| Read Time: 3 minutes | Chuck Geerhart Blog

What Are Air and Airline Accidents and What Causes Them?

While automobile accidents are far more common, many people avoid flying for fear of air accidents by the airline. Unlike auto accidents, when a major airplane accident occurs, the outcome is typically grave for passengers. Victims, or the families of anyone who dies, may file a claim against the airline. In some cases, it might also be necessary to sue the aircraft owner or manufacturer. What Are Common Causes of Commercial Airline Accidents?  A primary matter in airplane accident litigation is determining what caused the crash. Common causes of airplane accidents include defective construction or design, faulty repair or maintenance, mistakes by air traffic controllers, negligent hiring and supervision, and pilot error. How Do You Hold an Airline or Aircraft Owner Liable in an Airline Accident? Airlines are common carriers. A common carrier is a company that holds itself out to the public as willing to carry all passengers for hire. In the event of an accident, liability may arise because of this status. Liability may also arise out of the airline’s contract with its passengers, or from any express or implied warranty regarding the safety of the aircraft. Negligence Common carriers have a duty of care to their passengers. As a common carrier, the law imposes this same duty on airlines. When airlines breach their duty of care and said breach causes an accident, airlines are liable for the resulting harm. While most courts hold an airline to a high degree of care, it is important to note that airlines are not considered to be insurers of passenger safety. Rather, airlines are only responsible for acts of negligence. Negligent Entrustment A claim for negligent entrustment focuses on an airplane owner’s decision to lease its plane to the airline. It may also encompass an airplane lessor’s failure to adequately monitor the aircraft’s operations after the lease takes effect. Negligent entrustment requires a plaintiff to establish:  (1) that the owner of the aircraft entrusted it to an operator it knew or had reason to know was incompetent or unfit; and  (2) that the aircraft operator’s incompetency was a proximate cause of the accident. Next, let’s look at negligent bailment. Negligent Bailment Negligent entrustment lawsuits focus on the lessor’s negligence in providing its airplane to an unfit operator. In comparison, negligent bailment lawsuits focus on the lessor’s negligence in providing a defective airplane to the operator. This is somewhat akin to product liability lawsuits—except here, the aircraft lessor must have acted negligently. In comparison, product liability lawsuits do not require fault. An aircraft lessor may be liable to a third person passenger if:  (1) they supplied the aircraft at issue;  (2) the aircraft was defective at the time it was supplied;  (3) the defect could have been discovered by a reasonable inspection; and  (4) the defect was the proximate cause of the accident. A plaintiff must be able to show all four elements for their lawsuit to succeed. Product Liability Aviation product liability lawsuits typically target aviation manufacturers and focus on aircraft defects. A common issue in these lawsuits is whether the accident occurred by pilot error, product defect, or a combination of both. Note that product liability claims are a form of strict liability. Because of the inherently dangerous nature of airplanes, a defendant may be liable for a defect that caused a crash even if they acted responsibly.   Defective Product A number of things can go haywire on an airplane. Common defects that cause accidents include improper or incomplete maintenance conducted by a repair facility, negligent operation by a prior operator that creates a defect in the airplane, or the manufacturer’s own conduct in failing to maintain the aircraft before the sale or in between leases. Failure to Warn As discussed above, strict product liability is not concerned with whether the manufacturer acted reasonably. Under a failure to warn strict products liability theory, a plaintiff only needs to prove that the defendant failed to adequately warn them of the risk. Said risk must be known or knowable in light of the information available at the time of manufacture and distribution.  Breach of Warranty An action for breach of warranty is another kind of strict product liability lawsuit. It is appropriate where an airplane malfunction causes an accident. In these instances, the passenger may claim that the airline breached its express or implied warranty about the safety of its aircraft.  An Experienced Aviation Law Firm That Will Fight for You The law entitles surviving family members of aviation crash victims to money damages including loss of consortium (companionship), lost future income, and more. Due to the traumatic nature of airline accidents, the process of searching for an attorney and going through the claims process can be overwhelming. Whether it be filing your claim or litigating your case in court, the Law Office of Chuck Geerhart is here for you every step of the way. We provide our clients with personalized attention, and tailored strategies to recover the full damages they deserve.  Contact us today for a free consultation. 

Continue Reading

| Read Time: 4 minutes | Chuck Geerhart Blog

Hit by a Drunk Driver in California: What Now?

