Fatal Fairfield California Car Accident Reminder of Need to Remain Safe While Traveling

February 29, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

California car accidents seem to strike on a daily basis. Because of the frequency of the accidents local community members are prone brush off news of reach each accident that occurs. Unfortunately, our Bay Area car accident attorney understands that most residents don’t think all that much about roadside safety until they are affected themselves. It is one thing to read about a roadside accident, it is another to be involved in a crash yourself or have a friend or loved one involved. CarAccident7706.2.JPG

With everyone’s lives moving at a steady clip these days, it is understandable for local residents not to dwell on these events. However, considering the implications and potential harm that result from traveling accidents, it is important to take time now and again to remember the basics of safe traveling. It is not an exaggeration to say that one’s life may hang in the balance. There are reminders every day of that reality.

For example, the Napa Patch reported last week on a fatal crash that struck on state Highway 12. According to the report, one person died and two others were hurt in the accident. The California Highway Patrol continues to investigate the situation and more information is expected to come out later. However, it is known that the accident occurred shortly before six in the evening last Wednesday on Highway 12 just east of Red Top Road. As many as four vehicles may have been involved. Officials have yet to release many details of the accident. But it is known that at least one person was pronounced dead at the scene and two other were rushed to local hospitals with serious injuries.

Our San Francisco, Oakland, and Fairfield car accident attorney has several offices and work with victims of these accidents in many surrounding communities. We are proud to work with all those who have been hurt while traveling on our area roadways. These accidents have a tremendous financial, physical, emotional and mental toll on many those involved. While seeking legal redress and accountability can never make victims completely whole, it is an important part of the recovery process.

Of course the most important thing to do in all of these situations at first is to ensure medical needs are met. While there are statutes of limitations which require legal action to be taken within certain time limits after a crash—usually two years—it is always imperative to ensure one’s medical recovery is prioritized. However, once one’s condition stabilizes, it is appropriate to consider the legal ramifications of the accident.

One common misconception is that one has to be completely blameless to receive any compensation following an accident. This is not true. Similarly, some community members are also told that it is easier to simply deal directly with an insurance company after one of these accidents instead of having individual legal representation. Considering that most residents want to get the matter resolved as soon as possible and move on with their lives, it is tempting to simply take whatever offer the insurance company might make. However, our Bay Area car accident lawyer reminds community members that the insurance companies in these cases are looking out for their own best interest—not yours. Their priority is paying as little as possible. That is often much different than what the law allows an individual to recover. There is simply no alternative to having a trained advocate working through the process exclusively on your behalf.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

The Danger of Mixing Drugs and Driving

Additional Charges Brought In Case of Teenage Drinking and Fatal DUI

Dangerous Condition of Public Property- Tort Claims Against Government Entities

February 28, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

traffic%20calming.jpg In 2000, Mayor Willie Brown, Jr. implemented the San Francisco Municipal and Transit Agency (SFMTA) Traffic Calming Program. The purpose of the program is to increase safety for drivers and pedestrians by reducing speeding, reckless driving and road rage, and traffic spillover from main roads onto residential streets.

Methods of traffic calming are numerous and address specific problems. Traffic calming projects that reduce speed include traffic circles, speed bumps, narrowing roads at certain points. Other projects focus on pedestrian safety, such as traffic islands in the middle of crosswalks and bulb outs on the street corner that increase visibility and reduce the physical distance between sidewalks.

The SFMTA takes certain factors into account when evaluating the feasibility and necessity of a project. These factors include requests for traffic calming, evidence of excessive speeding, traffic volume, and the relative prevalence of accidents. Other considerations include the proximity of a site to schools and tourist attractions, population density, and ensuring that traffic calming projects are spread equitably throughout the city.

Residents have responded positively to the efforts by the SFMTA, which is demonstrated by the backlog of projects on the SFMTA’s plate. Requests with the required number of signatures may take one to five years to reach the top of SFMTA’s list of sites to improve. Once a request is approved, there is than a public comment and planning process that may take another two to five years. The requests have become so numerous that SFMTA is no longer accepting requests while it goes through the current list of requests and prioritizes projects. The SFMTA lists 23 current projects in the implementation stage and another 15 that are named as future projects. Funding is the key component to completing these 38 city wide traffic calming projects already in the pipeline and for numerous projects languishing on the waiting list.

San Francisco has one of the highest vehicle pedestrian collision rates in the country. Seemingly endless requests for roadway improvements indicate the dangerous conditions at many intersections and high traffic areas. When an accident occurs, many injury victims sue the driver who caused the accident. However, there is another common defendant- the City and County where the accident occurred. Cities are responsible for maintaining public roadways, therefore, a city may be liable for the dangerous condition of public property if, for instance, the dangerous nature of a roadway, was a substantial factor in causing a serious injury accident.

However, a government entity is not the typical defendant. In general, an injured party has two years to bring a personal injury case. When a government entity is involved, injured parties must pay attention to two different statutes of limitations. In the case of dangerous condition of public property, they have six months from the time of the injury to make a claim that substantially complies with the requirements set forth in Government Code §910 directly to the government entity which controls the property in question. The claim must be denied before the potential plaintiff may file a civil action against the government entity. The plaintiff has one year from the date of the injury to file suit.

There are three main elements to the action of dangerous condition of public property set out in Government Code §835

  • The property was in a dangerous condition at the time of the injury;

  • That the injury was proximately caused by the dangerous condition;

  • That the dangerous condition created a reasonably forseeable risk of the kind of injury which was incurred; and

  • The public entity had actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition and sufficient time prior to the injury to have taken measures to protect against the dangerous condition.
This is one of the toughest elements to prove.

Requests for traffic calming to the SFMTA could reasonably be considered constructive notice of the dangerous condition of roadways.The dangerous condition of some San Francisco roads not only causes disruption to residents, but also may substantially contribute to serious injury accidents. However, Government Code §830.8 states that "neither a public entity nor a public employee is liable under this chapter for an injury caused by the failure to provide, traffic or warning signals, signs, markings or devices" unless such a measure was necessary to warn of a dangerous condition which would not be reasonably anticipated by a person exercising due care. An attorney will be able to evaluate whether the controlling public entity could be liable.

Continue reading " Dangerous Condition of Public Property- Tort Claims Against Government Entities " »

San Francisco Muni Accident Injury

February 27, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

The San Francisco Gate reported on Friday of a San Francisco Muni accident that injured a local 27-year old woman. According to the story, woman was walking her dog in the Inner Sunset neighborhood in the afternoon last week when she came upon two stopped Muni Metro cars. The woman tried to walk between the cars. It seems that she made it without a problem, but her dog became stuck underneath the connector that was coupling the two cars. The woman was able to step over the connectors, but this proved too difficult for the dog. The woman picked up the dog to carry it over. Muni%20accident.jpg

However, it was at that moment that the trains began moving again. The woman was unable to get out of the way as the train started. She and the dog were eventually dragged about a half a block before the train stopped. Authorities explain that the woman was particularly lucky. She suffered some scrapes, bumps, and bruises, but things could definitely have been much worse.

This latest accident occurred on the N-Judah train line. Local residents know that the N-Judah is one of the most accident prone lines in the city. Every year more and more residents suffer a range of injuries on the line—often as a result of equipment problems, operator negligence, and the like. As the members of the rescue crew in this case explained, Muni accidents are often quite serious. They explained, “had she gone all the way underneath, the metal wheels literally would have amputated any part of her body that they’d come across. Those accidents are usually very tragic, but she was very fortunate.”

The San Francisco injury lawyer at our firm has worked with those who have been hurt in situations like this one, involving public vehicles. There are a wide range of legal issues that are implicated whenever something like this happens. It is impossible to extrapolate on what might be involved in any specific situation from only a news stories. At the end of the day the legalities of these accidents often hinge on circumstances that are specific to each individual case.

