Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Attorney Blog
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Most motorcycle accident lawsuits hinge on the basic duty of care owed by one motorist to another (or the driver to the passenger) to operate the vehicle in a reasonably safe manner.dirtroad

The recent case of Towe v. Sacagawea, Inc. is different in that it involves premises liability. The reason the standard is different is because of where it occurred – on a private access road, rather than a public thoroughfare.

The lawsuit, recently considered by the Oregon Supreme Court, was the result of a motorcycle accident in which the rider, on site to examine a for-sale property as advertised from the public road, crashed after being tripped by a cable that had been laid about a foot off the ground by one of the property owners.

According to court records, the cable was intended to keep vehicles from traveling too far down the road because there was a quarry at the end of it. Plaintiff actually knew about the quarry – and at one point the cable itself – because he had worked at the quarry several months earlier. However, he noted the cable was not always up, it had been some time since he’d been there, so he’d forgotten, and there was nothing that made the cable especially visible.

As the court would later point out, the cable itself and the posts that held it up on either side, were rusted. There was an orange cone that was supposed to alert to it, but the cone was covered in black dirt. There was also a sign nearby warning against entry onto the access road (which split off from another), which was owned by a separate entity. However, the sign had fallen face down and was rusted.

When the motorcyclist approached, he said he did not see the cable. He conceded he did look back briefly at his passenger, but just for a fraction of a second before turning back to face forward. He wasn’t traveling fast, but contact with the cable on his motorcycle caused both him and his passenger to be ejected and suffer serious injuries.

Plaintiff filed lawsuit against the real estate company that advertised the property and the property owners that had erected the cable. He alleged property owners failed to keep the property in a a reasonably safe condition, and the real estate company for advertising and welcoming visitors onto a property that was not safe.

Trial court ruled that because plaintiff looked away, he was 100 percent responsible for his own injuries, and no reasonable juror could reach any other conclusion. Essentially, the court ruled it didn’t matter the property was unsafe or that there was no warning regarding safety because no warning signs would assist a motorist who isn’t looking at the road.

State supreme court partially reversed on appeal. While upholding dismissal of the claim against the real estate company, the state supreme court indicated trial court gave too much weight to that backward glance, which was reportedly brief. It may have been a factor in the accident, but it would not necessarily absolve the property owner of the duty to keep the property in a reasonably safe condition for legal invitees.

Therefore, plaintiff is allowed to continue with his claim against the property owners.

Anytime Fort Lauderdale motorcycle accidents occur in a place other than a public road – such as a store parking lot or private access road – there may be additional legal hurdles that will be important for plaintiffs to overcome. Our experienced lawyers can help overcome those obstacles.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Towe v. Sacagawea, Inc. , March 26, 2015, Oregon Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:

Recent Florida Motorcycle Bicycle Deaths Underscore Bigger Problem, March 20, 2015, Fort Lauderdale Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Blog

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An overloaded 15-passenger van careened off a rural Florida highway and into a water-filled ditch, killing eight passengers and wounding 10 others. van1

The group was on an unlit stretch of road in Glades County shortly after midnight, on their way back to Fort Pierce following a church revival on the coast of Southwest Florida. Passengers ranged in age from 4 to 89. The 4-year-old, who survived, was listed in stable condition.

The National Safety Transportation Board has launched an investigation into the accident, something that literally only happens in 1 out of every 1 million accidents, according to news reports. Factoring into that decision was the high number of deaths and the fact that this was a 15-passenger van, a vehicle with a notoriously spotty safety history.

In fact, federal data examined by news reporters indicates Florida was No. 1 for 15-passenger van accidents from 2009 through 2013. There have been 45 fatal crashes in Florida involving these vehicles in that short time frame.

Part of the reason for this is likely because Florida is a destination. From the beaches to the theme parks to the swamp tours, people want to come here, and they want to come here year-round. These large vans are popular among church groups, youth sports teams, senior groups and other organizations.

