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How To Claim Insurance For A Car Accident In California

Posted on: September 19, 2017 by in Personal Injury
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According to the National Safety Council, approximately 15,000 traffic collisions happen daily in this country. When you’re involved in a crash in California, you’ll need to take some steps at the crash site, and you’ll need to take some other steps as quickly as you can. There are also some things that may seem like the right thing to do but must be avoided. The following “do’s and “don’ts” are some tips to guide you through the claims process.

After a vehicle accident in California, filing your own claim and negotiating directly with an insurance company is usually not a problem – that is, if you’ve only sustained vehicle and property damage or minor scrapes and bruises – but if you’ve been genuinely injured by a negligent driver in southern California, it’s best to put your case immediately in the hands of an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney.

WHAT ARE “THE DO’S” AFTER A TRAFFIC ACCIDENT?

1. At the accident scene, summon medical attention first and at once if it’s needed for yourself or for others. If you don’t think you have been injured, have a doctor look at you anyway, and within 24 hours if at all possible. Call the police – you’ll eventually need a copy of the accident report. Trade your personal contact and insurance information with the other driver, take photos of the damages and the general accident scene, and try to get the names and contact information of any eyewitnesses.

2. Notify your auto insurance company that you’ve been in an accident. You’ll need to make that call immediately after the accident or immediately after receiving medical attention. Later, but before you speak with your agent or with an insurance adjuster, review your automobile insurance policy and make certain that you understand its provisions. Take notes regarding each discussion you have with an insurance agent or an adjuster, and get the names, titles, and phone numbers of everyone you speak to about the accident.

3. If you’ve been injured, go ahead and notify the insurer that you’ve been involved in a collision, but before you speak about the accident with an agent or an adjuster, consult with a reliable and experienced personal injury attorney who can explain your legal rights and options as a victim of negligence in this state.

4. Determine if you have applicable coverage under another insurance policy. Several types of policies might cover an injury claim. Check into the provisions of your homeowner’s policy, any umbrella policies you may have, and even your credit cards, which sometimes offer several types of insurance provisions.

5. If you choose to negotiate personally with your own insurance company or with the other driver’s insurance company, be completely and absolutely forthcoming and honest during all discussions and negotiations. A failure to be entirely honest might void your auto insurance policy or become a barrier to obtaining affordable auto insurance coverage in the future. Intentionally misrepresenting the facts to an insurance company could constitute insurance fraud.

6. Understand the distinction between “actual cash value” and “replacement cost coverage.” With replacement cost coverage, you may have to pay out-of-pocket for property damages before you receive reimbursement. California entitles property damage victims to the amount of the vehicle’s repairs, or if the vehicle is deemed a total loss, to its “fair market” (or “actual cash”) value.

WHAT ARE “THE DON’TS” AFTER A TRAFFIC ACCIDENT?

1. Until you are certain that you understand your automobile insurance policy’s provisions, don’t make any written or verbal statement to the insurance company. Again, if you’ve been injured, it’s always best to consult an experienced personal injury lawyer first.

2. Do not blindly accept the insurance company’s estimate of your damages. Some companies will ask you to agree to their own estimates, which may not, in fact, cover all of your costs. You have the right to have your vehicle examined and repaired by any mechanic who is certified in California. If the cost of repairs exceeds the insurance company’s offer, a repair shop will have to work with the insurer to ensure full payment. For this reason, it may be expedient to work with the company’s approved shop, which regularly deals with such circumstances.

3. This is absolutely imperative. Unless you are certain that you have been treated and compensated fairly and sufficiently, do not sign any waivers, releases, or any other insurance documents before consulting an attorney. If you agree to a settlement amount that is less than the actual worth of your damage claim, you will not be able to take any further legal action.

4. Do not overlook deadlines and time limits. Most auto insurance policies require you to file a claim within a specified period of time unless you can obtain a waiver – in writing – from the company. Many auto insurance policies also give you only a year to bring a lawsuit if you believe the claim hasn’t been handled properly. In any event, California’s statute of limitations gives you only two years to file a personal injury lawsuit and three years to file a property damage lawsuit.

5. Do not forget that your insurance company has a contract with you and a legal responsibility to provide the insurance coverage specified by its policies. When a claim has been undervalued, entirely denied, or unreasonably delayed, some accident victims may face serious financial hardship. Do not overlook an insurance company’s bad faith practices. Instead, discuss your options, which may include pursuing a bad faith lawsuit against the insurance company, with an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney.

WHAT IF YOU HAVE BEEN SERIOUSLY INJURED?

Traffic accidents involving negligent drivers who cause injuries generate thousands of personal injury lawsuits every year. Minor collisions are usually resolved quickly, and most insurance company employees are honest and hard-working professionals. Still, accidents in this state that result in serious injuries – or wrongful death – should be handled only by a reliable California personal injury attorney.

Whenever you travel on California’s streets and highways, wear your seat belt. Make sure that your tires, brakes, and lights work properly every time you get behind the wheel. Negligent drivers ruin innocent people’s lives, so if you are injured in this state by a negligent motorist, reach out to an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney, and put a skilled, committed advocate on your side from the very beginning.

Who Is Liable For Truck Accidents In California?

Posted on: August 15, 2017 by in Personal Injury
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According to a 2014 report from the U.S. Department of Transportation, every day in this nation, more than ten people are killed in a commercial trucking accident. Of those fatalities, about 83 percent are not the occupants of the commercial truck – they’re passengers in other vehicles or they’re pedestrians.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the annual cost to the economy of truck and bus collisions in the U.S. is $99 billion. Can these figures be reduced? What causes so many truck accidents, and who is liable for these collisions?

