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Month: December 2014

Injuries & Death – Common Occurrences with Drunk Driving DUI’s

Ehline Law, the injury victim's Friend
Injury lawyer Michael Ehline of Ehline Law Firm.

During the year of 2012 according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says 33,561 people died in the USA who were in traffic accidents. (Source.). Out of this number, it is estimated that 10,322 deaths were fatalities related to drunk driving crashes.

So this equals 31% of the traffic deaths for 2012. The number of roadway fatalities involving drunk driving has been on a steady decrease since 1982. But even with the number declining, people get killed every 53 minutes in a DUI accident.

The risk of drivers under the influence is a certainty, and during holidays the number of DUI drivers increase. The California Highway Patrol, along with other police and sheriff departments are on the lookout for impaired drivers. The California Highway Patrol tabulates the number of fatalities statewide after the holiday period accidents have been reported.

Southern California Ehline Law Firm seen the emotional and physical damage caused by drivers operating vehicles while under the influence. The law firm believes providing this information about driving under the influence of alcohol is essential for the public to be informed.

What are the Driving While Intoxicated Dangers?

The dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol increases the likelihood of motor vehicle accidents resulting in injuries and death. Judgment, muscle coordination, and vision are some of the impairments consumption of alcohol can cause, along with other issues that are essential for driving a vehicle competently and safely.

The statistics are disturbing even though the numbers of crashes have dropped during recent decades, impaired driving due to alcohol consumption and driving while intoxicated still is a problem nationwide on roadways with numerous victims every year.

The statistics are disturbing even though the numbers of crashes have dropped during recent decades. Also, impaired driving due to alcohol consumption and driving while intoxicated still is a problem nationwide. The roadways are a testament to this fact, with numerous victims every year.

What is the DUI Statistical Information?

The legal limit for being considered DUI in all 50 states is by having a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) level of 0.08 percent or higher. A driver can still be considered to be an impaired driver with a lower BAC, and it is illegal for any person to operate a motor vehicle with a level higher than the legal limit.

Other information to know about BAC and drivers under the influence includes:

  • Drivers who have a BAC of .10 are seven times more likely to be involved in a crash resulting in fatalities, than a driver who has not consumed alcohol.
  • Drivers with a BAC of 0.15 are twenty-five times more likely to be involved in a collision than a sober driver.
  • Fatally injured drunk drivers the average BAC level is .16 percent.
  • Drivers with a high blood alcohol content are young male drivers who also have prior DUI convictions.
  • Drivers in the age group between 21 and 24 years of age are responsible for approximately 34 percent of alcohol-related deaths.
  • Drivers in the age group between 25 and 35 years of age are responsible for about 30% of alcohol-related fatalities.
  • Drivers involved in single vehicle crashes related to a high BAC is 385 times more likely than a driver who has not consumed alcohol.
  • Male drivers under the influence are approximately 707 times more likely to be involved in a single vehicle crash than an unimpaired driver.

Police departments nationwide are putting forth many resources to arrest offenders who are driving under the influence of alcohol. Our car accident attorneys believe one of the ways to battle this problem is through education. That way we can assist people in making the right choice.  We want you to think twice about getting behind the wheel of a vehicle after consuming alcohol.

Even with public awareness increased by educational programs, stricter penalties for violation of DUI laws and law enforcement agencies being more vigilant in monitoring roadways, people drive while under the influence. Anyone who consumes alcohol must keep in mind a bottle or glass of beer, glass of wine or liquor takes time for the body to metabolize. When enough time is not taken between drinking alcoholic beverages and getting behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, the results of a breathalyzer test may show the driver is over the legal limit to operate a car.

Tips to Help Safety Awareness

When consuming alcohol, there are some tips that can be helpful to prevent being illegally intoxicated if operating a motor vehicle or just to be aware of the effects alcohol may have on an individual.