The problem is they are very dangerous. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued numerous warnings to the public regarding the risk of a rollover in these vehicles, particularly when they are overloaded with too many passengers. In fact, the risk of a rollover crash triples when the number of passengers inside one of these vehicles is increased from five to 10. And that’s not even considered overloaded or even at capacity.

In essence, we have a product that is advertised for use by 15 people when it shown by government regulators not to even be safe for 10.

The vehicle in this instance did not rollover. That doesn’t mean there were not issues with defectiveness. We don’t know why the driver veered off the road. It could have been fatigue. It could have been a medical issue. What we do know is that the tires on these vehicles also have been known to be the source of many problems.

Specifically, under-inflated tires are frequently cited as a causal factor in 15-passenger van accidents. So too is driver inexperience. These vehicles handle much differently than smaller, non-commercial vehicles, but they don’t require any special licensing or training to operate.

The vans come equipped with four rows of seating, and getting people to buckle up has proven problematic. One news outlet interviewed the founder of Safety Research & Strategies Inc., a national research firm focusing on consumer injuries, who stated seat belts in these vehicles often do not work properly. The are typically difficult to use and the geometry of their placement is poor, so even when people are wearing them, they get ejected.

That explains why investigators can’t definitively say yet how many people were wearing seat belts. They do know the 4-year-old was not in a child car seat, as required by Florida law.

Investigators say they will be closely analyzing the vehicle for possible defects, as well as carefully determining the degree to which driver error played a role in the crash.

This model of vehicle, which is from 2000, is no longer produced by the manufacturer. It now produces a full-size van that is equipped with a lower center of gravity.

In terms of liability, injury lawyers would likely examine the culpability of the manufacturer, the driver, the trip organizers and possibly even the county or state traffic engineers, as the fact that the road was unlit has been raised as a possible issue of concern leading to prior accidents.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Deadly van crash: passenger vans raise wide array of safety concerns, feds say, March 31, 2015, By Katie LaGrone, WPTV Channel 5

More Blog Entries:

Hilyer v. Fortier – $550K Teen Car Accident Injury Judgment Reversed, March 10, 2015, Broward Accident Lawyer Blog

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Prevailing in an auto accident case means you have to prove more than negligence of the at-fault driver. It means you have to show the injuries you sustained – those for which you are seeking compensation – were the proximate result of that crash. ambulance1

This can be especially challenging for individuals who suffered prior health problems or injuries that occurred subsequent to the accident.

Such claims will require extensive medical records, expert witness testimony and the aid of an experienced car accident lawyer.

In the recent case of Golnick v. Callender, defendant actually conceded to his own negligence in causing the crash. What was at issue, however, was whether that crash was the cause of plaintiff’s stated injuries.

Plaintiff, in his 70s, suffered some health issues prior to the crash, and also was injured in a second car accident that occurred after the one in question before the Nebraska Supreme Court.

According to court records, plaintiff filed lawsuit alleging he and defendant were traveling in opposite directions on the same road when defendant, who was texting at the time, veered into his lane of travel and struck plaintiff’s car.

In defendant’s first answer to the claim, he denied the crash occurred as plaintiff alleged. Defendant later amended his answer to say he admitted he was negligent and that this negligence was the proximate cause of the accident. He still denied he was texting at the time (he asserted he swerved to avoid suddenly stopped traffic in front of him), but otherwise conceded he was responsible for the crash. However, what he denied the extent and nature of plaintiff’s injuries.

Plaintiff objected to this amendment, as it pertained to defendant’s denial of being on his phone at the time of the crash. Trial court overruled the objection, saying the issue was whether plaintiff had proper control over his car – which he admitted he did not – not whether he was on his phone at the time. Meanwhile, defendant sought to admit into evidence pleadings plaintiff had made in an unrelated case, from an accident that happened two years after the case at hand. In both cases, he alleged the crash resulted in permanent injuries to his head, neck, shoulders and back.

The court’s ruling on this is not part of the state supreme court record, but we do know defense was allowed to mention plaintiff’s pre-existing back and eye problems. Plaintiff’s lawyer asserted these problems were not the same as the ones he began to suffer within a month of the first crash. Plaintiff’s injuries from the second crash were mentioned, but plaintiff was careful to state that crash only worsened his problems from the first crash.

