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What Are Contingency Fees?

Posted on: October 20, 2016 by in Blog
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If you are injured by another person’s negligence in the state of California – in a traffic accident, a slip-and-fall on private property, or in an instance of medical malpractice, for example – you are entitled to full compensation for all of your medical expenses, lost wages, and other injury-related damages. When the injury is temporarily or permanently disabling, you are additionally entitled to all future medical expenses arising from the injury and future “lost working capacity.”

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Don’t let the word “entitled” fool you. Yes, if you are injured by someone else’s negligence, you’re “entitled” to compensation – it’s your legal right – but a reimbursement amount doesn’t just appear in your bank account or in your mailbox. You’ll have to prove that you’re injured and that the other person’s negligence is the reason why you’re injured. You’ll need a lawyer’s help – someone like an Oakland or San Francisco personal injury attorney.

If money is flowing out for to pay for medical expenses and nothing is coming in because you can’t work, you could quickly face the kinds of financial hardship that confront so many injury victims and their families. The last thing you can afford at that point is additional spending. If you need to retain a personal injury attorney to fight for compensation on your behalf, what can you do?

HOW CAN YOU HIRE A LAWYER IF YOU HAVE NO MONEY FOR A LAWYER?

Personal injury lawyers long ago understood that many injuries victims cannot afford to pay “up front” for legal representation. Personal injury lawyers are also committed to the idea that every one of us deserves justice – without regard to our financial standing. Thus, personal injury attorneys are paid on a “contingency fee” basis. In other words, the fee is paid at the end of the process rather than at the start, and the payment is “contingent” upon whether or not the attorney actually obtains a settlement or a verdict on the injury victim’s behalf.

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A contingency fee arrangement provides access to the courts for those who cannot afford to pay attorneys’ fees. Contingency fees are also a compelling motivation for the attorney to work diligently on the client’s behalf. Finally, because lawyers assume the financial risk of legal action, contingency fees work to keep speculative and frivolous claims from clogging the personal injury courts.

Contingency fees, however, do not guarantee that injury victims will obtain justice or even gain access to the courts. No matter how seriously injured you are, if you have no proof that another person’s negligence caused your injury, you can’t win, so probably no attorney will take the case. Other personal injury claims may require comprehensive investigation before the chances of success can even be guessed at. These cases might be turned away because the investigation alone is expensive and the odds of prevailing are low.

WHAT ARE THE PROS AND CONS OF FILING A PERONAL INJURY CLAIM?

When you have a personal injury claim and you also have sufficient evidence to prove it, you’ll still have to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of legal action. Personal injury cases can take months to play out and sometimes several years. If a jury awards you a large amount, that’s probably not the end of the story – defendants in personal injury cases usually appeal large awards or negotiate for a lower award amount in return for not filing an appeal. A personal injury lawyer will be able to explain the advantages and disadvantages of legal action in your own case.

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In southern California, a personal injury attorney may charge about one-third of the total injury recovery. This includes the amount obtained for medical expenses, lost earnings, and damages such as pain, suffering, and the “loss of the enjoyment of life.” While every attorney and every case is different, most lawyers charge approximately one-third if a settlement can be obtained before filing a lawsuit or going to trial. The precise percentage is negotiable, and the amount can go up to forty or forty-five percent depending on the legal services required and on the attorney’s track record and experience.

Personal injury attorneys typically settle personal injury claims through out-of-court negotiations. Very few California personal injury cases require a trial. If the lawyer settles the case out of court, less legal work is required. You can probably negotiate an agreement in which the lawyer accepts a lower percentage if he or she settles the case quickly and easily without having to go to court.

Since the average person cannot and probably will not pay an hourly rate of $400 to $500 or a $2,500-to-$5,000 up-front retainer, the contingency fee arrangement is really the only viable option for most personal injury victims. As the lawyer’s share is based on the total amount of the recovery, the higher the fee, the more motivated the attorney is, at least theoretically, to fight diligently on a client’s behalf.

IS A CONTINGENCY FEE A “GOOD DEAL” FOR INJURY VICTIMS?

One key element of the contingency fee arrangement is that personal injury attorneys themselves usually advance all of the costs for investigation and discovery, as most clients are simply unable to advance these costs. The attorney is basically making an investment in order to increase the value of the case. Personal injury attorneys may be the only people in the United States who will advance you that kind of loan at no cost and zero percent interest.

A contingency fee contract lets an accident victim – an average person – stand on a level playing field with a well-funded insurance company. It’s important for accident victims to read and closely scrutinize a contingency fee contract before signing it, and it’s also important to ask as many questions about the contract as you need to ask. Also be sure that you’re comfortable and at ease with the attorney you’ve chosen – you’ll probably be working together for months and in some cases longer.

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Some injuries just happen – they’re not really anyone’s fault. The law used to call them “acts of God” – injuries that can’t be avoided in circumstances like bad weather. If you’ve been injured and you don’t know if someone else can be held legally accountable, seek legal advice at once. And in California, before you accept any insurance company’s offer to settle, arrange a consultation with an experienced Oakland or San Francisco personal injury attorney.

Without an experienced personal injury attorney’s insights and seasoned legal advice, you may not know whether or not you even have a legitimate personal injury claim, and you won’t know what that claim might actually be worth. When you’ve been injured by someone else’s negligence in the state of California, there is absolutely no reason to settle for one cent less than you deserve.

Can High Tech Help Us Reduce Incidents of Police Misconduct?

