July 17, 2013

Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drugged Driving Causes Controversy

In July of 2009, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published the "Results of the 2007 National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers." The survey indicated that similar research has been done for the past four decades in order to ascertain how many drivers may be under the influence of alcohol, illegal or prescription drugs. 1411310_colorful_cocktails.jpg

This year, however, there was controversy in several Alabama counties over the way in which the study was conducted. Our Montgomery accident lawyers know that accurate and complete data on drunk and impaired drivers is essential to make informed decisions about road safety. However, it is also important to make sure studies are conducted in a way that does not make people believe their rights are being infringed.

Alcohol and Drugged Driving Survey Stirs Criticism

According to Alabama.com, research for the 2013 National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use was conducted on a weekend in early June. The survey was conducted between the hours of 10:00 p.m. to midnight and again from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 in the morning. Traffic was stopped in several locations in St. Clair and Bibb County and off-duty deputies asked motorists to undergo a breathalyzer test, give a blood sample and give a throat swab.

The survey was conducted anonymously and those who provided the throat swab were paid $10.00 while those who provided the blood sample were paid $50.00.

However, some expressed concerns because the survey was conducted late at night, because there was no consent form, and because it was unclear whether people were really aware that the survey was voluntary. Worry over providing information to the government in a time of increasing privacy concerns was also a fear that was voiced by several.

These concerns are based upon worries that people's Fourth Amendment rights may have been violated. The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable and unjustified search and seizure.

Researchers, however, suggest that these concerns are unfounded, that the survey went well overall, that the public was receptive and that the process was very pleasant. A spokesperson for the group coordinating the study, the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, said that the survey actually went better than it often does and that he was surprised by the reaction.

Further researchers indicate that the use of the deputies to ask questions of motorists was done for safety reasons, not to infringe on people's rights or to make people feel as if the survey was not voluntary.

The reaction to the survey was reportedly unusual, as compared with the many previous times that the research has been conducted. The impact of social media was cited as one possible reason for the reaction. Drivers and motorists could better connect through the Internet and thus with news of multiple traffic stop areas, more questions were raised. The long history of the survey, however, suggests that the purpose really was to increase road safety and get a better handle on the number of drivers who are intoxicated on the road.

Motorists under the influence of drugs and alcohol continue to be a deadly issue on our nation's roads. This survey is an important means of collecting data to determine the effectiveness of public-awareness campaigns, law enforcement efforts and other initiatives.

Continue reading "Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drugged Driving Causes Controversy" »

July 7, 2013

Drunk Driving a Costly, Deadly Gamble in Alabama

We often talk about the deadly risks associated with drunk driving. But if you're one of the lucky ones who manage to stay out of an accident, you still run the risk of getting busted, having a criminal record and forking over thousands of dollars.
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According to MSN Money, a drunken-driving conviction will cost you thousands of dollars in fines, attorney's fees and higher insurance premiums.

Our Montgomery accident lawyers understand that convictions for a first DWI/DUI carry penalties of a fine ($600-$2,100). If you're busted in a second conviction, you're looking at fines of more than $5,000. Additionally, potential jail time, increased insurance premiums, possible job loss and a permanent criminal record await those convicted.

So what are all these costs for?

DUI Classes:

You may be required to take a class on the dangers of drunken driving, and you'll have to pay for it.

License Fees:

For a first-time conviction, you could have your driver's license suspended for 90 days. And don't think they'll just hand it back to you when those 90 days are up. You're going to have to pay to get that back.

Attorney Fees:

Yes, if you want the proper representation, that's going to cost you, too.

Insurance Hikes:

With a drunk driving conviction on your record, insurance companies are going to see you as a greater liability, and they're going to make you pay for it. According to recent statistics, you increase will average a 20 percent hike. Many report insurance premiums that nearly double.

Ignition Interlocks:

The Alabama Ignition Interlock statute became effective on September 1, 2012. Enacted by the 2011 Alabama legislature, this statute adds significant "after conviction" supervision and control processes by the sentencing court. All DUI convictions entered by an Alabama court on or after September 1, 2012 are subject to the new "ignition interlock" statute. You can be sentenced to an interlock device if you refuse to provide blood alcohol concentration, if you have a child under the age of 14 in your vehicle when the arrest occurs, or if someone else besides the drunk driver was injured in the accident.