Of course, as this case demonstrates, it remains incredibly important to act carefully when using the Metro or near it. It is always preferable to prevent one of these accidents from happening beforehand. However, if you are injured in one of these situations, please remember that you have legal rights. For one thing, the law does not require you to be completely blameless in order to seek redress for harm that you suffered as a result of a transportation accident. In many cases, these serious injuries are caused by joint negligence, where various individuals both act inappropriately to some extent, resulting in harm. For example, the woman in this case may have been negligent in walking between cars. However, depending on the circumstances, the Muni driver may have stopped inappropriately or otherwise failed to act in a safe manner. Our San Francisco Muni accident lawyers know that the injured party can still recover in these situations. California is what is known as a “pure” comparative fault state. That means that if a lawsuit arose out of a situation like this the court will assign each party a percentage of fault and the award would be reduced by the percentage of the plaintiff’s fault.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Oakland-San Francisco Attorney Comments on Unsafe Working Conditions

San Francisco-Oakland Injury Attorney Comments on Safety on San Francisco Buses, or Any Bus in the Bay Area

Large Passenger Vans Raise Liability Concerns for Trip Organizers

February 24, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

delivery_van_1.jpg The U.S. Department of Transportation is urging owners of 15 passenger vans to exercise extra care in the maintenance and driving of their vehicles. Organizations like student groups, tour groups, and companies that provide transportation to commuters and the elderly may use 15 passenger vans to carry groups of people from one place to another. 15 passenger vans may not be used by schools or day care providers because of their inherent dangers.

Such organizations should take the Department of Transportation's recommendations in earnest, as van rollovers are more common than car rollovers and result in more fatalities. The National Center for Statistics and Analysis found that in 2002 38% of 15 passenger vans crashes involved a rollover.

The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a brochure on van safety, which reminds van operators to regularly check large passenger vans for common trouble areas. One main cause of van crashes is improper maintenance of tires. Inexperienced drivers may not be aware of the difference between standard tires and tires made for vans, which could lead to improper inflation and dangerous driving conditions. Tires on a typical sedan require about 30psi of air pressure on all four tires. However, vans require about 50 psi on the front wheels and 80 psi on the back wheels. Large van tires wear out more quickly than tires on other types of passenger vehicles because they are carrying a heavier load.

The Seat belts should be completely functional and readily accessible, not tucked into cracks in the seat. Drivers should ensure that all passengers are wearing their seat belt because a passenger who is not restrained is three times more likely to die in an accident than passengers using their seat belts.

Because large passenger vans require special consideration when driving, organizations should train drivers before allowing them to transport passengers. Large passenger van drivers should be trained on judging turn radius, parking, and creating a safe cushion of space between the van and other vehicles. Drivers need to be particularly aware of the high center of gravity of 15 passenger vans. These vans can respond to abrupt driving maneuvers by rolling over, therefore, drivers also need training that specifically address driving techniques during emergency situations. Reversing vans is also perilous as they have limited maneuverability and visibility. A spotter should be used to help direct the driver safely. Drivers that are escorting passengers on a long trip should plan ahead carefully to avoid surprises and watch out vigilantly for symptoms of fatigue. Drivers must be alert in order to gauge risk on the road.

Carpooling and transportation services lift a burden on passengers and traffic, but both organizations and passengers should be aware of the inherent dangers of using large vans. Organizations that use vans may be liable for money damages if they do not properly care for their vehicles or fail to operate them safely.

Continue reading " Large Passenger Vans Raise Liability Concerns for Trip Organizers " »

California Health Insurance Report Card

February 24, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

The California Office of the Patient Advocate, created to inform and educate Californians on their HMOs and health insurance providers, released an annual Health Care Quality Report Card (http://www.opa.ca.gov/report_card/) this week detailing the scores for California’s nine largest health management organizations, six largest preferred provider organizations, and 212 medical groups representing 16 million consumers with private health plans. In general, it seemed California consumers were satisfied, but the report highlighted the need to improve treatment for lung disease, attention-deficit disorder, and throat infections in children. Additionally, more than a third of health insurance consumers stated they had problems with how the insurance organizations dealt with complaints.calculations.jpg

This year’s report card also stated that the California providers exceeded the national average in terms of diabetes care and controlling high blood pressure and cholesterol, but scored lower on heart attack medications, flu shots for adults, and providing treatment for alcohol and drug abuse. Insurance consumers also complained about the difficulty getting cost estimates for medical procedures and figuring how much their insurance will pay for, as well as paying for the claims correctly.

Each plan is ranked in categories of care between one and four stars, depending on meeting national standards and membership ratings on things like getting appointments and customer service. The only HMO to receive an overall four start rating was Kaiser Permanente, but even they had troubled areas. Kaiser only received two stars for ease of making appointments and treatments, especially with specialists. And in northern California, it only received one star for plan service, which includes processing of claims. Overall, fourteen of the fifteen health plans rated scored only a one or two star rating out of four stars in customer service, which includes questions about costs and claims. Among the preferred provider organizations (PPOs), none of the six received the highest four star rating. Only three, Aetna, Cigna, and UnitedHealth were ranked as three stars, or good.

The annual report card is now in its eleventh year and this edition covers data and information collected from the year 2010. The director of the Office of the Patient Advocate, Sandra Perez, stated at a press conference that the public report card is to keep insurance providers accountable and to encourage quality improvements in health insurance policies. She also said they will continue to go forward with health care reform in California—more focus will be on the quality and value of health care. Californians can research medical groups by either name or county. As San Francisco insurance claim attorneys, we encourage our clients and insurance consumers to check out the report card to assist in comparing and contrasting different insurance providers and plans to make the best choice possible. These public reports are one way to keep insurance providers honest, and are a valuable tool in California, but if you are having serious problems with your insurance provider not providing the services or care required in our area, it is still advisable to discuss the problem with a San Francisco insurance lawyer.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

$54 million Recovered for California Insurance Consumers in 2011

Health Insurance Still a Worry in California

(Photo Courtesy of Dave Dugdale)

Local Authorities Move to Limit Dangerous Rodent Poisons

February 24, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

Our Oakland product liability lawyer believes consumers should be protected from dangerous products in Northern California. We especially applaud efforts by our communities to protect children, a group that is particularly vulnerable to dangerous household goods.
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The Oakland Tribune reported this week that Richmond is joining several area communities in attempting to protect our children and pets from dangerous rodent poisons. The Richmond City Council approved a measure, similar to those already in place in Albany and San Francisco, asking retailers to voluntarily stop sales of certain pest control products. Similar products have already been banned by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The ban covers particularly toxic formulas as well as loose pellet poisons. In 2008, EPA officials requested that manufacturers re-tool their products so that the poisonous bait is in stations that are inaccessible to children and household pets. Manufacturers were asked to comply by June 2011 but not all makers have done so and the EPA is taking steps to remove the offending products. This process, however, takes time to accomplish and moves like that in Richmond attempt to control the ongoing problem.

The Tribune cites the American Association of Poison Control Centers, noting that between 12,000 and 15,000 cases of children being exposed to rodent poison are reported annually. Unreported cases make the actual number of children impacted significantly higher. The fact that rodent poisons are often placed on the floor makes young children especially vulnerable. Pets also frequently ingest the products, with one group noting that nearly half of all animals test positive for exposure to rodent poisons.

There are safer alternatives on the market that can help control pest problems with less risk to children and domestic animals. The EPA’s website provides guidance on safer alternatives. The agency notes that households with young children and animals need to be particularly cautious when selecting a pest control products. Further, the agency mandates approval of bait station formats, limits on the amount of bait permitted in a residential product, and forbids certain active ingredients from being marketed directly to residential customers. Traps may also be an option for some homeowners and both live and lethal traps are on the market.

If, despite exercising precautions, a child is exposed to a rodent poison, immediately call Poison Control or your local hospital for directions. The number for the national poisoning hotline is 1-800-222-1222. Have the product name available when you call and, if possible, the EPA registration number. Additional questions about rodent poisons can also be directed to the National Pesticide Information Center at at 1-800-858-7378.

