Looking Back and Looking Ahead: Gratitude for Our 2011 Clients, Service for More in 2012

December 30, 2011 by Gregory J. Brod

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As another year comes to a close, The Brod Law Firm wants to thank all the clients who entrusted us to help them in their legal matters throughout 2011. We are proud of our work as your San Francisco personal injury law firm. We appreciate every client who trusts our team to provide legal support after a San Francisco car accident or other life-altering event in Northern California. We enjoy our work as victim’s advocates, but we can only help when victims reach out.

This blog often focuses on news stories and examines both legal and safety issues raised by current stories in San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, and the surrounding regions. As the calendar flips, we’d like to take a moment to discuss, on a more general and fundamental level, what we do as personal injury attorneys in Northern California. When a potential client reached out to our firm, we will schedule an initial consultation. This meeting is free of charge and allows our attorney to speak with you about your specific and unique case. In this discussion, we will discuss the appropriate approach to your specific circumstances. This is the start of a team effort, one in which the client is always actively involved as our team brings our legal experience to your case.

Many times, personal injury claims can be resolved without trial. Personal injury lawyers are skilled negotiators. The negotiation process is informed by our legal experience which allows us to evaluate the economic value of your claim. Accepting a settlement offer without your own legal advocate is risky because the initial offer rarely represents the true value of your claim. We have the experience to help you determine whether an offer is fair. We provide guidance but the decision to accept or reject an offer is always yours.

Settlement offers are also higher when the other side knows you are fully prepared to go to trial. Our team is always ready to represent each client at trial should negotiations fail to result in a fair offer. We understand the complex rules that govern the civil court system including the deadlines and the legal concepts that govern California injury claims. While the criminal courts focus on punishing wrongdoers for violating the law, a personal injury suit in civil court focuses on compensating the victim. As many Americans learned during the initial O.J. Simpson trials, the burden of proof is different in civil court and, in some cases, a victim may recover in civil court even if a criminal case is not successful. We know the civil system and we are prepared to advocate for our clients before a judge or jury.

When you engage The Brod Law Firm, our team becomes your team. We not only work “for” our clients, we also work “with” them. We have the legal knowledge and experience but we also know that every case and every client is unique. If you hire our firm, you will always be kept informed about your case and will be involved in all major decisions related to your suit. In most personal injury cases, we work on a contingent fee. This means there is no charge unless you recover for your injuries.

We hope that 2012 brings happiness and health to all of our fellow Californians. If you do, however, find yourself injured as a result of someone else’s actions, please do reach out. As a personal injury law firm for San Francisco and all of Northern California, we are ready and able to help victims in 2012 and beyond. We are a phone call away and prepared to guide victims through the legal system and help them begin the process of recovery.

See Related Blog Posts:
Legal Perspective on Property-Related Accidents
Guilty Plea in Fatal Hit-And-Run: The Aftermath of a Pedestrian Fatality

New Year’s Eve Has the Highest Instances of Pedestrian Fatalities

December 29, 2011 by Gregory J. Brod

Everyone has heard it before- Don’t drink and drive. Fatal automobile accidents increase dramatically during high traffic seasons, and holidays are the worst, combining more vehicles on the road with an increased number of intoxicated drivers.

But what about intoxicated pedestrians? New Year’s Eve has the fifth highest number of crash fatalities overall, but it is the number one day for pedestrian crash deaths. The same factors that are involved with general crash fatalities are present on New Year’s Eve, with the added component that many pedestrians choose to walk home intoxicated, rather than risk their lives and the lives of others behind the wheel.

However, drunken walkers are still engaging in a risky undertaking. Alcohol negatively affects the brain’s ability to focus and it slows down the whole body’s reaction time. Consequently, intoxicated drivers and intoxicated pedestrians have less coordination, difficulty processing information, and following moving objects. The physical limitations imposed by drinking heavily makes driving or even walking near traffic dangerous in itself. However, drinking also limits a person’s mental faculties. In addition to the physical effects of alcohol, intoxicated persons experience loss of judgment and a decreased ability to perform two tasks at once. In other words, a drunk person makes more bad decisions than a sober person, but is less capable of handling the consequences.

For example, a pedestrian may leave a bar with a group of friends headed to the night’s next destination. The group has a boisterous conversation and is quite unaware of their surroundings. The leader of the group walks backwards in order to see everyone. Although he is aware that a crosswalk is coming up, his brain has trouble processing risk, and he does not stop to determine whether he has the right of way. Crossing without a second thought, the pedestrian is hit by a driver with a green light who thought the pedestrian would stop at the edge of the sidewalk.

To prevent such tragedies, pedestrians who plan on drinking should find a friend to look out for their safety and might consider taking a taxi or public transportation instead of walking. Drivers should never assume that a pedestrian will yield to an oncoming car and should approach crosswalks with caution.

California Vehicle Code Section 21950 gives the right of way to pedestrians in marked crosswalks and at unmarked intersections. The statute places a heavy burden on drivers of vehicles. Despite having the right of way at a green light, drivers are still responsible for slowing down at intersections for bold or inattentive pedestrians who challenge the light. The statute imposes a duty on drivers to exercise due care for the safety of any pedestrian in a marked crosswalk and at intersections. Pedestrians also have the duty of using due care to ensure their own safety, and they are admonished not to walk into the path of oncoming vehicles. However, the statute also provides that the pedestrian’s duty to act in a safe manner does not relieve any driver’s duty to exercise due care. Drivers who are not reasonably cautious may find themselves fully or partially liable for the costs of an accident for breaching the duty imposed by California Vehicle Code Section 21950.

Finally, December is the darkest month in the United States and low visibility increases the chance of pedestrian fatalities on days like New Year’s Eve. The Brod Law Firm encourages pedestrians and drivers to remain prudent and to plan their night ahead of time to limit exposure to dangerous situations. Revelers can celebrate at a hotel, hand their car key over to a trustworthy friend, and keep a taxi’s number on hand.

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Norovirus Outbreak At Area Elder Care Facilities

December 28, 2011 by Gregory J. Brod

At The Brod Law Firm, we are proud to serve as lawyers for victims of nursing home abuse in Sacramento. The elderly can be a very vulnerable population and Sacramento elder abuse can go unrecognized because some older individuals are unable to report the incidents or are unconsidered unreliable because of dementia. We are proud to serve as attorneys for individuals who fall victim to these abuses and work closely with concerned family members to represent their interests.

Abuse and neglect are all too common, but it is important to remember that the nature of even well-run elder care facilities can create health concerns. On Tuesday, The Sacramento Bee reported that public health authorities were tracking an outbreak of the norovirus in senior care environments. The virus has been confirmed in three skilled nursing and assisted living facilities, is suspected to be the culprit in at least four other locations and is believed to have caused at least 174 residents and staff to fall ill. Norovirus cause a range of gastro-intestinal ailments and, especially in the medically vulnerable elderly population, can lead to dangerous dehydration. At one facility, 15 out of 85 residents are reported to have fallen ill from the highly contagious bug.

Norovirus itself cannot be treated but symptoms can be managed with palliative care, including rehydration where necessary. The disease is spread very easily and is particularly likely to spread in close quarters like cruise ships, schools, and nursing facilities. There are several strategies that can prevent norovirus and other contagious diseases from spreading. Hand-washing can be very effective in limiting the spread of illness, although it is often not done properly. The Center for Disease Control recommends that hands be vigorously rubbed with soap and water for a minimum of twenty seconds, noting that mentally singing “Happy Birthday” twice can help ensure hands are washed for a sufficient time. Since norovirus often originates in contaminated food, proper food-handling techniques are also key. Fruits and vegetables should be thoroughly washed and infected individuals should not be involved in food preparation. Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and laundering clothing and bedding can also help prevent norovirus from spreading.