Jurors ultimately entered a judgment in favor of defendant, which was affirmed by both the appeals court and the state supreme court.

Plaintiff argued to the state high court that trial court erred in not allowing him to argue as to the driver-cell phone issue. However, the court ruled the court did not act improperly. He also argued rejection of his proposed jury instructions was erroneous, but the state high court disagreed.

Ultimately, the problem here was a lack of proof regarding causation of injuries, complicated by pre-existing conditions and subsequent injuries.

This is certainly not to say plaintiffs in this situation should not pursue their claim. They can, in fact, be successful. But they likely will not get there without the help of an experienced auto accident attorney.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Golnick v. Callender, March 20, 2015, Nebraska Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:

Townsend v. Pierre – Liability of Property Owners for Obstructive Landscaping, March 31, 2015, Hollywood Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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In order to operate their motor vehicles safely, drivers need to be able to see what’s in front of them – and coming at them from the side. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Part of this is the job of traffic engineers and city planners. However, it’s also up to property owners, both commercial and private.

When overgrown shrubs, tree limbs or other landscaping features obstruct the view of motorists and result in a crash, the property owner may be held liable for damages. However, it must be proven that the landscaping feature was a known (or knowable) hazard as well as a proximate cause of the crash.

The legal standard often applied to determine whether property owners owed a duty of care to passing motorists is that of the foreseeable zone of risk, as established in McCain v. Florida Power Corp. (Florida Supreme Court, 1992). As the Florida 5th DCA ruled in the 2004 case of Davis v. Dollar Rent A Car Systems Inc., et al., the traditional view of the courts on this issue has been that a property owner owed no duty of care to drivers whose vision was obscured by natural conditions on the owner’s property adjacent to the highway, though the property owner could be liable for artificial conditions (i.e., foliage planted by land owner). However, the court noted the Florida Supreme Court had rejected this differentiation between “natural” and “artificial” and recognized simply that the issue should be decided by the foreseeable zone of risk. That is, the court has to consider whether defendant’s conduct foreseeably created a broader zone of risk, which posed a general threat of harm to others.

The Davis case involved a rental car patron who was making a left turn onto the road where the business was located when she was broadsided by a dump truck. Driver’s estate alleged foliage on private property adjacent to that intersection obstructed her view of oncoming traffic, and the appeals court ruled she had the right to have that claim heard.

A more recent case out of New Jersey deals with a similar situation. In Townsend v. Pierre, the New Jersey Supreme Court was tasked with deciding whether a commercial property owner could be held liable for failure to maintain shrubbery, allegedly contributing to a driver’s inability to see oncoming traffic and resulting in a fatal car accident.

The trial court had dismissed plaintiff’s expert witness’s testimony because it was not supported by facts on record. At-fault driver and her passenger had said the shrubs on private property initially blocked her view, but she inched up four times until her view was unobstructed before proceeding. Plaintiff was suing private property owner as well as driver, and expert witness opined at-fault driver was mistaken about her ability to see the road.

Appellate court reversed and planned to allow plaintiff expert witness testimony, but the state supreme court reversed. The court ruled that although a property owner could be held liable for failing to maintain landscaping on their property so it didn’t obstruct the view of drivers, in this case, that argument wasn’t supported by the underlying facts.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Townsend v. Pierre, March 12, 2015, New Jersey Supreme Court

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Toddler Killed, 11 Injured in Florida DUI Crash, March 5, 2015, Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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When it comes to auto insurance policies, too many Florida motorists purchase only the bare minimum required, so as to keep their monthly premiums low. A quarter of Florida drivers don’t have any insurance at all. bicycle6

The trouble with this is two-fold. First, if you are involved in a crash with someone who is uninsured or underinsured, you will not be able to collect from them or the insurer the amount necessary to compensate you for your losses. And if you also have limited insurance – or no UM/UIM coverage – it may be extremely difficult to collect damages.

The good news is that while drivers aren’t required to carry UM/UIM coverage, insurance companies have to get a written waiver from drivers in order to drop it from the policy. Most drivers don’t do this, and that means most have UM/UIM coverage.

