September 2012 Archives

September 27, 2012

Alabama Uninsured Motorist Crackdown Set for New Year

Your chances of being involved in an uninsured car accident in Montgomery or elsewhere in Alabama should go down next year, as authorities implement a new system aimed at cracking down on drivers who are on the road without insurance coverage.

The Montgomery Advertiser reports some 900,000 vehicles in Alabama are without insurance. Alabama passed a law in 2000 requiring all motorists to carry liability insurance. Mandatory minimum insurance requirements are $25,000 property damage and personal injury per person and $50,000 personal injury per accident. 1269975_coins_in_hand.jpg

Drivers are required to carry proof of insurance in their vehicle at all times. Beginning Jan. 1, 2013, the new enforcement efforts will allow officials to check the State of Alabama Online Insurance Verification System when a motorist renews a vehicle's license plates. Police officers will also have immediate access to the database to verify a vehicle's insurance status.

Failure to carry the required insurance can result in a fine of $500 and the suspension of your vehicle's registration. The fine for a second or subsequent offense increases to $1,000. A reinstatement fee of $200 to $400 will also be required.

Officials estimate 1 in 5 vehicles in Alabama are uninsured.

A report published by the Insurance Research Council during the economic downturn identified Alabama drives as among those most likely to be uninsured. The state ranked 6th in the nation with 22 percent of the state's 4 million vehicles uninsured at any given time.

In response, the Alabama legislature last year passed the new enforcement measures. Advocates contend too many motorists bought insurance when it came time to renew their license plates -- then stopped paying the premium.

Now, the database will permit an officer to verify a vehicle's insurance status before stepping out of the cruiser during a traffic stop. The system has been undergoing tests in Winston County, where officials say the reaction from motorists has been largely positive.

Judge Sheila Moore noted motorists who buy auto insurance want other motorists to do the same.

Indeed. Montgomery personal injury lawyers are often asked whether victims of an accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist are without legal recourse. The answer is complex. Certainly contacting an experienced law firm in the immediate aftermath of such accidents can be a critical factor in protecting your rights. In some cases, it may be possible to collect against the at-fault driver's assets. In other cases, insurance policies in place on other vehicles in a driver's household may provide coverage.

A driver's own insurance coverage may be another source of recovery. In fact, we recommend drivers purchase more coverage than the law requires. Typically, a substantial increase in coverage is available for a very modest increase in premium. In the event of a serious or fatal accident, $50,000 in insurance coverage might not be enough to cover the cost of your initial emergency treatment.

Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage in the amount of $250,000 may be added to most polices for less than $100 every six months.

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September 21, 2012

Alabama Child Safety: Check Your Car Seat this Week

Buckle up your child. Every car ride. It could save their life.

State and federal safety advocates are sponsoring Child Passenger Safety Week this week, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Officials with the NHTSA recently joined forces with Safe Kids in an effort to get more parents to properly buckle their kids into car seats during every car ride. According to recent studies, parents and guardians are making very common mistakes in using car seats. These surveys also noted that about 20 percent of parents fail to even pick up the instruction manual.
Montgomery injury lawyers understand that car accidents continue to be the leading cause of death for kids under the age of 12 in the U.S. The most effective way to protect them in the event of an accident is to put them in the right child car seat and to use it the right way. To take it a step further, we're asking parents to visit one of the Child Car Seat Inspection Locations in Alabama to double check that their seats are being used correctly and that their children are buckled in the right way.

"The key to keeping kids safe is to make sure your child is in the right seat for their age and size - and to make sure that the seat is correctly installed in your vehicle," said U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Ray LaHood.

According to a new survey from the NHTSA, there are five serious mistakes that parents are making when buckling in kids.

Car Seat Mistakes:

-Parents are oftentimes using the wrong harness slots when installing these seats.

-Parents are not placing the chest clip properly over their child or they're not using the clip at all.

-Parents are installing these seats too loosely. They shouldn't be able to move more than an inch when properly buckled.

-Parents are leaving the harness too loose and are allowing too much slack between the child and the harness strap. There should be absolutely no slack when properly buckled.

-Parents are placing the seat belt improperly over the child. It should always rest over the stomach and never over the face or the neck.

Alarmingly enough, although 20 percent of drivers don't read the instruction manual and don't properly install these seats, about 90 percent of parents say that they're "very confident" in their ability to do so the right way. This is no time to take chances! Make sure that your child is properly buckled in the correct seat during each and every car ride. They can't do it themselves and they must rely on your good judgment to help keep them safe on the road!

Continue reading "Alabama Child Safety: Check Your Car Seat this Week" »

September 18, 2012

Drivers Behaving Badly in Alabama, Even With Stricter Laws

Bad driving just might be your fault.

According to Science Magazine, drivers who are likely to use a cell phone while driving might not be any safer when they don't have a phone in their hand.