Posted on: September 19, 2016 by in Blog
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For about two years – since the shooting of Michael Brown on August 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri – police officers across the United States are having their actions, decisions, and behaviors more closely scrutinized than ever before. Most law enforcement officers conduct themselves professionally, but there’s no doubt that in most police agencies, the bad are mixed right in with the good. Police brutality and misconduct can result in personal injuries and even in wrongful death. Researchers at the University of Chicago are exploring some innovative ways to reduce the overall number of police brutality and police misconduct incidents.

The University is working with the Chicago Police to create a data program that will determine which police officers are most likely to conduct themselves aggressively, improperly, or illegally with a civilian. The researchers are also creating “predictive” data programs for police departments in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Nashville, and Knoxville, as well as the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

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Law enforcement agencies have always compiled statistics and have used them in attempts to discern crime trends and patterns. However, the application of contemporary “big data” processing employing algorithms – the kind that online marketers use to determine your preferences for targeted advertising – to root out unprofessional or incompetent police officers or officer candidates is new, according to the researchers.

HOW SHOULD “BIG DATA” ABOUT POLICE MISCONDUCT BE INTERPRETED?

The new approach is meeting with suspicion from many police officers at a time when their fairness and behavior is being challenged by politicians, the media, and protesters in the streets. The big question is obviously how to interpret the “big data” regarding individual police officers and what to do when the data predicts that an officer is likely to behave unprofessionally or illegally. Predicting police misconduct is one of the more contentious aspects of big data processing, but the University of Chicago researchers say their work has a number of other useful applications.

“The thing we’re finding is that using it (big data) to predict officer adverse incidents is just one use,” Rayid Ghani, director of the University’s Center for Data Science & Public Policy and formerly the chief data scientist for President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign, told the Chicago Tribune. “Inside police departments, they are doing a lot of other things – performance management, other safety things, training. This is easily extensible to all those things.” Jens Ludwig, the director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab, told the Tribune, “Ultimately the goal here is that you want to train and retain the very highest-quality police force that you can.”

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Most police departments use what they call a “threshold” system in their attempts to predict if a specific police officer is likely to be involved in a brutality or misconduct incident. Such a system “flags” police officers involved in too many questionable incidents like traffic collisions, high-speed chases, complaints from the public, or incidents resulting in injuries. Until now, the threshold system has been the only tool available to most police agencies, but it tends to put too many good officers in the at-risk group while overlooking others who genuinely belong there.

HAS BIG DATA BEEN TRIED IN THE PAST TO PREDICT POLICE MISCONDUCT?

Supporters say that data-driven analysis can point to patterns that lead to misconduct as well as those that lead to model job performance. The Chicago Police Department tried data analysis more than two decades ago using a software program called BrainMaker, but the effort was abandoned in less than two years. The Fraternal Order of Police argued that the program was unable to assess police work properly and often targeted officers who had not misbehaved.

In the Charlotte-Mecklenburg region, law enforcement administrators had to show the police officers that their personal information was made anonymous before turning it over to the University of Chicago research team, according to Captain Stella Patterson, who heads up the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s professional standards unit. Still, many are concerned that an innocent officer could be unfairly stigmatized and professionally harmed.

Locke Bowman, a professor of clinical law at Northwestern University, told the Chicago Tribune, “There’s just kind of a discomfort for anybody who’s involved in criminal justice about singling out and punishing people without a basis of anything that they’ve done, but based on attributes that they have.” That discomfort, of course, is linked to the concern regarding what should happen when data suggests that an officer might be “heading” toward a brutality or misconduct incident. Determining the most effective way to intervene is the challenge. Is discipline the best approach? Counseling? Additional training?

WHAT IS THE MOST EFFECTIVE WAY TO STOP POLICE MISCONDUCT?

Supporters of the big data approach say that it requires the most extensive and reliable data possible. They tell us that the quality of data is improving and the ability to process that information is quickly becoming more sophisticated. University of Chicago researchers spent personal time with Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers, joining in ride-alongs and seeking input from officers about what factors they believe may indicate that a colleague may have a negative incident on the job. Blending that personal understanding with higher quality data processing can make the newer system more nuanced and accurate, according to researchers.

Officers in the line of duty may use whatever force is genuinely necessary, but the law restricts what’s allowed. Officers must safeguard your legal and constitutional rights, even if you’ve committed a violent felony. If you’ve been a victim of police brutality or misconduct in northern California, seek out the counsel of an experienced San Francisco personal injury attorney who will listen to your story and thoroughly investigate it. If you’ve been injured – or if you’ve lost a loved one – in any incident of police brutality or violence, let a San Francisco personal injury attorney fight on your behalf for justice and for the full compensation you deserve.

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The first tests of the new “big data” approach to monitoring police conduct – in Charlotte-Mecklenburg – have provided positive results. Compared against the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s existing threshold-based system, the big data approach accurately flagged more officers who have been involved in negative incidents, “That was an indication that we’re going in the right direction,” Captain Patterson said, stressing that the new approach “is not punitive in any fashion. They’re early warnings that alert us.”

California Teachers Union Prevails At U.S. Supreme Court

Posted on: June 28, 2016 by in Blog
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The California Teachers Association (CTA) pushed for the first law requiring free public schools in California, campaigned against child labor, and protested the internment of American citizens of Japanese origin during World War II. California public school teachers finally won the right to collective bargaining in 1975 when the CTA-sponsored Educational Employment Relations Act became the law in California. When you belong to a union like the CTA, the union negotiates with your employer to achieve a “collective bargaining agreement” which defines your wages, benefits, working conditions, and your rights on the job for a certain period of time.

According to San Francisco employment rights attorney Kenneth Frucht, “In the 1977 Supreme Court decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, 431 U.S. 209 (1977), the Court held that no one can be forced to join a public-sector union as a condition of employment, nor could anyone be forced to contribute to a union’s political speech or activities. However, the Court also unanimously upheld the right of public-sector unions to collect mandatory fees from all employees in a bargaining unit, whether or not they were members of the union.”