In the state of Alabama, there were close to 300 people killed in drunk driving car accidents in 2011. According to The Century Council, there were more than 13,000 people arrested for driving under the influence. More than 80 of those arrests were of drivers under the age of 18.

The risks just aren't worth it. Stay sober behind the wheel this summer and talk to your family and friends about the risks.

Continue reading "Drunk Driving a Costly, Deadly Gamble in Alabama " »

July 1, 2013

Fireworks Risking Your Family's Safety This Fourth of July

We know most of you are going to be celebrating this Fourth of July and a fireworks show or two will likely be on the agenda. But if you use these devices improperly, you could wind up with some serious injuries. Burns and fatalities result every year because of fireworks injuries in Alabama and elsewhere.
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Alabama fireworks accidents are an all too common occurrence around Independence Day. Our Montgomery injury attorneys understand that children are at some of the highest risks for these kinds of accidents. And that's why officials from the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) recommend that parents protect children from injury by preventing them from using fireworks.

According to SAFE KIDS, there are roughly 5,000 children under the age of 15 who are treated in an emergency room every year because of a firework-related injury. Nearly 70 percent of these injuries occur during the month surrounding the Fourth of July holiday.

Your safest way to enjoy fireworks during this holiday is to attend a public and sanctioned firework event. When you don't want to do that, and you want to celebrate at your home, it's important that you're as safe as you can to prevent any tragedies. After choosing safe and legal fireworks to shoot off yourself, make sure you follow these safety tips to help to avoid an accident:

-Don't let children play with or light any kind of firework.

-Make sure that you look over the instructions and the warnings on all fireworks before use.

-Talk with children about the safety procedures needed to avoid an accident.

-Drinking and fireworks don't mix. Make sure that you always have a designated shooter.

-Always ignite one device at a time.

-Look out for tree branches or bushes that could catch fire.

-Never attempt to re-light, alter or fix any "dud" fireworks. If a firework does not work, return it to your dealer for replacement.

-Fireworks should only be used outdoors.

-Be cautious when lighting fireworks when it is windy.

-Sparklers should be immersed in sand once they appear out - they are still very hot and can burn.

-Don't allow children under the age of 12 to handle sparklers.

-Make sure that everyone has cleared the area before attempting to light a firework.

-Once you've lit a firework, clear the area.

-Only light fireworks on a smooth, flat surface away from the house, dry leaves and flammable materials.

-Read and follow all warnings and instructions.

-Little arms are too short to hold sparklers, which can heat up to 1,200 degrees. How about this? Let your young children use glow sticks instead. They can be just as fun but they don't burn at a temperature hot enough to melt glass.

Remember that the top injuries resulting from fireworks are burns, bruises, cuts, scratches and vision and hearing loss. Help to reduce your family's risks for these kinds of accidents by attending safe firework shows over this Fourth of July.

Continue reading "Fireworks Risking Your Family's Safety This Fourth of July" »

June 26, 2013

Dog Bite Injuries Comprise One-Third of Homeowner Insurance Claims

The amount of money paid out for homeowner insurance claims for dog bites has spiked in recent years, despite the fact that the actual number of claims has remained about the same.
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Our Montgomery dog bite lawyers understand that in 2012, one-third of all homeowner insurance claims paid out were for dog bites, according to the Insurance Information Institute. The release of the information came on the heels of National Dog Bite Prevention Week, late last month.

Across the country, dog bite claim numbers have remained steadily between about 14,300 and 17,000, with the total in 2012 tallied at roughly 16,500. The lowest number was in 2005, when there were about 14,300 claims filed.

Last year, dog bite claims accounted for nearly $490 million in insurance liability payouts. However, in 2003, when several hundred more actual dog bite claims were filed, the payout was about $325 million. The rate has increased by more than 50 percent, which surpasses the rate of inflation. Average payouts for a dog bite claim went from about $19,000 to about $30,000 in the last decade.

This is not to say that dog bite victims are scoring an impressive payday. The reality is that the cost of medical care has also risen. Depending on the severity of the injury, it could easily cost tens of thousands of dollars when you factor in emergency medical care, surgery, follow-up treatments, therapy and medication.