This coverage can be used in the event you are struck by a hit-and-run driver who is never identified or by a driver who has no insurance or not nearly enough insurance. It can also be used in the event you are struck by a car while walking or riding a bicycle.

If the UM/UIM coverage is stacked, Palm Beach car accident victims can receive a higher payment than they would otherwise because the policy will allow for broader, higher coverage in many cases. However, insureds need to read their policies carefully because there could be language in it that bars stacked coverage – and Florida courts have upheld these policies so long as the language is clear.

In the recent case of Midwestern Indem. Co. v. Brooks, a bicyclist struck by a vehicle in Missouri appealed trial court’s decision to dismiss her request to stack her UIM insurance coverage. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled the policy language was clear, and thus the policy as written was valid.

According to court records, plaintiff was riding her bicycle on a public road in September 2011 when she was struck by a negligent motor vehicle driver. (He later died of unrelated causes.)

Cyclist and her husband filed a lawsuit against driver’s estate, and soon settled for his insurance policy limit of $50,000. They retained the right to seek UIM coverage from her own auto insurance company. Even though she was on a bicycle, UM/UIM coverage can still be secured. Her single UIM policy covered multiple vehicles, and indicated the UIM bodily injury limits were $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident. The couple had five vehicles insured – for which they paid five UIM premiums. They sought to recover $500,000 from their insurance company through stacking.

However, insurer countered by paying plaintiff $100,000, indicating that was the per-person limit for a single application of the policy’s UIM coverage.

The insurer then sought a judicial declaration that the UIM coverage limits for multiple vehicles don’t stack to multiply the per-person limit.

The court granted summary judgment in the insurer’s favor, indicating the plain language of the policy made it “quite clear” that intra-policy stacking is barred, and the per-person maximum for any single accident is $100,000.

Had that provision not been included – or not been clear – it’s possible plaintiff could have received as much as $500,000 from her insurer under the circumstances.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Midwestern Indem. Co. v. Brooks, March 2, 2015, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

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Report: Older Drivers Are Among the Safest, Although With Higher Injury Risk, Feb. 26, 2015, Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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A number of recent bicycle deaths underscore the unfortunate truth here in Florida: That this is the most lethal place in the country for cyclists, and that South Florida in particular is especially dangerous. bicyclists1

One recent case occurred in Danie Beach earlier this month, when a 46-year-old cyclist was struck and killed around 3 a.m. The driver who hit him fled the scene, leaving behind the vehicle’s fog light cover. Emergency crews arrived and pronounced the rider dead at the scene.

The driver was on-the-run until a man in Hollywood contacted authorities after seeing a news report on the case, and notifying them of his neighbor’s vehicle, which was under a tarp in the back yard. Authorities determined the vehicle matched the description of the one involved in the crash, and damage to the windshield and passenger side – plus the missing fog light cover – confirmed these suspicions.

The car was being rented to a 26-year-old, who was arrested on charges of leaving the scene of a fatal accident and evidence tampering.

In another recent local bicycle fatality case, a widow in Miami is suing the 21-year-old driver who allegedly struck her husband and another man on Rickenbacker Causeway. Also named in the suit is the suspect’s father, who owned the vehicle he was driving. Decedent shared two daughters with his wife, who says their lives have been a struggle in his absence. Her husband had been bicycling with a friend when the pair were struck by a car that drifted into the bicycle lane. Police allege the driver had been out drinking at a club on Miami Beach earlier in the evening.

The driver fled the scene, but reportedly returned 20 minutes later, where he claimed responsibility. Authorities say he appeared intoxicated and was crying hysterically at the scene. He would later say he was changing a song on his iPhone and looked away from the road momentarily. That’s when the crash happened.

The criminal trial is set for May, but the family’s wrongful death lawsuit seeks compensation for the immense loss they suffered when their husband/father was killed.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that in 2012, 726 cyclists were killed and nearly 50,000 injured in collisions with motor vehicles. That figure represents a 6 percent increase from what we saw in 2011.

