The Timeline for a Personal Injury Lawsuit, Part Three

Personal Injury Lawsuit

You’ve filed your complaint and the defendant has answered. Depositions are done and the court has entertained both dispositive and evidentiary motions. Now you’re ready for opening arguments, right? Not just yet—there are still a couple things that need to be done before your personal injury trial can start.

Jury Selection

Opening statements are made to the jury, so a jury must be seated before the trial can begin. Though there are mostly minor variations in the process from one jurisdiction to the next, many of the steps in the jury selection process (also known as “voir dire,” from the French for “to see to speak”) are essentially the same. In most court systems, potential jurors are pulled from the rolls of registered voters or licensed drivers. Typically, when you are instructed to make yourself available for jury duty, it’s for a specific period of time—a month, for instance.

When you are called for potential jury duty, you’ll be asked to come to the courthouse on specific dates, but typically won’t be taken into the courtroom until the jury selection process begins. In most instances, prospective jurors are called into the courtroom in small groups. Each prospective juror will be asked to take the stand and may be asked questions by attorneys for either side, and by the judge. The questioning is designed to determine whether a juror can render an impartial verdict based on the evidence in the case.

The judge always has discretion to decline to seat a prospective juror. Attorneys for both sides may also challenge the fitness of a potential juror. There are two types of challenges—challenges for cause and peremptory challenges. A peremptory challenge may be made for any reason, but each side has a limited number of peremptory challenges. A challenge for cause must state a reason why the juror would be unfit, and there is no limit to challenges for cause.

Jury Instructions

In the American civil justice system, the judge makes determinations of law and the jury makes determinations of fact. However, the jury must return a verdict and the verdict must apply the facts to the law. Because the jurors can’t be expected to know the law, they are given instructions of law, telling them how they must decide the case based on how they determine the facts. In most instances, the attorneys for both sides submit prospective jury instructions and the judge makes the final determination as to what instructions the jury receives.

Contact the Law Offices of J. Lewis & Associates

To discuss your legal needs with an experienced Riverside premises liability injury lawyer, contact our office online or call us toll-free at 1-800-228-0507. There is no charge for your initial consultation. Se Habla Espanol.

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The Timeline for a Personal Injury Lawsuit, Part Two

The Timeline for a Personal Injury Lawsuit, Part TwoSo you’ve filed your complaint in a personal injury matter, and the defendants have answered the complaint. You’ve deposed witnesses, produced all relevant documents and answered all interrogatories. You’re ready to go to trial, right? Not so fast…there are still a number of steps to be completed before opening arguments are made.

The Motion Phase of a Personal Injury Lawsuit

There are a number of compelling reasons to resolve many trial-related issues before a jury is called. First of all, you may be able to avoid a trial completely, based on the evidence (or lack thereof) obtained during the discovery period. Additionally, there may be evidence that a court will rule inadmissible, but you don’t want to wait until a jury has heard or seen the evidence to have the court declare that it’s improper. The jury will be hard-pressed to forget what they’ve already seen and heard, even if the judge tells them to do so.

With those objectives in mind, the court typically entertains two types of motions before trial: dispositive motions and evidentiary motions:

  • Dispositive motions—One of the goals of the discovery phase is to identify what evidence each party has to support its claim. What evidence does the injured party have to prove all the elements of negligence by the defendant? What evidence does the defendant have that would absolve him or her from liability? If multiple claims are made by the plaintiff, is there evidence to support all of them? Accordingly, based on testimony and evidence obtained, either party may ask the court (by filing a motion) for some type of judgment before trial. A plaintiff may allege that the defendant hasn’t stated a valid defense and ask for “summary judgment” finding the defendant liable. On the other hand, the defendant may contend that the plaintiff hasn’t produced evidence to support one of more claims, and may ask the court to dismiss some or all of them.
  • Evidentiary motions—During depositions, witnesses are under oath, but there’s no judge present to rule on the admissibility of evidence or the propriety of certain questions. Accordingly, the parties will typically state an objection to a question or answer, so that it’s preserved on the record. The parties will then ask the judge to rule on those issues before trial, so that jurors are not exposed to potentially inadmissible evidence.

Contact the Law Offices of J. Lewis & Associates

To discuss your legal needs with an experienced Riverside personal injury lawyer, contact our office online or call us toll-free at 1-800-228-0507. There is no charge for your initial consultation. Se Habla Espanol.