We do not intend to assert that the current outbreaks are the result of any improper actions. However, given the medical vulnerability of the elderly and nursing home residents in particular, it is important that elder care facilities follow strict procedures to limit the spread of contagious disease among residents. When researching residential care for a loved one, it is important to ask about the measures taken by the facility to prevent the spread of disease and whether specific measures are taken when an outbreak is suspected. Caregivers should be trained to prevent the spread of disease and to recognize norovirus and other infections early so that symptoms can be treated and the contagion can be confined.

While most infections are an unfortunate reality of communal living, inadequate care and prevention is inexcusable. If you believe a loved one has fallen ill due to neglect in a Sacramento nursing facility, please contact our skilled Northern California elder abuse lawyer. Speaking up can help you recover the costs associated with your loved one’s care and can also let nursing facilities know that neglect and inadequate care will not be tolerated.

See Related Blog Posts:
San Francisco-Oakland Attorney Comments on Nursing Home Lawsuits
Nursing Home Neglect in San Francisco and Beyond


Ensuring Toys and Other Products are Safe for Our Children

December 26, 2011 by Gregory J. Brod

Whatever holidays you celebrate, we hope the current season is bringing great joy, the presence of loved ones, and many delicious meals. Children seem to believe there is no greater joy than unwrapping a present with the mix of anticipation, the tearing action as the paper rips, and then the moment when the spot the much-desired prize. To a child, this is pure bliss. A few decades later, however, the true meaning of happiness emerges as the very same scene is viewed from a parent’s eyes. There is truly no greater pleasure than watching a child’s face light up with surprise and joy.

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We hope all the children in your lives were thrilled by the presents that come with Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza, and other late-in-the-year celebrations. These presents should be the source of smiles and many hours of joy, ideally bringing the family together for an added bit of enjoyment. While we do not wish to set a gray cloud on such happy times, we do want to remind parents to always exercise caution. As San Francisco products liability lawyers, we know that children’s products (toys, foods, cribs, clothing, etc) are a common culprit in product-related injuries. When a client approaches us after a child has been harmed in a product-related injury in Northern California, we can help ensure the companies that made and marketed the item are held responsible for their failures.

One danger that makes the news every few months is lead in toys. Lead can be found in either plastic or paint and children are especially vulnerable because their natural tendency is to put objects, and their fingers, in their mouths. Additionally, the developing brain makes children under six particularly vulnerable to the ill effects of lead exposure. There are standards that companies must follow to limit lead, especially in items intended for kids, but it can still be lurking. Older toys and imported items, including those sold at discount “dollar stores,” are particularly dangerous. Lead poisoning often has no immediate symptoms, but over time it can impact a developing brain as well as the nervous system, red blood cells, and heart. Thankfully, heavy enforcement and education has resulted in improvements and the Center for Disease Control reports a significant drop in the percentage of tested children who had elevated lead levels between 1997 and 2008 from 7.61% to 0.83%. California has many state-specific programs aimed at reducing lead exposure. Testing of children’s lead exposure levels, is often recommended and is required at age one and two for children on public health programs.

Child-centered risks for dangerous products are not, of course, limited to lead. In another frightening case, baby formula is a suspected culprit in an infant death. Walmart has pulled Enfamil powdered baby formula after a newborn in Tennessee died after ingesting the formula. The connection has not been proven, but the product is being removed as a precaution.

We should be able to trust that the products we purchase are safe. This should be particularly true when it comes to products made specifically for children. Consumer awareness and education can be the first line of defense. However, if your child (or you) suffers injury due to an unsafe product in San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento or the surrounding regions, it is vital that you seek legal help. The law is harsh and often a strict liability rule applies meaning that companies are automatically liable if a product is proven to be inherently dangerous. While the law is often clear, representation is still important. Bringing suit not only allows you to recover the funds to cover medical bills and other losses but also serves a very important public service by sending a message that we will not tolerate dangerous products in San Francisco and the Northern California region. The lawsuit is not only for you, it is for all the innocent consumers in our region who will benefit from telling companies that unsafe products will not be tolerated. As always, a consultation with our San ancisco unsafe products attorney is free and many cases are handled on a contingency fee basis so there is no fee unless you recover for your harm.

See Related Blog Posts:
Oakland-San Francisco Personal Injury Attorney Comments on Toxic Baby Products
Oakland-San Francisco Attorney Comments on FDA Warning

Thanking the Unsung Heroes of Injury Care: Nurses

December 23, 2011 by Gregory J. Brod

One of the best parts about the holiday season is that it gives us the opportunity to truly reflect on those who enrich our lives. In our work as a personal injury law firm in San Francisco and throughout Northern California, we talk to many victims who have recently undergone emergency care and hospital stays. We are proud to serve as attorneys for accident victims in San Francisco, but we know that there is a group of true heroes who make a real difference in the days after an injury. We applaud a recent piece on CNN that recognizes an often under-appreciated part of the medical system, the nurses.
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As the CNN article points out, most doctors are able to schedule holiday shifts to accommodate family traditions. While some are on call, most still get to enjoy the season with their families. However, there must always be a full contingent of nurses on duty to care for those who are spending the holiday in a hospital bed recovering from either illness or injury. A hospital patient often spends many more hours with the nurses than with the doctors, but nurses rarely get the credit they are due. They work long shifts, often twelve hours at a time, yet they remain ready to not only care for the health of their patients but also to brighten their spirits with warmth and little acts of kindness.

Thanking nurses is particularly timely this year. As reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, nurses at several Bay Area hospitals are participating in a one-day strike this week. The nurses are protesting contract changes that would impact their union representation and their sick day allowance. The hospital system, Sutter Health, was given notice of the strike so they were prepared to bring in replacement workers to limit the impact on patient care.

We are not involved in the contract negotiations between the nurses and the healthcare system and we cannot comment directly on the merit of the protests. We do, however, work with San Francisco automobile accident victims on a daily basis. We know from their stories how much impact a good nurse can make. A hospital stay after an accident is filled with both physical and emotional challenges, with the latter extending to the victim’s loved ones as well. During the stay, nurses provide care and monitoring at all hours of day and night. They monitor vital signs, administer medicine, and tend to medical needs of their patients. Many also provide emotional support with a simple smile or an extra gesture like making sure “Get Well” flowers sit where the patient can enjoy them or a child’s dropped teddy bear is returned to her bed.

We hope you and your loved ones have no need for hospital care this holiday season. If you do find yourself as a patient or a visitor, do take care to thank your nurses and their support staff. They work hard and we admire them.

If you or a loved one is the victim of an accident, medical care should be your first concern. Once the immediate medical needs are addressed, reaching out to a skilled San Francisco personal injury attorney is also key. The Brod Law Firm team can help you recover for the economic losses related to your injury and help you move forward. We will never claim to provide the same care nurses do, but we are proud to be of service to injury victims and to help them receive the compensation they need and deserve.

See Related Blog Posts:
Guilty Plea in Fatal Hit-And-Run: The Aftermath of a Pedestrian Fatality
Tips on Choosing a Quality Nursing Home in San Francisco


Wind Damage: Understanding Your Policy

December 23, 2011 by Gregory J. Brod

wind%20damage.pngOur San Francisco insurance claim attorney know that there are many ways nature can cause problems in a state as big and diverse as ours. Last week this blog talked about a flood (see here). This week another act of nature caught our eye- wind and wind damage. In early December, hurricane force winds pummeled areas of Southern California and left hundreds of thousands without power. Estimates say the storms may have caused $40 million in damage. The Santa Ana winds toppled countless trees, especially in the hard-hit Pasadena area.

