The Law Offices of O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley is happy to announce our selection for the "People Love Us on Yelp" award for 2017. Yelp is the top business review website, and businesses with the highest ratings win this award. We thank our clients for taking the time to share their positive experiences on Yelp and other review platforms.
If you’ve ever been in a car accident you know what a hassle it can be just dealing with your own insurance company. But if the accident isn’t your fault, just think what you’ll be dealing with when it comes to the insurance company of the stranger who plowed into your car.
Here are a few tips to help you file a claim with the other party’s insurer, which would be a third-party claim:
Get complete information Whoever caused the accident is supposed to report it to their auto insurance company. But, sometimes they’re reluctant to do so. To play it safe, you should also call their insurance company and advise them of the accident.
To do this you are going to need the other driver’s complete information, which you should gather at the scene of the accident. This is what you should get:
Name and address of the other driver
The name of the other driver’s insurance carrier and policy information
If there are witnesses, get statements from them as well as contact information
Take photos of the scene of the accident using your smartphone
This is the evidence you will need to substantiate your position on who caused the accident. Some auto insurance companies have mobile apps that help motorists document an accident on the scene right after it occurs. Some of these apps provide a checklist telling you how to gather the information for your claim with them or the other driver’s insurer.
Make the proper notifications Take it upon yourself to notify the other driver’s insurance carrier that there has been an accident involving one of their policyholders and that you were involved as well. Just give them the facts of what happened, even if you are convinced the other driver was at fault.
It is up to the police to decide who was at fault and whether they should issue a ticket. On their own, the insurance company will make their own determination as to who was at fault. This might or might not agree with the assessment made by law enforcement. In making their determination, the insurance company will consider the police report and statements from the drivers and any witnesses as well as physical evidence.
Even if you think you were not the cause of the accident, it is always best to call your insurance company to inform them of the accident. This shows good faith on your part and this will help you if the other driver’s insurance carrier denies that their policyholder was responsible for the accident, in which case you would need to file a collision claim.
In theory, you should just need to notify the other driver’s insurance company of your damages plus any injuries, tow your car to the body shop, see a doctor and just wait for the insurance company to pay these bills.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t always play out as it should. Auto insurance companies often insist that you get their authorization for any car repairs and medical treatments. If their insurance adjuster does not give authorization for your car repair before it’s taken to the body shop, there can be a problem. At the very least, make sure that the insurance carrier has already accepted liability before you start having your car repaired. Get them to email all of this to you so you have their authorization in writing.
You need to know that no insurance company can demand that you take your car to a certain repair shop. Most states allow insurance companies to recommend car repair shops, but they are not legally allowed to insist that you use the auto body shop they name. It is your choice.
You may need an attorney The other driver’s insurance company may tell you to have your own insurance company pay for the repairs, claiming they have no reason to believe their policyholder was at fault. While there are laws in most states that make it illegal for an insurance carrier to deny a claim without making a reasonable effort to investigate the facts, or to deny a claim when it is reasonably clear that they are liable, it may not be easy to fight with the other driver’s insurance company.
You may choose to file a claim with your own insurance company and they might very well decide to fight it out with the other insurance carrier for compensation if they determine the other driver caused the accident.
If you do decide to fight with the at-fault driver’s insurance company by yourself, you’ll need a good lawyer, especially if you have serious injuries. Your attorney will help you understand and navigate the insurance laws.
You may have even collected evidence that proves the other driver was at fault, he may have even admitted this at the scene, but your claim is still denied by his insurance company. How can this be? Because he may very well have told them a different version of what caused the accident that does not fit with your version of events. His insurance company may prefer to believe him just to get out of paying your claim.
The truth is that sometimes the insurance carrier will side with their policyholder, even when their version of events conflicts with the police report.
It is not at all usual for an insurance company to side with their policyholder when there is no accident report by the police and it’s not clear who is at fault. In many states, the officer that shows up at the scene of an accident may look at the damage and determine that it’s only minor (usually under $500), and the officer won’t file any accident report. Estimates by body shops for that same damage can total in the thousands. You need to take your car yourself to a reputable repair shop in order to get an accurate determination of the extent of your car’s damage.
If the damage won’t cost a whole lot to repair, you can always file a case in small claims court against the other driver. Insurance companies are well aware that the longer they can drag out a claim, the more apt you are to cave and settle for less or just go away.
If you’re getting nowhere, turn to your insurance carrier Even though you did not cause the accident, you can still file an accident claim with your own insurance company if you have this sort of coverage. The claim would be for them to pay for your damages and injuries.
