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Making Sure that Your California Auto Accident Lawsuit Includes Everyone Who Might Be Liable to You

As future attorneys, many law students train in something called “issue spotting,” which means identifying and understanding all of the potential legal issues within a complex set of facts and then comprehending how to apply the law to those facts. That’s important because, when you as a client hire an attorney, that’s what you want: a knowledgeable and insightful professional who can take the jumbled ball of facts that you provide to him/her and decipher all of the claims, arguments and legal maneuvers that those facts make available to you. This is what an experienced San Mateo car accident attorney does every day, and why having that kind of legal representation can pay massive dividends for your injury case.

A recent accident case from Southern California is a good example of what we mean. In that case, a man’s car broke down on the 405 freeway in Los Angeles County. The man coasted his disabled vehicle onto the shoulder of the freeway. He then called his automobile club for roadside assistance.

After more than two hours on the shoulder of the freeway, the man still had not received assistance. As he continued to wait, an unlicensed driver spun out of control, ran onto the shoulder of the freeway and rear-ended the man, causing him to suffer significant injuries.

Most people can identify the unlicensed driver as someone who is potentially liable in this case. Even as a layperson, you may recognize that an unlicensed driver’s employer is someone who might possibly also have liability.

In actuality, though, there’s the potential to be much more. This is where in-depth knowledge of the law and civil practice helps immeasurably. The injured man’s attorney recognized that there might be a lot of people and/or entities that could be liable for the client’s injuries but did not yet know who all of them were. When that happens to you in your injury case, you can sue both the people and/or entities whose names you know and those you don’t. You do this by including the known defendants by name and by identifying the unknown defendants as “Doe defendants.”

The injured man’s legal team eventually realized that there was someone besides the unlicensed driver who was potentially liable, and that was the automobile club.

Whenever you are suing someone or some entity in an auto accident case, you need evidence of several things. They include proof that: (1) the defendant owed some sort of legal obligation to you, (2) that the defendant breached this agreement, (3) that the defendant’s failure to meet its obligation had a direct link to your accident, and (4) that the accident caused you to suffer identifiable harm.

The importance of foreseeability in any negligence case

With that third criterion, there is something the law calls “foreseeability” that plays an important role. If the facts of the case show that it was not foreseeable that the defendant’s breach would cause the harm you suffered, then the link of causation is too indirect to permit you to hold that defendant liable.

The theory of the case against this auto club was that the club had a legal obligation to provide the member with timely assistance, that, by failing to respond to the member for more than two hours, it breached that obligation, that it was reasonably foreseeable that leaving the driver of a disabled vehicle on the shoulder of the 405 freeway for more than two hours in the early evening hours could lead to that driver being hit by another vehicle, and that the collision caused the member to suffer harm.

Proving the existence of a ‘special relationship’

The member had all that, but, in this case, the man needed more. In California, the law says that, in order to hold an entity liable for something it did not do, you have to show that there was a “special relationship” between you and the defendant. A contract is something that may potentially create the sort of relationship the law requires. Because the injured man’s membership in the auto club was the result of a contract he and the club entered into, he had the necessary support for his assertion of the presence of the required relationship.

Based on all that, the injured man was able to win his case in the Court of Appeal and obtain a second chance to pursue the auto club to hold it liable.

When you need to sue for the harm you suffered in an auto accident, you don’t simply need an attorney… you need the right attorney. You need someone highly experienced and deeply knowledgeable about the law and handling these kinds of cases successfully. Count on the skilled San Mateo car accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos to be that type of powerful and effective advocate for you. To set up a free consultation with one of our helpful attorneys, contact us at 650-345-8484 or through our website.

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