If you’re injured in a collision with a large commercial truck, the law – and the questions about what caused the crash and who is responsible – quickly gets complicated. Unlike most car accidents, many parties can be involved in a trucking accident – not just the driver of the truck but also the owner, the leasing company, contractors, subcontractors, and possibly other parties as well. If you are hurt in a truck crash and you need to seek compensation for your injuries, you will need to be represented by an attorney who knows the trucking industry and routinely represents truck accident victims.

Trucks by the thousands roll in and out of Southern California every day. Understanding how truck crashes happen and how the various parties involved are related can help an injury victim decide whether or not to file a personal injury lawsuit after a truck accident. This is a general overview of liability issues in truck accidents, but if you’ve been injured in an actual collision with a truck in Southern California, it is best to obtain detailed legal advice about any particular case by speaking with an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney.

HOW IS LIABILITY DECIDED AFTER A TRUCK ACCIDENT?

Can a truck’s owner or another party ever be deemed responsible for a truck driver’s negligent driving? Under California law, sometimes the answer is yes. If a truck driver’s negligence was unintentional and occurred within the “scope” of the driver’s duties, an age-old legal principle called “respondeat superior” (a Latin phrase meaning “let the superior answer”) can be applied, and the truck’s owner or owners can be held liable for injuries caused by a truck driver’s negligence.

Respondeat superior legally “imputes” a worker’s liability to the worker’s employer, as if the employer had personally committed the negligence. But applying respondeat superior to any specific trucking accident will hinge on the answers to these questions: Was the negligent driver an employee or an independent contractor? Was the negligence unintentional or intended? Did the carelessness and the subsequent accident occur within the scope of the driver’s duties?

An accident victim seeking compensation from a trucking company will have to prove the negligent driver is a company employee and not an independent contractor, because employers usually are not liable for the negligent actions of contractors. If a trucker was driving his or her own truck with his or her own insurance, and if a company does not withhold taxes from the driver’s pay, that truck driver is likely to be an independent contractor.

WHAT IS THE “SCOPE” OF A TRUCK DRIVER’S EMPLOYMENT?

Defining who is and who is not a legal employee usually isn’t difficult, but accurately defining what is and what is not within a truck driver’s “scope of employment” can be more problematic. Courts use a variety of elements to determine the parameters of a “scope” of employment, including an employee’s intention at the time of a negligent behavior, the nature, time, and location of that behavior, and the amount of independence typically allowed to the employee while performing his or her job duties.

How does all of this apply to a real truck accident? Let’s say that a trucker making a delivery rear-ends another vehicle. Because the crash happened while a delivery was being made, the trucker was acting within the scope of his or her employment.

However, if that same truck driver goes a mile out of his or her way to drive through a Starbucks or a McDonald’s before making the delivery, and if an accident happens as a result of driving that extra distance, the truck owner or company may not be liable since the accident happened “outside” the “scope” of the driver’s employment.

Employers generally are not responsible for intentionally wrong actions committed by employees – like an assault or a battery, for example. That’s because the principle of respondeat superior does not come into play in such cases, because such cases have nothing to do with the scope of employment or the cost of doing business. If a trucker crashes intentionally into a vehicle that cut him or her off in traffic, for example, an employer usually will not be held liable.

HOW IS THE TRUCKING INDUSTRY REGULATED?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulates the trucking industry, along with a variety of federal and state laws that regulate and govern independent truck drivers as well as truck companies. The weight trucks may carry, the hours that drivers can work, and the training a truck driver must receive are just a few of the items regulated by law.

If you or someone you love is hurt by a trucker driving negligently, any violation of a federal or state trucking rule or regulation by either the truck driver or the company will be considered evidence that favors the victim and increases the likelihood that a victim’s personal injury claim will succeed.

Sometimes more than a single party will be liable for damages sustained in a truck crash. Leasing companies, contractors, and subcontractors are all part of the trucking business. If a truck’s brakes or tires were defectively manufactured, if cargo wasn’t properly loaded, or if a truck is improperly maintained, several defendants may share a percentage of the liability for causing a collision with injuries.

Personal injury cases are almost always settled outside of court, but if you are injured by a negligent truck driver and you file an injury claim, that claim may be harder to settle if multiple defendants cannot agree among themselves regarding who pays what.

Only a brief introduction to truck collisions and liability can be made here. If you or your loved one is hurt in a truck collision in Southern California, you’ll need frank and easy-to-grasp advice about your rights, your options, and your legal recourse. Let an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney offer the trustworthy legal advice that a truck collision victim in the Los Angeles area will need.

How The Insurance Company Will Try To Minimize Your Claim

Posted on: July 24, 2017 by in Personal Injury
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Insurance companies often try to reduce the amount they will pay for an injury claim – or reject the claim entirely – by using the same dubious and predictable tactics that some insurance companies been using for years. If you’re like most people – meaning you have little if any experience dealing directly with insurance companies – you might become frustrated and decide to just forget the whole business of seeking compensation, even if you’ve been seriously injured.

Insurance companies count on a certain percentage of people walking away from legitimate claims out of exasperation. Don’t be one of those people. If you are having trouble with an insurance company that is refusing to honor an injury claim, an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney can help. Below is a brief discussion of the most common ploys used by insurance companies to avoid paying injury victims who have legitimate injury claims.

HOW DO INSURANCE COMPANIES TRY TO AVOID PAYING CLAIMS?

1. By denying fault or liability: The immediate response of some insurance companies to any injury claim is a denial that any of their policyholders could be at fault. If you are injured, and the insurance company tells you that no coverage is available, have the insurance adjuster explain why – in writing. A letter of explanation should refer to the exact provisions that limit the policy’s coverage.

