Archive for the ‘ Personal Injury ’ Category

Governor Brown Inks Fair Civil Court Compensation Bill

Posted on: November 17, 2016 by in Personal Injury
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California Assembly Bill 2159, which was signed into law in August by Governor Jerry Brown, finally ensures equal treatment for all injured Californians who are filing personal injury claims, regardless of an injury victim’s immigration status when seeking damages for personal injury. The new statute is a just and long-overdue response to a controversial 1986 California Second District Court of Appeal ruling in the case Rodriguez v. Kline.

In that 1986 ruling, the Court of Appeal determined that when an undocumented immigrant is working in California, is injured, and receives a personal injury verdict, any compensation for the loss of future earning capacity must be based on the wages that the immigrant would have made in his or her nation of origin rather than what the worker would earn in California. In a number of cases, the Rodriguez ruling has been applied to injury victims who have lived and worked in our state for years. And for three decades now, activists have been voicing concerns that the Rodriguez decision was unfairly exclusionary and legally just plain wrong.

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AB 2159 directly addresses and resolves those concerns. The new law requires the courts in California to consider all personal injury plaintiffs equally and without regard to a person’s nation of origin or legal immigration status. AB 2159 was introduced by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego, and it was sponsored in the California Senate by Senator Isadore Hall of Compton. After its passage by the California Assembly, AB 2159 was approved overwhelmingly by the California Senate in August and sent to Governor Brown’s desk.

According to Pasadena personal injury lawyer Gregory R. Vanni, “This bill assures innocent victims of negligent acts that they will not have their personal injury case prejudiced by evidence of their immigration status. A person’s immigration status is a complex issue that should only be resolved in proper immigration courts, not by juries deciding personal injury cases. This case removes a frequent weapon by the insurance industry to reduce compensation to innocent victims by trying to poison a case with immigration issues.”

When the governor signed AB 2159, the Consumer Attorneys of California released a statement that said in part: “Gov. Brown’s action today continues the progress California has made in providing equal legal treatment to all Californians. Immigration status is irrelevant to the issue of liability under state law, and undocumented workers have equal protection under California’s labor laws.”

WHAT GROUPS SUPPORTED AB 2159?

The proposal was aggressively supported by a number of organizations including the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Consumer Federation of California, the Consumer Attorneys of California, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, the ACLU of California, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, and the California Catholic Conference. Elise R. Sanguinetti of the Consumer Attorneys of California said, “We applaud Assembly Member Gonzalez and Governor Brown for restoring fairness to that process in our civil courts.”

Over the last several years, as you probably know, lawmakers in California have approved a number of proposals that protect the legal rights of immigrants who are in this state without documentation, and California is generally considered the most progressive of the fifty states. Until this year, however, legal protection had not been extended to undocumented persons seeking reimbursement for personal injuries.

Right now, and until January 2017, if an undocumented immigrant is injured by someone else’s negligence in California, that immigrant is in effect victimized a second time – by discrimination. On January 1, immigration status will become irrelevant to the issue of liability under California law, and undocumented workers will have equal legal protection when they file personal injury claims. By signing AB 2159, Governor Brown once again extended the progress this state is making in providing equal legal treatment to all.

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WHY WAS AB 2159 NECESSARY?

In the decades since 1986, the Rodriguez decision has been applied in personal injury cases to diminish the amount of compensation paid to severely-injured undocumented immigrants who are the victims of negligence in this state. In many cases, defendants even asserted that the compensation for medical care in these cases should also be based on what the same medical care would cost in the plaintiff’s home nation. Scores of undocumented immigrants have received verdicts for amounts far below what their claims were actually worth in U.S. dollars.

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Deciding on a reasonable and fair compensation figure after an accident caused by negligence is almost always a painstakingly difficult process. A completely irrelevant item – the wage rate in a faraway nation – only complicates the task. A personal injury attorney, for example, usually works on a victim’s behalf for a settlement or verdict that fairly and fully reimburses the victim of negligence for both the economic and noneconomic losses that he or she has sustained.

WHAT DETERMINES THE AMOUNT OF A PERSONAL INJURY AWARD?

To determine what amount a victim of negligence is entitled to receive, the victim and his or her personal injury attorney should include all medical expenses, all lost income, the cost of prescriptions, and all other expenses (for example, transportation to doctors and pharmacies) arising from the accident and injury. If the injury is temporarily or permanently disabling, an estimate of the victim’s lost future earning capacity must also be considered. In the case of catastrophic and permanent injuries, a Los Angeles or Pasadena personal injury lawyer will fight aggressively on a client’s behalf for the maximum available amount of compensation.

While a personal injury victim’s immigration status will no longer be considered in California personal injury cases beginning in 2017, other items are always considered by a judge or jury when deciding the sum of a personal injury verdict. Those considerations may include a plaintiff’s age and health – and any preexisting medical conditions – prior to the accident and injury, the plaintiff’s marital and family status, his or her childcare arrangements, work or school obligations, employment background and experience, education, and in some cases, the plaintiff’s ability to acquire new job skills.

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California has moved decisively on immigration reform in recent years. Immigrants pay in-state tuitions at state universities and may obtain California drivers’ licenses. California changed its laws to allow Sergio Garcia – an undocumented immigrant brought as a child to the U.S. by his parents – to practice law in this state. Even the word “alien” has been eliminated from California’s labor code. Immigrants bring genuine benefits to the people of California.

Recent statistics provided by Startup Compass, a San Francisco consulting firm, found that more than half of the new business startups in Silicon Valley are launched by immigrants, and more than seven in ten of the engineers in Silicon Valley are immigrants. A recent report issued by the American Competitiveness Alliance confirms that “Immigration can contribute to economic growth by increasing productivity through innovation.” Assembly Bill 2159 guarantees that when an immigrant is injured and files a personal injury claim, justice will finally have a chance to prevail.

How Can Injury Victims Know Which Attorney To Hire?

