San Francisco Injury Lawyer Blog

It’s a frightening image and one that many of us at The Brod Firm, your Santa Rosa personal injury law firm, have contemplated.  Imagine you are in a car accident, that’s scary enough imagine that during the crash, you are thrown from your vehicle.  The frightening truth about ejection crashes?  Most people who are completely ejected from their vehicles don’t live to tell the tale.

policelineFatal Ejection Crash Near Santa Rosa

The unfortunate reality of ejection crashes has become all too real for the family and friends of a Santa Rosa man who perished in an accident Tuesday night.  According to The Press Democrat,  the incident occurred around 8 P.M. on Guerneville Road near Highway 116 and Laguna Road.  Police report a white Ford pickup was driving east when the driver crossed over a double-yellow line in order to pass other vehicles.  When he tried to return to his lane, he left the road and ran into two trees.  The driver was thrown from the truck.  Despite emergency responders’ attempts to revive him, he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Ejection Crash Statistics

The most recent edition of the National Highway Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) Traffic Safety Facts Overview report  (released May 2014, data from 2012) includes some notable statistics on ejection crashes.  In that year, 79% of vehicle occupants who were total ejected perished.  Seat belts are incredibly effective in preventing ejections with only 1% of belted occupants experiencing total ejections versus 30% of non-belted vehicle occupants.  Ejections accounted for 25% of occupant fatalities in 2012, with ejection rates at 18% for passenger cars and 34% for light trucks.

Although it is admittedly a bit outdated, a November 1997 report titled “Analysis of Ejection in Fatal Crashes”  helps tie these facts into larger trends.  The authors conclude that the risk of dying in a crash is more than three times greater for someone ejected during a crash than for a non-ejected vehicle occupant.  Further, the study reports that the ejection rate for unbelted individuals grew from 25% in 1982 to approximately 33% in 1996.  The NHTSA suggests that an increase in rollover crashes was the primary reason for the increased ejection rate.

As both the 2012 data and 1997 study demonstrate, seatbelts are essential to preventing ejection.  During the 1982 to 1996 time frame, the percentage of fatalities involving total ejection was 2.5% for belted vehicle occupants and 29.4% for unbelted occupants.  Other factors associated with an increased risk of ejection include speed, vehicle type (specifically, the odds of ejection are approximately 1.4 times higher for light trucks, vans, and SUVs than passenger cars), and driver age (younger drivers have a higher ejection risk).

A Northern California Law Firm Representing Accident Victims

If you were injured in an ejection crash or lost a close relative in one and someone else was to blame for the crash, you may be entitled to money damages.  As a reminder, the law does not demand perfection.  A victim injured in a car crash caused by someone else may be entitled to compensation even if the victim’s own behaviors (e.g. not wearing a seatbelt) contributed to the accident itself or its severity.  In such cases, a court can still award money damages but the amount will be reduced to take into account the victim’s role.

As a car crash injury law firm in Santa Rosa, San Francisco, and Oakland, the Brod Law Firm serves all of Northern California representing people who were injured or lost a loved one in a car accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence or wrongful acts.  Call to arrange a free consultation.  Most cases are handled on a contingent fee basis so if you don’t recover compensation, you don’t pay.

 

See Related Blog Posts:

Statistics and Law in Northern California Ejection Accidents

Serving Victims of Rollover Crashes Throughout Northern California

(Image by Tony Webster via Flckr)

Oil and gas are essential utilities that help keep our modern world moving and the oil and gas industries are important parts of our nation’s economy.  However, as the residents of San Bruno know far too well, oil and gas lines can be incredibly dangerous.  At the Brod Law Firm, our Northern California pipeline accident lawyer believes that safety must be priority number one and our team is ready to step forward to help anyone injured in a pipeline accident.

SanBrunoRecalling a Day Many Will Never Forget

Last fall, ABC7 marked a somber anniversary, calling September 9, 2010 “the day no one can forget.”  On that date, a PG&E natural gas pipeline exploded in San Bruno sparking a huge fire that one resident compared to “a geyser of flames.”  The blaze ultimately claimed eight lives and left 66 people injured.  Thirty-eight homes were destroyed and more than a dozen lots remained vacant as of the four-year anniversary.  Not surprisingly, residents remain angry with PG&E despite the $1.4 billion fine levied against the industry giant, noting that the incident could have been prevented and saying the company has not properly apologized to those impacted by the tragedy.