When an adjuster informs you that there is no coverage for your claim “according to the company’s attorneys,” don’t think you are defeated. You might even be sent a letter from a lawyer working for the insurance company. Don’t let yourself be bullied. One lawyer’s opinion is only one lawyer’s opinion. If the insurance company refuses to offer an acceptable settlement and your claim goes to court, the court alone will decide.

Alternatively, an insurance company might tell you to try collecting against a different policy – and from a different company – if several parties were involved in the accident. If you are injured by negligence in a traffic collision or in any other kind of accident, it’s usually best to speak first with an experienced personal injury attorney who can advise you regarding your legal rights – and avoid speaking to the insurance company entirely. In Southern California, let an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf.

2. By using delaying tactics: An insurance company should process an injury claim within a reasonable length of time. Stalling is a typical tactic because if the company stalls long enough, some people will give up and the company pays out nothing. The company might claim that an investigation is “ongoing” or “still pending.” Some companies will even tell claimants that they are at fault for a delay because they missed a deadline, failed to send a notification, or some other technicality.

3. By alleging that your injury was pre-existing: An insurance company will sometimes make the charge that you weren’t really injured as you claim, but instead, you were already injured, and you saw the accident as a chance to take advantage of your pre-existing condition. This is why you must seek medical attention immediately after an accident, whether or not you think or feel that you’ve been injured. If you need to file an injury claim later, you’ll need to have complete medical documentation that confirms your claim.

4. By minimizing the payment of a claim: When an insurance company cannot entirely deny a legitimate claim, it may try to pay as little as possible. The company may try to reduce what it should pay by claiming that the injury victim was – himself or herself – at least partly at fault for the accident and injury. If you had vacation days or sick days due from your employer, an insurance company might try to avoid paying for the wages you lost while you were injured by saying those wages were already covered. In such cases, if you are the injury victim making the injury claim, let an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney advise and represent you.

WHAT IS BAD FAITH?

When a consumer in California purchases an automobile insurance policy, the insurance company becomes legally obligated to provide the coverage spelled out in the policy and to settle legitimate injury claims against the policy promptly and professionally. An auto insurance company that fails to meet their legal obligation may be operating in “bad faith” under California law.

A California injury victim whose bad faith lawsuit prevails against an insurance company may also in some cases be awarded part of his or her attorney fees along with the damages for the original, underlying personal injury claim. How can an injury victim know if an insurance company’s actions constitute bad faith? A personal injury attorney can probably tell you upon examining the details of your injury claim.

WHAT IF THERE REALLY IS NO COVERAGE?

In some cases, once you’ve read the provisions of the insurance policy and you’ve met with an insurance adjuster and a personal injury attorney, you might find that the company is right and the insurance policy, in fact, provides no coverage. In such cases, your injury attorney may be able to suggest other sources of compensation.

If a defective vehicle or vehicle part or a badly-maintained roadway played any part in the accident that injured you, you may be able to file a claim against the vehicle manufacturer or the entity responsible for road maintenance. If a crash involves a large commercial truck, a number of parties could share liability.

Candidly, if you have been seriously injured by someone else’s negligence in a southern California traffic accident – or any other kind of accident – dealing directly and personally with the insurance company is probably not something you should be doing. “Going it alone” might be fine if your only injuries were scratches, but when your health and future may be at stake, get legal help right away.

If a negligent Southern California driver has seriously injured you, speak to an experienced personal attorney before you sign any document, accept any settlement, or even make a statement to an insurance company. When you are recovering from severe injuries, an experienced personal injury lawyer can handle the legal work on your behalf while you concentrate on something even more important – getting your health back.

What Are California’s Negligence Laws?

Posted on: June 23, 2017 by in Personal Injury
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The Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School in New York defines the word “negligence” as the “failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances. The behavior usually consists of actions, but can also consist of omissions when there is some duty to act (e.g., a duty to help victims of one’s previous conduct).”

Negligence is an action, or a failure to take action, when someone “owes” a legal “duty” to another person. For example, a supermarket’s managers and staff have a duty to maintain safe and hazard-free aisles for their shoppers. A shopper who slips on a spilled liquid that has not been cleaned up quickly and who thus breaks an arm or a leg may have a legitimate negligence claim against the supermarket, which failed its duty to the shopper.

WHAT MUST BE PROVEN FOR A NEGLIGENCE CLAIM TO SUCCEED?

Similarly, drivers “owe” the other drivers on the road a “duty” to drive soberly, and if an intoxicated driver injures you, you will probably have a strong negligence claim. Whenever the result of an accident is an injury, immediate medical attention must be your first concern. After seeing a doctor, seeing a personal injury lawyer should come next.

To prevail with a personal injury claim in the state of California, an injury victim (called the “plaintiff”) must prove each of the following elements about an accident in order ultimately to prove that the allegedly negligent party (called the “defendant”) was in fact negligent:

  • The defendant had a duty to the plaintiff, and the defendant breached that duty.
  • The breach of duty resulted in the plaintiff’s injury or injuries.
  • The defendant should have foreseen the possible result of the breach of duty.
  • The plaintiff suffered actual, quantifiable damages.

WHAT IS “SHARED” NEGLIGENCE?

The legal definitions of negligence do not vary much from one state to another, but when the negligence that causes an accident with injuries is “shared” negligence – that is, when both parties in an accident are partly at fault, which is quite common in traffic collisions – the law in California will allow an injury victim/plaintiff to sue for the percentage of damages that are allegedly the responsibility of the defendant.

Let’s say, for example, that you are speeding, but not excessively, and you drive as you normally would through a green traffic light. While it’s in the intersection, your vehicle is hit by a vehicle driven by an intoxicated motorist who was exceeding the speed limit egregiously.

