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Exploding airbags lead to wrongful death lawsuit

Recent news has brought many stories of deaths caused by defective car parts, ranging from ignition switches to, most recently, air bags. Takata Corp. and Honda Motor Co. are to be the defendants in lawsuits filed alleging their responsibility for exploding airbag deaths. Manufacturers are now recalling millions of vehicles for the defect.

The risk of Takata Corp. produced airbags exploding and spraying metal shards inside the vehicle, putting the driver and passengers at risk of serious injuries, first received official response in January 2014. Various automakers worldwide have recalled nearly 16 million cars to address this issue. The first known instances of the problem in fact occurred as early as 2008.

In Orlando, Fla., Hien Tran’s family recently filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Takata and Honda. On Sept. 29, Tran’s vehicle collided with another car and the airbag exploded. She died three days after the accident. The statement of claim suggests Honda failed in its duty to keep customers safe by warning them about the potential danger of the airbags, despite Honda’s awarenesss of the issue. The company knew of at least eight serious airbag injuries between 2009 and 2014.

What initially baffled investigators about this accident was the fact that Tran had stablike wounds, causing an accident investigation to become, temporarily, a homicide case. Those wounds, later determined to be airbag shrapnel by the Medical Examiner, contributed to her death. Neither corporation has commented to the media, other than to indicate that owners of recalled vehicles need to get their vehicles fixed as soon as they can.

There have been at least four deaths in the U.S. linked to Takata airbags in Honda vehicles. Shockingly, the Tran statement of claim also alleged an email from Honda headquarters suggesting dealers not contact customers about the issue, as there were not enough replacement parts.

Any California residents who may have been in an accident and been hit by flying metal shrapnel from the airbag, contact an experienced personal injury attorney to potentially file a lawsuit for wrongful death and for knowingly installing a defective product in vehicles and not warning consumers in order to receive compensation for injuries.

Another GM ignition switch failure kills youth

Another wrongful death lawsuit has been filed on behalf of a 23-year-old man killed in December 2013. 

The young man was driving a 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt that crossed the center line and collided head-on with a school bus. The crash investigation revealed that the cause was linked to GM’s defective ignition switch.

The defective switch allows the key to slip from the “run” to “off” position while the vehicle is in operation. Once this happens, the vehicle abruptly loses engine power, the airbag system is disabled and steering and braking power are lost. Many of these incidents have led to the death of the vehicle’s driver and others involved.

This death could have been prevented. GM covered up the known ignition switch defect and failed to report the issue to the government or the public. Had the company conducted itself ethically, many lives would have been saved.
So far, more than 17.1 million vehicles have been recalled for a defective ignition switch.

Wrongful death lawsuit names Vacaville Police as defendants 

Last year, Vacaville police shot and killed a mentally ill Fairfield man. His family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the police department and the city, claiming that the police were aware that the 23-year-old man had a mental illness when they pursued him in a low-speed chase in July 2013. It further alleges that they used excessive force and questionable tactics that could be considered recklessly provocative, and that this force and those tactics led to the man’s death.

The victim was shot three times as he approached police officials. The officers involved in the shooting have indicated that he approached them in a threatening, aggressive manner and was carrying a knife and a framing hammer or crowbar. Other details provided by the police suggest that the man was acting in a bizarre manner and making threats. When speeding, he refused to pull over, and, as such, became involved in the low-speed chase.
The police used their vehicles stop the man with a ramming PIT maneuver. The young man was seen to lean over to the passenger’s side of the vehicle. He then allegedly got out carrying potential weapons. Some witnesses at the scene have stated that the man did not have anything in his hands at all. One officer fired five times, hitting the man in the arm, chest and hip.

The lawsuit alleges that the victim was shot a mere five seconds after exiting the vehicle, and that the police did not follow proper enforcement protocol and training on safe handling of an emotionally/mentally disturbed individual.

There are a number of unanswered questions and many allegations that do not appear to make sense. While the young man refused to pull over, the chase that ensued stayed at low speeds. There are distinct size and visual differences between a crowbar and framing hammer, and reports of the victim holding anything at all have been inconsistent. It is hard to predict what a court will decide, but in this wrongful death case, the man’s parents are hoping to send a message to the police department: they need to take responsibility for their actions and speak truthfully.

Twenty-three seconds may mean the difference between life and death

It is illegal to text and drive. It is dangerous and deadly—period. It’s not just California that recognizes the dangers of distracted driving, either. A recent survey conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that texting while driving doubles the risk of an almost accident or actual crash. It also revealed that texters have their eyes off the road for up to 23 seconds.

Anything can and does happen in those 23 seconds, which may mean the difference between serious, life-altering injuries and/or death.

There are three types of distractions while driving—cognitive, manual and visual—and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say texting is an extremely serious distraction because it involves all three types of distractions. Not many people seem to “get it” though, and in a phone survey conducted by the NHTSA of over 6,000 drivers 18 years of age and older, just about one-fifth of the participants said they sent texts or emails while driving.

A further 25 percent also said this did not affect their performance behind the wheel. If traffic accident statistics in all of the states across America are examined closely, this statement is hardly accurate.

Driving while distracted is negligence. Negligence can be the foundation for a wrongful death lawsuit that may financially break you. Is it worth the life of another and financial ruin to send texts while driving? For the lives of others and your own life, it can wait.

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.

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.

