| 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!

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| Read Time: 4 minutes | Personal Injury

Why Should I Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer?

If you were seriously injured in an accident that you didn’t cause, you need an experienced personal injury attorney on your side. You deserve to have a knowledgeable advocate fighting to get you the justice you deserve. In California, Attorney Chuck Geerhart understands the importance of getting the maximum possible compensation for the wrongfully injured. For more than 30 years, the Law Office of Chuck Geerhart has fought passionately to help clients who have been harmed by the negligence or wrongful actions of another party. No matter whom you choose to represent you in your personal injury case, what’s important is that you have someone on your side to help protect your legal rights and recover compensation for your economic and non-economic damages. What Are the Benefits of Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer? When you hire a personal injury attorney, you do so with the knowledge that upon recovering compensation for your injuries and other damages, you will have to pay legal fees. For most injury accident victims, however, the benefits of having an attorney far outweigh the potential cost of representation. These are just a few of the benefits that an experienced injury accident lawyer brings to the table. Protecting Your Legal Rights Having an attorney on your side is the best way to help protect your legal rights. The California statute of limitations for personal injury provides only two years within which to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party. If you don’t act within that prescribed period, you could lose your right to recover compensation. Insurance companies can also look for ways to undervalue or deny your claim. Insurers might even refuse to negotiate your claim in good faith. With an experienced attorney on your side, you can rest assured that they will be looking out for your best interest at all times. Putting Their Resources to Work for You The best personal injury lawyers—in California or anywhere else—have a substantial network of resources that they put to work for their clients. Typically, this might include investigators, accident reconstruction specialists, subject matter experts, etc. Your attorney will put all these resources on your case, enabling them to build the most persuasive case possible on your behalf. Accepting Your Case on a Contingency Basis Most personal injury attorneys do not require any upfront legal fees. After reviewing the details of your case, your attorney will provide you with their opinion of your chances for success. If the attorney believes you have a valid cause of action, they will accept your case on a contingency fee basis. This means that you owe no legal fees whatsoever until the attorney recovers compensation for you. At that time, the agreed-upon fee percentage and expenses are deducted from your settlement or award and you get the rest. Maximizing Your Claim Value Experienced attorneys know how to identify and value all your physical, emotional, and financial damages—and how to document them effectively. This means your claim will carry the highest possible value. You need money to get you through this nightmare. You deserve to have an aggressive attorney fighting to get you every dollar. Tips for Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer You will find countless injury accident lawyers in San Francisco and throughout northern California. So many, in fact, that you might have trouble choosing the right one for you. Start by looking for an attorney who has direct experience in the type of injury accident you were involved in. Some of the most common types of personal injury accidents include the following. Car accidents, Truck accidents, Bicycle accidents, Motorcycle accidents, Pedestrian accidents, and Workplace accidents. Ask any potential attorney about their past results, specifically the settlements and awards they have obtained for their clients. Because your situation is unique, past case results won’t necessarily reflect on your outcome. However, any experienced attorney’s track record and client testimonials will demonstrate how committed they are to getting the best possible outcome for their clients. Talk to a California Personal Injury Lawyer Now at No Cost Are you still wondering, Is it worth hiring a personal injury attorney? If so, take advantage of the free consultation and case review offered by the Law Office of Chuck Geerhart. You can visit us at our San Francisco office and meet our team of compassionate legal professionals. We can schedule your consultation by phone or video conference, or we can come to your location. No matter what the circumstances of your injury accident might be, you do not have to fight this battle alone. We put all our resources to work for you. Our California personal injury lawyers fight to get you the justice and compensation you deserve, just as we have done for our past clients over the last three decades. Contact us today to learn more about the benefits of having a personal injury lawyer on your side. You will find countless injury accident lawyers in San Francisco and throughout northern California. So many, in fact, that you might have trouble choosing the right one for you. Start by looking for an attorney who has direct experience in the type of injury accident you were involved in. Some of the most common types of personal injury accidents include the following. Car accidents, Truck accidents, Bicycle accidents, Motorcycle accidents, Pedestrian accidents, and Workplace accidents. Ask any potential attorney about their past results, specifically the settlements and awards they have obtained for their clients. Because your situation is unique, past case results won’t necessarily reflect on your outcome. However, any experienced attorney’s track record and client testimonials will demonstrate how committed they are to getting the best possible outcome for their clients.

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| 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...

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| 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. 

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| 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. 

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| 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...

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| Read Time: 4 minutes | Chuck Geerhart Blog

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

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. 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? 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 financial recovery. The Product Liability Statute of Limitations in California 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 products 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 Product Liability Lawyers in California 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. Our firm only takes on a small number of cases, allowing us to work closely with our clients and provide the best possible legal representation. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation.

