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After the Storm, Who Cleans Up?

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This past week a large swath of the country felt the wrath of winter storm Jupiter. In particular, some areas of the country saw an inch or more of ice accumulation, leading to downed power lines and snapped trees and branches. Not only did this cause power outages and general discomfort for many, but the devastation and destruction caused by the ice may take weeks to clean up. Not only is the question of how long a clean-up effort will take important, but so is the question of whose responsibility it is to clean up a residential or commercial property.

The Property Owner is Generally Responsible for Debris and Damage

In many cases, a property owner has the legal obligation and affirmative duty to make reasonable inspections of his or her property and correct any hazards present thereon through reasonable corrective actions. When trees are toppled and large, heavy branches scattered everywhere (not to mention downed power lines), it can be difficult to fulfill this obligation. Failing to do anything is not the answer, however, as even though the property owner may not have caused or contributed to storm damage, he or she may still be liable for injuries that occur on his or her property.

 

To reduce the likelihood of this occurring, consider taking one or more of the following actions following a destructive storm:

  1.     Clearly mark off the area of your property containing dangerous debris with highly-visible tape and leave this up until the damage can be cleaned. Be sure to encompass any area with a tree as branches may snap and fall even after the storm has passed.
  2.     Clean up the debris yourself, or hire a licensed and insured contractor to help you clean up the debris. Make sure that your clean up includes trimming any tree branches that have snapped but have not yet fallen.
  3.     Do not attempt to clean up any power lines yourself that have fallen to the ground as these lines may still be live. Instead, clearly mark off the area and take steps to alert others using signage or other means not to enter the area. Immediately contact your local utility company to advise them of the downed line so that they can safely remove it from your property.

Note that your local town or municipality may also have passed ordinances requiring you to take certain steps (such as clearing off any sidewalks in front of your property within a certain period of time).

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Reasonable Steps Can Save You (or Your Homeowner’s Insurance Company) Millions

Cleaning up after a destructive ice storm or other natural disaster may seem overwhelming; however, the law does not require you to go extraordinary lengths or expend large amounts of money in order to clean up. Instead, all that is required is that you take “reasonable” steps considering your situation to either clean up your property and/or alert others who might come upon your property of dangers and hazards.

If you or a loved one has been injured in California while lawfully present on another’s property (whether a residence or a commercial property), Case Barnett Law is here to help. Contact us to discuss whether the property owner took reasonable steps to clean the property and safeguard you or your loved one from harm. Call us at (949) 861-2990, or contact us online for assistance with your injury claim.

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.

NHTSA Moves to Prevent Distracted Driving

It is no secret that distracted driving is on the rise, along with the numbers of injuries and deaths attributable to distracted driving. According to the  (NHTSA), approximately ten percent of all traffic fatalities are due to distracted driving. While distracted driving occurs any time the driver’s attention and/or eyes are diverted from the act of driving, texting and driving (or using one’s cell phone while driving) is the most common type of distracted driving. To combat this, NHTSA has just promulgated a new voluntary guideline applicable to smartphone and auto manufacturers.

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What the Voluntary Guidelines Attempt to Accomplish

According to the guidelines promulgated by NHTSA, smartphone manufacturers and automakers are to develop technology that is able to “sense” when a smartphone user is driving a vehicle and automatically disable many of the smartphone’s functions, including the ability to send and receive text messages and browse the internet. Although some auto manufacturers have already created technology that allows cellphone users to use a touchscreen inside the car to access many of a phone’s features, the technology contemplated by the guideline does not yet exist.

Voluntary Guidelines Do Not Absolve Drivers of Responsibility

Even when enacted, the voluntary guidelines are voluntary. This means that there are no legal ramifications for automakers or smartphone manufacturers who choose not to develop and/or implement the technology contemplated by the guidelines. This means that drivers who choose to text and drive – and who cause an accident as a result – cannot bring a claim for compensation against the automaker or smartphone manufacturer for failing to follow NHTSA’s recommendation.