According to recent statistics, drunk driving makes up over 33% of the state’s traffic fatalities. California has over 1,000 drunk driving fatalities per year. With numbers approaching epidemic levels, many Californian drivers may worry whether they will be next to have their lives permanently altered at the hands of a careless individual. I Got Hit By a Drunk Driver; What Is the Legal Limit in California? California law prohibits the operation of motor vehicles while an individual is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A person is guilty of DUI for either (1) impairment by drugs or alcohol while driving, or (2) a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over the legal limit. Under California Vehicle Code 23152, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher.  Commercial vehicle operators may not operate a vehicle with a BAC of 0.04% or higher. Drivers under 21 may not operate a vehicle with a BAC of 0.01% or higher.  I Was Hit by a Drunk Driver; Can I Sue? Many clients ask, “I was hit by a drunk driver with no insurance. What do I do?” If you don’t have uninsured motorist insurance and the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance, you would typically file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver. To recover for injuries sustained in a DUI accident, you must bring a civil negligence lawsuit against the at-fault party. To establish a claim for negligence, a plaintiff must show that the defendant failed to use reasonable care while driving or was negligent per se. In California, a driver is negligent per se if they:  Are under the influence at the time of the accident; Have a BAC over the legal limit; or  Refuse to take a BAC chemical test. Another key element to holding a DUI driver liable for negligence is proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant caused the injuries sustained in the accident. For example, it may be difficult to establish causation if the injured plaintiff was speeding through a yellow light at the time of impact.   I Got Hit by a Drunk Driver; What Am I Entitled To? California law permits the recovery of both compensatory and punitive damages for injuries sustained in a DUI accident. Compensatory damages include both economic and non-economic damages. The following categories are generally recoverable in California Medical Expenses In California, courts regularly order drivers who wrongfully injure another to pay the injured party’s medical bills. The responsible party or their insurance company may make the payment. Automobile Repair Costs California vehicle owners with damaged automobiles are entitled to be made whole. Typically, they may collect against the at-fault party, the at-fault party’s insurance company, or their own uninsured motorist policy. In addition, the at-fault driver may be responsible for the cost of a rental car for the injured party. Lost Wages & Earning Capacity Lost wages and earning capacity include income the injured party would have earned or would be able to earn, but for the injury caused by the at-fault driver’s impaired driving.   Pain and Suffering These damages compensate an injured driver for the physical pain and mental anguish they suffer because of another’s negligent driving. Pain and suffering damages are a type of compensatory damages unrelated to economic loss. While there is no official formula for a judge or jury to use in calculating pain and suffering awards, courts commonly use the “multiplier method” to estimate pain and suffering losses. The more severe the injuries and the greater the suffering, the higher the award. Punitive Damages California courts award punitive—or exemplary—damages in addition to compensatory damages. Unlike other damages, punitive damages are not based on the injured party’s loss. Instead, punitive damages are based on the egregiousness of the at-fault driver’s conduct. The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the drunk driver and deter other would-be DUI drivers. California courts award punitive damages only in cases where the at-fault driver acted intentionally or recklessly. I Got Hit by a Drunk Driver; What Is My Family Entitled To? The family members of a DUI victim have standing to sue for their own loss of consortium. Loss of consortium lawsuits is appropriate where the injury of an individual deprives their spouse of companionship or intimacy. This may be the case where a DUI accident renders the victim paralyzed from the waist down or in a coma. It’s a tragic fact that not everyone survives a DUI accident. California law provides recourse for the family members as well as the estate of one killed by another’s impaired driving. Survivor Action While the right to sue generally terminates upon a plaintiff’s death, California law has carved out an exception with the Code of Civil Procedure 377.30. The survival law permits the representative of one’s estate to sue for economic damages sustained between the time of the accident, and the time of death. For example, a survivor action would be appropriate where a drunk driver crashes into someone’s car, knocking them into a coma, and the person dies of their injury six days later. The deceased’s estate would be able to recover for property damage to the car, medical bills, and missed work hours up until the time of death. Note that while California law prohibits courts from awarding pain and suffering damages in a survivor action, it does permit punitive damages.   Wrongful Death A wrongful death action compensates a spouse and certain other family members for the death of their loved one. Damages include burial and funeral expenses, lost future income, and compensation for the deceased family’s loss of consortium, love, guidance, and companionship. Unlike with a survivor action, punitive damages are typically not available in a California wrongful death claim.  Hit By a Drunk Driver In California? Trust an Experienced San Francisco Personal Injury Attorney Were you recently injured, or have you lost a loved one due to the drunk driving of another? Contact an experienced California personal injury...

Continue Reading

| Read Time: 4 minutes | Chuck Geerhart Blog

What Are Serious Injuries and How Can They Impact Your Life?

At The Law Office of Chuck Geerhart, one of our focuses is on helping our clients who sustained serious injuries recover from them and move forward with their lives. We help people get the compensation they need so that they can focus on recovering from their serious car accident injuries, serious head injuries, and other serious physical injuries. With that said, however, many may wonder, What exactly are serious injuries? “Serious” is somewhat of a subjective term, so different people will invariably define it differently. We’ll outline a general definition of what serious injuries are and a few examples of how serious injuries can impact your life. Defining Serious Injuries Because everybody’s definition of “serious injury” can differ, let’s look to a source of authority on the matter to help narrow it down. The US government’s Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) outlines a fairly specific definition we can start with. The serious injuries definition in 49 CFR § 830.2 says that serious injury is one that Requires hospitalization for more than 48 hours, commencing within 7 days from the date of the injury was received; Results in a fracture of any bone (except simple fractures of fingers, toes, or nose); Causes severe hemorrhages, nerve, muscle, or tendon damage; Involves any internal organ; or Involves second- or third-degree burns, or any burns affecting more than 5 percent of the body surface. In reality, this is probably too specific of a definition for us to use for our purposes. However, we can identify a common thread in the list: all the noted serious injuries involve, to some degree, a potentially long and painful recovery. Thus, we can think of serious injuries as injuries that can have a long-term impact on an individual. We can also identify the common thread through CFR’s definition of serious injuries in the guidelines for another federal body: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA requires employers to report all severe workplace injuries sustained on their premises. They define severe injuries as injuries that result in amputation, in-patient hospitalization, or the loss of an eye. While the OSHA definition is even more specific than the CFR definition, the common thread remains the same. Whether we call them severe injuries or serious injuries, they all can have a significant long-term, life-altering impact on a person’s life. Just About Any Injury Can Be Serious With our working definition, we can say that just about any type of injury can end up being “serious.” It all depends on how much the injury affects your life. Here, we will sketch out a few examples of serious injuries. In some circumstances, these might be minor injuries. However, a seemingly minor injury can end up quite serious. Serious Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) According to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), a TBI is an injury that affects how the brain works. Any sort of trauma to the head can cause a TBI. Even a simple concussion can cause a TBI. TBIs vary in severity. The most severe TBIs can cause death, hemorrhaging, and permanent disability. A TBI can affect one’s quantitative reasoning, reading, perception of any of the five senses, and even emotional regulation. Sometimes these effects are only temporary, but they are permanent in some instances. TBIs that result in permanent brain damage are some of the most serious injuries around. Serious Spinal Injuries Spinal injuries, including neck injuries like whiplash, are another category of injury that can be quite serious. Sometimes, people can recover from minor back and neck injuries fairly quickly. However, if a minor spinal injury goes untreated, it can develop into a permanent issue. Permanent spinal issues can affect our ability to move significantly. People who suffer from serious spinal injuries often say that even the most mundane of daily activities can turn into an ordeal. With a serious spinal injury, something as simple as brushing your teeth or going to the bathroom can be difficult. And those are people who still can move on their own to some extent. Spinal injuries can easily lead to temporary or permanent paralysis. Any injury that can cause paralysis is serious and can turn your life upside down. Serious Hip Knee and Joint Injuries Hip, knee, and other joint injuries can bring life-altering effects that are similar to those caused by spinal injuries. While joint injuries don’t typically cause paralysis like spinal injuries can, they can significantly impact your ability to move around and live independently. Joint injuries are often degenerative, which means they get worse over time. In fact, many former high school football players end up with joint problems later in life due to the abuse their bodies experienced on the gridiron. This is particularly true when an injury is ignored or otherwise minimized in the immediate aftermath. The sooner you receive treatment for any joint injury, the greater the chances that you can fully recover from it. Call The Law Office of Chuck Geerhart for Help Recovering from Your Serious Injury If you suffered a serious injury in California, you will want to make sure that you recover all the damages you are owed. While it is easy to account for current or past medical bills, It is sometimes difficult to account for the various treatment costs you may have to bear in the future. At The Law Office of Chuck Geerhart, our founding attorney has helped countless clients recover from their serious injuries and move forward with their lives.  Because he regularly deals with serious injuries, Chuck knows how to accurately account for future medical costs. This is an essential element of any serious injury claim. After all, serious injuries often cause long-term damage. If you don’t include those costs in your settlement, you will have to pay them yourself, which is wrong. Don’t get stuck with a bill that you shouldn’t have to pay. Instead, make sure your settlement covers everything you need to recover from your injury. Call us today for your free consultation! 

