Heiting & Irwin Attorneys At Law

5885 Brockton Avenue
Riverside, CA 92506
United States
Phone: (951) 682-6400
Fax: (951) 682-4072
Email: contact@heitingnirwin.wpengine.com

About Our Firm

Heiting & Irwin Attorneys At Law began in 1976 out of a deep commitment to the fundamental values of the American justice system. In that spirit, … Learn More

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Meet Our Attorneys

Meet the attorneys of Heiting & Irwin in Riverside, CA. Each attorney has many specialties and experiences that contribute to the overall … Learn More

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Free Initial Consultation

Initial consultations are always free and can be handled in person, over the phone, or by email. If you wonder if you have basis for a case, contact … Learn More

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FACIAL DOG BITE WOUNDS

When dealing with a facial dog bite case, there are a few factors that can be quite important in the overall outcome of the case, separate and apart from establishing liability (responsibility, negligence, carelessness, etc.) of the dog owner.

It is very important to have photographs taken at various stages of the dog bite and during the recovery period. Visual evidence can be an extremely powerful tool in helping the plaintiff get a fair recovery from a jury, as well as an insurance company and its defense attorneys.

Because of the heightened risk of infection from this type of injury, it is also very important to obtain competent, qualified medical care for the dog bite wound(s). It may even be necessary to consult with a plastic surgeon. A jury, and in turn, an insurance company and its defense attorneys, will typically expect you to undertake all reasonable efforts to return your face to its condition before the dog bite, and will even undervalue any claims of long-term visible injuries if they can hire a doctor to testify that the scarring, deformity, discoloration and like could be remedied with a “simple” medical procedure.

Surprisingly, a dog bite wound may be worth more or less depending on the gender of the victim! Indeed, juries tend to award more for a female who has suffered scarring or other visible injury to her face than for a male who has suffered the same or similar injury. In turn, insurance companies and their defense attorneys follow suit and generally pay less to males than to females for these visible injuries. I wonder whether this if very fair to male victims, especially for child victims, who still go through the same amount of fear, nightmares, flashbacks, and pain as female victims, not to mention the same risk of infection. Hopefully, juries will be a little more considerate of the plight of male victims, rather than relying on the old adage that “chicks dig scars”.

The law firm of Heiting & Irwin has over 100 years combined experience representing the interests of people who have been harmed by the actions of others. We offer free consultations, a warm and inviting office, and a friendly staff to anyone interested in speaking about a potential legal matter. If you would like to speak with someone about your circumstances, please call our office at (951) 682-6400 for a free consultation.

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION: FAMILY MEMBERS CAN BE PAID!

In certain serious Workers’ Compensation cases, it is possible to have family members (usually the injured worker’s spouse) paid to take care of the injured worker.

Typically this requires a physician to recommend some form of nursing care and/or Home Health care. If it is determined that the Workers’ Compensation insurance carrier will or should pay for the provision of such services, it is often preferred, for various reasons, to have a family member provide said services on behalf of the injured worker. After all, who will have a greater interest in taking care of the injured individual – a stranger or a family member?

Assuming that the family member can provide the necessary care, it is often possible, as well as advisable, for the injured party’s attorney to negotiate with the defendant to have the family member reimbursed for said care. This is often beneficial to all the involved parties as the injured worker gets the benefit of very personalized and compassionate care. The family member can often (depending on the frequency and/or level of said care) receive up to a few thousand dollars monthly for said care and this cost to the insurance carrier is a lot less than paying for professional in-home care.

Remember, however, it all starts with a physician’s recommendation for such. If you think this applies to your case or that of a loved one, inquire of both your doctor as well as your attorney.

Court of Appeals Addresses Whether Liens Must be Negotiated Prior to Providing Plaintiff’s Counsel with Settlement Funds

A new case has addressed an issue that has long been an annoyance of plaintiff’s attorneys.  The case is Karpinski v. Smitty’s Bar, Inc.(2016) 2016 Cal App LEXIS 277.  Mr. Karpinksy was the victim of a serious beating while on the Smitty’s premises.  After filing suit, the case settled at mediation on May 5, 2014.  As of July 22, 2014 (almost 3 months after settlement), Smitty’s had refused to provide plaintiff with the settlement proceeds.  Smitty’s argued that plaintiff had to negotiate his various medical liens before the funds would be provided.  Smitty’s made this argument despite specific language in the settlement agreement indicating that plaintiff would be responsible for all medical liens and would indemnify Smitty for any claim brought by the lienholders for non-payment.

This is a common practice by defense firms and I have personally encountered cases wherein settlement funds are withheld for months while defendants earn interest on the settlement funds.  Further, some lienholders can take many months to provide final lien amounts and then additional time after that to finish lien negotiations.