Posted on: October 17, 2016 by in Personal Injury
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Countless people from all walks of life in the United States have sustained personal injuries in accidents caused by the negligence of others. They’ve relied on personal injury attorneys to help them win the compensation they needed and the opportunity to rebuild their lives after suffering a serious personal injury. Personal injury attorneys fight on behalf of innocent victims and hold negligent parties accountable. In fact, if you or someone you know in Southern California has been injured by someone else’s negligence, you should speak about it with an experienced Los Angeles or Pasadena personal injury attorney.

Typically, when someone is injured, medical costs and related expenses start piling up while the victim is unable to work. Unless the injury happened at the job and is covered by workers’ compensation, there may be no money coming into the household, and many families can face financial hardship in just several weeks. A personal injury attorney can work with a client to obtain compensation for current and future medical expenses and lost wages, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of the “enjoyment of life.” Personal injury lawyers also protect clients from the questionable and sometimes illegal practices of insurance companies.

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Automobile collisions generate the most personal injury claims, but whenever someone is injured because someone else was negligent, in California the injured party is entitled by law to compensation – if the plaintiff can prove that he or she was injured and can also prove that the defendant’s negligence is the reason why. This includes all types of personal injury scenarios, from slipping on a wet floor in a supermarket – or a puddle in a parking lot – to a dog bite, an injury caused by a defective consumer product, or an incident of dental or medical malpractice.

WHAT DOES A PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY DO?

The best personal injury attorneys go to work immediately. Time is of the essence in a personal injury case because evidence deteriorates or disappears, and witnesses become forgetful or disappear. A personal injury lawyer explains to each client how the law applies in each particular case, examines the evidence, and negotiates on the client’s behalf. Most personal injury cases are settled out-of-court. Personal injury lawyers are trained negotiators who know what it takes to prevail.

If an out-of-court settlement is unavailable in a personal injury case, an attorney should be fully prepared to take the claim to a courtroom and argue on the client’s behalf in front of a judge and/or a jury. There are more than a million attorneys practicing in the United States today, and more than 185,000 right here in California. When someone is injured by negligence, what’s the best way to find the right personal injury lawyer? What should an injury victim look for?

If you’ve been injured in an accident, and you are looking for an attorney, Salt Lake City attorney Matthew Driggs suggests “there are a few things to keep an eye out for. You’ll want an attorney who is knowledgeable, experienced, and reputable. A knowledgeable attorney will be specialized in personal injury cases and understands the long-term effects of your injuries. This is crucial in your case when determining what a fair settlement is. An experienced attorney will know how to negotiate with the insurance companies to get you the fair settlement.”

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Attorney Driggs explains, “Having experience will also help in knowing the laws, statutes of limitations, and liability issues in your case. A reputable attorney is important because you’ll want someone who is seen as a positive and ethical attorney in the industry. Mediators, judges, and insurance adjusters work with attorneys all the time, and if your attorney is known positively in the industry, your case will be handled more efficiently and effectively by all involved.”

When seeking the right personal injury attorney, find out the basics first. Experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney Gregory R. Vanni suggests: “First and foremost, anyone seeking to hire a specific attorney should check that attorney’s status on the State Bar website. In California, the State Bar maintains a publicly accessible website, where the attorney can be searched via name or bar number. Make sure the lawyer you hire is in good legal standing and has never been suspended or disbarred.”

“Second,” attorney Vanni recommends, “look at former client reviews of the attorney to gauge past client satisfaction. Third, confirm the attorney has deep experience in handling injury cases, and is not someone who just “dabbles” in personal injury. Finally, have a frank discussion about fees and costs so there are no surprises at the conclusion of your case.”

WHAT HAPPENS AT AN INITIAL LEGAL CONSULTATION?

After doing some online research and speaking to people you know and respect, narrow your list of lawyers to three or five. Many personal injury attorneys offer a free initial consultation. The attorney will hear your side of the story, and if your personal injury claim is legitimate and provable, the attorney may offer to accept the case, at least provisionally. The consultation is also your opportunity to meet personally and size up an attorney for yourself. If the lawyer doesn’t really seem to be listening or interested, or if you’re uncomfortable for any reason or even for no particular reason, talk to another attorney.

No two personal injury lawyers are alike. If you’ve seen an attorney on a billboard, in a news story, or you’ve visited the website, that’s not enough. If you’ve been injured by another person’s negligence, you’ll need to conduct your own research, or – if your injury is severe – you’ll need to have someone conduct it for you. Be sure that your personal injury attorney or law firm has:

  1. A great track record. The most important thing is winning, and the best personal injury lawyers win consistently.
  2. Generally positive reviews, endorsements, ratings, and testimonials from former clients.
  3. A personal injury attorney or must be relentless and tenacious, willing to dig in aggressively to a case to win every cent that a client deserves.
  4. Compassion is imperative. While an attorney must be aggressive in negotiations or in court, the best attorneys genuinely care about their clients, about their communities, and about justice. If an attorney is involved with local charities or activities like youth sports, that’s a good sign.
  5. Whether your attorney works for a large firm or alone with just one or two assistants, a helpful and friendly staff is also a good sign that the practice runs smoothly and professionally.
  6. Finally, you need an attorney who handles your case and works with you personally from start to finish. In some firms, personal injury claims are transferred – sometimes more than once – to a second or third attorney. It’s hard to get comfortable with a constantly changing face.

La Jolla personal injury attorney Evan W. Walker offers this advice: “Understand that in large cities personal injury attorneys are a dime a dozen, so you need to separate the wheat from the chaff (for smaller areas, that’s not really a problem). Take the following 5 steps in order of priority:

  • Look for personal references (e.g. family, friends, co-workers)
  • If a personally recommended attorney is unavailable, have that attorney make a recommendation
  • Go to Yelp and Avvo and look for highly rated attorneys
  • Google attorneys in your area
  • With those recommendations and choices, narrow them down by weighing the following considerations: does one of the attorneys have better ratings, is one closer to you, does one specialize in your type of case or injury, is one known as a trial attorney, is one personally preferable because of age, experience, or publicity?”