Continue Reading

| Read Time: 4 minutes | Chuck Geerhart Blog

What Is the California Statute of Limitations for Product Liability Cases?

No matter what sort of case you have, it is always important to keep in mind the relevant statute of limitations. Statutes of limitations limit the amount of time that a given party has to act on a given claim. In criminal cases, the statute of limitations limits the amount of time that a government has to charge a person with a crime. If the government tries to prosecute someone after the statute of limitations expires, the courts will not consider the case.  The same concept applies to statutes of limitations in civil cases. Different civil actions have different statutes of limitations. If you were injured by a defective product in California, you will need to file your claim within California’s product liability statute of limitations. If you don’t, your chances of recovering damages are slim to none. In this piece, the team at the Law Office of Chuck Geerhart explains what the California product liability statute of limitations is, exceptions to the rule, and how certain parties try to exploit statutes of limitations. What Is the Statute of Limitations for Product Liability Cases in California? There are two California statutes of limitations that apply to California product liability cases. The first applies to personal injury claims, while the second applies to property damage claims. Rule 335.1 of California’s Code of Civil Procedure stipulates that injured individuals must file personal injury claims within two years of the date of the injury. The statute of limitations for property damage is a bit longer. California’s Code of Civil Procedure places the limit at three years from the date of the property damage. If you need to file a claim that includes both property damage and personal injury damage, you should follow the statute of limitations for personal injury. That way, you will ensure that the personal injury damages statute won’t pass you by.   Exceptions to California’s Product Liability Statute of Limitations  There are a few exceptions to California’s product liability statutes of limitations. The most notable is the so-called discovery rule. The discovery rule applies to personal injury claims. If you suffer any injury that you reasonably do not discover until a later date, the two-year statute of limitations begins to run only on the date you discover the injury. Another exception to California’s statutes of limitations is more recent. In fact, this exception, known as Emergency Rule 9, is temporary. Enacted in response to the shelter-in-place orders imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020,  the Emergency Rule 9 exception applies to statutes of limitations for all civil cases. Emergency Rule 9 suspended the running of statutes of limitations in civil cases during a period in 2020. While this rule does not apply to injuries that are sustained today, if you think your statute of limitations related to your injury is close to expiring at this time, you should discuss Emergency Rule 9 with an experienced attorney as soon as possible.  How Do Parties Try to Exploit Statutes of Limitations? Some parties try to exploit the inexperience of someone they may have harmed by delaying actions until the statute of limitations period has passed. It usually happens when one party has significant resources and legal experience, while the other does not. This may apply, for example, when a private party is filing a claim against a corporation or insurance company. Before filing a lawsuit, most people try to settle out of court. The more experienced parties in this situation will try to drag out negotiations with the private party. They may ask for—often unnecessary—additional documents, conveniently “miss” phone calls and other communications from the plaintiff, and stall the claim in general. Their hope is that the injured person will forget about the statute of limitations during this negotiation period and let it lapse. By the time the injured person realizes what’s going on, the powerful party hopes that they will have missed their opportunity to file their lawsuit. The best way to avoid this situation is to consult with and hire an experienced product liability attorney as soon as possible after the injury. That way your lawyer will keep an eye out for this exploitative, dirty tactic and nip it in the bud.  Don’t Let California’s Product Liability Statute of Limitations Pass You By If you were injured by a defective product, the product manufacturer might be liable for those damages. Don’t let them slip out of their legal liability by waiting around for them to pick up the phone to negotiate. Letting them control the timeline increases the chances that the statute of limitations will pass you by. Instead, contact the Law Office of Chuck Geerhart and get a jumpstart on your case. Our firm has helped countless clients recover the compensation they deserve from some of the most powerful parties in California. We will never pass you on to a paralegal or a junior attorney, so you can rest assured that you are getting the best legal advice that we have. Check out our client testimonials and case results pages to see what we can do for you, then call us today for your free consultation!