The Alabama Veterinary Medical Association reported there were approximately 7,000 dog bites in Alabama last year. The majority of those, the association says, occurred during everyday activities and most often affected young children who were interacting with familiar dogs.

Insurance companies are reacting to these kinds of claims by restricting coverage for individuals who have already had a dog bite someone or for those who have a dog in a breed that is considered high-risk. There are a few states that ban breed-specific legislation (Alabama isn't one of them). But even in most of those places, insurers aren't barred from formulating policy coverage based on the breed of dog one chooses to own.

Of course, any dog can bite. You can have an aggressive Maltese and a Pit Bull who is a gentle giant. Most of it comes down to training and consistency in following local leash law ordinances.

Still, it's important especially for families with young children to carefully weigh which breed will make the most sense for their lifestyle. Finding a good match will mean less stress for the animal, which can lessen the possibility of the dog lashing out through bites.

If you are looking for a dog that is laid back, the American Kennel Club recommends:


  • Bulldogs. These dogs are medium-sized, gentle, protective and form strong bonds with children. They require minimal exercise and grooming and prefer to stay indoors during hot weather.

  • Bullmastiff. This is a strong dog that grows large, but it is a breed well-suited to families. They don't require much exercise, but they can be quite stubborn, so early, consistent training is important.

  • Pugs. These dogs are known to be playful, willing to please and social. They require minimal exercise and grooming.

  • Chihuahua. These are great dogs for the city because of their size. They are intelligent and loyal.

  • French Bulldog. These dogs are known to be personable and affectionate.

Continue reading "Dog Bite Injuries Comprise One-Third of Homeowner Insurance Claims" »

June 20, 2013

Smartphones Sending Drivers through Red Lights?

According to NBC News, more than half of American adults have a smartphone. That's fine when we're talking about checking your email and surfing the web on the go, but it's not good news when we're talking about our roadways.
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Our Montgomery car accident lawyers understand just how many problems distracted driving are causing on our roadways. According to a recent study from the National Coalition for Safer Roads and FocusDriven about 12 percent of red-light violations are caused by distracted drivers. In the study, officials examined close to 120 intersections in about 20 communities and took a special look at red-light violators. According to Auto Blog, the observations from this study led researchers to conclude that as many as 7.3 million red light infractions a year are the result of distracted driving.

The truth of the matter is that distracted driving is a pervasive threat on our roadways, particularly when it comes to cell phone use while driving. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), cell phone use is a factor in more than 20 percent of accidents, and drivers talking on handheld or hands-free cell phones are close to five times more likely to be involved in a car accident.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), only 16-year-old drivers and 17-year-old drivers who have held an intermediate license for fewer than 6 months are prohibited from using a cell behind the wheel. On the other hand, all drivers are banned from text messaging in the driver's seat.

With these loose laws, it's no wonder why so many accidents in the area are caused by distracted drivers. We need the proper laws in place to help ensure that drivers are keeping 100 percent of their attention on the road.

This is especially important when talking about our younger drivers. They're the ones who are most likely to engage in cell phone-related distractions behind the wheel. Do this by setting a safe example. Always put your best (and safest) foot forward when they're riding along in the vehicle with you. Parents are some of the most influential people in teens' lives. Also, make sure that you're providing plenty of supervised driving time for them to help to make sure that they're on the road to safe driving.

Lastly, you want to make sure they understand the rules of the road and they understand your expectations of them as a responsible driver. Your guidance and your help can save lives.

In 2011, there were more than 3,330 people killed in distracted driving car accidents. Hundreds of thousands more were injured. And all of these accidents were the result of careless actions and disregard for roadway safety. Shape up behind the wheel, pay attention and cut out your risks for senseless collisions.

Continue reading "Smartphones Sending Drivers through Red Lights?" »

June 13, 2013

Alabama Slip and Fall Prevention Goal of Safety Month

June is National Safety Month, and of all the existing potential hazards, the National Safety Council has chosen to focus on slips, trips and falls.
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Our Montgomery premise liability attorneys know that some people might make light of these incidents as laughable blunders resulting from clumsiness. The reality is, falls can result in serious injury or even death, and a lot of times, there is some kind of negligence involved - whether it occurs at work or at a residence or nursing home or inside a business.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than 19,500 people die each year in America due to unintended falls.

