Kia Recall Could Affect Bay Area Drivers

January 31, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

111147_steering_wheel.jpg On January 13, 2012, the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration announced that KIA Motors America, Inc. noticed a recall on Kia Optima sedans manufactured from September 29, 2005 through January 29, 2008. In addition the company is recalling Kia Rondo vehicles manufactured from September 13, 2006 through March 21, 2008. Both models were manufactured with an air bag clock spring that may become damaged over time. Over 145,000 vehicles are potentially affected by the recall, which starts in March 2012.

An air bag clock spring is named for its coiled shape. It provides an electrical connection between the airbag and the controlling computer. The clock spring sits inside the steering column along side the horn and cruise control. Its coiled shape allows the wiring to make a connection without blocking the steering wheel’s functionality. If the clock spring becomes too worn it will develop a high resistance to electrical current, which could block the signal that activates the air bag. In this case, the driver’s side air bag may not deploy in an emergency situation. If the horn or cruise control on a car is not functioning properly, it is a sign that the clock spring may be damaged and the air bag may also be non-functional.

Kia vehicles owners experienced a flurry of recalls in 2011.The Kia Spectra was recalled in April, 2011 because corroded straps supporting the fuel tank could allow the tank fall to the level of the road. In May, the Kia Sorrento and Kia Soul were recalled for faulty interior lighting which could potentially cause a fire. The Kia Sorrento was also recalled for a second reason- it was susceptible to transmission failure due to a misaligned drive shaft.

A search of customer complaints submitted to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration reveals that in addition to the problem with the driver’s side airbag, many consumers submitted complaints about faulty passenger side airbags for multiple Kia models manufactured in 2006-2008. The chief complaint was that the passenger side airbag would not register as active although the car was carrying someone in the passenger seat.

California upholds strict liability for product defects. Therefore, even if a car company took reasonable safety measures to prevent manufacturing defects, it will still be liable for damages caused by any defective products were available to consumers. The California Civil Jury Instructions require 5 factors in order to find that a company is liable for a defective product.

The defendant must have manufactured, distributed, or sold the product. The product must have already contained the defect when it left the company’s possession. Moreover, the plaintiff must be actually harmed by using the product in a way that was foreseeable to the defendant. Finally, the product must be a substantial factor in causing the harm.

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Anti-Bullying Push in Berkley Puts Focus on School Safety

January 30, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

It seems sometimes like bullying has reached epidemic proportions. As an Oakland bullying victim’s law firm, the Brod Law Firm applauds the efforts to bring attention to this problem. Our Northern California school injury lawyer also favors efforts by local school authorities to crack down on the problem and ensure the safety of our young residents.

The Oakland Times reported last week on efforts by Berkley schools to enact anti-bullying policies. The move comes in response to seven gun-related incidents at Berkley High School last year, one of which involved shots being fired in a school lavatory. In the new policy, bullying is defined as “systematic and chronically inflicting physical hurt or psychological distress” aimed at either students or teachers. Whether online, telephonically, or in person, the policy requires reporting of bullying incidents as well as investigation by school principals but leaves punishment details up to the school’s discretion based on the age of the offender and the severity of the incident. District officials acknowledged that schools owe an obligation to ensure bullying is taken seriously, noting the investigation should include separate interviews for witnesses, victims, and alleged perpetrators. Individual schools will be required to submit an annual report detailing bullying incidents and the school response.

Some statistics suggest that one in seven students were either bullied or involved in bullying during 2010. Other studies put the number even higher and, in the same year, well over half of students reported being witness to at least one bullying event. Bullying fears are a frequent cause of missed school days with BullyingStatistics.org suggesting fifteen percent of absences in 2010 were related to fear of victimization. Bullying can lead to both mental and physical anguish and is a factor in many cases of youth suicide. Parents should be alert to signs that their child is suffering at the hands of a school bully, especially in the middle school years when bullying appears to peak. A victim may show low self-esteem, may isolate themselves from others, and may display increased anger and frustration. Bullying may result in physical harm or may be primarily mental/emotional in nature.

In some cases, legal action may be appropriate where bullying is ongoing and severe. Bullying lawsuits may be aimed at bullies themselves but increasingly also include school officials who failed in their duty to provide a safe learning environment. Depending on the nature of the bullying, claims may also fall under discrimination or hate crime legislation.

If your child is the victim of bullying, it is important to address the issue immediately with the child and with school authorities. If you feel that the school is failing in its obligations, particularly after the bullying has been reported, consider taking legal action to protect your child and to remind school officials of their duties. As an Oakland victim’s rights law firm, we are available to discuss your potential legal remedies. Please call for a free consultation.

See Related Blog Posts:
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Oakland School Threats Reminder of Need for Safe School Environments

San Francisco Taxi Driver Runs Amuck Outside the Hall of Justice

January 27, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

taxi.jpgMost drivers instinctively improve their driving habits when passing police stations. Not so with one taxi driver, who cut off a bus while trying to make a right turn on Thursday, January 26. The Yellow Cab driver pulled the aggressive maneuver right outside the Bryant Street Police Department and the Hall of Justice, which houses the Traffic Division of the San Francisco Superior Court.

The SF Appeal reports that the taxi caused the bus to collide with it rear right bumper, sending it spinning into a fire hydrant. Luckily, none of the bus’s passengers was harmed and the fire hydrant remains intact. However, the taxi’s passenger was taken to the hospital with minor injuries.

Taxi drivers are culturally regarded as aggressive drivers. Thursday’s accident may not help improve that image. Studies by both University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and University of Sydney, Australia posit that a combination of factors may make individual taxi drivers more likely to drive aggressively. Two factors that affect taxicab driver safety are the relatively low income and low regard that drivers receive in exchange for their work. Drivers feel pressure to increase the number of fares they have in a day, thereby raising their income, but also increasing the threat of accidents. Taxi drivers in the UCLA study cited avoiding the loss of income brought on by an accident as the biggest negative incentive to aggressive driving, rather than the importance of customer satisfaction.

In addition to income pressures, taxi drivers also deal with long hours in consistently stressful situations. A taxi driver’s job is essentially to commit to an endless commute. A driver may stay behind the wheel for longer hours than expected in order to make extra fares. Long hours and missed breaks contribute to driver fatigue and increase the chance of an accident.

A University of California, Berkeley study set out recommendations to tweak the taxi medallion system used in San Francisco since 1978. The medallions limit the number of permitted taxi drivers in the city, increasing income as a whole for taxi drivers, therefore alleviating the pressure to engage in risky behaviors in order to increase the number of fares. San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency is also looking into possible schemes for increased access to health care for taxi drivers. After everything is said and done, the Berkeley study lukewarmly asserts that a San Francisco taxi ride is reasonably safe. Of course, individual driver personality is a substantial factor in driver behavior. Therefore, it is impossible to generalize about the safety of taking any particular cab.

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Help for California Homeowner’s Insurance Consumers

January 27, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

vacant.jpgOur San Francisco insurance lawyer knows that far too many local community members have found themselves in the nightmare scenario of paying for insurance for years only to find out the benefits, for whatever reason, are not available when a disaster strikes. Often a consumer finds out he or she does not have sufficient coverage or that there is an exemption in their insurance policy for something only when the damage is already done. And insurance companies are frequently guilty of confusing business practices, i.e. hiding an exemption in tiny print or legalistic language, or outright intimidation of uninformed consumers.

Fortunately, new rules are in effect now to help California homeowner’s insurance consumers (http://www.brodfirm.com/lawyer-attorney-1844610.html) avoid these kinds of nightmarish scenarios. The California Department of Insurance has put in place the new rules to help homeowners be more informed about their policies and keep consumers from being underinsured. Insurance agents and brokers do not have to help consumers come up with a coverage figure, but under the new rules, if they do, the number must be based in reality. The brokers and agents cannot make up a number or give you a random estimate. If the broker or agent gives a homeowner a figure of how much coverage protection they need for their home, that figure must be made on a concrete calculation. In addition and in conjunction with this, the agents and brokers are required to have specific and ongoing training to teach them to do these calculations.