As an Oakland dangerous product law firm, The Brod Firm recognizes that certain products are inherently dangerous. The law does, however, provide recourse if a product poses unnecessary dangers. If your child has suffered harm due to a dangerous product in Oakland, please contact our team to discuss whether a legal remedy may be appropriate in your unique circumstances.

See Related Blog Posts:California Consumers Should Be Wary About Poisons and Pesticides in the Home
San Francisco Product Liability Attorney Comments on Harmful Canned Foods

Fires and Insurance Coverage Disputes

February 22, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

As a long-time member of the Northern California community, our Oakland insurance coverage lawyer knows home fires are tragic. As a lawyer for Oakland insurance claimants, he also knows that a fire is often the beginning of a long fight for compensation. Two recent fires serve as a reminder that each fire, and hence each insurance claim, is unique.

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Home fires can be sparked by a myriad of causes. The Oakland Tribune reported on an early morning blaze on Tuesday at the 900 block of 37th Street. Fire teams from the Oakland Fire Department responded to a call at 3:55AM and were able to put the flames out in relatively short order. The fire took place in a two-story, four-unit building and, despite being controlled in only fifteen minutes, displaced four residents. The fire was sparked by an old-fashioned oil lamp that a resident accidently knocked over while using it to provide life when preparing a late-night (or, perhaps more accurately, early morning) snack. After tipping, the lamp ignited curtains and grew beyond the resident’s control. Thankfully, the apartment resident was able to wake his neighbors by knocking on walls and doors. No one was harmed in the fire.

A second fire also occurred in the early morning hours, this one on the 800 block of Page Street in Berkley. The fire caused damage to a residential art gallery and displaced two individuals from their housing. While battling the blaze, called in at 3:23 AM and extinguished at 4:08 AM, two firefighters incurred minor, undisclosed injuries. No estimates of the damages have yet been released and the cause remained under investigation at the time of the Oakland Tribune report.

Fires have a myriad of causes and can cause significant and lasting property damage, in addition to personal injury. Problems can result from the flames themselves, smoke damage, water damage, or other damages due to firefighter’s attempts to access the space and control the flames. Damage can be hidden, impacting the structural integrity of the dwelling or harming plumbing or electrical systems. Owners or renters should have the home examined by an expert who specializes in fire damage inspections.

Insurance companies will often take steps to avoid paying a property damage claim by blaming the fire on the homeowner’s own actions or on an otherwise excluded cause. Companies make act improperly by failing to responding promptly to claim-related communications, failing to attempt fair and equitable settlement of good faith claims, offering an unreasonably low settlement to force claimants to institute litigation, requiring extraneous paperwork and similar administrative burdens, failing to pay an undisputed claim in a timely manner or undervaluing damages property. Claimants should protect themselves by carefully reading their policy, documenting all damages with photos and accident reports and keeping detailed records of all interactions with the insurance company.

If you’ve been injured or suffered damages in an Oakland fire and your insurance company is failing to pay proper claims, please contact our Oakland insurance dispute attorney. We can help you obtain the damages that the law allows and aid you in moving forward from the tragedy.

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Oakland-San Francisco Bad Faith Attorney Comments on Bad Faith Tactics

Pedestrian Pinned by Shuttle Van But No Criminal Charges Brought: The Benefits of a Civil Action

February 21, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

minibus.jpg An impatient shuttle driver rushed a turn through a crosswalk and pinned a man for twenty minutes, according to ABC Local News. The accident, which occurred on February 15, 2012, was captured by surveillance video set up at Empire Market in the Tenderloin District and showed the pedestrian had the right of way.

The driver of the Paratransit shuttle stayed on the scene and was cooperative with police. Police officers determined that the incident was an unfortunate traffic incident and no charges will be brought against the driver, who was shuttling a van load of disabled passengers.

Injured parties, such as the victim of this accident who was trapped for twenty long minutes under the shuttle and suffered multiple broken bones, may feel that it is unfair if no charges are brought against the person who caused their injuries.

Persons injured in an accident should remember that the court system has two tracks: one for criminal actions and one for civil actions. Every criminal action is brought by the state or federal government on behalf of its residents. Convicted defendants are punished with jail time, fines, and other penalties in order to achieve justice and deter the convict and others from committing future crimes.

The District Attorney may not pursue a criminal action against someone who, for instance, causes personal injury or property damage for a variety of reasons. In this case, it is possible that the driver mitigated the situation because, although he made a mistake, he stayed at the scene and cooperated fully with the police investigation of the collision. Before bringing a criminal action, the District Attorney weighs the costs of a potential criminal suit with the necessity to serve justice and the public good.

Whether or not a defendant is convicted in criminal court, the victim does not receive any compensation for pain and suffering or the expenses brought on by the incident. The remedies provided in criminal and civil court serve different purposes. The criminal court provides a castigatory remedy against defendants which are found guilty. The civil courts provide a forum for victims themselves to protect their private rights and property. Individuals, entities, and the government alike may bring a civil suit against the defendant to seek a remedy, usually money damages.

The burden of proof required to find against a defendant is also different in criminal actions from civil actions. In criminal actions, because the defendant is often being deprived of their Constitutional right to liberty, the defendant must be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. However, in a civil action in order to make a viable claim against the defendant a plaintiff must only prove by the preponderance of the evidence that the defendant caused the plaintiff damage. In other words, the plaintiff must only tip the scales of justice in their favor to recover in a civil action. Nevertheless, the burden of proof is a key element in both civil and criminal actions. As soon as an incident occurs, the injured party should keep evidence in mind and immediately start to gather and preserve proof of any possible claims.

For example, if the pedestrian in this case were to gather proof for a civil action, he should immediately request the police report for the incident, the surveillance video which captured the accident, his medical records describing his injuries and the progress of his recovery, and records from any jobs showing past wages lost as a result of his injuries.

Injured parties should remember that just because a criminal action was not brought against the party which caused them damage does not mean that an injured party should not bring a civil action. Furthermore, even if a criminal action is brought against the other party, they will not receive any compensation unless they file and prevail in a civil action.

Continue reading " Pedestrian Pinned by Shuttle Van But No Criminal Charges Brought: The Benefits of a Civil Action " »

Spate of Police Officer-Involved DUI Arrests

February 19, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

As your San Francisco auto accident attorney, Gregory Brod knows the danger of drunk driving. Another group that is well aware of the perils of mixing alcohol and driving is the police department. Law enforcement personnel know the dangerous fallout from drunk driving and should also be operating as a model of proper, safe behavior for the community. This makes is especially upsetting when local law enforcement authorities are involved in San Francisco DUIs.

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The San Francisco Chronicle reported on Saturday that three police officers have been arrested in the past month on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. The latest arrest involved Officer Michael Wars, the head of the Union City Police Officers Association and a twenty-two year veteran of the Union City police department. Ward, age forty-three was pulled over by California Highway Patrol just after midnight on February 8. He was driving in Pleasonton on Bernal Avenue and was operating a hand-held mobile phone when he was pulled over. The Highway Patrol officer determined that Ward had been drinking and arrested him on suspicion of a misdemeanor DUI charge.

Ward is the third police officer in the southern Alameda County area to be accused of driving while intoxicated in the month of February. The earlier arrests involved two Fremont police officers who were arrested in separate incidents on February 3rd and 11th. All three officers were off-duty at the time of their arrest. The CHP has not revealed the blood alcohol level in the cases. Parties involved in the cases note that officers err on the side of making a charge and arrest when dealing with a borderline DUI case involving law enforcement in order to prevent an appearance of leniency. Officers charged with DUIs face potential department sanctions, including the possibility of losing their job, in addition to the usual legal sanctions.