The NHTSA guideline is also unlikely to have any mitigating effect on a car accident defendant’s culpability. In other words, suppose a defendant-driver in a car crash case is found to be 75 percent responsible for causing a crash because he or she was texting while driving. The defendant’s percentage of fault is not likely to be reduced by any amount if the defendant attempts to argue that the car manufacturer or smartphone maker failed to comply with NHTSA’s regulation.

What if New Technology Malfunctions and Causes a Car Crash?

If the technology that is the subject of NHTSA’s voluntary guideline is developed, and this technology malfunctions, however, the entity responsible for developing and/or integrating the technology may be held responsible if the malfunction causes a crash (i.e., by causing the phone to startle the driver). In such a case, it would be the defendant-driver’s responsibility to prove the manufacturer acted with negligence and that such negligence contributed to the crash. The judge or jury would then be responsible for determining the role the manufacturer’s negligence played in causing the crash.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a distracted driving accident, contact the Costa Mesa car crash law firm of Case Barnett Law at (949) 861-2990. You or your loved one may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and losses, and our experienced legal team can assist you in obtaining the monetary damages you need to recover from your accident.

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.

Driving Drugged: When Legal Prescriptions Cause Legal Headaches

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A recent USA Today report quoted the  National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as stating there has been a steady uptick in the number of traffic fatalities – including those in which one or more of the drivers involved tested positive for having marijuana or other illicit drugs in their blood at the time of the crash. As disturbing as this trend is, one does not have to use an illegal substance to be guilty of “driving while drugged.” Even over-the-counter and prescription medications can lead to traffic crashes that maim or kill other motorists. When this occurs, victims and surviving family members must be prepared to uncover the identity of the drug consumed by the at-fault motorist and prove that even those drugs meant to help can cause harm if taken before driving.

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What To Do After a Suspected Drugged Driving Case

Drugged drivers often exhibit the same or similar symptoms as a driver who is under the influence of alcohol: drowsy, difficulty in maintaining balance and coordination, impaired judgment, and slow reflexes. They may swerve within their lane of travel, cross over multiple lanes, leave the road, or drive erratically when they are behind the wheel. The difference between an alcohol-impaired driver and a drug-impaired driver will be the absence of the odor of alcohol.

One of the best pieces of evidence that can be used to establish liability for a car accident when it is suspected that the driver used drugs prior to getting behind the wheel is the results of any blood tests performed by the hospital or law enforcement on the suspected drugged driver. These results are easily lost if it is not promptly and appropriately requested that they be saved and preserved. Your California car accident lawyer knows how to take this simple yet vital step.

Few Defenses in Drugged Driving Cases

Some drivers believe that because they were taking a “legal” over-the-counter or prescription medication that they are not liable for any car crash that occurred as the result of their use of the drug. This is patently false – even simply Tylenol or other over-the-counter drugs (not to mention prescription drugs) can result in liability for a car crash if the medication impaired the at-fault driver and that impairment led to the crash. The judge or jury will need to take into account any argument by the at-fault driver that he or she did not know how the medication would have impacted his or her ability to drive when determining the damages attributable to the at-fault driver.

Case Barnett Law, your Costa Mesa personal injury law firm, is available and able to provide professional, dedicated, and compassionate representation to victims who have been injured in a crash caused by a drugged driver. We aggressively build the best possible case for our clients from the moment we are retained so that our clients have the best opportunity of recovering full and fair compensation as quickly as possible. Call our office today at (940) 861-2990, or contact us online, if you or a loved one was injured in a car crash.

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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.

Missouri Finds CrossFit and Gym Liable for Exercise Injury

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A Missouri man has become the first individual to successfully sue CrossFit after an exercise at his local gym left him injured. The man was found 50 percent responsible for his injuries: CrossFit and a gym trainer involved in the accident were each found 25 percent responsible for the man’s injury accident. The man was attempting to perform a deadlift exercise, an exercise move in which the individual attempts to lift the maximum amount of weight he or she can. According to the lawsuit, the man attempted to lift the weight from the floor, felt a pain in his back, and then collapsed. As the gym trainer attempted to “roll out” the man’s back, the man complained that he could not feel his legs.