Audit Points to Failures at Public Utilities Commission

This week, The Oakland Tribune followed up on the safety recommendations issued in the wake of the San Bruno pipeline explosion.  An independent audit by Crowe Horwath identified 12 major issues that the Public Utilities Commission (“PUC” or “the Commission”) must address to provide a safer environment for all Californians.  The audit follows a finding that PUC’s lax safety procedures played a major role in the 2010 disaster.  Among the most important problems identified in the audit are poor record-keeping, outdated technology, delayed inspections/incident reports, poor communications, a failure to analyze risks, and a lack of accountability and standards.

To date, the PUC has only begun to work on 10 of the 33 recommendations contained in the audit.  The initial response was hampered by frequent changes in management, uncertain priorities, and a reactive approach that created confusion and hampered trust.  Commenting on the need for change, State Senator Jerry Hill stated “Before we can expect PG&E to seriously prioritize safety, the PUC has to embrace safety as a serious part of the commission’s culture.”

Mixed Reviews for Public Utilities Commission

Overall, reviews of changes made by the Commission in the past five years are mixed.  Mark Toney of The Utility Reform Network suggests the PUC is headed in the wrong direction.  Others note a change in tone under the Commission’s new leadership with Michael Picker at the helm. Picker helped craft the punishment levied against PG&E by the PUC.  He takes over following the departure of agency president Michael Peevey who left amid allegations he fostered an atmosphere of lax oversight and too-close ties between the Commission and the large utility companies.

Prioritizing Safety: Preventing Tragedies While Helping Victims

If there’s one central theme running through our blog entries it is the importance of prevention.  Whether the topic is car accidents, elder abuse, or pipeline explosions, we believe prevention should always be the goal.  Civil litigation helps right wrongs, it can’t turn back time but it can help victims move forward.  We hope the PUC and PG&E take this opportunity to re-prioritize and focus on safety.  We hope no other community has to go through the terrible experiences that San Bruno has faced.  However, if an oil or gas explosion has impacted you and/or your family, our San Francisco pipeline explosion law firm is here to help.  We will work to get justice for you, recognizing that paying damages forces companies to recognize that lax attitudes towards safety will not be tolerated.

 

See Related Blog Posts:

Gas Leak Prompting S.F. Neighborhood Evacuation Comes on Heels of PG&E Indictment for 2010 San Bruno Explosion

San Bruno to CPUC: Stop Dragging Your Feet on Disclosure of Public Records

(Photo credit: KRON 4 via Flkr User “A Name Like Shields Can Make You Defensive”)

At times, it seems like reading the paper or watching the news requires a level of detachment.  With so many stories of personal tragedy, connecting emotionally with every report can be overwhelming.  Yet, connecting the story to the law is a key part of what we do at our San Francisco wrongful death law firm.  Connecting allows us to serve our clients on the emotional, as well as the legal, journey that follows tragedy.  Ensuring the jury connects with the plaintiff and/or victim can help us recover compensation for the client.  A personalized story can also drive home a message about accident prevention.  Today, we look at the story and the law behind a recent pedestrian fatality and we consider the potential legal implications for an accident caused by someone fleeing the police.

Kind, Warm-Hearted Woman Killed in Pedestrian Crash

crosswalk2Last Friday, a 42-year-old female pedestrian was struck and killed in San Francisco’s Financial District.  On Monday, one of the headline stories on the San Francisco Chronicle website took a closer look at the victim and the fatal accident.  At around 10 P.M., police say three men held up an individual near the intersection of Clay and Larkin.  Shortly thereafter, officers attempted to pull the trio over and the suspects fled in a Toyota Corolla.  Around the same time, Bridget Klecher was walking in the Financial District after dining with a friend.  With police in pursuit, the Toyota sped north on Leavenworth Street and plowed into Klecher as she crossed near Kearny Street.  The vehicle continued fleeing and hit another person at Post and Powell Streets before the suspects abandoned the car on Treasure Island.  While the second victim is expected to survive, Kearney later died at San Francisco General Hospital.

Friends held a memorial service for Klecher on Sunday.  They described her as kind and warm, a jokester, and “the coolest girl I’ve ever met” without a mean bone in her body.  She’d moved to San Francisco from Maryland in the mid-1990s.  Klecher was a Giants fanatic and eagerly awaited the home opener.  Now, her friends await a break in the case

Civil and Criminal Implications of a Death Caused By Perpetrators Fleeing Police

Often, mourners find some solace in seeing those responsible for an untimely death held responsible.  Regular readers of this blog know that the criminal and civil arms of the law operate separately.  Family members can pursue a wrongful death case in civil court at the same time as prosecutors bring criminal charges, or even if authorities choose not to prosecute.

