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San Mateo County Personal Injury Attorney Reuben Donig: That’s a very good and a very interesting question. I’d like to be able to say just flat out “yes”, but it’s not quite that simple. The employee has to be acting within the course and scope of employment. So, let’s say you have a large company, Apple or Google, and an employee is driving to work. Normally, if he causes an accident while driving to work, he would be liable but the company would not be liable. If he’s leaving work, same principle applies. But if the accident takes place during work hours, or while that employee is performing a task for the benefit of the employer, in other words, let’s say on the way to work the Google employee is asked by Google, “Stop at the store and pick up some more legal tablets. We’re running low.” Now, even though he hasn’t got to work yet, that employee is now acting in the course and scope of employment, so the employer would be liable. Google, in that case, would be liable if on the way to work he causes a major injury and he doesn’t have the sufficient insurance on his own car to cover it. Google’s insurance or Google itself would have to cover it.

And then you get the interesting situation where sometimes employees, particularly higher-echelon employees, are required by their company to have a car for use for business purposes, and that even allows the rules to be stretched a bit further. Now if that car is essentially a company car or used for company purposes and the employee is required to have that car available for the benefit of the company, sometimes if the accident is caused, technically outside of the course and scope of employment, you can still get the employer into the case under the vicarious liability or respondeat superior rule of law. So, yes, an employer is liable for the motor vehicle accidents caused by an employee if in any way the employer’s business interests were being furthered at the time the employee caused the accident with the car.

(Attorney Reuben Donig specializes in personal injury law and premises liability, including auto and car accidents in San Mateo County, Santa Clara County, Alameda County and San Francisco County. Visit him at www.doniglaw.com if you have a question you’d like to ask).

The Law Office of Reuben Donig has been serving California’s San Francisco Bay Area since 1976, handling personal injury and wrongful death claims and litigation. The firm’s lawyer and professional staff work to get the best possible result for every client, and have successfully recovered compensation for accident victims and their families in a large number of cases.

Helping clients rebuild their lives after accidents

As members of a personal injury practice, our firm’s lawyer and staff see the challenges that our clients face following a catastrophic accident. Litigation, a process that can be lengthy and stressful, and carries a degree of risk, is not the only option we explore on behalf of a client. However, attorney Reuben Donig has an exceptional ability to accurately identify the true value of a claim, and will not hesitate to go to trial to help a client get the fair settlement necessary to rebuild his or her life. He often is able to resolve cases through negotiation, mediation, or arbitration, allowing the injured persons and their families to begin the process of rebuilding their lives as quickly and smoothly as possible.

Our client is the most important person in our office

Providing full information and explanations to help our clients make critical decisions, offering service that is both sensitive and effective, and working hard to achieve the results our clients hope for — at our firm we are focused at all times on our clients’ needs.

Our personal injury practice

Attorney Reuben Donig is prepared to handle a wide variety of personal injury claims, including those involving premises liability and dog bites; car, truck, motorcycle, bicycle, and pedestrian accidents, including accidents caused by underinsured and uninsured motorists; bus accidents; defective product claims; and claims against the government.

Our office also represents clients in general civil litigation cases, such as general business, contract, and real estate disputes.

A well-respected San Francisco Bay Area trial lawyer

A former law school instructor, attorney Reuben J. Donig has the technical skill and legal experience to help you get the results you deserve. If you have suffered a serious personal injury, lost a family member to wrongful death, or your rights, reputation or property have been damaged due to someone’s negligence or misconduct, he will apply all of his skills and resources to find a legal solution that maximizes your recovery while minimizing your distress.

No attorney fees unless we get results

If a member of your family has been seriously injured it is extremely important that you get a legal opinion before accepting any insurance settlement offer. If you would like to speak with our lawyer about your claim, please contact our San Mateo office to arrange a free consultation. All cases at our firm are handled on a contingency fee basis, meaning that we charge no attorney fees unless our client recovers compensation as a result of our efforts.

The Law Office of Reuben Donig has been serving California’s San Francisco Bay Area since 1976, handling personal injury and wrongful death claims and litigation. The firm’s lawyer and professional staff work to get the best possible result for every client, and have successfully recovered compensation for accident victims and their families in a large number of cases.

Helping clients rebuild their lives after accidents

As members of a personal injury practice, our firm’s lawyer and staff see the challenges that our clients face following a catastrophic accident. Litigation, a process that can be lengthy and stressful, and carries a degree of risk, is not the only option we explore on behalf of a client. However, attorney Reuben Donig has an exceptional ability to accurately identify the true value of a claim, and will not hesitate to go to trial to help a client get the fair settlement necessary to rebuild his or her life. He often is able to resolve cases through negotiation, mediation, or arbitration, allowing the injured persons and their families to begin the process of rebuilding their lives as quickly and smoothly as possible.

