Fourth Of July Aftermath: Personal Injury Claims For Firework Accidents

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While many of us associate the Fourth of July with fireworks and fun, the unfortunate reality is that thousands of people sustain firework-related injuries every year on Independence Day. Unfortunately, this year a nine-year-old girl in Southern California was seriously injured when fireworks exploded next to her at Burrell-MacDonald Park in Compton. According to the South Gate-Lynwood Patch, the little girl lost fingers on her right hand, suffered burns on her face, and injured her left hand so badly that it had to be amputated. While it is unclear at this time whether or not the little girl’s family will file a personal injury claim on her behalf, it is important for the public to know that victims who are injured in firework accidents may be able to recover damages for their injuries by filing a personal injury claim.

 

Personal Injury Claims To Recoup For Firework-Related Injuries

 

Determining whether some individual or company can legally be held liable for your firework-related injury can be complicated as there are a number of different legal theories that may apply. For example, one legal theory of liability that often applies in these types of personal injury cases is the legal concept of negligence. The theory of negligence can be a bit complicated but essentially holds a party liable for injuries sustained by the victim if that party failed to exercise the level of care that a reasonable person would have been expected to exercise given the circumstances. Essentially, a person is often deemed to have acted negligently if they acted in a careless manner and as a result someone else was hurt. For example, if a teenager intentionally shoots a firework at his friend and that friend is injured when the firework explodes in his face, a court would likely find that the teenager acted negligently and is liable for his friend’s injuries. Determining liability can be tricky and therefore it is always a good idea to consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer about your claim.

 

Safety Tips

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According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s 2015 Annual Firework Report, an estimated 11,900 people went to the hospital due to firework-related injuries in 2015 and 11 people died. Given the prevalence of firework-related injuries across the United States, it is a good idea to review the American Pyrotechnics Association (APA) list of safety tips before lighting those leftover Fourth of July fireworks that are sitting in your garage. A few of the APA’s key safety tips include:

  • Read all instructions carefully before lighting your fireworks,
  • Never let children light fireworks without supervision,
  • Only light one firework at a time,
  • Always have a water bucket and a connected water hose close by, and
  • Do not ever aim fireworks at people.

 

While safety should always be a top priority, also keep in mind that not all types of fireworks are legal, and that fireworks are not legal everywhere in California. You can check out a brief summary of California’s firework laws here.

 

How Can We Help?

 

If you have sustained a firework-related injury and are interested in pursuing a personal injury claim, contact the Case Barnett Law Firm today for a free consultation. Our Southern California personal injury lawyers are happy to help you and can be reached at (949) 861-2990.


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Case Barnett Law Settles Trip and Fall Case for $ 4.3 Million Dollars

Dr. B vs. Homeowner’s Association

Case Barnett Law Corporation

 

Verdict: Defendant found Liable by jury

Settlement: 4.3 Million Dollars

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It’s not often that an attorney settles a trip and fall case for $4.3 million, but in 2016, Case Barnett Law did. Dr. RB lived in a posh Orange County neighborhood paying over $700 a month in monthly homeowner’s association dues. A water meter box was continually broken in front of his home. Dr. RB complained to his homeowner’s association about the broken water meter box on multiple occasions.

After a day at work, Dr. RB returned in the evening and parked his car in the driveway. He exited the car to get his mail. His second step went in to the broken water meter cover causing serious injuries including a traumatic brain injury and severed tendons in his hand.

The defendants repeatedly passed responsibility among each other and pointed the finger back at Dr. RB for not fixing it himself, and for knowing about it, but failing to avoid it. The liability issues were complicated because of the covenants, codes and restrictions (the CC&R’s), the governing documents for the homeowner’s association and the HOA’s attempts to shift responsibility to the homeowners. CC&R’s give HOA’s the ability to make their own laws and distribute responsibilities. A close inspection of these governing documents is essential to suing any homeowner’s association.

