Car Baby Seat Position

Don’t Turn That Baby!

It’s a hot summer afternoon in Sacramento, California. Your one-year-old child is positioned in his car seat facing the rear window and seatback. The temperature outside is over 105 degrees Fahrenheit, but it feels like 150 degrees in your car. You are driving southbound on 99, and your baby is strapped in the car seat’s Velcro and buckle restraint system. He is screaming at the top of his lungs and you are becoming increasingly annoyed and frantic. You want to do something to end the turmoil. But whatever you do, don’t turn that baby!

A new California law prohibits turning your baby forward in his or her car seat unless certain requirements are met. Since January 1st of 2017, California law requires children under the age of two to remain seated and strapped in their car seat facing the motor vehicle’s rear seatback. Of course, the car seat must be installed in the rear seat. There are some exceptions, however, if the child is over 40 inches tall or weighs over 40 pounds, then the child then may be turned around facing the front seat; the car seat must still be installed in the rear seat. Of course, most parents can’t wait to turn their child forward, but now they will have to wait until their child meets these new requirements.

Some parents are quick to turn their baby around once their baby’s legs extend well beyond the confines of the car seat. After all, the baby appears uncomfortable with his or her legs crunched up against the rear seatback. Even if the baby’s legs seem cramped in that frog-faced position, studies have shown that a child is just as comfortable as before. It is much more difficult to return the baby to a rear facing position after introducing him or her to a front facing position.

Most importantly, according to an American Pediatrics Study, children younger than two years old are 75% less likely to die in a car accident if the car seat faces the rear of the car. Since your child’s body is nowhere near fully developed, a severe neck injury can be mitigated by keeping your child and the car seat facing the rear seatback.

If law enforcement finds that you are violating the law, then you can be fined more than $500 and receive a point on your motor vehicle driving record. The California Highway Patrol can help you with car seat rules and tips to make it easier for you and your baby should you wish to learn more about these new car seat requirements.

We at Curtis Legal Group wish you all a cool and safe summer, and remind you not to turn the baby’s car seat too soon!

Hit and Run Car Accident Uninsured Motorist

Does Uninsured Motorist Coverage pay for Hit and Run Car Accidents?

Every now and again, I receive calls from clients who were driving along a freeway, such as Interstate 5 in Stockton, California when another vehicle suddenly veers into their lane, not striking their vehicle, but causing them to turn their car into the median barrier or even worse, into the opposite lane of travel. They suffer bodily injuries and car accident damage. The car that veered into their lane did not stop but rather drove away as if the accident did not occur.

The clients want to know if their automobile policy’s uninsured motorist coverage will cover them for their vehicle’s damages and their bodily injuries even though they have no information on the hit-and-run driver. In other words, they don’t know if the hit-and-run driver is insured or uninsured. We call this driver, “THE PHANTOM DRIVER”.

No, the phantom driver is not like the “Phantom of the Opera”. If you have ever seen the play or movie, the “Phantom of the Opera”, then you know that the phantom in the play appears and disappears throughout the show. Unlike the “Phantom of the Opera”, the phantom driver appears but then permanently disappears. He or she is a driver that is almost impossible to trace. This person causes a motor vehicle accident and then abruptly decides to drive his or her car away from the scene. As a result, it is almost impossible to write down their vehicle’s license plate number.

Uninsured motorist coverage, pursuant to California Insurance Code section 11580.2, will generally cover the insured’s injuries and property damage depending on whether an insured carried uninsured motorist coverage. In California, an insured must expressly waive the coverage; otherwise, the coverage should be in place. Uninsured motorist coverage may be restricted to bodily injury coverage or may cover both property damage and bodily injury. Therefore, our clients will be told to bring their policies to us for review.

However, it is not sufficient to just carry uninsured motorist coverage. The insured will generally have to prove that there was contact damage to the vehicle. In other words, the phantom driver operated his or her car so that it directly struck the insured’s vehicle. If there was no contact, then uninsured motorist coverage is typically denied. The insurance industry sought this protection to avoid fraudulent claims.

