pre litigation vs litigation

When attorneys talk about personal injury cases and the law firms that handle them, you’ll sometimes hear the terms “pre-litigation” and “litigation.”

But what do these two terms mean? Let’s keep things simple. An easy way to think of pre litigation vs litigation is this: pre-litigation means “before I file a lawsuit” and litigation means “after I file a lawsuit.”

Pre-Litigation and Litigation Law Firms

If you are choosing a personal injury law firm to take on your case, it’s especially important to know the difference between these two terms. Here’s why:

  • There are law firms that handle just pre-litigation work. They will manage a case up to the point when a lawsuit is filed. As a case progresses and it becomes evident that a lawsuit must be filed, a pre-litigation law firm will typically hand-off your case to another law firm that handles litigation.
  • There are law firms that specialize solely in litigation work: taking cases to trial.
  • There are law firms that handle both pre-litigation work and litigation work. Negretti & Associates is this type of law firm.

What is the difference between pre-litigation and litigation? You can describe the two simply, as follows: pre-litigation is a case before filing a lawsuit and litigation is when a lawsuit has been filed. Here, Jonathan Negretti explains why it’s important to understand the difference between the two and why Negretti & Associates handles both types of cases, from start to resolution.

Why Negretti & Associates Handles Pre-Litigation and Litigation Cases

At Negretti & Associates, we’re situated somewhere in the middle between being a pre-litigation firm and litigation firm. That’s because we handle cases from start to finish — or “from start to resolution,” as we call it. In other words, from the first day a client hires us until the case resolves, whether that’s through a settlement or through a jury trial, we handle cases every step of the way. We won’t hand you off to anybody else.

I say describe our law firm as being somewhere “in the middle” because we have become more litigation-focused in the last few years. We’ve realized that we can be a great benefit to our clients this way. So, we’re filing more lawsuits and taking more cases to arbitration. As a result, I think we’re getting get better results from the people we’re suing. Typically, those people are represented by insurance companies — the organizations from which money is being collected.

Before You File a Lawsuit: Working Toward a Settlement

Before you file a lawsuit, you should keep in mind that you have a deadline to do so. The legal term for this is the” Your deadline for filing a lawsuit depends on the state where your accident happened.

Negretti & Associates has offices in Arizona (in Phoenix), Colorado (in Denver), and California (in San Diego). Each of these three states has different rules for how long you have to file your lawsuit following the date of the accident. If you don’t file, you lose the right to your claim.

Let’s say that you had an auto accident in Arizona, where you have two years from the date of your auto accident to file your lawsuit. If you don’t file, you lose the right to pursue your claim any further.

Before you file your lawsuit, you’re working toward getting better, getting the medical treatment you need, and hopefully getting back to the way you felt before the accident.

If all of this happens in a period of time that’s less than two years from the time of your accident, Negretti & Associates will collect all of the information related to your case — including lost wages and your pain and suffering — and we’ll assemble what’s called a demand package. We’ll send the demand package to the insurance company and try to negotiate a fair settlement on your behalf.

If we agree, as a team (we think of our clients as part of our team), that we have reached a fair resolution to your case, then the case gets settled, and you never have to file a lawsuit.

After You File a Lawsuit

In the event that you haven’t achieved a fair settlement through pre-litigation, then we have to consider the reality of filing a lawsuit.

Once you file a lawsuit, you engage the courts. You open the door to having a third party involved in your case. Things change.

  • Before you file a lawsuit, it’s really just you and the defendants who are represented by their insurance company.
  • After you file a lawsuit, it’s you, the defendant, the judge that oversees your case, and the jury that eventually will hear the trial.

Once you get into litigation, you have a different dynamic, because of the way the court system works. You also have deadlines, pursuant to court rules, that you have to abide by. Those same deadlines aren’t necessarily applicable to you before you file a lawsuit — absent the one big deadline, that you have two years to file the lawsuit before you lose the right to the claim.

Not only will you face additional deadlines, but you’ll encounter mandatory requirements, depending on where you are, that you’ll have to attend a settlement conference. What’s more, you’ll find mandatory disclosure requirements, where you have to disclose certain information to the opposing party, and they’ll have to give certain information to you. These things don’t necessarily come into play before you file your lawsuit.

The Pre-Litigation “Vacuum” Compared with the World of Litigation

In a situation where you’ve had a car crash, before you file a lawsuit, you’re really looking at things in a vacuum. You’re looking at what happened from the date of the accident going forward, providing information as needed, and trying to reach that fair and reasonable settlement on your case.

Once you get into litigation, that vacuum kind of goes away. You transition into an exploration into the claim that you’ve made. At this point, the difference between pre litigation vs litigation becomes particularly evident.

As the plaintiff’s attorney in litigation, Negretti & Associates faces the burden of proving your claim for the car crash — along with the injuries, lost wages, and pain and suffering associated with your accident. Meantime, defendants don’t really have a burden of proof. But they do love poking holes in your case, to avoid paying you full value on your claim. They’ll start looking at past medical records and other issues that may be going on in your life — all in an effort to avoid compensating your fairly.

Considering Litigation? Be Aware

Once you cross over the “pre-litigation vs litigation” threshold, and once you start to live in that world of litigation — meaning, you’ve filed a lawsuit — the entire scenario changes quite a bit.

For this reason, at Negretti & Associates, we make our clients aware of what that scenario might look like. We have some pretty comprehensive conversations with our clients. We sit down and we talk about this reality and what this means.

This doesn’t mean that you should be fearful of litigation. We’re not saying to avoid litigation. But you should understand what happens in litigation, because the last thing you want to do is file a lawsuit, get into litigation, and then wish you hadn’t done that. You won’t want to be trying to find ways out of your case, presenting a disadvantage to not only you but obviously to everyone involved in the lawsuit.

No one likes to sue anyone else. There are some people out there who will raise their hands and say, “I like to sue people, but I don’t like to sue people.” As an attorney, I sue people out of necessity.

Ultimately, no one wants to be in a lawsuit. The defendant — the actual person who was in the car crash with you — doesn’t want to be sued. The defendant is at the mercy of an insurance company that won’t be reasonable or fair to you. Because of this lack of reasonableness and fairness, you’re required or forced to file a lawsuit.

If anyone might enjoy lawsuits — absent the poor souls who have decided to be defense attorneys — the insurance companies probably do. They really do buy down what they have to pay to people if they didn’t file lawsuits. And, so, I think they probably enjoy that reality.

Remember, the slow-moving process of litigation can wear on people. It can be very challenging for people to get all the way through litigation without losing interest and certainly without being fearful of the unknown. With that said, if you’re considering litigation, rely on your attorneys. Trust your attorneys. Make decisions with your attorneys. But don’t let them make decisions for you.

Questions About Pre-Litigation vs Litigation? Contact Negretti & Associates

If you’re seeking a law firm in Arizona, California, or Colorado that handles pre-litigation and litigation, give Negretti & Associates. We’ll be happy to help you find answers to your questions. For a free consultation with our legal team, call us at (602) 531-3911 in Arizona, (619) 777-3370 in California, or (720) 636-3444 in Colorado. You can also contact us online or send us a text.

plaintiff dies during lawsuit arizona law

What happens when a plaintiff dies during lawsuit? Arizona law requires that certain steps be taken to continue the claim in the event of a party’s death, on behalf of either the deceased plaintiff or defendant.

Unfortunately, attorneys find themselves in this situation from time to time. At Negretti & Associates, we’ve had to deal with this situation on numerous occasions. We have had plaintiffs — our clients — pass away during our pursuit of their claim. We have also experienced defendants passing away while we are pursuing a claim against them. When either instance transpires, a case is left in a peculiar state.

Here, we’ll provide an overview of how Arizona law addresses situations in which the plaintiff or defendant passes away before a case is resolved.

Rule 25 of Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure

Rule 25 of the Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure states: “If a party dies and the claim is not extinguished, the court may order substitution of the proper party. Any party may file a motion to substitute. If the motion is not made within 90 days after the statement noting the death is served, the court must dismiss the claims by or against the decedent.” See Ariz. R. Civ. P Rule 25(a).

Ariz. R. Civ. P. Rule 25 goes onto to state that the decedents’ personal representative may be substituted as a plaintiff or defendant and that the action shall proceed in favor or against the remaining parties.

There is a lot to unpack in Rule 25 of the Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure. Read the statute carefully to understand the requirements and the timeline you have to operate under.

Barragan v. Superior Court 469

In addition, there is Arizona case law on point to address with this situation. In Barragan v. Superior Court 469 P.2d 92 (Ariz. App. 1970), the Court further clarified Rule 25 by holding that a petitioner may open probate to have a special administrator appointed for the purpose of later substituting a personal representative for the estate of the decedent.

