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Personal Injury Blog

When Should You File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Thursday, November 28, 2019

When someone you love dies, it can be challenging to see the next steps forward. If the death was a freak accident or caused by something other than personal recklessness, you are probably wondering if there is any way in the world to make things right. Do you go to the police, or have the police already been and gone? Do you file a complaint? Can you file a civil lawsuit against the cause of your loved one's death if the legal system won't prosecute?

Today, we're here to answer that question. For anyone wondering if they can or should file a wrongful death suit in response to the death of their loved one, the criteria are fairly clear. Follow along with us as we explore the basics of wrongful death and you will find the answer to whether a wrongful death suit is right for your situation.

What is Wrongful Death?

Wrongful death is the legal term for a death that should not have occurred. A death that, if everyone was doing their jobs and being responsible, would not have occurred. In other words, it's a death for which blame lies somewhere. And that blame can be applied legally, if not criminally. The police will only open a criminal trial if the death was caused by blatant criminal action - like intentional murder or drunk driving. For all other types of incidental but not faultless deaths, the victims are responsible for taking the case to civil court to find justice.

Therefore, a wrongful death suit is the pursuit of justice. Holding the party responsible for the death accountable, even if their actions were not officially criminal. The result is almost always a money award to the surviving family members to help ease the pain and financial suffering of the loss of the deceased.

Determining Liability After a Death

The next question is one of liability. Liability means "legal responsibility" and is how the law determines if someone's death was just an accident or if someone else was legally responsible in a way that could have prevented the death. Here's a quick run-down of the most common forms of wrongful death liability.

Death Caused by Another's Actions

If someone else did something that caused the death, but their action wasn't criminal, then you may be able to sue them based on personal liability. A distracted driver pulled into the intersection while texting and hit the deceased. A motorboat cuts off a jet-ski in violation of the marina rules, a commuter opens their parked car door and 'doors' a cyclist, killing them. These are examples of personal liability where the defendant will be held accountable for absent-minded, irresponsible, or reckless behavior that caused the death.

Death Caused by Unsafe Property

A property owner is liable for injuries and deaths that occur on their property, to varying degrees of responsibility. The primary form of property-based negligence is if the property was somehow unsafe for it's intended use. An un-salted parking lot where someone slips and cracks their head. An unsafely stacked pile of merchandise that falls and crushes someone. Or a cracked unrepaired step that causes someones' foot to slip as the step down the stairs. These are all examples where property owners have created a potentially deadly situation through negligence.

Death Caused by Negligence of Responsibility

Another form of negligence liability is one where death is caused by the failure of responsibility. A four-wheeler rental that fails to inform customers on the safe use of the vehicle, a driving instructor who does not take an ailing student back up to the surface, or a daycare worker who failed to keep an eye on the children.

Death Caused by Breach of Contract

Then there are situations where the deceased had every reason to believe the liable party would ensure their safety through a contractual agreement. They may have needed certain safety equipment installed before a stunt, equipment that was not installed by the time of the event, for example.

Death on the Job

Then there's death that occurs on the job. In some states, your family may be eligible for death benefits through worker's comp. But these top out, don't pay emotional damages and close the door on suing the employer for harm-causing decisions. Instead, you may want to file a wrongful death suit where you could have a strong case that the employer was responsible for the circumstances of your loved' one's death.

Close Family Member Eligibility

Finally, there's the question of who can file a wrongful death suit. Most people don't know this, but only very close relatives can file the suit and be the recipient of any monetary rewards. The first tier is the surviving spouse or children. If they decline or are unavailable to file, parents may file. If they decline, siblings may file. And if they decline, domestic partners and more distant relatives may file. But the right to file goes in that order. 

If you are a friend and want to file on behalf of distant relatives, that is also a legal responsibility. But you will not be awarded the damages, those go to the family.

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Should you file a wrongful death suit? Here at Freeman & Freeman, we believe in finding justice for deaths that the criminal court can't address. If the case of your dead loved one is within these circumstances, then filing a wrongful death is the best way to get that justice. For more information, contact us today!


Will the Rideshare Million-Dollar Insurance Policy Cover My Uber or Lyft Accident?

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Much has been said about the one-million-dollar insurance policies carried by the leading rideshare companies of Uber and Lyft. These million-dollar policies are extended to protect every vehicle working on the clock for these ridesharing giants and the insurance coverage is even mandatory in several states. While a million-dollar policy sounds pretty extravagant, it's also absolutely necessary.

The insurance policy is how ridesharing brands take responsibility for their driver's actions, attention, and even intoxication. If a driver is on the clock, they and anyone who might be injured in a wreck with them is covered by the policy. Of course, there are also some pretty strict rules. Today, we're here to highlight just what the million-dollar policy covers in a real-world context. As an experienced rideshare attorney's office, we're here to help.

 

When is the Million-Dollar Rideshare Insurance Policy Active?

