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.

 

None 4 Under 21 Focuses on Long-Term Consequences of Decisions

None 4 Under 21 Mock Crash Scene
Students viewed this terrifying mock crash scene as they entered None 4 Under 21.

Elk & Elk was the Presenting Sponsor of the 13th annual None 4 Under 21 and Choices Beyond Program, hosted by Portage County Safe Communities at Hiram College. Partner Marilena DiSilvio was the emcee of the afternoon, and Senior Partner David Elk spoke at the event.

Approximately 2000 high school students from Portage County and neighboring districts attended None 4 Under 21. The students witnessed realistic crash and funeral scenes as they entered and exited the event, and heard from several guest speakers about the long-term consequences of impaired and distracted driving.

The None 4 Under 21 Program “empowers young people to make appropriate choices by graphically demonstrating the consequences of poor decision-making.”

Every decision has an impact far beyond just you.

Ryan Streem was 14 years old when he was killed in a motor vehicle accident while riding in the bed of a friend’s pickup truck. His father, Marc Streem, shared his family’s story with the students.

“Every decision has an impact far beyond just you,” he cautioned them as he listed all of the things Ryan will never have the opportunity to do, such as attend prom or graduate from high school.

This message encompassed the theme of each guest speaker’s None 4 Under 21 presentation, and represents the far-reaching consequences of impaired, distracted and irresponsible driving.

I never thought that something like this could happen to me.

Next, students heard from a woman who is currently serving an eight-year prison sentence for aggravated vehicular homicide and a number of other charges after she killed a 15-year-old girl while driving intoxicated.

The woman, dressed in her orange prison jumpsuit, teared up as she described the events leading up to the crash.

“I never thought that I would be the cause of a roadside shrine,” she added. “I never thought that something like this could happen to me.”

Let the choices you make today be the choices you can live with tomorrow.

Aaron Cooksey, the final speaker of the afternoon, detailed the tragic mistake that resulted in the death of his best friend, a four-year prison sentence and a lifetime license suspension.

He advised the students to “let the choices [they] make today be the choices [they] can live with tomorrow.”

Following his presentation, Cooksey asked the audience to refrain from applause and instead observe a moment of silence.

Each incident did not affect one person, but many.

DiSilvio brought the afternoon full circle in her closing remarks, once again reminding the students that the decisions they make can change not only their lives, but the lives of their families, friends and even complete strangers.

“Although each speaker had a different experience, they are identical in the fact that the consequences [of their actions] will last forever… each incident did not affect one person, but many.”

Following the presentation students filed through the “Walk of Remembrance,” featuring eleven local families who lost a loved one as the result of a motor vehicle crash.

For more information about the incidents discussed by guest speakers at None 4 Under 21:

This video produced by TAC (Transport Accident Commission) Victoria was also shown to students during the program.

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.

Labor Day Safe Driving Tips

National Safety Council estimates nearly 400 fatalities in car crashes during Labor Day weekend.For many people, Labor Day means a road trip to celebrate the final days of warm weather with family and friends. AAA predicts more than 1.4 million Ohioans will travel at least 50 miles from home during the holiday weekend, with national estimates just under 35 million.

Unfortunately, the busy holiday traffic also means an increase in motor vehicle accidents. According to the National Safety Council (NCS), about 395 people will be killed and another 42,300 will be injured in car crashes during Labor Day weekend. Of those, NCS estimates 144 lives could be saved if all drivers and their passengers wear seat belts.

Don’t be a statistic

“Labor Day weekend marks the end of summer activities – it should be a time of celebration,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman president and CEO of NSC. “Unfortunately this weekend will be a time of tragedy for hundreds of families that experience a preventable fatality on our roadways.”