Special criminal charges may apply when someone is killed by perpetrators fleeing the scene of another crime.  Vehicular Manslaughter, defined in Penal Code 192(c), involves (1) killing another (2) when driving with negligence or gross negligence and (3) committing either a non-felony unlawful act or a lawful act that might lead to a death.  While murder typically requires proof of malice, a special Felony Murder Rule (CA Penal Code Sec. 189) allows the charge when the death occurred during the commission of one of the listed felonies (including robbery, burglary, and sexual assault) or another inherently dangerous felony.  It can apply even if a co-conspirator actually killed the victim.  The Felony Murder Rule only applies if the death occurred during the commission of the felony, but that generally includes an immediate escape attempt that continues until the individual reaches a temporary place of safety (see Criminal Jury Instruction 3261 which further defines a place of temporary safety as having escaped from the crime scene and no longer being chased).

On the civil side, the case would most likely be brought as a wrongful death action under Civil Code 377.60 et. seq.  This claim typically belongs to the deceased’s closest relative(s).  Punitive damages, which are intended to punish the responsible party rather than compensate the victim, may be deemed appropriate.  This can greatly increase the amount of money that the defendant owes the plaintiffs.

Choosing a Lawyer

Choosing a lawyer is a difficult decision.  We encourage you to look at the information on our webpage and arrange an initial consultation with Attorney Brod, a skilled and experienced San Francisco injury lawyer.  We promise to handle your civil claims with the utmost respect, keep you informed throughout the attorney/client relationship, and, of course, provide top-notch legal services while never forgetting the human side of our relationship.  Please call to learn more.

 

See Related Blog Posts:

Compensation & Change: Our Law Firm’s Goals Following a Pedestrian Death

The “Eggshell Plaintiff” Rule in San Francisco Injury Lawsuits

(Image by Robert Vega)

Often, Medicare fraud is brought to light because a brave employee saw a wrong and spoke up.  Notably, however, insiders are not the only ones who can bring a Medicare fraud whistleblower lawsuit (aka a qui tam action).  Medicare beneficiaries can also witness and report Medicare fraud.  We are proud to partner with Medicare beneficiary whistleblowers  in addition to working with current/former employees on health care fraud matters.  We investigate the whistleblower’s concerns and, when appropriate, file suit.  Our mutual goal is recovering wrongfully diverted funds and preventing on-going/future frauds.  As a Medicare fraud whistleblower’s law firm, we also vigilantly work to protect the whistleblower from retaliation and ensure s/he receives fair compensation should the information leads to a recovery.

Example 1: Over $5 Million Recovered in Action Initiated by Medicare Beneficiary Whistleblowers

healthcashIn Fall 2012, RxAmerica (a subsidiary of CVS) agreed to pay $5.25 million to settle a Medicare fraud action that consolidated two suits brought by Medicare beneficiaries.  According to Law360, Robert Fischer filed suit against RxAmerica in a New York federal court after noticing suspiciously large payments on an Explanation of Benefits (“EOB”) report sent to him by Medicare.  As explained in a Business Wire report, Jan and Max Hauser also filed suit against RxAmerica bringing their claim in a North Carolina federal court.  The Hausers also carefully reviewed an EOB statement and they noticed that RxAmerica was charging the government more money for prescription drugs than had listed in the Plan Finder tool they had used when selecting their Medicare Part D plan.  This discrepancy meant the Hausers consumed their allowed benefits faster than expected/promised and had to pay out-of-pocket for their prescription medications.

Both the Hausers and Mr. Fischer were able to determine that RxAmerica was overcharging Medicare, filing higher prices than they had represented previously, a discrepancy Mrs. Hauser called “astronomical.”  According to the above-cited sources, in some cases RxAmerica asked for 10 times the advertised cost.  The dual beneficiary-filed suits illustrated that pricing misrepresentations were not a one-time fluke.  The consolidated action resulted in a settlement agreement that required the company pay $5,250,000 which would be used to compensate beneficiaries who spent money out-of-pocket because of the fraudulent pricing.  Pursuant to the False Claims Act, the Hausers and Mr. Fischer will receive 15%  to 30% of the settlement for reporting the fraud and their work investigating and prosecuting the case.  CVS/RxAmerica also agreed to a plan intended to prevent future pricing fraud.

Example 2: HealthSouth Pays $325 Million to Settle Fraud Claim, Beneficiary Whistleblower To Receive $8 Million

medicalcostIn another Medicare fraud action, a claim brought by a beneficiary resulted in a $325 million settlement that included an $8 million payment to the whistleblowing beneficiary.  According to The Houston Chronicle and information resource HCPro,  James DeVage sought physical therapy for back pain.  He noticed HealthSouth was billing Medicare for treatment even after he stopped receiving care from the office.  Although he tried to alert Medicare, his concerns weren’t addressed until he engaged legal counsel and filed suit.