A jury might decide that because you were speeding, you were 25 percent responsible for your own injury or injuries, but the other driver’s intoxication, excessive speed, and reckless running through a red light make that driver 75 percent responsible for your injury or injuries. Theoretically, that driver should then have to pay for three-quarters of your medical bills, lost wages, and related losses.

Everyone has a “duty” to drive carefully and to refrain from putting other persons in harm’s way. In some instances, however, there may be additional specific duties, such as the duty of a business owner, an innkeeper, or a taxicab driver to provide a safe, hazard-free location for conducting business.

Professionals such as physicians and attorneys are required to exercise the duties and to maintain the standards of care set by their professions and by their professional licensing boards. When a professional fails to uphold such a standard and an injury is the result, a professional person may be liable for medical or legal malpractice resulting from negligence.

When you file a personal injury lawsuit in Southern California with the help of an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney, lawyers on each side begin compiling and examining evidence in what is referred to as the “discovery” process. Discovery may include “interrogatories” (with witnesses answering written questions) and “depositions” (with witnesses answering questions in person and under oath). During and after the discovery process, personal injury claims are often settled by the attorneys in out-of-court negotiations. Rarely do personal injury cases actually go to trial.

WHAT ARE “DAMAGES” AND HOW ARE DAMAGES DETERMINED?

When a personal injury action is successful, the plaintiff receives what the law calls “damages” – compensation for current and future medical bills and for current and future lost wages and lost earning capacity. Damages may also include compensation for current and future physical pain, emotional suffering, and what the law calls the “loss of enjoyment of life.” The precise amount of the damages paid in any particular case will depend on the type and extent of the injury or injuries sustained.

Time limits called “statutes of limitations” are set by law to restrict the length of time someone has to take legal action after being injured by negligence. In this state, for most personal injury claims, there is a two-year statute of limitations, and although there are some limited exceptions, you must not wait two years to act.

If you are injured by negligence in Southern California, put an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney on the case at once. The sooner your attorney can review the evidence and talk to the witnesses, the more likely it is that your legal action will prevail.

A good California personal injury lawyer will give you frank, impartial legal advice based on years of personal injury experience. In fact, you might receive some advice that you didn’t expect. If you can’t prove your claim, for example, or if a defendant has no insurance or other resources to pay damages with, a personal injury attorney will probably dissuade you from filing a lawsuit.

When you’ve been injured by someone else’s negligence, you have a genuine personal injury claim. If you can prove it, and if the defendant is insured or is personally able to pay damages, whether or not to proceed with a lawsuit is still your choice and yours alone.

With your attorney’s guidance, you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons of filing a claim. If you are injured by negligence, an experienced personal injury attorney will explain those pros and cons and will help you to understand how California’s complicated negligence laws apply in your own case.

What To Do When You’re In A Car Accident With The Police?

Posted on: May 28, 2017 by in Personal Injury
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In 2008 – the last time a precise count was conducted – there were 79,431 sworn peace officers working in the state of California. As you know, law enforcement officers routinely patrol southern California’s streets and highways, and they’re often moving quite rapidly in traffic.

Police officers must be skilled, experienced drivers, because when they’re barreling down a busy highway at eighty-five miles per hour, there is no room for error. Although the mission is “to protect and serve,” the tiniest driving mistake by a law enforcement officer can often be catastrophic to anyone in the vicinity.

With its multiple laptops, monitors, radios, and arrays of lights, the modern police vehicle – from the driver’s position – seems as if it’s designed intentionally to distract the driver. Police cars do end up in more than their share of accidents, and those accidents are too often fatal.

Using data from the years 1994 through 2002, researchers at the University of Washington have determined that every year in the United States, approximately three hundred fatalities occur in traffic collisions that involve police vehicles.

After you’ve been involved in any traffic crash, you have rights – especially if you were injured by someone who was driving negligently. Law enforcement officers do not have more rights than the average person and are not exempted from liability for personal injuries.

Even if the negligent driver who injures you is a police officer, in the state of California, you have the right to complete compensation after an accident for your medical care, lost wages, and any other accident-related expenses and losses.

WHAT IS SOVEREIGN IMMUNITY AND WHEN DOES IT APPLY?

Local, county, state, and federal governmental agencies and entities are in many cases protected against lawsuits by a legal principle called “sovereign immunity.” However, across the United States, sovereign immunity is not absolute, and in California, if you’ve been injured by a police officer who was driving negligently, and if you act swiftly, in most cases you’ll be able to pursue compensation for your injuries and for wages lost while you were injured. The first move is discussing your rights and options with an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney.

After any traffic collision, your health is absolutely the top priority, so you should obtain immediate medical attention – even if you don’t “seem” or “feel” injured. Adrenaline can sometimes mask the initial pain of an injury, and without medical attention, an injury that’s not immediately apparent could develop days or weeks later into a serious medical condition. A medical examination also provides evidence you’ll require in case you really are injured and need to file a personal injury claim.

State and local governments have established strict procedural rules for anyone making a claim against them for injuries. Those rules include short deadlines and precise requirements regarding what the claim must include. A traffic crash caused by a California police officer is what the law calls a “public entity” case, essentially meaning that you must act quickly to protect your right to sue.

Every personal injury case, of course, is different, and after a collision with a police officer, you’ll need the help of a good personal injury lawyer who can sort out the legal details and explain your rights and options.

WHAT IS AN “ADMINISTRATIVE CLAIM” IN CALIFORNIA?

In most cases in California, before a civil lawsuit against any government agency can be filed, an “administrative” claim must be filed with the agency itself within six months of the accident. After a claim is filed, the agency has 45 days to answer. If the agency denies the claim, the injury victim then has six months to file a personal injury lawsuit. If no rejection notice is received, the injury victim ostensibly has two years from the date of the accident file a lawsuit.

