Third-Party Observation Can Influence the Results of Neuropsychological Evaluations

November 20, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

If you or a loved one sustained a head injury as a result of a car accident, a neuropsychologist may be necessary to determine whether a traumatic brain injury occurred as a result of the incident. Traumatic brain injuries can impair concentration, thought, and perception, and may create emotional functioning issues such as personality changes and depression.

Diagnosing Brain Injury

A neuropsychological examination can establish whether an incident has affected an injured person’s attention span, ability to concentrate, memory, perceptual skills, speech, and mental flexibility. An attorney may request to attend an neuropsychological examination, or obtain an audio or video recording of the examination, in order to establish that the examiner was not biased. Several courts have permitted medical or psychological examinations to be recorded on that basis.

However, according to the National Academy of Neuropsychology and as confirmed by experimental data, third-party observation can affect the reliability of the results of a neuropsychological examination. The presence of a third-party observer or recording device can generate anxiety and skew the examinee’s test results. Further, many neurological tests are based on experiments which presumed that no third-party observation would take place, and may not be valid under different conditions. Finally, although a neuropsychologist could preserve the scientific reliability of the examination by taking a hidden recording, it would violate codes of professional ethics to do so.

Complications & Court Admissibility

As a result, many neuropsychologists would refuse to perform an observed neuropyschological examination. In that regard, in addition to the scientific issues presented by the nature of third-party observation, a neuropsychologist who permits an examination to be observed may violate their contract with the company that provided the testing material, due to confidentiality concerns. Neuropsychological testing relies on the assumption that the examinee has not prepared for the examination, and public disclosure of the testing materials can call into question all future neuropsychological evaluations.

Further, even if a neuropsychologist were to agree to administer such an evaluation, third-party observation is unlikely to be helpful to a court. The raw data and methodology produced by the evaluation can be provided to opposing counsel even without third-party observation, and the opposing attorney can use an independent expert to analyze the results.

If you or a loved one were injured in a car accident, an injury attorney can help you decide whether a neurological evaluation would be helpful to establish or assess the nature and extent of any traumatic brain injury. An experienced attorney can help guide you through the process of ensuring that the results of such an evaluation will be reliable and admissible. Contact us today for additional help.

CA Vehicle Defect Attorney on Dealers Selling Used Cars Without Repair or Notice to Purchaser of Recall

November 19, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

headon.jpgIt seems like almost every week we hear about a new auto recall, many involving defects that could cause serious injuries or even lead to fatalities if necessary repairs are not made. When a recall is announced, those who own the subject vehicles often receive a notice in the mail about the recall. In other cases, the owners simply hear about the recall through the media, their ears perking up when their make/model/year is involved. What if, however, you purchase a used vehicle that was involved in a recall but never repaired? It is unlikely you’d remember every recall, especially a recall on a vehicle you didn’t own yet at the time it was announced. Our Northern California vehicle defect lawyer hopes that the car dealer would warn the buyer of any outstanding recalls, but a recent report suggests this may not always be the case.

Used Cars, Auto Recalls, and California Law
ABC7 recently spoke with a Fresno man who purchased a Dodge Ram from a used car lot. After owning it for fewer than 125 days, he was driving on Highway 41 when the drive shaft separated from the vehicle’s rear axle. The incident could have killed the new owner and bystanders.

Perhaps the most frightening part of the foregoing story is that was legal for the dealer to stay silent, hence the report including other examples noting that “potentially dangerous cars are hiding in plain sight.” As part of the investigation, a reporter spoke to a salesman about an advertised vehicle and was not told about two ongoing recalls despite directly asking the salesperson. A manager suggested that the office staff would intervene before the sale occurred, but the report cited examples that run counter to this promise. Another manager suggested new checks and balances would prevent the Dodge Ram accident, but the article doesn’t contain any evidence that this has occurred.

Proposed Changes, Purchaser Protections, and Civil Liability
An advocacy group is working to change the law on used car sales and recalls in California. Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, aka “C.A.R.S.,” is asking the legislature to pass a state law that would prevent dealers from selling vehicles under active recalls. Until such a law is passed, C.A.R.S. spokesperson Rosemary Shahan says people cannot trust the dealer and should do their own research before purchasing a vehicle. The organization is hoping to have a ballot initiative in 1016 that would require dealers to disclose any open recalls.

For readers considering a used car purchase, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provides a list of recalls and a database searchable by model and year. Additionally, the site allows you to use the unique Vehicle Identification Number (aka VIN) to see if a specific car has been repaired.

For those in Northern California who suffered injury due to a vehicle defect, our Oakland auto defect attorney can help determine any and all legal claims you may have, including claims against the manufacturer and/or claims against a seller. These claims involve complex issues of product liability and consumer protection law, issues Attorney Brod can help you understand and navigate as he works to get you compensation for your injuries or for a loved one’s death.

