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  • I have been in a crash, now what?

    If you have been in a collision there is certain information you need to exchange with the other parties. In California, by law, under Vehicle Code section 16025, you must exchange:

    1. Driver’s name

    2. Driver’s current residence address

    3. Driver’s license number

    4. Vehicle identification number

    5. Owner’s name

    6. Owner’s current residence address

    7. Evidence of financial responsibility, such as company name, address, and policy number of valid automobile insurance

    If you do not exchange this information, you can be charged with violation of this code section and fined. Some people type up this information on an index card that they can hand to somebody, but I would be wary of just accepting something like that at face value. People move, owners change, and policies can lapse. An up-to-date proof of insurance card holds more weight.

    Also, you should write down the information yourself if possible. Take notes on your phone if you do not have pen or paper. You can even send yourself a quick e-mail with the information so you have it in two places. If you allow them to write it down for you, they may lie, transpose numbers, or purposely give you the wrong information. Ask to see their driver’s license and write down the information. Be sure to note if the license is valid because those expire too.

    This list is only what is required by law. If you are in a collision, we recommend you get as much information at possible. It becomes much easier later on if you know exactly who hit you. Once a case is filed, the Defendant needs to be personally served. In order to do that we need to know where they live. It can be expensive to hire a private investigator to hunt these people down, so it is a good idea to get the information when the collision happens.

    The Law Offices of Alan M. Laskin has designed a fillable form to make this sometimes awkward process easier. You can print it off and keep in your car. If you do happen to get in a collision, fill it out, and you will have a head start. If you are hurt, call us, and we'll help you.

    Exchange of Information Form

  • Case Spotlight: Dog Attack Jury Verdict of $205,000.00

    On March 14, 2015, Alan Laskin began a trial in Sacramento County concerning a woman who was attacked by two dogs. She was knocked down into a drainage ditch on the side of the road. The dogs were run off by a neighbor who rescued our client by pulling her over the fence onto his property.

    These dogs were known menaces in the neighborhood and their owner, the defendant, did nothing to protect the public from their violent behavior. The defendant tried to claim that it wasn’t his dogs that perpetrated the attack, but our client was sure they had come from the defendant’s yard. The home insurance company sided with their insured and fought the claim tooth and nail.

    Despite multiple anecdotes from neighbors detailing the violent history of the dogs in question, the defense refused to move from their stance of denial. Early on in the case we served an Offer to Compromise Pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure   998 for $79,999.99. This is a very serious offer for settlement because to make it or reject it comes with consequences. The offer was rejected.

    Right before trial, we made another 998 offer. This time for $39,999.99. Our client did not want to deal with the stress of going to trial and we honored her request to try and settle the case. It was no use though, the defendant’s attorney rejected that offer as well.

    During trial, the defendant continued to claim that our client was lying. He then stated that every witness that testified against him was lying, including the neighbor that saved our client. We had to subpoena practically the whole neighborhood, but everyone was in agreement that the defendant’s dogs were violent and uncontrolled. The defendant’s attitude that he just didn’t care that his dogs had injured this woman came across to the jury and in the end, they sided with our client.

    Alan even had a very “Perry Mason” moment. While questioning the veterinarian hired by the defense to say it couldn’t have been the defendant’s dog that bit our client because of the dog’s poor health, it was revealed that the subject dog was missing a tooth. The vet testified that it would have a different bite pattern than a dog with all of its teeth. Alan then showed a picture of one of the puncture wounds on the client and asked her if it would look like this (the picture showed two punctures, a space, and then a third puncture). The vet agreed that a bite mark from the defendant’s dog would look like the picture. We believe that was the nail in the coffin moment for the jury. There was no doubt that it was the defendant’s dogs that attacked.

    The Law Offices of Alan M. Laskin always endeavors to do right by our clients. In this case, our client did not want to go to trial and would have accepted a much lower amount to avoid the stress. We made the offer on her behalf and she was incredibly fortunate that the defense did not take it. At trial the truth prevailed and the jury awarded $165,000.00 over what our client would have accepted.