Our client is the most important person in our office

Providing full information and explanations to help our clients make critical decisions, offering service that is both sensitive and effective, and working hard to achieve the results our clients hope for — at our firm we are focused at all times on our clients’ needs.

Our personal injury practice

Attorney Reuben Donig is prepared to handle a wide variety of personal injury claims, including those involving premises liability and dog bites; car, truck, motorcycle, bicycle, and pedestrian accidents, including accidents caused by underinsured and uninsured motorists; bus accidents; defective product claims; and claims against the government.

Our office also represents clients in general civil litigation cases, such as general business, contract, and real estate disputes.

A well-respected San Francisco Bay Area trial lawyer

A former law school instructor, attorney Reuben J. Donig has the technical skill and legal experience to help you get the results you deserve. If you have suffered a serious personal injury, lost a family member to wrongful death, or your rights, reputation or property have been damaged due to someone’s negligence or misconduct, he will apply all of his skills and resources to find a legal solution that maximizes your recovery while minimizing your distress.

No attorney fees unless we get results

If a member of your family has been seriously injured it is extremely important that you get a legal opinion before accepting any insurance settlement offer. If you would like to speak with our lawyer about your claim, please contact our San Mateo office to arrange a free consultation. All cases at our firm are handled on a contingency fee basis, meaning that we charge no attorney fees unless our client recovers compensation as a result of our efforts.

The Law Office of Reuben Donig has been serving California’s San Francisco Bay Area since 1976, handling personal injury and wrongful death claims and litigation. The firm’s lawyer and professional staff work to get the best possible result for every client, and have successfully recovered compensation for accident victims and their families in a large number of cases.

Helping clients rebuild their lives after accidents

As members of a personal injury practice, our firm’s lawyer and staff see the challenges that our clients face following a catastrophic accident. Litigation, a process that can be lengthy and stressful, and carries a degree of risk, is not the only option we explore on behalf of a client. However, attorney Reuben Donig has an exceptional ability to accurately identify the true value of a claim, and will not hesitate to go to trial to help a client get the fair settlement necessary to rebuild his or her life. He often is able to resolve cases through negotiation, mediation, or arbitration, allowing the injured persons and their families to begin the process of rebuilding their lives as quickly and smoothly as possible.

Our client is the most important person in our office

Providing full information and explanations to help our clients make critical decisions, offering service that is both sensitive and effective, and working hard to achieve the results our clients hope for — at our firm we are focused at all times on our clients’ needs.

Our personal injury practice

Attorney Reuben Donig is prepared to handle a wide variety of personal injury claims, including those involving premises liability and dog bites; car, truck, motorcycle, bicycle, and pedestrian accidents, including accidents caused by underinsured and uninsured motorists; bus accidents; defective product claims; and claims against the government.

Our office also represents clients in general civil litigation cases, such as general business, contract, and real estate disputes.

A well-respected San Francisco Bay Area trial lawyer

A former law school instructor, attorney Reuben J. Donig has the technical skill and legal experience to help you get the results you deserve. If you have suffered a serious personal injury, lost a family member to wrongful death, or your rights, reputation or property have been damaged due to someone’s negligence or misconduct, he will apply all of his skills and resources to find a legal solution that maximizes your recovery while minimizing your distress.

No attorney fees unless we get results

If a member of your family has been seriously injured it is extremely important that you get a legal opinion before accepting any insurance settlement offer. If you would like to speak with our lawyer about your claim, please contact our San Mateo office to arrange a free consultation. All cases at our firm are handled on a contingency fee basis, meaning that we charge no attorney fees unless our client recovers compensation as a result of our efforts.

The Law Office of Reuben Donig has been serving California’s San Francisco Bay Area since 1976, handling personal injury and wrongful death claims and litigation. The firm’s lawyer and professional staff work to get the best possible result for every client, and have successfully recovered compensation for accident victims and their families in a large number of cases.

Helping clients rebuild their lives after accidents

As members of a personal injury practice, our firm’s lawyer and staff see the challenges that our clients face following a catastrophic accident. Litigation, a process that can be lengthy and stressful, and carries a degree of risk, is not the only option we explore on behalf of a client. However, attorney Reuben Donig has an exceptional ability to accurately identify the true value of a claim, and will not hesitate to go to trial to help a client get the fair settlement necessary to rebuild his or her life. He often is able to resolve cases through negotiation, mediation, or arbitration, allowing the injured persons and their families to begin the process of rebuilding their lives as quickly and smoothly as possible.

Our client is the most important person in our office

Providing full information and explanations to help our clients make critical decisions, offering service that is both sensitive and effective, and working hard to achieve the results our clients hope for — at our firm we are focused at all times on our clients’ needs.

