Can I Claim Punitive Damages in a Car Accident Case?

It can happen in an instant. The screech of the tires, the flash of the lights, the force of the impact. 

But what happens after the accident? If you or a loved one have experienced a personal injury due to someone else’s driving, you are entitled to pursue damages from the responsible party. However, you need to be aware that there are two categories of damages that you have a right to pursue.

The at-fault driver — or their insurance company — is required by law to pay what are known as compensatory damages for any injury or damage that a victim incurs. This is what most car insurance covers, and it is intended to compensate the victim for any immediate financial losses they have suffered. 

There are scenarios, however, in which the victim may also wish to pursue punitive damages — a personal injury lawsuit — against the person liable.

Why Should I Pursue Punitive Damages?

In cases of grave injury or wrongful death resulting from reckless behavior, barely recovering compensation for financial losses may not be adequate. If it can be shown that the responsible party acted in a manner they knew to be dangerous, the victim may be entitled to file a civil suit to recover further damages as well as to impose a legal punishment against the offender. 

A car accident can have life-altering effects on a person and their family. If the offending party has shown disregard for the safety of others, it is sometimes necessary to pursue punitive damages to deter any further misconduct. Precedent can also be set to deter others who may think about engaging in such reckless behavior.

3 Most Common Examples of Reckless Driving

1. Known Mechanical Problems

If a driver knowingly operates a vehicle that has serious mechanical issues and injury results, it may be considered reckless driving. 

For example, if a driver was aware that their car’s engine stalled at high speeds and they drove it on the freeway and it caused an accident, the victim could have grounds on which to pursue punitive damages. This is one reason why the state of California has very clear standards that a vehicle must meet during its safety inspection.

2. Racing/Chicken

The second scenario is probably the most common. Street racing, games of chicken, and other such reckless undertakings are some of the leading causes of traffic fatalities and injuries. 

Participants in these activities show a blatant disregard for traffic safety laws and for the innocent bystanders who may get injured as a result of their actions. It often results in multi-car collisions and injury, and can often involve pedestrians and bicyclists. Fortunately, it is one of the easier cases to prove in court.

3. DUI/DWI

While this seems like the most obvious scenario in which a victim could claim damages, it actually requires a slightly higher burden of proof on the victim. If a person was aware that serious injury or death could be a result of their driving a vehicle while inebriated or impaired, the victim may have a claim to punitive damages. These cases are a little harder to prove, and having a good attorney is key.

Contact Hann Law 

Filing a personal injury lawsuit doesn’t have to be a traumatic experience, itself. When faced with the burden of having to choose this option, a personal injury attorney is your best bet.

If you find yourself in this position, contact the attorneys at Hann Law. We will help you in your time of need and we will fight to help you get the justice you deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Injured as a Rideshare Driver? Who’s at Fault?

Driving for a rideshare service like Uber or Lyft is a great way to earn money. But insurance and liability can get tricky quickly for gig workers and independent contractors. 

In the case of an accident or injury, determining who’s at fault and who’s liable for coverage requires a careful look at several factors. 

Rideshare drivers should know their rights and responsibilities and know when to seek help. Whether you’ve recently been injured or want to prepare yourself for such an event just in case, let’s take a look at what you need to know.

Rideshare Drivers are Independent Contractors

Most rideshare drivers aren’t considered employees of the companies that pay them to drive. Instead, they are independent contractors providing a service for the company. 

Typical liability protections extended to employees injured on the job may not always apply to rideshare drivers. A careful review of the employment contract and local law is required to determine when such protections are valid.

Drivers Are Required to be Insured

All drivers must be insured to operate a motor vehicle. Companies that require employees to drive often provide insurance coverage for cars their staff use. But independent contractors are typically required to maintain private, personal insurance and meet coverage minimums. For example, in California, all drivers must have:

  • $15,000 of bodily injury coverage per person injured in an accident
  • $30,000 of bodily injury coverage per accident
  • $5,000 of property damage per accident

Liability Changes Based on Vehicle Use

There’s a difference between driving your car for personal use and driving it as a rideshare vehicle. As a rideshare driver turns on their app and begins work, there are several distinct phases, each with different liability requirements. For example, California defines four periods:

  • Period 0

The rideshare app is off. In this period, drivers are considered private vehicle operators, and their private insurances are liable for injury or accident.