The Moment a Driver Accepts the Assignment

The million-dollar insurance policy is not covering all Uber or Lyft drivers all the time. Rather, it only covers drivers when they are officially on the job. Hanging around waiting for jobs does not count. This means that there is a specific moment when the insurance policy does become active. That moment is when the driver accepts the assignment to pick someone up. If they are hit or if they hit someone on the way to the pick-up, that incident is covered. And if an accident occurs involving the rideshare vehicle while ferrying the client, the damages to all will potentially be covered.

 

Who Does The Insurance Policy Cover?

The Passengers, and Any Additional Injured Parties, and Sometimes the Driver

Uber and Lyft's main goals with the insurance policy are to cover liability and damages for passengers and anyone who might be damaged by their drivers. This means that once your trip is accepted and you are on the policy, you are covered, Other drivers on the road are also covered if the accident is deemed the Uber driver's fault. An Uber or Lyft driver may make a claim on the company policy, but first, their claim has to be rejected by their personal policy with rideshare commercial endorsement.

So again: If you are a rideshare passenger or if you are in another vehicle hit by a rideshare driver, then the Uber or Lyft policies will cover injuries and damages if a strong claim is made. Drivers, however, must jump through hoops to have their injuries or vehicle damages covered by the policy.

 

My Uber/Lyft Got Into an Accident. Am I Covered by Their Insurance Policy?

Yes, Most Likely

You may be wondering what happens if you sign up for an Uber or Lyft ride, climb into the backseat, and then the vehicle experiences an accident. Are you covered? As mentioned above, the answer is most likely, yes. You are covered by the million-dollar insurance policy and able to make a claim against the rideshare company's insurance rather than against the driver themselves. You may have no problem with your driver and, in fact, it might not even be their fault.

 

My Uber/Lyft Driver was Not At Fault. Can I Still Claim my Injuries on the Million-Dollar Insurance Policy?

Yes, They Have Under-insured and Un-insured driver coverage.

Speaking of it not being the driver's fault, there are plenty of instances where a rideshare vehicle is severely damaged in a crash, not of their own doing. They may fail to slow down too fast or get slammed into by another vehicle.

If you have been injured in a rideshare accident where the injuries were not the fault of your driver, can you still make a serious claim against the insurance? Yes. You can and should. The rideshare million-dollar policy includes coverage for uninsured and overinsured drivers so that passengers can get the settlements they need even when the drivers at fault cannot pay.

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Have you been injured in a rideshare accident, or do you know someone who has? If so, contact our office today. We would be proud to help you tackle the complex process of making your rightful claim on that million-dollar insurance policy in order to get the treatment and damages payments you deserve.


The 7 Safety Tips for Riding Alone with Uber or Lyft

Thursday, November 14, 2019

When using a rideshare service like Uber or Lyft, it's important to take a few necessary safety precautions, and not just to be safe in case of a car accident. Uber accidents can happen to anyone, and with a responsible rideshare driver, you are at just as much risk as driving yourself. But some of the most horrifying Uber and Lyft related disasters are what happens when a rider travels alone without taking precautions to keep themself safe from the driver themselves. Riders have been picked up by the wrong car and kidnapped or attacked by their registered Uber or Lyft drivers in extreme circumstances.

Men and women, young and old, riding alone means you should show the same kind of caution as accepting a ride home from a friend-of-a-friend who you don't know personally. Some things are just common sense, but there's also a procedure you can go through specifically for Uber and Lyft to make sure you are as safe as possible. 

 

Step 1: Text a Friend

Between ordering your ride and your driver arriving, text a friend. Text three friends if you're not sure your best friend is awake or checking their phone. Let them know that you're getting an Uber and how long to wait before expecting to hear from you again. This is sort of like the safe-date policy. If your friend doesn't hear that you've arrived safely in a reasonable amount of time, they'll know to alert the authorities.

This is a smart safety step just in case you run into a personal problem with the driver or your Uber car gets into an accident and you are unable to send your second text.

 

Step 2: Check the License Plate

When a car arrives that you think is your Uber, don't just get in. Your Uber order will tell you the license plate of the car you're expecting. Only get into a car with the exact same license plates. If the driver says they're using another car that day, cancel the ride and call a new one with matching plates.

 

Step 3: Check the Driver

Next, check the photo and name of the driver. Look at the driver and make sure it appears to be the same person. Then ask the driver's name. Do not say "Are you Steven?", ask their name. If they say the correct name and have the correct appearance, get in. If not, cancel the ride and order another.

 

Step 4: Get into the Backseat & Buckle Up

Don't get into the front seat. A surprising number of passengers have been assaulted by sitting too close to the driver. We advise riders alone get into the back passenger-side seat so that you are the furthest from the driver and secure in a real buckling seat. Then buckle up. The seatbelt will keep you safe in the event of an accident.

 

Step 5: Say You Are Expected at Your Destination

Don't share your personal information with the driver. Do tell the driver that someone is waiting for you at your destination. Even if you're going home to an empty house, being expected will make it less likely for a driver to be tempted to attack or kidnap you. It sounds dramatic, but it happens more often than anyone would care to admit.

