Category: California Personal Injury

Is It Legal To Drive With A Pet In Your Lap In California?

Is It Legal To Drive With A Pet In Your Lap In California?

We see it all the time. A cute little dog riding on an owner’s lap, its head out the window, while the owner is driving. We may think it is cute, but it can be dangerous as well. California has no specific law prohibiting the practice. However, having a dog on your lap while driving can cause conditions that may make it dangerous or illegal to drive.

What California Law Says About Pets Traveling in Cars

California law states that a pet may be unrestrained within an enclosed vehicle. That means it does not need to be crated or restrained with a pet seat belt inside a car. Beyond this basic law, however, a driver should make sure that their pet is safe within the vehicle and must make sure that it is safe to drive with the pet in the vehicle.  

Note that a pet must be restrained when riding in an unenclosed space such as a flat-bed truck. This makes sense and is safer for the pet involved. This means that a pet must be crated, and the crate secured when the pet is riding in the back of a pickup.

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is prohibited in California. Distracted driving in California is more than just texting or using a cell phone while driving. Any activity which distracts the driver from paying attention to the road and which may cause the driver to either lose control of the vehicle or cause an accident is considered to be “distracted driving” in California.

California is cracking down on distracted driving. The California High Patrol is giving out more citations for distracted driving practices including eating, applying makeup, and the like. A pet in the lap of a driver could well earn the driver a citation for distracted driving.  

A pet can be a distraction in a car. This is especially true when the pet rides on the driver’s lap while driving. The owner may pet the dog and may look down at the pet instead of keeping their eyes on the road. If the pet barks suddenly near the driver’s ear, the driver could be startled and lose control of the car.

In California, if an accident occurs because of distracted driving, the driver can also be cited for reckless driving or driving too fast for the conditions. This increases the fines involved. A distracted driving ticket for a first offense can run upwards of $100 for a first offense once fees and surcharges are added.

A new law, AB 47 goes into effect in July 2021. The new law will increase penalties for distracted driving. More importantly, the bill will enable a point to be added to a driving record with each infraction. With enough points, a person may lose their driving privilege in California.

Reckless driving is a misdemeanor in California. It is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and up to $1000 in fines.

Distracted Driving and Negligence

Distracted driving is at the bottom of many California car accidents. In 2018 alone, 2481 people in the U.S. died in car accidents due to distracted driving. Driving with a pet on the driver’s lap opens a driver to a lawsuit for negligence if an accident results. We all owe a duty of reasonable care to pedestrians and other drivers when we are driving. This duty of reasonable care is arguably breached when a driver is distracted and gets into an accident.

Pet Injuries

Another possible consequence of driving with a pet on a driver’s lap concerns injuries to the pet if an accident takes place. When a collision occurs, the weight and force of movement of the driver’s torso against the interior of the vehicle is tremendous. It can result in injuries or death to an animal located on the driver’s lap.

Likewise, airbags can cause severe injuries or death for an animal in the front seat.  This is why most pet harnessing systems are designed for use in the rear seat of a vehicle. Driving with a pet in your lap is not only dangerous for you, but also for your pet.

Animal Cruelty and Pets in Cars

Most animal cruelty charges brought with regard to pets in cars have to do with pets who are injured or die in hot cars. Charges may be brought against the owner for injuries or death to a pet that occurred because of an owner’s reckless behavior. Fines are substantial if convicted and an owner may lose their ability to own another pet.

Make Smart Choices When Driving With Pets in the Car

Sometimes, what seems like benign behavior can open doors to unintended consequences. Always take care to ensure your pet’s safety in your car. By doing so, you can ensure not only your own safety but the safety of others on the road. If you have questions regarding distracted driving or the culpability in a vehicular accident, make sure to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney in your area.

E-scooter Dangerous speed in the city

E-Scooter Companies Lobby to Modify New California Bill Before Senate Vote

In the wake of a recent study on e-scooter injuries conducted by the American Medical Association, California is taking action.

The study looked at the types of injuries sustained by e-scooter riders as presenting to emergency rooms in L.A. County. It also looked at the use or lack of helmets used by riders.

E-scooters such as those provided by companies like Lime and Bird made their way to Santa Monica, California in 2017. These scooters are popular. They are fun, easy to use, cost little to rent, and are a ready tool for micro-mobility. And their popularity is growing.

E-scooters are placed around a city or on college campuses and can be located and unlocked through an app on a smartphone. Once the rider pays the fee and agrees to the company’s user agreement, they are free to go.

