Articles Posted in Reckless Driver

bicyclistSome things in life you just can’t plan ahead for, like the recent Covid-19 pandemic. Hundreds of Rhode Islanders lost their lives, and our lives now, and moving forward, will be very different. Serious accidents, in comparison, have some similarities- they can be deadly, almost impossible to plan ahead for, and the after- effects are often life-changing. Take for instance, the recent surge in bike sales across the U.S., due to people itching to get outside and move again, while still social-distancing. Many who haven’t ridden a bike in years are again enjoying the pastime. Unfortunately, with the uptick in cycling, however, comes a corresponding increase in bike accidents. As a personal injury lawyer in Rhode Island, Attorney David Tapalian knows well the unexpected turmoil a critical bicycle accident can put upon a victim as well as their family. No one wants to think about death or serious injuries, but by taking a few steps prior to your next bike trip, you may be able to save yourself, and your family, some difficulties in the event you do experience a bicycle crash.

It’s Not Just You, It’s the Drivers…

Though not always the case, negligent motor vehicle operators are frequently the cause of a bicyclist getting hurt. Even the most prepared and careful cyclist can fall victim to a negligent driver. Drivers are distracted more than ever by cell phones. The ping of a text or a social media update is just too tempting for some to ignore, even while driving 60mph. In addition to technology, negligence can take the form of drunk driving, speeding, road rage, even plain inexperience. As a Rhode Island personal injury attorney, David sees an abundance of serious bicycle accidents in Providence and all over the state, caused by distracted drivers. These types of crashes are completely preventable. Why should an innocent cyclist die because of a text message?

pedestrians in streetMotor vehicle accidents involving pedestrians have been on a sharp rise over the past decade throughout the country. In fact, pedestrian fatalities have increased 35% since 2008, compared to a 6% decrease in all other motor vehicle crashes in the same period. A recent report by the Governors Highway Safety Association estimates 6,227 pedestrians were killed on U.S. roads in 2018.  Based on preliminary 2018 data, this is the highest number of pedestrian deaths due to car accidents since 1990. Why are pedestrians in Rhode Island and the U.S. at such a high risk for getting killed by a car?  Automobiles are safer than ever with the latest technology and innovative safety features including sensors that tell a driver when a person or another vehicle is too close. Rear backup cameras in particular are mandatory for vehicles manufactured after May 2018. As RI personal injury lawyers, we certainly recognize the importance of these safety features however we know no amount of technology can make up for one of the most dangerous types of drivers, a driver distracted at the wheel.

Causes of the Rise in Pedestrian Accidents

One of the main sources of pedestrian injuries and accidents in Rhode Island, and the entire country, is distracted driving.  Distracted driving, commonly taking the form of texting and overall smartphone use while operating a vehicle, might also include the distractions of other passengers in the car, loud music, eating or drinking. A rise in population growth, specifically in cities, is another reason for the uptick in pedestrian injuries and accidents. Cities like Providence RI are a hotbed for pedestrian activity. With multiple colleges and universities throughout the city, on any given day thousands of people are walking the streets. What makes pedestrians more likely to be hurt in a car accident in Providence, is that many of the thousands of college students are new to the city and therefore not familiar with the city’s roads and infrastructure. As personal injury lawyers in Providence RI, at Tapalian Law we have seen a number of clients hurt in car accidents caused by out of state drivers. Inexperienced pedestrians and inexperienced drivers are a dangerous mix.  Other factors attributed to the rise in pedestrian fatalities include weather conditions, fuel costs, and the upsurge of SUV’s on the roads.

car dashboardBuying a new car today requires a lot of research, not just to review safety scores and dependability, but to choose from the myriad of safety options and technology that are available. A number of safety features now come standard when purchasing a new vehicle, such as back-up cameras required in all new vehicles effective May 2018, but other options will bump up the sticker price quite a bit.  While some auto buyers won’t mind the price jump if they feel they are getting the most advanced safety and technology features out there, other buyers will be deterred by the costly options. We explained how a number of these features work in a two-part Tapalian Law Rhode Island Accident Lawyer blog, Driver Assistance Technologies- Sorting Through the Options Part 1 and Part 2.

With all of the cutting-edge safety technologies available, some critics still think not enough is being done to keep drivers and pedestrians safe from car accidents. The goal should be “fewer, not smarter, cars”, reports opinion writer Allison Arieff in a recent New York Times article, because despite all of the latest cutting-edge features available in today’s new vehicles, far too many fatal car accidents and serious injuries are still happening.

