Articles Posted in Personal Injury

A California Court of Appeals addressed the issue of whether a nonrelative resident exclusion provision in an insurance policy should be upheld or struck as contrary to public policy. In the case, the driver and his college roommate, a passenger in the vehicle, were involved in a motor vehicle collision. The roommate brought a personal injury claim against the driver and the other motorist as a result of the injuries he sustained in the accident. The driver’s insurance company filed a complaint for declaratory relief, alleging that the roommate was defined as an “insured” under the policy and did not have a duty to indemnify the driver for the amount awarded to the roommate. The superior court found in favor of the insurer, and the parties appealed.

After reviewing the entirety of the record, the Court of Appeal reversed, concluding that the insurance policy provision excluding the roommate from coverage was an overbroad expansion of a statutorily permitted exclusion for relative residents, and it was also contrary to public policy.

California law allows insurers to exclude claims for bodily injuries brought by an insured, with one of its goals to prevent fraud against insurance companies. In the case, the driver’s insurance policy defined insured to include residents who inhabit the same dwelling as the named insured. The policy thus excluded the driver’s roommate from coverage. In analyzing the law with respect to the insurance policy at issue, the Court of Appeal interpreted the relevant California statutory provisions together, holding that while they do provide authority for an insurer to exclude an insured, that person must have an insurable interest to be excluded.

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A California Appeals Court has held that the victims of a pedestrian accident may proceed with their personal injury case against the city. In the case, the plaintiffs had pressed the pedestrian warning beacon at a crosswalk before crossing the street. As they proceeded to travel across the road, they were struck by a driver who did not see the warning beacon or the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs filed suit against the city, claiming that the pedestrian crosswalk was a dangerous condition on public property. The city moved for summary judgment, contending that it was covered by government design immunity. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the city, and the plaintiffs appealed.

California law provides that a public entity may be liable for an injury proximately caused by the dangerous condition of its property if the dangerous condition created a reasonably foreseeable risk of the kind of injury sustained, and the public entity had actual or constructive notice of the condition a sufficient time before the injury to have taken preventative measures. A public entity is not liable, however, if the injury is caused by a plan or design to which the public entity reasonably gave its discretionary approval. In order to establish design immunity, the city must show:  (1) a causal relationship between the plan or design and the accident, (2) discretionary approval of the plan or design before the construction or improvement, and (3) substantial evidence supporting the reasonableness of the plan or design.

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The California Court of Appeals reversed a summary judgment order in which the trial court ruled against the plaintiff in a motorcycle accident case. In one recent case, the plaintiff brought a personal injury action against the County to recover for injuries he suffered when his motorcycle went into a drainage ditch alongside a County road. The plaintiff had swerved to avoid hitting the vehicle in front of him, which had suddenly braked, and he was thrown over his motorcycle as he went into the drainage ditch. The plaintiff’s suit alleged that the County’s design and construction of the drainage ditch was negligent, thereby constituting a dangerous, defective, and hazardous road condition.

Generally, under the California Tort Claims Act, a public entity is not liable for any injury unless otherwise allowed by statute. There is, however, an exception if the injury was caused by a dangerous condition on public property. In order to succeed on his claim, the plaintiff must establish that the property was in a dangerous condition when the injury occurred, that the injury was caused by the dangerous condition, and that the dangerous condition created a foreseeable risk of injury of the kind incurred by the plaintiff. The plaintiff must also prove that a public entity employee created the dangerous condition within the scope of his employment negligently or wrongfully, or that the public entity was put on notice of the dangerous condition prior to the injury and timely enough that it could have taken steps to protect against the dangerous condition. The term “dangerous condition” is defined as a condition of property that creates a substantial risk of injury when used with due care in a manner in which it is reasonably foreseeable that it will be used.

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The California Court of Appeal reviewed a case involving a pedestrian killed by a motor vehicle, ultimately reversing the lower court’s grant of summary judgment and allowing the plaintiffs to proceed with their suit. In this case, the relatives of a pedestrian killed in a motor vehicle collision brought an action against the driver for negligence, as well as against the passenger for willfully interfering with the driver of a vehicle. The passenger filed a motion for summary judgment, which the lower court granted.

In the case, the occupants of the vehicle were driving to a drugstore when the front passenger told the driver to take a shortcut through a residential street, which had a posted speed limit of 25 mph. The passenger knew the street had dips that could cause a car traveling at a high rate of speed to become airborne, and she told the driver that he should drive fast over them to “catch air.” The driver sped up to such a degree that he lost control of the car and collided into the victim’s parked car as the victim was attempting to put a child in a car seat. The victim was killed by the impact. Evidence indicated that the defendants’ vehicle was traveling at approximately 70 miles per hour at the time of impact.

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Here is just another example of Lawyers from our firm giving back to our local community. Chantel Fitting, SMCTLA President is shown in this picture donating $12,000.00 to the Samaritan House organization. Samaritan House is a non-profit organization serving low-income families and individuals in San Mateo County since 1974.

For more information about this event please click on the link below.