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Toyota lost its case in Oklahoma in a battle over a sudden-acceleration accident. Could losses follow in California?

Toyota won its first three cases in the class-action lawsuit brought by vehicle owners who were injured or died in serious accidents when their vehicle escaped control. Then, a verdict in Oklahoma took the wind out of its sails.

In an attempt to manage the sheer number of cases brought against it, Toyota has agreed to pay a $1.6 billion settlement.

Even though Toyota has offered a settlement, hundreds of cases, both wrongful death lawsuits and personal injury cases, are still pending. Most of these legal battles have been consolidated in California courts. However, with the decision to proceed to a settlement, litigation is suspended. In January, a hearing began in the United States District Court for the Central District of California in Santa Ana, California. Settlement conferences began in February.

Since 2009, the automaker has recalled over 11 million Lexus and Toyota vehicles for stuck accelerators and other issues. The large scale of the recall and the number of people injured or dead as a result of company negligence prompted Toyota to offer the settlement following its Oklahoma loss. If the company pursued its court battles, it would need to prove that a vehicle defect did not cause sudden acceleration in each. That would prove difficult, as the installation of Toyota’s ETCS-I system, which controlled the engine throttle electronically (not manually) caused a staggering number of accidents.

If you have been involved in a situation like this one, speak to a personal injury attorney about your rights. A major auto manufacturer may be involved, but that does not mean you cannot win a verdict in your favor.

Sexual assault disproportionately common against immigrant laborers

When unregistered immigrants are sexually assaulted, they are often loath to report their attackers. Many victims depend upon their perpetrators for employment and livelihood. In some cases, the aggressor threatens to report a victim to immigration authorities if he or she does not comply with sexual demands. Workers trying to support their families do not want to be deported, so they stay silent.

Every day in Kern County, California and in other parts of the United States, female workers are attacked. One abusive foreman repeatedly assaulted a young mother of four at their place of work, appearing behind her and fondling her breasts and back without her consent. Eventually, he began to isolate her in a vineyard to pick grapes alone and to approach her there. She told the foreman that she was not interested in his advances, but he indicated that if she said anything to anyone about them, he would report her and get her deported.

The foreman escalated his advances in the vineyard. His victim stayed silent, but the physical, mental and emotional upheaval in her life took its toll. When he plunged his hands down into her underwear to grab her buttocks, she finally reported him. The main contractor and company supervisor ultimately decided it was only her word against the foreman’s, and they claimed they could do nothing. She quit her job and locked herself in the house, afraid to go to work anywhere else for fear of another assault.

According to Human Rights Watch, thousands of girls and women face a high risk of sexual harassment and sexual violence in workplaces where their employers do not protect them. In some workplaces, men have power over undocumented workers. Rape is a common event.

To date, no criminal charges have been filed against any company or foreman for sexual harassment in Kern County, but one of the largest vineyards there has agreed to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation suit and to make changes to company policies. One supervisor in San Benito County has been convicted for sexual abuse. A case is pending in Madera County, and charges have been laid for two counts of rape in Chowchilla.

Sexual harassment is never legal or morally permissible. If it has happened to you, there are support systems in place to help. Contact a knowledgeable harassment lawyer to assist you in standing up for your rights.

Hit-and-run fatality raises HOV lane concerns

Driving on an Interstate highway is dangerous. More often than not, you see at least one accident in your travels. You may even be involved in one. Accidents happen for a multitude of reasons: distracted driving, road conditions, traffic congestion, semi truck instability, lane closures and reckless driving, just to name a few.

Interstate 405 in Culver City, Los Angeles County, was the scene of a hit-and-run fatality involving a 24-year-old motorcyclist riding in the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane. A driver, attempting to switch into the HOV lane, sideswiped the biker, sending him into the center divider wall. The driver of the car claims she did not see the motorcycle. The motorcyclist died five hours later from major head trauma.

The driver stopped to check on the biker, but she fled seconds before the police arrived. Several eyewitnesses, including a second injured biker, were able to identify the suspect. She was arrested.

Among other concerns, HOV lane rules are at issue in the case. In Northern California, the lanes are only restricted to high-occupancy vehicles from Monday to Friday during posted peak hours. Outside peak hours, other vehicles may use the lanes, a situation referred to as “part-time operation”. In Southern California, the HOV lanes are usually separated from other lanes by a buffer and restrict access full-time.

Misuse of HOV lanes rates a minimum fine of $490. HOV lanes are meant to reduce traffic on the roads, encouraging carpooling and reducing air pollution. However, according to a recent study on the lanes, researchers discovered sideswipe and rear-end collisions dominated the accident totals there by more than 90 percent.

Speak to a car injury lawyer if you have been in such an accident. You may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.