Archives for August 2011

PG & E Record Flaws Exposed in San Bruno Explosion Investigation

Months after an explosion in a Pacific Gas & Electric pipeline killed eight people in San Bruno, maintenance documents released by the utility to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) show conflicting information about repair work performed along the line for decades, according to a report in the San Francisco Examiner.

The discrepancies concern the details of a 1998 leak a few miles away on the same high – pressure gas line. PG & E workers who repaired that leak reported problems and remedial steps different from those reported by the utility. In the wake of last year’s San Bruno explosion, the California Public Utilities Commission ordered the turnover of thousands of PG & E documents concerning safety, maintenance and repair records.

Comparing the documents to the utility’s previous statements, it appears that PG & E itself is yet to get a handle on the causes of leaks along its pipeline. For example, PG & E has previously stated that the pipeline was seamless, but the records show numerous welds and other repairs along lengthwise seams.

Complex Accident Investigation Depends on Careful Records Analysis

The San Bruno pipeline explosion case illustrates the complexity of investigating accidents involving public utilities. In civil actions for damages by the individuals and families most directly affected, it will be necessary to prove negligence on the part of the utility or its contractors in the design, installation or maintenance of the transmission line.

Because the most reliable and specific evidence of the causes of an accident will generally come from the records maintained by the utility itself, the failure to maintain proper maintenance and repair records can complicate the investigative efforts of plaintiffs’ lawyers as well as those of regulators. In some cases, however, proof of inadequate record – keeping practices by itself can help establish the plaintiff’s case for negligence.

Call Weber & Nierenberg for a Free Consultation: 866-288-6010

At the Bay Area law firm of Weber & Nierenberg, our experience with the investigation and proof of complex personal injury claims against corporate and public agency defendants can make the decisive difference in the outcome of a catastrophic personal injury or wrongful death case.

Contact us for a free consultation in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose or San Rafael if you need advice about your legal options in the aftermath of a public utility accident, a bus or train crash, or an accident on government property. You can also visit our website.

Comparative Fault Issues in Motorcycle Accident Litigation

San Francisco | San Jose | Oakland | San Rafael, CA

The doctrine of comparative fault allows an accident victim to recover a portion of the damages proved against another negligent party, even though the victim’s own negligence is shown to have played a role in the accident. Many motor vehicle accident cases involve fault on the part of two or more motorists. The question for the jury is which motorist was more at fault.

Contact a personal injury attorney at Weber & Nierenberg at any of four Bay Area office locations to learn about your right to compensation for motorcycle accident injuries that may have been in part your own fault. You might have been speeding or given a ticket for a different moving violation. You might have been lane splitting under traffic conditions that were unreasonably dangerous. Your injuries might have been more serious than they would have been if you had been wearing a helmet, heavy boots or other protective gear.

The Amount You Recover Is Reduced by Your Percentage of Fault

Despite any of these circumstances, you still have the right to recover damages against another negligent motorist and his or her insurance company under California law. Our state follows a so-called pure version of comparative fault or negligence. In other words, no matter how the jury apportions the fault between the drivers in court — 50-50, 40-60, 90-10, 10-90, 20-30-50 or any other combination that adds up to 100 percent — you’re entitled to recover the portion of damages that represents the other driver’s percentage of fault.

For example, if you were speeding, stopped abruptly at a light, leaked into the intersection and got hit by someone making an illegal turn, you can still recover damages from the driver who hit you. If you were found to be 40 percent at fault, the other driver’s insurer would pay 60 percent of the damages proved at trial. If you were found 70 percent at fault, you could still recover 30 percent of your damages.

Comparative Fault Won’t Defeat Your Claim, But Reduces Your Damages

Our goal in cases where we anticipate a strong comparative negligence defense is to protect the greatest percentage possible of the damages we prove on your behalf. Weber & Nierenberg has handled many cases where our client’s partial responsibility for the accident was clear, but we still managed to recover a substantial damages award.

In one case, our client was speeding on his motorcycle when struck and seriously injured by an uninsured driver pulling out from a stop sign. Our investigation showed that a van illegally parked close to the intersection created a visual obstruction whereby neither the biker nor the driver could see the other. Our client was found to be 50 percent at fault, but still collected a jury verdict of more than $500,000 based on the van owner’s negligence.

Call 866-288-6010 for a Free Consultation in the Bay Area

As experienced trial attorneys focused on motorcycle accident litigation, we at Weber & Nierenberg encounter comparative fault defense arguments on a regular basis in our practice, and we often find ways to overcome them or at least protect as much of our client’s proven damages as possible. Contact us at any of our four Bay Area offices to learn more about comparative fault as it affects your claim to compensation.

With offices in San Francisco, San Rafael, Oakland and San Jose, the personal injury lawyers of Weber & Nierenberg represent motorcycle accident clients throughout the East Bay, North Bay, South Bay and other northern California communities, including Sacramento, Napa, Santa Rosa, Berkeley, Richmond, Fremont, Hayward, Modesto, Stockton, San Mateo, Santa Cruz and Walnut Creek.

Proving Negligence in Inadequate Security Claims in the Bay Area

Victims of violent crimes, sexual attacks or robberies have a theoretical right to sue the perpetrator for damages suffered. After all, practically any crime with an individual victim is also an intentional tort, and the plaintiff in a civil action against the criminal does not need to prove the claim beyond a reasonable doubt, as a prosecuting attorney would in a criminal case. Unfortunately, this right of civil action against a criminal is almost always merely theoretical. Even if the assailant or robber is brought to justice, only in rare circumstances will the perpetrator have assets available to meet the damages proven.

Civil Damages for Criminal Acts through Premises Liability Litigation

The law of negligent security has developed to provide an alternative means of civil relief for the victims of violent crimes, especially in situations where the victim had reason to expect at least some degree of protection on the part of a business or property owner. California law recognizes a general right of recovery in favor of the victim of a violent crime who can prove that the crime would probably not have occurred if someone else had taken reasonable steps to prevent it.

What makes negligent security litigation especially challenging for the plaintiff is the law’s vague guidance as to what constitutes a duty of reasonable care to prevent crime and the specific measures a property owner should take to meet that responsibility under the facts of a given case. Whether or not a negligence action will succeed can typically be assessed under a “totality of the circumstances” test — in other words, a property owner’s negligence will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis rather than under a single set of rules.

Establishing the Case for Negligence through Focused Investigation

An experienced personal injury lawyer who is familiar with the demands of negligent security litigation under a variety of situations will use the tools of pretrial discovery and expert evaluation to develop a theory of liability that matches the facts of the case at hand. The investigation will consider such issues as the prevalence of crime in the immediate area, the preventive measures taken previously by past or current owners, negligent maintenance of lighting or electronic surveillance systems and other questions of fact.

These inquiries will focus on the reasonableness of the protective steps actually taken by the property owner in light of the known risks to visitors, residents or patrons of the premises where the attack took place, and the ways necessary measures were ignored or discontinued. In that way, the owner’s duty of care under a premises liability theory of negligence can be specifically defined in terms of the facts of the case and not an abstraction of general security responsibilities.

Call a San Francisco Premises Liability Attorney: 866-288-6010

With offices in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose and San Rafael, the personal injury attorneys of Weber & Nierenberg offer reliable advice and energetic advocacy to people throughout the Bay Area who need to know their civil litigation options in the aftermath of a serious criminal attack. Contact us for a free consultation at any of our locations, or visit our website.

Locations & Contact Information
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1 Sansome Street, Suite 3500 San Francisco, CA 94104
P. 415-788-3900

1999 Harrison Street, Suite 1800 Oakland, CA 94612
P. 510-663-6000