Defenses in California Personal Injury Cases

When one begins talking about legal defenses, it is common to assume that a criminal case is being discussed. However, defenses are relevant in both criminal and civil cases alike, in defending against criminal charges and allegations of civil wrongs. Some of the defenses a defendant in a civil case might raise are merely designed to challenge the sufficiency of the plaintiff’s evidence of liability against him or her; other defenses are such that the defendant admits that he or she engaged in wrongful conduct but that this was somehow excusable under the facts and circumstances of the situation.

Why Plaintiffs Should be Aware of Potential Defenses

Crafting a winning strategy with your personal injury attorney requires considering potential defenses that the defendant might raise. Doing so helps ensure that you locate the appropriate witnesses and/or evidence to prove your case.

In any California personal injury case, defenses that might be raised include:

  • Did not engage in careless behavior: One of the most basic defenses to civil liability involves the defendant claiming that his or her actions or behaviors were not “careless” or “negligent” in that a reasonable person might have engaged in the same actions or behaviors that he or she did. This can be raised by argument and/or through challenging the conclusions of the plaintiff’s witnesses.
  • Plaintiff’s own carelessness: This defense strategy does not seek to absolve the defendant of all responsibility for his or her actions, but instead seeks to assert that the primary or predominant cause of your injuries was your own carelessness. A successful defense of this sort lessens the defendant’s civil liability. Just as you (the plaintiff) must come forward with evidence of the defendant’s carelessness, so too the defendant must prove your carelessness with evidence and/or testimony of witnesses of his or her own.
  • Necessity: One is legally permitted to otherwise enter another person’s land if it reasonably appears to the person that trespassing on the other person’s land is necessary to prevent someone from suffering serious harm or death. This is another affirmative defense which requires the defendant to bring forth witnesses and/or evidence to establish that such a necessity existed by a preponderance of the evidence.

Work with an Experienced Orange County Personal Injury Attorney

At Case Barnett Law, we understand that when you file a personal injury lawsuit, you have one chance of success. That is why we invest the time and resources in locating evidence that will help prove your case and defeat any potential defenses the defendant. This helps you have the best possible opportunity for recovering full and fair compensation following a car wreck, slip and fall, or other California personal injury accident. By contacting Case Barnett Law early, we can better utilize our resources and skill to strengthen your case. Call us to discuss your personal injury case with us today: call (949) 861-2990, or reach out to us online.

A Personal History of Negligence – Is It Relevant?

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We all know individuals who are chronically clumsy or careless. These generally are not bad people; rather, they simply seem to routinely forget to take the precautions and protections necessary to keep themselves and those around them safe. While this can cause these individuals to develop a negative social reputation – individuals know to be on their guard whenever they are around such people – can this reputation be used in a personal injury lawsuit to help an injury victim prevail?

How Prior History Could Be Helpful to a Personal Injury Plaintiff

Plaintiffs who are injured by individuals known to be clumsy or negligent may wish to have this information presented to a judge or jury to help bolster their claim. The plaintiff could argue, for example, that because the defendant has a history of engaging in careless conduct that injures others, it is more likely than not true that the person engaged in careless behavior in the present case. In other words, the plaintiff could argue that while any defendant is capable of engaging in negligent conduct, a defendant with a reputation for clumsiness is more likely than others to have been careless in a personal injury incident.

The California Rules of Evidence and Evidence of Carelessness

Knowing the persuasive power of such evidence, the California Rules of Evidence prohibit a plaintiff from introducing evidence of a defendant’s character or reputation or of specific incidents of negligent behavior for the express purpose of creating an inference that the defendant is more likely to have committed a negligent act in the present case. To illustrate, the Rules of Evidence in California would not permit a plaintiff to introduce the fact that the defendant has been found at-fault in five previous car accidents to suggest to the judge or jury that the defendant is at fault in the present case.