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About Yelp and Avvo, Attorney Walker cautions, “be careful, however, because there’s more than meets the eye.”  Unfortunately, some attorneys, and some of the people who work for attorneys, have in the past posted fake reviews and bogus endorsements. If you locate an attorney through Avvo or Yelp, it’s probably wisest to verify independently the information provided about that attorney.

ARE THERE REALLY “TOO MANY” LAWYERS?

Although the conventional wisdom holds that there are “too many lawyers,” another law – the law of supply and demand – means that the lawyers who are without clients are quickly out of work. An abundance of lawyers to choose from may seem a little overwhelming at first – especially for anyone trying to recover from a serious personal injury – but in Southern California, that abundance allows you to choose a Los Angeles or Pasadena personal injury attorney who is just right for you.

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Anyone who has been injured by someone else’s negligence is entitled under California law to full compensation for all injury-related medical expenses, lost wages, and all other losses and damages arising from the accident and injury – if you can prove that you were injured by a defendant’s negligence. Don’t hesitate to stand up for your rights if you’ve been injured. It’s the right thing to do.

What are The Warning Signs of Elder Abuse?

Posted on: April 16, 2016 by in Personal Injury
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Senior couple at airport sitting on bench

When a beloved family member is no longer able to care for himself or herself independently, a decision must be made about the best arrangement for that person’s care. The whole purpose of placing a parent or loved one into a nursing home or long-term care facility in California is to ensure that the parent or loved one is properly and well-cared for and will be kept protected and safe. When you select a nursing home facility for a loved one, you place trust in that facility and its staff. Usually, nursing home residents are properly cared for and protected. Occasionally, however, they are not.

In California law, “elder abuse” is a very broadly defined term. It can happen in many different ways, but elder abuse must never be tolerated or excused. Depending on the specifics of the case, justice for the elderly may be pursued through the civil and/or criminal court system. You might be wondering, what is elder abuse? What warning signs should a family member or a concerned friend look for? And what can be done if misuse is happening?

Elder abuse is any intentional or negligent action– or failure to act – that results in harm, injury, or the immediate risk of harm or injury to an older person, whether that harm or injury is physical, psychological, or financial. Elder abuse may include:

  • Physical abuse: use of force that causes intimidation or injury
  • Emotional abuse: verbal attacks, rejection, isolation, or humiliation
  • Sexual abuse: sexual contact that is forced, tricked, threatened, or coerced
  • Exploitation: theft, fraud, or deception used to gain control over an older person’s money or property. Financial exploitation may go undiscovered sometimes for years.
  • Neglect or abandonment: a caregiver’s failure or refusal to provide for a vulnerable elderly person’s safety or that person’s physical and/or emotional needs.

If you have a loved one now living in a nursing home, be certain that the facility is adequately staffed. Across the country, nursing homes and their residents suffer from a shortage of qualified personnel that severely impacts the quality of care to disabled and elderly residents. Many nursing homes simply do not hire the staff that they need. Federal guidelines are inexplicit and merely require facilities to hire “sufficient” staff.

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HOW CAN YOU KNOW IF A CAREGIVER IS ABUSIVE?

Abusers of the elderly are rarely easy to identify. Elderly victims may be unable to report abuse, or they may be isolated, afraid, or ashamed to tell anyone about it. Elder misuse usually happens in the victim’s own home, in a caregiver’s home, or in a nursing home or other long-term healthcare facility. Often, the perpetrator of elder misuse may be an adult family member or even a spouse. Other offenders may include “new friends” who intentionally seek out and prey on older adults, as well as service providers in positions of trust. There is no typical profile of an abuser of the elderly, and frighteningly, it could be anyone.

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In long-term care facilities such as nursing homes and assisted living residences, those guilty of misuse are usually the overworked, underpaid, insufficiently-trained employees of the facility. Although most long-term care facilities are professionally staffed and operated, it’s important for family members to stay alert to the possible signs of elder abuse even in the highest-ranked facilities.

WHAT SHOULD YOU LOOK FOR?

Elder abuse may be difficult to identify because some victims may not understand that they are being abused. Those suffering from Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and dementia are especially at risk for nursing home abuse. The potential risk factors for elder misuse in nursing homes and assisted living facilities also include negligent hiring practices, failing to conduct background checks, understaffing, and inadequate training. Elder abuse can take many forms. Here are some signs that family members or concerned friends should look for:

  • Slap marks, burns, or blisters. Explanations that don’t fit the circumstances should be treated suspiciously.
  • Withdrawal, depression, and unexplained mood shifts may be signs of emotional misuse or neglect.
  • A sudden change in finances, abruptly changing beneficiaries, wills, or trusts, unusual bank withdrawals, large loans, and any missing cash or jewelry are all signs of financial exploitation.
  • Untreated bedsores, bruises, cuts, a lack of dental care, uncleaned clothing, poor hygiene, overgrown hair and nails, and abrupt weight loss are almost always signs of neglect.

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Trust your instincts. Do not be intimidated by nursing home personnel, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Victims of elder misuse may be the victims of more than one type of abuse, and almost any elderly person can be at risk for abuse. It’s important to understand that the victims of elder abuse should never be considered responsible and that the perpetrators of misuse are the persons responsible for it. And while almost any elderly person can be at risk, some are clearly more at risk than others. Factors that may increase an elderly person’s vulnerability to abuse include:

  • social isolation, loneliness, and the lack of any social support network
  • a mental impairment or disability that may increase an elderly person’s dependence on the abuser
  • an abuser’s own personal issues such as anger, drug and/or alcohol abuse, or an emotional or financial dependency on the misuse victim

ARE SPECIFIC LAWS IN PLACE AGAINST ELDER ABUSE?

While no federal law specifically protects elderly persons from abuse, every state has laws that specifically address elder abuse, exploitation, and neglect. Those laws vary from state to state.

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State laws that already address battery, assault, theft, rape, fraud, and domestic violence may also apply in elder abuse situations, and when a victim of these crimes is elderly, a judge typically takes that into account when determining a sentence.

