file0001647280363-300x225Rhode Island recently joined the ranks of six other states to ban a particular style of highway guardrail, the Lindsay X-LITE, due to concerns over the barriers crash safety. The X-LITE guardrails are believed by some to cause potential death or personal injury in car accidents by piercing, or impaling, the vehicles that come into contact with the barrier during a car crash. Several fatal crashes in the U.S. have involved this style of guardrail and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation plans to remove all of them “out of an abundance of caution”, per DOT spokesman Charles St. Martin.

Rhode Island Fatality Due to X-LITE Guardrail

There is one known fatality in Rhode Island involving the X-LITE guardrail. The auto accident fatality took place in Glocester, RI in May 2016. According to the police report, a 29-year-old Massachusetts man driving a pickup truck struck a 10-foot section of the guardrail, rode over the top of the barrier into a utility pole and down an embankment into a tree. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene. However, Glocester Police Chief Joseph DelPrete attributes the cause of the accident and its severity to excessive speed, as opposed to a faulty barrier. Chief DelPrete states the truck was driving 90mph on a tight road. The RIDOT did not review this particular incident or determine whether the guardrail is a safety hazard.

photo_40353_20150826-300x205With countless safety options available on newer vehicles today, it is understandable the choices can be overwhelming. However, it’s worth taking the time to understand, even in simple terms, what options are available as many of them are expected to, or have already proven to, assist in preventing car crashes resulting in serious personal injury or death based on National Highway Safety Transportation Administration (NHTSA) studies.  In Part 1 of our personal injury blog on Driver Assistance Technologies- Sorting Through the Options, we explained the features of Automatic Emergency Braking Systems (AEB), Pedestrian Automatic Emergency Braking (PAEB), and Backup Cameras, or rearview cameras. In May 2018, backup cameras will be mandatory on all new vehicles. As of now, backup cameras are the only one of these technologies that will be required shortly, but as further crash and safety studies become available, the NHTSA may add further features to the list of required technologies to be mandatory in new vehicles. In Part 2 of this Tapalian Law personal injury blog, we will look at the features and benefits of Forward Collision Warning Systems, Lane Assist or Lane Keeping Support Systems, Blind Spot Detection, and Automatic Crash Notification Systems (ACN or Call 911). These selections are available as options on many of the newer vehicles today.

Forward Collision Warning System (FCW)

How They Work: A forward collision warning system works by using sensors to detect a vehicles speed, speed of the vehicle in front of it, and the distance between the two vehicles with the goal of avoiding or mitigating a rear-end crash. If the rear vehicle is getting too close to the stationary or slower moving automobile ahead of it, the FCW system will warn the driver of an impending crash so the driver is alerted to apply the brakes or steer in another direction to avoid a potential accident. The type of warning may be an audio or visual alert.

technologyIn 2016, over 37,000 people died in motor vehicle accidents. The majority of fatal crashes each year are due to driver error, or driver choice, and most are preventable. In addition to awareness programs bringing attention to drunk driving and distracted driving, the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHTSA) is fervently promoting motor vehicle technologies that can potentially reduce the number of crashes caused each year that result in death and personal injury. We often hear about these new automobile technologies, but the choices can be overwhelming and confusing, especially if you are not a technology buff. In this Tapalian Law personal injury blog we will break down some of the options recognized by the NHTSA and explain how they can support motorists with further awareness and hopefully decrease the number of harmful auto crashes causing death and personal injury in Rhode Island and all over the U.S. If you are in the market to purchase a new vehicle, many of these features are currently available on newer vehicles as special options so you may want to explore these features further to determine what safety technologies are most important to you when shopping for a new car, truck, or SUV.

Automatic Emergency Braking Systems (AEB)

How They Work: Automatic Emergency Braking Systems, also called AEB, use a combination of sensors to detect an impending forward crash with another vehicle in time to avoid, or reduce, the effects of the crash.  Once an impending crash is sensed, the first step in the system is to alert the driver, (possibly by sound, display on the dashboard, or both), to take corrective action. If the driver does not take action to avoid the crash, the AEB system may take over and automatically apply the brakes to prevent or diminish the impact of the crash.

photo_39856_20150805-300x199Rhode Island traffic fatalities are at their highest since 2008, with 83 traffic related fatalities seen in the state in 2017. This is a jump from 51 traffic deaths seen in 2016 and 2014 in Rhode Island. Ironically, 2015 saw the lowest number of traffic fatalities in RI, 45, since 1992 according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). With increased auto safety features and public awareness campaigns about safer driving practices, one would expect to continually see a decrease in injuries and deaths from car accidents each year. So, it is alarming to see an uptick of 63% in just one year. As Providence car accident lawyers who see first-hand the pain and trauma caused to the injured and families of auto accident victims, we are left wondering why the increase in motor vehicle fatalities in 2017?