Some insurance brokers and agents have already been doing this voluntarily, but the insurance companies are not happy with these new rules mandating this procedure if a coverage amount is given to a consumer. Naturally, insurance companies do not want to be responsible for telling consumers what coverage is needed. The current system works to the companies’ advantage and helps their bottom line—which is to make more and more money for their coffers, not to assist consumers in times of trouble if they can avoid it. The companies are so concerned with these new rules that law suits have been filed to overturn the rules, but so far the rules are still in effect.

Our San Francisco insurance attorneys often remind consumers that California has other protections for homeowners’ insurance consumers, as well. Insurance brokers’ fees must be fully disclosed and agreed to by the consumer up front and brokers are not permitted to be an agent of the company providing the insurance coverage. Homeowner’s insurance companies are only officially allowed to cancel coverage for nonpayment of premiums, fraud, material misrepresentations or physical changes to the property that make hazardous accidents more likely. Insurance companies are also limited in the rates they charge. Each company calculates rates based factors such as location, choice of deductibles, local fire protection, and the age and condition of the home. Once determined, these rates are subject to approval by the Department of Insurance, which seeks to ensure that rates are competitive and fair.

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Road Rage Identified as Possible Factor In Fatal Richmond Crash

January 27, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

The Brod Law Firm, your San Francisco car accident law firm, knows that anger and driving can be as volatile a combination as alcohol and driving. In our personal injury practice, our team has seen the danger of putting emotions before safety and we represent San Francisco road rage victims harmed by drivers whose emotions overtook their sense of due care.
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Road rage made headlines again this week. In the early morning hours of Wednesday, January 25, a minivan and a truck collided on Interstate 80 in Richmond. The minivan, a Ford Aerostar, was driven by Ronald Zerangue who was travelling west on I-80 in the vicinity of Carlson Boulevard. The van struck a GMC pickup truck travelling in the carpool lane before crashing into the center divider and flipping repeatedly. Zerangue, 63 of El Sobrante, died at the scene of the crash. The unidentified driver of the pickup and his passenger only suffered minor injuries.

Although the accident remains under investigation, The San Francisco Chronicle suggests road rage is being investigated as a cause. The California Highway Patrol believes that Zerangue may have been attempting to “brake check” the pickup truck at the time of the collision. Brake-checking is the practice of intentionally swerving in front of another vehicle and then stepping on the brake. The Chronicle reports that Zerangue had attempted to cross in front of the truck but clipped it instead, sparking the chain of events that led to the fatality.
Road rage is a serious issue. Wikipedia defines it as “an aggressive or angry behavior by a driver of an automobile or other motor vehicle." The article further notes that the term actually originated in the Los Angeles area after a series of roadway shootings in the mid-1980s. Interestingly, road rage is contained within the leading resource on psychological disorders with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders including it as a symptom of Intermittent Explosive Disorder.

This seriousness is still a bit overlooked, however, by California law. As we’ve noted in this blog before, road rage is specifically addressed by the laws in many states but is generally lumped together with careless and reckless driving in California. Admittedly, road rage brings to mind the famous comments by Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart on pornography: “I know it when I see it.”

Regardless of the vagueness in the criminal law, victims harmed by an emotional driver should consider a civil personal injury lawsuit. Our San Francisco personal injury lawyer can help a victim pursue damages in court. A civil lawsuit after a car accident can include a recovery for medical damages, lost wages, and other costs stemming from another driver’s negligent acts. Further, courts may award damages for pain and suffering. In the most extreme cases, which can include particularly aggressive acts of emotional driving, the court may even award punitive damages in order to further punish a wrongful act.

If you or a loved one was harmed in a San Francisco road rage accident, please call to schedule a free consultation. Most cases of this kind are handled on a contingency basis so there is no cost to you unless you recover compensation for your injuries.

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The Legislation of Road Rage-Comparing California to Rest of the Country
San Francisco-Oakland Car Accident Attorney Comments on a Case of Road Rage in San Francisco

Seeking Justice After Trauma: Legal Considerations After a Case of Sexual Abuse In an Oakland-area School

January 25, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

Parents should be able to send their children to school with confidence that they are safe and protected from harm while they learn. This is a fundamental promise that our communities make to families. As an Oakland sexual abuse victim’s law firm, our team is committed to helping when this commitment is not met. Abuse in Oakland schools should not be tolerated and victims and their families should pursue justice in both civil and criminal court.
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The Oakland Tribune reported this week on the conclusion to a criminal case against a former area school teacher. Michael Merrick, 48, was a teacher at Lafayette’s Stanley Middle School when he was arrested on abuse charges in October 2010. The charges that Merrick molested a fourteen year-old girl stemmed from time the two spent in private summer tutoring sessions on school property and evidence included semen stains from a classroom couch as well as text messages sent by Merrick to the young teen. Merrick accepted a plea deal in the criminal case that will result in five years and eight months in prison. As part of the agreement, Merrick confessed to his actions in court and apologized to the girl, her family, and the community that trusted him with their youth.

Of course, no court action can ever bring back the loss of innocence or undo the harm caused by molestation, especially when the perpetrator was a trusted adult. That said, it is important that victim’s families consider whether a California civil lawsuit for sexual abuse may be an appropriate and even necessary step towards recovery. A criminal conviction is an important element of justice and can provide an important mental and emotional role in the victim’s recovery. However, a criminal conviction cannot address many of the very real aftereffects of the abuse. It is vital that abuse victims are able to receive skilled psychological counseling and this can be a very costly, long-term endeavor. In some cases, medical bills for physical injury may also be a factor. Only a civil lawsuit can provide the financial compensation from the abuser that will help a victim afford this necessary emotional and physical treatment.

In some cases, parties other than the abuser may be included in a civil sexual abuse lawsuit. This can be helpful where the perpetrator may be unable to pay an award. It can also serve as a strong statement about responsibility, especially where children are involved. Our schools owe a safe environment to our children. Consulting a skilled Oakland school injury attorney will allow you to explore whether a claim against the school district is also appropriate in your specific case. If the school was negligent in monitoring safety or responding to prior reports, including the school in a lawsuit can increase the civil recovery and can also help send a strong message that may result in greater precautions in the future.

Again, The Brod Law Firm knows that no amount of money can ever truly compensate a victim for the horror of abuse. However, money can help with both psychological and physical treatment. This is what the civil system is for – compensating victims. Please reach out if we can help you and your family move ahead after an unimaginable trauma.

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Oakland School Threats Reminder of Need for Safe School Environments

Two Separate Sacramento Pedestrian Deaths Share the Headlines

January 23, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

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Serving as a Sacramento pedestrian injury law firm means that our team is particularly aware that auto accidents are all too common in our car-driven culture. The reality of Sacramento pedestrian fatalities is particularly clear after two separate accidents claimed the lives of young adults in the past week.

According to The Sacramento Bee report, the first of these dual tragedies occurred in the early morning hours. At approximately 3:50AM, a twenty-one year old resident of Foster was struck by a car while walking on 113 North in Woodland. The victim was killed in the accident and the driver fled the scene. The California Highway Patrol is looking for witnesses who may have information relating to this fatal hit-and-run.

A second crash, also reported by The Bee, claimed an even younger victim. Sixteen year old Michelle Murigi of Sacramento was hit by a car while crossing Fruitridge Road at 58th Avenue. One eastbound vehicle had stopped to allow the teen to cross but a second car continued through the crosswalk and struck the girl. The crash occurred on Thursday afternoon and Murigi was taken to UC Davis Medical Center. She was placed on life support but succumbed to her injuries and passed away on Friday night. The unidentified driver reportedly said that he did not see the pedestrian and the accident remains under investigation.

