The Tragic Consequences of Speeding

We don’t usually consider that 15 mph could make the difference between walking through the front door or not, but in the early hours of July 4, it made all the difference for two local residents.

As personal injury attorneys, we know this story all too well. For us, every accident is a story, a family, a moment of suffering, and an opportunity for healing.

In our line of work, we see the grave and emergent dangers of speeding every day. We can see its effects on our community, and local law enforcement has recognized speeding as an urgent problem. Local deputies recently increased enforcement as a direct result of specific incidents, and the Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Station pledges a zero-tolerance policy for reckless driving, according to

Additionally, the Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Station issued 109 arrests during a speed racing crackdown in a Castaic industrial park on June 29. Seven of those arrested were physically booked at the local station. The joint operation, led by Captain Edward Krusey and the CHP Newhall Office, targeted illegal street racers and reckless drivers who were participating in what’s familiarly known as a “sideshow.”

“Speeding is extremely dangerous, with death or serious injury a frequent and unfortunate consequence,” said the Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Station in an official statement. “A momentary loss of control, which can happen all too easily, can have devastating consequences for both the drivers and spectators.”

A momentary loss of control is what killed two local residents last month. It can happen in an instant, yet the damage is irreparable — the consequences devastating.

At Owen, Patterson & Owen, we work within these devastating consequences every day. We work for those who suffer as a result of reckless driving — and for the families of those who couldn’t be saved. We work to carry some of the burdens on behalf of our clients, as they start the unimaginable journey ahead.

As our community mourns during this most difficult time, the team at Owen, Patterson & Owen expresses its deepest condolences and sorrow for the families of these local residents. We hold the injured, and the families they leave behind, in our hearts.

Premises Liability

Premises liability laws define the legal duties of property owners to protect persons who come in contact with their property. The duty of care landowners owe an individual on their property may differ by jurisdiction. Some states follow common law, where the landowner’s duty may change depending on whether the person who enters their land was a licensee, invitee or a trespasser. The level of care a landowner owes to licensees or invitees may be much higher than to an individual who is on their property without permission (trespasser). The duty owed, in other words, may be determined by the relationship between the injured person and the property owner.

Landowners Legal Duty of Care

An invitee is any person who enters the owner’s property by invitation, whether actual or implied. When the property at issue is a public place or a business, an implied invitation is often found. Under this system, property owners owe the highest duty of care to invitees. If the person was invited to the landowner’s property, the landowners have the duty to warn their guest about any dangerous conditions on their property. The owners also have a duty to inspect their property to discover any hazards, and to correct or warn of any hazards they find, to make it safe for the invitee.

If the property owner does not keep invitees safe and they are injured as a result, the injured party may have a legal claim against the property owner, if they can show that the owner was negligent. There are exceptions, however — in many instances, if there is a dangerous condition on the property that is considered obvious to a reasonable person, the property owners may not have a duty to warn their guests of this condition.

A licensee is a guest of the property owner who entered the owner’s property with permission. Similar to invitees, if the individual on the property is a licensee the landowner also has a duty to warn him or her of any unsafe conditions on the property that are known to the landowner and would not be obvious to the licensee. However, the property owners do not have a duty to inspect the property to discover any hazards, as they would with an invitee.

Alternatively, under this system property owners usually have no duty of care to trespassers, unless the owners discover the trespassers on their property and know of a dangerous condition. In these limited situations, the owner would have a duty to warn the trespasser of the dangerous condition.

In recent years, several states have moved away from the common law designations of invitee, licensee and trespasser. In these states, the landowner owes a reasonable duty of care to any person or persons on their property, no matter whether the individual was invited, had the property owner’s permission to be there or did not have permission to be on the property. These jurisdictions do not base the property owner’s liability or duty to warn on the relationship between the owner and the individual on their property. Instead, owners have a duty to keep their property reasonably safe and warn others of hazards or dangerous conditions under any circumstances.

If you or a loved one have been injured while on the property of another, it is important to speak to a personal injury lawyer in your jurisdiction. A knowledgeable attorney will be able to tell you about the laws in your state, discuss your legal options, answer any questions you have and help you determine the best course of legal action for you based on the facts of your situation.

Preparing to Meet with Your Personal Injury Attorney

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DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent counsel for advice on any legal matter.

Nursing Home Injuries

In recent years, our media has highlighted nursing home injuries. It is an alarming and ongoing concern to the public. To meet this concern, state and federal laws have been passed to protect patients in healthcare facilities. Patients have specific rights that must be met by facilities and staff members. When these rights are not met and individuals are injured, they have the right to pursue compensation against those held legally responsible. Often, family members must make legal claims on behalf of their loved ones. If you or a family member has been injured, it is important to speak to an attorney to learn about your legal options and rights against nursing home abuse.

Rights of Nursing Home Residents

Residents of nursing homes or healthcare facilities are protected by state and federal laws. These laws guard patients against neglect, abuse and other mistreatment, whether physical, nonphysical or mental in nature. These safeguards are often referred to as the Patient Bill of Rights, and provide residents with basic rights to food, clothing, shelter and healthcare. Additional protections also include the right of residents to make their decisions regarding their medical treatment; the right to be fully informed and in control of their finances (unless the individual not longer has capacity to do so); the right to communicate with family members, doctors, other residents and participate in social activities of their choosing; and the right to be made aware of their facility’s administrative process and given access to that process if they so choose. Federal programs — such as Medicare — and state programs also protect residents against abuse and from the use of any physical or chemical restraint that is not deemed medically necessary. Patients have the right to their own safety. Often, if it is shown that facilities do not abide by these protections, they will not receive federal or state funding.