According to the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, 1,355 of the 3,434 traffic fatalities in California in 2008 involved alcohol or drugs and there were a total of 28,463 alcohol-involved injuries. 2008 also saw 214,811 total arrests for driving under the influence in our state. Overall, 2008 was the second year in a row where alcohol-related traffic fatalities declined, a positive trend after eight prior years of increased fatalities. Over a twenty year period, alcohol-involved traffic fatalities decreased by 41%. Notably, however, the share of younger drivers involved in driving under the influence arrests increased 12.6% in the ten year period leading up to 2008. Males accounted for eighty percent of the DUI arrests in 2008 and the average age of the offenders was thirty.

Driving under the influence is a serious and dangerous crime. This spate of officer-involved DUI charges is upsetting to all law-abiding citizens. Police officers should be part of the solution, not part of the drunk driving problem. While numbers do show improvements in recent years in accident statistics, likely due to increased enforcement and education, every DUI accident and arrest is one too many and officer involved DUIs are especially distressing.

If you or a loved one suffered an injury in a San Francisco drunk driving accident, we are here to help. Please call our San Francisco personal injury lawyer for a free consultation to discuss your legal rights.


See Related Blog Posts:
The Danger of Mixing Drugs and Driving
Additional Charges Brought In Case of Teenage Drinking and Fatal DUI

Malfunctioning Spinbrush Brand Toothbrushes Cause Chipped Teeth and Other Serious Injuries

February 18, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

electric_toothbrush_1.jpgThe Federal Drug Administration (FDA) released a Consumer Update on February 16, 2012 warning consumers of multiple issues with the Arm and Hammer Spinbrush (called the Crest Spinbrush before 2009). All nine models of the Spinbrush are being recalled, including the Spinbrush for Kids and the replacement heads themselves.

The Spinbrush has a removable head which has been known to detach unexpectedly exposing the metal piece to which it is connected. The metal piece has jabbed brushers in the cheek, lips, and even eyes causing multiple injuries. In other cases, the toothbrush head popped off in the mouth, chipping teeth, which, if swallowed constitute a choking hazard. Although the Spinbrush for Kids does not have a removable head, problems have been reported with this model as well. Reportedly, bristles may become loose and detach posing a choking hazard to children. Other reports include cut lips and burns from overheating batteries.

Unfortunately, the Spinbrush has a dogged history. Proctor and Gamble initiated a recall for its Crest Spinbrush in November 2004, admitting that the removable head had detached in a small number of brushes. At that time, there were 7.5 million Spinbrushes were in distribution nationwide. Since then, the number has risen to over 22 million distributed internationally, as cited in the latest recall of the Spinbrush.

In May 2011, the FDA issued a warning letter to Church and Dwight Co. Inc., which manufactures the Spinbrush, admonishing the company for repeatedly failing to file Medical Device Reports within 30 days of being notified about serious mouth injuries and chipped teeth caused by the Spinbrush. Moreover, once the company submitted the late Medical Device Report, it failed to designate the injuries as serious, although chipped teeth, cuts to the mouth and eye, and reports of choking are deemed serious by the FDA’s, and most people’s, standards.

The next recall followed on January 25, 2012 for the same reasons. The FDA’s latest Consumer Update is yet another sign that the problems with the Spinbrush have not been addressed. Church and Dwight Co. Inc. has recently taken actions to remedy the problem with the Spinbrush. It added a label to the packaging warning consumers to change the replacement head every three months to avoid wear that could lead to the head malfunctioning. It also added colored bristles that fade to signal that the replacement head should be changed. Finally, it issued safety notices on television and in print.

California law places strict liability of companies doing business in the state. Manufacturers and distributors that send out defective products are generally liable for harm caused by their products. There are also more specific causes of actions, which may apply to the Spinbrush, including, but not limited to, design defect and consumer expectations and negligence to recall/retrofit.

The California Civil Jury Instructions states that a design can be proved to be defective if it did not perform as safely as an ordinary consumer would have expected it to perform. To establish this claim, a plaintiff must prove all of the following:

  1. That the defendant manufactured/distributed/sold the product;
  2. That, at the time of the use, the product was substantially the same as when it left the defendant's possession or that any changes made to the product after it left defendant's possession were reasonably foreseeable to defendant;

  3. That the product did not perform as safely as an ordinary consumer would have expected at the time of use; and

  4. That the product was used or misused in a way that was reasonably foreseeable to defendant.

The California Civil Jury Instructions states that a plaintiff may claim that the defendant was negligent because defendant failed to recall or retrofit the product. To establish this claim, plaintiff must prove all of the following:

  1. That defendant manufactured/distributed/sold the product;
  2. That defendant knew or reasonably should have known that the product was dangerous or was likely to be dangerous when used in a reasonably foreseeable manner;

  3. That defendant became aware of this defect after the product was sold;

  4. That defendant failed to recall or retrofit or warn of the danger of the product; and

  5. That a reasonable manufacturer/distributor/seller under the same or similar circumstances would have recalled or retrofitted the product.

As with most causes of action, the plaintiff must also prove for both causes of action that:

  1. That the plaintiff was harmed; and
  2. That defendant’s product and/or negligence were a substantial factor in causing plaintiff's harm.

Continue reading " Malfunctioning Spinbrush Brand Toothbrushes Cause Chipped Teeth and Other Serious Injuries " »

California Congressman introduces Flood Insurance for Farmers Act

February 17, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

Our San Francisco insurance attorneys are always interested in developments in insurance laws around the country and in particular as they affect California. This week California Congressman John Garamendi introduced H.R. 4020 into the House of Representatives, called the Flood Insurance Farmers Act of 2012. The bill addresses the cost of insurance for farmers who grow crops and livestock on floodplains. farmer.jpg

Many existing levees that protect agricultural land have recently been downgraded by a study of the Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Large amounts of US farmland are being designated as flood areas if the levees in those areas are not found to give 100 year protection. This would require property owners in these areas to purchase flood insurance, pay higher rates, and all new construction or improvements would have to meet stricter building requirements. In many of these areas, flood insurance is not available and farmers would not be able to improve or build new agricultural structures necessary to support or grow their business.

FEMA determined that California is the first state to have its floodplains and levees studied and mapped. Some affected California farmers are saying these restrictions on floodplains could make now productive agricultural communities disappear. The first new designations and maps released by FEMA put almost all of Sutter County in a “Special Flood Hazard Area.” Rural residents there say the level of flood insurance and certification required now is cost prohibitive and unattainable for most farmers. It could shut them down. They will be prohibited from making improvements worth more than 50 percent of the structure’s value. And anyone with a federally backed mortgage will automatically be required to purchase flood insurance, which will increase insurance costs for that property by four to six percent.

The bill introduced by Congressman Garamendi, who was California’s Insurance Commissioner from 1991 to 1995 and is also a lifelong rancher, proposes insurance subsidies for farmers in these areas, a study of the costs of insurance in these areas, (particularly in California where large premiums are required but little is paid out in return) and a provision to make sure flood insurance is available to property owners in these areas.

Congressman Garamendi notes that Californian farmers are particularly affected by the recent downgrades. He states that it has placed huge portions of California’s agricultural land at a disadvantage. The Congressman also notes that many of the levees in question have never been breached, and some have been in place for more than 100 years. He also notes that California is a net donor to the rest of the nation on flood insurance, because Californians have received only a 20 percent payoff from the floods that have occurred in California.

The Flood Insurance Farmers Act seems to have fairly wide bi-partisan support in the House, but it still has to go through the process and determinations must be made about the cost of the insurance and actuarial implications. Our California insurance lawyer knows this is a serious concern for many rural Californians, and we will be watching to see how the bill progresses.