Attorney Frucht further explains that in the Abood case, “The decision was premised on making sure that all employees paid their ‘fair-share’ or ‘agency’ fees to prevent nonunion members from ‘free riding’ off of the union’s bargaining efforts, without contributing to the union.  Opponents of Abood argued that the requirement that nonunion members pay money to the union violated their First Amendment rights and compelled political speech by forcing them to fund union political activities.”

In March of this year, the California Teachers Association again won a major victory for public employee unions when a deadlocked U.S. Supreme Court rejected an effort to end organized labor’s ability to collect dues from government workers who oppose paying fees to cover collective bargaining costs. In Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, ten California teachers, and the Christian Educators Association International asked the Supreme Court to overturn the 39-year-old Abood decision. Instead, the Supreme Court rendered a 4-4 ruling that effectively upheld lower court decisions in favor of the CTA in the controversial case.

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According to San Francisco employment rights attorney Kenneth Frucht, efforts to overturn Abood “hit a major roadblock with the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia” in February. The attorney explains that “Friedrichs was an appeal from the 9th Circuit, which had upheld agency fees. At the January 11, 2016 oral argument, the 5-member conservative block on the Court appeared poised to overturn Abood, with Scalia equating the agency fees with compelled political speech, noting that ‘everything that is collectively bargained is within the political sphere, almost by definition.’”

“While the unions were bracing for a major defeat, Scalia passed away at a vacation lodge in Texas, which meant that the five-member conservative block was reduced to four. Under Supreme Court rules, the 4-4 vote on March 29, 2016 meant that the 9th Circuit ruling in Friedrichs upholding Abood was affirmed. Though the California Teachers Union prevailed, the case and the issues involved are not nearly resolved. On April 8, 2016, the Center for Individual Rights filed a Petition for Rehearing in the 9th Circuit. To date no action has been taken on the petition,” attorney Frucht said.

WHAT ABOUT FUTURE CHALLENGES TO UNIONS?

Center for Individual Rights President Terry Pell said, “We believe this case is too significant to let a split decision stand and we will file a petition for re-hearing with the Supreme Court.” For now, collective bargaining and the fair share fees that make it possible have survived their most serious legal challenge in years, but public employee unions are certain to face additional challenges in the future. Supporters of the CTA’s position – like California’s Attorney General, Kamala Harris – were pleased with the result of the case but wary about further legal battles.

“By upholding current law, the Supreme Court rejected a political ploy by the wealthy corporate special interests backing this case to make it harder for working families and the middle class to come together, speak up for each other and get ahead,” said California Teachers Association President Eric Heins. “Now it’s time for senators to do their job and appoint a successor justice to the highest court in our land,” Heins added, acknowledging the political impact of the case.

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WHAT IS THE RULING’S POLITICAL IMPACT?

The ruling has already exacerbated this year’s political stalemate over Justice Scalia’s successor. President Obama has nominated federal appeals court Judge Merrick Garland to fill Scalia’s seat. Republicans are promising to block any nomination until after the presidential election.  Democrats argue that the Supreme Court needs its full panel of justices to conduct its business properly.

The legal dispute over public employee unions was precisely the kind of divisive case that can splinter the Supreme Court, especially given the court’s current composition of justices. By leaving the lower court rulings intact – rather than putting the case on pause until the next term – the justices established no overriding precedent, and they thus left the door open for future challenges to fair share fees and to public employee unions in general.

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The CTA dispute emerged as public employee unions became the focus of criticism and political attacks in Wisconsin and in New Jersey. In recent years, conservative judges have not hesitated to express doubts publicly about allowing the states to mandate fee payments from non-consenting public employees who are not union members. California teachers who support their union have been genuinely concerned about this case and other legal challenges to public employee unions.

DOES SOCIETY BENEFIT FROM FAIR SHARE FEES?

Underlying the CTA position is the presumption that society at large benefits substantially from fair share fees and the work of teachers’ unions. “I think that unions are incredibly important for public education,” said Lynne Formigli, a science teacher at Santa Clara’s Cabrillo Middle School. Opponents of that position believe the unions use fair share fees to advance the progressive political causes of organized labor, regardless of whether those paying the fees agree with those causes.

However, California teachers who do not belong to the California Teachers Association already get back about $350 to $400 of their yearly payments – the estimated amount that’s used for the union’s political activity. The additional loss to public employee unions in California and other states could be hundreds of millions of dollars a year if public employees who are not union members do not have to pay anything. Those dollars are a primary reason why twenty-one states and a number of labor unions expressed to the Supreme Court their support for the CTA’s position in Friedrichs.

Who Suffers More When An Intoxicated Driver Injures You?

Posted on: March 8, 2016 by in Blog, Personal Injury
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You probably already know that driving under the influence is one of the predominant causes of traffic accidents and traffic fatalities in California and across the United States. Every year, about thirty percent of all traffic deaths are linked to driving under the influence. Additionally, drunk drivers injure thousands of other innocent drivers, passengers, and pedestrians every year, and many of those injuries can be quite serious. The law in California and every other state allows traffic accident victims to claim compensation for all of their medical expenses present and future, pain and suffering, all lost wages present and future, and all other damages and costs tied to any injury caused by a drunk driver.

Additionally, in California and a number of other states, in some cases the law allows for the recovery of punitive damages from a drunk driver who knowingly endangered others by driving under the influence. If you are injured by a drunk driver, it is imperative to retain a good personal injury lawyer as quickly as possible so that a proper investigation may be conducted and your personal injury claim may be filed promptly. In the San Francisco Bay Area, contact an experienced San Francisco personal injury attorney to discuss your legal rights and options – which may include a personal injury lawsuit – immediately after any traffic accident with injuries.

