All posts by Mary Alexander & Associates P.C

What Kind of Damage Did the Wine Country Fires Leave Behind?

California wildfire season has been especially nightmarish this year. In Wine Country, fires destroyed over 5,000 homes and killed 44 people. Usually by this time of the year, the season would be ramping down as fall showers move in, but this year has been different. Just a few weeks ago, more fires popped up in Southern California. What’s going on? Why are fires still terrorizing the countryside?

Will Northern California Recover from the Wine Country Fires?

Public officials are asking residents in our communities to do their part to prevent wildfires. This includes clearing fire breaks, and making better emergency plans. Officials are even urging residents to connect with community members who may be disabled or otherwise unable to evacuate as easily as others. Including those neighbors in your plans to evacuate could save lives. And with signs that fire season could get longer and more severe in years to come, such plans may become essential.

Experts believe that this wave of fires may be caused by global warning, which is keeping seasonal rains away, extending California’s dry season. This is causing more agencies to ramp up for the potential threat of fire to thousands of homes, but natural causes aren’t the only danger these agencies are worried about.

Many fires in our areas are caused by humans. The Wine Country fires that struck so close to home are suspected to have been caused by the negligence of PG&E, and other man-made sparks could be responsible for the fires terrorizing Los Angeles and San Diego right now. So far, lawsuits have been started to ensure that the responsible parties pay for their part in this tragedy, but even now, residents are having a hard time returning home. For many, the damage is too great, and they can no longer afford to live in their neighborhood.

This means contacting an attorney has become one of the best solution for the many who lost their homes to the rising fire dangers of California. Keep following the attorneys at Mary Alexander and Associates to learn more about other solutions wildfire victims can pursue.

Is Pokémon Go a Distracted Driving Crisis?

In July of 2016, Pokemon Go was released to an eager audience. Fans were able to catch pocket monsters through their mobile phones using an augmented reality (AR) app. This led many gamers to get off the couch and go outside, but there was a drawback. Some people used this mobile phone app while driving their vehicles, causing massive amounts of damage in distracted driving crashes. But just how much damage did these distracted drivers cause? A new study may have some long-awaited answers to this question.

The Distracted Driving Crisis and Pokemon Go

In 2015, there were over 6 million automobile crashes in the U.S., that’s around 1 million more crashes than what was seen in 2011. Mara Faccio and John J. McConnell, researchers at Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management believe this increase is due to a rise in mobile app downloads. However, outside factors made it particularly difficult to test such a wide-sweeping hypothesis, so the researchers chose to do a more focused study.

They reviewed 12,000 accident reports from Tippecanoe County police between March 1, 2015 and November 30, 2016. From that data they were able to determine that Pokemon Go had potentially caused a 47 percent increase in traffic accidents after it was released.

The researchers found that out of the 286 additional crashes they logged, 134 happened near Pokestops, where groups of players would gather to get in-game items and bonuses. Faccio and McConnell were not able to say if the crashes were directly caused by people playing the game or by increased traffic in those areas, but in either case, it would seem that Pokemon Go had a role to play.

When the researchers applied their findings in Tippecanoe County to the rest of the country, they estimated that somewhere between $2 billion and $7.3 billion worth of damage had been caused by Pokemon Go distracted driving incidents. This is why it is critical for drivers to pay attention to the road and not their phones when out on the open road. The automobile accident attorneys at Mary Alexander & Associates want you to be aware of this danger, and if you or a loved one fall victim to this type of driving negligence, don’t be afraid to reach out for help.

What If I’m Hit by an Uninsured Driver in California?

Every year when winter falls on San Francisco, driving becomes more challenging. Rain, cold and winds at this time of the year often catch drivers off guard, and then the crashes start. If you aren’t up to date on your insurance coverage, then this is the time of year to get everything straightened out. Especially considering that not every driver on the road has coverage. Do you know what to do if you are involved in a traffic incident with an uninsured driver?

How Dangerous Is Bay Area Driving in the Winter?