Therefore, in the scenario above, uninsured motorist coverage will likely be denied. However, our clients don’t lose hope. At Curtis Legal Group, we encourage our clients to see us regarding these cases so that arguments may be made in order to achieve compensation. We look at all the factors to see what can be done to achieve justice.

Sacramento Motorcycle Lane Splitting

What Sacramento Drivers Need to Know About Lane-Splitting Motorcycles

Do you drive on State Route 99 and Mack Road in Sacramento? If so, you may have noticed that more and more motorcyclists are hitting the road. Their leather wardrobe, helmets, and engine sounds are a clear warning that summer is around the corner.

You may have also noticed that some motorcyclists steer their motorcycles in between lanes in order to navigate through congested traffic. This style of driving is known as “lane splitting”. You probably have wondered whether these motorcyclists were driving legally when driving in between lanes. After all, the practice does seem unsafe.

For many years, motorcyclists have split lanes but there was no clear law for or against lane splitting. Well, now, California has passed legislation formally allowing lane splitting for motorcyclists. It took effect January 1, 2017. The California Highway Patrol has been tasked with determining safe practices for such lane splitting but those regulations have not yet been formalized. Nevertheless, motorcycle lane splitting is now lawful. So how does motorcycle lane splitting affect the Sacramento car driver?

As a driver of a passenger vehicle, you now need to be extra careful. If you see motorcyclists in the immediate vicinity, then you will need to operate your motor vehicle so that it does not weave or get too close to the adjoining lane of travel. Such movement can startle a motorcyclist or cause you to get into a car accident with the motorcycle. You should check your rear and side view mirrors to assess the location of motorcycles.

Motorcycle riders will also have to make rational decisions when choosing to split lanes. The width and size of certain vehicles, including trucks, will make lane splitting a difficult and unsafe task for the motorcycle. Also, stop-and-go traffic conditions may make such lane splitting unsafe since car drivers may have to come to a quick stop or make a quick turning movement in order to avoid rear-ending another vehicle.

Before January 1, 2017, such a motorcycle accident may have been considered more the fault of the motorcyclist since no law permitted motorcycle lane splitting. That perception has changed. You, the car driver, will need to be extra careful operating your car alongside a motorcyclist. You will truly have to share the lane.

Be careful when driving this summer. The law permitting lane splitting is new, and it will take time for regulations to develop in order make the practice safer.

Baseball Injury Attorney

Play Ball!

Now that March Madness is over, the Sacramento River Cats, the Stockton Ports, and the Modesto Nuts have taken to the baseball diamond.  Popcorn, hot dogs, and peanuts will fill the baseball stands, and the sound of the organist and fans singing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” will fill the ballpark speaker system.  The attorneys and staff of Curtis Legal Group, the Heavy Hitters, love baseball, and they too will be taking in some ball games.

Unfortunately, foul balls and even loose bats are natural and inherent risks of baseball.  As a result, teams and stadium owners deliver you a baseball ticket that generally has language noting that you may get struck by a ball or bat thereby placing you, the fan, on notice of the risk of such injury.  This language is typically on the reverse side of the ticket.  You may want to review that notice.

Baseball stadium owners and teams may have a duty to minimize the risk of injuries, but they cannot change how the game is played unless all teams so agree. Some major league ballparks have taken extensive measures to extend batting screens to protect the occasional errant ball, but the risk of injury is always there.  As such, as a fan, you assume the risk of being injured by a foul ball or loose bat.  You may even be injured by a player that lunges into the stands in order to catch a foul ball.

I was once at a San Francisco Giants game, and I watched a foul ball strike a fan just as she was about to sip her beer.  Luckily, she wasn’t injured, but she lost half of her beer as it spilled over her shirt and pants.  Well, as luck may have it, a few moments later, another foul ball struck the same fan in the same place causing her to lose all of her beer.  She wasn’t injured, but it is a lesson that lightening can strike twice.

In any case, always be aware of your surroundings and don’t take your eye off the ball. Go Modesto Nuts, Stockton Ports, and Sacramento River Cats!

Autonomous Vehicle Operator

So You Want To Be An Autonomous Vehicle Operator?