Thirty percent of us in the United States will be involved in an alcohol-related traffic collision in our lifetimes. Crashes that involve alcohol cost the United States approximately $51 billion in damages every year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although drunk drivers are subject to serious legal penalties in every state, and drunk drivers can also be sued in civil court for damages, in many cases, it is still the injury victim who suffers the most, and no amount of punishment or compensation can alter that reality.

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IN WHAT WAYS DO INJURY VICTIMS SUFFER?

Rebekah Bowers Sanders knows what it is to suffer. Last year, she and her husband were on their way to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where Ms. Sanders was supposed to be a part of her sister’s wedding. They didn’t make it. A drunk driver whose blood alcohol content (BAC) level was measured at 0.138 percent – the legal limit is 0.08 percent – crashed into their vehicle’s rear end near Paris, Texas. Emily Sharrock, then 20, was charged with two counts of intoxicated assault with a vehicle causing serious bodily injury. Since the crash last June, Ms. Sanders and her husband have been recovering from a variety of serious injuries. Combined, the couple sustained several broken ribs, four broken leg bones, a dislocated hip and shoulder, three broken arm bones, a broken eye socket with vision loss, a shattered wrist, a sprained ankle and wrist, torn ligaments, and severe bruising. Rebekah Bowers Sanders recently wrote these two paragraphs about her accident for the KLFY News website:

“A little over seven months ago, a drunk driver changed the lives of my husband and me forever. I have yet to regain the vision in my right eye, and it is extremely unlikely that I will ever see out of it again. I will never get to look over my shoulder at my children playing in the backseat of the car. I will never be able to put on eyeliner the same way. I cannot enjoy 3-D movies anymore, and driving is a constant stress. So many other tasks that used to be easy take extra time and attention. You don’t realize how much you need the vision in both eyes until you lose one of them. I just started walking unassisted two months ago after two leg and knee surgeries. Relying on others for rides, baths and meals was one of the most restrictive feelings. Luckily, I have a wonderful support system of friends and family who did all they could to make me feel ‘normal,’ but let’s be honest: There’s nothing normal about being 25 and having to be helped to the bathroom and shower.

I had to move back in with my parents for two months because my sweet husband was also severely injured and unable to help with my care. We spent our fourth wedding anniversary in separate hospital rooms hundreds of miles from home. While other families were celebrating Father’s Day, my daddy was hearing that his daughter was being rushed to an emergency scan because my oxygen level had crashed and they were afraid I had a blood clot in my lung. The 20-year-old who hit Zach and me had a blood alcohol content almost twice the legal limit, was on her phone and was also speeding at more than 20 miles per hour over the speed limit. It’s a dangerous combination that has cost us months of hardship and caused our loved ones to have horrifying memories they will never be able to forget.”

The catastrophic injuries sustained by the victims of drunk drivers can have a lifelong impact. A traumatic brain injury, for example, can occur whenever there is a blow to the head, and the potential for spinal cord injuries – and possible permanent paralysis – is also high in serious accidents. When an impact happens at the rear of a vehicle, the occupants may suffer a serious whiplash injury or soft tissue injuries. These are musculoskeletal injuries that can impact your ability to return to work or simply to meet your everyday obligations.

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WHAT ABOUT THE EMOTIONAL CONSEQUENCES?

Although many physical injuries may heal with time, as Rebekah Bowers Sanders’ words indicate, the emotional consequences of a serious injury caused by a drunk driver could be permanent. Seriously injured accident victims are often at risk for a number of potentially severe mental and psychological difficulties after an accident. Many accident victims have to deal with nightmares, flashbacks, isolation, alienation, and depression. Trauma and fear can plague an accident victim for a long time after the accident, and some losses can never be replaced.

Even without more serious psychological difficulties, a typical accident victim commonly suffers some level of depression for some amount of time after any serious traffic accident injury. That depression causes some people to have difficulty managing and maintaining their jobs, their finances, and even their marriages after a serious accident and injury. Drunk drivers may face the legal consequences of their actions, but it’s usually the victims of drunk drivers who ultimately pay the higher price.

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO AFTER A DRUNK DRIVING ACCIDENT?

If you have been injured in an accident with a drunk driver, you must try to accomplish a number of important tasks at once, and you’ll need to try and remain calm so that you can think clearly. Obviously, the first priority after any traffic collision is to obtain medical treatment immediately for yourself and for anyone else who’s been injured. San Bernardino personal injury lawyers suggest calling the police immediately after you summon medical help. You’ll need to obtain a copy of the police accident report, and you may also need the testimony of police officers as witnesses if you eventually choose to pursue a personal injury claim. Ask any witnesses to the accident for their names and a way to contact them. You must obtain the other driver’s name, contact information, and insurance information. Most drivers will be helpful, but if the other driver is too injured, intoxicated, or hostile to cooperate with you, ask the police to help you gather the information you need.

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Whenever you drive in the 21st century, it’s now also a smart idea to have the camera ready on your cell phone. After an accident, take abundant photographs – or if you’re injured and can’t take pictures, have someone take them – of the accident scene, the damage to the vehicles, the license plates, and your own visible injuries. Photographs can be convincing evidence in personal injury cases. Be sure that you can prove the date when the photos were taken. Also make and keep copies of each document generated by the collision: medical tests and medical bills, the police accident report, and any other paperwork. Additionally, you must also keep all of your medical treatment appointments and you must receive appropriate, timely care for all of your injuries. Your doctor appointments also create the medical documents that your personal attorney will need to fight for justice on your behalf.