  • Period 1

The driver is logged into the rideshare app and ready to work but hasn’t been paired with a ride request or picked up any passengers. During this period, the drivers’ private insurance is still the primary coverage, but the rideshare company may provide additional coverage to help drivers meet minimum coverage requirements.

  • Periods 2 and 3

Period 2 is when a driver gets paired with a ride request, and Period 3 is when the driver has a customer in their vehicle. During these periods, the rideshare companies provide more comprehensive coverage for both the driver and passenger. However, injury or damage claims still target the driver’s private insurance first, even during periods 2 and 3.

Laws Vary From State to State

The situation is even more complicated as different states have different requirements and laws regarding rideshare insurance and liability. While there are some federal laws and guidelines, many states have adopted more specific regulations as the rideshare economy has grown and evolved. If you’ve suffered an injury while driving for a rideshare company, you’ll need guidance to understand all of the local level rules and laws governing your insurance claim.

Help is Available

When you’re dealing with the stress of recovering from an injury, the last thing you need is a complicated insurance process creating frustration and uncertainty. With the layered and nuanced nature of rideshare regulations, it is best to get the help of some experts in your area who can help you get the compensation you deserve.

At Hann Law Firm, our purpose is to advocate for you in the face of these challenges. We’ll get you the compensation you need to heal and move forward with your life. Fighting for fair treatment from insurance companies and big businesses can seem like an uphill battle, but we’ll protect your interests every step of the way. We have a long, proven track record of success in San Jose and throughout California – you can trust us when it’s most important. Contact us today and let us fight for you.

Motor Vehicle Accidents More Likely With Older Models

In California and across the U.S., car crashes more commonly happen with vehicles that are older than 10 years. These older vehicles are often involved in fatal or preventable crashes because owners fail to do routine maintenance, according to the Ohio Highway Patrol.

In one study of the last three years, older vehicles were involved in the majority of vehicle defect-related crashes. According to the Ohio Highway Patrol, 56% of accidents were caused by defective equipment in vehicles with model years from 1999 to 2008. Only 24% of accidents caused by defective equipment happened in vehicles with model years from 2009 to 2018.

The most common causes of motor vehicle accidents were blown tires and brakes that failed. Blown tires caused 42% of fatal crashes. These accidents could have been prevented with regular vehicle maintenance.

According to the Ohio Insurance Institute, the average vehicle age is 11.8 years, and that is the highest it has ever been. The average vehicle age has been steadily increasing since 2002 when the number was 9.6 years. These figures reflect the fact that drivers are keeping vehicles longer, and some vehicles can last for 15 years and go up to 300,000 miles. One of the reasons that drivers keep vehicles longer is because it is more expensive to repair and replace parts on newer vehicles. An example is a bumper that would cost $200 to repair on an older vehicle and now costs $1,000 on a newer vehicle.

With more older vehicles on the road today, the likelihood of being in a motor vehicle accident has increased. Car accidents can result in serious or debilitating injuries that can last a lifetime as well as cause job loss and excessive medical bills. When an individual is a victim of a motor vehicle accident, it may be important to have a personal injury lawyer to fight for just compensation.

Crash Risk Higher For Teens Who Have A Peer As A Passenger

Teenagers are inexperienced drivers and can be distracted even by other people in the car, especially when those people happen to be their friends. California parents should know that teens run a 44% higher risk for a car crash when they invite just one peer to be a passenger. This is according to research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

For this reason, experts recommend that teens keep from having any young passengers for at least six months after obtaining their license. If parents can get them to do this for the first year, then all the better.

However, parents should not make an allowance for siblings. Though it can be convenient to have teens pick up and drop off their siblings in lieu of the parents, this is actually more dangerous than having a friend in the car. A younger sibling could easily get the older sibling excited or angry, which means a greater chance for inattentive driving.

Parents may want to set up restrictions when it comes to having their teens ride in a friend’s car. For example, if the friend is newly licensed and they intend to make a long trip, parents should give their disapproval. The possibility of night driving is another factor that parents may want to consider.

School Start Times May Affect Safety Of Teen Drivers

Teenagers require 8 to 10 hours of sleep a day, and they usually need to sleep late into the day as well. What time school starts in the morning, then, can influence how much sleep teens get. This, in turn, can affect things like academic performance, mental health and, as one study suggests, safety behind the wheel. California residents should know that later school start times may lead to fewer car crashes involving teens.

