The future is here: Driverless Cars

July 13, 2015, by Thomas Lewellyn

driverless carCan you imagine giving your car keys to your teenage son or daughter and not have to worry about their safety? Do you have concerns about an elderly parent about whether its still safe for them to drive? Are you worried about the distracted drivers who drive behind you while texting or using their cell phones? In the not too distant future, these worries may be ancient history.

Google, Uber, Ford Motor Company and others are working on manufacturing the automated, driverless car. According to Google, it currently has 48 driverless vehicles. 25 are currently being used on the roads in California every day. Google claims that they are averaging 10,000 miles per week of driverless testing on public streets. In addition to on the street driving, they test 3 million miles per day in their computer simulators.

How safe are these vehicles? Google reports that in six years of testing.and over 1.8 million miles of driving, their cars have only been in 14 minor accidents. It claims that not one of these accidents was the fault of the driverless vehicle.

You can imagine the complexities involved in trying to design a driverless car. How does the car know whether a moving object is an animal, a cyclist, a motorcycle, a bird or any other object? How does the driverless vehicle "anticipate" what other drivers might do? If you would like to see how the driverless car "sees" the road, and anticipates different situations, go to a TED talk entitled "target="_blank"Chris Urmson: How a driverless car sees the road."

How soon will these cars be on the road? The estimates vary. Ford anticipates they will have an autonomous car on the road within five years. Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, thinks the goal can be achieved in five to six years. Nissan claims they will have driverless cars in the showroom by 2020. An insurance think tank, The Society of Automotive Engineers, believes it will take 15 to 20 years before these vehicles are on the roads in the U.S.

Regardless of when these vehicles come on line, imagine the benefits to society. You can let your teenage driver go out in your car without fear. Mom and Pop, no matter what age, will be able to drive wherever they want, night or day. Sight impaired individuals won't have to rely on public transportation. Drunk driving accidents and other serious type accidents will be a thing of the past. Traffic will be improved immensely as the vehicles will be able sense when it is appropriate to change lanes, slow up, and avoid accidents.

Each year over 33,000 people die in automobile crashes in the United States. Auto crashes are the number one leading cause of deaths of teenagers. As an Alameda personal injury lawyer, I represent a number of people each year involved in serious car accidents. I look forward to the day that technology makes these injury accidents and deaths ancient history.


Google driverless cars in accidents again, humans at fault -- again, USA Today, July 2, 2015

Driverless Car Market Watch

Lawyer Movies and the Oscars

February 17, 2015, by Thomas Lewellyn

Sunday, February 22, 2015, is Oscar night. So I was talking with my wife, Sheila, and we were discussing the upcoming Oscars and our favorite movies this year (Two of my favorites are Whiplash and Birdman). This led to a discussion of my favorite lawyer movies. Here they are:
The Verdict, Class Action, A Civil Action, and My Cousin Vinny. As an Alameda personal injury lawyer for over thirty years, each of these movies touches me in a special way and for different reasons.

The Verdict is the classic medical malpractice case involving attorney Frank Galvin (Paul Newman), a once successful personal injury lawyer, who has obviously fallen on hard times, pitted against the erudite, Ed Concannon (James Mason). A family comes to his office because their daughter has suffered permanent brain damage as a result of the local hospital's anesthesiologist's negligence. The movie shows how hospitals and other medical professionals can and do make mistakes, and the efforts that are sometimes made to cover up these mistakes (altering medical records in this case). In the end, Galvin obtains a multi million dollar verdict for his client. Interestingly, in the real world, under California law, the verdict would be limited to $250,000.00 for pain and suffering due to the cap on medical malpractice awards in our State (Civil Code Section 3333.2).