When Californians are faced with these weather emergencies, it is a good wake up call to the rest of us to ensure we are as prepared as we can be for natural disasters. People often have specific insurance coverage for earthquakes or for floods, but do you know how wind storm damage will be handled by your insurance companies?

Most homeowner’s insurance policies will include some coverage for wind damage, such as a tree falling on a house. "So long as that tree has damaged something on your house or property, your homeowner's policy will typically have some amount available for tree removal," said Candysse Miller, executive director of the Insurance Information Network of California to the Pasadena Star-News earlier this month. Other less visible kinds of damage can be more difficult to deal with. Insurance companies often try to claim things like damaged or loosened tiles or shingles on your roof due to high winds is actually caused by normal age/ wear and tear. Roof problems can lead to other expensive home issues, such as water leakage, if the roof is not properly repaired. Insurance companies may also try to claim that only some tiles or shingles need replacing, but before you agree to that make sure you know the true extent of the damage to your roof and do not accept a partial fix to a much bigger problem. You pay for your homeowner’s insurance and you deserve the full benefits you need.

More problems may arise with your car insurance. California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones pointed out that physical damage is not always covered, and you have to choose to include it in your insurance policy. A comprehensive policy should cover damage from wind storms, while the minimum auto insurance required- liability insurance- will not.

Wind damage is fairly common and occurs in big storms all over the United States. It is important to know what exactly is covered under your insurance policies before a disaster happens, so you are informed about what you are paying for and what benefits you can expect. A San Francisco insurance lawyer can help go through your policies and make sure you have the coverage you need and can watch out for any fine print or hidden clauses that could affect your benefits.

Even being informed sometimes cannot protect you from unscrupulous insurance companies trying to deny benefits. When you are faced with substantial damage from a natural disaster, it is always a good idea to consider talking to a San Francisco insurance claim attorney. Insurance companies may be more willing to negotiate or settle claims if the claimant has an experienced attorney on their side.

In closing this week, everyone here at the Brod Law Firm wishes our clients and friends a happy and safe holiday season!

See Our Related Blog Posts:

California Flood Made Worse By Tricky Insurance Companies

California Insurance Law Fraud Basics

Tribune Column on Driving Pet Peeve Serves as a Safety Reminder

December 21, 2011 by Gregory J. Brod

As Oakland personal injury attorneys, the Brod Law Firm uses this blog to educate and inform Northern Californians about the law and victim’s rights. First and foremost, we hope to remind residents to exercise caution in preventing accidents. Additionally, we seek to educate victims to allow them to protect their rights if they are harmed in an automobile accident in Oakland or otherwise injured due to the actions of others.

We often use area news reports to provide context to our comments and the nature of our field means these stories are usually reports of accidents and other tragedies. Although this note does have a serious message, it is inspired by a fun take on safety in the Oakland Tribune. A Tribune columnist and his readers have been championing a movement to counteract a frequent pet peeve – drivers who neglect to use their turn signals. The column calls for a movement akin to the “Click it or Ticket” campaign, complete with amusing bumper-sticker slogans reminding drivers to signal before making a turn or lane shift. We applaud this column for addressing a habit that not only annoys other drivers but also places every driver at risk.

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California’s vehicle code provides that drivers must ensure movement is safe and signal their intent before turning when another vehicle may be impacted by the movement. The driver’s manual reiterates the importance of using signals for a lane change, a circumstance in which many drivers neglect the precaution. There appears to be little data on how many accidents are caused by a driver’s failure to signal. However, an interesting study by the American Transportation Institute reports that one of the best predictors of future accidents involving truck drivers was a prior citation for failure to signal. The study found the likelihood of a future crash increased by a whopping 97 percent when the driver had previously been convicted of a signal-related offense, making it the top predictor of future collisions.

A recent court decision dismissed a ticket for failure to signal where no other vehicles were present to be impacted by the action. This ruling was based on a close reading of several provisions of the California vehicle code. As Northern California accident attorneys, we represent clients in civil court and we are not involved directly in traffic citation hearings. However, as victim’s rights lawyers we see the impact from the failure to signal and from other negligent driving habits. In injury cases brought in civil court, factors like the failure to signal can weigh heavily in a verdict. If a driver is injured as a result of another driver’s failure to signal, that fact can help the victim establish fault and recover civil damages for their injuries. An argument that the driver didn’t believe any other vehicles would be impacted by the failure to signal is unlikely to prevail when that belief is proven false by a subsequent crash.

We urge California driver’s to use their turn signals. It is a courtesy, but it is also a matter of safety. If you have been injured as a result of another driver’s failure to signal, please contact our Oakland car accident law firm for a free consultation to discuss your legal rights.

See Related Blog Posts:
California Personal Injury Law Firm Reminds Drivers to Exercise Special Care in Construction Zones
The Legislation of Road Rage-Comparing California to Rest of the Country

Raw Milk Recall Lifted But Caution Still Key to Prevent Food Related Illnesses

December 19, 2011 by Gregory J. Brod

The move towards natural foods can be a healthy shift away from processed foods and the over-reliance on fast food that can lead to expanding waistlines and increased health risks. However, sometimes foods marketed as natural carry their own hidden dangers. As San Francisco products liability lawyers, the Brod Law Firm team urges the public to use caution when purchasing food for their family. Likewise, we urge residents harmed by dangerous food products to seek legal recourse and hold companies responsible for selling unsafe food in Northern California.
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As reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, California has just lifted a ban that resulted from concerns about unsafe food products. The ban was issued after five children in our state became ill after drinking raw milk produced by Organic Pastures in Fresno. All of the children were found to have the same strain of E. Coli. Three of the young people were hospitalized with hemolytic uremic syndrome, a dangerous illness that can lead to kidney failure. Although investigators did not find the bacteria in samples of the milk, it was deemed the likely source since all five children had consumed the dairy’s raw milk in the period before they fell ill. The state shut down production at the dairy temporarily and recalled Organic Pastures products. At the time of the Chronicle’s report, the dairy had passed necessary inspections and was allowed to resume production of all products with the exception of raw colostrum. Investigators have continued to quarantine the final product out of concern that it may carry dangerous bacteria.

There is a lot of controversy over raw milk products. Proponents believe that raw milk contains more nutrients than the more common pasteurized variety and also that the pasteurization process kills “good” bacteria that can have health benefits including the potential prevention of asthma and other health woes. However, others warn that raw milk can contain harmful bacteria including E. coli, salmonella, and listeria. Worldwide, some countries have total bans on raw milk while others permit the drink, particularly when it is bought directly from the farm. In the United States, federal law prohibits the sale of raw milk across state lines. Other regulation varies by state with about half of states prohibiting its sale for human consumption. California does permit licensed facilities to sell unpasteurized milk. Two facilities appear to have obtained such licenses and additional sales occur directly at some farms.

We do not wish to take a stand on the raw milk debate. We do, however, urge residents to take care in making their informed choices when it comes to feeding their families. The Center for Disease Control estimates that 1 in 6 Americans will become ill from tainted foods each year. While not every food-related illness is cause for legal action, products liability laws can apply when tainted food causes serious illness. Food producers and sellers owe a duty of care to the public and consumers should hold them accountable when they fail to uphold this responsibility.

If you become seriously ill due to contaminated food, please contact the San Francisco tainted food attorney at the Brod Law Firm. You may be entitled to damages for your illness and bringing a lawsuit warns business owners that the sale of contaminated food in San Francisco and throughout Northern California will not be tolerated.

