Bird & Lime Electric Scooter Accident Risks - Who Is Liable?

Bird & Lime Electric Scooter Accident Risks – Who Is Liable?

The e-scooter (Electric Scooter) revolution is about to hit Sacramento and the Central Valley.  If you have recently visited cities, such as Washington D.C. or San Jose, CA, then you know about this new phenomenon.  From your smartphone, you can locate and electronically pay for a motorized scooter, which you will find in various city locations provided by Electric Scooter Rental Companies such as Lime and Bird. You hop on one of these electric scooters and off you go through the city streets. You can stop for some coffee and then scoot to your next destination.  

When you are finished riding, you can simply drop off the scooter at any location where it won’t create a hazard for pedestrians and other vehicles.  The City of Sacramento allows e-scooters but requires that parking racks be provided by the electric scooter rental companies. These companies are working to get the motorized scooters on the streets.  Some cities don’t require racks, and patrons simply drop off the scooter in the middle of sidewalks leaving a hazard in the walkway. This leaves many people wondering who is liable in an electric scooter accident.

There are some other limits to your operation of these scooters.  You cannot drive these scooters on roads with speed limits over 25 mph unless ridden within a class II bicycle lane.  Also, some cities and States require that e-scooter drivers be of a certain minimum age.  California requires that the driver be 16 years of age. However, Los Angeles requires that the driver be at least 18 years of age.  In fact, the drivers are required to have a motor vehicle driver license or permit, however, the smartphone app does not require users to verify having a valid drivers license.

Interestingly, California recently changed the helmet laws affecting scooter operators.  Adults are no longer are required to wear a helmet but persons 17 years of age are and younger are required to do so.

So who is liable when a scooter driver runs down a pedestrian or leaves a scooter in the middle of a sidewalk hindering safe passage? Who will pay for the scooter driver’s mistakes when the scooter driver injures someone?  If the scooter rider is injured while appropriately riding the electric scooter, who is at fault?  The e-scooter company may bear liability if it fails to comply with the municipal law by, for example, failing to install parking racks. Yet, the scooter driver will likely be the one held most responsible for mistakes parking and/or operating a scooter.  

Automobile insurance pays for accidents involving cars so automobile insurance is not likely to ensure the scooter driver.  A homeowners’ policy or renters’ insurance policy may provide liability coverage for such incidents so long as there are no exclusions.   It is not clear whether these policies will pay for damage to the scooter.

Parents of minors need to be especially aware of this e-scooter phenomenon.  After all, parents of minors are responsible for a minor’s negligent conduct that injures or damages another person pursuant to California Civil Code section 1714.1.  These damages are limited to hospital, medical and dental expenses totaling $42,100.00.

We here at Curtis Legal Group want you to be safe. Even though adults are not required to wear a helmet when operating a motorized scooter, adults should, nevertheless, wear a helmet.  Also, you should check your homeowners’ policy and renters’ insurance policy to ensure that you have liability coverage in case you make a mistake and injure another person. Medical bills, wage loss and pain and suffering damages can be expensive.  You will want to have insurance when you pick up that motorized scooter and scoot your way to the nearest coffee shop.

The Risk of Uninsured Uber and Lyft Drivers

The Risk of Uninsured Uber and Lyft Drivers

What happens if your Uber or Lyft Driver gets in a car accident while logged out of the app? Will Uber or Lyft cover your injuries, or will the drivers personal insurance coverage kick in?

You are traveling in downtown Sacramento and standing at the corner of Capitol Mall and 10th Street. You open up your Uber or Lyft app, and follow as your driver makes his/her way to your location. The driver shows up, and you are relieved to find that you have a ride so that you can tour the streets of Sacramento. You then ask the driver if he would be so kind to drive you to the Capitol building, Sutter’s Fort and Old Sacramento. The driver explains that he can only drive you to one of these locations and that you will then have to request another ride. You are concerned that you will have difficulty getting another ride, and you don’t know how long you will need to tour all the sites.

The driver then offers to turn off the app, and says you can pay him directly. He will then take you to all the sites that Sacramento has to offer and wait for you at each site. You agree to his proposal. After all, the driver has provided you a great convenience, and you believe that the driver’s conduct doesn’t affect you. His actions may trigger employment issues with Uber or Lyft, but these issues don’t concern you. Well, the driver’s actions actually do affect you and the public.

