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.

Sacramento Car vs Pedestrian Accident Settlement

$100,000 Car Accident Settlement

Our client, a pedestrian, was crossing a street in the early morning hours after purchasing a coffee. He was struck by a driver who was on his way to work and thrown a great distance. He suffered from a compound tibia/fibula fracture, a broken humerus, a torn rotator cuff, and neck and pelvic fractures. He underwent multiple surgeries and spent three weeks in the hospital. The insurance company denied the client’s claim because the investigating officer found the client 100% at fault for the collision. CLG disagreed with this conclusion and filed a lawsuit on the client’s behalf based on the driver’s inattention. After the client’s deposition was taken, the insurance company reversed its stance and tendered the $100,000 policy limit for this Sacramento Personal Injury Claim.

California Highway Car Accident Insurance Settlement

Client injured her back in a California highway car accident and had no health insurance. Curtis Legal Group was able to help her find medical providers who would treat her without any upfront costs with the promise that the bills would be paid at the conclusion of the case. She was first seen by a chiropractor but was later referred to a spinal specialist due to continuing symptoms. An MRI revealed a chronic 25% compression fracture at the superior endplate of the lower lumbar spine at L1. The client required medical treatment and diagnostic work but had no resources other than her case to provide these. The case was settled for the policy limits of $100,000 and all of the client’s past medical bills for treatment were paid out of the settlement. Curtis Legal Group was even able to negotiate a reduction of her medical liens so that the client could retain a greater amount of the settlement after full satisfaction of her medical expenses.

Modesto Building Ladder Injury Settlement

Our client fell from a building after the ladder he was using came loose from the wall. The client suffered several fractures as well as back, shoulder and knee injuries. The landowner and tenant’s insurance companies claimed that our client was at fault for his own injuries since the ladder was old and in poor condition. We fought for our client and achieved a premises liability settlement of $800,000.00.

Stockton Car Accident Insurance Recovery

Our client suffered several injuries as a result of a motor vehicle crash occurring in San Joaquin County, California. The adverse driver crossed several lanes and then crashed into our client’s car. Our client struck his head in the accident. He suffered soft tissue injuries as well as hearing loss. We were able to investigate these injuries and found that they were more significant than first realized. We were able to settle his case for the opposing driver’s policy limits of $100,000.00.

Truck Driver Accident Recovery

Our client, a truck driver, was injured when a drunk driver crossed into his lane of travel resulting in a head-on collision. Our client suffered significant injuries to his shoulder and knee requiring two separate surgeries. Our firm was able to obtain insurance policy limits totaling $200,000.00 from both the operator of the vehicle and the owners.