You can do this if you are adequately covered with collision insurance. In this case your insurance company would pay for the repairs on your car or compensate you if your car is a total loss. If you decide to do this, you would still be responsible for paying the deductible towards the repairs. But, you may actually get that amount of money back if your insurance company ends up settling with the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier.
If the other driver has no car insurance and you have what’s called “Uninsured Motorist Property Damage” or UMPD coverage, you can file a claim with your insurance for the damage to your car. On UMPD claims you do not have to pay any deductible.
If an accident is not your fault and you are forced to file a claim with your insurance company, this does not necessarily mean that your insurance rates will go up.
There are laws in most states prohibiting insurance carriers from surcharging or raising their policyholders’ premiums for accidents that were not their fault. Unfortunately, these laws won’t stop your insurer from dropping you when it comes time to renew your policy if you’ve filed a slew of recent claims.
Understand your coverage for injuries In most states, if you sustained injuries in a car accident in which you were not at fault, you would file your injury claim through the other driver’s insurance company. If they do not have any car insurance, you could file a claim under your coverage for Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury, but only if you are covered for this. You could also file a claim with your health insurance provider.
Do not pay too much for a rental car Insurance companies naturally look for ways to cut costs, and saving money on reimbursing policyholders for the cost of a car rental is an easy target.
They do this by advising accident victims that they’ll only pay so much per day for a car rental. If you’ve been the victim of another driver’s negligence, you do have rights when it comes to recouping the costs involved in resolving the disruption in your life, and this includes the cost of a rental car while yours is being repaired.
If you rent reasonably you can avoid paying a portion of those costs. Do not buy a collision damage waiver if your rental company offers this because you are covered under your own insurance policy for any damage to a rental car.
If you rent a car at a reasonable price and your insurance company tries to short-change you somehow on the reimbursement, ask them to put their reason in writing. Insurance companies must advise you in writing when they decide to deny or somehow reduce payments to their policyholders.
Know what you are entitled to It would be very helpful for you to become familiar with the prompt-payment law in your state. Every state has an Unfair Claims Settlement Practices Act that spells out the how long an insurance company can take to give you a check to cover your damages.
One thing to consider: Unfair Claims Settlement Practices Acts very often do not give you the same rights if you are filing a claim against the other driver’s insurance company as opposed to filing your claim with your own insurance company. Check out California's Fair Claims Settlements Practices Regulations to find out more.
Sending a factual letter off to the at-fault drivers insurance carrier would be the best way to advise them of what you expect, letting them know that you know your rights. In the letter you would tell the insurance company that you expect them to cover all reasonable costs incurred by you due to the accident. This would include them paying for car repairs or the car’s total-loss value, diminished value, lost wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering plus the cost of renting a car. All of this points out the insurance company’s responsibilities according to public policy.
Keep detailed records and copies of all correspondence. Make a note of the dates and times you speak to customer service reps as well as their names.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of motor vehicle negligence and would like to speak with an Automobile Accident Attorney, please contact us at O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley LLP. We are here to answer your questions and discuss how to protect your legal rights.
Published on behalf of O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley LLP. The information presented in this article is not legal advice, is not to be acted on as such, may not be current and is subject to change without notice.
If you can’t work because you’ve been injured in a car wreck caused by someone else, you are entitled to recover lost wages from that driver’s car insurance company. However there will be limits on how much money you can recover for lost wages due to the accident.
If the driver who hit you does not have sufficiently high limits to recover all your medical expenses plus the wages you lost from missing work, you can put in a claim on your own auto coverage for the balance. This would be done under your coverage for an “underinsured motorist.” If you reside in what’s termed a “no-fault state (California is NOT a no-fault state)” your lost wages can be paid by your PIP coverage up to whatever limit is specified on your policy.
When some other driver totals your automobile to the point where it cannot be repaired, that driver’s insurance company is supposed to pay you an amount equal to your car’s actual cash value prior to the wreck. The industry defines “actual cash value” as the “replacement cost” of the car minus the “depreciation” on the car. Replacement cost is how much it would cost to replace your car with one that’s similar. Depreciation would be how much your car has gone down in value over time.
The insurance company should also cover the sales tax on the car that you bought with your insurance settlement money.
It is possible that the other driver’s insurance company will tell you to have your own insurance company pay for the repairs, claiming they have no reason to believe their policyholder was at fault. If you decide to fight the other driver's insurer on your own you'll need a lawyer — especially if you've been seriously injured.
The automobile accident attorneys at O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley are well known and respected throughout the legal community and among our clients. From our offices in Contra Contra Costa County, San Francisco and Sacramento, we serve clients throughout Northern California. Our experience and expertise are available to you.