Four of the five defendants acknowledged their safety failings before trial. One defendant did not. A jury dropped the hammer on the remaining defendant. At the end of the trial, the combined defendants were forced to pay $4.3 million to the plaintiff. Be safe. Don’t endanger others. If you do, Case Barnett law will force you to face the consequences.

Nursing Home Saves Money at the Expense of its Patients. Ends up Being a $1 Million Dollar Mistake.

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L.F. v. Nursing Home

Case Barnett Law Corporation

Settlement: 1 Million Dollars

A lucrative nursing home in Orange County decided to save money on nursing staff. The nursing homes make more money by hiring fewer nurses than needed to provide appropriate care. Patients are then left in their own feces and urine for hours at a time. These patients frequently develop bedsores and other humiliating and painful injuries because they aren’t helped. Case Barnett Law made this facility pay.
91 year old L.F. ends up in the emergency room septic, with a bed sore, a 102 degree fever and a soiled diaper. She had been essentially forgotten about and left to die. Then, adding insult to injury, the nursing staff “backdated” their notes writing that they had recently bathed her and she had rolled herself in a wheelchair to the cafeteria smiling and laughing.
For two years the nursing facility refused to accept responsibility only offering $30,000, nuisance value to make the lawsuit go away. The family and Case Barnett Law refused to accept this. Like L.F., they are fighters. Case Barnett Law took more than 20 depositions and engaged in vigorous discovery to prove that the nursing home had neglected this beautiful woman. As part of the resolution, the facility must pay $1,000,000 to the family of L.F. and was forced to make changes in order to prevent this from happening to any one else ever again.

What To Do If You Are In A Rainy Day Car Accident

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With four El Niño-fueled storms currently bearing down on California we expect to see more accidents on the road. El Niño 2016 will have a profound affect on the climate as well as on driver’s safety while on the wet roads. While there are many steps you can take to avoid a rainy day car accident, not all accidents will be prevented.

Often time accidents can be minor and handled in small claims court.  However, what should you do if you are injured in a car accident?  Case Barnett Law can help you recover the compensation you deserve.

If you have been in an accident that was not your fault, you may be eligible for damages.

If you were injured in a car accident, you can ask the other drivers insurance to pay you a cash settlement. If that driver was not insured, you may request this settlement against your own under-insured motorist coverage on your own insurance, if you have this coverage.

Insurance companies may put pressure on you to rush the process after you have been in an accident.  They may make you feel that you do not have a case and that you will not be awarded any financial compensation for your accident.  There is no rush but you do need to be aware of your state’s Statute of Limitations.  The Statute of Limitations means that you must file a lawsuit or close or settle your case within your state time limits. The time clock starts on the day of the car accident. In California the statute of limitations is 2 years for injury and 3 years for property damage. To learn more about your State’s insurance rules and regulations visit California State Website for Insurance Questions.

After a car accident NEVER sign any documentation with the insurance companies in exchange for cash, until you have finished your medical treatment. By contacting an attorney at Case Barnett Law you will be protected through this process.

After you sign a release to close this case, no matter how serious your injuries in the future, you cannot go back for more treatment, or compensation, even if you made a mistake.

How To Make Sure You Receive Proper Compensation After A Car Accident

  • File a police report.
  • Seek medical attention quickly.
    • Visit the emergency room or your physician as soon as possible after an accident if you are injured.
  • Be aware of any pre-existing injuries that you are claiming became worse as a result of the accident.
    • Ask your physician to take new x-rays or ultrasounds of those injured areas. Comparisons in the pre-accident and post-accident scans can help show that the accident caused additional damage to the area. This will be crucial in court.
  • Avoid emotional statements that you make to other drivers or passengers after the accident.
    • Keep in mind that although your emotions might be intense following a car accident, you should avoid making promises or statements of blame.
  • Take witness testimonies.
  • Take photographs of the accident scene.
  • Gather up any records and documents that validate the number of days and wages you lost due to the accident.
  • Be aware of any personal injury limits written into your car insurance policy.
  • Take notes on anything you can remember about the accident as soon as you are physically able.
  • Document your injuries.
    • Take photographs and get medical attention to provide evidence of the seriousness of your injuries.
  • Contact witnesses.
    • If you collected witness contact information at the time of the accident, contact them as soon as possible to get their observations down on paper.
  • Return to the scene of the accident to search for and take pictures of evidence.
    • You may notice something, such as a dirty traffic sign, that led you to make a driving mistake and get into a car accident.