Questions to Consider

When a plaintiff or defendant dies during a lawsuit, the situation can spider-out in countless ways, causing everyone involved in a case unnecessary stress.

Questions that an attorney might want to consider include:

  • Did the plaintiff or defendant die before you filed your lawsuit?
  • What if the case was settled prior to the death of one of the parties?
  • If you are an attorney representing a client, does your fee agreement allow you to talk to someone on behalf of your client, should he or she die?
  • Did the party die after your filed, but prior to serving your lawsuit?
  • On the plaintiff’s side, who is entitled to any proceeds that flow from resolving the claim?

If you find yourself in a situation where the plaintiff or defendant has died while a claim is in process, but you still have questions, give Negretti & Associates a call. We will walk you through the process to ensure that your claim can continue forward. You can reach as at (602) 531-3911 in Arizona. You can also contact us online or send us a text.

do i need to tell my insurance i drive for lyft or uber

2020 took a toll on all of us. A lot of people lost jobs and as a result had to find work elsewhere. Uber and Lyft became more necessary options for those folks looking to earn an income.

If you are thinking about driving for Uber and Lyft, you should think about your personal automobile insurance coverage.

As a new driver, it’s quite common to wonder, Do I need to tell my insurance I drive for Lyft or Uber?

In a word, the answer is Yes. Most auto policies now disclaim coverage if someone is engaged in “driving for hire” — in other words, driving for a rideshare company such as Uber or Lyft. Your insurance company could cancel your policy altogether, or refuse to renew it, if it were to learn that you’re using your personal vehicle for hire without disclosing this to them.

Explore Supplemental Insurance

Fortunately, most insurance companies now offer supplemental insurance to cover you when you are driving for Uber and Lyft.

Our recommendation is that you call your insurance company and ask about adding supplemental insurance onto your policy. It’s not very expensive — approximately $15 per month.

Supplemental rideshare insurance can take the place of your personal auto policy while you’re driving for hire — whether the app is on or off. This is a hybrid form of insurance policy designed to supplement your personal auto insurance policy for instances when you’re not covered by Lyft or Uber’s insurance. This insurance may also be responsible to pay out before Lyft or Uber’s policies are activated.

Whatever you do, don’t think you can avoid supplemental coverage and then make a claim for a crash that occurs while you are driving for Uber and Lyft. Your insurance company will probably find out and deny coverage in that situation.

Consider Insurance Offered by Uber and Lyft

The thought process shouldn’t end with supplemental insurance. Remember that Uber and Lyft provide insurance coverage to drivers and their passengers while rides are active.

The rideshare insurance coverage offered by Uber and Lyft depends on the driver’s status. The following questions determine what kind of coverage is available from Uber and Lyft:

  • Is the app on and you are looking to pick up a ride?
  • Have you accepted a ride and are you currently on the way to pick up passengers?
  • Do you have passengers in your car and are your transporting them to their destination?

In terms of coverage amounts offered and ride status, these rideshare companies’ insurance plans are, on the surface, equivalent, as of March 2021:

  • App is off: Your personal auto policy covers you and your passengers.
  • App is on: A low level of liability coverage is provided by Uber or Lyft. This is $50,000 in bodily injury per person, $100,000 in bodily injury per accident, and $25,000 in property damage per accident. Learn more about the differences between bodily injury and property damage coverage in auto insurance policies.
  • You’ve accepted a trip: A higher level of coverage is provided, including $1,000,000 in third-party in uninsured motorist (UM) and underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage.
  • Passengers in your car: Same as above. Uber used to treat driving with passengers separately from driving without passengers separately. Now, Uber’s insurance policy to covers drivers and passengers once a ride is accepted.

You can compare each company’s policies here:

You May Need a Commercial Driver’s License

You might not have thought about the possibility of needing a commercial driver’s license (CDL) if you decide for Uber and Lyft. Yet, some states are now requiring that you have a commercial driver’s license if you drive for Uber or Lyft as your full-time occupation.

A commercial driver’s license is a separate test that you have to take with your department of motor vehicles. It typically requires getting a medical evaluation as well. Check with your DMV for its requirements so that you don’t put yourself into jeopardy.

Further Reading: Rideshare Accident Claims

You now know the answer when a friend or colleague asks you, Do I need to tell my insurance I drive for Lyft or Uber? But do you know what to do when you’re involved in an accident as a Lyft or Uber driver?

The process of filing an insurance claim involving a rideshare accident is no different from filing a claim with an insurance company for a personal accident. At Negretti & Associates, we have prepared a series of articles that highlight potential issues that may arise when filing rideshare insurance claims.

When making a rideshare accident claim, whatever you do, mind what you say, so that your answers are not used against you later. The same thing goes when reporting the accident claim through a rideshare company’s app. Be careful about what you write. A personal injury attorney can provide you with valuable advice before reporting your accident.

If you have been involved in a rideshare accident as a driver in Arizona, California, or California, reach out to Negretti & Associates. Call us at (602) 531-3911 in Arizona, (619) 777-3370 in California, or (720) 636-3444 in Colorado. You can also contact us online or send us a text.

arizona dog bite lawyers

If you’ve experienced a dog bite in Arizona, you know that dog bites can be a very serious matter. If you believe that you have a case, it’s important to understand how your case fits within established dog bite laws in the Grand Canyon State.

For this reason, Negretti & Associates would like to offer this overview on dog bite laws in our state, along with our perspective on how an attorney can assist with a case. Our Arizona dog bite lawyers have represented people who have suffered serious injuries in dog attacks. We know dog bite laws and are ready to help you navigate your case. You don’t have to figure it out alone. Please contact us with questions about your case.

Strict Liability: No “One-Bite Rule” in Arizona

Arizona courts have made it clear that if you are bitten by a dog — even if it’s the first time in which a dog has bitten someone — you are entitled to be compensated for your injuries.

In the case Massey v. Colaric (1986), the court discussed the legal theory of “strict liability,” which means that the dog owner is liable — in other words, responsible — for injuries caused by his or her dog.

The court opinion of Massey v. Colaric observes, “In Arizona dogs do not get ‘one free bite.’ Owners are held strictly liable for injuries caused by their dogs’ actions and liability is imposed without regard to an owner’s knowledge of the dog’s viciousness.”

It some states, such as Colorado, a dog is allowed one bite before the owner of the dog is responsible for the injuries caused by a second bite. This is known in legal terms as the “one-bite rule.” This is not the case in Arizona.

Arizona’s law governing liability for dog bites, A.R.S. §11-1025, states that dog owners are responsible for paying damages to victims if they are legally on public or private property. This includes the dog owner’s property. The statute reads, “The owner of a dog which bites a person when the person is in or on a public place or lawfully in or on a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, is liable for damages suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of its viciousness.”

Let me give you some real-world scenarios to help you better understand how this Arizona law actually applies.

  • You are jogging down a city street and a dog escapes from someone’s yard and bites you. Yes, the Arizona law would apply and you can recover damages for that. Note: This actually happened to me a few months ago. However, the dog couldn’t catch me to bite me because I ran really fast!
  • An Amazon delivery driver is drops off a package at your house. Your dog gets out and bites the driver. Yes, the Arizona law would apply and the driver could recover damages for that. Note: My dogs go crazy when the Amazon folks show up at our house. It’s probably because my wife gets three to four deliveries a day.
  • You are helping a friend move and you go into the house to grab a box. You turn the corner and your friend’s dog bites you. Yes, the Arizona law would apply and you can recover damages for that. Note: Don’t ever buy a pickup unless you intend to help everyone move.
  • A landscaper is in your backyard cutting the grass. Your dog gets out and bites him. Yes, the Arizona law would apply and your landscaper can recover damages for that. Note: Take care of the people who take care of you.
  • You are at the dog park and another dog chases down your dog and starts to attack her. You go to break up the fight and get bitten. Yes, the Arizona law would apply and you can recover damages for that. Note: Dog parks can be fun for your fur baby, but they can also be a danger zone. Be mindful of what’s going on in the dog park before you decide to let your pup off the leash to play.

Statute of Limitations: A One-Year Deadline

A key feature of Arizona dog bite laws is that there is a deadline to bring forth a case. This deadline is one year from the date of the dog bite. The legal term for this is “statute of limitations.”

If you do not bring your lawsuit forward within the one-year window, you lose the right to do so. This can be found in A.R.S. §12-541.

This law surprises some people because the normal deadline to bring a personal injury lawsuit is two years.

Why is there an accelerated deadline? The thinking is that since you do not have to prove liability for your claim, it should not take as long to resolve.

Provocation as a Defendant’s Argument

In Arizona there are really only two defenses that a dog owner can assert to avoid being responsible for their dog biting you.

The first defense is known as the “provocation” defense. In other words, the defense argues that the attacking dog was provoked.