See Related Blog Posts:
Contaminated Turkey Sold to Consumers in the San Francisco Bay Area
Oakland-San Francisco Attorney Comments on FDA Warning

California Flood Made Worse By Tricky Insurance Companies

December 16, 2011 by Gregory J. Brod

Our California insurance attorneys know how difficult it can be to deal with insurance companies after an unexpected disaster. When something happens that severely disrupts your life, like a major illness, death, or natural disaster, the last thing you want to think about- worry about- is dealing with an insurance company employee asking you all kinds of questions. But what is worse is when you realize that all the money you paid over the years to the insurance company is no guarantee that the benefits you expect will be available when you need them.

Our San Francisco insurance attorneys noticed one striking recent example in a CBS News story this week. It involves a California town called Capitola, the site of devastating floods earlier this year. In March, a drainpipe in Capitola burst after an average rain storm. The very next day a larger storm hit the area and Capitola was not only already dealing with a problem, but there was no pipe to drain the water anymore. For the residents of Capitola, California, their problems were just beginning.

flood%20insurance.gifSome residents had flood insurance, and they thought surely the hard earned money they paid to their insurance company would allow them to rebuild. But those residents discovered that when they called about their flood insurance, their insurance company told them that the situation did not count as a flood. The company claimed it was a broken pipe and directed the policyholders to their liability insurance. But they were then told by the liability insurance handlers that it was a flood, so the liability insurance does not cover the damage. This ridiculous dilemma caused not only many people to worry about their homes, but also severely affected small local businesses trying to stay afloat in a recession economy.

One insurer of a small gallery denied the claim because it stated that the damage was done by “surface water”, which is not covered under the policy. Of course, the reason there was surface water was the broken pipe and broken pipe damage should be covered. When the gallery tried to make this argument, the insurance company denied them again by claiming a clause that limits coverage 10 days before or after a flood, which is exactly when most of the damage occurs. This is just another example of insurance company trickery and using obscure clauses and fine print to cheat the policyholder out of benefits he or she has diligently paid for over the years.

For the residents of Capitola, it seems no rational argument will change the insurance companies’ minds. The only option many residents and small business owners are left with is to sue the companies to try to reclaim the damages owed to them. And Capitola residents are not alone. Situations like this with insurance companies occur all the time all across California and the United States. CBS News pointed out that if you find yourself in this type of insurance trouble, it is important to contact an insurance attorney for assistance. The Brod Firm could not agree more, and encourages anyone feeling tricked or abused by their insurance company in our area to talk to an experienced San Francisco insurance attorney without delay.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

California Insurance Law Fraud Basics

Helping Residents with California Insurance Law Issues

California Personal Injury Law Firm Reminds Drivers to Exercise Special Care in Construction Zones

December 16, 2011 by Gregory J. Brod

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Road construction and maintenance is a necessary part of life in our times, especially here in California where driving is such a necessary part of our daily lives. At the Brod Law Firm, we represent Northern California automobile accident victims. As Sacramento car accident lawyers, we know that construction zones can be particularly dangerous and that it is especially important to exercise care when driving through work zones or when traffic is detoured to a less travelled route to accommodate road work.

This week Caltrans and the Sacramento Bee urged caution and asked drivers to slow down when using the current Highway 65 detour. Traffic-shifting to accommodate the Lincoln Bypass construction began in June and currently includes a 20mph speed limit in the northbound lanes of the highway in Lincoln near Sterling Parkway. The $325 million project is scheduled to be completed next summer and detours will likely remain in place until the new 11.7 mile span of roadway is opened. When it is finished, the roadway should be an asset to the region’s commuters but the construction process can be frustrating and carries an increased danger of automobile accidents.

According to statistics compiled by federal authorities, there were 680 fatalities in construction zone automobile accidents in 2009, a decrease from 720 the prior year. The studies indicate that at least 46 of the 2009 deaths occurred here in California. Additionally, the 2008 study found 20,000 individuals were injured nationwide in work zone car accidents. Surveys suggest that the most dangerous part of a construction area is the beginning of the designated zone, perhaps due to drivers driving too quickly and having difficulty merging into a new traffic pattern.

In response to safety concerns, the California Department of Transportation began a “Slow for the Cone” initiative in 2000. The program continues to work on safety-oriented promotions to urge California drivers to navigate construction areas with particular care. Likewise, the Federal Highway Administration has directed specific funds to work zone safety efforts, including $6 million marked in 2009 for Work Zone Safety Grants and the National Work Zone Safety Clearinghouse. Efforts at the federal level to reduce the number of such incidents include programs in education and enforcement as well as engineering studies to determine the practices that best help prevent work area auto accidents.

Like many states, California law recognizes the danger of work zones to both drivers and construction personnel. Where workers and signage are present, the fee for a traffic violation is doubled in a work zone. It is also common for speed limits to be reduced in a construction zones. Drivers should be alert for signage altering a standard speed limit, particularly on roads they travel frequently where they might proceed on auto-pilot with the assumption they know the applicable speed regulations. Road crews also bear responsibility to those travelling on the roads and they are required to properly mark changes and ensure appropriately sized and accessible travel lanes.

If you are the victim of a Northern California construction zone car accident, contact the skilled Sacramento personal injury attorney at the Brow Law Firm. Our team can help you determine what claims you may have against other drivers or the construction company and can ensure you recover damages.

See Related Blog Posts:
Safety Improvements Scheduled for San Francisco Streets
Holiday Message from your San Francisco DUI Accident Lawyers: Enjoy, Give Thanks, Be Safe

Vallejo Accident Reminds Residents of the Importance of Exercising Caution as Drivers Age

December 14, 2011 by Gregory J. Brod

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As your Oakland automobile accident attorneys, the Brod Law Firm team knows that many factors go into an automobile accident. Impaired or distracted drivers, aggressive maneuvering and poor road conditions can all increase the chance of a tragic outcome. Our Oakland car accident lawyer knows that one of the most complicated and sensitive factors in automobile accidents in the age of the driver. While age affects each individual differently, advancing years can impact reflexes and otherwise impair driving skills resulting in an increased danger of an inadvertent collision.

This week, The Vallejo Times-Herald reported on a car accident that may have age-related roots. In this incident, an 80 year-old driver reported that his foot slipped off the brake and landed on the accelerator. The slip caused the pickup truck to crash into the Safeway store located at 122 Robbles Way. Thankfully, no one was hurt when the truck went through the glass doors, passed by the register lanes and ended up plowing through the aisles until stopping at the far end of the aisles. As of the time of the report, the driver (also unharmed) had not been cited by the police.

With a large population of aging individuals across the nation, concerns about elderly drivers are on the rise. In June 2009, the National Highway Traffic Safety Association conducted a study of older drivers, based on data from 2002 to 2006. The study notes that, in many regards, seniors are often very safe drivers. Drivers over sixty are less likely to be involved in accidents involving alcohol or speeding. However, the study noted that drivers over seventy were more likely to be involved in accidents than their younger counterparts when faced with complex driving situations. This category includes tasks such as making left turns, navigating intersections, or responding to an imminent collision. The study noted this danger increased significantly at age seventy and was less prominent for drivers in their sixties. Drivers over seventy also had greater difficulty driving at dusk, in contrast to higher accident rates at dawn for younger drivers.

Declining health, slowing reflexes, and poor vision are among the many factors that can challenge older drivers. It is important that all drivers honestly assess their own driving ability regularly. It is also important that individuals consider whether aging loved ones may be a danger to themselves or to others on the road. Surrendering a driver’s license can be a difficult and emotional decision, but it is important to always put safety first.

Our Oakland accident legal team believes in prevention. Difficult decisions are sometimes necessary in order to avoid a dangerous collision. Working together as a society, we can work to reduce the number of harmful accidents in our region.

