Can I Recover for PTSD Damages in a Car Accident Personal Injury Case?

August 30, 2017 Auto Accidents

The most obvious result of a car accident may be a physical injury, but many motor vehicle accident victims also

PTSD acronym Post Traumatic Stress Disorder handwritten with white chalk on blackboard.The most obvious result of a car accident may be a physical injury, but many motor vehicle accident victims also go on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This anxiety disorder can wreak havoc on the life of someone who was involved in or witnessed a traumatic event.

Southern California car accident lawyer Sean Salamati understands that PTSD resulting from motor vehicle accidents is an especially pressing issue in Los Angeles, which leads the state in traffic injuries and fatalities. California recognizes the right of personal injury victims to receive compensation for injuries and physical losses caused by someone else’s carelessness; damages related to PTSD may also be recovered.

What is needed to recover compensation for PTSD?

To prove any sort of personal injury claim in a car accident case, a plaintiff needs to be able to establish that the defendant was careless or breached a duty to do or not do something. In car accidents, this often means establishing that the defendant violated a traffic law or drove carelessly. Next, it must be demonstrated that the defendant’s action directly caused the accident, and then that the injury was directly and logically related to the accident.

To meet this burden when the injury includes PTSD, expert testimony is required. A plaintiff needs to be prepared to offer the testimony of a doctor who can explain to a jury what PTSD is, what symptoms look like, and how it is diagnosed.

The signs and symptoms of PTSD can vary dramatically but in general they include:

  • Intrusive memories that can include recurring and distressing thoughts, nightmares, or extremely emotional reactions to things that conjure up memories of the traumatic event
  • Avoidance of thoughts, discussions, places, or activities that trigger memories of the event
  • Negative patterns of thought and mood that can include hopelessness, detachedness, lack of interest in hobbies, and memory problems
  • Altered reactions, such as being easily frightened or experiencing overwhelming guilt
  • Intensification of symptoms when stressed

What is a PTSD claim worth?

Calculating potential PTSD car accident compensation depends on a number of variables including:

  • The course and expense of PTSD treatment already received
  • The prognosis and anticipated future treatment
  • The severity of the accident and/or the physical injuries suffered
  • The extent to which the PTSD has interfered with the plaintiff’s quality of life
  • Lost wages and future inability to work
  • The availability of insurance assets

An experienced personal injury lawyer is in the best position to help determine how the specific facts in a case may affect its outcome.

PTSD car accident settlement

Motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of PTSD but insurance adjusters and jurors often overlook this debilitating condition because it does not leave physical scars. Our team at the Salamati Law Firm has established a track record of putting forth winning cases for personal injury victims and can help you make your PTSD case. We work with industry-leading experts and a top-notch staff to help you reach a fair PTSD car accident settlement. Call a Los Angeles car accident attorney from the Salamati Law Firm today for a free case analysis.

 Additional “PTSD car accident compensation” resources:

  1. NCBI, Assessment and treatment of PTSD after a motor vehicle collision: Empirical findings and clinical observations,
  2. Mayo Clinic, Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) Symptoms and causes,
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August 25, 2017 Truck Accidents

California truck accident lawyers deal with some of the most devastating crash injuries possible. The sheer size and weight of

California truck accident lawyers deal with some of the most devastating crash injuries possible. The sheer size and weight of large trucks puts others they share the road with in harm’s way if they are not driving carefully and responsibly. Truck drivers are four times more likely to survive and three times more likely to walk away from an accident unharmed compared to motor vehicle drivers. About a third of passenger vehicle occupants suffer severe, disabling injuries after colliding with a large truck.

Why Large Trucks Crash

According to the “Large Truck Crash Causation Study,” where the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration assessed 120,000 crashes involving large trucks, top causes of truck accidents include:

1. Speeding

Speeding does not always mean “traveling above the posted speed limit.” Sometimes it simply means “traveling too fast for conditions” – be it weather, time of day, curves in the road, or traveling with hefty cargo. Among single-vehicle crashes with vehicle loss of control, “traveling too fast for conditions” accounted for 67 percent of single vehicle crashes and 57 percent of multiple vehicle crashes involving large trucks.

