Articles Posted in car accidents

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Two points came to mind after reading the April 8th verdict in the Murray v. Progressive Specialty Insurance case. One, being that soft tissue damage while difficult to initially detect can lead to long term complications and how one handles the treatment can effect compensation, and secondly, after signing up for car insurance can one recall our their insurance policy limits? Both of these issues played out during a two-day trial that resulted in the jury deliberating for two hours before unanimously awarding the plaintiff a $133,000 award. The accident occurred when plaintiff Garry Murray, aged 57, was rear-ended at the intersection of Cheltenham Avenue and 7 Oaks Drive. According to court documents Murray had suffered soft-tissue damage to his back, neck, and shoulder. Because injuries after a car crash are not always clearly visible, it is always advisable to be seen by a medical professional following a car crash. Soft tissue injuries are very common in car crashes as the body tends to be thrown around and jerked in unnatural positions leading to tears, inflammation, and chronic pain. It is not uncommon for pain from soft tissue to set in after the initial event. Murray who had car insurance through Progressive Specialty Insurance Co., carried the policy for underinsured motorist benefits, but after his claim was denied Murray sued seeking recovery under the policy.

Progressive disputed the injuries noting that the initial police report only documented minor damage to Murray’s vehicle and that no injuries to the plaintiff were recorded, nor did the plaintiff undergo any emergency treatment following the car accident. Under reporting can play a role in the success of your case. As documentation from the initial police report, hospital visits, and ongoing treatment can all help establish the causal effects of the initial car accident, without documentation representation while not impossible can be far more difficult with unknown outcomes. Unlike deep lacerations, traumatic brain injury, and broken bones, soft tissue damage by many is viewed as a less severe form of injury. However for the thousands of Americans who suffer from chronic pain and limiting range of motion soft tissue damage is a serious injury. Depending on the level of damage, soft tissue injuries can require physical therapy, trips to a chiropractor, time off from work, as well as time to heal and recover. Murray required physical therapy after being rear-ended and was also recommended by his osteopath to receive facet injections to his injured shoulder. The jury ended up awarding Murray a substantial award of $133,000 but was later reduced to the $50,000 insurance policy limit.
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Spring officially kicks off the national effort for police forces across the United States to crackdown on distracted drivers in hopes of decreasing fatalities on the road. In 2008 distracted driving caused 16 percent of fatal crashes, with an estimated 21 percent of car accident injuries involving distracting driving. Recent public awareness campaigns targeting both teens and adult drivers have resulted in a greater awareness associated with texting and driving. Even knowing that texting while driving makes a crash 23 times more likely to occur, nearly 40 percent of adults habitually continue to text while they drive. National statistics state that at any time of the day about 9 percent of drivers are talking on the cell phone resulting in about 26 percent of all car crashes involving cell phone use. Yet surprisingly cell phone use is not the leading cause of distracted driving fatalities, “daydreaming” accounts for nearly 62 percent of fatal car accidents. If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a car accident that was caused by another’s negligence do not hesitate to speak with an experienced Pennsylvania and New Jersey personal injury specialist.
Dangers of Distracted Driving:
According to the official distracted driving US government website, distracted driving is considered any activity that diverts a driver’s attention away from the primary task of driving. In 2012 an estimated 421,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes in the United States with another 3,328 people fatally injured in distraction-affected crashes. After a serious car accident, broken bones, traumatic brain injury, spinal injuries, deep lacerations, burns, and soft tissue damage has been known to occur. Many of these injuries can require long-term rehabilitation, often requiring the injured party to relearn basic movements. Often times the injured party can be left disabled with mounting medically costs. Because of the seriousness of the offense, distracted driving is becoming better regulated, and in ways that many drivers may not consider. In Annapolis this week undercover cops set up multiple distracted driving stings where one cop scanned traffic then phoned in for the telltale signs of distracted drivers, including cell phone in hand, or more commonly head bobbing. Especially as April is the National Distracted Driving Awareness month police departments everywhere have stepped up their efforts in cracking down on distracted driving. Instead of getting a ticket for distracted driving you can help save lives everyday on the road by simply make the choice to not partake in any activity that diverts your attention from the primary task of driving.
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There is a profound importance held in the role of the designated driver. Typically a designated driver more commonly known as the “DD”, is the often seen as the selfless individual in a group, who takes on the role of the sober driving buddy in a group where varying degrees of inebriation is often expected. As a Philadelphia personal injury attorney I understand first hand the perils of drinking and driving. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 30 people die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver every day in the United States. A designated driver can be the difference between a group safely arriving home and potentially ending the night in a dire situation. A recent case was brought before the Courts of Common Pleas that reflected the real concerns of drinking and driving, and the need to uphold Pennsylvania’s Dram Shop law. In Specht v. Kenny’s Bar and Restaurant, the decedent’s estate settled with the driver and multiple bars involved in the fatal DUI crash that claimed the lives of two young women in Bensalem, Pennsylvania.

