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Does Having a Pre-Existing Condition Affect My Workers’ Compensation Claim?

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  1. Does Having a Pre-Existing Condition Affect My Workers’ Compensation Claim?

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    If you suffer an injury or illness due to your job, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation. These benefits provide funding for medical expenses and lost income while you recover from your condition. However, you must satisfy a series of eligibility requirements to qualify for workers’ compensation. If you have a pre-existing illness or condition, receiving these benefits can become complicated.

    Unrelated Pre-Existing Conditions

    If your pre-existing condition is not related to the claim you are filing, you likely will not face any issues. Your pre-existing heart disease, for example, will not affect a claim for a knee injury. You may need to see multiple providers for the pre-existing condition and the workplace injury. While complicated, multiple insurance pathways will keep your out-of-pocket costs low.

    However, if your job function aggravates your unrelated pre-existing condition, you could seek additional compensation. For example, if you suffered a back injury during an unrelated car accident, you could aggravate the condition by performing heavy lifting functions at work.

    You will have to meet additional eligibility requirements depending on your state. In some areas, you can only receive workers’ compensation benefits related to the aggravation, not the pre-existing condition itself. You will need to visit a doctor to evaluate your injury and determine if your job caused aggravation, if the condition is worsening, and what treatment you will need to seek.

    Workplace-Caused Pre-Existing Conditions

    If a workplace accident caused a similar injury previously and you claimed workers’ compensation for that incident as well, you may see reduced benefits. Your employer will still pay your medical expenses for the new injury, but you may see a reduction in your permanent disability benefits. However, your employer will still pay temporary disability benefits if you cannot work.

    You can only receive compensation for an increase in disability at the end of your claim. For example, if your doctor examines your injury and states that you could receive $15,000 in permanent disability benefits and you received a $7,000 permanent disability award in the past, you will only receive $8,000. If your doctor does not notice an increase in disability, you will not receive any award.

    California-Specific Rules for Pre-Existing Conditions

    According to the California requirements for workers’ compensation benefits, the state considers aggravated pre-existing conditions as separate injuries. As a result, California will not limit your potential benefits to the specific instance of aggravation.

    Under California law, an aggravated pre-existing condition must satisfy one of the following factors.

    • The aggravated injury must cause a temporary or permanent disability increase.
    • The aggravated injury must create a need for additional medical treatment or a new treatment plan altogether.
    • The aggravated injury must change the existing course of treatment.

    With a new workers’ compensation claim, you can seek funding for medical expenses related to your aggravated injury, as well as temporary and permanent disability benefits. You will need to visit a physician and receive a medical report to prove these claims.

    However, flare-ups or recurrences for pre-existing conditions are not a new injury under California law. These are known as exacerbations. If your current employer did not cause the injury originally, you cannot seek benefits for a pre-existing condition exacerbation.

    Discuss Your Workers’ Compensation Claim With a Lawyer

    If you are unsure if your aggravated pre-existing condition qualifies for workers’ compensation benefits or if the condition will affect your claim, contact a workers’ compensation attorney in Orange County. These cases can be quite complex, and you want to ensure your employer honors your rights as an employee. Hiring an attorney early on will help facilitate your claim process.

  2. What Mental Health Issues Fall Under Workers’ Compensation?

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    You may suffer injuries at work due to faulty equipment, a slip and fall, or another physical act. When this happens, workers’ compensation covers expenses for your treatment and allows you time to recover. States cover different injuries and illnesses based on their unique compensation systems.

    A physical injury does not always cause our ailments, however. Stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses can severely impact our productivity and ability to work. Even if the illness is work-related, many states have limited regulations about the use of workers’ compensation for mental health issues.

    If you believe that you are suffering from stress and anxiety as a result of your job, speak to an Orange County workers compensation lawyer to find out how we can help.

    An Overview of Workers’ Compensation

    To qualify for workers’ compensation, your injury must be work-related. Your injury must also be severe enough to affect your job performance. Usually, this type of injury requires medical attention beyond a single visit.

    • Injuries that happen while engaging in work-related events and activities
    • Illnesses developed due to long-term exposure to toxic substances, such as cleaning chemicals or asbestos
    • Injuries developed due to extreme physical stress during work
    • Injuries due to repetitive motions performed during work, such as carpal tunnel syndrome
    • Pre-existing conditions that working aggravates

    Common types of workers’ compensation injuries include fractures and broken bones, concussions, severe lacerations, and strained muscles, especially in the back. Usually, the employer will require you to visit a doctor to confirm the injury and assess its severity. Injuries can happen due to accidents, negligence, toxin exposure, repetition, and multiple other causes.

