Category: Blog

Understanding Your Rights After an Auto Accident

firefighters fighting fireFor police, fire fighters and ambulance personnel trained to handle emergencies on a daily basis, car accidents are a daily occurrence; for them—and for personal injury attorneys— accidents are just another day at the office. For the rest of us it’s not that easy. There are some things you should remember that might not have been included in the driver’s manual you studied before getting your license. Here are some of your rights, as a victim, after an auto accident and what they mean:

smashed carYou always have the right to hire an attorney after an accident. Your insurance company has attorneys and their insurance company has attorneys. You have a right to consult with an attorney to better explain your rights after an accident. He or she can advise you as to whether or not you have a case, exactly who and what you can sue for as well as give you an idea of what kind of settlement you can expect. An attorney can also advise you as to time limits to file your case and possibly keep you from losing before you have even gone to court. In particular, if you are injured due to someone else’s negligence you have the right to sue for things such as:

  • Bodily injuries
  • Past pain and suffering
  • Future pain and suffering
  • Disability
  • Disfigurement
  • Mental anguish
  • Hospitalization expenses
  • Loss of ability to earn future money
  • Inconvenience
  • Property damage

You may also have the right to sue not only the driver of the other vehicle, but anyone else who may have been responsible for the accident. For example, if there was some defect to your car’s design or operation that caused the accident you may be able to sue the manufacturer.

You have the right to demand the other driver’s contact information such as driver’s license and insurance card, email address, and home, work, and cell phone numbers. This information is vital since not only will it allow you to be able to contact this person and his/her insurance company, but it will also be helpful if the other party is hiding the fact that he/she does not have insurance.

You have the right to take as many photos as you can. These days everyone has a camera within reach at nearly all times. Take pictures of the damage done to both cars and the area around the accident as well as any physical injuries. These photos can serve as invaluable tools in any future legal action.

You have the right to obtain the police report of the incident. Before the officer leaves the scene ask for his/her contact information such as badge number, name and department. Also ask for the reference or service number of the report. It should be made available to you after a few days.

You have a right to not make incriminating statements to the other party’s insurance company such as “It was my fault” or “I’m sorry.” The other party’s insurance is not your advocate. They are looking for admissions of guilt/liability and for reasons to deny your claim. You could end up saying something that could damage your case. A serious personal injury attorney in Los Angeles such as Daniels Law can communicate with the other party’s insurance.

For most of us accidents are a confusing time that tests our abilities at crisis management and also test our common sense and judgment.

Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.

Using rule based analysis and mindmapping to make a stronger point in personal injury cases

world of thingsI’ve been working with two tools that I believe all trial lawyers need to master to improve how they organize their arguments in briefs and in the courtroom.

The first tool is Mind Mapping using the Mindjet MindManager Pro software.  The second is rule based organization, as taught in Rick Friedman’s book, Rules of the Road.

My first example is a mind map outline of a conventional negligence analysis.  You’ll notice the map documents negligence in the same way it is taught to law school first years in their torts class, that is, duty, breach, causation and damages.

This analysis technique works adequately when the fact pattern is simple, such as a traffic accident or an uncomplicated slip and fall.  But, I think we can improve on it.

Now, see how the analysis looks when you apply the rule-based approach in a mind map:

You can see that the rule-based analysis is simpler and more direct.  I think it puts the advocate in a better position to communicate their case clearly, because it forces the story into a simpler framework that is easier to understand.

Detailed legal analysis is great for attorneys thinking through their cases.  But when we try to force a trier of fact, particularly a lay jury, to follow a complex thought process, we are raising barriers to understanding rather than building bridges.

Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.

Understanding brain activity during personal injury trials

breakfast on tray
You need to fuel your body when you’re on a jury — jurors need proper food and water.

Whether you are a judge on the bench, a juror in the jury box or an attorney arguing the case, a personal injury trial takes a lot out of you.

What none of us usually take into account is, the human body has natural rhythms and patterns that affect our ability to absorb and process information that the courtroom process rarely take into account.

For example, it is well documented that stress causes the body to produce the hormone, cortisol, and that excess cortisol can interfere with the brain’s ability to create new memories.  (See this article on the Diurnal Cortisol Cycle.) At the same time, when the body produces increased amounts of the hormone dopamine, concentration levels rise.

When I’m training for a marathon, I make sure to wear a fuel belt with water, little carbohydrate gel paks and gatorade to replenish minerals and electrolytes that my body uses while running, because everyone understands that the human system, like a machine, needs replenishment to function in top form.

