that case, the plaintiff was injured in a Wal-Mart store while on the clock for another company. Immediately after her injury, the plaintiff sought and obtained workers’ compensation benefits through her employer for both medical expenses and lost wages.

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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, 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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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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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, a California appellate court issued a written opinion in an employment discrimination case involving the validity of an arbitration clause. The case is relevant to California nursing home abuse victims who may have signed an arbitration agreement prior to their injury, and who believe that the defendant may assert arbitration as a defense.

ContractWhat Is an Arbitration Clause?

An arbitration clause is a contractual term by which the parties agree to settle a dispute through binding arbitration rather than through the court system. In theory, arbitration can present benefits to both sides, including decreased cost of litigation and quicker resolution of claims. However, in effect, arbitration clauses are often written to favor the party that writes them.

Issues involving arbitration agreements commonly arise in some California personal injury cases. Cases alleging California nursing home abuse or neglect very frequently involve an arbitration agreement because nursing homes usually include these agreements in the pre-admission contract that must be signed before care is provided.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a California personal injury case brought by a man who was injured when the crane he was operating tipped over. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss the relation-back doctrine and its applicability to the facts at hand. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff’s late-filed certificate did not relate back to his original filing, and thus his case was barred by the statute of limitations.

CraneThe Certificate Requirement

In California, certain cases alleging professional negligence must be accompanied by a certificate from an expert in the field, indicating that in the expert’s opinion, the plaintiff’s case has merit. Alternatively, if there is not time to obtain this certificate before the statute of limitations expires, a party can submit a certificate of excuse asking for additional time. Under the relevant statute, a certificate of excuse must be filed within 60 days of the filing of the case.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured when the crane he was operating tipped over. The date of the plaintiff’s injury was May 5, 2014. The plaintiff filed a negligence claim on May 3, 2016 against the company that was providing engineering services at the job site where the injury occurred. The relevant statute of limitations was two years, so the plaintiff filed the case just two days before the deadline.

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When someone is injured while playing sports or engaging in another recreational activity, the injured party may be able to seek financial compensation for their injuries against the responsible parties through a California personal injury lawsuit. However, the doctrine of assumption of the risk can act to bar some plaintiffs’ lawsuits when the activity at issue is inherently dangerous and comes with well-known risks.

Sand DunesThe idea behind the assumption of the risk doctrine is that plaintiffs are in the best position to avoid known risks associated with certain activities. If a plaintiff choses to disregard a known risk and engage in the activity nonetheless, courts will not hold a defendant liable when a plaintiff is injured due to the presence of a known risk. However, there are exceptions to the assumption of the risk doctrine, one of which is when the defendant creates an additional risk that is not normally present when engaging in the recreational activity.

A recent California personal injury case illustrates one plaintiff’s attempt to establish an exception to the general assumption of the risk rule. While the plaintiff was unsuccessful in convincing the court, the case is important in understanding the assumption of the risk doctrine.

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Over the past several years, significant evidence has come to light that there is likely a link between talc-based hygiene products and ovarian cancer. Indeed, manufacturing giant Johnson & Johnson is currently facing almost 5,000 lawsuits brought by women who have developed various types of cancer after years of consistent use of the company’s talc-based baby powder product.

Baby PowderIn fact, according to a recent news report, just a few months ago, a jury issued a substantial verdict in a California product liability lawsuit brought against Johnson & Johnson by a woman who claimed that she developed ovarian cancer after using Johnson & Johnson baby powder. The plaintiff’s claim was not just that Johnson & Johnson products caused her cancer, but also that the company failed to warn consumers about the risks that were known to the company. The verdict – totaling $417 million – consisted of $70 million in compensatory damages and an additional $37 million in punitive damages.

Prior Product Liability Cases Involving Talc-Based Baby Powder

The above-mentioned verdict is one of several that have recently been handed down finding Johnson & Johnson liable for failing to warn consumers of the dangers involved with the use of its baby powder products. Until this most recent verdict, the largest award amount was $110 million. The extent to which Johnson & Johnson will be liable in the nearly 5,000 pending cases remains to be seen.

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