Railroad Crossing Safety Standards in California

When you are a child, it is fun to stop in front of a railroad crossing. You hear the bells and see the gates come down and then watch from your parents’ car as the train zooms by. You count the cars from the engine all the way to the caboose, and by the time the train has passed and you can safely cross the track, you feel as though you have been party to a special occasion.

When you are a busy commuter, having to stop to wait for a passing train is an annoyance. You count the minutes until you can finally continue your drive to work. Of course, these instances only apply when the railroad crossings are safely constructed and operated. If railway crossings are not properly constructed and operated, the resulting railroad crossing accidents can be devastating. The causes of railway crossing accidents are many, but if they are because of a flaw in the railway crossing, then the injured party could have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit.

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Rules and Regulations Governing Rail Crossing Safety

The California Public Utilities Commission is in charge of making sure that the railway crossings in California are safe and properly maintained. A railway crossing is an intersection where a railroad crosses another railroad or a public road. These are some of the safety requirements for railroad crossings in California:

  • The minimum overhead clearance above railroad tracks where freight trains travel is 22 and one half feet. If a railroad track ends inside a building, then the minimum overhead clearance inside that building is 18 feet. The freight cars on these tracks cannot be taller than 15 feet; taller freight cars must bear permanent labels that say “excess height.” For railroads built only for commuter passenger trains, the minimum overhead clearance is 14 feet.
  • The minimum clearance between the center lines of two parallel tracks must be at least 14 feet.  Certain types of tracks require an even greater clearance.
  • It is illegal to place any items on the ground or on the platform within eight feet of a railroad track. A visible marker should indicate the eight-foot mark beyond which one cannot place any items.
  • When a railroad crosses above a public street or road where vehicles operate, there should be a 15-foot minimum overhead clearance. When a road open to vehicular traffic crosses above a railroad track made for freight trains, the minimum overhead clearance is 22 feet six inches.

Were There Violations of Safety Standards at the Site of an Accident?

If you are involved in a train accident, you should always document whether the minimum clearances were being observed and whether the required markings were present. If they were not, and you were injured in the accident, then you may have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit.

Contact Case Barnett About Railroad Crossing Accidents

If you were injured in a railroad accident, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact Case Barnett in Costa Mesa, California to discuss your case.

Documenting Your Injuries After a Car Accident

2.nowordsIt is hard to think clearly after a car accident, even if at first it seems that no one was injured and the accident was not very serious. In the moment, the first thing that you might think about is how mad your boss will be if you are late to work or how upset your spouse will be if your already high car insurance premiums get even higher. It is important to think about your health first, though. Many personal injuries that result from accidents do not start showing symptoms immediately. Back or neck pain resulting from the collision tends not to show up until a few days later, but it can last a long time and be difficult to treat. In order to have as much documentation as possible to show your insurance company and, if necessary, your lawyer, take the following steps immediately after you are involved in an accident.

If You Go to the Emergency Room

If the police who report the accident recommend that you go to the emergency room to have your injuries evaluated, do not refuse just because it is an inconvenience to spend a big part of the day in an emergency room waiting to be seen by a doctor. Ask the nurses in the emergency room to take photos of any injuries you have sustained, if any of your injuries are visible. When you do see the doctor, ask for a written recommendation about how many days, if any, you need to miss work. This will be valuable information in your legal case when it comes to proving lost wages.  You will have written proof that your injuries sustained in the accident were the reason you missed work; the other side will not be able to argue that you simply chose to take a certain amount of time off of work.

A Doctor’s Expert Opinion

Unless your primary doctor is nearby and you can easily see him or her without an appointment, the emergency room physician is usually the first medical professional who will do a full evaluation of your injuries after the accident. Emergency room doctors must provide a detailed report when they release you from the hospital. Ask the doctor to include his or her assessment of exactly what caused your injuries, such as the angle from which the other car hit your car.  Also ask the doctor to include written instructions about future treatment you will need.

Make an appointment with your regular doctor as soon as you can after being released from the emergency room. Have your primary care doctor review the emergency room doctor’s notes and make any further recommendations in writing, including referrals to a specialist. Reports from physicians are some of the strongest evidence you can use in court in a personal injury case.

For More Information Download Our Free Book 

Download our free book, The 7 Biggest Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Accident Claim, to learn more about the steps you can take right now to protect your claim. Avoiding these mistakes could save you thousands of dollars.