There are exceptions to this general prohibition, however. First, evidence of prior acts or reputation can be admitted as evidence of the defendant’s motive or the lack of mistake. Also (and more significant), evidence of prior acts or reputation is admissible when used to rebut the defendant’s characterization of his or her habits or reputation. If the defendant in a car accident case testifies that he has a spotless driving record and is a careful driver, the plaintiff could then introduce evidence of prior car accidents in which the defendant has been involved to rebut the defendant’s testimony.  

Contact Case Barnett Law for Help with Your California Car Wreck Lawsuit

The experienced Orange County car accident lawyers at Case Barnett Law are thoroughly familiar with the rules of evidence applicable in California personal injury lawsuits. We know how to help you build a convincing case for compensation, and we will devote our firm’s resources to collecting the evidence you will need to prevail in your case. Call Case Barnett Law at (949) 861-2990, or reach out to the firm online for help today.

Beware of Common Hazards at Sports Stadiums

Baseball season is in full “swing” (pun intended), and over the course of the next several months, hundreds of thousands of individuals in the California area will flock to one or more sports arenas to cheer on the home team (whether that would be the Athletics, the Padres, the Giants, the Dodgers, or the Angels). While a baseball game can be a great way to spend a weekend or weeknight, the venues in which these events are held are full of dangers and hazards that can cause you, your spouse, and/or your children significant harm.

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Top Five Common Dangers at Sporting Arenas

Tragedy can befall you and/or your family at the ballpark if those in charge of maintaining the park in a reasonably safe condition fail to perform their duties. Common hazards that lead to significant injuries include:

  •      Wet floors / dirty floors: Hot dogs, condiments, and/or water are just a few of the substances that can make walkways and restrooms at the ballpark slippery for pedestrians. Falls due to slippery floors can be especially dangerous for older ballpark patrons as their injuries may be more severe and/or require significantly more time from which to heal.
  •      Flying objects: Foul balls and splintered bats can strike fans who are not paying attention. The force with which these and other items from the playing field enter the stands and strike spectators is significant: as a result, deep internal injuries, concussions, and/or other catastrophic injuries are possible under these circumstances.
  •      Other fans and spectators: In the not-too-distant past (In 2011, to be precise), a Giants fan was severely beaten in the parking lot of Dodger Stadium after a matchup between the two teams. It was alleged that the owners of Dodger Stadium did not have enough security present to prevent or disrupt a fight.
  •      Elevators and escalators: Elevators and escalators are useful and helpful in moving large numbers of people up and down the many floors of a sports arena. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 30 individuals are killed and another 17,000 injured every year in elevator and escalator accidents. An elevator or escalator accident is more likely to occur if the device has not been serviced or maintained properly.
  •      Food poisoning: A 2009 ABC News report cited findings from ESPN that at 30 stadiums across the nation over half of food vendors were in violation of food safety standards. In California, the report showed that 16 percent of vendors were found to be in violation at Dodger Stadium, 13 percent of vendors were in violation at Angel Stadium, 10 percent of vendors were in violation at Petco Park, and 4 percent of vendors were in violation at AT&T Park.

When to Call Your Orange Count Personal Injury Law Firm

If you or a loved one are injured while at the ballpark this season, speak with your California personal injury attorneys at Case Barnett Law before agreeing to a settlement with the park owners. You may be waiving important legal rights by signing a settlement. We can quickly and thoroughly review your case and inform you of all your legal options so you can make the best decision for yourself and your family moving forward. Call Case Barnett Law at (949) 861-2990, or contact us online today.

Am I Responsible for Another Driver’s Crash if He or She Used My Car?

One of the central tenets of American society is individualism – the belief that one is responsible for one’s own decisions and actions. Thus, when someone gets into a car wreck, it is only natural to assume that the driver who is responsible for causing the wreck should bear the burden of paying for any harm or damages he or she caused. In most cases, this is what happens: the driver whose careless or reckless behavior is primarily responsible for causing the wreck will be obligated to pay compensation to the other injured motorists (either through is or her insurance or out of his or her own pocket and resources).

Despite this, there may be several situations in which the owner of a car may be held partly to account for the damage done by another driver who uses the owner’s car.