Published on behalf of O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley LLP. The information presented in this article is not legal advice, is not to be acted on as such, may not be current and is subject to change without notice.
RICHMOND, CA – A female passenger in a vehicle that crashed while exiting the I-80 off-ramp passed away Sunday morning as a result of her injuries. The driver was arrested and is being held on suspicion of driving while under the influence, according to a spokesperson for the California Highway Patrol. CHP Officers arrived on the scene of the accident at 11:30 p.m., which was in close proximity to the Cutting Blvd. off-ramp from Highway 80 westbound. Officers responding came upon an overturned 2003 Lexus sedan.
The passenger, whose name is not being released at this time, was fully ejected from the vehicle, according to Officer Sean Wilkenfield of the CHP. An ambulance rushed her to the hospital, where she ultimately died as a result of her injuries.
Accident investigators concluded that she had not been wearing a seatbelt when the crash occurred, Wilkenfeld said.
Twenty-one year old Lexus Taylor, the driver, was also taken to the hospital after suffering major injuries in the accident, where officers determined that she was drunk. Taylor was put under arrest, but remains hospitalized in stable condition.
Vehicular manslaughter occurs when an individual recklessly causes the death of another person through the use of any type of motor vehicle. If you or a family member has been victimized by motor vehicle negligence and need to consult with an auto accident attorney located in the Bay Area, please reach out to us. We are available to answer any questions you have, advise you of your legal rights and how best to protect them. We at O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley have more than 50 years of experience handling the litigation and going to trial representing victims of auto accidents. We have the right expertise along with a proven track record of prevailing in auto accident and wrongful death cases.
The San Francisco Department of Public Health is reporting that half of all injuries being treated by staff at SF General Hospital resulted from traffic collisions. The surprising report, which was picked up by The Examiner, covers the years 2012, 2013 and 2014 and said that the cost of treating those injuries totaled approximately $30.5 million each year.
Of patients observed, which were more than 4,000; treating the injuries of pedestrians took up 44% of the annual expenditures. Next were motorists, either drivers or passengers, who used up 22%, followed by motorcycle riders at 18%, and then cyclists who required 16%.
Nicole Ferrara, executive director of Walk SF, an advocacy group for pedestrians, said that the results from the DPH study did not sit well with them, saying "The fact that all other causes for injury including cuts/pierces, falls, assault, and firearms are greatly diminished when compared to injuries from traffic-related crashes is astonishing."
This report brings more attention to Vision Zero and its effort to lower traffic fatalities in San Francisco city streets down to zero by the year 2024. By just focusing on how many traffic-related fatalities there are, rather than looking at the total number of injuries, it is far too easy to avoid recognizing the true scale of the dangers faced by people trying to navigate the streets of San Francisco.
"This report shines a light on how pervasive traffic crashes are in our society and how urgent the need is to invest in tried-and-true strategies for preventing collisions," Ferrara told a reporter for The Examiner.
According to statistics provided by the city, approximately 30 people are killed and 200 sustain "serious injuries" each year on the streets of San Francisco. The chart below reveals that in the 2016 fiscal year, those numbers have tragically been surpassed.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of motor vehicle negligence and would like to speak with a Bay Area auto accident attorney, please contact us. We are here to answer your questions and discuss how to protect your legal rights.
The Automobile Accident Attorneys at O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley are well known and respected throughout the legal community and among our clients. From our offices in Contra Contra Costa County, San Francisco and Sacramento, we serve clients throughout Northern California. Our experience and expertise are available to you.
Oakland, CA – On December 2, 2016 at around 11:20 p.m. the Ghost Ship warehouse in the Fruitvale community of Oakland, California became engulfed in flames. The Ghost Ship had been illegally converted into residential units, ultimately becoming a well-known artist collective. At the time the fire broke out there was an unpermitted concert being held by 100% Silk, a popular record label.
Tragically, 36 people lost their lives in the fire, which was the deadliest ever in the city of Oakland. In fact, it was the deadliest commercial building fire in the U.S. since the nightclub fire at The Station in 2003, the deadliest fire in California since the San Francisco earthquake in 1906 and the deadliest event in Oakland since the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989.
Concertgoers desperate to escape the fire were slowed down due to a very narrow staircase, a difficult path impeded by an array of large objects and furniture.
The concert was being held in a space frequently occupied by underground musicians. At the time of the fire, the crowd was enjoying a performance by electronic musicians.