The state of California assumes the legal authority to investigate the abuse, neglect, or exploitation of an elderly or disabled person and to provide protective services immediately to that person upon confirmation of misuse. When nursing home misuse and neglect is reported, a criminal investigation can be started, adult protective services can become involved, and a lawsuit can be filed with the help of a California personal injury attorney.

HOW CAN SOMEONE STOP ELDER ABUSE?

A lawsuit provides immediate help and relief to the victim of elder abuse and prevents further harm. Reporting nursing home abuse is the first step in seeking justice. Of course, every elder abuse case is unique, so families that suspect abuse will need the advice of a California personal injury attorney. No one should ever hesitate to report elder abuse. Justice is available to the victims of misuse, but only if a friend or family member makes the initial report.

Infographic – Motorcycle Fatalities In California: By The Numbers

Posted on: April 1, 2016 by in Infographics, Personal Injury
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Black Motorcycle 481759

In 2014, more than three thousand traffic fatalities were reported in the state of California, with 519 of these resulting from motorbike accidents. This infographic illustrates the statistics surrounding motorbike casualties in California while providing tips on how to prevent these accidents in the future. If you are in a motorcycle accident, speak with an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your options and protect your rights.

Motorcycle Fatalities In California

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If You Are Injured By A Drunk Driver

Posted on: March 11, 2016 by in Personal Injury
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Jada Benge was only thirty-three years old when a drunk teen driver took her life.

She left behind three young girls and a husband, Michael, who were also seriously injured in the crash. Michael Benge wrote these words in 2013 for the Bakersfield Californian: “Today is the ninth anniversary of our wreck on May 29, 2004.

We have learned to live one day at a time and to live by faith. But, because of the arrogance and selfishness of others, every day, every holiday, every memorable moment is bittersweet.” Benge’s daughters were eight, nine, and twelve years old when their lives were changed forever that day in 2004.

Rebekah Bowers Sanders also knows the pain that drunk drivers can inflict on the innocent.

In 2015, a drunk driver severely injured Sanders and her husband near Paris, Texas. Together, they suffered broken ribs and limbs, a broken eye socket, a shattered wrist, a dislocated shoulder and hip, a sprained wrist, a sprained ankle, torn ligaments, and lasting deep bruises.

“I have yet to regain the vision in my right eye, and it is extremely unlikely that I will ever see out of it again. I will never get to look over my shoulder at my children playing in the backseat of the car,” Sanders told KLFY News.

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WHAT ARE THE NUMBERS?

The survivors are lucky in one sense, because drunk drivers take about 10,000 innocent lives on this nation’s streets and highways every year.

In California alone, in both 2013 and 2014, more than 1,000 people were killed in alcohol-related traffic accidents. Thousands more are injured by drunk drivers – nationally, more than a quarter-of-a-million of us are injured every year, and many of those injuries are catastrophic or permanently disabling.

It doesn’t take much alcohol to reach the legal intoxication limit. For some people, one drink is enough, and after just one drink, almost everyone’s driving skills will be at least slightly impaired and reaction times will be slightly slower.

In the past thirty years in the state of California, intoxicated drivers have inflicted more than a million injuries on innocent California residents and visitors.

More than 172,000 DUI arrests were made in this state in 2012. There’s simply no getting around the reality that whenever you drive or ride as a passenger on a California street or highway, there’s a good chance that an intoxicated driver may be on the same road with you.

Beyond the fatalities and the physical injuries, alcohol-related vehicle collisions cost all of us in the United States more than $50 billion every year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of course, courts in every state punish convicted drunk drivers with fines, jail terms, license suspensions, and more, but if you or someone you love is injured – now or in the future – by an intoxicated driver, you may also seek justice through the civil courts with a personal injury claim.

In many cases, and especially if you’ve been visibly injured and the driver who injured you is convicted of DUI, you won’t even have to go to court because your attorney will negotiate an out-of-court settlement on your behalf.

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HOW DOES THE LAW PROTECT YOU?

Of course, if your life has been changed by an accident with a drunk driver, no matter how much cash you are awarded in a verdict or settlement, you may still end up paying a higher price than the driver who injured you.

Still, if you are injured by a drunk driver, seek medical attention first, and then discuss your legal rights and options with a good personal injury lawyer, and in Los Angeles County, with an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney.

California law entitles every personal injury victim to full reimbursement for medical treatment, days lost from work, and all additional expenses and losses linked to injuries caused by impaired and otherwise negligent drivers.

If you’ve been injured by an impaired driver, even though you are entitled to reimbursement, winning that reimbursement isn’t necessarily easy. You will need the help of an experienced personal injury attorney to prove that you were injured – in that accident and by that driver – and you’ll have to prove that the driver was negligent.

Beyond that, you’ll also have to demonstrate the extent of your injuries and damages so that an amount can be specified. Your attorney will investigate the facts of the case, compile and examine evidence, question witnesses, and call on experts if necessary to win the reimbursement and justice that every innocent victim of drunk driving needs and deserves.

It is imperative to cooperate and to be completely honest with your attorney, and it’s also imperative to put your attorney on the case as quickly as you can. Eyewitnesses forget over time, and evidence must be examined at once. If a drunk driver injures you, don’t wait – act. Make the call to a good personal injury lawyer promptly.

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WHAT ARE THE POTENTIAL CONSEQUENCES?

Obviously, permanent injuries and the loss of loved ones can’t be fixed with any amount of money.

The most tragic consequences of drunk driving linger with the innocent victims and their families for the rest of their lives. Traumatic brain injuries, severe spinal cord injuries, amputation, disfigurement, and painful whiplash are far too frequently the result of intoxicated driving. These injuries usually make it impossible to perform work or even to accomplish everyday tasks like bathing, dressing, and cooking.

Time, however, does not always heal all injuries, and sometimes after an alcohol-related tragedy, it’s the emotional wounds that may never heal. The survivors of these collisions, victims like Rebekah Bowers Sanders and Michael Benge, deal with real psychological challenges.