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Situations Where the Owner – and the Driver – Can Both be Held Responsible

Where a car owner acts in a careless or reckless manner, he or she may be able to be held responsible for a driver or passenger’s injuries and losses. This can include situations like:

  •      Failing to hide the keys from unauthorized drivers: If the car owner knows or ought to know that an unauthorized person – an elderly parent or young child – is taking the car out for joyrides, the car owner may need to take certain measures to help prevent the person or child from obtaining the car’s keys and control of the car.
  •      Failing to stop an intoxicated driver: Similarly, a car owner who knows or should know that an individual is intoxicated may be held partly responsible for the injuries the intoxicated driver causes if the owner knowingly allows the driver to take the car. This liability may also exist if the car owner is the one who serves alcoholic beverages to the intoxicated driver.
  •      Failing to keep the car in good operating condition: Finally, a car owner may be held partly responsible for the injuries resulting from a crash if the crash is due to the car’s condition (such as underinflated or worn tires or defective brakes) and the dangerous condition of the car was known – or should have been known – to the car owner.

What Does This Mean for Car Crash Victims in California?

California car crash victims ought to take steps to learn the identity of the owner of the car that is primarily responsible in the car crash, especially if the facts and circumstances of the crash suggest that the car’s owner (if different from the driver) somehow contributed to the crash. This is the best method for an injury victim to pursue full and fair compensation and hold all responsible parties accountable for their negligence and recklessness when such behavior leads to injuries and losses.

Case Barnett Law is an experienced and dedicated California personal injury law firm. Contact them at (949) 861-2990 or online through their website if you or a loved one have been injured in a car wreck.

No Cell Phones While Driving in California

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In response to the dangers of distracted driving, several states have banned drivers from using cellphones or smartphones to read or send text messages or e-mails while driving. This year, California goes one step further than the rest of the nation: a statewide ban on using a cellphone or smartphone for any purpose while driving – whether to watch online videos, talk to a friend or loved one, or look at a map. This new law (California Vehicle Code 23123.5) requires drivers to put down the cellphone while driving and not use it for any reason unless they are able to do so without touching the phone.

Eliminating Distracted Driving Through Legislation

When one describes “distracted driving,” references are made to activities that take the driver’s eyes and/or attention off of the road. However, distracted driving can also include actions that prevent the driver from using his or her body to safely control the car – such as holding a cellphone with one hand while attempting to drive the cellphone with the other hand. For this reason, the new ban in California prevents any use of a cellphone that requires the driver to physically hold the cellphone. The driver may use a cellphone that is securely mounted to the dash of the car and are able to be used hands-free. Fines begin at $20 for a first offense and then increase for subsequent violations.

Distracted Driving Requires Aggressive Action

Despite educational efforts and public awareness campaigns designed to shed light on the dangers of distracting driving, many Californians and other Americans continue to use cellphones without regard for the danger they present themselves and to others on the roadway. According to DistractedDrivingAccidents.com:

  •      About 25 percent of all traffic crashes in the United States involve a driver using a cellphone at the time of the crash;
  •      Seventy-eight percent of all distracted-driving crashes result in at least one person involved suffering severe injuries;
  •      Seventy-seven percent of adults and 55 percent of teenagers claim that they can safely text while driving (but it was also determined that teens veer out of their lane of travel for approximately ten percent of their total drive time when they text and drive);
  •      Ten percent of adults and 20 percent of teenage drivers have had actual text conversations (involving multiple text messages sent and received) while driving. One quarter of all teenage drivers will respond to at least one text every single time they drive.

Legal Dangers of Texting While Driving

Aside from the physical danger a distracted driver presents to him- or herself and others, violating California’s new law can also lead to you being held civilly liable for the injuries, losses, and related expenses suffered by an individual with whom you collide.

For those who have been injured by a distracted driver, your Orange County car crash lawyers at Case Barnett Law stand ready to assist you in seeking compensation for your injuries. Call our office at (949) 861-2990, or reach out to us through our website, and we will get to work helping you obtain the monetary damages you need for your distracted driving accident-related injuries.