Mr. DeVage’s  claim was consolidated with accounting fraud claims and other health care fraud claims based on the same or similar conduct.  The 83 year-old stands to garner more than $8 million for his efforts.  The Chronicle reports that Mr. DeVage is a former tax examiner who spent 30 years in the Army, served in three wars and earned a Bronze Star.  He told an interviewer: “The money is nice. The real reason was to stop the fraud, and we did stop it. When something’s wrong, I like to do something about it.”  In addition to the payment, HealthSouth agreed to a five-year corporate integrity agreement.

Helping Beneficiaries Fight Back

Doing the right thing isn’t always easy.  It can, however, be made much easier when you have the right people to help.  If you’ve witnessed what you believe is Medicare fraud, whether you witnessed it as an employee or as a beneficiary, we can help you fight back.  Medicare fraud steals money from every U.S. taxpayer and endangers the health of Medicare patients.  Call (800) 427-7020 to arrange a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with our Medicare whistleblowers’ attorney.

 

See Related Blog Posts:

Hardly a Victim-less Crime: The Victims of Health Care Fraud

The False Claims Act and the Role of Whistleblowers in Stopping Health Care Fraud

(Image with piggy bank by Flicker user 401(K) 2013; Image with dollar sign by Neff Conner)

Earlier this week, we examined a report on the potential dangers lurking in San Francisco’s BART network and discussed the legal standards that apply to mass transit accidents.  Today, we focus on tour buses, a unique part of the bustling transportation sector in Northern California that mixes transportation, tourism, and entertainment.  We will look at a proposal intended to keep both tour bus passengers and bystanders safe and discuss three tragic examples of California tour bus accidents.  Safety is our top priority, but when accidents occur our San Francisco tour bus accident law firm is here to help.

(image by Greg Goebel)

San Francisco Ordinance Prohibits Tour Bus Operators from Driving While Narrating

According to the Oakland Tribune, on Tuesday the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously approved an ordinance that prohibits tour bus drivers from simultaneously narrating and driving.  The Board hopes the rule will ensure drivers focus all their attention on the task of driving.   Drivers who are caught violating the ordinance will be cited.

One of the measure’s sponsors explained that it will keep pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists safe and will protect residents and tourist alike.  He emphasized the belief that a vibrant tourism industry should not jeopardize the safety of residents and visitors.  A co-sponsor said he is working with legislators across California to create similar regulations in other municipalities.

Three Tragic Examples of Tour Bus Accidents

In part, the measure was passed in response to a crash that killed a city employee last fall.  On October 23, 2014, a tour bus trolley struck pedestrian Priscila Moreto who was crossing in a Polk Street crosswalk near City Hall.  Moreto was a 68-year old San Francisco resident who worked in the Controller’s Office.  The driver of the tour bus was allegedly distracted at the time of the deadly accident.

Sadly, the October 23 accident is far from the only California tour bus tragedy in recent months.  On November 23, 2014, a tour bus overturned killing one and injuring 26 others, six seriously.  As KCRA reported, the bus was travelling from Los Angeles to Washington State and the same bus had crashed into a Denny’s restaurant in Red Bluff earlier in the day.  The deadly overturn accident occurred just off Interstate 5, approximately 100 miles from the California-Oregon border.  Speaking to the press in the aftermath of the crash, investigators suggested driver fatigue may have been a factor.

Just this week, a Southern California tour bus accident claimed the life of a 26 year-old man.  According to The Los Angeles Times, on Sunday April 5, 2015, a tour bus collided with a car driven by Pedro Lira in Bloomington, San Bernardino County.  The crash occurred around 6:45 P.M. when the bus attempted to make a left-hand turn.  Four passengers incurred minor injuries.  Lira was trapped in his vehicle.  Response teams freed him and took him to the hospital where he died about an hour later.  An investigation is underway.

San Francisco Tour Bus Law Firm

Tour buses can be a terrific way to see a city, allowing riders to see the city with the help of a knowledgeable guide.  However, as the sponsors of the San Francisco ordinance note, tourism should not come at the expense of safety.  As always, our San Francisco tour bus injury attorney believes in “Safety First” and our team supports efforts to make the streets safe for everyone from life-long residents to visitors who may only have a day to enjoy our city.

When a tour bus crash occurs in Northern California, our California tour bus law firm can help injured victims and/or grieving families recover monetary compensation from those at fault.  Often, the actions of the bus driver (e.g. narrating while driving, falling asleep at the wheel) can be imputed to the tour bus company.  This means victims can sue the company itself and helps ensure a potentially large judgment or settlement can be paid.  Call to schedule a no-cost consultation and learn about our contingent fee system which means you only pay us if you recover money.