  • Case Spotlight: $250,000.00 Policy Limits Settlement

    Our client injured her back in a car collision in November 2013. She underwent conservative treatment, but it did not help her symptoms. She underwent surgery on May 13, 2014. The surgery reduced some of her symptoms, but her back continued to be extremely painful. After an x-ray and another MRI the cause was finally revealed, there was an infection in her spine.

    Throughout our client’s treatment, the Law Offices of Alan M. Laskin in Sacramento California had requested that the adverse party disclose their policy limits multiple times. We sent medical records showing the conservative treatment, the injections my client underwent, and even the necessary surgery. Nothing moved the adverse party and the insurance company was not allowed to disclose the limit.

    However, once the infection in her spine was revealed, the policy was no longer our biggest concern. Her doctor immediately installed a pick line in her arm in order to effectively administer the antibiotics and referred our client to a specialist who would monitor her treatment for the life-threatening infection. Treatment included six appointments with the specialist, the administration of antibiotics by our client’s daughter, weekly blood draws to determine her progress, and home nurse visits once a week to clean and maintain the pick line. The antibiotics themselves were very expensive and had to be paid for in advance.

    Our client could not afford this treatment and called the Law Offices of Alan M. Laskin in tears, convinced she was going to die. Our office set her up with a medical funding company and we were able to get her the treatment she needed and I am glad to say that she is doing much better.

    Infection is a risk everyone undergoing surgery takes. It can happen to anyone in any hospital and it just happened to happen to our client this time. Together we were able to address the problem head on and save her life. The infection was the tipping point for the insurance company. Because of treatment she had already undergone and the additional treatment necessary to treat the infection, we were able to get a policy limits offer from the adverse insurance company in the amount of $250,000.00.

    Some people may wonder why the adverse driver was responsible for the infection and the answer is because she got the infection through the treatment of injuries that the adverse driver caused. There is a chain of events that occurred due the actions of the adverse driver. The car collision led to injuries which led our client to treat for those injuries which led her get an infection in her spine. There is no break in the chain of causation.

    If my client had gotten the infection because of surgery on her elbow, which was not injured in the collision, then the adverse driver would not have been responsible for the treatment of the infection.

    Need advice? Feel you have a potential personal injury case? Contact the Law Offices of Alan M. Laskin in Sacramento California today. 

  • Who is at fault? T-Bone

    An interesting case came up this week at the personal injury law offices of Alan M. Laskin in Sacramento California. We have a client who was approaching an intersection riding a bicycle on a roadway with the intention of going straight through the uncontrolled intersection. A car coming the opposite direction approached the intersection and turned left in front of her. The vehicle moved directly into our client’s path of travel and caused a T-Bone collision, however, our client was the one who struck the vehicle with her bicycle. So who is at fault?

    The insurance company is making the argument that the car had control of the intersection and the bicyclist should have yielded the right-of-way. The rule of thumb when approaching an uncontrolled intersection is that whoever is there first has control of it. But Vehicle Code Section 21801 says a driver intending to turn to the left or complete a U-turn shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles approaching from the opposite direction which are close enough to constitute a hazard at any time during the turning movement.

    We know our client at the personal injury law offices of Alan M. Laskin in Sacramento California was close enough to constitute a hazard because if she had not been, a collision would not have occurred. The code section goes on to say that once the yielding vehicle has signaled and it is safe to go, they can make their turn and oncoming vehicles must yield the right-of-way to the turning vehicle.

    Remember that a bicycle is treated like a car on the road, they have the same rights and responsibilities and must obey traffic laws just like everybody else. So, our bicyclist was proceeding straight and the other vehicle was turning. Our client states that the vehicle never signaled and she had no idea the woman was going to turn left in front of her until the collision occurred. The woman even admitted to the bicyclist after the crash that she did not see our client and so she thought the intersection was clear.