 

Step 6: Share Your Trip with the Same Friend

In your app, there is an option to share your trip with a friend. Share. It doesn't matter with who, as long as they are awake and care about your safety. They can see your trip, your driver, and your ETA (estimated time of arrival) without downloading the app. This gives you an extra line of defense and makes being expected digitally real.

 

Step 7: Keep Your Phone Ready to Call 911

Finally, keep your phone in your hand and on the dial page. Be ready to call 911 at any moment. Whether you are in an accident or if the driver gives you a reason to be afraid, being ready to call 911 will ensure that the police will be on their way ASAP. If you start to get a bad feeling, quietly dial 911 and keep your thumb over the call button. 

 

 

Rideshare accidents happen, both car wrecks and disasters between drivers and riders. If you have been in an Uber or Lyft accident, whether or not it is related to a driver attacking you, please contact us today.


How is Liability Determined for a Golf Ball Injuries?

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Golf ball injuries can be severe. Golf balls are small, heavy, and falling from great heights can increase the potential severity of any injuries caused. This increases the risk of serious head injury and even damage to critical brain functions. Bodily impact can also leave welts and even break bones with the added velocity of the ball falling from a great height.

If you or someone you know has been injured by a golf ball or suffered a sport-related golfing accident, the question of liability is a complex one. There is a fine line between the natural assumption of risk and factors that extend beyond the sport. Today, we'll help you discover whether your case can be taken to civil court.

 

Natural Risk of the Sport

Golf liability falls under the laws that define sport participation. When participants play in a shared sport, they legally accept the assumed risks of the activity. Golf players cannot sue one another for things that happen in the natural course of the game.

Assuming the natural risk of the sport includes the occasional stray golf ball.

 

Reckless Straying from Game Activity

Golfers play in a very careful and specific way. Each may have a different favorite club or type of swing, but the rules are the same. Activities outside those defined by the game that results in injury can be deemed reckless straying from the game. Therefore, these activities fall outside the assumed risk of the sport.

- Horseplay and Roughhousing

Horseplay and roughhousing are never part of the intended conduct of golf. Any injury that is the result of roughhousing or horseplay is subject to personal liability laws.

- Thrown Golf Balls and Equipment

If you are hit by a thrown golf ball, or any other thrown equipment, then the person who has thrown these objects is liable for causing harm outside the normal sporting risks.

- Swinging Golf Clubs

Golf club injuries may be considered liable even if they occur during normal play. 

 

Aggressive Defiance of Safety Protocols

The next type of liable golf ball injury is when someone is playing the game, but are doing so in defiance of safety protocols. Liability can be assumed if the person who tees off did not check the 'zone of danger' first, did not announce their swing, or was probably aiming for people rather than the open fairway.

- Hitting Balls Toward a Person or Crowd

If a player hits (or throws) a golf ball deliberately in a direction that could cause harm, even if their goal was not to cause harm, they are liable for injuries that result from that action.

- Driving While Golfers are on the Fairway

A golfer who tees off before the fairway is clear or who fails to shout is thus liable for any injuries they cause by defying safety protocols.

 

Injuries Caused by Golf Course Design

When someone is injured by a golf ball, the golf course itself must also be examined for liability. Flaws in the course design can make it more difficult or even impossible for players to know when they are putting one another at risk, or are themselves at risk from an unseen player.

- Spectator Safety Areas

In most cases, the golf course is liable for ensuring that spectators at an event are aware of where they can safely stand or sit to watch. Spectators who leave the designated safe areas, however, may waive the venue's liability.

- Holes Too Close Together

If the course holes are too close together, errant balls hit for long flight are much more likely to accidentally hit someone golfing at a different hole. There is always some risk from hole to hole, but there are also regulations to ensure safety.

- Obscuring Terrain Hiding Players on Fairway

The landscaping design of each hole also matters for course safety. A course that creates dangerous obscured sections of the fairway may be liable for injuries that result from this literal oversight.

 

Injuries Outside the Golf Course

Finally, there are golf ball injuries that occur outside of a golf course. People walking alongside golf courses often are not aware that there is golf nearby and/or have not taken on the natural assumption of risk for being near the sport. The legal owner of the path itself will often determine whether or not the golf course can be held liable. Players who intentionally hit balls over the edge are almost assuredly liable for defying the rules of the game.

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If you or someone you know has recently suffered a golf ball or golfing related injury, you can seek justice. Many golfing injuries are caused by misconduct, reckless negligence, or poor course design. Contact us today to discuss the details of your case and find out if those responsible for your injury can be held liable for their conduct.



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From our offices in Woodland Hills, California, Freeman & Freeman, LLP, provides legal advice and representation for clients in communities throughout the state, including those in Burbank, Glendale, Encino, Sherman Oaks, Van Nuys, Tarzana, Santa Clarita, Agoura Hills, Reseda, Canoga Park, Chatsworth, Northridge, Granada Hills, Pacoima, Panorama City, North Hollywood, Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, Lancaster, Palmdale and Alhambra.