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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.


Who is Responsible for Tire Malfunctions in a Truck Accident?

Friday, February 14, 2020

The multiple tires on a semi-truck play an important role in increasing the stability of the ride for precious cargo. However, those multiple tires also spread out the weight of that cargo so that no one tire is under a high amount of pressure. Yet, more tires lead to the potential for more problems. If a tire on a truck blows out, it can have devastating consequences not just for the truck driver, but anyone that happens to be nearby.

Causes of Truck Tire Blowouts

When a tire on any vehicle blows out, it causes the vehicle to suddenly jerk to the side of the blowout. This often leads to loss of control of the vehicle as the driver tries to compensate. With maneuvering severely impeded, getting control of the vehicle at a high speed can be near impossible.

Tire blowout on a truck can be caused by a number of instances, including:

  • Road hazards
  • Overweight vehicles
  • Low-pressure tires
  • Tire defects

In cases of overweight vehicles and low-pressure tires, the fault of a tire blowout likely sits with the trucker or trucking company – whoever was responsible for maintenance of that truck. Once you ascertain who was at fault for not engaging in proper truck maintenance, then you can pursue a personal injury case against them. However, when it comes to tire defects, the fault can be a little more unclear and may come from places you don't suspect at first.

Who is at Fault for Defective Tires?

When a tire is defective and causes a serious accident due to a blowout or any other problem, you might first look to the truck driver or the truck company. While it is true that a trucker or their employer could hold the blame for willfully ignoring a defect, there might be others responsible that you can pursue legal action against.

Tire Manufacturer

If a tire is defective from the moment it left the factory, then the tire manufacturer may bear the responsibility for damages from defective tire accidents. However, if it is discovered that the manufacturer already issued a recall before the accident, and it was not followed, this can waive them of responsibility.

Tire Distributor

Even truck companies don't typically buy tires from a manufacturer. Instead, there is a middle man, a distributor, who handles the sale. However, this distributor can also have an effect on the tires. If they were not stored properly, checked regularly, or the tires they provided were not right for the customer, then they can be held responsible.

The Mechanic That Installed the Tires

Often covered by the trucking company, the last unexpected person you can hold responsible is the mechanic that installed the tires. They are the last line of defense for catching any defects in the tires before that truck heads out on the road.

If it can be proven that the tires had blisters, bulges, uneven tread, cracking in the sidewall, or were not properly inflated when installed, then the mechanic can be held responsible if not under the protection of the trucking company. This can often be the case for truckers that own their own rigs and use their own mechanics. However, even if a mechanic is responsible, usually they will have the protection of their employer unless they own their own business.

Need Help?

If you have been in an accident due to a truck tire blowout or some other defect, we can help. Contact us today to see how Freeman & Freeman can help you begin your personal injury case to help you get the compensation that your injuries and trauma from the accident deserve.


Is The Driver Liable When a Car Malfunction Causes an Accident?

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Car problems are an inevitable part of life. However, while a dead battery or a flat tire are frustrating, they aren't dangerous. Yet, car problems had while on the road can be major hazards not just to your own safety, but everyone around you.

If you have been in an accident, that is bad enough. However, if prior to that accident you were dealing with some sort of malfunction, such as a blown-out tire or faulty brakes, you may be looking for a little justice. Yet, even if your car caused the accident and not any negligence on your part, it is likely that the other party and their insurance company will still try to pin the blame on you, but that might not be quite right.

If your car did have a malfunction, there could be another party you could be holding responsible for your damages and those to the other vehicle in some circumstances.

Manufacturer Liability

It is possible for your auto accident to transform into a product liability case if the malfunction was caused by the manufacturer. If you can show that the problem was caused by a flaw in the design of the vehicle or a flaw that happened in the manufacturing process, you can pursue a claim with the manufacturer and hold them liable.

Unfortunately, this will take an examination by someone very knowledgeable about cars and it can be difficult to go after auto companies. Furthermore, if the cause in question has already been recalled, depending on the time the recall has been out, you may be liable for not visiting a dealer to have it rectified after you have been notified about the issue.

Repair Shop Liability

More commonly when a car malfunctions, it is not so much the manufacturer that caused it due to some defect, but it could have been potentially caused by the repair technician. Over time, your mechanic has a lot more contact with the car and its mechanical functions than the manufacturer.