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Contact Case Barnett About Injuries Sustained in Car Accidents

The key to a successful personal injury lawsuit is gathering as much information as you can as soon as you can. Contact Case Barnett in Costa Mesa, California about your personal injury case.

Preventing Accidental Overdoses of Acetaminophen: Is Legal Action Required?

Screen Shot 2017-12-15 at 3.14.11 PM.pngAcetaminophen, which goes by the brand name Tylenol in the United States and the names paracetamol and Panadol in other countries, is one of the most widely consumed over-the-counter drugs. It is the only widely available over-the-counter painkiller that does not belong to the category of non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Popular over-the-counter NSAIDs include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and naproxen sodium (Aleve). While millions of people routinely take acetaminophen to relieve minor pain and do not suffer any adverse effects, taking an overdose of acetaminophen can cause acute liver failure and has even led to several deaths; thus, it has been at the center of several product liability lawsuits.  What is most alarming in these cases is that, sometimes, the doses at which the patients suffered adverse consequences were not very much higher than the recommended therapeutic doses. So far, there is no agreement on the best way to prevent accidental overdoses of acetaminophen.

How do Acetaminophen Overdoses Happen?

Acetaminophen is metabolized in the liver. The current recommended dose is not to exceed four grams of acetaminophen per day. That is equivalent to eight tablets of Extra Strength Tylenol in a 24-hour period (usually two pills every six hours). Some acetaminophen-containing OTC drugs, such as Excedrin Migraine, contain almost that much acetaminophen in a single dose, and thus, they are intended to be taken only once per day. At higher doses than that, liver damage can occur. Symptoms of overdose include nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain; in many cases, the patient does not seek treatment until the liver damage is advanced, mistaking these symptoms as simply part of his or her illness. One of the reasons that acetaminophen overdoses are as frequent as they are (about 150 cases per year in the United States) is that acetaminophen is an ingredient in many common OTC medicines, including Nyquil and Theraflu. If you take the recommended dose of several of these medicines, you may be taking more acetaminophen than you realize.

For example, Marcus Trunk suffered a wrist injury at his construction job in 1995, and he took Extra Strength Tylenol every day to relieve the pain from his injury while recovering. Shortly thereafter, he developed flu-like symptoms and began taking Theraflu, while continuing his regimen of Extra Strength Tylenol for his injury. Within a few weeks, he had died from liver failure at the age of 23.

How to Prevent Acetaminophen Overdoses

Manufacturers have begun to label acetaminophen-containing OTC medicines more clearly, so that patients do not unwittingly take higher doses than recommended. Consumers should also read the labels on OTC medicines carefully to be sure of how much of each active ingredient they are taking. Some countries have lowered the maximum recommended dose as a precaution.  Some even restrict the amount of acetaminophen one person can buy within a certain period of time, much the way the United States restricts the sale of certain cold and cough medicines with considerable potential for abuse.

Contact Case Barnett About Product Liability Cases

Have you suffered illness or injury because of a faulty or improperly labeled over-the-counter medicine? Contact Case Barnett in Costa Mesa, California for a consultation to see if you have grounds for a lawsuit.

To Avoid Bicycle Accidents, Carefully Consider the Type and Fit of Your Bike

Screen Shot 2017-12-15 at 3.12.42 PM.pngAs the old saying goes, accidents happen. Most accidents really are no one’s fault. In such a bicycle-friendly state as California, it is not a surprise that bicycle accidents are fairly common occurrences. In order for a plaintiff who has been injured in a bike accident to have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit, he or she must prove that the accident was the result of someone else’s negligence. For example, if the bike collided with a car, was the driver of the car violating any of California’s laws about sharing the road with bicyclists? If the bike unexpectedly tipped over while the plaintiff was riding it, was it because of a defect in the manufacture of a bike? The burden of proof in any lawsuit rests with the plaintiff, so be prepared to make a case that you were riding your bike according to its intended use and that you had fitted it properly to your body. Even better, making sure that you are buying the correct bike for the places you plan to ride it and that you have adjusted it to fit you well can go a long way in preventing accidents.

