Woodland Arrest Focuses Attention on the Danger of Elder Abuse

April 30, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

Children and the elderly are perhaps the two most vulnerable segments of our society. While child abuse is the subject of wide-ranging awareness and prevention campaigns, elder abuse in Sacramento and elsewhere in Northern California is often a subject that remains taboo. As a Sacramento elder abuse law firm, the team at The Brod Law Firm believes that awareness is a vital step in preventing and reducing instances of elder abuse in our communities.

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Police in Woodland are continuing to investigate a suspected case of elder abuse. On Friday April 27, officers arrived at the 200 block of Ablele Street in response to a domestic disturbance report. When they arrived at the scene, they found an elderly man, identified in some reports as Jerry Woodall standing in the front yard of a home. The man was suffering from multiple, non-life-threatening injuries and additional responders were called in to transport him to Woodland Memorial Hospital for treatment.

Officers quickly focused suspicions on the elderly man’s son, 42 year old James Woodall. By the time police arrived, the suspect had returned inside a residence and he refused to open the door when the officers knocked. Police contacted the younger Woodall by telephone but he refused to emerge. Eventually, a team of officers, aided by a police dog, forcibly entered the home. They found that Woodall had barricaded himself in a bedroom and that he had started a fire. Officers retreated out of concern for their own safety. A negotiation team was called in and the suspect eventually began communicating and exited the back bedroom. Police were then able to subdue the man and they apprehended him with the aid of the police canine. The younger Woodland was treated for minor injuries sustained during the apprehension. He was then booked at the Yolo County Jail. He has been charged with suspicion of battery causing significant injury and elder abuse. Additional charges of arson and battery on a police dog have also been filed as a result of the stand-off.

The National Center on Elder Abuse (“NCEA”) is a resource center that seeks to prevent elder abuse nationwide. A 2005 NCEA report estimates that between one and two million Americans over age 65 have been exploited, injured, or otherwise mistreated by someone they depended upon for care and protection. Elder abuse statistics are very hard to compile because there is little agreement on a precise definition and because a large percentage of elder abuse cases go unreported. The same NCEA report suggested that only one in every fourteen cases of elder abuse in a domestic setting is brought to the attention of authorities. In additional to physical injury, elder abuse can also include financial exploitation, a form of mistreatment that may impact five million elderly Americans each year with estimates suggesting a mere one in twenty-five cases being reported.

Everyone can play a role in preventing elder abuse by keeping vigilant for potential abuse and staying connected to seniors who might be isolated from society, especially if they are suffering from dementia or other illness. Abuse can happen in nursing homes, hospitals, and even at home. If you suspect someone you know is the victim of elder abuse in Northern California, it is important that you speak up. Information about reporting California elder abuse can be found at the following website: http://www.cdss.ca.gov/agedblinddisabled/PG1298.htm. Our experienced Sacramento elder abuse attorney can provide additional guidance to help investigate and stop abuse in Northern California. We can also assist the abuse victim in recovering compensation for both physical and financial harm. Working together as a community, we can bring attention to elder abuse and help prevent this egregious wrong.

See Related Blog Posts:
Sacramento Elder Abuse Lawyer Comments on Fall Prevention in Nursing Homes
Oakland-San Francisco Elder Abuse Attorney Comments on the Reporting and Prevention of Elder Abuse

MetLife Settles with States for Almost $500 Million

April 27, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

In another good news story, insurance giant MetLife, the largest life insurer in America, agreed to pay almost $500 million in a multi-state settlement deal after regulators reviewed whether companies were holding onto funds that should go to beneficiaries. This builds on a previous multi-state settlement with the US’s second biggest life insurer, Prudential, a few months ago (see blog post on that settlement here. Another settlement was reached with Toronto-based John Hancock.

With life insurance, the company is required to pay out the claim after receiving notification of the policyholder’s death and a valid death certificate. If there is no notification, then they are usually required to hold the funds until the policyholder would be 100 years old, plus an additional three to five years depending on the state, before turning the money over to the state as unclaimed property. The main allegation in these cases is that the insurance companies are not doing this, and are not taking the proper steps to track down beneficiaries, such as using Social Security databases to compare to their own records. MetLife maintains they pay more than 99 percent of life insurance claims and are working with regulators to ensure every claim gets paid.

An audit of MetLife launched in 2008 found that for two decades the company failed to pay benefits to beneficiaries or the state after a policyholder died. California Controller John Chiang said a joint investigative hearing with California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones held last May revealed MetLife had information about the deaths of some of its life insurance policyholders but failed to pay what was owned. He went on to say, “These settlements make it clear that if the industry isn’t willing to make the payments legally required, we will take action, including lawsuits, to compel them to do right by their customers.”

As California insurance attorneys, we have been following these big investigations and multi-state settlements. States like California and Florida have led the way, with regulators scrutinizing these companies’ business practices. This most recent one with MetLife will likely see $40 million going to about 30,000 Californians, according to Mr. Chiang. The average cash value of each claim is about $1,200. Other states involved are Florida, Illinois, and Pennsylvania. MetLife also agreed to pay out about $188 million to beneficiaries across the country this year. Within the next 17 years is expected to pay as much as $438 million. Between the three companies that have settled, it is expected the combined payout will exceed $1 billion, although over several years.

Our San Francisco insurance attorneys know that these large multi-state settlements are a great step towards fairness for insurance consumers, especially by incentivizing these giant companies to behave correctly and follow fair, honest and transparent business practices. But these suits are not for individual policyholders who have been tricked or cheated by insurance companies. If a loved one has died, and you are unsure of whether there was a life insurance policy or what to do about it, contact an experienced insurance claim lawyer in San Francisco.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Blue Shield Settles Rescission Lawsuit

Good news for California Life and Disability Insurance Consumers

Manslaughter Charges to be Filed Against Bicyclist Who Hit and Killed a Pedestrian

April 27, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

When our San Francisco accident lawyer hears about an accident involving a bicycle, the cyclist is often the victim of a negligent driver. So it is with particular interest that the team at The Brod Law Firm, an experienced San Francisco collision law firm, has been following the developing story in which a cyclist struck and killed a local pedestrian.
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This week, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that District Attorney George Gascón is moving forward with felony vehicular manslaughter charges stemming from an incident that occurred on March 29, 2012. Chris Bucchere, age thirty-five, was riding his bicycle in the Castro district when he struck and killed seventy-one year old Sutchi Hui. At the time of the accident, Hui was a pedestrian and in the crosswalk located at the intersection of Market and Castro Streets. The charge is a felony and could carry a sentence of sixteen months incarceration.