    Mental Health Claims Under Workers’ Compensation

    How do mental health issues fit into the workers’ compensation system? Work-related activities can give rise to conditions such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and extreme stress. If a work-related activity or incident caused or aggravated the condition, you could file a workers’ compensation claim.

    Depending on the state, your workers’ compensation could cover mental health issues that arise due to both ongoing conditions and singular events. However, proving that you suffer from these illnesses is more complex than physical injuries. In particular, gathering evidence that your job caused your mental health issues can be quite difficult.

    A link must be established between your illness and your job function based on the evidence requirements by your state. Courts will require an explanation as to how the illness is work-related and detail the work conditions that could have objectively led to the illness.

    California Workers’ Compensation for Mental Health

    Under California labor law, employees can receive workers’ compensation for diagnosed mental illnesses that require treatment or led to disability. To establish the validity of your claim, you will need to establish the following facts.

    • You have a mental illness diagnosed by a medical professional.
    • Your mental illness is severe enough to require treatment or leave you disabled.
    • The primary causes of your illness are work-related conditions or events.

    To qualify for workers’ compensation benefits in the state of California, you must have worked for the employer for at least six months. To prove your claim, you will need to have the following pieces of evidence.

    • Testimony from the treating physician to verify the illness
    • Medical records
    • Performance reviews
    • A physician’s report containing information about your background, development history, and personal issues
    • Any documentation to support your physician’s diagnosis and your claim

    Since mental illnesses are not as objective as physical injuries, proving the link between your work and your condition is complex and difficult. Some people may cast doubt upon your illness and question the validity of your claim.

    If you intend to pursue a workers’ compensation claim, discuss your case with an attorney. A workers’ compensation attorney can guide you through the process, help you gather evidence and testimony related to your claim, and provide advice on proving your condition.

  3. New California DMV Laws for 2019

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    The beginning of 2019 signals major changes for California. Effective on January 1st, the state ushered in a series of new laws that govern everything from gun control to plastic straws in restaurants. The California Department of Motor Vehicles will enact a series of new laws and changes that will affect California vehicles, licenses, and drivers.

    To learn more about these laws, contact our Orange County personal injury lawyers for more information.

    New Regulations for Passing Sanitation Trucks

    Under Assembly Bill 2115, the state will apply new traffic laws for passing waste service vehicles. If a driver approaches a sanitation truck with its amber lights flashing, the driver will need to move into another lane and pass the truck at a distance. If a lane change is not possible, the driver will have to slow down. This law is to prevent sanitation workers from collisions with oncoming traffic.

    Greater Gender Identity Options

    According to Senate Bill 179, people who apply for a California driver’s license or identification card can select their own gender. Applicants can choose between male, female, or non-binary for their gender options. On licenses and ID cards, the state will mark non-binary as an “X” in the gender category.

    Low Emissions Vehicle Sticker Program

    Under Assembly Bill 544, California will circulate new decals for low emission vehicles to travel in carpool lanes, also known as High Occupancy Vehicle lanes (HOV). Low emissions vehicles have used green and white decals for HOV travel since 2017. Drivers will have to upgrade to a red decal, which increases their HOV eligibility until 2022. Drivers can also opt for a light violet decal with HOV access until 2023.

    DMV Written Exam Updates

    The DMV will have to update 20% of their written exams to include at least one question about California’s unsecured load code, according to Assembly Bill 1925. The purpose of this update is to verify that new drivers understand that dumping or abandoning an animal is a crime.

    Paper Plates at Dealerships

    Under Assembly Bill 516, authorized car dealerships will have to provide temporary paper license plates to each vehicle they sell. This rule applies to both new and used vehicles. The paper plate must include a number and an expiration date. Hopefully, this will reduce the number of crimes committed by vehicles without a license plate, such as passing through toll booths without paying.

    Restored License Privileges for Minors

    According to Assembly Bill 2685, more minors will receive timely driver’s licenses. Prior to this law, California courts could delay, restrict, or suspend the issue of a minor’s license for up to one year due to truancy or being a guardian of the state. Courts will no longer have this power. However, license delays and suspensions prior to the start of 2019 will remain valid.