Gadgets Increase Odds of Vehicle Accidents

If you drive and text at the same time, you risk a serious or fatal accident. You could lose your life — and you could kill someone else — because you could not wait to make a call later. Drinking and driving risk awareness is well-supported, but texting and driving, talking and driving and surfing the web and driving are just as deadly.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving killed 3,328 people and injured 421,000 more in 2013. In 2009, 13 percent of all drivers surveyed admitted to checking the internet while driving. By 2013, that figure had jumped to 24 percent. Furthermore, at least 50 percent of those under the age of 25 have driven while distracted. Some even feel those estimates are too low; figures could stand closer to 91 percent for drivers of all ages. But in spite of these numbers, people keep their eyes on their phones.

As you read this, 660,000 drivers are using mobile devices, adjusting them, talking on them, and programming or texting. If every one of them got into an accident, there would be a lot of people dead by the end of this sentence. Some of them have children in their cars. In 2011, the NHTSA calculated that 1.1 million collisions took place across the country. 213,000 to 694,000 of them were caused by texting. Current measurements are far from exact. Texting and distraction accidents are often difficult to prove after the fact.
Imagine driving 65 mph down one of the busiest freeways in California while blindfolded. No one would do that, right? The fact is, by texting or doing anything other than driving, you can’t see where you are going. Your eyes are not on the road and other vehicles. Your head is bobbing up and down, looking into your lap at your phone.

Now, police seize cell phones and other mobile devices immediately after a wreck to check for calls/texts sent around the time of the collision. In the case of a fatal wreck, search warrants are issued for phones. However, investigations still do not show whether a driver was using the internet via phone before his or her crash. A great many accidents cannot be confirmed as distraction events, so some may feel free to text and drive without the risk of being “caught”. Unfortunately, getting caught is the least of their worries. Their decision may cost them their lives.

Questionable Tech Innovations: Transparent Windshields With Smartphone Display

The more gadgets and distractions there are in a vehicle, the higher its crash rate becomes. The addition of even more technology will not address driver safety. And yet, despite the 1.6 million accidents already directly related to texting while driving, some continue to insist that added technology is the key to saving lives on the road. In truth, only a distraction-free driving environment can make the roads safer.

Newly proposed “safety” technology would integrate a transparent windshield section with a driver’s smartphone. Navigation prompts, calls and even texts would appear on the windshield outside the driver’s primary line of vision. Gesture controls, combined with voice commands, would allow the driver to keep his or her eyes on the road and away from a mobile device.

But instead of looking at their phones, these drivers would still be glancing away to different areas of their windshields, trying to read incoming texts. They cannot drive safety as they try to read scrolling text, even with the road as a background. This new technology poses additional risk. It does not offer additional safety. This latest innovation is meant to keep people connected and safe while driving, but any technology that distracts a driver should never be called “safe.”

Would “heads-up,” connected driving result in fewer accidents? Some would say so, but the accident statistics say otherwise.

Text Messaging on the Road: The Serious Dangers of Texting a Driver

If a texting driver is involved an accident, is the person who sent them that text responsible? The answer may surprise you.

Texting while driving is deadly — period. But what about the person who sent the text to which the driver is replying? Do they share responsibility with the driver? According to a New Jersey appellate court, yes: the initiating texter should share responsibility for an accident in some cases.

The bellwether case involved Linda and David Kubert, who each lost a leg in a collision with Kyle Best in 2009. At that time, the state’s laws did not have criminal penalties for texting while driving. The Kuberts sued both Best and his texting partner, Shannon Colonna, stating that she shared responsibility for the wreck. At trial, the Kuberts’ claim against Colonna was dismissed, but the decision was later appealed.

On appeal, the court upheld the initial decision to dismiss the case against the young woman because the plaintiffs had not proven beyond reasonable doubt that she knew Best was driving and texting at the time of the accident. However, they did find that the plaintiff’s argument held merit. They agreed that an individual sending texts has a duty to refrain from sending them to someone he or she knows to be behind the wheel.

The ramifications of this decision could be quite interesting, even as a civil (and not criminal) case. Prosecutors may one day call upon this decision to charge the sender of a text as an accessory to reckless driving. Make sure you set your phone aside while driving, or while speaking with someone who is. Your conversation is not worth the possible consequences of texting and driving.

Household Family Members Exclusions in Motorists Insurance

Some motorist insurance policies contain an exclusion of liability and uninsured coverage for members of an insured’s household or family. Where these exclusions are enforceable, they would prohibit, for example, a husband, who was a passenger in a car driven by his wife, from recovering benefits under her insurance policy for injuries he suffered in an auto accident that she caused. One reason given for denying insurance coverage for members of an insured’s household or family is a perceived difficulty of defending a lawsuit brought by an insured’s household or family member against the insured.

Whether household and family exclusions are valid and enforceable in a particular state depends upon the decisions of the state’s courts. Some courts have upheld the validity of these exclusions because they do not violate the state’s public policy or state insurance laws. Other states have ruled that the exclusions are invalid because they do violate public policy and insurance laws. Some states enforce the exclusions as to liability coverage but not uninsured coverage.

Even though a state court finds these exclusions valid, it might conclude that they do not apply to the parties in a particular case. The court must decide whether the injured person is a family or household member of the insured under the motorist insurance policy. In one case, a court would not expand the definition of the term household to include unrelated roommates. In another case, a court found that a college student, who was injured in an auto accident caused by her father, the insured, was not a resident of his household. The student had become a resident of the state in which she attended college and only returned to her father’s house for holidays.

Therefore, exclusions in a motorist insurance policy that deny coverage to members of an insured’s family or household may or may not be valid in a particular case. Further, several factors must be considered before an injured party may be found to be a member of an insured’s family or household. It is best to check current case law before accepting that these exclusions in a motorist insurance policy bar an injured person’s recovery from the insured’s policy.