Articles Posted in Personal Injury Legal Theories

Rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft have revolutionized the way we get from point A to point B, making it significantly easier for passengers to hail a ride. Indeed, by all accounts, passengers nationwide have adopted the new technology with open arms. By some estimates, rideshare drivers provided service to approximately 45 million passengers last year. What is more, that figure is expected to rise to over 70 million passengers by 2022.

Golden Gate BridgeIt is not surprising, then, that the number of car accidents involving rideshare drivers has increased correspondingly. Making matters worse is the fact that rideshare companies do little to ensure that their drivers are “good drivers.” In most cases, all someone needs to qualify to be a rideshare driver is three years of driving experience, a clean driving record, and an insured vehicle.

While rideshare companies do not apply a rigorous selection criteria to their drivers, they do maintain significant insurance in the event of an accident. The two largest rideshare companies, Uber and Lyft, each maintain $1 million of insurance on behalf of their drivers. This insurance covers the driver from the moment they accept a passenger’s request for a ride until the passenger is dropped off. The policy will generally cover an injury to the driver or the passenger, as well as any third parties injured in an accident that was caused by the driver’s negligence.

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While some California accidents are caused solely by one party’s negligence, the more common scenario is one in which multiple parties share responsibility for an accident. For example, a California car accident may initially be caused by one motorist’s negligence in failing to follow the traffic laws. However, if another motorist who approaches the scene of the accident is not paying attention, they may cause a subsequent collision involving some of the same parties.

Pie ChartThe result is a situation in which there may be multiple victims, as well as several motorists who are partially liable for a single accident. This may even include a determination that an accident victim is partially responsible for the accident that resulted in their injuries.

In such cases, California law does not prevent an injured party from filing a California personal injury lawsuit. However, California courts will use the method of “pure comparative fault” to determine which motorists can recover for their injuries and how much they are able to recover.

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As auto-pilot technology advances and becomes more prevalent, drivers will begin to see more cars on the road using the technology. In fact, each year, more auto manufacturers are introducing models that have auto-pilot technology. While auto-pilot technology certainly has the potential to revolutionize the way we drive, it also presents certain obvious dangers to motorists and pedestrians.

Model S TeslaThe introduction of auto-pilot technology also is going to create legal issues in California personal injury cases that have not previously been handled by the courts. For example, who is liable when a motorist is involved in an accident and claims that he was using auto-pilot technology at the time? Lawmakers have attempted to enact some legislation to handle specific situations as they arise, but, as is often the case with developing technology, the courts will be tasked with handling many of these situations as they arise.

The governing principle of establishing liability in a California car accident case is whether or not a party was negligent. Thus, if a motorist engages a vehicle’s auto-pilot feature, falls asleep, and then is involved in an accident that could have otherwise been prevented, it seems likely that the motorist could be liable for the accident. However, suppose an attentive motorist engages auto-pilot and, despite his best efforts, is unable to disengage the feature or otherwise avoid the accident. The bottom line is that liability in California auto-pilot crashes will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

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Earlier this month, a California appellate court issued a written opinion in a case requiring the court to determine if a contract signed by an employee agreeing to arbitrate any claims against her employer was enforceable. While the case arose in the employment context, it is relevant to California accident victims in that it broadly discusses the enforceability of arbitration clauses, which come into play in many personal injury cases.

Binding ContractWhat Is Arbitration?

Arbitration is an alternative to the court system, whereby parties agree to submit the case to an arbitrator rather than file a case in the court system. There are pros and cons to arbitration, but it is generally believed that arbitration favors the party writing the contract – usually a corporation – over the individual asked to sign the contract.

The pros of arbitration are that an arbitrated claim will be resolved faster and will be less expensive than filing a case through the court system. However, arbitration presents a serious concern for personal injury victims.

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California is fortunate to have some of the most diverse and beautiful scenery in the country. Not only does the state’s landscape provide for excellent sight-seeing, it also gives the more adventurous the opportunity to engage in a wide range of recreational activities. From swimming and surfing to skiing and camping, Californians are known for getting out there and enjoying what their state has to offer.

Ski LiftMany times, when someone participates in a recreational activity, the owner of the land or the provider of the service will require the participant to sign a release-waiver prior to engaging in the activity. These waiver forms generally act to limit a participant’s ability to file a California personal injury lawsuit should anything go wrong when the participant is enjoying the activity.

A recent opinion issued by a federal appellate court discussed the validity of these waivers and the factors courts will consider when determining if they are enforceable.

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When an employee is injured in a California workplace accident, they will likely miss a substantial amount of work and may have significant medical expenses related to their injury. When it comes to recovering financially for injuries sustained in a California on-the-job accident, injured workers generally have two avenues of recovery:  a workers’ compensation claim or a third-party personal injury lawsuit.

Construction WorkersA workers’ compensation claim is designed to be a quick and efficient way to get an injured employee compensation for their injuries. The workers’ compensation program is a no-fault program, meaning that an employee does not need to establish that their injury was caused by the negligence of their employer or a fellow employee. However, workers’ compensation claims do not permit the recovery of damages related to an employee’s pain and suffering, which can be considerable.

An injured employee’s other option is to file a third-party personal injury claim against the party responsible for causing their injuries. Injured employees who file third-party injury claims will need to establish that the named defendant was somehow negligent and that the defendant’s negligence was the cause of their injuries. If successful, an injured employee who files a third-party personal injury claim may be entitled to compensation for past and future medical expenses, lost wages, and any pain and suffering that was caused by the accident. In some cases involving “oppression, fraud, or malice,” the injured employee may also be eligible for punitive damages.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a California personal injury case discussing how trial courts should treat potentially conflicting testimony from a witness. The case arose in the context of allegations made by the plaintiff that the defendant manufacturer caused his asbestos-related illnesses while he was employed for a public utility. The main issue in the appeal was whether the lower court was proper in disregarding the plaintiff’s witness testimony based on the fact that it could be interpreted as being self-contradictory.

Thin GasketThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff worked for PG&E in the 1980s, and as a part of his employment, he was responsible for replacing gaskets. The defendant manufactured gaskets that, at that time, were sold to PG&E and contained asbestos. The plaintiff’s lawsuit named approximately 50 defendants, but this appeal focused only on one.

In support of his claim, the plaintiff presented a witness who worked for PG&E at the same time as the plaintiff. The witness first testified through a deposition that was held well in advance of trial. During the deposition, the witness explained that he was responsible for ordering the gaskets for PG&E during the time when the plaintiff was employed there, that he ordered gaskets from the defendant, that some of those gaskets were later discovered to contain asbestos, and that he personally saw the plaintiff working with the gaskets.

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