    Motorized Scooter Helmets

    Under Assembly Bill 2989, the state will no longer require adults over the age of 18 to use a bicycle helmet when operating a motorized scooter. The law will also allow people to operate motorized scooters on highways with speed capabilities up to 35 miles per hour.

    Breathalyzer Requirements for DUI Offenders

    According to Senate Bill 1046, repeat DUI offenders will need to install a breathalyzer on their engine ignition for at least 12 to 48 months. First-time DUI offenders who caused injuries will be subject to this requirement as well. The law is effective between January 1st, 2019 to January 1st, 2026.

    Smog Check Exemptions

    Assembly Bill 1274 will extend exemptions for smog verifications on new vehicles. Exemption timeframes will increase from six years to eight years. During the first six years of exemption, new vehicle owners will not have to receive a smog check, but they will need to pay a fee of $20. During the last two years of exemption, the fee will increase to $25.

  4. How Do I Know If I Have A Personal Injury Case in Orange County?

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    If you or a loved one recently suffered injuries and/or economic losses from a specific event, you may wonder whether you have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit to recover your damages. You should take several steps to determine whether you can file a personal injury claim.

    Determining the Scope of Your Damages

    Personal injury lawsuits exist to make victims “whole” again after suffering injuries and other damages due to the negligence of another party. If no damage occurs, no grounds for a claim exist. Additionally, if the damages you sustained were minimal, it may not be worth the expense to pursue a lawsuit for a minimal payout. To determine if you are eligible to file a personal injury claim, gather all documentation that proves the extent of your losses.

    Contacting an Orange County personal injury attorney and scheduling a consultation can help you better understand the scope of your damages. For example, if you suffered an injury that required hospitalization, you may know that you can claim your hospital bills, but an attorney can uncover additional avenues of compensation such as your long-term medical complications resulting from negligence, pain and suffering, and time you missed from work recovering from your injury.

    Discovering the Party Responsible for Your Damages

    Once you have confirmed that you have indeed suffered measurable losses, you must determine who is responsible for those damages. This is easier in some cases than in others. For example, if you suffered injuries in a car accident with a drunk driver, then the drunk driver is obviously responsible for your damages. However, if you developed a disability due to toxic exposure, it can take time to determine the root cause of the exposure and the party responsible.

    Understanding Negligence in Personal Injury Law

    “Negligence” is the legal term for one party’s failure to meet an acceptable standard of care in a given situation. For example, all drivers have a duty of care to others on the road to operate their vehicles responsibly and obey the traffic laws. A plaintiff must prove four elements of negligence to succeed with a personal injury lawsuit.

    • The defendant in the claim owed the plaintiff a duty of care.
    • The plaintiff must show how the defendant failed to meet his or her duty of care. For example, a driver who runs a red light breaches his or her duty of care to follow the rules of the road.
    • The plaintiff can only sue if he or she incurred a measurable loss or suffered an injury.
    • Finally, the plaintiff must prove that his or her claimed damages only happened due to the defendant’s negligence, or would not have happened but for the defendant’s negligence.

    Remember: a plaintiff must not only prove that he or she suffered damages, but also provide evidence of the extent of those damages. This is partly why it is so important to hire a personal injury attorney to handle a personal injury claim. A good attorney can help a client maximize his or her recovery after a personal injury and find additional avenues of compensation the plaintiff may have missed on his or her own.

    Take Advantage of Free Consultations

    Many personal injury attorneys offer free consultations to potential clients. This is a mutually beneficial arrangement as it helps the attorney attract new clients while offering prospective clients the opportunity to better understand their legal rights and options. If a personal injury attorney offers free consultations, compile a list of questions to ask the attorney so you can gauge his or her overall experience level and familiarity with the area of law that pertains to your case.

    If you suffered a personal injury of some kind and the injury resulted from the negligence of another party, you likely have the right to file a personal injury claim and recover your damages. If you are unsure about your right to file a lawsuit, reach out to a personal injury attorney and schedule a consultation.

  5. Bike Rules and Laws for Orange County

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    Orange County residents should know the bicycling laws and regulations in the county to prevent injuries and limit the chance of liability for an accident. That is why the Orange County personal injury lawyers at the DAM firm put this blog together.

