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What is a Cross-Complaint in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

 

Image: WikiHow

Lawsuits can be confusing when there are multiple people involved. In personal injury cases, the parties that sue another person for their injuries are named plaintiffs, and the people they are suing are the defendants. It gets a little trickier when a cross-complaint occurs.

For example, if a truck driver caused an accident that led to two other cars crashing, all the injured parties would typically sue the negligent truck driver. Each injured person would be a plaintiff in the lawsuit. In a cross-complaint, one of the injured plaintiffs in the car crash could decide to sue another injured party.. This would happen if Driver #1 thinks Driver #2 is somehow responsible for her injuries as well.

A plaintiff may only file a cross-complaint if the complaint relates to the main lawsuit. In the above example , Driver #1 would not be able to sue Driver #2 for anything unrelated to the car accident. Unrelated cross-complaints are not allowed because it would potentially draw attention away from the plaintiff’s main claim.

The goal of cross-complaints is to condense all the related claims parties have against each other into one case. This would make things easier for judges, lawyers, and the parties involved because everything can be dealt with at once.

Kershaw, Cook & Talley offers legal services for personal injury cases. If you would like a free case consultation, give us a call at (916) 779-7000.

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I was Injured by a Drunk Driver, What do I Do?

 

Image: Fox News

America has a drinking problem. Alcohol related deaths are the fourth leading preventable cause of death in the United States; and every two minutes, a person is injured in an alcohol related crash. Although drunk driving is a crime in all states, victims of drunk driving incidents are not compensated for their injuries through criminal actions. Instead, victims (or their loved ones) must sue the drunk driver in civil court to recover for their losses. In these types of cases, there are a few important points to keep in mind:

Beware of Settlements from the Driver’s Insurance

If you were hit by an insured drunk driver, it is likely that driver’s insurance company will attempt to contact you and settle your claim. This means the insurance company will offer you a specific amount of money intended to compensate you for your injuries and property damage. If you accept this settlement, it is very unlikely you will be able sue the driver (or their insurance company) to recover anything else. Frequently, these settlement offers are low-balls and do not account for future medical expenses or pain and suffering. So, it is important to speak with an attorney before cashing any checks or signing anything from someone else’s insurance.

Be Aware of Dram Shop Laws

Unfortunately, not all drunk drivers will carry adequate insurance to cover your claim, or they are uninsured. The driver may be judgement-proof—meaning if you prevail in a lawsuit, you cannot recover anything since the driver doesn’t have enough (or any) assets to pay the judgement. In this situation, it is important to know if you can bring a Dram Shop claim against the bar or restaurant who may be partially responsible for the driver’s intoxication. Depending on your insurance, you may also have the choice of bringing a claim under your uninsured motorist coverage—you should check with your insurance carrier if this is part of your policy.

The State You Live in May Impact Your Case

Some states have no-fault insurance laws. This means to bring a civil lawsuit for automobile related injuries, your damages must exceed a certain cost threshold. In these states, if you do not meet the “threshold,” you may be prevented from bringing a claim. Only 12 states are no-fault states (California is not one of them). In the other 38 states, automobile accident claims proceed as any other negligence action. Click here for more information about no-fault laws.

Drunk driving personal injury lawsuits are complicated, and you should get help from an experienced attorney. At Kershaw, Cook & Talley, we only represent victims of drunk driving accidents, not the drunk drivers—so rest assured that we look out for your best interest. If you or a loved one is a victim of a drunk driving accident, we can help. Call our office for a free case evaluation.

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What is Premises Liability?

Image: American Dream Home Inspection

Premises liability involves injuries caused by unsafe or defective conditions on another person’s or business’s property. For example, if you slip and fall on another person’s property due to an unsafe condition, or if an elevator breaks and injures you, these cases would fall under premises liability. If an unsafe condition exists on someone’s property and it causes injuries to an individual, then the owner of the property may be at fault.

A court may follow the “reasonableness” rule to decide whether someone’s injury is the owner’s responsibility. The court will evaluate if the owner was acting reasonably and whether they cared for their property well. In addition, the owner knew their property was unsafe  and did not remedy the hazard, or they did not safeguard their property. Using the slip and fall example, if an owner did not know there was an oil spill on the floor, it is unlikely it will be the owner’s fault unless the spill was so obvious that he should have cleaned it.

Although premises liability laws usually follow this “reasonableness” rule, personal injury laws vary by state. Some use a different rule that categorizes people as “invitees, licensees, and trespassers.”1 California law considers invitees as individuals given permission and invited onto a business property, like a customer in a store. Business owners are responsible for making their property safe by maintaining conditions such as leaky roofs, broken pipes, or spills on the floor. Licensees are defined as social guests, such as friends or family coming over to your house. Owners are accountable for a licensee’s safety to the extent that the owner at least makes reasonable effort to repair unsafe or dangerous conditions. Liability of business owners to invitees differs because business owners have a greater responsibility to keep a safe environment for their guests. Lastly, trespassers, are individuals an owner does not invite onto their property. Owners are not required to ensure the safety of trespassers unless they know of the trespasser (for example, kids who sneak onto a property to use the pool). In this case, the owner is required to use care concerning the trespasser’s safety.

At Kershaw, Cook & Talley, we specialize in personal injury cases including premises liability. If you were seriously injured on a property, and the owner knew of the hazards, call us for a free case evaluation at 888-997-5170.

1 “Premises Liability: Who is Responsible?” FindLaw, http://injury.findlaw.com/accident-injury-law/premises-liability-who-is-responsible.html, June 19, 2017.

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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.

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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.

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