Alabama premises liability laws indicate that property owners may be held liable when an injury was caused by unsafe conditions that they knew about or should have known about. "Property owner" may be defined as anyone from an individual homeowner to a corporation or business.

All property owners need to be mindful of potential hazards particularly as they relate to potential slips, trips and falls. Often, this involves adequately warning guests when there is a potential hazard and/or taking steps to eliminate that hazard. When they fail to do this, they should be held accountable.

While the causes of slip-and-fall accidents widely vary, some of the more common forms include:


  • Uneven walking surfaces. This could be broken stairways or uneven pavement, holes, lose tiles, loose rugs or defective carpet.

  • Poor lighting. If you can't see well enough where you are going, it's inevitably going to affect your ability to walk safely.

  • Wet floors. This is common especially in the summer rainy season, when you've got rain water being trudged in from umbrellas or boots or clothing. It's also a problem with liquids like oil, grease and cleaning products.

  • Defective handrails or safeguards. This is especially problematic in the construction field when workers aren't adequately protected due to a defective or non-existent scaffold.


In order to prove a premise liability case, your attorney will have to show that the property owner caused the unsafe condition, knew or should have known about the problem and failed to take steps to correct it in a timely fashion once it was discovered.

The workplace in among the most dangerous for those in Alabama in terms of falls. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in Alabama, falls account for nearly 15 percent of work-related fatalities annually.

Of those, the vast majority were wage and salaried men. Forty percent were between the ages of 25 and 44 and the other 60 percent were between the ages of 45 and 64. The two most common types of falls were falls from a roof and falls from a ladder.

Some things to keep in mind about ladder safety (and this relates to both home and work):


  • Pick the correct ladder for the job, and make sure you've been trained on how to properly use it;

  • Spot check the work area for potential hazards, such as objects in the hallway or stray cords;

  • Don't stand any higher than the third rung from the top;

  • If the weather is windy or rainy or otherwise inclement, don't use the ladder outdoors. Get off immediately if the weather changes while you are out there;

  • Always keep at least three points of contact on the ladder, such as two feet and one hand.

Continue reading "Alabama Slip and Fall Prevention Goal of Safety Month" »

June 6, 2013

Summer Brings Drowning Risk to Alabama

Another devastating case of Alabama accidental drowning was reported recently, this time in Birmingham and involving a 3-year-old child.
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Deputies are still investigating but report that the child was visiting his grandparents when he somehow managed to get out of the house and made his way to a nearby pool without anyone noticing. Upon discovery, the child was rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Our Montgomery wrongful death attorneys can think of almost nothing more absolutely heart-wrenching than these types of cases. While this incident is still being investigated, it's rare that anyone will face criminal charges in these situations. However, that does not mean that someone was not negligent in the actions leading up to the incident.

Accidental drownings are never purposeful, but they are 100 percent preventable.

As we enter the summer season, we'll sadly see more of these cases because, inevitably, more people will be in and around the pool. Children under the age of 5 represent 75 percent of all pool and spa deaths, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. In fact, drowning is the No. 1 cause of injury and death for children between the ages of 1 and 4, and accounts for nearly 400 deaths annually.

These incidents are non-boating related, and often occur not far from parents or guardians.

Populations that are particularly vulnerable are African American and Hispanic children, the majority of whom cannot swim, according tot he CPSC.

Also, about 80 percent of all those who die in drowning are male.

In working to do all we can to raise awareness and prevent these tragedies, it's important for people to understand that drowning doesn't look like what you think it would look like. Many of us have this picture in our minds from television shows that it's somehow a frantic thrashing and splashing and desperate call for help. In fact, it's deceptively silent. In most cases, victims are unable to call or wave for help and instead simply slip beneath the surface.

In many instances of child drowning, adults are nearby, but they may have no idea what's happening. Here are some telltale signs that a swimmer is in distress:


  • The head is low in the water and the mouth is at water level;

  • The head is tilted back with the mouth open;

  • Eyes appear to be glassy, unable to focus, even empty;

  • Eyes are closed;

  • The hair is over the eyes or forehead;

  • The individual is not using his or her legs; rather, they appear vertical;

  • Gasping or hyperventilation;

  • Attempting to swim in a certain direction but not making any progress;

  • Attempting to roll over onto the back;

  • Appearing to be climbing an invisible ladder.