In Florida, the problem is particularly bad. A recent report by a South Florida news outlet indicated there were 120 people killed while riding bicycles in the sunshine state last year alone.

Broward County ranked No. 2 in the state for number of bicycle accidents and fatalities in 2014 (852 crashes, 9 fatalities). Miami ranked No. 1, with 985 bicycle crashes last year and 15 deaths.

The report dispelled a number of misconceptions many people have about bicycle accidents and fatalities in Florida. Among those issues addressed:

  • The most common offending driver wasn’t elderly, but more likely in their early 20s or mid-40s;
  • In the majority of fatal crashes, it was the motor vehicle driver – not the cyclist – who was to blame;
  • While some pickup truck drivers are road bullies, the most common vehicle involved in bicycle-car accidents were compact cars;
  • The fine for a moving violation resulting in the death of a motorist is just $1,000, plus court costs.

Our compassionate, experienced legal team is dedicating to fighting for the rights of victims and families.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Wrongful death suit filed by widow of bicyclist killed on Rickenbacker Causeway, Feb. 27, 2015, By Amanda Batchelor, WPLG Local 10

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Hilyer v. Fortier – $550k Teen Car Accident Injury Judgment Reversed, March 10, 2015, Broward Bicycle Accident Lawyer Blog

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Plaintiffs in a teen car accident injury case will have to prepare for trial, after the Alabama Supreme Court reversed a default judgment against defendant. loggingtruck1

In most cases, default judgments are not preferred in injury cases. Whereas a summary judgment may be granted prior to trial as a matter of law, default judgments are granted typically when a defendant(s) fails to timely respond to a complaint or appear in court.

Default judgments are often overturned if a defendant can show good cause why he or she did not respond/appear in court. In the case of Hilyer v. Fortier, the issue came down to a misunderstanding between the defendant and two insurance agents – each of whom though the other was handling the claim and civil defense in the case.

According to court records, a teen was seriously injured in a car accident with a logging truck driven by defendant as the truck was being backed into defendant’s private driveway. It was night. It was dark. The truck was reportedly taking up both lanes of traffic on the rural road as he maneuvered the vehicle into his driveway.

However, defendant insisted he had his hazard lights flashing. There was also, he contends, a reflective strip that ran the length of the truck. A street light was just on the other side of the truck.

When he saw plaintiff’s vehicle approaching, he reportedly began honking the horn and flashing his headlights. However, the teen driver did not stop or even apparently slow down before striking the logging truck.

The teen, who was driving with three other youths in the car, was seriously injured. (The other passengers were not a party to the case.)

The teen’s mother, on behalf of her daughter, filed a lawsuit against defendant alleging negligence by violating state traffic laws and failing to adequately warn approaching passengers.

The crash happened in October 2013. The following month, plaintiff filed a lawsuit against defendant, and he was served within a few days. However, defendant never responded. Two months later, plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment. Defendant did not appear in court at the hearing, and judge granted default judgment to plaintiff.

However, soon after defendant filed a motion to set aside default judgment. In making this request, he asserted, per the “Kirtland Analysis,” he had a meritorious defense, plaintiff would not be unfairly prejudiced if the default judgment were reversed and finally, it was not his own wrongful conduct that had resulted in the default judgment being issued.

On the first point, he argued he had provided adequate warning and further, plaintiff was contributorily negligent because, as his expert witness opined, someone traveling the speed limit of 35 mph would have seen the truck and had ample time to stop. The fact that she did not even slow down, he asserts, suggests she was distracted.

He stated plaintiff would not be unduly prejudiced by reversing default judgment because the lawsuit had only been filed a few months earlier.

Lastly, he said he believed the insurance company was providing for his defense in the case and that they would notify him of the need to appear or respond. Insurance agents backed him on this point, with one agent noting he believed the other was handling the claim. A misunderstanding within the company led to the oversight.

