Category Archives: Impaired Driving

Options Injury Victims Have After Being Hit by a Drunk Driver

Drunk driving-related accidents occur at alarming rates, with estimates that approximately two in ten Americans will be involved in such accidents in their lifetimes. 

But perhaps you already know this? Perhaps you or someone you love has already been hit by a drunk driver or was a passenger in an alcohol-related crash? If so, then it’s important to understand what options you or your loved one has post-accident.

You Can Pursue an Insurance Claim

Before you decide whether to file a lawsuit against the drunk driver, you can first start talking about a settlement with the driver’s insurance company. California law requires drivers to carry auto insurance. Contacting the insurer to seek full compensation and informing them that you may be pursuing legal action as well may be just what you need to start getting your medical bills and car repair bills paid. 

In the alternative, if you have personal injury protection (PIP) coverage on your own auto insurance policy, you can file a claim through your own insurance company so you can pay your bills. This route may be easier than working with the drunk driver’s insurer.

You Can Sue the Drunk Driver After the Accident

If you were hurt in a drunk driving-related accident, you have the right to seek financial compensation from the drunk driver in a personal injury lawsuit. Speak to a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer about the types of compensation that may be available to you, such as:

  • Medical bills (physical and psychological)
  • Short or long-term care bills
  • Lost wages
  • Lost earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Repair bills for your vehicle
  • Rehabilitation costs
  • Punitive damages to punish the driver and deter future drunk driving

To get compensation for any or all of the above, you must be able to prove that the driver was negligent and that, due to that negligence, you sustained injuries. Negligence under California law simply means failure to use reasonable care when driving. 

But First, Call a Personal Injury Attorney

Before you make any lawsuit decisions and before you speak with anyone’s insurance company, be sure to pick up the phone to call a personal injury attorney who can help you understand your full course of options. 

At the Law Office of Daniel H. Rose, we’ll work with you to determine what next step will work best in your situation. We’ll be aggressive in seeking to hold the drunk driver responsible for what they’ve done to you. And, at all times, we’ll be your strong advocate in and out of court. Contact us today at 415-946-8900 to schedule your complimentary consultation.

How Wrongful Death Claims Against Drunk Drivers Work in California

A little over 10 percent of all fatal drunk driving accidents in the US occur right here in California, according to the most recent numbers coming from the National Highway & Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA). That’s over 1,000 people killed each year in our state, all due to drunk drivers.

If you’ve lost someone you love in a drunk driving accident in California, you need to know your options for moving forward. You need the help of a skilled personal injury lawyer to understand how a wrongful death claim would work in your situation.

First, Determine if You Can Bring a Wrongful Death Claim

A civil claim for wrongful death involves an aggrieved party pursuing a lawsuit against the drunk driver in civil court. Before you can file your case, you must first be able to prove that you fall within one of the named categories of parties who are able to bring such claims in California civil courts. 

According to California’s wrongful death statute (California Code of Civil Procedure Section 337.60, et seq.), the following parties may pursue such a claim:

  • The deceased’s surviving spouse
  • The deceased’s surviving domestic partner
  • The deceased’s surviving children
  • Issue of the deceased’s children
  • Absent one of the above, then anyone “who would be entitled to the property of the decedent [deceased] by intestate succession” 

In addition, these individuals may also bring a wrongful death suit:

  • Anyone who was financially dependent on the deceased
  • The deceased’s putative spouse
  • Children of the deceased’s putative spouse
  • The deceased’s parents
  • Stepchildren
  • A minor who lived with the decedent for at least the previous 180 days and was dependent on the decedent for at least one-half of all financial support

If some of this terminology is confusing, rest assured that a skilled personal injury attorney can speak with you to help you determine whether you can bring a wrongful death claim in California civil court.