 

See Related Blog Posts:

Tour Bus Accidents & Liability Under California Law

Passenger Vehicle Accident with Transit Buses Cause Serious Injuries

Party Bus Accidents and California Law

(Image by Greg Goebel)

We are proud to live in a city and a region that are committed to making public transportation a viable, workable option. Public transportation is good for the environment. It is also a healthy option since those using public transit are more likely to walk for a portion of their commute than drivers using their own private vehicles. Public transportation systems such as The San Francisco Municipal Railway (“Muni”) and Bay Area Rapid Transit (“BART”) also shape a region’s identity and promote a sense of unification. Nonetheless, public transportation accidents are an unfortunate reality. Even a single-vehicle crash can impact dozens of travelers. As a San Francisco public transportation injury lawyer, Attorney Greg Brod helps these victims. Whether dealing with a Muni crash in town or a BART accident anywhere in the region, Attorney Brod helps injured people recover the compensation they need and deserve.

Shining a Light on “BART’s Track Troubles”  

On Monday, The San Francisco Chronicle published a column titled “BART’s Track Troubles Can’t Be Ignored.” The report, a must-read for users of the rail network, suggests that hazardous and/or deteriorating tracks may put the safety of thousands at risk. In recent years, public officials have focused on expanding BART’s reach and its BARToperating hours; twin goals that may come at the expense of maintenance on existing lines. BART opened in 1972 (43 years ago). Since then, only about 20% of the tracks have been replaced. In contrast, federal officials estimate tracks have a 25 year life span while BART officials say tracks should last 20 to 35 years depending on location.

BART plans to slow train traffic at more than three dozen locations because track conditions could put travelers at risk. At one site, between the Oakland Coliseum and Fruitvale stops, officials plan to shut down for 11 weekends while workers replace some 3,000 feet of worn rail and 1,000 wood ties that have degraded. Shutdowns are also planned on the elevated crossover rails near Daly City, San Leandro, and Bayfair to work on interlockings, the places where trains switch tracks. An anonymous insider explains: “[BART officials] are afraid a tie could come loose, cause a derailment and send a train plunging off the tracks.” Officials say that the system needs “a complete overhaul,” a $4.8 billion project.

The risk of derailment is real. One site in Concord has seen two derailments in the last five years. In early 2013, an incident left a (thankfully, empty) train car teetering off the side of elevated tracks. Officials eventually blamed “a slight jog in the track.” The previous derailment occurred in March 2011 when a wheel slipped off the rails. That accident was blamed on uneven track wear and flawed wheel maintenance. While no one was seriously injured, 65 people had to be evacuated.

An Elevated Standard and Special Procedures in California Mass Transit Accident Cases

There are special laws and procedures applicable to accidents involving public transportation. Mass transit systems are deemed common carriers. While typical drivers owe a duty of ordinary care, common carriers have a much higher duty. As explained by section 902 of the California Civil Jury Instructions: “Common carriers must carry passengers [or property] safely. Common carriers must use the highest care and the vigilance of a very cautious person. They must do all that human care, vigilance, and foresight reasonably can do under the circumstances to avoid harm to passengers [or property].” This rule is codified in Civil Code Section 2100.

The common carrier standard provides an extra level of protection to the public. However, an injured person can only take advantage of this standard if s/he follows the special rules for bringing a claim against a government authority. In addition to special procedures, there is a greatly reduced limitations period. A would-be plaintiff must file a claim document within six months of the underlying incident. This is in contrast to a two year limitations period applicable to most personal injury claims.

An Experienced Northern California Mass Transit Lawyer

If you are injured or lose a loved one in a mass transit accident Northern California, you may have a legal claim. Given the shortened time frame, contacting a lawyer as soon as possible is particularly important. Attorney Brod has the knowledge and experience to serve as a mass transit lawyer in San Francisco and throughout the Bay Area. Call to schedule a free consultation.

See Related Blog Posts:

$14.3 Million Dollar Award to Woman Injured While Riding Transit Bus
Major Initiatives Are Launched to Encourage Railroad Safety in Wake of Tragedies

(Image by Nick Doty)

floodLast month, Governor Brown proposed a $1 billion water-related relief plan. In the midst of a drought of staggering proportions, many were shocked to learn that more than half of the proposed spending is earmarked for flood-control. Weather.com explains: “Funding flood-control at the height of a crippling drought seems paradoxical at first glance, but Brown connected the drought to the potential for ‘extreme weather events’….[Brown stated] ‘all of a sudden, when you’re all focused on drought, you can get massive storms that flood through these channels and overflow and cause havoc.’” Further, California is geographically diverse and sees wide ranging weather conditions at any given moment. In light of these truths, our San Francisco flood injury law firm dedicates this blog entry to discussing two of the most common flood dangers: driving during floods and residential mold after a flood.