Damages In Car Accident Personal Injury Cases

Damages refer to the cost of your injuries. These can be a direct financial cost or an emotional and indirect cost.

  • Direct damages.
    • Cost of medical bills.
    • Lost wages.
    • Loss of earning capacity.
    • Property loss.
  • Indirect damages. 
    • Pain and suffering.
    • Emotional distress.
    • Inability to have children as a result of accident-related injuries.
    • Loss of an extremity.
    • Loss of consortium, if the accident caused a strain on your relationship.

If the defendant was especially careless when causing the accident, you may also receive punitive damages, which are meant to punish the defendant, and are imposed by the court.

If you have questions about damages or your personal injury case in general, speak to an attorney at Case Barnett Law.

 

Case Barnett Law Featured in the Daily Journal- Personal Injury: Premises Liability Settlement

Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 11.34.18 AMVERDICTS & SETTLEMENTS

Friday, November 20, 2015

PERSONAL INJURY

PREMISES LIABILITY

Dangerous Condition

SETTLEMENT: $3,800,00.00

COURT/DATE: Riverside Superior/Aug. 10, 2015

JUDGE: Hon. John Vineyard

ATTORNEYS: Plaintiff- Case C. Barnett, Case Barnett Law Corporation, Schumann Rosenberg, Defendant- Daley & Heft LLP

FACTS: Audio/Visual technician Scharf, 58, volunteered to install electrical wiring at his church Calvary Chapel Temecula Valley, in Temecula.  On January 25,2005, Scharf fell off the top of a wall as he was trying to install cable and wiring inside the church.

PLAINTIFFS’ CONTENTIONS: Plaintiffs contended that defendant church and Pastor Nelson were negligent in their operation and management of a construction project at the church. Plaintiff claimed that because of the mismanagement of the project, Scharf was left alone on a Sunday night on a short timeline without adequate tools or supplies to complete the project he was requested to perform.

Plaintiff’s wife allegedly found her husband lying unconscious on the floor with blood and cerebral spinal fluid around his head. The Scharfs sued the church, the officer and director of the church, the owner of the premises, and the general contractor and its owner under various negligence causes of action as well as promissory estoppel and loss of consortium.

DEFENDANTS’ CONTENTIONS: Defendants contended that Scharf was negligent while performing the installation work.

INJURIES: Scharf claimed he fractured his skull, nose, and knee and broke several bones in his shoulder. He was in a coma for approximately three weeks. Plaintiff underwent knee replacement surgery. Plaintiff was later diagnosed with brain injury. The injury allegedly triggered a server mood disorder that was accompanied by psychosis, intense anger and paranoia. Scharf also allegedly showed symptoms of dementia.

RESULT: The jury found Calvary Chapel Temecula Valley and Nelson 49 percent liable and Scharf 51 percent liable.

The parties settled for $3.8 million prior to the damages phase of trial. The breakdown of damages included $2 million for life care and planning and $1.8 million for pain and suffering.

Pain and Suffering: The Dangers of Opposing a Bio-mechanical Expert in a Personal Injury Trial

 

Losing hurts. Every time, losing hurts. We, as plaintiffs’ trial attorneys, do what we do for a number of reasons. Money is obviously one of them. But what people forget about the civil justice system, is the word justice. People, who have been injured because of someone else’s negligence, need justice. True justice would be hitting the rewind button and turning back time to before the incident that caused the injury. To return them to their previous lives. But we can’t do this. So, we are left with imperfect justice. Money Justice. But money justice still speaks volumes to the community, and to the person or people who were injured.