An important Arizona dog bite law, A.R.S. §11-1027, states that: “Proof of provocation of the attack by the person injured shall be a defense to the action for damages. The issue of provocation shall be determined by whether a reasonable person would expect that the conduct or circumstances would be likely to provoke a dog.”

Proof of provocation is almost always used as a defense in dog bite cases. As experienced Arizona dog bite lawyers, we have encountered this defense many times. Sometimes it is applied in ways that would leave you scratching your head.

For example, we once represented a man who was walking his dog in his neighborhood. A neighbor’s dog got out and attacked both him and his dog.

Through his attorney, the owner of the attacking dog argued that because our client was on a sidewalk and his dog looked weak, the attacking dog was provoked. No joke! Defendants will literally do anything they can to avoid compensating people injured by dog bites.

Trespassing as a Defendant’s Argument

The second, but rarely used, defense in dog bite cases involves trespassing on someone else’s property. A.R.S. §13-1502 and §13-1504 define trespass as a physical intrusion or entry upon the land or property belonging to someone else wherein, causing damage to the property owner and/or his or her property.

In this situation, the dog owner of the attacking dog may not be responsible to you for your injuries.

To illustrate, in another case, our client — who was very tall — looked over his backyard fence into his neighbor’s yard. The neighbor had a dog that jumped up on the fence and bit our client’s face.

The defendants in that case claimed that our client trespassed when he looked over the fence. The judge didn’t buy the argument and ordered that the dog owner pay our client for injuries to his face.

Call Us with Questions About Your Dog Bite Case

Remember, in Arizona, dog bites have a short statute of limitations. This means you have a smaller window of time to get your claim resolved. Reach out today for a free case consultation with one of Negretti & Associates’ Arizona dog bite lawyers to discuss your options. Call us at (602) 531-3911 in Arizona, contact us online, or send us a text

types of personal injury cases

What are the most common types of personal injury cases? What categories of personal injury cases are not as common today, but are growing in frequency and could become more common in the future?

For the most part, most people know what a personal injury case is. But, to summarize the concept briefly, personal injury law cases involve bodily injury, mental anguish, shock, sickness, disease, or disability resulting from another party’s failure to exercise reasonable care. In essence, personal injury law cases are when the negligence of one party causes personal harm to others.

People typically associate personal injury law with car accidents because car wrecks are the most common cases. However, there are a lot of other cases that involve personal injury that people don’t normally think about — such as rideshare accidents and electric scooter accidents. As technology evolves, new types of products and services have emerged.

Here, we’ll survey the most common case types and offer links to articles that we have published. We have a host of content already available if you’re interested in diving deeper into these different types of cases.

Car Accidents

Did you know that there are 6 million car accidents in the U.S. every year? That equates to roughly 16,438 cases per day. That is a lot of car crashes! For this reason, car accidents are the most common types of personal injury cases.

But there’s good news: new technologies — such as self-driving mechanisms, lane assist, and automatic braking — are helping to reduce the number of accidents. Car accidents in the U.S. are declining at a rate of approximately 2 percent each year.

Negretti & Associates has published several articles related car accidents:

When an accident happens, we suggest consulting with an attorney, because an attorney can be an incredible resource when you go through the process of resolving a case. It can be helpful to talk with a personal injury attorney and at least discuss what options are available to you.

What are the most common types of personal injury cases? What types of personal injury cases could become more common in the future? As part of his Legal Beagle Podcast, attorney Jonathan Negretti discusses the types of cases he sees most frequently and those that he expects to see more often.

Medical Malpractice Cases

Medical malpractice cases represent another common category of personal injury, but they can be incredibly difficult to pursue. Not only are they cost prohibitive, but there are challenges in the law that make these cases difficult. These laws don’t necessarily protect the doctor or the medical practitioner, but they do force the injured party to consider whether or not these cases are worthy of pursuing. A great interview we had with medical malpractice attorney John Ager highlighted some of these issues.

At Negretti & Associates, in our experience of handling medical malpractice cases, we can tell you that medical malpractice attorneys may look at 100 cases before representing one. There’s a very low ratio of acceptance for this type of claims. This is because a case has to have three main elements:

  • First, you have to identify that a mistake occurred with the medical procedure or experience that you were having.
  • Two, you have to show that the mistake led to some sort of injury, and that injury probably has to be fairly significant.
  • Three, there must be damages resulting from the injury. In other words, you must have some sort of debilitating outcome because of something that went wrong — the mistake that occurred.

You probably won’t know whether these elements are applicable to your case without having a more in-depth conversation with an attorney. If you think you have some sort of situation, give Negretti & Associates a call. We’ll be happy to evaluate your case and discuss it with you, even if we don’t take your case. What’s more, we’re not going to charge you for our time in evaluating your case, in the event that it may have been related to some sort of medical malpractice.

Wrongful Death Cases

When lawyers talk about wrongful death cases, it means that someone has died as a result of a personal injury. Commonly, people associate wrongful death cases with crashes, in which someone has died as a result of the crash, resulting in a wrongful death claim. That said, it’s important to understand that wrongful death claims can occur through a number of types of personal injury cases — for example, medical malpractice, nursing home neglect, construction defects, and product-defect cases.

If you are a beneficiary or potentially the personal representative of the estate of the person that was killed as a result of a person-injury claim, it’s important to have a conversation with an attorney. Here’s an example illustrating why. Negretti & Associates once helped a woman whose husband passed away as a result of an electric scooter accident. She was seeking answers to the case before she could put this experience to bed and move forward with her life. We spent about a year investigating the case for her. There ended up not being a claim that she wanted to pursue, so we parted ways. We didn’t charge her for any of our time or the costs that we spent investigating that because that’s the risk we accept doing this work. As attorneys, we are in the business of trying to help people find answers. We found those answers for our client, and she was able to move forward knowing that she had done everything she could to look into that potential claim.

Premise Liability Cases

Premise liability cases are also among the most common types of personal injury cases. Premise liability hinges upon the concept that property owners have a duty to “safekeep their property,” to use a legal term. In other words, property owners are responsible for the premises that they own, and have a duty to inspect and protect those that are on their property from injury.

Premise liability can impact virtually every aspect of our lives. It can involve a residential setting, where someone’s on your property at your house. It can come in a commercial setting, while you’re at a grocery store. A recent interview we had with premise liability expert Todd Springer helped illuminate the elements of premise liability law. When reviewing a case, an expert may ask questions such as these: 1) Were conditions hazardous? 2) Were hazardous conditions readily identifiable by someone? 3) Did the property manager provide notice of the hazardous conditions to persons on its premises? Failure to provide notice is a key element of premise liability law.

Product Liability Claims

Another common type of personal injury case is product liability claims. This is where someone sustains an injury or harm due to use of a defective product. In some cases, manufacturers simply fail to provide adequate warning about how their products are to be used.

The most common — and most popular — case involving a product defect claim is the McDonald’s hot coffee case. There are a number of misconceptions about this case, but it has significant merits as a personal injury case. Unfortunately, there was so much PR spin around this case that the public was given an inaccurate depiction of what really happened. I urge you to educate yourself about this case. McDonald’s eventually admitted that they did not warn their customers of the risk of injury that their scalding-hot coffee posed. This is why the McDonald’s coffee lawsuit is known as a product liability case.

And, if you were to read our article about the five most famous product-liability cases, you might be a little astounded and maybe a little upset about the egregious conduct of some of the companies who made this list.

We’re not arguing that consumers do not bear some responsibility with some of these cases. What we’re asserting is that there is a point at which that burden shifts to the maker of the product to protect all of us, as consumers, against harm. When you buy or use something, you rightfully expect it to be safe. Yet, when a business fails to warn people that their product could hurt someone, then a product liability case should be expected.

Defamation Cases

Defamation is another key area of personal injury law, and it’s one that we don’t talk about a lot, because defamation claims can be very complicated. Of course, personal injuries can be physical. Defamation cases, by contrast, can be emotional in nature — they seek recovery for damage done to one’s reputation.

Defamation typically comes in the form of either libel or slander. The difference between the two is simple:

  • Slander is spoken defamation.
  • Libel is written defamation.

When people talk about defamation claims, they often — and unfortunately — use slander and libel interchangeably. But they’re not the same.

We often hear about these claims in the context of the entertainment industry, and that’s because these claims have to be actionable. There have to be damages, and the things either said or written have to be untrue. If the statement is true, the case does not entail slander or libel.

When bringing about a defamation claim, not only must the statement made be untrue, but you also have to prove that you experienced damages as a result of the statement. Damages have to be more significant than hurt feelings. We need to prove actionable damages. An example would be a former employer defames you in some way, which prevents you from getting a job that has an annual salary of $100,000.

You must show that statements were made — perhaps something in writing, which would be libel, or something spoken, which a third party can corroborate. The statement would have to be harmful and dishonest, causing a lost job opportunity.