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Insurance Study Shows Cars With Fewest Deaths

February 4, 2015, by Thomas Lewellyn

65 chevy.jpegMy first car was a 1965 Chevy Impala SS. It was blue, with a black interior, bucket seats--the whole nine yards. It was a dream car for a kid just coming out of high school (yes, I did work and earn the money to buy it myself). What it possessed in power and beauty however, it lacked in safety. There were no three point seat belts (who used seat belts in the 60's anyway); there were no headrests; no front and rear end cushioned bumper protections, no stability controls, no modern day sensors, no back up camera's. These are all safety features we take for granted today. And the safety has paid off in fewer personal injuries and deaths arising out of automobile accidents.

As an Alameda personal injury lawyer, a large portion of my practice involves injury claims arising out of car accidents. So I am constantly looking at studies and scientific data which may relate to these types of personal injury car accident cases.

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City of South San Francisco Settles Wrongful Death Lawsuit Caused by Dangerous Condition of Public Property

January 28, 2015, by Thomas Lewellyn

court house.jpegI recently represented a family in a wrongful death lawsuit against the City of South San Francisco and a private parking lot operator, Park SFO. The lawsuit stemmed out of the death of the adult sibling of six brothers and sisters. This wonderful family was devastated by the death of the sibling. The decedent was a sixty-three year old landscaper, who died on premises owned by the City and leased to a private company which operated an airport parking garage. The case involved interesting legal questions about the legal responsibilities of landlords and tenants for the safe conditions of properties they own, lease or control.

The incident occurred at the outdoor parking lot of Park SFO. The site was formerly a shipyard in the 1950's and 1960's. The shipyard used floating cement piers to close off the shipyard to create dry docks to do ship repairs. After the shipyard shut down, these piers became permanent fixtures which were owned by the City of South San Francisco, and later leased to Park SFO.

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What is the parent's legal liability in California for personal injuries when a teenage child throws a party at your house?

October 7, 2014, by Thomas Lewellyn

beer pong.jpegWith four grown children, I've experienced the angst that all parents do when their teenage children go to a "party" at a friend's house. And on the few occasions when I've left home for a weekend and left my older kids at home, I have felt that same uneasiness--even more so. The fact is, that despite our best intentions, and our children's best intentions, drugs and alcohol are a part of the high school and college scene. There was a recent California Supreme Court case which addressed one of the legal issues that comes out of this social problem: Who is legally responsible when a teenager drinks alcohol at a party, and later drives and either injures or kills someone else. The answer may not be as simple as you think.

Here are the facts that were alleged in the case. A teenage girl threw a party at her parent's vacant rental home. The parents did not know about the party, as is often he case when teenagers host a party. The kids publicized the party by word of mouth, telephone, texting, and other social media. When the guests began arriving, they would enter by a side gate, and pay an admission fee of $3 to $5 dollars to gain admittance to the party. Once inside the party, the guests were free to help themselves to beer, tequila and other drinks.

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New California Law Reduces Bicycle Injury Accidents

March 18, 2014, by Thomas Lewellyn

bike law.jpegEveryday I see articles in the newspapers about bicyclists being injured in collisions with autos. Recently, Governor Brown signed a bill which should help reduce the number of these accidents.

The new law (AB 1371), known as "Three Feet for Safety", goes into effect on September 14, 2014. The new California law requires drivers of automobiles to give bicyclists at least a three foot cushion when passing a bike from behind. Previously, the law simply required that motorists pass at a safe distance without specifying what that distance was.

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Alameda Pedestrian Accidents Raise Safety Concerns

December 3, 2013, by Thomas Lewellyn

ped crossing.jpeg
This past November two pedestrians were critically injured in separate auto accidents in Alameda. One accident occurred on Bay Farm Island, and the other occurred on Webster Street near the Posey Tube. Both accidents are still under investigation by the Alameda police.

Recently, I was at an event at which Mayor Gilmore was speaking. She mentioned that Alameda experienced over forty pedestrian accidents in the past year alone. When I first heard this number, I was rather shocked. That is an average of over three pedestrian injury accidents per month. But then I began to think about it, and wonder if this was a high number or not when compared to other cities with similar population bases.

