Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Car Accidents: The How and Why, and What to Do

Car accidents happen every day throughout the country and especially on the congested freeways of California. Nationwide, traffic accidents occur at a rate of approximately one every ten seconds, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association. California has a higher number of traffic accidents than other states.

How car mishaps occur

Car collisions and crashes may be caused by a driver’s negligence or inexperience. A poor design or defective part could cause or contribute to the crash. There can be other outside factors, such as poor roadway maintenance, improper mechanical repairs, or faulty tires or brakes. In congested traffic, it only takes one driver to be careless or negligent in any manner to cause an unfortunate mishap resulting in serious injuries.

Why they happen

Even careful drivers can make errors in judgment, and careless drivers can be a traffic hazard on the congested roadways. Careless drivers include those who talk and text on cell phones even though this is not permissible, are otherwise distracted, weave in and out of lanes of traffic, run red light signals, do not stop at stop signs, speed, or drive while under the influence. In addition, inexperienced drivers, generally between the age of 16 and 20, have a higher number of mishaps.

What to do after a car crash

While there may be no way to avoid a traffic mishap, there are some steps that can be taken after the collision when the other driver is at fault. In the event you are injured, there is more at stake than property damage to your vehicle, because of the high cost of medical treatment  (Read More.)
The first thing to do after being involved in a crash is to try to remain calm. Stay at the scene even if there were no injuries, because leaving the incident scene is a serious offense. Make sure everyone is all right, call the police, and make certain a police report is made. Get immediate medical attention, even if you do not believe you have been seriously injured. Some injuries do not have immediate symptoms; there can be symptoms hours, days or even weeks after the incident.

If anyone involved in the accident complains of head neck or back pain, do not move them. This can be extremely serious. If they are unconscious, wait for emergency medical care personnel to arrive at the scene. In the event that there is no choice but to move them because of an outside factor such as a possible vehicle fire, move them as carefully and steadily as possible, while supporting their neck and back.

If you have not sustained serious injuries, exchange information with the other drivers involved in the collision. Get their name, address, phone number, driver’s license number, license plate number, and insurance information. Inquire as to the names, addresses and phone numbers of any passengers in the vehicles. Ensure that everyone is all right while trading information.
When speaking with the other drivers and passengers involved in the crash, do not admit any fault or apologize for anything at the scene.

This can be taken as a form of legal liability.  You may actually have been only partially at fault, but admitting fault or apologizing may result in you being considered completely responsible for causing the accident. Check with any witnesses, ask what they saw, and get their names, addresses and telephone numbers. Report the accident to your insurance company, cooperate with them, and explain the extent of injuries and damage to your vehicle.

 Word of caution

When a collision occurs in an under-traveled area and your vehicle is hit, but the accident is not serious, do not stop the vehicle. Call 911. In this situation it is permissible to use a cell phone and travel to a more populated area or to a police station. Go to a safe area before stopping, especially if your vehicle was struck in the rear, but not enough to cause damage. There have been incidences where this type of accident has been caused in order to rob or carjack the driver whose vehicle is struck. If it turns out that it was an actual driving error by the other driver, it might be embarrassing to have taken this precaution, but that is understandable in today’s world. Being cautious can keep you safe.

 Motor vehicle accident law

Under the law, every driver is obligated to use “reasonable care” when operating a motor vehicle. When they do not exercise reasonable care, drivers are negligent in the “owed duty” to other drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists. Most car accident lawsuits are based on the governed laws of negligence, which means that the driver at fault did not exercise reasonable care and may be required to pay damages. The driver who was injured is referred to as the plaintiff and will be required to prove the defendant (the at-fault driver) was negligent and the negligence was a proximate cause of the accident, resulting in the plaintiff’s injuries.

