In so many accidents that involve injuries, there's more than one cause. And when it comes to determining fault in a civil personal injury lawsuit, all of the possible circumstances are considered. It's then up to a judge to determine whether the claims against each of the parties being sued are valid. If the judge disagrees that a party played a role in the accident, the plaintiff can appeal.
That's what a Los Gatos, California, woman did as she sought compensation for the injuries she suffered in a 2007 car accident. The mother was nearly killed by a drunk driver who struck her, momentarily pinning her against her SUV. In the process her hips and legs were crushed, requiring extensive recovery.
The woman sued the driver, who initially drove off but later pleaded guilty to felony drunk driving. The victim's claims against the man are still pending, but she also filed a lawsuit against the city of Los Gatos for negligence, claiming that poor maintenance and therefore dangerous conditions of the streets in the area where she was hit contributed to the man's swerving and eventual crash into her legs. The town's officials disagreed, of course, attributing the accident to the driver's "drunken stupor." A Santa Clara County judge sided with the Los Gatos officials and dismissed the lawsuit against the town.
But the 6th District Court of Appeal in San Jose reinstated the woman's lawsuit last week, saying enough evidence exists to allow a jury to decide her claims. She still has to make her case to that jury, but at least she has the chance to do so again.
The woman's case demonstrates that it pays to consider all of the different factors that can contribute to an accident. This is why victims of drunk-driving accidents sometimes sue the bar that served the intoxicated driver who caused the crash. But because no two accidents are exactly alike, you may want to consult an experienced personal injury lawyer who can help you determine who or what might be at fault in your accident.
Source: Mercury News, "Los Gatos mom injured in drunken driving crash can sue town, appeals court says," Howard Mintz, April 27, 2012
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