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Things to Know When You Are Hiring a Child Abuse Lawyer

Posted in Child Abuse on June 8, 2021

Child abuse cases are psychologically and emotionally upsetting for everyone involved. That is especially true for the plaintiff — the person or family filing the case against the defendant. Finding the right attorney in a child abuse case is critical to ensuring that these people get the care and support they need throughout the legal process.

The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act defines child abuse and neglect as: “Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker, which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation” or “An act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.” In California, child abuse can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the nature of the offense and the defendant’s criminal history.

Examples of child abuse can include (but are not limited to) physical abuse such as punching or kicking, sexual abuse, emotional/psychological abuse, and neglect. Nor is child abuse limited to individuals within the immediate family. Sadly, children are often victims of abuse by teachers, coaches, health care providers, religious leaders, and daycare workers, to name a few.

When looking for a child abuse attorney, the goal should be to find someone with experience handling child abuse cases as well as a deep understanding of how legally complex and emotionally charged cases this area of personal injury litigation can get.

Some things to keep in mind when looking for a child abuse attorney include:

Experience: Your chosen attorney should have past experience successfully representing child abuse cases. If it is a child sexual abuse case, the attorney needs experience in that specific area, as it’s often an even more delicate and complex matter.

Understanding: Child abuse cases are full of details and nuances that can quickly become overwhelming to the average person. As the California Department of Education points out, “Child abuse is more than bruises and broken bones.” Not all child abuse is obvious, but all of it is extremely harmful. Any attorney working on a case needs to know what exactly constitutes child abuse, even if the evidence is not immediately clear.

Support: As noted above, child abuse and neglect cases are full of emotions for the plaintiff and their family members involved. You will need an attorney that understands the range of emotions a family can go through when dealing with such a case. This person should be able to provide emotional support as well as legal expertise when it comes to official case-related happenings, such as a deposition.

Every child deserves to be safe no matter where they are. If you suspect a member of your family is the victim of child abuse, do not hesitate to reach out for support and assistance. Rodriguez & Associates has a long record of success when it comes to defending the safety of children. You can reach us by filling out our online form or calling (661) 323-1400.

Bakersfield Gas Explosion Case Is Back On Track

Posted in California,Personal Injury on June 4, 2021

Daniel Rodriguez and Chantal A. Trujillo of Rodriguez & Associates are co-representing Bakersfield, California neighbors injured by the Wildwood gas explosion.

In November 2015 the California almond farm, Wildwood, triggered a fire and explosion after rupturing an underground gas line while the farm was being excavated in preparation for planting almond trees, causing personal injury and property damages to nearby neighbors.

The injured neighbors sued Wildwood, along with the contractors, and in October 2018, the trial court initially granted summary judgment in Wildwood’s favor.

A 2021 appeals court reversed the original summary judgment in Wildwood’s favor and instructed the trial court to grant summary adjudication in the farm’s favor on every claim except peculiar risk. The state appeals court ruled that the farm can, in fact, be held vicariously liable for the contracted excavator that caused the explosion.

Chantal Trujillo, partner at Rodriguez & Associates, told Law360 that she and her clients are happy the “case is back on track” and can be put in front of a jury.

To read more about the case of Gloria Ruckman et al. v. Wildwood Farms LLC, click here.

Stephanie Lopez Reflects on 10-Plus Years as a Paralegal at Rodriguez & Associates

Posted in Rodriguez & Associates on June 2, 2021

Stephanie Lopez

“I feel like I’m helping out as opposed to being just another cog in the wheel,” says Stephanie Lopez of her work at Rodriguez & Associates.

Stephanie has worked with the firm for more than a decade as a paralegal, keeping the attorneys and their caseloads as organized as possible in addition to interacting with clients. Ten and a half years, she says, has given her many chances to work with families in the Bakersfield, California area, bonding with them over the experiences that brought them to the firm in the first place. 

Rodriguez & Associates is, of course, not your average personal injury firm. Stephanie likens the staff to “a family unit,” and points out that this type of camaraderie between staff is not always a given at a law firm. “My colleagues are some of my closest friends,” she says.

