Top Holiday Driving Hazards

Driving when you’re impaired or distracted is always dangerous – but add low visibility, the potential for ice and snow and the pressures that come with the holiday season, and December just might be one of the most dangerous months to be on the road. This year, avoid the four most dangerous holiday driving hazards.

winter driving

Read before you go: What to do if you get stuck in the snow

The four most dangerous holiday driving hazards 

1. Distracted Driving

Driving while using cell phones for both talking and texting holiday messages can put you and other drivers at risk. Pull over when using your smart phone to check out store hours and locations.

2. Drunk Driving

Holiday dinners and celebrations frequently include alcohol, and sometimes, even drugs. In 2014, 12,480 OVI-related crashes occurred on Ohio roadways. These resulted in 340 deaths and more than 7,000 injuries, according to the Department of Public Safety[1]. December was among the top months, with 1,104 impaired driving crashes. “This holiday season, give yourself the gift of a designated driver,” urges Elk & Elk Managing Partner Arthur M. Elk. “If you plan on consuming alcohol, take a cab, designate a sober driver or use a ridesharing app like Uber or Lyft to help get you home safely.”

“This holiday season, give yourself the gift of a designated driver.”

 – Arthur M. Elk

3. Emotional Driving

Stress brought on by the holidays can be overwhelming and those emotions have a serious effect on our driving. If you are worried, upset, frightened, depressed or even feeling extremely happy, your driving skills can be as diminished as they would be if you were texting or intoxicated. Drivers often react to these pressures by driving too fast for conditions, making aggressive lane changes, failing to yield right-of-way and generally disregarding the needs and safety of others using the road.

4. Drowsy Driving

Busy schedules during the winter holidays can lead to insufficient sleep, warns Elk. “Drowsy driving can decrease your reaction time, impair your vision or judgment and can increase your chances of getting into a car crash.”

Even if you take steps to avoid common holiday driving hazards, bad weather or the actions of other drivers may cause a traffic crash to occur. Make sure you have these essential winter items in your car at all times.

 

 


 

[1] Ohio Department of Public Safety. Ohio Traffic Crash Facts 2014. Columbus, 2015. http://www.publicsafety.ohio.gov/links/2014CrashFacts.pdf

Top 10 driving mistakes that can hurt your personal injury case

may_article1Most people think of themselves as good drivers; however, seemingly small errors can cause serious accidents. Even if an accident appears to be the fault of another driver, your mistakes could end up costing you—due to a legal theory known as comparative negligence[1].

Comparative negligence provides for you and the other driver to share the cost of damages from an accident in proportion to your share of negligence. You can recover your damages, minus the percent caused by your own negligence. However, in Ohio, if you are more than 50 percent at fault, you may not recover any losses from the other driver. Defendants and insurance companies will try to prove that you contributed to your injury by engaging in careless behaviors such as these.

Top 10 Driving Mistakes

10. Not using headlights

In Ohio, you must turn on your headlights between sunset and sunrise; during rain, snow, fog or other unfavorable weather conditions (regardless of time of day); if you cannot see objects 1,000 feet ahead; and whenever windshield wipers are used. Keep in mind, if your car has automatic daytime running lights, you may need to turn on your headlights manually during the day to make sure your taillights are on as well.

9. Ignoring weather conditions

The chance being in a car accident increases dramatically during inclement weather. Rain, fog, snow and other weather conditions can have an impact on road conditions, cause diminished visibility, increase stopping distances and affect the conduct of other drivers.

8. Accelerating through yellow lights

Traffic lights should be simple. Green means go. Red means stop. However, contrary to the actions of many drivers, yellow does NOT mean to floor it. If you do not have time to cross through the intersection before the light turns red, you should stop on a yellow light. Additionally, if you’re waiting to make a left turn, you must yield to an oncoming driver who is within the intersection or so close to the intersection as to create an immediate hazard.