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | Chuck Geerhart Blog

California Wrongful Death Damages: What Can You Recover?

If your loved one dies because of another person or entity’s reckless, negligent, or intentional action, you may be entitled to receive wrongful death damages in California. Though you may be grieving, understand that you must take action within two years of the death of the deceased in order to bring a legal case for California wrongful death. Below, the experienced California wrongful death lawyers at The Law Office of Chuck Geerhart will go over the details about how the damages you can recover from a wrongful death case. If you have any questions or would like to speak with a member of our team, contact us online or call (415) 577-4992 today. Difference Between Punishment for Wrongful Death vs Criminal Homicide The wrongful death cause of action falls under the umbrella of personal injury lawsuits that you would file in civil court. Homicide is a cause of action brought by a prosecutor in criminal court. The difference in punishment between wrongful death and criminal homicide is that a wrongful death claim involves liability in terms of financial compensation. Criminal homicide involves jail, prison time, probation, or other sanctions.  Wrongful Death Damages in California Determining California wrongful death damages can be difficult because some of the components do not involve expense numbers. There are two types of wrongful death damages available. Damages are defined in the Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions 3921 (CACI), which are forms used to explain specific laws to jurors who must apply them. The two categories of wrongful death damages are economic and non-economic damages.  Economic Damages Financial compensation for expenses that can be reasonably quantified is economic damages. These are related to actual monetary costs that occur because of the death of the deceased. According to CACI 3921, these include: Financial support that the deceased would have contributed to the family; Loss of gifts or benefits that the family would have expected to receive from the deceased; The reasonable dollar value of household services that the decedent would have provided; and Burial and funeral expenses. Unreimbursed medical costs that were incurred due to the nature of the action that caused death are filed under a different claim called a “survival action,” which is brought by the estate of the deceased. Survival actions also address lawsuits that the deceased had the right to file prior to death.  Non-Economic Damages Non-economic damages typically pertain to the mental and emotional aspects of loss, but under CACI, wrongful death damages do not include grief, sorrow, or pain and suffering. The jury may award wrongful death damages that they deem reasonable given the evidence provided. Things to take into considerations when determining non-economic damages include: Loss of love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, and moral support; Spouse or partner’s loss of consortium (enjoyment of intimacy); and Loss of training and guidance.  Proving non-economic wrongful death damages can be difficult without the assistance of an experienced wrongful death attorney. You will generally need witnesses and other evidence to show that love, companionship, and other elements of a healthy relationship existed.  Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in California? California Code of Civil Procedure 377.60 allows the following family members (or their personal representatives) to bring a lawsuit for wrongful death in state civil court: A surviving spouse; A domestic partner; Biological and adopted children; Grandchildren (if the deceased person’s children are also deceased), Other minor children (such as stepchildren) who were at least 50% dependent on the deceased for their financial support; and Anyone who would be entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession. This last group may include the deceased person’s parents, or siblings, depending on who is living at the time of death. In some cases, there may be additional dependents who may have the right to receive wrongful death damages. These may include: A “putative spouse” (someone who had a good faith but mistaken belief that they were in a lawful marriage with the deceased); Children of the decedent’s putative spouse; Parents of the deceased; and Legal guardians of the decedent. These individuals must be able to prove that they were financially dependent on the deceased. Should You Hire a California Wrongful Death Attorney? In order to succeed on a wrongful death claim, you must have sufficient evidence to prove that the death was caused by the negligent actions of another person. It is important to have an experienced legal team to conduct investigations, gather evidence, and navigate the complex California legal system. The Law Office of Chuck Geerhart can also help you determine what your wrongful death case is worth so that you do not settle for less than what you deserve. With over 30 years of experience, Chuck Geerhart understands how to effectively and compassionately help you through this tough time by providing the legal support you need. Contact us online or call (415) 577-4992 today to schedule a free case consultation.

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | Personal Injury

Is It Important That I Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer Who Is “Near Me”?