Our personal injury practice

Attorney Reuben Donig is prepared to handle a wide variety of personal injury claims, including those involving premises liability and dog bites; car, truck, motorcycle, bicycle, and pedestrian accidents, including accidents caused by underinsured and uninsured motorists; bus accidents; defective product claims; and claims against the government.

Our office also represents clients in general civil litigation cases, such as general business, contract, and real estate disputes.

A well-respected San Francisco Bay Area trial lawyer

A former law school instructor, attorney Reuben J. Donig has the technical skill and legal experience to help you get the results you deserve. If you have suffered a serious personal injury, lost a family member to wrongful death, or your rights, reputation or property have been damaged due to someone’s negligence or misconduct, he will apply all of his skills and resources to find a legal solution that maximizes your recovery while minimizing your distress.

No attorney fees unless we get results

If a member of your family has been seriously injured it is extremely important that you get a legal opinion before accepting any insurance settlement offer. If you would like to speak with our lawyer about your claim, please contact our San Mateo office to arrange a free consultation. All cases at our firm are handled on a contingency fee basis, meaning that we charge no attorney fees unless our client recovers compensation as a result of our efforts.

Reuben J. Donig 

San Mateo, California, Personal Injury Lawyer

The Law Office of Reuben Donig has been serving California’s San Francisco Bay Area since 1976, handling personal injury and wrongful death claims and litigation. The firm’s lawyer and professional staff work to get the best possible result for every client, and have successfully recovered compensation for accident victims and their families in a large number of cases.

Helping clients rebuild their lives after accidents

As members of a personal injury practice, our firm’s lawyer and staff see the challenges that our clients face following a catastrophic accident. Litigation, a process that can be lengthy and stressful, and carries a degree of risk, is not the only option we explore on behalf of a client. However, attorney Reuben Donig has an exceptional ability to accurately identify the true value of a claim, and will not hesitate to go to trial to help a client get the fair settlement necessary to rebuild his or her life. He often is able to resolve cases through negotiation, mediation, or arbitration, allowing the injured persons and their families to begin the process of rebuilding their lives as quickly and smoothly as possible.

Our client is the most important person in our office

Providing full information and explanations to help our clients make critical decisions, offering service that is both sensitive and effective, and working hard to achieve the results our clients hope for — at our firm we are focused at all times on our clients’ needs.

Our personal injury practice

Attorney Reuben Donig is prepared to handle a wide variety of personal injury claims, including those involving premises liability and dog bites; car, truck, motorcycle, bicycle, and pedestrian accidents, including accidents caused by underinsured and uninsured motorists; bus accidents; defective product claims; and claims against the government.

Our office also represents clients in general civil litigation cases, such as general business, contract, and real estate disputes.

A well-respected San Francisco Bay Area trial lawyer

A former law school instructor, attorney Reuben J. Donig has the technical skill and legal experience to help you get the results you deserve. If you have suffered a serious personal injury, lost a family member to wrongful death, or your rights, reputation or property have been damaged due to someone’s negligence or misconduct, he will apply all of his skills and resources to find a legal solution that maximizes your recovery while minimizing your distress.

No attorney fees unless we get results

If a member of your family has been seriously injured it is extremely important that you get a legal opinion before accepting any insurance settlement offer. If you would like to speak with our lawyer about your claim, please contact our San Mateo office to arrange a free consultation. All cases at our firm are handled on a contingency fee basis, meaning that we charge no attorney fees unless our client recovers compensation as a result of our efforts.

Well, that’s a great question. I’d like to distinguish a slip-and-fall from a trip-and-fall. I think that people commonly use the phrase slip-and-fall to cover both, but there’s actually a difference. If you slip, it’s usually because something on the floor is wet or slippery and your feet go flying out from under you. You land on your back or your side. If you trip, it’s usually because something is sticking up and causes you to catch your foot and then your weight is still going forward. Typically, you fall forward. So, you’re going to have different kinds of injuries and it’s very different in terms of what’s causing the slip or the trip-and-fall.

If you slip on something wet, that’s a lot different than if you trip on something that’s raised. Usually, a slippery substance on the floor is something that isn’t there permanently, some water spilled or you’re in a grocery store, some lettuce or grape or banana or whatever it might be, has been dropped to the floor. Whereas if you trip over something, it’s usually a fixed object that’s been there for a long time. That’s an important distinction.

So you ask who’s responsible in a slip-and-fall?

Let’s say you go to a grocery store and slip on a lettuce leaf in the grocery department. It is not true that the store is automatically responsible. The rule is that for the store to be responsible, the condition must have existed long enough for the store or its employees to have been able to observe it and they must have had an opportunity to pick it up, clean it up, or put up a warning sign, and they failed to do that. If an employee drops things on the floor, they’re liable right away. But if it’s a customer that came and dropped something on the floor, the store has to be given a reasonable opportunity. It might be a couple of minutes or so before they are charged with the duty to be aware of it and take some corrective action.

