July 25, 2014

Porcelain Dolls Resembling Little Girls Left on Doorsteps in San Clemente

Earlier this week, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department received reports that porcelain dolls had been left on the doorsteps of eight homes in the upscale community of Talega in San Clemente. The impacted families expressed concern to authorities that the dolls bared an eerie resemblance to their daughters.



Authorities immediately began investigating the matter. After interviewing the families, they were able to link the dolls to a female adult who lived in the local community and attended church with many of the families. She admitted to leaving the dolls on the porches of her neighbors; however, it was determined that her motivation was out of goodwill. The investigation has been closed.

Given the resemblance of the dolls to the girls living in these homes and the way they were anonymously gifted, it’s not surprising the recipients were alarmed. Fortunately, the case was solved quickly. Next time the woman wants to give back to her community, hopefully she won’t choose such a creepy way to do it.

What do you think? Would you have been worried if you found a porcelain doll resembling your child on your doorstep?

Additional articles on health and public safety are available free of charge through our office. To request one, please call 888-752-7474 or contact us online.

July 23, 2014

Stone Fruits Recalled Nationwide Due to Listeria Contamination

Yummy peach!

Yummy peach! (Photo credit: skyseeker)

Summer barbecues and picnics are often made sweeter with stone fruits like peaches, nectarines, and plums. This year, eating these fruits may leave you feeling pretty awful unless you’re certain they didn’t come from Wawona Packing Co. A supplier to Costco, Trader Joe’s, Kroger, and Walmart, which also operates Sam’s Club stores, Ralphs, and Food 4 Less, Wawona is voluntarily recalling these fruits nationwide, as well as pluots, that were packed at its Cutler, California, warehouses between June 1 and July 12 due to potential Listeria contamination discovered during internal testing. Consumers should avoid fruit with a sticker that says, ‘SWEET 2 EAT,’ reported CNN.

Listeria was last the focus of media attention in 2011, when infected cantaloupes from Colorado caused 147 people to become ill and claimed the lives of nearly 36 others. Caused by food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, Listeriosis presents with flu-like symptoms, such as fever, muscle aches, and diarrhea. Those with weakened immune systems, the elderly, infants, and pregnant women are susceptible to acute infections. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that listeriosis causes 260 fatalities and 1600 illnesses each year in the United States.

Consumers who believe they’ve ingested recalled fruit and are feeling sick are urged to seek immediate medical attention.

Those with questions concerning the recall may contact Wawona Packing at 888-232-9912 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays or visit the company’s website.

Have you bought stone fruit yet this summer?

Additional articles on health and public safety are available free of charge through our office. If you would like to request one, please call 888-752-7474 or complete our online contact form.

July 22, 2014

Newest Member of California Supreme Court Could Be from Mexico

English: Seal of the Supreme Court of California

English: Seal of the Supreme Court of California (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The newest member of the California Supreme Court could be from Mexico. Today, Governor Jerry Brown announced his nomination of Mexican-born Stanford law professor Mariano-Florentino Cuellar to the state’s high court, reported the Los Angeles Times.

Born in Matamoros, Mexico, Cuellar crossed the border by foot for years to attend school in Texas before moving to the Imperial Valley with his family at the age of 14. He went on to receive a bachelor’s degree from Harvard College, a law degree from Yale Law School, and a doctorate in political science from Stanford. If elected, he will fill the vacancy created when Justice Marvin R. Baxter retires in January.

Last January, the California Supreme Court granted a law license to Sergio Garcia, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. While the justices decided that Garcia could not work as an employee of a law firm due to a federal law that prohibits businesses from hiring undocumented immigrants, they ruled that he could do legal work on a pro bono basis.

With more immigrants than any other state, California had about twice the population of foreign-born residents (27 percent) as the United States in 2011, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. Forty-seven percent of immigrants in the state are naturalized U.S. citizens. The majority of immigrants to California are from Latin America (53 percent) and Asia (37 percent), with 4.3 million from Mexico, 812,000 from the Philippines, and 760,700 from China.

What do you think of Governor Brown’s selection for the high court?

Additional articles on legal issues and health and public safety are available free of charge through our office. If you would like to request one, please call 888-752-7474 or contact us online.