Reasons for Increase in RI Traffic Fatalities

Just as there are a multitude of reasons for car crashes, there are many causes for fatal car accidents and not one cause can be pinpointed. Although we do know that drunk driving, speeding, and distracted driving top the list of causes all over the country. Colonel Ann C. Assumpico, the commanding officer of the Rhode Island State Police, will not cite a particular reason for the increased number of RI traffic deaths but emphasizes the importance of drivers being vigilant about driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, wearing seat belts, and avoiding distractions like cell phones. As many Rhode Islanders know, cell phone usage while driving with be outlawed as of June 2018 in Rhode Island. Though we can not predict if this will realize a decrease in traffic fatalities, it may bring extra awareness to the serious issue of distracted driving.

photo_17210_20100314-300x199According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, over 1,000 people are injured each day in the United States in accidents involving distracted drivers. Drivers who text and drive are six times more likely to cause a car accident.  In an effort to crack down on this serious issue in Rhode Island, police gave out a record number of tickets for texting and driving in 2017. As discussed in a previous Tapalian Law blog on distracted driving, effective June 1, 2018, Rhode Island law will prohibit the use of hand-held cell phones by motorists while driving to further strengthen the prevention of auto accidents caused by distracted driving. Although Rhode Island already has a “no texting” law in effect, many say that police have not truly enforced the law and that it can be difficult to prove a motorist was texting while driving. As Providence personal injury lawyers, we know that it can be difficult for a person injured in a car accident to prove that the crash was caused by a driver who was texting unless there are witnesses, or camera footage involved. However, police are beginning to take an increased interest and statistics shown by the Rhode Island Judiciary show that enforcement of the law has been gradual, and the amount of tickets has increased over the past four years for distracted driving. This is positive news for those who have been hurt at the hands of a distracted driver.

Tickets Have Increased in Quantity Each Year 

Rhode Island police issued the highest number of distracted driving tickets thus far in 2017, with a total of 1,167. There were 216 distracted driving tickets issued in 2014, 503 in 2015, 923 in 2016, and the highest number in 2017 of 1,167. When the new cell phone use law goes into effect in June, first-time offenders will face a $100 fine which can be suspended with proof of purchase of a hands-free device. If you have been injured in an auto accident by a distracted driver, seek the assistance of an experienced Rhode Island personal injury attorney like David Tapalian. A Providence injury lawyer well practiced in car accident claims and injuries, Attorney Tapalian can counsel you throughout the process of seeking compensation for your injuries and assist you in proving fault of the other driver in your RI or MA accident. In the case of a distracted driving accident, it is much easier for you to prove fault and seek restitution for the harms caused by the other motorist if they have been issued a police citation for distracted driving.

photo_894_20060124-300x200The holidays are a wonderful time in New England and a great time to catch up with friends and family at the myriad of parties and events hosted this time of year. When alcohol is involved though, sometimes the party can get dangerous. Between Christmas and New Year’s, AAA reports two to three times more deaths from alcohol-related crashes than any other time of the year. Fatalities like these are particularly unsettling considering drinking and driving is completely preventable.  Throughout the year, approximately one-third of all auto accident deaths involve alcohol-impaired drivers. This amounts to an average of one alcohol-related driving death every 45 minutes. As Providence car accident injury lawyers, Tapalian Law sees victims hurt every day in car crashes, however these statistics are still startling and serve as a reminder to us all to enjoy the holidays, but do so safely.  Don’t add yourself to these sobering statistics.

Cutting Down on Rhode Island Drunk Drivers

Rhode Island is serious about cracking down on drunk driving. In 2016, the Rhode Island State Police launched a new sober driving campaign dubbed “Beyond the Crash”. The campaign’s message is similar to the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign created years back and many Rhode Islanders recognize the popular slogan. During designated periods, typically during the holidays when drunk driving accident fatalities increase, the RIDOT works with state and local police to create patrols with the specific goal of cracking down on drinking and driving. Most alcohol-related car crashes occur during the evening hours and on weekends.

photo_16921_20100303-300x200According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), more than half of home fire deaths occur during the period of November to March, and a large number of these deaths are caused by holiday decorations like candles and Christmas trees. In fact, fires started by holiday decorations have a tendency to be more deadly than other types of home fires.  As personal injury lawyers at Tapalian Law, we know this is a busy time of year for Rhode Islanders, but we hope you find a few moments to consider these holiday safety tips which can go a long way in keeping you and your loved ones safe from injury and accidents this season.

