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The Verdict - The Lombardi Law Firm Blog
Here at the Lombardi Law Firm we add blog content that is personal to those involved in accidents. We write this way so you have an understanding of how we think and handle cases - your case. We invite you to call us if you think we can help you resolve your legal problems. We settle most of our cases, because we do the basic legal work necessary to understand the facts of your case. We offer on our website, relevant and concise information that you will be helpful to you as you get ready to settle or to try your case.
We can and will do the same for you. That's my promise. So call us today!
Steve Lombardi, 515-222-1110 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Let's end this month with a simple message - think. Yes, simply think before acting.
Lawyers deal in the facts about car, truck, ATV, boat, truck, motorcycle, moped, pedestrian, skateboard and other types of roadway-street-avenue accidents than many people. We see it and we hear about it. We read about it and talk about it. We discuss it with Judges, juries, adjusters, other attorneys and clients. We see way too much of it. And so we know that like Tennessee's Governor talking to teens in that state, the same message applies to Iowa teens.
I've raised four teenagers all of whom drove and had accidents. I watch teenagers talking on the cell phone, texting and simply not paying attention. And that's the key, paying attention. You have to pay attention rather than try to do everything but pay attention to what is going on in traffic. It's irritating to other drivers for someone to be yakking on the phone, shaking their head back and forth, fully engaged in a conversation that makes it extremely obvious to those other drivers that you aren't paying attention.
Be safe, smart and protect yourself. Think before doing, so you can live another day to talk about it.
This will be a short blog today. It involves a driver charged with reckless driving that led to the injury of a Wisconsin State Trooper. The accident sequence description is complicated by an alleged thyroid problem on the part of the driver who was charged with attempted murder and five charges of reckless endangerment. Prior to striking the trooper the driver was traveling in the break down lane and weaving in and out of traffic at speeds estimated to have reached 100 m.p.h. The driver claimed and must have proven to the satisfaction of law enforcement that she had a thyroid problem interfering with her ability to know what she was doing during the events that led to the last crash with a State of Wisconsin Patrol car. The trooper, Ryan Rattunde was investigating an earlier crash and traffic was stopped.
Thyroid problems include hypothyroidism (an under-active thyroid) and hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) have different symptoms.
Doctor David Fitz-Patrick from the Diabetes and Hormone Center of the Pacific has a very clear description that might prove helpful to us. Looking the artist sketches on this endocrinologists website and comparing it with the photograph of the woman charged above, and the symptoms indicate to me she probably was suffering from hyperthyroidism. She’d be lethargic and have weight gain if it were hypothyroidism; but she appears thin and wide eyed in her photograph. Hyperthyroidism symptoms of jitteriness, increased nervousness, and rapid heart beat seem to go along with a sort of manic state.
In this case it helps her from avoiding more severe criminal charges but will it help her with avoiding liability for negligence? Probably not. A person has an obligation to take care of themselves medically and unless she can show this came on suddenly and without warning she’s probably still negligent and her insurance company will have to pay any award or judgment for her negligence and fault. In Iowa the relevant statute is Iowa Code Chapter 668, Liability In Tort – Comparative Fault.
Ottumwa, Iowa native Danielle N. Brinser, 20, a senior airman at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base was killed when trying to cross Ohio 444 on a green light. The other vehicle failed to stop and yield at the intersection light. The other car was driven by Nicholas C. Hart, 23 who failed to stop for the red light and struck Brinser’s Toyota.
We have a young man age 36 of Chelsea driving a Chrysler Sebring heading east on Highway 30 in Tama County, Iowa. Coming from the opposite direction is a semi-truck driven by Robert Nielson of Cedar Rapids. Nielson sees the opposing vehicle coming at him and attempts to avoid the collision by applying his emergency brakes, but with no apparent success. The narrative description given by the Iowa State Patrol is as follows.
UNIT #1 WAS EAST BOUND HWY 30 AND CROSSED THE CENTERLINE INTO THE WEST BOUND LANE. UNIT #2 WAS WESTBOUND ON HWY 30 AND DRIVER #2 APPLIED EMERGENCY BRAKING AND STEERED RIGHT TO TRY TO AVOID STRIKING UNIT #1. UNIT #1 STRUCK UNIT #2 IN THE LEFT REAR DRIVEAXLE. UNIT #2 LEFT THE ROADWAY TO THE RIGHT AND CAME TO REST IN THE NORTH DITCH . UNIT #1 CAME TO REST FACING NORTH ON THE SOUTH SHOULDER OF HWY 30.
That description doesn’t really tell us much about what caused the first vehicle’s driver to come across the center line; we are left to speculate at this point about the whys. As lawyers we aren’t allowed to speculate. We can extrapolate from the known facts but that’s a different skill and the lawyer walks a fine line. Nevertheless it’s something we all must know how to do. In this case the driver of vehicle number who is not identified out of respect, he died, can’t be questioned. And that is why the officer’s report describes events one and two, along with the most harmful event but draws no firm conclusions. In addition this driver died and therefore no citation would be issued. Citations are violations of the rules-of-the-road and give us a very good idea of what fault or negligence we can attribute to the driver who receives the citation. In this case event 1 is crossed centerline and the second event is vehicle in traffic, meaning striking another vehicle that is in traffic. In this case the most harmful event is number two.
Is that the end of our analysis? No it isn’t. As lawyers we must wonder about the driver’s sobriety or whether he may have fallen asleep. To the sobriety issue I note the officer order a urine test; which indicates the officer is also wondering about the driver’s sobriety. My guess is they will not do a urine test but a blood screen for alcohol and drugs. The cause can come back leading us to conclude other causes. The driver may have a heart attack or an epileptic seizure in which case he’s probably not, but not in all cases, to be found at fault. The heart attack angle can be explored by the results of an autopsy when they examine the heart.
What about whether or not the driver fell asleep? How would you prove that might be the case? This accident occurred at 6:49 AM on March 16, 2009.The time of the accident is well after the bars close. The date of the accident may or may not tell us something. St. Patrick’s Day is March 17, 2009 so he’s probably not yet celebrating with an all night binge. Was he gambling all night the Indian Reservation gambling house? Maybe but we’d have to examine his direction of travel and whether the casino is behind him or in front of him. Our analysis could go either way depending on what the evidence shows about whether he gave a ride home to some other gambler. So how can we discover facts that might lead us to know more so we aren’t speculating?
Well, first we would talk with the spouse, co-workers and friends who would know about the driver’s activities over these past 48 hours. If he just got off of work after working double shifts or more, then this could lead us to believe something about him falling asleep at the wheel. That of course assumes his blood work and autopsy findings are clean and clear.
We would also look inside the car to see if there are receipts or other writings telling us more about his activities. I’ve found printed email messages in the glove box indicating other potential witnesses and social plans that lead us to where the decedent was just prior to the collision. As a lawyer you have to put in leather work to discovery the truth about the case. It’s not an easy job and after 28 years and at age 54 I’m still curious about the truth of the matter for which my clients hire me to discover. Actors refer to it as creative energy.
So today’s case doesn’t allow us to conclude anything about whether the driver whose vehicle crossed the center line was at fault. We have to wait and conduct a more thorough investigation. Until then you’re just guessing.
The 21 year-old driver of a hit-n-run accident in Buffalo, New York turned himself in after talking to relatives. The pregnant woman suffered brain injuries and a broken neck in the accident. A 4-year-old son suffered a broken arm. The events that led to a pregnant mother’s death and what will certainly be a very painful learning experience for the driver were described by Lou Michel, News Staff Reporter for the Buffalo News.