  • Don’t drink and drive. Designate a non-drinking driver or plan for alternative transportation, such as a taxi
  • Turn it off. All drivers should refrain from using cell phones – handheld or hands-free – because there is no safe way to use a cell phone while driving
  • Eyes on the road. Do not manipulate in-vehicle infotainment systems or electronic devices, including GPS systems, while the vehicle is in motion
  • Buckle up. Make sure all passengers use their safety belts and children are in safety seats appropriate for their age and size
  • Take your time. Allow plenty of travel time to avoid frustration and diminish the impulse to speed
  • Use your head. Drive defensively, check your blind spots and exercise caution, especially during inclement weather

From all of us at Elk & Elk,

Have a safe and happy Labor Day weekend!

 

 

Source:

National Safety Council estimates nearly 400 fatalities in car crashes during Labor Day weekend” August 25, 2014 | nsc.org

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

How Long Will My Accident Case Take?

Ohio personal injury attorney Mindy Elk Fisher shares important information about filing a claim after a motor vehicle accident.

 

Dealing with the aftermath of an automobile accident can be frustrating and exhausting as you deal with the other driver, their insurance company and your own insurance company to clean up the mess.

Once it’s been decided that you need to file a lawsuit in order to be compensated for your injuries, you may be wondering how long the legal process will take.

Litigation timelines will vary from per person and per case. Your accident case may be similar to someone else’s, but the details are always different. An experienced accident lawyer will tailor your case with an understanding of your specific losses and damages that require compensation. This can include lost wages, medical bills, hospital stays, prescription drugs and any other costs incurred due to the negligence of the other driver.

Before you file a claim, it is important to make sure you wait until you receive a long-term prognosis and to finish the treatment plan your doctor lays out for you. Your injuries may be much more severe than you think and, unfortunately, you may continue to suffer for a long time—perhaps even for the rest of your life.

Typically, an auto accident case can take anywhere from one to two years to complete within the state of Ohio. Again, this is a typical amount of time and it can vary due to many factors. Your case may go into the settlement phase very quickly which shortens the time greatly. However, you need to be aware that a settlement may not be your best option. Insurance companies are quick to offer early cash settlements that are small in comparison to what you will actually need to recover from a significant and/or permanent injury. An experienced attorney can help you navigate this very complicated and stressful time. At Elk & Elk, we take on the stress of litigation and proving your case as you focus on getting healthier and recovering as much as possible.

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.

Mindy 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.

Uninsured Drivers: How They Can Affect You

Uninsured drivers affect everyone.I’m sure you don’t think much about uninsured drivers, but it’s very important to understand how they can affect every one of us on the roads. You should know what it means to be involved in an accident with an uninsured driver.

Even when all drivers involved in the accident are insured, it can be a difficult situation to handle. However, when you’re dealing with an uninsured driver, resolving the damage is even more challenging. The laws that govern automobile accidents differ from state to state. So, how uninsured drivers are handled depends on that state’s law. This is why you should work with a car accident attorney if you are involved in an accident with an uninsured driver. In these situations, working with a qualified professional will give you peace of mind, especially if there were any injuries. A lawyer will be able to assist you with making a claim to your insurance company and help you figure out what damages should be paid by the uninsured party.

Did you know that nearly 1 in 7 drivers don’t have insurance? This means when you pay for your insurance policy, you are also paying to protect yourself from the uninsured drivers out there. Most auto insurance policies include provisions for damages or injuries caused by uninsured drivers. Depending on what state you live in, this addition can make your auto insurance much more expensive.

Even if you have all the right coverage, uninsured drivers are still treacherous for everyone. So, if you are involved in an accident, the wisest thing you can do to protect yourself is to call an accident lawyer and ensure that all of your needs are met.

Arthur M. Elk

GM Recalls another 3.16 Million Vehicles

gmrecallGeneral Motors has announced yet another recall of 3.13 million vehicles with ignition switch problems. The defect can cause engines to shut off, leaving unsuspecting motorists to struggle with a sudden loss of power steering and power brakes, and, in the event of a crash, the air bags may fail to deploy. The defect has been linked to at least 54 crashes and 13 deaths.