Pedestrian fatalities remain a serious problem, despite many efforts to encourage both safe driving and safe pedestrian behavior. According to a report from the National Highway Administration, 4,092 pedestrians were killed in vehicle-related crashes is 2009. This figure represented a seven percent drop from 2008. Notably, between 2000 and 2009, the percentage of traffic deaths involving pedestrians remained fairly steady with pedestrians representing between eleven and twelve percent of all traffic fatalities. This number increases for the youngest victims with pedestrians accounting for twenty-two percent of traffic victims under age five. Weather does not appear to be a primary factor with eighty-nine percent of the pedestrian deaths in 2009 occurring during normal weather conditions. Time-of-day had a much greater statistical impact and sixty-nine percent of the 2009 deaths occurred during nighttime hours. Nearly three-quarters of the accidents occurred in an urban setting. Alcohol is also a significant factor and nearly half of the 2009 pedestrian fatalities involved either an intoxicated driver or an intoxicated pedestrian.

It sounds a bit cliché, but we truly believe that even a single pedestrian death in Sacramento or elsewhere is a death too many. We urge drivers to exercise caution, especially in urban areas where sharing the road is a reality and at night when visibility is an extra challenge. We also urge the families of pedestrian victims to pursue civil litigation after an accident. No amount of money can bring back a lost loved one, but compensation can help survivors pursue help as they grieve and address the economic consequences of the incident. Seeking justice in court also sends a strong message that carelessness will not be tolerated. Our Sacramento wrongful death lawyer is experienced in helping grieving family members navigate the legal system and move forward from tragedy. Please contact us if we can help you and your family in the aftermath of tragedy.

See Related Blog Posts:
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Oakland Accident Law Firm Comments on San Jose Pedestrian Fatality

California Car Buyers Beware

January 20, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

car%20crash%203.jpgRecently California’s 6th Court of Appeals ruled that when a car is sold, the previous insurance is released from liability even if all of the DMV documents have not been transferred yet. Our San Francisco insurance attorneys think auto insurance consumers should be aware of this important recent ruling when buying a new car and deciding what to do about insuring a new car- the timing could be critical.

This recent case, Thiel v. Mercury General Corporation. (http://www.leagle.com/xmlResult.aspx?xmldoc=In%20CACO%2020111227042.xml&docbase=CSLWAR3-2007-CURR), turns on the specific timing and facts as to when ownership of the car was transferred and therefore when the insurance policy ceased to cover the car. Daniel Thiel bought a 2001 BMW from the Benfords in 2008. He paid for the car both with cash and a check. He was told when his check cleared the Benfords would send him the car title. However, before any paperwork could be finalized, an uninsured drunk driver struck Mr. Thiel as he was driving his new car home the very day he bought it. Mr. Thiel was not at fault for the accident and suffered head, chest and leg injuries, requiring two surgeries on his leg and physical therapy.

Mr. Thiel was also uninsured at the time, perhaps simply because had not made insurance arrangements for the car he bought just that day. Regardless, he filed a claim with Mercury Insurance, which had insured the car under the Benfords, but his claim was rejected because the Benfords filed an online Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability with the local DMV the day after the accident and therefore the coverage was terminated.

Mr. Thiel filed a lawsuit against Mercury and claimed, among other things, insurance bad faith. He cited a California statute stating that in order to be a “bona fide sale” and avoid liability when a car is delivered to the buyer, the seller must also either endorse and give the certificate of ownership or deliver the transfer and release of liability documentation to the DMV. Mr. Thiel said he had not received title and the paperwork had not been filed with the DMV at the time of the accident. The appellate court held that a bona fide sale occurred through the nature of the agreement between the buyer and seller which is not disturbed by mere paperwork delays. The court stated that by filing the online Notice within five days of the sale, the Benfords were released of all liability after the sale date, making the fact that the accident took place prior to the filing of the Notice irrelevant.

While this case has a specific fact pattern that lead to Mr. Thiel’s unfortunate dilemma, there are lessons for California auto insurance consumers. San Francisco Insurance lawyers know that auto insurance, like all insurance, can be tricky for consumers to understand. There are seemingly an endless array of clauses and particularities of when something is covered and when it is not. Perhaps when you buy a new car, you do not think of getting insurance ahead of time. Or maybe you are unaware of what happens to your previous insurance when you buy or sell a car. As always, the important thing is to know about your policy and understand the basics of the insurance laws before a problem arises. Anytime you have concerns about insurance issues, be sure to contact a San Francisco insurance lawyer to get experienced help.

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High Rate of Accidents on the N Judah Raises Safety Concerns

January 20, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

The N Judah line, which travels from Ocean Beach to 4th and King Streets, boasts the biggest share of ridership of San Francisco’s light rail lines. Unfortunately, it also boasts the largest number of accidents. According to the SF Examiner, the N Judah was involved in 84 accidents between 2008 and 2011, which is 26 more than the next most accident prone light rail line- the M-Ocean View.

Besides the high traffic on the N Judah line, the safety of the line is affected by its route through the busy Sunset District. The way the streets are designed gives the district a neighborhood feel, but it also makes it difficult for trains to pass through safely. Supervisor Matt Grossman expressed concern over the fact that many stops along the line lack boarding stations. Supervisor Carmen Chu admits that boarding procedures should be looked at on the line to improve safety.

Intersections of high concern include 9th Avenue and Judah street, where a combination of trains running lights, cars steering around trains, and jaywalkers have led to accidents like one in June, 2011, in which the N Judah collided with a truck making a U-turn. In May, 2011 an accident occurred between the N Judah and a vehicle at the intersection of 24th Avenue and Judah, when a driver collided with the N Judah where she had a stop sign and the N Judah did not.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) continues to look for ways to improve safety on the line. In June, 2011 SFMTA created the N Express bus line to relieve congestion during commute hours. Six months later, the SFMTA deemed the line a success and decided to make it permanent. Supervisor Carmen Chu worked with the Department of Public Works to install bright colored planter boxes at the intersection where turnaround for the N Judah is located.The boxes are meant to discourage drivers from making dangerous maneuvers to get around trains stopped there.

Continue reading " High Rate of Accidents on the N Judah Raises Safety Concerns " »

San Francisco Injury Law Firm Comments on Tragic Italian Cruise Crash

January 20, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

Like others around the world, our San Francisco personal injury law firm team has been watching as the tragic story of the cruise ship disaster on the Italian coast unfolds. It seems that each day a new element emerges as the world attempts to understand both the accident and its aftermath. The actions of the ship’s captain both leading up to and following the moment the Concordia ran aground will be discussed and disputed for a long time to come. The reports thus far suggest far more than simple negligence on the captain’s behalf and serve as a reminder that operating errors can extend far beyond drivers of cars and SUVs.
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We are proud to serve boating accident victims in San Francisco and throughout Northern California, regardless of whether their injuries occurred on a large cruise ship or a much smaller, personal boat. The California Department of Boating and Waterways, which compiles statistics on boating injuries in the state, found that in 2008 a total of 686 accidents led to 382 injuries, 48 deaths, and $5,899,184 in damages. This represented a significant decline from the prior year with 2007 containing 804 accidents, 482 injuries, 55 fatalities, and $10,643,800 in economic damages resulting from boating accidents. In both years, the largest share of accidents involved open motorboats. Other Department publications suggest that half of all fatal boating accidents involve intoxicated vessel operators.

Given the numerous coastal regions and other waterways in our state, it is not surprising that California has a fully developed system of laws and regulations governing boaters that is akin to the more commonly known rules of the roadways. The waterways laws include many specific procedural rules as well as general prohibitions against reckless or negligent vessel operation. California does not, however, require a license to operate a boat. The Department of Boating and Waterways does offer a number of safety education pamphlets, including a detailed correspondence home safety course that can result in reduced insurance premiums upon a boat owner’s successful completion of a safety test. In some cases, people who have been involved in a boating accident or who have been charged with a violation of a waterways law may be ordered by a judge to take part in this course.