2. Driver Decision Factors

Driver decision factors, which caused 12,621 crashes, included:

  • Negotiating a curve or turn too fast
  • Following too closely to allow for reaction time
  • Illegal maneuvers
  • Misjudging others’ speed
  • Aggressive driving

3. Driver Recognition Factors

More than 6,000 crashes were related to “driver recognition factors,” such as:

4. Cargo Shifts

Proper cargo loading is a critical responsibility for large trucks and the trucking firm’s contractors. Cargo shifts caused roughly 11 percent of large truck accidents – particularly the ones where the trucks jack-knifed or tipped over on their sides. Large trucks are subject to laws mandated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that clearly indicate how cargo should be safely stowed, maximum weight limits, and when loads must be inspected. In these cases, more than one party can be held liable for failing to follow proper protocol. Truck drivers, trucking firms, shipping companies, trailer owners, faulty restraint manufacturers, and insurers can all be partly to blame for your injuries.

California Truck Accident Attorneys

As you can see, these large truck crashes are not merely “accidental.” Negligence on the part of large truck drivers often contributes to injuries among passenger vehicle occupants. We have access to a wide range of resources to help build a substantial case on your behalf. Company record logs, drug and alcohol screening results, delivery records, in-truck cameras and data recorders, eyewitness testimonies, crash investigators, reconstruction experts, and professional testimonies are all at our disposal. Serving Southern California since 2015, the Salamati Firm has earned a reputation for tough litigation with a long list of multi-million dollar settlements and verdicts, particularly in the car accident arena. Contact a Los Angeles truck accident lawyer from the Salamati Firm for a free case evaluation and to discuss your full range of legal options.

Additional “Causes of Truck Accidents” Resources:

  1. NHTSA – Large Truck Causation Study,
  2. FMCSA, Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts,
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Proving Fault in a California Truck Accident Case

August 25, 2017 Truck Accidents

There are hundreds of fatalities and thousands of injuries attributed to California truck accidents each year. Driver error was a

There are hundreds of fatalities and thousands of injuries attributed to California truck accidents each year. Driver error was a factor in more than a third of the cases that went before a judge or jury. Fatigue, impairment, inattention, distraction, lapsed judgement, aggressive driving habits, and speeding all contribute to the deadly nature of collisions between trucks and other vehicles or pedestrians who share the road. Sometimes truckers share the blame with other defendants. To recover maximum compensation for your truck accident injuries, it is important to hire a Los Angeles truck accident attorney with experience investigating, gathering evidence, and proving fault.

Determine who is likely at fault

Determining whom to sue is the starting point for a truck accident lawsuit. The truck driver seems the most logical choice, but there are other possible avenues for compensation. Liable parties may include:

  • The owner of the truck – A truck’s owner is charged with vehicle inspection and maintenance.
  • The employer of the truck – A trucking company has a responsibility to screen, hire, train, and manage drivers in a manner conforming to the law and upholding necessary safety standards.
  • The truck manufacturer – Truck manufacturers and parts suppliers are responsible for inspecting, testing, and creating safe brakes, gears, tires, electronics, and other components.
  • Freight companies – Contractors and companies are often tasked with the proper loading of a truck to ensure cargo does not dangerously shift or spill during transit.

Collect evidence to build the case

There are many potential sources of evidence in a truck accident case:

  • Logbooks and delivery records – Truck drivers are expected to log all hours on the road and resting, and all truck inspections, to ensure they do not violate Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration law.
  • Drug and alcohol screening results – The FMCSA also requires truck drivers to submit to drug and alcohol screening after an accident that results in severe harm, death, or bodily injury.
  • NTSB accident reports – In addition to police reports, attorneys can gather impartial investigative reports conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board.
  • Data recorders – Technology sheds light on speed and brake patterns prior to a crash, which can reveal whether the truck driver was violating any traffic laws.
  • Truck cameras – Not all trucks are equipped with cameras, but some have caught drivers drinking, texting, talking on radios, or driving aggressively prior to accidents.
  • Eyewitness accounts – Witnesses can corroborate your detailed account of the incident to compel the judge and jury to view you as a sympathetic victim that is telling the truth.
  • Expert testimony – Medical professionals can attest to the cause, severity, and cost of your injuries. Accident reconstructionists can offer evidence-based analysis as to what likely caused the crash.