Continue Reading

| Read Time: 4 minutes | Chuck Geerhart Blog

What Is the Average Settlement Amount for Product Liability Cases in California?

There are really no two ways about it: if a defective product injures you, the manufacturer is liable for the damages. This is because the California product liability law is a law that applies strict liability. With strict liability, the intent and negligence of the defendant is irrelevant in attributing liability. For California product liability, all that matters is that the product was defective and it caused damages when used as intended. That’s it.  Many of the questions we field from our product liability clients have to do with product liability settlement amounts. More often than not, our clients are curious about the average product liability settlement. Unfortunately, there is no average product liability settlement. At the end of the day, the value of any product liability settlement depends entirely on the circumstances of the case.  Why Is There No Average Product Liability Settlement? There is no average product liability settlement because there is no average product liability claim. Just like with car accidents, crimes, and even divorces, every situation is unique. Even two legal claims that appear analogous on their surface will, in all probability, yield different results. WIth no average case or settlement to compare to, we can’t give our clients “average product liability settlement” in good faith. It is disingenuous to pretend otherwise.  What Factors Affect My Settlement’s Value? There are an infinite number of factors that can impact your settlement’s value. The product in question, how you used it, your attorney, and their level of experience can all impact the ultimate value of your settlement. The most important factor, perhaps, is the damages you suffered due to the defective product. How Can I Estimate the Value of My Claim? The best way to make an estimate of your settlement’s value is to add up all the applicable damages. California law splits damages into three main categories: Economic damages; Non economic damages; and Punitive damages. Economic and non economic damages are both forms of compensatory damages. The intent behind them is to compensate an injured party for damages they suffered. Punitive damages are not compensatory. Instead, the intent behind them is to punish the defendant for particularly egregious wrongdoing.  To make an estimate of your settlement value, all you have to do is account for all damages in each category. Then, simply add up all three categories of damages for a final sum. Your attorney can help you calculate an estimate that will help you determine what a fair settlement would be. Keep in mind, however, that this is just an estimate. Economic Damages Economic damages are the objectively quantifiable damages you suffer. Economic damages include things like: Medical bills, Property damage, Lost wages, Lost employment benefits, and Loss of future earnings. All the noted economic damages have one thing in common: they are objectively quantifiable. You can look at your medical bills, add them up, and include the sum in your estimate of economic damages. The same applies to the other economic damages. All you have to do to incorporate them into your settlement estimate is write down their value and add up the numbers. Then you have the value of your economic damages. Non Economic Damages Non economic damages are not objectively quantifiable, but just as real. Non economic damages include things like: Pain and suffering, Emotional or psychological distress, Loss of a loved one, Loss of enjoyment of life, and Loss of the use of a limb or other bodily function. As you can see, all these are real damages that you can identify and suffer from. They are, however, inherently subjective. Thus, they are hard to place a value on. Furthermore, sometimes, given their subjective nature, non economic damages are difficult to prove. Still,  experienced injury attorneys know how to calculate them and prove their existence in court. It is difficult to assess just how much your non economic damages are worth without the help of a skilled attorney. However, it is possible to make an estimate. Most of the time, courts and attorneys calculate non economic damages by applying a multiplier to the total economic damages. For example, consider a claim with $10,000 worth of economic damages. If your case involved significant non economic damages, you might apply a factor of four, bringing the total value of non economic damages to $40,000. Punitive Damages Punitive damages apply only in specific circumstances. As noted, their function is to deter someone from future wrongdoing instead of compensating an injured party. In a product liability claim, punitive damages will apply only if a plaintiff can show that the defendant acted maliciously, with a conscious disregard for safety, or with a real intention to harm others. It is practically impossible for someone without considerable experience in product liability cases to even estimate the value of punitive damages in a given claim. If you believe that punitive damages apply to your case, however, you should tell your attorney immediately. That way, your attorney has ample time to investigate and collect evidence of the malicious wrongdoing. Ready For Legal Help? If you have a California product liability claim, the Law Office of Chuck Geerhart has you covered. Whether you need help estimating your damages, negotiating with the responsible party, or filing a lawsuit, Chuck Geerhart can help. When you work with our law firm, you work directly with Chuck Geerhart. That means that your case will get personal attention throughout the entire legal process. We’ll never pass your case on to a paralegal, so you know that you are getting the best legal help that our firm has to offer. Chuck has considerable experience with product liability claims, and his results speak for themselves. If our firm feels like a good fit, give us a call for a free consultation today!

