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.”

dont serve alcohol at a minors party

Consider This Before Serving Alcohol at Your Child’s Party

Last week, a Modesto family suffered a tragic loss. A teenager, driving while allegedly under the influence, drove a luxury automobile into another passenger car causing the passenger vehicle to roll over. A mother and daughter lost their lives in this senseless accident. Indeed, the State will likely pursue criminal charges against the teenage driver.

The relatives of the mother and daughter will also be able to pursue the teenager under California’s wrongful death statute (California Civil Code section 377.60). That statute allows certain family members and those dependent upon the decedents to recover for the loss of love, care, comfort, and society as well as financial support provided by the decedents. Hopefully, the teenage driver was covered under an automobile liability insurance policy.

The relatives and dependents, however, do not have to limit their wrongful death action to the teenage driver. They can explore a negligence action against those adults that furnished any alcoholic beverages to the teenage driver that may have caused the driver to become intoxicated while driving. Under California Civil Code section 1714(d), parents, guardians or adults that knowingly furnish alcoholic beverages, at his or her residence, to a person under 21 years of age are liable for the injuries and death caused by the latter person if the alcoholic beverages were a proximate cause of the injury or death.

The question here is whether the teenage driver was furnished alcohol by an adult and was that alcohol furnished at the adult’s residence. If so, then those family members and dependents may have additional sources of compensation against those adults that provided the alcohol to the teenage driver. The adult(s) may even have criminal liability.

At Curtis Legal Group, we fight for the victims of accidents. Our thoughts and prayers are extended to the family members of those that died in this horrific crash.

Hit and run accident lawyer

Watch Out For Those Street Monsters On Halloween

Halloween is a great time of year in the Central Valley, whether in Sacramento, Stockton or Modesto. Friends gather and celebrate the holiday with costume parties. Fully-costumed kids run up to neighborhood homes whether in Sacramento’s Arden Arcade district, Stockton’s Weston Ranch area or Modesto’s Village One neighborhood. They knock on doors while calling out “trick or treat” and receive a candy surprise in exchange. The holiday can be fun for all and especially children.

However, there can be dangers associated with Halloween. We have all heard of children receiving dangerous candy so candy should be checked thoroughly before consumed. Yet, there is even another danger: anxious children tend to run across neighborhood streets and outside crosswalks not being aware of their surroundings. They do so under the excitement to gather more and more candy. In the meantime, neighborhood residents and others continue to drive their automobiles, and if not careful, could easily crash into these children.

As a motorist, you may think that any crash would be the fault of the adult charged with watching the child. After all, the parent or adult should not allow the child to walk or run in the middle of the street. You would be right. Under California law, a parent is considered to have a “special relationship” with his or her child and is responsible for maintaining the child’s safety. Also, an adult who assumes the responsibility to care for a child would also be responsible for the child’s injuries as well.

However, as a motorist, you too may bear responsibility. Motorists have a duty to follow California Vehicle Code section 22350, which states, “No person shall drive a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable or prudent having due regard for weather, visibility, the traffic on, and the surface and width of, the highway, and in no event at a speed which endangers the safety of persons or property.” A strong argument may be made that a reasonable driver knows or should know that children walk and run outside crosswalks on Halloween Night. Although streets are not typically blocked off for pedestrian traffic, pedestrian traffic is known to consume some neighborhoods on Halloween Night. Therefore, as a driver, you need to drive slow enough to watch out for children.

Be safe this Halloween and watch out for those street monsters.

Sacramento bicycle laws explained

Sacramento Bicycle Laws May Not Be What You Think

You are driving your car along Fair Oaks Blvd. in Sacramento, California. Suddenly, you see a bicyclist occupying your car’s lane of travel. When you look closely, the cyclist is riding without a helmet, and he’s biking somewhat fast. He has one headphone in his ear, and he isn’t even riding in the bike lane conveniently placed to the right of your lane. You pause and ask yourself, “How can this cyclist’s conduct be legal?” Believe it or not, this cyclist is riding his bike in a legal manner.

The laws for California cyclers are quite different than cycling laws in other states so it is important that all automobile drivers and bicyclists fully understand these specific laws.

Where are bicyclists allowed to bike on the street?
Bicyclists must ride closest to the right side of the street as possible, including the bike lane, if they are biking slower than traffic. However, if a bicyclist is able to maintain the speed of the traffic, he can bike anywhere within the street.

Does a bicyclist have to signal when he or she is about to turn?
Yes, a bicyclist must always signal. Much like an automobile driver, a cyclist must provide some sort of signal indicating when he or she will turn left, right, and stop. Generally, a cyclist motions other motorists with hand signals.