Thanksgiving weekend ended poorly for many Bay Area drivers this year. Thanks to rain, wind and unpreparedness, many drivers found themselves the victims of crashes, and some even lost their lives. On Highway 101, CHP responded to a crash where a driver lost control of his van, and was ejected from the vehicle only to have it roll on top of him. The driver did not survive. In Emeryville, a 10-year-old girl passed after the vehicle she was riding in lost control at the Berkeley Curve on I80. The vehicle she rode in spun out, crashing into a pickup that had also just lost traction and crashed into the center median.

Damage and loss of life in these incidents can be catastrophic, but it can be even worse if one of the drivers involved has no insurance. In California, drivers are required to have proof of financial responsibility, whether it be minimum liability insurance or a full policy covering over $100,000 in damage. However, not all drivers on the road adhere to these laws, and that’s when underinsured/uninsured driver coverage comes into play.

Is There Anything I Can Do If I’m Hit by an Uninsured Driver?

Most insurance companies have underinsured motorist (UIM) or uninsured motorist (UM) coverage, but you have to ask for them. These policies are often good investments as they protect you in the instance that someone without insurance crashes into your vehicle. These policies can even cover you in the event that you are struck by a hit-and-run driver. However, there are things you need to be aware of when it comes to these policies.

When you file a UM/UIM claim, you and your insurer take up different roles than you do in an ordinary claim situation. You will be settling the claim with your insurer, which means you will be in the role normally taken by the other party’s insurer. That means you will be negotiating a settlement, and this can be hard for the inexperienced.

This is one of those situations where you will benefit from having experienced legal representation by your side. A motor vehicle accident attorney can help you negotiate a fair settlement with your insurance company in an uninsured driver situation, which makes contacting an attorney almost essential after getting into a crash. Remember, winter in the Bay Area can make driving treacherous, so be prepared.

What Does It Take to Be Selected as One of 2018’s Best Law Firms?

The personal injury attorneys here at Mary Alexander & Associates, P.C. have good news to share with the Bay Area. We have been chosen as one of the best law firms in the San Francisco area by US News and Best Lawyers. But what does that mean to our clients, and how was our law firm selected for such an honor?

How to Become One of 2018’s Best Law Firms

To be selected as one of the “Best Law Firms”, the firm must first have an attorney who is recognized in the current edition of Best Lawyers. To achieve this, that lawyer has to be well reviewed by her or his peers when Best Lawyers sends out its annual peer-review survey.

The next step in choosing the law firms that rank in “Best Law Firms” is a review of client feedback as well as what has been said on the Law Firm Survey, the Law Firm Leaders Survey, and the Best Lawyers peer-review survey. There aren’t any fees associated with submitting or receiving rank, so getting mentioned is never a matter of who paid more, but rather it is a result of what your community and peers think of that particular law firm.

That means that being ranked as a Tier 2 firm in the area of “Personal Injury Litigation – Plaintiffs” here in San Francisco was a matter of being selected by fellow legal professionals and clients. We appreciate that the community thinks so highly of our service, and we will work hard to continue to bring strong representation to the people who need our help.

Thank you—from the Bay Area personal injury lawyers at Mary Alexander & Associates, P.C.

PG&E Lawsuits Filed, Will More Wildfire Victims Join?

On October 8-9, wildfires raged through the countryside of Northern California. These blazes burned nearly 6,200 homes, wiped out around 150 commercial buildings and killed 43 people. Thankfully, the fires were contained a few short weeks ago, but many families are returning to find they no longer have homes. Now, these wildfire victims are banding together with Mary Alexander & Associates to claw back some of what they lost from the responsible party—PG&E.

Why Are Wildfire Victims Filing Lawsuits Against PG&E?

The topic of gross negligence became the center of attention at San Francisco Superior Court on November 2nd. That’s because three families joined 12 other wildfire victims in filing lawsuits against energy provider PG&E. Mary Alexander and one of the clients she is representing, Nemesio Ruiz, spoke to the press after filing the lawsuit.

Ruiz described how his family had just celebrated his son’s 17th birthday right before having to leave everything behind as fires burned ever closer to their home. After the blaze was contained, and the family returned only to find the burnt remains of the life they once had. Alexander says, “These families deserve to be compensated,” but how is a power company responsible for so much destruction?