Car collision cases are settled in one of three ways: a negotiated settlement with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, through arbitration, or by taking the case to court to recover financial compensation for injuries, losses and property damage. In proving negligence, an attorney representing you will use a number of different sources, such as the state laws, police reports, medical reports, eye witnesses, and in some instances, an accident reconstruction expert’s opinions.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Documenting Evidence after a Severe Auto Accident

An accident or injury can be traumatic and can warp your sense of life and well being. After being involved in such an event, you may not be ale to accurately remember exactly what happened exactly where and when. Having written notes can serve as a valuable poor of an event or one to kick-start your memory. If faced with a court cases, consistent and clear notes can make a major difference and document your pain and suffering. Note-taking can be a make or break moment in your case. Training yourself to do so automatically can make sure that you do not miss any important moments when you need it the most.

These things can seem minor at the time but lead to or point to something major. In the immediate aftermath of an accident, your memory is closest and freshest. Write down everything that you can remember about how the accident happened, what you were doing at the time, who your were traveling with, when it was, and what the weather was like. Include as many details as possible-- remembering that you may forget many or most of these facts in the future. Write down and document all of your injuries-- what hurts and how and how it develops.

You may also wish to take specific photographs of such injuries to spur your memory. You should also make sure that your doctor knows all about these injuries, so they will be included in your medical records. If you had to miss time from work or from social gatherings, make sure that you jot it down. Facing a loss of employment or time with the family can be compensated for your loss. These are important factors in your life.

Making sure that you write down who you talked with and when and what was said is an important factor in documenting not only your own issues but those of the people party to the incident. Sources: Road Traffic Offences in the UK: http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/p_to_r/road_traffic_offences/  
Initial Management of Closed Head Injuries: http://www.itim.nsw.gov.au/images/3/3d/closed_head_injury_cpg_2nd_ed_full_document.pdf  

Crime Scene Management: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/lab/forensic-science-communications/fsc/april2000/twgcsi.pdf

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Liability For Person Sending Text Messages to Vehicle Operators

By car injury attorney, Michael P. Ehline, Esq. - Over the last several days, our offices have been inundated with callers seeking information about  texting and driving. I turned on the news, only to see the pundits espousing in a dramatic fashion, that even the person sending a text could now be liable for personal injury negligence, if the person receiving the message, was operating a motor vehicle. The new "crime", appears to be based upon the fact that opening text messaging during the past few years, has proven to be extremely dangerous for drivers, and the distracted driver involved in crashes, causes an injury to others and themselves. And honestly, it does appear that the courts are beginning to make decisions that could affect the person who decides to text a person they know is driving, making them liable for injuries, death and damages in civil court. But is this really what courts are saying?

Here is a Sensational News Story Video Claiming that Texting Could be a "Crime"

I wanted to do some thoughtful research, and let you know the true state of affairs, since the press has only thus far served up confusion, and alarmist snippets of what "could be." First, this was one court and it was an appellate court back east, in Jersey.  So it was not the U.S. Supreme Court, and even if it was law positive in that state, it would not be binding in other jurisdictions as positive law. So this means, even if it was a law in Jersey [sending a text to a driver is a crime, or infraction, etc.), unless the Jersey state or federal high courts made a declarative ruling, it would be mere persuasive, and not mandatory authority.  Second, the court only said this in its dicta. What is Dicta?
Dictum is a statement, comment, or observation in a judicial opinion that is unnecessary to the decision in the case. Unlike the holding (final determination) in a case, dictum is not binding on other courts deciding similar issues. However, sometimes dictum is so widely recognized by other courts that it is adopted into an opinion as though it were binding authority on a matter, and in such a case it is referred to as "considered dictum". Although dictum may be cited in legal argument, it does not have the binding force of a precedent (previous court decisions or interpretations) since the remark was not part of the legal basis for the decision. (See source.)
In the case at bar, as will be shown, the appellate court merely said that if a person sending a text knew or should have known the person receiving the text was operating a motor vehicle, and the person receiving would also be opening the message, then the sender is guilty, or in this case civilly "liable". So you are probably asking your self, that is dumb, "how could a person sending a text know that someone was going to open their text while driving?" That was our initial reaction, but after a round table with a midwest catastrophic injury attorney, Jon Rosenfeld, a California lawyer injury Steven Sweat, accident lawyer David Slepkow from Rhode Island, Florida injury attorney Matt Dolman, and even prominent and respected trial lawyer, William Bill Hurst, and Florida lawyer, Matt Dolman, it became clear to me that and our firm, that there are actually several ways a person sending a text could potentially know the receiving vehicle operator would open a text. Here is a partial list.