Contact an experienced Los Angeles truck accident attorney

Contact the Salamati Law Firm for an LA truck accident lawyer who can provide you with a free case evaluation. We’ve presided over a number of victories for truck accident victims since 2005, including $450,000 for a neck fracture, $906,000 for a pedestrian injury, and nearly $2 million for a motorcyclist with a traumatic brain injury. Our aggressive tactics and deep local ties with the best area experts and investigators will help prove fault in your California truck accident. Let us help you get the compensation you need to take the next step toward healing.

More on “truck accident evidence”:

  1. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety,
  2. FMCSA, Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts,
Read More

What Are the Steps in a Personal Injury Case?

August 19, 2017 Personal Injury Lawsuits

Once you have decided to meet with an attorney to discuss the possibility of a personal injury lawsuit, one of

Judge gavel, scales of justice and law books in courtOnce you have decided to meet with an attorney to discuss the possibility of a personal injury lawsuit, one of your first questions is likely to be: “How long will this process take?” Understanding the steps in a personal injury case can help you get a feel for what is to come. When you contact a Los Angeles personal injury attorney at The Salamati Firm, you can expect the highest degree of communication every step of the way, so you always feel like a priority and never just a number!

Step 1: Meet with an LA personal injury lawyer.

California allows up to two years to file a personal injury lawsuit. Most of the time, the law is meant to be interpreted as “two years from the date the injury occurred,” but in some cases, the extent of the injuries take time to manifest, or the negligent acts / parties are initially unknown. It is free to speak with a personal injury attorney in Los Angeles, so the sooner the better! You will need to sign a release form that allows the lawyer access to your medical records, police reports, and other information related to the case.

Step 2: File a lawsuit.

If the Salamati Firm’s personal injury lawyers feel you have a substantial case, we’ll agree to represent you and you’ll have the option to sign a contract with us that spells out what legal fees are owed if we secure a successful settlement or jury verdict on your behalf. We formally submit a complaint on your behalf and the judge will issue a summons to inform the other party of the litigation proceedings. The defendants have up to 30 days to respond to your complaint. They may admit to negligence, deny any wrongdoing, or argue there is insufficient evidence. Nearly a third of defendants never respond. In rare instances, a counterclaim may be filed against the plaintiff. All of this must be sorted out by the judge.

Step 3: Begin fact-finding and discovery.

Discovery may include written interrogations, sworn statements, requests for information, and the assembly of medical records, police reports, and other documents pertaining to the case. Through more than a decade of fighting on behalf of injured plaintiffs, we know the right questions to ask to get the information we need and poke holes in any possible defense.

Step 4: Hear motions to resolve before trial.

Summary judgments dismissing the case can come from the bench in the earliest stages of litigation if there is:

  • Lack of subject matter
  • Lack of jurisdiction
  • Improper venue
  • Insufficient service of process
  • Failure to state a proper claim

Step 5: Negotiate a settlement.

Here is a shocking statistic: Only 4-5 percent of personal injury cases in the United States go to trial. In other words, 95-96 percent of personal injury lawsuits are settled prior to trial. The majority of defendants prefer to settle before enduring the expense and public humiliation of a court trial. The Salamati Firm will never settle just to get another win. We only agree to the settlement terms when they are good for you and in line with what we think your case is truly worth.

Step 6: Go to trial.

In most cases, a jury is selected and three to five days of court hearings are necessary. In rare cases, a trial may take longer, from several weeks to months.

Step 7: Collect money following a successful judgment.