”Tulumello is charged with vehicular manslaughter, vehicular assault, driving while intoxicated, driving without a license, driving without insurance and leaving the scene of an injury accident. Earlier this year, he was convicted of driving while ability impaired following a non-injury accident in the same general area of Wednesday’s accident. “
On February 23, 2009 the Greeneville Sun reported that Matthew Hall, 52, was driving north but in the southbound traffic lanes of I-81 when he collided with a semi-tractor trailer being driven south by James Pierson, 36 or Gate City, Virginia. What Tripper James Fillers figured happened was that as Hall got closer to the semi-truck the semi-driver in an attempt to avoid a collision drove onto the median. Hall continued onward not realizing he was heading the wrong way on this divided interstate highway and collided with the rear side of the trailer.
I’ve been looking at a lot of these cases lately and as is true in many alcohol and OWI or DUI as it’s referred to, was involved. The trooper hit him with everything he could which included charges against Hall of DUI, violating the implied-consent law, driving on a suspended license, possessing Schedule II drugs, possessing drug paraphernalia, having no proof of insurance, violating the seat belt law, having a switched license plate and driving on the wrong side of the road.
The negligence in this case is clear; Hall is driving in the wrong direction on a four-lane divided interstate highway. Failure to drive using due care is apparent. But in this crash, as in many the alcohol adds a complexity that will not be welcomed by Hall. Driving while under the influence of alcohol may allow Pierson to assert a claim for punitive damages. This collision occurred in Tennessee and their laws may be different than those in Iowa. The laws of the state where the collision occur will govern a collision on an interstate highway. In Iowa you would be allowed a claim for punitive damages that may or may not be covered on insurance. But we’ll save that discussion for another day.
I’m not sure it can get much worse for Hall, although he didn’t die so that could be worse.
A Chevy was southbound on Highway 69 when “it lost control and swerved into the path of a 2002 Mercury Mountaineer heading north. The Mountaineer struck the passenger side of the van. According to the Iowa State Patrol report, weather conditions caused the accident but it is still under investigation.”
I’ve written about this type of collision before; one in which weather is a component of the accident sequence. Granted weather can be a factor but it can seldom be the cause of a collision. What is the likely cause is the car’s operator driving too fast for the conditions, including the weather and road surface. Of course balding tires, mismatched tires or tires without enough tread can also contribute, but weather alone can not cause an accident.
The Iowa State Patrol report hasn’t yet been published so we can’t check to see exactly what the State Trooper reported but here is another example that demonstrates my point on placing blame on the weather.
On February 26, 2009 there was a single vehicle accident in PlymouthCounty in which Ramiro Barbo was the driver and died in the collision. What the Trooper wrote for the narrative was the following:
VEHICLE 1 WAS EAST BOUND ON C-38. THE DRIVER LOST CONTROL ON THE ICE COVERED HIGHWAY AND THE VEHICLE ENTERED THE SOUTH DITCH. IT OVERTURNED AND CAME TO A REST ON ITS WHEELS. THE DRIVER WAS NOT WEARING HIS SAFETY HARNESS AND WAS EJECTED.
In the report the weather conditions are noted to include sleet, hail and freezing rain. The narrative points out the officer’s observation of an ice covered highway. Also the driver wasn’t wearing his seat belt and was ejected from the car's interior. The car was noted to have struck a fence, gone into the ditch and rolled over. We have no indication of the tire tread conditions or if all the tires matched or were inflated properly. Also there is no indication of the cars speed, condition of the windshield and brakes. For all we know a deer could have run out in front of the driver and startled him. All of these are factors that might be considered in concluding a cause of the collision and resulting damages. The seat belt has nothing to do with causing the collision of the car but can have something to do with the collision of the man’s body as it was being ejected from the car and after the ejection. The weather is only one factor and can not cause a collision. Only a driver not driving slow enough or with due care can cause the car to go out of control.
When the weather is bad, it’s as simple as slowing down. Take your foot off the gas pedal, and when you don’t slow down and crash, then stop blaming the weather.
To read more about this subject see the following articles posted on either the InjuryBoard.com Des Moines site or The Verdict, Lombardi Law Firm.
Slippery snow conditions blamed for crash and sued for road closing!
Often times I get questions asked online that should be added as blog posts. This is one of them. Question:
Our son is a full-time college student in Washington, and he is about to purchase car insurance. He is still a resident of Iowa, where my wife and I live. Would it be wise for our son and me to buy the car together and tag and title it in Iowa so we can put him on our umbrella policy? Or should he just get his own and stay off his parents' policy? The question is this: we claim him as a dependent on our income tax returns and are co-signers on his student loans, so would we be liable in the event of a car accident? If so, would we be ahead to put him on our policy where we have a $1.4 million umbrella rather than have our son take out a minimum liability policy of his own in Washington?
I think this is one of the wisest questions a parent can ask. I too asked it when my children were just learning to drive. Here is what I did. I purchased a car for them with the understanding they had to pay me back and to insure and maintain it. Rather than put my name on the title, because I didn’t want the liability exposure, I titled the car in their name and placed a lien on the title in my name. They signed a loan repayment agreement that included language giving me the right to repossess without notice if they failed to maintain insurance or place the collateral at risk. Placing the collateral at risk could include driving while under the influence of alcohol. I kept the extra set of keys.
Your situation may be a little different than mine. I own sizeable assets and didn’t want to place them at risk. You may not have that challenge and simply want to have a large insurance policy in place to protect the child. Remember placing a car in your name, makes you the owner and under Iowa law the owner is legally responsible for the permissive driver’s negligence, which may include drivers your son gives permission to operate the car or truck. I didn’t want that kind of exposure or hassle with trying to control who drives the car. With their being at school and away from home it’s tough for us to really know what is going on.
The umbrella insurance policy you have at $1.4 million may or may not be enough coverage. Here is what I mean by that. The umbrella policy may or may not include a provision to extend the underlying car insurance coverage for underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage. Read the policy and see if it does. I also write blogs on the Des Moines market for Injuryboard.com and on the Lombardi Law Firm website blog, The Verdict, and have covered this subject just recently on WJRN Talk Radio, Racine, Wisconsin. If you write to me I can provide the links. See if this works for you to listen.
The biggest road hazard you may face this and next year are uninsured motorists. If you didn’t have enough to worry about with double bottomed semi-truck trailers, pieces of retread tires and...
And the link to The Verdict article with the same title.
I hope this answers your questions, if not write to me again. Here is Iowa Code section 321.493 where I’ve underlined the important language.
321.493 Liability for damages.
1. a. Subject to paragraph "b", in all cases where damage is done by any motor vehicle by reason of negligence of the driver, and driven with the consent of the owner, the owner of the motor vehicle shall be liable for such damage. For purposes of this subsection, "owner" means the person to whom the certificate of title for the vehicle has been issued or assigned or to whom a manufacturer's or importer's certificate of origin for the vehicle has been delivered or assigned. However, if the vehicle is leased, "owner" means the person to whom the vehicle is leased, not the person to whom the certificate of title for the vehicle has been issued or assigned or to whom the manufacturer's or importer's certificate of origin for the vehicle has been delivered or assigned. For purposes of this subsection, "leased" means the transfer of the possession or right to possession of a vehicle to a lessee for a valuable consideration for a continuous period of twelve months or more, pursuant to a written agreement.
Megan and I have written several times about digital distractions that interfere with a person’s situational awareness and yet have not suggested or written about solutions. Oh my, that was a mouth full. Let me say it simpler. If while driving you’re yakking on the cell phone stop already, there is a better way.
Take a look at Ford’s new Focus with the Synch powered by Microsoft. It can operate your iPod, mp3 player and cell phone. It can even receive, interpret and resend text messages with simple voice commands.
The Sync is first in the industry to allow users to integrate their Bluetooth-enabled phones, iPods and MP3 players into the car or trucks’ entertainment system using hands-free voice-activated technology.
It’s all pretty simple and the video is worth watching.