When you are injured by a drunk driver who fails a breathalyzer examination – that is, a driver whose blood alcohol content level is measured at 0.08 percent or higher – your chances of prevailing with a personal injury claim are good. A breathalyzer test is persuasive evidence, and a DUI conviction is even more persuasive. However, you still must prove that you were injured by that particular driver in that particular accident, and you also must prove the extent of your injuries. A good personal injury lawyer will examine all of the evidence, interrogate the witnesses, and fight aggressively for the compensation and justice that you need and deserve after a serious injury caused by a drunk driver. If you’re injured in the San Francisco Bay Area by an impaired driver, don’t wait. Take your case at once to an experienced San Francisco personal injury attorney.

Intoxicated Drivers, The Super Bowl, And You

Posted on: February 11, 2016 by in Blog, Personal Injury
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Super Bowl Sunday is coming right up, and the San Francisco Bay Area is hosting the event for only the second time in the big game’s fifty-year history. Of course, the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers are not the only teams busily preparing right now for the big game. Law enforcement agencies – and not just in the state of California, but across the United States – will be aggressively enforcing drunk driving laws in every part of the country with extra patrol units, additional DUI checkpoints, and more traffic stops and arrests for driving under the influence. Your chance of being pulled over for suspicion of DUI is almost double on Super Bowl Sunday compared to a more typical Sunday evening in February. So are your chances of being injured in an accident with an impaired driver.

Every year on the day of the Super Bowl, the number of intoxicated drivers on California’s streets and highways goes up, and so does the danger. In 2012, for example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that alcohol was the key factor in 43 percent of the traffic deaths on Super Bowl Sunday and the following morning. On Super Bowl Sundays, alcohol-related crashes in the Los Angeles area go up by 60 percent, and in San Diego, the figure is a 117 percent increase, according to the Auto Club of Southern California.

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HOW DANGEROUS IS SUPER BOWL SUNDAY?

In recent years, drinking and driving on Super Bowl Sunday has become a growing public safety concern, and especially in California. Here’s why. On the ten Super Bowl Sundays from 2002 through 2011, 642 alcohol-related fatal crashes happened in California, according to the Auto Club of Southern California figures. If those Sundays had been routine Sundays, 276 fewer deadly alcohol-related collisions would have occurred. “In other words, 28 more alcohol-related fatal and injury crashes occur annually in California due to drinking and driving on Super Bowl Sunday” That’s what Auto Club researcher Steve Bloch tells the Los Angeles Times.

In California in 2012, 803 died in alcohol-related traffic collisions. That’s more than two fatalities a day. Thousands more were seriously injured. More than 172,000 drivers were charged with driving under the influence in California in 2012. Every year, DUI is the most frequently-charged crime in the state. The statistics tell us that when you drive or ride as a passenger in California, an intoxicated driver is probably on the road with you, and that probability doubles on Super Bowl Sundays. If you are injured by an impaired driver, it’s imperative to see a good personal injury lawyer at once. If you are injured by an impaired driver in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, or anywhere else in the San Francisco Bay Area, discuss the accident, your injury or injuries, and your legal rights and options – which might include a personal injury lawsuit – as quickly as possible with an experienced San Francisco personal injury attorney.

In every state, a driver is legally intoxicated if that driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) level measures at or above 0.08 percent. Yes, drunk drivers face serious criminal charges when they injure other people, but drunk drivers may also be sued for personal injury damages. If you’re injured by an impaired driver, discuss the case with a personal injury attorney. If you have a personal injury claim and you choose to move forward with that claim, a good personal injury lawyer will handle it for you and negotiate aggressively on your behalf. Your attorney – and the other side’s attorney or attorneys – will reach a satisfactory settlement out of court, or your attorney will take your claim to a trial jury. The overwhelming majority of personal injury cases are settled out of court, but if your case goes to a trial, your lawyer will explain your story to the jurors and fight diligently for the compensation and justice you need.

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HOW CAN YOU STAY SAFE ON GAME DAY?

Always, your safety and the safety of your loved ones is a top priority. In 2012, more than 10,000 people died in the United States in alcohol-related traffic accidents. That’s almost one death every 51 minutes. With even more impaired drivers on the road for Super Bowl Sunday, consider these four basic safety precautions if you must drive on the day of the big game:

  1. You may not be drinking and driving on Super Bowl Sunday, but others will, so be certain to buckle up. Prior to game day, check your tire pressure and inspect your windshield wipers, your brakes, and all of your lights. If you drive on Super Bowl Sunday, you need all of the safety tools you can get.
  2. Always look in your mirrors – and into the distance – as well as directly in front of you when you drive. Always be aware that you are in the middle of constantly-changing conditions. Try to maintain enough distance between your vehicle and other vehicles so that you can stop or swerve away to avoid trouble.
  3. Never allow yourself to be distracted when you drive. Avoid eating take-out food, applying make-up, or talking or texting on the cell phone. In fact, turn the phone off. Pull off the road if you need to take a closer look at a GPS device or a map. And – it goes without saying – never drink and drive for any reason or under any circumstances.
  4. If you see road rage, absolutely avoid it. Drive away and out of the way, and do what it takes to protect yourself and your passengers. Take no chances. If you see dangerous driving or violence, do not hesitate to report it to 9-1-1.

Accident victims injured by negligent drivers, including victims injured by drunk drivers, have the right under California personal injury laws to receive full compensation for all of their medical care, for their days lost from work, and for all of their additional injury-related damages and losses. You’ll have to prove that you were injured and that the other driver was negligent, and you’ll need the legal advice and services of a good personal injury attorney, but if you have been seriously injured and the other driver failed a DUI test or is convicted of DUI, in most cases your personal injury claim will have a good chance of succeeding.