See Related Blog Posts:
Guardrails: When a Safety Device Becomes Dangerous
Vehicle Recalls: Keeping Drivers Safe on the Road

(Image credit: Oragesky3)

Cigarette Fires & Civil Liability

November 18, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

For many years now, both scientists and lay people have known that smoking is not only dangerous, smoking kills. Smoking, according to the Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”), damages almost every organ in the body and holds the dubious distinction of being the top cause of preventable death in our country. Our Oakland fire injury lawyer notes that in addition to the health danger to smokers and bystanders, cigarettes and other lit products carry a fire risk that can cause additional injuries and fatalities. Cigarette fires are particularly tragic because they are wholly avoidable.

Hayward Home Fire Blamed on Cigarette
Instead of enjoying a leisurely Sunday morning, people on the 25600 block of Soto Road were jolted awake by fire alarms that sounded around 7:15 AM. As The Oakland Tribune reported, the fire began in one bedroom of the two-story home and spread to another bedroom, destroying both rooms. However, firefighters were able to limit the damage to the upstairs. While all three people living in the home were displaced, they did escape. Two cats perished in the fire and two others ran away.
Hayward Fire Capt. Don Nicholson and Police Lt. Ken Forkus were among the team dispatched to fight Sunday’s blaze. Forkus told reporters that the blaze was accidental. Captain Nicholson provided more detail, explaining that a lit cigarette was forgotten and ultimately caused the fire. A son admitted he was the one who forgot the cigarette. Nicholson noted that the event could have been avoided had the cigarette been extinguished.

Cigarette Fire Statistics
cigarettes.jpgIn July 2013, the National Fire Protection Association published “The Smoking-Material Fire Problem,” a study of fires involving cigarettes and other smoking materials. The Executive Summary opens with the fact that fire departments in the United States responded to around 90,000 smoking-material fires in 2011 and 90,800 smoking-material fires in 2010. As a result of the smoking-related blazes in 2011, an estimated 540 civilians perished (a substantial drop from 2010), 1,640 civilians were injured, and directly-related property damage totaled around.$621 million. The vast majority of deaths and injuries from smoking-material fires occurred in home structures (490 civilian deaths, 1,370 injuries), with 19% of all home fire fatalities stemming from smoking-materials. Most of the fires themselves occurred in outdoor settings with some 60,200 of the fires involving trash, vegetation, or other outdoor locations and approximately 17,600 occurring in home structures.

Liability for Cigarette Fire Injuries
If you or a loved one was injured in a fire caused by a cigarette or other tobacco product, you may have a civil injury claim. Potential defendants could include:

  • The cigarette company (ex. a product liability claim based on not making a safer form of cigarette);

  • Other manufacturers (ex. a product liability claim based on a mattress being made of unsafe, overly-flammable materials);

  • The smoker (ex. a negligence claim against an apartment building neighbor for failing to extinguish their cigarette and sparking a building fire).

These are just a few examples and the proper defendants will vary with the precise facts. Schedule a free consultation with our Oakland cigarette fire injury attorney to discuss your individual case.

See Related Blog Posts:
Fires, Construction Sites, and Third-Party Injury Suits
Injury Lawyer Discusses Prevention Following Pair of Tragic San Jose Mobile Home Fires

(Image by Flickr user matze_ott)

Taking Advantage of the Digital Switch: CFO Admits Lying to Receive Medicare’s Electronic Health Records Incentive Payments

November 17, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

Mention the phrase “card catalog” to someone over age 30 (or maybe 35?) and they will recall searching for books in the library by leafing through small notecards listing titles, authors, and Dewey Decimal numbers. Mention the phrase to a teen and you’ll probably elicit a blank stare. The card catalog is just one example of a formerly physical record system that has been replaced by electronic records. The shift to electronic records remains a work in progress in the health care field and incentives are being offered to encourage health care organizations to make the move to electronic health records. Sadly it comes as little surprise to the experts at our health care fraud law firm in Northern California that there are those looking to take advantage of the incentives and willing to defraud the government and the health care system for their own financial gain.

CFO Falsely Told Officials Hospital Made Meaningful Use of Electronic Records
A press release carried by KTRE, an ABC affiliate in Texas, announced that a former hospital CFO pled guilty last week to making false statements that officials say were part of a larger health care fraud scheme. While acting as CFO for Shelby Regional Medical Center, Joe White oversaw the hospital’s implementation of an electronic computerhealth.jpghealth records system. In this role, White made statements to Medicare attesting that the hospital made meaningful use of electronic records and qualified for certain payments pursuant to Medicare’s Electronic Health Record Incentive Program. According to White’s guilty plea, he knew the hospital did not qualify as a meaningful user at the time he made these statements on November 20, 2012. As a result of White’s false attestations, the Medical Center received $785,655 from Medicare.

White’s guilty plea comes amidst other fraud charges tied to the Shelby Regional Medical Center. As reported in The Dallas Morning News White’s former employer Dr. Tariq Mahmood was convicted back in July on 15 counts of fraud. Mahmood owned and operated a chain of hospitals, including Shelby Regional. A jury found that he directed hospital billing coders to alter diagnoses and assign codes for more serious diagnostic codes to Medicare claims than the patients’ medical charts reflected. The fraud involved over $1.1 million in federal Medicare claims. Four of the six hospitals in the chain have since closed and the remaining two are under new leadership but still struggling, allegedly due to Mahmood’s failed leadership.