California Court of Appeals Affirms “Going and Coming Rule”

Screen Shot 2017-01-04 at 6.57.05 PM.pngThe California Court of Appeals recently affirmed the longstanding “going and coming rule” in announcing that an employer was not responsible for the injuries suffered by employees who were injured in a wreck while carpooling to a jobsite. In Pierson v. Helmerich & Payne International Drilling Co., the plaintiff Pierson was struck by a vehicle being driven by an employee of Helmerich & Payne (H&P). The employee was also transporting two coworkers from their worksite to a nearby hotel. The hotel was being paid for by H&P, and though a supervisor had requested the employees carpool, H&P made it clear that each individual employee was responsible for securing his or her own transportation to and from the jobsite.

Plaintiff Seeks to Join the At-Fault Driver’s Employer

After filing suit against the at-fault driver personally, the plaintiff Pierson moved to join H&P as a defendant, alleging that the at-fault driver was an employee of the H&P at the time the crash occurred and that H&P received an incidental benefit from having the employees carpool together back to the hotel. (Naming the at-fault party’s employer as a defendant in a personal injury case is a common strategy, as the employer is likely to have the resources a personal injury plaintiff needs in order to fully recover his or her losses.)

Generally speaking, an employer is responsible for the tortious conduct of its employees when the employees are engaged in their work duties or engaged in some activity that provides an incidental benefit to the employer (such as an employer who allows an employee to take a company vehicle home where the employee has a sales call to go to while on the way home). Noting, however, the well-established “going and coming rule” – which holds that an employer is not responsible for an employee’s action when that employee is going to work or coming from work – the court sustained a motion to dismiss Pierson’s claim against H&P.

What This Means for California Personal Injury Victims

This decision means that California courts are likely to remain true to established legal principles concerning employers’ liability for the acts of their employees: that is, unless the employee is engaged in his or her job duties when the personal injury accident occurs, the employer will not be held responsible for the employee’s actions.

It is important to have the facts of your personal injury case carefully evaluated by the California personal injury law firm of Case Barnett Law. Determining whether a person’s employer can also be held responsible for your injuries and losses is a fact-intensive inquiry, and Case Barnett Law has the knowledge and resources to carry this important investigative task efficiently so you have the greatest chance of recovering full and fair compensation. Contact Case Barnett Law at (949) 861-2990, or contact us online, if you or a loved one have been injured by the careless acts of another.

Who is Responsible for Drone Injuries at Your Wedding?

screen-shot-2016-12-21-at-1-18-16-pmA Massachusetts newlywed has found himself the named defendant in a personal injury suit brought by two guests at his wedding reception. According to the lawsuit, the two injury victims were guests at the groom’s wedding reception, which was held at a local venue, when a drone that was being used to record the event spun out of control and struck the two victims. The victims allege the groom was at the controls when the drone hit them, an allegation that the man denies. The victims further claim that they suffered concussions and lacerations as a result of the drone strike.

Is the Groom Responsible for this Wedding-Day Mishap?

If the evidence did establish that the groom was controlling the drone at the time it struck the two victims, then the victims would likely be able to recover compensation for their injuries from the groom (if the evidence also established he acted carelessly or recklessly in controlling the drone). Depending on the evidence in this case, however, there may be others who are responsible for the victims’ alleged injuries:

  •      The wedding planner / venue owner: The individual in charge of managing the reception and overseeing the events and happenings that took place may be responsible in part for this injury accident. Others may expect the planner and/or owner to create and communicate the venue’s rules to guests (such as a rule against operating drones) and to take reasonable measures to enforce these rules.
  •      A third party controlling the drone: Of course, if another adult picked up the drone’s remote control, operated the drone, and in so doing lost control of the drone, this person may also be held responsible for the victim’s injuries. What is more, if the operator of the drone was a young child, the parents of the child may be held responsible for the child’s actions.
  •      The groom: Assuming that the drone belonged to the groom, the groom may yet be responsible for the victims’ injuries even if the groom was not at the controls when the injuries occurred. If the groom left the drone and its controller unattended and in an area where other guests and/or children would be likely to discover and use them, a judge or jury might conclude that the groom’s carelessness led to the victims’ injuries and he, therefore, should be responsible in part for the costs of those injuries.