For years I’ve read headlines and opening sentences in news stories with the lines blaming weather conditions for causing accidents. The idea that snow or weather or even slippery conditions can cause an accident is absolutely preposterous. There is snow outside in my driveway this morning and as I walk to the mailbox to retrieve the morning’s newspaper I notice that the driveway is slippery. The slippers I’m wearing don’t quite fit snuggly on my feet. (Acorn slippers) There is a car sitting in the driveway with snow on it and all around it. So far the snow hasn’t caused an accident. Why not? If snow causes accidents why hasn’t my car in the driveway had an accident? It’s been snowing all night and still there is no accident. The driveway is even slippery and so far no accident. I walked all the way down to the end of the driveway and back and still there is no accident. Maybe I should come back in an hour to see if there’s been an accident. What do you think will there be one? Will I come out to find the fenders crunched and wrecked car?
What’s necessary to have an accident? That’s the place where negligence starts. We need a driver or drivers. No driver and I dare say the car, snow and slippery driveway can coexist all day without having an “accident”.
Now let us turn the discussion to duty. As a juror sitting in a civil car accident case or as the judge will say, a tort case, there are four elements to be proven and then analyzed. The four elements are duty, a breach of duty, proximate cause and damages. Today we are looking at the first two elements, duty and breach of duty. Back to the snow.
As a lawyer with 28 plus years of experience trying civil lawsuits I am confident in saying snow has no duty not to be slippery or to avoid falling on the public highways. I am equally confident in my assertion that no judge would instruct a jury that any law required snow, not to be slippery or on the highway. That I am certain. Drivers on the other hand do have certain duties. A duty is a standard or rule of the road (a law or regulation) that driver must follow in using the public highways. Those duties can include restrictions on speed, when to pass, when not to pass, which side of the road each car should be driving, when to brake and when to make adjustments to the manner in which they drive. Adjustments are the key to this analysis. If it snows and the roadway is slippery the driver must slow down and operate the car or truck in a manner that allows the vehicle to be safely operated. It is the driver who has a duty not the snow. The slick conditions are just that; a condition which the driver must evaluate and adjust his or her driving habits to avoid colliding with other cars, trucks, people, signs, buildings, bridges, culverts and other fixed or moving objects. Drivers are what is needed in my driveway before there can be an accident and it’s those drivers that have the duty and can breach the duty. So when you’re sitting on a jury and someone says that it was the snow or other weather that caused the accident, explain to them how wrong they are and then sit back, hopefully you've wore that power tie or skirt, and see how quickly you’ll become the foreperson.
Here is the full report from Indiana about the snow having caused an accident. While it’s permissible with news reporters to write this way, it’s not proper for lawyers or jurors to think this way. People cause accidents, not weather or cars without drivers.
Snow causes crash and brief
closing of I-65 near Lowell
LOWELL | An early Saturday snowstorm is being blamed for a traffic accident that briefly closed a south Lake County section of Interstate 65 and left a downstate man injured.
Indiana State Police said Kevin Tomeo, 30, of Avon, In., west of Indianapolis, suffered head and internal injures. He was transported to St. Anthony Medical Center in Crown Point.
The National Weather Service said Saturday an overnight snow system deposited a half inch of snow across much of Northwest Indiana.
Police said an unidentified passenger car was southbound on I-65 shortly after 3 a.m. Saturday when it lost control on a patch of black ice that formed from snow melt at the 238 mile marker, two miles south of the Indiana 2 exit.
Police said the passenger car pulled out of the skid and continued unharmed, but Tomeo's Jeep Cherokee, which was traveling behind it, lost control when he attempted to brake to avoid a collision.
Police said the Jeep began spinning, hit the guard rail and bounced back onto the highway where it was hit by a 2003 Mack truck pulling a double trailer.
Police said the tractor trailer jackknifed, hit the guard rail on the right side of the pavement and came to a halt, blocking all southbound lanes of travel for two and a half hours.
Police said the tractor trailer driver, Roosevelt Bell, 28, of Park Forest, Ill., was uninjured, but ticketed for driving too fast for road conditions.
The National Weather Service said temperatures will remain in the low 30s, but no more snow is forecast until Tuesday.
A couple of pedestrian accidents caught my eye because they were killed due to being distracted by cell phones, mp3 players or iPods. A search in the Internet turned up a lot more than I expected. Here is a sampling of what is out there in cyberspace.
NPR recently aired a very good story about digital distractions while driving.
NPR Story, Caution: Walking And Cell Phones Don't Mix, Carol Guensburg.
Megan Roth and I have written before about distractions caused by cell phone use along with iPods. Some other articles of interest are listed.
So what is going on with pedestrians? Like car and truck drivers pedestrians are allowing their cell phones to distract them to the point of getting killed. Here are a few examples.
Joshua Phillips White, 16, was killed while wearing MP3 player earphones and walking on a train track. February 22, 2009.
Lisa Carolyn Moran, 20, a University of North Carolina exchange student from Scotland, was listening to an iPod while jogging when she stepped into the path of a bus in Chapel Hill last May. Lisa Moran’s personal website.
Vicky Baker, 39, was talking on her cell phone when she was struck and killed by a train in Albertville, Ala., in December 2008.
Apple, the most prominent manufacturer, declined to comment for this story. Christine Monaghan, spokeswoman for its iPod line, said Apple's Web site offers guidance for safe use.
COMSTOCK TOWNSHIP -- A funeral will be held Saturday for a Galesburg-AugustaHigh School junior who was hit by an Amtrak train Tuesday afternoon.
Alan Michael Eaton Chandler, 17, was hit as he crossed the tracks near his house in the 8800 block of East Michigan Avenue.
According to preliminary reports, Baker was using a cell phone while walking and apparently did not hear the train’s warning and walked into the path of the train, Smith said. The train struck Baker as she was attempting to move from the tracks, he said. December 2008
Tara McAvoy, 18, was killed while she was text-messaging her family. Tara, who was named Miss Deaf Texas in June, 2005, was struck by a train as she walked along the railroad ties.
Zachariah Smith, 18, of Ohio, was texting on his phone while walking across railroad tracks. Witnesses report that Smith let one train pass, walked around a gate and was struck by a second train. Although he was thrown 50 feet, Smith survived. August 21, 2007.
Scott Slaughter, 31, of Berkeley, California was talking on his cell phone when he was struck and killed by an Amtrack train. Similar to the Ohio case listed above, witnesses said that Slaughter let one train pass and walked into the path of a second train. November 19, 2007.
Florida Woman Struck and Killed While Using Her Phone
Dawn Ann Thoma, 32, of Florida was killed when she drove into the path of a freight train. Dawn was talking to her brother on the phone at the time of the crash.
There is a website mycellphoneiskillingme.com that lists many of these accidents caused by electronic distractions.As they point out many of these accidents are underreported because people don’t want to admit to having used their cell phones. Here is the list they compiled.
• New York — Five girls who had recently graduated high school were killed when their SUV crashed. Phone records show that the phone registered to the driver (Bailey Goodman) was in use at the time of the crash. Evidence also suggests that she was speeding.
• New York — Five people were killed when Shawn E. Roush lost control of his car. Roush was legally drunk, driving 90 and arguing with his wife on his cell phone at the time of the crash.
• Wisconsin — Witnesses report that 48-year-old Janet Indermuehle was talking on her phone when she lost control and crashed. Indermuehle, her 15-year-old son Daniel Hall, and 14-year-old Tiffany Kastner were all killed.
• Indiana — Eight people were killed when a semi-trailer slammed into a line of cars. The trucker, Leonardo Cooksey, 32, was trying to charge his cell phone and didn't notice that traffic had stopped.
• Minnesota — 21-year-old Leanne Toepper was killed while chatting on her phone. The person she was talking to heard her screams before the phone went dead.
• Montana — 13-year-old Frances Margay Schee was killed when her school bus was hit by a semi-trailer. The trucker, Reinaldo Gonzalez, admitted that he was talking on his cell phone at the time of the crash.
