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Personal Injury Blog

Sovereign Immunity in School Bus Accident Cases

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Like many parents, you put your child on the school bus each day and trust the driver to get them there safely. In most cases, your children will get to school just fine day after day. However, a child injured in a school bus accident can be just as jarring as it is unexpected. However, while a school bus may look like your usual auto accident, it is actually much more complex due to the potential for sovereign immunity that can bar you from recovering compensation for your child's injuries.

What is Sovereign Immunity?

The reason that a school bus accident is more complex than your standard auto accident is not because of the potential number of young victims, but rather because the school district is protected by sovereign immunity. Sovereign, or governmental immunity is what protects governmental entities from liability in civil issues. If your school district owns its buses, then as a school-owned entity, those buses are considered protected by this immunity in the case of accidents.

The good news is that sovereign immunity is often waived in school bus cases where the government employee – the bus driver – was responsible for the accident. Unfortunately, this is what makes the actual legal action more complex. If your child was hurt in a school bus accident, you must first notify the attorney general of your intent to sue. They will examine the accident and determine if they will waive sovereign immunity for it. If it is decided that the case can proceed, you are limited to filing an accident lawsuit against the school district within the next two years. The part that often limits the families of victims of a school bus accident is that you have only 72 hours after the accident to notify the government entity – the school district – of your intent to contact the attorney general.

Do All School Bus Actions Need Sovereign Immunity Waived?

If your child has been injured in a school bus accident, you might not need to worry about sovereign immunity. If you examine the accident report or talk to police officers that handled the accident, you will get a good idea of what caused it. If it was school bus driver negligence, then that is covered by sovereign immunity.

However, if a bus accident was caused by another auto driver, a malfunction of the bus that was due to the lack of maintenance or from the manufacturer, or unanticipated issues like icy roads – these are not covered by sovereign immunity. In these circumstances, you can pursue the case as you would any other personal injury case. If the accident was caused by another auto driver's negligence, they are liable. If the bus malfunctioned from faulty parts, you can pursue legal action against the manufacturer of the bus, the manufacturer of a specific failed part, or those responsible for maintenance. Unfortunately, if unexpected weather caused the accident, there isn't much you can do unless you discover negligence in preventing it.

Need Help?

Has your child been in a school bus accident? You will likely be highly focused on making sure they are okay after such a traumatic and serious event, but you will also want to make sure you are taken care of financially. While school buses are designed to be safe, if a child has been seriously hurt, their recovery can cost quite a bit – and you shouldn't be left paying for it. Contact us today to see what we can do to help you. The Law Office of Freeman & Freeman can help you examine your case to determine liability in order to get you the compensation that your accident deserves.

Can You Seek Punitive Damages After a Trucking Accident?

Friday, May 08, 2020

If you have been in an accident with a truck, it was likely a major accident. As trucks are often of a significant size and with a lot of power behind them, few regular drivers come out unscathed from such an accident. If you have had to endure this accident, you will be entitled to compensatory damages. This monetary amount is meant to make you whole, as if the accident has never happened. This means your medical bills and auto damages will be covered so you aren't left paying any bills. However, in certain circumstances, you may have another form of compensation available to you – punitive damages.

Punitive damages are much like how they sound – they are compensation meant to punish the wrongdoing party for their negligence. However, your entitlement to punitive damages is not guaranteed after a trucking accident. As the saying goes, accidents happen. When it is indeed a true accident, the courts find no reason to punish either party. However, if the accident was caused maliciously, intentionally, fraudulently, or recklessly through the actions of the truck driver or company, this opens up the option for punitive compensation.

When Can You Receive Punitive Damages From a Truck Accident?

In many circumstances, a truck accident is just a more dramatic auto accident. However, if you discovered there was various other factors at play in the accident, you could seek punitive compensation. Solid examples of truck accidents open to punitive damages include:

  • Drunk Driving – If the truck driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they were not only acting illegally, but recklessly. As the acceptable BAC level for CDL drivers is even lower than the standard .08 percent, any drinking is likely to build a strong case for reckless driving.
  • Destroying Evidence – The issue with seeking punitive damages is that you will need to provide evidence that there was malicious, fraudulent, intentional, or reckless action. This can be difficult when a trucking company is circling the wagons to protect themselves. If the truck in the accident just happened to be missing its black box or various maintenance records are missing, there is some fraud going on.
  • Regulation Violations – This can be the most difficult circumstance for punitive damages to prove. In this situation, you would need to prove that a company forewent various regulations on purpose and not just on accident. If there is a long record of non-regular maintenance, for example, this can help. However, one missed maintenance appointment can be a weak case.
  • Employment of Unsafe Drivers – It is a company's responsibility to do background checks on their drivers to ensure proper driving history and one without any red flags for substance abuse. If a trucking company employed a driver with a long history of DUIs, this was just asking for an accident to happen. They failed to do their due diligence when hiring a driver when, if they had, the accident may have been prevented.