So, I’m always amazed that during trial, the jury usually isn’t provided much more in the way of fuel than the bailiff or courtroom attendant pointing out where the drinking fountain can be found and how snacks can be purchased on the second floor and in the rooftop cafeteria.

This is downright weird, when you think of it.  After all, trial is stressful on all the participants.  The jury especially is empowered as a democratic body to weigh facts and decide on a verdict, which is hands down the most important job in the process.  So, why don’t we take better care of our decision makers?

In the courtrooms where I practice, attorneys are usually permitted to bring in water bottles and can stash snacks in their bags if they are so inclined.  It’s always felt awkward to me to sip my cool water when I know the jury in the box isn’t provided with the same opportunity.

Note to self:  Propose that courtroom judges be asked to instruct jurors that they may bring food and drink, reasonably, into the box so they can help themselves stay alert.  Appropriate limits need to be set, say water or soft drinks for consumption during testimony, snacks available in the jury room during breaks.  Perhaps the attorneys can be asked to equally contribute to a fuel fund to save the state some financial burden.

Not all judges will allow for providing fuel for jurors, but some may.  I think most would be willing to let the jurors know they are in a stressful job and let them know, just like my marathon trainers tell their runners, that getting the most from the experience requires proper fuel.

 

Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.

The Bible, Personal Injury and California Justice

Will Daniels
Will Daniels

Now that my oldest child is out in the working world beyond my protection, I worry even more about what might happen if he suffers a hard life blow such as a serious accident. Also, thinking like I do, I wonder what my remedies are if someone, through carelessness or intent, causes bodily harm to this young man I love.

It’s interesting to me that the Bible has strong rules about personal injury that we as a society really don’t look to as a standard. Take Chapter 21, verse 12 of the Book of Exodus, which proclaims: “Whoever strikes a man a mortal blow must be put to death.” Simple and straightforward, don’t you think? The penalty is fixed no matter if the killing resulted from an accident, some simple negligence or with malice aforethought. Harsh, huh?

book openSo, I got to thinking about how California measures up to that old Biblical standard. Seems there should be some clamor to tighten our standards, seeing as how there is a fair amount of the population who still haven’t forgiven Charles Darwin for drawing conclusions about how evolution works.

Actually, though, as a society, we go completely the other way from the Bible’s strong message about the value of human life.

Oh sure, murder, is still punished criminally, or at least it’s supposed to. On the other hand, our civil justice system often seems value human life at less than the cost of a luxury sedan or a new Ferrari. How can that be?

Take my son, for example. If he is killed on the job as the result of a workplace injury, his life is worth a $5,000 burial expense and that’s pretty much it, since he has no dependents. If a doctor kills him through malpractice, then the cap is $250,000 plus whatever expenses he might have incurred in dying, such as medical bills, etc.

A jury of his peers, on the other hand, might value his life as high as the 9/11 panels did in New York where the families of terror victims were compensated by the government for their loss. Those values always fell in the multi-millions. That was the Bush administration too, not a bunch of wild-eyed liberals. The problem is, as a society, we are letting juries decide these questions less and less, because we don’t trust common people to make decisions about value. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather trust my neighbors to decide how much my son’s life is worth than some single stranger who doesn’t know me, my life or my community. Yet, that is the way we’re drifting, my friends.

At the end of the day, there is no way to equate money with loss of human life. Maybe that’s why the old testament is so rigid in it’s approach.

Still, if we are trying to give justice to families who have lost a loved one because of someone else’s negligence and the only remedy we have is to award money damages, don’t you think justice demands that the value be fair?

Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.

 

Reminder: Attorneys are not pin cushions

A man has been convicted of drug charges after a judge in Washington state declared that pencil-and-pen-packing defendant Joshua Monson forfeited his right to counsel because of three attacks on his lawyers during court hearings.

None of the lawyers was seriously hurt. In the first two incidents, which occurred less than a week apart, Monson was accused of stabbing two different lawyers with pencils he smuggled from jail, HeraldNet.com reports. On Tuesday, Monson grabbed the pen being used by his defense lawyer, Jesse Cantor of Everett, Wash., and stabbed Cantor in the head, witnesses said.

The attack occurred Tuesday as prosecutors gave opening statements in Monson’s felony drug trial in Snohomish County. Corrections officers set off an electric stun cuff on Monson’s leg as he lunged for the pen and then piled on top of him, the story says. The first person to reach Monson was a police officer seated at the prosecution table.

Judge David Kurtz said Monson would have to defend himself without a lawyer and would be strapped to a special chair for the rest of the trial. Kurtz advised jurors to ignore the incident, the restraints and the lawyer’s absence.