Have you heard about the “autonomous vehicle test driver”? Well, if you haven’t, then April 25, 2017, is a big day for you. That is the day the State of California’s Department of Motor Vehicles (“DMV”) will hold a public hearing in Sacramento, California to solicit criticism and suggestions for proposed regulations governing autonomous vehicles and their test drivers.

The DMV is now proposing to allow natural persons licensed to drive to become autonomous vehicle testers. These “autonomous vehicle test drivers” must be employees, contractors or designees of the autonomous vehicle manufacturer and must sit in the driver’s seat of the autonomous vehicle.

The proposed regulations define a “designee” as a natural person authorized by the manufacturer to drive or operate the manufacturer’s test vehicles on public roads. The test driver must also be licensed to drive the class of vehicle being operated.

This proposed regulation, of course, raises the obvious question: if a vehicle is truly autonomous, then why does it require a licensed human to sit in the driver seat?

Well, the DMV is also proposing to allow truly driverless cars (no brakes or steering wheels) to be tested on public roads so long as the vehicle can be remotely controlled by a natural person. The DMV’s proposed regulations for truly driverless cars contains a plethora of requirements that must be met by the manufacturer before truly driverless cars may be tested on public roads. Of course, driverless cars are revolutionary and raise a host of concerns and issues.

Moreover, the “autonomous vehicle test driver” also raises several issues that will require further thought and analysis:

  1. If a reasonable, natural person is faced with emergency circumstances such as involvement in a car accident, can that natural person respond in sufficient time to take control of an autonomous vehicle to avoid injuries and damages? In other words, is the public truly safe even if an autonomous vehicle has a natural person seated in the driver’s seat? Will normal human reaction times allow the test driver to take control of the vehicle?
  2. Will the nature of the autonomous vehicle cause the reasonable test driver to be lulled into complacency so that he or she doesn’t perceive and react to a dangerous situation? Again, will the public be safe even if a manufacturer places a natural person in the driver’s seat of an autonomous vehicle?
  3. What driver standards and guidelines will apply to the “autonomous vehicle test driver”? The proposed regulation simply calls for the driver to be licensed. Should there be higher standards of physical and mental abilities given the unknown risks associated with an autonomous vehicle?

The above questions and issues are just some of the matters that will need to be addressed on April 25, 2017.

You will want to make sure that you are fully aware of the risks before becoming an “autonomous vehicle test driver”. At Curtis Legal Group, we are working to stay on top of this new technology and the legal issues arising from this technology. The risks of harm to you as either a passenger, pedestrian or fellow motorist needs to be understood and fully disclosed.

Car Accident Concussion

Concussions Caused By Car Accidents

Concussions have gotten a lot of press recently because of the publicity surrounding concussions suffered by players in the National Football League. It has been shown that the forces involved with blocking and tackling on the football field can cause players to have numerous concussions during the course of their careers. What about car accidents? Can they also cause concussions? In many cases, they clearly can and do.

Medical doctors that are specialists in the field tell us that a concussion is caused when the brain is jarred or shaken inside the skull. The brain floats in a cushion of fluid which serves to protect it from injury. However, when the head is shaken violently, as it can be during an auto accident, the brain literally bounces back and forth inside the skull. If the shaking is severe enough, the fluid cushion is not enough to protect the brain and bruising occurs from the brain actually striking the interior of the skull.

The bruising can be significant enough to show up on imaging studies or it can involve only microscopic damage to the brain tissues that cannot be detected by imaging. In either case, injury to the brain occurs. That is called a concussion.

The most common symptom of a concussion is the loss of consciousness. That can involve a person being totally non-responsive for a period of time, or it can involve just an altered state of consciousness, where a person is not fully aware of what is going on around them for a few moments. Either situation can indicate a brain injury. The longer the period of unconsciousness, the greater the injury.

Often, the person who suffered the injury is not the best person to ask whether they were unconscious. By definition, being unconscious means you are not fully aware of what is going on around you, and when you regain consciousness, you may not remember what just happened. This is important in the context of a legal action arising out of the accident. When the paramedics arrive at the scene, they will ask an injured person if they were unconscious. Often, the person will say no, since they don’t remember being unconsciousness. That will be noted in the paramedic’s report.