Under California law, Uber and Lyft are required to provide $1,000,000.00 of liability coverage per accident and $1,000,000.00 of uninsured motorist coverage per accident. Coverage limits of $1,000,000.00 covers the Uber or Lyft driver if he is at fault for causing injuries to others. $1,000,000.00 of uninsured motorist coverage covers the Uber driver and his or her passengers if any one of them, or all of them, are injured due to the fault of an uninsured motorist.

However, if the driver closes the app while driving you around the historical sites of Sacramento, then the driver has only his personal auto insurance’s liability and uninsured motorist coverage available to you should a motor vehicle accident occur. Yet, the driver may not have insurance coverage at all. Uber and Lyft are not required to provide liability coverage and uninsured motorist coverage when a driver is logged off its program, and personal auto insurance rarely covers an at-fault driver if the driver is operating a motor vehicle for a fee while causing an accident.

An Uber or Lyft driver can get a public passenger endorsement to his personal auto policy in order to have coverage for driving passengers outside the program they are driving for. However, these endorsements can be expensive. As a result, there is a good chance that you are riding in an uninsured motor vehicle. Is it worth the risk that you may have limited recourse for injuries suffered in an auto accident?

It is best for all concerned that you don’t ride with an Uber or Lyft driver that is logged off of the app. We, here, at Curtis Legal Group want to keep you safe, not only as a driver but as a passenger as well.

hydrate to stay safe

Stay Hydrated to Stay Safe

Could a thirsty driver be dangerous?

It’s a hot summer day in Sacramento. The sun is beating down, a hot breeze is blowing. You’re out in the yard, mowing the lawn and pruning some bushes. You’re perspiring. You’ve been at it for quite a while and haven’t stopped for a drink of water.

You decide it’s time to quit when you start feeling a little light-headed. Surely that will clear up once you go indoors, right?

You then remember you need to run across town to pick up some things for a family get together that evening. You jump in the car; you’ll get that bottle of water when you get back.

As you drive, that dizzy sensation doesn’t go away. In fact, it starts getting worse but you press on. Suddenly, blackness closes in and you lose consciousness. Your car veers into the oncoming lane and crashes into another vehicle. There are multiple injuries, including to yourself.

Does this sound like it could happen? It absolutely could happen and, in fact, has happened in cases Curtis Legal Group has handled.

Dehydration can easily occur in the summer heat we experience in Sacramento, Stockton and Modesto and dehydration can lead to fainting. A decrease in bodily fluids can result in a drop in blood pressure, which can cause a momentary loss of consciousness. If you are driving a car when that happens, an accident is likely to occur. If you are unlucky enough to be in heavy traffic or on the freeway when that happens, serious injuries can result.

If you are hit by someone who loses consciousness because of dehydration, are they responsible for the damages you suffer? Most people that live in the central valley know that we have to keep hydrated, especially in the summer months. Also, as in the example above, there may be some advance warning signs that something is not right, such as a feeling of light-headedness. If a person knows they haven’t been drinking water and they feel a bit dizzy while driving, they should pull over and get some fluids into their body. If they fail to do that and, instead, press on as in the example, they likely will be responsible for the damage they cause as a result.

Stay hydrated and stay safe!

Do You Believe in Pain and Suffering Damages? Some Don't!

Do You Believe in Pain and Suffering Damages? Some Don’t!

Do you believe in pain and suffering damages?

When our firm takes a personal injury case to trial in some counties like Stanislaus, San Joaquin or Sacramento, it is so important that our attorneys ask prospective jurors whether they believe in pain and suffering damages. If they don’t, then we must do what we can to protect our clients for that juror will not likely be a fair juror.

In California, if a victim suffers injury due to the fault of another, then he or she is entitled to pain and suffering damages. Pain and suffering damages mean those monetary damages that are reasonable and necessary to compensate an injured person for the physical pain, mental suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, disfigurement, physical impairment, inconvenience, grief, anxiety, humiliation and emotional distress suffered as a result of an accident.