A recent study in Accident Analysis & Prevention concluded that if you're willing to talk on a cell phone behind the wheel then you're likely to engage in other dangerous driving habits.
Our Montgomery car accident lawyers know just how dangerous it is to use a cell phone behind the wheel, especially when you use it to text message. Drivers are 23 times more likely to get into an accident while they're texting behind the wheel. What many safe-driving officials are puzzling over, however, is why anti-distracted driving laws aren't working to reduce the number of car accidents. Studies have shown that cell phone use by drivers has decreased significantly in states with these laws, but the number of car accidents has not shown a corresponding decline.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), only drivers who have an intermediate license, and have had it for less than six months, are prohibited from using a cell phone behind the wheel in Alabama. All drivers are banned from text messaging while driving. Still, these laws might not be reducing the risks of accidents like officials had hoped. Drivers are still driving dangerously even without a phone in their hand. There's little to no regard for safety out there!

"The fundamental problem may be the behavior of the individuals willing to pick up the technology," said Bryan Reimer, with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The study determined that drivers who are likely to pick up a cell phone behind the wheel are also likely to engage in other dangerous driving habits on a regular basis. These habits include excessive accelerating and braking, speeding, unnecessary lane changes, tailgating and driving too fast for conditions. Officials think it might not be the phones that are causing these accidents, but the dangerous driving habits of drivers regardless of cell phone use.

The American Automobile Association (AAA) says that this study in spot on! Officials with AAA have recently conducted a survey that determined that many drivers are aware of the risks that are associated with dangerous driving behaviors, but neglect to do anything to change their own behavior behind the wheel. They continue to speed down our roadways with little to no concern for the risks associated with their driving habits.

It's clear that drivers know the difference between right and wrong. But the big question is why are drivers still behaving badly? We're asking everyone to focus on the importance of safe driving as we head into the fall travel season. Keep the phones out of the driver's seat and make sure to obey all road laws -- your life depends on it.

Continue reading "Drivers Behaving Badly in Alabama, Even With Stricter Laws" »

September 10, 2012

Alabama Supreme Court's Due-Diligence Ruling Highlights Importance of Properly Identifying Negligent Parties

An August decision by the Alabama Supreme Court highlights the importance of properly identifying negligent parties in a personal injury lawsuit.

A thorough understanding of statute-of-limitations and other matters of law is equally critical. Your Montgomery personal injury attorney will often face off with the experienced legal counsel hired by insurance carriers, doctors and hospitals, where the focus is avoiding responsibility, limiting payouts and, when all else fails, endless delay. 1314902_medical_doctor.jpg

Dulin v. Northeast Alabama Regional Med. Ctr. is a case that has already made it to the state Supreme Court and back, despite the fact that it's not yet made it to trial.

After being admitted to the hospital in May 2005 for "crush injuries to the chest," George Dulin's tracheostomy tube became dislodged during a bath administered by the nursing staff. As a result, Dulin suffered from oxygen deprivation for an undetermined period of time. A medical malpractice case ensued, wherein Dulin and his wife sued the Center and 17 fictitiously named defendants (John Doe, Jane Doe, these are placeholders a plaintiff's attorney may use when filing a lawsuit in cases where the identities of the defendants -- in this case, doctors, nurses and hospital staff -- are unknown or unconfirmed).

Dulin's wife reportedly received a hospital review of the case a month after the incident. The file contained paperwork that purported to identify eight members of the Code Team involved in Dulin's care. When the lawsuit was later amended to include the names of defendants, three members of the team petitioned Calhoun Circuit Court for summary judgment.

Summary judgment requests the judge rule in favor of a party before trial or before all of the facts of a case are presented-- in this case by dismissing the lawsuit. In this case, the defendants raised a statute of limitations defense, arguing the amended version of the suit (which named them) was filed more than two years after the 2005 incident. They also argued the Dulins failed to exercise due-diligence in learning the nurses' identities.

However, the motion was denied by the trial court, prompting the nurses to file a writ of mandamus with the Alabama Supreme Court. A writ of mandamus essentially requests a review of a trial court's actions before the underlying matter has been settled. Latin for "we command," it seeks an order from a superior court requiring a subordinate court to take action (or refrain from action) as a matter of law.

Upon review of this case, the state Supreme Court found the law requires "ordinary" due diligence, not "extraordinary." As such, the court could not find that the Dulins failed the due-diligence test based on the prompt acquisition of the medical records, and the promptness of the substitution of those names in the lawsuit. As a result, the application for writ of mandamus was denied and the case was sent back to the trial court for additional proceedings.

You'll note we are 7 years down the road from the time of this incident. Given just the rudimentary facts of the case as outlined in the high court's opinion, it would seem the Dulins have a solid case for damages. The hospital and its insurers understand culpability is almost a foregone conclusion. This case will likely boil down to fiscal calculations, including cost of long-term care, calculation of career lost wages and other damages.

When choosing a personal injury or wrongful death law firm in Alabama, experience matters. You also need a firm with the resources to fight back, and to make sure your legal rights are protected at each stage of the process.

Continue reading "Alabama Supreme Court's Due-Diligence Ruling Highlights Importance of Properly Identifying Negligent Parties" »

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