In preventing these scenarios from occurring in the first place, consider the following:

  • Enroll your child in formal swimming lessons;

  • Erect barriers around swimming pools and spas that would prevent your child from gaining access to these areas without the caregiver's knowledge;

  • Remember that drowning can happen anywhere - swimming pool, bathtub, bucket. Close supervision is essential;

  • If your children are boating, have them where life jackets - no exceptions.

Continue reading "Summer Brings Drowning Risk to Alabama " »

May 29, 2013

Alabama Malpractice Watch: When Hospitals Profit from Medical Errors

General logic might tell us that hospital doctors and staff would want to do everything they could to avoid a surgical error potentially leading to a personal injury or wrongful death. surgeon1.jpg

Civil litigation can be costly, and it may ultimately reflect badly on the institution or individual practitioner.

In reality, our Montgomery wrongful death attorneys understand these entities may have incentive NOT to correct problems or procedures that could lead to a serious injury or death following a surgery.

The reason, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, is that hospitals actually triple their profits when surgical errors are made, compared to when things go smoothly.

On average, researchers found that hospitals were raking in approximately $31,000 more when a patient had developed at least one preventable surgical complication.

Why?

Because these complications mean that the patient is going to require longer, more intensive treatment than would have originally been required.

Ultimately, the effect is that hospitals are being rewarded, at least financially, for failing to ensure proper care of patients. The study, conducted by doctors with the Boston Consulting Group at Harvard, analyzed the outcome of some 35,000 inpatient procedures at a Texas-based hospital system covering 12 regions during 2010. It's believed to be the first such study to delve into the effects of complications from surgery when compared to the profit margins of the hospital.

The research team concluded that the findings should be an impetus for payment reform among health care providers.

It's especially important as we consider that the number of Americans who die each year continues to climb. Back in 1999, the Institute of Medicine released statistics indicating that some 100,000 Americans were victims of lethal hospital errors. That would be as if we had four large jets crashing every single week.

And yet, in the last 10 years, despite numerous medical advances, that number is actually on the rise. A 2011 study released by the journal Health Affairs revealed that approximately one-third of all patients admitted to the hospital suffer some complication arising from an error. Even worse, our knowledge of these incidents is fractional, with many of the adverse events stemming from surgical mistakes failing to be properly reported under current reporting methods.

One medical researcher and author was recently quoted as saying that if medical mistakes were collectively a single disease, it would be the No. 1 cause of death in this country.

The Institute for Health Care Improvement reported that out of more than 40 million patients who are admitted to hospitals every year, about 15 million suffer some type of medical harm.

Almost every time there is a hospital error, a patient is going to require additional services to recover (if they do recover), be that in the form of medicine or an extended stay or possibly even additional surgery. Hospitals in turn get paid for every individual service they provide. So outrageously, more mistakes mean more money.

Continue reading "Alabama Malpractice Watch: When Hospitals Profit from Medical Errors" »

May 24, 2013

Safe Alabama Travels through Memorial Day

Motorists are urged to be safe out there through the Memorial Day weekend. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), there will be more than 405 people throughout the U.S. who are killed during this holiday, from 6:00 p.m. on Friday through 11:59 p.m. on Monday.
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In addition to these fatalities, officials estimate that close to 44,000 people will be injured in traffic accidents as well.

"Even one traffic death is too many," said Department of Public Safety Director Col. J. Christopher Murphy.

Our Montgomery car accident lawyers understand that the Memorial Day weekend is an important time for safety behind the wheel. Millions of Americans will be setting out during the long weekend on a much-needed vacation. And with more travelers on our roadways, the risks for an accident will be higher.

During this time, with the congested roadways, we're asking you to keep your cool behind the wheel and to be prepared. If you start to feel agitated behind the wheel, just take a second to breathe. There's no use in blowing your cool and getting into an altercation with another driver.

As you can expect, we'll likely see traffic delays. Your safest bet is to avoid speeding, tailgating, cutting off other drivers or disobeying traffic devices.