This closeness inevitably spills over into work with clients. Rodriguez & Associates makes it a point to form strong, familial-like bonds with the families and individuals they represent. Stephanie says she feels this approach is really what allows her to feel that she is helping these people, rather than simply executing the details of yet-another case. And as a paralegal, part of her job includes staying in contact with clients on behalf of the firm’s attorneys. These close interactions give Stephanie an insider view of what the individuals behind each case are going through. “You get to learn a lot about them and their struggles,” she says of the firm’s clients. That includes the tragedies as well as the stories of victims overcoming their losses and injuries.  

One case that has made an especially deep impression on her involved a shooting at a high school that left the victim with severe injuries as well as physical and psychological pain. The victim underwent more than 30 surgeries for his injuries. Stephanie says working with him and his family in the aftermath of this experience has left a deep impression on her. 

Another notable experience has been her work on a trial team that secured the highest verdict in Kern County history. As a native of the county, Stephanie says she felt honored to be part of a group helping put Kern in the history books. 

Her status as a Bakersfield-area native also gives her an automatic connection to the community, which can be helpful when dealing with clients. Certain information, like understanding the city’s agricultural background or even the precise layout of the place, can automatically strengthen the bond between client and legal team. “Knowing where you are allows you to advocate for clients in a much more impactful way,” she says. 

That in turn makes it easier to form a deeper connection with clients—one that lasts longer than any court case. 

“I don’t want them to ever feel like they’re just a number in our book,” she says of clients. That’s a point on which Stephanie has built her career, and one that will ring true for the rest of it, too.

Truck Driver Substance Abuse Is a Danger to Everyone on the Road

Posted in Personal Injury,Truck Accidents on May 27, 2021

Seventy-hour workweeks, eight days in a row. An uncertain pay structure. Extended periods of isolation that can lead to severe loneliness. These are just a few of the realities for truck drivers in the United States. Unfortunately, they also contribute to widespread substance abuse in the industry as drivers struggle to cope with their working conditions.

Needless to say, anyone driving under the influence poses a danger to themselves and everyone else on the road. With commercial trucks, that risk increases. The average semi-truck is about 72 feet long and weighs roughly 80,000 pounds. It takes longer to stop a truck, not to mention a special set of skills to be able to maneuver these vehicles around turns, between lanes, and onto highways. All of which is to say that the risk of damage, injury, and death from a truck accident is far greater than with the average passenger vehicle.

A now-famous study from a few years ago found that among truckers, “overall use of mind-altering substances was high and linked to poor working conditions.” Amphetamines and cocaine were among the most widely used substances, given their ability to keep drivers awake for abnormally long periods of time. Years on, this problem still persists. After publishing a recent study, The Trucking Alliance said that there is “compelling evidence that thousands of habitual drug users are manipulating federal drug test protocols and obtaining jobs as commercial truck drivers.”

Drug abuse is also more prevalent among truck drivers than the general population. Data from the Journal of Preventive Medicine and Hygiene found the “overall annual prevalence” of amphetamine use among truck drivers was 21.3 percent, compared to a 0.7 percent consumption rate by the general population.

Alcohol is a problem, too. The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health notes that when a trucker binge-drinks once per month, that person “increases the chance of being involved in crash accidents by tenfold.” Recalling the above information about the destructive nature of truck accidents, that’s an extremely unnerving statistic.

These substances are not only a danger to the truckers — they post a threat to everyone on the road because of the way they impair a trucker’s ability to adhere to safety standards behind the wheel. Besides keeping drivers awake for unnaturally long periods of time, these substances can also lead them to take more risks behind the wheel. Speeding, making sudden lane merges, and driving through dangerous weather are just a few examples.

Drivers of other vehicles should always maintain a safe distance between their cars and large commercial trucks when on the road. If you are involved in a truck accident and suspect the other driver was under the influence, you may be able to seek compensation for damages. Please reach out to us today to discuss your case and receive support by filling out our online form or calling (661) 323-1400.

What Are the Consequences for Driving Without Insurance?

