Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Auto accident cases often involve serious injuries that require extensive (and expensive) medical care to treat. When the accident victim doesn’t have health insurance, this can become complicated. In an important new case on the issue of the issue of assessing economic damages (such as past medical expenses) in an auto accident case, the California Court of Appeal upheld a trial judge’s decision not to admit evidence about how much a third-party company paid medical providers for a lien those medical providers had on any civil judgment award the victim might receive from a lawsuit related to the wreck.

The case began when a vehicle driven by Clare Meline collided with a vehicle driven by Anna Uspenskaya at a busy intersection. The wreck caused Uspenskaya to suffer substantial back injuries. Uspenskaya ultimately required surgery to correct a herniated lumbar disc. Uspenskaya, at the time of the accident, did not have health insurance. In order to secure treatment, Uspenskaya entered into an agreement with her doctor and the hospital in which they agreed to treat her in exchange for a legal right to receive a cut from whatever damages award the patient might recover in a personal injury lawsuit. At some later point, the medical providers sold that lien at a discount to a third-party financial services entity, MedFinManagers LLC.

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If you are injured in an auto accident, the court case that may follow could involve many different parties, and how that case unfolds may depend on which parties agree to settle. In one recent case, an taxi cab passenger sued both her cab company and another driver after she was injured in a two-car crash. The passenger settled with the cab company, but the agreement allowed the cab company to continue to participate in the case against the second driver. The California Court of Appeal ruled that the second driver should be allowed to introduce the settlement at trial so that the jury could obtain a full picture regarding each party’s motivations and biases.

The case arose from an accident that took place in San Francisco on Jan. 4, 2011. A taxi cab carrying passenger Christine Diamond was broadsided by a sedan driven by Serge Reshko. Reshko’s mother, Valentina Reshko, was riding with her son. The police officer who investigated the accident issued a citation to the cab driver for making an illegal U-turn and also cited Reshko for speeding. Diamond suffered serious injuries to her ribs and back.

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If you’ve been injured in an accident, chances are the last thing you want to do is go to trial on issues that the other side has no reasonable ground for contesting. Contesting issues without a reasonable belief of victory can be costly to the side who does this, though. In one recent Southern California case, the California Court of Appeal ruled that an accident victim was entitled to receive additional compensation from the driver who injured him, since the other driver decided to fight liability in spite of overwhelming evidence he was at fault.

The case originated with an auto accident in Orange County. In that crash, Levik Mansourian’s vehicle collided with a car driven by Timothy Grace. Mansourian told an investigator that his traffic signal was yellow. An eyewitness, however, said Mansourian’s traffic light was red. Following the accident, Grace underwent both ankle surgery and back surgery.

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Back seat (or passenger seat) driving usually holds little risk other than potential annoyance to the driver. However, an important new California Court of Appeal case recently concluded that a woman was potentially liable for the instructions and encouragement she gave the driver of her vehicle, which led the driver to speed so fast he lost control of his SUV and crashed into a family and their SUV.

The crash that triggered the lawsuit involved 18-year-old Brandon Coleman, a newly licensed driver who was transporting companions Hayley Meyer and Levi Calhoun to a Riverside County Rite Aid drug store to purchase soft drinks on Thanksgiving night in 2009. On the way, Meyer told Coleman to turn down a 25-mile-per-hour residential street because the street had several dips that could cause a car to become airborne if taken at a high rate of speed.

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An uninsured bicyclist, who was severely injured by a vehicle involved in a two-car accident, was allowed to retain most of the $3.75 million judgment a jury awarded him against one of the drivers. The California Court of Appeal decided that uninsured accident victims, like the bicyclist, could prove their damages by offering up their medical bills alongside medical expert testimony stating that those charges were fair and reasonable.

The accident in question involved drivers Nathan Heacox and Faith Ciolek, who were traveling in opposite directions on Talbert Avenue in Orange County when their vehicles collided in the intersection of Talbert and Bushard Street. The crash knocked Heacox’s vehicle onto the sidewalk, where it struck bicyclist Omar Bermudez. Bermudez, who suffered serious injuries including multiple fractures, sued both drivers. Although a jury decided that Heacox was speeding, it concluded that only Ciolek was “a substantial factor in causing harm” to the bicyclist.

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Auto accident cases, in most situations, involve dealing with insurance companies. While insurers try to carve out coverage exclusions when they can, California law limits the exclusions an auto insurer may include in its policies. In a case originating with an auto accident in Orange County, the California Court of Appeal ruled that the at-fault driver’s insurer could not evade paying the judgment recovered by the driver’s passenger, even though the two were residents of the same household. The law only permitted insurers to carve out exclusions for cohabitating persons if they were relatives, and the driver and passenger in this case were unrelated college roommates.

The case began, as many personal injury matters do, with an unfortunate accident. Hung Chu crashed his 1995 Honda Accord when he turned left in front of a vehicle driven by Krystal Nguyen Hoang in Garden Grove. Riding alongside Chu was his roommate, Tu Pham. Pham, who was injured in the accident, sued Chu, recovering a judgment in the amount of $333,300.

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