No one adjusts easily to the sudden loss of a loved one – or to being disabled – especially when it happens because of the foolish negligence of an impaired stranger. Every victim faces different struggles, but when a drunk driver changes a family’s life, jobs can be lost and marriages can be destroyed.

Legally, those convicted of driving under the influence pay for their crimes, but outside of the courtroom, it too often seems that the innocent victims of drunk driving are the ones who suffer the punishment.

If you’ve ever suspected that drunk drivers are not injured as seriously as their victims in collisions, science may be confirming that suspicion.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) have studied the statistics. It appears that a higher blood alcohol content (BAC) level enhances a trauma victim’s odds of survival in a serious traffic collision. In other words, the drunker a driver is, the more statistically likely he or she is to survive a crash and avoid being seriously injured. Researchers found that the most intoxicated accident victims really do suffer fewer and less severe injuries. Lee Friedman, the study’s author and an assistant professor at UIC, writes that, “After an injury, if you are intoxicated there seems to be a pretty substantial protective effect.”

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WHAT’S THE FIRST PRIORITY?

You must obtain medical attention at once if you or someone you love is injured in a collision with an impaired driver.

If you are involved in a crash with a drunk driver, stay calm and think clearly. Medical attention comes first. If you’ve been seriously injured, be certain to arrange for the full medical care and treatment that you’re going to need. If you don’t think that you’ve been injured or feel like you’ve been injured, see a doctor anyway, and promptly.

Some injuries are not immediately obvious or detectable, and those are the injuries that can emerge subsequently as genuine health threats. Don’t just try to walk off or ignore aches or soreness after a traffic crash. Seeing a doctor protects your health, and it also protects you legally if you need to file an injury claim later.

When an accident happens, you also need to call the police. You’ll need a copy of their accident report – more legal protection if you need to act later. Get the names and contact information of any other witnesses.

You must obtain the other driver’s name, contact details, and insurance information. Most people try to be helpful after an accident, but if the other driver is too injured or drunk to work with you, ask the police to help you get the information you need.

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WHAT EVIDENCE WILL YOU NEED?

Take lots of photographs of the crash scene, the vehicle damages, the vehicle license plates, and your own injuries.

If you can’t take photos because of your injury, ask someone to help. The right photographs can verify your personal injury claim and make all the difference in negotiations or in court.

Make and store safely copies of any documents and paperwork generated by the accident and injury – medical bills and receipts, test results, and anything else that might be relevant. Be sure that you keep a precise record of the providers’ names, the healthcare facilities and their locations, and the dates when you are seen for medical care.

Obviously, money can never compensate for many of the consequences of drunk driving.

Nevertheless, an experienced personal injury lawyer can use every available legal tool to help you obtain a verdict or settlement that helps you move forward with the medical treatment and the financial resources you need.

Immediately take your case to a good personal injury lawyer if you’re injured by a drunk driver, and in southern California, promptly contact an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney.

Helmets, Cars, And “Concussion”

Posted on: February 13, 2016 by in Personal Injury
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doctor examining a brain cat scan

Concussion, a film released on Christmas Day 2015 by Columbia Pictures, stars Will Smith in the true-life story of Dr. Bennet Omalu, the Nigerian-born forensic pathologist who fought the National Football League’s effort to suppress his findings on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the degenerative brain disease frequently suffered by professional football players.

The story really begins with Mike Webster, the Pittsburgh Steelers center during that team’s string of Super Bowl wins in the 1970s. As a forensic pathologist in Pennsylvania with the Allegheny County coroner’s office, Dr. Omalu handled Webster’s autopsy in 2002.

Webster died suddenly and unexpectedly, following years of struggling with cognitive impairment, mood disorders, clinical depression, substance abuse, and failed suicide attempts.

Dr. Omalu suspected that Mike Webster had suffered from dementia pugilistica, a form of dementia induced by repeated blows to the head – and common to professional boxers.

Dr. Omalu found large accumulations of tau protein in Webster’s brain that would have negatively impacted Webster’s mood, emotional stability, and motor control. The doctor spent the next few years researching incidences of CTE among retired NFL players, and he initially believed that the NFL would be pleased with his research. Instead, the NFL downplayed the severity of the CTE problem, even though concerns regarding brain injuries to NFL players had been growing for years.

After the suicide – at age 45 – of former Steelers offensive lineman Terry Long in 2005, Dr. Omalu found tau protein concentrations in Long’s brain tissues were more consistent with “a 90-year-old brain with advanced Alzheimer’s.”

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THOUSANDS OF CASES

The NFL finally acknowledged the link between concussions sustained by football players and CTE incidences in December 2009.

In 2011, attorneys in Philadelphia filed lawsuits against the NFL on behalf of seven retired NFL players, including two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Jim McMahon. Subsequently, thousands of former NFL players filed legal claims against the League after sustaining concussions repeatedly throughout their careers.

In April 2012, former Atlanta Falcons safety Ray Easterling, one of the seven co-plaintiffs in the case with Jim McMahon, committed suicide with a gun in his home. The autopsy report found tau protein concentrations consistent with CTE in Easterling’s brain tissue. Only a month later, the popular former San Diego Charger, Junior Seau, also died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and Seau’s autopsy also indicated CTE.

By August 2012, more than three thousand football players were involved in lawsuits against the NFL, and by April 2013, that number had surpassed 4,500.

At a federal hearing that month in Philadelphia, the NFL moved to have all of those lawsuits dismissed at once. Instead, the judge ordered representatives for both sides to attempt to negotiate a settlement. Under the agreement they reached, the NFL will spend $765 million to provide medical treatment to more than 18,000 former players.

Retired NFL players who suffer from brain injuries and brain injury-related diseases will also qualify for medical help. Another $10 million will subsidize brain injury and neurology research as well as safety and education programs.

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DISTURBING QUESTIONS

While the agreement between the NFL and its retired players means that many who desperately need medical treatment will now be able to receive it, the settlement also raises some disturbing questions for the rest of us, and the release of the film with Will Smith has once again placed those questions squarely the public eye.