July 17, 2014

Beware of Toll Road Billing Scam

Morning commute: Toll booth

Morning commute: Toll booth (Photo credit: soumit)

In Orange County, there’s been a lot of confusion in recent months as to how to pay to use local toll roads. In the first few weeks after the Transportation Corridor Agencies removed toll booths and switched to a cash-free payment system, the number of toll violations spiked to about 15,000 a day, reported the Orange County Register. Drivers who think they may owe the toll agency, however, should beware of an email billing scam.

Nationwide, drivers have been receiving a phishing email with a logo mimicking the design of E-ZPass, the agency responsible for managing electronic tolling services on the East Coast, that reads, ‘You have not paid for driving on a toll road. This invoice is sent repeatedly, please service your debt in the shortest possible time.’ Representatives from both Transportation Corridor Agencies and E-ZPay have said these agencies did not send the emails, reported the Los Angeles Times. Those who receive the email are urged not to open it, respond to it, or download attachments.

Phishing is becoming an increasingly common way for hackers to steal information from and spy on people. In 2012, almost every incident of online espionage involved some form of a phishing attack, according to a survey by Verizon Communications that the Los Angeles Times reported on. The FBI urges people to report potential e-scams to the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

For those of you in Orange County still wondering about how to pay your tolls, you can get a transponder, which will debit an established amount, or pay online. If you’ve received your first violation and pay it within thirty days, the TCA will wave its penalties—but only until Labor Day.

Have you ever received a phishing email?

Additional articles on Internet scams, transportation, and civil law are available to the public free of charge through our office. To request them, please call 888-752-7474 or contact us online.

July 10, 2014

July 4th DUI Arrests and Deaths Down in Orange County

4th of July or Fourth of July

4th of July or Fourth of July (Photo credit: Creativity+ Timothy K Hamilton)

Fewer people were caught while driving drunk or involved in fatal car accidents on Orange County roads over the July 4th weekend. Compared to the five-day anti-DUI crackdown last year, when law enforcement participating in the Avoid the 38 campaign arrested 247 people for driving under the influence and there were 2 DUI deaths, 214 individuals were arrested between July 3rd and July 6th and no alcohol-related fatalities were recorded this year. The next Avoid DUI campaign will begin August 17th and end after Labor Day weekend.

A time when friends and family unite for barbeques and parties, summer holiday weekends can turn tragic when drivers forget not to take the wheel after drinking. According to the California Highway Patrol’s most current crash data, 33 people lost their lives and 2,152 were injured in collisions that occurred on July 4, 2011.

As Labor Day weekend approaches, let’s all remember to celebrate responsibly by not drinking and driving, taking keys away from and calling cabs for those who are about to, and serving plenty of food and nonalcoholic beverages at parties.

How did you avoid drinking and driving last Fourth of July?

Additional articles on public and transportation safety are available to the public free of charge through our office. To request one, please call 888-752-7474 or contact us online.

July 10, 2014

Countdown Timers: Safe for Pedestrians, Dangerous for Drivers

Best idea ever

Best idea ever (Photo credit: Shiny Things)

When walking toward an intersection, we’ve all relied on countdown timers to determine if we have enough time left to cross. While these devices ensure safer passage for pedestrians, they may be alerting drivers to how much time they have before the light changes, encouraging them to speed through signals they should be slowing down for and creating a dangerous situation, reported NPR.

When the timer winds down to two or three seconds, pedestrians will stop and, in many cases, drivers, who can also see the timers, will go. A study in Toronto revealed that installing timers at nearly 1,800 intersections decreased the number of pedestrian accidents and increased collisions between cars, specifically rear-end ones. This is because some drivers would slow down for the dwindling timers while others behind them would attempt to speed up. The problem tended to be worse at once-safe intersections and to grow with time as drivers became more used to the timers and took greater risks, blowing through intersections first with only two seconds left on the timer and then just one.

One solution researchers proposed was to transmit the countdowns aurally rather than visually—that way only pedestrians would be aware of them. This option, however, could prove discriminatory for the deaf and hearing impaired.

What do you think? How could countdown timers be made safer for drivers?

Additional articles on public and transportation safety are available free of charge through our office. To request one, please call 888-752-7474 or contact us online.

July 1, 2014

Where Are Fireworks Legal in Orange County?