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The Timeline for a Personal Injury Lawsuit, Part One

The Timeline for a Personal Injury Lawsuit, Part OneWhen you have been injured because of the wrongful act of another person, you want the legal process to move forward as quickly as possible, so that you can get the compensation you need to cover all your losses and get on with your life. But it’s a process and the process can unfortunately take some time. If you know what needs to happen, though, it can help you get through the process. This blog looks at the initial steps in a personal injury lawsuit.

Pleadings Must Be Filed

A “pleading” is a document submitted to the court either to initiate a lawsuit or to move it forward. Before anything can happen, you will need to file a complaint with the court clerk. The complaint will identify who the defendants are, when the injury occurred, and how the defendants caused you to suffer loss. The complaint will also ask for damages, an amount necessary to compensate you for injury and/or property loss. The complaint must be filed within a certain period of time, as set forth in the Statute of Limitations.

Once you have filed your complaint, the defendants have a certain amount of time, established by court rules, during which they must file an “answer” to your complaint. Typically, the answer responds to each allegation in the complaint, either affirming or denying the allegation. If the defendants don’t file their answer within the required period of time, you may be able to get a default judgment.

The Discovery Period

After the complaint and answer have been filed, the next phase of the process begins—the discovery period. Discovery is essentially a legal term that covers the gathering of evidence. Typically, discovery involves depositions, requests for production and interrogatories (written questions pertaining to evidentiary matters). The court will customarily establish a date by which discovery must be completed, and will address any other issues related to discovery, such as a limit on the number of interrogatories that may be submitted.

Contact the Law Offices of J. Lewis & Associates

To discuss your legal needs with an experienced Riverside premises liability injury lawyer, contact our office online or call us toll-free at 1-800-228-0507. There is no charge for your initial consultation. Se Habla Espanol.

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Palo Alto Facing Lawsuit Tied to Police Dog Attack

Palo Alto Facing Lawsuit Tied to Police Dog AttackThe mother of a Palo Alto teen has filed a personal injury lawsuit on behalf of her son, saying he was hurt in an unprovoked attack by a police dog.

According to the complaint, T.M. (no further information was provided in the lawsuit) was standing with some friends on a corner in Palo Alto on April 7, 2016, when police officers pulled up with guns drawn. Witnesses say there was a police dog in the cruiser and that it came out of the vehicle and attacked the youth. The lawsuit alleges that he sustained lacerations and scrapes to his body, as well as puncture wounds on his legs and hands. The complaint alleges that the officers took no action to call off the dog.

Witnesses also contend that, when the police car arrived, T.M. immediately put his hands in the air and offered no resistance. There were no outstanding warrants for his arrest, and he was not on parole or probation. Palo Alto police acknowledge that T.M. was arrested, but that no charges were subsequently filed against him.

In addition to the personal injury claim, the lawsuit alleges violation of civil rights, assault and battery, false arrest and imprisonment, and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The civil suit also accuses Palo Alto police of using excessive and unnecessary force, and of conducting an unlawful search. T.M.’s mother says he still experiences physical pain and emotional trauma.

A claim filed with the city asked for damages in excess of $500,000.

Contact the Law Offices of J. Lewis & Associates

To discuss your legal needs with an experienced Riverside personal injury lawyer, contact our office online or call us toll-free at 1-800-228-0507. There is no charge for your initial consultation. Se Habla Espanol.

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Pedestrian Deaths Decline in California in 2016

Pedestrian Deaths Decline in California in 2016Though statistics gathered nationally show a continued uptick in the number of pedestrian fatalities in 2016, California was one of the few states to actually show a decline last year. Pedestrian deaths across the country climbed above 6,000 for the first time in more than 20 years in 2016, but California accounted for only 359 of those fatalities. In 2015, the state saw 347 deaths in the first six months alone. For the year, pedestrian fatalities were down nearly 12% from 2015.

According to authorities, the most common causes of fatal pedestrian-motor vehicle accidents remain:

  • Drivers and pedestrians being distracted, mostly by devices (texting, surfing or using a cell phone or music player)
  • Pedestrians crossing at locations other than a crosswalk
  • Drivers and pedestrians not paying attention to their surroundings

Officials attribute the decline to significant efforts by local law enforcement agencies to educate the public—both drivers and pedestrians—of the dangers of not paying attention while on or near the road. In addition, police officers have been more proactive in monitoring and ticketing for violations of pedestrian rights-of-way. Among the other strategies successfully employed in California are:

  • Public information campaigns addressing the dangers of distracted driving, including television, radio and billboard advertisements
  • Identification and patrolling of high-risk areas in order to keep speeds down
  • Educational programs in certain high-risk areas, including near schools and shopping centers
  • Engineering solutions for high-risk intersections and crossings, including speed bumps, rerouting of traffic,  and lowered speeds

Contact the Law Offices of J. Lewis & Associates

To discuss your legal needs with an experienced Riverside premises liability injury lawyer, contact our office online or call us toll-free at 1-800-228-0507. There is no charge for your initial consultation. Se Habla Espanol.