Again, defamation claims are difficult. You need to understand that opinion is different from statements of facts. If someone gives an opinion about something, that isn’t necessarily the same thing as giving and stating a fact about a person. If you think you have this sort of situation, then give us a call, and we’ll talk through it and see if there’s an actual claim to pursue.

Dog Bite Cases

Our survey of the most common types of personal injury cases would not be complete without a discussion of dog bite claims. Were you aware that there are roughly 4.5 million dog bites every year in the U.S.? This is a truly remarkable statistic.

Dog bite claims are governed by their own unique sets of rules. The most important thing that you should be aware of is that dog bite claims usually carry with them what’s called a one-year statute of limitations — a deadline of one year, from the date of the bite, to bring your claim, or file your lawsuit. If you don’t file your lawsuit within one year, you could lose the right to your claim.

At Negretti & Associates, we have offices in California, Arizona, and Colorado. Laws are different in each of these three states. For example, see our article about dog bite laws in California. Depending on the state in which the bite happens, you may automatically have a claim, regardless of any sort of defense that can be offered. In states such as Colorado, there could be defenses, where there has to be a history of a dog’s biting behavior in order to bring a claim.

Defenses commonly offered by dog owners include provocation, where it is argued that the bitten party provoked the dog. There are other defenses that could be used by the dog owner. Regardless, dogs shouldn’t be biting people. If you’ve been bitten and injured, then more than likely there is a claim to pursue. There could be a source of recovery — through homeowner’s insurance, for example.

That said, if you were bitten by a dog and you think you have a claim, give Negretti & Associates a call. We can talk about circumstances that surround your event, and we can decide if there’s a claim to pursue.

Less Common, “Emerging” Types of Personal Injury Cases

At this point, I’d like to turn our attention to the personal injury cases that are not as common — but they’re ones that Negretti & Associates takes pride in pursuing. We take on some of these cases simply because we think it’s our duty as attorneys to do so. We take on other cases simply because there aren’t many attorneys doing these claims, and we think people need help representing them.

The first one of these is diminished value claim, where your vehicle loses value due to its accident history. Even though your vehicle is repaired, it is worth less, because it sustained damage during a car crash at some point in time.

At Negretti & Associates, we try to educate people on these claims. Car owners really are equipped to bring about diminished value claims, and it makes no sense to give away a chunk of one’s recovery to an attorney, simply to process papers. However, insurance companies sometimes make things very difficult on car owners, and it might make sense to involve an attorney to pursue these claims.

We offer a ton of information about diminished value claims on our website. In fact, we have a 30-minute video, where we walk through a lot of different scenarios and talk about how to protect yourself. If you’d like to watch that video, send us a note on this page or call us.

Another type of case that is not as common, but is becoming more common, involves electric scooter accidents that you can rent for short-term rides. Bird and Lime are two of the biggest electric scooter brands, but there are many others in the marketplace. These are those electric scooters that are put out in high-traffic areas where you can swipe your credit card, use an app, and off you go. Next thing you know, you’re racing down the street at a high rate of speed. Scooter injuries can occur by when a rider is hit by a vehicle, when a pedestrian steps out in front of you, or when you simply have to jump off the scooter because the brakes fail, or there’s a sharp turn or pothole that you cannot negotiate.

Electric scooter accident claims can be very complicated. To use a scooter, you must fully agree to the user agreement, which may have an arbitration provision. In effect, you cannot file a claim against the scooter company in a court of law.

What’s more, most scooter brands are based in California, so you must work with an attorney that is licensed in that state. At Negretti & Associates, we’ve had attorneys from all over the country ask us to help them pursue these cases, because we are licensed in California. A scooter injury can occur in any state. For example, a rider could be injured in Georgia. However, the arbitration hearing needs to be held in California, requiring a California-licensed attorney.

If you are injured on an electric scooter, then definitely give Negretti & Associates a call. We’ll talk with you about what happened. There aren’t many firms that handle scooter accident cases. We think that people should be better educated about scooter liability laws and understand what their rights are, as they relate to bringing a claim for an injury that occurs on an electric scooter.

Rideshare accident cases are an emerging type of personal injury case, as well. These are cases that usually involve Lyft or Uber, in situations where you get into a car crash. You could be a passenger, a driver, or the driver of another vehicle that’s hit by a rideshare driver who is either driving a passenger or going to pick up a passenger.

There are specifics about these cases that change what insurance is available, such as the status of the ride at the time of the accident.

We have published a variety of articles on rideshare accidents on our site, including:

Questions? Contact Us!

If you have been involved in a personal injury case and you’d like to discuss your circumstances with an attorney, contact Negretti & Associates for a free consultation. Call us at (602) 531-3911 in Arizona, (619) 777-3370 in California, or (720) 636-3444 in Colorado. You can also contact us online or send us a text.

In this week’s Legal Beagle Podcast, Jonathan Negretti interviews premise liability expert Todd Springer. They discusses what one should consider before pursuing a slip and fall case.

What does a premise liability expert do? What factors does an expert look at when evaluating an injury or accident? How are experts’ findings important to shaping the courses of premise liability cases?

For insights into these questions, Jonathan Negretti had a virtual chat with Todd Springer, a mechanical engineer and expert at Phoenix-based Augsperger Komm Engineering, a firm that specializes in forensic engineering, insurance claim analysis, product design, and expert witness testimony.

Springer provides expert consulting and testimony with regard to building envelope installation and performance, as well as exterior building system evaluations with regard to hail and wind damage. In addition, he regularly addresses building code, ADA compliance issues, and how pedestrians interact with their environments.

Jonathan Negretti: What does a premises liability expert do?

Todd Springer: I look at site conditions and different elements of buildings. Premises liability is anything to do with the premises. I have knowledge of certain systems — building components, and human factors — and I apply those.

I consider how a door is supposed to work. How hard is it supposed to be to open a door? What are walkway conditions supposed to be like, both in and around a building? What is required for stairways?

I look at certain maintenance items. How are floors supposed to be maintained? How are those maintenance activities supposed to be carried out?

Building codes govern construction, and third-party consensus standards establish standards of care. Those things are applied to different incidents that occur on a premise.

Jonathan Negretti: Let me give you a hypothetical premise liability case. Let’s say someone’s at a Burger King, and they slip and fall, and they get hurt. They then call an attorney. That attorney then reaches out to you to say, “Todd, I need to know if there’s a case here.” To the person that fell, they think, “There was a wet surface in Burger King. I fell. I’m hurt. It’s Burger King’s fault.” Is it that cut and dry?

Todd Springer: No. In my world I talk about all those things that we just discussed. From your world — as a lawyer — you talk about other things. It’s in the marriage of those two things that really answers your question.

The way I look at those instances is, there are basically three prongs, if you will. Was it a hazardous condition? Was it readily identifiable by someone? The part where it gets a little bit on the edge of my area is notice. In an attorney’s world someone has to have known about this condition or, I believe, created it.

If I were there as a customer, and I got a drink, then spilled it — and you walked behind me and you slipped — as I understand it, it’s very hard to say that’s Burger King’s fault.

Jonathan Negretti: How come? I think you’re right, but explain why.

Todd Springer: The interpretation I have is the notice. Is it Burger King’s standard of care to follow every single customer around and make sure they never spill?

Rather, there are general standards of care that every organization should have some system in place for ensuring that these things are minimized. They’re mitigated to some extent. In grocery stores, they’ll have store sweeps. More often, it’ll be in the produce section. Less often, it’s around the store.

At Burger King, how often are those guys out walking the lobby looking for spills, picking up trash, you know? Was the accident in the middle of a lunch rush?

Where it all gets super fun, when I talk to every client, is the term “reasonable.” The term reasonable gets thrown around. What is reasonable? To be able to discuss the factors that go into that is what I do.

Well, there are things that people can do and things that they don’t do. They can have a schedule. If you look at a log, you can see they were there at 7:58 a.m., and the next time was 9:14 a.m. But that might be their breakfast rush and they’re supposed to do [the sweep] every hour. Well, they were an hour and 17 minutes apart. So, did they fail? What’s reasonable?

Jonathan Negretti: When you look at reasonableness in premise liability cases, do you look at it from the standpoint of an objective finding, versus a subjective finding? What’s reasonable to you may not be reasonable to me. As an expert, do you live in that world of objectivity?

Todd Springer: When I started, I would ask whether or not a condition was unreasonably dangerous. As I went along, I started looking into where that came from. My current understanding, if my memory is accurate today, is that it’s a jury instruction.

I can say there was no reason for this condition to exist. If someone puts a trap door in a floor, there’s no reason for that. Someone is going to get hurt. You could say it’s unreasonably dangerous.