Money justice lets someone who has been hurt know, we understand your suffering, and we appreciate your suffering. It lets them know we value your life and what you have lost and how things will never be the same. Justice is sometimes a tiny pinhole of light in otherwise complete darkness, or a bright, hot burning sun that lights every inch. Either way, justice is what keeps us pushing forward.

Money justice also lets the negligent parties know that the community will not tolerate their actions. The community will not stand for actions that endanger its brothers and sisters.

My jury this week returned a defense verdict. It was devastating. It was devastating because I believe in justice. It was devastating because I love my client and his family. It was devastating because the verdict was wrong. It was devastating because I could have been better, and if I was better, we could have won.

The case comes out of a collision on the 405 freeway at dusk in June of 2012. My client was rear ended and shoved into the car in front of him. My client was 39 years old at the time of the crash and a DMV supervisor. He was and is married to his high school sweetheart.

The jury asked after the trial why we didn’t call a biomechanical expert like the defense had hired and presented to the jury. The truth is that at that level of impact, no fair and competent expert can say whether the forces caused or didn’t cause the injury. But, the defense expert, someone who testifies for the defense 90% of the time, opined that there was a 0% chance this impact caused this injury. It is garbage. He is not a medical doctor. He uses outdated studies, with general results, and tries to apply them to the specific and unique facts of our case.

I need to get better at handling this junk science. I need to get better at handling this garbage. I trusted that a jury would understand the potential for abuse that an expert like this poses. One juror, after the trial, perfectly articulated the problems with this expert. She said to me, anyone who is paid enough money can manipulate numbers to say whatever they want. Exactly. I thought it was enough that my client never had pain before the crash. My client was in constant pain from the time of the crash, until he had spinal fusion surgery 2 years later. He exhausted all of the more conservative treatments. He is honest. He is hardworking. And the jury said they liked him and his family. But they got hung up on the biomechanical expert and on the substantial factor jury instruction. I believe we had the wrong 12 (or at least the wrong 9) people to hear this case.

I will save a separate blog post to discuss the substantial factor instruction but I think my main failings in this case revolved around my voir dire and the selection of jurors. For now, I just pray for my client and his wife and their 18 month old son that they still see the light of justice, even if it is only a pinhole at the moment. We will file a motion for new trial and JNOV. There is still hope. The jury’s decision did not conform to the evidence.

Can I Sue If I Was Hurt Or Injured Volunteering?

Scharf v. Calvary Chapel-Traumatic Brain Injury Settlement Won by Case Barnett Law Corporation

​Verdict: Church Found 49% Responsible

Settlement: 3.8 Million Dollars-

Churches must acknowledge the pastor/congregant dynamic and ensure that the desires of their followers to serve the church, doesn’t overcome safety precautions. CACI 401 discusses the basic standard of care in negligence cases. The last line instructs the jury, “You must decide how a reasonably careful person would have acted in defendant’s situation.” The key part of the instruction is in defendant’s situation.

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January 25, 2005, Dennis Scharf, a low voltage electrician had volunteered to run low voltage electrical for his church as part of a church remodel. On Sunday, Dennis arrived at church to be told by the head pastor that there was still work left to be completed, and the work must be completed that night. Mr. Scharf, feeling the pressure to please his church, his pastor and his God, spent the evening completing the job. Dennis ended up falling from a wall of approximately 12 feet, landing on his head suffering a serious traumatic brain injury. After clawing his way back from he edge of death, Dennis Scharf still suffered from serious cognitive and emotional deficits.

After more than eight years of litigation Case Barnett Law took the reigns of this case in 2013. We decided to change the theory of the case to better reflect the true shortcomings of the church and its lead pastor. We argued:

1) The reasonable person standard of CACI 401 means a reasonable pastor needs to acknowledge and account for his influence in the Church.