Later, when a claim is made against the insurance company for the person who caused the accident, the insurance company attorney will argue that there was no concussion because the injured person didn’t complain of being unconscious! That is why it is important to interview all witnesses to the accident and anyone that may have come on the scene after it occurred, since they may have observed that the injured person was, in fact, unconscious.

There are other symptoms of a concussion as well, some of which don’t always show up right away. They include headaches, dizziness, memory lapses, sensitivity to light and nausea. In more serious cases, mental functioning can be altered and even seizures can result.

Symptoms of a concussion may go away after only a few hours or days. However, in some cases, symptoms can be long-lasting, even for a lifetime.

If you are involved in any serious auto accident, it is important to get checked out by a qualified medical practitioner as soon as possible. If you have suffered a concussion, appropriate medical treatment can make a big difference in having a successful recovery.

Police Report Auto Accident

Auto Accident Police Reports Are Not The Final Say In Your Case

So you were a driver in a motor vehicle accident, and you suffered significant injuries. The California Highway Patrol or a local law enforcement agency arrives at the accident scene. There is chaos at the scene. EMTs have placed you on a gurney and are treating your injuries. From your gurney, you can hear the other driver telling the law enforcement officer that you caused the accident. You try to speak up. You believe that you were not at fault, and you try to give the officer pertinent information. Yet, you are too injured to properly tell your story.

A few days later, the officer’s traffic collision report is released and concludes that you were at fault for the accident. The officer failed to include all the information that you provided him or her. How do you prove your case now? To make matters even worse—your automobile insurance carrier accepts the officer’s conclusion and wants to pay the adverse driver for his vehicle damage and his injuries. You consider not pursuing your case. After all, it seems hopeless. Nobody is on your side.

Well, it is not hopeless. Every day, our firm deals with situations like yours.

First, we, in part, rely on California Vehicle Code 20013, which states, “No such [traffic collision report] shall be used as evidence in any trial, civil or criminal, arising out of an accident….].” Therefore, the officer’s report is inadmissible in court. The officer’s report will not be seen by a jury or judge when deciding your case in a trial.

Second, our firm hunts for independent witnesses. There may be independent witnesses who were not interviewed at the accident scene. Those witness statements could be crucial to proving your case.

Third, if our firm has to file suit, then we can subpoena the officer and others who made statements at the accident scene. We can question the validity of those statements through a discovery process commonly known as a deposition.

Fourth, our firm can retain experts who can reconstruct the accident using engineering and human perception calculations to determine fault.

Fifth, our firm can challenge the officer’s experience and qualifications in concluding who was at fault for the accident.

Sixth, California is a comparative fault State. That means that those responsible for an accident are assigned a percentage of fault and are responsible for damages caused based on that percentage. Thus, you may not be 100% at fault even if the law enforcement officer indicated you were at fault. It may be that you are only 50% at fault in which case you will be entitled to 50% of your damages.

In sum, you should not give up hope if the law enforcement officer concluded you were at fault. Our firm can still help you present your side of the case, and in many cases, can still recover compensation for your injuries.

are broken windshields illegal in California?

California’s Windshield Law Protects Motorists & Pedestrians

After several years of drought affecting California, California is finally getting some rain; to put it mildly. In fact, the State seems like it is getting rain almost every other day. Unfortunately, the recent rains have allowed us to discover that we have neglected some basic maintenance and repair items. Some of our homes have muddied gutters, leaky rooves and yes, our cars may have defective windshield wipers and inoperable defrost systems.

Did you know that California Vehicle Code section 26710 makes it unlawful to operate any motor vehicle upon a highway when the windshield or rear window is in such a defective condition as to impair the driver’s vision either to the front or rear?

During the recent drought, many of us let the rubber blades of our windshield wipers become brittle, dry and cracked. We thought about replacing them during the drought but figured they’d just dry out again. After all, we thought California wouldn’t be receiving any rain until the next millennium, and the dry conditions would just dry out the new rubber. Thus, it would be futile to replace our windshield wiper blades.

