Articles Posted in Personal Injury

roof workerWhen you are an independent contractor and you’re hurt on the property of the party who hired you, your premises liability lawsuit can potentially be more complicated. In this type of situation, California law says that there are only two scenarios in which you can proceed with an injury lawsuit: “when the hirer exercised control over the contractor’s work in a manner that had contributed to the injury” and “when the hirer failed to warn the contractor of a concealed hazard on the premises.” If your situation doesn’t include either of those scenarios, then the property owner may be able to get your case dismissed before it even gets to trial, so proving one or both of these exceptions is of paramount importance. To make sure your premises liability case is as complete and unassailable as possible, be sure to retain the services of an experienced California injury attorney.

A recent case from Southern California shows how a worker can proceed in a situation like this,  avoiding a defendant’s request for summary judgment. The injured man was a professional window washer. The injury took place at the property of a very popular and successful singer of the 1950s and 60s. The singer’s home included an indoor pool that was covered by a large, round skylight. While his team was performing a cleaning job of the skylight, the window washer slipped and fell off the roof of the home after he had communicated instructions to the other window washers.

The injured window washer sued. Whether you are on the roof of a home, the yard attached to a home or inside a home, if you’re there with permission, the homeowner has a legal obligation to keep the premises safe for you. If a dangerous condition exists, the law says that the homeowner must correct the hazard or warn of the hazard. In the window washer’s situation, he asserted that there was loose rocks, pebbles and sand on the roof, which was what caused him to slip and fall off the roof. He also alleged that the roof was dangerous because the ledge required to access the skylight lacked safety railings and the shingles on the roof were “dilapidated,” making the surface slippery.

agreementWhenever you are considering signing any document that restricts your legal rights in any way, it is important to make absolutely sure that you understand what you are signing. You need to be sure that you know what rights you are giving up and what rights you are retaining, in order for you to make a truly informed decision. If you are unsure about an agreement, seek out experienced California legal counsel to provide you with the advice you need.

P.Z. was a person potentially impacted by such an agreement after she was hurt at a health club. P.Z. was walking through a health club’s gymnasium when she tripped and fell. The accident happened because the member’s foot became entangled with a metal “wireway” that the club used to run wires to the club’s treadmill machines. She sued the club in a premises liability action for the harm she suffered, which included a fracture and dislocation of her right elbow.

In many health clubs like this, members sign an agreement as part of the application for membership process. This club had such an agreement. In the document, the member agreed, as part of seeking membership, to waive the right to sue for various types of harm.

Tan_oaksWhen you hear the phrase “premises liability,” one very understandable reaction might be, “What’s that?” Another is to assume that “premises liability” comes up only in situations where a person suffers a slip-and-fall or trip-and-fall accident at a place of business. The reality is that premises liability can cover a variety of scenarios, extending beyond just slip-and-fall and trip-and-fall injuries. If you have been hurt while you were on someone else’s property, you may have a case and an entitlement to compensation. Contact an experienced California injury lawyer to learn more.

One example of this “other” type of premises liability injury took place recently here in San Mateo County. A 12-year-old boy and his family were camping in the San Mateo County Memorial Park when a 72-foot-tall tree fell on his tent. The early morning tree collapse was the result of a fungus that left the diseased tree rotten and unstable. In order to save the boy’s life, doctors amputated one of his legs and part of his pelvis.

The boy sued for premises liability. A premises liability case, whether it is a slip-and-fall, trip-and-fall or a case like this one, requires you, as the injured person, to give the court proof that the person/entity you sued is liable through negligence. In other words, you need proof that the person or entity who owned or controlled the property either acted improperly or improperly failed to act and that your injury was the reasonably foreseeable result of that negligence.

runnersSometimes, the harm that results from an accident can be straightforward and immediately apparent. For example, a situation where a person trips, falls and breaks an ankle is just such a scenario. In other circumstances, though, the harm that is triggered by an accident may include damages that are not immediate. When yours is the latter type of scenario, you may still be entitled to recover compensation for all of the harm you suffered, as long as the accident was the “proximate cause” of all of that harm. For advice about proximate cause, foreseeability and representation in your accident case, look to an experienced California injury lawyer..