Believe it or not, some people don’t believe that injury victims should be awarded these damages. These damages do not result in loss of actual money, such as medical bills and loss of wages, and these damages can’t always be seen unless the injured victim is disfigured. In other words, pain and mental distress can be invisible.

However, we all know that pain and mental distress may not be seen by others but the injuries are real to those who are suffering them.

Yet, time after time, prospective jurors tell trial attorneys that they just don’t believe in awarding such damages. These damages are viewed as a windfall to the injured victim. The victim is somehow getting more than he or she deserves.

Judges will attempt to get a prospective juror to agree to abide by the law and award the damages, but it is extremely risky for an injured victim’s attorney to be left with this juror on the jury. In California 9 out of 12 jurors need to award pain and suffering damages so a prospective juror that doesn’t believe in pain and suffering damages is likely to minimize the damage award even if he or she follows the judge’s instructions.

That is why you need a law firm to fight for you if you are injured through the fault of others. At Curtis Legal Group, we spend time developing good strategies to deal with prospective jurors who don’t believe in pain and suffering damages.

Slip and Fall Sign in Sacramento Business

Mind The Caution Floor Sign!

Have you ever walked into Sacramento’s Arden Fair Mall and noticed yellow or orange, wet-floor caution signs positioned throughout the mall. Lately, we have noticed that more and more restaurants, theaters, coffee shops, grocery stores and shopping malls are placing wet floor caution signs in different locations. They are usually near the restrooms but are frequently elsewhere as well. As a result, the wet floor caution signs are becoming part of many store’s furniture ensembles and are often left out for extended periods of time. As a result, the floor space near the wet floor caution sign does not always look wet and therefore, patrons are generally ignoring the signs; that is human nature.

In fact, we were recently in a Modesto coffee shop and a customer line formed around a wet floor caution sign. None of the customers seemed to acknowledge the wet floor sign. It was as if it did not exist. They walked to the side of it and right up against it. Should these customers have been concerned that a wet floor caution sign was posted near them? Should they have walked slowly and carefully around the sign or left the area?

Evidently, some Sacramento, Stockton, and Modesto businesses have now decided that it is best to simply post wet floor caution signs throughout their premises–even leaving them posted for the entire business day. In that way, a customer can’t complain that the store failed to give them notice of a wet floor condition. After all, someone will eventually spill a drink on the floor, or an employee will eventually mop the floor. The floor will, indeed, eventually get wet. Yet, if the floor is not wet when a caution sign is posted, should the property owner or tenant still post a caution sign?

In California, one who owns and/or controls real property is responsible to those injured on his or her property for dangerous conditions causing the claimed injury. The property owner is responsible for such dangerous conditions if he or she knows about the dangerous condition or should have known about it. In that light, the law requires that property owners conduct reasonable inspections of their property. Businesses, such as grocery stores, may be required to inspect their premises more often than other business operations given the likelihood of food, liquids and other store products landing on their floors. The scope and timing of such inspections depend on industry standards.

The property owner can be relieved of this liability if he or she fixes the dangerous condition, protects patrons or adequately warns. Is a business adequately warning a customer when it leaves its wet floor caution signs up all day? Indeed, if the wet floor caution sign remains posted, even when the floor is dry, then those customers who regularly frequent the business will become immune to the sign’s effect. Why take the sign seriously if it is posted when the floor is dry?

It is true that businesses do need to warn of areas where water or liquids are likely to spill but businesses should be careful to ensure that their caution signs do not become a permanent fixture. A property owner’s goal should be to protect and warn customers–not to simply avoid being held liable for injuries.

At Curtis Legal Group, we thoroughly investigate whether a property owner has provided an adequate warning in order to escape liability for a dangerous floor condition. Just because a wet floor caution sign is up doesn’t mean the property owner adequately warned the injured victim. Each case is different and requires a thorough analysis.

where the rubber meets the road

Where The Rubber Meets The Road

Your car’s tires are the only part of the vehicle that comes into direct contact with the road. As such, they are a critical item helping to ensure your safety.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) there are typically 11,000 tire-related vehicle crashes in the U.S. each year. Making sure your tires are in good condition should, therefore, be a priority.

