Articles Posted in Car Accidents

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motorcycle-stunter-tyre-burnout-1301095-m-3.jpgIn most states, including Maine, uninsured motorist coverage is mandatory. Uninsured motorist coverage is an exception to the basic idea in insurance and tort law that an injured person’s damages should be paid by or on behalf of the at-fault party. In Maine, the amount of uninsured motorist coverage that must be provided depends on the applicability of the Maine Automobile Insurance Cancellation Control Act. Any policy subject to this law must provide coverage that is no less than the amount of liability coverage offered to the purchaser, unless the purchaser rejects that amount.The amount of uninsured motorist coverage cannot be less than the minimum limits for bodily injury liability insurance. If a policy is not subject to the law, uninsured motorist coverage is required only in accordance with statutory minimums.

In the recent Maine Supreme Court case Dickau v. Vermont Mutual Insurance Company,the plaintiff had been struck by an under-insured driver while riding his motorcycle. The plaintiff argued that either he was entitled to uninsured motorist coverage pursuant to an umbrella policy with his insurance company, based on the policy’s language or by operation of law.

The plaintiff suffered more than $250,000 in damages, but the defendant’s insurance policy only provided $100,000 in liability insurance coverage. The plaintiff, on the other hand, was covered by two insurance policies. A Dairyland Insurance Company policy insured the plaintiff’s motorcycle and offered $250,000 in uninsured motorist coverage. An umbrella policy offered liability coverage in excess of minimum primary insurance for up to $1 million per occurrence.
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abandoned-pick-up-truck-5-866819-m.jpgInsurance issues can complicate a car accident case. This is why it is important to retain a Maine personal injury attorney that understands insurance coverage, particularly when there may be multiple insurance policies that offer coverage for a particular accident. Not all lawyers have a good grasp on how to read insurance policies.

In Maine, every vehicle owner has to carry liability insurance as well as uninsured motorist coverage and medical payments coverage. The minimum liability insurance coverage for injury to one person is $50,000. Every person is required to obtain uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage of $50,000/$100,000 or a combined limit of $100,000. These are minimum requirements, and sometimes it is wise to purchase more as a precautionary measure in case of a serious accident or wrongful death.

In a recent case, a decedent’s estate appealed after a summary judgment in favor of the defendants in its lawsuit against three insurance companies. On appeal, the estate argued there were issues of material fact about whether the decedent, a minor, had actually completed the purchase of a truck he was driving at the time of his death. The estate also argued that the decedent was killed before he became an adult and didn’t have the opportunity to ratify the contract.
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country-road-322990-m.jpgThe most common way to die is not through recreational risk like scuba diving or skydiving. As you may know, driving your car everyday on American roads is the activity that presents the greatest risk of getting killed. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has found that car or other vehicle accidents are the leading cause of the death in the U.S. for people between ages four and 27. You can reduce these risks by being aware of dangerous times and places to drive.

In the event that a loved one is killed in a traffic accident, you may be able to bring a claim for wrongful death. Someone suing for the wrongful death of a family member may be able to recover damages for medical expenses, funeral expenses, loss of earnings potential, loss of inheritance, loss of care and protection, pain and suffering and possibly punitive damages, depending on whether the conduct that caused the accident was egregious.

The Maryland Strategic Highway Safety Plan identifies six deadly factors that drivers should avoid to avoid a fatal traffic accident. These six are: distracted drivers, drunk drivers, aggressive drivers, road construction, failing to use seatbelts and walking.
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texture-mashup-754020-m.jpgIt is common to imagine that most drunk driving crashes hurt or kill someone not known to the drunk driver. Disturbingly, a new study published in Pediatrics found that the majority of children who die in car crashes related to alcohol consumption are passengers in the car of the drunk driver.

According to the study, about 1210 kids below the age of 15 were killed in a car wreck in 2010. 1 out of 5 of those crashes involved drunk driving.

The study’s researchers evaluated fatal car accidents using data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System. They found that between 2001-2010, 2344 children under the age of 15 died in 2075 car wrecks involving drunk drivers. 65% of these rode with drunk drivers. In those ten years, the number of child passengers that were killed while riding in a drunk driver’s car went down by 41%.
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to-work-by-bike-1440576-m.jpgLess than half of the millions of Americans who ride bicycles wear helmets. One national survey of kids ages 5-14 taken in 2001-2003 determined that only 48% of them wore bicycle helmets. Older kids were less likely to wear helmets than younger kids were. Bike helmets have a bad rap for not being cool or stylish. Some kids don’t wear them for fear of getting teased or being seen as a geek or unattractive in front of their crush or friends. However, in 2010, 800 bicyclists were killed in the United States and about 515,000 were injured so badly they needed to go to the ER. Half of these were kids under age 20. A large percentage of injuries were traumatic brain injuries.

A bike is often your child’s first vehicle. It is a sign of freedom and impending adulthood. But it is important to make kids aware that wearing a bike helmet approved by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, ASTM or Snell is not optional or uncool–it’s a must. The State of Maine recognizes how important this issue is and has made it mandatory for all people under age 16 to wear a bike helmet when riding in public streets.

