California Personal Injury Litigation – The Importance of Preserving Evidence

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law.

If you have been injured in an accident, the most important thing is to make sure you receive medical attention and medical attention for others around you.

However, even if you do not presently have the intention of recovering your damages, there are a few simple steps you can do at the time of the incident, and in the days and weeks following. Missing these opportunities can compromise efforts for compensation.

If you can, take pictures immediately.  With the quality of phone cameras increasing, take as many pictures as possible of the scene of the accident.  For example, in a slip and fall, the condition will be quickly remedied, so if you or your friends or family can take a picture, it can preserve important evidence.  Also, have someone take a picture of your visible injuries. The sooner the pictures are taken after the accident, the better.  In the case of a flooding event or fire, take video during the event.  Again, cameras have excellent video cameras these days.  The new Apple iPhone 4s takes full high definition video, for example.

If there are witnesses, try to get business cards or phone numbers, or some contact information.  If there is a police report, obtain it as soon as possible.  Obtain any other reports.

Get copies of your records regarding medical treatment including billing.  These records can be obtained from your medical providers.  Obtain records of time missed from work.

In slip and falls and trip and falls, the condition of shoes is often an issue.  Keep the shoes, and don’t wear them again.  If you have clothes or other property, preserve them, too.  If you have to repair property, such as a car, make sure that pictures are taken before the repairs.  Take pictures from different angles.  We no longer live in an age where you could only take a few pictures before running out of film.

Remember that you likely face statutes of limitations that can impact your ability to be compensated for your losses.  If a government agency is involved, typically a government claim is required before you file suit, and generally the government claim must be filed six months from the date of the incident.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

Address: 300 E. State St. #517
                   Redlands, CA 92373
Telephone: (909) 296-6708

Vicarious Liability of an Owner for Permissive Use in California Motor Vehicle Accidents

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law.

When I was the Assistant City Attorney of Redlands and a Deputy City Attorney in the City of San Bernardino, I handled a fair number of motor vehicle accident cases on behalf of the City and its employees.  These cases included a police officer who allegedly ran a red light, a police officer that allegedly rear-ended a car on a freeway ramp, a police officer that allegedly sideswiped a car in a carpool lane,  an animal control officer who allegedly rear ended a woman, a city employee that allegedly backed up into a man turning into his driveway, a pair of citizen volunteer patrol members who allegedly turned into a woman on a bicycle, and a parks employee who allegedly ran over a man sleeping in the park.  The injuries claimed ranged from soft tissue injuries to major hip injuries.  I also defended cities in dangerous condition of public property cases involving motor vehicles and catastrophic injuries, including the death of a motorcyclist, and another one where the passenger on a motorcycle was injured when the motorcyclist ran a stop sign.

A defense to the owner of a vehicle, where the driver and owner lack an employee-employer or principal-agent relationship, is  Vehicle Code section 17151(a).   Typically, the cases listed above involved a a employer-employee relationship. Vehicle Code section 17151(a) reads:

The liability of an owner, bailee of an owner, or personal representative of a decedent imposed by this chapter and not arising through the relationship of principal and agent or master and servant is limited to the amount of fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000) for the death of or injury to one person in any one accident and, subject to the limit as to one person, is limited to the amount of thirty thousand dollars ($30,000) for the death of or injury to more than one person in any one accident and is limited to the amount of five thousand dollars ($5,000) for damage to property of others in any one accident.

Also not included within this statute is negligent entrustment or negligent maintenance of the vehicle by the owner.  There is no limit on the liability of an owner under common law.

In a very recent California Supreme Court case, the Court held that the “respondeat superior doctrine makes an employer liable, irrespective of fault, for an employee’s tortious conduct in the scope of employment.”  Diaz v. Carcamo (2011) 51 Cal.4th 1148, 126 Cal.Rptr.3d 443, 449.  “If the employee did not drive negligently, and thus is zero percent at fault, then the employer’s share of fault is zero percent. That is true even if the employer entrusted its vehicle to an employee whom it knew, or should have known, to be a habitually careless driver with a history of accidents.”  Id. at 453-454.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

A: 300 E. State St. Suite 517

     Redlands CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 708-6055