    The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) reports that each year, about 100 bicyclists die in road accidents and more than 10,000 suffer injuries from bicycle accidents. Don’t let that be you or one of your loved ones.

    California Laws for Bicyclists

    California prohibits riding bicycles under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and violations of this law may lead to heavy fines. It is also illegal for anyone between the ages of 13 and 21 to operate a bicycle under the influence, and doing so could lead to a delay of one year before the individual may exercise his or her driving privilege.

    All bicyclists under the age of 18 must wear helmets at all times while riding bikes in Orange County. While no law requires helmets for riders over 18, wearing them dramatically reduces the chances of a fatal head injury in an accident. Bicyclists should purchase appropriately sized helmets with a functional strap that goes under the chin to protect the most vulnerable parts of the head. It is also advisable to wear eye protection while riding that protects against dust, debris, and harsh UV sunlight.

    California also has specific laws for riding at night. Bicyclists should refrain from wearing dark clothing while riding at night and they must have a front lamp attached to the helmet or bicycle with a visible range of at least 300 feet.

    All bicycles must have rear red reflectors visible from a minimum of 500 feet. Pedals must have a white or yellow reflector viewable from at least 200 feet. Tires must have a reflective coating, or each wheel must have a white or red reflector to increase visibility.

    Bicyclists also have the right to “take the lane” as long as they move with the flow of traffic and signal appropriately. Bicyclists can use turning lanes the same as other vehicles as long as they yield to oncoming traffic and obey traffic signals just like any other driver.

    Cyclists must also ride with the flow of traffic, meaning staying to the right at all times except on one-way streets with left-side oriented bike lanes. Riding against the flow of traffic may appear to make the bicyclist more visible to oncoming traffic, but this creates a serious risk, especially when it comes to drivers turning right into the path of the cyclist.

    Best Practices for Cyclists

    All California bicyclists should remember that they have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers of motor vehicles. This means cyclists should stay as far to the right as possible and use designated bicycle lanes wherever available. Bicyclists must also obey all traffic signals and signs just like all other drivers.

    Bicyclists should use hand signals to indicate when they intend to turn. This helps other drivers anticipate cyclists’ actions and avoid accidents. An extended left arm indicates a left-hand turn while a raised left arm bent at the elbow indicates a right-hand turn. A cyclist can also extend his or her right arm to indicate a right-hand turn. Dropping one hand to the side of the bicycle with the palm facing behind the bicyclist indicates slowing or stopping.

    What to Do After a Bicycle Accident

    Bicycle accidents involving cars and bicyclists almost always cause more damage to the cyclist, and anyone involved with such an accident should report it to the police immediately. Handle immediate medical concerns first, and then consider your legal options. If a driver caused an accident with your bicycle and injured you, he or she is liable for the resulting damages. Contact a reliable bicycle accident attorney in your area as soon as possible to start building a case.

  6. Can Employers Visit You at Home If You Call in Sick?

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    Many American employees use sick days when they aren’t actually sick, but to what lengths can an employer go to verify that an employee who called in sick is actually sick that day?

    Ultimately, an employer should take an employee’s statement that he or she is sick at face value; it probably is not worth the time or energy to confirm that every sick day request is for a legitimate medical issue. However, employers may want to track employees who call out on a regular basis, and it is important to know what protections employers can put into place to prevent abusing sick days.

    To learn more about your rights as an employee, speak to an Orange County workers compensation lawyer attorney.

    How Employers Verify Sick Days

    The most common method employers use to verify employee sick day use is requiring doctor’s notes. About 70% of employers require employees to present a doctor’s note upon returning to work after calling out sick. Other employers reported calling employees at home to verify they are actually sick, and a small minority of employers reported actually physically driving to employee’s houses to perform firsthand checks.

    An employer visiting an employee at his or her home is not breaking any laws as long as the employer respects the employee’s personal space and privacy. For example, an employer could knock on the door and ask to speak with the employee, but the employer cannot force his or her way into the home to demand to see the employee.

    Best Practices for Employers

    Usually, an employer should not worry too much about an employee calling out sick unless the employee seems to have developed a habit of using sick days. Employers can try a few methods to cut down on the number of sick day abuses without damaging employee morale or encouraging discrimination claims. Keep a few best practices in mind to prevent sick day abuse without sowing division in your workforce.