Our hearts go out to those involved in the Italian cruise disaster, including passengers and those who lost loved ones. Thankfully, boating accidents on this scale are relatively rare. However, as the statistics above show, smaller scale waterways accidents impact many California residents every year. If you or a loved one has been injured in a boating accident, it is vital that you reach out to an experienced San Francisco boating injury lawyer. Gregory Brod and the Brod Law Firm team can help you to understand and navigate the legal system and receive compensation for your injuries from the parties at fault. As always, our office offers a free consultation to all prospective clients. Most of our San Francisco personal injury lawsuits are handled on a contingent fee basis so there is no charge unless you recover compensation for your injuries.

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The Dangers of Distracted Walking: Report Indicates Three-Fold Rise in Injuries to Headphone-Wearing Pedestrians

January 18, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

As an experienced San Francisco personal injury law office, The Brod Law Firm knows that vehicle crashes can involve pedestrian victims in addition to the vehicle occupants. Our San Francisco pedestrian injury attorney also knows that these cases often result from a myriad of causes that all contribute to an accident. It is our mission to hold negligent drivers and operators responsible for their actions but we also urge residents to exercise caution while walking to help avoid tragic results.
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CNN’s website is reporting on a study published in Injury Prevention that drives home the importance of being aware of your surroundings, even when you are on foot rather than behind the wheel. The study by a team at the University of Maryland School of Medicine found that serious injuries and fatalities involving headphone-wearing pedestrians tripled in the period between 2004 and 2011. Half of the reported incidents involved train collisions while the other half involved cars, trucks, buses, or bicycles. Although headphones have been around for decades, they have become increasingly prevalent in our wired 21st century lives. The danger appears especially prevalent for younger people with twenty-one being the median age of the pedestrians. Headphones can render pedestrians inattentive and limit their ability to hear oncoming vehicles. In response to the danger of distracted pedestrians, some lawmakers have even considered legislation forbidding the use of headphones in city intersections.

As a victim’s personal injury law firm in San Francisco, we know that accidents are complex. While we urge residents to use caution and take steps to avoid pedestrian injury, we also believe that those injured by negligent drivers deserve compensation even if their own actions were not without fault. Until 1975, California used a legal principle that barred any recovery whenever the victim’s own negligence contributed to the accident. This is no longer the case. The California Supreme Court has since made it clear that victims can recover even in cases of contributory negligence, the legal term for the victim’s own imperfect actions. Victims can still bring, and win, personal injury suits where their own negligence was a factor. Instead of barring recovery, the court may reduce the amount of damages awarded in order to take the plaintiff’s role into account. For example, if the court finds that a speeding driver held 85% of the responsibility for a crash with 15% of the fault being due to the pedestrian’s own distraction, the court will calculate the amount of damages and award 85% of the total figure.

It is a prevalent theme of this blog that prevention is always best. We urge area pedestrians to be fully aware of their surroundings, taking particular care on busy streets, near intersections, and at railroad crossings. Headphones should be used responsibly and pedestrians should always be sure they can hear the traffic noises around them and that they do not allow their mobile devices to distract them from their safety. However, we also know that most accidents include a myriad of factors and do not believe that simply having worn headphones should prevent a victim from seeking compensation when another person’s negligence led to their injuries. If you have suffered injury in a pedestrian accident in San Francisco or the surrounding Northern California communities, please contact our team for a free consultation to discuss your unique case and your legal rights.

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Woman Injured and Child Mauled in Sacramento Dog Attack

January 16, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

Dogs can be wonderful companions. They are loyal, loving, and are often a true member of the family. While most pets are gentle and kind, dangerous dogs are a real concern. As your Sacramento personal injury lawyer and an experienced California dog bite law firm, The Brod Law Firm is prepared to help residents who have suffered injury after being attacked by a dog.
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The Sacramento Bee and CBS 13 Sacramento both reported on a vicious pit bull attack on the morning of Saturday January 14, 2011. The attack occurred at a home in South Sacramento on the 7000 block of Third Parkway. Details on the events leading up to the event are limited, but it appears that a nine year-old boy walked from the home into the backyard where the dog was located. The dog severely mauled the child, leaving him with a head injury and damage to his arm. A woman was also injured in the events. Her injuries appear to be less severe and the article reports that she is recovering. A neighbor, Pat Nunes, heard the commotion and helped to free the boy from the dog’s bite. Paramedics and law enforcement responded to the call and contacted Sacramento County Animal Control for additional support. The sheriff’s office reported that an officer did fire his weapon when the dog attempted to leap a fence and escape from the home’s yard. The Bee does not comment on the dog’s fate but CBS’s web site reports that the dog was killed.

California law is particularly strict in cases of dog bites. While some states have a policy that the owner must have been aware of the dog’s viciousness in order to impose civil liability, California does not. Under California Civil Code Section 3342 an owner is automatically liable for the actions of their animal. This is a huge benefit to victims seeking compensation in civil court since they do not need to prove prior knowledge, a tricky and difficult requirement. This strict liability rule does have an exception for cases where the dog was intentionally provoked.

In some areas, special regulations apply to pit bulls, a notoriously dangerous breed. California generally leaves this decision up to local municipal authorities. San Francisco has a city ordinance that requires all pit bulls be spayed or neutered, with an exception for registered show dogs. This regulation was enacted in 2005. In 2010, a representative for the San Francisco police department’s vicious dog unit reported a significant drop in the number and severity of attacks by pit bulls under the provision. Sacramento does not appear to have such restrictions. In addition to legal restrictions, some insurance carriers restrict coverage on homes containing pit bulls.

Dog bites can cause severe physical injury and even death. They can result in medical bills and lost wages, in some cases restricting future employment options where permanent damage is incurred. Additionally, a dog attack can cause significant mental distress. If you or a loved one has been harmed by a dangerous dog in Sacramento or elsewhere in the Northern California region, you may be entitled to compensation. Our Sacramento injury attorney can help you recover the damages the law allows. Please call for a free consultation to discuss your legal rights. In most injury cases, we operate on a contingent fee basis so there are no attorney’s fees unless you recover for your injuries.

See Related Blog Posts:California Strict Liability Law Promotes Owner Accountability in San Francisco Dog Bite Cases
San Francisco Dog Bite Attorney Comments on San Francisco's Pit Bull Ordinance

$54 million Recovered for California Insurance Consumers in 2011

January 13, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

Good news for those interested in the fight to keep the insurance industry fair and honest in California. Commissioner Dave Jones announced on Tuesday that California’s Department of Insurance (CDI) recovered $54 million for consumers in 2011.

The Department has two branches, one to deal with consumer complaints and the other to investigate insurance companies through a thorough examination process (see further discussion of CDI here. The Consumer Services branch runs a consumer hotline that receives about 200,000 calls annually, as well as bureaus on health claims, claims services, and rating and underwriting services. Our San Francisco insurance lawyer was happy to read that the Consumer Services branch recovered over $49 million last year through investigations of the complaints filed. The other division, the Market Conduct Branch, which includes a field claims bureau and a field rating and underwriting bureau, ran 114 examinations of insurance companies last year and recovered an additional $5 million for California insurance consumers. Commissioner Jones stated that protecting consumers is the Department’s top priority and that, “Our consumer complaint services and market conduct exams are important tools that we employ to respond to the needs of consumers and proactively go after any activities that pose a threat to policyholders." insurance%20health.jpg

The 2011 numbers are actually down from 2010, when the Department of Insurance recovered $63.8 million for consumers. And the Department recovered $89.1 million in 2009, but that number was higher because the Department was still processing the high volume of claims after California’s devastating 2007-08 wildfires. These high recovery numbers year after year show that the Department of Insurance is needed to be a watchdog for nefarious insurance companies trying to use inappropriate tactics against honest, paying consumers.

Those of us who practice California insurance law should not be surprised by the size of the annual recovery numbers. It is common knowledge that some insurance companies act out of greed and for the sake of profits, trying every means available to pay out as little as possible to the policyholder. The Department of Insurance’s hotline is a good starting point if you are unhappy or feel cheated by your insurance provider, as CDI is tasked with things like ensuring consumers are being treated fairly and imposing penalties for legal violations. The number for the consumer hotline is 1-800-927-HELP (4357), and you can file a formal complaint.

