Wednesday, October 24, 2007

In searching for the best accident attorney

One of the greatest mistakes that most injured victims can make is hiring an incompetent accident lawyer to assist them in pursuing their cases. Doing this will just lessen their chances of winning and put their money and efforts into wastes.
In his article, Paul Steven imparts some tips that may help injured accident victims in finding the right lawyer for their cases. He have mentioned these five qualities, which I also agree to be effective – knowledge, application skills, ability to negotiate, friendly and approachable and being sincere. It is true that if you have been involved in an accident and you were able to follow these tips, you might as well increase your chances of obtaining justice.
Now, maybe you are asking how you can determine if an accident attorney fits these qualities. Well, I think there are many possible ways but of all these, the most effective method is done through proper questioning or interviews.
You can ask an accident attorney of these questions before employing him to be your legal advocate.
  1. Have long have you been practicing law?
  2. Are you duly licensed to practice in California?
  3. Do you have expertise in handling accident claims?
  4. How many cases have you won/lose for your former clients?
  5. Can you provide me a list of your former clients as my references?
  6. Are you affiliated in any prestigious law firm or legal organizations?
  7. Will you be the only attorney to work on with my case?
  8. What problems do you see in my injury claim?
  9. What steps will you do to strengthen my case?
  10. What will be my role in pursuing the case?
  11. How often will you give me an update of my case?
  12. How long will my case be settled?
  13. How will I pay your professional fees? Is it on a contingent basis?
  14. Do I still have to pay retainer fees?
In choosing the best accident attorney, an injured victim must be critical and wise enough. They should make sure that they are working with the finest advocate to ensure that their rights are properly defended.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

What’s So Frivolous About Severe Burns?

Yes, whenever I buy coffee from McDonald’s, true enough my tongue feels burnt for at least one whole day but I thought it was just a passable complaint. The McDonald’s coffee case however was widely heard in the media and most shared the same sentiment: we live in such a silly world! Some who just heard it by word of mouth thought it was just a fabricated gossip but this is a real case. Critics of civil justice continue to mock this case but there is more than what the media covered. The civil justice system and facts of the case are definitely no laughing matter
According to Wall Street Journal, Liebeck suffered third degree burns over 6 percent of her body, burns on her inner thighs, perineum, buttocks, and groin areas. She was hospitalized and underwent skin grafting and debridement treatments. She initially sought $20,000 but McDonald’s refused.
McDonald’s produced documents showing more than 700 claims by people burned by its coffee from 1982 to 1992! The fast food chain’s own quality assurance manager testified that a burn hazard exists and McDonald’s coffee was not fit for consumption. McDonald’s also promised to do a market testing but failed to keep it.
Liebeck was awarded $200,000 in compensatory damages which was reduced to $160,000 because somehow the plaintiff was a little responsible for the spill. The jury awarded her $2.7 million to punish McDonald’s but consequently reduced it to $480,000 for a total verdict of around $600,000. Liebeck’s litigation attorney is quite a catch!
What is so frivolous about the case? Liebeck suffered severe burns and rightly so she deserves $200,000. The rest of the total amount is just bonus on her part I suppose for putting the case forth because the purpose of the punitive damages is to punish McDonald’s for its negligence .
This is no laughing matter. If a cup of coffee harshly burns your body, I don’t think you’d still be able to laugh. And with the case’s long trial process, I believe we still have a justice system that functions pretty well. The system still checks and limits the amount of damages one receives based on injury suffered, its nature and degree to compensation just and fair.

Warning: Consult Before Signing Binding Arbitration Agreements!