While it is believed that Bucchere had a yellow light when he cycles southbound through the intersection, a witness reports seeing him go through several stop signs and red lights on Divisadero Street before he reached the accident scene. A tracking device on the bicycle also indicated Bucchere was travelling faster than 35 miles per hour in a 25 mile per hour zone. The district attorney’s office believes these and other facts support a charge that Bucchere was grossly negligent and failed to yield to Hui at the crosswalk. Surveillance footage also shows that the cyclist was hunched over and made little or no effort to avoid hitting the pedestrian.

Initial reports focused on internet postings allegedly made by Bucchere. The posts suggested the cyclist was “too committed to stop” and opted to continue speeding and plow through the crosswalk at the area with the fewest pedestrians. The D.A. indicated the posts are unlikely to be used in court because authorship cannot be proven.

The charges are notably different from those in another San Francisco bicycle accident that happened last summer. In that case, twenty-three year old Randolph Ang struck sixty-eight year old pedestrian Dionette Cherney who dies after falling and hitting her head. The accident occurred on July 15 as the tourist from Washington D.C. crossed Mission Street at the Embarcadero. Cherney’s family supported the D.A.’s decision to only file a misdemeanor charge that resulted in a plea deal involving three years’ probation, 500 hours of community service, and $15,375 in restitution for the deceased’s family. Ang’s attorney noted that, in contrast to the more recent incident, his client immediately stopped to try to help the victim, expressed remorse, and took responsibility for the accident.

As a reminder, a victim can file a civil suit regardless of the nature of criminal charges and even if authorities opt not to file a criminal suit. In vehicle accident cases, the criminal system is focused on punishing a violation of the law. In contrast, the civil system seeks to provide compensation to those harmed by the wrongdoer’s acts. The Brod Law Firm focuses on civil claims. If you have suffered injury in an accident that was someone else’s fault, please contact us for a free consultation to discuss how our San Francisco victim’s law firm can help you recover compensation for your injuries.

See Related Blog Posts:
Oakland Bicycle Fatality Reminds Residents of the Need to Share the Road
San Francisco Bicycle Accident Attorney on Safety and The Policy of Contributory Negligence

The Comparison between Drinking and Driving and Cell Phone Use while Driving

April 26, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

smart_phone_icon.jpg U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is calling out for a federal law against talking or texting on a cell phone while driving, MSNBC reports. Currently 37 states have laws on the books that specifically prohibit texting while driving, while 10 prohibit talking on a handheld cell phone while driving. LaHood added that the Department of Transportation is currently researching whether hands free devices actually make driving safer.

Lately, the statistic that has been trotted out again and again that using a cell phone while driving is as dangerous as driving while drunk. For instance, the website Distraction.gov by the U.S. Department of Transportation cites a University of Utah study and states, “Using a cell phone while driving - whether it's hand-held or hands-free delays a driver's reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent.” From government departments to the Discovery Channel’s the Mythbusters, many are making the comparison.

Drunk driving is firmly embedded in American drivers’ minds as unacceptable behavior, although 1.44 million DUI and DWI arrests were made nationally in 2009. Likewise, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration recently conducted some driver surveys which show a contradiction between belief and behavior regarding cell phone use and driving. According to their research, 90% of respondents said it makes them feel they are in peril as a passenger when the driver is using a cell phone. Yet, most admit to receiving calls while driving. The NHTSA survey also reports that drivers 25 years and younger are two to three times more likely to text and drive than older drivers.

Until the the education effort to make cell phone use and driving as unacceptable as drunk driving, the numbers of drivers who text or talk by phone will increase as more Americans who grew up with smart phones start driving. A 2009 study by the Allstate Foundation reported that 49% of teens admitted to cell phone use while driving (the number was 57% in a State Farm study), while 23% admitted to drinking and driving. It may be inferred that the education effort still has a long way to go.

LaHood also used the comparison, saying the drunk drivers used to get cabs from police officers but now they get jail time. He believes that enforcement should also be much stricter when it comes to cell phone use, according to the Chicago Tribune. The many comparisons beg the question, how far will the responsibility for texting and driving and other cell phone use go? In California, under Section 53150 of the Government Code, a drunk driver may be liable for the costs associated with sending emergency responders to the site of an incident caused by his actions. Furthermore, debtors in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court may not discharge personal injury judgments that were a result of drunk driving (11 USC Section 523(9)). Interested parties may want to watch for future developments in this area of the law to see how close the comparison between driving under the influence and cell phone use while driving converges, not only on statistics but enforcement and punishment as well.

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Train Safety Tips Following a Muni Fatality

April 25, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

Our San Francisco accident attorney knows that transportation safety is not limited to cars, trucks, and SUVs. This week, a story in the San Francisco Chronicle served as a tragic reminder that San Francisco train accidents can also be fatal. An individual in a wheelchair fell onto the rail tracks on Monday at Muni Metro’s Civic Center Station. The man’s leg was severed when he was run over by a train. Emergency response crews were alerted by witnesses to the crash and arrived at the scene just before 11:30 A.M. The victim died at the hospital as a result of his injuries. Authorities have not yet released the man’s name but reports indicate he was in his 50s or 60s. It is not yet clear how the man fell but early reports suggest the fall was accidental.

The Federal Railway Administration reports that over 11,000 railroad/train incidents occurred in 2011. This figure includes train and highway rail accidents, issues stemming from trespassing, and other events that caused death, injury, or illness involving railroads. These incidents caused 712 fatalities and 8,033 additional injuries.
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Train safety is important for both pedestrians and drivers. Today’s trains are often quieter than in the past so vigilance is particularly key. The average train weighs about 200 tons and trains can weigh as much as 6,000 tons. Trains take time to come to a complete stop and cannot veer around objects in their path. It is thus vital for all of us to exercise extreme caution around trains and railway tracks.

Pedestrians should only cross railroad tracks at specified crossing sites and should obey all signs and signals. Walking on railroad tracks in dangerous and usually also constitutes illegal trespassing. Individuals waiting for a train at a station should always remain behind marked safety lines until the train has come to a complete stop. You should not assume that trains will only arrive on schedule and should be alert for a train anytime you are walking or standing near train tracks. It is never safe to walk on railroad bridges since they usually do not have room for both a pedestrian and a train.

Drivers should exercise similar caution and should always look before driving across tracks and should obey all railway signs and signals. Drivers should not attempt to drive around gate arms and should never attempt to beat a train that appears to be moving slowly. Multiple trains can be travelling in relatively quick succession so you cannot assume it is safe to proceed across tracks the moment a train has passed. If your car stalls and will not restart while crossing railroad tracks, the driver and all passengers should get out of the vehicle and remain away from the tracks while awaiting assistance.