If your accident with a truck falls into these circumstances or others that are equally as fishy, your compensation options are not only limited to medical bills and auto damages, but can include damages that serve to punish the company as well. However, it will require gathering the proper evidence of wrongdoing first, something that can be quite difficult to do if you are trying to navigate these legal waters on your own.

 If you have been in a truck accident and want to see what your options for compensation are, contact us today. The Law Office of Freeman & Freeman is dedicated to helping you become whole after serious and traumatic accidents.


Six Techniques to Avoid Hospital Readmission - Part 2

Thursday, April 02, 2020

[Continued from Part 1]

 

4) Learn the Recovery Plan Instructions with a Friend

Don't rely on your own memory as the sole source of detailed care instructions. Two sets of ears listening and two brains remembering is better than one. You can benefit from another person at home who fully understands your care instructions. Anyone you talk to regularly can help with medication reminders and encouragement to stick to the recovery plan as defined by the doctor.

Try to have a friend or relative present when you get the explanation for outpatient care routine. Having someone else who can recite "what the doctor said" can be a huge help, especially if you tend to be forgetful or have trouble keeping track of the layered recovery tasks. When a spouse, adult child, or friend can remind you to take the right meds at the right times or go through certain physical therapy techniques, it can make a real difference. You will also have an easily accessible person to ask if you forget or get confused.

When receiving a complex and layered recovery plan or a plan built from various sources, it can also help you to build a cohesive set of recovery plan instructions. This should layer all medications, treatments, and advised lifestyle changes from each medical professional you have worked with.

 

5) Build a Comprehensive Schedule for Physical Therapy and Follow-Up Appointments

Another major cause of hospital readmission is a failure to understand the recovery plan schedule. After a serious personal injury, patients are often told in a disjointed way when to go to physical therapy, when to schedule follow-up appointments, and when to come in for an additional test. Instead of giving them three separate schedules, build a comprehensive recovery plan schedule with all the important dates mapped out visually.

Craft the complete schedule in an app or draw it on a single calendar. Make sure there is one unified place your patients can check to know if a check-up appointment, test, or physical therapy session is coming up in the next week. This way, you don't have to compare three or four different calendars and listed dates to maintain a complete care schedule.

 

6) Be Prepared for Follow-Up Support Services

Finally, be prepared to sometimes need reinforcements. If you want to stay out of the hospital, it may be necessary to seek little extra help at home. Some patients may need a physician to check on them in the home if they can't or won't make it to follow-up appointments. Some might need temporary or long-term in-home care assistance. Some might need meal plans delivered. Whatever you need, having this help provided can help to avoid hospital readmission.

While many services can be provided through your primary care provider's facilities, it is often smart to find additional local providers as well. The more options that are close-to-home, the more likely you are to make use of important follow-up services that will keep you out of the hospital.

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After you've been released from the hospital for injury recovery, one of your biggest goals is avoiding hospital readmission. The last thing you want is to deal with accidental re-injury, complications, or illness made possible by your recovery state. Here at Freeman & Freeman, we're dedicated to helping you get the personal injury settlement you deserve and we'd like to help you reach a full and rewarding recovery. We hope these tips will help you take better care of yourself or of a loved one who has recently experienced a serious personal injury. Contact us today for more personal injury insights or to consult on your injury case.


Six Techniques to Avoid Hospital Readmission - Part 1

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Six Techniques to Avoid Hospital Readmission - Part 1

When you are released from the hospital after a serious injury or illness, hospital readmission is one of the biggest considered risks. While it's true that people often recover more completely at home, you also want to avoid re-injury or a return of symptoms that force them back into monitored care. Your medical provider can help you take control of your recovery and avoid costly and time-consuming readmission.


Hospital readmission occurs when a condition relapses or when a recovery plan fails and the patient needs to go back under constant medical care again.  In post-acute care, this can be the aftermath of a surgery, recovery from a severe illness, or just managing a serious medical condition that has periods of severity. Post-acute care patients can take care of themselves at home, but only with the right tools and support from their healthcare providers.

No matter what injury or illness took you to the hospital, it's up to you to keep yourself healthy and maintain their outpatient care. As a personal injury law firm, we see many clients who are also currently patients in recovery. Let us share a few of the best tips to keep yourself from needing hospital readmission once you're home for a more comfortable recovery.

 

1) Understand the Risk of Readmission

Start by making sure you understand that readmission is a risk. Many patients see recovery as a one-way road, not understanding that there is a significant risk of winding up back in the hospital if they start skipping pills or taking risks. Explain how their condition relates to the risk of readmission and what they can do best to continue recovering comfortably at home. Ask your provider to give examples of how everyday situations can lead to readmission due to a return of their illness, injury, or other medical complications. Be sure to understand the exact ways that you might be at risk of hospital readmittance and how to avoid those risks with smart outpatient care and self-care.