The scooters can go up to 16 mph. The rider stands on the scooter which has handlebars approximately waist high. When the rider is through. The rider ends the use on the app and leaves the scooter at their destination to be located later either by another rider or by a company employee at the end of the day.

The study looked at injuries arising out of scooter use that were severe enough to trigger an emergency room visit over the course of one year. The study recorded 249 scooter injuries over that time. Most of the injuries occurred as a result of a fall (80.2%), collision with an object (11.0%), or being hit by a moving vehicle or object (8.8%). Of the 249 injuries, only 10 riders wore helmets.

The most common injuries were fractures (31.7%), head injuries (40.2%), and soft-tissue injuries (27.7%). Many of the fractures required surgery and hardware to secure the bones. Head injuries include serious head traumas. Several of the injured riders were under the age of 18.

Original California Bill

As a result of rising injuries, California legislators drafted AB 1286 in 2018. The bill as originally drafted was a two-prong attempt to protect the public. The first prong was a requirement that all e-scooter companies obtain permits from the cities or counties in which they operate. Along with the permit requirement, the bill required that e-scooter companies purchase general liability insurance which would provide no less than $1,000,000 of coverage per occurrence.

The second prong of the bill would have required e-scooter companies to change their user agreements. These companies currently have user agreements that contain liability waivers and cap damages at $100 In some instances. The bill, as originally drafted in 2019, contained language that would prohibit any language in the user agreement which would waive, release, or in any way limit a rider’s legal rights, remedies, or forum under the agreement. This prong of the legislation has come under heavy attack by the e-scooter industry.

E-Scooter Objections

E-scooter companies have depended on these waivers and damages caps to manage their exposure to liability. Because California generally upholds these waivers, it has been difficult for injured parties to sue these companies. Cases have been brought alleging product defects, but the waivers make negligence difficult to prove.

Forbidding these waivers, releases and caps, would open these e-scooter companies to a much greater risk of liability exposure. The industry as a whole made it clear to the California legislature that it felt the imposition of the removal of waivers and damages caps was an unfair burden upon them and would make it difficult if not impossible for them to operate their businesses. They argued further that waivers and damages caps are standard contractual clauses designed to protect companies from liability for accidents caused through no fault of their own. They requested that this section of the bill be removed.

 The California legislature, afraid that the e-scooter industry would pull out of California If the bill kept the restriction, has removed it from the final bill’s language.

In its version of August 25, 2020, the bill requires that e-scooter companies obtain permits, obtain sufficient liability coverage, and requires local jurisdictions to adopt operation, parking, and maintenance rules. The changes must be put in place by 2021. The bill has now been passed to the governor for signature.

Implications for Injured Parties

The original language restricting the rights of e-scooter companies to use waivers, releases and restrictions on damages would have made it much easier for injured parties to sue to get compensation for their injuries. The legislation as it stands now will continue to make it difficult for plaintiffs. This is troubling particularly in light of the seriousness of many of the injuries sustained by riders.

It is also not clear whether these contractual limitations will curtail a rider’s ability to collect compensation from insurance companies which cover e-scooters. If so, the legislation would seem to have been a pointless exercise.

These cases will likely continue to be difficult, but not impossible to litigate. Cases based on product defects and negligent maintenance continue to be brought against e-scooter companies. When these injuries occur, it is important to consult with a personal injury attorney.

Seven Ways a Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help You After an Accident

If someone suffers an injury in an accident, they might have a legitimate claim to file a claim or lawsuit to recover compensation. However, getting money isn’t always easy and it’s not always swift. That’s where a personal injury lawyer can help to make a difference. Here are seven things a personal injury lawyer can do to help their client secure a meaningful financial award after an accident.

Help Injured Plaintiffs Understand Their Legal Rights and Options

Nothing an unexpected accident is easy or straightforward. That’s also true for the processes that are involved in recovering compensation through an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit. Procedures and rights vary from state to state.

For example, some states, like New York, have no-fault insurance laws, which require car accident victims to seek benefits from their own insurance provider first, regardless of who’s responsible for their injuries. Other states, like Texas, have at-fault insurance rules, which means whoever is at fault pays. 

Unless someone regularly handles injury claims or is fluent in the law, it’s fairly easy to get confused, overwhelmed, and stressed out during a pursuit of compensation.

That’s where an attorney can help. A personal injury lawyer knows the laws and procedures that will affect a plaintiff’s case. An attorney who specializes in personal injury law will be able to help guide an accident victim and help them through the processes that are involved in getting money. A lawyer can explain everything and make sure that the plaintiff understands what’s going on and what has to happen in order to get a financial recovery.