Continue Reading

| Read Time: 6 minutes | Chuck Geerhart Blog

Product Liability Essentials

People think of product liability cases as huge, time consuming and costly.  Some are– like medical device, pharmaceutical and automotive design/crashworthiness cases. However, there are many product liability cases arising out of ordinary every day products that fail to perform as safely as the reasonable consumer expects. Some examples from my career include: a bathroom cleaner with inadequate warnings; a blender with broken metal blades; a recreational vehicle with an inadequate (low) handrail; a hot beverage container that separated, scalding the plaintiff; a pallet jack whose weld separated; a cold pack with inadequate warnings, an exploding battery in a laptop computer, a car jack that failed and crushed the plaintiff underneath, and a plastic chair that buckled and collapsed when the plaintiff sat in it. My goal here is to inform smaller firm practitioners how they might be able to handle a product liability case.  This article is not intended as comprehensive on the law of product liability; I provide an overview only. An excellent practice guide is by Cotchett and Cartwright, California Products Liability Actions (Lexis/Nexis, Matthew Bender). There is also a short and handy primer on products law in the West Rutter Guide, Cal. Prac. Guide Pers. Inj. Ch. 2(II)-D. Snapshot of the Law Here is what we plaintiff lawyers like about products liability.  First, as you may recall from law school, products liability is strict liability, not negligence. Generally speaking, the “reasonableness” of the manufacturer’s conduct is not at issue, with some caveats noted within. Liability attaches upon proof of the product “defect” and a sufficient causal connection between defendant, the product and plaintiff’s injury. [See Romine v. Johnson Controls, Inc. (2014) 224 Cal.App.4th 990, 1000 – “In order for there to be strict liability, the product does not have to be unreasonably dangerous-just defective.”] When a user (or even a bystander) is injured by a defective product, plaintiff may plead multiple alternative theories, including strict liability (design, manufacturing or warning defect), negligence and breach of warranty. [O’Neil v. Crane Co. (2012)53 Cal.4th 335, 347; See Judicial Council Form PLD PI-001-5, Cause of Action – Product Liability.] Manufacturing defect refers to a product that physically deviates from the intended design and is substandard compared to other models of the same product.  (Gonzalez v. Autoliv ASP, (2007) 154 Cal.App.4th 780, 792.)  The weld that broke on the pallet jack would be an example of this. Warning defect, sometimes called “failure to warn,” encompasses nonexistent or inadequate warnings to consumers of the dangers of using the product. Be careful with warning defect cases:   Whereas “manufacturing” and “design” defects are evaluated solely with reference to the product, “warning” defects are measured by the product defendant’s conduct-the “defect” relates to a “failure extraneous to the product itself.” [Webb v. Special Elec. Co., Inc. (2016) 63 Cal.4th 167, 185] The landmark case of  Barker v. Lull Engineering Co. (1978) 20 Cal.3d 413, 426-429, established alternate tests to prove design defect: consumer expectation or risk-benefit.  The simple test in most cases is whether “the product did not perform as safely as an ordinary consumer would have expected it to perform when used or misused in an intended or reasonably foreseeable way.” This is known as the “consumer expectation test” and the quoted language is from CACI 1203. “[T]he consumer expectation test is reserved for cases in which the everyday experience of the product’s users permits a conclusion that the product’s design violated minimum safety assumptions, and is thus defective regardless of expert opinion about the merits of the design.” (Soule v. General Motors Corp. (1994) 8 Cal.4th 548, 567.)  Thus, under the consumer expectation test, you may not even need to retain an expensive liability expert, so long as the jury could conclude the product did not perform as safely as the reasonable consumer expects (e.g., the coffee thermos that separates and scalds the plaintiff; the car jack that suddenly collapses). Expert testimony as to what consumers ordinarily ‘expect’ is generally improper.” (Chavez v. Glock, Inc. (2012) 207 Cal.App.4th 1283, 1303.) Defendants will often try to convince the court to instruct the jury solely using the risk-benefit test, which requires the jury to weigh the risks of the design against the benefits and thereby forces the jury to consider the reasonableness of the design. This can implicate expensive expert testimony. Fortunately, courts less frequently allow risk-benefit arguments by the defense unless the product is extremely complicated. And even when a product is fairly complicated, such as an automobile braking system, the consumer expectation test may be applied. The consumer expectations test is not foreclosed simply because expert testimony may be necessary to explain the nature of the alleged defect or the mechanism of the product’s failure. (Soule, supra, 8 Cal.4th at p. 569, fn. 6, 34 Cal.Rptr.2d 607, 882 P.2d 298.) As observed in West v. Johnson & Johnson Products, Inc. (1985) 174 Cal.App.3d 831, 866–867, 220 Cal.Rptr. 437 (West ), whether a product’s design and performance met the informed expectations of the ordinary consumer is a question distinct from, even if derivative of, the factual issues of what that design was and how it functioned. (Bresnahan v. Chrysler Corp. (1995)  32 Cal. App. 4th 1559, 1568–69) Note that the manufacturer may also be liable for the consumer’s foreseeable misuse of the product. For example, if someone stands on a plastic lawn chair, that is very likely foreseeable misuse.  Driving a Camaro at 90 MPH is also foreseeable misuse (although also probably comparative fault) in a crashworthiness case. Another thing plaintiffs like about product liability: Strict product liability among the defendants is joint and several: i.e., any defendant in the “stream of commerce” (and causally connected to the product defect) is responsible for all of plaintiff’s damages attributable to the defective product. (“Stream of commerce” means from manufacturer/designer through all middlemen to ultimate seller.) Defendants may seek indemnity from each other.  [Vandermark v. Ford Motor Co. (1964) 61 Cal.2d 256, 262, Bailey v. Safeway, Inc. (2011) 199 Cal.App.4th 206, 212, Springmeyer v. Ford...

Continue Reading

| Read Time: 4 minutes | Chuck Geerhart Blog

What Is the California Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations?