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Product Liability Law: Protecting the Public

February 17, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

We should be able to trust the products we buy. Our San Francisco products liability attorney believes that properly filed civil suits play an important role in helping hold companies responsible for their products and their production decisions.
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Negligently designed or manufactured products are dangerous to all of our residents. Recognizing the danger of defective products and the evidentiary difficulties of these cases, courts use a strict liability theory in Northern California products liability cases. This means the plaintiff does not have to prove that the manufacturer or seller acted negligently, an evidentiary standard that would be tough to meet. Instead, a plaintiff only needs to show three things: 1) That the product was not safe; 2) That the plaintiff was injured; and 3) That the product caused of that injury. For example, a plaintiff burned by an electric device that got overly hot would only need to prove the product posed a danger and caused an injury. The plaintiff would not need to show that the manufacturer was aware of the danger or was otherwise negligent in releasing the product for sale.

Plaintiffs will still generally present a theory of the case to the court in a San Francisco product liability lawsuit. Common theories include:

• Design Defect – In defective design cases, the product has been manufactured according to design but that plan carries inherent dangers. For example, an iron that was a fire hazard because it didn’t turn off if the user left it unattended might be considered a case of defective design. The plaintiff in these cases must show that another design was possible but does not need to specifically prove that the maker was negligent in choosing the defective design plan.
• Manufacturing Defect – In manufacturing defect cases, the planned design may have been safe but a manufacturing defect meant the product did not meet the manufacturer’s own design specifications and this difference resulted in a dangerous product. The plaintiff does not need to prove the manufacturer was negligent in the error, a requirement that would be difficult to meet. Instead, the plaintiff only needs to show that the product was the result of a manufacturing error and that the defect caused an injury.
• Warning/Instructional Defect: Manufacturers are required to provide warnings about know product dangers. The warning must be clear and placed in a visible location. Failure to provide a warning can be the subject of a product liability lawsuit.

Of course, there are products that are unavoidably dangerous, such as a hot stovetop. The law does understand this and products are not considered unreasonably dangerous where the danger is inherently necessary for the product to perform as intended. The manufacturer does not usually have to provide warning about inherent and obvious dangers.

If you have been injured by a defective product, please reach out to our San Francisco personal injury attorney to discuss your unique case and your legal rights. Filing a lawsuit not only provides you with the compensation you deserve but also helps protect the public from dangerous products by holding companies responsible for releasing dangerous items.

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Violating Employer Trust: Intellectual Theft Allegations Against Employees of a Silicon Valley Solar Company

February 15, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

Our Oakland business attorney works with Northern California companies facing a myriad of legal disputes. Business fraud and employee malfeasance are old problems but wrongdoers are constantly finding new twists. Now more than ever, businesses need a trusted and experienced Oakland small business law firm on their side.

The Oakland Tribune reported this week on a lawsuit involving SunPower, the leading solar panel maker in the Silicon Valley. In the suit, SunPower accuses five former employees of stealing highly sensitive business information, such as computer files and sales documents, and taking those files to business rival SolarCity. The suit is pending in federal court and alleges criminal charges pursuant to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

According to reports, the central defendant is Tom Leyden, the former managing director of SunPower’s East Coast operations. Leyden left his former employer in August and joined the growing start-up, SolarCity, as vice president of commercial sales in September. SunPower alleges that Leyden used flash drives to download thousands of business files and also accessed customer data reflecting more than $100 million in sales. Leyden also recruited Matt Giamini, Dan Leary, Felix Aguayo and Alice Cathcart to join him in leaving SunPower for SolarCity and the allegations further suggest that those ex-employees also copied company documents to personal devices prior to their departure. The lawsuit alleges that SolarCity knowingly accepted these fraudulently obtained files.

SunPower has a long history in our state. The company was founded in 1985, was acquired by Cypress Semiconductor in 2002, and as spun off as its own public company in 2005. It is largely owner by a French oil company and had more than 5,000 worldwide employees. Notable facilities include solar panel systems in San Jose and Santa Clara as well as a solar ranch being developed in San Luis Obispo County. SolarCity is based in San Mateo and is focused on installing solar systems rather than owning its own facilities. The company has complete over 17,000 installations across the nation including both commercial and military installations.

By necessity, employers place a great deal of trust in employees. When this trust is violated, an employer can suffer significant business losses. There are a number of legal claims that might be appropriate including claims under trade secret, intellectual property and misappropriation principles. In some cases, employer may also have contractual claims against a former employee who steal business property.

Small businesses need to have legal counsel who can help them recover after an Oakland business fraud incident. At The Brod Law Firm, our experienced Oakland small business attorney can help. We represent Northern California small businesses in complex litigation matters including business fraud, intellectual property, employment law, insurance disputes and contracting and partnership matters. We can also help companies protect themselves from future harm by drafting contract including those aimed at protecting intellectual property. We do not require a minimum level of billings for our business clients and we will work with each client to ensure matters are handled in a cost-effective manner
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If you are the owner or manager of a small business in Northern California, please contact our office today to discuss how we can work together to protect your company and help you achieve business success.

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Hazardous Chemical Reaction at Monterey Hotel- Hazmat Situations in Everyday Circumstances

February 14, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

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As guests at a Monterey hotel found out, hazardous material incidents are not limited to refineries, dry cleaners, or factories. Hotel officials and the Monterey Fire Department completely evacuated hotel guests as a result of a dangerous chemical reaction that occurred in the laundry room at the Portola Hotel.

According to KTVU news, a hotel employee accidentally mixed acid and bleach, which led to a release of chlorine gas. The Monterey Herald reported that sixteen employees and one guest were taken to various hospitals complaining primarily of respiratory problems, while KTVU reported that thirty people were taken to the hospital. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists the side effects of inhaling chlorine gas as headaches, burning sensation of the eyes and nose, difficulty breathing, and possible vomiting. Inhaling chlorine may also exacerbate pre-existing asthma or bronchitis. Asthmatic persons are at a higher risk for side effects from contact with chlorine.

Bleach is a commonly used in laundering, and many other common cleaners contain acid. Mixing of the two chemicals releases chlorine gas into the air and the mix of bleach and ammonia releases chloramines. Both chemical reactions cause similar symptoms in those exposed. Industries of all types should have procedures for handling and storing chemicals and other hazardous materials. Hotels and other businesses should train employees on safety procedures for the use of hazardous substances and provide examples of potentially dangerous chemical reactions.

The U.S. Fire Administration (part of FEMA), states that, by law, hazardous materials must be stored in their original containers. The law serves to prevent dangerous chemicals and other materials from being stored in either unlabeled or mislabeled containers. Chemicals that are known to be reactive when mixed should not be stored next to each other. Safety locks on cabinets prevent kids and pets from accessing hazardous materials and from spills during natural disasters, such as earthquakes. Additionally, protective clothing is a good idea when handling corrosive agents.

Continue reading " Hazardous Chemical Reaction at Monterey Hotel- Hazmat Situations in Everyday Circumstances " »

The Danger of Mixing Drugs and Driving

February 13, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

When we think of Northern California DUI accidents, we tend to think of alcohol. As your San Francisco personal injury law firm, the Brod Law Firm knows that other substances can also be dangerous when mixed with motor vehicles.

CNN reported last week on a study regarding marijuana and driving by a British Medical Journal. In the recent article, the journal reviewed nine prior auto accident studies involving nearly 50,000 participants. The authors, including Professor Mark Asbridge of Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, concluded that the use of marijuana nearly doubled the risk of a vehicle collision. U.S. studies have found that marijuana is the most common illegal drug in vehicle crashes that result in driver fatality or injury to other individuals.
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Alcohol is dangerous primarily because it limits reaction times, resulting in drivers who are unable to respond to ever-changing road conditions. In contrast, the primary danger of mixing marijuana and driving lies in the drug’ impact on spatial recognition. These limitations can lead a driver to follow too closely or to weave in and out of traffic lanes. Many users do not realize that their spatial ability is limited and may feel overly confident in their ability to drive after using marijuana. The impact also varies significantly from person to person based on differences in how cannabis is metabolized. In general, the active impact of marijuana lasts three to four hours.