Our San Francisco injury attorney understands the complexity of Northern California train collisions. Each case requires a detailed and specific legal analysis. Please call our team to arrange a free consultation to discuss your unique case and how we can help you obtain compensation for your injuries.

See Related Blog Posts:
Amtrak Train Collides with Big Rig
Fatal Sacramento Train Crash Highlights Importance of Transit Safety

Drivers with ADHD at Higher Risk of Accidents

April 24, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

Drivers tend to be wary of teenage drivers, who are four times more likely to get into an accident than drivers 20 years and older. Teenage drivers are more accident prone because, in general they take more risks, have less experience with driving, and are more distracted by their passengers.

Another group of drivers fall into this category as well: drivers of all ages with ADHD. Drivers who live with ADHD are also more likely to be distracted by noisy passengers, radios, cell phones and even day dreaming. SF Gate reported recently that ADHD drivers struggle with attentiveness, which makes them less likely to identify and react to dangers on the roads. ADHD drivers are also susceptible to impulsive or aggressive behavior off and on the road. Teenagers with ADHD are four times more likely than their peers to get into an accident and seven times more likely to get into a second accident.

The combination of a teenage driver and a driver with ADHD is unnerving, and in any case, driving safely will continue to be a struggle into adulthood. Drivers with ADHD often have many minor accidents in their driving career. Yet, ADHD drivers can improve their driving skills by coming up with strategies to stay focused on the road.

Parents of children with ADHD should set down guidelines to help their child become a safer driver. Life with ADHD is different for every child, so parents may want to observe their child while driving to become more aware of what presents the biggest distractions. Parents may also observe their child to see if their child exhibits any sort of impulsive behavior behind the wheel. Additionally, the 2006 study “Manual transmission enhances attention and driving performance of ADHD adolescent males: pilot study” reported that the male teenagers observed benefitted from driving a car with a manual transmission. Apparently, the focus needed to prevent grinding gears or sputtering forced the drivers to pay more attention. The teenagers also felt more in tune with the car. Of course, some may find the focus needed to shift the gears distracts from what’s going on around them on the road. Once again, each person experiences ADHD differently.

Finally, ADHD experts suggest that drivers of all ages plan out their route beforehand and leave plenty of time to make it to their destination, to avoid making impulsive U-turns or falling into other aggressive behaviors when lost.

The number of children diagnosed with ADHD has increased by 66% in the last ten years, according to a study cited on Science Daily. With more children and adults alike being diagnosed with ADD and ADHD, drivers should take notice. You cannot infer from looking at a car’s driver how the driver may respond to a dangerous situation, which is why it is important to always drive defensively.

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Legal Battles Continue Over 2010 BP Spill

April 23, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

The San Francisco toxic tort law firm at The Brod Law Firm continues to follow the legal battles that have grown out of the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. We follow the developments because we want to be prepared to help victims should an oil spill in Sacramento or other Northern California oil and gas accidents result in harm to our community.
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As the Associated Press reported, last Wednesday, BP and a team of plaintiffs’ attorneys presented judge overseeing the BP cases with the formal terms of a proposed settlement for the pending class-action claims. The lawyers are looking for the judge to issue a preliminary approval that would impact BP and a plaintiff-side class composed of more than 100,000 businesses and individuals. There is no indication of how long it will take the judge to reach a ruling. Judge Barbier is expected to hold a formal fairness hearing to evaluate the settlement prior to issuing a final approval.

The proposed settlement would have BP paying an estimated $7.8 billion to resolve claims from private parties. Settlement papers put no cap on the total damages that BP may have to pay. If approved, it would be one of the largest class-action settlements in history. The parties believe the settlement is reasonable, fair, and adequate and that it builds a comprehensive system for awarding compensation to class members.

The settlement before the court does not attempt to resolve separate claims brought by the federal government and states in the Gulf water region against BP and its partners. Also not included are claims against Transocean Ltd., a Swiss-owner rig owner, and Halliburton, the cement contractor based in Houston. A May 3 status conference is planned to discuss the potential trial of these remaining claims.

Health issues are an important element of the agreement. As it currently stands, the settlement includes payment of medical claims brought by clean-up workers and others who claim the spill caused their illnesses. No such claims have been paid out of the already existing gulf Coast Claims Facility. The proposed settlement creates levels of compensation based on the particular illness at issue. The highest level of illness claim coverage would include a payment up to $60,700 plus payment of hospital and medical bills. Coverage for lesser claims such as problems with skin disorders and eye, throat, and nose issues. If approved, the settlement would also require BP to spend $105 million over a five year period to create and run an outreach program to provide medical evaluations to impacted individuals.

BP has also agreed to spend $2.3 billion to resolve seafood-industry claims including lost compensation for those who work in the fishing industry. Other claims that the settlement looks to resolves are business losses, lost wages, and property damages, including damage to vessels involved in the cleanup process. Plaintiffs’ attorney fees and related expenses are included in the settlement and capped at $600 million. The agreement also contemplates paying $57 million to help promote tourism in the region and to support the seafood industry. An additional $5 million payment is dedicated to helping educate Gulf Coast residents about how they can be part of the settlement. This may be the largest effort at providing notification to potential claimants of a settlement proposal.

Some concern has been raised over potentially limiting the geographic scope of included class members. Florida’s Attorney General has also voices concern about eliminating the current interim claims process.

The oil and gas industry are vital to our economies. They are large industries themselves and they supply needed energy to much of our society. The industries are, however, high-risk. The Brod Firm has experience bringing lawsuits against oil companies in California, including claims related to water contamination. We can work with individuals or help you understand and create a San Francisco class action complaint. We need to hold companies responsible when their actions harm our environment and cause economic losses and health concerns for our community. Let us help you do just that.

See Related Blog Posts:
Legal Battles in the Wake of Chevron Oil Spill in Brazil
Further Developments in the San Bruno Explosion Investigation

The Importance of Teen Driving Safety

April 20, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

The Brod Law Firm represents individuals who were injured in car accidents in Oakland and throughout Northern California. Gregory Brod is an experienced Oakland personal injury attorney and our law firm can help victims receive compensation for their injuries. While we are here to help you put together the pieces after an accident, we also believe in putting prevention first. All drivers should recognize that driving is a responsibility and young drivers in particular should be taught to always make safety a priority when behind the wheel.
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The Oakland Tribune reported on a serious car accident that occurred on Wednesday night near Napa. A fifteen year old girl was driving on Buhman Avenue in the area south of Congress Valley Road. The teenager was speeding when she lost control of her vehicle at a curve and crashed into a tree head-on. Although the car, a 1992 Honda Civic, was only intended to seat five, there were a total of seven teenage occupants in the vehicle at the time of the crash. All of the car’s passengers were taken to Queen of the Valley Medical Center with three (males aged nineteen, fifteen, and fourteen) suffering major injuries. The driver of the car reportedly fled the scene of the accident. Alcohol is not believed to have been a factor in the collision.

