Wednesday, April 27, 2011

California Cell Phone Laws About to Get Tougher: From $20 Fine to $50

Currently, state laws in California prohibit all drivers from using a handheld wireless telephone while operating a motor vehicle while drivers aged 18 years old and below are banned from using a cell phone or even a hands-free device while driving. The most recent, the Wireless Communications Device Law makes it illegal for drivers to write, send, or read text while operating a motor vehicle.

The fine for violating these laws is pegged at $20 but a pending legislation may drive that fine up $50, which if computed with other fees and penalties, can cost a first offender $309.

The proposed bill, which has been approved by the state senate and is pending before the Assembly, will also impose a fine of $100 for repeat offenders. Along with added fees, drivers who continue to text and drive will have to shell out more than $500 and will have a point added to their driving record for the offense.

But this bill isn’t just a bane for texting or talking drivers – it would also cover bicyclists who use a hand-held device while riding. The first offense is punishable by a $20 fine and further offenses by $50.

According to Senator Joe Simitian, the author of said bill, the stiffer penalties will deter more people from distracted driving. Allegedly, since the passage of these cell phone bans, there is a 20 percent reduction on collisions and fatalities in California.

Distracted driving is indeed a road safety concern that should be taken seriously. However, in this generation of multi-taskers, seeing drivers with their phones on their hands while driving has almost become a common sight and $20 is hardly a deterrent. This is why an increase in the fine imposed will discourage drivers – after all, $500 is way too much to lose for just texting or talking.

However, in the event that these distracted drivers fail to heed the law against hands-free use and texting and if they cause a crash while doing so, they would not just be facing a fine, they may also be sued by their victims for negligence.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mini Horse Killed in Dog Attack, Owner is Cited

California’s Dog Bite Law can be found under Section 3342 of the Civil Code which states that, “The owner of a dog is liable to anyone bitten by their dog who is in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the dog owner’s property, regardless of whether the dog has bit anyone before and regardless of whether the owner knew the dog had bitten anyone before.”

This means that in case of dog bite injuries or dog attacks in California, the theory of strict liability is applicable to the owner.

In Riverside, a miniature horse was attacked and killed by a pair of dogs owned by Cesar Siordia. The dogs, which were reported to be wolf-dog hybrids, escaped from Siordia’s home and mauled Chris Herron’s mini horse, Bojangles, in his ranch which is 3 miles from Siordia’s place.

One of the dogs were shot and killed and the other was caught by Animal Services and euthanized afterward. Allegedly, this wasn’t the first time Siordia’s pets attacked another animal. According to a neighbor, one of Siordia’s dogs escaped from the yard and attacked his Jack Russel terrier.

Herron has said that he plans to seek restitution from Siordia as he bought the mini horse for $5,000 and intended to give it to his girlfriend.

Animal Services has reported that although Siordia’s home has a 6-foot high chain link fence that is also electrified – it wasn’t high enough to prevent dogs from jumping over it and it was also unplugged at the time of the accident.

John Welsh, spokesman for Animal Services has said that, “Be a responsible pet owner and have a secured yard.” Siordia was cited by Animal Services for violation of leash laws.

Given the circumstances of the case, the owner of the mini-horse has every right to recover damages against the owner of the dogs because under the law in California, dog owners are liable for their pet's actions even for first time bites or even if the dog never displayed a hint of aggression prior to the attack. Although of course, there are situations wherein the dog owner’s liability may be reduced (i.e. trespasser bitten by a dog), the bottom line is, when you take on an animal you take on a responsibility.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

CHP Launches Crackdown on Speeding Motorcyclists in Ortega Highway

With 52 motorcycle crashes and 7 fatalities reported 2009-2010 on Ortega Highway (highway 74), the mountainous 33-mile stretch is now the target of the California Highway Patrol’s crackdown for unsafe motorcyclists.

The crackdown includes stepping up the enforcement of motorcycle laws on the winding, two-lane highway, and a public awareness campaign depicting a mangled motorcycle with the flashing sign, “Are You Next?” to warn motorcyclists about the dangers of driving too fast.

According to the CHP, about 1/3 of the motorcycle-involved collisions from January 1, 2007 to December 31, 2008 were because of unsafe speeds. CHP Officer Brad Barksdale said that the purpose of the campaign is for motorcyclists to realize that there are other people on the road and that it is selfish for them to drive at high speeds, pass on curves, and go over double-yellow lines.

Although Ortega Highway is a great road for motorcycling, even private citizens welcomed news of the campaign. According to Mike Caudill, CEO of a Temecula firm specializing in automotive industry and a bike enthusiast, there are many too many motorcyclists on the road who do not understand how to ride a motorcycle. He said that the road is not a place for excessive speed and to just, “Take it to the track.”

The fund for the campaign is from the $185,000 grant given by the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported that around 900 Americans are killed every month because of speed-related motor vehicle accidents. Compared to passenger car drivers, motorcyclists are more apt to speed because of a lot of bikes have high performance capabilities which would encourage its riders to engage in risky driving behavior such as speeding and accelerating quickly or weaving in and out of lanes at a high rate of speed.

While most motorcycle riders killed in single-vehicle crashes were speeding, it is also a huge factor in collisions between a motorcycle and another vehicle. In 2-vehicle crashes, 77 percent of the motorcycles were struck in the front which means that the rider may have been tailgating or driving too fast to stop in time from hitting the vehicle ahead of him.

Injuries from motorcycle accidents may run up to thousands of dollars worth of treatment, and injured motorcyclists run the risk of losing many days of work and income. Speeding may be fun and exhilarating especially for bikers – but the cost and legal liability you may potentially face in a motor vehicle accident is never worth that risk.

For more questions about speed-related crashes and motorcycle accidents, you may call the Mesriani Law Group at (310) 826-6300 or send them an email at