    Downtown Sacramento has a lot of intersections that are either uncontrolled, pedestrian walkway controlled only, or left turn yields on green. All of these types of intersections have the possibility of causing T-Bone collisions. I once worked with a woman who believed that whoever moves first at "left turn yield on green" intersections has control of the intersection. This is NOT TRUE. The people going straight on the green light get to go first, you may turn left AFTER them if the intersection is clear (watch for pedestrians).

    T-Bone collisions are bad. Cars are designed to get hit on the front and back because we follow each other. In recent decades more attention has been made to protecting people from injury during sideways hits, but the cars still are not that great when it comes to getting hit that way. It makes your spine move in ways it is not supposed to and it can cause a lot of damage. It is in everybody’s best interest to be more cautious at these strange intersections.

    If you have questions about your T-Bone collision and you think you are getting blamed when it was not your fault, give us a call and we can help you figure it out. The bicyclist we represent is going into litigation because the adverse insurance company may have denied liability, but that does not mean we are giving up. We will see that driver in court.

    Need advice? Feel you have a potential personal injury case? Contact the Law Offices of Alan M. Laskin in Sacramento California today. 

  • Did You Know? California Has Self-Driving Cars on its Roads

    I just learned this fact recently. I had no idea that technology was getting to the point where we actually have prototypes driving around California. Google Inc. has been testing these cars on California roads for at least six years. In that time, there have only been 11 accidents. Google claims that none of the accidents were their fault, but that can’t be verified independently.

    The car can see more than a football field away and has lines and lines of code telling it how to react to every situation the designers could think of. To perform the tests, California requires there to be a human driver behind the wheel. But you can recognize them due to the rig on top that allows them to “see” the road all around them. California also requires testers to have an insurance policy with a $5 million liability limit.

    This could be the start of a whole new specialty of personal injury law in the legal industry. A collision with a self-driving car may become a products liability case if there is no human driver. Right now, cases against adverse drivers are fought under the common law idea of Negligence. If someone is going to drive a vehicle they have a duty to others using the roads to drive it in a safe manner. When they hit someone, they have breached that duty and caused them damage. And that is why we can sue.

    But what duty does an operator of a self-driving car have? They put their trust in a machine. If they get injured there may be defense argument of assumption of the risk for the people in the self-driving car. The use of these autonomous cars raises many questions. To what standard shall we hold these vehicles? Should they be expected to drive even safer than humans? Or should they be held to a lower standard, after all, they are only computers. And computers are not perfect.

    How many times has a computer died on you? Are you familiar with the blue screen of death? Do you install updates regularly? Do the updates regularly screw up your computer and you have to undo them?

    What about the concept of negligent entrustment? In personal injury cases, if the owner of a vehicle lends the car to someone and that person gets in a collision, we name both the driver and the owner as defendants because the owner trusted the wrong person to drive their vehicle. This is seen all the time when parents let their kids drive. Does this idea transfer to the driverless car as well? The owner negligently entrusted the movement of the vehicle to the manufacturer of the vehicle? For that matter, not only is the manufacturer of the vehicle responsible, but the creator of the software moving the car could be responsible as well if it is a different entity.

    How much responsibility should the owner of a self-driving car have in the maintenance of the driving system? An owner of a vehicle has a duty to maintain their vehicle in a non-dangerous condition, we just settled a case this year where a defendant’s trailer lost a wheel and smashed into our client’s vehicle. You are responsible for your vehicle. So where does the liability of the self-driving vehicle begin and where does it end?

    These cars sound very cool and futuristic, but they evoke a lot of legal questions that should have been answered before they hit the road. And they need to be answered now. The technology is still in the testing phase, but it’s possible these cars will be available to the public starting in 2020.

    Need advice? Feel you have a potential personal injury case? Contact the Law Offices of Alan M. Laskin in Sacramento California today. 

  • Who is at Fault? Trip and Fall

    So, you are walking down the street, minding your own business. You are not on your phone, you are not listening to music, you are paying attention to where you are going and watching for traffic at crosswalks and driveways. A perfect pedestrian walking down the sidewalk in a perfect way. Then your toe catches on something and you fall forward to the ground. You look back and you see that the corner of the concrete slab of the sidewalk is much higher than one before it. Who is at fault?