7. Rolling stops

Rolling through a stop sign is illegal, so make sure you come to a complete stop. That means no forward momentum and your speedometer reads zero. If you have a crosswalk or white stop bar, you are required to stop before it. If you cannot see, you must pull up and stop again at your point of vision.

6. Not merging properly

Merging safely into traffic is the responsibility of the person doing the merging. Ohio law states that merging motorists must yield the right-of-way to existing traffic and adjust their speed accordingly. However, there is no law prohibiting those in the main flow of traffic from being polite. If you can do so safely, consider pulling over into the next lane or adjust your speed to accommodate merging vehicles.

5. Tailgating

Aside from being annoying to the driver in front of you, tailgating is illegal and dangerous. Allow no less than 2 seconds between vehicles during the daytime, 3 seconds at night, and 4 seconds during inclement weather such as during rain, snow, or icy conditions. Remember, if someone is tailgating you, don’t slam on the brakes. If you brake-check and it causes an accident, you could be charged with assault.

4. Speeding

The logic is simple: the faster you drive, the less time you have to avoid a crash. When an accident occurs, excessive speed also increases the severity of injuries and property damage. Keep in mind there are times when it is not safe to drive at the speed limit, including rain, fog, an accident or traffic congestion.

3. Failure to signal

When operating a vehicle, you have a duty to signal your intentions in a manner that is visible to other drivers, so they have enough time to react. In Ohio, a motorist must give a turn signal or intention to turn left or right continuously during at least the last one hundred feet traveled before turning.

2. Drunk driving

Thanks to dedicated efforts, rates of drunk driving and alcohol-involved fatal crashes have gone down in recent years. However, about one in three traffic deaths in the United States involve a drunk driver. Remember, even one drink can impair driving ability and increase the risk of a crash.

1. Distracted driving

As the fatality rate from impaired driving continues to decline, the danger of distracted driving is worsening. Among driving distractions, texting is extremely dangerous because it requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver.

Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling at 55mph, that’s like driving the length of a football field blindfolded.

If you’ve been injured in an accident, don’t try to go up against the insurance company alone. Contact an Ohio personal injury attorney who has experience with comparative negligence claims. A personal injury lawyer in Ohio can assess your case, provide you with guidance on how to proceed with your claim and help you to receive the compensation to which you are entitled.

 


 

[1] Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2315.33 – The contributory fault of a person does not bar the person as plaintiff from recovering damages that have directly and proximately resulted from the tortious conduct of one or more other persons, if the contributory fault of the plaintiff was not greater than the combined tortious conduct of all other persons from whom the plaintiff seeks recovery in this action and of all other persons from whom the plaintiff does not seek recovery in this action. The court shall diminish any compensatory damages recoverable by the plaintiff by an amount that is proportionately equal to the percentage of tortious conduct of the plaintiff as determined pursuant to section 2315.34 of the Revised Code.

 

Top 7 Spring Driving Tips

Springtime means flowers are in bloom, trees grow new leaves, and… the roads are full of potholes. While beautiful, spring in Ohio presents plenty of driving challenges, so be sure to follow these important tips when you hit the road.