List Of Reasons a Person Might Know Someone Will Open, Read, or Text Back While Driving

  • Employer/Employee Relations: Keep in mind, some states do not even regulate hands free texting, such as voice, or hands free talk/chat. But, assuming arguendo, a person is delivering a product or service, and his boss says "I will be texting you the correct address, once you are en route", or "text me back once you are on the freeway", this could create a reasonable inference that an employer knew or should have know that the vehicle operator who caused the wreck, would be distracted. Getting this so far?
  • Parent/Adolescent Relations: This is an easy one. "Johnny I expect you to text me when you are on your way home, or if you get lost, or stuck in traffic." One can see that a jury would still have to presume a person would not pull over, unless there was direct evidence, custom or habit of conversing via texts, while in transit.
  • Best Friends Forever: Similar to the case at bar discussed below, if there are two parties, like best pals, or a boyfriend and girlfriend, and they have a custom or habit known by others, to text eachother back and forth while driving, and that cause a motorcycle accident, for example, this could be enough to trigger negligence liability.
In all cases, none of the above facts would be outside an ordinary negligence claim. In fact, this really is part of the existing doctrine of "actual or constructive notice" in a tort claim, like a slip and fall case. (Did the store owner know or have reason to know that there was slippery liquid on the store aisle where the lady fell and broke her arm?) As most of our audience knows, negligence occurs when a person fails to act in a reasonable manner under their social contract to behave in a way that does not cause unnecessary injury or death to those in the "zone of danger." So one thing we all agreed upon as lawyers, is that this is really injury law 101, and that the Jersey judge's dicta, is really already what law school professors have been teaching for decaids. Failing to act reasonably for the circumstances can lead to a tort claim against the wrongdoer.

Text Message Senders May Be Held Liable in Crashes According to N.J. Court's Opinion 

Enter the Jersey Court case. A New Jersey appellate court justice has opined that anyone sending text messages to drivers, if the driver is involved in an accident, the sender of the text may be held liable in civil cases. So no, this was not about a criminal act at all. So let's dispel that notion straightaway. The appellate court ruled that if the text message was the cause of the accident, then the person sending the text message could liable, just last Tuesday. The N.J. appellate court ruling Tuesday was a part of a case, in which a couple was severely injured on a motorcycle that was struck by a vehicle. The vehicle was driven by a teenager who was texting while driving in 2009 in Morris County.  The teenage driver brought a lawsuit against his girlfriend, who had sent him the text messages. A lower court had dismissed the lawsuit, and the judges of the appellate court upheld the ruling. The court said the person texting a motorist is not liable, for negligent actions of the driver, but the individual texting does have a responsibility not to text the person, if they know they are driving and may read the text. According to Seton Hall University associate professor of law, Jenny Carroll, this appellate court ruling is a warning. This warns people who send text messages to others who are driving are putting themselves at risk to be held liable. Carroll stated that she believes the court was sending a message to teens and their parents that liability can exist, if this continues. The professor said that it is possible we could see cases where if an individual text messages someone while they are driving and they are involved in an accident, the person who sent the text message could be held liable too. Carroll said that drivers should tell the person texting that they are driving and end the communication. She also said that enforcing this type of law could be difficult. According to the plaintiff's attorney Stephen Weinstein, this ruling does send a message, and it is do not text someone you know is driving. The lawyer said if it saves one life or one hundred, the merit of the case has been valuable. But really? The lawyer had their case dismissed.  So the only traction the case seems to have had, was a sensationalist message. As we discussed above, the law has long been the case that if a person knew or should have known of a danger, then liability could arise.  But clearly, it is the job of the plaintiff's attorney to conduct discovery, and get evidence that these particular parties were engaging in texting and driving back and forth messaging. A lower court, absent facts, or objections to controverting facts, can and will often summarily adjudicate a case and dismiss it. Then it can go up on appeal.  And here, the appellate judges said there was no liability, since there was zero proof that defendant Colonna knew that defendant Best was driving when Colona texted him. Here, even though it went up, the plaintiff still lost, and was left with a restatement of the law by the courts. So in my humble opinion, this is a much to do about nothing. Judge Victor Ashrafi wrote for the majority with one judge dissenting, that:
When the sender knows that the text will reach the driver while operating a vehicle, the sender has a relationship to the public who use the roadways similar to that of a passenger physically present in the vehicle. ... [A] passenger must avoid distracting the driver. The remote sender of a text who knows the recipient is then driving must do the same. (Read the actual court decision here in PDF.)
The one take away for me, is that a plaintiff's lawyer should have alternative theories of liability, and two, that a lawyer making an argument like this had better have some excellent and verified evidence that there was a pattern and practice of the defendants to text eachother and drive. Now, assuming the Jersey plaintiff has the evidence, the case can be appealed to the highest court of the state and eventually end up in the U.S. Supreme Court. So we will wait to see what happens next, and keep you all informed about civil liability for texting and driving.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Leading Five Causes of Auto Accidents