No Waiver Allows the Lawsuit to Proceed

Not all individuals in the same situation as this Missouri man are able to sue CrossFit and/or their local gym. CrossFit is a strenuous exercise program that if done incorrectly or by a person who is not in appropriate physical shape can cause serious injuries (like some other forms of exercise). Because of this, many gyms will have new members sign waivers of liability before allowing them to participate in the exercise program. These waivers are meant to shield the gym (and the parent company) from liability in the case the member gets injured.

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The Limits of Personal Injury Waivers

Even if the man in this story had signed a waiver before his injury, the wavier may not have been effective to prevent him from suing CrossFit and his gym. Waivers may be invalidated by the court where:

  •      The individual signing the waiver is not afforded an opportunity to learn of the risks he or she might face or the rights he or she is giving up, or he or she is not afforded an opportunity to consult with another before signing the waiver;
  •      The waiver is not clearly identified as a waiver of rights;
  •      The waiver requires the individual to give up all of his or her legal rights and affords the person no recourse in the event of any type of injury (for example, a waiver may not be effective in the case where someone intentionally causes injury to the signor); and/or
  •      The waiver is signed after an injury has occurred.

Tips for Individuals Looking to Join a Gym

Before starting a new exercise program or joining a gym, be sure to read any paperwork given to you carefully. If you are unsure as to the rights you are giving up, have a trusted friend or family member – or even an attorney – review the document with you. Signing these documents without reading them and considering the risks involved can leave you with a serious injury and no effective recourse for your losses and injury.

The southern California law firm of Case Barnett can assist you if you or your loved one have been injured in an accident at the gym or health club. Even if you believed you signed a waiver at the time you joined the gym, we may be able to successfully argue that the waiver is not effective, allowing your lawsuit to proceed. Contact Case Barnett Law at (949) 861-2990 or using the firm’s website to schedule your free case evaluation today.

When Do I Get My Personal Injury Compensation Award?

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Those injured in a serious personal injury accident – as well as the surviving family members of decedents killed in a fatal injury accident – usually have two overriding concerns on their minds when they visit with a personal injury law firm. First, these injury victims and family members want to know if they have a viable case. Answering this question requires our legal team to analyze the facts and circumstances of the person’s situation and utilize our knowledge of the law to render an informed opinion as to whether the person has a realistic opportunity to recover compensation for his or her injuries and losses.

The second most common question – and an equally compelling question, too – that injury victims want answered is this: “How long will it take to get my compensation award?” This is understandable considering that many injury victims are facing significant financial hardships due to medical bills and decreased wages. Unfortunately, it is not always as easy to determine when an injury victim will actually get the money in his or her hands.

If Your Case Settles Before Trial

If you and the at-fault party in your civil action decide to settle your case, then the settlement agreement will usually indicate when and how the defendant in your case is to pay you. This is typically true if you and the defendant settled the case yourselves or if a mediator assisted in brokering the agreement. Because a settlement agreement should be an enforceable contract, you should be entitled to additional damages and/or other legal relief if the defendant fails to pay within the time specified.

If You Win Your Case at Trial

If your case proceeds to trial and you prevail, the judge will enter an order fixing the amount of compensation the defendant must pay and the time within which he or she should pay. This timeframe can be paused if the defendant decides to appeal the trial’s result, legal issues that arose during the trial, and/or the amount of compensation ordered by the court. If the defendant does file an appeal, then the defendant is usually not required to pay until after the appeal has been resolved. Depending on the number of cases that must be decided before your own at the appellate level, this can take months or (in some cases) years.

If You Arbitrate Your Case

If you submit your case to an arbitrator, the arbitrator will fix the amount of time the defendant has to pay you. However, like a trial, the defendant may be permitted to appeal the arbitrator’s decisions to a court (and then appeal any adverse decisions the court makes to an appellate court). Again, it can take months – or even years – in order for the case to be finally resolved in your favor and the defendant to begin making payments.

Case Barnet Law Firm is a California personal injury firm committed to helping injury victims recover the compensation they need following a catastrophic personal injury accident. Contact the firm at (949) 861-2990 today for assistance, or complete our firm’s online contact form.

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.