English: Fireworks on the Fourth of July

English: Fireworks on the Fourth of July (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’ve been celebrating our independence from Great Britain with fireworks since the first anniversary of the signing of the declaration declaring it. While many of us in Orange County will enjoy professional pyrotechnic displays near the beach this 4th of July, others may be wondering where they can set off some of their own—“safe and sane,” of course—fireworks. Below is a list of cities where they’re legal.

Orange County Cities that Permit State-Approved Fireworks

Buena Park
Costa Mesa
Garden Grove
Santa Ana
Villa Park

Firework Dangers

On average, fireworks-related injuries send 240 people to the emergency room every day in the weeks before and after July 4th. A recent study by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) indicated that the number of injuries associated with fireworks increased from 8,700 in 2012 to 11,400 in 2013. Injuries were often the result of users playing with lit fireworks or igniting fireworks while holding the devices, as well as of devices that malfunctioned or that did not work as expected.

Children under the age of 5 were injured more often than any other age group last year. In many cases, people feel comfortable giving children fireworks like sparklers and bottle rockets because they think these devices are less powerful. Sparklers, however, can burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees—high enough to melt some metals—and should be considered extremely dangerous. Last year, sparklers and rockets were involved in more than 40 percent of fireworks-related injuries.

Learn more about the dangers associated with fireworks and tips for handling them safely on the CPSC’s website.

All of us at Allen, Flatt, Ballidis, and Leslie would like to wish your family and you a fun and safe Independence Day.

How will you be celebrating this July 4th?

June 20, 2014

Hit-and-Run Accidents: Alert System Proposed to Apprehend Drivers

AMBER Alert highway sign alerting motorists to...

AMBER Alert highway sign alerting motorists to a suspected child abduction in Northern California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hit-and-run accidents are a major problem in California and nationwide, and oftentimes tips from the public help authorities apprehend the drivers who cause them. Now one lawmaker representing Los Angeles—a city notorious for hit-and-run crashes—is proposing to use the statewide Emergency Alert System to keep the public informed about when and where these accidents occur and the vehicles involved in them.

Proposed by Assemblyman Mike Gatto earlier this month, Assembly Bill 47 calls for a ‘yellow alert’ system modeled after Amber Alerts. The hope is that when the public is promptly given descriptions of the vehicles involved in hit-and-run accidents, they can help authorities catch the drivers before they’re able to flee and hide evidence. This is not Gatto’s first attempt to alleviate the problem. A bill he introduced last fall that would extend the statute of limitations for hit-and-run offenses from three to six years will take effect this July.

In recent years, the incidence of hit-and-run accidents has been on the rise in California and throughout the nation despite an overall decline in motor vehicle collision fatalities, reported USA Today. The number of hit-and-run crashes resulting in deaths increased from 1,274 in 2009, to 1,393 in 2010, to 1,449 in 2011—13.7 percent over the three-year period. During that same time, traffic deaths fell 4.5 percent from 33,883 in 2009 to 32,367 in 2011.

Hit-and-run collisions have proven especially problematic in car-centric Los Angeles, where hit-and-run was a factor in 48 percent of accidents, compared to with 11 percent nationally, reported the LA Weekly in 2009. California Office of Traffic Safety crash data indicate that hit-and-run was a factor in 5,893 of the fatal and injury accidents that occurred in Los Angeles County in 2011. The agency ranked the county the 2nd worst in the state for hit-and-run.

Hopefully, Assembly Bill 47 will pass and, with more eyes on the lookout, hit-and-run drivers will find it increasingly challenging to avoid law enforcement.

What do you think? Could the yellow-alert system help alleviate the hit-and-run accident problem?

For more information on hit-and-run accidents and on the rights of victims of these types of collisions, feel free to call 888-752-7474 or contact us online.

June 11, 2014

Should Uber and Lyft Face Stricter State Regulation?


LYFT (Photo credit: Tribute/ Homenaje)

Those who’ve used ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft know they can be faster and more convenient and sometimes offer friendlier drivers than taxi services. Recent cases of assault in California, however, have concerned riders and policymakers, resulting in calls for stricter state regulation.