Next, Determine the Damages You Can Seek 

Assuming you can bring a claim, you will be able to seek damages (financial recovery) for many costs associated with your loss, including:

  • Funeral and related final expenses
  • Medical expenses incurred after the drunk driving accident
  • Lost income, including the deceased’s lost potential income
  • Loss of anticipated financial support
  • Loss of household services
  • Loss of love, companionship, support, affection, comfort and care

Additionally, punitive damages—also known as exemplary damages—arise in wrongful death cases to punish the drunk driver for their behavior. Courts also allow them due to the message they send to the community at large: this behavior is not tolerated and, as such, deserves additional consequences.

Punitive damages are never guaranteed in wrongful death claims against drunk drivers. That is why it’s important to hire an experienced personal injury lawyer to help you layout your case clearly and help you prove all necessary elements of your claim.

Let a Skilled Lawyer Help You With Your Wrongful Death Claim

If you’ve lost a loved one due to a fatal drunk-driving crash within the past two years, speak with an injury attorney about pursuing a wrongful death claim. Your attorney will help you determine what you’ll need to prove, the evidence you’ll need to do so, and how to best prepare you for the coming days and months of discovery and, potentially, trial. 

If you’re in California, consider reaching out to the Law Office of Daniel H. Rose. We’ll sit with you in a complimentary consultation and help you determine if you have a claim to pursue. If you do, we’ll walk alongside you to get you the justice you deserve after losing your loved one. To schedule a consultation, contact us today at 415-946-8900.

Study Shows Hit-And-Run collisions injuries and deaths at highest levels

A recently released AAA study reveals a record amount of hit-and-run injuries and deaths, the majority of which are to bicyclists and pedestrians. This raises a confluence of issues related to a lack of adequate bicycling and pedestrian safety infrastructure, the prevention of DUI driving, public video surveillance, and uninsured motorist coverage.  According to AAA, there were 2,049 hit-and-run related fatalities in the United States in 2016, and 65% of those were bicyclists or pedestrians.  Twenty percent of all pedestrian deaths were hit-and-run related. The reasons that a driver may flee the scene often relate to the fact that many of the drivers are intoxicated with prior DUI records. The study notes that a large percentage of hit-and-run collisions occur in the hours between midnight and 4 a.m. when drivers are more likely to be intoxicated, it is easier to flee the scene due to lighter traffic, and there are fewer witnesses out at that hour.

The Reason NHTSA Released 2016 Traffic Fatality Data but Not 2016 Injury Data

In past years, the NHTSA has released annually an overview of motor vehicle crashes for the prior calendar year which includes both injury and fatality data. However, the NHTSA recently released its overview of 2016 fatality data without including the 2016 non-fatal injury data. I contacted the NHTSA to find out whether the 2016 non-fatal injury data is currently available and if not when it will become available. The response from NHTSA was as follows:

In a nut shell, there is no 2016 injury data at this time. NHTSA’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis (NCSA) redesigned the nationally representative sample of police-reported traffic crashes, which estimates the number of police-reported injury and property–damage-only crashes in the United States. The new system, called the Crash Report Sampling System (CRSS), replaced the National Automotive Sampling System (NASS) General Estimates System (GES) in 2016. However, the 2016 estimates are not currently available. NHTSA is currently processing the file to ensure the data is accurate and complete and is finalizing the new weighting and calibration procedures to produce national estimates. Once completed, NHTSA will release the data and publish the estimated number of police-reported injury and property-damage-only crashes that occurred during 2016.

 

 

Noteworthy Items from NHTSA’s 2016 Fatal Motor Vehicle Crash Data

The NHTSA recently released its 2016 fatal motor vehicle crash data.  Noteworthy among the data are the following:

Nationally, there were 37,461 fatalities during 2016, a 5.6 increase from 2015. Pedestrian fatalities increased by 492, a 9.0% increase from 2015 and the highest number since 1990. The fatality rate per 100 million Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) increased by 2.6% from 1.15 in 2015 to 1.18 in 2016. Fatalities in distraction related crashes were 9.2% of total fatalities in 2016. Approximately 28% of all fatalities were in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes (29% in California). There were 11.5 times as many un-helmeted motorcyclist fatalities in States without universal helmet laws (1,923 un-helmeted fatalities) as in States with universal helmet laws (166 un-helmeted fatalities).