Well, now, the rain pours on and on and our old blades can’t wipe the rain away. The windshield wipers start grinding against the windshield glass, and we just pray that the blades don’t scratch our windshields beyond repair. After all, windshields can be quite expensive these days—especially windshields containing optical sensors.

However, we have another big worry. We can’t see when we drive. Vision becomes easily obstructed during a storm when our windshield wipers or defrost system fails to operate. We can’t see the cars in front of us nor those persons who are dodging the rain on foot. If we can’t see them, then guess who will be liable for their injuries and property damage? You guessed it—-US. We will be liable for injuries and property damage resulting from obstructed vision. In California, we, as drivers and vehicle owners, had a duty to repair our foggy windshield. We can’t blame the weather.

In addition to monetary liability to those injured and damaged, we can also be cited if we fail to maintain our defrost system, fail to replace our windshield wiper blades and/or allow our windshields to become heavily scratched.

Be safe during this rainy season. Don’t drive with defective windshields.

What Happens If My Uber or Lyft Driver Gets In A Car Accident

What Happens If My Uber or Lyft Driver Gets In A Car Accident

Did you ever wonder whether the driver or owner of a motor vehicle, operating for Uber or Lyft, has sufficient automobile liability insurance to cover you should you suffer injury or damages as a result of their fault?

Uber and Lyft, as well as other like companies, are considered by California law to be transportation network companies (transportation companies that provide prearranged transportation services for compensation using online-enabled applications or online platforms to connect with passengers) regulated by the Public Utilities Commission. You see it all the time. People stand in building doorways and on sidewalks waiting for their Uber or their Lyft. They usually have downloaded the company’s application to their smartphone and then simply clicked for a ride. A private motor vehicle then shows up with an Uber or Lyft emblem and off they go.

In 2015, the California Legislature took steps to better protect passengers as well as others who suffer injury or damages as a result of a transportation network company driver’s negligence. Before 2015, motor vehicle drivers and owners, who allowed their cars to be used for transportation network companies, ran into insurance coverage issues with their personal auto insurance companies. Personal auto insurance companies typically excluded drivers from coverage if the driver was hired to transport a passenger. The Legislature did not want passengers and others unprotected. However, insurance companies did not want to accept such liability and offered additional insurance programs with certain limiting terms and conditions. The Legislature needed to fix the confusion.

The California Legislature believed that liability insurance requirements should depend on whether the passenger was in or out of the car. Specifically, California Public Utilities Code section 5433 requires that transportation network companies carry liability insurance coverage insuring their contracted drivers and vehicle owners for at least $50,000.00 per person and/or $100,000.00 per accident as well as $30,000.00 for property damage. In addition, they are to carry $200,000.00 of excess insurance coverage.

These limits are in place when the driver has logged into the network system and is driving around and waiting to pick up a ride.

Once a driver picks up a passenger, then the transportation network company must retain $1,000,000.00 of primary automobile liability coverage as well as $1,000,000.00 of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.

For example, if a pedestrian is injured because a transportation network company driver runs a red light, then the pedestrian should be covered up to $50,000.00 for his or her injuries together with $200,000.00 of excess coverage. If the driver happened to be carrying a passenger, then the pedestrian should be covered up to $1,000,000.00. However, if the passenger was also injured, then the passenger may also make a claim against the $1,000,000.00 of coverage so that both the pedestrian and passenger would share in the $1,000,000.00 limits.

The above insurance limits actually give a passenger much more protection than California currently requires for the operation of other private passenger motor vehicles. After all, currently, California only requires a motor vehicle operator and/or motor vehicle owner to carry $15,000.00 per person/$30,000.00 per accident and $5,000 for property damage. Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is not even required.

We do see a day coming when the Legislature will have to abandon the concept of requiring less insurance coverage for drivers and vehicle owners before they pick up a passenger. After all, the driver and/or vehicle owner is in business the moment they log into the network and is ready to accept a ride request. If he or she is conducting business, then why shouldn’t the insurance coverage limits be $1,000,000.00 rather than $250,000.00.? Public protection should always come first.