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HMN Law Blog

What is a loss of consortium?

When someone is the victim of a serious injury, one of the cruelest consequences is the effect this has on the person's spousal relationship. This damage is known as a "loss of consortium." It encompasses such things as the loss of love, affection, companionship, comfort, society and sexual relations.

If you are the victim of this kind of loss, you may be eligible for compensation as part of your "pain and suffering" claim.

As FindLaw explains, a loss of consortium generally refers to the loss of certain relations between spouses. For instance, a serious physical or emotional injury may make it difficult or impossible for the injured peson to enjoy intimate relations with a spouse, as the person was formerly able to do. Thus the accident has robbed the couple of their ability to maintain their pre-injury lifestyle and activities.

What to know about physical assault and premises liability

Not all forms of premises liability involve slipping on a floor or hurting yourself on a flight of stairs. In some places of business, an employee might inflict harm upon or physically attack a customer. Aside from the employee's own personal liability for the assault, there are cases where a California employer can be held liable for the assault as well, if not under the doctrine of premises liability, then under other theories of liability.

As the HRDIRECTOR website explains, sometimes if a worker gets into an altercation with a customer, the employer can be held liable under the legal doctrine of vicarious liability. This doctrine holds that employers are vicariously liable for their workers if they harm another person on account of their actions, whether deliberate or negligent. Vicarious liability may apply even if the employee violated the employer's safety or other protocols in hurting the customer or patron.

Are store owners liable for falling boxes?

If you were driving along a California hill or a mountainside, you might see a sign that says "beware of falling rocks." Rocks rolling or dropping down a mountain would not be unexpected, and so you would consider that warning to be a legitimate risk. However, you would not expect to enter a big store or a warehouse and experience the same risk of boxes and packaging falling on your head. So if you should be hurt by a package dropping on you, can you sue the store?

Make no mistake that owners of stores and warehouses have an obligation to keep their facilities safe for customers. If boxes are housed on shelves above the heads of passing customers or employees, those boxes should be secured so they do not fall over. According to Findlaw, a falling box in a store can result in liability for the owner if it strikes and hurts a shopper.

Receiving compensation from FELA for your injuries

Federal law provides railroad workers the right to obtain compensation for injuries sustained during the scope of their employment. 

Obtaining damages through this process may seem complicated. Recovering compensation for injuries due to your company's or its contractors' fault usually requires proof of negligence. However, in some situations, the railroad is strictly liable even in the absence of such proof. 

What does the law say about approaching a train crossing?

You are driving on a California road when you spot a railroad crossing up ahead. If the gate is not dropped down, you might think you have no problem driving over the tracks. However, depending on the vehicle you drive, the law could require you to exercise greater caution while approaching a railroad crossing even if no train is approaching.

According to California law, there are specific conditions that require a driver to stop before reaching a railroad crossing. Under these conditions, you must stop your vehicle at a distance no less than fifteen feet from the crossing. Many people know to stop at a crossing when a train is approaching. In addition to a dropped gate, the sound of a train's horn or whistle is an easy signal that a train is coming. Furthermore, blinking red lights and crossing bells can signal to a driver to stop at a crossing.

Are one-man crews dangerous?

The freight railroads would have the public believe that operating massive freight trains with a "one-man crew" is perfectly safe.

According to NBC News, the railroads want to operate their trains with a one-person crew. They want only the engineer to have to be aboard with no conductor.

Despite erroneous claims by the industry lobby that there is a lack of "conclusive statistical data" to support a two-person crew standard, data gleaned from reports on accidents, crashes and fatalities, as well as the real-life experiences of frontline employees, all indicate that the arguments in favor of a two-person crew standard are compelling.

The industry's assertion that mandates to implement Positive Train Control (PTC) technology in the rail industry are somehow in conflict with the FRA's crew size rule is absurd. PTC is simply one more redundant safety tool in rail operations that requires a great deal of train crew interaction, in order for it to work. In fact, a fully operational PTC system puts more demands on the attention of the crew because of the distractions it causes. While advancement in transportation technology can provide essential safety support and save lives, it is not, and never will be, a replacement for highly trained, experienced and adequately staffed crews.

What is the law about railroad crews using mobile devices?

Everyone is aware of the laws regarding using mobile devices when driving a vehicle on California roadways. However, are there any rules for workers on trains? These are also vehicles, but traditional road laws do not apply because they are not traveling on roadways. According to the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, the Federal Railroad Administration has set guidelines for mobile use for railroad workers operating a train.

The FRA's ruling placed restrictions on the use of mobile devices. If you are working on the railroad and the task you are assigned is safety sensitive, such as driving the train or handling anything involving the operation, then you cannot use your mobile device while on the job.

What is paresis?

If the term paresis seems similar to the word paralysis, you would not be far off in thinking the two are related. The Very Well Health website describes paresis as a weakness in the limbs that can also manifest as paralysis. Like paralysis, paresis can result from a catastrophic injury and could cause great physical difficulties for California injury victims for the remainder of their lives.

A number of catastrophic injuries can produce paresis. A person who has been in an auto accident might take a blow to one or more of the nerves. Damage to the nerves can cause weakness to select parts of the body. A damaged nerve in the leg may impair the leg's movement. A nerve in the neck that is pinched can create paresis in the arm, the hand or the wrist.

Warning signs do not always protect against premises liability

Anyone who owns or rents a California building bears responsibility for keeping it safe for residents, guests, employees and even people who might trespass on the property. Should a person be injured on the property due to unsafe conditions, an owner or a renter may end up on the hook for that person’s medical bills. Some people may believe, however, that a warning sign might be the answer to warding off liability. While warning signs can reduce the risk of liability, they do not guarantee that the property owner will never be held liable.

Not all building defects or damage can be corrected immediately. Sometimes business owners do not have the personnel on hand to fix the problem and need to call in a contractor. In other cases, a spill or a defect will have to be corrected during business hours. Commonly, a store or a shop may put someone to work mopping up a spill with a yellow sign that warns store patrons of a wet floor.

Bus crashes are dangerous, but uncommon

A bus driving down the Santa Monica Freeway recently rolled over and crashed. According to KNBC, there were 32 passengers onboard, and 25 were taken to local hospitals.

The bus was travelling from the Palo Casino, and law enforcement officers responded to a call about the crash at about 4 a.m. Passersby and first responders helped passengers get out of wrecked vehicle. Following the accident, only four of those injured were in serious condition.

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