If the most advanced helmets available can’t protect some of the world’s greatest athletes from concussions and CTE, what are the real dangers facing bicyclists and motorcyclists wearing their own helmets? And if the brain can be injured without any damage to a helmet, could automobile drivers and passengers conceivably also be injured without damage to their vehicles?

More and more, we’re learning about the brain injuries – and the other kinds of injuries – that are suffered in low-speed, low-impact traffic accidents, and what we’re learning is somewhat disturbing.

In low-speed, low-impact collisions, there’s usually little or no visible property damage to the vehicles, but the injuries suffered in these accidents may nevertheless be serious injuries. In low-speed collisions, more of the force of the impact is directly transferred to the vehicle’s occupants, because vehicles absorb very little of the force of impacts under twenty miles per hour. Protect yourself, and understand that low-speed, low impact traffic crashes can cause whiplash, soft tissue injuries, spinal damage, and serious brain injuries.

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TAKE THE CAUTIOUS APPROACH

If you are involved in what seems to be a minor traffic accident with no apparent injuries or property damage, take the cautious approach and have a medical examination anyway.

The injuries most frequently sustained in low-speed, low-impact accidents are precisely the kinds of injuries that are invisible at first or easy to ignore and later become serious medical issues.

An unexpected head jolt can force delicate brain tissue to collide against rigid skull bones, with subsequent swelling or even bleeding that may not be noticeable immediately. Other conditions such as whiplash and back injuries may take days – or weeks – before they’re even detectable.

If you are injured in a traffic collision but your vehicle sustained little or no damage, the insurance company may use that lack of damage as an excuse for denying your claim or for offering you a settlement that’s far below the actual value of your claim.

The problem is that while cars, buses, trucks, and SUVs are designed precisely to withstand low-speed collisions, you and your passengers are not. Whether or not you think you are injured, get medical attention at once after any traffic accident, and if you subsequently experience any of the symptoms listed here, get checked again. Recognizing the early symptoms of a brain injury after a low-speed, low-impact accident is imperative. The typical signs of a brain injury include:

  • headaches, nausea, and vomiting
  • dizziness and problems with motor skills
  • memory and concentration problems
  • low energy and fatigue
  • emotional anxiety or depression and feelings of disorientation or helplessness

If an injury does develop slowly over several days or weeks – and it happens this way frequently – you must be in a position to prove that you’ve been injured and to protect yourself legally. Seek medical attention immediately after any traffic crash and subsequently if any symptoms develop. If a healthcare provider confirms that you’ve been injured, speak as quickly as possible with a good personal injury lawyer, and in southern California, contact an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney at once.

Neurology, the journal of the American Academy of Neurology, recently published research proving that even a mild concussion leaves brain damage that remains visible on brain scans months later.

Even the mildest brain injuries mean more long-term damage than neurologists once believed. Researchers at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine studied fifty subjects who had sustained mild concussions. Four months after their injuries, the concussion victims still showed slight irregularities in the frontal cortex area of both sides of the brain.

Pain and other brain injury symptoms can disappear long before full healing has been completed. If you have previously sustained a concussion, you must be exceedingly cautious to avoid any blow, jolt, or impact to the head.

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KNOW YOUR RIGHTS AND OPTIONS

If you are injured because of another driver’s negligence in California or any other state, personal injury law entitles you to full reimbursement for all of your medical care, lost income, and your other injury-related expenses.

In some states and in some cases, injury victims may also qualify to receive pain and suffering damages as well punitive damages. A good personal injury lawyer can examine the details of your own case and explain your legal rights and options – including a possible personal injury lawsuit.

Proving negligence is always the key to prevailing in a personal injury claim. A plaintiff must be able to present evidence that his or her injury or injuries happened because of the defendant’s negligent action or lack of action.

The victim must prove – with adequate medical documentation and/or testimony – that the injury actually happened and must also prove – with an attorney’s help – that the defendant’s negligence was the direct cause of that injury or injuries. Finally, the plaintiff must prove the extent and the “dollar value” of his or her injury or injuries.

Obviously, long-term and disabling injuries will require the maximum possible compensation – as well as a personal injury attorney who knows what it takes to win that compensation on your behalf.

If you believe that you have a personal injury claim and that you are entitled to compensation after a traffic collision – even if your vehicle sustained little or no damage – do not speak with, listen to, or accept a settlement offer from any insurance company.

Let your personal injury lawyer conduct all of the negotiations and discussions with the insurance company. Your lawyer is a trained and experienced negotiator who will fight aggressively for the compensation you need and for the justice you deserve. In many cases, you will not have to go to court and your attorney may be able to negotiate an acceptable out-of-court settlement.

If you are injured in traffic in southern California, as soon as you’ve obtained medical attention, put your case in the hands of an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney – without delay.

The Dangers of Compressed Natural Gas

Posted on: January 11, 2016 by in Personal Injury
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In recent years, as natural gas prices have dropped in the United States and the natural gas supply has increased, compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles are becoming the focus of renewed attention. Compressed natural gas is methane gas that is stored at high pressure. Compressed natural gas can be used as a fuel in place of gasoline, diesel, or propane. CNG combustion produces less air pollution than gasoline, and compressed natural gas is also safer than other fuels in the event of a spill, because natural gas is lighter than air and disperses quickly when released. Compressed natural gas may be found above oil deposits, or it may be collected from landfills or from wastewater treatment plants where it is known as “biogas.”

CNG is made by compressing natural methane gas to less than one percent of the volume it occupies at standard atmospheric pressure. CNG is stored and distributed in canisters or tanks, usually in cylindrical or spherical shapes, for installation on motor vehicles. Compressed natural gas is also increasingly being used as a “green” energy source for air travel and for trains as well as for buses, trucks, and automobiles. The benefits of compressed natural gas are many, and those benefits are quite impressive, but the truth is that compressed natural gas can also be quite dangerous.

