Articles Posted in Personal Injury Legal Theories

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.

Blurry RoadEvidently, 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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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued an opinion in a California premises liability lawsuit discussing the state’s trail immunity statute and how it can preclude an accident victim’s recovery. The court ultimately determined that the plaintiff’s case fell within the statute’s grant of immunity and dismissed the plaintiff’s case.

Hiking TrailThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a young man who was “ghost hunting” in a park after hours. The boys had snuck into the park at around 3:00 a.m. and were making their way down a steep incline to the trail below.

As the plaintiff was descending the hill, he began to slip. The plaintiff then began to roll head-over-heels down the steep embankment. When he reached the trail, he was traveling with such force that he continued across the trail and over the edge of a 10-foot retaining wall. The plaintiff eventually struck a tree and came to a stop. He suffered debilitating injuries as a result and filed a personal injury lawsuit against the city that owned and maintained the park.

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Recently, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a California car accident case dealing with the issue of whether an arbitration agreement signed by the plaintiff’s employer was enforceable against the plaintiff. Ultimately, the court concluded that since the plaintiff was not a signatory to the agreement, and the defendant could show no other compelling reason to enforce the agreement, the arbitration agreement was not enforceable against the plaintiff.

Rubber TireThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was delivering chairs for his employer in a rented truck. The defendant was the company that rented the truck to the plaintiff’s employer. Prior to renting the truck, the plaintiff’s employer signed an agreement to arbitrate any claims that arose through the use of the rented truck. The plaintiff did not sign the agreement.

As the plaintiff was delivering the chairs, a tire on the truck blew out. The truck spun out of control, and the plaintiff was injured. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the rental company, claiming that the company was negligent in maintaining the truck. In response, the rental company claimed that the plaintiff’s case was not properly before the court because it should have been submitted to an arbitration panel pursuant to the agreement between the rental company and the plaintiff’s employer.

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California highways were not necessarily designed to handle the amount of traffic they see each day. This is especially the case in and around Los Angeles, which is known for having some of the most congested highways in the country. Given the size of existing roads, government planning agencies often opt to open an additional lane of traffic and eliminate or greatly reduce the size of the road’s shoulder.

Emergency VehiclesOver the years, however, the decreased size of road shoulders has resulted in hundreds of California car accidents involving police, paramedics, tow truck operators, and others whose job requires they spend time on the side of the highway. Most often, a distracted driver comes up on a stopped emergency vehicle without seeing that it is blocking the lane. The driver then collides with the stopped vehicle.

In response to these accidents, lawmakers have passed the California Move-Over Law, embodied in California Vehicle Code section 21809. Essentially, the law requires motorists who are approaching certain roadside vehicles to either move into an adjacent lane, if possible, or slow down to a “reasonable and prudent speed that is safe for existing weather, road, and vehicular or pedestrian traffic conditions.”

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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a California workplace injury lawsuit that was brought by the family of a man who died after falling while washing windows on the defendant’s building. The case required the court to discuss the concept of third-party liability as it pertains to workplace injury lawsuits. Ultimately, the court concluded that the defendant corporation was not liable to the deceased’s estate because the corporation took no “affirmative conduct” that caused the man’s fall.

Window WasherThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the surviving family members of a man who fell to his death while washing windows at the defendant’s three-story building. At the time, the victim was employed by a company that had contracted with the defendant corporation. The plaintiffs filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the defendant corporation, claiming that it was negligent for the defendant not to install roof anchors that the deceased could have used to anchor his descent apparatus. The roof anchors were required by statute.

The defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that under the prevailing case law, it could not be held liable because it had contracted with the window-washing company and retained no control over how the work would be completed. Essentially, the defendant argued that it delegated the duty of providing a safe workplace to the window-washing company, and since the defendant did not instruct the company on how the work was to be completed, the defendant did not otherwise assume a duty of care.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a California premises liability lawsuit discussing the element of causation and which evidence must be presented to survive a defense challenge for summary judgment. Ultimately, the court concluded that the defendant met his initial burden of showing that the plaintiff would be unable to establish causation, and the plaintiff failed to present any evidence to the contrary. Thus, the court held that the plaintiff’s case was properly dismissed.

Lit MatchThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs lived in a second-floor apartment in a building owned by the defendant. One day, a fire started in the plaintiffs’ apartment, causing several of the tenants to suffer burn injuries. The plaintiffs filed a premises liability lawsuit against the landlord, claiming that a wall heater in the apartment was defective.

The defendant presented two experts who testified that the cause of the fire was the wall heater. However, neither expert could definitively say whether the wall heater was defective or whether combustible material – such as a blanket or couch – was placed too close to the heater. The plaintiffs did not present any evidence during the motion.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a California wrongful death case requiring the court to determine the validity of an arbitration agreement. Specifically, the court had to decide whether the arbitration agreement could be enforced against the deceased’s son, when he signed the agreement on behalf of his father.

Contract ReviewCalifornia Arbitration Agreements

An arbitration agreement is a contract between parties that preemptively agrees to settle any future claims that may arise between the parties through arbitration, rather than through the court system. The benefits to arbitration mainly inure to the company creating the contract, since that is the party that has the opportunity to choose the arbitration forum. In addition, arbitration is widely considered to be less expensive and more expedient than the traditional court system. Thus, it can be seen why large companies hope to arbitrate claims against them.

However, arbitration is not normally in the interest of an accident victim, who is less familiar with the forum and may be less concerned about the cost of litigation. Additionally, arbitration presents strict, non-uniform procedural rules that, if not followed, may result in the waiver of a valid claim.

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In a recent California injury case, an appellate court ordered the losing parties to pay additional costs because they rejected a settlement offer before trial. In that case, two individuals died in a fire that occurred in a home they were renting. One was a three-year-old child, and the other was a 49-year-old mother. After the fire, the victims’ families sued the owners of the home.

GavelBefore trial, the plaintiffs made an offer to settle both claims for $1.5 million, but the defendants rejected the offer. The case went to trial, and the plaintiffs won, with the jury awarding the plaintiffs $2.2 million in the mother’s claim and $357,000 in the child’s claim. After the trial, the court ordered the defendants to pay additional costs because the defendants rejected the settlement offer.

Costs Under Section 998

Generally, the party that wins in a civil case can recover certain costs. In addition, in California, section 998 of the Code of Civil Procedure punishes a party that refuses a reasonable settlement offer by allowing the offering party to recover certain costs. Section 998 allows the prevailing party to recover additional costs and fees that are not generally available, such as expert witness fees.

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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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