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Premises Liability—Owner or Occupier?

Premises-Liability-Owner-or-Occupier.jpgIn California, as in other states, the legal concept of premises liability imposes a duty to maintain the premises in such a way as to minimize the risk of injury to anyone legally on the property. This requirement has broad scope, covering all aspects of real property, from steps, stairs, ramps and decks to hallways, floors and elevators. The duty also extends to sidewalks, driveways, parking ramps and lots. The duty does not extend to trespassers, and anyone legally on the property must use the property for normal purposes or for a purpose reasonably foreseeable by the owner or occupier of the property.

But a key question can focus on just who has the duty, particularly if the property is owned by one party and occupied by another. When there’s a commercial or residential lease, who has the duty to keep the property maintained and safe for visitors? As with most situations, the answer is “it depends.” It’s good practice, though, to notify both the owner and the tenant of any injuries you have suffered on residential or commercial property.

Injuries on Commercial Property

Most commercial leases address the issue of liability for injury on the premises. It’s not your responsibility to determine, however, who has responsibility. If you notify the tenant (business owner), they’ll likely pass the matter on to the building owner if their agreement imposes liability on the owner.

Injuries on Residential Property

One of the key considerations with injuries on residential property is where the accident occurred. As a general rule, the tenant has responsibility for anything moveable inside the apartment and the landlord has responsibility for everything outside the apartment, in common areas and everything immovable inside the apartment. There may be exceptions, though. If the tenant knows of a dangerous condition involving something immovable inside the apartment or something outside the apartment, if the condition is known and the tenant has not notified the landlord.

Contact the Law Offices of J. Lewis & Associates

To discuss your legal needs with an experienced Riverside personal injury lawyer, contact our office online or call us toll-free at 1-800-228-0507. There is no charge for your initial consultation. Se Habla Espanol.

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Public Transportation Accidents—Are They Treated Differently Than Other Accidents?

Public Transportation AccidentsAre They Treated Differently Than Other AccidentsWhen you take a bus, light rail, commuter train or even a cab, you expect to be riding with professionals, and hope that your travel will be safer than if you were behind the wheel. But that’s not always the case. Every year, thousands of people in California and across the country are injured in accidents involving public transportation. But is it any different than being involved in a motor vehicle accident with a private individual. There is at least one difference that can have a significant impact on your claim for compensation for any injuries suffered—the legal designation of the train, taxi, bus or other mode of transportation as a "common carrier."

Under the law in California, and in other states, a person or company transporting goods or persons on regular routes at set rates is considered a "common carrier." These entities are typically offer services under the authority or licensing power of a governmental body. As common carriers, they have a duty to exercise the highest degree of care and diligence to maximize the safety of passengers. In contrast, a private motorist on the road has a duty to use reasonable care to minimize the risk of injury to others.

Another potential challenge when you have been injured in a mass transit accident—the party at fault may be a governmental entity and may have some degree of tort immunity. Essentially, this means that the governmental entity may be exempt from certain types of lawsuits based on personal injury. Even if you have a right to take legal action against the governmental body, the notice requirements are customarily different from those in a private personal injury lawsuit.

Contact the Law Offices of J. Lewis & Associates

To discuss your legal needs with an experienced Riverside premises liability injury lawyer, contact our office online or call us toll-free at 1-800-228-0507. There is no charge for your initial consultation. Se Habla Espanol.

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California Court Rules Roundup Can Be Classified as a Carcinogen

California Court Rules Roundup Can Be Classified as a Carcinogen

At least in California, the Monsanto herbicide product Roundup will soon be labeled as a known carcinogen, in light of a ruling in a California state court in Fresno in March. Because of the strict guidelines on carcinogenic chemicals under Proposition 65 in California, Roundup is subject to closer scrutiny in California than in other states.

The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by Monsanto, the manufacturer of Roundup, in January, 2016. The company had challenged the California Environmental Protection Agency’s notice of intent to require that the product be labeled as potentially carcinogenic. The EPA’s decision was base on a report issued in 2015 by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which concluded that glyphosate, a primary component of Roundup, was a “probable carcinogen.”