Here’s a real-life example from an actual case (Orange County Superior Court Case No. 30-2016-00838494): The accident took place during the running of a 5K run/walk held on the sidewalks of a city 37 miles outside Los Angeles. The race was put on by a seller of running/walking shoes and other gear.

The race course ran through a construction zone at one point. Racers had to cross a construction driveway to get from one area of sidewalk to the next. 60-year-old T. caught her foot on a 1.5-2.0 cm ledge located within that driveway.

handshakeIn any complete settlement agreement, there is more within that document than just a payment term and a provision for a release of claims. These additional terms may seem to be a mere formality, but they can be very important. That is just one of many reasons why seasoned California personal injury counsel can benefit you, making certain that all of the terms (rather than just the dollar figures) properly protect your needs and interests.

A recent California case is an example of the importance of these “other” terms. Christopher, a man who filed a personal injury lawsuit in Southern California, worked out a settlement with the defendant. In that settlement, the defendant agreed to pay Christopher $250,000 in exchange for ending the lawsuit.

In the settlement agreement, one of the additional terms beyond the payment provisions stated that, if either side had to undertake a court action to enforce the settlement agreement (and it won that subsequent case), that party was entitled to recover attorneys’ fees.

slip and fallThere can be many different ways to achieve a successful result in your injury case. Some of these favorable results may be achievable without even having to go to trial. If your opponent does not perform certain procedural tasks within the period established by the law, you may be able to obtain a “default judgment,” which can allow you to receive compensation just as if you’d had a full trial and won. Default judgments are just one example of the techniques available to help you with your case. A knowledgeable California premises liability attorney can provide you with the advice and representation you need for pursuing default judgments or any of the other options available to you under the law.

One example of a successful default judgment case was the one filed by Rita, a tenant in Los Angeles County. One day, Rita slipped and fell on a puddle of water, injuring herself. Rita decided to sue her landlord for premises liability, asserting that the area of water was a result of a leakage from defective plumbing. The plumbing leak was a result of the landlord’s failure to repair the defect, which made him liable for the woman’s injuries, according to the plaintiff’s lawsuit.

The landlord was served with court papers on March 20, 2015. The requirement was completed by a registered process server who personally served the landlord. The landlord admitted that he received these papers. Eleven months later, Rita served the landlord with additional papers containing her statement of damages. Again, the landlord was personally served by a registered process server. Those papers stated that the tenant was seeking more than $80,000 in damages.

A tragic fire at an Oakland warehouse on December 3, 2016 has killed more than 30 people that were attending a concert.  The Oakland Fire Department continues to recover bodies and it is feared that the number of deaths could increase to as many as 40 to 50.

The property where the fire occurred was a warehouse, known as Oakland Ghost Ship, that neighbors claim had been converted to a place where artists lived and worked.  However, the City had not permitted the building for residential use or for use as a concert venue.  The concert, Golden Dorma 100% silk 2016 West Coast Tour, was advertised online, including a concert Facebook page.  A local resident stated that the warehouse is known by locals as the site for rave-style concerts.  Shockingly, it has been reported that sprinklers or fire alarms had not been installed in the building.  A spokesperson for the building owner claims that the owner did not know that people were living at the building or that it was being used for concerts and parties.

Some local residents have described the building as a tinderbox where tragedy was waiting to happen. Former residents of the building reported that they saw artists using butane torches, water being heated with propane, and sparking electrical wires.  The building was divided into a number of different sections that had been decorated with curtains and other fabrics.  The interior and exterior of the building was littered with debris that has been described as kindling.  The interior stairs consisted of wooden pallets that made it difficult to escape the inferno.  Most people died on the second floor where the concert took place.  It is inexcusable that the City of Oakland and the property owner allowed such a deathtrap to exist.