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Experts Invaluable for Alameda Personal Injury Practice

November 7, 2013, by Thomas Lewellyn

I heard the other day yet another theory of how the young Pharaoh King Tutankhamen died and my interest was peaked. So many diverse theories have surrounded his demise; a blow to the head, various diseases possibly as a result of congenital malformations. But this latest theory falls into my line of work. Egyptologist Chris Nauton and a team of crash investigators posit that King Tut's untimely death may have been caused by a chariot accident!! Their findings show that the injuries he sustained are consistent with a high-speed collision. Unknown.jpeg

As an Alameda Accident attorney for over 30 years, I have often hired experts in the fields of accident reconstruction, engineering, bio-engineering and biomechanical engineering to analyze the physical evidence of an accident and the injuries suffered as a result. Analysis of roadways, skid marks, property damage of the vehicles and witness statements can all help to determine how an accident occurrs and where the fault lies. Utilizing scientific methodologies, experts in these fields can testify in court about how an accident happened.

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Park Street's Classic Car Show in Alameda

October 11, 2013, by Thomas Lewellyn

Park Street's 20th Annual Classic Car Show is this weekend in Alameda. The show will feature over 400 vintage cars including Hot Rods, Muscle Cars, Roadsters and Classic Trucks. I love a good car show!! I always marvel at the beautifully restored automobiles. It is a real stroll down memory lane! I'm hoping to see my first car, a '65 blue Chevy Impala SS. It was a sweet ride with dual exhausts, a 327 V-8 engine with black leather interior. I found this photo that looks just like it. images-1.jpg

As an Alameda Personal Injury Attorney, car shows always make me wonder how anyone survived an accident in those old cars though. They did not have headrests, updated seat belts, airbags and sensing systems. These improvements have enhanced the safety of today's cars and have greatly improved the chances of surviving a serious automobile crash.

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California DMV tries new training methods to reduce teen car accidents

October 7, 2013, by Thomas Lewellyn

I am a baby boomer and a major rite of passage when I was a teen was getting your driver's license. My birthday is in November and I was one of the youngest in my class so I watched all my friends get their licenses ahead of me. I couldn't wait to drive!! The requirements for a teen to get their licenses were different in those days. To prepare for the written permit test we studied the California Drivers Handbook. Pretty dry reading. Of course that was before the Internet and YouTube. The California Department of Motor Vehicles now has it's own YouTube channel! Teens learn how to apply for their driver's license, the rules of the road and vehicle safety via videos. The DMV has even taken a page from the David Letterman show with a video entitled "The Top 10 Reasons for Failing the Driving Test!!" Of course it is recommended that you also read the handbook, but I have to say a video is a considerably more interesting way to prepare for the test. images.jpg

In my day most high schools offered driver's education as a school elective. My wife remembers her Physical Education teacher taught the driver's ed class in her high school. There was a classroom component but on Saturday mornings students were assigned a time slot for the practical driving portion of the class. Sheila remembers her slot was about lunchtime and her teacher, Brenda Henderson, taught her what she said was one of the most important driving lesson she would ever learn; how to drive through a fast food drive thru lane!

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A Cell Phone Camera can be Crucial in a Car Crash

September 27, 2013, by Thomas Lewellyn

A cell phone camera can be essential if you've been in an accident. Take-that-shot-150x150.jpg

I was reading one of our local newspapers, The Alameda Sun, the other day and saw a letter to the editor regarding an automobile/bicycle accident. The author of the letter had been riding his bike when he was hit by an SUV. According to the letter, the bicyclist approached a T intersection in Alameda. He was riding on the through street and the SUV was already stopped at the stop sign at the intersection. According to the bicyclist's account, he saw that the SUV was stopped and he preceded riding through the intersection. The next thing he knew the vehicle collided with his bike and he was on the ground. The driver of the vehicle stopped, offered to take him from the scene to the local bike shop to repair his bike. The bicyclist not only rejected the offer, more importantly he neglected to get any identifying information from the driver of the car. He was now posting a letter to the editor in The Alameda Sun trying to locate the driver. Fortunately it sounds like the bicyclist was not seriously injured however it seems he is out of pocket for repairs to his bike.