The unexpected death of a loved one is always a tragedy under any circumstances. However, when one’s negligent or willful act causes death, the resulting trauma suffered by surviving family members may never heal. After the wrongful death of a loved one, you may not know where to turn to pursue justice. A wrongful death can happen in a variety of ways. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of California’s wrongful death statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit. The complexity of wrongful death lawsuits requires the assistance of a qualified wrongful death attorney. It’s vital to understand the statute of limitations for wrongful death lawsuits in California to avoid missing your opportunity to recover damages.   What Is the California Wrongful Death Statute?  When someone causes the death of a loved one by negligent or intentional acts, California’s wrongful death statute permits surviving family members to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Family members file the wrongful death lawsuit against the party who caused the death of their loved one. Wrongful death lawsuits operate separately from any potential criminal charges brought against the at-fault party. The most common types of wrongful death lawsuits result from the following incidents:  Car accidents,  Pedestrian accidents, Truck accidents,  Products liability cases,  Work-related cases, and A wrongful death lawsuit permits surviving family members or beneficiaries to file a claim for compensation for economic and non-economic losses.  Who May File? The following individuals may file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of a deceased loved one: The deceased person’s surviving spouse; The deceased person’s domestic partner; or The deceased person’s surviving children. If none of these parties exist at the time of a person’s death, California’s wrongful death statute permits other parties to file a lawsuit. In these situations, other familial parties are entitled to inherit the property of the decedent through California laws of intestate succession. These include the deceased person’s surviving parents or siblings.  What Is the Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death in California?  Generally, the California wrongful death statute provides a statute of limitations of two years from the date of the deceased person’s passing. While two years may feel like a substantial amount of time to bring a wrongful death lawsuit, this timeframe can pass quickly for grieving family members. Therefore, it’s important to seek the counsel of a qualified wrongful death attorney promptly upon the passing of a loved one.  Are There Exceptions to the Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations?  Few exceptions exist to the California wrongful death statute of limitations. The statute of limitations for wrongful death in California may be tolled in special circumstances. However, the statute of limitations always runs in some form.  When the statute of limitations is tolled for a specific reason, the clock pauses until that condition is satisfied. Then the clock starts running again. The wrongful death statute of limitations in California may be tolled for the following reasons.  Minor Child  If the party filing the wrongful death lawsuit is a minor child, the statute of limitations pauses until the child reaches the age of 18. Therefore, if a child loses a parent at the age of 12, the wrongful death statute of limitations does not begin running until six years later when the child reaches the age of 18. From that point, the party has two years to bring their California wrongful death lawsuit under the current statute.   Delayed Death  In situations where a loved one is injured but alive in a coma, for example, California’s wrongful death statute of limitations does not begin at the point of injury. For example, suppose that a loved one is injured in a car accident and falls into a coma. For six months, your loved one fights to stay alive. However, in the end, they lose their fight. The statute of limitations for wrongful death in California does not begin running until the date of death, even though the accident happened six months earlier.  Discovery Rule In situations where family members failed to discover the death of a loved one, the wrongful death statute of limitations in California also tolls. For example, suppose a loved one was assumed to be missing for some time. However, after a few years, it is discovered that they passed away and the family members wish to file a wrongful death claim. In this instance, even though the death occurred some years prior, family members did not discover the death at that time. In this situation, the statute of limitations for wrongful death in California does not begin running until the date the family members discovered the death.  Other  For wrongful death lawsuits pursued against a government agency, the statute of limitations is only six months from the date of death. Retaining the assistance of an experienced wrongful death attorney ensures you don’t miss out on your opportunity to pursue justice for the loss of a loved one.  Contact Us  At the Law Office of Chuck Geerhart, we understand how devastating it may be to lose a loved one under tragic circumstances. We also understand the complexity of wrongful death lawsuits and the strict statute of limitations imposed by California’s wrongful death statute. Wrongful death is difficult to understand and you may not even know if you have a case. We can help. Our primary focus is assisting you and your family recover just financial compensation after your devastating loss. While no form of compensation could ever replace the loss of a loved one, financial compensation can make your life easier in many ways—indirectly giving you the space you need to heal. Let us take care of the legal maneuvering. Contact The Law Office of Chuck Geerhart today for a free, no-obligation consultation of your case. 