But when the Department gets your complaint, it contacts your insurance company and informs them of the complaint and also asks for the company’s version of the event or issue. The Department does not adjudicate a dispute. The goal of the complaint process is more to find patterns from complaints and when there is a clear instance of an insurance company repeatedly acting in a certain inappropriate or illegal way. If you are in a dispute with your insurance company in our area to receive the benefits or damages that you deserve you might need personalized legal assistance from a qualified San Francisco insurance attorney.

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Additional Charges Brought In Case of Teenage Drinking and Fatal DUI

January 13, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

As a San Francisco law firm for car accident victims, The Brod Law Firm knows firsthand that car crashes are often much more complicated than they seem. It may seem simple to assess fault and the temptation to stop the analysis at the driver may be especially strong in cases involving DUIs. However, it is important to dig deeper to examine the many factors that contribute to drunk driving accidents. This process is vital to preventing future accidents and to ensuring justice is served for the victims.

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The San Francisco Chronicle reported this week on charges filed against two adults stemming from a fatal car accident involving an intoxicated teenage driver. The details are in dispute but it appears fifty-one year old Amelia Chin accompanied Margaret Qaqish, a seventeen year old friend of Chin’s daughter, to the Good N Rich Dairy Market where an alcohol purchase was made. The involved parties debate who made the purchase, but the alcohol appears to have been a factor in a car crash during the early morning hours on the following day. The driver, seventeen year old Sean Quintero, was intoxicated and reportedly debating music choices with his passengers when he failed to notice that the car in front of him had stopped. Quaqish, the teen involved in the store visit the prior day, was sitting in the middle rear seat when the car collided with the stopped vehicle. She was thrown forward and died at the hospital the following day.

In November, Quintero, the teenage driver, pled no contest to charges including misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter and felony drunken driving. His blood alcohol level was 0.15% at the time of the crash, nearly twice the limit for drivers under California law. His sentence will be handed down next month. This week, additional charges were filed relating to the accident. Chin, a resident of Alameda, has been arrested on suspicion that she furnished alcohol to the teens. Additionally, Abduhl Azeem Buksh, a co-owner of the Dairy Mart and the clerk involved in the alcohol sale, has been charged with selling alcohol to minors. As noted above, there remains a dispute regarding who made the alcohol purchase and there are likely other specific facts that need to be clarified to determine how these charges will play out in court.

Underage drinking is illegal and dangerous, especially when cars are involved. Educating our young people is key, but it is important to remember that California law also imposes responsibility on adults. It is a crime to provide alcohol to a minor. A law that went into effect at the beginning of 2011 reiterated the legislature’s concern on the matter by expanding the liability of adults for actions that occur in their homes. The social host liability provisions make adults liable if they provide alcohol to minors in their residence, such as when hosting a party for their teenage children and their young friends. Parents may believe that hosting a party promotes a safer environment, but teenage drinking is still illegal and the law is very clear that the adults involved are committing a crime.

In addition to criminal charges, civil courts can and will hold adults liable when they furnish alcohol to an underage individual who is later involved in an accident. As a San Francisco law firm for DUI victims, we work to make sure that injured Californians receive all the compensation the law allows. We are fully prepared to include those whose disregard for the law and safety contributed to an accident in these lawsuits. Victims face staggering economic and emotional costs after an accident and we will work to ensure that they recover damages to help them in the aftermath of the incident. This means looking deeply at the events that led up to the accident, applying the law to the circumstances of the specific case.

We hope that adults will think twice before providing alcohol to teens. We believe that DUIs can be avoidable with responsible decision-making. However, if you or a loved one has been injured by a San Francisco drunk driver, please reach out to us. We can help you recover compensation from the driver and from other individuals whose poor decision-making contributed to your injury.

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New California Insurance Law Seeks to Broaden Parameters of Insurance Coverage for Autism

January 12, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

Among the new laws passed in 2011 is a new California insurance law, SB 946, which aims to complement existing law that requires equal coverage of mental health conditions and medical conditions. The Mental Health Parity Law and a settlement agreement reached by insurance companies and the California Department of Managed Health Care provide for insurance coverage of mental health conditions, including the full spectrum of autism. Insurance companies must provide equal mental health coverage and maximum lifetime benefits at the same rates as medical coverage.

Existing regulations required that all treatment be provided by licensed professionals, such as psychologists, registered nurses, and social workers. However, this language excluded certified providers of “applied behavior analysis” (ABA,) a prevalent strategy meant to improve behavior and quality of life for families with autistic children. The distinction between a licensed profession and a certified one is made by how the profession is regulated. Licensed professions are regulated by the state while certified professions are regulated by non-governmental entities.

The new law has a great impact on families with autistic children attempting to obtain health insurance and make claims to pay for behavioral treatments. It requires insurance companies to cover mental health treatment such as applied behavior analysis as long as it is prescribed by a licensed professional. The mental health treatment itself may be carried out by professionals who are not regulated specifically by the State of California.

The California Association of Health Plans opposed the bill, stating an industry study that the bill would effectively raise insurance costs by $850 million. A similar study carried out by the California Health Review found that it would raise insurance costs by about $93 million and lower the costs of special education and social services, paid for by the taxpayer, by about $140 million.

Families affected by the bill should take some exceptions to coverage into consideration. Insurance plans provided by federal and state governments, such as ERISA, CalPERS, Medicare, and Medi-Cal, are excluded from the law’s requirements. Those plans have their own requirements regarding mental healthcare. Also, plans that are considered “self-funded” or paid for by an employer who did not purchase a fully funded plan from a third party are excepted from the bill’s regulations. It is difficult for insured employees to tell the difference and should call their employer’s human resources department to inquire.

Moreover, the bill is effective July 1, 2012, but it sunsets on July 1, 2014 only two years later. The federal healthcare plan is set to take effect at that time and SB 946 will have to be re-evaluated to comply with federal law. Therefore, families should look closely for deadlines and news updates to determine future pay outs for mental healthcare. In the meantime, Autism Speaks, a prominent autism advocacy organization, recommends that persons harmed by insurance companies violating this or other insurance laws contact an attorney to see if legal action is appropriate.

Besides the laws already mentioned, insurance companies doing business in California must adhere to the California Insurance Code. Insurance companies may not engage in tactics meant to delay payment or offer to pay out low amounts on claims in bad faith. Additionally, they must communicate promptly with the insured regarding their claims. The insurance company must tell you why they denied your claim.

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Wrongful Death Attorney on Arrest of Driver in Fatal DUI Crash in San Jose

January 11, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

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A story in The Oakland Tribune serves as a disheartening reminder that DUI dangers do not disappear after the holiday season fades away and that Oakland motor vehicle accident fatalities will remain a reality in 2012. As a law firm for Oakland DUI victims, we are saddened by every accident but we are proud to be able to help victims and their families in the aftermath of these tragedies.

Salvador Espino, a fifty-five year old from San Jose, has been arrested and is facing charges of driving under the influence, vehicular manslaughter, and other related violations. Reports indicate that he was driving a 2007 Dodge Caravan erratically, pinballing between the center median and shoulder, while reaching speeds over ninety miles per hour. Espino was driving in the northbound lanes of I-680 between Milpitas and Fremont and, in the area of Scott Creek Road, his vehicle struck two cars before veering off the road and slamming into two trees. The impact was strong enough to shear the right side off of the minivan and topple one of the trees. Espino was not seriously harmed but his passenger, another fifty-five year old man from San Jose, was killed and pronounced dead at the crash scene. The driver was arrested, booked, and taken to Santa Rita Jail on suspicion of numerous counts including an alcohol-related charge.

As Oakland wrongful death lawyers, we recognize that the law cannot bring back a victim who is killed in a senseless auto accident. We advocate for prevention and education because a post-accident lawsuit is always an imperfect remedy. Nonetheless, we believe that it is important for families who have lost a loved one to reach out to experienced legal counsel to discuss their legal rights.