Parties Responsible for Nursing Home Abuse

If you or a loved one has been harmed in a nursing home, legal action may be possible. A victim of nursing home abuse may follow the facilities administrative process to file a complaint against the nursing home and/or staff members. The claim will generally be investigated by an adult protective services agency. Alternatively, an action may be filed in civil court for compensation for the injuries suffered by the victim — this is usually a negligence claim. Damages in civil court will be monetary in nature, intended to help compensate injured parties or loved ones for financial, emotional and mental losses. In serious cases, authorities may even take criminal action against the responsible parties.

In most cases, the claim against the nursing home will be for negligent treatment of the resident. Negligence claims may be against a variety of potential defendants, including nursing home employees or staff, or the facility itself. Likewise, negligence claims may differ based on the facts of the situation. Some examples may include negligent treatment of nursing home residents by staff members, negligent hiring of employees by the facility, or negligent maintenance of the facility itself. In addition, there may be criminal claims of assault or battery, or claims of exploitation — taking advantage of patients through undue influence, deception, threats or the individual’s inability to give legal consent (legal incapacity).

Contact a Personal Injury Attorney in Your Area

If you or your loved when has been injured while a patient in a nursing home or other healthcare facility, it is important to speak to a knowledgeable attorney to discuss your circumstances, answer your questions and determine the most appropriate legal options in your situation.

Preparing to Meet with Your Personal Injury Attorney

To read and print out a copy of the checklist, please follow the link below.

Preparing to Meet with your Personal Injury Attorney

You can download a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader here.

Copyright © 1994-2011 FindLaw, a Thomson Reuters business

DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent counsel for advice on any legal matter.

Personal Injury Due to Animal Bites

Many people are bitten by animals every year. These injuries may be serious; aside from pain, they can cause physical and emotional suffering, infection, other medical complications — sometimes even death. The most common types of bites that we hear about are dog bites. Due to an increasing number of reported bite victims and the public’s response, most states now have “dog bite” statutes that hold the owner responsible if their pet injures someone else. Aside from dogs, these statutes may cover bites from wild animals kept as pets and animals in government parks, such as zoos. The applicable laws and possible claims may vary from state to state, so it is important to discuss your situation with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney to learn more about the legal options in your area.

Types of Animals

Domestic Pets

The majority of states have dog bite statutes. In these states, an owner is liable for damages caused by their domestic pet in public places and on their own property. In some jurisdictions, the pet owner may have a defense to liability if the victim was on their property illegally. In states that do not have such a statute, the animal owners may be held liable if they knew their pet could be dangerous to others. This would apply for states without dog bite statutes, or laws regarding other domestic pets. Knowledge that the pet could be dangerous does not mean that the animal must have attacked someone, but that the owners should have known that, based on past behavior, there was a strong likelihood that their pet could harm someone. Evidence of past behaviors can range from previous attacks on people to evidence that the owner muzzled the animal (and therefore knew of the possible danger).

Wild Animals Kept as Pets

People who keep wild animals as pets do so at their own risk. Unlike domestic animals, wild animals are regarded as unsafe and unpredictable. For this reason, in most jurisdictions, the wild animal’s owners are held liable for any injuries caused by the animal. It does not matter if the animal has never attacked a person before, shown any aggression towards people or if the animal’s owners have taken all possible precautions. A wild animal is not considered “safe” in the eyes of the law. In contrast, a minority of jurisdictions will not hold the owner liable simply because they keep a wild animal. In these states, the injured person must be able to provide the court evidence that the owner had previous knowledge of the animal’s danger to others and, therefore, was negligent in keeping the animal as a pet.

Zoo Animals

Even though animals kept at a zoo are wild animals, most jurisdictions do not hold the zoo owners liable for injuries, simply because the animals are wild. Usually the injured person must show that the owners were negligent in some way and that their negligence created the situation that caused the injury.

Defenses by the Responsible Parties

Parties held responsible in an animal bite case may vary, depending on the circumstances. The person or persons held liable may be the animal’s owner or caretaker, the landlord of the premises on which the animal was kept, or the government. To determine who is responsible the court may look at a variety of factors, including who owned the animal, who had control over the animal at the time of the incident and who had knowledge of the animal’s potential danger. Even though the possible defendants may differ, there are several common defenses to an animal bite claim. Perhaps the victim’s injury was his or her own fault — the injured party knew of the risks, acted unreasonably or aggravated the animal to attack — or perhaps the victim was trespassing at the time of the injury. The defenses used will depend on the specific circumstances surrounding the incident, the responsible parties and the jurisdiction in which the claim takes place.

Injury Compensation

The amount and type of compensation you may be awarded by the court is based on the specific circumstances surrounding your injury and the jurisdiction that you are in. Some common damages that may be awarded in animal bite cases are medical costs incurred by the injured party, future medical treatment, lost wages, loss of future earnings, pain and suffering and any other damages resulting from the incident. The types of possible damages are dependent on the facts of your case. It is important to speak to an attorney in your area to discuss the facts of your case, your legal options and to answer any questions you may have.

Preparing to Meet with Your Personal Injury Attorney

To read and print out a copy of the checklist, please follow the link below.

Preparing to Meet with your Personal Injury Attorney

You can download a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader here.

Copyright © 1994-2009 FindLaw, a Thomson Reuters business

DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent counsel for advice on any legal matter.