However, you can’t count on having two years to take legal action. There are a number of potential exceptions and exemptions in the law, and candidly speaking, when a California police agency is the defendant in a lawsuit, it can sometimes be difficult to determine precisely what the statute of limitations for a particular case actually is.

Clearly, if you’ve been injured in a traffic crash caused by a California law enforcement officer, take the case as quickly as you can to an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney, and then adhere to that attorney’s advice and recommendations.

Police officers are expected to honor and protect everyone’s civil and constitutional rights, but the truth is, cops aren’t any different from the rest of us. Most of them care about their jobs and reputations, and no officer wants to be suspended from duty or found liable for an innocent person’s injuries. When a police officer causes a traffic accident because he or she was driving negligently, don’t be surprised if the officer tries to shift the blame – onto you.

HOW CAN YOU HELP YOUR OWN PERSONAL INJURY CASE?

If your personal injury case goes to trial, you must be represented by a personal injury lawyer who has experience interrogating officers on the witness stand and undermining their testimony when it’s misleading or deceptive. However, before you even have time to speak to an attorney, you can help your case right there at the accident scene.

Take as many photographs as you can – or if you are incapacitated, have someone else take photos – of the vehicles, the damages, the general accident scene, any key traffic signs or signals, and your own visible injuries.

The right photographs can make or break a personal injury case. You should also try to speak with anyone who may have been an eyewitness to the accident and obtain names, phone numbers, addresses, and even emails and work addresses if possible – any way that you and your attorney can contact an eyewitness if his or her testimony is needed. If other people who don’t even know you testify that the police officer was driving negligently, your case will be strengthened immensely.

One final word: Police cars are often moving in pursuit of suspects at high rates of speed, and the accidents that happen at those speeds can cause some of the most catastrophic injuries. Accidents involving police vehicles too often cause severe spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, amputations, and other injuries that may require a lifetime of costly care and treatment.

If you or someone you love is injured in this way in an accident with a police car, make certain that you are represented by a California personal injury attorney who will fight tenaciously on your behalf for the maximum possible compensation.

Attorney Greg Vanni Recovers Settlement For Coma Victim

Posted on: May 20, 2017 by in Personal Injury
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Negligent, careless, and reckless drivers are the leading reason for traffic collisions. Defective vehicles and parts also cause a considerable number of accidents. In California, when you are injured because a motorist was negligent or because a vehicle or a part was defective, you can pursue a personal injury claim against the negligent driver or the negligent vehicle or parts manufacturer. But what if a poorly constructed road or poor road conditions cause a collision that injures you? Sometimes governments or government agencies may be held liable for a poor street design, negligent or careless construction, or a failure to keep streets maintained and safe.

On May 9, 2014, Los Angeles Police Detective Ernest Allen, Sr., a 27-year-veteran of the LAPD, was killed when a cement truck lost its brakes on Loma Vista Drive, picked up speed, left the road at a sharp curve, and crushed the detective’s personal pickup truck. The cement truck operator, Brandon Cascio, is now in a persistent vegetative coma. Only a week earlier, on May 2, another cement truck lost its brakes on Loma Vista Drive, and that driver, Eric Johnson, was also seriously injured.

WHY HAVE CRASHES ON LOMA VISTA DRIVE BEEN UNAVOIDABLE?

The City of Beverly Hills has known for decades that Loma Vista Drive has unusually steep and long grades that constitute a clear danger to anyone in the vicinity. Drivers must work their brakes constantly while driving downhill on Loma Vista Drive, and some vehicles’ brakes are inevitably going to fail. When a vehicle as heavy as a cement truck becomes a “runaway” vehicle moving downhill, the vehicle eventually reaches a speed that prevents the driver from negotiating that last sharp curve to the right on Loma Vista. A crash becomes unavoidable.

City workers, traffic experts, and local residents have been telling the City of Beverly Hills for nearly fifty years that substantial changes to Loma Vista Drive were absolutely imperative. Over the decades, as accidents have continued on Loma Vista Drive, the City of Beverly Hills has aggressively fought against lawsuits filed by injured drivers and passengers. The City has sometimes claimed immunity and has even contended that truck drivers are at fault for accidents on Loma Vista because they could have taken another route.

WHAT WAS THE OUTCOME OF BRANDON CASCIO’S CASE?

Brandon Cascio, Eric Johnson, and the family of Detective Ernest Allen jointly entered into a lawsuit against the City of Beverly Hills. Mr. Cascio was represented by Pasadena personal injury attorney Greg Vanni of Thon Beck Vanni Callahan & Powell, and the case was settled early in May, just several days before a trial was slated to begin. Mr. Vanni and attorneys for Mr. Johnson and the Allen family recovered for their clients a $32.5 million settlement from the City of Beverly Hills.

If you’re injured in a crash caused by poor road construction or poor road conditions, let an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney at Thon Beck Vanni Callahan & Powell review the conditions that led to the crash, determine what governmental body or agency may be liable, and fight aggressively for justice on your behalf. In such circumstances, do not speak to an insurance adjuster, accept a settlement, or sign any insurance papers before retaining the counsel of an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney at Thon Beck Vanni Callahan & Powell.

What Is Insurance Bad Faith?

Posted on: April 28, 2017 by in Personal Injury
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If you are involved in a traffic collision, you probably expect an insurance company to provide compensation for the damages you suffer. You pay a great deal for insurance, and according to one advertising campaign, your insurance company is supposed to be where “You’re in good hands.” But if you suspect that an insurance company isn’t negotiating with you in good faith, what can you do?