As far as the hypothetical Burger King incident is concerned, talking about the factors that go into that really lead up to that. If the store were two-and-a-half hours apart on its store sweep log, and then you saw a video where two employees are on Facebook for 30 minutes blowing off the store sweep, I think, that’s an easy one to explain. That’s the first thing that popped in my head.

I take all the data I can, explain the significance of it, and apply it to codes and standards of care. Then I can discuss human factors. Are people multitasking? Are they going down a stairway with a heavy floral pattern with grand, distracting views, and then misstep? Those things have been studied. I can talk about those from a scientific perspective.

Jonathan Negretti: If a typical person has fallen, and they want to understand whether they have a premise liability case, give me a few thoughts on what you would tell that person directly. Maybe they don’t have an attorney and just want to know, “Do I have a case or did I just mess up?” What would you tell those people?

Todd Springer: This is rough one, because we’re very emotionally driven creatures, I think. The first thing I would say is, “Think about what you were doing — your actions on that day, leading up to that event, and how safe you were being. Were you texting and driving? Were you looking at yourself in a mirror as you walked into a planter? If so, was it really the planter’s fault?”

And then, think about if you owned the business. People don’t want to do this, all the time. If you’re saying there’s $50,000 or more on the line, take a minute and think about it. If I owned the business, would it make sense that I [as the customer] shouldn’t be allowed to do that? Or should I view that as my fault?

You know, if someone slips on a spilled soda at Burger King, and I own the Burger King, is that my responsibility?

Take a second and look at the case from both sides. Inevitably, a defense attorney will be hired. They will defend their client, because that’s their job. They are going to find every way they know how to poke a hole in your case and find you at fault.

So, if you can think about some of those ways where you might be at fault, that will give you a good perspective on whether it wasn’t all on them, but perhaps 50/50: “Maybe I wasn’t being too reasonable — the guy was mopping, and there were no signs up. … That doesn’t make sense. … It’s really easy to put signs up. … Just mop half the floor at a time, put some signs up around that half and then go over it.”

Just think it through. Write it down. Draw a picture. These are the fundamentals of what I do. What do we know? What don’t we know? That will give you some insight.

Jonathan Negretti: If you’re a young attorney doing personal injury work and you may not have had any premise liability cases, but you want to get into this area, what would you tell that attorney to be aware of, or to think about with these types of cases?

Todd Springer: The biggest thing I would tell them is that you need to know an expert. There are some people who just don’t use them. I don’t know what the pros and cons are, financially. That’s ultimately the attorney’s game at the end of the day — the dollars.

You need to know how honest your expert is with you. The way I would do that is, I would make up a junk case and call an expert: “I’ve got two cases that I want to talk to you about.” And I would tell them about the real case and hear what he or she had to say. And then I’d say, “OK, I’ve got another one. … This guy’s walking, and he steps off the curb, but someone honked their horn as they’re going by. So, this business that owns the curb …” Be creative. Think of something.

Jonathan Negretti: I would tell all young lawyers to get an expert early. Have conversations. Find people you trust. Ask those questions. Pay for the evaluations. It’s not a big deal. If you have to pay for it, it’s worth it. It will save you a boatload.

Todd Springer: I think a lot of times, a seasoned expert can give you a good idea early on [about a case]. Now, when you go on to due diligence, things can change all the time — someone can be deposed, and something comes out. It doesn’t take a long time looking at a few facts and digging in for a little bit.

Jonathan Negretti: Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and have a conversation and learn what you don’t know. Don’t think you know it all — because you certainly don’t. It was good that I learned this early in my career, not late in my career. It’s helped me on a lot of cases that we have not taken.

I’ve gone as far as to share some of the analysis that you’ve given us with potential clients, when we turn down the opportunity to represent them, because we don’t think there’s a case — after you evaluate it and we talk, and we kind of debate whether there’s enough there. I think potential clients appreciate that. I walk them through what your analysis, and I say “Look, this is why there may be some challenges. You’re certainly welcome to go get a second opinion, or a third. I don’t think that there’s a reason to pursue this because of X, Y, and Z.”

Being honest with clients — up front and just candid with them, I will say, “Look, we talked to our expert. He evaluated it and there’s just nothing here.”

I would much rather tell the client early on, once we discover that there isn’t a case to pursue, that we’re not going to take it any further, than to tell them way later, or have a really bad outcome at trial — if it ends up there. I would rather be honest. I think that’s probably why we work well together.

You do a good job of just being honest with me about what to expect with the case and say, “Look, I don’t know if you have what you’re looking for here.” I’m just wondering why you have taken that approach to your work.

Todd Springer: Well, number one, that’s how I was trained. And it’s kind of the golden rule, too.

There are some gray areas in all of this. It’s never black and white, or you wouldn’t need people to talk about stuff. You explore those gray areas. You can go down different paths of logic, thought, and reasoning. Every once in a while, you’ll do that, and someone else will come along later in the case — when it’s not so fun — and they’ll bring up some stuff you didn’t think about. And then you’re sitting there going, “Hey, I didn’t you know.” That’s never fun.

And I always joke that I’m not retiring soon. It’s way better to work on a more solid case. From the bottom of all of that comes who we are as people. Am I really in this to try to help you build a case? Or is it better if I were to tell you all this stuff? Like I said, a lot of times someone else is going to point these things out later.

If you believe that you’ve experienced injury or damages related to a premise liability case, reach out to Negretti & Associates for a free consultation with our legal team. Call us at (602) 531-3911 in Arizona, (619) 777-3370 in California, or (720) 636-3444 in Colorado. You can also contact us online or send us a text.

tiger woods accident single-vehicle crashes
Workers move a vehicle after a rollover accident involving golfer Tiger Woods on Tuesday, February 23, 2021 in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA. Woods suffered leg injuries in the one-car accident and was undergoing surgery, authorities and his manager said. (Getty Images / Mark J. Terrill)

Tiger Woods is on everyone’s minds because of the single-vehicle crash that he was involved in Rancho Palos Verdes, California — near Los Angeles — earlier this week. There are a lot of unknowns at this point. There’s a lot of speculation as to what might have happened.

I would like to talk about what a personal injury attorney may look at when considering a single-vehicle crash. This type of accident is less common; most automobile crashes involve two or three vehicles. Single-vehicle crashes typically raise questions as to whether there was something wrong with the vehicle itself, something wrong with the roadway, or a combination of the two.

In the case of Tiger Woods’ accident, the first responders said that the area in Los Angeles where the crash occurred is one that has many crashes. It’s a dangerous area. According to their description of the accident scene, it’s an area where a crash would not be unforeseen.

In a media briefing following the accident, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva explained the road’s conditions as follows: “Because it is downhill — it slopes and it curves — that area has a high frequency of accidents.” Further, he described accidents in that area as “not uncommon.”

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and others assess Tiger Woods’ recent rollover accident in Rancho Palos Verdes.

This is a huge problem for the governmental entity that designed the road, whether it’s the City of Rancho Palos Verdes, Los Angeles County, or even the State of California. If the city designed a roadway that is hazardous for drivers, the city could bear some responsibility for crashes that occur on that roadway.

Of course, the argument can be made that the driver of the vehicle should understand or appreciate the dangers of that roadway and, therefore, slow down or drive with more caution. But this argument makes sense only if the driver has driven that roadway before, and has familiarity with that roadway and its dangers.

The problem is, if you’re not usually on that roadway or area of road — if you’re not comfortable with that area of road — and if you don’t understand the sharp turns or potential downhills and bends that may be present in Rancho Palos Verdes, you could argue that there’s a design defect with the roadway.

Roadway Design Defect Cases

Roadway design defect cases are extremely complicated and have a very, very high burden. In other words, the burden is what you, the plaintiff, would have to prove against the governmental entity that designed the road. You would have to show that there was knowingly a design flaw in this roadway, or that the city, county, or state was put on notice — or notified — about the dangers of this roadway.

It’s possible that multiple accidents occurring over a short period of time, or many accidents over a longer period of time, would give the city, county, or state notice that there’s something wrong with the road. A simple warning sign that says “slow down” may not be sufficient. The frequency of accidents should lead officials to consider a redesign of the road, or investigate how to provide a roadway that’s safer for the people who are driving it.

Jonathan Negretti’s perspective on the Tiger Woods single-vehicle accident is part of his Legal Beagle Podcast, which is available on Negretti & Associates’ YouTube channel and on Anchor.

The appropriate way to inform a governmental entity about a dangerous roadway is by filing a notice of claim. This must be filed within a certain period of time following an accident. In California, a notice of claim must be filed 180 days from the crash itself.

Tiger Woods suffered his rollover crash on February 23, 2021. He therefore has until August 22, 2021 to notify the city that he has an intent to bring a claim against the city or county for a dangerous condition: the design of this particular stretch of road.

