Category: Employment

Distracted driving can hurt your company bottom line

looking into rear view mirrorThe National Safety Council today released the white paper “Employer Liability and the Case for Comprehensive Cell Phone Policies,” which details the potential liability employers face when employees are involved in crashes where cell phone use is a factor.

The research includes examples of employers who have been held liable with awards reaching into the tens of millions of dollars, including cases involving employee-owned cell phones and cars and in situations where employees were driving during non-working hours or engaged in personal phone calls.

“Business leaders owe it to their employees to put safety first – especially when employees are on the roads,” said Janet Froetscher, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration estimate on-the-job crashes cost employers more than $24,500 per property damage crash. The cost rises to $150,000 per injury and to as much as $3.6 million per fatality.

NSC president and CEO: “Employers should know a policy that prohibits handheld and hands-free cell phone use by all employees while driving is not only a best safety practice but also contributes to the bottom line.”

Even though April has been Distracted Drivers Awareness Month, distracted driving is still an everyday occurrence.  The news has reported that thousands of tickets have been issued to distracted drivers this month. You not only need to be aware of your driving, you need to be aware of the distracted drivers on the road with you.

Although distracted driving accidents may cost millions of dollars, the ultimate high price is the loss of loved ones. Drive alert, drive safe.

 

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.

Watch out if your employer health plan pays for your accident injuries

Many employer provided health plans are covered by a federal law called ERISA (Employment Retirement Income Security Act).  This Nixon-era law was originally meant to keep union plans from being stripped by unscrupulous institutions.

Important fact:  If your employer provided health plan paid for your accident injury medical care, ERISA may cause problems in your personal injury claim if you aren’t prepared up front.

Many ERISA health plans have language that require reimbursing the insurance company for any money they paid out for accident injuries if there is recovery from a third person.

In other words, if you settle your claim for $100,000 and the medical expenses are $110,000, you could wind up owing the insurance company $10,000 more than you settled for.  Depending on the language in your health plan, you might not even get to deduct the money you paid your attorneys or the costs of settling the claim.

That might sound unfair, but it’s the law according the the U.S. Supreme Court.  US Airways v. McCutchen, 113 S.Ct. 1537 (2013).

We’ve had these cases and the trick is to get with the insurance company at the very beginning and try to negotiate a fair deal.  You have leverage before you settle your claim that you don’t have once the money is in the bank.

The takeaway?  Hire an attorney who is familiar with the ins and outs of ERISA.  If you’re interviewing a lawyer, have an employer-provided group health plan and your prospective attorney doesn’t know about US Airways, you might want to think about looking elsewhere.

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.

Your rights as an employee in California

Obviously, your job is important to you. It feeds your family. It pays the rent. It helps to educate your children.

You work hard for your employer. You show up on time and stay late when needed. You do your best to succeed.You are a “company” worker.

Though you have to meet the requirements expected at work, you also have certain rights under the law as an employee. You have employee rights under California law.

For example, generally speaking, you employer has to pay you the minimum wage. Most hourly employees are also entitled to regular breaks, overtime pay, worker’s compensation insurance, unemployment insurance and unpaid time off for serious illness or a new baby.

Sexual harassment in the workplace is generally prohibited, as is discrimination based on certain characteristics such as gender, race, national origin or religion. If you suffer from a disability, your employer may be required to accommodate you by making changes in the workplace so your can perform the essential functions of your job position.

Sometimes a situation at work will seem unfair or even intolerable. When it does, it is best not to suffer in silence. Let your supervisor know that there is a problem, or if appropriate, consult with human resources. Most workplace problems can be resolved informally when there is communication. You may be surprised with the result! You may be surprised regarding how and why California law protects your employee rights.

If your employer is unwilling to help you solve your workplace problem, there may be other solutions. The California Department of Industrial Relations can help you understand your rights and provides services for employees in the state.  There are low-income clinics and workshops aimed to assist California workers, you can find references to them on the internet.

Of course, if you have a serious employment problem, whether its wage and hour, wrongful termination or discrimination, Daniels Law Offices is on your side.

 

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.

In California there are limits on what an employer can ask during a job interview

There are limits on what employers in California can ask you during a job interview, so it pays to know your rights.

In general, interview questions must relate to the background and skills that are necessary to perform the job in question.

Normally, your potential employer can’t ask questions about your age, religious beliefs or sexual orientation.  Also prohibited in most cases is asking whether or not you have, or once had, a disability, though the employer may ask if you are able to perform the general job duties for which you are being considered.