Spring Driving TipsSpringtime presents plenty of challenges for motorists

  • Share the road. Warm weather brings motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians out on the roads. Many pedestrians are distracted by texting, talking on cellphones, and listening to music, so they may be unaware of the traffic around them. Be extra cautious around intersections and in residential communities.
  • Slow down in wet conditions. Reduce your speed and increase your following distance when it rains—even if it’s only misting. Remember, even a small amount of water can mix with oil and road dust to create slippery conditions.
  • Replace your wiper blades. Be sure your vehicle is ready for spring showers by replacing your windshield wipers at least once a year. Don’t drive faster than your wipers can clear water from the windshield.
  • Avoid driving through puddles. As tempting as splashing through big puddles can be, try to avoid them. Potholes may be lurking beneath the surface and spraying water can impair your brakes, cloud your vision, or cause you to hydroplane and lose control of your vehicle.
  • Keep your eyes peeled for bad road conditions. The spring thaw reveals potholes, crumbling pavement and other hazards. If possible, go around potholes. They can damage your tires or throw your car’s front end out of alignment. Before maneuvering to avoid a pothole, check surrounding traffic to ensure this will not cause a collision or endanger nearby pedestrians or cyclists. If you can’t avoid a pothole, try to slow down without slamming on your brakes.
  • Keep your tires properly inflated. Tires are your car’s first line of defense against damage from potholes and uneven pavement. When checking the pressure in your tires, ensure they are inflated to the manufacturer’s recommended levels, which can be found on a sticker inside the driver’s door.
  • Watch out for animals. Spring means animals are emerging from hibernation and entering mating season. Scan the roadside for critters, keeping in mind that many animals, especially deer, may travel in groups and are most active at dawn or dusk.

Now get out there and enjoy this gorgeous spring weather!

 

Airbags Exploding Like IEDs – Car Occupants Hit with Shrapnel

In an urgent message to consumers, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has recalled millions of vehicles due to defective airbags, which can spontaneously explode and seriously harm passengers.

According to government officials, owners of affected Toyota, Honda, Mazda, BMW, Nissan, Ford, Chrysler, Mitsubishi, Subaru and General Motors vehicles should take “immediate action” to replace defective airbags, produced by Japanese manufacturer, Takata. The message is especially urgent for drivers in warm climates with high humidity.

In an interview with ABC News, auto safety expert Sean Kane said the problem with the Takata airbags is its internal inflator.

“[It’s] the canister which sits in the center of the airbag, it’s like a metal can,” Kane said. “When that’s ignited, it’s overpressurizing the canister and the canister is exploding, much like an IED [improvised explosive device], and sending shrapnel into the occupants of the vehicle.”

Kane also said that the explosions have resulted in “severe lacerations” and caused at least four deaths.

On its website, the NHTSA lists more than 7.8 million vehicles with model years from 2000 to 2006 – as well as the 2011 Honda Element — that have been subject to related recalls over the past two years and strongly urges owners to take them to their dealers immediately.

Failure to Warn

In an article dated September 11, 2014, The New York Times revealed that Honda and the airbag supplier have known about this life-threatening flaw for at least a decade:

The danger of exploding air bags was not disclosed for years after the first reported incident in 2004, despite red flags — including three additional ruptures reported to Honda in 2007, according to interviews, regulatory filings and court records.

In each of the incidents, Honda settled confidential financial claims with people injured by the air bags, but the automaker did not issue a safety recall until late 2008, and then for only a small fraction — about 4,200 — of its vehicles eventually found to be equipped with the potentially explosive air bags.

Consumers who are uncertain whether their vehicle is impacted by the Takata recalls, or any other recall, can check on www.safercar.gov/vinlookup. On the site, you can search for recalls by vehicle identification number (VIN) and sign-up for NHTSA recall alerts, which go out before recall letters are mailed by the manufacturers to the affected owners.

Sources:

Halsey, Ashley, III. “Airbag Defect Spurs Recall of 4.7 Million Vehicles.” Washington Post, October 20, 2014. Web. Accessed October 21, 2014.

Tabuchi, Hiroko. “Air Bag Flaw, Long Known to Honda and Takata, Led to Recalls.” The New York Times, September 11, 2014. Web. Accessed October 21, 2014.

Filing a Claim after a Hit and Run Accident

Personal Injury attorney David Elk recounts what happened to a former U.S. Navy seal when he was thrown from his motorcycle in a hit and run accident.

 

If you’ve been involved in a car accident, nothing is more frustrating and alarming than the other driver speeding off from the scene, failing to take responsibility or even checking to see if you’re okay.