The lawsuit alleges that PG&E neglected the proper maintenance of a group of powerlines that are being investigated as the source of the wildfires that ripped through neighborhoods, destroying homes and precious memories. Vegetation was allowed to grow too close to these PG&E powerlines, so when high winds knocked the lines down, they caught the dry brush on fire and caused a horrific blaze. Worse yet, this isn’t the only lack of maintenance issue PG&E is involved in.

Mary Alexander & Associates is representing 11 families and 39 victims of the Wine Country fires.

Back in December 2016, a fire broke out at the Ghost Ship night club, killing 36 people. Maintenance issues on the part of PG&E may be the cause of that fire as well, and Mary Alexander & Associates are representing plaintiffs in the lawsuits filed by the Ghost Fire victims and their families.

This update was brought to you by the attorneys at Mary Alexander & Associates—handling the most complex legal matters when the Bay Area is in need.

Are Infotainment System Causing Distracted Driving Crashes?

When driving a vehicle, it’s been considered acceptable to reach over and tune the radio or to adjust the vehicle’s climate controls. These simplistic tasks usually aren’t enough to take a driver’s attention away from the road, but that’s changed over the years. Now we have cellphones, portable DVD players and portable gaming consoles to divide our focus, but did you ever suspect that your car’s infotainment system may be just as likely to cause distracted driving crashes as these other devices?

Can Infotainment Systems Cause Distracted Driving Crashes?

A recent study released by AAA reveals interesting information that may surprise you. Despite manufacturers claiming to design their infotainment centers to reduce distraction for drivers, this new study says that these systems may actually do the opposite.

Led by University of Utah professor David Strayer, AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety has been examining how much vehicles contribute to distracted driving since 2013. And as the years have gone by, the problem of vehicles distracting their drivers has only gotten worse.

The study says that out of the 30 cars and trucks studied this year, only seven did not rate high or very high on a scale measuring how much distraction these vehicles caused drivers. None of the vehicles were rated as requiring a low amount of attention.

The study further discovered that in-vehicle GPS systems tended to be the most distracting devices in vehicle infotainment systems, distracting drivers for up to 40 seconds on average. The runner up for most distracting infotainment option was the texting function. And in case you thought voice control functions could help in reducing these distractions, the study found that voice systems were often too complex—requiring drivers to turn their thoughts away from driving tasks.

In summary, the researchers found that these infotainment systems have turned simple climate and radio adjustments into a complicated mess. Layers of menus and tasks that require more and more thought have been integrated into these systems and it is causing chaos. AAA is recommending that automakers take some of these distracting features out of their vehicle, but with almost 70 of adults in the U.S. demanding these infotainment systems, manufacturers have no reason to reduce these features.

Recent personal injury lawsuits have seen app makers like Snapchat and phone makers like Apple taken to court for creating distractions while people are driving. Could such lawsuits over infotainment systems persuade automakers to reduce the possible distractions these systems can cause? Your Bay Area personal injury law firm—Mary Alexander & Associates—will monitor the situation to let you know about any developments.

Can Medical Facilities Be Held Responsible for Not Reporting Child Abuse?

It was late January of 2011 when a seven-week-old baby was brought into Sutter Amador Hospital in Jackson, California. The boy had injuries to his eye, bruising on the face, and a mouthful of blood, yet doctors only treated the child and sent him home with his teenage parents and maternal grandmother. Now, several years later, a California court thinks the medical facility may have been partially responsible for what later happened to the child because potential abuse was not reported.

Who Is Responsible When Child Abuse Is Not Reported?

Three weeks later, the child from before was back at the hospital. This time the child had a broken clavicle, two broken ribs, bruising over much of his body and a spinal cord injury. The spinal injury left the boy permanently paralyzed from the waist down, and it spurred the hospital to notify Child Protective Services.

The boy was taken from his biological parents and placed into the care of a foster family that would later go on to adopt him. However, over the years questions began to arise and it soon became clear that the boy’s paralysis should never have happened.

California law requires that mandated reporters—such as doctors, nurses and other hospital staff—report instances of child injury that may have been caused by abuse. But during this little boy’s first visit to the hospital, when he sustained injuries to the face, hospital staff never reported the boy’s injuries to CPS.