The helmet should be one specifically made for bicycling. Helmets for other spots are not adequate substitutes because cycling helmets are designed to shatter on impact and reduce the blow to the head. A good bike helmet is typically under $20, but its value is far greater in terms of protecting against serious or catastrophic head injuries. Unlike passengers of cars, cyclists have nothing to stand between them and their bodies, and because cyclists are so small compared to cars, drivers don’t anticipate their presence and often don’t see them before an accident.
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a-car-key-with-lock-2-879310-m.jpgMaine drivers should be aware that General Motors recalled over 2.5 million vehicles with faulty ignition switches. The ignition switch in certain GM cars could turn off during the operation of the vehicle, resulting in stalled engines and disabled brakes and airbags. Some of the affected cars are the Pontiac G5, the 2007 Chevy Cobalt and the 2007 Saturn Sky. A full list is available on a GM website.

GM explained that drivers should remove all objects from their vehicle keys, including the fob, in order to make the car safe to drive. Apparently extra weight can cause the switch to turn off on its own or move to the accessory mode. However, it may be wiser to park your car until the problem is fixed and ask GM for a loaner car.

In early April, 22 family members of those that died as a result of driving the cars that have been recalled asked Congress to urge GM to tell consumers not to drive these cars at all. Many members of Congress agreed and hope to toughen disclosure laws about defects that make cars less safe or totally unsafe. Senator Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, agreed the models should not be driven until repaired.
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hand-holding-mobile-smart-phone-1417191-m.jpgAdults in Maine and other states know that texting and driving is dangerous. Yet the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that in 2011, 387,000 people were injured and 3331 were killed in car accidents due to distracted drivers.

As discussed in other posts, there are a number of distractions that drivers need to avoid, but texting is especially dangerous, and it affects a vulnerable portion of the population that may not understand the consequences: teenagers. Teenagers often think it’s no big deal to send a quick text, even when they know talking on the phone is a bad idea.

NTSA has found teens to be six times more likely to crash while dialing a telephone. They are 23 times more likely to crash if they text while driving. Their reaction times start to approximate a 70-year-old driving without a cell phone, which is particularly dangerous because teens are also less likely to have a visceral understanding of the hazards of excessive speed and leaving enough space between cars.
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seatbelt-602535-m-2.jpgParents in Maine and other states put their infants and children in car seats as a safety precaution. These safety seats can reduce the incidence of fatality for infants (under age 1) in car accidents by 71%. It reduces toddler fatalities in accidents by 54%. Unfortunately, many people believe that their children are safe, when 7 out of 10 children are, in fact, improperly restrained in their car seats. Graco is one of the more popular brands of child safety seats, and many families in Maine rely on this brand to keep their children safe in the event of a car accident. Recently, Graco announced a recall of 3.7 million of the buckles on their car seats in a variety of models because these buckles are faulty.

Apparently the flaw in the buckles arises when food or dried liquids get embedded and stuck in certain harness buckles. This can make the buckles difficult to open or lock them into the latched position even when trying to release the latch. A problem like this could become problematic if there were an emergency. These buckles are not used on every Graco model; they were the ones manufactured between 2009 and July of 2013. Certain car seats, like the Graco SnugRide, were excluded from the recall because of a unique design.

Many different models of the toddler convertible and harnessed booster car seats were affected, including the Argos 70, Argos 70 Elite, Cozy Cline, Comfort Sport, certain My Ride models, Head Wise with Safety Surround and Nautilus models. The buckle types affected are Signature and QT buckles. These are the buckles with rounded red buttons, not the square red button buckles.
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need-for-speed-1397111-m.jpgThe U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently released a survey entitled “National Survey of Speeding Attitudes and Behavior.” A copy of the PDF document can be downloaded from the NHTSA website by clicking here. This survey offers a sense of the public’s attitude towards speeding across the nation. Speeding is defined as going over the posted speed limit or driving too fast for conditions and it is a common factor in traffic crashes. Maine, along with other New England states, was one of the states with the lowest number of “non-speeders.”

To compile the data, NHTSA held 6144 phone interviews among drivers 16 and up. 1137 interviews were conducted with people that use mostly their cell phone, whereas 4507 interviews were held on landlines. There was a slightly larger percentage of interviews conducted with drivers ages 16-34 years old because this group was overrepresented in crashes.

The survey showed that drivers have a wide range of perspectives. The report is divided between a discussion of normative attitudes (what people think should be done) and personal attitudes (what they actually do in their real lives).
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skylark-always-has-to-have-a-driver-1351165-m.jpgFor years, Maine residents, like all Americans, have been warned of the dangers of drunk driving. Most people know that just drinking some coffee after a night of heavy drinking is not good enough, and assume, when drinking at a friend’s house, that waiting there and sleeping off a buzz is safer than getting on the road. However, some recent European studies show that driving with a hangover can be as dangerous as drunk driving, a finding that should affect both how you drink and how you drive the following morning.

In one study, a professor from the University of the West of England asked participants to drink alcohol the night before taking simulated driving tests. The morning after their drinking, they had to drive in a simulation involving both urban and rural settings. The participants were legally sober and ‘drove’ for 20 minutes. However they had a large number of mistakes and deviations in both speed and driving position. They crossed over the central line more frequently. They sped too much. Most disturbingly, they had slow reaction times.

In a larger study conducted in the Netherlands, which was presented at the 2013 Australian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs conference, 47 participants that had spent the night before drinking an average of 10 drinks took a 1-hour simulated highway driving test. They were tested in the morning and found to have no alcohol in their bloodstream at the time they took the tests. However, their ability to drive was dramatically impaired, comparable to somebody with a BAC of .05 (which is the legal limit in some other countries such as Australia.)
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