On February 25, 2011, a group aged 20, and 21 went out for a girl’s night, which included dancing and libations. The night ended in the deadly crash along Byberry Road in Bensalem, after the driver lost control of her vehicle and struck a utility pole. Melissa Lees and Caitlin Hennessey both passengers, died as a result of the crash. Hennessey’s father and Melissa’s mother, plaintiff Susan Specht, sued, the driver Susan Pond who was 20 at the time, along with Kenny’s Bar and Restaurant Inc., and CMJ Sheffield. The cases, which were initially consolidated, were settled separately. Plaintiff Specht contends that Pond was negligent in the operation of her vehicle while she was intoxicated, and that both Kenny’s Bar and CMJ Sheffield violated the Dram Shop law. Specht’s memo stated that Pond was served alcohol at both establishments even though she was under the legal drinking age of 21. In Pennsylvania the Dram Shop law makes it unlawful for a liquor license holder or agent such as an employee, to serve alcohol to any minor or visibly intoxicated individual. In order for a bar or restaurant to be held legally liable, it must be (1) proven that the license holder violated the law by serving a minor or visibly intoxicated person, and (2) that the violation of the Liquor Code caused the injuries and or damages.

Kenny’s Spirited Eatery, which was owned by defendant Kenny’s Bar and Restaurant Inc., a place known to attract and is specifically marketed towards a younger crowd, was the first stop of the night. Pond’s pretrial memo contends that the two bars were liable in serving an underage visibly intoxicated individual. Kenny’s Bar stated that they have a policy of checking everyone’s ID prior to entering their bar. Further stating that police had found a driver’s license of a 22-year-old woman who resembled Pond in Pond’s car on the night of the crash. After spending time dancing at the Kenny’s Spirited Eatery the group went to Paddy Whacks, a bar and restaurant owned by defendant CMJ Sheffield Inc. Surveillance video at Paddy Whack’s showed Pond consuming alcoholic beverages, dancing with the bouncer who both knowingly acknowledged letting underage drinkers into the bar and occasionally drank while on the job. During the night of February 25, 2011, it is alleged that Susan Pond, the driver and 20-year-old, was provided alcohol at both establishments after she was visibly intoxicated, and that her intoxication was a direct cause of her loosing control of her SUV that ended in the death of her two friends Melissa Lees and Caitlin Hennessey. Part of growing up is learning that every decision we make have consequences. On the evening of February 25, a group decided to engage in risky behavior coupled with no designation of a sober driver. The parties settled for $750,000 with comparative fault distributed against the defendants. Accordingly, Pond, who was insured by State Farm, was liable for $250,000, Kenny’s contributed $100,000, and CMJ the remaining $400,000.
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A recent court decision from the Court of Common Pleas, in Hall v. Irving, held that plaintiff Elsie Hall, who had suffered severe soft tissue injury to her back and neck, including herniated and bulging discs in her spine, had sustained serious injuries at the fault of an uninsured driver to warrant a $100,000 verdict for pain and suffering. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, yearly there are more than 1,700 fatalities and over 840,000 injuries caused by vehicle crashes off of public highways, as was the case in Hall v. Irving, a car accident that occurred on Broad Street in Philadelphia, PA. This case and resulting verdict is particularly interesting as it shows that even if you do carry an uninsured motorist policy, insurance companies can still be hesitant to pay. Car accidents can result in long term injures as occupants in a car crash can be violently jostled, most commonly causing whiplash, traumatic brain injury, lacerations, spinal cord injury, and other soft tissue damage.

