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Articles Posted in California Personal Injury Law

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health insurance, california personal injury law

Should my health insurance payments affect my personal injury award?

They say if you like law or you enjoy eating sausage, you should never watch either one being made or, you may change your mind.  In my opinion, the decision of Howell v. Hamilton Meats and Provisions, Inc. (2011) 52 Cal.4th 541, is an example of how a court can have good intentions but, end up making very bad law.

Facts of The CaseThe plaintiff, Rebecca Hamilton, was severely injured when a delivery truck being driven by a truck driver hired by Hamilton Meats and Provisions crashed into her vehicle.  Liability was not disputed but the parties could not agree on a settlement amount so the case went to trial in San Diego, CA.  Prior to the trial, the attorneys for defendant (Hamilton) asked the judge to exclude evidence of what was billed by plaintiff’s health care providers because these bills had been written down pursuant to  contracts between the health caregivers and the plaintiff’s health insurance company.

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california accident claims, taxi cab accident claims in California, California Personal Injury LawI thought I would start a series about personal injury case law that came from the California Court System.  First, it is important to note for laypersons that law gets made in the United States in one of two ways, either by statutes and regulations created by legislatures, or by case law from courts of appeal deciding certain issues on appeal from the trial court.  This series will discuss some of these case law decisions related to tort law in California.  The first case I think is highly relevant is the 1975 California Supreme Court decision of Li v. Yellow Cab. Co. 13 Cal.3d 804.

Facts of the CaseThe plaintiff (“Li”) was making a left hand turn at a downtown Los Angeles intersection.  The defendant (a cab driver with the Yellow Cab Company) was approaching from the opposite direction and collided with the right side of plaintiff’s vehicle.  The trial court decided that the defendant was traveling at an unsafe speed and tried to beat out a yellow light and that this was the cause of the accident.  It also determined, however, that the plaintiff was not acting reasonably when she attempted to make a left hand turn across multiple lanes of traffic at a busy intersection.

Issue To Be Resolved by the Calfornia Supreme Court:  Prior to this point in time (1975), California, like many other states, had been following a system of “contributory negligence”.  This rule of law stated that if the plaintiff was just as much or more at fault for an accident as the defendant, the plaintiff should receive nothing.  This “all or nothing” system didn’t allow for much flexibility in cases such as this one where it could really be argued that the plaintiff should be allowed to recover for their injuries and property damage even if they are partially at fault for the incident.

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Legal Definition of Negligence Under California Law

Negligence is the failure to use reasonable care to prevent harm to oneself or to others.

A person can be negligent by acting or by failing to act. A person is negligent if he or she does something that a reasonably careful person would not do in the same situation or fails to do something that a reasonably careful person would do in the same situation.

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