March 2012 Archives

Missouri School Bus Accident Injures 10 Student Passengers

1141363_school_rules.jpgOur Cape Girardeau car accident lawyers are troubled by a recent report of a Missouri school bus accident that sent 11 students to the hospital. It happened on March 13 in Belgrade, MO: the bus was carrying 35 students on Highway C, a narrow, 2-lane road. As the road curved to the left, the bus's rear wheels slid off the road and into a ditch. In response, the driver overcorrected, which caused the bus to overturn onto its passenger side.

3 students suffered serious injuries and were taken to St. Louis Children's Hospital by helicopter. 7 others suffered moderate injuries, and were taken by ambulance to hospitals in Farmington and Potosi. Several suffered from scrapes, bruises, fractures and broken bones.

According to the Missouri Highway Patrol, the accident happened when the bus driver (72 year-old Elwood Reed) became distracted. Reed, a substitute driver, had his attention diverted when a student dropped something behind the driver's seat, Sergeant Al Nothum reported.

This accident came right on the heels of another serious school bus crash: on March 12 in Indianapolis, a 5 year-old girl and a 60 year-old bus driver were killed when the driver slammed into a concrete pillar of an old railroad bridge. About 50 students were on board: 2 others were critically injured, and 10 suffered non-life threatening injuries. The cause of the accident is unknown, and the investigation continues.

In light of these very serious accidents, our lawyers thought it might be a good time to discuss all aspects of school bus safety. According to the School Bus Information Clearinghouse, 5 students were killed in school bus accidents last year. However, while bus accident fatalities are relatively rare, students waiting for the bus or walking to and from the bus stop are much more vulnerable. Between 2001 and 2011, an average of 29 children died in school bus-related pedestrian accidents.

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Swerving to Avoid Deer is a Common Cause of Missouri Rollover Accidents

mjzL2gM.jpgAccording to State Farm, the country's largest insurer of private passenger automobiles, there were over a million car-deer collisions in the U.S. between July 1, 2010 and June 30, 2011. Here in Missouri, drivers were involved in an estimated 28,096 collisions with deer during the same time period. (Missouri was also ranked the 19th most dangerous state for this kind of accident: the likelihood that a Missouri driver will collide with a deer is 1 in 150, compared to a national average of 1 in 193.) The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that these accidents result in approximately 200 deaths, 10,000 injuries and $4.6 billion in costs every year.

Our Poplar Bluff car accident lawyers urge motorists to be extremely cautious, as many Missourians regularly travel through areas where deer are abundant. Car-deer collisions are most likely to happen in the fall (during mating season) and the spring (when fawns are born, and deer are moving about to search for food). Dawn and dusk are the most dangerous times of day, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), because deer are active, traffic is heavy, and roadway visibility can be limited.

These collisions can have all manner of troublesome consequences. The Insurance Information Institute (III) says "the average claim for deer-vehicle collisions is $3,100, with costs varying depending on the type of vehicle and severity of the damage, up 1.7 percent from a year ago." Not only are these accidents costly, they're also extremely hazardous: car-deer collisions regularly cause serious injuries and fatalities. In fact, these accidents often turn dangerous and even deadly when a motorist swerves to avoid hitting a deer in the roadway. Consider these recent Missouri accidents:

Lathrop, MO; March 9: According to the Missouri Highway Patrol, 25 year-old Radawn Kelley ran off the road and struck an embankment after trying to avoid a deer. Her vehicle ended up in a water-filled ravine, and she suffered minor injuries.

Allendale, MO; March 10: When 46 year-old Heather Feese swerved to avoid a deer, she ran off the road and then overcorrected. Subsequently, her pickup ran off the opposite side of the road, struck an embankment, and overturned. Feese was ejected and suffered moderate injuries: she and her passenger were taken by ambulance.

It's worth noting that these 2 accidents share a common feature: the injuries weren't caused by the deer, but by the crashes caused when drivers attempted to avoid the deer. Russ Rader, IIHS spokesman, says this chain of events is a common one. "These crashes happen so fast, often times drivers don't have the option of making a decision about what to do," Rader says. "But the best thing, unfortunately, in most cases is to hit the animal and try to avoid swerving or doing something that could cause you to lose control and hit somebody else or an object or go off the road and roll over."

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Be Prepared for a Car Crash in Southeast Missouri: Tips for Drivers

fire_rescue_003.jpgCar accidents happen in fractions of seconds. No one expects to be involved in a collision, and thus many drivers find themselves completely overwhelmed in the aftermath of a crash - especially when they're dealing with extensive property damage and serious injuries. Our Cape Girardeau car accident attorneys want you to be equipped with the knowledge you'll need under these circumstances, just in case the unexpected happens to you.

Being prepared for a Missouri car accident...

