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.

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.