Wrongful death claims are generally filed by the victim’s next-of-kin. These suits are filed in civil court and are separate from any criminal case brought by government authorities. Civil wrongful death suits are focused on compensating those impacted by the accident for their loss. The economic costs of a fatal accident can be very high and a court can award damages to cover these expenses. This can include final medical bills and funeral costs as well as the loss of the victim’s income and the value of any benefit packages carried by the victim. California law recognizes that the loss of unpaid household assistance, including child-rearing, is also a very real economic loss and the value of these services can be included in a wrongful death verdict. Although it is a much harder value to quantify, the court can also award damages for non-economic results of the loss such as the loss of love, companionship, and sexual relations. Where the conduct is especially egregious, a court may also include punitive damages to punish the offender and deter future violations.

Passenger fatalities may raise complex emotions. Where the driver who caused the accident was known to the victim and perhaps to the remaining loved ones as well, the grief of loss can be compounded by a mix of anger and concern for the driver. We appreciate these complexities, having worked with victims for many years. It is important to care for your emotional health and that of your family, addressing both the feelings of loss and the feelings towards the wrongdoer. It is, however, important to remember that legal recovery is your right. It is not selfish. It is not unfair to bring a wrongful death claim against someone your family knows. The losses are real and there is a reason the law provides compensation.

After a loss, please take care of yourself and your loved ones. Please seek any psychological support you may need. Please also protect your legal rights by calling our law firm to discuss your Oakland wrongful death claim.

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California Concussion Law Takes Effect January 2012, Increasing School Liability

January 10, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

On October 5, 2011 California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Assembly Bill No. 25
which requires that schools with elective sports programs pay closer attention to concussions. The bill exhorts school personnel to sit out players with a suspected concussion. The athletes are not allowed to return to play without written clearance by a licensed medical provider.

The passage of Assembly Bill No. 25 follows the well-covered deaths of high school students Jaquan Waller in September of 2008 and of Ryne Dougherty in October of the same year. Each player died after they were returned to play too soon after suffering a concussion.

Concussions are caused by a sudden blow which moves the brain rapidly inside the skull. The arteries in the brain constrict, reducing blood flow. Concussions slow reaction time and decrease coordination, significantly increasing the chances of a second concussion if an athlete is not allowed to fully recover. A second impact may cause the brain to swell and puts the concussed person at risk for cerebral bleeding and fatal brain stem failure. A second concussion that occurs before the first is healed is known as second impact syndrome.

Symptoms of concussion include dizziness, disorientation, nausea, headaches, cognitive difficulties, and changes in sleep patterns. The majority of concussions are classified as mild and 90% of concussions sufferers do not lose consciousness. Since the common symptoms of concussions are not obviously physical signs, concussions are difficult to identify.

The bill’s requirements aim to protect students eighteen years old and under because they are susceptible to more frequent and more severe concussions than older athletes as their brains are still in the development stage. Concussions may have serious negative effects on students’ academic abilities and on their physical well-being. It is irresponsible of schools to allow students to return to play based on whether they feel well enough, as students desire to play and the pressure to perform causes them to lie about symptoms. Some schools have implemented concussion management programs to determine if a student athlete has suffered a concussion. Initial tests include analytical and memory questions asked of a student who has a suspected concussion, as well as a physical assessment to determine reaction times and coordination.

Schools and families should also be aware that football is not the only sport that has a high risk of concussions. Girls who play soccer actually suffer higher rates of concussion than helmet-bearing football players. Men and women’s lacrosse also see high rates of concussion injuries.

California schools now have a duty by law to immediately take players of elective sports out of the game with suspected brain injuries until a doctor deems them fully recovered. Schools that deviate from this duty and do not identify high risk students and look out for possible concussions are exposing themselves to allegations of negligence and possible lawsuits. Furthermore, coaches or athletic trainers that feel the pressure to return athletes too early to play in key games may stunt the recovery of the athlete and create a liability for the school. For instance in New Jersey, where a similar law exists, La Salle University settled with the family of Preston Plevretes for $7.5 million dollars after he suffered second impact syndrome.

Photo credit: kconnors from morguefile.com

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Remembering the Victims: San Francisco Victim’s Rights Attorney Comments on Criminal Sentencing of Child Molester

January 9, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

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While nothing can ever undo the harm caused by child molester, our San Francisco abuse lawyer is always gratified to see justice served and evil punished. The recent sentencing of a San Francisco child molester reminds us that the criminal justice system can work to penalize those who violate the law and the standards of common decency. This case also serves as an opportunity to remind residents that our dual legal system provides both the opportunity to punish offenders and the opportunity for victims to recover monetary damages for the harm done. The wrong cannot be undone but the system can provide compensation to help victims move forward after an egregious harm.

On Sunday, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on the sentencing of a repeat child molester. The investigation against Julius Lewis began in 2006 when a six year-old girl, a friend of Lewis’s daughter, reported that she had been molested by Lewis. In addition to charges related to that victim, the case included charges that Lewis molested his step-daughter beginning in 1989. Some of the acts occurred during the time Lewis lived in Texas and had also served a prison sentence there for indecency with a child. Lewis was convicted in September on five counts of lewd acts with a minor and was sentenced this past Friday to twenty-nine years in prison.

It is important to remember that our judicial system has separate and distinct courts for civil and criminal charges. A conviction in criminal court represents official authorities imposing punishment on a wrongdoer for violating the law. The civil system, in contrast, focuses on redressing the wrong done to a victim. An abuse victim in San Francisco can bring a civil suit regardless of whether criminal charges are successful and even if no criminal case is filed. Criminal convictions can be a huge psychological win for a victim but only a civil suit can help them recover damages for their experience. While no amount of money can undo the acts, it can help the victim access resources to help them recover from the emotional and physical trauma. A civil victory can also allow the victim to feel truly heard.

California law recognizes that child victims may be unable to speak about the abuse while it is ongoing. As such, the law allows victims to file civil child abuse claims until their 26th birthday. The law also recognizes that victims may repress the memory of the abuse, a survival technique of sorts. If a victim recovers the memory of the abuse at a later point, the limitations period can be expanded to allow the claim to be filed within three years of the time the memory surfaces.

The numbers are frightening, especially for parents. Statistics suggest one in four girls and one in six boys will experience sexual abuse prior to their eighteenth birthday. At The Brod Law Firm, we applaud criminal convictions that show that California will not tolerate these horrible crimes. We also urge the adult victims of childhood sexual abuse or the parents of current victims to consider a civil lawsuit. It will not undo the harm, but it can help the victim afford treatment and give them a sense of that their voice has been heard. As an experienced San Francisco victim’s law firm, we can help you pursue justice. We also hope all abuse victims will seek help from a specialized mental health practitioner to assist them in moving forward from the harm.

See Related Blog Posts:
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Formaldehyde Exposure from Brazilian Blowout Hair Treatment Prompts Toxic Tort Lawsuits

January 6, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

The product Brazilian Blowout has gained popularity in salons as a smoothing hair treatment. However, in August 2011, the Federal Drug Administration issued a warning letter to Mike Brady, CEO of Brazilian Blowout for having excessive amounts of formaldehyde in the Brazilian Blowout hair treatment. Furthermore, the warning letter admonishes Brazilian Blowout for misbranding its product label by declaring the hair product as “Formaldehyde Free”. The Federal Drug Administration found unsafe levels of formaldehyde when it tested samples of Brazilian Blowout. The tests of Brazilian Blowout confirmed the presence of methylene glycol, the liquid form of formaldehyde, at levels ranging from 8.7 to 10.4%.

The FDA warning letter prompted the Federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) to conduct its own investigation into formaldehyde exposure from the hair treatment. It took samples of formaldehyde levels at multiple salons while the hair treatment was being used and found that they exceeded safe levels, which OSHA defines for a fifteen minute time period as less than 2.0 parts of formaldehyde per million parts of air (ppm). In one test, the level of formaldehyde was 4.ppm and in another it was 10.12 ppm. In addition, at the state level Cal OSHA is conducting local investigations into complaints by salon workers who suffered injury as a result of using misbranded hair smoothing treatments. California regulations prohibit formaldehyde levels to exceed an average .75 ppm over an eight hour period. OSHA has released multiple hazard alerts for Brazilian Blowout, most recently of December 8, 2011.

Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen that can irritate skin, cause respiratory problems, blurry vision, and headaches, among other symptoms. Salon workers are most at risk and may inhale formaldehyde when it is released into the air during the application of heat to the product. Physical contact with the product itself can also lead to exposure. OSHA recommends that salon workers wear gloves while handling the product. It also advises that air ventilators be installed in salons that provide hair smoothing treatments as many contain various forms of formaldehyde.

The California Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit against Brazilian Blowout on November 5, 2010 for violating Proposition 65 which requires that products which contain ingredients known to cause cancer to be labeled accordingly. The Attorney General also alleges that Brazilian Blowout engages in deceptive advertising practices by labeling its product as “Formaldehyde Free”. The lawsuit is ongoing.

Continue reading " Formaldehyde Exposure from Brazilian Blowout Hair Treatment Prompts Toxic Tort Lawsuits " »

DUI in the Air: Pilot in Sonoma County Arrested for Drunken Flying

January 6, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

Serving as a law firm for Oakland auto accident victims, the Brod Law Firmour team is keenly aware of the dangers of drunk driving in Oakland and throughout Northern California. We have seen too many innocent residents injured by a driver who chose to ignore the law and show disregard for safety by getting behind the wheel of a car after consuming alcohol. While we are proud to serve victims, we are saddened by every needless accident. Despite police crackdowns and education campaigns, drunk driving remains all too common.
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Given their frequency, DUI incidents don’t always make the news but The Oakland Tribune reported this week on an unusual twist on the mix of alcohol and vehicle operation – drunk flying. The air operations division of the California Highway Patrol noticed a small plane flying erratically during the afternoon hours of Tuesday January 2, 2012. In violation of federal aviation regulations, the plane flew as low as 50 feet from the ground and a mere 100 feet from highway traffic. The CHP used the plane’s tail numbers to identify the plane which was registered in Pennsgrove. When the pilot landed at the Petaluma Municipal Airport, authorities approached and immediately noted the smell of alcohol on the sixty-two year old pilot’s breath. After administering field sobriety tests, the CHP arrested the pilot on suspicion of flying while intoxicated.

The Federal Aviation Administration reports a significant increase in serious pilot errors when the pilot’s blood alcohol concentration (“BAC”) is above 0.04% and a decline in flying skill with levels as low as 0.025%. This is significantly lower than the 0.08% BAC level that constitutes a DUI for a California driver. In recognition of the risks posed by an incapacitated pilot, federal regulations prohibit flying within eight hours of alcohol consumption or when the pilot has a BAC above 0.04%. The FAA recommends even greater caution, suggesting that pilots refrain from drinking alcohol for twenty-four hours prior to takeoff. FAA material also caution that hangover symptoms can significantly impair skills even if the pilot’s BAC has returned to a legal range.

Flying is generally one of the safest modes of transportation but a plane is only as safe as its pilot. While an intoxicated pilot would hopefully be identified at a larger facility, it may be significantly easier for a private pilot to step into the cockpit while under the influence of alcohol. A pilot whose reflexes are dulled by alcohol could pose a risk to countless innocent bystanders. The Brod Law Firm team has the experience necessary to help aviation accident victims in Northern California.

If you or a loved one has suffered an injury due to someone else’s negligence, please contact our Oakland personal injury attorney. Our law firm always offers a free consultation to discuss your unique case. Most of our personal injury cases are handled on a contingency basis so there is no fee for our services unless you recover compensation for your injuries.

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Health Insurance Still a Worry in California

January 6, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

medmal.pngAn annual California Employer Health Benefits Survey came out this week with bleak news for California insurance consumers. It polled 770 benefit managers at private companies in the state from July to October 2011. The bottom line of the survey was that fewer companies offered health insurance in 2011 and those that did charged more for it. Those of us who practice insurance law in California are naturally concerned about these newly released statistics and what further impact the numbers could have as the health insurance market feels pressure from the economic downturn.

In California, 63 percent of workers have employer-sponsored health insurance, down from 73 percent two years ago. And premiums for these health plans rose by an astonishing 153.5 percent since 2002, more than five times California’s inflation rate for the same period. About 25 percent of employers either reduced benefits or raised costs on employees in 2011. A large part of this is due to the economic downturn of the last few years coupled with steadily rising costs. And there is no end to this trend in 2012 as 36 percent of California employers stated they are either somewhat or very likely to increase the amount employees pay this year. This upward trend in costs has been present for several decades, but the dramatic upturn in the numbers in this most recent survey are still striking even to experienced San Francisco insurance lawyers.

The numbers are especially alarming considering consumers are getting fewer benefits for their money, as well. The insurance benefits decreased at the same time as co-pays, deductibles, and premiums rose dramatically in cost for the employee-consumers. And employers are paying more than average in California, as well. They contribute, on average, $5,000 per single employee and nearly $12,000 a year for family coverage.

With health insurance squeezed from all sides, Californians should take extra care in being aware of what benefits they are entitled to and informed about their health care policy and what choices they have. A San Francisco insurance attorney can help you understand your insurance and can be your most important resource if you are denied benefits from insurance companies trying to find even more ways to earn more money. As a representative of Consumer Watchdog, a non-profit, stated, the premiums have gone up five times more than inflation and the money is going somewhere. Even accounting for higher costs, the insurance companies’ greed is powerful. Insurance consumers need to be vigilant of their own interests, since the companies’ interest is profit, not your health.

Some of these spiraling costs should be ameliorated, according to industry expectations, in 2014 when the full implementation of President Obama’s healthcare law will go into effect. However, that is still two years away. Also, a measure in the California legislature to regulate health insurance rates failed last year, even though 35 other states have this ability. Remember for now that often being informed is your best option as a consumer in a difficult insurance market.

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A New Year’s Message for Small Business Owners: Partnering With The Brod Law Firm for a Successful 2012

January 4, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

2012 opened with great results in the stock market, with the Dow gaining 180 points on the first trading day of the new year. Reporting on the strong opening on Wall Street, The San Francisco Chronicle noted that January results can be a strong indicator for the year to come. Although the exchange numbers focus on some of our nation’s largest corporations, the gains were spread across a range of business areas. Our San Francisco small business attorney at The Brod Law Firm is hopeful that this is a sign that 2012 will be a strong year for companies of all sizes. We welcome the chance to be the law firm for local business in San Francisco and throughout Northern California in 2012.

Small and medium-sized businesses are the backbone of our country. There are approximately 3.4 million small businesses in California and statistics suggest they account for fifty-two percent of our state’s private sector employment. In the period between 1993 and 2008, small businesses accounted for sixty-four percent of the net new jobs nationwide.

As a San Francisco small business law firm, we believe in representing the interests of our local business owners and managers. We can provide the legal support your business needs when you are drafting contracts or negotiating other key business documents. Our experience with business disputes provides us with a specialized perspective. We can apply our experience to help our clients prevent future legal disputes with carefully drafted contracts that anticipate and avoid the pitfalls that can befall well-meaning business owners.

If, despite all precautions, your small business becomes involved in a legal dispute, we are prepared to help. We know that the bottom-line is crucial to all companies and even more vital for smaller businesses with narrower profit margins. Our legal team will always work to resolve your dispute in a timely and cost-effective manner. In many cases, engaging a small business lawyer will allow you to successfully negotiate a resolution without the need for a lawsuit. Negotiation, mediation, and arbitration are all effective tools that we can use to help limit the costs associated with resolving a business dispute. These tools can be used regardless of whether your dispute is with an employee, another small organization, or even a large corporation.

Small business owners may be tempted to attempt to draft documents and resolve disputes without legal counsel in an effort to control costs. Unfortunately, this well-intentioned approach often increases expenses in the end by resulting in further disputes or settlements that do not fully reflect the business owner’s legal rights. We are always mindful of costs. Unlike some law firms, the Brod Law Firm does not require a minimum number of billable hours for each business client. We will work with your business to craft the legal strategy that best reflects your legal needs and keeps your legal costs reasonable. We believe in being a partner in your business endeavors and in using our legal expertise to help our business clients save money and prosper.