In Hall v. Irving, plaintiff Elsie Hall, was a passenger at the time of impact, when she and her husband were driving on Broad Street in Philadelphia, back in September 2011. Hayden Hall, the plaintiff’s husband was driving, when they allege that a second vehicle, owned and operated by Bernard Irving, collided with their car as the vehicle was exiting a gas station at the same time as the Hall’s were attempting to make a left hand turn. Defendant Irving’s vehicle collided with the front passenger side of the plaintiff’s car that was carrying the Halls. As we know, car accidents can have long-term effects on the injured party. Here, the plaintiff allegedly sustained back and neck injuries causing her to undergo physical therapy, electric stimulation, massage therapy, traction, and an MRI, which further revealed that Mrs. Hall had disc desiccation, as well as, multiple herniated discs. Following the car accident the Halls attempted to sue Irving for just compensation caused by the accident. Irving was found to be uninsured; therefore the Halls sought limited tort recovery from their insurance company State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., as they had carried an uninsured motorist policy. Uninsured motorist policies are often seen as a way to plan for the unexpected injury to person and property caused by an uninsured motorist. The driver trying to make a claim under the policy must prove that the uninsured motorist was in fact at fault for the accident caused.

In Hall v. Irving, State Farm, the court found discrepancies as to the cause and the extent of the damages resulting from the car accident. According to State Farm’s memorandum, State Farm found both drivers to be comparatively liable for the collision on Broad Street. State Farm sought to prove that the second driver, Irving, had already established himself in the left lane at the time of the accident, and that the Halls had not seen the defendant in time to avoid the crash. Pennsylvania has an affirmative defense to negligence actions called comparative fault. If driver Hayden Hall’s own negligence contributed to the Hall’s injuries, then the Halls would be barred from recovering the full amount of damages up to the percentage of their own liability in causing Mrs. Hall’s injuries. After a three day trial and two hours of jury deliberation, they found Hayden Hall was not liable for any part of the accident, and awarded Elsie Hall $100,000 in pain and suffering.
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When a car crash occurs involving three or more vehicles, it can set off a chain of events where proving liability can become a mammoth of a puzzle. As has been true this winter season, when weather conditions become hostile, extra caution such as leaving more driving distance between cars, not driving while distracted, and decreasing driving speeds, are all tools needed to help prevent car accidents. After being involved in a car accident it can be difficult to determine if you should enlist the services of a personal injury attorney. To complicate matters there is a time limit of 2 years from the date of injury where one is able to bring a personal injury claim, in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The 2-year time allotment to file a lawsuit is known as a statue of limitation, and claims are dismissed, or unable to proceed if the 2 years has already passed. Therefore, in order to have a greater chance at a successful claim, preservation of all necessary evidence is required if the case should go to trial. There are over 6 million car accidents that occur every year in the United States, at an alarming rate of 18,000 car accidents occurring daily, with roughly 40,000 fatalities annually. Chances are at some point in your life you will either directly be involved in a car accident, or a loved one’s life will be greatly impacted by a car accident.

A highly experienced personal injury trial attorney knows how best to represent and preserve your legal interests. Usually, when a multi-vehicle or chain reaction car crash takes place, one or more parties were at fault. The theory behind determining fault can be established by a multitude of resources, some of which the injured party can attain, such as medical records, police reports, witness statements, as well as documented images from the scene of the crash. Proving who is at fault relies on negligence, meaning that the injured party must establish that the other driver failed to act in a reasonable manner when operating their vehicle. Furthermore, the driver’s reckless, negligent, or careless actions while driving directly caused the party’s injuries. The burden of establishing negligence is on the party that brings the lawsuit, the injured party.