Thorough Examination of Personal Injury Cases

This rather bizarre personal injury case reinforces the need to have your own personal injury accident thoroughly examined by a qualified California personal injury lawyer. At Case Barnett Law, our experienced personal injury recovery team knows that your ability to recover full and fair compensation for your injuries depends on identifying the wrongdoer or wrongdoers, and we are committed to performing an efficient but complete investigation into the facts and circumstances of your case so that this individual or these persons can be identified. Contact us at (949) 861-2990, or complete our online contact form, and learn more about how Case Barnett can help you recover following a personal injury accident.

Common Injury Accidents that Lead to Traumatic Brain Injuries

Screen Shot 2016-11-30 at 10.20.51 AM.pngIn the personal injury world, few injuries that a person can suffer are as life-changing and debilitating as a traumatic brain injury (TBI). While victims who suffer a mild TBI may be fortunate enough to make a full recovery, moderate or severe TBI victims are often left with some impairment or loss of functioning that remains long after the victim leaves the hospital. It is not unheard of for some young individuals who suffer severe traumatic brain injuries to recover millions of dollars in compensation through a personal injury lawsuit because of the past and future medical expenses, lost wages and earning potential, and pain and suffering such an injury can cause.

Top Injury Accidents Resulting in Traumatic Brain Injuries

Thankfully, traumatic brain injuries that result in some temporary or permanent loss of functioning and/or disability are not extremely common. Nonetheless, some injury accidents have a greater likelihood of resulting in a traumatic brain injury than others. These accident types include:

  •      Slips and falls: A slippery floor or a defective staircase can catch a person by surprise, sending them tumbling to the ground. In a slip and fall case, the victim may not have the time and/or coordination to brace him- or herself or take measures to protect his or her head. In a slip and fall, the victim may strike his or her head with a considerable amount of force, thereby resulting in a traumatic brain injury.
  •      Car accidents: The forces involved in any motor vehicle accident are sufficient to cause the head of a person to quickly go in one direction and then the other (this is not abated by the victim’s use of a seatbelt). This rapid acceleration and deceleration is sometimes referred to as “whiplash,” and it can result in a traumatic brain injury as the brain is “jostled” inside the skull. The greater the forces present in the crash, the more severe the traumatic brain injury can be.
  •      Pedestrian / bicyclist / motorcyclist accident: A pedestrian, motorcyclist, or bicyclist who is struck by a car is at an elevated risk of suffering a traumatic brain injury – especially if the bicyclist or motorcyclist is not wearing a helmet. These accidents can literally send the victim flying, causing the victim to strike his or her head on the ground or another object.

Traumatic brain injuries can also result from falls from heights (even “small” heights like a stepladder) and sports injuries. In both of these cases, wearing appropriate safety equipment and exercising caution can reduce the chance of a traumatic brain injury.

Take Action After a Traumatic Brain Injury

Unless you are absolutely certain you did not suffer anything other than a “bump on the head,” seek out medical care if you suffer a head injury. This is especially important if you lose consciousness for any length of time and/or experience amnesia. Then, call the Costa Mesa brain injury law firm of Case Barnett Law to review your legal rights and options. If your TBI was brought about because of another person’s careless or reckless actions, you may be entitled to compensation. You can reach Case Barnett Law at (949) 861-2990, or you can contact the firm online.

Catastrophic Damage in Car Accident Cases Can Come from Tiny Culprits

 

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Last month an elderly California man was killed in a car accident. This tragic occurrence would not likely have gained must attention by the news but for the manner in which the accident occurred. The man was traveling northbound on the highway at about the time a state-owned Caltrans water truck was traveling that same highway, going southbound. According to investigators, a metal cap used to seal the opening on the top of the truck’s water tank detached and flew across several lanes of traffic, striking the elderly man in his neck. The cap was described as being about the size of a baseball and about two to three inches in width. The man crashed into the center median before his car came to a stop. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

 

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When a “Simple” Car Accident is Not So Simple