• The best offense is a good defense - it's an old cliché, but it's especially applicable here. Take simple steps to ensure you're driving safely: wear your seatbelt; avoid distractions; don't drink and drive; keep an eye on your speed. Unfortunately, these measures won't guarantee that you'll always be able to avoid an accident, but they will give you better odds. What's more, if a collision does occur, your chances of escaping serious injury are much higher.

• Be sure you carry your insurance card with you at all times - apart from being good common sense, it's also state law. Also, it's a good idea to keep a pencil and notepad in your vehicle so you can write down important information. After a collision, you'll need the other driver's name, address, phone number, license plate number, and insurance info.

• Take some time to program important phone numbers into your phone: i.e., your doctor, your car insurance company, emergency contacts, etc.

• If your cell phone doesn't have a camera, keep a disposable camera in your glove compartment.

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Helping Teens to Reduce Risks of Car Accidents in Poplar Bluff, Missouri & Elsewhere

IMG_7357cross.jpgTeenagers are at higher risks for accidents because of their inexperience behind the wheel. As seasoned drivers know, it takes time to learn how to handle unexpected situations and distractions. Parents are urged to be actively involved in their teen's driving career during the learning stages and well beyond to help reduce their risks for a potentially fatal car accident. A parent's involvement may be one of our greatest defenses against these types of accidents.

According to Operation Stop, there are nearly 300 people who die every year because of Missouri car accidents that involve a teen driver. Missouri is ranked as the 10h deadliest state for these types of accidents in the U.S.

Motor vehicle accidents are the number one cause of death for residents aged 15- to 20-years-old. In 2009, there were more than 208 million licensed drivers in the country. This young age group accounted for only about 6 percent of these drivers. Throughout the year, there were nearly 2,000 of these young drivers who were killed in car accidents. Another 200,000 were injured. In Missouri, there were nearly 100 young drivers killed in traffic accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In our state, these young drivers accounted for about 7 percent of all of the licensed drivers.

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, a teen is killed or injured in a Missouri car accident every 43 minutes. And it's not just teen drivers who are at risk for these types of serious accidents. In 2009, there were more than 5,100 young drivers involved in fatal accidents: in many cases, the people killed were older drivers or passengers in other vehicles.

The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offers the following safety tips for parents to share with their teen drivers. Parents are urged to review these tips and share them with the teen driver in your life. It's crucial that teens understand what their parents expect of them when behind the wheel: that's why so many safety advocates recommend using a parent-teen driving contract.

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Speeding Increases Risks for Injury in Car Accidents in Poplar Bluff and Elsewhere

mAKYunM.jpgSpeeding is a major contributing factor in Missouri car accidents: according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), speed-related traffic accidents cost the nation more than $40 billion every year. Here at home, in 2010, 324 Missourians were killed and 12,200 were injured in speed-related accidents.

Our Poplar Bluff car accident lawyers understand that speed-related car accidents are completely preventable: more drivers just need to develop responsible habits while behind the wheel. Many of us are likely guilty of speeding from time to time, and it's easy to develop a dangerously cavalier attitude about driving faster than the speed limit permits. We would all do well to remember that speed-related traffic accidents can cause injuries that are considerably more severe, even when occupants are wearing seat belts at the moment of impact.

Speed-Related Car Accident Facts:

• In a high-speed crash, a passenger vehicle can be subjected to forces so severe that the vehicle can't withstand the force of the crash and maintain survival space for occupants.

• Likewise, as crash speeds get very high, restraint systems such as airbags and safety belts cannot adequately protect occupants from severe injury.

• Impact in a traffic accident can result in irreversible brain damage, eye, facial and jaw injuries, neck and spinal injuries (which can lead to paralysis) and physical disability.

In a Journal of Safety Research article ("Why drivers speed: The speeding perception inventory"), the authors discuss the different "predisposing, enabling and reinforcing" factors that cause speeding. In their research, they were able to narrow the list to 5:

578723_relax_speed_1.jpg• Ego-gratification (more male drivers than female drivers)
• Risk taking (more young drivers than older drivers)
• Time pressures (more older drivers than young drivers; more women than men)
• Disdain of driving (more women than men)
• Inattention (more young drivers than older drivers; more women than men)

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"Wrongful Death" Explained: Who Can File Suit & What to Expect

CIMG7944.JPG"Wrongful death" is a common term often bandied about in the media. Like many common terms and phrases, its true meaning is sometimes lost or obscured: Our Poplar Bluff car accident lawyers have found that some expectations about wrongful death lawsuits are based on these misconceptions. In this post, we'll discuss the basic meaning of wrongful death, and share some practical expectations in terms of a wrongful death lawsuit.