According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, the accident rate for teenage drivers is higher than for any other age group. In 2007, 217 drivers between the age of fifteen and twenty died as a result of car crashes in California. That year, accidents claimed the lives of 161passengers of young California drivers, 148 occupants of other vehicles involved in collisions with teens, and 67 victims who were not in a vehicle. Teenage drivers are especially at risk for being involved in a crash when they are transporting passengers. For sixteen and seventeen year old drivers, the risk of a fatal crash is 3.6 times higher when they have a passenger and the risk increases with a higher number of passengers. The crash rate is also higher at night with the accident rate per mile after 9 P.M. being three times higher than during daytime hours.

The DMV’s website suggests a number of factors leading to the increased risk of fatal accidents among younger drivers. Teen drivers may underestimate risk levels, be less capable of detecting hazards, and be more likely to take risks. Young drivers are generally less experienced than adult drivers and thus have a lower level of hands-on driving skills. Alcohol and drug use can also be a contributing factor with teenagers being at a greater risk for serious collisions than adult operators with the same blood alcohol level.

Drivers under age seventeen and a half must provide proof that they have attended or are currently attending a classroom-style driver education course before obtaining their instructional permit in California. Drivers under age eighteen are issued only a provisional license for the first year, requiring the driver be accompanied by a parent/guardian or other adult when driving between 11 P.M. and 5 A.M. or transporting a passenger under age twenty. It is also illegal for a driver under age eighteen to use a cell phone or other wireless communication device, even in hands-free mode.

Parents, educators and teens should all work together to ensure that young drivers are prepared for the responsibility of driving. Age may contribute to collision rates but youth is not an excuse for unsafe behaviors. If you have been have suffered an injury due to a careless driver of any age in an Oakland car accident, please contact our Northern California accident law firm for help obtaining compensation for your injuries. Remember, a civil suit not only provides victims with financial damages but also helps to send the message that driving is a serious responsibility and safety should always be a priority.

See Related Blog Posts:
Careless Driving Accidents in The Bay Area
Additional Charges Brought In Case of Teenage Drinking and Fatal DUI

Insurance Company Ordered to Pay Elderly Woman for Kicking Her Off her Health Plan

April 17, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

In a blow to insurance companies across the country, a unanimous Montana jury at the US District Court in Billings recently awarded 90 year old Arlene Hull a $34.3 million judgment against Ability Insurance Company of Omaha, Nebraska. It is one of the largest jury awards in Montana’s history, and amounted to $250,000 for breach of contract, $2 million for violating Montana’s Unfair Trade Practices law, and $32 million in punitive damages, according to the Billings Gazette.

In a story that is all too common to those of us who work in insurance law, Mrs. Hull and her husband purchased long-term care insurance in 1997 from a company then called Mutual Protective Insurance. Mr. Hull died in 1998, but Mrs. Hull continued to pay premiums. The company changed names and shifted ownership over the following years. In 2007, Mrs. Hull was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and it became more difficult for her to care for herself. A year later, she moved into St. John’s Lutheran Home in Billings, when she began receiving benefits from her long-term care insurance policy. Ability Insurance bought the company holding Mrs. Hull’s policy in 2007 and decided to review her policy in January 2010. Ability decided to cut off Mrs. Hull’s benefits, and when her daughter appealed the decision, it was denied. Ability told them that then 88 year old Arlene Hull, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s for three years, did not need “continual supervision due to severe cognitive impairment” and that she was only “moderately” not “severely” impaired. In September 2010, Mrs. Hull and her daughter brought this lawsuit against Ability in the US District Court. The insurance company then reversed course and reinstated her benefits in October 2011, but the company refused to pay for the period she was without benefits. contract.jpg

Unfortunately, Montana law caps punitive damages at $10 million, so Mrs. Hull’s $32 million in damages from the judgment will not likely stand in an appeal. Regardless, this is a significant victory for insurance victims like Mrs. Hull. Her attorney said, “Long-term-care policy holders are responsible people who don’t want to be a burden to others and should not be wrongfully denied benefits under these policies.” Insurance companies need to understand that they cannot get away with these kinds of shady business practices, harming their hardworking customers by denying them deserved benefits to save the company money.
Cheating the vulnerable elderly happens all over the country, as our San Francisco bad faith insurance attorney (http://www.brodfirm.com/lawyer-attorney-1844610.html) discussed in a previous post about Dr. William Hall’s similar case in southern California. Without this recourse in law, seniors would be trapped by these greedy, unscrupulous insurance companies—duped out of their money and then left to suffer during the last years of their life, denied the care they paid for. If a loved member of your family is facing this kind of abuse over health insurance or long-term care insurance, please contact an San Francisco insurance attorney in your area as soon as possible.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

California Insurance Agent Gets Jail Time for Selling Annuity to Elderly Dementia Patient

Shameful Cheating of Seniors By Insurance Companies

California Class Action Firm Following Developments Stemming from 2011 Oil Spill in Brazil

April 16, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

The San Francisco class action attorney at The Brod Law Firm has been closely following developments stemming from an oil leak that occurred off the coast of Brazil last fall. Last month, The San Francisco Chronicle reported on developments stemming from the accident. The continuing story serves as a reminder of the importance of legal accountability following an oil-related accident. This story is particularly relevant to our coastal communities since a pipeline accident in California could impact dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of local residents and businesses.

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In November 2011, a drilling accident led to an oil spill at Chevron’s Frade field. The Frade site is a deep water field in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Rio de Janeiro. It is estimated that three thousand barrels of crude oil flowed into the water as a result of the Frade incident. According to allegations, the companies involved in the Frade project used faulty equipment, applied excessive drilling pressure, and failed to fulfill requirements aimed at preventing oil spills.

Brazilian authorities have filed lawsuits against Chevron as well as Transocean, the company that operated the Frade drilling rig, and Petroleo Brasilero SA (“Petrobas”), Brazil’s state-controlled oil producer. Individual company executives have also been named in the litigation with prosecutors seeking prison terms of up to thirty-one years on charges they obstructed the government’s investigation into the accident. Prosecutors are seeking $5.5 million each from Chevron and Transocean and additional damages of approximately $549,100 from the individual executives. Petrobas may be responsible for thirty percent of damages charged to Chevron. The Brazilian government suggests these civil damage figures reflect the environmental damage stemming from the Frade spill.