Prevention is key, but accidents remain a reality. If you are harmed in an Oakland automobile crash, please call to schedule a free consultation with the Brod Law Firm. We can help you pursue all sources of recovery that the law allows.

See Related Blog Posts:
Sacramento-San Francisco Car Accident Attorney Comments on Seniors and Driving Safety
San Francisco-Oakland Injury Attorney Comments on Driver Inattention

Palo Alto and San Francisco Hospitals Fined for Putting Patients in Danger

December 13, 2011 by Gregory J. Brod

The California Department of Public Health issued a list on December 8, 2011 of 14 California hospitals that received administrative fines for not properly following hospital policies and procedures meant to ensure the health and safety of its patients. Out of the fourteen hospitals cited, seven were fined for leaving behind foreign objects in patients during surgery, four hospitals were fined for improperly administering medication, and three hospitals were fined for other reasons.

Surgery.jpgIn total $850,000 in fines were issued for five different types of medical errors. Agents of the California Department of Public Health are trained to look for 28 different adverse events that range from performing surgery on the wrong body part to using medical equipment for a purpose other than its intended use to patient falls in the facility while care is being provided.

Amendments to California Health and Safety Code §1280.1 and §1280.3 were passed in 2007. The statutes now allow the California Department of Public Health to issue administrative fines to hospitals whose noncompliance with safety policies and procedures put a patient in immediate jeopardy of serious injury or death. In 2009, the fines were raised in accordance with the statute. The penalty for first offenses increased from $25,000 to $50,000 and implemented fines up to $100,000 for multiple offenses. These fines are only applicable to General Acute Care Hospitals, Acute Psychiatric Hospitals, and Special Hospitals.

Of the fourteen hospitals fined by the California Department of Public Health, four are located in the Greater Bay Area. San Francisco General Hospital received its second administrative penalty of $50,000 fine for performing a partial mastectomy on a woman who had requested a full mastectomy. UCSF Medical Center was fined $75,000 for its sixth administrative penalty because a surgeon mistakenly made an incision under the patient’s left eye, but closed it after he realized the incision should have been made under the patient’s right eye. The Kaiser Foundation Hospital in South San Francisco was given its first administrative fine of $50,000 for storing vaccines and some other medicines at an improper temperature, which could decrease their effectiveness. The compromised vaccines and medicines were administered to almost 5,000 patrons of the hospital. Finally, the Lucile Salter Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford was fined $50,000 for its second administrative penalty for administering an improper dose of medication to a patient, causing the patient to seizure.

The California Department of Public Health looks at eight factors when determining whether a fine should be issued to an acute care provider and how much the fine should be. These factors include the risk to the patient from the non-compliant action, financial harm to the patient, the hospital’s record on compliance with safety policies and procedures, and the hospital’s responsiveness to the problem. Licenses and certification may not be revoked based on the number of administrative penalties, but hospitals are required to submit a plan of correction, which demonstrates how the hospital will attempt to prevent future occurrences of similar medical errors. The hospitals may file an administrative appeal within 10 days to request a hearing.

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Legal Perspective on Property-Related Accidents

December 11, 2011 by Gregory J. Brod

According a report in The Oakland Tribune, a poorly constructed chimney was the likely cause of a fire in West Oakland that left at least three residents unable to return to their homes. A home fire is tragic at any time but is especially difficult to imagine as the holidays approach. As your Oakland property damage lawyers, the Brod Law Firm believes in helping residents recover after such an untimely event.
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The fire sparked in the early morning hours of Tuesday December 6 in a West Oakland duplex. The home, a Victorian-style two-story located at 30th and Chestnut, had recently been remodeled with an apartment on each floor. In addition to displacing three residents, the fire caused at least $30,000 in damages. According to the reports, the fire was caused by faulty chimney construction. The chimney had been built without a flue and the fire started after the upper-level residents used the fireplace in their unit. The embers from the fireplace were unable to exit and sparked a fire in the attic that then spread to the roof. Luckily, no one was injured and a team of twenty firefighters were able to control and extinguish the flames.

Every accident has its own story. Part of the reason you should always seek out an Oakland accident attorney when you suffer a physical injury or economic loss due to someone else’s wrongdoing is to be sure you explore the full range of legal claims. Thankfully no injury occurred in the West Oakland fire, but the Brod Law Firm notes several different claims that might arise from a property-related accident, especially one that does result in physical injury. A lawsuit might include claims based on:

Construction Defects – California law includes specific provisions addressing standards for construction. Construction defects claims can allow a victim to recover repair costs as well as for losses directly resulting from the defect (like the costs of a temporary home in a case such as the fire should the chimney be proven defective).
Products Liability – Products liability claims arise when a defective product results in injury. Generally, a strict liability rule provides a victim can recover if they can prove a product defect was a substantial factor in the injury. Negligence claims can also arise in the products liability arena where a seller, manufacturer, installer, or other party failed to use reasonable care to prevent an injury stemming from the product.
Landlord/Tenant Claims – California law requires that landlords maintain rental properties in conditions suitable for occupancy. Landlords also have a duty to maintain the common areas in a property. Where a landlord does not fulfill these duties, they may be subject to a lawsuit for damages stemming from the failure.
Premises Liability –This body of law protects visitors to a property who are harmed by the property owner or occupier’s failure to make the area safe. If the chimney fire occurred in a business and a customer was harmed, a claim might exist under premises liability principles. These claims can also be made by renters against their landlords

These are just some of the legal principles the Oakland victim’s rights lawyer at the Brod Law Firm would explore with a potential client injured in a property accident. Legal claims can also exist for financial losses in similar cases, like those suffered by the displaced West Oakland residents. When you call our Oakland property accident law firm, you can arrange a free consultation in which our team will help you determine what legal claims might exist to help you recover damages for your losses. Together, we can work to help victims of a property accident receive the money the law allows and move forward after the incident.

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The Legislation of Road Rage-Comparing California to Rest of the Country

December 10, 2011 by Gregory J. Brod

Road rage, also called aggressive driving, is particularly dangerous because it combines feverish emotion with bad decision-making. While most of us know what road rage looks like, it is more difficult to construct a concise definition for it, as aggressive driving usually involves multiple or sequential actions. Some states have attempted to create a statutory definition of aggressive driving to allow law enforcement to pull over drivers engaging in such bad behavior. As of November 2010, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, Nevada, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Virginia had enacted aggressive driving laws. The Rhode Island definition of aggressive driving is representative of most states who have created road rage legislation. It states:

“Aggressive Driving” is defined as operating a motor vehicle in violation of any speed law and a violation of two or more of the following traffic law provisions: (1) obedience to traffic control devices; (2) overtaking on the right; (3) driving within a traffic lane; (4) following too closely—interval between vehicles; (5) yielding right of way; (6) entering the roadway; (7) use of turn signals; (8) relating to school buses, special stops, stop signs and yield signs; and, (9) use of emergency break-down lane for travel.

The problem with the definition is it simply lists behavior that is already in violation of the vehicle code and lumps it under one phrase, although it does allow for one citation instead of burdening officers with issuing two or three at one time. The fines imposed for aggressive driving by different states varies widely- from $100 to $5000 (Such high fines are only imposed if the driver caused bodily injury through disregard for others’ safety).

Indiana has one of the strictest aggressive driving policies, making it a Class A misdemeanor to intentionally harass or intimidate a person in another vehicle and engages in aggressive driving as defined by the statute.

By comparison, California has not pursued specific road rage legislation. However, Vehicle Code Section 23103 does prohibit “reckless driving”, defined as “A person who drives a vehicle upon a highway [or off-street parking facility] in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.” Instead of requiring the driver to violate two or more Vehicle Code sections, the California definition of reckless driving allows law enforcement to look at the totality of the circumstances, including intention, when taking action against an aggressive driver.