Posted in California,Car Accidents,Personal Injury,Rodriguez & Associates on May 27, 2021

California is a fault insurance state that requires drivers who are responsible for car accidents to pay for their victims’ damages. To uphold this financial responsibility and comply with state law, you must carry certain amounts of car insurance. However, not all drivers comply with this requirement—but failure to do so can lead to hefty fines and other penalties. Additionally, uninsured motorists may be solely responsible for their victims’ damages, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

California Insurance Requirements

Liability insurance pays for the medical expenses, vehicle repairs, lost wages, and other losses that other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians suffer in accidents you cause. All drivers in California must carry the following amounts of insurance.

  • $15,000 for bodily injury or death per person per accident
  • $30,000 for total bodily injury or death per accident
  • $5,000 for property damage per accident

You can purchase higher amounts of coverage if you choose to do so. You can also purchase additional coverage, such as uninsured motorist and medical payments coverage, to pay for your own losses in an accident. Uninsured motorist coverage is especially important in cases where the at-fault driver does not have insurance.

If you do not want to purchase liability coverage, you can comply with California insurance laws using one of the following options.

  • A self-insurance certificate from the California Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV)
  • A cash deposit of $35,000 to the DMV
  • A $35,000 surety bond from a California-licensed issuer

Penalties for Driving without Insurance

Failure to comply with California insurance laws can result in serious penalties. If you are caught for driving without insurance, you can receive a $100 to $200 fine for a first offense. For a second offense, the fine increases to $200 to $500. For third and subsequent offenses, your fine will continue to increase.

In addition to financial penalties, the state could impound your vehicle. You will not be able to obtain it until you provide proof of insurance and pay for the towing and storage fees. The state may also require you to obtain an SR-22 Proof of Financial Responsibility certificate and carry an additional SR-22 insurance policy, which can be expensive.

If you are at fault for the accident and do not have insurance, you will still be financially liable for the victims’ damages. Instead of the insurance company paying for expenses like medical care, vehicle repairs, and lost wages, you will need to pay for these losses out of pocket. Although car insurance may seem expensive, it is not as costly as paying for multiple high-value claims by yourself.

What to Do After a California Car Accident

If you are in a car accident, it is important to seek help, preserve evidence, and protect your health. First, call 911 and report the accident to law enforcement. Receive emergency medical attention as soon as possible and save all records related to your injuries. If you are able, take photographs of your injuries, the area around the crash, and your vehicle damage. Speak to the other driver and exchange insurance, license, and contact information, and ask any witnesses in the area for their contact details as well.

Once you receive treatment for your injuries, contact a California car accident lawyer. If another driver caused your accident, you could hold him or her accountable for your injuries through an insurance claim or lawsuit. If the at-fault driver does not have insurance, you could still recover compensation through an uninsured motorist claim. Speak to an attorney as soon as possible to discuss your optimal path to recovery.

4 Common Causes of Oilfield Accidents

Posted in Oil Field Worker Injuries,Personal Injury on May 27, 2021

Though the oilfield is an inherently dangerous place to work, safety measures can be highly effective when they are implemented, monitored, and managed correctly. It’s when facilities choose to skirt the rules, cut corners, and sometimes even blatantly violate state and federal regulations that oilfield accidents most commonly happen, leading to serious and even life-threatening injuries.

Dangers for workers abound in the oilfield. Moving oil and oil-related equipment accounts for the majority of oilfield accidents. According to the most recent available data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly half, or 42 percent, of all oilfield fatalities in 2017 were related to transportation. 

Contact injuries are the next most common accident, followed by explosions by combustion or fire, exposure to harmful substances, and falls. 

To lessen the risk of such things happening, workers and employers must understand the underlying causes that lead to these accidents in the first place. Four of the most common are:

Inadequate Training. For an oilfield to be a safe environment, workers need to be familiar with all of the processes and machinery they are using, in addition to knowing any risks and hazards before the job starts. An inexperienced or poorly trained crewmember could be a liability to themselves and others. The employer is responsible for properly training and equipping workers.  

Carelessness. Following safety protocols, avoiding distractions, and paying close attention to the task at hand are all crucial for employers and crewmembers when it comes to keeping the oilfield safe. Cutting corners to get the job done faster can lead to life-threatening situations in this environment.  