So to say that the store is automatically responsible if you slip in, say, some milk that’s spilled from a customer that’s on the floor, is not accurate. So they may be liable, they may not be liable, but you have to prove that they had a reasonable opportunity to become aware or that they actually were aware of the problem and had a reasonable opportunity to fix it or warn about it or do something to prevent a customer or a person from falling in that slippery substance. Sometimes, there may not be anyone that you can go after, certainly not useful to try to go after the customer who’s not even there anymore, who might have put the slippery substance on the floor or drop something. You can’t just have a blanket rule, “The store is always liable.”

A trip-and-fall, which is different, we’re usually talking about tripping over something that’s raised. It could be a sidewalk which is uneven or a sprinkler head that is sticking up that shouldn’t be there. There’s a lot of things that can cause a person to trip and fall. Usually, the tripping hazard has been in place for a much longer time than, say, a substance when you’re talking about a slip-and-fall. So when you have a tripping hazard, the owner of the property or the person that has control over that property would be held liable if the tripping hazard is a fairly serious or significant condition.

Now, there’s a couple of other things I should mention. In terms of going back to slip-and-fall. Sometimes you have slip-and-fall cases where people slip and fall on a slippery floor that might have just been cleaned by a janitorial service where they mix too much soap in the cleansing fluids or they didn’t dry it off properly. And in that case, you would have a claim against both the owner of the property or the person that controls the property and the janitorial service that creates that slippery condition.

One other thing I’d like to make a point of, these kinds of cases are often very difficult. Especially on trip-and-fall cases, there is the claim that if you look where you’re going, you’re going to see the hazard. So you could expect to have a vigorous defense that you didn’t look where you were going and if you had been careful, you wouldn’t have tripped. You would have seen the hazard and avoided it. I hope that answers the question.

Yes. They are absolutely. To start with, every property owner is responsible to inspect and maintain their property in a reasonable and safe condition. And of course, what’s reasonable and safe depends on the circumstances. If you’re talking about a grocery store, there’s a very heightened duty because it’s well known that for one reason or another, slippery things end up on the floor. You don’t have carpets there. You have tiles where if you drop some water or drop some produce, it’s going to naturally create a slip-and-fall hazard. So, they have a duty to inspect very regularly, every few minutes or so, and to make sure that they’re keeping very well-maintained logs, written logs of who and when the inspection occurred, who did it, when was it done, how frequently, what did they notice? They have to do that. And then now most of these stores also have video cameras, surveillance cameras, so you can often tell how long has a substance been on the floor and when was an inspection conducted. But they absolutely have a very high duty to regularly and frequently inspect, and that’s especially true in the areas where you’re more likely to find a slip-and-fall hazard.

I went over to my friend’s house who was having a party, and one of their guests dropped something on the floor, which I ended up slipping on and injuring myself. Who’s responsible in that case? Is the homeowner ever responsible?

So, that’s two questions. First, who’s responsible? In a theoretical way, the person who dropped the substance on the floor and failed to clean it up right away would be responsible. So if you could figure out who that was, you could hold them liable. The homeowner might have liability. It depends. The test is, did they have an opportunity to learn of the situation? Did the slippery condition exist for a long enough period of time so that the homeowner knew or should have known, should have discovered it? And did the homeowner upon discovering it have an opportunity to clean it up or guard against it? For example, to tell people, “Hey, there’s some ice cream in front of the refrigerator that’s spilled down. Don’t go there.” You have to show those things. There must be what we call negligence on the part of the homeowner. Either he wasn’t careful in how he inspected or kept track of what was going on his premises, or he wasn’t careful about doing something to fix it or guard against it or warn about it. If you can’t prove those things, you’re not going to be able to show liability and collect from the owner or person who’s renting the premises.

You still have the basic test, which is did they fail to maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition? Before I go into the details there, I want to make one point. In California, there are very different time limits which you must comply with to assert a claim against the governmental entity. You don’t have the usual two-year statute to limitations. You must make a claim within six months of the actual date of the incident. And then there are further time deadlines that flow from having made that claim within the six months. But failing to adhere to the strict requirements of the claim’s statute will result in a forfeiture of the claim. Now, having said that, the government may have liability if it fails to maintain its property in a reasonably safe condition.

There are certain standards for trip and fall cases where some deviations are not considered material, they’re considered trivial. If you trip and fall over a trivial defect, for example, a height discrepancy in a sidewalk that’s less than one inch, even though it might have constituted a reasonable case against the private property owner, it’s not a case that’s going to go anywhere against the governmental entity because of the trivial defect rule. But if a condition existed for a long enough period of time that is unreasonably unsafe, and it existed long enough such that the government entity should’ve been able to inspect and notice it and do something about it, the government can be held liable.

 

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