• Arizona — Police report that 18-year-old Ashley Miller was sending a text message when she crossed the center line and slammed into a vehicle driven by Stacey Stubbs. Both Miller and Stubbs were killed.
• Wisconsin — 22-year-old Adam Teumerd was killed after his vehicle left the road and crashed into water. Adam was talking on his cell phone when the person he was speaking with heard the accident.
• Ohio — Karyn Cordell, 22, and her unborn child were killed when 16-year-old Alexander Manocchio reached over to answer his phone and slammed head-on into Cordell's car.
• Illinois — Katlin McGuire, age 20, was killed when she was distracted by her cell phone. Her passenger received serious injuries.
• Ohio — Seventeen-year-old twins, Kathy and Kimberly Seager, were killed while stopped at a railroad crossing. The twin's car was crushed from behind by a 23-year-old driver who was talking on his cell phone. The driver didn't even try to stop.
• California — Los Angeles commuter train engineer Robert Sanchez missed a signal that caused 25 people to lose their lives. Records indicate that Sanchez had been texting on his phone.
• California — Gladis Andrade-Zepeda, 33,
dropped her cell phone and was looking for it when she crashed. Andrade-Zepeda was killed when her car was struck by a second vehicle.
• Washington — Witnesses told the FBI that Sela Anne Kalama, 19, was texting on her phone when she drove off the road and into a river. 17-year-old Vanna K. Francis and 15-year-old Ronnie Scroggins were killed in the crash.
• Wyoming — Brittany Rentas, 16, was killed after the car she was driving collided with another vehicle. Rentas had been texting on her phone.
• Montana — Christie Johnson, 34, was killed while trying to plug in her cell phone. Four passengers were injured.
• North Carolina — Macy Winslow, 16, was killed when her vehicle crossed the center line and struck another vehicle. State Police report that there is strong evidence to suggest that Macy had been using her phone when she was killed. Two other people suffered injuries.
• Montana — An unnamed 43-year-old man was using his cell phone at the time he slammed into the back of a logging truck on U.S. 93, near Missoula. The man died in the crash.
• Oklahoma — 19-year-old Brittanie Montgomery was killed while driving and using her phone. Brittanie was a dancer for the Hornets NBA basketball team. Her mother is now an advocate for banning the use of cell phones while driving.
• Massachusetts — John McCarthy, 58, was hit and killed by a driver who admitted to sending a text message at the time of the crash.
• Ohio — Five-year-old Dameatrius McCreary was killed after exiting a school bus. Angelique Dipman told police that she hit Dameatrius because of reaching down to answer her phone.
• Florida — Stephanie Phillips, 37, and Heather Hurd, 26, were killed when a tractor-trailer ran a stop light. The trucker was distracted by text-messaging on his phone. Numerous other people suffered injuries. (Accident Pics)
• Florida — Dawn Ann Thoma, 32, was killed when she drove into the path of a freight train. Dawn was talking to her brother on the phone at the time of the crash.
• California — According to the Highway Patrol, Ronald Rudisill, 63, was killed by a driver who was allegedly driving under the influence of drugs and sending a text message. The driver didn't see that traffic had stopped.
• California — 16-year-old Kayla Preuss was killed when the vehicle she was driving went out of control and crashed. She had been drinking, speeding, and sending text messages at the time of the crash. Her open cell phone was found at her feet
• California — 5-year-old Kyle Coble and his two sisters Emma, 4, and Katie, 2, were all killed when the vehicle they were in was slammed into by trucker Jorge Miguel Romero, who was trying to check his cell phone voice mail.
• Missouri — Two-year-old Jackson Moore was killed when his dad—who was riding an ATV with his son—looked down to check an incoming text message.
• Missouri — Three people were killed and 15 injured when trucker Jeffrey R. Knight was distracted by his cell phone.
• Virginia — Joan D. Skupien, 40, was using her phone when her car left the road and crashed into a tree. Skupien died in the crash.
• Virginia — Michael Ozyjowski, 75, was killed when he was run off the road by a woman driving and talking on a cell phone.
• Indiana — Sarah L. Woodruff, 20, was killed when her car left the road and flipped 6 times. State Police report that Sarah had been texting on her phone.
• Indiana — Rodney O. Thompson, 18, was killed when his vehicle slammed into a tree. A passenger said that Thompson had been text-messaging at the time of the crash.
• Connecticut — 82-year-old James Morrissey died a month after being run down by a driver chatting on a cell phone.
• Illinois — Matt Wilhelm, age 25, was killed by a driver who was busy downloading ringtones onto her phone.
• New Jersey — 7-year-old Sierra Kerber was killed when a driver on a cell phone ran a red light and crashed into an SUV driven by Sierra's father.
• Oklahoma — Jessalyn Sanders, 6, was killed while walking across a street. The driver, Justin Pearsall, told police that he didn't see Jessalyn because he had reached down to answer his phone.
Tuesday’s edition of one news source has this headline: Ice and snow blamed for fatal accident.I read this and immediately know the writer hasn’t a good understanding of what makes up negligent behavior. The headline reinforces a popular misconception but nevertheless it is legally incorrect.
So what happened in this case?It’s a two-car accident on U.S. Highway 34 in Monroe County that occurred on February 13, 2009 around 4:47 PM. Two cars traveling in opposite directions collide. The first vehicle is being driven by one Delaney Palen, an 18-year old woman traveling in the westbound lane. She’s driving a 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt. Delaney is from Ottumwa. The second car is a 2005 Hyundai Tucson being driven by Melissa Thompson, a 33-year old woman from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. She’s driving east on this same stretch of highway. For those of not familiar with this roadway it’s a two-lane undivided U.S. highway.
There are passengers in each vehicle. Zach Murray is in the first car; Monica Thompson is in the second. Zach Murray is fatally injured in this accident.
Officer Daniel, of the Iowa State Patrol wrote the report. He’s notified of the collision at 16:48 and arrives at the scene at 16:51, so he’s really very close when he receives the call.Let’s see how he describes the collision.
UNIT #1 WAS TRAVELING WEST ON HIGHWAY 34 WHEN IT LOST CONTROL ON THE 100% SNOW COVERED ROADWAY. UNIT #1 CROSSED THE CENTERLINE AND SLID SIDEWAYS INTO THE EASTBOUND LANE IN THE PATH OF UNIT #2. UNIT #2 STRUCK UNIT #1 IN THE PASSENGER SIDE DOOR. AFTER IMPACT, UNIT #2 CAME TO REST IN THE EASTBOUND LANE ANDUNIT #1 TRAVELED DOWN INTO THE DITCH AND CAME TO REST IN THE EASTBOUND DITCH. TROOPER KEVIN STALLO #488 WILL CONDUCT A TECHNICAL INVESTIGATION OF THE COLLISION.
Officer Daniel notes major contributing circumstances include the roadway’s weather condition, the road surface condition and the first event is that the Palen vehicle crossed the center line. Let’s assume this to be the case. There are four factors to take into consideration.
There is a snow storm.
The roadway has snow and ice.
Palen crosses the center line.
Palen’s speed is fast enough for the weather conditions that the tires of her vehicle lose friction allowing the vehicle to slide out of control.
The first question you have to ask yourself is at what point a person simply has to not leave the house, waits to drive on the roads, if already on the roadway to pull off of the roadway and wait for the weather to clear sufficiently that travel is once again safe.
Iowa is a comparative fault state. What is fault as the law defines it? Fault is one or more omissions towards the person or property of the actor or of another which constitutes negligence or recklessness. It could mean misuse of a product, unreasonable failure to avoid an injury or unreasonable failure to mitigate damages. Iowa Code 668.1.
After you determine if more than one party to the claim is at fault then you have to compare the two. More than one person can be at fault under the law.