A driver’s license is a contract of sorts, by attaining it you are legally allowed to operate a 3,000 pound motor vehicle and accordingly, you are also agreeing to abide by the rules of the road and to not drive in a manner that endangers the lives of other motorists. When a driver fails to uphold their legal duty, car accidents can occur. The injuries associates with a car accident can be grave, from broken bones, torn ligaments, deep lacerations, soft tissue damage, and loss of limb, traumatic brain injury, and even loss of life. Distracted driving, driving under the influence, excessive speeding, failure to yield, dangerously changing lanes, running a stop sign, and failing to signal, are some instances where a driver can be held liable for their negligent driving actions, if these actions cause another party to be injured. By seeking compensation or money damages for the medical expenses, lost wages, and the injury itself, personal injury attorneys attempt to make their clients whole, as if they had not been involved in a serious accident, and further help to deter other motorists from driving in a dangerous manner, thus making driving a little safer.
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Ride-share companies or transportation network companies, also known by their car service apps names, such as Uber, Lyft, Sidecar, Drive, LeCab, Snapcar, and Flywheel, many of which got their start in San Francisco, are beginning to see their liability free loopholes begin to close. The recent boom in ride-share companies has come with significant backlash, much from the already highly regulated and liability insured limo and taxi drivers and their representative organizations. For years now professional drivers have been bring to light the dangers of ride shares. Much of the unfair competition claims stem from the fact that ride-share companies are seen as unregulated, underinsured, limited liability companies, that are not required to maintain their vehicles as vigilantly, or limit the hours of operation for their contracted drivers thus lessening driver fatigue, nor must they run background or criminal checks on their drivers, or require the ride-share companies to have liability insurance as costly or as inclusive as other forms of transportation require by both state and federal law. Contrary to distracted driving laws, ride-share companies also tend to utilize a GPS like interfacing system to communicate with their drivers, potentially leading to more distracted drivers on the cities roadways. Furthering frustrations, when accidents do happen these ride-share companies are quick to distance themselves from the driver and the subsequent harm caused.

While a fairly new business model, ride-shares are the online equivalent of the middleman. A “user” also known as a passenger, downloads an app, signs up for the service, linking their account to a credit card, and simply logs in to hail a cab, all in the convenience of their own home, business, or social gathering. The user/passenger would then have a picture of their driver, license plate number, and expected arrival time texted back to them on their mobile device. Uber, which is available in Philadelphia works like this; within a short amount of time the user will be greeted by either a base car, picture a black Lincoln model car, with a price tag of $7 plus total travel time, or an SUV option with a $14 base cost, plus the cost of the total travel time. Included in the cost is a tip for the driver. There is nowhere to indicate that the driver actually gets the tip and it is not just incorporated into the drivers total daily takeaway, therefore subject to be split with whatever agreed upon percentage the middleman acquires.

As a Philadelphia personal injury attorney I was particularly interested in a recent wrongful-death suit brought against the ride-share company Uber, and an Uber driver charged with vehicular manslaughter. The driver, 57-year-old Syed Muzzafar of Union City, was a driver contracted to work with Uber this past New Year’s Eve, one of the companies biggest surge pricing nights. The suit claims that Muzzafar was signed in to Uber and while not currently carrying an Uber passenger, the driver was interfacing with the Uber equipment on one of their busiest nights. While all rides vary in cost per the distance traveled in a taxi, for ride-shares companies, the cost is also contingent upon the particular time, place, or day that you happen to use your ride-share. Nearly all ride-shares use a form of price surging as a means to add incentive to drivers “to get out on the road during peak hours when riders need them the most.”

In this instance the driver Muzzafar, was working during such a peak time. He had already picked up an Uber passenger, dropped off a passenger, and was awaiting anotehr Uber call when he turned into the intersection. Muzzafar struck a group of pedestrians as they crossed the street, in a crosswalk near the Civic Center, in San Francisco. 6-year-old Sophia Liu, was fatally injured and died at the scene. Her 5-year-old brother was seriously injured and was transported to local area hospital for treatment. Their mother was also struck and injured as she walked with her children in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. The suit alleges that Uber’s business practices run afoul of California’s distracted driving laws by requiring any Uber driver to interface with a device similar to a cellphone in order to secure and confirm a new passenger or user request. The suit requests unspecified damages as they claim negligent hiring and supervision by Uber, negligence with a motor vehicle, wrongful death, and infliction of emotional distress. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in court and what the rippling effects this lawsuit may have on the highly unregulated ride-share community.
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Yearly, thousands of children are injured and hundreds more are killed, by a preventable road collision called backover accidents. A backover accident occurs anytime a vehicle moving backwards strikes a person or property. According to the Department of Transportation, each year as a result of backover accidents, 292 people are killed and 18,000 more are injured. Approximately 44 percent of the fatalities resulting from a backover accident are children under the age of 5, with another 33 percent represented by adults over the age of 70. Backovers fall into the category of “nontraffic” incidents, meaning that they take place off of public roads or highways, and usually occur in private driveways and parking lots. Backover accidents typically occur at low speeds, but even at 5 MPH, your body and property can sustain significant damage, as a car on average weighs approximately 3,000 pounds. Typical injuries resulting from a backover accident include, broken bones, nerve damage, traumatic brain injury, internal bleeding, and death. According to KidsandCars.org, the first nonprofit organization to keep a record of children injured as a result of a backover accident, found that 50 children are backed over every single week, with two children dying as a result of their injuries. Even more tragic, in seventy percent of the cases, a family member or close relative was behind the wheel at the time of impact. Backover accidents devastate families across all cultures, races, and socioeconomic spectrums; despite the devastation of backover accidents these types of injuries are preventable tragedies.