Thus, the court reversed the default judgment and remanded the case back for trial.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Hilyer v. Fortier, Feb. 20, 2015, Alabama Supreme Court

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Report: Older Drivers are Among the Safest, Although With Higher Injury Risk, Feb. 26, 2015, Boynton Beach Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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It was a horrific scene on I-75 northbound, on Florida’s east coast, near Winter Haven. That’s where authorities say a 24-year-old woman behind the wheel of a sport utility vehicle carrying nine children – ages 6 months to 10 years – plus one other adult, veered off the road, became airborne, rolled over numerous times and struck several trees.crack

A 2-year-old boy was killed after he was ejected from the vehicle. The other children also were ejected, and suffered injuries ranging from minor to serious. The 6-month-old is in serious condition, as is the other adult passenger, 44.

While the adult passenger wore her seat belt, authorities say none of the children wore seat belts or were properly belted in with size-appropriate restraints. There was one car seat in the vehicle, however authorities say it was not in use at the time of the crash.

Additionally the driver – mother of five of those children – is alleged to have been drunk at the time of the crash.

The driver, who was also injured, is now facing charges of DUI manslaughter, DUI causing injury, nine counts of DUI causing injury and child neglect.

While losing a child is likely the worst punishment any parent can receive, criminal penalties for these offenses are severe, and could lead to life imprisonment.

In many ways, this case would be much simpler from a civil litigation perspective if it was not the mother/aunt of these children behind the wheel.

It is likely medical expenses for the driver’s children would be covered under the mother’s insurance policy.

As far as the other children are concerned, their mother was the passenger. The passenger and driver were sisters. The passenger and her children could file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver and her insurance company for damages.

It’s always tough when injured persons are faced with the possibility of filing a lawsuit against a loved one. This is especially true in cases when a person hasn’t so clearly crossed the line. People often drive with relatives, and sometimes those drivers may be impaired, distracted or just make a mistake behind the wheel. What’s important to remember is that usually, these claims are not personal. They are against the insurance company, and it’s not as if victims are seeking to hurt their relatives or loved ones. The goal is to ensure the victims’ medical bills and other expenses will be covered.

Often, that may not even take filing a lawsuit. With the help of a lawyer, sometimes a claim can be filed and a just settlement reached before it ever gets to that point. But having solid legal representation can help victims determine all possible avenues, and to approach them in the most sensitive way possible.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Woman charged with DUI after child killed on I-75, March 1, 2015, By Kim Kuizon, FOX 13 News

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Villaneuva v. RS&H Inc. – Negligent Roadway Construction Claim Weighed, Feb. 15, 2015, Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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There is an erroneous stereotype that holds old drivers are bad drivers.carcrash9

The reality, however, is quite the opposite. A new report issued by the Insurance Institute for Traffic Safety indicates drivers over the age of 65, when compared to other age groups, are less likely to text and drive, more likely wear to their seat belts and rarely drink and drive.

That makes them among the safest drivers on the road. However, they are more likely to be killed if involved in a crash. The reasons for that are nuanced and individual circumstances often have much to do with it. It’s worth analyzing though, particularly as we consider that within the next decade, 25 percent of all drivers in the U.S. will be 65 or older.

Elder safety advocates note that not only are people living longer, they are healthier, more mobile and we can expect to see the number of aging drivers increase steadily in the coming years. That means we need to have a better understanding of the challenges they face, the benefits they pose and how we can best protect them and others who share the road.

In the next few months, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is kicking off one of the biggest interdisciplinary studies on aging drivers every conducted in the U.S. A collaborative effort with five universities across the country, the study is going to track 3,000 older motorists (between the ages of 65 and 79) over the course of five years.

The foundation is investing $12 million for the unprecedented project in an effort to better grasp the transportation needs of older Americans.

It’s the most recent phase of the organizations Longitudinal Research on Aging Drivers (LongROAD) project. Some of the risk factors researchers will explore include:

  • Deteriorating vision and hearing
  • Prescription drug use
  • Decreased strength and physical mobility

The five study sites are in New York, Michigan, Maryland, Colorado and California. Those sites will begin recruiting drivers, whose vehicles will be outfitted with devices that will allow study authors to assess driving patterns in real time. The data will include information on where and when seniors drive, what kind of maneuvers they make, how fast or slow they travel and what kinds of traffic accidents they are most likely to be involved in. Those who participate will agree to undergo annual medical exams that will weigh cognitive and physical functions.