What is negligence? Or stated another way, what things make a person negligent? Start off with the rules of the road. Under Iowa law there are rules of the road that everyone learned when they first learning to drive. These rules are things like drive on the right side, don’t cross the center line unless it’s safe to do so, drive at the posted speed limit, don’t pass when there is a double yellow line and obey the traffic signs and signals, to name a few. Chapter 321 of the Iowa Code lists well over 400 rules-of-the-roads. These are what we call statutory rules because they are created by the legislature by enacting a statute.
Then there is the common law that has created certain rules for using the public highways. These include a common law duty to drive so that you can maintain control, to drive using ordinary care where conditions require less than the statutory speed limit and maintaining a proper look out.
Read alone a person might think they are not negligent for driving the posted speed limit even though the weather conditions indicate otherwise. The speed limit could be 55 M.P.H. but that doesn’t excuse a person if the roadway is covered in ice/snow and they fail to adjust to the conditions and slow down. We all have a duty to drive at a careful speed not greater than or less than is reasonable and proper, having due regard for the traffic, surface and width of the highway and of any other existing conditions. That is the first jury instruction under speed restrictions. UJI 600.1 (You need to be a lawyer to have access to the UJI through the Iowa Bar Association website.) Anyone who’s ever sat on a jury that decided a car accident probably heard and read this instruction.
As the court’s instruction would be to a jury, a violation of this duty is negligence.
So let’s get back to our example of driving while the road is ice and snow covered and snow is falling. I make no judgments about who is or is not at fault or negligent in the case of Palen and Thompson because I know nothing about that accident. We know what the police said about it but the police officer isn’t a court of law and those findings are not conclusive.
If before leaving the house you see it’s snowing and know the roads are ice covered you have to ask if you can drive safely or not. If not maybe you should stay home.
On the other hand it you’re out driving and it begins to snow and the roads become ice covered there is a point in time when you should pull off the road to avoid losing control.
And if you can drive safely but you have to slow down, then do so.
Ask yourself, what is the explanation of why each driver continued to drive and not pull over or to slow down enough to not lose control? Remember the facts? The car collision occurs in one lane of travel. One car crossed the center line. That is a very important fact. Because whatever you might think of car one’s driver continuing to drive, they were doing so under control; and that’s not true about the second car.
So as badly as you may feel about the collision and how badly the occupants were injured it doesn’t excuse negligence. And the weather isn’t at fault, it’s just one consideration. I say that because the weather isn’t driving the car. It’s the drivers. Looking back at the beginning of this post, the headline blaming ice and snow for this fatal accident is inaccurate and a misstatement of the law of negligence.
Now all of you who read this and believe it sounds so easy that you should represent yourselves, think again. A professor in law school was heard to say, “A lawyer representing himself has a fool for a client.” In most instances I would agree with Professor Powers. Being prepared isn’t the same as being able to litigate a lawsuit. Be prepared but don’t be foolish.
Know your rights, protect yourself and be alert to risks that can cause injury or death.
I saw a few stories on wrong-way drivers and earlier wrote about them. That story lead me to several others and low and behold I found that wrong-way accidents aren’t as infrequent as I first assumed. Just in these past few weeks I’ve found quite a few and thought to report on a few to see if there are similarities. I’m still not sure I see any, except drinking while driving don’t work.
Iowa – February 13, 2009 - A Buick Station Wagon being driven by Theodore Springman and a Dodge Dynasty driven by Rodney Fisher were involved in a head-on crash on I-380 in the northbound lanes of traffic. Springman was driving south in the northbound lanes of travel. The collision occurred around 1:00 P.M. yesterday, Friday, February 13, 2009. Both men were taken to Cedar Rapids’ St. Luke’s Hospital.
Montana - February 13, 2009 - Driving in the eastbound passing lane on I-90 in Gallatin County, Montana.
Several vehicles reportedly swerved to miss the car. A Dodge Durango, traveling east on I-90 at mile marker 317 tried to avoid the car and struck the median, according to the affidavit of probable cause. The Durango sustained extensive damage and its female driver was taken to the hospital for possible head, neck and back injuries, court papers state.
The husband of the woman driving the Durango located a 1989 Ford Festiva that matched the description of the wrong-way driver's vehicle and contacted the car's driver. The husband reportedly told authorities that he smelled alcohol on the defendant's breath and told him to remain while he notified Gallatin County Dispatch.
New Mexico – February 13, 2009 – A wrong-way car collides with school bus of middle school children injuring four students. City street with no report of driver’s condition or reasons for driving the wrong way on the roadway.
Illinois – February 5, 2009 – Drunk driver heading the wrong-way on I-255 resulting in the death of three people. Funeral services were held on this day. This wrong-way driver was driving drunk and faces three counts of reckless homicide. The dead include the 32-year old aunt, a 9-year old boy and a 28-year old man.
Michigan – February 12, 2009 – For reasons unknown the driver of a pickup truck drove the wrong-way down an exit ramp, entered U.S. highway 31 northbound in the southbound passing lane causing a three car collision resulting in the death of one and injuring another.
“A three-car crash this morning on southbound U.S. 31 between Laketon and Sherman resulted in one death and injuries to another driver.
Muskgon Police Department Sgt. Monica Shirey said around 7 a.m. a man driving a pickup went the wrong way down the off ramp on southbound U.S. 31 at the Sherman exit ramp.
"We have a witness who said a man driving a pickup truck went the wrong way. He started going northbound in the sounthbound lane on U.S. 31."
Shirey said another vehicle swerved to miss him but the Jeep behind him did not see the pickup truck and they hit head-on.
"The driver (of the Jeep) had no time to make any evasive moves," Shirey said.
Upon impact, the pickup truck flipped over the Jeep into the median, killing the driver.”
England – February 12, 2009 - Using a tire flattening device the police stopped a 54 year old man who drive nearly 20 miles the wrong-way on A-38. No reasons were given for the driver’s decision to drive the wrong way. No one was injured or killed.
Texas – February 12, 2009 – At about 3:30 A.M. a person driving a sedan headed the wrong way on the W. Sam Houston toll way.The driver of the sedan died, the passenger was taken to the hospital in critical condition. The other vehicle was a pickup truck was injured and is in critical condition.
Florida – February 10, 2009 – “A 55-year-old man died early Sunday morning after he struck a car while driving his motorcycle the wrong direction on Little Road in Pasco County late Saturday night.
The Florida Highway Patrol said Thomas McCormick of New Port Richey was driving his 2007 Harley-Davidson motorcycle south in the northbound lane of Little Road near Bourbon Street and collided head-on with a 1996 Chevrolet about 11:10 p.m. Saturday. McCormick, who was not wearing a helmet, was taken to BayfrontMedicalCenter and listed in critical condition. He died at 3:45 a.m. Sunday, the patrol said. The car's driver, Ava Corbin, 41, and a passenger, both of New Port Richey, received minor injures, the accident report said.”
England – February 11, 2009 - Driving the wrong-way wasn’t the smartest thing for this criminal to do. After she was stopped the police smelled pot, conducted a search, discovered her stash, then searched her house and found what they believe to be cocaine. Oops this was not her day.
Illinois – February 10, 2009 – Trying to avoid police and evade arrest this man headed the wrong-way onto Highway 242 at which point out of concern for the safety of others police stopped the pursuit. The stolen car was later found and the driver is still being sought.
California – January 28, 2009 – The Camry driver was approaching Interstate 405 at about 5 a.m. when he crashed into the officer's car, according to the California Highway Patrol. Both cars burst into flames and both men were pronounced dead at the scene. As the officer's body was put into a coroner's van, police, firefighters and CHP officers draped his body in an American flag and saluted.
Massachusetts – January 23, 2009 – Driver and officer died./ The Culver City police Sgt. Curt Massey was driving eastbound in West Los Angeles when a Toyota Camry heading the opposite direction collided with the officer.