In turn, the city would have the opportunity to evaluate the claim and then determine whether it is interested in resolving the claim with Tiger. If the city is not interested, then Tiger has an accelerated deadline — a statute of limitations that dictates how long you have to file a lawsuit or you lose the right to your claim. In more common language, it’s a deadline to file a lawsuit. If you miss the deadline, you can’t file a lawsuit. Tiger would have one year from the date of his crash to file that lawsuit. That’s assuming there’s enough evidence to support his claim.

Evidence Collection in a Roadway Design Defect Case

Where would Tiger find the evidence to support his claim? Well, he would have a law firm, like ours, work with an investigative team — engineers and roadway design experts — to look at the roadway. Together, the team would explore the following:

  • Whether the governmental entity that has jurisdiction over this roadway — city, county, or state — failed to mitigate these dangers.
  • Whether the city, county, or state failed to provide safeguards against these dangers.
  • The area’s prior crash history. This is a little bit more difficult to acquire, because not all accidents are public record. But you can find most of them, if there are police reports and things of that nature.

It would take time to investigate all of these factors and determine whether there’s a claim against the governmental entity. That’s an important determination that needs to be made pretty early in an investigation. You face an accelerated deadline to both let the governmental entity know about your intent to bring a claim and then you have that accelerated deadline to file your lawsuit, because normally you get two years. In California you get the years to file a lawsuit or you lose the right to do so.

A Potential Product Defect Case

Another consideration that a personal injury attorney might look at is what’s going on with the vehicle itself. Tiger was driving a Genesis GV80. This was a courtesy vehicle provided by the sponsor of the golf tournament that had just occurred in Los Angeles. Tournaments traditionally have vehicle sponsors, which provide vehicles to the golfers. In this case, Genesis was the title sponsor of the event. If you’ve seen the images of the accident, you can tell the vehicle was badly damaged. The whole front-end looks crushed. There is significant damage to the vehicle itself. Does that mean there is anything wrong with the vehicle? Maybe. You don’t know until you start to look, until you start to investigate.

At Negretti & Associates, we handled a single-vehicle crash case in which our client had a medical episode, ran off the road, hit a tree, and her airbags failed to deploy. That shouldn’t happen when you hit a tree at 45 miles per hour. Your airbags should trigger and should deploy. So, we had to start investigating and asking questions. We got experts involved, and we started to tear into that vehicle, look at the mechanics of that vehicle, the data the vehicle can provide, and tried to figure out what happened in that particular situation.

Tiger Woods would have the same potential claim here if there were something wrong with his vehicle. At this point, we just don’t know what exactly happened. I think I heard a news report that there are no skid marks on the roadway at the point where he veered off it. That’s suspicious. Typically, our reaction, as drivers, is to hit our brakes if there’s some sort of issue — whether it’s something that runs in front of you, or you were texting and all of a sudden you realize the vehicle’s going off the road. Either way, you still apply the brakes. In this case, there’s nothing like that. Did the brakes fail? We don’t know yet. Again, there’s a lot of speculation as to whether there was intoxication or other contributing factors — all of which could determine whether Tiger Woods has a claim.

What’s especially important is timing. These investigations have to happen quickly. As a potential plaintiff in a single-vehicle crash, you should not wait for the authorities to do their investigation before you begin yours. Sometimes, authorities will take an awfully long time to do their investigations. They may have to send things to labs. Simply coordinating evidence from different responders into a report can take a long time. They’re available to you once they are produced. Regardless, you don’t want to for it to arrive. You want to have your own investigative team looking at the accident as soon as possible.

If there’s suspicion that something may be wrong, you’ll want to call a personal injury attorney and explain what you think happened: “This is what I’m concerned about. Do you think we have a potential case here?” That’s what happened in the aforementioned airbag case that we had. The wife was incapacitated, because she was the driver. The husband wasn’t in the vehicle at the time, but he’s the one who called me and said, “This is all I know. My wife had a medical episode. She hit a tree, and the airbags didn’t go off. I’m just wondering what happened.” So, our firm got involved and said let’s figure out what happened.

Roadway Design Is an Important Factor in Tiger Woods’ Accident Case

To circle back to Tiger Woods’ case, it concerns me to hear officers give interviews to the media and say that the roadway is unsafe. It’s troubling for the governmental entity in which they actually work. In this case, it’s the county. It’s troubling because it sounds like the authorities know that this is a dangerous stretch of roadway and maybe there were not enough safeguards in place to eliminate these types of accidents.

There remains much more to learn in this case. I’m sure the media will keep us updated and informed on what is going on, not only with Tiger’s recovery, but the potential factors that created this crash event.

Until we learn more, I wanted to jump in right away to explain how we might evaluate this case — without knowing anything more than what we all know at this point. We wish Tiger Woods a speedy recovery. We hope that this case isn’t more complicated than perhaps some sort of mishap.

In conclusion, if you find yourself in a single-vehicle accident, don’t assume that it’s just your fault and that there aren’t other factors at play. There could be reasons that you have a viable claim to pursue. Call us at (602) 531-3911 in Arizona, (619) 777-3370 in California, or (720) 636-3444 in Colorado. You can also contact us online or send us a text.

famous product liability cases

What are the five most famous product liability cases of all time? Negretti & Associates has curated this list of product liability cases that have grabbed headlines, captivated the public’s attention, and continue to be remembered years after going to trial.

When you use a product, you put your trust in the company that produced that product. You expect the product to work as intended.

Unfortunately, sometimes products are simply defective, and serious injury may result. Perhaps the product wasn’t designed correctly, or there may have been a problem manufacturing it. Sometimes, manufacturers simply fail to provide adequate warning about how their products are to be used.

All of these outcomes fall under the umbrella term of product liability cases, or what are also called product defect cases.

Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants, a.k.a. “The McDonald’s Hot Coffee Lawsuit”

Probably the single most famous and misunderstood product failure case involved one person suing McDonald’s over a spilled cup of scalding-hot coffee. The case was a media sensation, and was the subject of a documentary in 2011, aptly titled Hot Coffee.

On February 27, 1992, 79-year-old Stella Liebeck was sitting in the passenger seat of her 1989 Ford Probe with hot coffee on her lap, after going through a McDonald’s drive-through window. Her grandson was the driver of her car, which did not have cup holders.

While the car was parked, so that Ms. Liebeck could add cream and sugar to her coffee, Ms. Liebeck placed the coffee cup between her knees. As she removed the lid of the cup, Ms. Liebeck pulled the far side of the lid toward her. In the process, she spilled the entire cup of scalding-hot coffee on her lap. Ms. Liebeck was wearing sweatpants, which absorbed the coffee and kept it clinging to her skin.

Ms. Liebeck suffered third-degree burns on her pelvis and underwent skin grafting. She was hospitalized for eight days. She was partially disabled for two years after the incident, while she received medical attention for her burns. Her pelvis was left permanently disfigured.

Ms. Liebeck brought a claim against McDonald’s for failure to warn of the extremely overheated coffee that they were serving to customers.

Outcome: McDonald’s dragged out the case for years, and appealed the original verdict of $2.8 million dollars. Ms. Liebeck eventually settled for something significantly lower amount: $640,000.

The McDonald’s coffee lawsuit is easily one of the most famous product liability cases. Unfortunately, the plaintiff in that case, Stella Liebeck, was vilified unnecessarily; some called it a frivolous case. In this video, Jonathan Negretti sets the record straight on why this was a worthy lawsuit.

General Motors Faulty Ignition Switch Case

From 2000 through 2004, General Motors produced vehicles with faulty ignition switches, which would shut off engines while driving, thereby disabling airbags from inflating. The design defect led to at least 124 deaths and nearly 300 injuries.

However, the story doesn’t end there. An attorney in Georgia, Lance Cooper, discovered that GM committed fraud by covering up the ignition switch defect for more than 13 years. GM had secretly redesigned the switch without changing the part number to try to avoid being caught.

Outcome: GM agreed to pay more than $900 million dollars to settle cases related to deaths and injuries stemming from the faulty ignition switches. What’s more, the auto manufacturer recalled more than 30 million vehicles worldwide in 2014.

Takata Airbag Case

When you mention airbags, most people think about massive recall involving the Takata airbags. In 2014, Takata, one of the largest airbag manufacturers in the world, began notifying auto manufacturers of a defect that would result in millions of automobile recalls.

More than 40 million vehicles are said have Takata airbags. The company’s defective airbags have been linked to 16 deaths and hundreds of injuries over many years.

Takata manufactured faulty airbags dating back to the early 2000s. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the airbags had defective inflators that can rupture on deployment, shooting metal fragments at vehicle occupants.

Shocking information has come to light regarding what the Japanese auto parts manufacturer knew about potential defects in its airbags more than decade before any recall was made.