Many families directly affected by the loss of a child as a result of a backover accident have petitioned their legislature to reform the automotive industry to require all new vehicles to come equipped with rearview cameras. Dr. Greg Gulbransen, a pediatrician from Oyster Bay, New York, knows the heartache associated with backovers all too well. One evening in October 2002, Dr. Gulbransen reversed his wife’s car down their driveway when he struck and killed his son. Cameron, Dr. Gulbransen’s two-year-old son, had just learned how to open a door, and did so for his first and last time that evening. Cameron died in his father’s arms. After many meetings with local representatives and interest groups, Congress unanimously passed, and former President George W. Bush signed into law, the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act on Feb. 28, 2008.

The law however did not specify how best to improve visibility behind vehicles, instead it left much to be decided by the regulatory system. After much delay, in November of 2010, the Office of Regulatory Analysis and Evaluation released their preliminary regulatory impact report indicating that backup cameras would save 95 to 112 lives per year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration charged with completing the new standards have repeatedly delayed proposal of any rule citing that it could cost up to $2.7 billion to equip a fleet of 16.6 million new vehicles with rearview cameras. Auto industry lobbyist through the Alliance of Automobile Manufactures, a trade group representing Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co., and other major automakers, agreed with the purpose of the law, but not in the proposed costly implementation. Instead regarding cameras as a consumer choice, not a government mandate. Approximately one out of every three cars sold in 2013 was equip with a rearview camera. In a writ of mandamus issued on September 25, 2013, Consumers Union, Kids and Cars nonprofit, and several families affected by backovers, petitioned the Second Circuit to compel the Department of Transportation to release a final rule within 90 days. The Transportation Department held that the court should dismiss the petition as NHTSA is examining “real-world evidence to analyze the performance of rearview video systems and how the drivers in those vehicles used the systems in the course of actual backover accidents…” Currently if the government meets its January 2015 deadline without further delay, automakers would still have over two years to fully implement the new safety requirements, and would not be in effect until 2017.

There seem to be two forces at work here, the unpredictability of children with their fearless attitude, and the lack of visibility in cars also known as “blind zones.” Rearview cameras aim to address the second concern but should not be viewed as a silver bullet. One recent study from Oregon State University researchers found that only one in five drivers actually used a rearview camera when it was available, but 88 percent of those who did use the camera avoided striking a child-sized decoy. Even with advances in technology, there is no substitute for parental vigilance and guidance of their young. We need not wait for a final ruling to decrease the frequency of backover accidents. Children must to be taught how to coexist with cars, and all the dangers associates with large transportation vehicles. Drivers in residential neighborhoods with small children can reduce this child fatality by implementing a low cost alternative, a sweep of your car prior to turning on the engine. As Consumer Reports states, “Your first line of defense against back-over accidents is to get out of your car and check behind it just before you back up.”
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According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, winter begins with the solstice on December 21st and does not end until the commencement of the vernal equinox on March 20th; this leaves three long months of winter driving, with an increased potential for collisions, property damage, and loss of life. What makes winter driving so different from other seasonal driving? In short, the unpredictable weather factor, and the vast number of people on the road, many of whom are neither as experienced nor confident driving in winter conditions. The winter season happens to coincide with the three deadliest driving holidays, two of which fall within the winter months and one at the cusp, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. Nearly 39 million motorists were estimated to have traveled more than 50 miles to celebrate this past Thanksgiving holiday. The estimate according to AAA for motorists who drove home for Christmas this past year is expected to have lapsed the Thanksgiving estimate by the millions. The unpredictability of the type of weather one may encounter on a winter drive encompasses everything from blinding sunshine to a nor’easter. By slowing down, and estimating into our winter arrivals a bit more travel time, as well as tripling the driving distance between vehicles, we can all help to avoid a potential car crash. If we accept for argument’s sake that we as motorists in the United States enjoy the freedom of freely traveling, then we must also accept the responsibility for doing so in a safe manner.