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU ARE INJURED?

After an accident, immediately seek medical attention. Don’t find an excuse to avoid seeing a doctor. Your life and your health are your most important possessions. If you’ve been injured because of a drunk driver’s negligence, you must establish and maintain medical records of your injury and follow your doctor’s orders. Another reason you must seek immediate medical treatment is because if you don’t, and you file a personal injury claim, the defendant may charge that your injury happened elsewhere or that you really weren’t injured at all. If brain and spinal injuries are not immediately detected and treated, sometimes those injuries can remain latent and emerge months later as serious medical problems. If your injury is disabling, catastrophic, or permanent, you’ll need the maximum compensation that’s available, and you’ll need an attorney who knows what it takes to win that compensation on your behalf.

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At the scene of an accident, try to remain calm and to think rationally, because you must take several steps immediately. Obtain medical treatment first for yourself and for anyone else injured in the crash. Call the police and arrange to obtain a copy of the accident report. Get the name of the other driver and that driver’s contact and insurance information. Also get names and contact information from any eyewitnesses. Finally, take as many photos as you can of the accident site, the vehicles, and your visible injuries. Photographs can be compelling evidence in a personal injury case.

No one is immune from the tragedies associated with intoxicated driving – not even the stars of the Super Bowl themselves. In 2013, after playing in the Super Bowl in New Orleans for the 49ers (who were defeated that day by the Baltimore Ravens), tight end Delanie Walker learned – only hours after the game – that his aunt and uncle who had watched from the stands, Bryan and Alice Young, were killed on their way home by an allegedly impaired driver. Walker works now in the offseason to educate others and to raise awareness about the dangers of drinking and driving.

If you drive on Super Bowl Sunday or on any other day in the San Francisco Bay Area, you can and should take proper safety precautions. Inevitably, of course, there’s no final, certain way to keep a drunk driver from injuring you and your passengers, but if it happens, legal help is available. If you are injured by a drunk driver – anywhere in the country – take your case immediately to a good personal injury attorney. Witnesses forget details quickly, and. evidence can deteriorate or even disappear, so you must act promptly. If you are injured by a drunk driver on Super Bowl Sunday or on any other day of the year, speak immediately with a good personal injury lawyer, and in the San Francisco Bay area, speak at once with an experienced San Francisco personal injury attorney.

Will Your Employment Contract Protect You?

Posted on: January 12, 2016 by in Blog, Employment Law
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Looking for employment, interviewing with prospective employers, and negotiating an employment offer can itself be a quite exhausting and time-consuming job. Before that job is complete, there’s the inevitable issue of reviewing the employment contract that your new employer has prepared for you. Be cautious. Before accepting employment, have the employment contract reviewed by an experienced, knowledgeable employment attorney. To protect yourself and your rights, having an attorney review your employment contract is the wise move to make.

An employment contract should specify your rights as an employee and protect you against wrongful termination. In most cases and in most states, employment is considered “at will.” In other words, the employer may terminate employment, or the employee may voluntarily leave, at any time – at their will. An employer’s right to fire an employee may be restricted, however, where the employee can show that the employer has entered into an explicit contract to retain the employee for a certain length of time, or where the employee can show that the employer entered into an “implied contract” which specifies that employment will be terminated only for specific disciplinary reasons. Traditional employment contracts – the explicit legal documents signed by both an employer and an employee – are still being used, but in the 21st century, an employment agreement is more likely to be “implied” through verbal statements, through company memos or employee handbooks, or through policies established by the employer during the period of employment.

PURPOSES OF EMPLOYMENT CONTRACTS

For legal purposes, employment contracts are most often used by employees after a potentially wrongful termination to show that the employer’s right to terminate the employee was limited. Many states consider a verbal statement by an employer – something like “you’ll be here as long as you meet the sales quota” – to be a binding contract of employment. However, a verbal contract must have some element of specificity to be enforceable. A statement such as “you’ll have a job here as long as you like” generally will not be considered to be enforceable. Wrongful termination is illegal everywhere in the United States. If you believe that you have been wrongfully terminated by an employer, speak at once with an employment lawyer, and in northern California, speak with an experienced San Francisco employment attorney.

Employment contracts, whether they are explicit or implied, may also provide the terms and conditions of an employee’s healthcare benefits, vacation and sick leave benefits, employee grievance procedures, and employee activity subsequent to the termination of employment. An employment contract may limit the ways in which an employee may use confidential or proprietary employer information after the employment is terminated, or it may explicitly restrict the employee’s right to launch a similar business and compete with the employer.

Non-competition agreements are always hard for employers to enforce, however, and some states have laws that severely limit the power of noncompetition agreements to restrict an ex-employee’s behavior. In general, however, the scope of non-competition agreements – whether it’s a geographic area where no competition is allowed or a duration of time when competition is not allowed – must be no broader than absolutely necessary to protect the original employer’s business. Additionally, while a non-competition agreement may be required by an employer as a condition of employment, if it is imposed on an existing employee subsequent to hiring, the non-competition agreement generally must be compensated by some independent additional consideration such as a raise, a bonus payment, or a higher commission percentage.

San Francisco employment attorney

TYPICAL EMPLOYMENT CONTRACT PROVISIONS

Contracts of employment come in a wide variety of forms and types. All of the employees at a particular business may be required to sign the same contract, or employees may have substantially different individual contracts with the same employer. At many smaller businesses, the employer and employee often have an informal verbal agreement regarding the kind of work the employee will do, for how long, and at what rate of pay. However, even with their differences, almost all employment contracts have elements in common such as the employee’s starting date, salary or wages, and benefits. Before you sign any employment contract, determine what kind of employment terms are acceptable to you. An employment rights attorney can speak with you about the advantages and disadvantages of each provision in an employment contract, and an attorney may additionally suggest other terms that you should seek to include in the contract. Here is a list of ten typical provisions that are offered in most employment contracts:

1. CONFIDENTIALITY
In the confidentiality provision of an employment contract, the employee promises not to share any information about the details of the employer’s business or the employer’s exclusive or secret procedures, plans, data, formulas, or machinery. Usually, a confidentiality agreement remains in effect even beyond termination.