But there's more than just motor vehicle traffic to worry about -- bicyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians will be out in force. During this time, many residents will be out on two feet, or on two wheels, and will be enjoying the warm weather. Make sure your attention is on these vulnerable travelers, too. They've got rights to our roadways and those rights need to be protected.

We oftentimes talk about the risks and the consequences behind distracted driving, and this is where they all come into play. Troopers are asking you to put down the phone and the text messaging devices in the driver's seat. With this increase in traffic, 100 percent of your attention needs to be on the road. Don't think that you can multitask your way through this one.

Lastly, we'd like to remind you to buckle up! Officials with the NSC estimate that close to 150 lives may be saved this Memorial Day holiday period by seat belts. Another 100 lives could be saved it ALL motorists wore a seat belt.

Before you head out, make sure your vehicle is properly maintained. Make sure that your tires are properly inflated, the fluids under your hood are topped off and that you've got an emergency kit in your vehicle should anything happen. Always travel with a cell phone and make sure you've got an extra battery or a charger with you at all times. Preparation is the first and most effective key in preventing an accident.

In 2010, there were more than 20 people who were killed in Alabama traffic accidents during this holiday weekend.

Continue reading "Safe Alabama Travels through Memorial Day" »

May 12, 2013

Alabama Traffic Accidents and the Risk of Hybrid Vehicles

Recently, fire personnel and paramedics in Huntsville were among the first Alabama responders to learn the special risks associated with car accidents involving hybrid and electric vehicles.
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Our Montgomery car accident attorneys understand the training was provided by the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition, which has the goal of making alternative fuel choices more widely available throughout the state.

While electric and hybrid vehicles may be relatively safe, they may also contain voltages of 400 to 650 volts of power that could be extremely dangerous for both occupants or first responders, depending on the circumstances surrounding the crash.

Late last year, the Society of Automotive Engineers produced a report indicating that tow operators, first responders and occupants in an accident may be exposed to potential electric shock from systems that are damaged or not fully disengaged right away after a wreck. We're going to continue to see injuries related to this as there are more and more alternative fuel vehicles on the road. Hybrid vehicles are now offered by Honda, Ford, Toyota, Lexus and Mercury.

And there is an increasing amount of research that show these quiet vehicles are more likely to be involved in pedestrian accidents. The overall designs of these vehicles may vary slightly, but all use a large battery pack that serves to energize an electric motor - or more than one motor. Most also contain a smaller gasoline engine.

The big concern has to do with the area surrounding the battery and the high-voltage cables that are routed underneath the passenger compartment. The concern is that in a crash, that battery could leak or explode, resulting in the risk of an electrocution hazard if those high-voltage cables are exposed to bare metal, passengers or rescuers.

The SAE has recommended that auto manufacturers install a kill switch for the battery power that would automatically be triggered in the event of a crash. The location of the switch, the group said, should be standardized for safety.

A second recommendation involves the creation of a guide for emergency workers to quickly identify high-voltage component locations, so they can be disabled. And that's what the training in Huntsville recently focused on. The instructor noted it's important for first responders to know what to cut, what not to cut and where to cut it.

Although this particular session did not involve tow truck drivers, the SAE has suggested provided industry-wide training for them on this issue as well to prevent the potential for serious injury.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last year held a roundtable discussion of these dangers, and later issued interim guidance for first responders, consumers and tow truck drivers. The NHTSA has recommended that all hybrid and electric car makers produce a standardized disconnect location for all vehicles.

Most auto manufacturers already encase their battery cables in a bright orange sealing, to serve as a warning to anyone who encounters them. However, that color-coding is not a standard federal requirement, so there is no guarantee that all hybrid car makers will use them.

The Electric Driver Transportation Association reported that some 440,000 battery-powered hybrid and electric cars were sold in the U.S. last year, marking a more than 50 percent increase over sales in 2011.

