When you’ve been injured by a driver’s negligence, you have several important steps that are before you. You must decide if you will sue, when you will sue, and whom you will sue, among other things. Getting the fullest recovery possible under the law is, in part, based upon making these choices correctly. A recent California Court of Appeal case involving a teenage pedestrian struck along a Northern California road offers some helpful insight on when you may and may not sue a negligent driver’s employer for your injuries.
In a personal injury case, you have a lot of important decisions to make. One of those is whether to accept or reject a settlement offer. This is one of many areas where experienced counsel can help immensely. Whether it is wise or unwise to accept a settlement may depend greatly on whether that settlement constitutes a “998 offer” under the California statutes. In another recent case exploring the criteria for valid 998 offers, the California Court of Appeal upheld a ruling against a driver because the release she included as part of the offer she extended was too broad to qualify as a 998 offer.
Pursuing your personal injury case can involve many complex steps. The law allows a variety of techniques for presenting your case. In fact, there may be a point in your case at which you bring forward multiple contentions, some of which may seem to be in conflict with one another. The law allows you to present alternative claims for liability and alternative factual allegations, and, according to a recent California Court of Appeal case, the use of this technique should not be considered to be a “sham” and disallowed.
There are a lot of things that go into pursuing a personal injury case, including many decisions that must be made and procedural hurdles that must be cleared. At any of a number of points in the process, making a wrong choice in how you pursue your case can cause you to lose, on procedural grounds, your opportunity to obtain the compensation you deserve. That’s what makes tackling your personal injury case on your own so risky. Just as you know all the nuances in your career field, your injury attorney readily knows all of the laws, rules, and procedural hoops that must be complied with simply to get your day in court. One injured Northern California man’s case provided a stark example, since his procedural errors led the court to throw out a default judgment in his favor and also dismiss his case entirely.
Settlement offers are part of many personal injury cases. Weighing whether to accept or reject an offer can be complicated, especially when you receive a statutory settlement offer in your California injury lawsuit. Rejecting such an offer and then obtaining a judgment that is less than the offered settlement amount could mean that you’re on the hook for paying some of the other side’s court costs. One injured Northern California motorcyclist escaped such a fate, even though the judgment he received was less than the amount offered, since the California Court of Appeal decided that the terms of the other side’s offer did not comply with the law’s requirements.
This case began with an auto accident in Alameda County. Seventeen-year-old Jacy Rasnick was driving her father’s car when she ran a stop sign and struck a motorcycle driven by Charles Sanford. Sanford sued the driver and her father for his injuries. The Rasnicks, through their lawyer, extended a statutory “998 offer” in the amount of $130,000. The Rasnicks conditioned this offer on Sanford’s entering into a settlement agreement and general release with them.
A recent decision by the California Court of Appeal upheld a jury verdict in favor of a truck driver in a fatal accident. Even though the truck driver backed over a contractor, causing the contractor’s death, and the truck driver had smoked marijuana two days earlier, the contractor’s family’s wrongful death case failed anyway. In any negligence case, the plaintiff must prove causation, and, in this case, the dead man’s family was unable to persuade the jury that the truck driver’s marijuana use, not the contractor’s inattentiveness, caused the contractor’s death.
The lawsuit arose after the tragic death of Dan Toste. Toste, a general contractor on an asphalt project on State Route 135, was working when a construction truck driven by Paul Michaelson backed over him. After the accident, Michaelson voluntarily took a drug test, which revealed quantities of marijuana in his system. The truck driver admitted he had smoked two days before the incident in order to treat a headache. Toste’s son sued Michaelson, his employer, and the asphalt supplier on the project, asserting claims of negligence and wrongful death.
Before you sign a waiver agreement, it is important to understand just how broad that agreement’s coverage is. In a recent case before the California Court of Appeal, a man injured in an auto accident was not allowed to sue the driver at fault for the accident, nor the owner of the vehicle, because the accident was a “related activity” that was covered by a waiver the man signed with a religious-based substance abuse recovery home where he was residing at the time.
The accident occurred when David Richardson, an employee of In His Steps Christian Recovery Home, Inc., drove one of the home’s participants, Robert Murphy, to the DMV to get a state ID card, which Murphy needed in order to apply for public assistance. On their way to the DMV branch, Richardson ran a red light and crashed into another vehicle. Murphy was injured in the accident. Murphy sued Richardson, the home, and one of the home’s board members (who owned the van in which Murphy and Richardson were riding when the accident occurred) for negligence. The home, the employee, and the board member asked the trial court to issue a summary judgment in their favor. Murphy could not win his case, they asserted, because he had signed a waiver when he first entered the home’s program, and that waiver provision prohibited him from launching any lawsuits, such as this one, related to the home’s “help and assistance given … or related activities.”
An important new California Supreme Court ruling highlights exactly how broad the application of the state’s governmental design immunity statute is. The high court ruled against a man injured in an auto accident at an intersection that he alleged was dangerous, since the court concluded that the man’s case against San Diego County was barred by the statute. Even if the engineer who approved the design had no knowledge of the allegedly dangerous condition on the road, that lack of knowledge still did not prevent the county from asserting the immunity law.
The accident leading to the lawsuit occurred at the intersection of two rural roads in San Diego County. Randall Hampton was attempting to turn left from a side road onto a two-lane roadway. He executed the turn and was struck by Robert Cullen. The California Highway Patrol accident report stated that Hampton improperly pulled out in front of Cullen.
The legal rule known as “assumption of the risk” has long applied to participants in sports. In 2012, the California Supreme Court extended it to apply to guests at an amusement park’s bumper-car attraction. Recently, the California Court of Appeal concluded that this legal defense against an injured guest’s negligence claim also applied when it comes to haunted house attractions. The legal rules requiring a business to keep its premises free of risks of injury did not extend to guests injured while running because they were frightened by a component of the attraction.
Many people have visited Halloween-themed attractions like downtown San Diego’s “Haunted Hotel.” Like most haunted house attractions, this one involves actors who “jump out of dark spaces often inches away from patrons, holding prop knives, axes, chainsaws, or severed body parts.” In the fall of 2011, Scott Griffin visited the Haunted Hotel. After many frights and scares, Griffin stepped through a gap in a chain-link fence, believing he had exited the attraction. In reality, the fence was a false exit, and Griffin was still inside the attraction. A chainsaw-wielding actor approached and then chased the man. Griffin ran away from the actor, tripped, fell, and injured his wrist.
An insurer emerged victorious in a bad faith lawsuit arising from a fatal auto accident in which the insurer’s insured, a teen driver, caused an accident that killed his passenger. The California Court of Appeal decided that it was not bad faith for the insurer not to pay for a settlement that the insured negotiated “behind the back” of the insurer.
The case centered on a fatal auto accident in San Bernardino County. Cy Tapia, a teenage who lived with his aunt and grandmother, was driving a truck owned by his grandfather when he crashed. Tapia’s passenger, Cory Driscoll, eventually died from injuries he sustained in the accident. Driscoll’s family sued. Although the teen’s grandfather owned the car, Tapia’s sister insured the vehicle. The sister’s insurance policy had a limit of $100,000. The insurer, 21st Century Insurance Co., offered to settle for $100,000. The Driscoll family, believing that the teen might be covered under two $25,000 policies held by the grandmother and the aunt, made a limited-time settlement offer of $150,000. The insurance company did not respond in time but later made its own $150,000 settlement offer.