2. NONCOMPETITION
In a noncompetition agreement or provision, the employee agrees that for a specified period of time after the employment ends, the employee will not work for a competitor or for any company conducting similar business, and the employee will not start up his or her own company to compete with the employer’s business or to solicit that employer’s clients. Usually a noncompetition clause is restricted to a precise geographic region.

3. THE BEST EFFORT
Although it’s usually simply presumed that an employee intends to work hard when he or she accepts an employment offer, some employers will nevertheless insist on having a “best-effort” clause included in the employment contract. A best-effort clause requires the employee to give the employer his or her best effort on the job and to remain loyal to the employer during the duration of the employment.

4. INVENTION OWNERSHIP
An ownership provision is sometimes required by employers when invention is part of the employee’s job. The employee agrees that whatever he or she invents while employed (or for a specified period of time after the employment) becomes the employer’s property, not the employee’s. Additionally in an ownership provision, employees usually agree to help the employer patent the invention and to keep knowledge of the invention confidential like any other trade secret. In return, an employer may agree to share with employees a percentage of the royalties.

5. NO ADDED COMPENSATION
A “no added compensation” provision establishes that if the employee becomes an elected director or officer of the business, or if the employee serves on a managing committee, no additional compensation will be paid for that work.

6. NO CONTRACTING AUTHORITY
In some cases, this may be called the “agency” provision. It specifies that the employee has no “agency,” that is, no right to enter into a contract or otherwise to obligate the employer unless the employer provides written consent to that effect.

7. EXCLUSIVITY TERMS
In an exclusivity provision, the employee agrees that while employed, he or she will not also work for another employer in the same type of business or a similar type of business. An exclusivity provision may also prevent an employee from becoming a shareholder or a director in a similar business or from voluntarily providing service to a competing company.

8. TERMS OF TERMINATION
Part of almost every employment contract is the “termination” provision. Employers who wish to hire on an at-will basis must avoid phrases or implications that can lead an employee to think that the employment will continue indefinitely. A typical termination provision allows either the employer or the employee to terminate the employment and employment contract for any reason by providing a specified amount of notice, normally two weeks. The provision may also allow the employer to terminate the contract without notice or warning if the contract is violated in any way by the employee. The provision also typically includes the employer’s right to terminate if the employee becomes permanently disabled to the extent that he or she can no longer do the job.

9. THE ARBITRATION CLAUSE
Arbitration clauses are a part of many contracts including employment contracts. In an arbitration clause, the employer and employee agree that if they have a dispute over any aspect of the employment, they will submit that dispute to arbitration rather than go to court. The provision may include specifics about the arbitration, such as whether the arbitration ruling will be final and how the parties will agree on an arbitrator if and when they require one.

10. CHOICE OF STATE LAW
Employment laws are different in every state. California, for example, gives employees more employment rights than any other state. A “choice of law” clause is a stipulation that, if the employer and employee have a disagreement that becomes a lawsuit, the laws of a particular state will apply without regard to where the lawsuit is filed.

San Francisco employment attorney

OBTAINING LEGAL ASSISTANCE

Your employment benefits are vital. When you leave a job, it’s imperative to protect those benefits. They may include stock options, bonuses, incentive pay, commissions, and/or a pension. When you change jobs, an experienced employment lawyer can review your contract and help you protect your benefits as you make the change. Whether you are entering into a written employment agreement or need to learn more about your rights under an implied employment contract, an experienced employment lawyer can advise you and help you deal with contract breaches, wrongful termination, and the enforcement of your all of your employment rights as stipulated in your employment contract. If you’ve been wrongly terminated, if you need legal help regarding an employment contract, or if you simply want an attorney to review your current contract to determine if it’s fair and legal, don’t wait. Arrange at once to speak with a good employment lawyer, and in northern California, speak with an experienced San Francisco employment attorney.

An Entirely Preventable Tragedyhttps://www.geonetta-frucht.com/blog/an-entirely-preventable-tragedy/

Posted on: October 26, 2015 by in Blog, Personal Injury
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It’s the kind of tragedy that happens far too frequently, and it’s the kind of tragedy that’s entirely preventable. A 17-year-old Minnesota girl is now charged in a traffic accident that took the life of a father and daughter. Carlee Rose Bollig was driving a pickup truck in July when she allegedly ran a red light on U.S. Highway 10 north of Minneapolis. Charles Mauer and his 10-year-old daughter, Cassy, were on their way home from a public library when Ms. Bollig allegedly slammed into their car, according to WCCO-TV News. Minnesota State Patrol Lt. Tiffany Schweigart says investigators have strong evidence that Ms. Bollig was texting and ignored a red light. Minnesota prosecutors have now charged the driver with criminal vehicular homicide, using a phone while in motion, and driving without a valid license.

If you’re injured in California because someone was texting while driving and crashed into you, speak at once with an experienced Oakland personal injury lawyer. Texting or talking on a cell phone while driving is against the law and constitutes negligent driving, and in California, victims injured by negligent drivers are entitled to full compensation for all of their medical treatment and their other injury-related expenses. According to the National Safety Council, cell phone talking or texting is now tied to more than 25 percent of all traffic mishaps.

