Fault & Liability
At Banafashe Law, we have decades of experience representing clients in a range of personal injury litigation cases ranging from motor vehicle accident disputes to product liability disputes and more. Unlike many of our competitors, we are committed to truly client-oriented service — as advocates, we understand the importance of having the client involved at every stage of the process, and as such, we engage closely with the client and maintain open lines of communication in an effort to identify their unique goals, issues and limitations (and how that will impact the underlying litigation strategy). A key limitation is knowing who you can sue and how fault will be calculated. The information below outlines the various principles in California Law. Don’t try to learn it all, though--contact an experienced firm of personal injury lawyers today.
Skilled personal injury advocates understand that a critical aspect of securing a favorable recovery is in suing the “right” defendants. You might have a winning car accident case, for example, but if you choose to exclusively sue a defendant-driver who has minimal personal assets and no auto insurance coverage, then you may be left without any practical means of securing an adequate recovery that will cover most of your losses.
This is where employer liability comes in, which a personal injury law firm can assist you with understanding and better evaluating your case.
Employers tend to make excellent defendants, as they have “deep pockets” compared to most individual defendants — in other words, employers tend to have substantial insurance coverage and valuable assets with which to cover the losses suffered by the injured plaintiff in the case. Additionally, the employer may be more willing to settle the case early to avoid the business disruption and potential brand damage caused by extensive litigation.
So, if you’ve been injured by an employee, you should be looking at ways in which to involve their employer. Under what theories can you loop an employer into your personal injury lawsuit? Let’s take a closer look with the help of our expert personal injury attorneys.
Product liability claims are based on injuries caused by defective products, though there are several different theories underlying such claims: strict liability, negligence, and breach of warranty. Though California law does confer certain advantages to product liability plaintiffs in the form of the strict liability doctrine (i.e., the plaintiff need not prove that the manufacturer was negligent in creating a defective product, only that the manufacturer created a defective product that caused injury), these disputes can be quite challenging. Manufacturers tend to have significant resources at their disposal and are often aggressive in defending against product liability suits, as they may find it more valuable in the long-term to discourage other plaintiffs from coming forward.
Airlines and railroads are “common carriers,” which means that they have the highest duty of care towards their passengers. This gives prospective plaintiffs ample opportunity to litigate claims that might otherwise seem borderline.
Cruise ship companies are multi-billion dollar global enterprises that routinely handle personal injury claims brought by passengers, employees and injured third-parties. As such, they have developed sophisticated mechanisms for minimizing liability, from creating significant procedural barriers (i.e., choosing favorable choice-of-law and legal venues in the ticket contract, etc.) to investing substantial resources towards a defense to discourage claims from other similarly-situated plaintiffs. This, in conjunction with the unique complexity of maritime law issues, can make cruise ship injury lawsuits quite difficult — it’s therefore critical that you work with a team of personal injury attorneys that have the experience necessary to successfully navigate the murky legal waters associated with cruise ship disputes.
Swimming pools must be properly supervised, and during closed hours, must be fenced off or otherwise guarded against child entrants. Failure of a property owner to adequately construct, maintain and supervise their swimming pool (thus leading to an injury or death) could lead to an actionable claim.
Most people do not expect to be injured at an amusement park. The “fear” of an accident is supposed to be an illusion — part of the fun. Complicated ride machinery must be properly designed and maintained, or they could pose a serious threat of injury to visitors.
In the amusement park context (as is common with other recreational activities), tickets may include a disclaimer of liability. It’s important not to resign yourself to this setback. In many cases, the disclaimer is not enforceable and our personal injury lawyers may be able to fight for your compensation.
Construction accidents may impact both workers and third-parties who are unlucky enough to be in a “zone of danger” at the wrong time. In construction accident disputes, workers may be entitled to workers’ compensation (and thereby prohibited from bringing a related injury lawsuit except in specific circumstances).
As a general rule, construction accidents can also be complicated by the presence of multiple, potentially liable defendants. For example, if you are passing by a construction site and are injured by a falling brick, then you might have a lawsuit against the contractor responsible for laying the bricks, the premises owner and even the cement manufacturer.
So, what happens if you — the plaintiff — are also at-fault for your own injuries? This can cause quite a bit of confusion for injured plaintiffs, as they wrestle with concerns over whether they are still entitled to recover damages.
In California, injured plaintiffs are still entitled to recover damages even if the court finds them partially at-fault for their own injuries, though the recoverable damages amount may be reduced in accordance with their contribution of fault. These situations are more common than many plaintiffs realize. In an accident scenario, it’s not always clear how fault will be distributed given the circumstances.
Fortunately, California implements a fault doctrine that is favorable to plaintiff interests: pure comparative fault.
While in some states, the contributory negligence of the plaintiff acts to bar the plaintiff from recovering damages, the pure comparative fault doctrine is quite a bit different. The pure comparative fault doctrine does not prevent recovery. In fact, plaintiffs who have committed negligence are entitled to recover damages even if they are 99 percent at-fault for the injuries they suffered in the accident at issue. Partial fault is not a bar. Instead, the recovery of the total damages by a personal injury law firm for you will be reduced in accordance with the fault percentage.
Confused? Let’s explore a brief example for clarity.
Suppose that you are injured while riding a bicycle. You sustained damages equal to $150,000 in total. The court finds that you were 50 percent at-fault for your injuries; however, at the time of the accident, you were distracted by pedestrian traffic, and therefore did not maneuver out of the way of an oncoming vehicle. Though you were significantly responsible for your own injuries, the court would not prohibit you from recovering damages. Instead, your $150,000 potential damages would be cut in half (due to the 50 percent fault contribution), for a maximum recovery of $75,000.
Thus, it’s likely that the defendant (in an effort to minimize their liability) and personal injury lawyers will argue that you were also negligent and contributed to the accident at-issue — you can overcome these defense arguments by showing that you did not actually commit negligence, and that, even if you were negligent, the negligent acts did not contribute to the accident.
We have a proven track record of success as personal injury litigators. Over the years, we have gained a reputation among personal injury law firms as willing and able litigators — we have recovered millions in damages for our clients (through settlement and trial litigation). Our experiences trying cases to conclusion gives us significant leverage throughout the litigation process — quite simply, defendants (and opposing counsel) must treat our clients’ claims with the seriousness those claims deserve.
Curious about whether your claims are actionable, and what steps you’ll need to take to secure compensation? We encourage you to call us at 310-273-7300 or complete a case evaluation form through our website to schedule a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation with a skilled personal injury lawyer at our firm today.
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