Alcohol has been studied under controlled conditions but the marijuana studies were based on observational accident reports. However, Ashbridge’s study did try to remedy previous data limitations. The inactive metabolites of THC can remain in a user’s system for months after use and the British study attempted to narrow the data to focus on those drivers who had used the drug in recent hours when it would have an active effect on their driving ability. Reporting may still be limited because roadside testing for marijuana, while available, is less frequently performed than alcohol testing.

Marijuana use is a complex and contentious issue. Regardless of one’s position on legalization, the serious results of combining marijuana and driving needs more attention. The Center for Disease Control notes that about eighteen percent of fatal accidents involve drugs other than alcohol. In our own state, the California Highway Patrol reports drugged drivers are involved in nearly 1,000 vehicle injuries and deaths every year. In the ten years prior to 20009, the rate of vehicle fatalities involving drugs without alcohol increased fifty-five percent. States vary in their laws on the level of cannabis that constitutes impairment with California and thirty-four other states leaving the judgment of impairment to the discretion of police officers

Driver education should include the dangers of drugs and driving alongside the lessons on alcohol. Those who ignore the danger and get behind the wheel while high should be held responsible for their actions. If you were injured in a San Francisco marijuana crash, our San Francisco auto accident attorney can help you recover compensation for your injury and financial losses.

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Shameful Cheating of Seniors By Insurance Companies

February 10, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

elderly%20wheelchair.jpg A story caught our eye this week that is the definition of shameful. Imagine our seniors, our parents and grandparents, being scammed out of benefits from long-term care insurance. Taking money from the elderly and infirm and denying them when they need the help they diligently paid for over the years. As San Francisco insurance attorneys we saw that Consumer Watchdog filed a class action lawsuit with the San Bernardino Superior Court earlier this week against the Senior Health Insurance Company of Pennsylvania (SHIP) including these allegations.

Long-term insurance claims typically involve in-home care services, mostly for caregivers that help elderly or infirm policyholders with tasks like bathing, dressing, eating, and chores around the house. The lawsuit alleges that SHIP told policyholders that in-home caregivers must be licensed, when that is not the case. SHIP also allegedly forced policyholders to produce extensive documentation and to undergo unnecessary medical exams by SHIP employed doctors. The documentation requirements were often absurd—requiring multiple forms with the same information, medical records, proof of caregiver certification, and detailed caregiver notes. The founder of Consumer Watchdog, Harvey Rosenfield, said that SHIP takes the senior’s premiums, but when a claim comes in, they inundate the policyholder with confusing correspondence, fake requirements, and endless demands for irrelevant information.

The lawsuit is on behalf of Dr. William Hall and other elderly victims of this bad faith insurance abuse. Dr. Hall is an 87 year old California resident and former US Army colonel—a wounded veteran from the Korean War. He is also the former Chief of Medicine at a California hospital. His son Eric said that Dr. Hall bought the SHIP long-term care policy to spare his family the expense of this type of care. Eric Hall says that because of SHIP the family has spent more money and more time on Dr. Hall’s care than if he had never bought the policy. Dr. Hall bought his long-term care policy in 1994 and paid premiums for sixteen years. When he needed care, SHIP delayed his benefits for eight months and then only provided him with 20 percent of the benefits to which he was entitled. Because of that, he has spent tens of thousands of dollars for caregivers, exhausting his personal resources. Dr. Hall has had to turn to his children for care, which is exactly what he was trying avoid when he purchased the insurance policy in ’94.

The suit asks for these bad practices to stop—the inundated correspondence, requests for unnecessary documentation and medical records, lengthy delays when responding to claims. The suit also requests that the company make the process more transparent and clear for policyholders to understand what their policy covers. It also seeks that policyholders be able to use their own doctor to determine their eligibility for benefits. Dr. Hall personally is also seeking damages for breach of contract, elder abuse and fraudulent business practices.

Our San Francisco bad faith insurance lawyers understand the plight of these affected California seniors. It is truly horrible that SHIP has treated their vulnerable customers in such a manner, especially when they are already frail and in need of care. An insurance lawsuit is often the only way to really make a big insurance company take notice and change its policies, as well as an opportunity for wronged consumers to get the money they deserve.

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States Eye Settlement In Mortgage Fraud Litigation

February 10, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

Our San Francisco mortgage fraud lawyer represents individuals and small businesses harmed by financial fraud and mortgage abuses. As a financial fraud law firm, we are prepared to help consumers fight the big banks and financial institutions.

We have closely followed the national mortgage fraud cases, including those at the state level. This week, both California and New York agreed to enter into settlements for the state claims with mortgage lenders. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that several major banks including Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, and Citibank have agreed to the proposed $37 billion settlements. The issues in the dispute include improperly lowering home mortgage principles, refinancing, “robo-signing,” failure to verify documents, and other decisions related to personal mortgages. There are ongoing negotiations regarding liability releases and other states may join the settlement in the coming days. Under the proposed settlement, California would receive $430 million. The providers would also be required to reduce loan amounts for over one million households nationwide. If enacted, the deal would be the largest single-industry settlement since a 1998 multistate tobacco agreement.

According to the Chronicle, more than two million California are underwater on their mortgages. Individuals need to be aware that California mortgage fraud can be the subject of personal civil lawsuits in addition to the state actions. The Federal Bureau of Investigations has a dedicated web site that can help consumers understand this complex legal arena. The FBI notes that mortgage fraud resulted from unsound underwriting processes and weak loan approval standards that result in mortgages being improperly extended. Mortgage fraud can take many forms including fake loan applications, fraudulent supporting paperwork, inflated appraisals, kickbacks, straw buyers, and false or stolen identities. The FBI compares mortgage fraud to a bank robbery that goes undetected. The FBI notes that over 2,700 claims were brought through the year 2009. The cases resulted in 494 criminal convictions, $2.5 billion in restitution, $58.4 million in fines, and $7.5 million in recoveries.

Individuals considering a mortgage or a renegotiation should carefully research their providers and be suspicious of promises that seem to good to be true. All mortgage promises should be made in writing and contain detailed information about the lending institution. The California Attorney General and Better Business Bureau can provide useful background information on mortgage-related companies. Borrowers should also make sure all documentation is complete and should never sign documents with blank lines.

Those who are already in a mortgage that they suspect may be fraudulent should reach out to skilled legal counsel such as the team at The Brod Law Firm. You may have a claim against the bank or lender for financial fraud or a malpractice claim against the attorneys involved in closing your loans. Do not let the wrongdoers win – seek the justice you deserve and the compensation you need. Civil lawsuits can exist alongside the criminal charges and a civil case can help you recover from the financial damage of a fraudulent mortgage. Our San Francisco financial fraud lawyer is available for a free consultation to discuss your unique case and your legal rights

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Redwood City DUI Fatality

February 8, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

As your Sacramento drunk driving accident law firm, we know that all too many preventable tragedies occur on our local roadways. We are here to represent those injured by drunk drivers in Sacramento, San Francisco, and all of Northern California. We also believe in prevention and know that education and law enforcement can help prevent fatalities and injuries.
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The San Francisco Chronicle reported on an alcohol-involved fatality this week near Sacramento. Forty-one year old Christopher Rigsby was driving the wrong way, travelling east in the westbound lanes of Highway 50 near Folsom Boulevard in Gold River when his Honda CR-V collided with a Pontiac Aztec. The impact of the collision caused the Pontiac to flip and killed three of the vehicle’s five occupants, including two who were thrown from the car. The Pontiac’s driver, Gustavo Sandoval-Gonzalez, age thirty-one of Sacramento was taken to UC David Medical Center due to chest pain and injuries to his hand and knee. The three deceased victims were a man and two women in their fifties whose names had not been released at the time of the Chronicle’s report. A fifth passenger in the Pontiac, fifty-nine year old Pedro Cornejo, suffered major internal injuries and was taken to Mercy San Juan Medical Center for care.

Rigsby was also taken to UC Davis Hospital after being freed from his vehicle by rescuers. Police officers reported that Rigsby was intoxicated at the time of the accident and was arrested on charges of felony drunken driving. This does not appear to be his first run-in with the law – records with the California Department of Motor Vehicles show Rigsby’s driver’s license had been suspended between 2001 and 2004 due to another drunk driving incident.