Increase in Pedestrian Deaths

coventry-car-accident-PIC-300x169Attorney David Tapalian, a Coventry car accident lawyer, recently obtained a $50,000 full policy limit settlement award for a young woman injured in a horrific auto accident in Coventry. The teenager was struck at a high speed by a drunk driver and was very fortunate to survive the crash. The impaired driver, and at fault party, only had $50,000 in policy limits and only after much fighting with Allstate Insurance and finally filing a civil action, was Tapalian Law able to obtain the full policy limits for this terrible impact.

Drunk Driver Cause of Coventry Car Accident

The significant head-on collision occurred on Main Street in Coventry, Rhode Island, when the defendant crossed over the yellow line into the opposite lane of travel. The crash was clearly caused by the highly intoxicated defendant.  The responding Coventry police officer provided a very thorough description in his police narrative and took his time to be extremely detailed in describing the defendant’s impairments.  Found inside the defendant’s vehicle were numerous empty beer bottles, flasks with fluid, rum bottle with fluid, a cognac bottle with fluid and a full-size police style expandable baton. This individual was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol at the scene of the accident.

ae6420996a78ec187173ea935b782226-300x199After two years of litigation, a jury awarded $3.8 Million to 24-year-old Anthony Ellis for damages sustained in a serious motorcycle accident. The crash left the motorcycle rider with life-changing injuries. The award, $3.5 Million of which is for non-economic damages, will help the accident victim regain a sense of direction and find closure after an arduous physical recovery and contentious legal battle. As personal injury lawyers at Tapalian Law, we know the severity of injuries that can result from a motorcycle crash. We help victims of motorcycle accidents in Rhode Island and Massachusetts recover compensation after being hit by a car and suffering life-threatening complications like head trauma, brain injuries, and broken bones. Recovery from a major collision is often painstakingly extensive for the hurt victim and a tumultuous time for the person’s family.

Insurance Company Refused Settlement for Accident Injuries

The crash took place in 2016 while Ellis was riding his motorcycle north on U.S. Highway 301 in Riverview, Florida and he was “t-boned” by the driver of a car who made a left turn in front of him. The collision threw Ellis and his motorcycle into a drainage ditch causing him severe injuries that required lengthy medical treatment. His left knee required surgical reconstruction and the bones of his left foot were dislocated and broken. The victim also broke his right finger and right toe, and pieces of gravel were removed from his right knee. For over a year the at-fault driver’s insurance company, GEICO, chose not to settle the injury claim within the parameters of its insureds’ coverage. They disputed the accident was the full fault of their insured by claiming Ellis was riding his motorcycle with the headlights off. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Mr. Ellis in the Florida judicial system after his lawyers were unable to negotiate a reasonable settlement with GEICO.

car-insurance-300x199When it comes to buying auto insurance, many risk factors contribute when setting rates. Common factors considered are age, gender, location, type of vehicle, and driving record, to name a few. Massachusetts car accident lawyers know auto accident statistics show male drivers get in more accidents than female drivers, and therefore females typically have lower premiums due to being less of a risk factor to the insurance company. But for Massachusetts drivers, this is not the case. Although an individual’s driving record and car accident history carry heavy weight in determining Massachusetts car insurance premiums, gender is no longer a risk factor for Massachusetts drivers buying auto insurance. This may mean higher insurance bills for female drivers, who no longer benefit from what typically equates to a lower rate based on their gender, and perhaps lower premiums for males. Whether or not drivers agree with this modification, the Seekonk, Massachusetts car accident attorneys at Tapalian Law know how extremely important, and valuable, good auto insurance is when you get hurt in a car accident.