My client was involved in a car accident months ago and unfortunately sustained permanent injury on his spine. Because of this, he decided to file a lawsuit to recover damages from the negligent driver. To prove his claim he was required to undergo physical examination. He asked around and found a respected doctor in his community but when he appeared for appointment several weeks later, he was overwhelmed by the documents he needed to fill out and sign.
He admits he couldn’t understand some of the legal statements so without first consulting me as his lawyer just like most clients he recklessly signed all of the papers, including a binding arbitration agreement. What was it; he didn’t know until he was somehow forced to go through the whole mediation process.
By common knowledge, arbitration is often resorted to, to avoid the long and inconvenient process of a jury trial. Through mediation, both parties come into an agreement favorable to both instead of a full blown trial with a winner and loser. However, my client has experienced it first hand and he can attest that there is secret business brewing behind this seemingly simple binding arbitration agreement.
The lawyer representing the defendant negligent driver told me he would pay $80,000 to settle the case if his client consents. Unfortunately, the driver refused so the case proceeded to binding arbitration. The defendant surprisingly agreed that the injury was caused by his negligence! But the “neutral” arbitrator only agreed to an award of $70,000 or else he was going to vote against my client!
Generally, arbitrators award lesser damages than a jury would because the former expects repeat business with its main source of income: insurance companies.
It was a smart ass move on the part of the “neutral” because he was fair in both returning my client’s award and bringing the amount lesser than the defense lawyer was willing to pay. With this, no doubt the insurance carrier would be pleased with the result. They would surely be anxious to utilize the arbitrator’s services in the future.
My client paid my lawyer’s fees, party arbitrator, and neutral arbitrator. He netted less than $35,000 for a permanent injury on his spine. The aforementioned article states that arbitration is less costly than trial but truth of the matter is my client suffered serious consequences by waiving his Constitutional right to a jury trial without completely understanding the paperwork.
If you are going to a doctor’s office, make sure you discuss all matters with your doctor and lawyer. There are a lot of CA trial lawyers specializing in personal injuries to help you in the event you find yourself needing to make a claim.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Road Accident Alert!

Vehicular accidents are fortuitous events that can happen to anyone. These can be avoided though by the exercise of due diligence. And in this free world we’re living in, rubbing shoulders with peasants and Kings along public streets on a typical day, it is just sensible that every one is demanded due care from and at the same time protected by the law against negligence.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) report, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among young persons aged 16 to 20. Yearly, over 6,327 persons aged 16 to 20 are involved in fatal crashes and this figure continues to increase.
There are various car accident causes we should be wary of:
  • DUI (Driving Under the Influence of alcohol) – The NSDUH report also states that in 2002 and 2003, more than 4 million persons (21 percent) aged 16 to 20 reported DUI involving either alcohol or elicit drugs. Be a defensive driver and avoid frequenting streets during ungodly hours of the night. The dangerous and scary fact of DUI is it can victimize careful and sober unsuspecting drivers.
  • Aggressive / poor driving skills – As mentioned above, defensive driving is recommended. It is going beyond mastery of road rules and basic mechanics of driving. It’s anticipation of dangerous situations despite adverse mistakes of other drivers or adverse conditions. There are general rules and specific driving techniques one should develop a habit of.
  • Vehicle engine failure – Automobiles should have a monthly service checkup to make sure that they can safely cruise around public roads.
  • Cellular phone misuse – California has recently enacted the cell phone act ban which prohibits drivers from using their mobile phones and gadgets while driving. Distraction like this and rubbernecking proves to play tremendous part in heavy traffic and frequent accidents.
No one is exempted from car accidents; anyone and anything can get involved. Protect and familiarize yourself of the steps you can take when an accident takes place. You can also consult a lawyer and file a California personal injury claims should you sustain any kind of bodily harm.

Can Nurses Be Liable For Wrongful Death?