Drunk driving is always a concern and repeat drunk driving violators are a particular concern. Statistics suggest that about one-third of DUI convictions involve repeat offenders and that repeat drunk drivers are 1.4 to 1.8 times as likely to be involved in a fatal crash when compared to first time offenders. Further, specific figures for California show that nearly eight percent of fatal accidents in our state involve repeated DUI offenders. Repeat offenders also tend to have a higher blood alcohol concentration.

Drunk driving is not only a violation of the law but is a danger to everyone on the roadway. Innocent victims may have their lives taken or irreparably changed by the decision of another driver to get behind the wheel while intoxicated. At The Brod Law Firm, we represent the victims of drunk drivers. As Sacramento personal injury lawyers, can help those injured by drunk drivers recover compensation for their physical and emotional losses. We can also help the families of victims of fatal crashes recover compensation for medical bills, final costs, and the loss of their loved one.

Please call our Sacramento DUI victim legal team for a free consultation. Most cases of this type are handled on a contingency basis so there are no attorney’s fees unless you recover compensation for your injuries or loss.

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San Francisco Attorney Comments on Damages in Brutal Fan Beating

February 6, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

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Along with much of the country, our San Francisco personal injury attorney was shocked by last year’s beating of a Giants fan. There is no excuse for such violence. However, as an experienced San Francisco victim’s law firm, we know that the law can provide vital compensation as the victim travels the long path to recovery.

Bryan Stow was brutally beaten in the parking lot of Dodger Stadium on March 31, 201, opening day for last year’s baseball season. Marvin Norwood and Louis Sanchez have pled guilty and are awaiting trial following their arrest for the assault. Stowe has also filed legal claims against the Dodgers alleging that the team’s poor security and general negligence, including the alleged sale of half-priced beer (a disputed claim), contributed to the attack. The ball club is currently in federal bankruptcy proceedings and recent filings suggest the team has debts totaling $573 million. Stow’s claims have been brought in the Delaware proceedings as is required by bankruptcy law. Both The Los Angeles Times and The Oakland Tribune report that the Dodger organization filed a forty-four page motion last week asking the court to reject Stow’s claims, asserting that he cannot prove a connection between the claimed failures and the assault.

We do not have enough information to comment on the viability of Stowe’s claims. However, this lawsuit raises several important issues that apply generally to compensation the personal injury arena. First, and often foremost, a verdict is only as good as the plaintiff’s ability to pay. Stowe’s injuries were severe and will have long-term impacts and his lawyers have estimated the costs related to the beating to be $50 million. Despite the bankruptcy, the Dodgers are much more likely to carry insurance that could pay a verdict than the assailants. In vehicle-related injuries, individual plaintiffs typically have applicable insurance but that is not always the case in other situations. It is important for victims to have a skilled, experienced Northern California personal injury lawyer who can help ensure all avenues for recovery are fully explored and all relevant defendants included in a lawsuit.

As a related matter, this case reminds us of the importance of asking for the full range of damages allowed under the law. Courts can include both already-incurred and reasonably-expected damages in a personal injury award. With brain injuries such as Stowe’s, the financial impact will be life-long. Expert testimony can be key in these cases. Damages for pain and suffering are also important and experienced legal counsel can help a victim with the unpleasant task of putting numbers on the more intangible impact of an injury. Further, as in this case, it may be appropriate to seek damages on behalf of the injured party’s loved ones. According to news reports, claims have been filed not only on Stowe’s behalf but also on the behalf of his minor children who have lost the full participation of their father in their lives.

Asking for compensation is not greedy. Compensation is a victim’s right. Without a skilled, experienced legal advocate, a victim may not identify all potential sources and forms of recovery. If you or a loved one has been injured, please contact our San Francisco injury law firm for help seeking justice.

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Toxic tort attorney addresses water contamination caused by fracking

February 4, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

In the United States, we have a serious energy crisis, and natural gas is an important resource, and the cleanest of the fossil fuels. In recent years, exploration methods have enabled natural gas to be released from shale, a sedimentary rock. David Brooks wrote an article for the New York Times, entitled "The Shale Revolution”, reporting that natural gas from shale comprised of approximately 1% of all natural gas supply in the United States in the year 2000. By 2011, the amount of natural gas from shale in our country had reached 30% (though the Association of California Water Agencies suggests the number is 15%). “Fracking”, which I have wrote about in previous blog entries, is a method used to release natural gas from the shale by pumping water and chemicals into the subsurface, in an attempt to release the gas.

There has been no universal determination that the process of fracking is inherently dangerous, however there are instances where contamination can occur, particularly with regards to drinking water supply. The need to obtain precious natural resources must be balanced with the strongest concern for public safety. If your town, municipality, district or city is in a reasonable proximity from where fracking is taking place, and you have experienced water contamination, please do not hesitate to call us. Our attorneys fight for people who have been affected by toxic torts, including water contamination, and the initial consultation is always free.

California Consumers Should Be Wary About Poisons and Pesticides in the Home

February 3, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

chemicals.jpg Spiders, cockroaches, ants, rats, and moths: invasions by household pests induce cringing and exclamatory yelps. Many people want to prevent unwanted encounters with such pests and the destruction they may cause by putting out pesticides meant to deter or kill rodents and bugs. Consumers are driven by costs, effectiveness, and a concern for safety when choosing a pest-control product. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emphasizes the safe use and regulation of poisons and pesticides used in the home.

The Environmental Protection Agency requires all manufacturers of household pesticides to have an EPA registration number on the label. If a product does not have the registration on the label it may be an illegally imported product. Consumers should also be aware that some products are only meant for use by licensed commercial entities. Two illegal products that concern many poison control agencies are the so-called “Miraculous Chalk”, a pesticide originating in China, and “Tres Pasitos” a rat poison originating from Latin America. The insecticide chalk is troublesome because it is a cheap remedy that looks identical to the chalk used on blackboards, yet it is poisonous and poorly labeled. “Tres pasitos” is a made of aldicarb, an extremely toxic pesticide that has deleterious effects on humans through ingestion and even if absorbed through the skin. If handled improperly the products cause symptoms such as stomach pains, vomiting, and convulsions. Business are subject to penalties for each sale of an illegal pesticide.

Consumers should also follow directions on approved products very carefully. For instance, the use of mothballs, usually made of naphthalene, can be dangerous if the not utilized correctly. The National Pesticide Information Center at Oregon State University advises that mothballs should be sealed with clothing in an airtight container. Mothballs left out in the open let off toxic fumes that are potentially dangerous to humans. Moreover, mothballs may appear to be food to children or pets. Ingestion of moth balls by a small child will lead to a scary trip to the emergency room. Furthermore, some mothballs are distributed illegally because the production and labeling of the mothballs were not overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA and its Californian counterparts stress that it is illegal to use pesticides in a way other than specifically directed on the product label. This is especially of concern if a business is hired to apply insecticides to exterminate bugs. Commercial exterminators in California must be licensed by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR). Consumers who are concerned with the methods or licensing of a commercial applicator of pesticides may file a complaint with the CDPR. The CDPR will investigate and work with a violating business to improve their procedures or, if necessary, take enforcement action against the business.

Continue reading " California Consumers Should Be Wary About Poisons and Pesticides in the Home " »

More Research Needed to Find Life Insurance Beneficiaries in California

February 3, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

This week California joined six other states—Florida, Illinois, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey—in signing a settlement with Prudential Insurance Co. of America, the country’s second largest life insurer. The settlement requires that the insurance company use enhanced researched techniques to find the beneficiaries of California life insurance policies where the dead policyholder’s benefits were never claimed. California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said that this is to ensure that when a life insurance holder dies, the intended beneficiaries get the owed benefits. A Prudential spokesperson asserted Prudential was not accused of any wrongdoing and that Prudential is happy to work with industry regulators on best practices and standards and is pleased to get out in front of the industry on this issue.