The Danger of Complicity, The Importance of Whistleblowers
While the $785,655 payment made by Medicare as a result White’s fraudulent statements is a tiny fraction of the billions lost to Medicare fraud each year, every instance of medical fraud takes money from the already-strained health care system. Wrongdoing associated with electronic records is particularly concerning given the enormous implications for patient privacy. More broadly, those at the helm of large health care fraud schemes succeed because others lend their support. In some cases, this comes in the form of “little” frauds that add up to a larger scheme and “smaller” lies that lend support to the bigger plot. In other (and more frequent) cases, the fraud is supported by the silence of those who see the wrongdoing but are afraid or unwilling to speak up.

We understand it is hard to challenge company leadership and scary to go against the tide. This is where we come in. We work with whistleblowers, ensuring their interests are protected while building case and using the law to stop the fraud and recover wrongfully diverted funds. When a private individual successfully helps the government recover lost monies, the whistleblower is often eligible for a substantial reward in recognition of his/her efforts. Call to arrange a no-cost consultation with a whistleblowers’ Medicare fraud attorney in Santa Rosa, San Francisco, or Oakland.

See Related Blog Posts:
The Potential for Health Care Fraud Involving Electronic Health Records
When a Seemingly Harmless Editing Tool Can Contribute to Medicare Fraud

California Product Liability Lawyer Concerned by Danger Detergent Pods Pose to Young Children

November 14, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

It is an unfortunate reality that there are some topics we expect to discuss repeatedly on this blog. While we wish drunk driving accidents, motorcycle crashes, and dog bites were one-time affairs, that a lesson was learned and a fact-pattern never reoccurred, but we know that isn’t the case. We will continue to write about these incidents in the hopes of preventing them, in order to educate those harmed about their legal rights, and to let the injured know we are here to help. There are also topics we sincerely believe won’t make headlines more than once. While the general topic of product-related injuries is one we know will recur, our San Francisco product liability law office never expected that more than two years later we’d be revisiting the risk of children ingesting detergent pods.

17,000+ Young Children Poisoned by Detergent Pods
Earlier this week, CNN reported on the continuing problem of children ingesting single-use detergent packets. Young children appear to mistake the colorful pods for candy. Researchers with the journal Pediatrics found that 17,230 children under age six were accidentally poisoned by the pods between March 2012 and April 2013. Those numbers that work out to almost one child poisoned per hour and 7.5% of the children suffered a “moderate or major medical outcome” with 4.4% requiring hospitalization. Ingesting the detergent pods can cause immediate respiratory distress and violent vomiting and exposure to the eye can cause severe irritation and a temporary vision loss.

pods.jpgConcluding the packets pose a “real risk” to children, the researchers who assembled the foregoing statistics called for a new national standard addressing the packaging and labeling of the detergent products. They are not the first to call for change. In 2012, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York asked the Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”) to require detergent manufacturers use child proof packaging when selling detergent pods and to improve product labeling to warn about the danger of children mistaking the pods for food. The following year, the CPSC warned parents about the danger and asked manufacturers to improve packaging. However, the agency did not require any change.

Product Liability Law – Compensating Victims, Hitting Manufacturers in the Wallet
Despite an overall decline in the number of child poisonings stemming from ingesting household products, the number poisonings tied to the detergent pods has grown significantly.
While prevention is preferable, there may be legal recourse when a child is poisoned by a detergent pod. Product liability law exists to provide compensation when consumer products harm the public. These cases typically revolve around one of three basic theories: 1) Design defect (the design is inherently dangerous, even though safer alternative designs exist); 2) Manufacturing defect (the design is typically safe, but the specific item didn’t adhere to that design and that defect made it dangerous); or 3) Failure to warn (the manufacturer/seller failed to provide adequate warnings about a known danger).

In recognition of the duty companies owe when releasing a product into the marketplace and the difficulty a plaintiff would have proving traditional negligence, California uses a strict liability rule in product liability cases. The plaintiff does not need to prove that the defendant had a dangerous intent. Further, a plaintiff can prevail even if the conduct fell within industry norms (i.e. other companies would the company acted reasonably, meaning a traditional negligence claim would not be successful).

A Plea for Change, A Commitment to Victims
We sincerely hope this is the last time we discuss children being poisoned by detergent pods. This problem has gone on for too long and something needs to change in order to keep our children safe. While parents should certainly keep all detergent products out of the reach of young children, manufacturers should also work make the product less enticing and take other steps to prevent children from ingesting the packets. In addition to compensating victims, product liability claims that hit manufacturers in the wallet may provide an added incentive for companies to change.

We are committed to helping members of our Northern California community who are injured because companies placed unnecessarily dangerous products on store shelves. If you or your child is injured because of a dangerous or defective product, call our product liability law firm in San Francisco or at one of other convenient Northern California locations to discuss how we can help.