“Turn Around, Don’t Drown” – Floods & Driving

There’s one key rule that people should keep in mind when it comes to driving during flooded conditions – don’t. The title of the National Weather Service’s (“NWS”) campaign speaks for itself: “Turn Around, Don’t Drown.” According to the NWS and the Centers for Disease Control, flooding claims more lives each year than any other form of severe weather and more than half of all flood-related drownings involve a vehicle being driven into dangerous flood waters. It only takes six inches of water to knock an average person off his/her feet and two feet of water can carry away most vehicles (many are carried away by even less). Avoiding driving in flood conditions is always the smartest choice whenever possible.

Staying put is the best choice, but sometimes floods take a driver by surprise or travelling is unavoidable (note: remember, there’s a world of difference between inconvenient and unavoidable). If at all possible, adjust your route to avoid flooded stretches of road, even if they don’t appear to be deep. The information portal Wikihow offers tips for drivers facing unavoidable floods. These include: Turn on your hazard lights so others can see you; Drive slowly but avoid stopping in a flooded stretch if possible; Keep the air conditioning off to limit engine damage; Select the highest gear (for an automatic transmission, select 1); and Crack your windows to help ensure you can exit the vehicle if necessary.

Flooding & Residential Mold

After flood waters recede, another danger emerges: mold. While mold is particularly dangerous for those with a pre-existing breathing problem, high levels can sicken even a healthy individual. According to WebMD, you have 24 to 36 hours to take steps to prevent mold after a flood. When flooding is significant, clean-up is often best left to the professionals. If you decide to tackle it yourself, WebMD suggest donning protective clothing, including a mask, and remaining alert for the possibility of electrocution. Begin by pumping out any standing water and move all wet items to a dry workspace. Use a wet vac or similar tool to remove water from carpets. Fans can help circulate air, but consider using a dehumidifier which does a better job because it lowers the moisture level in the air. To dry walls, remove moldings and/or baseboards, which can provide a “welcoming” spot for mold, and cut small openings at the base of walls to help dry the backside of the sheetrock. If mold has had a chance to start growing, the EPA strongly recommends calling a professional. For small areas, a mixture of detergent and hot water can help remove mold. Shifting focus to household items that have been waterlogged or show signs of mold infestation, the linked article contains suggestions on what to save (e.g., nonporous items, wood furniture) and what to toss (e.g., carpets, upholstered furniture, books).

Where Nature Meets Negligence

Flooding is usually courtesy of Mother Nature. That noted, negligence can contribute to flood-related mold and lead to health problems. A claim under the implied warranty of habitability and other landlord/tenant laws may be appropriate where a landlord knows/should know that mold has infested the property but fails to take reasonable steps to eradicate the mold and the mold causes health problems for a tenant. A negligence claim may also be appropriate in a flood-related car accident such as when a driver plows through floodwaters at an inappropriately high speed and causes an accident. If you are facing either of those situations or have otherwise been hurt/sickened because someone else failed to take reasonable steps to deal with flooding in Northern California, call our office. Our experienced San Francisco dangerous flood lawyer can help you recover compensation from those at fault.

Attorney Greg Brod also has substantial experience as a San Francisco flood insurance lawyer. Our team welcomes calls from flooding victims who find their insurance company is either denying their claims or underpaying. You paid premiums, we’ll help you get coverage.

See Related Blog Posts:
After the Storm: The Threat of Mold After Residential Flooding
Flooded Roads, Heavy Rains, and Being Prepared Even in California’s Drought

(Image by Keith Tyler)

Medicare and Medicaid fraud are a thriving business. Medicare and Medicaid fraud are also illegal and, in many ways, immoral enterprises that take advantage of programs intended to help the elderly and impoverished. Health care fraud takes many forms. Today, we focuses on one subset – recruiting schemes. In these cases, scammers recruit “patients,” obtain their beneficiary numbers, and file false and/or exaggerated claims with Medicare or Medicaid. As with other forms of health care fraud, our Medicare and Medicaid fraud law firm believes that whistleblowers are key to fighting health care recruitment fraud.

