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Car Accident with an Uninsured Motorist

Don’t have time to read this blog?  Watch this video one of our attorneys recorded on this topic:

The Insurance Research Council (IRC) estimates that 1 driver out of every 7 drivers in the United States is uninsured.  If you are involved in a collision with an uninsured driver, your ability to recover your property and injury damages will largely depend on how well you have protected yourself through your own policy of insurance.

In California, the type of insurance coverage you will need to protect yourself should you become injured in a collision with an uninsured driver is known as UM/UIM coverage.  That is, Uninsured Motorist/Under-Insured Motorist coverage.  Your insurance company must offer you this coverage and if you choose not to buy it, you must sign a waiver.  If you didn’t sign a waiver, it will automatically be included with your coverage by law.

If you have purchased UM coverage as part of your auto policy, you will need to contact your carrier and inform them of the collision, the fact that you were injured, and that the other driver did not have insurance.  They will assign a claim representative to assist you with accessing your coverage.  The claims representative will likely take steps to verify the uninsured status of the other at-fault driver, before processing your claim.  Even though this is your own insurance company you’ll be dealing with, it is always a good idea to contact an experienced personal injury attorney before making the call to ensure your rights are protected.

Even if the other driver did have insurance coverage, you should check your policy to see if you have UIM coverage.  This type of coverage will “fill in the gap” between the other driver’s coverage and the total amount of your damages, if there’s a difference.  For example, let’s say your injury damages (medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering) from the collision total $100,000 and the other driver had $15,000 to cover bodily injuries.  Let’s further assume you have $100,000 of UIM coverage in your own policy of insurance.  You must first make a claim against the other driver’s insurance policy and collect the full $15,000.  Then you must prove to your own claim representative that you collected the full amount of the other driver’s available insurance coverage.  This is usually accomplished by faxing them a copy of the check along with a copy of the other driver’s insurance declaration page showing they were only insured up to $15,000 and there was no other coverage.  You may then work with your own claims representative to collect the remaining $85,000 from your UIM coverage to fully compensate you for your damages.  Again, it is always a good idea to make sure you at least consult with an experienced personal injury attorney to protect your rights.  Although they may tell you that you are in good hands or, that just like a good neighbor, they’ll be there, it’s not always the case.

If you or a loved one you know has been injured a car accident with an uninsured driver let Kershaw, Cook, and Talley assist you. Call 888-997- 5170 for a free case evaluation.

Fourth of July Safety Tips

Photo: SFGate

Nothing says “summer” like backyard barbecues and fireworks on the Fourth of July. Independence Day is a great excuse to get together with family and enjoy some nice weather. Unfortunately, it is also the most dangerous holiday of the year. Alcohol, fireworks, and crowded pools contribute to large amount of injuries occurring each year. So, with the holiday fast approaching, keep these important safety tips in mind.

Use extreme care when handling fireworks. Fireworks are a culprit for severe burns and wildfires when mishandled. If you plan on celebrating with fireworks this year, follow these tips from the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission:

  • Never let young children play with or ignite fireworks.
  • Always have a garden hose or a bucket of water on hand.
  • Never try to relight or pick up a firework that didn’t go off.
  • Light fireworks one at a time, on a flat, dry surface.
  • Never have any part of your body over a firework devise as you are lighting the fuse.

Grill safely at home. Each year people are injured while barbecuing on charcoal or gas grills. Ensure your family stays safe at your backyard-BBQ with these tips from the Red Cross.

  • Always supervise a grill when it is in use.
  • Never grill indoors or under any enclosed area.
  • Keep the grill out in the open and away from anything that could catch fire—like tree branches or your house.
  • Use long-handled tools specialized for grilling.
  • Never add charcoal fire starter after the grill starts.

Stay safe while swimming. If you plan on taking your family to the beach or lake this year, stay afloat with these water safety precautions from PGE:

  • If your child is under 13, they are required to wear a coast guard-approved life jacket on moving boats that are less than 26 feet in length.
  • Never jump or dive (or let your kids jump or dive) into unfamiliar water. There could be submerged rocks or trees that can cause injury.
  • Don’t swim or let your kids play near a powerhouse or dam—these areas could have strong underwater currents and other submerged hazards.

Don’t forget about your pets! As fun as the Fourth of July is for humans, all the commotion can be dangerous and stressful to animals. Keep your pets happy and safe with this guidance from the ASPCA:

  • Alcohol is poisonous to animals, so don’t leave drinks unattended where pets could reach them.
  • Sunscreen and insect repellent is for human use only, so unless you bought specialized SPF for your dog don’t share your sunblock with them.
  • Never put glow sticks on your pets- they are highly toxic.
  • Leave your animals at home and inside the house. Fireworks and crowds are no fun for pets; they can get scared and disoriented by the sounds.