IF YOU BECOME A VICTIM

Many businesses and public transportation agencies in California and across the country, in response to rising gasoline costs and environmental worries, have converted or are converting their fleet vehicles into compressed natural gas vehicles. In fact, California leads the nation in the use of CNG-powered vehicles, which are required to meet the same federal safety standards as gasoline-powered vehicles. Still, in many cases, CNG canisters and tanks eventually become hazardous for a variety of reasons. If you or someone you love is injured in a CNG tank explosion, the results can be devastating – people have been permanently injured, disabled, and worse in CNG tank explosions. If you become the victim of a compressed natural gas explosion, contact a good personal injury lawyer at once about a possible personal injury lawsuit, and in southern California, speak immediately to an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney.

Compressed natural gas usually costs substantially less than gasoline for the same mileage, and there are many other advantages as well. Compressed natural gas does not contain any lead, and maintenance costs for CNG-powered vehicles are lower than for other hydrocarbon-fuel-powered vehicles. CNG emits significantly fewer pollutants – carbon dioxide, unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, and particulate matter – than gasoline. Being a gaseous fuel, CNG mixes easily and evenly in air.

Pasadena personal injury attorney

CNG FACTS AND STATISTICS

Compressed natural gas powers about 150,000 vehicles in the United States and roughly 15.2 million vehicles worldwide. Any gasoline-powered vehicle can be converted to a dual-fuel (gasoline/CNG) vehicle. Authorized shops can install a compressed natural gas cylinder, a CNG injection system, and the accompanying electronics. The cost of converting a vehicle to compressed natural gas can be as much as $8,000 on passenger cars and light trucks, so most conversions are done for commercial and government-owned vehicles that are constantly on the road. Whenever a CNG cylinder is installed, that installation must be done so that the cylinder is protected from road hazards and from direct sunlight.

CNG tanks have been available for use in motor vehicles since the 1940s. However, since the 1970s, motivated by this nation’s need to protect the environment and to reduce our dependence on foreign oil imports, manufacturers have aggressively been marketing compressed natural gas cylinders and vehicles. Today in California and a number of other states, compressed natural gas is widely used in city and county fleet vehicles, city buses, and school buses. A number of manufacturers now offer factory-built, CNG-fueled trucks, vans, transit buses, and school buses, and in southern California alone, there are about one hundred CNG fueling stations. The tanks that hold compressed natural gas are usually fitted underneath a vehicle, so those tanks are not easy to inspect for possible defects, although an inspection is recommended every three years or every 36,000 miles, whichever comes first. Under normal conditions, new compressed natural gas tanks are good for about fifteen years, but the inspections and expiration dates can be easy to forget about or overlook when you’re a busy fleet manager running a hectic day-to-day operation involving dozens of drivers and vehicles.

SAFETY MUST COME FIRST

Older CNG tanks on older vehicles should be replaced as quickly as possible. Compressed natural gas tanks on vehicles that already ride low to the ground – or on vehicles with worn shock absorbers – are extremely dangerous. Anyone who owns a CNG-powered vehicle or who manages a fleet of such vehicles must inspect the tanks on schedule and have them replaced on schedule. Negligence regarding outdated or defective CNG tanks can lead to powerful explosions, serious injuries, and in the worst-case scenario, avoidable fatalities. That kind of negligence can also lead to personal injury lawsuits when the victims of compressed natural gas explosions seek compensation for their injuries.

When an aging or defective CNG tank scrapes the pavement – or anything else – at a high speed, the result can be a disastrous explosion that hurts everyone in the vicinity. For example, in January 2015, a bus explosion in Pakistan killed 62 people when the CNG tanks under the bus exploded. Surviving family members are now seeking to be compensated through Pakistan’s civil court system. Also in January 2015, compressed natural gas cylinders on a garbage truck in Indianapolis exploded, sending fragments of the CNG tanks as far as a quarter-mile from the explosion site. Several nearby buildings sustained significant damage in that explosion.

Compressed natural gas tank explosions are almost always unexpected and disastrous. When a CNG cylinder explodes, it is imperative to have the evidence analyzed thoroughly and to determine the precise chain of events that led to the explosion. A good personal injury attorney can work with fire and insurance investigators and other experts to determine exactly why an explosion happened and to determine who should be held accountable. There are four basic kinds of CNG tanks: all steel, mostly steel, plastic and steel, and all plastic. When you combine aged or defective CNG tanks with vehicles that ride low to the ground or have worn shock absorbers, tank failure is almost inevitable, and the typical failure mode for a CNG tank isn’t a leak; it’s an explosion.

ONE TRAGIC CASE

A compressed natural gas explosion severely injured a California man named Israel Solorio when the two all-plastic CNG tanks under his delivery van exploded in 2009. Mr. Solorio’s right leg had to be amputated. The case brought national attention to the issue of compressed natural gas regulations and safety – and an investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and NASA’s White Sands Testing Facility. The results of that investigation were published in a document titled “Hydrogen and CNG Fuel System Safety Research,” released by the NHTSA on January 26, 2012. The catastrophic ruptures to the two tanks, occurring long before their scheduled expiration date, called into question the safety standards and the design, production, and testing procedures for all-plastic CNG tanks.

In the interest of public safety, several California personal injury attorneys, including attorney Gregory R. Vanni of the Pasadena law firm Thon Beck Vanni Callahan & Powell, funded the investigation at a cost of nearly $2 million. The case eventually settled for a confidential amount and created a comprehensive CNG database for the NHTSA and NASA that can be used to save lives in the future. For his work on that case, Mr. Vanni received a 2014 California Consumer Attorney of the Year Award from the Consumer Attorneys of California.

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MAKING CNG SAFER

In more recent CNG-related developments, chemists at the University of California at Berkeley announced in October 2015 that a new and innovative way to store methane could speed the development of natural gas-powered cars that don’t require the high pressures or cold temperatures of today’s compressed or liquefied natural gas vehicles. The chemists have developed a porous and flexible material – a so-called metal-organic framework – for storing methane that addresses these problems. Without the high pressure required for todays’ CNG cylinders, cylinder explosions might still happen, but they would cause far less damage.