What is wrongful death?
Legally, wrongful death refers to a fatality caused by another party's negligence, omission, carelessness or intentional wrongdoing. The death could be the result of a purposeful act of malice (i.e. assault and/or battery, manslaughter, murder, etc.), or the consequence of irresponsible behavior (i.e. careless driving, vehicular homicide, etc.). The term can be applied to victims of medical malpractice, nursing home neglect, and drunk driving: the list of possible situations is extensive.

Also, remember that civil and criminal courts handle different issues. For example, in 1995, OJ Simpson was acquitted of Nicole Brown Simpson's murder in a criminal court, but he was found liable for her wrongful death in a civil court. Civil cases are brought by individuals and tried for money damages, whereas criminal cases are brought by the state and tried for penalties like imprisonment. Accordingly, the courts have a different standard of proof: criminal cases must be proven "beyond a reasonable doubt," while civil cases must be proven "by a preponderance of the evidence."

Who can sue for wrongful death?
Missouri law permits the following parties to file wrongful death lawsuits on their loved ones' behalf:

• The deceased's spouse, children, or parents (class 1); or
• The deceased's siblings (class 2), when there are no class 1 relatives, and when siblings can demonstrate their rights to damage awards; or
• A plaintiff ad litem (an individual appointed by the court), when there are no class 1 or class 2 relatives.

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Missouri Still Without Distracted Driving Laws to Reduce Risks of Fatal Car Accidents in the Bootheel and Elsewhere

1307594_mobile_phone_in_hand.jpg"Strong laws, combined with highly visible police enforcement, can significantly reduce dangerous texting and cell phone use behind the wheel," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in 2011.

So far, it appears LaHood is being proven right. On Monday, the University of California at Berkeley released a new study that examines state accident and fatality statistics since California banned the use of handheld devices while driving. The study revealed that statewide car accident fatalities have decreased by 22% overall, while deaths specifically connected to handheld devices dropped by 47%.

Numerous studies and research initiatives have found similar results. In 2011, 2 pilot projects (one in Hartford, Connecticut and one in Syracuse, New York) concluded that an increase in police enforcement coupled with publicity campaigns dramatically reduced drivers' use of handheld devices, according to USA Today. In fact, a representative from the Syracuse Police Department recently participated in a distracted driving summit in Jefferson City, Missouri.

After the study period, researchers observed that, in Syracuse, drivers' use of handheld cell phones was decreased by a third. In Hartford, there was nearly a 60% drop in handheld cellphone use and a drop in texting drivers by roughly 75%. "Based on these results, it is crystal clear that those who try to minimize this dangerous behavior are making a serious error in judgment, especially when half a million people are injured and thousands more are killed in distracted driving accidents," said LaHood.

NHTSA Administrator David Strickland concurs. "The success of these pilot programs clearly show that combining strong laws with strong enforcement can bring about a sea change in public attitudes and behavior," Strickland said. "We applaud the work of the men and women of the Syracuse and Hartford police forces, and call on state legislatures, law enforcement and safety advocates across the nation to follow their lead."

Currently, Missouri has no laws regulating the use of handheld cell phones by drivers. Our state's lone texting law only applies to drivers under 21, according to the Governors' Highway Safety Administration: these young drivers are prohibited from texting behind the wheel, although some Missouri law enforcement officials have expressed frustration at the difficulty of enforcing such a ban.

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Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents in Cape Girardeau, Missouri and Nationwide

Traffic Assorted 2552 (1).JPGWith the price of fuel still so high, many people are seeking out more economical forms of transportation: more and more Missourians are relying on motorcycles as a regular mode of travel, especially since the weather has been so unseasonably warm this year. Our Cape Girardeau motorcycle accident lawyers want to discuss some of the common causes of motorcycle accidents in southeast Missouri.

Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents:

• Failure to yield or encroaching on a motorcyclist's right of way
• Lack of riding skills
• Failure to notice a motorcycle
• Failure to appreciate the blind spots for other cars, trucks, buses, and large trucks
• Failure to follow speed limits and other traffic laws
• Lack of stability provided by two-wheel configuration
• Failure to appreciate the abilities of a motorcycle such as size, speed, acceleration abilities and stopping distances

It's crucial that all drivers are mindful of the differences between a motorcycle and other motor vehicles, as they create additional risks for a motorcyclists. The simple difference in size makes a motorcycle easy to miss. To avoid the common causes of motorcycle accidents, riders should take extra precautions: above all, never assume a car "sees" you or is aware of your location.

Tips to Help Prevent Missouri Motorcycle Accidents

• Attend a motorcycle rider training course
• Practice awareness and good defensive driving techniques
• Anticipate what might happen if. . .
• Always check rearview mirrors before changing lanes or stopping
• Ride more cautiously in heavy traffic or inclement weather
• Never operate a motorcycle without the proper motorcycle operator's license
• Drive within your skill set and experience abilities
• Read through your owner's manual to stay familiar with your bike's capabilities
• Wear the right protective clothing to minimize injury if the worst does happen

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