If you or someone you love was injured in a personal injury accident caused by another party’s negligence, you might be searching for a lawyer. When you search online, you may enter the search term, “personal injury lawyer near me.” However, do you really need to hire a lawyer that is close to where you live? The answer is not as black and white as you may assume. While you probably shouldn’t hire an attorney that is hundreds of miles away, you shouldn’t necessarily hire the closest option either. Below, the California personal injury lawyers at The Law Office of Chuck Geerhart go over the details of looking for an attorney near you vs an attorney that is located further away. 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. Deciding When You Need to Hire a California Personal Injury Attorney The first thing to consider is whether you need an attorney or not. If your personal injury accident happened in California, your case would be subject to California law. California is a pure comparative negligence state, which means you can collect a portion of your damages even if you are partially at fault in the accident. In fact, you can collect some compensation even if you are primarily at fault. For example, if you are determined to be 25% at fault, you will receive 75% of your damages. If you are found to be 75% at fault, you could collect up to 25% in damages. Why is this important? With pure comparative negligence, the defendants will be doing their best to place the maximum blame on you. Their goal is to pay the least amount of money possible. That means you need a qualified California personal injury attorney on your side. You should choose an attorney who can protect your rights and fight for the maximum compensation you deserve. Choose a Qualified Attorney One of the biggest mistakes people make when hiring a personal injury lawyer is hiring the attorney that is closest to their home. Just because they are a five- or ten-minute drive doesn’t make them the most qualified to handle your case. If you have a medical malpractice claim, you need an attorney specializing in these types of cases who has the experience necessary to take your case to trial. The personal injury law firm closest to you may primarily handle car accident cases. Choose an Attorney You Feel Comfortable With Don’t choose an attorney simply because they are the closest option. What if you don’t like their personality or you don’t feel completely comfortable with them? Finding the right attorney whom you trust and feel comfortable with is crucial. You will be working closely with this person. If you don’t like them, how will they come across to a jury if the case goes to trial? You want an attorney who is relatable and who will make a good impression on a jury. By only searching for attorneys close to you, you could miss out on the right lawyer for your case. Choosing an Attorney with the Necessary Financial Resources Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency basis. That means they don’t get paid unless they recover compensation in your case. The usual fee agreement is a percentage of your overall settlement. If your case goes to trial, the attorney needs to handle all the legal costs and fees to present a strong case. If the attorneys near you won’t have the financial means to take on your case, or perhaps they are busy, they may need to transfer your case to another law firm anyway. Rather than start all over with a new lawyer, why not find the right one for you from the start? Hiring the San Francisco Personal Injury Lawyers at the Law Office of Chuck Geerhart If you need a personal injury lawyer to help you, look no further than the San Francisco personal injury lawyers at The Law Office of Chuck Geerhart. We have years of experience helping injured victims like you. We aren’t afraid to stand up to big corporations. We offer free, no-obligation consultations, so there is no risk to meet with us. We can help you decide what the best course of action is for your particular case. Contact the experienced California personal injury attorneys at the Law Office of Chuck Geerhart online today or call (415) 577-4992 to learn more about how we can help you fight for the compensation you are owed.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Chuck Geerhart Blog

How Fast Will My Case Settle?

One of the questions most often asked by clients is “How long will it take to get my case settled?” Good question! Most people who have been injured want to get their claim settled and move on with their lives.  The answer varies depending on the severity of injury, whether liability is clear, and whether there is an insurance carrier or company with adequate assets to pay for the damage caused. When you are injured through the fault of another, you first go through the claims stage. If you can get your case resolved in the claims stage, you’re fortunate, because that’s not the norm in major injury cases. Most insurance carriers want to drag things out so they can hold on to their money longer. Also, they rarely want to pay fair (i.e., full) value right off the bat.  They have found that dragging claims out tends to help them settle more cheaply. This is especially true for people without lawyers. Carriers know they can settle those cases far more cheaply, because a lay person has no idea how to value a claim. In building a claim, it is my job to obtain all your medical records and bills. This can take a few months, since health care providers (especially SF General Hospital) do not make us their priority. It can also take months to get records of Medi-Cal and Medicare payments. I have settled many cases in the claims stage, but it usually takes at least three to four months. A major exception to the rule that cases rarely settle quickly in the claims stage is where there are low insurance policy limits, such as a $15,000 state minimum policy in an auto accident case. It does not take much of an injury to max out a $15K policy.  But even major injury cases can settle quickly if there is the right policy limit. Example: a broken tibia with surgery, and the driver has a $100K policy. That claim should settle quickly for the policy limit, unless the driver has lots of monetary assets. (In general, chasing after the negligent person’s personal assets is a waste of time, because he doesn’t want to pay, and he can declare bankruptcy if you get an above limits judgment.) If you have been seriously injured and had surgery, you will take many months to recover.  Your level of recovery dictates when the case is ready to settle. You never want to settle prematurely, because when you do settle, you will sign a release of all claims forever and for all time. So if there is any possibility you might need more surgery, you cannot settle until you know your prognosis accurately. If your case cannot settle at the claims stage, either because of liability issues or the carrier is being cheap, the only way to get justice is to move on to litigation. Then you truly have a case, i.e., a filed lawsuit. In most California counties, it will take about a year and a half to actually commence a jury trial. Fortunately for you, 97% of all civil cases settle, some early, some on the eve of trial. It is not uncommon for a filed lawsuit to settle within about six months after the carrier realizes you’re serious. The takeaway: if you want to maximize your settlement, you need to be patient and prepared to have your claim take several months to a year or more to resolve.

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