After the 1991 Oakland Hills fire and the 2003 Southern California wildfires, legislators discovered through public hearings an additional aspect of the danger wildfires pose to homeowners: underinsurance. Legislation was enacted to remedy this situation. Nonetheless, when large wildfires struck Southern California in 2007 and 2008, state officials realized again the underinsurance problem persisted.
Data from the 2007 wildfires showed that 74% of the homeowners were underinsured by an average of $240,000. To address these concerns, the Insurance Commissioner proposed new regulations and amendments to existing regulations, and in 2010 strong and strict guidelines were put into place.
My clients are fighting these insurers and I am disgusted with what we are uncovering: Attorneys playing slick; adjusters deceiving their insureds; agents and brokers who over-promised and under-delivered. Like the rest of us, when buying insurance to cover their homes, each owner was asked questions by the agents/brokers, like the year the home was purchased, square footage, price, foundation, etc.; each owner was told the insurer would issue a policy; and each was told that when the premium was paid, the coverage would begin. In each case, the insurer calculated the policy limits and the annual premium. The homeowners believed their insurers, paid their premiums, and found comfort knowing that their homes were protected.
When these homeowners bought their policies, they trusted and believed the insurance agents and brokers. Where are these “Good Hands” people now?
Now, after the 2014 fire, homeowners are being told by the very same insurers who calculated the limits that the coverage limits are grossly inadequate. When these homeowners bought their policies, they trusted and believed the insurance agents and brokers; they trusted and believed the “Good Hands People” of Allstate; the “Like a Good Neighbor” agents of State Farm; the brokers and agents for the insurer whose memorable jingle is, “Nationwide is on Your Side.” But where’s Peyton Manning now? Where is “We are Farmers, dum da dum-dum, da dum dum”? And where are these supposed “Good Hands” people?
When the 2014 homeowners complained to their insurers, the insurance companies responded with: Well, I guess you should not have believed us when you bought that policy.
In 2018-2020, these claims will go to trial in Siskiyou County. It’s time we come together to rebuild our town and to tell these insurers that 1991, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2014 are far too many warnings. The question I ask now: Why should the insurers get so many warnings when the insured, who misses one single premium payment, gets a nasty letter that coverage is being canceled?
Landlord owns the building. Tenant runs a restaurant. The lease has more than 10 years left.
Property values in this part of town are starting to skyrocket. Landlord wants to get rid of the Tenant so that Landlord can sell the building to a high-rise condo developer. Tenant wants to stay, as the rising real estate prices are bringing a wealthier set of customers to the restaurant. These competing interests are about to collide, and the courthouse is about to be center stage.
An earthquake destroys the restaurant, but fortunately it’s insured. Landlord receives the insurance check for the repairs, but then drags his feet in having a contractor do the repairs, hoping that the delay will ruin the restaurant and perhaps cause the Tenant to miss his monthly payments and therefore breach the lease.
The delay in construction does, in fact, cause the Tenant to fall behind in the monthly lease payments. Landlord sues Tenant for falling behind with the rent – the Landlord’s scheme is working and soon this restaurant Tenant will be gone and the building can be sold to the high-rise condo developer. But this Tenant is not to be toyed with. Tenant decides to retain an attorney.
After a protracted legal battle, Landlord pays well over a half million dollars to “resolve matters” with Tenant.
Waiting for your trial date? Waiting years for your trial date? California’s courts are overburden with criminal matters. Every meth lab, every robbery, and every ID theft is a criminal matter. The “right to a speedy trial” applies to criminal matters, but in contrast the “right to a trial” applies to civil trials – the word “speedy” is missing. This means criminal matters get priority when going to trial while civil matters get postponed – too many criminals and not enough courtrooms.
1. Jasmine (not her real name) was scheduled for trial. The criminal matters took precedence and Jasmine was told to come back in a few months.
2. A few months later… Jasmine appeared for trial, but again the criminal matters took precedence and Jasmine was told to come back in a few months.