 

2) Get a Final Check-Up Before Hospital Release

A patient should never be released from the hospital or care facility without a final check-up. Make absolutely certain that you (or your released loved one) are physically healthy and ready to depart on the day they check out. Even if you were healthy the day before. This is also a good time to get an explanation of readmission risk.

Make sure they take your blood pressure, check the basic systems, and do a final round of blood tests just to be sure that you or your friend are healthy enough to leave. Make sure that questions of feelings are asked, as sometimes the biggest warning signs are things only the patient can tell, and patients don't know that sharing these sensations can be important. Patients are also more likely to stay engaged with their recovery plan if they are engaged all the way out the door.

 

3) Understand Your Medications and How to Take Them as Prescribed

One of the most common causes of hospital readmission in outpatient post-acute care is a failure to follow instructions taking prescribed medicine. It's easy to forget how many, on which day, or which ones to take with food. Patients get busy, they forget or don't really want to take their medication. Even if you are eager to tackle a home health regime, you may make mistakes if you don't fully understand the instructions.

Patients are more likely to get it right if they fully understand before they leave the hospital. Make sure you understand not only how to take your meds, but what each medication does and why to take them as prescribed. Quiz yourself on identifying each pill by size, shape, and color. This way, you know what you're taking even if labels or pill-savers get mixed up. Adding context and routine to the mix will help you build the medication instructions into your daily life and remember the steps more clearly during your recovery.

[Continued in Part 2]

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Do I Need To Hire A Personal Injury Attorney? 6 Tips

Thursday, March 12, 2020

In case you find yourself wondering: do I need to hire a personal injury attorney? Keep in mind these six things.

Which types of accidents need a personal injury attorney?

Some of the more common injury cases are:

  • Common carrier accidents (car, bus, train, boat accidents, and plane); Workplace injuries;
  • Wrongful death; Slip and fall injuries; Injury from defective products; Asbestos poisoning; 
  • Nursing home neglect; Medical malpractice; and burns. 

When it comes to pre-trial settlement, many times people rely on insurance companies. Remember, the insurance company defending the negligent person wants to settle claims for the lowest possible amount. That's not in the injured person's best interest. 

Some people may choose to fight to recover the costs of their injuries through compensation for medical bills, pain, emotional distress, property damage, and lost wages. The injured person becomes the plaintiff in the case against the person responsible, the defendant.

What is medical malpractice?

Medical malpractice is a special type of negligence. We entrust our lives to medical professionals and, in return, we hold them to a high standard of care. When a medical provider fails that standard of care, the patient suffers severe injuries, pain, and even death.

Below is a partial list of possible causes of medical malpractice injuries:

  • a misdiagnosis,
  • a surgical error,
  • prescribing/dispensing the wrong medication,
  • inadequate training of health care personnel. 

Medical malpractice cases are complicated. They require a lawyer skilled in working with medical experts. The lawyer must know how to analyze intricate medical records that contain the proof of a defendant's negligence. A personal injury attorney experienced in malpractice cases is essential. 

What type of legal action addresses personal injury?

Some cases are criminal in nature; others are civil actions.

Personal injury cases are civil actions. A jury decides whether the defendant is at-fault and, if so, how much financial compensation to award the plaintiff. 

Criminal cases are those brought by the state or federal prosecutor against an individual charged with a breach of the public laws. In criminal cases, the judge or jury will decide the person's guilt or innocence. The answer may result in jail time.

Do I have a certain amount of time to file a personal injury case?

Each state has laws restricting the amount of time allowed to file lawsuits. The law calls such provisions "statutes of limitations". Once the applicable state's statute of limitations' threshold passes, the plaintiff cannot file a lawsuit. 

Suppose you were injured in a car accident and want to sue in California against the person causing the injury. You have to file the case against the defendant within two years after the date the injury occurred. If you did not discover the injury right away, then the time limit is one year after the date you discover the injury.

A plaintiff must file a medical malpractice case within the earlier of one year after he knew (or should have known) about the injury, or three years from the date of injury. 

What kind of remedies are available in California?

California's relief for personal injury victims comes in two types: economic and non-economic. Lawyers call them general and special damages, respectively. Special damages mean that the plaintiff has to specifically ask the court to award them or the court won't allow the award.

Economic damages are easy to determine. Jurors already know the price; it appears on receipts/bills. Medical bills are an example of economic damages.

Special (non-economic) damages include pain and suffering. Personal injury victims also may seek special damages for loss of earnings from time lost at the job as well as the loss of capacity to earn in the future. 

What do I do if sued?

Contact us immediately for a free consultation to discuss the case. Hiring the right personal injury attorney can make the difference between winning and losing. 

To talk more about this topic, please contact us. We want to help you protect your rights.

If you want to learn the latest wrinkle in personal injury cases, enjoy the benefitspro.com article from January 2020, entitled "Doctors forego the insurance in favor of personal injury law payouts."



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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.