I wanted to take this opportunity to speak directly to the families of the victims of the October 13, 2009 dust storm accident in Kern County near Bakersfield. This blog attempts to collect and report news on recent events and, of course, serves to introduce our law firm to the community at large. Our firm has been involved in the investigation and litigation of virtually all of the multi-vehicle dust and fog accidents in the central valley in the past 10 years. In most cases the CHP will have taken aerial photos of the scene of the accident which can then be used to develop wall-sized maps to diagram each of the several impacts. Through the analysis of paint transfers, witness testimony, measurements of metal deformation, black box speed data, and computer simulations the sequence of events can be reconstructed and liability established.
In most cases the first or second vehicle in the chain of events bears great responsibility. The first vehicle often has panicked and hard braked or spun out. Perhaps the first vehicle simply slowed appropriately, then was rear ended through no fault of its own. Within seconds a big rig comes through at an excess speed and clears the prior wreckage like bowling pins. From that point forward chaos ensues. Vehicle occupants exit their vehicles and run to safety, additional cars arrive on scene and even if a break in the sequence results, often a second pod or grouping of wreckage results. Occasionally a claim will be made the driver with original fault has some responsibility for all subsequent impacts even those of a later pod further back in the roadway.
In this particular case the financial resources of the various parties should be more than adequate for all claims. Trucking companies typically carry insurance limits beginning at $1 million with excess and umbrella coverages of up to $10 to 50 million. Even Mom and Pop operations must carry at least $750,000 in coverage. With a total of 11 vehicles involved, there will be numerous conflicting claims and virtually every driver will be sued all in one big consolidated lawsuit in Kern County. Typically suit must be filed within 2 years from the date of the accident, however claims against government entities must generally be submitted within 6 months. This may include a city worker on the job while driving his personal vehicle or other unexpected situations.
The appropriate claimants on a wrongful death claim are usually the spouse and children. If none such survive then the claim reverts to the parents, and then to grandparents or siblings. As to the Bomicino couple their respective parents each have a claim and can be represented by the same counsel or separately. The two claims should be very similar although the loss of a grown child depends on the relationship value which can be enhanced or diminished by circumstances. Relevant issues include frequency of visits, financial support received, extent of extended family, and the expected longevity of the relationship, ie whether any health or age issues were set to prematurely curtail the relationship.
The attorney fees to be charged on cases such as these can vary greatly. Common fee arrangements escalate as trial approaches. A reasonable fee should top out at 33 to 35%. Due to the severity of these claims our firm will consider a 28% fee arrangement if you are interested in retaining us under a contingent fee arrangement. However, if you have already signed a fee agreement with another firm please try to stay with them as none of us wish to interfere with each others business. Life is too short. In that situation it would be appropriate to indicate that your independent research has revealed that a reduced fee may be appropriate. Many firms will accommodate such a request. Please give them a chance.
If you live out of the area, please feel free to check us out with your family attorney and call if you would like to arrange a no obligation, no fee meeting. I can come to you probably within a day of two and meet either at your home or at a neutral location such as a restaurant. It may, however, assist you in feeling comfortable with our firm to meet at our offices to get a better feel for our practice. Also, please check out our website to learn more about our qualifications. I will meet with you personally, please give me a call.