Different Types of Bicycles for Different Terrain

To the untrained eye, bikes look quite similar, but once you actually ride one, you notice the differences. Different tire thicknesses and handlebar positions can make for a different riding experience. For example, many of the bikes that you see traveling at a leisurely pace on California’s beach boardwalks are beach cruisers. These bikes are structured so you ride in a normal sitting position; thus, they are steady and easy to steer; their wide “balloon tires” further add to their stability and provide plenty of traction for safe braking. The disadvantage of beach cruisers is that they can not go very fast; if you try to keep up with vehicular traffic on a beach cruiser, you are asking for trouble.  

On the other end of the spectrum are road bikes, which are similar to the racing bikes of competitive athletes. Road bikes have “dropped” handlebars, so you have to lean forward to ride them. They also have narrow tires, which allow for more speed but less stability. Most road bike tires are not recommended for riding on wet surfaces. Bike manufacturers are explicit about which conditions are safe for riding each type of bike.

Adjusting Your Bike for the Safest Ride

Most parts of a bike frame do not move, but you can and should adjust the handlebars, pedals, and saddle to fit you. Adjusting these parts not only prevents accidents but also prevents strain injuries from normal riding. Have an employee of the bike store adjust your bike unless you are a very experienced rider and can do it yourself.

Contact Case Barnett About Bike Accident Lawsuits

Sometimes bicycle accidents happen even if you are doing everything you can to observe safety practices. Contact Case Barnett in Costa Mesa, California to see if your bicycle accident is the basis for a personal injury lawsuit.

Mandatory Rest Periods for California Truck Drivers

Screen Shot 2017-12-15 at 3.11.02 PM.pngMany teen drivers get into minor car accidents in the first few months of having a driver’s license. Whether it is hitting a neighbor’s mailbox or a fender-bender in a parking lot, it usually does not take much to convince new drivers to be more careful. In fact, the early mishaps usually result in no lasting damage except, perhaps, higher car insurance premiums for a while. When it comes to accidents involving trucks, however, there is almost no such thing as a “no big deal” truck accident.  They often result in serious personal injuries and expensive damage to property.

Thus, driving a truck is serious business from the beginning. No one lets a 16-year-old get behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler and take a ride around town just to get a taste of adult freedom. Commercial trucks weigh multiple tons even when they are empty. Their extraordinary length, width, height, and weight mean that driving one requires vigilance at all times. Thus, the training required before you can even get a license to drive a truck is quite rigorous. There are rules guiding every aspect of the profession of truck driving. If you are injured in an accident involving a truck, ask yourself if the driver was in compliance with these important safety rules.

California’s Rest Period Rules May Become Less Strict

It is dangerous enough to drive a car when you are too tired to concentrate; imagine how dangerous it is to drive a truck in such a state. Federal law dictates that truck drivers cannot drive more than 14 hours in a workday, and they cannot drive more than 11 straight hours without taking a break. They must take a 30-minute break for a meal before they have completed eight hours of work that day. They must rest for at least 10 hours after finishing one workday and before starting the next one. Furthermore, California law requires drivers to take a 30-minute break sometime during the first five hours of their shift, and beyond that, a break of at least 10 minutes at least once every four hours.

In the summer of 2017, the California legislature began considering a bill which would nullify the stricter California rules about rest periods and just require truck drivers to abide by the federal regulations. Supporters of the bill say that it will help drivers reach their destinations more quickly, thus being more productive. The bill’s opponents say that it will make California’s roads less safe.  The strict regulations about truckers stopping to rest have been a source of debate for years, with many bills regarding just how often truck drivers should be required to rest having been introduced in the legislature in the past decade. The fact remains that rest is essential for safe driving.

Contact Case Barnett if You Were Injured in an Accident

If you suffered injuries because of an accident involving a truck, it is worthwhile to investigate whether the truck driver was in compliance with all the regulations. Rest periods are just one of the many rules truck drivers must follow. Contact Case Barnett in Costa Mesa, California for a consultation about a personal injury case.

After a Car Accident, Should You Call a Lawyer or Just Your Insurance Company?

04.pngAt this very moment, you probably have a copy of your car insurance card inside the glove box of your car. If you are involved in a collision, you probably call your insurance company to report the claim even before the police arrive on the scene to make a police report. It is usually the first call you make, before you even call close family members to let them know that you were in a car accident but that it was not any worse than it was. With minor accidents, that is usually all there is to it. If your car is still drivable, you probably just go on with your day. You make any repairs you need to make to your car, and then you wait to hear from your insurance company about how much they will reimburse you. With more serious accidents, though, and if there is a major dispute over who is at fault for the accident, you may need the help of a personal injury lawyer.