Winning is not always a slam-dunk. Collecting the money can be particularly tricky if the defendant does not have a lot of money or plans to appeal. Experienced LA attorneys come in handy in ironing out wage garnishment, assets liquidation, bankruptcy filings, or collection proceedings when you are not promptly paid what is owed to you. Many states allow up to 10 years for a defendant to pay on a judgment.

Step 8: Appeal an unsatisfactory decision or judgment.

The losing side always has the option to file an appeal. A panel of judges review the trial documents to determine if sufficient justice was served. If an appeal is lost in state or federal court, there is still an option to file an appeal with the Supreme Court if a federal or constitutional right may have been violated.

Contact the Salamati Firm to start your personal injury claim in California.

Every case is unique, but the Court Statistics Project found that 13.7 months is the median lawsuit processing time. Nearly half of all personal injury lawsuits are disposed within one year. By two years, three quarters of the cases get resolved. Sometimes cases take longer if the facts surrounding the case are complex and disputed, if the amount of money you seek is extremely large, or if you are still in a state of recovery, where it’s particularly challenging to estimate the extent of your losses. Product liability, medical malpractice, and toxic substance cases tend to take longer (two years).

The Salamati Firm’s Los Angeles personal injury lawyers are standing by to take your call, should you wish to learn more about filing a lawsuit in California.

More resources for “personal injury lawsuit timeline”:

  1. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Tort Cases in Large Counties,
  2. The Law Dictionary – Pre-trial Settlement Percentage: Statistics on Personal Injury Settlements,
  3. NY Times, The Longest Trial – A Post-Mortem; Collapse of Child-Abuse Case: So Much Agony for So Little,
  4. NY Times – Study Finds That Settling Is Better Than Going To Trial,
Read More

Personal Injury Checklist – Meeting With a Lawyer For The First Time

August 18, 2017 Personal Injury Lawsuits

If you are considering filing a personal injury claim in Los Angeles, CA, it is likely because you or a

Symbol of law and justice in the empty courtroom, law and justice concept, blue tone

If you are considering filing a personal injury claim in Los Angeles, CA, it is likely because you or a loved one has suffered an accident that has caused a bit of chaos in your life. The truth is the entire litigation or insurance claim process can seem like a whirlwind but you need to be able to present your claims in an organized way in order to receive compensation. Follow this checklist to be sure you bring the information your attorney will need to evaluate your claim.

Information to bring to your lawyer

Your attorney will have a much clearer picture of your injury and strength of your case if you bring detailed information about your accident and treatment. Helpful information includes:

  • Details of the incident itself, including date, address, and any photos
  • Names and contact information of first responders, including investigating officers
  • Names and addresses of other people involved in the accident
  • Names and addresses of witnesses
  • Names and contact information of insurance adjusters with whom you spoke about the accident
  • Name and other identifying information of the ambulance if you were transported
  • Identifying information of the hospital where you received treatment, along with dates of admission
  • Names and contact information of any medical professionals who examined or treated you, including physicians at the hospital or chiropractors seen after the accident
  • Dates of any missed days of work
  • Names and contact information of anyone with whom you discussed your injury

Documents to gather before meeting with your lawyer

Personal injury claims are paper-intensive. You can simplify the process by assembling these helpful documents before your first appointment:

  • Formal reports, including any police report or, if the injury occurred on a company’s property, a business incident report
  • Copies of any discharge papers from the hospital or evaluation summaries from any medical professionals seen
  • Any written statements related to the accident
  • Copies of any correspondence with your insurance company related to the accident
  • Any relevant insurance policies, including auto insurance in the case of an auto accident and homeowner’s or renter’s policy if the accident happened at home
  • Documentation of medical insurance or disability coverage
  • Receipts for treatment including bills for ambulance, emergency room, rehabilitation, medical equipment, and medications
  • Proof of lost income
  • Receipts or estimates to repair property damaged by the incident

Scheduled a free consultation with a Los Angeles personal injury lawyer

Many lawyers offer a free initial consultation. When you schedule an introductory appointment with a Los Angeles personal injury attorney, you have the opportunity to make sure the lawyer is a good fit for you. This is the time for you to ask questions and request references from former clients.