A potential employer usually is prohibited from asking if you’ve ever been arrested if the arrest did not lead to a plea bargain, verdict or some other finding of guilt. Employers are generally barred from obtaining your arrest record or from using an arrest alone in making employment decisions.  While there are exceptions to this rule (such as for certain law enforcement and other sensitive positions) this protection applies generally to both job applicants and employees seeking promotion.

Employers may ask if you have been arrested and are awaiting trial on criminal charges or, usually, if you have been convicted of a crime.  Still, there are protections for workers in this area as well.  So, an employer is usually barred from asking about any marijuana conviction more than two years old, or from inquiring about a conviction where the records were sealed.

 

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.

 

Limits on employee drug-testing in California

In general, California job applicants can be asked to take a drug test as part of the job application process.

For existing employees, the rules are different.  Usually an employer must have some sort of legitimate concern before requiring drug testing of an existing employee, such as a reasonable suspicion of illegal drug use.  

Some jobs involving public safety don’t restrict employer drug testing in the same manner as regular employment.  If you drive a passenger bus, operate railroad equipment or work in various other special areas, particularly in the transportation field, an employer has greater rights to require drug testing and may not even be required to give advance notice.

When in doubt, consult with the Department of Labor Standards Enforcement or your union representative.

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.

 

California employees are generally “at will,” which limits rights outside of discrimination or other illegal conduct

In California, employees are generally considered “at will,” which means that the law permits employers to suspend, demote or terminate (fire) them without providing a reason.  As a result, if you believe your employer has simply been unfair to you in the workplace, there is usually no remedy other than finding another job.

There are important exceptions to this general rule, especially where an employer acts in a discriminator manner.  It is illegal for an employer to discriminate in the workplace because of age, gender, race, national origin or sexual orientation, among other protected classes.  It is also usually prohibited to fire or discipline an employee for reporting or complaining to officials or governmental agencies about illegal discrimination, what is usually referred to as “whistle-blower” conduct.

To protect our precious system of trial by jury, the law also prohibits firing or otherwise disciplining an employee for missing work due to jury service.  However, your employer may limit the amount of paid time provided where an employee is selected to serve on a jury.

In some cases, if you quit or relocated because you were relying on a job offer, but the offer wasn’t made in good faith, you might have a remedy.  However, this exception requires that you can show that the employer made the offer in bad faith, meaning they knew the job offer wasn’t serious at the time it was made.

Some employees have contracts for fixed employment terms or that state they can only be fired for good cause.  Where an employer violates that agreement, the remedy is a breach of contract action in a civil court.

In some cases, a court will find an implied in fact contract that gives an employee rights beyond those the at will doctrine provides.  In finding an implied in fact contract, the court will look at such factors as length of employment, job performance evaluations, job duties, commendations, assurances of employment for certain terms and promises made in an employee handbook or human resources policy manuals.  There is no fixed standard in the court’s analysis and such factors as whether an employer is acting out of economics or was justified in acting because of poor job performance by the employee will all be taken into consideration.

Often, if you believe you have suffered illegal discrimination in the workplace or some other illegal job action, your best course is to consult an experienced employment attorney who can help you analyze 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.

Free Speech and 140 Characters

According to the New York Times, a National Labor Relations Board office claims Thomson Reuters Corp. violated federal labor law with its Twitter policy.

“Labor law specialists say employees have the right to criticize or disparage their companies or supervisors as part of a conversation aimed at improving working conditions, but do not have the right to merely curse supervisors or make untrue, disloyal statements that damage a company’s reputation.”

Regardless of the legal right, it simply isn’t smart to bad mouth your employer using social media. That being said, the NLRB action indicates that American free speech principles remain alive and well, even if the speech is limited to 140 characters.

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.

Social Networks and Hiring Discrimination?

Maybe I’m just getting old(er) and (more) conservative, but in this job market, I don’t think there is much traction in trying to claim an employer is discriminating by not hiring, or even firing, over what they see on a social networking site.

The fact is, jobs are hard to come by and jurors aren’t all that sympathetic to claims that an employer is being unfair by checking out future or present employees on the internet.  I think the attitude is, “you’re lucky to have a job if you can get one.”

This, of course, is not the case if there is a bonafide discriminatory act based on a protected classification such as race, gender, national origin or sexual orientation.  But people are justifiably skeptical of those claims (me too, I turn down 99% of the potential cases I review), so it better be the real thing with compelling evidence if you are going to head for court.  On the other hand, if there is actual discrimination at work, then that is something that needs to be addressed and remedied.  This is America, after all.  We still get to fight for equal opportunity, though it is often an uphill battle.

 

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.