Tuesday, August 19, 2014

I Was Involved In a Motor Vehicle Accident; Now What?

Motor vehicle accidents are common in Los Angeles. In fact, it brings to mind the Saturday Night Live skit, "The Californians." All too often, Angelinos communicate about their commutes, experiences on the road, and traffic. Also, people talk about their unfortunate "accidents" on the highways.

When you, a loved one, or friend, is involved in an accident, there are some steps that should be taken immediately. By taking these steps, you can ensure that your injuries are addressed and that any future claims are protected.

One, pull over, if possible, to a safe location with the other driver involved. After an accident, it is easy to get distracted and careless. Remember to protect yourself by moving your vehicle to a proper stop area, if possible.

Second, call the police. Emergency personnel are trained to handle all types of accidents, including motor vehicle. This step addresses a few things: (1) you get to reflect on any pain and whether you are severely hurt; (2) you get to engage an independent third party who can testify as to what happened during the incident; and (3) you can receive immediate medical treatment, if necessary.

Third, exchange the proper information with the other party involved. This step is common knowledge, or so it seems these days, but it is essential. Have the other driver give you insurance information, personal information, like address and phone number, and ask him or her what happened immediately prior to the accident. Take mental notes as what happened during this exchange.

Fourth, give a statement to the police and see if any witnesses are at the scene. Let me be clear: it is extremely important that you seek immediate medical attention if you need immediate care. In the event that you do need immediate medical attention, do not stay at the scene of the accident. Inform the emergency personnel and proceed to a hospital. But, if your injuries do not need immediate attention, talk to any third parties who may have been near or at the scene of the accident. Collect their information too.

Fifth, take notes as to where your vehicle is going, if towed. Usually, vehicles are damaged to such an extent that they need to get sent to a body shop. It is important to have the body shop and towing information for the future.

Sixth, go to your doctor and if you do not have a primary care doctor, go to a hospital. Even if your injuries are not severe, it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible. Attorneys are not doctors, and more often than not, neither are the individuals involved in the accident (as a matter of probabilities). Doctors are the best professionals suited to ascertain the extent of your injuries and how to treat it appropriately. Do not hold off going to the doctor, because it could lead to more medical problems.

Seventh, open up insurance claims with your own carrier and the carrier of the third party involved in the accident. Automobile insurance, required by law, will have information about your coverage, including whether you can obtain a rental, and how quickly your vehicle can be repaired, if at all.

Eighth, contact an experienced personal injury attorney. Accident lawyers know how to resolve personal injury disputes, deal with insurance companies, and preserve your rights. It is simply not smart to move forward without representation, because of the nuances of personal injury law.

This is not an exhaustive list, but these steps should be taken after an accident. Of course, accidents are frustrating, painful, scary, and annoying. But hopefully, this short blog can make the experience less frightening. We welcome your calls and questions; our firm would love to help if you or a loved one has been involved in a motor vehicle accident.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Civil Compromise in a Theft Case

Allegations of theft usually take place at large retail stores like Target, Sears, and Walmart. These establishments have their own security protocols in place, including but not limited to: guards, cameras, detectors, and other devices. These steps prevent merchandise from being taken unlawfully.

Despite these steps, people will sometimes take an item without consent. When this happens, the injured store will send a civil restitution demand letter to the perpetrator. Further, a theft charge is usually filed against the individual shortly thereafter. A misdemeanor or felony carries possible jail time, fines, and a permanent criminal record, which could affect employment in the future. So, theft can lead to both a civil and criminal case.

Under California law, when a person is charged with a theft crime, like petty theft, there may be an opportunity to have the charge dismissed.

A civil compromise is one way that a criminal charge can be dismissed. Pursuant to Penal Code section 1378, an injured party may indicate to the court that it has "received satisfaction" for the injury. In other words, the victim of the theft can represent to the judge that there was an agreement made between the parties. At that point, the trial court, in its discretion, may stay the prosecution and order the defendant to be discharged. The case cannot be adjudicated again. Let me be clear though that the judge is not obligated to accept a 1378 civil compromise. Also, a victim may not be open to a civil compromise.

While every company does not offer this type of civil compromise, a criminal defense attorney can certainly explore this option.

Moreover, a civil compromise is not the only way to successfully defend against a theft charge. A defendant may be able to argue insufficient evidence, or mistaken identity. There have been instances where an employee at the store made false accusations. A video may vindicate a defendant.

Similar to a drug diversion, sometimes a defendant can even receive a conditional dismissal. A conditional dismissal means that a court will eventually dismiss the case after a condition has been met.

My office has negotiated conditional dismissals in past theft cases. For example, one client had his petty theft charge dismissed after he completed 10 hours of theft classes. Such plea bargains enable the defendant to avoid jail time and other negative consequences.

Regardless of the different ways a case can proceed forward, it is important to have a criminal defense lawyer retained on your case. Experience and commitment goes a long way in a theft case. We welcome your calls and questions.