See Related Blog Posts:
Child Poison Risk: Single Use Detergent Pods
Northern California Injury Looks At the Danger of Trampoline Injuries

(Photo courtesy of U.S. CPSC)

Drugged Driving: Advocating for the Victims, Working to Prevent Future Incidents

November 13, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

We have to imagine that people who drive impaired know the theoretical dangers, but have little or no experience with the reality of lives irrevocably changed by an impaired driver. We hold tight to this belief because we can’t imagine anyone would want to be responsible for the pain we see on the faces of accident victims. In drugged driving cases, our clients typically fall into three groups: The injured, many of whom will be dealing with that injury for a lifetime; Those who watched a loved one cope with injury, a truly painful experience in itself; and Those who are grieving for a close family member. We are proud to serve as a drugged driving law firm in Oakland, Santa Rosa, San Francisco and throughout Northern California and we are also proud to support efforts to prevent drugged driving and make the roads safe for us all.

Drugs Eyed in Bay Bridge Crash
It was just before 8:30 P.M. last Saturday night when the Bay Bridge saw a major crash that left three injured and traffic backed up for hours. According to The San Francisco Chronicle, 32 year-old Karrie Lyn Morgan of Vacaville was driving westbound in the bridge’s eastbound lanes when her car slammed head-on into one vehicle and sideswiped two others in the area just east of Treasure Island. The California Highway Patrol reported that Morgan was high on drugs at the time of the events that sent three, including Morgan, to San Francisco General Hospital. Authorities booked Morgan in County Jail on suspicion of driving without a license and causing injury while driving under the influence of drugs. The investigation is looking into how the vehicle was able to enter the bridge in the wrong direction.

Details on Drugged Driving
A National Institute on Drug Abuse (“NIDA”) webpage, updated October 2013, suggests that 10.3 million people (age 12 and up) drove under the influence of drugs or alcohol in the year prior to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. These numbers are self-reported, which probably also means they are a significant underestimate of the real usage rates. A 2007 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that testing showed in excess of 16% potleaf.jpgof weekend, nighttime drivers had used some form of drug (legal or illegal) with more than 11% testing positive for an illicit substance.

Putting alcohol aside, marijuana is the drug most commonly found in the systems of impaired drivers and crash victims. Studies found anywhere from 4 to 14% of drivers killed or injured in traffic crashes tested positive for THC, the drug’s active ingredient. Research suggests marijuana can negatively impact perception, attentiveness, and the ability to draw upon past experiences; impairment increases when marijuana is paired with alcohol. One specific study from a Maryland trauma center in 2003 found marijuana in the systems of 26.9% of seriously injured drivers. The study also identified the following drugs with the usage rates in parentheticals: Cocaine (11.6%); Benzodiazepines, (ex. Valium and Xanax; 11.2%); Opiates (ex. OxyContin and heroin), and other prescription drugs (10.2%).

Working for Today’s Victims, Preventing Tomorrow’s
We are a law firm for the grieving and a law firm for the injured in Oakland and throughout Northern California. At the same time, we are dedicated to preventing future accidents. Some may ask how we can truly commit to the latter when fewer accidents means fewer cases for the firm. We look into the eyes of our clients and would reply: “How can we not work for prevention when we’ve seen the pain?”

See Related Blog Posts:
Oakland Injury Law Firm on the Dangers of Drugged Driving
Focusing on Drugged Driving Following the Death of a Young Victim

(Image by Matthew Kenwrick)

Tight Housing Market Empowers Landlords, San Francisco Tenants’ Attorney Protects Renters

November 11, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

At the Brod Law Firm, there is an underlying theme that ties the majority of our cases together – a desire to use the law to help the injured and the wronged. Often, the wrongdoer held a power advantage over our client from a driver who hit a pedestrian, cyclist, or a stopped vehicle that couldn’t avoid the impact to a lawyer who violates her professional duties to a tenant at the mercy of an economically powerful landlord. The final example is becoming increasingly common and the power imbalance is growing as the rental market throughout Northern California tightens. After looking at a story that highlights the San Francisco rental shortage adding to this imbalance, this post will review some of the tools our Northern California tenants’ law firm uses to protect tenants in San Francisco and throughout the region.

Developer Distributes 6,800 Applications and Would-Be Tenants Return 2,595 Applications For a Mere 18 Apartments
According to The San Francisco Chronicle, when it construction began on an apartment complex at 2175 Market Street, developer Forest City vowed to include 20% affordable units, more than the 12% required by the City. From The Chronicle building’s lobby, Forest City passed out more than 6,8000 applications and 2,595 were returned by people interested in what amounted to 18 apartments. A lottery narrowed the field to 400 and, before a crowd of more than 100, the developer drew names in a process one attendee, who had been through two prior housing lotteries, compared to “auctioning off hope.”