The latest GM recalls include the following vehicles:

  • Buick Lacrosse (2005-2009)
  • Chevrolet Impala (2006-2014)
  • Cadillac DeVille (2000-2005)
  • Cadillac DTS (2004-2011)
  • Buick Lucerne (2006-2011)
  • Buick Regal LS and GS (2004-2005)
  • Chevrolet Monte Carlo (2006-2008)

Officials at General Motors announced fixes to the keys of the recalled vehicles will be available “in the next few weeks” and urged customers “to remove additional weight from their key chains and drive with only the ignition key” until a dealer can perform necessary repairs.

Earlier in 2014, GM recalled the following vehicles for the same ignition switch problem:

  • Chevy Cobalt (2005-2010)
  • Pontiac G5 (2007-2010)
  • Pontiac Solstice (2006-2010)
  • Saturn Ion (2003-2007)
  • Saturn Sky (2007-2010)
  • Chevy HHR (2006-2011)

Reports indicate that GM engineers were aware of serious problems with ignition switches for more than a decade, but failed to act.

20 million GM vehicles affected

Facing scrutiny from Congress and the Department of Justice, GM has recalled nearly 20 million vehicles in recent months. Of those, nearly 6.5 million were recalled for ignition switch-related issues. On June 13, 2014 GM also recalled all Chevrolet Camaros model year 2010 or newer for a similar ignition switch problem.

Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, told reporters that over the long run, the auto industry is unlikely to make significant changes to their safety policies unless Congress grants NHTSA the “teeth” to fine automakers more than $35 million maximum penalty, which he said is “petty cash” to a company like GM.

 

Sources:

General Motors grapples with safety crisis” Compiled by Matthew Lewis, Chicago newsroom; Editing by Jonathan Oatis, Reuters, June 17, 2014.

GM’s recalls of 20 million cars signals ‘sea change;’ will it last?” by Greg Gordon, Miami Herald, June 18, 2014.

 

Should You Store Your Car for Evidence after an Accident?

by  Arthur M. Elk

crashIf you have recently been involved in an automobile accident and your car has been totaled, you might be tempted to simply rid yourself of the remaining metal scraps. However, your vehicle might contain important evidence related to the crash. In some cases, you may be required to have it placed in a storage facility while an investigation is ongoing. Unfortunately, you may also be responsible for paying the fees associated with storing the vehicle.

In addition to investigating your claim, a car accident attorney can help ensure the towing company does not engage in any deceptive or unfair practices. The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) offers these important tips to avoid towing and storage scams:

  1. Be prepared – You may already have access to reliable, reputable towing services via road side assistance benefits through your auto insurance carrier. Auto clubs and even credit card issuers also offer this benefit.
  2. The choice is yours – When your car is in an accident, you should always have the opportunity to call your own tow truck and choose where your car goes, whether that is a body shop or even your driveway.
  3. Get an itemized statement of charges – The towing company should give you an itemized statement of charges, and include clear information about how you can get your car back. Look for how much is being charged for storage per day, what kind of charges are listed, as well as a physical address (not a P.O. Box), hours and phone number of the storage yard.
  4. Watch what you sign – Sometimes towing companies will include language preauthorizing a number of days of storage, or even repairs at a certain shop. Towing companies don’t usually make such authorizations a requirement of providing the service.
  5. Be wary of “Good Samaritans” – Many tow scams start with a “passerby” who offers to call a tow truck to be “helpful”.
  6. Don’t just leave the car – If you leave your car by the side of the road, or park it in a lot, then leave the property, you’re setting yourself up for a bad experience.
  7. Safeguard personal information – Do not provide tow truck operators with your insurance information or personal lien holder information.
  8. Be familiar with the law– Know that there are laws that say what a towing company can and can not do when towing your car from an accident scene, or other situations, a little homework can save you a lot of
    aggravation, and a lot of money.

Sometimes, it can take anywhere from 10 days to 2 weeks to get a police report filed properly before a dispute over the collision may begin. While keeping your car in storage will preserve any evidence that needs to be reviewed during a case, the price tag that comes with it can run high, especially if the case drags out for a long period of time. Rely on a car accident attorney to help make sure that the person responsible for the accident foots the bill.