The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine published a study that focused on the change that Fairfax County, Virginia, made to its school start times back in the fall of 2015. Specifically, it pushed back the start times from 7:20am to 8:10am. Researchers calculated, for the year before the change and the year after it, the rate of car crashes involving licensed drivers between the age of 16 and 18. They saw the rate decline from 31.63 to 29.59 crashes per 1,000 drivers.

Incidentally, the rest of Virginia, which did not alter school start times, saw the same steady rate of teen car crashes. Researchers noted that teens who get more sleep are less likely to drive distracted or engage in other risky behavior. The AASM has echoed these thoughts and actually recommends that middle and high schools start at 8:30am or later.

Preventing distracted driving is so important in this period of increasing smartphone and in-vehicle technology use. It is a form of negligence, and when it is behind motor vehicle accidents, those who were injured and who contributed little or nothing to their injuries can be eligible for compensation. To learn more about how their case holds up under personal injury law, victims usually see a lawyer. A lawyer may be especially helpful when it comes to negotiating a settlement.

Cities With The Highest Motor Vehicle Accidents Rates

Thousands of motor vehicle accidents happen in California every year. While many of these accidents are relatively minor, some cause serious injuries or deaths. Certain areas are more prone to accidents, according to a recent study.

Study of accident patterns

Go Safe Labs, which is a nonprofit based in San Francisco, analyzed almost 2 million car accidents by reviewing accident reports from 2018 and 2019. Researchers then took the data by location and date to determine the 10 cities in the U.S. with the highest rates of accidents. Researchers also used latitude and longitude to determine the 10 spots with the highest risks of accidents.

Cities with the highest number of accidents

Houston, Texas, had the highest number of accidents with 22,118 in 2019. Houston was followed by Charlotte, North Carolina, with 21,818. Los Angeles came in third with 19,660 accidents. Rounding out the top 10 cities were Austin and Dallas, Texas; Raleigh, North Carolina; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Nashville, Tennessee; and Phoenix, Arizona. Nationally, accidents increased by 6% from 2018 to 2019.

Avoiding accidents

One possible reason why Los Angeles had so many motor vehicle accidents in 2019 is traffic congestion on its roads and highways. People who drive on Californias roads should exercise caution at all times and take steps to prevent accidents. They should obey the traffic laws, keep their eyes focused on the roads and avoid distracted, drunk and drowsy driving. When people are seriously injured in accidents that are caused by the actions of other motorists, they might be entitled to recover compensation by filing personal injury lawsuits.
Experienced motor vehicle accidents lawyers might review the police reports, scene photographs, medical reports and other evidence from collisions to assess the merits of potential claims. If they agree to accept the representation of a victim, the attorneys may be able to negotiate with the insurance companies for their clients to try to secure damages in amounts that fairly compensate the victims for all of the economic and non-economic losses that have been suffered.

Multi-Vehicle Accidents, And How To Prove Fault

Proving negligence in a car accident can be difficult, and it becomes even more so in the case of a multi-vehicle accidents. Residents of California may do well to know what the process is like, though. Negligence, first of all, is a legal concept referring to a persons failure to exercise reasonable care.

Multi-vehicle crashes are often a series of rear-end collisions and can be caused by drivers who speed, follow too closely to the vehicle in front and commit other negligent acts. In the case of two-rear end collisions, the first driver, Driver A, might be blameless while the two behind him or her can be held to be at fault if they were negligent.

However, it often turns out that the driver in the middle, Driver B, did nothing wrong and that the negligence of a Driver C caused Driver B to collide with Driver A. In that case, Driver A holds Driver C responsible. Driver B may also file a claim against Driver C.

To prove negligence, one will need plenty of evidence. This can include the police reports and any physical evidence at the crash site, including skid marks and vehicle debris. Eyewitness testimony, such as from passers-by or from the passengers in the cars that collided, can be helpful as well.

When victims of motor vehicle accidents want to see if they are eligible for compensation under personal injury law, they usually see a lawyer for a case evaluation. This may help them decide if they should file a claim. The filing process can be complicated, but a lawyer may handle every step, especially the negotiating of a settlement out of court. A successful claim may cover victims for past and future medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and more.