Do bicyclists have to wear a helmet?
Yes and No. Only bicyclists under the age of 18 are required to wear a helmet.

Can a cyclist ride his or her bike across the crosswalk?
In order to cross a crosswalk, a cyclist must walk their bike across the street.

Can bicyclists operate a cell-phone while biking?
Yes. Although automobile drivers and motorcyclists aren’t permitted to use cell phones while driving, bicyclists are allowed to use a handheld phone while biking.

Are cyclists allowed to use headphones while biking?
Yes and No. Bicyclists are not allowed to wear headsets covering both ears, but it is legal to insert a headphone in one ear.

Can bicyclists bike under the influence?
No. If a cyclist is caught cycling under the influence, then he or she could be fined at least $250.

Although the law is somewhat forgiving for bicyclists, bicyclists should take every reasonable precaution to be safe. After all, a cyclist can also be liable for causing a traffic accident where others may suffer severe injuries.

We at Curtis Legal Group wish you all a safe biking experience as you cycle through California!

Texting While Driving in California

Why Is It Illegal To Text and Drive?

We’ve all heard the warning that texting and driving can be dangerous and leads to car accidents, but why has the California legislature made it illegal. Why is that so?

In this busy world we live in, many of us feel the need to multitask in order to just keep up. Why not use that free time we have while we drive down Howe Avenue in Sacramento or McHenry Avenue in Modesto in order to catch up on some texting or e-mailing or even make some hands-free phone calls?

Science is beginning to discover the answer: There is really no such thing as efficient multi-tasking. Our brains just don’t work that way.

Some recent studies have shown that using our phones in any way, even hands-free, while driving makes us just as impaired as having had a few drinks. Multitasking while driving reduces our perception-reaction times as much as one-third to 40% (The Real Dangers of Multitasking, from a lecture series presented by Professor Indre Viskontas, PH.D.)

The problem is that our brain really cannot do two things at once. Instead, the brain switches back and forth between them. So, while we are concentrating on one thing, such as texting, our brain is really not paying attention to the other thing: our driving. We think we are being efficient when we are really not.

The effects of multitasking are easily seen if you observe someone trying to text while walking in a crowd, such as at a shopping mall. They tend to walk slower and appear just a bit unsteady on their feet. This is usually not a problem in a mall setting but it can be deadly behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.

While we’re driving, our speed greatly reduces the amount of time we have for making critical decisions. At 40 miles per hour, we are traveling 60 feet per second. If we don’t immediately realize that the car in front of us is braking, we won’t hit our brakes in time and the next thing we know we’ve rear-ended that car.

According to a study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI), sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent of driving blind at 55 mph for the length of an entire football field!

Here are some other sobering facts from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration: In 2015 3,477 people were killed and an estimated 391,000 people injured as a result of distracted driving.

All the information available points to one conclusion: texting while driving (or any type of distracted driving, for that matter) is dangerous and should be avoided. However good we think we are at multitasking, there is no place for it when we get behind the wheel. That’s why it’s illegal.

Emotional Stress Personal Injury

Severe Emotional Stress is a Personal Injury

Recently, one of our young clients was involved in a serious rollover car accident. He was a front-seat passenger in his friend’s motor vehicle when it struck a median barrier near Mack Road in Sacramento. Our client was transported by ambulance to a local hospital where he underwent an extensive physical examination. Luckily, he was wearing his seatbelt, and he was diagnosed with only a sprained neck and shoulder.

The accident, however, was an emotionally traumatic event in our client’s young life. He now suffers from recurring nightmares and is chronically fatigued due to lack of sleep. He no longer enjoys riding in an automobile for fear of crashing. His parents have sought the help of a counselor to alleviate his mental suffering and wish to recover damages for their son’s emotional injuries.

California recognizes two general types of emotional distress damages. General emotional distress damages refer to the typical emotional distress that a person experiences from suffering physical pain associated with an accident or trauma. This form of emotional distress is considered an element of pain and suffering damages.

Severe emotional distress damages involve those emotional conditions that are specific to the injured person and are not necessarily associated with physical pain. These damages should be addressed separately from general emotional distress damages.

In this case, our client requires the services of a mental health counselor. He has emotional trauma that is not linked to his neck and shoulder pain. Therefore, a severe emotional distress claim can be made in these circumstances.

Severe emotional distress can sometimes be overlooked following an accident. It is important for attorneys to fully evaluate a client’s severe emotional distress injuries in order to recover all of the damages to which the client is entitled.