Current Regulations for Transportation Network Companies

The California Public Utilities Commission, which has legal jurisdiction over ride-sharing services, defines companies that use mobile applications to connect those seeking rides with drivers using their personal vehicles as Transportation Network Companies (TNCs). Riders and drivers also use mobile applications to rate each other, creating an online community and safety network, the companies claim, through these communications. For riders that need more than ratings to feel safe using these services, the CPUC requires TNCs to conduct criminal background checks on drivers, vehicle inspections, and that the companies carry commercial liability insurance policies worth at least $1 million.

Assaults Bring Safety of Ride-Sharing Services into Question

Last week, two incidents of assault on riders by Uber drivers made news headlines, bringing into question the safety of ride-sharing services. After verbally and physically assaulting a passenger he picked up in San Francisco’s Castro District on November 24, 28-year-old Daveea Whitmore was charged with misdemeanor battery of a transit passenger on Tuesday, June 3. Uber claimed that Whitmore, who was previously convicted and is on probation for battery and a narcotics offense, passed its background check. On the same day, the Los Angeles Times reported that 32-year-old Uber driver Frederick Dencer was arrested in L.A. county on suspicion of kidnapping for the purpose of sexual assault after driving an intoxicated woman to a hotel instead of her home for the purpose of sexual assault. Due to insufficient evidence, prosecutors did not file charges against Dencer.

Los Angeles City Council Members Call for Stricter State Regulation

Claiming that the existing laws regulating ride-sharing companies are too lax—jeopardizing the safety of riders and placing taxi companies at an unfair disadvantage—Los Angeles City Council members called for stricter state regulation of the companies this week. Specifically, Council members Paul Koretz and Gil Cedillo, as well as many of the city’s taxi drivers, championed for the passage of AB 612, which “would require ride-sharing operators to carry the same 24-7 commercial insurance coverage as regular taxis,” reported the Los Angeles Times.

In response, Uber issued a statement claiming that its $1 million in commercial insurance coverage for its vehicles and requirement that drivers pass “an industry-leading background check that includes county, federal, and multi-state checks going back seven years,” were comparable to the measures taxi operators must make to ensure the safety of their customers, reported CBS News.

The laws regulating taxi companies, however, are no more fail proof than those by which the ride-sharing companies must abide: so far this spring, there have been two cases, one of attempted rape and one of sexual assault, involving cab drivers in Santa Cruz. Instead of working against each other—though the motives for that are clear—taxi and ride-sharing companies should be examining their processes for screening and monitoring drivers.

What do you think? Which would you trust more: a taxi or a ride-sharing service?

For additional articles on the laws governing ride-sharing companies and the injury claims process after an accident, please call our office at 888-752-7474 or contact us online.

June 6, 2014

Orange County: Near-Drownings Highlight a Swift & Silent Killer

A boy in a children's swimming pool.

A boy in a children's swimming pool. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last weekend, a 3-year-old boy was swimming in a community pool in Irvine among several adults and other children and under the supervision of his mother yet still managed to silently slip underwater. Less than two hours later, a 6-year-old girl who reportedly knew how to swim was left unattended in a backyard pool and was found at the bottom of it. Fortunately, neither of the children died, though the girl remains in critical condition. The near-drownings highlighted what a swift and silent killer drowning can be for children.

Drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 4, with drowning accounting for 30 percent of the deaths suffered by children due to unintentional injury in 2009, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among children aged 14 and younger, drowning remains the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related deaths behind traffic collisions.

Emergency responders have attended to nine near-drownings and eight fatal drownings already this year, reported the Orange County Register. By this time last year, 10 drowning deaths and nine near-drownings had occurred, contributing to a total of 37 fatal drownings and 73 near-drownings. Adults swimming in a pool by themselves accounted for 60 percent of the incidents.

Drowning Prevention

Protection: Pool and spa owners should install layers of barrier protection between children and the water, such as alarms on the entryways leading to the water; a non-climbable, five-foot fence around the pool; self-closing and self-latching gates; and pool safety covers, preferably power-operated ones.

Supervision: Children not only lack a fear of death and understanding of the dangers of water, but they are also attracted to its shimmering surfaces. As the near-drowning incident in Irvine illustrated, a child can drown in seconds and even while under adult supervision. Parents and caregivers should not take their eyes off of swimming children for even a second, regardless of their swimming proficiency.

: Learn CPR and infant/child safety and insist anyone over 14 years of age in the household and all caregivers receive such training. Keep rescue equipment, such as a lifesaving ring, shepherd’s hook, and CPR sign, near the pool.