One of the goals of the study is to get a better sense of when it may be time for drivers to retire the keys. Right now, there isn’t much information on the relationship between driving safety and old age. Many family members and doctors tend to rely largely on anecdotal evidence when considering whether to urge a loved one or patient to limit or stop driving.

Another important aspect is determining how certain technologies can benefit aging drivers. Things like crash warning signals, navigation systems and cameras can all potentially help protect older drivers – but to what extent? This is key because the reason older drivers are more likely to die in a crash is because their bodies are more fragile. They need to be better shielded.

Additionally, it will be important to weigh the impact of certain medications on driving ability.

Researchers say they want to help seniors remain mobile for longer periods of time. In the U.S., mobility means independence, and that’s something seniors both want and deserve.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

AAA invests $12 million in study of older drivers’ needs, Jan. 20, 2015, By Randi Belisomo, Reuters

More Blog Entries:

Smith v. Maryland Casualty Co. – Auto Insurance Carrier Fights Coverage Claim, Feb. 6, 2015, Boca Raton Car Accident Lawyer Blog

 

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Car manufacturers have been under fire in recent months, for everything from faulty ignition switches to exploding air bags to malfunctioning accelerators. In fact, 2014 had the most auto industry recalls in history. This indicates firstly there are many problems with vehicle design resulting in injury. Secondly, it tell us regulators are getting better at calling the industry out. airbag1

But a mere allegation of product liability is not enough to prove causation. Of course, it is easier if there are a host of prior similar cases, but even then, success isn’t a given. What will be necessary in almost each of these cases is expert witness testimony.

Usually, expert witness testimony isn’t necessary in car accident claims. But every case is different, and when a crash is the result of a dangerous or defective vehicle part, expert witness testimony bolsters the claim of causation and can help a case get passed the summary judgment phase and on to trial.

The imperative nature of expert witness testimony in certain cases became apparent in the recent defective airbag claim made by plaintiffs in Piltch v. Ford Motor Co., et al., before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

According to court records, plaintiffs were involved in a car accident in 2007 while driving a vehicle manufactured by defendant(s). The couple reportedly hit a patch of black ice (this was in Indiana) and even though the vehicle slid off the road and into a wall, none of the vehicle’s airbags deployed. As a result, plaintiffs sustained severe injuries. Husband sustained several broken vertebrae and wife suffered neurological injuries.

It’s necessary to note that one year prior to this, the couple was involved in a different crash and, in that case too, the vehicle’s air bags did not deploy. When they had the vehicle repaired, they did not make sure the restraint control module, which monitors a crash and determines whether airbags need to be deployed, were reset after the repairs. However, plaintiffs explained it was there understanding whatever needed to be reset was reset.

After the second crash, the couple had the vehicle repaired at the same shop as before and then sold the vehicle and the black box data on the vehicle was erased.

The following year, the couple filed an action against the vehicle manufacturer, alleging the vehicle was defective under state law. Defendant removed the action to federal court and then sought summary judgment.Defense asserted without expert testimony, plaintiffs could not prove their injuries were more severe than they would have been had the alleged defect not existed. Plaintiffs countered the circumstantial evidence was sufficient, and no expert witness testimony was necessary.

District court granted the summary judgment motion on grounds plaintiffs had not submitted expert witness testimony necessary for them to create an issue of fact regarding proximate cause.

On appeal, the Seventh Circuit affirmed. Essentially, the only witnesses to the crash plaintiffs presented were themselves. They did not have the information contained in the black box of the vehicle that would have backed their allegations. They did not have any accident reconstructionist or other skilled witness that would have been able to assert the circumstances of the crash should have resulted in the air bags being deployed. Without that, the claim of causation was merely speculative.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Piltch v. Ford Motor Co., et al., Feb. 11, 2015, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

More Blog Entries:

Robinson v. Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth. – Bus Injury Litigated, Jan. 20, 2015, West Palm Beach Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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