Massey was a 17-year veteran of the Police Department who had received many awards and commendations, said police Chief Don Pederson. Massey was married with three children.
Massachusetts – February 7, 2009 – Attleboro, Police cruiser struck head-on Route 95 around 4:45 a.m. between exits 2 and 4 in the southbound side of the highway.
New Mexico – February 5, 2009 – Wrong-way driver drunk drving charges near Grants on Highway 40 at mile marker 72.
Oregon – February 6, 2009 on I-5 the wrong-way driver crashed into a barrier. This is the one story providing some ideas and warnings of how to protect yourself.
About wrong-way drivers
Wrong way drivers present an obvious danger to all motorists on our highways.
The most recent available crash statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates wrong way drivers are involved in 1.5 percent of all fatal crashes.
Drivers who travel the wrong way on one way highways generally fall into one of our different categories:
Older drivers who easily get confused
Intentional drivers (example - trying to avoid traffic jams / congestion caused by crashes)
Inattentive drivers who mistake an off ramp for an on ramp
OSP and ODOT provided the following safety tips and information related to wrong way driver situations:
Watch far ahead for signs of a possible wrong way driver, looking for signs similar to pending problems or developing emergency situations such as other traffic braking or swerving to avoid something, or the obvious - headlights coming in the opposite direction.
Caution against driving long periods in the inside lane on freeways, especially on curves.
Be aware that wrong way drivers usually drive in the inside lane or inside shoulder, believing they are actually on a two-lane highway.
Most common types of wrong way driver involved crashes are head-on or sideswipe crashes.
A Buick Station Wagon being driven by Theodore Springman and a Dodge Dynasty driven by Rodney Fisher were involved in a head-on crash on I-380 in the northbound lanes of traffic. Springman was driving south in the northbound lanes of travel. The collision occurred around 1:00 P.M. yesterday, Friday, February 13, 2009. Both men were taken to Cedar Rapids' St. Luke's Hospital.
Spirngman is 82 years of age, Fisher 45. Of course one would start by looking at the age and Springman's explanation of what he was doing in the northbound lanes of traffic. Sobriety will be analyzed as well.
We've previously written on the subject of wrong-way drivers which are also referred to as ghost drivers. The crashes will normally occur just on or after the crest of a hill or rise that shields the oncoming vehicle from the view of the driver. I recently represented a widower whose wife did this in Story County, which unfortunately resulted in her death. It can happen to young and old drivers. Some divided highways are so wide and the median strip so wide that drivers get confused and believe it to be a two-lane roadway. Assumptions, especially the wrong ones, can kill you.
Why do lawsuits take so long to conclude? That’s a question you may have asked before. Perhaps you’ve sat around the local diner complaining about the weather and as often will happen sooner or later the conversation turns to the lawyers or court system. Well let us explore what I consider to be a simple case of a car accident and perhaps you will better understand this system. Keep in mind above every other consideration we are after the truth. And the truth isn’t what everyone is saying at the table, the truth is about the facts as they actually happened at the time and place where the incident occurred. You weren’t there, I wasn’t and no one at the table was either.
How then do we evaluate the facts and apply them to the concept of negligence? Negligence is behavior, or in this instance driving on the public roadway in a manner, that violates the law. The law in Iowa, the rules of the road, that a person can not turn left of center without making sure the lane is clear and that they can make the turn in a safe manner. It’s what you most every time you turn left of center.
The accident happened around 4:50 p.m. so we know the sun could not have been a factor. Because this is the man’s driveway we know he must have been familiar with the area, probably having performed this turn a hundred or more times. I don’t believe there was any snow or ice on the road and we wouldn’t expect there to be at this time of year. There is nothing in the article about snow and ice so we can assume for the purpose of this evaluation there was none. There is no indication of any emergency.
As lawyers we must look at the condition of the car, the motorcycle, the road, the weather that can affect the car-motorcycle and road, and lastly the drivers of either the car or the bike.
We see nothing wrong with the roadway; nothing indicates there was a problem with the bike or the car. Everything so far points us in the direction of examining the drivers.
The statements by the truck driver are certainly important, but for several reasons he might not give a statement. One, he could be so upset that is unable to talk. Or, he might choose to not give a statement for legal reasons. The sobriety of the drivers is certainly a fact we would need to know. In this instance we don’t have his statement, or at least it wasn’t reported and without the Iowa State Patrol’s investigative report I can’t venture a guess as to why he turned.
One fact we can’t ignore is the truck driver’s age. It’s reported that at the time of the collision he is 73 and the motorcycle rider is 46. Age should make the lawyer consider aspects of aging that could have been a factor. Does the truck driver wear corrective lenses of any kind? Eye glasses or contact lenses and were they being worn at the time of the wreck? What was the vision challenge that corrective lenses made better? Was the driver supposed to be wearing glasses while driving? Was he? What about the motorcycle driver? What are the answers to these questions for him?
Several facts we don’t know that would help us draw conclusions about negligence or fault would be skid marks, whether lights were on for either vehicle or the speeds of either. It would be interesting to note if the driver of the truck ever stopped before he turned. If we had a witness we wouldn’t necessarily need to talk with the driver although his confirmation or refuting of what the witness had to say might prove helpful.
Without leaving our office it would be nice to see what this location looks like. The city or town of Monona on WikiMapia doesn’t show up with the kind of detail we will need. So let’s check Google Earth and see if it can provide more detail. Google Earth gives us access to Wikipedia which provides both a brief description and a full article on Monona.
Monona is in northeast Iowa and is a small city in Clayton County, Iowa, United States. The population was 1,550 at the 2000 census. Wikipedia demonstrates clearly that Monona is not a densely populated place. The population density is 1,344.6 people per square mile. The map on Google Earth provides no better detail than did Wikimapia. But it did allow access to city demographic information that gives us some idea about the population density. Of course living in Iowa I pretty much knew this already. Comparing Monona to New York demonstrates the contrast. The New York metropolitan area's population is also the nation's highest, estimated at 20,090,000 people over 6,720 square miles (17,400 km2). The population of the City of New York is 8,274,527 people with a density of 27,147/sq mi.
“As of the census of 2000, there were 1,550 people, 659 households, and 432 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,344.6 people per square mile (520.4/km²). There were 706 housing units at an average density of 612.4/sq mi (237.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 98.65% White, 0.06% African American, 0.58% Native American, 0.39% Asian, and 0.32% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.06% of the population.”
As you can see, determining negligence or fault, as we refer to it in Iowa, is a multifaceted evaluation and one not quickly decided. Even with all of the online tools available to us today, there is still shoe leather and face time a lawyer will need to commit too. Get out visit the accident scene, take photographs, talk with witnesses and the police officer. Now do we do that in every case; not necessarily. Not every case will be tried. After 28 years of being a trial lawyer I’ve got a sense of what is required to conclude a case and that too is a multifaceted mental evaluation.
This is only the preliminary evaluation. The insurance company has to be contacted and provided information. The medical records, autopsy report, police accident investigation report, the medical bills, doctor’s reports for those physicians who treated the patient or examined, in this case the dead body. There will be more than one set of photographs to examine. Claims will be asserted by competing parties about what they saw or heard and how that changes perceptions of fault. The Petition and Answer along with interrogatories and requests for production that will have to be drafted, served, answered and responded to. There are depositions to take of the driver and the coroner. At some point a settlement letter will be drafted, served, evaluated, discussed and responded to. There is much more than this but this gives you some idea of what is involved.
So, if you wonder why lawsuits take so long to conclude it’s because law requires the right decision to be made, it’s not easily or quickly done. There is no express lane in trial work.
The biggest road hazard you may face this and next year are uninsured motorists. If you didn’t have enough to worry about with double bottomed semi-truck trailers, pieces of retread tires and idiot drivers’ texting on their cell phones, now you have to worry about the uninsured adding more financial ruin to your already overtaxed financial planning.