Unfortunately, this scenario happens all too often. Speeding drivers, drunk drivers, unsafe drivers, uninsured motorists or even unlicensed drivers flee the scenes of accidents to avoid their responsibilities.

So how do you file a claim if you don’t know who the other driver was? At Elk & Elk, we will investigate the scene of a hit and run accident to see if we can get that information from witnesses, surveillance video cameras or other sources in the area. If we are unable to determine the identity of the negligent driver, we can file a claim against your own insurance company.

Although you may think you only pay insurance to protect yourself in the event you injure someone else in a car accident, your insurance policy also exists protects you. However, if you do file a claim, be aware that your insurance company may not automatically grant your claim just because you are a customer. In some cases, your insurance company may deny your claim completely.

When dealing with an unidentified negligent driver, you should speak to a personal injury attorney. An experienced accident lawyer understands how to navigate complicated claims and deal with insurance companies. He or she will make sure you do not fall victim to lowball settlement checks or other tactics used by the insurance company to avoid paying you what you deserve in the case of your accident.

After an accident, you should focus your attention on recovering from your injuries. Let your attorney handle recovering compensation for medical bills, hospital stays, physical therapy, prescription drug, lost wages and all the other costs that you’ve incurred as the result of someone else’s negligence.

To learn more about personal injury law, I encourage you to watch the video above and to explore our educational website at elkandelk.com. If you have legal questions, please call us at 1-800-ELK-OHIO. I welcome your call.

David J. Elk

The Dangers of Untrained Semi-Truck Drivers

by Arthur Elk

truck5How are you behind the wheel of a moving truck? If you’re like most people, you probably have to take extra precautions because you’re a little unsteady at the wheel. Now imagine that you’re driving an 18-wheeler and are trying to navigate 80,000 pounds of metal and cargo. That’s about 16 times the size of an average car.

As a car accident attorney, I know that there’s a reason that truck drivers need special training to be licensed to drive an 18-wheeler. The bulk of these tractor-trailers makes them more difficult to maneuver and to drive safely. When drivers don’t get the right training, they present a serious danger on the road. About 170,000 people are injured each year in accidents involving tractor-trailers, and about 5,000 18-wheelers are involved in fatal accidents. In fact, one out of eight deaths in traffic accidents involve a tractor-trailer or other large, commercial truck.

If you are in an accident with a tractor-trailer, the truck driver is likely backed by a big corporation and its insurance company, both of which are going to do everything in their power to deny you compensation for your injuries and damages to your vehicle. I’ve seen it happen time and time again in my practice. Working with a qualified car accident attorney means that you have a tough, legal advocate working to protect your rights. I have made it my career to fight for the rights of people like you who have been injured in accidents involving tractor-trailers — many times because the driver lacked the proper training. Don’t let someone else’s carelessness ruin your life. Work with an accident lawyer who can fight on your behalf.

Calculating Future Medical Costs

Ohio attorney Bill Price talks about what to do if your child has been severely injured in an accident and now needs long-term care.

Dealing with the aftermath of an accident can be very challenging, confusing and emotional.  Doctor bills, insurance claims, and other issues won’t wait for injuries to heal. What’s even more troubling is when those injuries are significant and/or permanent. You may be struggling to cope with all the ways this harm will affect you and your family for the rest of your lives.

For some accident victims, there may come a time when your doctor cannot offer any more medical treatment because the injury is permanent. However, you may still help dealing with your injury and require assistance maintaining your health.

Therefore, you may seek restitution for not only current medical bills, hospital stays and prescription drugs, but also the future costs as well. If you’re bringing a lawsuit against the negligent party, you might wonder how we calculate all those costs? Well, the answer is with some help from experts.

With a medical expert, we can demonstrate your need for lifelong medical care. This can include physical therapy, doctor visits, prescription drugs and any other medical costs. But we all know prices change. The amount you paid for medication 10 years is not the same as today and will definitely be different 10 years from now. That’s where an economist becomes important. He or she can estimate what all of your future associated costs will be throughout the years. When dealing with an insurance company, we need to prove economic damages in order to settle or go to trial. By utilizing experts, we work to bring you and your family one step closer to recovery.