If your vehicle malfunctioned, you may want to have it investigated after the wreck to see if it was a fault in your repair shop that caused the problem. If this proves true, you can hold the repair shop liable.

Unfortunately, many independent mechanics don't have the assets, funds, or even insurance to field a lawsuit like this. However, chain repair shops will often have insurance specifically to cover the mistakes of their employees.

Were You Actually At-Fault?

When a car accident happens due to a malfunction, you may be somewhat relieved to know you might not be held liable, but there are circumstances where this isn't true. For example, if the malfunction was caused due to your own work on the car, this means that you are still held liable for that accident.

Furthermore, if you suspected something was wrong with your car, such as your tires kept losing pressure, or your brakes were a little slower to stop your car, you may be held liable if you didn't take any action. This falls into the same vein as the aforementioned recalled defects on the part of the manufacturer. Similar to if you received a recall notice and did not take timely action to have the defect replaced, if you knew of a problem but did nothing, then the accident it caused is still your fault.

Need Help?

Have you been in an auto accident in the Los Angeles area? Whether it was caused by a defect or the negligence of another, contact us today. The Law Office of Freeman & Freeman can help you navigate through the complex process of personal injury suits to help you get the compensation that you deserve.


Legal Help for Rideshare Accidents

Thursday, October 10, 2019

If your Uber or Lyft driver gets into an accident, under current procedures, everything is usually very straight forward.

The View of Minimal Trouble

An article in Fortune Magazine describes what happened from the viewpoint of a San Francisco Uber passenger when her Uber driver got into a significant fender-bender. In the wee hours of a weekday morning, a turn into a one-way street resulted in significant damage to the passenger door of another car. The Uber driver was shaken up by the incident and she reminded him that he had to pull over. The Uber driver assured his passenger that he would be able to drive her the rest of the way home, but she refused, saying that she would prefer to walk. She was sure that negotiations between the drivers would take considerable time. Corporate Uber called the passenger days later, was very apologetic and refunded the passenger's fare. The driver had correctly reported the accident to Uber. The payment to the car sustaining the damage was covered by the James River Insurance Company. 

Under a California statute that took effect in 2015, Uber and Lyft drivers must carry increased personal insurance while online to seek riders and even more coverage during the time of the trip itself (from acceptance of the ride to the drop off). There are gaps in the legal process if a passenger were to hail a ride and not using the Uber or Lyft app online. Under those conditions, the driver might not be covered under the increased insurance.

Beyond the Easy Cases.

The basics of handling accidents by Uber or Lyft drivers are straight forward. However, there are many situations where resolution may not be simple. Difficulties are going to get more complicated once, in the near future, Uber and Lyft begin employing self-driving vehicles. In Los Angeles and California, the law says that Uber or Lyft passengers are entitled to be fairly compensated for injuries after a ridesharing accident. Sorting out the fault and the compensation for parties in an Uber accident would be complicated. There are many possible classes of victims and potential causes of accidents. Either could be private vehicles, passengers, pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, truck drivers, bystanders. All victims are entitled to fair compensation for their injuries. All causes of accidents have to be factored into the awards picture. An experienced  Uber accident attorney, Lyft accident attorney, or rideshare accident attorney will be able to fully analyze any accident using techniques like accident reconstruction and employing experts in accident safety. Thorough legal investigation and casework an experienced attorney may find hidden insurance benefits and find the best medical and rehabilitation services available.

Uber and Lyft drivers themselves may have very complicated insurance cases especially if the rideshare driver feels that an accident was caused by another party, but the passenger feels their driver is at partly or fully at fault. The legal situation can be complicated if the insurance company decides to point its fingers at anyone other than the person whom they insure. A skilled rideshare attorney with years of experience could be the only one who can sort out such a case.

Self-Driving RideShare.

We don't know exactly when self-driving cars will be introduced into the rideshare environment. The principles and practices of insuring Uber and Lyft passengers will become much more complicated then. In a given accident, the vehicle manufacturer, the writer of the software, or the makers of individual components of the complex system could be included in the distribution of blame. These factors may involve foreign entities or entities from other states with different laws. Insurance companies may begin to count on the fact that investigations would be too costly to pursue. It could be a lot more complicated to obtain just compensation for injuries.

Freeman & Freeman have successfully handled hundreds of Uber/Lyft cases since the inception of their services. These cases have become one of our largest specialties. Please contact us to learn more.


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