There is a direct correlation between the rate of unemployment and the rate of uninsured motorists. The IRC estimates that as the unemployment rate creeps up so does the uninsured drivers. In fact they say for every 1 percent increase in unemployment nationwide, the percentage of uninsured motorists’ increases three-quarters of a percentage point. So in 2007 the rate was 13.8 percent and it’s estimated that by next year the rate will be 16.1 percent.
Uninsured motorist coverage is referred to as UIM coverage and underinsured motorist coverage as UDM. The two are quite different legally.
What is uninsured motorist coverage? It’s coverage on your own policy that covers you and the people in your car if the other guy who is at fault for causing the accident doesn’t have auto insurance. It also covers your family members when riding in someone else’s car. It’s insurance that in the even of an accident with an uninsured driver provides you with minimal insurance coverage.
What is underinsured motorist coverage? It’s similar to UIM coverage, except it adds more insurance onto what the at fault driver’s coverage. It covers you, your family and those riding in your car. It’s insurance that in the event of an accident tries to make your whole.
In Iowa, where I practice law we’ve seen this increase with the economic cycles. We’ve also seen the financial strain it places on those clients who didn’t have enough insurance coverage. Remember, after the accident it’s too late to increase your insurance coverage.
The Insurance Research Council has estimated that by next year one in six motorists will probably be uninsured. That adds three million more uninsured motorists to the already overcrowded road.
Every state with the exception of Wisconsin and New Hampshire require at least liability insurance coverage. Hint you may want to avoid those states to avoid their uninsured drivers. Or if you’re regularly drive in these states give your own uninsured motorist coverage a checkup to assure yourself that in the event of an accident you’re protected. Remember the average cost of an uninsured motorist claim is about $11,000.00. I’ve seen broken bones cost as much as $99,000 in medical care alone. It’s not just the mending of the bone that may be involved. It could be complications of the original injury, like infections or a nonunion of the bone. An elderly person is especially vulnerable to more severe injuries and complications adding to the cost of medical care.
You may be wondering which states have the most and the least uninsured drivers. If you guessed the five states with the highest uninsured driver estimates are New Mexico (29 %), Mississippi (28 %), Alabama (26 %), Oklahoma (24 %), and Florida (23 %). The five states with the lowest uninsured driver estimates were Massachusetts (1 %), Maine (4 %), North Dakota (5 %), New York (5 %), and Vermont (6 %). California is estimating uninsured motorists will increase to around 18%.
Iowa, the state where I live has 12% uninsured drivers. Follow the link to see a complete list of states and percentages of uninsured drivers.
Minnesota has the same percentage. Nebraska has 8%, Missouri 14%, South Dakota 7% and Wisconsin 15%.
Knowing that in Iowa every 12 out of 100 drivers you see on the road are uninsured you need to consider the ramifications of being in an accident. The other guy, assuming it’s not you, will not be insured. This means you need to understand your own insurance coverage. Do you have uninsured (UIM) and underinsured (UDM) motorist coverage? In Iowa unless you specifically excluded this coverage you will have minimum limits. Iowa law requires UIM and UDM coverage; unless you sign off that you don’t want it.
Here is what you need to do to protect yourself. Take a moment and read the declarations page of your auto policy, don’t wait until you’ve had an accident. Do it today, Saturday.
What is the coverage? Is it enough? You can tell if the amount of your coverage is enough if the coverage is at least $100,000/$300,000. That means for each accident you will have $300,000 to divide between all the injured people in your car with no one person having more than $100,000 to pay for their injuries and care.
Consider what you earn each year? If you and the spouse have combined salaries of $100,000 this may not be enough coverage. Your coverage should be at least five times your combined salaries. Remember this is insurance that covers your family and the people in your car; not the other guy. These people need at least $500,000 of liability protection coverage and UIM and UDM coverage. If you have an umbrella policy then instruct your agent to extend coverage with a company that includes UIM/UDM coverage. You want the umbrella policy to extend UIM and UDM coverage to the limits of the umbrella policy. An umbrella policy is a catastrophic event policy that adds a million or more of coverage. High income and wealthier clients must have an umbrella insurance policy.
Be sensible and look today at your policy. If it’s not enough then act diligently to secure more coverage by calling your insurance agent. Don’t wait until you’ve been in an accident and get mad at the other guy. Sure you can be mad at the other guy, but knowing how many people are estimated to be unemployed you need to take responsibility to protect your family. Waiting until you’re sitting in the lawyer’s office and bellyaching is way too late.
Here is the 2004 Hyundai Elantra being crash tested in what is called the “frontal offset test”. Siimply stated they crash head-on into a fixed object (it won’t move) off to one side of the car. What you may find interesting is the problem identified with the airbag being deployed. It was late in two tests exposing the driver and passengers to a greater risk of head trauma and brain damage. A second problem was with the fuel tank being punctured by a hose clamp, cauing fuel to leak after the collision.
I don’t like this vehicle due to the higher incidence of head injuries possible because the head can hit the steering wheel even though the airbag has deployed. That’s not a good thing. If you’ve never met someone with a head injury you should. If every teenager had the opportunity to visit an institution where head injured survivors, yes we call them survivors, they might think more about the consequences of what they are about to do when behind the wheel.
Traumatic brain injuries are unforgiving. Brain damage makes it so you can’t figure out what to do next. Nothing seems to work right. Your whole life is changed. While in Argentina recently The Lookout was on the television.A teenagers life is explicably changed when driving with his girlfriend and other teens down a dark country road for a thrill he turns off the lights of the car. Switching them back on they are surprised to see a combine broken down in the middle of the road. Crashing into the combine leaves them all hospitalized. The girlfriend loses her leg and the driver suffers terrible brain damage. The story is about the difficulties he experiences trying to cope with his lower IQ and behavior changes. I’ve got think that even the doctors and staff at the neuropsychunit in Iowa City would determine there is some brain damage in this guy.Well, then again maybe not. Have you teen sit down and watch this movie it’s a lesson about making teen driver’s making the right decisions and the consequences of doing otherwise.
Teens, don’t be stupid protect your brain. I don’t care what someone dares you to do, think first and consider what your life will be like if you could no longer think, no longer had the patience to even text-message. Life after brain damage can be like walking through your life in a haze.
Now back to this crash test. Do note that Hyundai has changed the design to accommodate both problems.
Hyundai Elantra 2004-06 models FRONTAL OFFSET TEST
OVERALL EVALUATION: Good Structure/safety cage Injury measures Restraints/dummy kinematics Head/neck Chest Leg/foot, left Leg/foot, right Good Acceptable Good Good Acceptable Good
Important: Frontal crash test ratings can be compared only among vehicles of similar weight. Test details:
The Hyundai Elantra was redesigned for the 2001 model year. The Institute evaluated the 2001 Elantra and identified a problem with the airbag system. The driver frontal airbag fired late in two crashes resulting in high head injury measures.
All 2004 and later Elantra models have redesigned driver frontal airbags and all 2004 and later Elantras manufactured after August 2003 also include redesigned passenger frontal airbags (note: information about when a specific vehicle was manufactured is on the certification label typically affixed to the car on or near the driver door). At the request of Hyundai, the Institute agreed to test the 2004 Elantra with the redesigned airbag system.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has evaluated the crashworthiness of the 2004 Elantra with the redesigned driver and passenger airbags in three 40 mph frontal offset crash tests into deformable barriers. A fuel leak occurred in the first test. Hyundai identified a fuel hose clamp that was improperly positioned, which led to puncturing of the fuel tank during the crash. Hyundai has recalled the affected models to reposition the hose clamp. A second test was conducted to assess the effect of the fix.