If you or someone you love was injured in an accident in the Los Angeles, CA area, call the Salamati Law Firm for a no-cost consultation. For over a decade, we have advocated for the rights of personal injury victims in Southern California and established a successful track record.

Additional “Personal Injury Checklist” Resources:

  1. Justia, California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI)) 400. Negligence-Essential Factual Elements,
  2. Justia, California Civil Jury Instruction (CACI) 425. “Gross Negligence” Explained,
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3 Tips on How to Drive Safely Around Trucks

August 10, 2017 Truck Accidents

Knowing how to drive safely around trucks on southern California highways may save your or someone else’s life. Los Angeles

White truck on the asphalt rural roadKnowing how to drive safely around trucks on southern California highways may save your or someone else’s life. Los Angeles area roads are major thoroughfares for trucks hauling goods to the rest of the country and the ports that serve the world. There are many trucks here as compared percentage-wise to other traffic.

Trucks, just because of their size and weight, can cause major damage to all other vehicles and people riding in them, to say nothing of pedestrians. The United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that, for every driver killed in a truck crash, six other people are killed as well, whether they were driving another vehicle, a bicycle, or walking.

While truck safety starts with truck drivers themselves, other motorists need to keep certain facts about trucks in mind.

First, because of their size, they take time and space to stop. Buses, for example, take 40% longer to stop than regular sized vehicles. Many trucks have air brakes that take a long time to slow and stop a truck.

Second, they have blind spots due to the height, size, and positioning of windows and mirrors. Truck drivers can only do so much to eradicate blind spots. Other drivers need to do their part.

So how can you drive safely around trucks?

#1: Don’t Drive in Their Blind Spots

If you cannot see the truck’s side mirrors, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration notes that you could be in the truck driver’s blind spot. Blind spots exist for them in the front, back, and sides. Drive defensively to avoid their blind spots. If you are in one, either cautiously increase your speed or decrease it to avoid it. They need to be able to see you to make safe decisions.

#2: Don’t Crowd Them

Trucks need a long time to stop. Never create a situation where they might have to stop suddenly to avoid you. If you need to pass them, don’t pull in front again until you are well ahead. Don’t suddenly pull in front of a truck.

 #3: Wear Your Seatbelt

This is always a top priority for safety. Seatbelts could save 40% of the lives of truck drivers killed in accidents, according to the CDC. They are just as important for drivers of other vehicles.

Do You Need an L.A. Truck Accident Lawyer?

Do you need a seasoned truck accident lawyer in the Los Angeles area? Contact us! The Salamati Law Firm has an excellent record of obtaining justice for clients in truck accidents and other vehicle accidents throughout Southern California.

Call us today. We will provide a consultation at no charge. Payment will come from any final jury award or settlement amount.

Additional information on driving safely around trucks:

  1. Driving Safely Around Trucks. March 11, 2015.
  2. United States Centers for Disease Control. Newsroom Home. Press Materials. Digital Press Kit. Motor Vehicle Safety. Truck Crashes.
  3. United States Department of Transportation. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. “Tips for Driving Safely Around Large Trucks or Buses.”
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Sovereign Immunity and Fire Truck Accidents

August 8, 2017 Truck Accidents

Government-owned fire trucks and police cruisers are common sights at accident scenes, but what happens when these vehicles – which

A fire engine races to the scene of an emergency.Government-owned fire trucks and police cruisers are common sights at accident scenes, but what happens when these vehicles – which frequently travel at high speeds – crash, causing serious personal injury and property damage? If you are in an accident with a fire truck, does California law offer remedies to seek financial restitution for your medical bills, lost wages and other losses?

Pursuing a legal claim in a fire truck accident is essentially suing the government—either the city, municipality or county. Prevailing in such a claim can be challenging without the aid of an experienced attorney who is well-versed in the protections afforded by sovereign immunity, also known as governmental immunity.

Sovereign immunity is based on an ancient doctrine designed to protect the government and its agencies from being sued without its consent. In other words, the California government must grant the victim permission to file a lawsuit against the driver of the vehicle.