Continue reading "Alabama Traffic Accidents and the Risk of Hybrid Vehicles " »

May 9, 2013

Alabama Personal Injury Claimants Could Sue Brand for Generic Product

The Alabama Supreme Court has ruled that a person could sue a brand name firm for failure to warn about a drug's risk - even when the patient consumed a generic version of the drug not manufactured by the company.
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Our Montgomery personal injury lawyers understand the 8-1 ruling in this case, Wyeth Inc. v. Weeks, has the effect of expanding the legal concept of foreseeability. That is, a brand name manufacturer could be expected to reasonably foresee that a doctor prescribing either a brand name drug or its generic spin-off would rely on risk warnings drafted by the brand name manufacturer - even if the patient was ultimately given the generic version.

Interestingly, a court in California had rejected this same kind of pure foreseeability doctrine in O'Neil v. Crane Co.

However, the Alabama Supreme Court reached its decision relying on previous U.S. Supreme Court rulings in PLIVA, Inc. v. Mensing and Wyeth v. Levine, rulings reached in 2011 and 2009, respectively. In the PLIVA case, the court had ruled that federal laws barred generic manufacturers from altering warning labels on their products to differ from those on the brand name product.

So it's not so much a question of a manufacturing defect, but of a failure to warn of a particular risk. In that case, a brand name company could be held liable because the generic manufacturer would have simply repeated the warning label originally drafted by the brand name company.

As of right now, the case applies only to Alabama product liability claimants, it was closely watched by personal injury attorneys around the country, because of the reliance on the recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings. In this way, the ruling has national implications.

The ruling doesn't necessarily mean that the plaintiff is going to win, but it's a victory that he is being allowed to move forward with the case.

Accourding to court documents, the plaintiff in this case developed a condition called tardive dykinesia. This is a disorder that results in repetitive, involuntary muscle movements, reportedly caused by the long-term use of a drug called metoclopramide. This is a generic form of Reglan, a heartburn medication manufactured by drug giant Pfizer.

The lawsuit names Pfizer, as well as two different generic drug manufacturers - Actavis Elizabeth and Teva Pharmaceuticals - in the U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Alabama. The suit claims all companies failed to warn users and physicians about the long-term risks associated with metoclopramide.

The plaintiff had never before consumed Reglan and Pfizer never made metoclopramide. Pfizer had originally moved to dismiss on the ground that brand name product makers have no duty to a patient who consume a generic drug not produced by the brand maker.

The U.S. District Court asked for certification from the Alabama Supreme Court on the issue of brand name manufacturer liability for duty to warn.

In its decision, the Alabama Supreme Court noted conflicting rulings from other state courts, as well as the growing number of lawsuits being filed against Pfizer for complications due to consuming Reglan long-term.

Continue reading "Alabama Personal Injury Claimants Could Sue Brand for Generic Product" »

April 25, 2013

Distracted Driving Month Educates: News Shows We Still Have a Long Way to Go

The National Safety Council (NSC) joins other safety organizations through April as safety advocates promote Distracted Driving Awareness Month.The hope is to draw attention to the serious public health problem presented by drivers who aren't paying attention.

While the public education and enforcement efforts during Distracted Driving month address different kinds of driver distraction, the focus is on cell phone use and NSC urged all drivers to sign a pledge to drive cell free.1417191_hand_holding_mobile_smart_phone.jpg

Our Montgomery, car accident lawyers know that the majority of drivers are aware that driving distracted is dangerous and yet they do it anyway. It's likely that many drivers underestimate the actual risks they face... risks that are clearly illustrated by some of the stories in the news even as Distracted Driving month comes to a close.

Distracted Driving: It Really is This Bad
One of the biggest issues that makes distracted driving so dangerous is that drivers on the road may not be aware of just how common it is for people to drive without paying attention. A recent study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows 660,000 drivers in the United States may be driving while using their cellular phone at any given daylight moment. This means if you are in the car and it is light out, you are sharing the road with 660,000 people who might be talking or texting.

Since any use of a wireless device can make an accident four times more likely, and since using a cell phone to text can make an accident 23 times more likely, the fact that there are 660,000 drivers on the road with a cell in hand is cause for very serious concern. It is no wonder U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood described distracted driving as a "serious and deadly epidemic on America's roadways."

As if the news that thousands of drivers were on their cell phones wasn't bad enough, another news story during Distracted Driving month indicated that some drivers may even be doubling up on the danger. The story reported by NBC involved an Alabama man who was driving his car with his knees while he was "double texting."