Importantly, the lottery was not for free housing. It reflects a growing lack of affordable housing where even a family with three children and two parents earning over $50,000 a year may be unable to find housing they can afford in San Francisco. In another case, affordable housing nonprofit Mercy Housing opened 100 units of affordable housing and received 2,995 applications.

Laws Protect Tenants Even in a Market that Empowers Landlords
While many developers are committed to reversing the trend and providing safe, clean, affordable housing, others take advantage of the tight market. With few options, a tenant may feel “stuck” in a lease with an unscrupulous landlord and may believe they have no choice but to accept a unit that is unfit for habitation. This is where we can help. As a tenants’ law firm, we advocate for tenants to ensure that everyone has access to safe, clean, habitable housing. The following are just a few of the laws and principles that exist to advance tenants’ rights:

  • The Implied Warranty of Habitability – State law requires landlords/owners to maintain units fit for human occupation. While this is read into all California housing contracts and is not strictly defined, Code 1941.1 details some elements of the warranty such as running water, heating, and keeping the unit vermin-free.

  • Protections against unfair eviction – Both local and state rules protect a tenant from being evicted without cause.

  • Protection against health threats – Legislature- and court-made laws protect against mold, bedbugs, secondhand smoke, and other dangers to tenants’ health.

  • The San Francisco Rent Ordinance – A section of the City Code provides special protections for renters in the City including rent control for certain units, protection against harassment/discrimination, and the right to bring a lawsuit for violations of the Code.

  • Contract-based rights – California’s Department of Consumer Affairs strongly recommends use of a written lease. Additional rights can grow out of the rental agreement.

Many of the foregoing protections are addressed at greater length in previous posts and there are many other laws and principles that can be used to protect tenants. Notably, several of the tenant protection laws also include attorney’s fee clauses and other provisions that help tenants enforce their legal rights

Advocating for Tenants in Northern California
If you believe your landlord is taking advantage of the tight housing market and that your unit is unfit for habitation, call our San Francisco tenant protection attorney. We offer a free consultation and work with clients to ensure any fees are reasonable, pursue any opportunities to recover attorneys’ fees from the other party, and create a workable payment plan that meets our client’s needs.

See Related Blog Posts:

Protecting Tenants from Unscrupulous Landlords in San Francisco’s Tight Housing Market
What Does “Habitability” Mean in California?

Protecting Those Who Protect Us: Pursuing Scammers Posing as Veteran-Owned Businesses

November 10, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

As Veterans’ Day approaches, our firm would like to take a moment to thank the men and women of the armed forces who fight for our freedom and our safety, individuals who risk their lives for the American dream. We owe a debt of gratitude to each of you and to your families. It is in recognition of this debt that the government helps veterans in their post-service careers, including those who open and operate small businesses. We support these efforts and angered when scammers take unfair advantage of these programs, committing what amounts to veteran-owned business fraud. Partnering with whistleblowers as a California-based government contracts fraud law firm allows to show our gratitude and help protect the rights of those who protect us all.

Government Programs for Businesses Owned & Operated by Veterans contract2.jpg
The federal government recognizes the importance of veterans by assisting them in building their own businesses after their service. Last week, the Small Business Association (“SBA”) held the first-ever National Veterans Small Business Week to celebrate the nearly one in ten small businesses owned by veterans. The federal government, including the Department of Homeland Security, also sets aside certain contracting opportunities for service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses (“SDVOSB”).

Company Pays $1 Million to Settle False Claims Act Allegations
On October 29, 2014, the Department of Justice announced a settlement agreement pursuant to which North Florida Shipyards and Matt Self, its president, will pay $1 million to the United States. The False Claims Act suit alleged that North Florida created a front company, Ind-Mar Services Inc., in order to receive certain Coast Guard contracts set aside for SDVOSBs. In order to qualify, service-disabled veterans must own and manage the company and must also perform a minimum of 51% of the labor. The suit alleged that Ind-Mar was merely a contracting vehicle, used to win five ship repair contracts while North Florida actually performed the work and received the related profits. According to the allegations, Ind-Mar would not have been awarded the contracts had the Coast Guard and SBA known it was merely a front.

North Florida, Ind-Mar, Self and three others were suspended from all government contracting in December 2013. In April 2014, Self and North Florida admitted to creating and operating Ind-Mar in violation of SBA statutes and regulations and contrary to the provisions of their Coast Guard contracts. The $1 million settlement resolves allegations originally brought by Robert Hallstein and Earle Yerger via the False Claims Act’s qui tam provisions. Although the government intervened and took over the action, the pair will receive a $180,000 payment pursuant to the Act. The current settlement is not itself an admission of liability beyond those admissions previously made.

Partnering to Fight Fraud
Commenting on the case, the Justice Department emphasized that those who wish to do business with the government must act fairly and honestly. A. Lee Bentley III, a United States Attorney for the Middle District of Florida, added: “Special programs to assist service disabled veterans are an important part of the SBA’s business development initiative….False claims such as this undermine the integrity of this vital program and, where found, will be vigorously pursued by our Office.” Similar sentiments were voiced by SBA Inspector General Peggy E. Gustafsin who expressed a commitment to ensuring only eligible businesses receive SDVOSB set-asides and called the settlement “a strong message to those driven by greed to fraudulently obtain access to contracting opportunities set-aside for deserving small businesses owned and operated by service disabled veterans.”