Truckers More Likely To Crash With The More Caffeine They Use

High amounts of caffeine over the short term can help truckers through the day, but if this becomes a habit, it may raise the risk for an accident. One study suggests a link between high caffeine use and higher crash risk, though future studies will be needed to prove any cause-effect relationship. California drivers may nonetheless be interested to hear the results, which were published in the journal Safety Science.

The study involved 3,007 truck drivers from eight different states, including California. These truckers were chosen specifically because of their caffeine-using habits. On the one hand were those who consume a single cup, glass or pill of a caffeinated product every day. On the other hand were those who consume over five of them.

Asked in a questionnaire about their health, the high caffeine users reported poorer health overall. This included poor sleep, an unhealthy diet and a habit of smoking. Researchers also asked if they were in a crash in the past three years: 27.8% of the high caffeine users said yes, which was significantly more than the first group (21.6%).

Again, correlation does not mean causation, but researchers are confident that the link will only become clearer with time. Future studies can focus, for example, on the tipping point where caffeine consumption leads to unsafe behavior.

Truckers could cause motor vehicle crashes because they are drowsy, intoxicated, distracted or negligent in some other way. Victims of such negligence may be able to seek compensatory damages, but they may want to consult an attorney in advance. Personal injury attorneys usually have a network of investigators and other third parties who can bring together proof of the defendants negligence. Victims may then have their attorney negotiate on their behalf.

Multi-vehicle Fatal Accident Leaves 2 Dead

Practicing safe driving habits like removing distractions and always wearing a seat belt can potentially help reduce a persons risk of being involved in an accident. Unfortunately, being a safe driver does not address at least one issue other drivers. A recent fatal accident on a California highway demonstrates just how difficult it is to avoid unexpected dangers on the road.

At approximately 5:20 a.m., a 52-year-old man somehow left his lane and struck the divider separating the two sides of the freeway. After striking the divider the car came to a stop across multiple lanes of traffic, including the fast lane. A pickup truck that had been traveling in the same direction could not stop in time to avoid a collision. The driver who initially wrecked his car suffered fatal injuries when he was thrown from the vehicle.
Several other vehicles were also involved in the wreck. After the pickup truck collided with the first wrecked car, there was not enough time for a 25-year-old man on a motorcycle to maneuver out of the fast lane or slow to a stop. He hit the pickup and and was thrown off his motorcycle. This young man also died at the scene of the accident. Three other vehicles collided with the other cars after that, but the driver of the pickup truck was the only person who had to be taken to the hospital for injuries.

A multi-vehicle fatal accident causes so much more than just an unfortunate death. Friends and family members are left behind to handle the devastating aftermath, much of which is both emotional and financial. California families need time to grieve their losses, but are often so caught up in finding money for funeral expenses or making ends meet that doing so is simply not possible. Families can address these issues through wrongful death claims, which can still be filed even if the negligent driver also died in the accident.

Research Demonstrates Link Between Music And Car Accidents

Musicians from all walks of life and genres have immortalized the state of California in song. While music is certainly an important part of the state, it could also be making the roads more dangerous. Scientists recently demonstrated that songs with certain BPM levels beats per minute influence drivers to engage in more risky behaviors while behind the wheel. This means that listening to certain types of music could actually increase the risk of car accidents.

The study was conducted with participants who were asked to drive on a simulated, six-lane road. Researchers had participants either listen to music or drive in silence, then observed their driving behaviors. One of the main points of data the scientists looked at was how often participants changed lanes.

On average, the study participants switched lanes 20 times for every 70 minutes behind the wheel. However, since this was the average number of lane changes, some groups switched much more often and others much less. The group that had the highest number of lane switches were those that listened to high-tempo music of 120 BPM or more, who averaged double the average number of lane changes and drove at least 5 mph over the limit. The popular song American Idiot by Green Day was determined to be the most dangerous driving song, followed by Miley Cyrus Party in the USA and The Killers Mr. Brightside.

Music is an integral part of many peoples lives, but it can be dangerous. For example, if a driver chooses to focus on the music coming out of the radio instead of on the road, he or she would be putting other drivers in danger. However, in California it is possible for distracted and dangerous drivers who cause car accidents tobe held accountable for their actions. This is usually accomplished through successfully pursued personal injury claims.