HeraldNet.com reported that Monson was convicted of drug possession Thursday while in the restraint chair. “A standby defense attorney from King County sat through the hearings to answer Monson’s legal questions,” HeraldNet.com wrote. Monson was not allowed to sign court documents with a pen or pencil.

.

Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.

23004.1 Recovery for care and treatment provided person injured or diseased by‏….

California Government Code section 23004.1 (see below) creates a sort of “super-lien” in personal injury cases.  It pops up when a county provides medical services, so watch out for this if that is your situation.

If there are county provided medical services in connection with a personal injury case, then the county has a lien against any settlement or judgment proceeds that may not even require it to reduce its claim in proportion to the attorneys fees and costs incurred to recover the money (what we call the “common fund doctrine”).

 

Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.

 

23004.1. (a) Subject to the provisions of Section 23004.3, in any case in which the county is authorized or required by law to furnish hospital, medical, surgical, or dental care and treatment, including prostheses and medical appliances, to a person who is injured or suffers a disease, under circumstances creating a tort liability upon some third person to pay damages therefor, the county shall have a right to recover from said third person the reasonable value of the care and treatment so furnished or to be furnished, or shall, as to this right, be subrogated to any right or claim that the injured or diseased person, his guardian, personal representative, estate, or survivors has against such third person to the extent of the reasonable value of the care and treatment so furnished or to be furnished.

(b) The county may, to enforce such rights, institute and prosecute legal proceedings against the third person who is liable for the injury or disease in the appropriate court, either in its own name or in the name of the injured person, his guardian, personal representative, estate, or survivors. Such action shall be commenced within the period prescribed in Section 340 of the Code of Civil Procedure. In the event that the injured person, his guardian, personal representative, estate, survivors, or either of them brings an action for damages against the third person who is liable for the injury or disease, the county s right of action shall abate during the pendency of such action, and continue as a first lien against any judgment recovered by the injured or diseased person, his guardian, personal representative, estate, or survivors, against the third person who is liable for the injury or disease, to the extent of the reasonable value of the care and treatment so furnished or to be furnished. When the third person who is liable is insured, the county shall notify the third person s insurer, when known to the county, in writing of the lien within 30 days following the filing of the action by the injured or diseased person, his guardian, personal representative, estate, or survivors, against the third person who is liable for the injury or disease; provided, however, that failure to so notify the insurer shall not prejudice the claim or cause of action of the injured or diseased person, his guardian, personal representative, estate, or survivors, or the county.

(Added by Stats. 1967, Ch. 1495.)

More measures can help protect against vicious dog attacks‏

An article in the news responds to the the tragic death of a 23-month-old boy mauled by a pit bull last weekend and the debate over whether pit bull breeds should be banned altogether.

Child safety means protecting our children from animal attacks. I really don’t think pit bulls as a breed are the problem. It’s irresponsible owners that need to be put on a leash.

Recent example. I was getting ready for my morning run last week, when I came across a young female pit bull on the street in front of my house. She had a collar, no tags. As sweet as sweet could be. Very unhappy not being with her people.

I turned around and she followed me into my yard. My wife took her in, we gave her some food and water and I went out for my run. When I got home, I asked where the dog was. My wife told me she had crawled into bed with my college-aged son and was fast asleep. (My wife and I live on a small horse ranch, we know good animals and troubled animals from long experience. Don’t recommend you try this at home.)

Anyhow, we took the pit bull to the shelter as that was the best way to reconnect her with her people. But then there is the question, what was that dog doing running loose in the first place? Also, why no tag or chip for identification? All our dogs carry both, plus we’re double gated.

I support spaying and neutering except for legitimate breeding operations and better enforcement of licensing laws. It’s not just any breed that is the problem. It’s people who don’t respect the rights of other people or their own pets.

Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.

Wildfires and Personal Injury

Wildfires are a very dangerous and real problem in California. In such a dry state wildfires can start for a number of reasons. Some wildfires are caused by lightning striking in the wrong place at the wrong time, some are caused by problems with utility company equipment, some are caused by controlled fires burning out of control and some are caused by human error or some act of negligence. Regardless of the cause, the bottom line is this: Wildfires can and do happen; and when they strike, the fallout can be devastating.

Wildfires that burn in or near populated areas can cause some extensive damage; if you live in one of these areas you are at risk of potential property damage, personal injury (such as smoke inhalation or severe burns) or even death. For those affected by such fires, the aftermath can be absolutely heartbreaking. This is why when dealing with the negative impacts caused by wildfires—such as the one that burned near Shaver Lake earlier this year—it should be handled with the utmost care and respect.