If you have witnessed a company or individual abusing set-asides for veterans (or other specially-designated groups), coming forward is not only the right choice, it is also the patriotic choice. Attorney Greg Brod can help you investigate and file a whistleblowers’ False Claims Act lawsuit in California’s state or federal courts. Call to arrange a free consultation.

See Related Blog Posts:
The False Claims Act: From Shoddy Civil War Uniforms to Costly Defense Contracts in 2014

Whistleblowers’ Attorney Discusses Guilty Plea in Case Involving Contractor Providing Substandard Parts to Department of Defense

(Image by Dan Moyle)

Caught on Tape – Using Video Evidence in Support of a California Personal Injury Claim

November 7, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

The heart of personal injury law lies at the intersection of the law and the facts. At the Brod Law Firm, we pride ourselves on knowing the law and on our ability to gather evidence to support our client’s claim for monetary compensation. Two important precepts that govern litigation are: 1) Evidence is not simply what happened, but what can be proven; and 2) If it isn’t in evidence (including testimonial evidence and all other forms) then, as far as the court is concerned, it didn’t happen. Surveillance video evidence is among the most powerful forms of evidence in the personal injury arena and a side effect of our digital world is that it isn’t unusual to have an injury-causing event captured on camera. When video evidence is available, our San Francisco personal injury lawyer works to obtain the video and to ensure the video fits together with all the evidence to tell our client’s story and, ultimately, help our client recover all the compensation the law allows.

Video May Hold Clues to Jogger’s Death
A surveillance video may prove critical to understanding what led to the death of a pedestrian in San Francisco on Thursday morning. As reported in The San Francisco Chronicle, 51 year-old Lori Helmer was jogging when she was struck by a Golden Gate Transit bus at 6:15 A.M. According to police, the bus was making a left turn to head northbound on Van Ness Avenue from eastbound Lombard Street. There is a traffic light at the intersection, but it is not yet clear what color light the bus had when it made the turn. Helmer was in or near the crosswalk at the time of impact.

An ambulance transported Helmer to San Francisco General Hospital where doctors declared her dead as a result of her injuries. Neither the bus driver nor his passengers were injured in the crash. Police are investigating the crash and plan to consult video footage recorded by the bus’s front-facing camera.

Sources of Video Evidence video.jpg
Video evidence in motor vehicle injury cases can come from a number of sources. Dashboard cameras can be found on police cruisers, buses, taxicabs, and even some private vehicles. Surveillance videos from nearby stores may also catch useful footage. Cell phone videos are a more recent addition to the pool of video evidence. In some cases, a bystander may accidentally capture an accident while filming something else. More often, both people involved in an incident as well as bystanders may pull out their phones and capture the moments following a collision. Among the evidence the latter sort of videos can capture are statements that contradict what a defendant says at a later date.

Obtaining Video Footage in California Injury Cases
After we identify the existence of video evidence, the next step is obtaining the footage. Time is of the essence and too long of a delay may result in evidence being lost (ex. a store surveillance camera might have captured useful footage of a crash, but may only keep recordings for a set time). In some cases, particularly when the footage is in the hands of a third-party, all we have to do to obtain it is ask. However, often we need to file a subpoena or other legal paperwork in order to obtain footage. There are special processes for evidence in the hands of a government entity. Obtaining evidence properly is critical to ensuring admissibility.

In many cases, video evidence is in the hands of the other party (ex. a private bus company may have footage of the bus hitting a minivan and injuring the family inside). We use the formal discovery process to find out what evidence the other party (or parties) has, knows about, or intends to use in their case. This is a complex process and having an experienced attorney on your side makes a difference. Even the “self-help” information provided by the California judicial system notes, “Discovery is very complicated and often requires knowledge of evidence rules and other legal strategies. It is often necessary to have a lawyer help you with discovery.”

Using Videos and Other Evidence to Help the Injured
Attorney Brod has many years’ experience litigating personal injury cases in California’s state and federal courts. He understands how to obtain evidence, how to get it admitted into court, and how to use it to tell the story behind an injury or death. In some cases, evidence is admitted for some purposes but not others. This is a complex legal reality that requires an experienced legal practitioner, able to frame evidence in a manner that satisfies the court and persuades the jury to find in the plaintiff’s favor. Video evidence can also be extremely useful in settlement negotiations.

Working with video evidence is just one of the ways we help our clients recover critically needed and much deserved compensation. If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of someone else’s actions (or inaction), call us. From our convenient personal injury law offices in San Francisco, Oakland, and Santa Rosa we serve the full Northern California region and we take cases elsewhere in the state on a case-by-case basis.