    While a pedestrian is responsible for watching where they are going and paying attention, there is no requirement to constantly scan the ground for hazards. There are many factors that go into determining the fault for a trip and fall, but at the end of the day, the owner of a property has a duty to keep that property in a reasonably safe condition.

    Sacramento California is actually very lucky. We have a strong municipal system that responds to dangerous conditions and removes hazards from our sidewalks. When I walk around in midtown Sacramento CA I see spots where corners have been shaved down all the time. Sacramento is the City of Trees and prides itself on being full of green spots, but with trees come the dangers of tree roots disturbing the sidewalks and roads. Sacramento does a pretty good job of inspecting and correcting sidewalk issues so they can continue with their Urban Forest ideal without too much resistance from the public when the trees cause problems.

    However, I still see height differentials. At the Law Offices of Alan M. Laskin in Sacramento CA we have run into a city or a county (depending on who owns the road) knowing of a problem, but not doing anything about it right away. The City of Sacramento expects the owners of the property next to the sidewalk to pay for the repairs (even though the City is the one that demand trees blanket the area). It can take time to get an owner to decide if they want to hire someone or have the city do it and bill them. There might be negotiations involved and other delays. Simple steps can be taken to notify people of the danger, such as painting the raised lip a bright color to draw people’s attention to it, but oftentimes the people in charge of maintenance of the sidewalks don’t even do that. Part of the reason they don’t paint is so that if someone does trip and injury themselves, they can claim they had no knowledge of the defect.

    In order for an owner or maintainer of a sidewalk to be found liable, a plaintiff must prove that the owner/maintainer knew or should have known about the defect. Regular inspections should be conducted in order to keep the public safe, so there really is no reason for the city, county, or property owners not to paint. A plaintiff is going to fulfill the should have known requirement without a problem. It is possible that they really have no knowledge of the raised lip, but they really should. In order to help the City and keep people safe, citizens in Sacramento California should report dangerous conditions of public property by dialing 311. A city inspector will check the area out and then notify the owner of the need for repair. The city also has a 311 app.

    While the sidewalks are owned by the city, the city feels they should be maintained by the owners of adjacent property. But the city has the control over the sidewalk to maintain it, repair it, and change it. If the property owner wanted to take it upon themselves to remove a dangerous condition, they must get permission from the City of Sacramento before doing the work. That tells me that the City of Sacramento is at fault when you trip and fall on the sidewalk.

    Need advice? Feel you have a potential personal injury case? Contact the Law Offices of Alan M. Laskin in Sacramento California today. 

  • Case Spotlight: $100,000 Settlement After Deposition

    Insurance companies are in business to do one thing: make money. The Law Offices of Alan M. Laskin in Sacramento CA has fought for its clients for many years. When the insurance company digs their heels in and refuses to offer a reasonable settlement, we go to war.

    We recently had an interesting case where our refusal to bend to pressure to settle for less than what a case was worth really worked to our client’s advantage. She had medical bills over $38,000.00. The third-party policy was only $100,000.00 and it seemed pretty reasonable to us expect to be offered the policy limits immediately. That was not the case. The insurance company refused to offer the policy limits and in fact made an insulting offer of only $50,000.00. The Law Offices of Alan M. Laskin in Sacramento CA wasted no time filing the lawsuit and beginning the discovery process.

    Discovery is when each side asks questions and requests documents in order to get more information from each other. Written discovery is the first thing that goes out after an answer has been received from a defendant. With that information we can figure out what else we want to know and what we need to clarify at deposition.

    Depositions are a very important part of the discovery process. It is like an interview. When a plaintiff has a deposition the opposing counsel asks our client questions orally. Sometimes it is videotaped, sometimes not. The witness is put under oath and a court reporter takes down every word that is said. The defense can get a good idea about the type of person our client is by meeting them in person. Depositions will usually reveal if a client would make a good witness at trial.