Fred Stein, an 89 year old billionaire with Parkinson’s disease, dies of suspected Stalevo overdose as claimed by the former’s daughter and relatives last August 3, 2007. Stein’s daughter Liza has filed a lawsuit against the former’s caregiver-turned-surviving-wife Norma Stein, arguing that the latter caused the Wrongful Death and Elder Abuse against her father.
Liza and her Los Angeles Litigation Attorney insist that Norma should not only be disqualified from her father’s testate succession, but also be held liable for damages. Norma contends that she exercised due care and was not at all negligent. Liza again claims that Norma wanted her father’s quick death to speed up the probate hearings.
It appears that Norma prepared Fred’s medicines everyday and neglected the prior prescription of her husband’s doctor. Dr. Rosenberg earlier advised Fred to take Stalevo to influence his Parkinson’s disease instead of his previous medicine, Comtan. Fred’s system however failed to respond to Stalevo, so Dr. Rosenberg then recommended a lower dose of Stalevo and Comtan for a week of observation.
Norma let Fred take a high dose of Stalevo and Comtan everyday. Whether it was intentional or negligent on her part is yet to be proven. Fred had a severe heart attack in the morning of August 3 and overdose is the suspected cause of the cardiac arrest. Norma is a member of an expensive nursing home and agency in Los Angeles.
Is it true that nursing homes are all about money-making rather than real advocacy of genuine health care? This appalling article says so. What’s maddening is the appeals court’s refusal to hold said nursing home liable financially to Arlene’s death. Nursing homes guarantee valuable protection and care over our loved ones and should they fall under reasonable standards they should definitely be held responsible.
This gross negligence involves not only physical but also emotional distress among family members – it is but just that wrongdoers be held liable for compensatory and punitive damages. The Stein case is currently pending in court.

Car Rental or Loss of Use: Know What’s Best For You

My friend Marvin was recently involved in a car accident; unfortunately the fault was his thus, his insurance has to cover both the expenses of his car damage and the other party’s. Thankfully, he secured and is capable of maintaining an expensive insurance. Hence, the company agreed to cover the accident’s costly claims, which includes car repair and rental reimbursement or loss of use for both parties since he was at fault. This is impressive given that Marvin drives a luxury car.
The only flaw I noticed in this whole deal is the short length of time the insurance company agreed to cover rental reimbursement or loss of use. The company promised a month of insurance even if the car repair, estimated through the degree of damage the car sustained, requires at least three months of full revamping. However, Marvin’s car accident lawyer overturned said decision and was successful in its negotiation with the insurance company.
Car rental reimbursement is actually not synonymous to loss of use according to this article . Insurance companies usually cover rental car reimbursement or loss of use if the insured doesn’t rent a car within an approved duration of time.
An insured has a choice between a car rental with exactly the same model as his or a loss of use claim, which is calculated at around $20 a day. In other words, the insured cannot claim both at the same time (day).
Marvin’s lawyer demanded that his client receive loss of use expense for a longer duration of time, which is for three months, given that the insurance company was willing to reimburse an expensive car rental of a luxury car for a month. Fortunately, the insurance company agreed.
It was such a smart move! Marvin didn’t have to shell out money to rent a car for the supposed two months the auto insurance earlier refused to cover. Instead, he collected a smaller amount of money per day under the loss of use claim to extend the duration the insurance company approves to cover and rented a cheaper car for three months.
If you encounter auto accidents, it is wise to avail of legal services to help you get the best deal in all kinds of transactions.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

$20 For A Possible Car Crash?

Unfortunately, according to car accident statistics, a person dies in a vehicle crash every 12 minutes in the US and such is the leading cause of death for Americans 35 years and younger. Due to this demoralizing report, advocacy groups continue to create stronger, more vehicle safety standards with the goal of improving driver awareness among other key measures to reduce car accident statistics.
In urban areas, statistics show that car accidents are mostly influenced by the distraction use of cell phones while driving brings. The increase in cell phone usage appears to be a significant contributor to higher car accident statistics; hence, the birth of a law which prohibits all drivers from using cell phones and other electronic devices while driving comes forth .
There are enacted laws restricting the use of wireless communication devices by all drivers but will they be effective in combating driver negligence? Under the law, drivers who violate the cell phone ban would face a $20 fine for a first-time offense, and a $50 fine for any repeat violation of the law. Operative human discipline proves to involve adequate positive and negative reinforcements. That being said, is a $20 or $50 fine considerable enough to discourage drivers from using cell phones behind the wheel?
It appears that distraction from cell phone use while driving is fatal – both for the offender and the common public thus, I think this prohibition merits a larger penalty from violators. If you beat a red light, a looming $350 fine is imposed… what makes utter negligence of cell phone use behind the wheel any different, or evil lesser?
Car accident claims and lawsuits are the most common type of civil tort case filed by attorneys today. Except for states with no-fault laws, car accident cases are litigated under general negligence principles. The attorney for the plaintiff in a car accident files a lawsuit in court and is required to prove that the defendant was negligent and that the negligence, like cell phone use while driving, was the proximate cause of the accident. Damages are nowhere near $20 or $50.
Car accident causes, especially mindless distractions like cell phone use or rubbernecking, should be eliminated effectively, through commensurate violation = penalty measures which would actually discourage people from continuing their old, careless driving habits.