Forensic analysis of Ms. Bollig’s phone reportedly shows that she was texting just moments before the fatal accident. If you are injured by a texting driver, contact a good personal injury lawyer immediately. Your attorney will need to gather cell phone records, testimony, and other evidence as quickly as possible to fight effectively on your behalf. If you or someone you love has been injured – or is injured in the future – by a texting or a negligent driver, take your case at once to an experienced Oakland personal injury lawyer.

Discrimination Needs To Stop

Posted on: September 16, 2015 by in Blog, Employment Law
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In the state of California, if you work for someone else as an employee, your employment rights are extensive, and they are rights guaranteed by both state and federal laws. Title 7 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating on the basis of an employee’s race, religion, gender, or national origin. If you work for a smaller employer with 5 to 14 employees, you are protected in this state by the California Fair Employment and Housing Act of 1959. If you are the victim of workplace discrimination – you are paid improperly, you are harassed, your workplace is unsafe, or you’ve been wrongly terminated – discuss your circumstances and legal rights as quickly as possible with an experienced San Francisco workplace harassment attorney.

Although employee protection is more extensive in California than in any other state, there are still some exceptions allowed. Title 7 regulations establish exceptions for Native American tribes, religious groups performing work connected to the group’s activities including associated educational institutions, and bona fide nonprofit, private membership organizations. Still, the overwhelming majority of employees in California enjoy substantial legal rights and the protection of those rights. If you face discrimination at your job, you need an attorney who routinely handles employment discrimination cases and has substantial experience advocating for the victims of employment discrimination. You’ll also want an attorney who can explain how the discrimination laws apply in your particular circumstance and an attorney who keeps the lines of communications open and keeps you informed regarding the progress of your case.

If you face any kind of discrimination at work because of your race, religion, gender, disability, or pregnancy, it needs to stop. The people of California will not tolerate employment discrimination, and the laws their legislators have passed express and reflect that unshakeable commitment. If you are dealing with harassment, hostility, or a wage-and-hour issue that needs to be resolved, discuss your rights and options immediately with an experienced San Francisco workplace harassment attorney.

Adult Bicycling Injuries Increasing

Posted on: September 2, 2015 by in Blog, Personal Injury
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If you enjoy bicycling, northern California is one of the most beautiful regions in the world, and few cities are more bicycle-friendly than San Francisco. However, it only takes a moment for a pleasant bike ride to become painful and terrifying. If you’re injured by a driver’s negligence in a traffic accident while riding a bicycle in the San Francisco Bay Area, arrange right away to discuss your legal rights and options – which might include filing a personal injury claim – with an experienced San Francisco personal injury attorney. From 1998 through 2013, bicycling injuries sustained by adults increased sharply in the United States, according to some of the latest research findings.

The researchers examined injury statistics from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, which samples U.S. emergency room data for bicycle-related injuries. Combining that data with information from the Census Bureau, they determined that in 1998, only 23 percent of injured bicyclists were over age 45. By 2013, however, that figure had increased to 42 percent. One of the researchers, Dr. Benjamin N. Breyer of the University of California, told Reuters, “The injury data reflect a change in the demographics of bicycle riders. If you take a typical 25-year-old and 60-year-old and they have a similar crash, it’s more likely the older person will have more severe injuries.”

If you are injured while bicycling in California – at any age – it’s imperative to know your legal rights. Don’t admit any fault or sign any insurance forms before consulting with a personal injury attorney. If you are injured because of a driver’s negligence, you are entitled to fair and full compensation for your medical treatment, lost days of work, and your other injury-related losses and expenses. However, that compensation isn’t just given to you. You have to prove that you were injured and that your injury was caused by another person’s negligence. An experienced San Francisco personal injury attorney can fight for your compensation and your rights, but you have to take the first step. If you’re injured while bicycling now or in the future, make the call right away.

Put A Stop To Sexual Harassment

Posted on: July 29, 2015 by in Blog, Employment Law
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If you’re dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace, put a stop to it, and contact an experienced San Francisco employment rights attorney. California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act – FEHA – generally applies to all California employers with five or more employees. It protects employees in this state from on-the-job sexual harassment, and that protection is absolute. But what about independent contractors, who usually do not enjoy the same legal rights as employees? Are independent contractors protected from sexual harassment by the parties contracting them?

A California jury recently said yes. A male Oceanside police officer allegedly and repeatedly sexually harassed a female contract phlebotomist who provided blood-drawing services to the city’s police department. The phlebotomist sued the city of Oceanside for a violation of FEHA, and a jury awarded her over $1 million. The city claimed that as a contractor, the phlebotomist was not entitled to FEHA protection. The California Court of Appeal disagreed.

American Forensic Nurses (AFN) contracted to provide on-call phlebotomy services at public law enforcement and healthcare locations throughout San Diego County. In August 2008, AFN hired Kimberli Hirst, a certified and trained phlebotomist, to perform on-call blood draws for the Oceanside Police Department. Over several months, while Hirst performed these services, an Oceanside police officer allegedly made repeated graphic, sexually explicit comments to her. Hirst disclosed the harassment to her supervisor. The police department suspended and later terminated the officer. Hirst sued the city of Oceanside, alleging that the city knew or should have known about the harassment and failed to act, thus violating FEHA. The jury agreed. It awarded her $1.125 million, and the California Court of Appeal affirmed the jury award.

Employers are responsible for eliminating workplace sexual harassment through training, supervision, and appropriate policies. If you are a victim of work-related sexual harassment – whether you are an employee, a contractor, an intern, or a volunteer – you don’t have to take it. Instead, take your case at once to an experienced San Francisco workplace harassment attorney, and don’t wait another day to make the call. Everyone deserves protection from sexual harassment–and a workplace harassment attorney can help.