Physician-Patient Privilege and Its Role in Wrongful Death Cases
Accident lawsuits filed in Riverside aren’t always brought by the victim of the accident. If the victim dies, his or her family may file the claim. Wrongful death lawsuits give surviving family members the opportunity to pursue justice on behalf of their lost loved one. Families should take care to choose an accident injury attorney who has experience litigating wrongful death cases, as complex, unique issues can arise. These include the physician-patient relationship, and the right to preserve the confidentiality of medical information.
In any accident lawsuit, the victim’s medical records play a crucial role. They serve to establish the type of injuries, severity of symptoms, and causation of injuries. Medical records can even be a factor in calculating non-economic damages like pain and suffering. This is because the more serious the injury is, the higher the non-economic damages are likely to be. In cases in which the accident victim survives, he or she can simply sign a waiver to release these medical records. Wrongful death cases aren’t this straightforward, however.
Federal and state laws protect the confidentiality of medical information. Physicians cannot legally share a patient’s medical information with anyone unless that person consents. This doesn’t apply to all medical information, only the data that is labeled “protected health information” under HIPAA. This includes individually identifiable data that isn’t readily available from other sources, such as records filed with the person’s employer or educational institution. Even after a person dies, the physician-patient privilege continues—but it isn’t absolute.
Medical Record Waiver
Depending on the laws of the individual state, an accident attorney can still access medical records if an official waiver is authorized. The decedent’s surviving spouse, other next of kin, or personal representative may be authorized to waive the physician-patient privilege.
Health Information Scope
A valid waiver doesn’t necessarily mean that all of the medical records for the decedent’s lifetime can be released. The decedent’s personal representative or next of kin must take care to ensure that the only medical records that are released are the ones that are relevant to the wrongful death lawsuit.
My Loved One’s Killer Also Died. Can I Still File a Lawsuit?
California tort law recognizes the right of a family to file an accident lawsuit if their loved one dies as a result of someone else’s intentional act or act of negligence. This is known as a wrongful death lawsuit. The situation can become more complicated if the defendant also dies. As soon as you learn of this person’s death, contact your accident attorney in Riverside to discuss the next steps in the case.
If you haven’t already filed the accident lawsuit, you can still do so after the defendant dies. The claim will be filed against the negligent individual’s estate. One of the first steps your accident lawyer will take is to determine whether the decedent’s will has already been filed in a probate court. If so, your attorney can file your claim in the presiding court. The estate will be notified of your claim against the assets. Sometimes, simply identifying the correct court can be trickier when the defendant has died. If the individual died while in jail, the probate case may be located either in the court nearest to the jail or near the decedent’s former residency.
Is There a Statute of Limitations on Toxic Torts in California?
A toxic tort is a claim that someone was harmed or wrongfully killed as a result of exposure to environmental hazards, such as pesticides or groundwater pollution caused by an industrial plant. Like other personal injury lawsuits, residents in Riverside, California and throughout the state are subject to statutes of limitations for toxic torts. This means there is a deadline to file a lawsuit, and if no action is taken by that time, the injured party forfeits the right to pursue compensation in court. To avoid giving up your legal rights, contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as you realize your injuries were caused by someone else’s negligence.
In California, the statute of limitations for filing a toxic tort is two years. The clock starts ticking on the date that the toxic exposure occurred. If the case is a wrongful death lawsuit, the two-year deadline begins on the date of the person’s death. It isn’t always possible for plaintiffs to immediately connect the dots between an illness and toxic exposure. A personal injury lawyer may still file a lawsuit no later than two years from the date that the plaintiff knew or reasonably should have known that harm occurred because of the toxic exposure.
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Who Is Liable for Climbing Wall Injuries?
Indoor rock climbing gyms are a great way to experience the thrill of the sport without worrying about falling off a cliff hundreds of feet in the air. But even indoor climbing walls present the possibility of injuries, and injured climbers might not always be the responsible party. A climbing wall injury case can be a little more complicated than the average slip and fall lawsuit . Consult a personal injury lawyer serving the Riverside area who has plenty of experience with complicated types of premises liability cases.
Assessing the Possibility of Product Liability
Injured climbers might assume that the gym is usually to blame for an accident and their subsequent injuries. But this isn’t necessarily true in all cases. Your personal injury lawyer will consider whether the climbing equipment was inherently defective in design or manufacture. If so, then the manufacturer could be held liable for the damages. For example, the manufacturer might have produced the carabiner out of a poor quality of aluminum alloy that caused it to malfunction. One possible defense to this claim is that the climber was using the equipment in a manner not intended by the manufacturer. Hypothetically, if the climber decided to light the climbing rope on fire, and the climber fell as a result, then the manufacturer would not be found liable because the rope was never supposed to be lit on fire. Additionally, the climber could be found liable for the damage to the equipment and gym.
Taking a Closer Look at Gym Waivers
One key piece of evidence in any climbing gym lawsuit is the waiver. Climbers are required to sign a waiver before they’re allowed to use the equipment, and many of them don’t read the full document. The premises liability attorney will need to carefully examine the waiver, and consider the facts of the case in light of the provisions in the document. Liability waivers are supposed to prevent climbers from suing the gym in the event of an injury. However, if the gym owner or supervisor can be proven negligent, climbers can usually file a lawsuit regardless.