Survivors described suddenly being engulfed in a blast of heat and smoke and crawling to the only way out, which was a narrow makeshift staircase located near the dance floor.
Derick Almena, the leaseholder of the warehouse, who rented units out to others, lived in the area with his family, a wife and three kids. They happened to be staying at a hotel that night.
According to resident Carmen Brito, the front stairway was only a ramp in certain places, with two very sharp turns onto two small landings, with one she described as being a large pallet.
The Ghost Ship did have a back staircase, but no one knows if anyone used it when fleeing. If it had been used, the people wouldn’t have been anywhere near an exit.
Ms. Brito said she saw the fire starting near her loft. Fire investigators believe the fire started in the back of the warehouse.
The real question is why more people weren’t able to escape. Omar Vega, who owns the auto shop next door, said that the residents themselves built the front stairway. He said there used to be a conveyor belt in that spot when the building was actually a functioning warehouse.
No Direct Path From Stairway to Exit
People rushing down the front stairway would have found themselves in the communal living room of the warehouse, an area with no direct path to get out the front door.
To get to the front door one would have to take two sharp left turns and a right around three pianos before seeing the door and finding safety on the street.
Survivors said they were confused crawling on the floor trying to escape the thick smoke, while looking for the door. Fortunately, someone kept shouting the location of the door, which helped to save a lot of lives.
Ms. Brito described the path from the staircase to safety as being a maze. “I myself got lost the first time I tried to find my way to the door,” she said.
There were only a few interior walls in the building. Sleeping lofts and working areas were partitioned off with window sashes, furniture and pallets that one visitor described as forming a “tinderbox.”
Pianos and organs were placed all over the warehouse. Ms. Brito described how hard it was for someone who wasn’t familiar with the Ghost Ship to find the exit, even in the best of conditions. Survivors who spoke to reporters described how hard it was to navigate the twists and turns of just getting to the stairs, the difficulty getting down them and finding a way out.
A property owner can be held liable (legally responsible) for accidents, injuries and deaths that befall a tenant or visitor to his or her property if it is proved that negligence on the owner’s part caused the accident, injury or death.
We at O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley have more than 50 years of experience handling all forms of litigation. We have an outstanding record of success representing our clients. If you or someone you love has suffered injury or death due to premises liability and would like to consult with an experienced premises liability attorney in the Bay Area, please contact us. We would be happy to discuss your case, answer your questions, and explain your legal rights and how you can protect them.
A spinal cord injury can be devastating, both physically and emotionally. But few people ever talk about the financial devastation that can result from such an injury. If you have a spinal cord injury due to someone else’s negligence, you must ensure that the compensation you’re seeking is enough to pay for the best possible treatment throughout your recovery. But, you’ll also need compensation to cover your loss of income, pain and suffering and a lifetime of medical expenses associated with your injury. Do not make the mistake of trusting an insurance adjuster to figure out how much you should be compensated. You need a top-notch personal injury attorney who has the experience and qualifications to determine how much money you will need, someone highly motivated, working on your behalf to see that you get what you need.
On average, the annual living and healthcare expenses plus the approximate lifetime costs directly associated with a spinal cord injury depend on severity of the injury, which means there is a great deal of variation as to the actual costs. The following figures haven’t taken into consideration the indirect costs, such as lost wages, benefits and productivity, which in 2014 dollars averaged $71,961 a year. Instead, the variations below are based for the most part on level of education, the severity of the injury, and employment history prior to the injury. The Average Yearly Expenses are in 2014 dollars.
Approximate Lifetime Costs by Age at Time of Injury (discounted at 2%):
Average Yearly Costs and Expenses
Approximate Lifetime Costs by Age at Time of Injury (discounted at 2%)
Severity of the Injury
Each Subsequent Year
25 years of age
50 years of age
High Tetraplegia (C1–C4) AIS ABC
Low Tetraplegia (C5–C8) AIS ABC
Paraplegia AIS ABC
Motor Functional at Any Level AIS D
The law firm of O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley will consult with medical experts and vocational rehabilitation professionals to determine the extent of your spinal cord injury and the long-term prognosis. We also bring in very astute financial planners to help us determine the all the short- and long-term financial ramifications. Through over a decade of specializing in personal injury law we’ve demonstrated the skills necessary to ensure that you and your family will receive the kind of financial compensation you need to move forward with your lives. We invite you to contact us to schedule a free consultation to discuss your situation.
The spinal cord is a network of nerves inside the backbone that run from the brain stem to the tailbone. These nerves control all bodily movement as well as transmitting sensation. When the spinal cord is damaged it can destroy feeling and mobility below the injury, and if the damage is serious, it could cause death.