At Curtis Legal Group, we sometimes see situations where tire-related accidents happen because of poor inflation or overall tire wear and tear. These types of car accidents can often be avoided by simple inspections and maintenance.

The American Auto Association (AAA) recommends checking the air pressure on your tires at least once a month. Over or under inflation can cause unnecessary wear. Under-inflation can also cause poor gas mileage.

How much should your tires be inflated? Since 2003, vehicle manufacturers have been directed to place tire information placards on the driver’s side doorjamb of each vehicle. They identify the original equipment tire sizes and recommended inflation pressures measured in pounds per square inch (psi.) Always check tire pressure when the tires are cold since driving can temporarily increase tire pressure.

It is also important to periodically check the depth of tread on your tires. AAA recommends using a quarter test to do so. Simply insert a quarter into a tread groove with the top of Washington’s head facing toward the tire. If the top of his head is not visible, you should have sufficient tire tread (at least 4/32 of an inch.) If you can see the top of George’s head, it is time to start shopping for new tires.

Other useful information about tire maintenance can be found on the NHTSA website. Well-maintained tires are essential for vehicle safety and your safety as well!

We at Curtis Legal Group want to ensure that you drive safely at all times.

How Much Can an Injury Case Be Worth?

How Much Can an Injury Case Be Worth?

This is a question we frequently get, often in the first phone call from someone recently injured in an accident. There is an answer to this question, but it’s not something that can be determined without some analysis.

When we talk about what a Sacramento car accident injury case is “worth” we are either talking about what an insurance company will pay to settle that case or what a jury would award a verdict after a trial. That involves an investigation into many things including how the accident occurred and who is at fault, what injuries and medical treatment were involved, the cost of the treatment, what long-term disability may have been suffered and whether there is a wage loss.

Then, pain and suffering have to be factored in. This often is the most important part of the analysis and includes the physical pain and discomfort suffered as well as any mental distress.

This is an analysis that we at Curtis Legal Group do every day and have been doing for more than 40 years. In order to do it right, we take the time to gather all the necessary information, so that the opinion we arrive at is accurate. Our experience in handling personal injury cases is a big part of our analysis. We don’t use a formula like some law firms that simply multiply the medical expenses by an arbitrary number to arrive at a value.

We offer a free attorney consultation to someone involved in an accident. During that consultation, we can start collecting the necessary information and answer any questions. If you have been in an accident, we would be happy to talk to you. Take advantage of our resources and experience. Give us a call or contact us today.

An Absentee Parent Can Recover Under California's Wrongful Death Law

An Absentee Parent Can Recover Under California’s Wrongful Death Law

You are the mother of a 35-year-old daughter. She recently died of fatal injuries arising from a Sacramento car accident along Stockton Boulevard. You have been divorced for 10 years, and your ex-spouse hasn’t seen or talked to your daughter since the divorce. You want to know if you can recover monetary compensation for the loss of your daughter, and you have an issue with your ex-spouse also recovering compensation given his prolonged absence from your daughter’s life.

California Code of Civil Procedure section 377.60 establishes a wrongful death recovery for a surviving parent if the deceased child (adult or minor) is not survived by a spouse, domestic partner, child and/or grandchild. The claim is personal to the surviving parent and allows the surviving parent to recover for the loss of the child’s love, care, comfort, and society as well as for loss of future financial support and funeral/burial costs.

The wrongful death law does not distinguish between loving and engaged parents, on one hand, and absent parents, on the other hand. A parent just needs to qualify as the biological parent and/or a parent-by-adoption. A parent’s absence from his or her child’s life does not disqualify a parent from making a wrongful death claim, but evidence of an embittered and/or absent relationship will affect the amount of damages to be recovered by that parent. After all, how can an absentee parent claim that he or she lost the love, care, comfort, and society of his or her child if that parent had not been communicating with his or her child for several years?

Nevertheless, the above situation is frustrating for the close and engaged parent since the close parent may have to reduce his or her recovery in favor of the absentee parent. In fact, California law requires that all persons entitled to recover for wrongful death are to be joined in an action for wrongful death. As a result, the close parent will typically have to notify the absentee parent so that the absentee parent can also make a wrongful death claim.