Make Sure The Accident is Subject to an Independent Investigation

Most personal injury cases involve an insurance company or two. Insurers will not want to pay more than they have to – or anything at all – after an accident. So, you can be certain that they’ll investigate to find any reason to deny a claim for benefits. This investigation will be thorough and likely aided by several experts. 

That’s a huge advantage for insurers, especially considering that the average person doesn’t have the same resources or connections. But, you know who does? A personal injury lawyer. An attorney can make sure that an accident is also subject to an investigation that’s independent of state agencies or insurance adjusters. This attorney-driven investigation can help to level the playing field.

Stop Insurance Companies From Taking Advantage of an Accident Victim

Insurance companies tend to have an upper hand and advantage when dealing directly with accident victims. These insurers handle thousands and thousands of claims every year. In fact, they designed the processes and know how to tip things in their favor. Insurers are also well-aware that the average person doesn’t have a comprehensive, in-depth understanding of the law, relevant procedures, or their legal rights. At the same time, accidents are quite stressful.

So, insurers will go to great lengths to take advantage of all of these things. A company might deny a claim altogether, hoping that a plaintiff gives up and walks away with nothing. Others might offer a quick settlement that’s attached to a clock, in an effort to scare them into accepting way less money than their case is really worth.

When a personal injury lawyer enters the picture, things change. Insurers aren’t able to rely on their old manipulative tricks and tactics. Instead, they’ll have to communicate and negotiate with someone who has extensive training and experience. 

Bring in Experts to Assist in the Valuation of a Claim

Again, insurance companies aren’t on an accident victim’s side. Their sole interest is in protecting their bottom line and increasing profits. That’s diametrically opposed to paying out cash to accident victims. So, insurers will put a lot of time and effort into assessing the value of a claim. You can be certain that they’ll do everything in their power to assess a value that’s as low as possible. 

So, the last thing an accident victim should do is allow insurance companies to unilaterally decide what their case is worth. This can be accomplished by hiring an attorney who has experience handling personal injury cases. Most lawyers work hard to establish professional relationships with experts in their local area, including:

  • Accident reconstructionists
  • Medical experts
  • Psychiatric experts
  • Property assessors and appraisers
  • Vocational experts
  • Engineering experts
  • Manufacturing experts, and more.

These professionals can review information and evidence related to a case and provide invaluable insight about:

  • Why an accident probably happened,
  • The victim’s injuries,
  • How those injuries will likely impact the victim’s life, today and in the future, and
  • What the victim’s damages are likely worth.

Attorneys can rely on expert testimony and input to support claims for compensation. This approach can help to ensure that all damages are calculated properly, increasing the odds of securing a fair settlement or award.

Negotiate a Fair Settlement Offer

Insurance companies would much rather negotiate a settlement with an accident victim than opposing counsel. When a plaintiff is represented by a lawyer, insurance companies have a much more challenging road ahead. They won’t be able to extend a lowball offer and hope the technique works. Instead, they’ll have to come up with a legitimate offer that will be given serious consideration.

That’s because personal injury lawyers are skilled in the art of negotiation. They know what steps must be taken to obtain a fair and meaningful settlement offer from an insurance company or at-fault party. A personal injury lawyer can ultimately be the difference between a meaningful recovery and little-to-no money, at all.

Litigate a Claim in Court, If Necessary

Most personal injury cases end with a private settlement between two parties.  However, there’s always a chance that the two sides won’t agree on a deal and a case might have to go to a judge and/or jury. That’s probably the last thing an insurance company wants, especially if the claimant is represented by an attorney. Insurance companies don’t fare particularly well in court. Juries are often reluctant to side with insurers when an accident victim is hurting and their lawyer makes a strong case. 

A personal injury lawyer knows that there’s always a chance that a case will go to trial. So, personal injury lawyers spend time honing skills and learning the rules that might apply, should they have to go to court. A skilled trial attorney knows how to explain complicated legal theories to a lay audience, paint a picture for the jurors, and get them on their injured client’s side.

Provide Emotional Support and Assistance

At the end of the day, personal injury lawsuits and insurance claims can be really stressful. That’s on top of the stress that accompanies the injuries and trauma of an unexpected accident. A personal injury lawyer can offer invaluable support and guidance at one of the most difficult times in a person’s life. A lawyer can handle every aspect of a legal case, giving the client the time they need to focus on themselves without distraction. Many times, that opportunity can make a world of difference – in the client’s financial, mental, physical recoveries.

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