The ruling appears to open the door for a number of personal injury lawsuits against Monsanto, similar to legal action filed by Cambia native Teri McCall last year, who alleged that her husband’s use of Roundup on the family farm for decades contributed to or cause a rare, aggressive and eventually fatal form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. During the course of that lawsuit, Monsanto was forced to release internal documents that suggested that the company had been “ghostwriting” papers and other research attributed to independent outside laboratories, a term actually used by a Monsanto chemist. The documents also indicated that the chemical giant had engaged in a massive public relations scheme to convince consumers that Roundup was safe.

Contact the Law Offices of J. Lewis & Associates

To discuss your legal needs with an experienced Riverside personal injury lawyer, contact our office online or call us toll-free at 1-800-228-0507. There is no charge for your initial consultation. Se Habla Espanol.

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What Happens If You Are Injured on Vacation?

What Happens If You Are Injured on Vacation

Since gas prices dropped dramatically a couple years ago, the number of injuries and fatalities in motor vehicle accidents nationwide has gone up by about 10%. There’s no secret as to why—cheaper gas means more people are driving, and more people on the road usually translates to more motor vehicle accidents. At no time is that truer than in the summer, when many families hit the roads on vacation. Given California’s popularity as a tourist destination, more and more out-of-state residents find themselves the victims of carelessness or negligence by other motorists in the Golden State. So what do you need to do and what do you need to know if you’re visiting California and are hurt a traffic mishap.

You’ll Want to Get Medical Treatment Immediately

Though you may prefer to be treated by your own doctor (and you can do that when you return from vacation), there are good reasons to seek medical care as soon as possible in California. First, if you delay medical treatment, opposing attorneys and insurance adjusters may argue that your injuries were not that serious. In addition, you run the risk that you’ll either incur another injury before you seek medical treatment, or that defense attorneys will contend that your injuries were caused by some intervening event.

You Will Likely Need California Legal Counsel

Whether you file a lawsuit or not, you will want to hire an attorney as soon as possible. Your first course of action will typically be to contact your insurance provider—either health or auto insurance (or both)—to seek coverage for medical and other expenses. Don’t be surprised if your carrier is less than helpful. It’s in the insurance company’s best interests to try to minimize or avoid payouts on claims. The sooner you hire an attorney, the sooner you’ll have an experienced advocate to make certain the insurers honor their contractual obligations.

In most instances, when you’ve been hurt in an accident in California, the lawsuit you file will be in a California court. Any attorney who represents you will have to be admitted to practice in California. While it’s possible for your personal attorney, located in another state, to be admitted “pro hac vice” or solely for your case in California, it’s likely that, if your attorney has not practiced in California, he or she will not be familiar with the judges, the laws or the rules of procedure in California courts. Accordingly, you’ll want a lawyer with extensive experience in the California legal system.

Contact the Law Offices of J. Lewis & Associates

To discuss your legal needs with an experienced Riverside premises liability injury lawyer, contact our office online or call us toll-free at 1-800-228-0507. There is no charge for your initial consultation. Se Habla Espanol.

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The California Statute of Limitations on Personal Injury

man in tension

When you suffered personal injury or property loss because of the careless or wrongful acts of another person, you have a right to pursue legal action to recover compensation for all your losses. Under California law, as in other states, you must initiate legal action within a certain period of time or you can lose the right to seek damages.

There are a number of good reasons for this law, known as the “statute of limitations.” First, the longer you wait to file a claim, the greater the risk that memories will fade or that witnesses will become unavailable. In addition, the law does not favor making a person have to wait for years with a pending lawsuit hanging over their heads.

The statute of limitations is a state law and can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and based on the type of lawsuit. In California, the time limit for filing a personal injury lawsuit is two years from the date you sustained the injury. For damage to personal property, the statute of limitations is three years.

So what happens if you are involved in an accident or you’re exposed to toxic substances and it takes months or even years for the injury to become apparent? If the statute of limitations has expired, are you out of luck? The answer is generally no. In California, as in other states, the “discovery” rule applies to the statute of limitations in personal injury claims. The discovery rule holds that the clock does not start to run on the statute of limitations until you either actually discover or, with the exercise of reasonable care, would have discovered the injury.

Contact the Law Offices of J. Lewis & Associates

To discuss your legal needs with an experienced Riverside personal injury lawyer, contact our office online or call us toll-free at 1-800-228-0507. There is no charge for your initial consultation. Se Habla Espanol.

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