When a pipeline accident results in an oil spill, many are affected. As is the case in Brazil, the government may seek damages on its own behalf to reflect the environmental impact of the spill. Individuals and businesses in coastal communities may also suffer losses, especially if the spill occurs close to land. In some instances, a class action may be a good tool for oil spill victims. Class actions allow many victims to bring suit collectively. This can relieve some of the burden on individual plaintiffs. It can also help ensure that earlier plaintiffs do not deplete all of the defendant’s resources and leave later claimants without economic recourse. Furthermore, class litigation may be more effective for the judicial system, allowing one lawsuit to take the place of many individual claims and avoiding the danger of different courts reaching incompatible rulings.

The Brod Law Firm represents individuals and companies affected by oil spills in Northern California. Gregory Brod has specific experience litigating cases involving both the oil and gas industries. If you have been impacted by an oil spill or any other form of toxic tort, please contact our office. Our team can work with victims to explore potential class actions in San Francisco and surrounding areas.

See Related Blog Posts:
Further Developments in the San Bruno Explosion Investigation
An Introduction To Class Actions

Study Examines Factors Influencing Pedal Confusion Accidents

April 13, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

Our Sacramento car accident lawyer knows that collisions can take many forms. For most people, the first images that come to mind when thinking about a Sacramento car crash involve a high-speed highway collision or an alcohol-fueled incident. However, our Northern California personal injury attorney knows that accidents can have many causes and that each incident is unique.

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This week, The Sacramento Bee carried a report detailing the results of a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The study focused on accidents resulting from a driver mistakenly pressing on the gas when they intended to hit the brake pedal. Study directors examined a North Carolina database of crashes including four hundred gas pedal accidents and also looked at news reports detailing nine hundred crashes stemming from pedal mistakes. Interestingly, the study found that nearly two-thirds of driver involved in accidents stemming from a pedal mistake were female. This is particularly notable since men account for a greater percentage of all crashes, with male drivers accounting for sixty percent of drivers involved in all collisions.

Age also played a significant role in gas pedal crashes. Both the news reports and the North Carolina data examinations found that a high percentage of pedal confusion cases involved drivers over seventy-six years of age. The state database found a similar number of accidents involved drivers under age twenty. The news report analysis attributed four times as many accidents to seniors in contrast with teens. Seniors accounted for forty percent of such accidents and teen drivers were involved in ten percent of the incidents covered in news reports. Overall, the examination concludes that age is a significant factor in pedal confusion crashes. The article suggested that this age disparity may be influenced by teenagers and the elderly having less robust functioning in certain areas of the brain. Areas of the brain involved in executive functioning develop later than other functions and only reach full capacity in early adulthood. These functions include the ability to plan, organize, and fully focus one’s attention. Brain functionality in these areas may also begin to decline with age. Tests examining executive functioning also found that older drivers experience a drop in ability.

The study also looked at the location of gas pedal accidents. In a database of accident in North Carolina, fifty-seven percent of these incidents occurred in parking garages, parking lots, or driveways as opposed to roadways. An examination of nine hundred news reports on pedal confusion accidents placed seventy-seven percent in these non-roadway locations. Researchers speculated that pedal confusion may also occur while on a roadway but that drivers have more room and are therefore better able to recover after the mistake.

The Brod Law Firm represents victims of Sacramento car crashes. We can help you recover when the mistakes made by another driver caused you injury and/or property damage. Our phones are answered 24/7 and we offer a free consultation to discuss your unique case.

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Lack of Money Should Not Deter You from Pursuing an Injury Claim

New Ballot Initiative to Stop Rising Premiums in California

April 11, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

legal%20pen.jpgAs always, our San Francisco insurance attorneys have their eye on insurance news. We are aware that perhaps the insurance that causes the most stress and worry is health insurance. No one wants to face a serious illness with no insurance or not enough coverage. And health insurance is something that everyone will have to use at some point in their lives, no matter how careful a person is.

Another cause of significant stress is how to pay for health insurance, since it is so critically important. Health insurance companies do not make this easy for consumers, jacking up premiums at every opportunity. Even by industry standards, though, the recent premium hikes have been extreme. Consumer Watchdog, a non-profit advocacy group focused on insurance issues, claims that California’s largest insurance companies have increased premiums 20 percent since April 1, and are set to increase another 20 percent on May 1. These higher rates will affect more than one million Californians. Californians are already struggling with these costs. Premiums have increased 153.5% since 2002, more than five times the rate of inflation.

To combat this problem, Consumer Watchdog has proposed a new ballot initiative for the upcoming election stopping these rising premiums. Currently, insurance regulators do not have authority to modify or deny rate increases. Last week California’s Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones called insurance giant Aetna’s rate hikes, which were as high as 21% for some customers, “unreasonable.” He told the Los Angeles Times that he supports this ballot initiative to give him power to modify or deny these outrageous rate hikes. "Like the recent unsustainable rate increases imposed by other health insurers on Californians," he said, "Aetna's rate increase proves again that we need to close the loophole in California law which denies the insurance commissioner the authority to reject excessive health insurance rate hikes." The Insurance Commissioner already has this power with regards to automobile, homeowners, and other types of property and casualty insurance.

The ballot initiative, if passed, would require insurance companies to disclose information about their rate increases. The companies would also have to justify these higher rates to the public and gain the approval of insurance regulators for their rate increases. Policyholders would have an opportunity to ask questions of the insurance companies and will be able to get more information, both from the companies and from the state regulators. As of last week, the organizers of this ballot initiative claimed to have 300,000 signatures in support of the initiative, out of 800,000 required to get the issue on the ballot in November.

This is a critical issue for this fall’s election. Our San Francisco insurance claim attorneys know this issue is also tied to the nightmare scenario of being denied a health insurance claim at the worst time possible. At that point, when time is of the essence, insurance companies will want to deny coverage for any little thing possible, one single missed or delayed payment, even while you struggle to have the money every month as the insurance costs more and more. If your health insurance company is trying to play this game with your health, contact our San Francisco insurance attorneys as soon as possible. And keep watching for news on this latest, and potentially beneficial, ballot initiative.

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Oakland Bicycle Fatality Reminds Residents of the Need to Share the Road

April 11, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

The beautiful climate is one of the many factors that make Northern California a great place to call home. It also means that bicycling can be a great transportation option that saves money, is friendly to the environment and has terrific health benefits. Unfortunately, this also creates the danger of Oakland bicycle accidents. Cyclists and drivers share the responsibility for making the roads safe for all residents and helping to avoid Oakland traffic accidents.