Your insurance policy is a promise that you’ve paid for – a promise by your insurance company to provide you with insurance coverage when you need it. When you purchase a policy, the insurance company has a legal duty to provide that coverage and to negotiate and settle any claims you make in good faith. Don’t let an insurance company abuse you or operate in what the law calls “bad faith.”

Although the details of bad faith laws differ from state to state, the basic rule is that an insurance company must not look for ways to get out of its obligation to investigate your claim or to pay your claim. Each state regulates its insurance industry and insurance policies with precise legal requirements for starting and operating insurance companies, and most states have a “division” or “department” of insurance which enforces those regulations.

WHAT CONSTITUTES INSURANCE BAD FAITH?

When an insurance company does not take its own obligations to its policyholders seriously, you may have adequate grounds for legal action against the company – an insurance bad faith claim. Bad faith claims may arise from the specific actions or inactions of an insurance company. In Southern California, when an insurance company fails to meet its responsibilities, you may need to discuss your situation with an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney.

Listed here are some – but not necessarily all – of the reasons insurance companies may be sued for bad faith:

  • failing to negotiate for the settlement of a claim
  • failing to share important information with a claimant
  • failing to investigate a claim seriously
  • failing to explain the denial of a claim
  • failing to pay a claim without investigating
  • failing to attempt a reasonable settlement when liability is clear
  • failing to either deny or pay a claim in a reasonable amount of time
  • offering substantially less than the actual value of a claim

An auto insurance company has a number of legal obligations to its policyholders. Even a “third party” insurance company owes good faith to every injury victim who files a claim, but that duty is slightly less than the good faith that your own insurance company owes you, since you’ve actually purchased a policy from the company in advance of making any claim.

Thus, legal grounds for a claim of bad faith against a third party’s insurance company exist only if the company – or the adjuster representing the company – has deceived the claimant or interfered with the claim (for example, by withholding evidence or tampering with a witness).

CAN WRITING A LETTER TO THE COMPANY HELP?

When considering your own insurance company, a difference of opinion between you and an adjuster regarding the value of your claim probably does not constitute bad faith. But if the adjuster or company makes a low settlement offer and offers no reason for the low amount, or if the company has deceived you or otherwise treated you unfairly or unjustly, you might be a victim of insurance bad faith. If you believe that an insurance company or an adjuster is negotiating with you in bad faith, simply writing a letter to the company – or having your attorney write a letter – may result in some action.

If you write a letter to the insurance company, use the phrase “bad faith” and provide specific examples of the adjuster’s bad faith. A letter accusing the insurance company of bad faith often results in some action – and in a better settlement offer.

In other words, just the possibility of a legal claim may be enough to compel the insurance company to offer you a reasonable settlement. That’s because if you take an insurance company to court for bad faith – and you win – the insurance company could be ordered to pay you for damages beyond the amount of your claim, especially if the company’s conduct was particularly egregious.

Like every other company, an insurance company is in business to earn profits. When insurance companies faithfully provide the services they claim to offer, profits are fine, but no insurance company should ever be permitted to place profits above the legitimate claims of traffic collision victims. When an injury claim is rejected, undervalued, or delayed for no good reason, it can lead to serious financial burdens for injured policyholders who may be unable to work at the same time their medical expenses are piling up.

Historically in California, insurance companies maintained that it was bad faith to deny a claim only when the insurer already knew that there was no reasonable basis for denying the claim. That is, the companies claimed that only the intentional mistreatment of a policyholder should be legally actionable.

The insurance companies insisted that unintentional negligence in the handling of a claim did not constitute bad faith. In 1979, in the case Egan v. Mutual of Omaha, the California Supreme Court rejected that argument and determined that an insurance company’s negligence in the handling of a claim, in fact, does constitute bad faith.

HOW CAN YOU KNOW IF YOU ARE A VICTIM?

How can you know if you are a victim of insurance bad faith? You can file a complaint with the California Department of Insurance, but only by hiring an experienced personal injury attorney who routinely handles insurance bad faith cases will you be able to know if the insurer’s actions legally constitute bad faith and whether or not you have a case. In most states, if you sue an insurer for bad faith, you’ll have to finance the lawsuit yourself, but in California, the plaintiff who prevails in a bad faith action may be able to recover part of the attorney fees separately and in addition to the judgment for the original injury claim.

In Southern California, if an insurance company negotiates with you in bad faith, you’ll need to be represented by an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney who routinely and successfully represents the victims of insurance bad faith. Especially if you are recuperating from injuries, the last thing you need is an insurance company making your life even more difficult. All policyholders have the right to be treated with good faith by their insurance companies.

Who Can File A Wrongful Death Suit In California?

Posted on: March 24, 2017 by in Wrongful Death
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The abrupt, accidental death of a loved one is always a tragedy under any circumstances. Often, surviving family members may not be sure where to turn after such an unexpected event. If the death was accidental and caused by someone else’s carelessness, in the state of California an experienced wrongful death attorney can provide the sound legal guidance that survivors will need.

Wrongful death happens in a variety of circumstances – in fact, in far too many ways. Wrongful deaths may happen in traffic collisions caused by impaired or distracted driving or as the result of medical malpractice. A wrongful death may also be caused by a property owner’s negligence that causes a fatal slip-and-fall, by defective consumer products, or by any negligence that leads to an avoidable and unnecessary fatality. When a death was intentional on someone’s part, both a criminal prosecution for homicide and a civil wrongful death lawsuit are possible.

In California, if an accidental death was preventable, in most cases the survivors may pursue a wrongful death lawsuit. While no sum of cash can assuage a family’s grief after a loved one is suddenly lost, a wrongful death claim can at least help survivors meet their immediate financial obligations. A wrongful death lawsuit also lets the survivors hold accountable the party or parties that were negligent and responsible for their loved one’s death.