With these tips in mind, you should enjoy a safe Fourth of July with family and friends.

California Dram Shop Laws

Dram shops refer to bars, liquor stores or other establishments that sell or serve alcoholic beverages. Dram shop laws concern the liability of establishments providing alcohol to an intoxicated person or minor who ends up injuring or killing a third party in an alcohol-related accident. For example, if a bar serves alcohol to an obviously drunk person, who later drives and hits someone, can the injured party sue the bartender?

In California, the law significantly limits the liability of people and businesses who serve or sell alcohol. You would not be able to sue the bartender who served alcohol to the person that injured you. The California Business and Professions Code Section 25602 states that bars are not responsible for selling alcohol to patrons who are obviously intoxicated.

The exception is if a vendor serves alcohol to an intoxicated minor who injures or kills someone else. The vendor could be accountable for the minor’s actions. Dram shop liability would apply and the injured person would be able to sue the vendor. The injured party could recover damages to pay for medical expenses lost wages, pain and suffering, and other significant losses.

Dram shop claims have a statute of limitations that restrict the amount of time you must file a case and seek compensation. In California, Dram shop claims must be filed within two years of the injury date. California enacted these laws because it is difficult to prove the actual cause of injury.

If you were seriously injured by a drunk driver, call Kershaw, Cook & Talley for a free case consultation at 888-997-5170.

US Supreme Court sides with Bristol-Meyers Squibb

Today, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled on a case that makes it harder for multiple people to bring their mass or class actions in one state court. A mass or class action involves people who suffer from the same general injuries that were caused by the same person or company. In this case, Bristol-Myers Squibb was selling a drug, Plavix, which damaged many people’s health. Hundreds of people from 33 states wanted to sue Bristol-Meyers, and they all wanted to bring their claims together in California court. However, many of them did not live in California, they were not prescribed Plavix in California, nor did they suffer any harm there. When you have this little contact with a state, it becomes very hard to establish jurisdiction, meaning it will be difficult to bring a lawsuit in that state court.

The general rule for bringing a lawsuit against a company in a specific state requires either that their injury take place there or there is some connection between that state and the company. You can also bring a lawsuit against a company in the state where they do most of their business or where they have their headquarters. In the case brought to the Supreme Court today, the plaintiffs were made up of California residents and non-California residents. These people thought that because they were all harmed by the same drug, same company, and had similar injuries, that they could bring all their lawsuits together in California. However, the Court did not agree with this. The Court said that there was no connection between the non-residents and California because their injuries occurred in different states and they were not prescribed the Plavix in California. Even though Bristol-Meyers sold Plavix there, that was not a strong enough connection for a non-resident to bring a lawsuit.

This ruling has a major effect on the hundreds or thousands of people who suffer similar injuries that want to file one lawsuit against a company. It will make it nearly impossible to bring a nationwide action in state court against a company who does most of its business in a state other than where the plaintiffs live. It will force people to bring separate lawsuits in separate courts, even though the issues they are arguing will be the same. It may come as no surprise that people will not want to do this because their claims are worth little on their own, but if they are allowed to bring it with other people, their claims will be worth a lot more. It will be interesting to see what effect this ruling will have on future class actions and how nationwide lawsuits are brought to court.


Opinion analysis: Justices reject California courts’ jurisdiction over claims by out-of-state litigants against out-of-state defendants

Is there a Cap on Medical Malpractice Liability in California?

You have the right to expect a high standard of care anytime a doctor or healthcare provider treats you. Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor or provider’s negligence of a patient’s treatment causes them harm. Examples include mistakes in treatment or improper diagnoses.  Filing a medical malpractice claim holds the doctor accountable for their actions or inactions.

There is a specific deadline, a certain number of years, for filing any medical malpractice lawsuit against a healthcare provider. This deadline is the statute of limitations. Once the statute of limitations on a case “runs out”, the claim is no longer valid.

California’s statute of limitations to file a medical malpractice lawsuit is 3 years from the date of one’s injury, or one year from the date the injury was discovered or should have been discovered. There are some exceptions to the statute of limitations depending on the status of a minor or on other circumstances of the case.

The Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) of 1975 tried to lower any medical malpractice liability and place a limit on the amount of damages a victim can recover from a claim. Non-economic damages, or damages related to pain and suffering or any loss of enjoyment of life, are capped at $250,000. Depending on the overall settlement amount, there is also a limit on the fees attorneys can recover.

If someone is successful in their medical malpractice lawsuit, they can be paid in full upfront or in the form of periodic payments. Periodic payments are established under California statutory laws, and allow healthcare providers to pay their victims’ awards over time.

If you were seriously injured, due to a doctor’s or healthcare provider’s negligence, call our personal injury attorneys for a free consultation and case evaluation. A personal injury attorney can help victims recover damages for their injuries including medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost income.

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