  • Alcohol Limits and Intoxication: It is important to know the amount of alcohol that can be consumed by a person before they become intoxicated. But this should not be tested if the person intends to operate a motor vehicle. Body weight and food consumption also are factors in how alcohol will affect an individual. It is important to remember some alcoholic beverages have an appealing flavor, which may make it seem like the beverage does not contain as much alcohol as another less attractive drink.
  • Consuming Alcohol: Drinking alcohol when sipped can have a different effect on the body, as compared with gulping or chugging the drink. The person drinking may feel pressured to consume more than they can have a non-alcoholic drink or refuse the beverage.
  • BAC and Drinks: One of the ways an individual can keep their blood alcohol concentration level lowered is to drink a non-alcoholic drink in between beverages containing alcohol. It is recommended to limit alcoholic drinks to one per hour.
    • Activity: People who are active when consuming alcoholic beverages on average consume less alcohol than people who sit and drink. Being active will also allow the individual to be more aware of any affects the alcohol may have, such as slurring, vision or mobility issues.
  • Eating: Consuming food while drinking, especially high protein foods like meat or cheese will slow the absorption of the alcohol.
  • Designated Drivers or Transportation: When drinking at a location other than home it is essential for safety and to avoid violating DUI laws to appoint a designated driver, which is a driver who will not be consuming alcoholic beverages, take public transportation or a taxi cab. If an individual is in a private home and becomes intoxicated, they should either have other means of transportation or remain at the residence until they are no longer intoxicated. Even if this means taking the keys of a guest it is safer for them and other motorists.
  • Unfamiliar Alcoholic Beverages: Caution should be used in consuming different spirits, such as mixed drinks since they can be deceiving amounting to alcohol they contain. Drinks should never be left unattended in a public place since they can be tampered with by other individuals. If a glass is left standing, replace it. So don’t continue to consume the drink.
  • Alcohol and Medications: When taking any medication, whether it is an over the counter drug, herbal medication or prescription medication. The effects of alcohol combined with medications can have a different effect and in some cases be dangerous when combined. It is important to consult your physician before consuming alcohol if taking any medication.

Drunk Drivers and the Law

Driving while intoxicated is a violation of the law and DUI drivers who cause an accident can be held criminally liable. In the state of California, the person harmed by a drunk driver has the legal right to bring a civil claim against the DUI driver for the injuries and damages. The Dram Shop Act also makes it possible for the bar, club or another establishment over serving the individual who then operates a motor vehicle can be held liable. The Act outlines the establishment’s responsibility when they should have known or knew a person was intoxicated and should not be operating a vehicle.

This type of civil case can be involved, and the person who has been hurt due to a drunk driver should have legal representation by an accomplished Southern California auto accident attorney. The experienced lawyer should be consulted as soon as possible to protect your rights. In most cases, the DUI driver will be legally considered negligent since they consumed an amount of alcohol that impaired their judgment and ability to safely operate a vehicle. In choosing to drive while intoxicated, the driver has endangered the health and lives of others.

DUI Collisions

The civil case will not have a ruling of intoxication; it will be negligence. The driver even though they were intoxicated was negligent in the act of operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. Driving while intoxicated impairs the driver that can ultimately result in a collision, whether they run a red light or swerve into another lane of traffic making them negligent in their actions.

When bringing a claim against a DUI driver, it is essential especially if liability is in question to obtain proof of the actions of the driver. Police reports can provide evidence involving the drunk driver’s actions under a section entitled Contributory Factors. The police officer at the scene will make a note of the at-fault driver’s actions and how it relates to the cause of the collision. There are some other helpful ways to establish liability involving a DUI driver:

  • When the police arrive at the scene of the crash if you smelled alcohol on the at-fault driver, tell the cops officers. The officers can administer a field sobriety test, even if the negligent driver has used breath spray or gum to cover the odor.
  • Tell police if you have observed the person driving switch seats with someone else in the vehicle. Also, this may be a person that has not been drinking permitting the DUI driver to escape being charged with violation of the law.
  • Tell police if you have observed the driver or passengers in the vehicle have attempted to dispose of beer cans, alcoholic beverage bottles or drugs.
  • The at-fault driver may use eye drops in a bid to conceal bloodshot eyes if you alert police they can question the driver and determine if a field sobriety test should be administered.

Showing a driver was intoxicated at the time of a crash can be challenging and with representation by the accomplished attorneys at Ehline Law Firm they have the resources necessary to build a winning case. The law firm works in close collaboration with toxicology experts and others in assessing the evidence to prove liability by the negligence of the drunk driver. Contact our seasoned lawyers as soon as possible if you have been the unfortunate victim of this accident toll-free at 888-400-9721.

Motorcycle Collision Risks & Construction Zones

Inherent Risks in and Around Active Zones for Bikers.

Construction zones make our modern economy go round. The hustle and bustle of creating new buildings and infrastructure is key to our way of life. This is especially prevalent in California with its large population and cities. While these different zones are key to our development, they also present a unique danger to motorcyclists.

Our lead attorney, Michael Ehline with his bike

No rider is immune to the potential effects of such a zone. The constricted traffic just the beginning of the issues. Driving patterns change in and around construction zones, especially if the area is used to high-speed traffic.

Furthermore, there are physical barriers and tools around the zone itself, some which are not particularly visible. All of these potential hazards add up. Additionally, they were particularly dangerous for motorcyclists. This doubles if the rider is inexperienced or unfamiliar with the area.

How To Recognize the Dangers of Riding Motorcycles and Staying Safe on Surface Streets.