Frustrated with this practice, Karpinksi’s attorneys brought a motion to enforce the settlement agreement pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure Section 664.6.  The Court granted the motion and ordered Smitty’s to pay out the $40,000.00 settlement.  Rather than pay, Smitty’s attorneys appealed this decision – ultimately hanging this entire matter up in the Appellate Court until April 12, 2016.  The matter settled in May 5, 2014 — Smitty’s held onto $40,000 of settlement proceeds until at least April 12, 2016.

After being held up on appeal for almost 2 years, the Appellate Court affirmed the decision of the Superior Court – Smitty’s could not hold up the settlement by refusing to pay until plaintiff’s counsel negotiated the medical liens in the matter, nor could they place the lienholders on the settlement check, effectively forcing plaintiff to settle with the lienholders prior to being able to receive the settlement funds.

The Court of Appeals noted, “there is nothing in the settlement agreement demonstrating the existence of a condition precedent to payment of the $40,000 to Karpinski.”

“In addition, neither the lien imposed under Government Code section 13963 nor the reimbursement obligation under title 42 of the United States Code section 1395y(b)(2)(B) constitutes a statutory condition precedent  to payment of the settlement proceeds in the circumstances of this case”

The Court further noted “public policy does not preclude a court from enforcing a settlement that does not include Medicare as a co-payee on a settlement check where the plaintiff signed a release acknowledging his responsibility to pay any Medicare claim and/or agreeing to indemnify the released parties.”

Citing a case from Georgia which had already encountered this issue, the Court stated:

“The Hearn court agreed with the reasoning of a Connecticut court, which had observed that “‘there is no authority for an insurer’s insistence that it protect a governmental agency’s lien by making that agency a co-payee on a check tendered in payment of a judgment or settlement. To the contrary, the recent case of Zaleppa v. Seiwell [(2010) 2010 PA Super 208 [9 A.3d 632]], stands for the proposition that, absent express authorization, private parties may not assert the interests of the government (in that case, Medicare) in a post-trial motion or any phase of litigation. Generally, putting an agency’s name on a check as a co-payee is neither authorized or required under federal or state law, and quite obviously, is not an efficient way to resolve personal injury lawsuits. … [¶] While an insurer has a responsibility to assure that governmental agency liens are taken into account, such responsibility is generally discharged by obtaining a written commitment by the plaintiff, either in a release document or in an independent document, to be responsible for the payment of all such liens.”

Despite Mr. Karpinksi having to wait nearly 2 years for his settlement proceeds, this is generally good news for plaintiffs.  That is, unless defendants decide to start including language in their settlement agreements requiring settlement negotiation as preconditions to payment.  Only time will tell as to whether defense firms will start doing that or whether they will turn over settlement funds without making plaintiffs jump through these unnecessary hoops.

Please read the entire Karpinsky opinion for more specifics regarding the case and the Court’s rulings/holdings.

IS A SWISS ARMY KNIFE A WEAPON?

The California Supreme Court heard oral arguments within the last week in a case in which a defendant received an enhanced sentence for possessing a multi-tool Swiss army knife at the time of a traffic stop. During the traffic stop, the Swiss army knife was discovered in the defendant’s pocket, with the blade allegedly in a deployed position. The issue before the State Supreme Court is whether the concealed Swiss army knife qualifies as a weapon capable of inflicting bodily harm.

The Fourth District Court of Appeal overturned the underlying court decision, finding that no reasonable juror could determine that the Swiss army knife blade was “locked into position,” in order to be considered a weapon under the Penal Code of the State of California. Section 16470 of the California Penal Code states that: “a non-locking folding knife” or “a pocket knife” can be used as a stabbing weapon “only if the blade of the knife is exposed and locked into position.”

There are multiple opinions from law enforcement sources, district attorneys, and appellate counsel as to whether this multiple use tool is a weapon under the Penal Code. One source states that to exclude these Swiss army-type knives would be to frustrate the language of the Penal Code. Other attorneys suggest that the Swiss army knife is not capable of stabbing, as it is more prone to collapse under the sufficient pressure of a stabbing maneuver.

The Supreme Court appears to have focused in on the issue of whether the Swiss army knife is a locking or “non-locking device” capable of inflicting bodily harm. The issue remains unresolved, as the State Supreme Court has taken the matter under submission as it ponders whether the Swiss army knife is a weapon capable of inflicting bodily harm.

A word to the wise — be careful when carrying these multi-use tool/army knives, pending a decision as to whether they constitute a weapon capable of inflicting bodily harm. We know that these items are not permitted in courts; however, possession during a traffic stop may still pose a problem until the Supreme Court rules on this issue.

If you have any questions or issues regarding legal matters of any nature, from criminal to civil, feel free to call the Law Offices of Heiting & Irwin for a free consultation.