    In the case I am talking about our client did a fantastic job. With Alan Laskin and The Law Offices of Alan M. Laskin in Sacramento CA by her side the entire time, she was confident, honest, earnest, and calm. Our client blew the opposing counsel out of the water. They were impressed with her. After her deposition was taken, the defense knew without a doubt that she would make a great witness if the case proceeded to trial. In order to avoid a jury giving our client an award greater than their policy limits, thirty days after our client’s deposition, the insurance carrier agreed to settle for the policy limits of $100,000.00.

    Much of the credit for this victory has to go to the client. She was properly prepared and went in to the deposition with confidence. The Law Offices of Alan M. Laskin in Sacramento CA could have backed down and accepted the defense’s offer, but we knew that our client was in the right and that she was worth fighting for, and after her deposition, the defense did too.

    Need advice? Feel you have a potential personal injury case? Contact the Law Offices of Alan M. Laskin in Sacramento California today. 

  • Insurance Company Calls and Tactics

    The other day I was asked how to get an insurance company to stop calling. This young lady had been getting phone calls every day from three different adjusters from the same company. Once you hire an attorney, the calls should stop immediately. You can tell the adjuster you have hired someone and give them the attorney’s contact information and they should not call you again. Other than that, there really is no way to make them stop. There is a reason they keep calling. Adjusters get rewarded monetarily for settling claims quickly and under reserve.

    A reserve is the amount of money the insurance company sets aside to pay out a claim once a claim is filed. The company does not make money on reserves so they are often kept as low as possible. When we deal with adjusters who have set low reserves, they can often be immovable and stubborn because they get punished monetarily if they settle above the reserves.

    That is why they are calling so much. They want the claim to disappear quickly and they know that people will undervalue their claim. Especially when they are not even done treating yet. I know a woman who accepted a nuisance offer of $1,000.00 within weeks of getting hurt in a crash. She then proceeded to go the doctor, get referred to a chiropractor, and start treatment with a physical therapist. She treated for four months and had bills of approximately $4,000.00. She took the settlement before she knew the extent of her injuries and the treatment it would take to get better.

    A nuisance offer is an amount of money the insurance company offers just to make you go away. They do not want to deal with you or your claim and so they make an offer right away without any information (as opposed to some adjusters that refuse to make an offer until they have every single medical report from the last ten years). These offers are fine for people who are not really hurt, but if you need professional medical help, you absolutely should not settle your case until you are well again.

    Once an offer has been accepted and you have signed a release, there is no going back and getting more money if you discover something else is wrong. For instance, if you sign the release and the very next day your foot falls off and the doctor determines it was because of the subject incident, it is too late. Your foot is gone and you do not get any compensation for it. Signing a release is signing a contract. In consideration for an amount of money, you are giving up your right to sue the person who injured you.

    The insurance company does not want you to know any of this. They will talk to you, but not give you information, they will harass you until you just want to be done with them, they will keep information from you because they do not want you to be informed. If an insurance company is treating you badly, please call the Law Offices of Alan M. Laskin in Sacramento CA today. We are here to help you and look out for your best interests. We can stop the calls and take away some of your stress.

    Need advice? Feel you have a potential personal injury case? Contact the Law Offices of Alan M. Laskin in Sacramento California today. 

  • Are Electric Vehicles a Fire Hazard?

    Since the introduction of electric vehicles, many questions have been posed concerning their safety. The most prevalent concern seems to be fires. Because these vehicles use batteries there is an opportunity for what scientists call thermal runaway. Thermal runaway is when an increase in temperature changes the surrounding conditions in such a way that it leads to another increase in temperature and continues in that vein until the temperature becomes destructive, ie: causes a fire.

    In electrical engineering, thermal runaway typically means an increased current flow did not dissipate correctly, heating the electrode in the battery cells until a chemical reaction causes more heat and then ignites the electrolytes in the battery cell. Most fully electric vehicles have the type of battery that has a history of causing vehicle fires: the lithium-ion battery. Most hybrids use a nickel-metal hydride battery.

    Jeff Dahn, a professor of physics and chemistry at Dalhousie University says in an article by that when batteries are used as intended, there is only one fire for every 100 milliion lithium-ion battery cells out there. The fires in the Tesla 6's back in 2013 were mostly caused when metal objects penetrated the cell pack. Since then Tesla has increased the protection around the cell pack.