In 1999, the Department of Transportation held an event called Aggressive Driving and the Law: A Symposium. Its goal was to promote enforcement against aggressive driving at the state level. In addition, the Department of Transportation conduction two studies- The Aggression Suppression Program in Milwaukee, Wisconsin completed in May 2001 and Ticketing Aggressive Cars and Trucks in Washington State: High Visibility Enforcement Applied to Share the Road Safely from May 2006. The symposium and the studies came to the same conclusion that enforcement is key to reducing aggressive driving and resulting accidents.

More than ten years after the Department of Transportation’s symposium, California and the country as a whole is still struggling with road rage. The AAA: Foundation for Traffic Safety’s 2010 Traffic Safety Culture Index states that 52% of drivers said driving feels less safe today than it did 5 years ago, a 17-percentage-point increase over 2009. The Aggression Suppression Program study encouraged law enforcement to look beyond speeding citations and widen their enforcement of bad driver behavior. It found that areas with increased enforcement saw a significant decline in aggressive driving in the future. Further, it encouraged states to advertise widened efforts to crack down on aggressive driving and to increase driver education about the dangers of road rage. Legislation that prohibits aggressive driving is a good step, but publicizing these laws and increased enforcement is essential to have a real impact on the safety of our streets.

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The Dangerous Mix of Money and Medicine

December 9, 2011 by Gregory J. Brod

As San Francisco medical malpractice lawyers, the Brod Law Firm is keenly aware of the many ways in which money and other financial factors can influence medical decision-making. Sadly, sometimes patients are harmed when doctors make decisions based on cost rather than focusing on what is best for the patient. When patients are harmed, whether as the result of a decision made by a doctor or an insurance company, a San Francisco medical injury attorney can help determine if improper financial motivations resulted in medical care falling below the required standard of care.

It seems like every few weeks we come across a new story about the way money and medicine intersect. The San Francisco Chronicle recently explored the link between changes in Medicare payments and an increase in a specific diagnosis. Unfortunately, this practice is common enough to have its own name and is referred to as “upcoding” in the insurance field. The Chronicle’s article focused on the Chino Valley Medical Center in San Bernadino County and its parent company, Prime Healthcare services. The companies deny any wrongdoing but authorities are investigating a suspicious surge in the hospital diagnosing “acute heart failure.” In the 2008 to 2010 time frame, 35.2% of the hospital’s Medicare patients were listed as having the condition, six times the state average. The diagnosis triggered bonus payments from Medicare of thousands of dollars for every patient. This surge followed a rule change entitling a hospital to increased payments for patients with certain major complications.

It is not clear whether the alleged upcoding impacted patient care or just resulted in changes in paperwork filing. Of course, improper reporting does have a financial impact, particularly concerning when it involves a public program like Medicare. However, the financial influence on medicine can also have a direct impact on the quality of care. There are many factors at play including the rates at which insurers reimburse for different procedures and concerns related to medical malpractice insurance fees. These factors can influence the decision-making process, either at the physician or the insurance company level, and patient care can suffer.

In general, a California medical malpractice claim must be brought within one year from the discovery of the negligence and, with limited exceptions, within three years of the injury itself. Where it is a factor, the patient’s own negligence can reduce the amount of recovery but it will not eliminate recovery where others are also at fault. An injured plaintiff who proves medical malpractice is entitled to economic damages, covering expenses or lost income, and also non-economic damages for pain and suffering. In some cases, medical malpractice cases may be covered by an arbitration agreement meaning the case will appear before an arbitrator rather than in a courtroom.

If you or a loved one is injured as a result of substandard medical care it is vital that you contact a San Francisco medical malpractice attorney. We have the expertise to explore whether you have a legal claim against an insurer or a medical provider. We can, however, only help if you reach out to us. Whether your injury is due to the negligence of a provider or an insurance company, please call the Brod Law Firm for a free consultation to speak with our trained legal team.

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Good news for California Life and Disability Insurance Consumers

December 9, 2011 by Gregory J. Brod

Our San Francisco insurance attorneys know how to deal with insurance companies who are wrongfully trying to deny consumer’s the benefits they paid for. We know how frightening it is to hear that an insurance claim is denied when you were counting on that money for critical expenses. But 2012 holds promise for a more fair insurance litigation environment when a company improperly denies a life insurance or disability claim thanks to a new law- California Insurance Code Section 10110.6. It is important to note this new law relates only to life insurance and disability insurance, and not other types of insurance. It was sponsored by Senator Ron Calderon with the support of California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, unanimously passed the Legislature and was signed by Governor Jerry Brown in October. A similar bill was vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger in 2010. lifeinsurance.jpg

As of January 1, insurance companies in California will no longer be able to reserve discretionary authority to the themselves to determine or interpret a policy and decide if a policyholder is entitled to benefits. It applies to all life and disability insurance policies that are issued, delivered, or renewed to a California resident starting in January. This gives discretion in these matters to judges, which is as it should be. Judges know the law and are impartial observers. It is common sense that it is unfair to have a party to the dispute- one who stands to earn money depending on the outcome- be the final arbitrator of that dispute. Insurance Commissioner Jones likened it to a “fox guarding a henhouse.” But that is exactly how these scenarios worked until the passing of this new law. Insurance companies used these discretionary clauses as a shield from liability for valid claims and therefore nullified bargained for benefits. Suing the insurance companies over inappropriately denied benefits was often useless. If the policy included a discretionary clause, the judge’s hands were tied and he or she had to assume the insurance companies acted correctly unless the policyholder could prove that the company’s denial of benefits was arbitrary or capricious. Even if a judge believed the policyholder should have received the denied benefits, unless the company was arbitrary or capricious the judge could offer no remedy to the policyholder, who was left disabled or grieving for a loved one often in dire financial straits.

As San Francisco insurance denial attorneys, we are thankful the new law addresses this obvious inequity and helps level the playing field for consumers. It stops the practice of biased insurance companies ignoring or overriding a doctor’s opinion about whether a policyholder qualifies for disability benefits based on their own greedy concerns for their profit margins.

Even with this new legal advancement, if you believe you were unfairly denied benefits by your insurance company you should contact an experienced San Francisco insurance lawyer in your area to discuss your case. These new laws and protections will not be useful to your situation if you do not have a legal representative in your corner to help you navigate the law and with the experience to see through insurance companies’ endless bag of tricks.

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Oakland Accident Law Firm Comments on San Jose Pedestrian Fatality

December 7, 2011 by Gregory J. Brod

Marking a sad milestone, The Oakland Tribune reported on the twentieth pedestrian or bicyclist fatality to occur this year in San Jose. As your Oakland personal injury law firm, we are particularly dismayed to note that this pedestrian death comes only a week after a cyclist was killed on the very same road.

The victim, a 34 year-old man whose name has not been released, was killed Monday evening. He was crossing a busy stretch of road just south of downtown Jose near where Monterrey Highway and Old Tully Road intersect. It is unclear whether he was in a marked crosswalk when he was hit and killed by a Toyota Tundra. The female driver did remain at the scene and alcohol does not appear to have been a factor in the crash. As of the time of the Tribune’s report, the driver had not been arrested or identified. highway.png

Although it is unclear whether the pedestrian in this accident was utilizing a crosswalk, the Oakland pedestrian accident attorney at The Brod Law Firm wants to remind readers that California law requires that drivers yield to pedestrians in a marked crosswalk. This rule also applies at unmarked crosswalks at our intersections. Pedestrians are required to exercise caution and the law does prohibit a pedestrian from suddenly leaving the sidewalk or otherwise stepping into the path of automobile traffic. However, the law does place the bulk of responsibility on drivers to prevent the injury or death of a pedestrian who is using appropriate precautions. While the law does prohibit pedestrians from crossing roads outside of intersections or marked crosswalks, that does not alleviate the duty of all drivers to be alert for pedestrians and exercise care at all times.