Doctrine of Sovereign Immunity

The doctrine of sovereign immunity has been in practice in the United States for hundreds of years. Under this principle, governmental entities, agencies and their employees are protected from tortious liability, allowing them to continue their duties without fear or threat of draining litigation.

Over the years, California lawmakers have put limits on the state’s reliance on sovereign immunity to avoid paying damages in civil claims arising from accidents where the state was responsible.

The California Legislature adopted the California Claims Act (CCA) in 1963, which oversees lawsuits brought against a state or federal public entity. The act was intended to offer the government with enough information to investigate claims, facilitate settlements of merit-worthy suits, and avoid similar liability in the future.

There are different rules that apply and steps that must be taken depending upon the governmental entity that is being sued. If the fire truck was owned and operated by the municipality, there are certain measures that must be taken to provide proper notice. In most cases, personal injury claims made against public entities in California must be filed within 6 months after the accident. The claims must be submitted in the proper format and contain requisite information to be processed.

The public entity then has up to 45 days to provide written notice of its intended action. The entity may accept the claim, reject it entirely or offer a compromise. If no written notice is provided to the plaintiff, they then have two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit.

A successful claim may seek compensation for a variety of losses including hospital and medical expenses, pain and suffering, loss of income, and benefits for wrongful death if the accident was fatal.

Los Angeles truck accident attorney

Governmental immunity cases in California are difficult but not impossible to pursue with the aid of experienced legal counsel. If you or a loved one were injured in an accident caused by an emergency first-responder, LA truck accident lawyer Sean Salamati can help you understand your rights to winning personal injury compensation. Call our office today to schedule a free, no-obligation case review.

Additional “Fire Truck Sovereign Immunity” Resources:

  1. Legal Dictionary, Sovereign Immunity
  2. California Law Revision Commission, Sovereign Immunity
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3 Things to Check If Your Motorcycle Won’t Start

July 28, 2017 Motorcycle Accidents

Motorcyclists look forward to their ride. So there’s nothing worse than going out, all set for a wonderful Southern California

Motorcycle headlight in perspective Close up photoMotorcyclists look forward to their ride. So there’s nothing worse than going out, all set for a wonderful Southern California weekend…and finding out that your motorcycle won’t start. Zip. Na-Da.

What do you do? There are multiple things that will stop a motorcycle from starting. Check some simple ones first. In many cases the issue can be fixed simply and safely.

Here are the three things to check first.

The fuel level is too low

Yes. Check the fuel level before you do anything. Unfortunately, motorcycle mechanics see people come in bewildered that their motorcycle won’t start all the time…only to find out that they’re almost out of gas.

It could be that it’s been several months since you last rode, so you simply didn’t remember that the gauge was low. It could be that you have teenagers around who took the motorcycle for an unscheduled spin, and neglected to tell you about it.

It needs to be started in a different way

Motorcycles are definitely not all one size fits all when it comes to how they start. Some are designed not to start until the bike is in neutral. Some require drivers to always have the clutch in. Especially if you are riding a new motorcycle or have not acquired complete familiarity with it, you may simply be missing one of the essential steps to starting your model.

With the rise of computerization, starting it is an increasingly complex task. It’s a good idea to get out the manual and go step by step through the instructions for starting. Make sure a step that is not obvious wasn’t skipped along the way.

The battery is dead

If batteries aren’t used, they will slowly fade away. This is especially true if your battery is older or you haven’t ridden often.

One caution here: motorcycles are complex enough that it’s not always wise to simply jump start them as you would a car. It can be safer to take it into a shop and have the battery tested.

Plus, if you are going on a holiday or weekend ride, you want to make sure that the battery is strong enough to still be working when it’s time to come back. A new battery might be the safest bet.

Be safe – don’t tinker until it starts

Unless you are a skilled mechanic, never try to fix a motorcycle that doesn’t start. Fuel lines, sparks, combustion, and computerization make motorcycle repair a complex and even potentially dangerous process. Plus, even if you can get it to start, it may not be fully repaired if you don’t fully understand the issue.