If you or someone you love is injured in a compressed natural gas accident or explosion, you have the legal right to be reimbursed for your medical treatment, lost income, and related expenses, but you’ll have to fight for that reimbursement with the help of a good personal injury lawyer. In California, contact a Pasadena personal injury attorney who has experience representing the victims of CNG tank explosions. A good personal injury lawyer will investigate the details of your CNG accident and injury, examine the evidence, interrogate the witnesses, work alongside experts, and fight aggressively for the compensation you deserve. Protect yourself. In every state, you have only a limited amount of time to take legal action after you’ve been injured, so if you or someone you love is injured by a compressed natural gas tank explosion, do not wait to make the call to an experienced personal injury lawyer.

A Pasadena Personal Injury Attorney Can Help

Posted on: November 13, 2015 by in Personal Injury
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Hands of people signed the document, sitting at the desk

When someone else is negligent – another driver, a property owner, a healthcare provider, or the manufacturer of a consumer product – and that negligence causes an accident that injures you – do you really need to retain legal counsel? Obviously, not always. Plenty of the minor “injuries” that we suffer – paper cuts and stubbed toes, for instance – are self-inflicted and trivial. We shrug them off. Other injuries – more serious – can happen because of weather or natural disasters, and in those cases, typically no one is “at fault.” However, if you have been injured or if you are injured in the future, and you don’t really know if another party is or is not legally responsible for injuring you, arrange immediately to discuss the accident and your injury with an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney.

A Pasadena personal injury attorney will offer you frank, impartial advice based on years of personal injury experience. You might end up receiving advice that you didn’t expect. An attorney may explain to you that you don’t really need to take legal action. Alternately, if you have been injured by someone else’s negligence but you have no way to prove it, an attorney will explain why a filing a lawsuit can’t benefit you. When you have a legitimate injury claim and you can prove it, whether or not to move forward with the claim is still your choice. You’ll have to compare the pros and cons of filing a lawsuit. Let an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney outline those pros and cons to you, help you to understand how the law affects your case, and fight for justice on your behalf.

If you are injured because of someone else’s negligence in southern California, before you accept a settlement, be sure to consult with a personal injury attorney. Otherwise, you will very likely be offered an amount that is substantially below the actual value of your case. Simply retaining legal counsel often is enough to make an insurance company treat you fairly and meet its responsibility. However, after any injury, until you consult with an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney, you may not know if you have a case, or if you do, what it is worth. If you’re injured by negligence now or in the future in southern California, seek medical attention first, then contact an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney immediately.

Air Bag Maker Fined $200 Million

Posted on: November 11, 2015 by in Personal Injury
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A front car airbag has deflated in a steering wheel from an accident. Use it for a safety or insurance concept.

Millions of vehicles in this nation – literally dozens of makes and models – have air bags made by the Takata Corporation. Most of those vehicles are currently being recalled. The list of recalled makes and models is quite lengthy – it includes Japanese, European, and U.S. automobile manufacturers. Recall notifications don’t always reach vehicle owners, so if you have not been informed that your own vehicle is being recalled, look it up on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website or contact your local auto dealership. If your vehicle is on the recall list because of the air bag or for any other reason, take it to a dealership immediately for a replacement or a repair.

In November, after scores of serious injuries and several fatalities, the NHTSA imposed the largest fine ever in the agency’s history on the Takata Corporation. Takata will be fined $200 million for a number of violations related to the defective air bags. If you or someone in your family has been injured by an exploding air bag – or by any other faulty auto part – speak immediately about filing a product liability claim with an experienced Pasadena product liability lawyer. If you are injured using any defective product, you are entitled to full reimbursement from the manufacturer for your ongoing and future medical costs, lost income, and all other injury-related expenses. However, you’ll need help to obtain that compensation. You’ll need the advice and services of an experienced Pasadena product liability lawyer.

The injuries suffered by victims of exploding air bags can be serious – or worse. When a woman was killed by shrapnel from an air bag explosion last year near Orlando, police actually launched a murder investigation – until a recall notice arrived in her mail several days later. If your vehicle is on the recall list, take it seriously, and take action. If you are injured by an exploding air bag or by any other defective auto part in the Pasadena area, Los Angeles County, or anywhere in southern California, arrange at once to discuss a possible product liability lawsuit with an experienced Pasadena product liability lawyer.

When One Injury Follows Another

Posted on: November 9, 2015 by in Personal Injury
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Close up of pencil on  Personal injury claim

In Pasadena and Los Angeles County, if you are injured because another person was negligent in a traffic crash, a slip-and-fall incident, or any other accident, one issue that could complicate a personal injury case is any pre-existing medical condition or wound that you acquired or sustained before the accident. If you’ve been injured by someone else’s negligence in southern California, arrange at once to meet with an experienced Pasadena personal injury lawyer to discuss the accident, your injuries, your rights, and your legal recourse.

When you are suddenly and unexpectedly injured by the negligence of another, if you have a pre-existing damage or medical condition, it will certainly make a personal injury claim somewhat more difficult. That’s because the defendant’s attorney(s) and insurance company likely will insist that you were already injured and the defendant should not be held accountable. However, having a pre-existing damage should not prevent you from taking legal action. Let an experienced personal damage lawyer help. In almost every case where a pre-existing wound is an issue, medical evidence and experts can demonstrate that what happened in the accident was distinct and apart from any pre-existing condition or wound. Injuries caused by negligence can include brain and spinal cord damage; back, neck, shoulder, and knee injuries; amputations and broken bones; burn injuries; and disfigurement.

If you or someone you love has sustained one or more of these injuries because of another person’s negligence, you’ll need legal advice and aggressive representation from a personal injury lawyer who routinely helps accident victims win the compensation they deserve. Your attorney will investigate the accident, gather evidence, interview the witnesses, and negotiate aggressively on your behalf. If a negotiated settlement isn’t available, a personal injury lawyer can take your case to trial and ask a jury of your peers for justice. After any wound caused by someone else’s negligence in Pasadena, Los Angeles County, or elsewhere in southern California, discuss your rights and options immediately with an experienced Pasadena personal injury lawyer.