Researchers estimate that 12,500 new SCIs are occurring each year as of 2015 and from 240,000 to 337,000 people in the U.S. are currently living with a SCI.
The average age of someone sustaining a SCI is 42 years as of 2015, having moved up from 29 years back in the 1970s.
The length of stays in the hospital is going down, with the average in acute care now at 11 days, which is down from 24 days in the 1970s. Stays in rehabilitation facilities are currently 36 days, which is way down from 98 in the 1970s.
At O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley we have more than 50 years of combined legal experience. If you or a loved one has unfortunately been a victim of a Spinal Cord Injury it may be in your best interests to speak with a topnotch attorney. We have expertise in this area of the law and a substantial track record of successful outcomes for our clients. We invite you to contact us today. We will answer all your questions and discuss your legal rights and how we can help you protect them.
SAN RAMON, CA – A little 3-year-old boy tragically died Friday night after his family’s car was struck from behind on Interstate 680 when it was out of gas and parked on the shoulder. The California Highway Patrol said a suspected drunk driver was driving the SUV that crashed into the family’s Toyota Camry.
The CHP identified the boy who was killed as Elijah Dunn of San Ramon. He was airlifted from the scene of the accident and taken to Children’s Hospital in Oakland, where he died of his injuries.
Elijah’s mother, 11year-old brother and 1-year-old sister were also in the car and were taken to hospitals after the accident. His mother suffered major injuries while his siblings were injured less severely, according to authorities.
Elijah was enrolled at Karina’s Daycare & Preschool in San Ramon, said the daycare’s owner, Karina Jimenez who described him as being a mellow, sweet child who was very loveable.
“It was absolutely devastating for us when we heard he hadn’t survived,” she added.
He was getting ready to celebrate his birthday on September 26th and was so excited. She said that everyone loved Elijah and that he came from a wonderful family. She said she’d spoken with the toddler’s grandmother, who relayed that the family was grieving and requested privacy at this difficult time.
Yarenit Malihan, 38, of Pleasanton was driving the SUV at the time of the accident and was arrested on suspicion of DUI as well as gross vehicular manslaughter, both felonies, the CHP reported on Saturday. Malihan was taken to San Ramon Medical Center to be treated for her injuries and then she was transported to the Contra Costa County detention facility in Martinez.
Malihan has the same Pleasanton home address as an Alameda County Sheriff’s deputy, and it is believed that they are husband and wife, according to CBS News.
The crash happened around 6:20 p.m. Friday evening during rush hour on northbound I-680 in the vicinity of the Bollinger Canyon exit, clogging traffic for over two hours.
The family had pulled over to the right onto the shoulder, waiting for someone to bring gas, according to John Fransen, a spokesperson for the CHP.
It initially appears that the mother took all the safety measures appropriate for the situation by pulling over to the far right and having everyone remain in the car while they waited for help to arrive, Fransen said. A sound wall along the freeway prevented them from pulling further to the right and away from the traffic lanes.
“It looks like the mother and children in the Camry were wearing seat belts and the smaller children were buckled into child safety seats,” the CHP wrote Saturday in a post on Facebook.
There are no prior DUI convictions on Malihan’s record, according to the CHP. She was driving under a valid driver’s license at the time of the accident.
The rear of the Camry was mostly mangled after being struck by the Toyota Sequoia SUV, which was traveling at an unknown speed, according to accident investigators.
Paramedics transported Elijah, his 11-year-old brother and 1-year-old sister to Children’s Hospital in Oakland, while their mother was taken to John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek. The mother sustained a number of injuries in the crash, including a broken back and ribs.
Experiencing the death of a loved one is an extremely difficult time and we understand that nothing can truly compensate you for the loss of your loved one. However,if you have lost a loved one in an accident caused by another, you may be eligible to seek a remedy and payment. Protect your rights by contacting an experienced Wrongful Death Attorney as soon as possible. When you call the law offices of O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley, you will be talking with an attorney who has spoken with hundreds of people in your similar circumstance. You will be treated with the respect and sympathy you need during your time of heartbreak and anguish.
O’Connor, Runckel and O’Malley LLP would like to announce our 2016 scholarship recipient, Debbie Kol. Debbie received her bachelor's degree in Literary Journalism and International Studies from the University of California, Irvine. She is committed to giving back to her community as a mediator and a Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles volunteer. This fall, Debbie will be attending the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. Debbie hopes to use her law degree to assist underserved communities both locally and abroad.
We look forward to watching Debbie succeed in her upcoming years at Hastings.