Getting a Settlement Offer from Your Insurance Company

A big part of what insurance companies do is determine which party bears what portion of the responsibility for each accident and how much the insurance company should pay you to cover expenses related to the accident. To get the best settlement offer you can, give the insurance company as much evidence as you can that the accident was not your fault. This evidence can take the form of your verbal statement that you give them on the phone as soon as the accident happens. You should also send them pictures of the place where the accident happened and of any damage to your vehicle. They will also consider the police report and any evidence or statements submitted by the other driver.

Once they have examined the evidence, they will send you a settlement offer. If no one was injured in the accident, the settlement will just be to offset the cost of car repairs. If you were injured, it may cover your medical bills related to the accident. The settlement might also cover pain and suffering or anticipated medical costs for long-term injuries related to the accident.  Once you accept the settlement offer, you no longer have a case for a personal injury lawsuit.  The time to contact a lawyer is before you sign to accept the settlement offer.

How a Personal Injury Lawyer can Help

If you have been injured in a car accident, a personal injury lawyer can help you recover economic and non-economic damages. In other words, money you receive in a lawsuit settlement or a judge’s decision can help you recover much of the money you have lost because of the accident. This is especially important if your injuries are so serious that you have to miss work for a long time. You can receive compensation both for future medical bills and for lost income.

For More Information Download Our Free Book 

Download our free book, The 7 Biggest Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Accident Claim, to learn more about the steps you can take right now to protect your claim. Avoiding these mistakes could save you thousands of dollars.

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Contact Case Barnett About Car Accident Lawsuits

Even if the settlement the insurance company offers you looks reasonable, it is a good idea to have a lawyer review it before you sign. Contact Case Barnett in Costa Mesa, California for advice before accepting a settlement offer from an insurance company.

Accutane is the Focus of Many Product Liability Lawsuits

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Product liability lawsuits are legal cases in which the plaintiff claims that a product, such as a prescription drug or over-the-counter medicine, is more dangerous than its labeling or marketing suggest. When the plaintiffs win, such lawsuits can result in damages being awarded to plaintiffs to pay for medical expenses resulting from the illnesses or injuries they suffered because of the products. The defendant, namely the company that makes the dangerous product, can be required to label the product more clearly with references to its associated dangers, and it might have to pay punitive damages. In some cases, the court can require the defendant to stop selling the product entirely. One of the drugs that has been the subject of product liability lawsuits is the acne medication Accutane.

Accutane and its Alleged Risks

Accutane is a prescription drug manufactured by Roche. Dermatologists prescribe it to patients whose acne has failed to show improvement after treatment with more conventional remedies such as topical medications, antibiotics, or even hormonal contraceptives. Some patients who took Accutane reported severe psychiatric or digestive side effects from the drug, including suicidal thoughts and behavior, and inflammatory bowel disease. After numerous complaints and liability lawsuits, the drug’s manufacturers added a black box warning to the packaging of Accutane, informing patients of the side effects that some patients who had taken the drug had suffered.

Product Liability Lawsuits and Appeals

The product liability lawsuits related to Accutane go back more than eight years. Several thousand patients have sued Roche because of adverse effects related to taking the drug. Many of the lawsuits were filed in New Jersey, where Roche is headquartered, although the patients themselves came from many different states. Roche ended up paying millions of dollars of damages to thousands of plaintiffs.

In 2017, an appeals court overturned the decisions of many of the trial courts. The issues had to do mainly with which expert testimony the trial courts had allowed and which testimony they had suppressed. Namely, the trial court had not allowed the testimony of a gastroenterologist who argued that the Crohn’s disease suffered by some of the plaintiffs could have been the result of taking Accutane. Additionally, the trial court had suppressed the testimony of a statistician who criticized the methodology of some of the epidemiology studies cited by the parties.  Controversy over expert witness testimony is a fairly common issue in lawsuits related to personal injury, including product liability lawsuits.

Contact Case Barnett About Product Liability Cases

If your illness was not caused by a doctor’s negligence, it is not medical malpractice. Instead, it could be a case of product liability if the doctor acted in good faith but the product is more dangerous than anyone, including healthcare professionals realize. Contact Case Barnett in Costa Mesa, California if you think that your illness or injuries are the result of severe side effects from a dangerous prescription or over-the-counter drug.