According to two former Takata employees, in 2004 the company retrieved 50 airbags from scrapyards and conducted secret tests on them. In two of the tests, the steel inflators cracked, causing the parts to rupture. Engineers were so alarmed by the findings that they immediately began developing fixes in anticipation of a recall. However, no recall was made at the time. For Takata, the legal implications have been astounding.

Outcome: Takata has been ordered to pay $1 billion dollars to automakers and those injured due to its airbags. In 2017, Takata filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the United States, and its surviving assets were purchased by its largest competitor.

Bullock v. Phillip Morris: Big Tobacco on Trial

In 2002, tobacco giant Phillip Morris was ordered to pay punitive damages of a staggering $28 billion to lung cancer sufferer Betty Bullock, 64, of Missouri. The jury in the case accepted Ms. Bullock’s claim that her tobacco addiction was caused by the company’s failure to warn her of the risks of smoking.

Ms. Bullock had started smoking in the 1950s when she was 17. She argued that Phillip Morris concealed the dangers of cigarettes with a widespread misinformation campaign that began in the 1950s.

Ms. Bullock, whose cancer had spread to her liver, was awarded $850,000 in compensatory damages and $28 billion in punitive damages. The case was appealed and eventually settled for $28 million, or one-tenth of a percent of the original jury award.

Bullock v. Phillip Morris was a watershed moment for the tobacco industry. It was the single largest verdict of an individual plaintiff in history.

Outcome: As a result of the verdict, individual lawsuits flooded the courts across the country. Attorneys general, representing each state, had already negotiated a master settlement agreement with four of the largest tobacco companies. The agreement effectively changed public policy and set aside billions of dollars dedicated to healthcare costs.

Dow Corning Silicone Breast Implants

In the late 1970s and into the 1990s, more than 170,000 women suffered rupture, leakage and illnesses associated with Dow Corning silicone breast implants.

Since its founding in 1943 as a joint venture between Dow Chemical and Corning Glass, Dow Corning grew to become one of the world’s leading manufacturers of silicone-based products. The company began producing silicone breast implants once there became a large demand for these products in the medical industry.

Evidence showed that Dow Corning personnel were aware of the risks associated with their silicone implants, and that they knew about the production problems with their products on the market.

The Food and Drug Administration introduced mandatory problem-reporting programs in the 1980s. This gave implant manufacturers the opportunity to recognize and analyze any complaints and potential problems associated with their products. As a result, there was no mandatory recalls or penalties for product defects before that time.

Dow Corning found itself deep in litigation concerning their products and raw materials. Its legal troubles grew to an international scale. In 1993, the company entered into an agreement with different plaintiffs who claimed they had suffered injuries from the defective silicone breast implant products.

In May of 1995, facing 20,000 lawsuits and 410,000 potential claims filed in the global settlement, Dow Corning filed a Chapter 11 reorganization with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. The corporation also proceeded to seek further injunctions against the litigation for medical products they produced and distributed. Protection orders were requested against implant plaintiffs who had ongoing trials against related defendant corporations, in an effort to protect themselves from later lawsuits.

Eventually, a jury in Louisiana found that Dow Corning knowingly deceived women by hiding the health risks of silicone used in breast implants.

Outcome: Dow Corning entered into a $3.2 billion payout to settle claims made against them. Dow Chemical assumed full ownership of Dow Corning on June 1, 2016.

The Bottom Line

When corporations try to cover-up defects in their products and fail to warn users of the hazards of using their products, product liability lawyers are ready to stand up for those who have experienced damages, injuries, and loss of life.

If you believe that you’ve experienced injury or damages related to a product defect, reach out to Negretti & Associates for a free consultation with our legal team. Call us at (602) 531-3911 in Arizona, (619) 777-3370 in California, or (720) 636-3444 in Colorado. You can also contact us online or send us a text.

mcdonald's coffee lawsuit

The McDonald’s coffee lawsuit — Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants — is probably the best example of a product defect case. It garnered worldwide news coverage, and was wickedly popular. But I would argue that while people may think they know this case, much of what they know is wrong.

The plaintiff in McDonald’s coffee lawsuit was vilified unnecessarily. The spin that was put on this case by the marketing folks at McDonald’s is awe inspiring. The money that McDonald’s spent to try to convince us that they did nothing wrong — that, instead, someone was trying to take advantage of McDonald’s — is staggering.

McDonald’s Coffee Lawsuit Facts

Let’s set the facts straight about this case:

  • On February 27, 1992, 79-year-old Stella Liebeck was sitting in the passenger seat of her 1989 Ford Probe with hot coffee on her lap, after going through a McDonald’s drive-through window. Her grandson was driving her car, which did not have cup holders.
  • After her grandson parked the car, so that Ms. Liebeck could add cream and sugar to her coffee, Ms. Liebeck placed the coffee cup between her knees. To remove the lid of the cup, Ms. Liebeck pulled the far side of the lid toward her. In the process, she spilled the entire cup of scalding-hot coffee on her lap.
  • Ms. Liebeck was wearing sweatpants, which absorbed the coffee and kept it clinging to her skin.
  • Ms. Liebeck suffered third-degree burns on her pelvis and underwent skin grafting. She was hospitalized for eight days. She was partially disabled for two years after the incident, while she received medical attention for her burns. Her pelvis was left permanently disfigured.

The McDonald’s coffee lawsuit is probably the best, and most famous, example of a product defect case. Unfortunately, the plaintiff in that case, Stella Liebeck, was vilified unnecessarily; some called it a frivolous case. In this video, Jonathan Negretti sets the record straight on why this was a worthy lawsuit.

Now here’s the part that most people aren’t aware of regarding the McDonald’s coffee lawsuit: Ms. Liebeck offered to settle her case for $20,000, which would simply cover her medical expenses at the time. McDonald’s offered her a whopping $800.

The case went to trial. The jury awarded Ms. Liebeck $2.8 million dollars, which is the equivalent of two days of coffee sales for McDonald’s.

However, Ms. Liebeck would never actually get that money. The court reduced her award to the six figures. Eventually, she settled for something significantly less, as McDonald’s continued to appeal the case.

Still, to this day, when you ask people if they’ve ever heard of the McDonald’s coffee lawsuit, most will shake their heads and say something like, “Didn’t that lady sue McDonald’s for a million dollars?”

Failure to Warn: A Key Element in Product Liability Law

At the end of the day, McDonald’s admitted that they did not warn their customers of the risk of injury that their scalding-hot coffee posed. This is why the McDonald’s coffee lawsuit is known as a product liability case.

There are a few different types of product liability cases, such as when an airbag fails to deploy or when an e-cigarette blows up in someone’s face. There’s a reason we don’t allow lead paint in toys or allow mercury in our food.

Yet, when a business fails to warn people that their product could hurt someone — as we saw with what happened to Ms. Liebeck — then a product liability case should be expected. When you buy or use something, you rightfully expect it to be safe.

As you can see, product liability cases are often complicated and are not always as they appear.

At Negretti & Associates, we pride ourselves on our willingness to turn over every rock in our pursuit of holding people accountable. If you have experienced a product liability case, let’s talk.

For a free consultation with our legal team, call us at (602) 531-3911 in Arizona, (619) 777-3370 in California, or (720) 636-3444 in Colorado. You can also contact us online or send us a text.

In this Legal Beagle podcast, Jonathan Negretti explains what his law firm charges to represent clients. He goes on to illustrate what a client might receive in recovery — whether the case goes to trial or is resolved prior to trial. Further, he explains how his firm strives to simplify personal injury claims for its clients.

This is the fourth and final article in a series designed to help new and prospective clients become acquainted with Negretti & Associates. We’d like to offer this “peek behind the curtain” to showcase the inner workings of our firm — how we work and what we believe in.

By Jonathan Negretti

In previous articles of our Get to Know Negretti & Associates series, we talked about our core values, our staff’s unique personalities and talents, the types of cases that we handle, and the states in which we practice law. This week, I’d like to discuss we charge for representation and what our tagline “Simplifying Personal Injury” means.

Talking about what a law firm charges remains a bit of a taboo in the legal profession. I’m not really sure why. Regardless, I want to explain and be very transparent with you about how our relationship with you, as the client, is structured, and what you would ultimately pay for our representation.

Two Types of Contingency Fees

If you visit our site’s Our Process page, you’ll see an illustration of what we charge and how those numbers break out. We explain this so that you, the client, are fully informed on the representation that you are agreeing to when you sign up with us.

The example we use lists two different types of contingency fees:

  • If we can get your case resolved without having to file a lawsuit, then our fee is 33% of that recovery.
  • If we have to file a lawsuit then our fee increases to 40% of that recovery.

Why are there two types of contingency fees? Once we file a lawsuit, the rules change, the amount of time changes, and our involvement — in terms of our ongoing participation in the case — changes greatly. To offset that, we increase the contingency fee to our clients.