Christmas Trees One of Leading Causes of Holiday Fires

Each year, approximately 210 fires start because of real Christmas trees, making them one of the leading causes of tragic holiday fires. The Christmas Tree Association recommends buyers look for “vibrant green needles that are hard to pluck”. This means the needles are less likely to shed and cause a fire if they come in contact with a fire hazard. One way to prevent the needles from drying out it to keep the tree regularly watered. Don’t put your tree anywhere near a fireplace, candle, or open flame of any kind. When it comes to tree lighting, using a timer is recommended to avoid the bulbs overheating. Better yet, use LED lights as they are less likely to overheat and spark flames.

photo_58526_20151220-300x272At Tapalian Law, as auto accident lawyers we often use the terms UM and UIM with our clients. The average Rhode Island driver however, may find this confusing. Though two separate meanings, they are often used interchangeably and stand for Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UM) and Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM). Unless you’ve been injured in a Rhode Island car accident caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver, you may not completely understand the difference between the two similar sounding coverages. After reading further, you may want take into consideration your current auto insurance coverage to ensure you do carry this type of coverage. If you don’t carry uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, you may be at financial risk in the event you are hit by an uninsured or underinsured motorist.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UM)

Uninsured motorist coverage is a type of insurance coverage that protects you in the case of an accident with an at-fault driver who does not carry liability insurance. It is a form of protection offered along with your own auto insurance that you can elect. Rhode Island drivers are required to carry insurance. It is recommended, however not required, that RI drivers elect uninsured motorist coverage. As a conscientious driver, you may be taking a big financial risk to not elect uninsured motorist coverage. This additional protection is relatively inexpensive compared to your required liability coverage. If you are hit by an at-fault uninsured driver and experience injuries, your health insurance may cover the medical bills they are responsible for, however they would not cover co-pays, deductibles, and other expenses incurred due to the accident. This is where your uninsured motorist coverage would come in handy. If you do not carry this coverage and your personal injuries require a lengthy hospital stay and continued medical care, debt can quickly pile up and take a huge toll on the injured as well as their family. Not carrying UM is an expensive gamble to take.

car-crash-insurance-300x185You’ve been hurt in a car accident. After a hospital visit and incurring a number of medical bills, pharmacy expenses, and missing a few days of work, you find out the driver who caused the accident has no auto insurance. After learning this frustrating news, you wonder – what happens when you are hit by an uninsured driver? How do you recoup your lost expenses and damages when the driver has no insurance to go after? You didn’t cause the accident, so why are you stuck paying all the bills? These are questions we hear often at Tapalian Law. As Providence personal injury lawyers, we frequently get asked by clients what remedy they have after a car accident caused by an uninsured motorist. Can you sue a person who has no car insurance? Sure, but chances are its not worth your time as drivers who have no car insurance generally don’t have monetary assets either. Even if you are awarded a judgement against the uninsured motorist you will likely not end up collecting the compensation anyways. So, what other options do you have?

What is Uninsured Motorist Coverage?

Uninsured motorist coverage is additional coverage available from your own auto insurance carrier that is there to protect you if you are hurt in a car accident caused by a driver with no insurance, also known as an uninsured driver. Although Rhode Island drivers are required to carry liability insurance to cover another driver’s expenses in the case of a crash, it does not require drivers to elect uninsured motorist coverage. As personal injury lawyers, we see an abundance of clients injured in Rhode Island auto accidents and recommend you do carry this type of coverage for your protection in the unfortunate event you are hurt in a crash by an uninsured motorist. It is distressing to hear the Rhode Island Department of Motor Vehicles estimates that 15% of cars in Rhode Island are uninsured, so having uninsured motorist coverage can provide you extra protection in case of an accident.

photo_1595_20060522-200x300An Alabama jury recently awarded $7.5 million to an Army veteran after breaking his hip at a Walmart store. The incident took place in 2015 when the retired sergeant was shopping in an Alabama Walmart and his foot got stuck in the side of a wooden pallet under a watermelon display. This led him to fall and shatter his hip, an injury that permanently changed his life, according to his injury attorney. His lawyer filed a premises liability lawsuit arguing that Walmart neglected to keep its premises reasonably safe thereby resulting in his client’s life-altering injuries. Walmart was sued for negligence and wantonness and lost but said it plans to appeal the $7.5 million decision. At Tapalian Law, our Providence personal injury law firm has helped clients seek compensation for accidents and injuries they have incurred on another person’s, or businesses’, property.

What is Premises Liability?

Legally speaking, premises liability holds property owners and residents liable for accidents and injuries that occur on their property. This could be a homeowner’s or business owner’s property. When someone comes onto your property, they have a “reasonable expectation” of not getting injured. Just as drivers are required to operate their motor vehicle with a “duty of care” to avoid injuring others in a car accident, many states including Rhode Island require property owners to exercise “reasonable care” in maintaining their property for those who may come upon the property such as an invited guest or delivery person. At a business such as a restaurant, owners expect patrons on their property to conduct business and therefore need to keep the property in proper, safe, working condition. If an owner breaches this duty of care, they may be held liable for the injuries that occurred on their property, such as a slip and fall, that took place due to the owner’s failure to fix a dangerous condition on the property that they knew about, or should have known about. The slip and fall attorney’s at Tapalian Law have helped clients who have been hurt in a premises liability accident in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

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