As an Oakland personal injury lawyer practicing in the bay area for over 30 years, I was motivated to write again about some essential steps you need to take if you are involved in an accident. Whether it's an automobile vs bicycle, auto vs auto or automobile vs pedestrian accident, your cell phone camera can make it easy to take these important steps.

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Concussions are Definitely Brain Injuries

September 12, 2013, by Thomas Lewellyn

I looked up the definition of concussion in my computer dictionary today. The definition is: "temporary unconsciousness caused by a blow to the head. The term is also used loosely of the aftereffects such as confusion or temporary incapacity." That peeked my interest so I sought out definitions from other dictionary sources, we have so many to choose from these days. The definitions usually reference amnesia or loss of consciousness and sometimes mention brain injury. I question this definition. While a concussion may cause unconsciousness it does not always happen, but the fact is it is always an injury to the brain. 012709concussion2_54304a-1.jpg

A class action lawsuit between the NFL and more than 4,500 former players and their families regarding the issue of concussions was recently settled to the tune of $765 million. For many years these former NFL players have suffered the long-term cognitive effects of concussions. Most of these head injuries did not result in loss of consciousness. As part of this settlement, the NFL will be allocating $10 million to underwriting concussion- related research.

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California Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Claims: The Rules and Exceptions

April 22, 2013, by Thomas Lewellyn

time.jpegWhen I was in high school, I remember there was a clock over the door in our Latin Class. Beneath it was the inscription, "Time will pass. Will you?" I always get a chuckle when I think of it. In the legal world, when time passes so can your rights to sue if you do not take timely action.

The laws governing when a suit must be filed are called statutes of limitations. A statute of limitations is the limited amount of time one has to file a lawsuit for a claim. The time periods for different type claims will vary. Statutes of limitations may be as short as six months, or as long as four years or more years, depending on the type of claim that you have.

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How Much Can I Recover for Medical Bills If I'm Injured in a California Car Accident?

February 11, 2013, by Thomas Lewellyn

Mediccal bill.jpegIf you have been injured in a car accident in California, and the accident was the other driver's fault, you are entitled to recover for the medical bills you incurred as part of your personal injury lawsuit. This seems simple enough. And for many years, this was a simple question. But determining the amount of the medical bill that the other driver is responsible for has become a complicated question due to numerous court decisions which have come down in the recent past.

The law for many years held that a person could recover for the reasonable amount of his medical bills which were related to injuries he received in his car accident. The reasonableness of the bills was generally determined by looking at the face amount of the bill that was received from the doctor, hospital or other health care provider.

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An Uninsured Motorist Lesson for California Drivers

February 4, 2013, by Thomas Lewellyn

um image.jpegIf you watch television, you can't help but see a lot of commercials. In recent years the insurance industry has stepped up their game in this area. Their commercials have become quite entertaining. I am not endorsing any one company over the other as an insurer however I do like to compare their commercials. I have to say I do love "mayhem" for Allstate. Actor Dean Winters does a great job as a teenage girl in a pink truck, a guard dog while your house is being burglarized and most recently snow on your roof. The people in the Midwest must really appreciate that one these days. Flo, the Progressive lady played by Stephanie Courtney is most annoying. She must be selling policies though because she has been on the air for a long time.

One of the most recent commercials for Farmers Insurance peeked my interest. It is the one featuring actor J.K. Simmons as Professor Nathaniel Burke. He is leading a group of new adjusters through the University of Farmers, each scene pointing out potential hazards that require insurance coverage. I was surprised to learn that they actually call their training center the University of Farmers! In one of the scenes Professor Burke states that one in seven drivers is uninsured. That must be a national figure because I have seen estimates that close to 25% of California drivers are uninsured. That is a scary statistic.

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