In the second test, no fuel leakage occurred, but the driver frontal airbag failed to deploy. This led Hyundai to modify the frontal airbag deployment characteristics beginning with 2005 models produced after December, 2004. Also, Hyundai will initiate a recall to modify at its cost 2004-05 models produced earlier. The Institute tested a third Elantra with the modified airbags, and the driver airbag inflated properly.
The evaluation of the Elantra below is based on the first and third tests, except for the structural rating, which is based on all three tests.
Restraints/dummy kinematics — Dummy movement was reasonably well controlled in the first test and well controlled in the third test. During rebound in both tests, the dummy's head hit the B-pillar.
Injury measures — Measures taken from the neck and chest indicate low risk of injuries to these body regions in the first and third tests in a crash of this severity. A high head acceleration occurred when the dummy's head hit the steering wheel through the airbag, indicating that head injuries would be possible. Head acceleration from the B-pillar hit was high in the first test but low in the third test. Forces on the right tibia in the third test indicate that injuries to the lower leg would be possible.
The Canadian law he was charged under appears to be a crime; or like we have a lesser criminal violation that results in a fine. Sort of like speeding. Had he struck another car or wrecked someone's property if he pleads guilty to the ticket charge, it can be used against him as evidence that he admitted to violating the rule of the road. This is what lawyers call an admission against interest.
Our goal at the InjuryBoard is to prevent injury. To prevent injury let’s examine the available data and government policies that predispose this country’s infrastructure to increased risk of injury. In this post we examine bridges in our states, cities and towns asking the question: Is your hometown beyond the sudden failure and collapse of the I-35W Interstate System Bridge in Minneapolis?
Many parents have to wonder if the bridge your family drove over during rush hour traffic or with an oncoming farm equipment is one of those bridges classified as structurally deficient. You have a right to know.
There are sources available on the Internet where you can examine the condition of bridges in your hometown. There are a couple of different ways to determine which bridges in your community are safer than others. But of course there is no way of knowing if any one bridge is likely to fail because the weight on every bridge changes by the minute. What this information does reveal to us is whether or not failure is more or less likely based on age, existing condition and design that is combined to give each bridge a rating. The ratings go from zero to one hundred with the highest rating being good. A rating below
Short Answer: Without knowing your hometown there is no way to tell, but you can check those bridges and each sufficiency rating along with the traffic numbers.
2. How do bridges in my hometown compare to the Minnesota Bridge that failed?
Short Answer: Without knowing your hometown there is no way to tell for sure, but you can check those bridges and each sufficiency rating along with the traffic numbers. After you know the sufficiency rating and daily traffic count compare it to the following information. The I-35W Minnesota Bridge is Bridge No. 9340. The bridge catastrophically failed during the evening rush hour on August 1, 2007, collapsing to the river and riverbanks beneath.
Makes me wonder whether we can trust the engineers calculations.
3. How big is the bridge problem in the United States?
Short Answer: I’m not sure anyone can really say. We have sufficiency ratings based on data but with weight on the bridges changing by the minute how can anyone really be sure of the rated condition? For the most part bridges that are unsafe are either replaced or have the use restricted.
I’ve commented in the past about how after going to law school no lawyer can ever look at the world in the same way. We know too much and little things mean a lot to us. What I’ve learned from reading about bridge safety ratings is that when you see a sign limiting the weight of trucks that are allowed to use a bridge, that’s a pretty good indication the bridge, is structurally deficient. Knowing that of the 600,000 public road bridges listed in the National Bridge Inventory, roughly 12%, or 74,000, are classified as structurally deficient, you shouldn’t be scared but you should be concerned.
Driving a car or truck or motorcycle and passing another vehicle go hand in hand. But, passing is a somewhat risky maneuver that can be complicated by several factors. Improper judgment by the driver when executing a pass can have serious consequences. In this case, one person died and five went to the hospital.
Iowa law says you can’t pass until you can do so safely and should only come back into your lane of travel when it is safe to do so. Iowa law also says you can’t cross the center line to pass until you can do so safely, meaning there is a clear lane to do so. Iowa law also says you have to drive using due care and to really do drive the car when you have a proper lookout. So why do we see accidents where one car pulls out to pass another and runs head-on into an oncoming car? Normally it’s a failure of several aspects by the passing vehicle’s driver.
When you can’t really see if the oncoming traffic lane is clear you shouldn’t pull out – PERIOD! If you really feel the need to pass, then inch over towards the other lane, leaning left and looking for oncoming cars. If you can’t see any that doesn’t mean you get to just pull out anyway. What it means is that you need to pull over to the left a little more until you can see clearly that the lane is clear. If when leaning to the left you see a hill and can’t see beyond the hill’s crest then don’t pull out, but wait until you can see as far as is necessary to pass safely.
Passing semi-tractor trailers is difficult and it takes a lot of patience to pass one safely. But when it’s just two cars, like the one in Tama County on October 14, 2007 it’s difficult to know why more patience hasn’t been exhibited. One is a Nissan and the other a Mazda. The Nissan is the going to pass and the car being passed is a Camaro. A Camaro is a pretty low vehicle. As was the result in this case the driver that was hit head-on was wearing a seat belt and still died. We don’t really have enough facts to know if the passing was improper. The reasoning of the offending driver is not yet known and charges are pending further investigation. In many cases the improper passing is simply a matter of impatience and poor judgment. In this case seatbelts didn’t help anyone, because four went to the hospital in Marshalltown, one to Waterloo and the last to Phillips Funeral Home.
This appears to have all the makings of operator error in exercising poor judgment when attempting to pass another car. Protect yourself, your legal rights and those whose lives may be affected by your driver decisions. Slow it down and make better driving decisions.
There was a crash in Mitchell County near the town of Osage that occurred on November 2, 2007. This to-the-rear-end near-collision is one that illustrates how the driver in the front can be considered negligent. Iowa being a comparative fault state there is probably fault to be attributed to both drivers but let's examine how this can be so to the front vehicle. Normally we would blame fault on the driver to the rear and that may be the situation in this case, but experience tells me that in this case front positioned driver may share the lion’s share of fault.
Here is what the officer described in the investigative report. This is a two car collision with no contact between vehicles. Both cars are traveling in the same direction on what appears to be a gravel road. The driver to the rear is 16 year old Benjamin Mobley. His 14 year old brother is a passenger. They are traveling east bound on 410th Street, which appears to be a gravel road because they are driving in dust. The car to the front slows to look at a deer in the ditch. And that is where I believe the negligence of the front driver comes into play. Due at least in part to the cloud of dust young Mr. Mobley doesn't realize the front vehicle is slowing. The accident investigation report indicates he doesn't realize the front vehicle has slowed until it is too late and to avoid the collision takes evasive action by turning to the left. The left front wheels drop off the roadway on the north side causing the driver to lose control and the vehicle to roll over, ejecting the passenger.
Now the law of negligence is about “foreseeability” and anyone who has driven on a gravel road knows that they are kicking up a cloud of dust. The cloud of dust will and usually does obstruct the vision of the driver following behind. And that foreseeability should indicate to the front driver he should not slow down unexpectedly or slow down or stop in the middle of the road lest he cause an obstruction that the rear driver will not anticipate or have enough time to avoid striking. In other words it should be foreseeable to the front driver that the driver to the rear will not have a normal view of what the car in front is doing; like slowing or stopping. And that once the driver to the rear clears the dust he will have little time to avoid striking the slowed or stopped front vehicle that now obstructs his path on the road. And further that once he sees the front car his stopping time will be diminished due to surface considerations that affect braking distances.
So what lawyers do is use the Iowa State Patrol investigation to assist in analyzing negligence to right the wrong which in this case cost the young passenger his life. A good thorough investigation is always a part of a tough liability case and perhaps can make the difference in a successful lawsuit.
Know your rights, protect yourself and guard your rights against those who would take them away.