This is a brief, general introduction to wrongful death in California and the rights of survivors in this state. However, every case is different, so if a wrongful death occurs in your own family, you’ll need to obtain the sound legal advice that is specific to your personal circumstances by consulting with an experienced Pasadena wrongful death attorney. Your attorney will explain and discuss the legal rights and options of wrongful death survivors, and if necessary, fight in court for the justice that survivors need and the compensation they deserve.

WHAT IS A WRONGFUL DEATH? WHO CAN FILE A WRONGFUL DEATH CLAIM?

A wrongful death may be defined as the death of an individual resulting from the willful or negligent action or actions of another person or persons. Every state allows for the recovery of damages after a wrongful death. However, what varies from state to state is the specific person or persons who have the legal right to pursue a wrongful death claim.

A person’s right to file a wrongful death lawsuit in California depends on that person’s relationship to the deceased person. Under the law in California, the following parties are authorized to bring a wrongful death claim:

  • the deceased person’s surviving spouse
  • the deceased person’s surviving domestic partner
  • the deceased person’ s surviving children

Only if there is no surviving spouse, domestic partner, or children, then a wrongful death lawsuit may be pursued by anyone “entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession,” including the deceased person’s parents or siblings.

Additionally, if they can show that they were financially dependent on the deceased person, stepchildren may file a claim, and so can a deceased person’s “putative spouse” and that putative spouse’s children. (California courts may consider an individual a “putative” spouse when a marriage is legally invalidated but one party reasonably believed that the marriage was legally valid.)

IS IT TRUE THAT THERE ARE TWO KINDS OF WRONGFUL DEATH LAWSUITS?

California law provides for two different slightly types of lawsuits that can be brought against negligent defendants responsible for wrongful deaths. A conventional wrongful death lawsuit may be brought under California Code of Civil Procedure Section 377.60. The other type of lawsuit is called a “survival action” and may be pursued under California Code of Civil Procedure Section 377.30. If your family experiences a wrongful death, you should understand the legal difference.

With a conventional wrongful death lawsuit, surviving family members can seek compensation for loss of support, loss of services, funeral and burial expenses, loss of companionship, and loss of consortium. Punitive damages, however, are not recoverable through a conventional wrongful death lawsuit.

A “survival action” may be filed by the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate, or if no representative has been named, by the decedent’s “successor in interest.” A “successor in interest” is the beneficiary of the decedent’s estate or the beneficiary of some item or part of the decedent’s property that may be subject to a cause of action.

A survival action may only be pursued if the deceased person did not pass away immediately from his or her injuries. If the deceased person lived for even a brief time between the accident and the death, then a survival action may be filed. A survival action basically allows someone to recover what the deceased person would have been entitled to through a personal injury claim if the deceased person had survived – medical expenses, lost wages, and punitive damages as well. Survival actions and conventional wrongful death claims are usually separate and distinct, but in some situations, where appropriate, both types of claims may be merged into a single lawsuit.

WHAT MUST A PLAINTIFF PROVE IN A WRONGFUL DEATH TRIAL?

Wrongful death claims are usually settled out of court. Typically, attorneys for both sides are able to arrive at a settlement that is acceptable to both the plaintiff (the surviving family member bringing the claim) and the defendant (the allegedly negligent party). When a wrongful death claim goes to trial, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed the deceased person a “duty of care” and that the duty of care was breached, leading directly to the wrongful death.

For example, in a California wrongful death case arising from a traffic accident, the plaintiff first must prove that the defendant was obligated to obey the traffic laws and to drive safely. Next, a plaintiff must show that the duty of care was breached by the defendant’s negligent driving, reckless driving, speeding, or other failure to obey traffic laws. A plaintiff finally must prove that the breach of the duty of care directly caused the wrongful death – meaning that the deceased person “more likely than not” died due to the defendant’s negligence and for no other reason.

After losing a loved one, even discussing the legal aspects of a wrongful death can be difficult. Still, it’s imperative for family members to act as quickly as possible. In Southern California, survivors should seek the advice and legal services of an experienced Pasadena wrongful death attorney.

When you lose a loved one because of someone else’s negligence, you may not be prepared to deal with all of the legal and emotional issues, but a good wrongful death lawyer can be sensitive to the needs and emotions of the survivors while acting aggressively on their behalf to obtain the compensation and justice they are entitled to under California law.

The Thon Beck Vanni Callahan & Powell Scholarship Winner

Posted on: March 10, 2017 by in Scholarship
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We are excited to announce that the winner of The Thon Beck Vanni Callahan & Powell Scholarship is Victoria Solkovits, a 17 year old student from Los Angeles who is currently studying at the University of Central Los Angeles. Here is a snippet from her scholarship winning essay about how she engaged in public service in high school and college:

Eleanor Roosevelt, Malala Yousafzai, and Susan B. Anthony reside in me – all at once. Leadership is my calling, social justice is my cause célèbre, and I am extremely committed to public service. I have always stood for equity and equality, so it didn’t seem strange when my teacher told me that I was well suited for the Oval Office at the age of eight. From the very start, I was one who was catapulted to the front. Whether creating a project for Girl Scouts or debating on current issues in my community, my leadership was always respected. It may have been a part of my DNA, as my grandmother was the first female president of my local teachers’ union and my father held an office position in the same organization. Throughout my life, I have been involved in political action. While most children were playing on the field, I was fighting for what I believe; amongst 800 teachers at a march, the one six year old holding a picket sign was most definitely me.