California is well-known for its driving-centered culture. At the Brod Law Firm, we believe that drivers have a strong responsibility to obey the law and drive responsibly. We also believe in the continued efforts of our state and our Northern California towns to create roadways that are safe for all of our residents. As your Oakland car accident lawyers, we know that automobile accidents are a very real part of life in our region but believe that the numbers can be reduced. We urge our local and state officials to make safety a priority. Well-marked crosswalks, appropriate speed limits, and a continued emphasis on preventing driver distraction can help prevent pedestrian injuries and deaths. We also support research studies aimed at finding the very best ways to protect our residents. These are studies that might have initial costs but will ultimately lead to economic savings and, more importantly, can save lives.

Pedestrian accidents are tragic, as are other automobile-related accidents that cause injury and death. We recognize that the aftermath of an accident is difficult for surviving victims and the loved ones of an individual whose life is lost. We encourage victims to seek emotional support in the difficult days after an accident. The legal system cannot undo an accident, but it can help victims or their families recover damages. If you or someone you love is injured in a Northern California car accident, please contact the Brod Law Firm team for help. In most of our personal injury cases, we do operate on a contingency fee and we do not get paid unless we help you recover. We work with victims in Oakland, San Francisco, Sacramento, and throughout the Northern California region.

We advocate for prevention first but accidents do happen and we are here to help.

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San Francisco DA George Gascon Issues Press Release on the Prevention of Holiday Season Accidents

December 6, 2011 by Gregory J. Brod

The sparkle of elaborate display windows makes the San Holiday%20Shopping%20Pic.jpg
Francisco Bay Area a popular destination for holiday shoppers. Downtown San Francisco, Walnut Creek, and malls everywhere see an influx of cars and pedestrian traffic eager to share in the deals and the holiday spirit. Urban cities like San Francisco see an increase in bicycle traffic every year as well. The crowds and the jostle of bags are part of the holiday fun, but they can also lead to claustrophobia and frustration as people unexpectedly duck in and out of the bustle and rush across streets and parking lots to get to their next destination.

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon is calling for heightened awareness from residents and visitors to prevent tragic accidents. He has teamed up with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and Walk SF to promote safe conduct in order to prevent accidents during the busy holiday season.

This call for safety follows four pedestrian deaths that have come under investigation in the San Francisco District Attorney’s office over the last six months. DA George Gascon stressed that each one of the fatal accidents was preventable, if only the persons involved had exercised more care. Elizabeth Stampe, the Executive Director of Walk San Francisco, expresses concern that similar accidents will be on the rise in November and December as it starts to get darker earlier.

The Brod Law Firm echoes the District Attorney’s appeal and reminds pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers to keep an eye out for unsafe behavior while out and about. Be vigilant of your surroundings and avoid dangerous situations such as:

  • Distracted drivers- For example, ones that use cell phones or look up directions while behind the wheel
  • Impatient drivers/cyclists that run stop signs or red lights and pedestrians who cross out of turn or outside of designated crosswalks

  • Drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians who might try to get ahead of the rest of the crowd by making sudden, unsafe maneuvers

Awareness lessens the stress of the season, allowing shoppers to fully enjoy the sights and sounds of the seasonal decorations, displays, and excitement.

If you or your loved ones have been a victim of carelessness, you may recover medical expenses, missed wages, or other losses. Call the Brod Law Firm for a free consultation from our experienced personal injury lawyer.

The Brod Law Firm wishes you a joyous and safe holiday season.

Accusations and Indictments in Fake Foreclosure Help Case

December 5, 2011 by Gregory J. Brod

Our economy continues to leave many homeowners nervous about meeting their mortgage obligations and fearing the loss of their home. Sadly, as both The Sacramento Bee and The Sacramento Business Journal reported this weekend, it appears that unscrupulous individuals have taken advantage of these tough times for their own financial gain. Alongside the criminal investigations of such deplorable tactics, Sacramento victims of bankruptcy fraud should reach out to experienced Northern California mortgage fraud lawyers for help recovering their financial loss.

In the case reported in both papers this weekend, a federal grand jury has indicted five people: Jesse Wheeler (34, Roseville), Bernadette Guidry (43, Irvine), Cynthia Corn (58, Oakland), Brent Medearis (45, Modesto) and Jewel Hinkels, also known as Cydney Sanchez (61, Los Angeles). Court filings cite a network of companies, including Horizon Property Holdings LLC and JW Financial Solutions, that purportedly offered to help homeowners avoid foreclosure and save their homes. The companies and individuals allegedly marketed their services to homeowners who were struggling to make scheduled mortgage payments on their homes. Authorities suggest the companies and individuals promised to negotiate mortgage sales or payment reductions that would help the distressed homeowners. Per the charges, the defendants did not deliver on these promises. The indictment also references fraudulent bankruptcy petitions filed by the accused that may have allowed them to collect more fees by prolonging the foreclosure process.

The motive for these crimes appears to have been financial. For the services they claimed to provide, the companies charged substantial upfront and monthly fees. Prosecutors suggest that more than 1,000 distressed homeowners were charged over $5 million in fraudulent fees.

At the Brod Law Firm, we are Sacramento victim’s rights attorneys. Our experience includes personal injury cases but we can also help victims of financial fraud in Sacramento and throughout Northern California. It is disturbing to see corrupt individuals taking advantage of our difficult economic times and preying on vulnerable residents of our area who are trying to meet their obligations and remain in their homes.

We urge homeowners to exercise caution to avoid falling victim to mortgage fraud schemes. The Office of the Attorney General notes that homeowners should avoid any foreclosure consultant who requires up-front fees, which are prohibited by law, and should not transfer or sell their home to a company that claims to be a foreclosure rescue organization. It is also important to review all notices from your lender and to only make payments directly to the mortgage holder. If you do seek assistance with mortgage payments, carefully read and review all financial forms in advance. Some mortgage fraud has involved companies claiming to present loan modification documents that actually transfer ownership of the home, documents later used to evict the defrauded homeowner.

As with injury cases, victims of these deceitful crimes need to be aware that the criminal system will prosecute wrongdoers but may not always fully protect the financial interests of those harmed by the crimes. If you believe you have been the victim of mortgage fraud, you should contact the Attorney General’s office to report the crime and then reach out to a skilled attorney for help in recovering your losses. At the Brod Law Firm, we are prepared to help victims of mortgage fraud. Please contact us for a free consultation.

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Guilty Plea in Fatal Hit-And-Run: The Aftermath of a Pedestrian Fatality

December 2, 2011 by Gregory J. Brod

At the Brod Law Firm, we are attorneys for Oakland car accident victims. We represent individuals injured in Oakland car crashes and those who lose a loved one in an automobile crash throughout Northern California. Sadly, car crashes continue to impact the lives of too many innocent residents of our region. The Oakland Tribune reported on one such tragedy this week bringing attention to the sad truth that automobile accidents remain a serious danger.

ped%20sign.pngThe Tribune report focused on the criminal trial of a San Bruno driver who pled guilty this week to a fatal hit-and-run. It was 1:35AM on February 20 when twenty-eight year old Scott Garrigan was killed while crossing Skyline Boulevard near Sharp Park Road. Leonard Nierras Tobilla, 58, hit Garrigan and then left the scene. Tobilla did not pull over and did not immediately call the police but did call his insurance company when he arrived home. The company advised him to return to the scene and Tobilla turned himself into authorities about 40 minutes later. His blood alcohol level was elevated at .06 but was below the legal limit of .08. The initial charges included a DUI count which was later changed to reckless driving involving alcohol. A second driver also hit Garrigan after the first crash, fleeing the scene and turning himself in four days later. This driver was not charged with a crime although it is not clear which impact caused the fatality. Reports indicate that the area was dark with no crosswalk in the vicinity and that the victim had a .23 blood alcohol level at the time of his death.