Continue Reading

| Read Time: 3 minutes | Chuck Geerhart Blog

California Motorcycle Laws Overview

California’s busy highways tempt thousands of drivers every year to opt for a motorcycle to navigate the troublesome traffic jams. However, motorcycles pose safety risks to riders. In fact, 474 motorcycle fatalities occurred within the state during 2019. Because of motorcycles’ popularity, California imposes certain motorcycle laws in an attempt to protect motorcyclists and other drivers on the road. Despite these laws, 28 motorcyclists died on California roads in 2019 without a helmet. Motorcyclists face additional risks every time they get on the road.  If you suffered injuries in a California motorcycle accident, contact the Law Office of Chuck Geerhart today to discuss your case. California’s Motorcycle Laws The California DMV offers a motorcycle handbook on its website that provides information on California’s motorcycle laws. The rules contained in the California Vehicle Code apply to all two-wheeled vehicles, such as: Motorcycles, Mopeds, and Motorized bikes. California law requires motorcycles to meet applicable equipment, registration, financial responsibility, licensing, and operational requirements. California issues M1 and M2 licenses to drivers authorized to operate motorcycles. Earning the licenses requires completion of a written and driving test. California’s Vehicle Code addresses several laws specific to motorcycles and laws governing other drivers’ actions when motorcyclists are present.  If you or a loved one suffered injuries in a motorcycle accident, the Law Office of Chuck Geerhart is here to help.  Motorcycle Helmet Laws in California California’s Vehicle Code requires motorcyclists to wear a helmet at all times when riding the motorcycle. A helmet that complies with this requirement: Meets U.S. DOT safety standards, Fits snugly on the motorcyclists head, Has no obvious defects, and Fastens to your head while you ride. The helmet law applies to passengers riding on motorcycles as well. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that in states without helmet laws, 57% of motorcyclists killed in 2019 were not wearing a helmet. In states with universal helmet laws, only 9% of motorcyclists killed in 2019 lacked a helmet. Challenges to California’s helmet law arise occasionally but have yet to succeed.  Motorcycle Exhaust Laws in California Many motorcycle enthusiasts choose to modify their vehicle’s exhaust system. In an effort to curb noise complaints, new California motorcycle exhaust laws attempted to criminalize the behavior that leads to the complaints. Now California imposes laws governing the amount of noise your motorcycle can produce. Section 27150 of California’s Vehicle Code requires all vehicles subject to registration to have an “adequate muffler” installed to prevent excessive or unusual noise. The law also prohibits the exhaust system from being equipped with a cutout, bypass, or similar device. Section 27151 prohibits modification of an exhaust system on a motor vehicle in a way that amplifies or increases the noise emitted by the vehicle to a level in violation of the previous section.  Assembly Bill 1824, which went into effect in January 2019, enables law enforcement officers to issue immediate fines of up to $1,000 for violating exhaust levels.  Motorcycle Lane Splitting Laws in California Unlike some states, California allows lane splitting by motorcyclists. Lane splitting occurs when two vehicles occupy a single lane. Most commonly, lane splitting occurs when motorcyclists drive between passenger vehicles stuck in traffic. California legalized lane splitting in 2016, making it the only state in the United States to officially legalize the practice. To enhance the safety of lane splitting, California prohibits drivers of passenger vehicles from intentionally blocking or impeding motorcyclists and from opening the door of their vehicle in an attempt to stop the motorcyclist from lane splitting. Other Motorcycle Laws in California Like with passenger vehicles, California prohibits motorcyclists from operating their vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. For motorcyclists under 21, California imposes a “zero tolerance” policy for alcohol use, meaning that any BAC above .01% is considered a violation. For drivers over 21, the law prohibits motorcyclists from having a BAC over .08%. Nationwide, motorcyclists involved in fatal accidents had higher percentages of alcohol impairment than drivers of any other type of vehicle. In 2019 alone, 42% of motorcyclists who died in single-vehicle accidents were impaired by alcohol. Operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol presents significant risks to everyone on the road, including the motorcyclists. Many states impose stiff penalties to deter drivers from committing these violations. Contact the Law Office of Chuck Geerhart with Questions About California’s Motorcycle Laws Motorcyclists typically suffer more frequent and more severe injuries compared to other motorists on the road. Attorney Chuck Geerhart dedicates his practice to representing and helping individuals who have been injured. Chuck has over thirty years of experience as a litigator and has tried sixteen jury cases to verdict. If you have questions about motorcycle laws in California, there is no one more equipped to answer your questions than Chuck Geerhart. Reach out to the Law Office of Chuck Geerhart today for a free consultation. 

Continue Reading

| Read Time: 4 minutes | Chuck Geerhart Blog

What Is the Average Settlement Amount for a Drunk Driving Accident?

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, 28 people per day die in drunk driving accidents. In 2019, the total number of DUI accident fatalities reached over 10,000. These accidents are responsible for almost a third of all traffic-related fatalities. Thousands of people are hit by drunk drivers every year, and while most survive the accident, it can impact the rest of their lives. After a drunk driving accident, you can pursue a personal injury claim against the driver responsible for the crash. Under the terms of the drunk driver’s insurance policy, the insurance company is on the hook for any damages related to the insured’s actions. Thus, drunk driving cases are typically defended by the at-fault driver’s insurance company. In many cases, when you file a claim with an insurance company, the insurance company will make a settlement offer. A settlement is an agreement between you and the insurance company. The insurance company agrees to pay you a certain amount of money, and in exchange, you agree not to pursue the case in court. However, for those who have not been through the process before, it can be challenging to determine what is a fair settlement for a drunk driving accident.  If you’re looking for the average hit by a drunk driver settlement, the unfortunate reality is that there really is no such thing. That is because the amount for each settlement is completely dependent upon the facts and circumstances surrounding each individual case. In other words, settlement amounts can and do vary greatly. One person’s case could warrant a $50,000 settlement, while another person’s case could result in a $500,000 settlement. So trying to provide an average is really meaningless. Instead, let’s look at some factors that will help you get an idea of what insurance companies look at when negotiating a settlement. What Goes into an Insurance Company’s Settlement for a Drunk Driving Accident? After you are hit by a drunk driver, settlement with the insurance company will depend on the specific circumstances of your accident. Insurance companies want to resolve a case for as little money as possible. When an insurance company comes up with a DUI accident settlement amount, it takes a few things into consideration. Generally, this involves the insurance company weighing the risks of taking the case to trial. For example, the insurance company is primarily concerned with its chances of winning if it takes the case to trial. It is also worried about what the potential costs would be if a judge or jury finds it is liable for the victim’s injuries. Accident-Related Factors One of the insurance company’s primary considerations when making a settlement offer in a drunk driving case is its assessment of the case against the drunk driver. For example, if a driver was arrested for DUI charges and convicted at trial, it will not bode well for the insurance company. In this situation, the insurance company may make a higher settlement offer. On the other hand, if the evidence of a driver’s intoxication is weak or there is evidence suggesting that the accident victim’s negligence played a role in the accident, the insurance company may like its odds at trial. Thus, in these situations, the insurance company would likely offer a reduced settlement amount. Injury-Related Factors The other factor that plays into drunk driver settlement amounts is the potential amount of damages it may need to pay out. This can be a fairly complex determination, depending on the facts. Generally, there are two types of damages in a drunk driving accident: economic and non-economic damages.   Economic damages Economic damages include things like medical expenses, lost wages, decreased earning capacity, and property damage. These damages are objective, meaning they are fairly easy to calculate. For example, you can present your medical bills to prove that you suffered economic damages related to your medical expenses. Non-economic damages Non-economic damages include the psychological or emotional impact that the accident had on your life and the physical pain you have endured. For example, pain and suffering is a commonly awarded form of non-economic damages. But how do you assign a value to pain and suffering? It’s not easy because these damages are subjective in nature. So How Do You Maximize Your Hit by a Drunk Driver Settlement? Generally, an insurance company’s settlement offer in a drunk driving case will focus primarily on compensating an accident victim for their economic damages. However, settlement offers rarely value a victim’s non-economic damages fairly. Of course, a fair settlement offer will include amounts for both economic and non-economic damages. So what is an accident victim to do if the insurance company isn’t making a reasonable settlement offer? An attorney with specific experience handling DUI settlements can help you present a compelling case to the insurance company. Personal injury attorneys know what information an insurance company needs to see to make a fair offer. Additionally, by working with a lawyer, you show the insurance company that you are serious about pursuing your case. For example, the insurance company knows that if an agreement isn’t reached, an attorney can easily file a claim in court. This opens up the possibility that a judge or jury will ultimately determine the insurance company is responsible for your injuries. And because a damages award after a trial can be unpredictable, an insurance company may want to avoid this uncertainty. Contact a Seasoned San Francisco Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer to Discuss Your Case Today If you or a loved one recently suffered injuries in a drunk driving accident, the Law Office of Chuck Geerhart is here to help. Chuck is a veteran San Francisco personal injury lawyer with extensive experience handling DUI accidents. Over the course of the past two decades, Attorney Geerhart has successfully represented countless injury victims, obtaining multiple six- and seven-figure settlements and jury verdicts on their behalf. Despite his success, he remains true to his guiding principles of providing each client with personal attention in pursuit of...