Moreover, if a child dies as a result of a car accident, then the per-person limit–not the aggregate limit—of any applicable automobile liability insurance policy applies to all wrongful death claimants, collectively. This means that all the wrongful death claimants share the one-per-person limit. For example, California only requires drivers to carry liability coverage affording policy limits of $15,000.00 per person/$30,000.00 per accident. If the at-fault party only carries $15,000.00 per person, then all wrongful death claimants share $15,000.00 unless other insurance, such as uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, and assets are available.

In the above scenario, your daughter was killed in an auto accident. As a result, you will likely have to share the at-fault party’s per-person limits with all others who are entitled to recover for the wrongful death of your daughter, including your ex-spouse who hasn’t seen or communicated with your daughter in years. Thus, you need a good law firm to protect your interests.

At Curtis Legal Group, we protect a client’s interests and look for all means of recovery, insurance or otherwise, to ensure that our clients recover all available compensation.

How To Check The Safety Ratings Of A Car

How To Check The Safety Ratings Of A Car

You’re driving your car along University Avenue in Sacramento on a rainy winter day. You’re thinking about what you will be doing during the upcoming weekend. Suddenly, a car traveling in the opposite direction veers across into your lane and hits you head on. Hopefully, your car, which you recently purchased, received a high safety rating for frontal crashes!

No doubt you checked the safety ratings for your car before you bought it, right? If you’re like most of us, that was not something you did. However, it’s something that easily can, and should be done by all of us when purchasing a vehicle.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, (NHTSA,) part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, has tested for safety many of the vehicles on the road today. They have a 5-star rating system (the more stars the better) which reflects vehicles’ overall safety and the results of frontal crash tests, side barrier crash tests, side pole tests and rollover resistance tests.

The frontal crash test reflects head-on crash safety and the side barrier test determines how a vehicle will withstand a broadside (t-bone) type impact from another vehicle.

The side pole crash test reflects how a vehicle will handle a situation where it slides sideways into a pole and the rollover resistance test determines how a vehicle will withstand a rollover crash.

You can access NHTSA’s ratings for most vehicles from their website. Lucky for you, your car received the maximum 5 stars for overall safety and 4 stars for frontal crash safety. These ratings are reflected in the fact that you come out of this accident with only minor injuries.

The other guy didn’t fare as well. His car got only 2 stars for frontal crash safety and 3 for overall safety. His next ride was in an ambulance.

Next time you’re in the market for a car, check out the NHTSA ratings before you make your decision. It could save a lot of wear and tear on your most important asset: you.

Seat Belts on Buses in 2018

Seat Belts on Buses in 2018

Among the new laws going into effect this year is one dealing with the use of seatbelts on buses. Effective July 1, 2018, any passenger 16 years or older riding a bus equipped with seatbelts must buckle up.

The law also requires parents of children between 8 and 16 to make sure their children use seatbelts if provided while riding a bus. However, the law does not apply to school buses.

As for children under 8 years old, and under 4 feet 9 inches in height, parents must make sure they are “acceptably restrained by a safety belt” while on a bus if the bus is so equipped. If it is not possible to do so, the child must be secured in an appropriate child passenger restraint system.

If the child is under 2, they may be held by a parent or guardian.

Obviously, the legislature and governor believe that wearing a seatbelt promotes safety. This belief is supported by a number of studies.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, (NHTSA) in 2015, seatbelt use saved an estimated 13,941 lives. Also, of the 35,092 people killed nationwide in motor vehicle accidents that year, 48% were not wearing seatbelts.

In addition, according to NHTSA, seat belt use reduces the risk of fatal injuries in an accident by 45% and of moderate to critical injury by 50%. These numbers clearly point toward the benefit of seatbelt use.

I know from my own experience handling hundreds of motor vehicle injury cases in Sacramento, Stockton, and Modesto that people who wear seatbelts are less likely to be ejected from their vehicles in a crash. They are also less likely to strike objects inside their vehicles, such as the dashboard, windshield or other occupants.

Whether you are riding a bus down Watt Avenue in Sacramento, are a passenger in a car on March Lane in Stockton, or driving your car on Briggsmore Avenue in Modesto, it makes sense to always “buckle up.”