Focus Moves to Driving Behavior to Determine Car Insurance Rates

Lawmakers and regulators have long been pushing to put more focus on driving behaviors and safe driving records when setting car insurance rates, rather than criteria like gender, that seem less related to risk. Aside from teenage drivers, a category where statistics show year after year male teenagers consistently get in more car accidents than their female counterparts, on a national level gender does not play that big of a role in the price difference for car insurance after the teen and young adult years. Car accident attorneys in Massachusetts continue to see a large number of auto accidents resulting in personal injury caused by distracted driving, drunk driving, and speeding. Lately, insurance companies have become stricter about penalizing reckless driving habits.  Negligent driving habits like distracted driving, including use of a hand-held cell phone to talk or text while operating a motor vehicle, are increasing car insurance premiums at a higher rate. For example, a ticket for distracted driving bumped up insurance premiums by nearly 20 percent in 2018, compared to a barely 2 percent increase in premium three years earlier.  Factors that increase car insurance premiums even greater than distracted driving are speeding tickets and being arrested for driving under the influence, DUI or DWI. Putting gender aside, car insurance rates have increased across the country says Alyssa Connolly, Director of Market Research for Zebra, an online search engine allowing consumers to price-compare car insurance policies, stating “it’s the highest its ever been nationally. Rates are up this year for 83 percent of Americans.” The average car insurance premium in the U.S. is at $1,470, up 23 percent from 2011. A recent post on the Tapalian Law Rhode Island Accident Lawyer Blog, showed that right over the Massachusetts border, Rhode Island drivers pay the fourth highest car insurance premiums in the U.S.

photo_27694_20130907-300x200Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for Rhode Island teenagers aged 15-17 and the leading cause of fatality and injury for adolescents nationwide. Over the year’s vehicle safety has improved tremendously, but teenage drivers have not. In fact, the first year with a license is the most dangerous period in a driver’s life, according to AAA. The Providence personal injury lawyers at Tapalian Law focus on helping the victims of auto accident injuries and often the accidents resulting in fatalities or serious injury involve teenage drivers. We know from experience, and statistics show, that new teen drivers have a high likelihood of experiencing a crash or “close call” as newly licensed motor vehicle operators. Newly licensed teen drivers are also four times more likely to engage in risky road behaviors like sudden acceleration, abrupt braking, and hard turns.  Couple the impulsiveness and inexperience of adolescence with a near-constant need for technology, and a recipe for disaster is created for teen drivers in Providence, Rhode Island and beyond.

Lack of Judgement Common Culprit in Teen Crashes

Crash investigations commonly show the cause of teenage car crashes is not a lack of skill, but a lack of judgement. Responsible driving requires good judgement, a solid attention span, the ability to juggle and prioritize multiple functions, and shrewd decision-making skills. Biologically speaking, these are not yet a concrete part of the skillsets of most still-maturing teenagers. However, with gained experience teenage drivers can learn to be safer. As a RI accident injury lawyer, Attorney David Tapalian witnesses the huge impact distracted driving has on car accidents. Rhode Island law prohibits hand-held cell phone use while driving. The cell phone law is even more specific pertaining to new drivers under the age of 18.  In the Ocean State, vehicle operators under age 18 are banned from using any kind of wireless communication device while driving, including all handheld and hands-free cell phones and text messaging devices. Despite the illegality, motor vehicle lawyers know from first-hand knowledge, adults and teenagers alike still text and chat on a cell phone while driving, as mentioned in our Rhode Island Accident Lawyer Blog. According to a survey by AAA, almost 70% of teenage drivers admit to talking on a cell phone and over half admit to reading a text message while operating a vehicle in the past 30 days.  Almost all adolescent drivers admit to keeping their cell phone turned on while driving a car.

photo_9135_20090113-300x225Since the legalization of marijuana movement began in the U.S., health and safety experts have been trying to measure the potential impact it would have on traffic accidents. Without ample past reliable data to go off, much of the results so far have been inconsistent. However, according to a new set of studies by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) Highway Loss Data Institute, an increase of up to 6 percent in the number of highway crashes has been found in four states where the recreational use of marijuana is legalized. As Providence personal injury lawyers, Tapalian Law feels any uptick in car crashes is reason to sit up and take notice. Our car accident lawyers see clients everyday who suffer from serious injuries incurred in an auto accident. While the latest reports cannot yet prove a direct risk caused by the use of marijuana among vehicle operators, there is a rising trend in these states and any upsurge in car crashes is cause for attention. At this time it is a challenge to accurately test drivers to determine if they are under the influence of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Without this hard proof, much more research needs to be done to explore marijuana use and its relationship to vehicle crashes. After this Tuesday’s election, 10 states and Washington D.C. have now legalized marijuana for recreational use for adults over the age of 21. Rhode Island has not legalized marijuana for recreational use. Medical marijuana is legalized in 33 states, including Rhode Island.