When one hears of an injury or death resulting from a car crash, one might naturally assume that the cause for the crash is simple and straightforward: One or both drivers drove their cars in a careless fashion and the crash ensued as a result. For investigators and others looking at this case, determining the precise cause of the crash is not so simple. While it can be said that the cause of the crash was the metal cap that became detached and hit the man in his neck, this does not necessarily explain who or what entity was actually at fault. There could be any number of culprits responsible in this crash:

  •      The truck driver, if he or she failed to ensure that the cap was properly secured before driving;
  •      The truck’s maintenance department, if the cap was damaged in some manner and a maintenance worker should have or could have discovered the damage through routine inspection;
  •      The agency or office responsible for maintaining the road, if a defect in the road (such as a large pothole) caused the cap to come loose;
  •      The manufacturer of the cap, if a design or manufacturing defect resulted in the cap not being safe for its intended use.

Answering the questions necessary to determine liability in a case such as this (unfortunately) takes time – the sort of time that surviving family members and/or injury victims do not generally have. The sooner such an investigation is completed and responsible parties identified, however, the sooner the victim(s) can obtain compensation and monetary damages for their losses.

The Case for an Attorney

This is why hiring an experienced car crash attorney is crucial: The attorney’s experience and resources can be used to complete the requisite investigation in a timely manner. Injury victims who attempt to “go it alone” (unfortunately) find out quickly that obtaining adequate compensation for their losses is no easy task.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident or collision, contact Case Barnett Law right away for assistance. Our years of experience helping numerous car accident clients means that you can trust our firm to identify and pursue compensation against those responsible for your injuries in a prompt manner. Call our firm at (949) 861-2990 to learn how we can help you or your loved one. You can also contact our firm online for assistance.

Is Your Child at Risk of a Daycare Injury Accident?

 

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For many California parents, daycare is not a luxury – it is a necessity. When a parent lives away from friends and family members who are able to stay with the child with the parent is at work, a daycare facility is usually the parent’s last resort – somewhere where the child can be safe and supervised while the parent is away at work. When using a daycare facility, the parent may be lulled into a false sense of security: The regulations and laws with which a daycare facility in California must comply in order to continue operations can make a parent feel confident that their child will return to them from the daycare facility uninjured and in good health. This is not always the case, however.

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Common Daycare Injuries to Children

As much as parents may not wish to dwell on the thought, a daycare can be a dangerous place for a young child. Some children have been injured through deliberate acts inflicted upon them by daycare staff, but a child can suffer serious – even fatal – injuries simply because a daycare worker acted carelessly or had a momentary lapse of judgment. Just a few of the injuries that can befall a young child while at daycare include:

  •      Falls down steps or falls from heights which can lead to traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, or even death;
  •      Cuts and serious lacerations from sharp objects like scissors or knives that are left in areas accessible to children, or from sharp corners on tables and other furniture;
  •      Serious burns of various types. Chemical burns can result from being exposed to powerful cleaners and disinfectants (even the fumes can cause internal injuries). Electrical burns can come about if the child is permitted to play with an active electrical socket. Heat burns can occur when the child is permitted to touch a hot stove or radiator.
  •     Traumatic brain injuries, neck and back injuries, broken bones, and other injuries commonly associated with car accidents if the child is being transported in a daycare vehicle and the driver is involved in a crash.

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Parents of daycare-age children should carefully investigate a daycare facility before enrolling their children in the facility. Ensure that the facility is properly certified by the State of California. Tour the building and speak with the teachers, assistants, and staff. Does it appear that there are too many children and not enough adults? Are children supervised or do they appear to run wild? Are the facility, toys, and equipment in a good state of repair or are things falling apart? When it comes to your child’s safety, go with your gut – if you do not feel comfortable leaving your child at the facility for eight hours or more each day, it may be advisable to find another facility.

When to Call a Southern California Daycare Injury Attorney

If your child was injured while at a California daycare, you may be entitled to compensation for your expenses and losses. Contact Case Barnett Law Firm at (949) 861-2990 today, or contact us online to discuss your case.