Traffic incidents take a staggering number of lives every year that involve cars, motorcycles, trucks, vans, SUVs, buses and pedestrians on U.S. highways nationwide. In California there was 2,739 people killed and 229,354 people injured. This amounted to 2,520 fatal collisions and 161,094 injury collisions. What were the causes of these deadly and injury auto accidents? While there are various ways that traffic collisions can occur, the leading top five ways include:
  • Distracted Driving: Distracted driving comes in at number one and can happen in many forms. Talking on cell phones, texting, adjusting music players, eating, putting on makeup or grooming, are just a few of the ways can result in drivers taking their attention off of the roadway. Any type of activity that causes the driver to take their eyes and attention off of the road can lead to a serious accident. When a driver is not paying attention to the road, they can run a stop sign, go through a red light, fail to brake when necessary, side-swipe a another vehicle, or swerve into oncoming traffic, along with many other dangerous maneuvers. 
  •  Aggressive Driving: Aggressive driving is the behaviors by drivers that include speeding, rapid lane changes, tailgating, honking and gesturing.  There are other behaviors along with these listed that put other motorists at risk for being harmed in a collision.
  • Speeding: Speeding can consist of driving at an excessive speed over the speed limit or it can be traveling to fast for conditions, such as driving to fast in heavy rain. This is a large factor in serious traffic collisions. Some drivers think that speeding is not a big deal and may do it for numerous reasons like not paying attention, they are late, angry or frustrated. The slogan that is often used in speeding messages, “speed kills” is true, because drivers going over the speed limit require a faster reaction time to avoid accidents. If they are involved in a crash the force of impact is dramatically increased, which results in more serious injuries, fatalities and property damage.
  • Fatigued Driving: It may not seem serious to get behind the wheel of a vehicle when a driver is tired, or under the influence of a drug that causes drowsiness, but it is very dangerous. The reaction time is slower, their judgment is not clear and it is possible the driver could fall asleep at the wheel. This driver puts themselves at risk, anyone in their vehicle and other motorists on the roadway. 
  • Driving Under the Influence: Drivers that get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle after they have been drinking alcohol are involved in serious and deadly crashes every day. Approximately one-third of motor vehicle accidents involve alcohol, with it increasing as high as 50 percent on weekends. This is regardless of the crackdowns and the DUI penalties that can include jail time for some first time offenders. There are too many people including children losing their lives annually in collisions with intoxicated drivers.
If you or a loved one suffered injuries in any type of automobile accident, the accomplished lawyers at Ehline Law Firm, PC can help. Our dedicated attorneys represent clients who have been harmed in California. We can make a difference in your case. Contact our office today to allow our top personal injury lawyers to discuss your claim. We focus on personal injury law and have an extensive background in this area and provide a free consultation. Call the law firm at 213.596.9642.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Car Accidents—Loss of Work and Compensation

Being involved in a car accident can be a devastating experience, because life can change in the matter of seconds. Medical bills can begin mounting up, recovery can be painful and it may be impossible to work for an extended amount of time. This is when compensation is necessary for the damages that have been suffered due to the incident and allow you to heal without the added financial pressure.