2) A reasonable pastor needs to ensure that his congregants are not unnecessarily exposing themselves to harm for the betterment of the Church.

3) A volunteer is an employee and should be protected by Cal-Osha standards.

4) A church assumes the responsibility for the safety of a worksite, when they choose not to hire licensed individuals.

The third issue would have meant that any Cal-Osha violations by the Church would have made them strictly liable for any injuries suffered by Dennis Scharf because of those violations. Ultimately, the court found that Dennis Scharf, as a volunteer was not a statutory employee and therefor not entitled to the protections of Cal-Osha. This issue is novel, as there are no cases directly on point. But, theoretically, if you have an individual, performing work that requires a license, and that individual does not have a license, then that individual becomes an employee pursuant to labor code section 2750.5. But, the court found that a volunteer, who is unpaid, does not get those protections (while someone paid, who is unlicensed, would get the protections).

Ultimately, the jury found that the general negligence of the church and pastor under theories 1, 2 and 4. The church had received a quote to get the work done for $35,000. The Church choose to With this decision, the Church assumed responsibility for the safe construction of the Church.

The defense in the case moved to bifurcate liability and damages. At first, we opposed the motion under the general theory that plaintiffs want the liability and damages issue to buttress each other. After further consideration, we withdrew our opposition to the motion, and decided that a jury would be more likely to put a greater liability on the church, if the amount the plaintiff was claiming in recover was not before the jury.

After 2 weeks of trial, a Riverside jury returned a liability verdict against the Church finding Dennis Scharf 51% responsible, and the Church and the Pastor 49% responsible.

The insurance company had rejected multiple offers to settle this case at or below the policy limits of $1million. Facing a potential substantial verdict, the insurance company came to the table willing to negotiate.

Rather than spend several more years in litigation regarding this case, and then trying to collect against the insurance company in a bad faith claim, plaintiffs agreed to settle all claims for $3.8 million. This settlement was nothing short of a miracle given that the case had been thrown out on appeal and the highest defense offer was $200,000.

If you have been injured in an accident contact Case Barnett Law for a free consultation.

Can I Sue For A Slip and Fall In A Public Place?

Dr. Beltran vs. Homeowner’s Association-Traumatic Brain Injury Settlement Won by Case Barnett Law

CorporationSettlement: 2.5 Million Dollars

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It’s not often that an attorney settles a trip and fall case for $2 million, but in 2015, Case Barnett Law did. Dr. RB lived in a posh Orange County neighborhood paying over $700 a month in monthly homeowner’s association dues. A water meter box was continually broken in front of his home. Dr. RB complained to his homeowner’s association about the broken water meter box on multiple occasions.

After a day at work, Dr. RB returned in the evening and parked his car in the driveway. He exited the car to get his mail. His second step went in to the broken water meter cover causing serious injuries including a traumatic brain injury and severed tendons in his hand.

The defendants repeatedly passed responsibility amongst each other and pointed the finger back at Dr. RB for not fixing it himself, and for knowing about it, but failing to avoid it. The liability issues were complicated because of the covenants, codes and restrictions (the CC&R’s), the governing documents for the homeowner’s association and the HOA’s attempts to shift responsibility to the homeowners. CC&R’s give HOA’s the ability to make their own laws and distribute responsibilities. A close inspection of these governing documents is essential to suing any homeowner’s association.

We were able to settle four of five defendants for $2 million before trial, leaving one defendant who refused to accept any responsibility. This defendant, insured by Liberty Mutual, insisted its client had zero fault. A jury of 12 Orange County Citizens disagreed and found the last defendant 32% responsible. The case currently waits for the damages phase to begin. Case Barnett Law will be seeking damages of more than $10 million. Insurance companies never learn.

If you have been injured in an accident contact Case Barnett Law for a free consultation.