Life can be chronicled from all the buttons and signs I have from various campaigns and propositions. “Vote NO on Prop 8” to “AFT for Hillary 2016”, I have always been told to make what I believe in the center of my being, some of these issues being women’s rights, reforming the criminal justice system, racial justice, and college affordability. Through working on campaigns and participating in strikes, I have always been politically motivated. For my whole life, I have idolized leaders such as Eleanor Roosevelt- her fighting spirit and strong will central to me. I soon decided I did not have to be President, or even of legal voting age, to make a valuable difference.

To apply for our scholarship, click here .

The Relationship Between Financial Abuse And Elder Abuse

Posted on: February 25, 2017 by in Elder Abuse
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pasadena-elder-abuse

Allegedly, she pried the diamond ring right off the sleeping woman’s finger. That’s what Keona Stephens, 22, of St. Petersburg, Florida, is accused of doing at the Allegro Senior Living Facility where she worked. As police in St. Petersburg investigated the theft, they learned that other residents had also been targeted by a jewelry thief while they were sleeping. The estimated total loss of jewelry was assessed at more than $21,000. Ms. Stephens confessed to the crimes and was charged with four counts of theft and one count of grand theft.

That theft is just one of the hundreds reported by nursing home residents every year. Many thefts also go unreported. The number of thefts and financial abuse incidents targeting the elderly is staggering – and unacceptable. Legally defined, the financial abuse of the elderly is the illegal or improper use of an elderly person’s money, assets, or property. Financial exploitation of the elderly can include stealing jewelry or money, cashing checks without authorization, forging signatures, or deceiving or bullying someone into signing a financial document such as a contract or a will.

If you have an elderly family member or a loved one living in a nursing home, you may be the only person who can look out for your loved one’s interests. Without the oversight of a family member or a close friend, a nursing home resident could be exploited for years. When an elderly person starts managing his or her accounts differently, making large withdrawals, or adding names to his or her accounts, these may be indications of financial abuse. Have a discussion with the person you believe is being targeted for financial abuse. Make sure you know that person’s best interests, needs, and desires for financial security.

WHERE CAN A FAMILY TURN FOR HELP?

In Southern California, if you have evidence or strongly suspect financial abuse – or any other type of elder abuse – take your concerns to an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney. Sometimes an attorney’s letter or phone call may be all that’s needed. The threat of an injury lawsuit – or actually filing a lawsuit – may be a necessary move. After reviewing the details of the situation, your attorney will also be able to determine if the police or other authorities should become involved.

One of the difficulties that elderly nursing home residents and their families deal with today is the expectation that a nursing home will manage and protect a resident’s money, which is typically placed in a special trust fund account used for resident care, personal items, and various incidentals. In the last several years, more than 1,500 incidents in which nursing homes have been cited for mishandling residents’ trust funds have been reported, and over a hundred nursing home employees across the nation have been prosecuted in these cases.

HOW CAN YOU PROTECT A LOVED ONE FROM FINANCIAL ABUSE?

In one particularly egregious case, a now-former office manager at the Vicksburg Convalescent facility in Vicksburg, Mississippi stole more than $100,000 from 83 patients’ accounts. Lee Ray Martin specifically targeted residents without families and those who suffered from dementia. If you have a loved one in a southern California nursing home who has a nursing home trust fund, here’s what you need to do:

  • Confirm all expenditures and withdrawals on trust fund statements.
  • Verify quarterly statements for the right amount of interest.
  • Find out if the facility has been cited for fund mismanagement in the past.
  • Learn how residents’ funds are managed.
  • Learn who is responsible for handling residents’ funds.
  • Learn when audits are conducted and if they are available.

You should also get to know the facility’s personnel and the families of other residents. If you find any evidence of fund mismanagement, or if you think someone you love may be a target for some other kind of elder abuse, immediately contact a good personal injury attorney who will fight for your family’s rights. If an older person is receiving substandard care despite having the funds for high-quality care, financial abuse could be the reason.

Get help for financial abuse – or any other elder abuse – right away. According to the Justice Department, about five million older persons are the targets of elder abuse every year in the U.S. Elder abuse can often be difficult to confirm because the victims themselves may not understand that they are victims. Elder abuse goes beyond financial exploitation and may include emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, malnutrition or dehydration, intimidation or violence, and the failure to monitor residents or to provide needed medical care. As the average age of the U.S. population increases, elder abuse will most likely continue to rise as well. Consider these statistics:

  • From 1999 through 2001, almost a third of the nursing homes in the U.S. were cited for at least one violation of federal nursing home standards.
  • Nearly 10 percent of those violations posed a risk of serious injury or death or caused a serious injury or death.
  • Over 40 percent of nursing home residents have reported abuse.
  • More than 90 percent of nursing home residents report that they or someone else in the facility has been neglected.
  • Research in 2010 indicated that as many as 50 percent of nursing home employees have admitted to abusing or neglecting residents.

WHAT ABOUT HOME HEALTHCARE AGENCIES?

Concerns about abuse in nursing home facilities are among the reasons that home healthcare agencies have expanded, but home healthcare agencies are not problem-free, either. Older persons can be at risk when home healthcare providers exploit them financially or otherwise fail to offer adequate care. Patients and their families have the right to hold home healthcare agencies accountable for the abusive actions of agency employees.

If you find any indications of neglect, abuse, or financial exploitation of an elderly loved one, or if you suspect that your loved one may be abused or exploited in a nursing home, by a home health care provider, or even by a family member, take appropriate action. In Southern California, arrange to speak with an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney who will fight on your loved one’s behalf.

Nothing is more important than the safety and well-being of the people we love. Preserving the dignity of our older loved ones as they age is perhaps the most important thing we can offer them. Everything we have inherited and learned, we have inherited and learned from older people. They have earned the right to age with dignity and without abuse or exploitation of any kind.