When a person is hurt in an accident that is the fault of another person or party it can be complicated to file a claim or bring a lawsuit in civil court and this is why having a personal injury attorney is often the best way to handle recovering compensation. They will have the skills to traverse the legal complexities leaving the victim the peace of mind to heal without worrying.

Handling a Claim Alone can Make You a Victim Again

When a person is harmed in an incident, they are referred to as a victim when the way they were hurt could have been avoided if another party’s actions were different. Filing a claim against the liable party’s insurance company is the starting point to be financially compensated. When attempting to settle a claim with the insurance company on your own unless the injuries were mild then it is possible the individual who was harmed can become a victim again.

This is because insurance companies use tactics to either deny or lower the amount of deserved compensation to save money. The best way to deal with the insurance company is to have legal representation to protect your rights to obtain the compensation you should recover from the insurer. When a personal injury attorney is retained they will deal with the insurance company and the insurance company will know that the claimant is not going to accept a lower settlement amount than what is deserved.

Do Not Put Off Consulting an Attorney

After being involved in a car accident or any other incident where another party was at fault consulting a personal injury lawyer should not be put off. Delaying contacting an attorney can have significant effects on your claim. The evidence from the mishap can deteriorate and the time limit can run out to file a claim.

The attorney will handle everything having to do with the case, whether it is negotiating with the insurance company or preparing the case to bring a winning lawsuit. In effect they act as a middle man, to obtain compensation, while protecting the claimant’s rights. The lawyer you chose should be well versed in personal injury law to ensure you have the right protection for your right to recover medical expenses, lost wages if you are unable to work, vehicle repairs or any other damages you should be compensated. These type of cases are complicated, but with an accomplished personal injury attorney they will be the right legal advocate to handle your claim in a timely manner and obtain the recovery that should be recovered.

What a Personal Injury Lawyer Does

The personal injury lawyer will use all the resources necessary to gather evidence and any other pertinent information necessary to build a strong case. They will obtain your accident report and any correspondence from the insurance company, as well as witness statements. Then they will use this information to negotiate with the insurance company to obtain compensation to cover the costs that have been incurred, like medical expenses, lost wages and other damages.

This can be a long process, especially if the insurance company does not want to be agreeable in settling for a fair amount. Then the case will need to be brought to court as a lawsuit against the liable party. The final result with a skilled negotiator and litigating personal injury attorney is fair compensation for the harm you have suffered and the expense.

Car Accidents and Whiplash Symptoms

Car accidents are the most common type of mishap that results in whiplash.  When the vehicles collide upon impact the head of the individual is violently thrown back and forth and the rest of the body remains stationary, because it is being held by a seatbelt. In today’s cars it is even a more common injury, since seatbelts have shoulder harnesses. This means while the car upon impact means the body is still going forward, but is held in place by the seatbelt, the head and neck do not have that same advantage causing the head to keep going forward and then is jerked backward due to the sudden stop.

The symptoms of whiplash occasionally occur right away, but in most cases it can take up to three days before the significant pain of this type of harm is felt by the person who was hurt. There are symptoms that are common enough to indicate the condition causing the pain is whiplash:
  •  A stiff or sore neck that aches.
  • Soreness or pain in the shoulder or shoulder blades. 
  • Headaches.
  •  Dizziness.
  • Feeling of being light-headed or shakey.
  • Distorted or fuzzy eyesight.
  • Lower back throbbing pain.
  • Lower back spasms.
  • Tingling or numbness in the arms and hands.
  • Pain in the jawbone.
  • Ringing in the ears.
  • Fatigue.
  • Insomnia.
  • Vertigo.
Whiplash can heal within a reasonable amount of time depending on the severity, though it can also be an injury that is long lasting and has ongoing symptoms. Study data shows that approximately one-fifth of the people with whiplash injuries have symptoms that continue to affect the person as long as two years after the incident. The symptoms unlike many other types of bodily harm may not be immediately apparent and can take some time before the full extent of the symptoms or pain becomes apparent.  