Heartbreaking and Avoidable Death of 6-year-old Aniket Gadre

As reported by several news agencies, Aniket Gadre, a young boy, was tragically killed while walking with his mother in the parking lot of San Jose’s Westfield Oakridge Shopping Center during the evening of June 30, 2016.  According to witnesses, a Mercedes automobile traveling at low speed, apparently looking for a parking spot, fatally struck Aniket.  As a Bay Area pedestrian accident lawyer who has handled many such cases, distracted driving is a huge factor in many fatal and severe injury incidents. While we frequently see drivers take their eyes off the path in which their vehicle is traveling, it is negligent to do so.  This comes at the same time that the NHTSA has released its crash data showing a dramatic increase in pedestrian fatalities, as I reported in my earlier blog post.

Pedestrian and Bicycling Deaths Increased Dramatically in 2015 Nationally and Statewide

The NHTSA has released their preliminary analysis of 2015 crash data. Traffic deaths nationally increased 7.7% over 2014, 6% in California, with 9 out of 10 geographic regions reporting increases. Bicycling deaths nationally increased a startling 13%, while pedestrian deaths increased an equally troubling 10%. The data is still being analyzed but the NHTSA reports that human factors such as distracted driving and young drivers to be primary factors. This of course comes as no surprise to San Francisco Bay Area drivers who constantly witness distracted driving activity on our roads due to drivers’ use of smartphones. Congressional action and local strict enforcement are clearly needed.

Reporting Unsafe Drivers In Order To Prevent Accidents

In my humble opinion, we have a duty as citizens to report unsafe drivers in order to prevent traffic accidents. If one knows of an incompetent or chronically impaired driver, there is action that can be taken to report that person and thereby hopefully eventually remove that person from the road, either temporarily or permanently, in order to prevent fatalities and injuries. If we are out driving and observe someone exhibiting unsafe driving behavior, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) wants us to report it while it is happening by calling 911. There is also a procedure for reporting such drivers to the DMV. The DMV has a Form (DS 699) Request For Driver Reexamination, which can be found online, by which ordinary citizens can report to the DMV unsafe drivers known to them. I recently used this form to report an extremely elderly man who I observed for several minutes exhibiting incompetent driving behavior on Highway 101. While I should have notified the CHP immediately, I later used the DS 699 to report the driver using the car plate number and vehicle and driver description.

Livermore Labs CFO Kathy Baker Killed By Elderly “Pedal Confused” Driver

Tragically, another life has been taken by an elderly unfit driver purportedly suffering from so-called “pedal confusion”, i.e., hitting the gas pedal instead of the brake.  Kathy Baker, the beloved CFO of Lawrence Livermore Labs, was killed on 9/22/15 during her early morning workout at the LifeStyleRx Fitness Center in Livermore when an 80-year-old female Livermore resident (identified by ABC News as Mineko Deakin) drove her Mercedes ML350 SUV through the front of the gym and kept going, evidently mentally confused.  Five or six others were reportedly injured.

Unfortunately, this scenario of an elderly person who, due to mental or physical disabilities brought on by age or illness, injures or kills innocent victims, is all too common and too little is being done to prevent such accidents.  In my decades of practice as a car accident lawyer, I have found that drivers quite often drive long past the point at which they are competent to do so.  According to ABC News, Ms. Deakin reportedly had approximately 18 months previously jumped the same curb and nearly run into the same fitness center but no police report was made due to lack of injuries or damage.

While much can be recovered by the victim’s family from the driver’s car insurance, umbrella insurance, assets, and under certain circumstances even from the driver’s physicians or the premises owner’s insurance, nothing can fully compensate the victim’s family for their immeasurable loss.