Part of winter traveling that is especially different from other seasons is the cost of procrastination and the importance of preparedness. Take for example a typical springtime scenario, you got a flat while parked, and now your car wont start, and you have no idea where you placed those jumper cables. Assuming no other factors, you typically will be able to wait out a jump and tire repair from a local AAA road service assistant, without it impeding your health. Take that same example and place it during a February’s winter storm, and we are talking the difference between a potentially life and death scenario. Now that winter has arrived you may want to ask yourself is my winter survival pack replenished, and or restocked, and ready for the 2014 winter season?

Things to consider in your winter preparedness include are the windshield wipers in working order? Have you replaced your wiper fluid with high-quality winter fluid? Especially helpful for long drives, have you treated your windshield and mirrors to a coating of water-shedding material such as Rain-X? Are your lights in working order? Will other cars in limited visibility be able to see your cars headlights? Are you going to be driving in a place that regularly has significant snowfalls? If so, has your county or state regulated winter tires? Do the tires currently on your vehicle have sufficient tread and air pressure? If there is any major repair that needs to be done to your car, do so before you must drive your car for an extended period, such as a 6-hour drive to visit your family for the holidays. Can you easily access your ice scrapper, booster cables, blanket, warning flares, small snow shovel, gloves, flashlight, and a bag of abrasive material (such as sand salt mixture, or cat litter)? Lastly, if you do need to use your car as a shelter while waiting for AAA or road assistance, do you have everything you need to survive? The main difference between driving during the winter months and any other season is that when you break down, or are involved in a collision, the situation shifts from what can we do while we wait, to can we survive the wait.
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As the weather gets colder and the holiday season approaches, proper phone etiquette while on the road can help everyone to arrive at their destination in one piece, while helping to achieve a low stress driving experience that ensures safe driving conditions for all. Please make a conscious effort to send text messages to your loved ones prior to putting your key into the ignition. By agreeing to put the cell phone down while driving this holiday season you can help to make the roadways less congested, with better traffic flow, and far less deadly. With legislation, education, and laws on the books, most of us know that drinking and driving is a lethal mix, yet too many Americans are quick to write-off the dangers of texting while driving. The Philadelphia based law firm of Rosenbaum and Associates with offices in New Jersey, and Western Pennsylvania, understands first hand the perils that driving and operating a cell phone can cause. For over 25 years our highly experienced personal injury attorneys work on behalf of seriously injured pedestrians and plaintiffs to secure the best representation for our clients.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration study found that texting while driving is the equivalent of driving after having four beers. Every month some 171.3 billion-text messages are sent in the United States alone, often with fatal consequences. No matter how quick you believe you are, texting requires cognitive, visual, and manual attention that is directly siphoned from your driving skills. Furthermore, if you would like to cut down on seasonal traffic decrease your instances of multi-tasking, by staying alert and not driving distracted you lessen the chance of needing to overcompensate for lost mileage. According to the Institute for Highway Safety Fatality Facts, nearly 25 percent of all car accidents are caused by texting and driving. The Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New York’s 2013 study found that 300,000 teens are injured and more than 3,000 die each year as a result of sending a text message while behind the wheel. Approximately 11 teens loose their life everyday because of texting and driving, overtaking drunk driving as the leading cause of death for America’s teenagers. This holiday season let us slow down, put the phone down, and multi-task less while driving, in order to get where we need to be safely.

Can those who send a Text Message be held Liable for a Crash?