In many ways, riding safely through such construction zones has similar rules to riding safely in other conditions. Like riding through rough weather, often the first instinct is to avoid the area when at all possible. Furthermore, a good rule of thumb is to always ride slow when unfamiliar with the area. Your field of vision as a rider is only so large. Keeping track of where you are headed and making sure that you are riding safely should be your number one priority.

Ehline Law understands the key aspects of riding. Our lead attorney, Michael, is a motorcycle enthusiast and understands the values and concerns of bikers. We don’t talk down to motorcyclists or make them feel like their needs are silly. Our team knows the riding tradition from the ground up and from years of personal experience. For more information about riding safety and tips, please keep reading our column in other parts of the site.

The Morgan Case

Ehline Law Griffin Logo
The Griffin logo of Ehline Law Firm Los Angeles.

Tracy Morgan has become one of the most prominent comedians to enter onto the stage over the last fifteen years. His various Saturday Night Live characters put him on the map, and his role on NBC’s 30 Rock built up his career even further. After starring in several movies, it appeared that the sky was the limit for the young and talented comedian.

But that all changed earlier this year for Morgan. On June 7th Morgan’s limo bus was rear-ended by a Walmart tractor trailer. The resulting collision killed a passenger and injured Morgan. Morgan broke a leg and several ribs but appeared to be on the mend.

However, the full effects of the crash were not immediately noticed. Morgan insisted he was fine after finishing rehab in July. However, the effects of a severe brain injury have led his representatives to state that the actor may never be the same.

Of course, this was a combination of several factors. For starters, Morgan allegedly should have had fastened a seat belt and did not. But those disputed facts in no way exonerates the likely reckless driving of the Walmart, truck driver.

Morgan is suing the corporation in a negligence suit. The Morgan camp believes that the driver fell asleep and even the New Jersey criminal case states that the truck driver was up for at least 24 hours before the collision. The driver, Kevin Roper, pled not guilty to death by auto and assault by auto charges federal transportation safety investigators.

It has become evident that many of Morgan’s actions did not take place as early as should have been. Whether it was due to the debilitating type of injury he sustained or underestimating the true scope of the damage is unknown. In July he said that he was fine when leaving rehab. Like many accident victims, he may have believed that his injuries were limited to the tangible– the broken leg and ribs and less on the mental side. The resulting brain damage can affect him and other severe accident victims for life.

When faced with a similar situation, it is important to have a skilled team of attorneys to properly work with your medical professionals to determine how to proceed. Trying to handle the case by yourself can result in an early settlement or none at all. Keeping care of mental health, especially during such a complicated and rapid-moving time is vital. Don’t let the wild party, their insurance company, or their lawyers tell you otherwise. Click here to learn more.

Are you really in good hands? Are you really in good hands? Are you really in good hands? Are you really in good hands?

What are Some Effects of Bad Faith Insurance Claims?

White Collar Crime
Attorney in suit is arrested and handcuffed behind his back for white collar crime.

Boom! The aftermath of a car accident, slip or fall, or another type of injury can have many effects. For example, your vehicle bumper was hit in the rear; you have comprehensive, collision and even uninsured motorist protection.

No matter what, the road to recovery is a long one for the victims of injuries. Both those that were hurt and those that are sued inappropriately fall back on their insurance companies for assistance in this trying time. After all of the years of paying in for increasing premiums, shouldn’t it be time for the insurance companies and their attorneys to assist the insured when needed?

Not so Fast

Unfortunately, as many victims have discovered, many insurance companies try to reduce their risk or out and out deny claims to protect their pocketbook. The company has signed a contract with you to kick in when an event such as an unexpected lawsuit or severe injury occurs. If they are acting in bad faith, then you have every reason to challenge them.

If you believe that your insurance company is just denying you to try and save money or violating the terms of your policy, they may be acting in bad faith. There have been repeated cases where companies attempt to settle for far too little for their clients to avoid other costs. Or they may try to drop the case altogether. When faced with such a problem, the company must be held to account.

In some cases, you may be limited to the UM, or UIM portion since the other party at fault carried only minimum limits. And this is typical in an auto accident case. An example could be that your own Med Pay covered $2000 in medical bills. But your total damages far exceed the available coverages under your own UM/UIM.

So let’s say you got the defendant’s policy limits of $15,000. But let’s pretend your damages are $100,000. Your Underinsured (UIM) coverages are only $25,000. So this means you are entitled to the remaining $10,000 under your UIM. But as stated, “not so fast.” In fact, you may have a terribly rated insurance company such as Robert Moreno Insurance. (See their Google ratings here.).

In that case, they may argue that they are entitled to be reimbursed the $2,000 in med pay from the UIM. So this leaves you with $8,000. That hardly makes you whole, not even close.