Faulty equipment. Faulty and defective equipment on an oilfield can cause all sorts of dangers: gas leaks, chemical fires, and pipeline explosions, to name a few. Defects can happen for a number of reasons, from manufacturing design flaws to shoddy maintenance practices. Depending on what causes a rig or other piece of machinery to malfunction will impact which parties might be liable for damages. 

Unanticipated environmental hazards. OSHA lists temperature extremes (both hot and cold), exposure to harmful gases (e.g., hydrogen sulfide) or radioactive material, harmful levels of noise, and exposure to silica as some of the environmental hazards oilfield workers can encounter and that can cause accidents. These hazards can also cause long-term health problems if crewmembers are not given the kind of protective gear required to guard against injury. 

On the oilfield, knowing the underlying causes for accidents never completely removes the risk of them happening. After all, this is a dangerous place to work no matter how carefully safety precautions are followed. However, as noted above, the risk of injury or death is greatly lessened when facilities, their managers, and their workers take care to follow regulations. 

If any of these accidents happen because of negligence, workers can pursue compensation for injuries.  

Rodriguez & Associates has provided caring legal help to oilfield accident victims since 1980. Our founder and president, Daniel Rodriguez even has firsthand experience working in the oilfields and knows how hard the work can be and how dangerous it becomes if safety is not prioritized. 

If you have been impacted by one of these accidents, you are not alone. Please reach out to us today to discuss your case and receive support by filling out our online form or calling (661) 323-1400.

What Are Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents?

Posted in California on May 15, 2021

Motorcyclists face many dangers on California roads. Any accident between a motorcycle and a passenger vehicle can result in devastating injuries with long-term complications. While safe driving practices can help motorcyclists avoid preventable collisions, these accidents can occur for several reasons, including poor weather, dangerous road conditions, and negligent driver behavior.

Unsafe Lane Changes

One of the most common causes of motorcycle accidents involve unsafe lane changes. When a driver intends to merge into another lane, he or she must ensure that the roadway is clear before moving over. Unfortunately, a driver may rely on his or her mirrors to ensure the road is clear or fail to check the lane at all. A motorcyclist may be traveling in the driver’s blind spot when he or she is merging, leading to a serious collision.

Car Doors

A parked car can pose an unexpected risk to motorcyclists. In some cases, a driver may open his or her car door into the path of an oncoming motorcycle. The motorcyclist will then collide into the door, leading to very severe, often life-threatening injuries.

Driving Under the Influence

Alcohol and drugs impair many of the essential functions for driving. A driver may experience diminished concentration, motor skills, and judgement. He or she may be unable to focus on the road or react to unexpected situations on the road. As a result, the driver could easily lose control of his or her vehicle, run a red light, or commit another act of negligence that leads to a collision.

Speeding

Driving over the speed limit increases a vehicle’s risk of collision. If a driver is going too fast, he or she does not have enough time to react to a collision if he or she encounters a hazard on the road. Additionally, the faster that a vehicle is traveling, the greater the impact will be. A motorcyclist can sustain very serious injuries in a high-speed crash.

Motorcycle Part Defects

In some cases, driver negligence may not be responsible for a motorcycle collision at all. A defective motorcycle part, such as an improperly manufactured engine or poorly designed brakes, can cause an accident. A motorcyclist may lose control of his or her bike when an unexpected failure occurs, leading to severe injuries. In these situations, the motorcyclist could file a claim against the manufacturer, distributor, or retailer of the defective part.

Dangerous Left-Hand Turns

Many motorcycle collisions occur when a driver makes an unsafe left-hand turn. The driver may run a red light or fail to yield the right of way, colliding with a motorcyclist as he or she travels through an intersection. The driver may attempt to overtake or pass the motorcycle in an unsafe manner, leading to a serious accident. Motorcycles are much smaller than passenger cars, making them more difficult to see and more vulnerable to these left-hand turn collisions.

Poor Road Conditions

Other accidents may involve dangerous conditions on the road itself, such as potholes, cracks, or poorly designed streets. If a motorcyclist encounters these road hazards, he or she can sustain a serious accident without another driver being involved. In these situations, the motorcyclist could file a lawsuit against the government agency responsible for maintaining the road.