A New Jersey, Appeals Court, tackled the question of, whether or not you can be held legally liable for sending a text message to a driver prior to the driver being involved in a car crash. The case involves a September 21, 2009 multi-vehicle car crash in Mine Hill Township, New Jersey. At approximately 5:45 p.m. the then 19-year-old teen driver, Kyle Best sent and received text messages from friends and family that evening while driving. Prior to a car accident Best received a text message from his girlfriend, when his pick-up truck then drifted across the center line and hit a couple who were on their motorcycle, the Kubert’s. The couple both lost their left legs as a result of the crash. What makes this case scholarly remarkable is that the Kupert’s settled their case with the driver, who admitted in municipal court to driving while texting, and then they chose to sue the defendant’s 17-year-old girlfriend under the legal doctrine of civil liability. The Kupert’s attorney claimed that Shannon Colonna was “electronically present” at the time of the crash and that by sending a text messages to the driver, she was liable for distracting the driver at the time of the accident. While the Superior Court judge concluded that the remote texter could not be held liable, this past August a state appeals court panel agreed in part and reversed in part the lower court’s ruling.

The New Jersey Appeals Court agreed that Shannon Colonna, in the current set of circumstances could not be held liable and that a Superior Court judge was correct in dismissing the lawsuit against Colonna for “aiding and abetting”. The court also held that “a person sending text messages has a duty not to text someone who is driving if the texter knows, or has special reason to know, the recipient will view the text while driving.” Further holding “that the sender of a text message can potentially be liable if an accident is caused by texting, but only if the sender knew or had special reason to know that the recipient would view the text while driving and thus be distracted.” It is a very narrowly tailored set of circumstances, carved out by the New Jersey appellate court, where a person knowingly texts a driver that they are reasonably certain that the driver would read the text while driving, can they then be held liable for the actions of the driver. Texting has become a primary way of communicating, this holiday season let’s use technology wisely.
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Vehicle crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, are one of the leading causes of death for children between the ages of 1 and 13 years old. With the vast array of car seats and manufacturing design options for passenger cars, SUVs, trucks, and vans, it is understandable why child car seats and installation can be viewed as challenging. Even the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were recently scrutinized in their car seat performance after bringing their infant son home for the first time. While car seats in the United States have saved the lives of approximately 9,600 children aged four and younger during the span of 1975 to 2010, many more lives and life altering car crashes can be avoided by proper use and installation of child car seats. If you or your child were injured in a car crash and you suspect that your car seat malfunctioned, the experienced products liability attorneys at the Philadelphia based law firm, Rosenbaum and Associates, may be able to assist you.

Even among those who do install car seats in their vehicle, a recent study found that nearly three out of every four car seats did not meet proper use and installation standards. As many who have attempted the cause know, after reading the car seat instruction manual and your vehicle’s owner’s manual on car seat installation, it can still be difficult to try and install the car seat while insuring that the lower anchors or LATCH system is being fully engaged. Couple that with the dreaded seat belt that never wants to lock in place and you have fully executed a frustrating jam-packed afternoon. There is hope for parents and caregivers alike, many local fire and police stations offer free seat checks. There are people specifically trained to inspect the installation prior to you intrusting the car seat to protect your infant or child, for free. The website http://www.nhtsa.gov/apps/cps/index.htm will direct you to the closet trained inspector locations. For those that prefer the do it yourself approach, how-to-videos have been posted to the website www.SaferCar.gov/therightseat.

For those still on the fence about whether or not to implement a three-phase car seat approach for your growing child (a rear-facing car seat or car bed typically for premature babies, then a forward-facing car seat, followed by a booster seat), consider that the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found in a recent 2009 study that children in booster seats had nearly half the injury risk as children who wore seat belts alone. The study also found that children involved in side impact crashes, the second most common type of car accidents typically known as a “T-Bone” crash, derived the largest protection when using a properly installed booster seat. The reduction in risk produced approximately 68 to 82 percent decline in risk of injury. The same study also found that there was no detectable difference in the risk of injury for children who were seated in a backless booster seat versus those seated in a high-back booster seat. Regardless of the length of a car trip, safety must always be a priority as car crashes can occur at any time. Lastly remember child passengers, typically those under the age of 13, should not rely on airbags as a safety measure as airbags can severely injure or even kill children involved in a car crash that would have otherwise been survivable.
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