Beware of Eavesdropping in Your Personal Injury Case

Following your Orange County car crash or other personal injury accident, you will soon learn that your ability to recover full compensation for your injuries and expenses will depend in large part on your ability to show that another person is responsible for causing the accident or incident that resulted in your injuries. Absent a confession or admission of fault, this task can only be completed through the use of evidence and perhaps the testimony of one or more witnesses.

Suppose, however, that while out at a restaurant you see the person you believed caused your injuries in a secluded corner talking on his or her phone. He or she is obviously talking about the crash or accident and begins to make statements admitting fault and responsibility to the person to whom he or she is talking. Before you pull out your smartphone and begin recording the conversation, take time to consider whether your intended course of action might be criminal.

Eavesdropping in California

When a person utilizes an electronic recording device such as a digital recorder, a digital camcorder, a smartphone, or another similar device to record a confidential conversation of another without the consent of every party to the conversation, that person has committed the crime of eavesdropping. Not only does this subject you to potential civil and criminal fines, but you could also be incarcerated for up to one year. Obtaining a confession or admission of guilt through illegal means can cause the court hearing your personal injury case to exclude such confession from consideration at trial.

Whether a conversation is “confidential” or not depends on the specific facts present at the time the communication was made. Key to making this determination is whether the parties appeared to have intended that their conversation be private and confidential. While speaking at a public restaurant at a table may not indicate an intention for a communication to remain private, going to a secluded area of that same restaurant and deliberately communicating as far away from others as possible may lead a court to a different conclusion.

Does This Mean I Can Never Record an Admission or Confession?

California’s eavesdropping law does not prevent you, for example, from electronically recording a statement the at-fault party makes to you if the at-fault party gives you permission to record his or her statement. Nor does the law prevent you from making a written record of statements you overhear the at-fault party make in a public setting.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a California personal injury accident, speak with us at Case Barnett Law about your situation as well as evidence that might potentially be available for you to use in your quest for compensation. Call us at (949) 861-2990, or reach out to us using our online contact form.

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.

Beware of First Impressions in Personal Injury Cases

First impressions are important, but they can also be deceiving. Just as the person who appears to be shabbily dressed can be a genius with considerable wealth, so to can a personal injury accident that may appear to not provide you with any opportunity to obtain monetary damages nonetheless actually allow you to recover compensation for your injuries. In other words, just as you ought not judge a “book by its cover,” you must also be wary of concluding that you are not entitled to monetary damages based on mistaken beliefs and assumptions about personal injury cases in Orange County.

Common Misconceptions About Personal Injury Accidents in Orange County

Regardless of where we first heard these lies and misstatements of the law, believing any of the following to be true and refusing to take action because of them can seriously and negatively impact your legal rights. Beware of the following inaccuracies concerning personal injury accidents:

  • I collided with the vehicle in front of me, so I am at fault: While in a significant number of rear-end collisions the trailing vehicle is the one who is primarily responsible for causing the crash, this does not mean that the lead vehicle’s driver cannot be at fault in a rear-end collision. A lead driver who suddenly and inexplicably brakes or who brakes or turns without signaling can easily be found to be negligent and to have contributed to your injuries.
  • I did not go to the doctor right away, so my injuries are now my responsibility: It is always a good idea to obtain medical evaluation and treatment as soon as possible after a personal injury accident. However, failing to do so does not necessarily mean you cannot obtain any compensation at all. Rather, your failure to obtain timely medical treatment will be one of several circumstances a court will need to consider in determining the amount of compensation to which you are entitled.
  • The store put out a “Wet Floor” sign that I did not see, so my slip and fall is my fault: Property owners and businesses must take “reasonable steps” to protect guests and customers from dangers like wet floors. This may require a property owner to put out signs alerting others of the danger and/or promptly correct the hazard. You may still be entitled to recover after a slip and fall at a store if evidence shows the property owner failed to promptly clean up the spill.

Speak with a California Personal Injury Attorney Today

It is always advisable to speak with an Orange County personal injury law firm such as Case Barnett Law about your legal rights as opposed to making decisions and conclusions on your own. Our firm fights aggressively on behalf of our personal injury clients to help them obtain the compensation to which they are entitled. Call our firm at (949) 861-2990, or complete our online contact form today