On the heels of my post about texting while driving and Britain’s graphic PSA on the subject comes news that the City of Palo Alto has settled an motor vehicle accident lawsuit for $1.5 Million.
The lawsuit resulted from a 2006 automobile accident caused by a city worker who ran a red light while reaching for his cell phone instead of keeping his eyes on the road and his hands on the steering wheel.
The plaintiff, Silvio Obregon, suffered unspecified "debilitating spinal injuries" caused by the negligence of then city worker, Rubin Salas. I must presume Obregon suffers from some quadriplegia or paraplegia; he was seeking $5 Million in the suit. While settlement was reached earlier in the year, the matter was finalized last month.
An assistant city attorney called the settlement "the largest we’ve had in a long time on a personal injury claim" but admitted that the amount was fair due to the severity of the injuries suffered by the plaintiff.
I post this for two reasons:
1. Please, stop texting and driving; stop using or looking for your cell phone while driving. Stop engaging in any activities while you are driving that are unrelated to driving. Distracted driving seriously injures and kills thousands of people.
2. There is no "jackpot justice"; as the assistant city attorney (this is the guy that represented the defendant city; he is not a supporter of plaintiff litigation or pro-justice causes) said in this case, the amount was fair because the injuries were severe. The average seven figure pay-out results from serious liability causing serious, catastrophic injuries or death. Don’t let those who suggest that "tort reform" seeks to stop "frivolous" litigation. Capping damages is an attempt to reduce the value of serious injury caused by serious infractions of law. Reducing damage awards will make all of us less safe as there will limited consequence for the actions of seriously negligent people who seriously maim and kill your loved ones.
Would you want to be told that your life or the life of a loved one is worth a capped amount in a death case? That’s what the tort reformers want. Would you want to be told that the loss of use of your lower extremities was worth a capped amount? What are the continued healthy use your legs and arms worth to you? How about those of your children or grandchildren? The tort reformers care only about business; they place profits over life, profits over good health, profits over safety, profits over people. Don’t be fooled by the cries that the legal system needs correction. Your most important safety tool is the threat of a lawsuit with unlimited court access and a potentially unlimited recovery.
And please, dear readers, stop using your IPhones, Blackberries, and other cell phone or texting devices while you drive. If you need to text or make a call, pull into the nearest parking lot, shopping center, or gas station; stop the car and make your call. Stay there until your call or text has been completed. You’ll be on your way, soon. Drive carefully; keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel. Lawsuit Financial, the pro-justice lawsuit funding company will continue to support a nationwide ban on the use of these devices while operating a motor vehicle. Where do you stand on the issue? You may, if you choose, post your comments below.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series—Mark Bello is also the CEO of Lawsuit Financial and the country’s leading expert in providing non-recourse lawsuit funding to plaintiffs involved in pending litigation. He is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.