This factor—and many others—landed a doctor, a nurse, two nurse practitioners, and Sutter Amador Hospital’s supervising medical group in court. Along with the biological parents and maternal grandparents, the hospital was sued for not reporting potential child abuse, which may have led to the paralysis of this child. The boy, who is now 6 years old, was subsequently awarded an $8.4 million verdict.

This story was brought to you by the child abuse attorneys at Mary Alexander & Associates—remember, if you don’t stand up for a child, who will?

These Are the Three Most Dangerous Intersections in San Francisco

For many years now, San Francisco has sought to be both a walk-friendly and bike-friendly community. Across the city, new bike lanes and crosswalks have been popping up all over the city, but there are still some areas you need to be careful of if you are walking or riding a bicycle.

What Are the Three Most Dangerous Intersections for San Franciscans?

Pedestrian fatalities in California dropped by 11 percent in 2016, however, our state still led the nation in pedestrian deaths. When it comes to bicycle deaths, we rank around 6th per capita, yet still our state averages more bicycle fatalities than any other state. This means we’ve still got a long way to go in order to take a bite out of pedestrian and bicycle accidents. Here are three spots where such efforts could do the most good:

  • Octavia Blvd/Market Street– This intersection is known more for bicycle accidents than pedestrian accidents, but a significant number of pedestrian accidents still happen here. Be on your guard if you are cycling near these streets.
  • Potrero Ave/16th Street– This area is rather prone to pedestrian accidents, but is not the most dangerous location for bike collisions. You should be especially careful if you need to cross this intersection on foot. Take extra precautions like observing far off traffic before approaching the curb.
  • 5th Street/Market Street– This is the most dangerous intersection you can approach in the city. It holds the top spot for vehicle collisions, pedestrian collisions and it holds the number two spot for bicycle involved crashes. If you are near Market and 5th, be sure to put your phone away and pay close attention to your surroundings.

Want to learn more about the areas of San Francisco where collisions most often happen? Check out this report from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. You can also keep checking in with our Bay Area personal injury attorneys for more ways to make our community safer.

Could Distracted Driving Be Stopped by Smart Cars?

If you’ve been paying attention to the media lately, then you know autonomous vehicles are the future of driving. These new cars will be able to pick you up and take you wherever you need to go without the need of a driver. Experts even claim that autonomous vehicles will be safer and eliminate road hazards like distracted driving. However, the autonomous driving future is still a ways off, are there technological solution that could help drivers fight distraction today?

Are Smart Cars Capable of Stopping Distracted Driving?

Tesla faced a mountain of pressure from government officials when one of its cars crashed into an 18-wheeler, killing its driver while operating in semi-autonomous mode. This led to the company employing its vast technical know-how to make sure drivers continued to pay attention to the road when autopilot was activated. But what if that technology were deployed in all cars, regardless of whether they were in semi-autonomous mode or not?

That’s a question Fakhri Karray of the University of Waterloo’s Center for Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence is trying to find out. Using software and Microsoft Kinect digital cameras, Karray and his team of engineers are developing a system that cars can use to tell if drivers are distracted or not.

The system uses the cameras to watch the driver’s entire body, and uses an algorithm to determine if that driver is distracted or not. Automakers like Cadillac are also developing such systems, but they focus on just the head or eyes. The system at Waterloo observes the entire body. These researchers are also using neural networks instead of pattern recognition to develop a system that makes fewer mistakes when trying to figure out when someone is driving distracted.

How Long Before This Technology Is Available?

According to Karray, if left up to automakers, it could take years before we see systems like this developed for consumer vehicles. However, he believes he could get a system like this running in just a year, which could allow the third-party market to make options available much sooner than automakers can provide.

Regardless, we will still have to exercise self-control and care when out driving. There is all manner of distractions for drivers on modern roads—from cellphones to infotainment systems. It is the responsibility of the driver to keep their focus on the road while behind the wheel.

Public safety officials are launching safety campaigns all over the country to help remind drivers of this responsibility. And personal injury attorneys like the Bay Area lawyers at Mary Alexander & Associates can do their part by helping the victims of distracted driving seek justice against negligent drivers. Contact experienced legal help if you have a legal concern about your motor vehicle accident.

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