Scammers Trade Shoes for Beneficiary Numbers Last week, The New York Times reported on a disturbing case of health care fraud. Nine New York doctors are among the 23 individuals named as defendants in a Medicaid fraud scam that netted nearly $7 million dollars. The indictment includes charges of health care fraud, money laundering, and enterprise corruption.

sneakers.jpgAllegedly, defendants recruited homeless people from soup kitchens and shelters, specifically targeting those with valid Medicaid cards, by promising them free sneakers or other footwear. Recruits would be taken to medical clinics (typically places owned by one of the scammers) where they underwent unnecessary tests and were labeled with fake diagnoses. Scammers would then bill Medicaid to the tune of hundreds or even thousands of dollars per “patient.” Often, bills included claims for medical equipment and testing that were either inappropriate or wholly fictitious and for unnecessary follow-up visits. Before leaving, the homeless men and women were allowed to pick a pair of shoes from stacks of footwear in the clinics’ basement. In some cases, the recruiters were paid a referral fee per recruit; in other cases, Medicaid payments were split between the recruiter and the doctor.

Per the Times article, health care fraud may be common but the New York case is notable both for the number of participants and the exploitation of the homeless. A Brooklyn District Attorney explained “At the heart of this health care fraud scheme was the exploitation of poor people….This was a Medicaid mill.” Most of the defendants are being held on bail ranging from $10,000 to $350,000.

Other Recruiting Scams Recruiting scams are one of the more common forms of Medicare or Medicaid fraud. In October 2014, the FBI released a press release reporting on prison sentences handed down for a recruiter and clinic owner involved in a scam that targeted nursing home and assisted living residents, some of whom were involuntarily committed to the defendant’s psychotherapy programs. To conceal their crimes, the defendants not only falsified records but even intercepted patient billing statements mailed to the patients from the Medicare offices.

Another case from 2014, also detailed in an FBI press release, targeted destitute individuals at soup kitchens, housing projects, and similar locations, convincing them to sign blank documents that were used to create fake records and bill Medicare for skilled nursing and physical therapy treatments that were never provided. The patients were promised cash and/or prescription narcotics.

Helping Whistleblowers Bring Scammers to Justice Often, health care fraud scams, including Medicare/Medicaid recruiting scams, are only discovered because a private citizen spoke out and reported the wrong. In the “sneakers scam” above, the investigation dates back to 2012 when a woman walked into the D.A.’s office and reported that she’d been recruited as a “patient.” We encourage anyone who has seen fraud to follow this woman’s lead.

Reporting fraud is not something you need to do alone. As a Medicare fraud law firm, we help honest people bring scammers to justice. Our team helps people bring fraud claims on the government’s behalf while ensuring the individual’s own interests are protected and that he or she receives fair compensation if the government recovers money based on the information provided by the whistleblower. We welcome calls from across the nation.

See Related Blog Posts:
Medicaid Fraud: Health Care Fraud Targeting Another Government Program Medical Equipment Fraud and Power Wheelchair Scams
(Image by Paul Cox)

One of the many things we love about San Francisco is the range of transportation options available to residents. While most commuters probably drive for some or all of their daily commute, plenty of opt for public transit and/or their own two feet. Others swap four wheels for two and commute by bicycle. We are proud to serve as a San Francisco bicycle accident law firm and to protect the rights of those injured in car versus bicycle collisions. In many, if not most, cases, these accidents are caused by an inattentive driver. We absolutely encourage drivers to make sharing the road safely a goal every time they drive. Even though fault tends to rest primarily with the car driver, we also encourage bicycle riders to follow smart commuting practices in order to keep themselves and others safe.

Chronicle Looks at the Most Hazardous Areas for Bicyclists On Wednesday, the San Francisco Chronicle reviewed a study looking at bicycle-vs.-car accidents in the city. The article notes that the city sees 75,000 bicyclists each year, a figure that works out to one in ten people in the city. Bicycling is a healthy commuting option, but sadly accidents involving cars and bicycles leave someone injured or dead, on average, once a day.

bikeghost2.jpgThe Chronicle discusses information gathered by Zendrive, a driving safety blog that collected ten years’ worth of information using sensors in more than one thousand driver’s phones to map out the areas in San Francisco where a bicyclist-vs.-driver crash is most likely. Given that they are among the most popular routes, it is not surprising that downtown, the Mission, SoMa, and the Panhandle/Lower Haight area saw the most accidents. Driving offenses were particularly common in SoMa and the 19th Avenue corridor where drivers often speed and pull out their cell phones to pass the time when they are frustrated by unexpected traffic. For more details on the accident hot spots, see the Zendrive website.

Safety Tips for Cyclists Without question, drivers need to be more attentive. Still, we encourage bicyclists to do everything they can to stay safe. Bicyclesafe.com provides numerous tips for bicyclists including detailed information on avoiding ten of the most common accident scenarios (ex. avoiding a dooring accident and “right cross” collisions).