    • Welfare checks. If an employee calls out sick the night before a shift or early in the morning before a shift, the employer may want to call the employee later in the day simply to check up on him or her. If the employee does not answer, it would be reasonable for the employer to visit the sick employee’s home to perform a welfare check, just in case.
    • Require check-ins. If an employee develops a serious illness or needs to miss several days of work, it is perfectly reasonable to request check-in phone calls with a supervisor for each day of absence.
    • Refrain from using other employees to check on sick employees. This will ultimately create division in the workforce and may lead to serious tensions between employees. If checking on an employee is necessary, the employer should handle it personally.

    It is also important for all employers to remember that several federal regulations protect the privacy of employees and their medical records. An employer cannot demand to review an employee’s medical records simply to check if the employee lied about taking a sick day. This is completely unreasonable and ultimately destructive for the entire workforce.

    What to Do If an Employer Violates Your Rights

    If you called out sick with a legitimate medical issue and faced harassment or adverse treatment, as a result, you may have grounds for a lawsuit against your supervisor, manager, or employer for creating a hostile work environment. The same applies to an employer who harangues an employee for calling out sick.

    Anyone who has experienced this type of situation with an employer should contact an attorney as soon as possible. A good lawyer can help an employee determine if an employer’s behavior was acceptable and in line with all applicable employment laws.

  7. Do My Workers’ Compensation Benefits Continue After I Quit My Job?

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    If you’ve quit your job after a work-related injury, are you entitled to workers’ compensation benefits? Some employers may not believe your claim, especially if you have yet to resume employment elsewhere.

    Work-related injuries need the expertise of an established law firm to help wade through the workers’ compensation laws, as the laws vary from state to state. Injuries at the workplace can cover a multitude of issues from upper and lower back pain and strain, neck pain, overexertion, repetitive motion injuries, and head trauma due to slips and falls or exposure to harmful substances, chemicals, and environments. Contact a workers compensation lawyer in Orange County today.

    Compensation Claims Common in Many Industries

    Workers’ compensation claims are common in many industries, because of the hazards of the job. Construction workers often find themselves with a higher incidence of job-related fatalities or injuries. The most serious are those due to electric shocks and falls from heights. Other related injuries are repetitive motion injuries, sprains, and breaks.

    Industries using chemicals also have a high incidence of workers’ compensation claims. Although it’s difficult to measure the exact amount, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration estimates there are at least 860,000 chemically related issues annually. The skin absorbs chemicals, causing burns and other significant harm. Respiratory illnesses and brain injuries from inhalation are also common. Some chemical-related industries are hospitals, manufacturing plants, cleaning industries, and offices.

    Get Your Injury on the Record

    The first thing you should do is get medical care as soon as you notice the injury. Your workers’ compensation benefits will pay for your medical expenses, so don’t worry about the bills – just find the help you need as soon as possible. This is the first opportunity you have to get your injury “on the record.” It will be very important to your claim.

    If you have proof of your injury and/or a witness for your claim, you might have the opportunity to collect workers’ compensation. If you do not have a witness, it is imperative that you report your injury to your previous employer as soon as possible. In the state of California, an employee has 30 days to submit a claim from the time of injury. After that, you’ll need to file a workers’ compensation claim with the insurance company. If workers’ compensation denies your claim, you will need to find an attorney who specializes in workers’ compensation to help you.

    Ask Attorney About Exceptions to Law

    Exceptions exist to workers’ compensation cases that your attorney can explain to you, should the workers’ compensation board deny your claim. Your attorney will be able to tell you how the laws in your area apply to you and your case. For instance, in California according to  (CJS Co. v. Workers’ Comp. Appeals Board, 74 Cal.App.4th 294 Cal. Ct. App. 1999)), a claim can move forward if the resignation was voluntary, even if you didn’t file your claim within the 30-day time limit.

    A Few More Things to Consider

    Other things to consider are who is liable for your injury at work, and how are you going to prove that liability? Do you have any witnesses to the injury? You will need to work with your lawyer to prove negligence on the part of your former employer. All information you can gather and give to your attorneys will help your case.

    Your attorneys will assess the value of your claim and help you through the litigation process. If you cannot work, they will protect your right to any disability wages that may be due to you. Insurance companies have been known to set the compensation bar low for people who do not have legal representation, which is another reason hiring an attorney who specializes in workers’ compensation is imperative.