Forest Ranger Gets Burned

Puskar, a forest ranger at Yosemite National Park was severely burned while living at County provided housing.  As part of his job, Puskar was required to stay at the park while working as a ranger.  He rented a residential unit from the County – a public entity.

The County, whom rented the living units to its rangers, also provided fire extinguishers to the residents.

On October 22, 2011, Puskar was cooking at his residence when oil in a skillet caught fire.  Puskar ran to get the fire extinguisher only to find that it was not there.  Unbeknownst to Puskar, the fire extinguisher had been removed about a month earlier so that it could be refilled.  The County never refilled or replaced the fire extinguisher, leaving Puskar without one.

Desperate, Puskar grabbed the skillet, intending to take it outside.  As he was exiting his residence, the screen door  swung back, hitting the skillet and splashing burning grease on Puskar’s hand.  As he continued to run down the stairs, the pan dropped and Mr. Puskar was further splashed with grease, suffering serious burns.

Understandably, Mr. Puskar brought an action against the County due to the injuries he sustained, blaming the County, in part, for failing to return the fire extinguisher it had removed a month prior.  The County asserted that it was immune under Government Code section 850.2.  This section reads:

Neither a public entity that has undertaken to provide fire protection service, nor an employee of such a public entity, is liable for any injury resulting from the failure to provide or maintain sufficient  personnel, equipment or other fire protection facilities.

The Court granted summary judgment for the County, effectively dismissing Mr. Puskar’s action.

This case illustrates the strong protections in place for public entities in California.  It is difficult to maintain an action against a City, County, or other type of public entity.   If you have a case involving a public entity, you want to have a law firm that is experienced in prosecuting public entity claims.  Call us today.

Case referenced is Puskar v. City and County of San Francisco, 2015 Cal. App. LEXIS 751, *1-3 (Cal. App. 5th Dist. Aug. 27, 2015)

I DIDN’T DO IT! IT’S THE CAR’S FAULT!

News is circulating about an auto accident caused, at least in part, by on of Google’s self-driving cars. A report filed by Google indicated that the crash, which took place in Mountain View, California in mid-February, occurred when the self-driving car tried to get around some sandbags, colliding with the side of a bus traveling in the same direction. Apparently, both the test driver and the car “believed” the bus would slow down, otherwise let the self-driving car through.

Luckily, there were no injuries, at least not according to reports. The incident does raise some interesting questions for personal injury auto accident attorneys and the litigation surrounding auto accidents. Can a vehicle possess a belief or awareness? How does this effect the question of reasonableness of one’s actions? Does a vehicle testify as to that belief in court? In a hypothetical situation where the test driver of the self-driving car was injured, is there a way to introduce the “belief” of the self-driving car as evidence to support a case against the bus driver? Or to defend a case against the bus driver seeking compensation for his or her personal injuries? When the car is in autonomous driving mode, are both the test driver and the company responsible for the injuries caused?

There are many areas of potential liability and pitfalls to explore under such circumstances, which can make it very important to consult with an experienced attorney that handles these types of cases. At Heiting & Irwin, we have over 100 years combined experience with injury cases, and we offer free consultations, so please do not hesitate to call us.

7 Things to Always Keep in Your Car

From the moment we receive our first driver’s license, it seems like our lives are a non-stop car ride from one destination to the next. With so much time spent behind the wheel, there are a number of items that no vehicle should be without—particularly in the event of an accident or emergency. Consider the following seven motorist must-haves before you hop in the next car, and be sure to contact Heiting & Irwin Attorneys At Law right away if you suffer injuries in an accident.Jumper Cable

[Read more…]

Primary Assumption of the Risk Strikes… Again!

I’ve written in the past about the primary assumption of the risk doctrine and how it has been greatly expanded over the years.  You can read that article here.

Recently, the Court of Appeal for the Fourth Appellate District has revisited the limits of this issue.  The case is titled, Griffin v. The Haunted Hotel, Inc., (2015) 242 Cal. App. 4th 490.

In October 2011, Scott Griffin purchased a ticket to experience “The Haunted Trail,” an outdoor haunted house type of attraction where actors jump out of dark spaces, often inches away from patrons, holding prop knives, axes, chainsaws, or severed body parts.  It seems that these types of attractions have gained much popularity in recent years with Knott’s Berry Farm and Universal Studios revamping their parks during the Halloween season. [Read more…]

TO TREAT OR NOT TO (OVER)TREAT: THAT IS THE QUESTION

When attorneys representing defendants in personal injury cases argue that plaintiffs have obtained too much treatment, they refuse to fully compensate the plaintiff for the costs of that medical treatment. Quite as often, defense attorneys also argue that a plaintiff’s lack of treatment shows that they were not really injured, and refuse to fully compensate the plaintiff for the pain and suffering that was endured. So what is a prospective plaintiff to do?