When the symptoms appear this is referred to as whiplash syndrome and have signs that appear after the usual common symptoms and may last for an extended amount of time:
  • Neck stiffness.
  • Neck aches.
  • Headaches.
  • Fatigue.
  • Anxiety.
  • Depression.
This type of injury while it has its own symptoms it can also lead to other issues when the initial harm is significant, and these include: 
  • Chronic pain syndrome.
  • Respiratory issues.
  • Allergies.
  • Continuing fatigue issues.
  • Digestive problems.
  • Cardiovascular issues.
The reason that a whiplash injury may have secondary issues like allergies is due to the lowered immune system. It is also not uncommon for this type of harm to cause the individual to have memory loss, inability to concentrate or irritability.

The extensive research done in the area of whiplash has shown that people with smaller necks and less muscle mass, like children and women often suffer more serious injury. The other individuals of either gender or age that suffer more serious whiplash harm are people involved in car accidents wearing ill fitting seatbelts, head rests that are not adjusted to the right height and seats that are close to either the steering wheel or airbag.

In cases of mild injury it may be possible to treat the condition with over the counter pain relievers, though this is usually only a temporary relief and requires a doctor’s care. People who are more seriously hurt will need to have the condition diagnosed and treated by a physician to find relief and for the injury to heal properly.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Complications of Passenger Vehicle Injuries and Getting Help

Car accidents are the leading cause of personal injury and the Los Angeles accident lawyers at Ehline Law Firm PC offer legal assistance to people who have been harmed. This is the kind of event that can result in major disabilities and financial loss, like other incidences such as slip and falls, bicycle or defective product that can also cause personal injuries.

Ehline Law Firm PC accident attorneys in Los Angeles are skilled vehicle injuries lawyers, and Michael Ehline is skilled in negotiations and litigation and is aggressive in protecting the rights of the victim. The law firm gently guides the client through the legal process and is compassionate to the physical and emotional trauma they have suffered. The tragic circumstance of the victim and Ehline’s commitment to justice fuels his passion to be compassionate to victims, while holding the negligent party responsible. Visit the website for more information about the law firm at http://losangeles.ehlinelaw.com/auto-accident-lawyer/ and to learn about our areas of practice, including motorcycle accidents, car and truck collisions, bicycle mishaps, burn injuries, brain and spinal cord injury, slip and fall, and wrongful death.

After an accident the person who has been hurt suffers not only from physical injuries, but the inability to work, pay their bills, medical expenses, the emotional trauma, damage of property and other related harm. The Los Angeles lawyers at Ehline Law Firm PC are dedicated to helping the victim recovers the compensation they deserve to heal and re-establish their life as it was before they suffered this kind of traumatic experience. The damages the victim obtains are paid by the negligent party, which is generally not actually the person responsible, but their insurance company.

This means in some cases it may not be necessary to take the case to trial, since the accomplished Los Angeles attorney may be able to negotiate a settlement with the insurance company and their attorneys.  In doing this it is possible to alleviate some of the stress of the victim, who may find going to trial extremely emotionally trying and enable them to move on with their life faster. But, one thing these seasoned attorneys will never do is to negotiate a settlement for even a penny less than what the injured victim deserves.

When a claim cannot be successfully settled and it must go to court, Ehline Law Firm PC will take the lawsuit to trial, where they will fight uncompromisingly to obtain justice. The victims’ rights are the utmost importance to the law firm and Michael Ehline and the compensation they are entitled for medical expenses, lost wages, personal property damage, pain and suffering, along with a reduced earning ability if the harm has done permanent damage.