But remember, our fees are contingent on recovery. In other words, our fees are dependent on our ability to recover something for our clients. It is simply a percentage of the recovery. We receive a percentage of the amounts we recover for our clients.

If we don’t recover anything, we don’t send our clients a bill. Clients don’t see letters from us saying, “Here’s an invoice for all of the hours we spent on your case.”

We offer a sample illustration of how this works, using basic numbers. If we recover $100 for our client, and we do so before a lawsuit is filed, our fee is $33 — one-third of the total recovery. If we were to recover that money after a lawsuit is filed, even if we went all the way to trial, our fee is 40% of that recovery, or $40. The balance that remains is left for the client.

Legal Costs

However, I want to be clear that not all of the remaining balance goes to the client, because our firm must also be reimbursed for legal costs that we incur during the recovery process. Legal costs are what we spend to represent you to get your case in a position where it can resolve fairly for you, the client. Those costs can include ordering a police report, acquiring medical records, doing depositions, and hiring experts — if the case ends up in litigation.

Legal costs can vary greatly depending on the path that your case takes towards resolution. At Negretti & Associates, we don’t mark up our costs. We do not ask for more than what we spend. Further, in an effort to minimize what the client would have to spend out of pocket, we pay those fees on behalf of the client up-front, and ask to be reimbursed when a case concludes.

Let me take the previous illustration one step further. Imagine that our firm spent $5 in legal costs while working on your case, and we got the case resolved before we filed a lawsuit. Our fee would be $33, and an additional $5 atop that. Our firm would receive $38, leaving $62 for the client, right?

Again, in an effort to be completely transparent, not all of the remaining $62 goes to the client. Medical providers may be owed reimbursement, as well. Health insurance may have interest in the recovery. Point is, there may be other parties that need to be paid from the total recovery. In effect, the client may not receive that full $62 difference, after our fee and legal costs.

So, sticking with this same illustration, let’s say that the client owes a medical provider $10. Now, $48 of the total goes to the law firm, to compensate the law firm for legal costs it advanced, as well as $10 to a medical doctor who provided treatment. This means client gets the remaining $52.

To summarize:

  • $100 in recovery
  • – $33, which goes to the law firm for its work
  • – $ 5, which goes to the law firm for legal costs
  • – $10, which goes to the medical provider who provided treatment to the client
  • Balance: $52

The balance is what is remitted to the client as their part of the case’s settlement proceeds.

Ask Yourself “What Will My Recovery Be?”

Before settling a case, before signing anything from your law firm — ours included — I encourage you to ask, “What will my net recovery be?”

Net recovery is an important term. It simply means what you are going to put in your pocket when a case reaches its conclusion. This doesn’t need to be explained in fancy terms. It’s simply, “What do I get? What is my in-pocket amount? What am I going to walk away from this case with?”

It sounds nice when an attorney says, “Look, I got you a $100,000.” You might say, “Great! How much am I going to get?” But the attorney would say, “You get $2,000.” This just means that $98,000 went to everybody else! This doesn’t seem like a fair deal! However, if you were to get $20,000, and you were able to keep maybe $10,000 or $12,000 of that, this seems like a much better deal.

Make sure that you ask the law firm that represents you — and I say this with ours in mind, as well — to “show me the breakdown.” At Negretti & Associates, we aim to be transparent. For this reason, we provide a settlement breakdown for every single case we handle. We show our clients exactly what they are going to receive, what we are going to receive, what doctors are going to receive, and what might be due to a health insurance company or other third party that’s owed money. We openly share this with our clients.

What’s more, we make sure our clients have all their questions answered before they sign anything, so that they are not left wondering why everyone else is paid so much, while they did not receive as much.

We do our best to try to be fair to our clients on the back end through our representation. If we can reduce medical outstanding bills or liens — those are what providers would hold in case they treated the client without receiving any compensation — we try to reduce those outstanding monies owed, so that the client does receive a fair in-pocket amount.

We’re not in the business of taking a case simply so that we get paid, so that doctors get paid, and the client gets nothing. We remember that the client is the injured party — the reason that the whole case started in the first place. The client should be fairly compensated for what happened.

If a lawsuit is filed, and our firm’s contingency fee percentage rises to 40%, the same breakdown applies:

  • $100 in recovery, after lawsuit
  • – $40, which goes to the law firm for its work
  • – $ 5, which goes to the law firm for legal costs
  • – $10, which goes to the medical provider who provided treatment to the client
  • Balance: $45. This is what is remitted to the client as their part of the case’s settlement proceeds.

Keep in mind that our fees and costs are two different things, and they are broken out. Our fees change based on where a case is at — whether it can be settled in prelitigation (before a lawsuit), or if it is resolved after a lawsuit is filed. We share this information to be transparent with our clients, so that they can have a good understanding of how our relationship works.

Before even signing up with us, talk to an attorney at our firm — whether it’s me or one of the other very capable attorneys at our firm. As us about how this works. Make sure you understand the terms of our representation, and ensure that your questions are answered, so there aren’t any surprises at the end.

Simplifying Personal Injury

Now, I’d like to switch gears and talk about our firm’s tag line, of “simplifying personal injury.” We adopted this tag line because I think attorneys in general overcomplicate the practice of law. There really isn’t a reason to overcomplicate the practice of law.

At Negretti & Associates, we try to use terms and explanations that make sense to everyone, without having to sound smarter than we really are.

Here’s an example: You may have heard, or may be aware of, a term called a statute of limitations. This simply means the deadline by which you have to file your lawsuit. Otherwise, if you don’t file your lawsuit within a window of time — in most personal injury cases, it’s two years — you lose the right to bring your claim.

The statute of limitations depends on where you the injury occurs and the type of case that you have. The statute of limitations for a dog bite case may be one year, depending on the state where the bite occurred. It’s important that you understand this deadline. If you don’t file your lawsuit to preserve your right to bring that claim — meaning you’re not protecting yourself — then you could lose the ability to bring that claim, and then there would be no recovery.

To keep things simple, we just use the word deadline when we’re talking about a statute of limitations. We understand the legal term statute of limitations, and that’s what the law says we have to abide by, but ultimately, we’re talking about a deadline. You have to file a lawsuit within a certain amount of time.

In law, we often use terms like prelitigation and litigation. But what does litigation mean? It refers to when you file a lawsuit — when you start the process of bringing a claim and involving the courts or a third party, such as arbitration. There are cases where we file an arbitration case — and it’s very similar to a lawsuit, but the process is a little bit different.

When you file a claim, you file a lawsuit. You’re now formally making it known that this is the position of your case, and you’re changing the way that it’s structured. Most of the time, once you do that, you involve a law firm on the other side. By contrast, before you file a lawsuit, you are usually just working with an insurance company, trying to get the case resolved through their claims adjustment process.

So, when I say that we are simplifying personal injury law, what I mean is that we are trying to explain things in a way that makes sense. This is why we explain our fees and costs on our web site in a very basic form, so that we are not using numbers that people can’t comprehend, or that people don’t understand. We try to talk like human beings.

When you hire us, you’ll find that we are different than the old-school law firms with imposing mahogany bookshelves and over-the-top chandeliers in their lobbies. That’s not who we are, because I think that’s not what people care about. I think people really care about connecting with the person representing them. I think they care that the person representing them actually cares about them.

People want to understand what is being explained to them. I don’t pretend to be an expert at finance, but when I talk to financial advisors, I want them to explain things in a way that I understand. I don’t want to shake my head because they are using big terms. I don’t want to be afraid to raise my hand and ask questions, because I’m afraid they are going to think less of me. I want to be able to say, “Look, I don’t understand what you are saying right now. Explain this to me in a way I can understand.” We try to do that every step of the way at Negretti & Associates, and that’s what we mean by simplifying personal injury.

We try to make the process of working with us simple, so that you understand things, and that you are fully informed as we progress. We try not to make it a challenge for you to be represented. You have enough challenges in facing the situation that caused the injury and receiving treatment from doctors and medical professionals. The last thing you want is a complicated process in the legal representation that you chose to engage in, to get your case resolved. We try to make it simple for you, the client, so that your process is straightforward and makes sense. At the end of the day, you should receive what we call fair compensation for what happened to you.

Throughout this Getting to Know Negretti & Associates series of articles, I hope that we’ve done a decent job of opening the curtain and showing you a little bit more about our law firm, why we do the work that we do, how we do the work that we do, and the people who do the work that we do.

If you have any questions about this don’t hesitate to call us. For a free consultation with our legal team, contact us online, call us at 1-833-827-3535, or send us a text. We don’t shy away from picking up the phone and having conversations. There are no dumb questions, and we really mean that! You shouldn’t feel silly asking questions about the representation or about where your case is headed or about why is this happening versus this? Don’t be afraid to ask us questions when we are representing you.