The issue of how much and how frequently to treat can often play an important role in determining not just the value of a given personal injury case, but how much the plaintiff actually ends up with. Unfortunately, there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution to this very critical dilemma. There are, however, some general suggestions that might help an injured person decide what to do, although it is always best to discuss these and other ideas with your personal injury attorney:

  1. If you are in pain, or have other symptoms that are not resolving, see a medical professional about it. If you ignore your symptoms and do not consult with anyone or do anything about them, it may be hard to prove to a jury that those issues have not resolved.
  2. Follow your doctor’s orders, or those of your treating physician. If you are instructed to treat 3 times a week, it may be best to do so. If you are told to follow a home exercise program, do it. You don’t want to be labeled non-compliant by your doctor.
  3. If you are feeling better, or certain parts of you are recovered, inform your treating physician. Continuing to get therapy for your back when it already feels better may make it difficult to get compensation for therapy that you do not need.

The common theme amongst these suggestions is to rely upon the guidance of your treating physician, and we commonly suggest our clients discuss questions or concerns about their treatment with a medical professional. Even if your lawyer has referred you to a treating physician, perhaps on a lien basis, the decisions about your course of treatment should remain between the patient (the plaintiff) and the doctor.

What to do after a Car Accident

Steps_Following_Accident

Steps Following a Car Accident in Riverside, CA

Being involved in an automobile accident can be a traumatic experience and may result in a whirlwind of consequences. Being prepared can help you remain calm while you are getting medical assistance and protecting your rights. With accidents becoming more frequent every year, it is important to be aware of the steps to take after a car accident.

Call 911

The first priority following a car accident is to call for emergency medical assistance for anyone injured in the accident. If possible, you should help anyone who is injured; however, if you are not medically trained, do not attempt to move a seriously injured person unless leaving the person where they are would put them in risk of greater injury or harm.

Accident Scene Information

Depending on your injuries, you may not be physically able to take the following steps. You or someone on your behalf should:

  • Obtain the information of the other driver including their name, address, driver’s license number, insurance information, vehicle owner’s name and address (if different from the driver), and the make, model, and license plate number of the vehicle;
  • Take pictures of the accident scene including the surrounding area (i.e. any obstructions, traffic signals, vehicles, etc.) and any injuries;
  • Obtain the names and contact information for people who witnessed the accident. Independent eyewitness testimony is very valuable in a personal injury claim when the other driver is denying fault.

See a Physician

If you were injured, see your family physician as soon as possible. You could be suffering from an injury that may not have been immediately recognized. In some cases, the soreness you feel in the days and weeks after the accident may be an indication of a more serious injury. It is always a wise decision to have a physical exam after being in a car accident.

Repair Your Vehicle

By law, you have the right to repair your vehicle at the shop of your choosing. Obtain written appraisals to submit to the insurance company for the property damage claim. You can settle the property damage claim to have your vehicle repaired without settling the bodily injury claim. However, before signing any releases, make sure you read the fine print to verify the insurance company is not including language in the release that affects your bodily injury claim. If you have any doubts, it is wise to consult with a personal injury attorney.

Keep Copies of Everything Related to the Accident

Keep copies of any and all documents that relate to the accident including medical bills, receipts for medication, statements regarding property damage, and evidence of any other out-of-pocket expenses (i.e. hiring someone to mow your lawn or perform household chores because you are unable to do so due to your injuries).

Never Discuss the Accident or Sign Documents for the Insurance Company

Insurance adjusters contact accident victims as soon as possible following an accident to obtain written and/or recorded statements and signed releases. Their objective is to get in contact with you prior to you consulting with an attorney. In doing so, they hope to obtain evidence to use against you to justify making you in offer below the compensation you deserve.

The insurance company is not on your side. They are a business and their goal is to have the largest profit margin possible. Therefore, insurance companies try to pay as little as possible for automobile accident claims. If the insurance adjuster or anyone on behalf of the other driver asks for a statement or asks that you sign documents, do not agree until you have discussed your case with our office.

Contact Heiting & Irwin Attorneys At Law for a Free Consultation

Insurance companies have a team of legal professionals and others working for them to investigate the accident. These individuals are highly trained in ways to mitigate the company’s liability so it does not need to pay you the full value of your claim.
To combat the insurance company and even the playing field, you need your own team of experienced accident attorneys fighting for you. Our experienced and knowledgeable staff will thoroughly investigate your claims to identify and preserve key evidence that will be used to maximize your compensation.

Being involved in a car accident can be stressful and painful. Let us take the stress off your shoulders so you can focus on your recovery while we focus on holding the at-fault party responsible for their actions.

If you need a car accident attorney in Riverside or anywhere in southern California, contact our office to schedule a free consultation. You can call our office at (951) 682-6400 or contact us online.