On December 19, 2008, the Second Appellate District of California filed a opinion thoroughly analyzing a gym’s (in this case 24 Hour Fitness, Corp.) liability for injuries sustained by its clients while using exercise equipment (Ontiveros v. 24 Hour Fitness Corporation). In this case, the plaintiff was injured while she was exercising on a stair step machine. After being injured while working on that machine, she sued 24 Hour Fitness for, among other things, strict products liability, alleging that the Defendant 24 Hour Fitness should be held liable for her injuries regardless of whether it was negligent in maintaining and operating the stair step machine in question.
The main question that the appellate court faced in that case was whether the membership agreement between the pliantiff and 24 Hour Fitness was primarily for using products (exercise equipment) or services. Under the products liability law, the gym could only be found strictly liable for products liability, it the dominant purpose of its relationship with a specific customer was to provide products. The injured plaintiff argued that because she only signed up with 24 Hour Fitness to use their free weights and stair machine, her agreement was predominanty for use of products rather than services. The court found, however, that a relationship such as this, where the customer has a range of services available to her (personal traning, swimming pool, dance classes, etc.) when signing up for a gym membership is predominanty for services, regardless of whether the customer was using those services. Thus, the court concluded that the injured woman may not maintain a strict products liability action under the circumstances against 24 Hour Fitness.
One of the very common situations leading to injury accidents in San Francisco, especially in the “avenues” is a situation where one of the drivers fail to stop at a four-way stop intersection, “t-boning” the other driver. The major danger of t-bone accidents is that even the relatively minor impact might lead to serious injuries. It is not uncommon for a driver going through an intersection to have another car collide into him/her from a side and sustain serious injuries, such as broken ribs and shoulder injuries. After all, the doors are obviously thinner and don’t provide nearly as much protection to the driver (or passengers who can also be at risk) as the front or the back of the car, even in the most modern cars with sophisticated safety mechanisms.
The most reliable way to avoid those collisions, of course, is never assuming that the other driver, who is approaching an stop-sign at the intersection is going to stop, especially in San Francisco, where the stop signs are not always clear and visible, not to mention that fact the other driver might not be paying attention, be distracted or being intoxicated.
Thus, if you are at the intersection, don’t proceed through it until the other driver (approaching from your left or right) fully stops his vehicle, so that you can be assured that he is not just going to run through it.
One of the most common reasons for serious rear-end accidents and collisions in the San Francisco Bay area and the surrounding areas during rain is failure to maintain safe distance with the car in front. It seems to be our nature to not fully appreciate the danger of following someone too closely on the road until we face a situation where we need to suddenly stop a car, and we realize how little control over our car we have when the road is wet or even mildly moist.
Just the other day, just a few minutes after it started raining I saw a car approach an intersection, just a few feet before the stop light the driver realized that he might run the read light and he abruptly but forcefully applied his breaks. Had it not been raining, he most likely would have stopped just slightly protruding into a crosswalk. However, because of the slippery conditions (and probably because his tires weren’t in the best condition), he car slid forward and swerved into the middle of the intersection. He was lucky that it was late at night, and there were no upcoming traffic from any direction. Had it happened during the busy hours of the day, he would likely have been “t-boned” and severely injured.
I really do believe that one of the great exercises that every driver can do to learn and appreciate how difficult it is to stop a car in rainy conditions and avoid a collision, is by getting in a car at night during rain, finding a very safe area for experimenting, go up to 20-30 miles an hour and try to stop abruptly right before the intersection or a crosswalk, to just see how much further your car will end when stopped than you would normally expect.
Although at first sight linking an car accident to a loss of hearing might sounds like a stretch, an injury to ear and hearing loss are quite common consequences of car accidents. One of my clients sustained an injury in San Mateo County. This was a typical “t-bone” collission in which the other driver ran the red light and hit my client in the front side of the car. It didn’t take much to throw my client’s body sideways and have him hit his head violently against the side window of his car.
Shortly after the incident, along with the severe headaches, he noticed numbness in his ear, experiencing a similar feeling that we all have when we get water in our ears. He hoped that that problem was going to go away, however six months later he still had the same noticeable discomfort in his ear. When he went to the ear doctor, he was diagnosed with a torn ear drum, significant decline in hearing ability, and blood had to be sucked out from underneath his torn drum. It is unclear whether my client will regain his hearing in the future.
This is just one example, how a relatively minor impact in an injury accident can result in a serious injury, which, while might not be visible, will have a significant impact on the injured person’s professional and social life. Under such circumstances a careful medical assessment of the injured person’s present and future condition and a thorough legal evaluation of damages and fair compensation must be made prior to settling any such injury claim or a lawsuit.
I remember hearing for the first time the statistical fact that most car accidents occur within a mile of an injured person’s residence and being puzzled: why would people get into a car accident in the area which is most familiar and the easiest to get around for them. Hearing the same statistics over and over, I really wanted ot find out what hides behind them.
As time went by, I realized what should have been an obvious fact – we naturally turn into the most careless drivers as we get closer to our home. Following the same route to the “finish line” day after day, we find ourselves drive on auto-pilot, which makes us both speed with confidence through the very well familiar streets and also not expect and not be ready for any surprised during the final minutes of our drive home. This is a dangerous combination and the one likely to lead to a serious injury accident between two cars or even worse – between a car and a pedestrian or a car an a bicyclist.
And the quieter the area is, the less alert the drivers are to people and children walking around their homes or crossing the street. The City of Stockton and the surrounding towns are known to be quite “bedroom” communities, with many children residing in those communities. This is exactly the reason why it is so important to pay great attention to the road when you drive through those communities, especially if you are approaching your home, as this is exactly the time when we tend to take care of calling or even worse – texting people right before we get into the house.
If you or your close friend or relative have been involved in a serious injury accident and you are not quite sure how to protect your rights and make sure that you will be fairly compensated for your injuries and damages, contact experienced injury lawyer Arkady Itkin for a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your rights.
Punitive damages are awarded against a party to a wrongdoing, who committed the act with ill intent and malice. In other words, a party who intentionally causes harm and injury may be sued for, among other damages, punitive damages. These damages can constitute a significant portion of the recovery in an injury claim, in large part because the whole purpose of punitive damages is to punish the intentional wrongdoer or “teach a lesson”
Generally, however, a victim in an auto accident, motorcycle crash, or other injury accident, is not entitled to recover punitive damages because most the injury accidents are caused by ordinary negligence – failure to act as a reasonable prudent person under the circumstances.
However, in some injury cases, claiming punitive damages would be appropriate. One of the accident injury claims I have recently handled in San Francisco involved a situation where my client “cut” in front of another driver after passing an intersection. The other driver then followed my client and crashed into his vehicle after my client was already parked, after which a verbal altrication which escalated to physical violence took place. It is obvious from the facts of the accident that the wrongdoer collided into my client on purpose. Thus, the award of punitive damages will be appropriate and will likely significantly increase my client’s recovery.