  8. Can You Claim Workers’ Compensation for a Bad Desk Setup?

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    As today’s personal workspace has changed, the hours we spend sitting and standing on the job have increased. Your job may require you to stay at your desk for extended periods. Many people experience prolonged and chronic pain because of the time they spend working in one spot. The pain can cause a person to need extra care (for instance, physical therapy) and to take off quite a bit of time from work.

    If you’ve discussed your workspace issue with your boss, but have seen no changes, you probably feel stuck at a crossroads. You don’t want to lose your job but think your need for a different workspace is of the utmost importance for your physical and mental well-being.

    Speak to an Orange County workers compensation lawyer today to find out what you can do about your specific situation.

    Take Steps to Sooth Pain Yourself

    Many ways exist to temporarily alleviate your pain, especially if your posture is ergonomically correct. This will prevent you from slumping when sitting at your workspace and will keep your spine aligned properly. It will also prevent you from putting a strain on the muscles and ligaments in the lower back.

    Another way is to use a footstool as a prop, so your legs will have support and take the pressure off your lower back. You can also try a lumbar pillow to cushion yourself from bad posture. This will force you to sit in a different position, and it will help you in the long run. Physical exercise can be your saving grace when it comes to back discomfort. One of the best ways to cure back pain is to do abdominal crunches two to three times a week. This will strengthen your core muscles and relieve the tension in your back and neck.

    Chronic pain and discomfort from work-related injuries occur in all types of work environments. Some of the most common workers’ compensation injury claims are for neck pain, upper and lower back pain, and leg and foot pain due to slips and falls, repetitive motion injuries, and injuries due to over-exertion. It turns out that musculoskeletal injuries are quite common, especially for women in the workplace. You can make workers’ compensation claims for all these injuries.

    California Employers Must Carry Insurance

    In California, employers must carry workers’ compensation insurance for their employees injured on the job. This insurance should cover medical care, temporary or permanent disability, and in some unfortunate cases, death benefits for the family of the deceased. Of course, all compensation will vary according to the injury of the individual patient.

    If you feel your injury or pain is due to your work environment and working conditions, you will need to determine how you received your injury, how your employer is liable, and then you’ll have to prove negligence on behalf of your company in court.

    Hire a Top Legal Team for the Best Results

    The best way to prove your claim in court is to hire a top-notch legal team. Insurance companies often set the bar of compensation low for those parties who don’t have legal representation. The litigation process can be very complex, and your case may go to trial. In that case, you will want the best representation available.

    While the laws pertaining to workers’ compensation are there to protect the individual employee, it is important to do what you can on your own to alleviate your physical issues. Should you decide to pursue a legal claim, your attorneys are there to guide you through the process and give you some peace of mind.

  9. 5 Driving Tips to Remember in Orange County

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    Driving in California can be a bit overwhelming – the traffic congestion moves at a snail’s pace, one-way streets often going in the direction you don’t need to go, and sudden name changes on street signs make navigating the area difficult.

    Different rules exist for different counties. Although heavy traffic in California seems to be a statewide forgone conclusion, Orange County appears to have that problem under control, more so than Los Angeles. Except for your normal rush hour traffic, navigating Orange County is fairly easy. Of course, there are a few rules that will make your life on the road more manageable.

    If you were recently in a car accident near the Santa Ana area, contact our experienced Orange County car accident lawyers today.

    1- Don’t Use Your Cell Phone While Driving

    In California, using your cell phone without a hands-free connection is against the law. If you’re using your phone for your GPS, set the destination before you hit the road. Even picking up your phone to look at it can land you with a traffic violation. When using your GPS, you must mount it in either the lower left or lower right-hand corner of your windshield. It mustn’t obstruct your view and the only way you may touch your phone is to swipe or touch your screen with one finger.

    2 – Use HOV and Carpool Lanes When Possible

    Traffic in Orange County can be heavy at times. When traveling on the freeway, carpool lanes help traffic flow move more quickly. Remember these tips when moving into the HOV lane. First, there is a two-person per vehicle minimum in the carpool lanes, and you should only cross over when you see a broken line or opening. Failure to do so will result in a traffic violation.

    3 – Don’t Drink and Drive

    In any part of California, it is unlawful to drive with a blood alcohol level of more than 0.08%. However, if you’re deemed impaired, an officer can charge you, even if your BAC is below the limit. You may see sobriety checkpoints on the road from time to time after an event. If you are traveling with an open container of alcohol, it needs to be in the trunk of your car.