See Related Blog Posts:
Understanding Injury Law: Preparing Your Case Begins with the Facts
Law 101: The Hearsay Rule

(Image by Frédéric Bisson)

Fires, Construction Sites, and Third-Party Injury Suits

November 6, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

Construction work is a risky occupation. Certain dangers are particular to construction sites (i.e. falls from scaffolding); other times workers face an increased risk of a common danger. Construction site fires are an example of the latter type of threat. Although workers are usually required to turn to the workers compensation system for claims against their employers, third party liability can provide additional recourse. Our Oakland construction injury attorney stands ready to help injured workers obtain all the compensation provided under state and federal law.

Construction Site Fire Destroys Homes-in-Progress in Pleasanton Area firetruck2.jpg
Firefighters were called to a construction site fire in Pleasanton around 2 A.M. on Tuesday November 4th. ABC7 spoke with Joe Tesla, Battalion Chief for the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department, who said firefighters didn’t need to look for the address for the site -- the blaze was so big that they could see where they were headed the moment they left the station. The fire engulfed and destroyed homes being built on Valley Avenue. Two homes will need to be demolished, two others were minimally damaged.

Upon arriving at the scene, the fire department found that the neighborhood was so new that the fire hydrants didn’t even have water in them yet. Tesla said the complication added three or four minutes to the timeline since incoming units ended up bringing water to the scene. Firefighters and community members initially suspected arson, but investigators later traced the blaze to copper pipes that had recently been heated.

Fire Danger on Construction Sites
In 2009, Fire Protection Engineering, a publication by an industry trade group, carried a piece titled Construction Fire Safety: Phase by Phase. Author Mat Chibbaro with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration opens by noting that all types of buildings are more susceptible to fire and more likely to suffer its effects during construction, demolition, or renovation. He cites a range of reasons including the presence of numerous ignition sources and combustible materials. Fire can also spread easily given incomplete fire protection systems and a lack of the compartmentalization that can slow flames. Construction workers who spend the most time at construction sites face the risk or death, injury, or scarring from these blazes.

Protecting Workers: Mixing Prevention and Litigation
hardhat.jpgActions that can protect workers from harm include appointing a fire protection engineer to liaise with a range of disciplines and building open lines of communication. Design planning is also key and includes proper phasing of more dangerous activities. Chibbaro suggests that specific risks (i.e. open/other burning, materials that may spontaneously combust, temporary heating/electric equipment, and flammable materials) can be mitigated by a skilled fire protection engineer (though we’d suggest the possibility of bias given the journal’s base). Protection mechanisms can vary throughout the different stages of the construction process.

When fire injury does occur, protecting the worker often becomes a matter of getting the worker critically needed compensation. In prior posts, we discussed how a worker can use third party claims to recover damages beyond the limited amounts and types of money recoverable under workers compensation. Construction fires are a great example of when this “extra” recovery can be essential given the immense physical and emotional impact of fire injuries. Call our Northern California construction injury lawyer to learn more.

See Related Blog Posts:
Beyond Workers’ Comp: A Look at Third Party Claims Inspired by Scary Moments for Two Sets of California Window Washers
“The Sky Is Falling!”: Bay Area Injury Lawyer Examines Legal Rights Following Injuries from Falling Debris

(Truck image by Chad Kainz, Hat image by Davide Guglielmo)

Staying Afloat -- Santa Rosa Transportation Injury Lawyer Discusses the Danger of Capsizing After Weekend Boating Tragedy

November 4, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

As we hope is evident throughout this blog, our firm is committed to safe travels on Northern California’s roadways; a commitment that extends to all travelers, whether on four wheels, two wheels, or two feet. Our commitment also extends to those whose travels aren’t on roads at all. Boating safety is another element of transportation safety. Safe boating includes knowing how to prevent capsizing and what to do if their vessel does capsize. As on land, prevention is always preferable, but our Sonoma boating accident attorney is prepared to advocate for people injured on the water as a result of someone else’s negligence.

Tragedy on the Water in Bodega Bay Leaves Four Dead, One Injured boatinbodega.jpg
On Saturday, a boat capsized in Bodega Bay, off Sonoma County’s coast, leaving four dead and one injured. As the San Francisco Chronicle reports, the 32-foot vessel, normally a salmon fishing boat, was part of celebrations for the opening day of crab season. According to the sole survivor’s statement to police, the group of recreational crabbers departed Bodega Harbor around 8:30 A.M. and had turned back when a “rogue wave” hit the vessel’s left side around 10 A.M. The boat flipped, tossing all five occupants into the 58-degree waters.

One victim died at the scene. Officials tried to revive three others en route to the hospital but they were unable to save them. The only survivor swam to Bodega Rock where a helicopter rescued him, hoisting him up using a 100-foot line. He was very cold but appeared to only have minor scrapes and bruises. None of the boat’s occupants was wearing a life vest.

Identifying and Preventing Factors that Can Contribute to Capsizing
The title of a U.S. Coast Guard (“USCG”) article published in November 2011 says plenty on its own: “The Only Priority If You Capsize: Survive.” Capsizing is, according to the USCG, among the most common causes of deaths and injuries in recreational boating. More specifically, capsizing led to 220 boating injuries and 180 boating deaths in 2009.