More general safety tips include using a headlight and stowing phones and music players to help you focus on traffic conditions. The site encourages cyclists to “ride as if you were invisible,” avoiding reliance drivers’ attentiveness, and always signaling turns to let attentive drivers know your plan. One of the most interesting tips is taking up the whole lane when possible rather than staying to the edge of the road. While this may seem counterintuitive, it helps ensure visibility and prevents both dooring and passing-too-close accidents. The site notes that this tip is more appropriate for some scenarios (i.e. heavily travelled roads with lots of intersections) than others.

An Advocate for San Francisco Cyclists Even the safest cyclist can be hurt or killed by an inattentive driver. If you are hurt in a car-vs-bicycle accident or if a similar crash claims the life of a loved one, please call to schedule a consultation with our San Francisco bicycle crash lawyer. A consultation is always free and contingent fees means most injury clients pay us for our services unless they recover monetary compensation.

See Related Blog Posts:
California Legislature Eyes Adult Bicycle Helmet Requirement California Bicycle Riders’ Law Firm Examines Bicycle Accident Statistics

(Image by Sebastien Paquet)

It sounds like a silly rhyme — “Sleep tight. Don’t let the bedbugs bite.” — but for an increasing number of people bedbugs have become an all-too-real nightmare. Even a brief encounter with bedbugs can leave a person in a great deal of discomfort, a feeling that is only magnified when pleas for help go unheeded. Our San Francisco bed bug lawyer helps people who have experienced this distress, including tenants whose landlords ignored their pleas for a solution. Today’s blog entry looks at one of the more recent cases of bedbugs in California and then shifts focus to bedbug lawsuits looking at the types of damages available to bedbug victims and the possibility of a bedbug class action.

Senior Living Community Facing Bedbug Infestation Residents of one senior living facility in Desert Hot Springs are among the many Californians battling a bedbug infestation. KESQ, a CBS affiliate, reports that many residents of Linda Vista Senior Residences have found themselves covered in bedbug bites. One woman said her loved ones are afraid to visit, especially after a friend and the friend’s children spent one night with her and awoke to “bumps all over.” Desert Hot Springs is investigating conditions at the community and vows to help improve conditions. The City has also issued citations to the management company based on code violations although the article does not provide details/specifics on those citations.

Management at Linda Vista has begun to take notice of the problem but residents worry their response may prove ineffective. Representatives of the management company report that a pest control company has done an initial treatment and has plans for a second application and a follow-up visit. Residents, including many disabled seniors, had to wait outside during the treatment and returned to find clutter and belongings scattered throughout their units. Some pieces of furniture were deemed too infected to treat and the company disposed of those items. While management is providing some reimbursements for items that had to be tossed out, some residents who have limited financial resources say the money isn’t enough. In the words of one community member, “I respect they are trying but that’s all they are doing is trying.”

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Habitability & Bedbug Lawsuits Renters suffering from a bedbug infestation may have a legal claim against their landlord, the property management company and/or the property owner. These claims often rest on the implied warranty of habitability, a standard discussed in the “Dealing With Problems” section of a guide authored by the state’s Department of Consumer Affairs. Essentially, a tenant filing a bedbug claim will usually allege that the infestation has made the unit unfit for human occupation.

Damages in Bedbug Suits & The Importance of Class Actions An important question asked by clients of our Northern California bedbug law firm is what type of damages a court can award. Examples of expenses that a landlord/owner may be ordered to pay include: Medical expenses; Inspection/Extermination costs; Relocation expenses; Lost wages (ex. pay lost while visiting a doctor or staying home for a pest control company’s visit); Compensation for pain and suffering; and Compensation for property damage. A court may also award money for the mental/emotional anguish and physical pain tied to the infestation. In some cases, particularly where the defendant ignored a known bed bug problem, the court may also award punitive damages which are intended to punish the wrongdoer. Settlement agreements often contain similar elements.

Sometimes bedbug victims suffer serious medical problems as a result of the infestation. In other cases, the consequences of an infestation are more minor (i.e. an individual resident may only have a few bites). An individual may be hesitant to initiate legal action where they can only expect a small monetary award. When a multi-unit property is infested, particularly when many people all suffered relatively minor problems, a class action suit may be more cost-effective than individual suits. Working as a collective can help ensure tenants are compensated for their losses and push the landlord/owner to deal with the bedbug problem. Having an experienced California class action attorney like Greg Brod is essential to success.

If you are a renter in Northern California and you have suffered from a bedbug infestation, no matter how large or small your claim may be, please call us at 800-427-7020. We can help.

See Related Blog Posts:
Repeat Bed Bug Infestations Raise Issues of Landlord Liability A Bedbug Primer for California Renters

(Image by Orin Zebest)