Of course, you could emphasize to the adjuster the fact that the policy language does not expressly abrogate the made whole doctrine. And because of this, at a minimum, a full credit of $2,000 should not be permitted.

And this is based upon the common fund doctrine. And that also was not specifically waived within the four corners of the policy. There’s the argument. Good luck!

What is the Common Fund?

The common fund doctrine allows for a reduction in attorney’s fees and pro rata share of costs. That is, the lien claims must be reduced by the same percentage for attorney fees as the client is being charged, and the lien claimant must cut for their proportionate share of the costs incurred by your customer.

Common fund doctrine applies to reduce a carrier’s claim for med pay reimbursement by its pro rata share of plaintiff’s attorney’s fees and costs. (See e.g., Lee v. State Farm 57 Cal.App.3d 458 (1976).)

 In California, this reduction is also reflected in California Civ. Code section 3040(f) which states: A lien subject to subdivision (a) or (b) is subject to pro rata reduction, commensurate with the enrollee’s or insured’s reasonable attorney’s fees and costs, in accordance with the common fund doctrine.

Made Whole Doctrine

If the value of the claim exceeds the amount available per the Underinsured Motorist coverage plus the med pay, then no credit is appropriate. The contract language demonstrates that the insurer has not contracted around certain defenses, such as the “made-whole” or common fund doctrines.

The make whole rule basically states that a lien claimant cannot assert its contractual right to repayment from the insured’s recovery against the third party tortfeasor if the total amount available from the insurance and the third party is insufficient to compensate the full loss suffered by the insured. (See also Sapiano v. Williamsburg National Insurance Company 28 Cal.App.4th 533 (1994).)

In Progressive West Ins. Co. v Yolo County Superior Court, 37 Cal. Rptr. 3d 434 (2005), the court held that in personal injury cases, to preserve its right of subrogation, the med pay insurer must either interplead itself into any action brought by the insured against the third party tortfeasor or wait to seek reimbursement. And this would be under the language of its policy from its insured to the extent that the insured recovers money from the third party. (citing Plut v. Fireman’s Fund Ins. Co., 85 Cal.App.4th 98, 104 (2000); Hodge v. Kirkpatrick Dev., Inc., Cal.App.4th 540,. 548 (2005)). Id at 442.)

 “Thus, when an insurer elects not to participate in the insured’s action against a tortfeasor, the insurer is entitled to subrogation only after the insured has recouped his loss and some or all of his litigation expenses incurred in the action against the tortfeasor.” Id.

Additionally, 21st Century Insurance Co. v. Superior Court (Quintana), 47 Cal.4th 511 (2009), concluded that the made whole rule applies in the med pay insurance context, and the insured must be made whole as to all damages proximately caused by the injury, but liability for attorney fees is not included under the made whole rule. Those fees instead are subject to a separate equitable apportionment rule (or pro rata sharing) that is analogous to the common fund. Id at 515. Thus, attorney’s fees are not taken into account when determining whether your client was made whole, but are taken into account when taking the common fund reduction.

As stated above, there are some policies that specifically waive any rights to argue the make whole doctrine. But to constitute a valid waiver of the make whole doctrine, a “contractual provision that intends to vitiate this rule must ‘clearly and specifically [give] the insurer a priority out of proceeds from the tortfeasor regardless whether the insured was first made whole.'” Progressive West Ins. Co. v Yolo County Superior Court, supra, 37 Cal. Rptr. 3d at 443. If the language does not meet this standard, the make whole doctrine has not been waived and therefore is still applicable.

Even if a policy includes valid language waiving make whole, many insurers will consider the equities of the situation, regardless of whether it is allowed by the policy or not.  The equities in this case warrant no offset for the med pay benefits. Often your own insurance agent has little or no bearing on your case and cannot push the right buttons. Of course, this is just one of many examples of the complexities of a first party claim. You may also with to seek an assignment of rights from the person who caused your injury against their own insurer.

There may be some other case where your own insurer is simply blowing you off, failing to defend, let alone indemnify your claim. You simply are unprepared and untrained to battle your own adjustor, who is trained to make you feel small and insignificant.

Instead, the company needs to be pressured by a legal professional. The large corporations can make even more money by refusing claims that it led the policy holder to believe would be covered.

If you or a loved one is being faced with claim denial, smaller than expected settlement offers, lack of protection against lawsuits. And if there are violations of your policy, you shouldn’t act alone. The big companies’ teams of lawyers are meant to get the little guy to give up and drop their rightful claims.

A legal expert can assist at the right time. Ehline Law has handled the big insurance corporations before and know how to make them pay out the money that they promised you. Let us do the heavy lifting and help you recover.

Let’s work

Ehline Law Firm
Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC

633 W 5th St #2890
Los Angeles, CA 90071

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