To learn more about personal injury law, I encourage you to watch the video above and to explore our educational website at www.elkandelk.com. If you have legal questions, please call us at 1-800-ELK-OHIO. I welcome your call.

William J. Price

Vehicle Recalls Abound

Recently, General Motors has been the subject of extensive media attention and congressional hearings amid allegations the car manufacturer covered up a dangerous ignition switch defect that has been linked to 31 crashes and 13 deaths. However, GM isn’t the only auto manufacturer experiencing problems.

The Motley Fool writes:

“Meanwhile, competitors in the automotive industry are taking advantage of General Motors’ massive recall by scheduling recalls of their own, knowing the media spotlight will remain focused on GM.”

Vehicle Recalls

Chrysler also recently announced a worldwide recall of nearly 870,000 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Durangos to address problems with the brake system.

Ford issued two recalls involving nearly 435,000 vehicles. The first recall affects nearly 386,000 Ford Escape SUVs to fix rusty frame parts. The second recall warns consumers to replace improperly welded seat back frames on 49,000 cars, including the Ford Fusion, Lincoln MKZ, Ford Escape, and C-Max vehicles.

Toyota has announced the recall of 2.34 million vehicles in North America (6.39 million vehicles worldwide) due to several separate issues, including seats not locking properly, airbags not deploying, and faulty windshield wipers. The recall spans 27 Toyota models including the RAV4 SUV, Yaris, Corolla and Camry.

New Mandatory Recall Mailing Label

When sorting through your mail, sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between a legitimate manufacturer’s recall and junk mail. To address this issue, the NHTSA now requires all auto manufacturers to use a distinctive label, notifying owners of recalled vehicles or equipment.

“Recalls only work if consumers are aware of them,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This new label will allow consumers to quickly recognize recall notices mailed to their homes so they can act quickly to get their vehicles, child restraints, tires, or other motor vehicle equipment fixed.”

NHTSA Recall Label

 Consumers can also receive relevant notifications by utilizing a variety of online tools, such as:

  • Email notifications  – Receive updates when register your cars, tires and car seats.
  • Mobile Alerts – NHTSA’s Safercar mobile app sends recall information directly to Android and iPhone users and is available for both Apple devices and Android devices, or RSS feed. It provides information on crash test ratings and child seat installation locations.
  • Check for Open Recalls on Used Cars – The NHTSA’s website, www.safercar.gov, provides a general search tool to help consumers identify recalls that may affect their vehicle. Later this year, a VIN look-up will be available on the site when a new NHTSA mandate goes into effect making it easier for consumers to access this information.

Remember, no matter how you hear about a vehicle recall, don’t ignore it—follow up with your dealer.

What To Do If the At-fault Driver Has Little or No Insurance

Ohio attorney Michael Eisner discusses what to do if you were injured in a car accident by a driver who does not have insurance or only carries very little coverage.

Being involved in a motor vehicle accident can be a very stressful situation as you try to recover from your injuries and resolve financial issues.

What happens if the driver who was at fault for the accident does not have any insurance or only carries the minimum coverage, which does not cover your costs?

To put yourself in the best position possible, you should purchase as much UM/UIM coverage as you can afford.

Uninsured Motorist (UM) was designed to provide a source of recovery when a driver without any insurance causes harm. UM coverage is paid by your insurance company to cover costs incurred due to the accident, subject to policy limits.

Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage will protect you if the at-fault driver has insurance, but not enough to cover your costs. With UIM coverage, your insurance company pays you the damages that you would have recovered had the other driver carried full coverage—also subject to the policy limit. For example, if your injuries incurred a cost of $100,000 dollars and the other driver only holds a $25,000 insurance policy, your own coverage would put in the rest of the money up to the amount of your policy.