3. A few months later… Jasmine appeared for trial, but again the criminal matters took precedence and Jasmine was told to come back in a few months.
4. A few months later… Jasmine appeared for trial, but again the criminal matters took precedence and Jasmine was told to come back in a few months.
5. A few months later… Jasmine appeared for trial, but again the criminal matters took precedence and Jasmine was told to come back in a few months.
6. Finally, Jasmine appeared for trial and this time a courtroom was available. Trial started in October 2015 for a claim arising in March 2012.
The trial ended well for Jasmine and she was glad that I stuck with her for those 6 times in court. But not every attorney will stick it out. Not every attorney will show up to court 6 times, or spend the money 6 times or prepare for trial…
When you decide to hire an attorney, make sure that he or she will be there for you 3-1/2 years later and that he or she will be there for you all 6 times.
Food poisoning is rarely fatal if caught in time, and even if not diagnosed the results are usually flu-like symptoms, nausea, dizziness, exhaustion, and fever. Unfortunately food poisoning is most likely fatal for the very young and the elderly. Worse, young children, toddlers, and babies can suffer irreparable damage to their digestive systems, often requiring lifetime medical care.
Upton Sinclair wrote of contaminated food in 1906, yet here I am writing about it again in 2014.
I worked hard for June’s family, collaborated with a team of experts, battled against the company which distributed the tainted food, and eventually reached a settlement. The company cannot be named nor can the settlement terms be disclosed as the company required that the settlement be confidential. The settlement will allow June’s children to provide for June’s grandchildren, but the settlement won’t bring back June.
A sad failing to our legal system is that it’s often an after-the-fact organization that changes companies one at a time — if that company gets caught and if it decides that future misconduct is not worth the risk of getting caught a second time. Ford’s design of the Pinto placed the gas tank in an unsafe location at the rear of the car. People died and Ford denied. After a then-record verdict, Ford changed. Today we hear about Toyota’s unexpected acceleration issues which the company knew about but delayed to disclose, and GM’s faulty ignition affecting the deployment of airbags and how GM knew about this hazard for far too long. Companies know when their product is defective but some play that financial game of, “What will cost more — the recall or the potential verdicts?”
Thomas Jefferson insisted upon the 7th amendment right to jury trial so the smallest of persons can speak and be heard by the largest of organizations. But the sad reality is that many companies will run that risk, like with Toyota, Ford, and June’s case. Mr. Sinclair wrote of contaminated food in 1906, yet here I am writing about it again in 2014.
When the developer, a well-known national company, failed to respond to repeated requests to remediate the problems, Mark and Lisa asked me to represent them. The case required vast compilations of documents, multiple depositions, and extensive investigation. Mark and Lisa worked closely with me to obtain, organize, and utilize the documents and photographs that proved their case. The three of us made a strong team.
RESULT: Mark and Lisa agreed to a settlement offer by the developer of approximately $900,000.
*Names are changed
A 15-year-old child is walking to school. She is crossing the street in a crosswalk when she’s struck by a car. The driver was obviously careless — he failed to see children gathering for school and failed to see our 15-year-old in a crosswalk. The driver was also irresponsible — he carried a low-end $15,000 insurance policy — the cheapest insurance legally allowable in California.
Mom didn’t know what to do — the medical bills would eat up every penny of the $15,000. She called an attorney-friend who then asked if I could help. I explained to the mom that although her daughter is too young to drive, although her daughter was a pedestrian and not riding in a vehicle, and although neither mom nor daughter is at-fault, that mom’s $100,000 automobile insurance policy would provide coverage.
RESULT: $100,000 ($15,000 plus $85,000).
Since 1990 The O'Connor Law Firm has achieved results for clients in and out of the courtroom. We have offices in Northern California, Southern California, Nevada, and South Lake Tahoe. Call us at (916) 467-8000 or send us a message to find out how we can help you.
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