Don’t risk your life and limb, or the lives and limbs of others, by trying to fix a motorcycle whose difficulty may need experienced motorcycle repair people to assess and fix.

Do you need an L.A. motorcycle accident lawyer?

If you need an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer in the Los Angeles region, contact the Salamati Law Firm. We have an excellent record of obtaining justice for clients in motorcycle accidents and other vehicle accidents throughout Southern California.

Call us at 888-259-4060. We will provide a consultation at no charge. Payment will come from any final jury award or settlement amount.

More on what to do when your motorcycle won’t start:

  1. “What To Do When Your Motorcycle Won’t Start.” Cruiser.
  2. “5 Reasons Your Motorcycle Won’t Start & Goes to the Shop.” YouMotorcycle.
Read More

What Is The Seat Belt Defense?

July 26, 2017 Auto Accidents

Car accidents where one driver hits another can seem like open-and-shut cases. Clearly the insurer of the vehicle that plowed

Hand fastening seat belt in the carCar accidents where one driver hits another can seem like open-and-shut cases. Clearly the insurer of the vehicle that plowed into you should pay for the full extent of your damages, right? Many times, that is exactly what happens. There is, however, one caveat allowed in California – if you were not wearing your seat belt.

Is it illegal to ride in a moving vehicle without wearing a seat belt in California?

The Motor Vehicle Safety Act makes it pretty clear that everyone is expected to buckle up in California. Technically, a California police officer may issue a ticket for “failure to wear a seat belt” except for cases where:

  • You are a passenger in the backseat of a limousine or taxicab.
  • You are a minor under 16 years of age, where the responsibility of your buckling falls to an adult present.

Fines range from $20 to $100 for a first offense. Drivers may be expected to attend driver safety courses. Regardless of the legality of riding in a vehicle without a safety belt on, plaintiffs may find that the amount of compensation they are entitled to is substantially reduced because they were not belted at the time of the collision.

What is the seat belt defense?

Defense counsels may argue that the amount of damages could have been substantially reduced had the victims been wearing their seat belts. State courts may choose to reduce damage awards when the injured party fails to “take reasonable actions to limit the extent of injury” – which means wearing a seat belt while riding in a motor vehicle.

The State of California allows for Comparative Negligence, which means the liability of the defendant can be reduced if the plaintiff was at least partially liable for what happened. California allows for “pure” rules of recovery, which means plaintiffs whose decisions and actions contributed to their own injuries can still collect reduced compensation, even if they were deemed 99% at fault. States with “modified” comparative negligence do not allow the awarding of compensation to plaintiffs determined to be more than 50% at fault.

Which states do not permit the seat belt defense?

While California plaintiffs are subject to reduced damages based on the seat belt defense, plaintiffs in the following states and districts are not beholden to this law:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Washington D.C.
  • Wyoming

Some states allow for the seat belt defense, but limit the reduction in damages. For instance, Missouri only allows for a 1% reduction in damages if the plaintiff was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash. Similarly, Iowa, Michigan, and Oregon reduce damages by a mere 5%, and Wisconsin allows for reductions of 15%.

Arguments against the seat belt defense

Expert Los Angeles car accident attorneys at the Salamati Law Firm are prepared to fight for maximum compensation for your injuries, whether you were wearing a belt at the time or not. Depending on your situation, arguments that may counter the Seat Belt Defense include:

  • Failure to wear a seat belt did not cause the accident itself in any way, so the “comparative negligence” rule does not apply.
  • Traditional mitigation of damages applies to what a plaintiff does after the accident occurs. Since fastening a seat belt after the fact would do nothing to mitigate damages, the plaintiff cannot logically be held liable for failure to mitigate damages in the traditional sense.
  • Plaintiffs should not have to anticipate the negligence of others.
  • The amount of damages a plaintiff may have sustained had he or she been wearing a belt cannot be precisely assessed. The calculation is just a guess at best, even with the help of experts.
  • Numerous other legislatures have deemed the seat belt defense an intrusion into individual freedom.
  • The seat belt was worn, but broke or failed to protect the plaintiff because it was defective or malfunctioning.
  • Seat belt tests using test dummies cannot accurately be compared to the plaintiff’s size, weight, and stature.
  • The other side has no proof that a seat belt was not worn by the plaintiff.