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According to The Oakland Tribune, an accident claimed a life of a cyclist on Sunday night at the intersection of Bancroft and 78th Avenues. The unidentified fifty-one year old cyclist was travelling southbound on 78th when he was hit by an SUV that was backing up in the eastbound lanes. It is unclear whether the Dodge Durango was exiting a driveway or was reversing for another reason. The forty-five year old driver, who remained at the scene of the accident, is from Oakland but his name has not been released. The bicycle rider was taken to a hospital but died from his injuries. Alcohol does not appear to have been involved in the incident.
Statistics compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found 630 cyclist fatalities occurred nationwide in 2009. This represented two percent of all motor vehicle fatalities. The report also found that 51,000 rider were injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2009. This number may be low since it only takes into account reported incidents. Accidents in California accounted for ninety-nine of the 2009 cyclist fatalities, making California the state with the second highest number of bicycle rider deaths. Across the nation, seventy percent of all fatal bicycle crashes occurred in urban areas and seventy-two percent of incidents occurred between 4 A.M. and 8 P.M.

Ensuring safety on the road requires the involvement of both drivers and cyclists. Riders should always wear properly fitting helmets, a step proven crucial to the prevention of head injuries. Brightly colored clothing can help make cyclists more visible and bikes should be equipped with reflectors. Cyclists should also exercise caution when using headphones and should ensure they can always hear the noise of traffic in the vicinity. In general, bicycle riders are required to obey all the same traffic laws that apply to drivers.

Drivers should always be alert and take care to share the road with bicycle riders. One important safety guideline is that drivers should always leave at least three feet clearance when passing a bicycle. Motor vehicle traffic should yield to bicycles in intersections and drivers should take particular care when making turns when a bicycle is in the vicinity.

The Brod Law Firm is proud to be your Oakland bicycle accident law firm. We represent riders who have been injured due to the negligence of drivers who fail to share the road safely. Our Oakland injury attorney offers a free consultation to victims and handles most injury cases on a contingency basis so no fee is due unless we successfully help our client recover compensation for their injuries.

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Legal Battles in the Wake of Chevron Oil Spill in Brazil

April 8, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

Legal Battles in the Wake of Chevron Oil Spill in Brazil
Our San Francisco oil accident lawyer has been following the legal battles resulting from an oil spill. The spill occurred in November 2011 in an area offshore of Brail known as Frade Field. Chevron had a $3.6 billion project running at the time the spill occurred and approximately three thousand barrels of crude oil escaped into the Atlantic Ocean. Notably, the project had been proceeding under strict scrutiny in the wake of the 2010 Macondo spill that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico.

Criminal charges have been formally filed against Chevron and Transocean executives relating to the oil pipeline leaks. Investigations suggest that the companies used excessive pressure while drilling in the Frade field area. Prosecutors also charge that Chevron used faulty equipment and failed to meet industry requirements that aim to prevent and counter spills. Individual executives, including George Buck who is the head of Chevron’s Brazil operations, have been charged with obstructing the post-spill investigations. Those charges can carry prison sentences of up to thirty-one years.
Overall Brazilian authorities suggest that Chevron acted carelessly when it carried out operations at the Frade site. Prosecutors in Brazil are asking Chevron and TrasnOcean to pay $5.5 million and are seeking penalty payments of around $549,100 from individual executives. Chevron has denied all charges involving the company and its representatives. The judge in the case has ordered that certain executives may not leave Brazil without specific permission from the court.

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The Frade site has been producing approximately 60,000 barrels of oil per day. About half of that production is credited to Chevron. The company is headquartered in San Ramon, making news about Chevron of particular interest to those concerned about Northern California oil safety.
Just last month, a smaller seepage was identified in the Frade project resulting in a sheen that covered just over one kilometer. A Chevron spokesman suggested that the new leak was from a different field than the larger November incident.

Federal regulators and criminal charges play an important role in preventing industrial accidents and in holding companies and individuals accountable when the failure to exercise due case results in a dangerous or even deadly. However, victims of Northern California oil accidents should recognize that a criminal case is about punishing the wrongdoers, not compensating those the accident harmed. Victims need to contact a skilled an experienced victim’s rights attorney. A civil suit is the only way for those who suffered financial losses, injury, or even death to receive the compensation that they need and that they are owed. In some cases, these lawsuits can be a standard claim brought by (or on behalf of) a single plaintiff. Where the accident caused a similar harm to a large number of victims, a class action lawsuit may be appropriate. The class action method can ease the burden on individual claimants, especially where the likely recovery per claimant is small and the effort of bringing suit makes more sense when multiple smaller claims add up to a large group recovery.

Whether you pursue your claim as an individual or you want to explore the possibility of a class action, The Brod Law Firm is here to help. We serve San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento and other communities in Northern California. We are a dedicated victims rights law firm. We often handle plaintiff’s claims on a contingency basis and always offer a free consultation for new clients.

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Most Californians Don’t Have Earthquake Insurance

April 6, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

As San Francisco insurance claim attorneys we know that even when you have insurance coverage, sometimes it is a struggle to get money from claims. Insurance companies are run for profit, and the more claims they can reject for whatever reason they can find, fair or unfair, the more money will go towards their profits. This blog has covered what can happen to property owners when insurance companies use their tricks over fires, wind, and floods. But Californians also have earthquakes to contend with, and like flood insurance, most general homeowner’s insurance policies do not cover earthquake damage. Although a serious earthquake has not occurred recently, a 7.4 earthquake last month in Mexico should have people thinking about protecting their property. News sources have been speculating for the past few years about when California is due for the next “Big One” and how much damage it could do.

A recent article in the Orange County Register stated that 88 percent of private homeowners and 90 percent of business owners in California do not have earthquake insurance. This saves between $400 and $1200 in premiums a year. Earthquake insurance has become more expensive in the last decades after the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 and the Northridge quake in 1994. The Northridge quake caused an estimated $19 billion to $29 billion in damages and caused premiums and deductibles to rise. Since the devastating Northridge earthquake 17 years ago, the average Orange County homeowner has saved about $8500 to $17000, but that money will pale in comparison to the costs of rebuilding if another serious earthquake strikes. At that point, your deductible is basically 100 percent if you have no insurance. Also, many people are not aware of the fact that mortgage holders are still responsible for paying their mortgage even if their house is completely destroyed.
Many Californians could be in the terrible position of paying to rebuild their house while still paying a full mortgage.