Unfortunately, these situations are all too common. There thousands of drivers on the road who are uninsured or underinsured and they cannot cover your losses. These losses can include medical bills, hospital stays, prescription drugs, lost wages and any other costs associated with your injuries.

To recover under any of these types of policies, your attorney will need to present evidence demonstrating the other driver was at fault and that your insurance policy does not cover the complete costs of the injuries that you have suffered. What you’re technically doing at this point is filing a claim against your own insurance policy.

Filing suit against your own insurance company may sound strange. However, it is important to remember that you paid for this coverage to protect you in precisely these types of unfortunate situations. If your insurance company does not respond properly or handle the claim in an appropriate manner, it is your right to pursue the claim in court.

To learn more about personal injury law, I encourage you to watch the video above and to explore our educational website at www.elkandelk.com. If you have legal questions, please call us at 1-800-ELK-OHIO. I welcome your call.

Michael Eisner

Wet-weather Driving Tips

Wet driving conditions can be hazardousAccording to the U.S. Department of Transportation, most weather-related crashes happen on wet pavement and during rainfall. Two of the most common causes are hydroplaning and slippery conditions due to the release of oil, grease, and dirt on the road. However, many other factors can contribute to a motor vehicle accident on a rainy day.

These tips may help save a life.

  1. Slow down. When it rains, visibility may be limited, making it difficult to see—not only other vehicles, but also traffic signs and the edges of the road. To prevent skidding, take turns and curves with less speed than you would in dry conditions. A reduced speed can also help to prevent hydroplaning, when the tires rise up on a film of water.
  2. Beware of hydroplaning. When the water on the road builds up faster than the vehicle’s tires can push it away, the water pressure causes the vehicle to rise up and slide on a thin layer of water between the tires and the road. At this point, the vehicle can be completely out of contact with the road, and in danger of skidding or drifting out of the lane.
  3. Keep your distance. It takes longer to stop or adjust speed in wet weather, so increase your following distance. Be especially careful to stay back from large trucks or busses, because the spray created by their large tires can reduce vision.
  4. Do not use cruise control. Cruise control is designed to keep your vehicle going at a constant speed. If you begin to skid, or become bogged down in standing water, the computer may actually cause your car to accelerate. Drivers using cruise control are also more prone to becoming distracted.
  5. Turn on your lights. Don’t forget that any time windshield wipers are used, Ohio law states you must also turn on your headlights. Additionally, motorists are required to turn on their headlights between sunset and sunrise and during any period of rain, snow, fog or other unfavorable atmospheric conditions—regardless of the time of day. Lights also need to be used at any other time when natural light conditions do not make it possible to see objects 1,000 feet away clearly.
  6. Watch for pedestrians. Use extra care near crosswalks and other areas with people on foot. A pedestrian running to get out of the rain could take an unexpected path and may not be aware of traffic. Also, remember that animals are extremely hard to spot in rainy conditions—and even harder to avoid.
  7. Brake early and gently. Gradual braking earlier than normal will not only increase the stopping distance between you and the vehicle in front of you, but will also warn the driver behind you that you’re slowing down. Also, always be sure to use your turn signals so other drivers on the road have enough time to react.
  8. Never drive through moving water. If you can’t see the ground through rushing water, your vehicle could be swept off the road. Be safe and take another route.
  9. Avoid driving through deep water. That large puddle could be hiding a gaping pothole or other hazard. If you can’t determine how deep the water is, or if it extends up over the curb, it’s best to go around it.
  10. Don’t drive if visibility is poor. If it starts raining so hard that you are unable to see the road, traffic signs or vehicles in front of you, put on your hazard lights, pull over and wait for the storm to pass.

Remember, rain may seem harmless, but driving in wet weather can be dangerous. The most important thing for drivers to remember is to SLOW DOWN!