The California Court of Appeal recently affirmed a jury award in a personal injury claim against a negligent truck driver and his employer. In this recent case, the plaintiff was rear-ended by the defendant, who was operating a vehicle in the course of his employment. The plaintiff brought suit against the defendants for the back injuries he sustained in the collision. Although the defendants admitted that they were responsible for the collision, they disputed the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries and the amount of his damages. Following a trial, the jury awarded the plaintiff over $2 million in damages. The defendants appealed, contending that the trial court erred in excluding expert testimony from their witness and that there was insufficient evidence to support the $200,000 award for future medical costs.car accident

In the case, the plaintiff stopped on the road to allow another vehicle to make a turn. The defendant failed to use his brakes and rear-ended him at a speed of approximately 10 to 30 miles per hour, causing the plaintiff’s car to lurch forward 5-10 feet. The plaintiff experienced major back pain and went to the emergency room later that night. For the next several years, the plaintiff sought treatment for his neck and back pain. At trial, the plaintiff presented expert testimony from his doctors that his preexisting degenerative disc disease was exacerbated by the motor vehicle accident, and that the condition was permanent. The defendants rebutted with expert witnesses who testified that the accident did not cause the plaintiff’s injuries, which were the result of ongoing degenerative change in his back. The defendants also sought to present testimony from a biochemical engineer to attest to the medical causation of the injury. However, the trial court ruled that the expert could not testify as to the medical effects caused by the impact of the car accident, since the evidence would be more prejudicial than probative.

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In a victory for the plaintiffs, the California Court of Appeal for the Second District reversed an order by a lower court that had sustained a demurrer by the defendants in a wrongful death action. In the case, the plaintiffs brought suit against several defendants after their father was fatally injured in a construction accident. Their suit included a negligence claim against the property owners that hired the independent contractor employing their father to repair a damaged concrete wall on the premises. The plaintiffs alleged that by providing a forklift and entering into an agreement, the defendants owed a duty of care to the victim to provide a safe means by which he could complete the work. However, the trial court sustained the defendants’ demurrers, finding that it was the obligation of the victim’s employer, rather than the defendants, to provide a safe work environment.forklift-1502186-640x480

In California, the Workers’ Compensation Act provides the exclusive remedy against an employer for the injury or death of an employee. Generally, when an employee of an independent contractor hired to do dangerous work suffers a work-related injury, the employee is limited to recovery under the workers’ compensation system. However, the employee of an independent contractor is not barred from all recovery against the person who hired the contractor. The hirer may be liable to an employee of a contractor insofar as a hirer’s exercise of retained control affirmatively contributed to the employee’s injuries, or insofar as the provision of unsafe equipment affirmatively contributes to the employee’s injury. For example, if the hirer promises to undertake a particular safety measure, the hirer’s negligent failure to do so will generally result in liability if such negligence leads to an employee injury.

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In a recent decision, the California Court of Appeals reversed a summary judgment order entered by the trial court against the plaintiff, thereby allowing the plaintiff to proceed with his personal injury action against a cable company. In the case, the plaintiff brought suit against the defendant after he sustained injuries tripping over a cable that had emerged from the ground in his yard. The defendant moved for summary judgment before trial, which the lower court granted on the basis that the defendant did not install the cable at issue, and therefore the defendant had no duty of care to maintain it because it did not have actual or constructive notice of a dangerous condition.cable-1499390-638x425

In order to establish liability on a negligence theory in California, a plaintiff must prove duty, breach, causation, and damages. A plaintiff meets the causation element by showing that the defendant’s breach of its duty to exercise ordinary care was a substantial factor in bringing about the plaintiff’s harm. In most cases, causation is a question of fact for the jury.

On appeal, the court held that whether or not the defendant had notice of the allegedly defective condition of the cable was indeed a question of fact reserved for the jury. The court explained that when a plaintiff bases his theory of negligence on the failure to correct a dangerous condition, the plaintiff has the burden to show that the defendant had notice of the defect in sufficient time to correct it. However, the plaintiff need not show actual knowledge if the evidence suggests that the dangerous condition was present for a sufficient period of time to impute constructive knowledge to the owner. The court found that despite the fact that the cable company employees were at the plaintiff’s home three times within 90 days of the accident, and neither they nor the plaintiff saw the exposed cable, the evidence did not conclusively establish that the defendant’s conduct complied with the standard of reasonable care.

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