The Preventable Risk of Heedless Guilty Pleas

The American legal system is designed to accommodate both substantive and procedural due process - the respect of a person’s legal rights to guarantee him of fundamental fairness, justice, and liberty. The law affords a person the right to defend himself in court; in fact, regardless of all calculated assumption or evidence, a person is deemed innocent until or unless proven guilty (in criminal cases, beyond reasonable doubt).
So why on earth would anyone plead guilty at the outset of a legal lawsuit?
The overwhelming majority of criminal cases in the US, over 90% are resolved through guilty pleas rather than trials. In a host of these cases, due to poor representation or ill advice from their lawyer, defendants plead guilty without considering whether they have a winnable case or not . Reasons include Panic and/or allegedly poor legal advice, which unfortunately result to verdicts lesser favorable than what could possibly a good ruling.
Defendants face a choice between 1. risking a harsh sentence by taking a borderline case to trial and 2. guaranteeing themselves relative leniency by pleading guilty to a subset of charges against them. They most of the time do not understand the case and are entirely guided by defense counsels, who often are confused by juggling tremendously overwhelming caseloads all at the same time. Apparently, these decisions post significant and perhaps, lifetime risks that’s why if your person is on the line, a competent lawyer is a must!
The Craig and McTiernan stories told in the aforementioned article serve as useful reminders that this legal system involves plenty of sausage-making behind the scenes. To successfully understand and navigate through a case an aggressive, smart lawyer could utilize the ingenuity of guilty pleas, of bargaining, and one can expect him to deliver rough justice amidst the pressures on both the prosecutors and defendants. Yes, the high and mighty may be subject to these vagaries but careful, intelligent analysis – from a brilliant and outstanding lawyer of course - can seriously lower the risk of legal blunders.

From Which Side of the State – Church Separation Wall

The Constitution has clearly marked the separation of state and church in the Establishment Clause found in the First Amendment. This intends to prohibit the federal government from declaring and financially supporting a national religion – an age-old practice done upon founding of a nation. While it is only fair that there is no “one sect” that receives larger favors and amounts of benefits, there is still a line between directly supporting a certain religious mission and supporting a general advocacy driven by some religious organizations.
When a religion is involved in a government sponsored campaign, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the government funds go directly to such religion. The goals and objectives of a government operation must be unambiguously declared so as not to stir confusion.
For instance, there have been important developments involving Law and Religion during the summer: a Supreme Court decision strengthening precedence and a settlement of more than just money from reported clergy abuse . There are conflicting viewpoints regarding the issues but the truth of the matter is, challenging government actions benefiting religion and involving taxpayer funds would be a setback to an opportunity for public education on crucial, hidden matters and a movement that has transcended from its historically religious roots to a more general subject.
The taxpayer undoubtedly has the legal standing to question executive spending where the funds were taken from general executive funds but the parameters around this Establishment Clause permits were definitely tightened. In Los Angeles, the Archdiocese was required to release documents to the public involving its knowledge of the predatory habits of its employees and clergy. This will reap precious public knowledge about truth in society and church. Through this Archdiocese settlement, the Child Victims Act was passed by the legislature to cover for the vast majority of claims barred by the statutes of limitation.
In California, victims abused within the Catholic system were given a window to file lawsuits by the suspension of the statute of limitation along with those who filed suits against Boy Scouts, the Explorers, the Seventh Day Adventists and others. This has very little to do with religion. A child victim may now put forth his / her legal rights through a Los Angeles Attorney under the abolished child sex abuse statute of limitation. In Delaware, the Child Victims Act can be invoked.
True, the Establishment Clause is placed on the Constitution’s First Amendment for a reason and this is not to be infringed. However, government actions – very beneficial and common-to-public ones that have but little to do with religion should not be thwarted by the wall of separation between church and state.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Workers Compensation Law Disregards Pain And Suffering