If you and/or your loved ones find yourselves trying to figure out how to deal with the fallout after losing your home or being injured in a California Wildfire, Daniels Law is here to help. We are very invested in the wellbeing of those who have been negatively affected by the wildfires that have raged here in California recently, so at Daniels Law you’ll be sure to find the best Los Angeles personal injury lawyer to handle your case. Give us a call today to discuss all of your options.

 

Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.

How Lawsuits Can Help Solve Problems

One of the great things about living in America, is we have something called “the rule of law.”

So, just what is that?

Well, in the U.S., instead of having a king sitting on a throne, we believe “the law is king.” That means that we believe we are ruled by laws, not other men and women. “The rule of law.” It’s precious stuff, friends.

So, what does any of that have to do with lawsuits.

Well, it turns out, that people just living their daily lives, are going to have problems that come up in dealing with other people.

There’s two ways to solve problems having to do with money, property or your person, what we call “civil” problems.

One is something called “self help.” In other words, if your neighbor built a high fence and you don’t like it, self help is taking a saw and cutting it down without permission.

Only we learned a long time ago that self help causes all kinds of problems. If you don’t believe me, try cutting down your neighbor’s fence and report back to me what happens. No, just kidding. Don’t do that. Self-help isn’t really all that helpful.

The other way to solve civil problems is something called a civil justice system.

When someone wants to solve a problem using the civil justice system, they file papers asking for some kind of relief. That’s basically what a lawsuit is. Pretty simple, huh?

Now, there is plenty of debate these days about whether there are too many lawsuits, or too few, and all that kind of stuff that I know you hear about all the time.

But, the truth is, when you have a civil problem, it become real important to you that someone can help you solve that problem in the fairest, least expensive and quickest way.

Now, I’m not here to give you legal advice and there are differences in how courts work in each state and in the federal system. Still, spend a little time with me and I think I can tell you some things that you didn’t know before and, hopefully, will help you with whatever problem you need to fix.

 

Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.

 

Defective Product Litigation and Injury Lawsuits

On the surface, product liability would seem to be a pretty cut and dry area of the law and being a litigation attorney may not seem super exciting. I mean it all seems like common sense. Some manufacturer or seller creates or distributes a product, a consumer purchases it and is injured, or perhaps even dies as a result of using it and naturally the manufacturer is automatically responsible for said injury and attempts to make things right. However, this area of law has many pitfalls that await consumers who have been harmed and for the inexperienced personal injury attorneys who try these cases.

Filing a Product Liability Lawsuit

According to some estimates, injuries, deaths and property damage from defective and recalled products cost the public more than $500 billion each year. Recently, a man in San Jose was awarded a $9.8 million judgment in a product liability case involving a surgical stapler that caused him grave bodily harm. Thus, product liability cases, unfortunately, are not an insignificant part of the legal system. In this case, without the proper legal counsel as to the circumstances, criteria and time limits involved in filing suit in a personal injury claim for product liability,it could have ended even more tragically for this person. Knowing when to file a case is one of the first steps to succeeding in personal injury cases involving product liability. In the state of California, for example, an action must be brought within two years from the time when the injury occurred. Here are some other things to know when filing a personal injury claim involving a defective product:

Establishing liability in personal injury cases involving a defective product

There are four legal means for establishing liability in personal injury cases involving a defective product:

  • Negligence: This is when expected, reasonable care is not taken and an obligation to do so exists. Negligence can occur when defective partsor improper assembly result in some injury.
  • Breach of Warranty: This is when a seller fails to uphold a claim or promise regarding their product.
  • False Advertising: This is when a consumer is misled into believing that a product is safer than it actually is.
  • Strict Liability: This is when the manufacturer or seller of a defective product is responsible for all injuries occurring from the use of the product. This also means that everyone involved in the making of a consumer product is potentially liable for any personal injury that results from using the product.

Obviously, manufacturers and sellers never mean to harm consumers with the products they create or distribute. However, intent is irrelevant when you suffer an injury and are required to pay hospital bills or when a loved one is struck down through no fault of his or her own. How can you be made whole after you are harmed by faulty—even deadly—products? We are Daniels Law, a Hollywood law firm that specializes in all areas of personal injury including the very complicated area of product liability. We are familiar with all aspects of product liability and can inform you as to your time limits to file and the types of product defects (design, manufacturing errors and false advertising) there are. We know that the cost to life and limb in these cases can be inestimable.

Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.