Weather is often part of the reason boats capsize, but human error also plays a substantial role and good seamanship can reduce the risk of capsizing. Overloading and/or improperly distributing weight can contribute to overturning, especially in the case of smaller vessels. Inexperience at the helm is another risk factor. Boaters must learn to control turning speed, anchor safely, and approach waves properly (ex. take a large wave slow and either head on or at a small angle). Much like drivers on the road, boaters must be aware of surrounding conditions including other vessels and occupants should always wear a seat belt, everyone aboard a boat should wear a life jacket at all times.

What To Do If Your Boat Capsizes
If you do capsize, avoid panic. Many times, a capsized vessel will right itself and boating/sailing lessons often instruct boaters on how to upright a smaller boat. Often, vessels will stay afloat even when flooded or upside-down. In the latter case, climb onto the hull if possible and help others do the same. Since the vessel will be among the largest objects in the water, staying close by will also help rescuers locate you and your fellow passengers. Only leave the boat if it is moving towards a hazard (or becoming one itself). If you have an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, activate it.

Negligent Decisions and Legal Liability for Boating Accidents
Like car accidents, boating accidents can often be traced to a careless or negligent decision. Behaviors that contribute to a vessel capsizing (e.g. a captain who hasn’t received adequate training) or that cause greater dangers in the event a boat capsizes (e.g. a rented boat with insufficient life jackets), may give rise to legal liability. If you or someone you love was hurt or killed in a Northern California boating accident, our team can help. Call our boating injury law firm in Santa Rosa, Oakland, or San Francisco to learn more about the law and our legal expertise.

See Related Blog Posts:
Boating Fires: Causes and Seeking Compensation from At-Fault Parties
Bay Area Boating Injury Lawyer on Boating Education in California

(Image by Raniel Diaz; photo unrelated to news story but listed as taken in Bodega Bay)

Health Care Fraud Scammers Leave Honest Americans Facing Impossible Choices, Care Denials

November 3, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

Most Americans know someone who has struggled to get needed care approved by his/her health insurance provider. As a result, many feel forced to choose between medical care and other essentials. A survey conducted by a national network of food banks found almost 2/3 of client households faced the unenviable choice between food and medical care costs in the past year. Both private insurance and government programs should help prevent such dilemmas, especially among the elderly, the disabled, and current/former military members. Denial of legitimate claims and the parallel issue of high medical bills are another cost of health care fraud. When individuals and groups bill for unneeded care, they waste limited resources and make honest claims look suspect. This is yet another reason our San Francisco health care fraud law firm is part of the fight against fraud.

Dignity Health Settles False Claims Act Charges
On October 30, the Justice Department announced a settlement involving allegations that a company overcharged government healthcare programs, submitting false and inflated claims and diverting money from genuine needs. Dignity Health is a San Francisco based hospital chain with 39 hospitals in three states. Dignity agreed to pay $37 million to settle False Claims Act allegations initially brought by Kathleen Hawkins, a former employee, healthcost.jpg who will receive a substantial award in recognition of her role and efforts. The company also entered into a corporate integrity agreement that requires enhanced compliance efforts over the next five years. This includes a requirement that Dignity “retain independent review organizations to review the accuracy of the company’s claims for services furnished to federal health care program beneficiaries.”

Harm to Consumers
While Dignity maintains a denial of liability, the settlement resolves allegations against 13 network hospitals. According to the government, between 2006 and 2010, the hospitals overcharged Medicare and Tricare (a military health care program) by billing for more expensive inpatient care for elective cardiovascular procedures where less costly outpatient surgeries were more medically appropriate. Per the press release, this practice “can result in substantial financial harm to federal health care programs.” Similar allegations involved billing for inpatient care when less expensive outpatient services were appropriate for spinal procedures (2000-2008) and general care (2006-2013).

Special Agent Ivan Negroni, with the Health and Human Service’s Office of the Inspector General’s San Francisco office, voiced a commitment to holding hospitals accountable when they use unnecessary inpatient stays to boost company profits. He adds, “Both patients and taxpayers deserve to have medical decisions made solely on what is best for the patient based on medical necessity.” In addition to diverting limited funds, inflated billings cast doubt over all claims, including genuine claims. This is one reason it can be hard to obtain coverage for needed medical care.

Working With Whistleblowers
In our nation, in this day and age, people should not die awaiting medical care…but they do. Health care fraud is one reason for this tragic reality; it diverts needed funds and renders every claim suspect. We believe that within every company that commits fraud there is at least one person who values truth and the health of our nation more than s/he values ill-gotten profits. If you are this person and you’ve witnessed health care fraud in California, our Northern California whistleblowers’ law firm would be proud to work with you. Call to arrange a no-obligation consultation.

See Related Blog Posts:
Health Care Whistleblowers: Dedicated to Ending Health Care Fraud
The Experience of Whistleblowers

(Image by Flickr User 401K2013)