If you or a loved one were involved in a car accident where seat belts were not worn, contact the Salamati Law Firm. Since 2005, our experienced team of personal injury lawyers have taken on some of the most complex court cases – and won! Contact us for a free consultation and pay no legal fees unless we take on your case and secure just compensation on your behalf.

Additional “Seat Belt Defense” Resources:

  1. California Driving University, CA Seat Belt Laws,
  2. Tulsa Law Review, The Seatbelt Defense: A Doctrine Based in Common Sense,
Read More

Five Keys to Passing Your Driving Test

July 22, 2017 Auto Accidents

Getting a driver’s license can be a route to independence. No more relying on friends, family, or public transportation. You

Student driver passes exam and instructor hands her car keysGetting a driver’s license can be a route to independence. No more relying on friends, family, or public transportation. You can get where you need to go. It can also be a route to more convenience and even a means of obtaining a job.

So when you take your driver’s test, you want to make sure you pass it! Here are the 5 crucial keys to passing a driving test.

1. Study, Study, Study

Most driving tests are composed of a written part, with multiple choice questions, and a road test with a person who will rate your competence. To pass the written exam and to make sure you know all laws and regulations, there is no substitute for studying. Don’t expect the driving you may have been doing with a learner’s permit to be completely enough. Even If you’re licensed in another state, it’s still important to know the laws and regulations of the one you’re taking the test for. State laws and rules vary.

2. Practice, Practice, Practice

For the driving component, there is no substitute for practice. Drive in all sorts of conditions and all weathers. Practice parallel parking, backing up, and turning. Even if you never parallel park in real life, most tests require proficiency at it. A good way to practice is to drive with a learner’s permit, of course. But it’s also okay to go to a large parking lot after hours and drive, drive, drive. Parking lots can be great places to practice turning, braking, and so on because there’s little or no traffic or speed requirements to worry about.

3. Don’t Be Nervous

Ever had the experience of everything you know leaving your mind if you’re nervous? You don’t want that to happen when the person next to you is rating your driving. You want to remember, for example, the correct order of who goes first at a four-way stop. Also, anxiety can make you drive and brake jerkily, especially if your palms are sweating. You don’t want that either.

Calm yourself down before the test by breathing deeply. Most importantly, remember that in the worst case scenario, nothing too terrible happens. Even if you fail one or both parts of the test, you simply take it over again once enough time has elapsed. There’s no cause for embarrassment: people flunk these tests all the time. It’s not a reflection on you. It just means you have to study or practice more.

4. Learn From Any Mistakes

Key #3 leads us to this advice: learn from any mistakes. In most places, you’ll see any incorrectly answered written questions. Make a note of what the correct answer was. Make sure you commit it to memory.

If you don’t pass the driving test, make similar note. The assessor will tell you of any problem areas. Those are the ones you practice for next time.

5. Prepare the Night Before

Don’t go to your driving test tired or hungry. Get a good night’s rest. Eat a healthy breakfast. Those prepare your mind and body to recall information and respond quickly to traffic and other road conditions. You need those to optimize your results. If it might be sunny, take sunglasses.

These 5 keys will help you pass both written and road tests. Good luck!

An Experienced Attorney in Southern California

If you need a car accident lawyer in the Los Angeles area, The Salamati Law Firm has an excellent record of obtaining justice for clients in auto accidents and more. Call us at 888-259-4060. We will provide a consultation at no charge.

More on tips for passing your driving test:

  1. Lamboy, Jen. “7 Reasons Student Drivers Fail Their Written Permit Exam.”
  2. Zakhareuski, Andrei. “You Can Do It! How to Pass a DMV Driving Test on Your FIRST Attempt.”
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