Please call us to arrange a free consultation to discuss how we can partner together to make 2012 a success for your Northern California small business.

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Auto Insurance May Not Pay for Damage to You or Your Car in a Hit and Run Accident

January 3, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

car%20crash.jpgThe State of California requires drivers to carry insurance at all times. Many drivers assume that carrying the minimum insurance required should cover damage done to their car in most instances. However, this is not the case. California Insurance Code Section 11580.1b only requires that drivers buy liability insurance that provides at least $15,000 in coverage for injury or death to one person, $30,000 in coverage for injury or death to more than one person, and $5,000 in coverage for property damage. This type of insurance coverage pays medical expenses and vehicle repair costs to the other driver, if the insured is at fault. Therefore, if you find yourself the victim of a hit and run accident, the minimum amount of insurance would not cover any of your costs.

25% of California motorists are driving without insurance. Drivers who carry only liability insurance are not covered in the case of an accident with an uninsured motorist and must pay for medical bills and for repairs to damaged property out of pocket. In California, a hit and run accident where the driver is unidentified is treated by insurance companies as if it were an accident with an uninsured motorist. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 11% of accidents are hit and run accidents nationwide. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration puts the number of hit and run accidents in California specifically at 18% of crashes.

There are optional types of coverage that will pay for some or all of the expenses of a victim of a hit and run crash. First, collision coverage will cover damage sustained by the insured’s car, regardless of who is at fault, including hit and run drivers. However, this type of insurance requires the insured to pay a deductible out of pocket and is more expensive than other types of insurance. In addition, a claim to the insurance company may affect the policy holder’s future insurance rate, regardless of who is at fault. A driver would need to take out an additional personal injury policy in order to be covered for medical expenses in the event of a hit and run accident.

Insurance companies in California are also required to offer uninsured motorists coverage. This type of insurance covers the medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering of policy holders who suffer injuries as a result of an accident with an uninsured driver, including hit and run motorists. Additionally, drivers may choose to carry uninsured motorist property damage coverage for damage to their car. Uninsured motorist property damage insurance is advisable as 80% of hit and run accident involve only damage to vehicles. There is no deductible for this type of coverage, however there may be limits placed on the amount paid out.

If you are the victim of a hit and run accident, whether the driver is identifiable or not, it is recommended that you file a police report. You may have to complete a walk-in report at the police department, as some patrols will respond to the accident site, especially if the accident occurred on private property like a grocery store parking lot. A police report is important documentation of your claim and may be required to pursue a claim with your insurance company if you do have collision or uninsured motorists insurance.

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California Ushers in New Year with Enhanced Child Safety Law

January 2, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

With the arrival of 2012, our Sacramento automobile accident law firm welcomes the continued efforts of our state legislature to ensure the safety of our youngest residents. Among a number of laws that became effective when the calendar turned to January is a provision expanding the coverage of California car seat laws. Under the new legislation, children riding in cars in our state must be restrained in a properly installed booster seat until age eight. The law does make an exception for children under age eight who are taller than four feet nine inches. This is a significant change from the prior statue which required child restraints only until age six or until the child reached sixty pounds.

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As car accident lawyers for Sacramento and all of Northern California, our team at The Brod Law Firm has seen too many children’s lives impacted or even tragically ended by a car crash. Passengers not only rely on the safety of the person driving their vehicle but also on the responsibility and attentiveness of every other driver on the road. Proper seatbelt use is essential for all passengers, but especially for children whose small size and still maturing bodies make them particularly vulnerable. According to the California Department of Public Health, injuries in automobile accidents are among the top five causes of hospitalization and death in individuals under age sixteen. A study by the Center for Disease Control found that 179,000 children were injured in car accidents nationwide in 2009. The same study found 1,314 children under age fourteen died in car accidents that year. Further studies found that 8,325 lives were saved in a thirty year period due to the use of child restraints, numbers that don’t include the many more injuries prevented or limited due to proper child car seat usage.

A few key pointers on child safety seat usage:

• Rear-facing safety seats provide the best protection for very young children. Ideally, children should remain in rear-facing seats until age two.

• Front-facing child seats should be used until at least age four.

• Booster seats should be used for children under age eight who have outgrown a front-facing safety seat. These seats will ensure safety belts properly fit a child’s small stature. Children who remain too small for the regular seat should remain in booster seats even after their eighth birthday.

• Children should always be placed in the rear seat. This is especially important where the front-seat is equipped with an air bag, technology that provides added safety to adults but can be very dangerous to children.

It is important that all child safety restraints be properly installed. Parents can contact their local highway patrol office to get professional assistance installing all forms of child safety seats. Many AAA offices also offer installation assistance.

As always, our priority is safety and prevention. We urge all parents to comply with the new guidelines to protect children from harm in Northern California car accidents. Should an accident occur resulting in injury to you or your child, please contact our team so we can help you protect your legal rights and recover compensation to help your family pay injury-related costs and move ahead from the tragedy.

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Failure to Notify Customers of Defect Leads to Sacramento Jury Imposing $73 Million Fine On Ford Motors

Blue Shield Settles Rescission Lawsuit

January 1, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

As San Francisco insurance attorneys we were glad to see the latest news that Blue Shield of California and Blue Shield of California Life and Health Insurance Company, a major insurer, finally settled a multi-year lawsuit. It is encouraging to see even a small correction of a gross injustice done to the hardworking insurance consumers of California. courthouse.jpg

After three years of investigation, the lawsuit was filed in 2008 by then City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo on behalf of the city of Los Angeles, alleging that the insurance provider wrongly dropped policy holders after they became ill, duping consumers into buying insurance that would be rescinded, and other shady business practices. The city of Los Angeles was seeking $1 billion in damages and restitution. Blue Shield was accused of rescinding hundreds of policies of patients after they were hospitalized or required major medical procedures. The consumers had previously applied and were approved for insurance, only to be told once they needed health care benefits that they had made a mistake on their misleading or confusing application form, discovered from a retroactive investigation by the insurance company. Often these consumers had been paying for health insurance for years, only to find out at the critical moment that they paid for nothing. Thousands of cases were investigated. Since 2002, Blue Shield denied benefits to 850 people and delayed benefits to countless more.

A federal ban on these types of rescissions for unintentional mistakes on insurance applications went into effect in September 2010 because of the new healthcare legislation. Now Blue Shield has settled for $2 million, to be split between the city and Los Angeles County, and the company will also pay the legal costs of the lawsuit, but without admitting any fault in the matter.

Part of the settlement requires Blue Shield to submit a new and amended health insurance application form that complies with federal and California requirements in being intelligible to consumers. Blue Shield is limited on an application to asking for relevant, as in “reasonable and necessary”, medical information to calculate the risk of insurance benefits being requested. The settlement also bans Blue Shield from rescinding coverage unless it can prove that the policyholder committed fraud or misrepresented relevant health information on their insurance application. It also bans Blue Shield from giving insurance investigators commissions based on their number of rescissions.

The insurer’s spokesperson stated that Blue Shield settled the suit simply to avoid the costs and distractions of ongoing litigation. Blue Shield also claims it is committed to taking aggressive and proactive steps to provide better access to health care.

Even with this settlement, however, the individual policyholders who were wrongfully denied benefits did not gain any monetary restitution. The settlement may be good news overall, especially as a wake-up call to insurance companies that they must comply with federal legislation and behave in a fair and above-board manner with their customers. But for the many families struggling to cover medical expenses, it is perhaps cold comfort. This is why it is vital to speak to a California insurance lawyer if your insurance company is trying to give you the run around or to rescind your policy or benefits. In something that is so important to you and your family and the future, local families need an experienced San Francisco insurance attorney in your corner working specifically on your case.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Health Insurance for Small Business Owners

California Insurance Law Fraud Basics