Some expect the government will bail them out from a future theoretical earthquake disaster. But emergency government assistance is meant to get people back on their feet and make sure they are safe, not to rebuild their home or replace their lost property. Another consideration is that after an earthquake, there could be peripheral damage as well that would be covered under your homeowners policy but perhaps not if the cause of the damage is an earthquake. An example of this is if an earthquake causes a pipe to burst, flooding your house. You may have insurance that covers burst water pipes, but if the cause of the burst pipe was an earthquake you may not be covered. earthquake.jpg

California law does require insurance companies that sell residential insurance policies to offer a supplemental earthquake insurance plan to policyholders under California Insurance Code section 10081. Insurance companies are required to offer such coverage even if your building or house does not conform to the current Building Codes—although the company can charge an additional premium or higher deductable. A great place for resources on earthquake insurance regulations and California’s detailed insurance laws regarding this is the Department of Insurance’s earthquake insurance page for consumers.

If you are concerned about investing so much money into yet more insurance in a time of economic hardship with the worry that when the “Big One” comes the insurance company will cheat you out of your claim money, there are experienced California insurance attorneys that will be available to help you with your insurance case. In light of how severe the physical and financial damage can be, it seems time for Californians to at least consider how prepared we are for a future earthquake.

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Pedestrian Dies after Collision with Cyclist

April 6, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

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Bicyclists are everywhere in our city. Unfortunately, that means that bike accidents occur here at higher rates than in many other parts of the country. As San Francisco bike crash attorneys know, as a result of the minimal protection available, these types of accidents often result in horrific injuries for cyclists, often caused by the negligence of others on the road. However, it should not be forgotten that cyclists can also cause severe injury to others when they do not exercise proper care.

For example, in the past year there have been two fatal collisions between a bicyclist and a pedestrian in San Francisco. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, one of these unfortunate accidents occurred on the morning of March 29th when cyclist Christ Bucchere hit pedestrian Sutchi Hui, 71. Hui was walking in the crosswalk at Market and Castro in San Francisco when Bucchere hit him riding in the opposite direction. Hui died four days later at San Francisco General Hospital.

In an online post allegedly written by Bucchere, he admitted to entering the intersection after the traffic light had turned yellow because he was “too committed to stop”. By the time he reached the crosswalk on the opposite side of the intersection the light had turned red and pedestrians had started crossing in both directions. Unable to ride through the crowd safely he decided to lay the bike down and ended up plowing through the people in the crosswalk. Both cyclist and pedestrian were hospitalized after the accident, although Bucchere was discharged that day. Apparently Hui was the only pedestrian injured in the incident.

Prosecutors are currently working with police in investigating possible charges against Bucchere. One possible charge is vehicular manslaughter. That is what another cyclists was charged with following the last San Francisco fatal collision between a cyclist and a pedestrian in April of last year. In that case the cyclist pled guilty to misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter and was sentenced to three years’ probation and 500 hours of community service. In addition he was ordered to pay $15,375 in restitution to the pedestrian’s family.

When a loved one is lost nothing can be done to replace them. Although a legal suit is not the easiest idea to contemplate while enduring such a tragedy, Peninsula bike accident attorneys know the importance that a civil case can have on the future of those who have lost a loved one in an unexpected accident. Compensation awarded in such a suit can provide the continued help survivors need in order to heal, as well as economic help to move forward in their lives. In addition, by pursuing civil actions a strong message is sent to the community that such carelessness is not going to be accepted.

The attorneys of the Bay Area personal injury law firm at Brod Law (www.brodfirm.com) are experienced in assisting grieving family members through this type of civil legal process. If you have lost a loved one in such an accident or have been injured in a bicycle accident, do not hesitate to call our office to schedule a free consultation with an experienced San Francisco personal injury lawyer to discuss your legal rights.

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High School Counselor Faces Sexual Abuse Charges

April 5, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

Schools are meant to be safe places for our children to grow and learn. Teachers and school staff are supposed to aid our children in this growth and play the role of a trusted advisor. Bay Area sexual abuse victim’s lawyers know that this is sadly not always the case. Abuse by teachers and school staff is a violation of trust in the highest degree and abusers must be held responsible in both civil and criminal courts.

This breach of trust was seen again when Salinas high school counselor, Gilbert Olivares, was recently taken into custody for allegedly taping his students engaging in sexual activity and inappropriately touching a student. According to the San Francisco Chronicle 14 videos have been found on Olivares’ computer that were allegedly filmed with a hidden cell phone in his office. The videos were all filmed in his office between August 2010 and October 2011, and involve at least eight male and female students. Further, three male students have alleged that Olivares inappropriately touched or molested them. handcuffs.jpg

34-year-old Olivares was an employee of Sunrise House, an organization that counsels teenagers regarding substance abuse. Although he had been working in the school for five years he was not an employee of the school district. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that he now faces 53 charges which include lewd acts upon a child and manufacturing pornography. He has pled not guilty to all charges.

When an abuse of this magnitude occurs to a child, the healing process can be life-long. A criminal case can provide some closure for a victim, but it does not provide direct redress to the actual child affected. While a civil lawsuit cannot fix the immeasurable damage that result from a situation where a trusted adult commits such unspeakable offenses against a child, it can help the victim move forward in the healing process. For example, in a civil case the victim may be awarded compensation that will pay for continued counseling.

A civil case may also include parties other than the offender that were not involved in any proceeding criminal case. For example, an offense by a teacher or school staff member may allow the school district to become a party in a civil case. Additional parties can send important messages to the community about responsibility, such as proper oversight and hiring processes of school employees. Further, another party may also be held financial responsible. When this occurs in our area an experienced San Francisco injury attorney can help you determine if an additional party should be brought into a civil case.

The attorneys of the East Bay personal injury law firm at Brod Law know the importance that a civil case can have for those who have been affected by sexual abuse. If you or a loved one has been the victim of such an assault, contacting our Bay Area sexual abuse lawyers could be a substantial step in furthering your healing process.

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Fatal Oakland Campus Shooting

April 4, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

On Monday Oakland made national headlines when a shocking fatal attack occurred at the small Christian college Oikos University. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the gunman was 43-year-old One Goh, a disgruntled former student. Goh allegedly went to the school to target a female school administrator that he believed had played a role in his dismissal from the school. When Goh realized that the administrator was not on the campus he began randomly shooting into classrooms and offices, killing seven people and leaving others injured.

Goh fled the scene and was arrested an hour and a half after the shooting in a Safeway store in the nearby city of Alameda. The allegedly mentally unstable Goh had approached a customer service counter at the store and stated he had just shot several people. Goh was booked at the Santa Rita Jail on Tuesday on suspicion of murder and attempted murder. If he is charged with multiple murders he will be eligible for the death penalty or life without parole.

