The term "damages" in relation to a personal injury case refers to the amount of money claimed or awarded in compensation for a loss or an injury. In order to maximize the award, it is important to take into account all damages suffered by the victim.
If you have been seriously injured due to someone else's negligence, you have the right to seek compensation. In the case of a personal injury lawsuit, the injured person, also called the plaintiff, seeks compensation from the person or company that is legally responsible for the accident: the defendant or their insurers. A damage award can be agreed upon out of court in a private, negotiated settlement, or it can be ordered by a judge/jury following a court trial.
To determine how much your case is worth, it is important to know just what factors into a personal injury claim. The following components will have significant impact of the value of your claim:
The destructive 2012 gas pipe explosion in San Bruno that claimed eight lives and destroyed 38 homes has yielded a multitude of lawsuits against PG&E. In a settlement with the Greig family, PG&E agreed to strengthen its gas pipeline safety regulations. The utility must maintain closer observation of the lifespan of its pipelines, and must calculate a minimum safe lifespan for pipes in populated areas. This will allow PG&E to identify weaker or aged pipes and replace them before they become dangerous, potentially preventing incidents like the one in San Bruno.
The Greigs will be able to receive an audit of the company's progress on these changes, and can prompt mediation talks if they see that the utility is not holding its end of the settlement. The family will receive regular reports describing progress made.
The deadline for these changes is set on December 31st, 2015, or whichever date is decided on by the California Public Utilities Commission. PG&E states that it has already begun following the new requirements, but the process will be an ongoing effort.
Six sisters who had been sexually abused by their parents virtually every day since they were toddlers say that their nightmare grew more horrific as the people they counted on to rescue them -- police, child-welfare workers, their church pastor -- failed to deliver.
Bruce "Zion" Dutro, 51, was sentenced to 300 years in state prison, and his 49-year-old wife was sentenced to 15 years in 2011 after taking a plea deal in what veteran sex crimes prosecutor Paul Graves called the worst child sex abuse case in memory to go through Contra Costa County courts.
A year after their parents were imprisoned for sex crimes spanning 20 years, the Dutro sisters -- Glenda Stripes, Amber and Sarah Dutro, Martha McKnelly, Frances Smith and Christina Moore -- are now suing the people and agencies they say failed to protect them as children by not following laws and procedures for handling child abuse.
"Every one of the agencies had the duty and power to save these girls, and every one failed them," said the sisters' attorney, Jason Runckel, founding partner of O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley. "They made their father untouchable. The girls never had a voice."
The lawsuit, filed in Contra Costa Superior Court last week against Contra Costa County, city of Antioch, Calvary Open Bible Church in Antioch, and seven individuals who are either current or former CPS, police department or church employees. It alleges the defendants were negligent and failed to fulfill state-mandated duties that, if done, would have spared the Dutro children years of further abuse.
"We came forward because we didn't want it to happen to another child," said Sarah Dutro, 28. "We didn't know until the case was over how badly everyone screwed up before." The suit asks for an undisclosed amount for past and future medical bills, and pain and suffering for the sisters, each of whom suffers from severe psychological disorders as a result of the abuse. Now adults with 12 children among them, the sisters gave permission to reveal their names in this story.
The 22-page civil complaint names defendant Mark Wood as the pastor whom Stripes first told about the abuse Aug. 2, 1995, and claims his immediate tipoff to the parents afforded them time to condition their daughters to lie to authorities.
That same day, the parents locked up five of the girls in one bedroom and Glenda in another, the victims said. For 16 days, until police sent CPS to the house Aug. 18, 1995, the sisters said they were beaten, starved, sleep-deprived and brainwashed on what to say to authorities. Young Glenda, meanwhile, was subjected to the same torture between rapes.
Wood, Stripes and her parents first went to the Antioch Police Department six days after the 14-year-old had confided in Wood. Officer William Dee noted in his police report that he was instructed by Detective Demetree Barakos before the meeting not to arrest Bruce Dutro, and so he sent the family home after obtaining a confession from the father, said Runckel, the sisters' attorney. Both Barakos and Dee are defendants in the lawsuit. It was another officer who called Bruce Dutro back to the Police Department on Aug. 18, 1995, and sent CPS to the house after obtaining a second confession.
"They actually apologized to my parents for being there, as if it was an inconvenience," said McKnelly, 26. Bruce Dutro pleaded to one count of child molestation for fondling Stripes, when in reality he was raping her, she said, and he spent four days in jail before being sentenced Nov. 1, 1995, to three years of probation. The judge ordered him to register as a sex offender and obey all CPS orders.
For the first six months of his probation, Bruce Dutro lived in an apartment near the family home. Glenda Lea Dutro moved in with him, leaving their daughters by themselves at the house with little food. Like many times in the course of their childhood, the Dutro girls were not enrolled in school.
At night, their mother would bring one of them to the apartment to have sex with their father. Had anyone from the county ever visited the house as they were supposed to, they would have at minimum learned that the girls were living without adult supervision, Runckel said.
"My father told me after 1995 and he was slapped on the wrists, every time he molested me, it was like laughing in their face," Stripes said. "It's not about getting money. I want things to change so no child has to go through what I went through."
O'Connor, Runckel and O'Malley is a law firm dedicated to the protection of the victims of sexual abuse.
The Jury has begun deliberations in the case of a Utah man who is accused of causing a head on collision on the Highway 4 Bypass in Martinez that killed two, and then fleeing the scene back in June of 2010. The accused, John Bryan McDonald, 46, faces two counts of vehicular manslaughter with an enhancement for allegedly swerving into the lane in front of a westbound Honda Civic, forcing the driver to swerve into oncoming traffic. The Honda then collided head-on with a Harley-Davidson motorcycle driven by Anthony Soldano of Burlingame. Soldano died at the scene, and his passenger Gina Blackstone of Brentwood died later that day at an Antioch hospital.
The distric attorney's office alleged that McDonald became enraged when the Honda twice cut him off, and in retaliation, he recklessly cut into the Honda's path. To avoid hitting McDonald's boat trailer, the 19 year old Honda driver swerved into oncoming traffic.
After the fiery crash that left two dead, and the driver of the Honda with a broken femur, McDonald fled the scene. His vehicle and boat were tracked down by the California Highway Patrol, aided by stories in print and broadcast media and tips from the general public. The vehicle and the boat were both located in Southern California, and officers identified McDonald by his Utah license plates.
According to officials, McDonald was in California visiting family. After locating the car and boat, they were able to link McDonald to the accident. He is on trial for gross vehicular manslaughter for the two fatalities, and hit and run with great bodily injury for the driver of the Honda.
According to National Highway Traffic safety Administration statistics, auto accidents are the leading cause of death and injury in the United States. Victims of car accidents that are the result of another driver’s negligence or reckless behavior may be entitled to compensation. At O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley we have 50 years of litigation and trial experience. We have the expertise and a proven track record of success. If you or a loved one has been the victim of motor vehicle negligence and would like to speak with an attorney, please contact us. We are here to answer your questions and discuss how to protect your legal rights.