If you are in a motorcycle accident, it is important to speak to a California motorcycle accident lawyer. An attorney can represent you in your claim against the government, product manufacturer, or negligent driver. Contact a lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your accident and optimal path to recovery.

Who Is Liable for an Injury Caused by a Defective Product?

Posted in California on May 2, 2021

When we purchase a product, we trust that the manufacturer, retailer, and distributor have ensured that it is safe to use. If there are any potential dangers when using the product, the manufacturer must provide proper warnings and instructions. Unfortunately, defective products can reach consumers—leading to serious injuries. If you’ve been injured by a defective product, you have the right to file a lawsuit against any party in the chain of distribution.

Types of Defective Products

There are three types of product defects recognized under California law: manufacturing defects, design defects, and failure to warn.

  • Manufacturing defects are errors that occur during the manufacturing process, rendering the product unsafe. For example, a snack manufacturer may accidentally taint a batch of food with a toxic substance in the factory.
  • Design defects occur when the product’s design is inherently unsafe and designed poorly. You will need to prove that a safer design would have been possible. For example, if a hair straightener is prone to catching fire when it reaches a certain temperature, the product is inherently defective in its design.
  • Failure to warn claims involve a manufacturer’s failure to warn consumers about a potential safety issue with the product. For example, if an infant’s toy has small parts that could be swallowed, the product’s label must include a warning about this hazard.

Strict Liability and Defective Products

Under California law, defective product lawsuits are subject to a strict liability standard. This means that you do not need to prove that the manufacturer was negligent in order to file a lawsuit against the entity. However, you will need to provide sufficient evidence that the product is defective.

To secure compensation for a defective product injury, you will need to prove four key facts in your lawsuit.

  • You were injured or suffered damages.
  • The product was defective in some way.
  • The defective product caused your injury.
  • You were using the product as the manufacturer intended.

Liable Parties in a Defective Product Claim

You can name any party along the chain of distribution in a product liability lawsuit. This includes the manufacturer, the distributor or wholesaler, and the retailer. You can file a claim against these parties even if you did not buy the product directly, or even if you did not use the product. If you were hit by a flying blade from your father’s lawnmower, for example, you can still file a product liability claim even if you were not the owner.

The manufacturer is at the beginning of the chain of distribution and will likely be liable for any defects that occur during its development. Additionally, any outside consultants or contractors who were involved in the product design or manufacture could also be named in your lawsuit.

Although a retailer may not be responsible for the defect itself, it could be liable for selling a dangerous product. Any middlemen involved in the distribution of the product may be liable as well. To determine who to name in your lawsuit, speak with a California product liability attorney as soon as possible.

An attorney will conduct an in-depth investigation into your case to determine the source of the defect. He or she may consult with expert witnesses who can provide further insight into the dangerous product. Your lawyer will also represent you in your claim, handling negotiations and representing you in civil court. Contact a California product liability attorney as soon as possible to discuss your legal options.

 

What Is a Hematoma and What Causes It?

Posted in Brain Injuries,Personal Injury,Personal Injury Attorneys,Rodriguez & Associates on April 30, 2021

Our brains serve as the command system for our bodies. Any damage to this vital organ can lead to long-term complications, including memory loss, chronic pain, seizures, and difficulty speaking or writing. Unfortunately, thousands of people suffer from traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) each year.

There are many types of TBI, which range in severity from mild damage to severe, life-threatening conditions. One type of serious brain injury is an intracranial hematoma, or bleeding in the brain.

What Is Intracranial Hematoma?

The term hematoma refers to a collection of blood outside of a blood vessel. Hematomas can occur in many locations, including under the nail bed, in the ear, and in the liver. Some of the most serious forms of hematoma occur in the brain.

Intracranial hematoma is a condition where blood collects inside of the skull. This condition occurs when a blood vessel inside of the brain ruptures or when a patient sustains a head injury during an accident. Symptoms of intracranial hematoma include the following.