When a loved one is lost under such unimaginable circumstances it is difficult to think about anything, much less whether their death was the result of another’s negligence. The focus of all those affected by this and similar tragedies needs to on remembering the loved one and mourning the loss.

However, whenever a loved one passes away because of the conduct of another, there comes a time to reflect and consider what can be learned from the tragedy to ensure others don’t suffer in similar ways in the future. In these situations, in order to ensure that your legal rights are protected and to demand accountability it is vital to contact a Bay Area wrongful death attorney. It is important to not delay because in California there are strict statutory time limits regarding wrongful death matters. hands.jpg

A wrongful death is a death that is caused by the negligence or misconduct of another person or company. The death can arise out of an accident, an intentional act of violence, malpractice/negligence, or defective products. California Civil Code § 377 lays out the specific parties that are eligible to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. Generally, such cases are brought on behalf of the deceased by a spouse, domestic partner, child, or parent.

Although a lost family member can never be replaced, California wrongful death lawyers can help the family of the victim secure compensation for the impact of the death. Compensation in these situations includes awards for direct economic costs and for intangible loss. Some examples of direct economic costs that can be compensated for are the deceased’s earnings, loss of future benefits, funeral and burial costs. Intangible losses include loss of companionship, loss of love, and the survivor’s pain and suffering.

If you have questions about a wrongful death or personal injury case, contact a San Francisco wrongful death attorney at Brod Law Firm. With years of experience in handling these cases we can help you through this difficult time, ensuring that redress and accountability are had.

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Innovations that Take the Pressure Off Drivers

April 3, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

autodash.jpg Lately, there has been a lot of buzz around GM’s bounce back from the brink of death and the future of its Chevy Volt. This year the focus has shifted somewhat to the fruits borne by research and development departments of companies like Volvo and Google. Both recently showed off innovations that take some off the pressure of drivers, hopefully increasing safety on the roads.

Volvo was one of seven companies, along with the European Commission, to fund research in the SATRE project. SATRE stands for Safe Road Trains for the Environment, and refers to a train of semi-automated cars controlled through sensors and cameras by a lead driver. In January 2012, SATRE successfully conducted its first field test of a “platoon”, in which a larger lead vehicle controlled a line of cars behind it as it drove along the motorway. The SARTRE project claims that the semi-automated trains of cars could save up to 20% in energy expenditures per car. The train could potentially reduce congestion and allow drivers to participate in activities that are usually deemed dangerous when behind the wheel, such as reading, eating, and playing on media devices. When drivers choose to leave the train they send a signal to the lead car, which then provides a space gap for the car to exit. SATRE plans for the trains to use existing infrastructure and consumer vehicles for the project to make it easier to expand. The goal of the project is firstly to reduce traffic congestion and energy costs. Secondly, it aims to increase safety on freeways, as driver error is responsible for 87% of all accidents and the project decreases the need for the driver to constantly stay alert.

Volvo has also promoted automated technology within its own company. In March 2012, it showed the Volvo V40 at the Geneva Motor Show. The car has sensors in its grill that detects the distance of objects from the front of the car, and is meant to prevent crashes with pedestrians. If the sensors predicts a possible impact it beeps an alarm to the driver. If the driver does not respond, the car automatically brakes. In the unfortunate event that the Volvo does hit a pedestrian with its front bumper, a pedestrian air bag inflates from the hood and covers one third of the windshield to limit head injuries to the pedestrian. The hood also lifts somewhat to increase the hood’s absorption of force and decrease injuries. This type of airbag works well in sedans, and the company AutoLiv has tested front edge airbags and bumper airbags on SUV’s, which impact pedestrians’ abdomens more than their head. The study Injury Mitigation in SUV to Pedestrian Impacts found that these airbags reduced injuries to the upper abdomen by more than a third and in some instances by half.

Google is also looking for technologies that make driving safer and more convenient. It publicly debuted its self-driving car in March 2011, but attracted a lot of attention last month when the Los Angeles Times reported that one of its cars took the blind Steve Mahon for a ride. The car chauffeured Mr. Mahon through city streets to grab a bite at Taco Bell and pick up his dry cleaning. The self-driving car could make driving safer on both urban roads and highways by automating the route. Nevada was the first state to legalize self-driving cars on its roadways in February 2012.

Continue reading " Innovations that Take the Pressure Off Drivers " »

Barriers in Class Action Lawsuits

April 1, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

courthouse.jpgA class action lawsuit is a type of litigation where a large number of people with a common interest in a matter sue or are sued as a group. This type of legal action provides a convenient way to resolve disputes between large numbers of individuals with similar interests in one case. San Francisco class action lawyers know that class action lawsuits not only save the court time, but they can also be one of the only ways that litigants are able to bring realistically hold certain big interests accountable for their conduct.

Under Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, class action lawsuits can be seeking money damages or other remedies. Under the rule unnamed class members to a class action are bound by the judgment. However, in order to be bound the unnamed class members must be given adequate notice, adequate representation, and adequate opportunity to opt out before judgment. If you believe that you could be a member of a class action lawsuit it is advisable to contact a San Francisco class action attorney to determine your rights.

The issue of class action lawsuits recently made the news when AT&T lost a suit to wireless subscriber Matt Spaccarelli. Spaccarelli sued the company for slowing down his wireless service after he used 1.5 to 2 GB within one month in his unlimited data plan. Spaccarelli won his suit and was awarded $850, but AT&T was not forced to change its policy of slowing down service in unlimited plans. According to CNET it was not that Spaccarelli won that was surprising, but rather the fact that he was unable to bring a class action lawsuit against the wireless giant due to a clause contained in most wireless provider/subscriber contracts.

In 2011 the United States Supreme Court held that companies have the right to include clauses in contracts which disallow their subscribers to bring class action lawsuits against them. All four major wireless providers in American include such a clause in their contract. In AT&T’s case this leaves their subscribers with the option of utilizing the AT&T-funded arbitration program or filing in small claims court. Since over 90% of the country utilizes a cell phone, these clauses limit the legal rights of a substantial percentage of the country.

Experts, including California class action lawyers, differ on the effects of this type of clause in wireless provider/subscriber contracts. Some experts believe that the system of arbitration and small claims courts in inefficient and creates inconsistent rulings. Class action lawsuits have often been the catalysts for corporate change. Other experts believe that social media can have the same effect on corporate change without the sizeable expense of a class action lawsuit.

In any event, any time that you suspect that you have been hurt by a dangerous product or unfair practice—even if only in small ways—it is important to consult a Bay Area class action injury attorney such as the knowledgeable lawyers of Brod Firm. An attorney at the Brod Firm can help you determine what the best option is for your particular case in a free consultation. Call 800-427-7020 to schedule today.

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