The agreement includes an expanded use of matching criteria when Prudential uses Social Security’s master list of deceased people (the so-called “Death Master” file) and the use of computer programs to find deaths that might have been overlooked in the past. This will help Prudential discover in a more timely fashion when a policyholder has died and ensure that policies do not go unpaid for years. If a Prudential policyholder dies, the agreement requires the company to conduct a thorough search for beneficiaries, using both their records and online search and locator tools. If no beneficiary can be located, Prudential is to turn over the proceeds from the policy to the state as required under California’s unclaimed property laws. Additionally, the settlement includes a $17 million payout by Prudential, which will be used to monitor compliance. California’s share has not been determined yet, but it is expected to exceed $1 million. prudential.jpg

There is also a parallel agreement that Prudential reached with twenty states last month, with the company agreeing to review policies active between 1992 and 2010 and pay the beneficiaries it locates. Prudential told the Securities and Exchange Commission in a filing that it put aside $139 million for this task.

This most recent agreement requires twenty states to sign on before it becomes official, so thirteen more states need to sign on. The deadline is March 31, 2012 for the state to be eligible to receive part of the $17 million payout. Prudential is the first of half a dozen insurance companies that these seven states, including California, are targeting. Mr. Jones said he hopes that this Prudential settlement will pave the way for more productive negotiations and settlements with the other involved insurance companies.

Our San Francisco insurance claim lawyer knows that these targeted companies and negotiations stem from a three year audit by California State Controller John Chiang of life insurance companies. This turned up enough information to hold an investigative hearing last May on alleged delayed payouts of benefits by MetLife Inc.

San Francisco insurance attorneys realize that failure to search for beneficiaries has been a pervasive life insurance industry practice. After a loved one dies, there are often questions about whether the person had life insurance and how to deal with that. If you need legal help with that issue, there are experienced insurance lawyers in your area to help.

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San Francisco Bicycle Accident Attorney on Safety and The Policy of Contributory Negligence

February 3, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

Bicycling is a terrific commuting option. It is environmentally friendly, cost-conscious, and provides a terrific fitness benefit. Our San Francisco bicycle accident attorney encourages more Californians to use cycling as a part of their regular commute. However, as a focused personal injury law firm for San Francisco and other Northern California regions, we know that bicycle accidents are a real concern for area cyclists.

One such accident was reported by The San Francisco Chronicle this week. The injured victim, a thirty-nine year old cyclist, was riding on Clement Street, travelling eastbound in the Richmond District of San Francisco just before five P.M. on Tuesday January 31. The rider was struck by a United States Postal Service Truck that was proceeding northbound on 18th Avenue at the time of the crash. A police spokesman noted that the rider was not wearing a helmet, suffered minor head trauma in the accident (earlier police reports suggesting a life-threatening injury have been altered) and was treated at San Francisco General Hospital. According to preliminary investigations, the cyclist had the right of way at the time of the collision and the postal worker failed to come to a full stop prior to entering the intersection.

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According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, over one hundred people are killed in cycling accidents annually in our state, with injured cyclists numbering in the thousands. Drivers should remember to take particular caution when sharing the roadways with bicyclers, but cyclists must also exercise caution when travelling. Bicycles are required to follow all the same rules of the road that govern motor vehicles including stopping for red lights and obeying other traffic signs. Bicycle riders should opt for visible garments, especially if travelling in low-lit conditions. Helmets should be a part of every cyclist’s uniform. Although California law only mandates helmet-wearing for riders under age eighteen, cyclists of all ages should make wearing a well-fitting helmet a standard part of their riding routine.

While we urge bicyclists to exercise caution, we do want accident victims to know that perfection is not a requirement for legal action. It would certainly have been preferable for the victim in Tuesday’s crash to have worn a helmet and this precaution may have limited (or even eliminated entirely) the rider’s injuries. However, the decision to go without a helmet does not mean the rider has no legal claim should the results of the preliminary investigation be sustained and the conclusion that the mail truck driver failed to stop completely be upheld. Instead of barring coverage, the rider’s own fault will be factored into the amount of a legal recovery. For example, a court might conclude the accident and resulting injury was seventy-five percent attributable to the driver’s failure to yield and twenty-five percent due to the failure of the cyclist to wear protective apparel. If the same court found the damages from the accident would normally amount to a verdict of $20,000, the court would discount this amount to account for the cyclist’s own actions and award $15,000 instead. Like other injury matters, legal claims regarding bicycle accidents often settle out of court but this principle will also apply in settlement negotiations.

If you have been injured in a bicycle accident in Northern California, our San Francisco bicycle crash lawyer is here to help. Call to talk with our team and schedule a free consultation to discuss how we can help you protect your legal rights and obtain compensation for your injuries.

See Related Blog Posts:
Cyclist Suffers Life-Threatening Injuries After Being Struck By San Francisco Taxi
How San Francisco Can Make Its Streets Safer For Cyclists


Fatal Sacramento Train Crash Highlights Importance of Transit Safety

February 1, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

Our Sacramento train accident lawyer was saddened this week to see a local tragedy dominating both Northern California and national headlines. As details of this sad accident emerge, we wanted to take a moment to comment on transit safety and the importance of Sacramento personal injury lawsuits in holding parties responsible for their actions.

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The Sacramento Bee reports that regional transit authorities have called Saturday’s accident the worst light-rail incident in the twenty-five year history of the transit system. Louis Leon Williams (age sixty-two), Shante Hope Williams (age twenty-five), and twenty-two month old Damian Antiwon Williams, were killed when a light rail train crashed into their sports-utility vehicle. The accident also injured a fourth occupant of the SUV, fifty-seven year old Demetric Deann Good Williams. The victims were travelling on 26th Avenue in south Sacramento when the Meadowview line train struck the vehicle, flipping the Nissan Pathfinder and pushing it twenty yards. A number of the train’s fifty passengers also suffered injuries in the crash.

Investigators are still examining the accident but it appears that the driver of the SUV attempted to drive around a lowered guardrail. The Bee reports note that this behavior is often the result of driver frustration which can be multiplied where light-rail and freight trains share tracks resulting in increased delays for automobile traffic. This appears to have been a factor in the weekend accident where the gate arms remained lowered for seven and a half minutes as two freight trains passed before the commuter train arrived thirty-seven seconds later, travelling at between fifty and fifty-five miles per hour. It appears that the SUV’s driver assumed the second freight train was the final train and attempted to cross the tracks as the light-rail train arrived at the crossing.

The details of this horrific crash continue to emerge. Sadly, each year brings several Sacramento train collisions with forty-six incidents of a train and car colliding in the period between 2000 and 2011. These accidents caused twenty-three reported injuries and nine deaths. Authorities are considering whether double gate arms might help prevent collisions by blocking a greater swath of roadway. Signage warning of the possibility of multiple trains is also being considered, especially where the driver’s view of the tracks is compromised by soundwalls.

Although fault in this case remains under investigation, the Sacramento personal injury lawyer at The Brod Law Firm knows that legal action can be an important part of positive change. Authorities clearly recognize that more could be done to enhance crossing safety but this knowledge does not always result in action. A properly filed personal injury lawsuit can not only compensate victims but can also spur true change. Knowing that they may be held accountable for dangerous crossing conditions can lead transit authorities to make changes that will prevent future tragedy.

Victims of train accidents should reach out to experienced legal counsel to discuss whether an injury lawsuit may be appropriate. Our team offers a free consultation in which we will examine your case and discuss how a lawsuit can provide needed compensation for the victim and their family. Remember that compensation is a victim’s right and that injury-related lawsuits also serve an important social role by encouraging future precautions that can prevent additional accidents.

See Related Blog Posts:
Oakland Amtrak Train Accident Victims Walk Away With Non-Life-Threatening Injuries
San Francisco Bay Area Caltrain Accident Takes A Life