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Environmental Hazards: How Victims Got Justice
If someone’s spouse dies as a result of acute toxicity from pesticides or chemicals, the surviving victim may have legal recourse. This could include a wrongful death claim that falls under the category of toxic torts. Toxic torts are claims filed by a personal injury lawyer in Riverside. They seek compensation for the victims based on the defendant’s negligence in causing the decedent to be exposed to deadly environmental hazards. A personal injury lawsuit won’t bring the decedent back, but it can allow the surviving family members to attain a sense of justice. It’s also possible to file a toxic tort in the absence of a wrongful death, as long as the injuries were directly caused by the negligent act.
Legal Concepts Regarding Toxic Torts
Like other personal injury lawsuits, a toxic tort claim is based on the legal concepts of liability and negligence. Negligence refers to any careless behavior that leads to the plaintiff’s injury or the decedent’s wrongful death. Liability means that the defendant has been found responsible. In order to win a favorable jury verdict for the plaintiff, the lawyer must prove the following:
- The defendant owed a duty to act with reasonable care toward the public or a specific person.
- The defendant’s careless behavior failed to meet this duty of reasonable care.
- The defendant’s careless behavior caused the plaintiff to suffer harm.
Hypothetically, assume that the defendant is the owner of a farm that grows peppers, and he or she uses pesticides on the fields. The plaintiff is a farmworker who was exposed to toxic levels of pesticides after being instructed to apply the chemicals. The plaintiff may sue the defendant for these injuries if the defendant failed to provide the worker with the necessary safety equipment.
Examples of Toxic Torts
Toxic torts can be based on a wide range of allegations. For instance, plaintiffs may claim that a landfill or manufacturing plant polluted their groundwater, causing cancers and birth defects. One of the most well-known toxic torts is the Love Canal case. In the mid-1900s, Hooker Chemicals & Plastics Corp. used a dump site at Love Canal, New York to bury 22,000 tons of hazardous chemicals. During the next two decades, the chemicals seeped into the pipes and into the air. More than 1,000 families had to leave their homes permanently, and more than 600 personal injury lawsuits were filed. The cases resulted in multi-million dollar settlements.
FAQs and Answers About California’s Lemon Laws
Driver distraction, impairment, and recklessness are all common causes of car accident lawsuits in Riverside, California, but sometimes, the fault lies with the vehicle’s manufacturer. The state’s lemon law—officially called the Tanner Consumer Protection Act or the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act—protects car owners from financial damages caused by a manufacturing defect. An accident attorney can help you sort through the legalese to figure out your options.
Is my car covered under the lemon law?
The lemon law covers purchased new and used vehicles, as well as leased vehicles, that have a manufacturer’s warranty. These vehicles include:
- Vehicles leased or purchased for company use
- Vehicles leased or purchased for personal use
- Dealer-owned vehicles and demonstrators
- Sedans, SUVs, pick-up trucks, and vans
- Drivetrain, chassis, and chassis cab of motorhomes
Your vehicle is covered if it falls into one of those categories. Vehicles are only covered if they are still within the original warranty period.
How can I prove that my car is a lemon?
California’s lemon law presumes that your vehicle is a lemon if any specified criteria are met within 18,000 miles or within 18 months of the buyer taking possession of the car. These criteria are:
- Four-plus attempts have been made to fix the same warranty problem.
- Two-plus attempts have been made to fix a warranty problem that could result in serious injury or death if the car is driven.
- The defects are not caused by the consumer’s abuse of the vehicle.
- The defects substantially affect the vehicle’s safety or value, or the consumer’s use of the vehicle.
- Mechanics have held the vehicle for 30 days to fix the problems. The days do not necessarily have to be consecutive.
Can I return a lemon?
If your situation meets certain criteria, yes. The manufacturer must provide a replacement or do a buyback. A replacement of the car will only occur if both the owner and the manufacturer agree to it. The replacement option requires the manufacturer to provide you with a substantially identical vehicle. Your new vehicle will have a new warranty. In a buyback, the manufacturer must pay you the amount the car cost, minus an offset for mileage.
What Is a Statute of Limitations?
Statutes of limitations apply to both criminal cases and civil accident lawsuits . A statute of limitations is a deadline. Once it expires, an injured party no longer has the right to file an accident lawsuit. This is one crucial reason why it’s important to speak with an accident attorney in Riverside as soon as possible after an incident occurs. If you wait too long to speak with a lawyer about your options, legal recourse may no longer be available to you.
Statutes of limitations vary from state to state. There are different deadlines for different types of claims. For example, a claim for property damage carries a statute of limitations of three years. Any type of personal injury claim usually has a two-year statute of limitations. The clock starts ticking from the date of the injury. However, it is possible for a patient to not detect the injury right away. If this is the case, then patients have one year to file the accident lawsuit from the date that they discovered the injury, even if two or more years have passed.
A Quick Look at Wrongful Death
The loss of a loved one is never easy. But when the death occurs as the result of someone else’s negligence or reckless conduct, families may need to seek justice in court before finding a sense of closure. Contact an accident attorney in Riverside immediately if you suspect your loved one’s death may have been caused by someone else. In the meantime, you can watch this featured video for a quick introduction to the legal concept of wrongful death.
This professional explains that, in this type of accident lawsuit, it’s necessary to launch an investigation quickly to prevent evidence from disappearing. As an accident attorney investigates a wrongful death case, he or she will assess liability. Liability refers to which party may have been at fault for the accident. For example, if the death was caused by a defective product, the accident lawsuit may list the manufacturer as the defendant.
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