    Driving under the influence (DUI) in Orange County can have severe consequences. In fact, Orange County has tougher rules than the rest of the state. Depending upon the case, a DUI in Orange County can lead to criminal and administrative penalties. It may also include heavy fines, jail time, community service, and the loss of your driver’s license. For a commercial driver or a driver under 21, the penalties are more stringent.

    4 – Watch for Motorcycles – and Know Lane Splitting Laws

    In California, motorcycles can cross into your lane and share it with you. Being aware of this law and watching out for motorcyclists can help prevent accidents.

    5 – Know the Laws on Smoking and Littering

    Did you know that smoking is a punishable offense if there’s a minor in your vehicle? It’s largely due to the dangers of secondhand smoke. In California, the penalty is punishable by a fine that can go up to $100.

    And if you’re a smoker, don’t even think about throwing your lit cigarette butt out the window. It’s no surprise that littering is against the law in Orange County or anywhere in California. Be aware that this offense is punishable with a $1,000 fine.

    You should be able to navigate your way around Orange County pretty easily, without any problems. Just be aware of heavy traffic times and soon you’ll learn the easiest and safest routes to get to your destination.

  10. Texting & Driving Laws in Orange County

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    Negligent distracted drivers took at least 3,450 lives across the U.S. in 2016, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). By now, most states have recognized the seriousness of texting and driving and passed some form of distracted driving law. California is no exception. Although texting and driving is never a good idea, in some states and cities it can result in traffic citations and hefty fines – as well as liability for a resultant car accident. Here is what you need to know about texting and driving laws in Santa Ana, California.

    If you or a loved one was recently injured by a distracted driver, you may be eligible to file a personal injury claim. Speak to a car collision lawyer in Orange County to see if you are eligible.

    The Dangers of Texting and Driving

    Texting and driving kills. More than 44% of Californians believe texting and driving is the most serious form of driver distraction, according to a survey by the California Office of Traffic Safety. More than half of drivers surveyed (54%) said someone had hit them or nearly hit them while talking on a cell phone. National crash statistics found that something distracted at least 10% of drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal accidents – likely cellphones. Cellphone use behind the wheel triples the risk of getting into a crash.

    Texting and driving is such a deadly form of driver distraction because it removes a driver’s eyes, hands, and thoughts from the road. A driver must look at the phone to read a message, touch the phone to text back, and think about the conversation instead of the driving task. It is one of the only forms of driver distraction that requires all three types of attention. The NHTSA states that reading or writing one text message (looking at a phone for five seconds) at 55 miles per hour is the equivalent of driving across a football field with your eyes closed.

    Understanding the dangers of texting and driving is the first step toward preventing this deadly mistake. Not only could you cause serious injuries or death while texting and driving – but you could also face civil and criminal repercussions. On top of traffic fines, you may be liable for damages if you cause a collision. This could result in higher insurance premiums and a civil case against you. You could also face criminal charges, such as vehicular assault or manslaughter if you hurt someone while texting.

    Statewide Ban on Handheld Cell Phone Use

    The state of California has one of the strictest universal cell phone bans in the country. California Vehicle Code Section 23123.5 states that no person shall drive a vehicle while holding and operating a handheld cell phone or other electronic communications device. This prohibits texting, scrolling, emailing, and even talking on handheld cell phones while driving anywhere in California – including in Santa Ana.

    The only acceptable forms of cell phone use while driving are voice-operated and hands-free operations. The cell phone law does not apply to manufacturer-installed devices embedded in the vehicle. To operate a hands-free device, a driver must mount the device in the vehicle is the same way they mount GPS systems. The only time a driver’s hand can touch the device is to activate or deactivate hands-free features, with a single tap or swipe of the finger. Exceptions exist for making emergency phone calls to 911 or another emergency service agency.

    Motorists under the age of 18 cannot use cell phones while driving in any manner – even hands-free use. The state’s handheld wireless phone law took effect July 1, 2008, while the texting and driving law took effect on January 1, 2009. The law is primary, meaning police officers don’t need any other reason to conduct at a traffic stop. Violating the statewide texting and driving ban can result in a fine of $20 for a first infraction and $50 for subsequent offenses, plus additional costs that can bring the fines to $159 and $279, minimum. Protect yourself and others. Put your phone down while driving.