For additional resources on drowning prevention and the rights of drowning victims and their families, please call 888-752-7474 or contact us online.

All of us at Allen, Flatt, Ballidis, and Leslie would like to wish you and your family a fun and safe summer.

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June 2, 2014

Summer Break: Talk to Your Teens about Safe Driving

Teen Driver

Teen Driver (Photo credit: State Farm)

Memorial Day weekend marks the beginning of summer for many of us. For teens, it’s one of the last few weekends before the school year ends and a few months of trips to the movies, amusement parks, and the beach begin. With our kids spending more time on the roads, it’s important to talk to them about safe driving. Few in Orange County can forget the tragic accident that claimed the lives of five teenagers last Memorial Day.

On that clear, sunny afternoon, a 17-year-old driver lost control of an Infiniti while speeding southbound on Jamboree Road in Newport Beach. The vehicle swerved across three lanes, crashed into the curb of the median and two pine trees, the impact sending it 10 feet into the air before it landed on the northbound side. The car was sheered in two, with each end facing in a different direction and the engine on fire. All five teenagers inside lost their lives.

The driver’s provisional driver’s license had expired two weeks before the crash.

Teen Drivers

Across the United States, traffic collisions are the leading cause of death for teenagers. Drivers aged 16 to 19 years have the highest average annual traffic violation and crash rates of any other age group, according to the DMV. Several factors contribute to their high accident rates:

Poor Detection of Road Hazards
Risk Taking Due to Age and Inexperience
Failure to Wear Seatbelts
Lack of Skill Behind the Wheel
Alcohol and Drug Use
Increased Risk of Crash with Teen Passengers in the Vehicle
High Crash Risk at Night

Talking to Your Teen about Safe Driving

After spending years protecting your kids in the car, now it’s time to hand over the keys and expect that they take the same care with themselves and their passengers as you have. Ensuring that they do will take some preparation.

Enforce Graduated Driver Licensing Laws: Immaturity and inexperience are the primary risk factors for teen crashes. These laws were enacted to give young drivers more time to learn the complex skills necessary to safely operate a vehicle under less risky circumstances. Enforce the rules.

Educate Teens at Home: Children are strongly influenced by their parents’ behavior. Set a good example—and rules—for your kids. Surveys show that teens whose parents imposed driving restrictions typically engaged in less risky driving and were involved in fewer crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Safe Summer Driving

We hope you found these tips helpful. If you’d like more suggestions for safe summer driving—both for you and your kids—visit the NHTSA’s Interactive Summer Driving Tips webpage.

What are your safe driving rules for your kids?

Want more information on teen driving, traffic safety, and civil law issues? Feel free to call us at 888-752-7474 or contact us online to request free resources.

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May 29, 2014

Orange County: 226 DUI Arrests Made Over Memorial Day Weekend

English: A California Highway Patrol unit on t...

Photographed on October 19, 2005 by user Coolcaesar. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Did you notice a lot of police cars patrolling the streets over Memorial Day weekend? Well, there were, as officers representing 38 Orange County law enforcement agencies joined forces to crack down on drunk drivers as part of the ‘Avoid the 38’ DUI Campaign. After conducting four DUI/Driver’s License Checkpoints, seven Special DUI Saturation Patrols, and numerous routine patrols, authorities arrested a total of 226 people for driving under the influence, 10 more than last year.

The California Highway Patrol’s most current records indicate that 2,816 people lost their lives on the road in 2011. Collisions involving a driver or a motorcycle rider with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or higher increased from 774 in 2011 to 802 in 2012. Memorial Day weekend is one of the deadliest times to be driving, with traffic accidents claiming 29 lives and injuring 1,818 people in 2011.

The Fourth of July and Labor Day are also historically deadly holidays. In 2011, 33 people were killed and 2,152 were injured in collisions over Fourth of July weekend. Over Labor Day weekend, 34 lives were lost and 1,894 people were injured. Given the high rate of crashes on these holidays—which, like others, are often celebrated over drinks at barbeques and parties—authorities in Orange County and throughout California will also be out in full force conducting DUI checkpoints and saturation patrols on them.

Additional articles on traffic safety and the injury claims process after an accident are available to the public free of charge through our office. To request one, please call 888-752-7474 or contact us online.

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