Statistics compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that the number of pedestrian fatalities in vehicle accidents declined steadily between 2005 and 2009. Despite our driving-centered culture, California’s overall pedestrian fatality rate (fatal accidents per 100,000 population) is lower than the national average. While these numbers show positive trends and show that most Californians are responsible drivers, every fatality represents a very real individual and every fatal accident is a tragedy. These numbers also do not include accidents resulting in non-fatal injury to pedestrians, accidents that are significantly more common. Non-fatal pedestrian accidents can have a very real, and sometimes quite severe, impact on the victim.

The days following any automobile accident are difficult. The period after a fatal pedestrian crash are emotional for the family of the deceased. A non-fatal is often followed by a difficult medical journey to recover as well as emotional trauma for the victim. Although a criminal investigation will be initiated by police and the district attorney, reaching out to an experienced Oakland lawyer for car accident victims is crucial. The civil system can help victims or surviving loved ones recover damages for their losses, something that cannot occur in criminal court.

Seeking compensation after an accident is NOT about greed. It is about obtaining the compensation that the law provides, compensation that can help an injured pedestrian or the surviving loved ones of a deceased victim begin the journey of recovery. We are proud Oakland personal injury attorneys because we believe in helping victims recover. The Brod Law Firm does this work because our hearts go out to victims, like the loved ones Garrigan left behind. We want to help and we can help, but only if the victim’s reach out to us. If you or a loved one was the victim of a car crash, please contact us for a free consultation. Most of these cases are handled on a contingency basis so you will not pay attorney’s fees unless we successfully help you recover.

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Health insurance for Small Business Owners

December 1, 2011 by Gregory J. Brod

Our firm's San Francisco insurance attorney knows that there are a lot of small business owners in our community, and that employee health insurance accounts for a significant amount of these local business’s costs. Often, health insurance is second only to payroll as a business’s greatest expense. Usually, small business owners have an insurance broker who sets up the company’s health insurance, and that broker earns a commission on the premiums on that account. This creates a disincentive for brokers to find ways to decrease expensive premiums for the business owners because that would decrease their commission.

The new federal healthcare legislation, the Affordable Care Act stipulates that insurance companies have to spend at least 85 percent of premiums on claims for employers with at least 50 employees, and for individuals and small business with less than 50 employees, at least 80 percent must be spent on benefits and improving quality for the customer, to avoid the medical loss ratio from things like broker commissions. The new law also requires that insurance companies publicly report how they spend premiums, so consumers can see how much of their money is spent on medical care and how much is used for administrative purposes. insurance.jpg

A smart business owner will talk with their insurance broker and ask how the broker is working to decrease the business’s health insurance costs. The amount and type of insurance claims made by the employees determines the premiums, and therefore the cost to the company. By asking the insurance company for this data on medical claims, a business owner can see where costs need to be lowered and by knowing the problem, can more easily determine effective solutions.

Aside from the federal Affordable Care Act, San Francisco small business owners are no doubt aware that the City of San Francisco also has its own Health Care Security Ordinance that affects those who do business in the city. A business falls under this Ordinance if it engages in business in San Francisco, is required to obtain a business registration certification with the city, and employs 20 or more employees per week (which also includes employees working outside of San Francisco). Nonprofits with fewer than 50 employees and small businesses with less than 20 employees are exempt from the spending requirements under the Ordinance. A covered employee is one who has worked for the employer for at least 90 days and works at least eight hours a week in San Francisco. The Ordinance proscribes the amount of money a business must spend on each covered employee per hour, which will increase in January. In the coming year of 2012, businesses with more than 100 employees will have to expend $2.40 per covered employee per hour on health care. Businesses with between 20 and 99 employees will have to expend $1.46 per covered employee per hour on health care.

With health care insurance costs so significant to local businesses, San Francisco’s small business owners cannot afford to lose money from being cheated on their insurance. Small and medium size local business should contact an experienced San Francisco insurance attorney with any concerns about mishandling or bad faith in their insurance matters, or with any questions about compliance with the new federal and San Francisco insurance laws.

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Sacramento Elder Abuse Lawyer Comments on Fall Prevention in Nursing Homes

December 1, 2011 by Gregory J. Brod

According to The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, accidental falls are the number one cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries in adults older than 65. Of falls among older adults, most occur in nursing homes. Research conducted by The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control found that although only about five percent of adults 65 and older reside in nursing homes, older adults in nursing homes account for twenty percent of deaths from accidental falls from this age group.

On average, a nursing home reports 1.5 falls for every bed in the establishment. This statistic, of course, does not include unreported falls that occur in nursing homes. Nursing homes have higher fall rates due to the relatively fragile population that resides there. Most elderly people move to nursing homes precisely because they cannot take care of themselves properly and are at risk for injuring themselves.

433128_grandmas_birthday.jpg Nursing homes must adhere to the standard of care when providing services to their patients. For instance, a nursing home must implement and educate its staff about proper procedures for preventing or following-up on a fall incident in the nursing home. These procedures must measure up to the standard protocol implemented by other nursing homes under similar circumstances.

If you or your family member is living in a nursing home, it is advisable to investigate both the nursing home’s strategies to prevent falls and its follow-up procedures in case of a fall, as between half and three quarters of older adults in nursing homes fall each year.

Here are some tips to use when evaluating a nursing home:

• Be sure that the nursing home educates both staff and residents about common reasons for falls and ways to prevent bad falls.

• Ensure that the nursing home is well-lit and free of obstacles. Check that it regularly inspects items of common use and that it has an appropriate number of sturdy physical aides, such as handrails. Remember that 16% to 27% of falls in nursing homes result from environmental hazards.

• Ask about accessibility to call lights in case of injury or other cause for alarm. Also, look to see that beds and toilets are an appropriate height, making them easier to use.

• Pay attention to patient apparel. Residents of nursing homes should wear non-slip shoes or slippers.

• Make sure that the nursing home carefully reviews patients’ prescribed medicines to minimize disorientation and confusion. It should update prescriptions on a regular basis, including eyeglass prescriptions.

In addition to policies for fall prevention, nursing homes should have strict procedures following a fall incident. Post-fall procedures should include:

• Immediate assessment of the patient to look for medical conditions that may have contributed to the fall, as well as increased observation of the patient for 48 hours after a fall to watch for injuries that may appear after the fact.

• Inspection of the fall area for physical hazards.

• Identification of high risk or previous fall victims to staff and with clearly delineated precautions for such residents.

Falls that occur in older adults cause monetary and emotional damages. For instance in 2000, falls in older adults cost the U.S. health care system 19 billion dollars. Additionally, falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries in older adults, which heavily affects physical and mental functionality. Previous falls may make older adults anxious, decreasing their independence and activeness, and leading to feelings of helplessness.

If you feel that a loved one’s physical well-being is at risk because of bad practices at a nursing home, consider contacting a lawyer to advise you on preventing elder abuse. Please call for a free consultation at (800) 427-7020.

Greg Brod is an experienced personal injury lawyer practicing in the San Francisco Bay Area and surrounding regions. Mr. Brod fights against inadequate conditions in nursing homes across Northern California.

Continue reading " Sacramento Elder Abuse Lawyer Comments on Fall Prevention in Nursing Homes " »