Results of IIHS Study Linking Legalized Marijuana to Car Crashes

The IIHS studies used police reports and insurance claims to determine auto crashes rose between 5.2% and 6% in states with legalized recreational marijuana, in comparison to neighboring states where marijuana use is illegal. Highway crash data from surrounding states was also compared in an attempt to control for factors like weather and economy. One disturbing find from the study is that while most drivers under the influence of alcohol are driving alone or with other adults, approximately 14% of those confirmed to be using pot had a child in the car. As Providence car accident injury lawyers, this find is very troubling. The IIHS feels this reflects a variance between marijuana and alcohol use and it appears that marijuana use isn’t reserved for evenings and other occasions when adults are more likely to consume alcohol. Experts are uncertain whether this reflects an increase in the use of recreational pot or medical marijuana for pain treatment.  The IIHS is clear however, that there is a “correlation”, a connection, between the rise in crashes once pot became legal, however it is not the same as “causation”, meaning other variables could be involved. One of the difficulties with this study, as with similar reports, is the accuracy in measuring how marijuana use impacts car crashes because law enforcement has a difficult challenge due to the way marijuana works in the body.

file0001091226410-300x170Bicycles are gaining popularity, especially in urban areas like Providence. With the recent arrival of the city’s first bike-share program, JUMP Bikes, city residents and visitors are now offered an environmentally friendly, heart-healthy, and affordable way to navigate Providence to explore for fun or commute to work or school. The bicycle accident injury lawyers at Tapalian Law see bike accident clients on a regular basis who have been hit by a car and suffer from slight to life-threatening personal injury. As with all modes of transportation, there’s always some negative with the positive. Cycling is great for the atmosphere and our bodies but is also accompanied by the risk of serious personal injury, most frequently from cars or trucks. Getting “doored” is a frequent occurrence to bicyclists.  A “dooring” is a type of collision where a cyclist is struck by a vehicle door that was opened without checking the side view mirror for approaching bicyclists.  Motorcyclists can also fall victim to door related accidents. Due to the lack of physical protection, bicyclists and motorcyclists can suffer significant bodily harm when involved in an accident.

 

Injuries from Bicycle Accidents

At the time of a “dooring” bicycle crash, you may feel shock as well as a rush of adrenaline and injuries may not be instantly visible. You might feel bumped or bruised, but are able to get up and walk away. It is imperative to seek immediate medical attention, no matter how you feel. Inner injuries, like internal bleeding, can go undetected and without proper medical treatment can turn fatal. Bicyclists can suffer from traumatic brain injuries, especially if not wearing a proper safety helmet. Broken bones, lacerations, chipped teeth, serious bruising, road rash, and spinal cord injuries can all happen during a bike accident. If a person on a bicycle gets hits by a door, the impact might throw them into oncoming traffic causing them to get hit by a passing vehicle. Cyclists may also see a car door opening upon approach and swerve into moving traffic to avoid getting hit by the door. In 2016, a Cambridge, Massachusetts bicyclist died when a motorist opened their car door, causing the woman to veer into traffic where she was struck and killed by a truck. In a recent Rhode Island Accident Lawyer Blog, Tapalian Law explained the “Dutch Reach”, a habit that motorists can adapt when exiting a vehicle to prevent and avoid “dooring” accidents.

photo_71959_20160725-1-300x250There’s more bad news for the chronically sleep deprived. Not only are they perpetually tired but also more at risk for causing a car accident. According to a AAA study, drivers functioning on less than 4 hours of sleep have crash risks similar to those of an intoxicated driver with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .12. (Rhode Island law defines a BAC of .08 or higher as driving while intoxicated (DWI)). So, an exhausted truck driver who skimped on sleep in order to reach their destination on-time may be just as much of a danger as a drunk driver on the road! The Providence, RI car accident injury lawyers at Tapalian Law know it can be difficult to pinpoint the cause of an auto accident and this is especially true for car crashes caused by a sleep-deprived driver. We do know that truck drivers are particularly vulnerable to driving while tired due to long, and often monotonous, hours on the road. Recall the much publicized 2014 crash that severely injured comedian Tracy Morgan and killed another passenger in his vehicle. The truck driver who hit Morgan’s vehicle had been awake an estimated 28 hours before the collision took place and driver fatigue was cited as one cause of the deadly crash.

AAA Sleep Deprivation Study: Poor Sleep Alters Brain Function

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety conducted a review of data from 6,800 car accidents for the period of 2005-2007 to study the effects of sleep deprivation on driving. Only the data from drivers determined to be culpable (whose errors, actions, or lack of actions, led to the crash), were used.  Accidents involving external factors, like brake failure or poor infrastructure, were not factored into the report. The goal of the review was to “quantify” the correlation between hours of sleep and crash risk. The study found that

less than 7 hours of sleep increases a driver’s risk of a crash

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