    According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, electric or hybrid vehicles do not have a greater risk of fire than any other motor vehicle. All vehicles have some risk of fire in the event of a serious crash. The NHTSA is still conducting an in-depth investigation into whether an alternative fuel vehicle is more likely to catch fire than a traditional gasoline powered vehicle. They have produced guidelines for dealing with electric and hybrid vehicles that every driver should know.

    There have been class action lawsuits against Ford, Volkswagen, and General Motors for fires caused due to electrical defects for years. Car fires are not a new thing. The public is only concerned about the batteries causing fires because the technology is new and unknown. Once we get used to all the new components and are assured of their safety, there won’t be this distinction between fires occurring in electric vehicles and fires occurring in gas powered vehicles. The NHTSA does acknowledge that fire risk increases with vehicle age across the board.

    Whether your vehicle is six months old, six years old, or six decades old, it’s important to regularly check the NHTSA website for recalls and defects to keep yourself and your family safe. They work tirelessly to bring us up-to-date data and information that can save lives. On November 24, 2015, the NHTSA reported that traffic fatalities decreased slightly in 2014, but projections based on the first six months of 2015 show an increase. Be vigilant out there.

    If you are injured in crash or feel you have a potential personal injury case? Contact the Law Offices of Alan M. Laskin in Sacramento California today. 

  • Who is at fault? Case Study: Right Turn Yield

    At the personal injury Law Offices of Alan M. Laskin in Sacramento CA, we see all types of car accident cases. There are the normal, everyday rear end collisions. There are the rarer, but not unheard of t-bones. And we even see instances of bicyclist being hit by cars. There are some times when it is easy to tell who is at fault for a collision. A completely stationary car sitting at a red light is not going to be blamed for getting hit from behind. But sometimes circumstances are more complicated and the answer becomes "It depends."

    Here’s a fact pattern: A Chevy is navigating a right turn controlled by a yield sign in Sacramento CA. They slow and stop for oncoming traffic. The Toyota behind them doesn’t notice they’ve stopped because they are looking to the left to gauge the oncoming traffic as they navigate the right turn yield. Crash!

    Whose fault is it? Right off the bat many will say it’s the Toyota’s fault because the Chevy was hit from behind, but let’s add some details. The right turn is a yield lane, but it has it’s own lane for 100 feet before it merges with a lane of oncoming traffic, plenty of time to speed up and merge with traffic. Traffic is very light at this time of day and, in fact, there is nobody in the right lanes of the through street. So you might ask yourself, why did the Chevy stop? The Chevy stopped because the Chevy always stops at a right turn yield. It’s how they were taught to drive and it’s just the way they do it. Is it the wrong way? Yes. Is it unsafe? It depends...

    Even with all these facts, it’s still the Toyota’s fault because the Toyota should not look away from the Chevy while it is still close enough to hit. The basic speed law will be applied. The Toyota should have made sure the Chevy continued forward and entered traffic before turning his head to gauge the oncoming vehicles. But if I represented the Toyota, I would definitely bring up issues of comparative fault. Stopping for no reason on a roadway is just as dangerous as speeding. Violation of vehicle code section 22109, unsafe stop.

    Everyone has a responsibility to everyone else on the road. You are not allowed to drive unsafely. But nobody is perfect and everybody is usually doing at least one thing wrong. Are your hands always at ten and two? Do you check all your mirrors every thirty seconds? Do you signal for every turn and every lane change?

    We know nobody is perfect. And we know there are many different ways to look at a case. When a potential client calls and asks if we can help them, we never assume we know the answer right off the bat, we get as much information as we can. Time and again we find that the little details surrounding the incident is what makes or breaks the case. That's why the Law Offices of Alan M. Laskin are one of the most respected and feared firms in the Sacramento region.

    Need advice? Feel you have a potential personal injury case? Contact the Law Offices of Alan M. Laskin in Sacramento California today.