Hierarchy has been an age-old system and not only does it continue to fuel the world today, it exists in every nook and cranny, in various nature and degree of our daily lives. Inevitably, every chain of command comes with the tendency of those above to abuse power. We often hear it at the end of the day – bosses make our lives both delightful and miserable.
The Workers Compensation Law is commendable for promoting the rights of those who come from the lower side of the chain: the common employee. This law awards workers of different benefits they deserve for their praiseworthy sweat, toil, and dedication.
However, Workers Compensation seems seriously limited for my taste, especially discriminating to the worker risking his life and limb for the job. Yes, he is entitled to several benefits but when it comes to construction accidents, it can be quite disparaging as medical treatment usually comes slow and deficient. During recovery, the injured worker also receives reduced pay and unlike other cases, pain and sufferings, which he may want to claim, are generally not covered by this law
If the injured worker suffers a “permanent partial disability,” he may be entitled to receive a lump sum for the percentage any permanent disability he suffers. Each state has a different disability formula and the amount of the settlement depends on the doctor’s findings and income at the time of injury. It is wise to consult your California Court Attorney to determine the calculations of your benefit if you incurred this kind of injury.
Fault and negligence of the employer are immaterial under the Workers Compensation law but though the worker’s rights are an absolute remedy against the employer, it doesn’t exempt other involved companies or persons working, who may have been the actual cause or part of the accident. That’s just sensible but in case of companies or persons other than the employer, pain and suffering damages may be claimed.
I understand that the Workers Compensation law aims to protect employees while careful not to exploit employers but why remove the rights to recover pain and suffering damages from the former when the law actually recognizes its existence in other cases? What makes employers exempt from liability for the pain and sufferings of their very employees?
The Workers Compensation Law is a progressive step towards justice but since we are aiming for perfection and common good, more beneficial measures must be put into force so that those who have less truly receive more of the law.

Expensive Insurance, Meager Rewards? Go For A Full Blown Trial

It is a fact that though we allocate huge amounts of our earnings to insurance, to secure our persons and properties, we often rack up benefits less than what we need and deserve. Do you remember having heard of a truly satisfactory and not just barely acceptable true story about insurance claims? Barely. Nothing’s unusual about an insured paying lump sums of money because his insurer fails to compensate him of fair and reasonable premiums.
We have to remember that insurance companies make money by the absence, or not paying, of claims. According to the article entitled Taking Aim at Insurance Company Gouging the insurance industry has aggregated large amounts of money profit by evading payment of legitimate personal injury claims. It is estimated that around $60 billion of after-tax profit has boomed from the $48.8 billion record of 2005, which previously broke the $40.5 billion record of 2004.
Voila! The percentage of premiums paid out for claims dropped from around 75% in 1980’s to an astounding 60%. Now who’s surprised?
The maddening part though is not exactly that – the government has enacted the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act that subsidized the insurance industry to around $7 billion! The Congress should definitely abolish the act and push its expiration this year.
It is utterly revolting to put the blame on trial lawyers and clients as the source of increasing premiums. The insurance industry’s power remains unchecked, should be thoroughly reviewed and addressed through fair regulation to minimize room for insurance payment evasion. The middle class is the biggest victim in this greed as it continues to burden rising premiums.
Los Angeles Lawyers promote taking civil cases to trial instead of agreeing to settle in mediation, if necessary just to get reasonable compensation for their clients. Insurance companies engage in bad faith practices to reduce claims. Lawyers are now unafraid of costly cases taken to trial for insurance companies to reconsider how they should handle legitimate claims.