Continue Reading

| Read Time: 4 minutes | Chuck Geerhart Blog

What Is the Product Liability Statute of Limitations in California?

After suffering an injury from the use of a defective product, it may be easy to feel lost or confused. Fortunately, injured persons may have the opportunity to file a lawsuit and recover from their injuries. To do so, it is important to understand product liability claims and the statute of limitations imposing a time restriction on filing a lawsuit. The Law Office of Chuck Geerhart is ready to help. If you have any questions or would like to speak with an experienced member of our team about a possible personal injury claim, contact us online or call (415) 577-4992 today. What Is a Product Liability Claim? Product liability claims arise when a defective product causes an injury. A product liability claim aims to hold the manufacturer or seller responsible for placing the defective product into consumers’ hands. There are three types of product defects that are likely to cause harm to consumers: Design defects—defects that present even before the product is actually produced, making the design of the product unsafe or unsuitable for consumers; Manufacturing defects—defects that occur during the manufacturing or assembly process; and Marketing defects—defects in the way a product is marketed, including inadequate instructions, inappropriate labeling, or insufficient warnings. Once an individual has suffered an injury or illness due to a defective product, the first step should be consulting with a product liability attorney as soon as possible. Filing a lawsuit to recover for injuries sustained may be an option, but there is not an unlimited amount of time to do so. A lawyer will help ensure the lawsuit is filed on time to avoid any bumps in the road. What Is a Statute of Limitations for Product Liability Claims? A statute of limitations is a law limiting the amount of time an individual has to file a lawsuit. These time limitations are imposed on all lawsuits, and the amount of time allowed depends on the type of lawsuit.  It is crucial to know and understand the statute of limitations for every kind of case. Failing to file a claim within the specified amount of time can prove detrimental. While the injured party can still file their lawsuit, they are unlikely to succeed. Once the opposing side discovers the statute of limitations has run, they will bring it to the court’s attention and the judge will throw out the case. For this reason, it is essential for individuals injured by defective products to speak to a California product liability attorney as soon as possible. Beginning the lawsuit process with plenty of time can provide invaluable peace of mind and a fair opportunity to receive a financial recovery. The California Product Liability Statute of Limitations Under California product liability law, the statute of limitations is two years from the time the injured party knew or should have known of their injuries. So, for example, if the injured person discovered their injury on December 1, 2020, they would have until December 1, 2022, to file their lawsuit. The language used for the product’s liability statutes of limitations is slightly different than that used for other types of lawsuits. The time clock for products liability claims does not begin to run until the injured party discovers or should have reasonably discovered their injuries. This differs from other kinds of claims, where the time clock begins to run on the date of a significant incident. If a defective product causes property damage along with injuries, the affected individual has three years from the date that the property damage occurred to bring their lawsuit. It is still wise to file a lawsuit within two years to avoid missing the chance to seek recovery for injuries.  Once the injured individual discovers their injury caused by a defective product, they should consult with a products liability attorney in California right away. Waiting can mean losing the chance to seek compensation. Why Is There a Statute of Limitations for Product Liability Claims? There are various reasons why most types of claims have a statute of limitations restricting the amount of time the plaintiff has to file. In particular, for products liability claims, there is a statute of limitations because: The defective product may have been destroyed over time; Important evidence can go missing or become unavailable; Access to medical records becomes more challenging as the years go on; and The more time goes on, the more difficult it is to assess injuries and damages caused by the defective product. The party injured by the defective product cannot stop the clock once it has started to run (except in very limited circumstances). Therefore, it is imperative to seek help from a qualified products liability attorney in California to preserve the right to fair compensation. Consult with a California Product Liability Lawyer Products liability cases can be challenging, and injured individuals may be unaware of the exact amount of time available to file a claim. Once you have discovered an injury or illness caused by a defective product, you should consult with a product liability lawyer in California right away. A product liability attorney will fight diligently for your right to receive financial compensation. With over thirty years of experience, Chuck Geerhart has had the privilege of representing countless injured California clients. Mr. Geerhart began his career working as a civil defense attorney, including on many product liability matters. This gives him a unique perspective as an attorney for injured victims, because he understands both sides of a claim and how defense attorneys think. The Law Office of Chuck Geerhart only takes on a small number of cases, allowing us to work closely with our clients and provide the best possible legal representation. Contact us online call (415) 577-4992 today to schedule a consultation.

Continue Reading