  • Vomiting
  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of movement
  • Unequal pupil size
  • Confusion and dizziness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Drowsiness
  • Vomiting
  • Worsening headache

If you believe you have an intracranial hematoma, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. Without prompt treatment, this condition can lead to permanent brain damage, coma, or death.

Common Causes of Intracranial Hematoma

You can develop a hematoma in the brain for several reasons. Aneurysms, poorly developed arteries or veins, high blood pressure, and tumors can all contribute to this condition. However, hematoma often develops after you suffer a head injury in an accident. In many cases, someone else’s negligent actions cause brain injuries.

Car accidents often contribute to hematoma. You may hit your head or have an object penetrate your skull during a forceful collision, leading to bleeding in the brain and long-term brain damage. Any accident that results in a head injury can cause a hematoma, including slip and falls on someone else’s property and dangerous conditions on construction sites, such as falling debris.

The Long-Term Cost of Hematoma

Intracranial hematoma can be expensive to treat and painful to live with. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the lifetime economic cost of a severe brain injury could be as high as $76.5 billion.

Brain injuries often require thousands of dollars in medical care, long-term treatment and disability accommodations, and specialized therapy. Depending on the severity of your injury, you may be unable to work for a period of time or unable to return to your job at all.

The emotional and physical impact of hematoma can also be difficult, especially if you developed permanent complications or lost a loved one to a hematoma. If someone you loved died from a hematoma, you will also need to account for funeral and burial expenses, lost income and benefits, and the loss of his or her support, care, companionship, and love.

Legal Options for Hematoma Victims

If someone else’s actions caused you or a loved one to develop an intracranial hematoma, you may have grounds for a lawsuit or insurance claim. However, you will need to prove that the at-fault party caused the accident and the subsequent hematoma to occur. This involves collecting evidence, speaking to witnesses, and negotiating with insurance companies or defense attorneys.

In these situations, you need a California brain injury lawyer on your side. A brain injury attorney has the skills and resources you need to hold the at-fault party accountable. As soon as you receive medical attention for your hematoma, contact a California personal injury lawyer to discuss your optimal path to recovery.

What is Wrongful Death and Do I have a Case?

Posted in Rodriguez & Associates,Wrongful Death on April 29, 2021

Wrongful death is when one person is killed by another person’s misconduct, wrongful action, or negligence. Common examples include car accidents that occur because of negligence.

In the state of California, cases of wrongful death are treated as civil cases and therefore differ from criminal cases involving homicide, which usually result in punishment (fines or imprisonment).

In wrongful death cases, the deceased could have been killed intentionally or accidentally. The important thing for wrongful death cases is that you are able to prove the existence of a few elements: that a duty of care existed, that the Defendant breached duty of care was breached, and that the wrongful action directly caused the death of the Plaintiff’s loved one.

Who can file a wrongful death case?

According to California’s wrongful death statute, the following people can file a wrongful death lawsuit: the decedent’s surviving spouse (or domestic partner); the decedent’s surviving children; the grandchildren of any deceased child of the descendent.

Parents and siblings can only file a lawsuit when the dependent does not leave behind a spouse, children, or grandchildren. If other individuals can prove they were financially dependent on the deceased, they may also be able to file a wrongful death suit. Putative spouses — a spouse in every sense but legally — and their children and stepchildren may also file wrongful death claims if they can prove they were financially reliant on the deceased.

What are the damages in a wrongful death case?

In cases of wrongful death, damages are filed to get compensation for living without the deceased person. They might cover lost earnings, funeral and burial expenses, and emotional support needed for dealing with the loss of a loved one. The family may also receive compensation for the value of the services provided by the deceased.

Some non-economic damages include the loss of the descendant’s “love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, and moral support,” according to the state of California.

What is the statute of limitations for a wrongful death case?

A statute of limitations determines how long you have after the accident to start legal proceedings. In California, victims of wrongful death cases have two years from the date of the decedent’s death to file a suit.

The death of a loved one is a tragic, emotionally overwhelming event, and one you do not have to struggle with on your own. If you have lost a family member because of someone else’s misconduct or negligence, do not hesitate to contact us today for assistance.

To speak with an attorney about your case at no charge, reach out to us today.