The double-texting Alabama driver had a 3-year-old in his vehicle's backseat, along with prescription drugs and $4,500. He said he had been double texting since he was 15-years-old.

Clearly, this recent information shows how bad the problem of distracted driving has become in the United States. As the NHTSA indicates, there were more than 3,300 deaths in 2011 attributed to distracted driving. There were also 387,000 injuries in crashes where a driver was distracted.

The losses from these accidents and injuries are too great to measure when considering the pain of the family members left behind. Distracted Driving Month can hopefully help people to become more aware that distracted driving is never OK and can start to chip away at the number of people driving while distracted. If some drivers are starting to double up on this dangerous behavior, it is clear that the real risks associated with distracted driving have not yet hit home.

Continue reading "Distracted Driving Month Educates: News Shows We Still Have a Long Way to Go" »

April 20, 2013

Jackknifing Accidents Put Alabama Drivers at Risk

Recently Alabama.com reported that all eastbound lanes of Interstate 20 were blocked off near Brompton. The lanes were blocked off after an accident occurred involving an 18-wheeler. 1165921_a_long_truck.jpg

Our Montgomery truck accident lawyers know that accidents involving large trucks can be extremely dangerous. While this single-vehicle accident did not cause injury to any drivers, resolving the problems caused by the accident still necessitated assistance from police and hours to cleanup, causing headaches for motorists.

18-Wheeler Jackknife Accident Highlights Risks
Jack-knifing occurs when a truck and the trailer that is attached to it get out of sync. As a result, the trailer attached to the back of the truck essentially folds onto itself, turning sideways. The truck, with its sideways trailer, can resemble a V or an L shape instead of the trailer extending behind the tractor.

Jackknifing happens for many different reasons but the most common cause of jackknifing occurs as a result of a loss of traction. The point at which the tire hits the ground is a static contact point because the road isn't moving and the tire itself isn't moving at that exact moment.

If a road is slippery, however, then the tire might skid along the road instead of gripping it. There will no longer be static friction because the tire will be moving at the time when it hits the ground, leaving no static point between two fixed objects. All that will be left to keep the wheel on the ground is sliding friction, which is not nearly as powerful as static friction.

When the tires of the truck's trailer have no static friction, then they may just keep sliding along the road and have insufficient traction to stop. At this point, if the truck driver tries to hit the brakes in order to cause the trailer to stop, the risks are further exacerbated. The wheels can lock and because there is no static friction, the trailer may swing outwards in a sideways direction. This is called jackknifing.

Commercial drivers need to drive carefully, watch the trailer for problems, and be careful about how they brake their truck in order to avoid a jackknifing accident. This is why only experienced drivers with commercial driver's licenses should ever be operating 18-wheelers or any large trucks. This is particularly true of trucks towing tandem trailers.

When the trailer of a truck swings sideways, it can cause the truck to tip over. The trailer that swings sideways can also hit other cars, causing a serious accident. In this incident where I-20 was shut down, it was simply lucky that there were no other vehicles in the path of the truck that jackknifed so disaster was averted.

Continue reading " Jackknifing Accidents Put Alabama Drivers at Risk" »

April 11, 2013

Montgomery Traffic Safety - Seat Belts Still First Line of Defense

Have you ever gotten in your car and figured you didn't need to buckle your seat belt because you were just headed up the street? If so, you aren't alone. As HealthCanal.com reports, most drivers tend to buckle up more when they are going on a long trip as opposed to when they are staying close to home. 602535_seatbelt.jpg

Unfortunately, our Montgomery car accident lawyers know that most accidents happen close to where you live rather than on long trips. This means that drivers who only wear their seat belts for longer journeys may be more likely to get into a crash without a belt on. This can significantly increase the risk of death in an auto accident.

Drivers Who Don't Wear Seat Belts Set Themselves Up For Disaster
Recently, The Republic reported that more than half of all drivers killed in car accidents in Alabama were not wearing their seat belts at the time of the crash.

The data on seat belt use and fatalities came from the Alabama Department of Transportation and relates to accidents that occurred in 2012. Of the 424 people who died in car accidents in vehicles with seat belts available, 251 people did not have their belts on at the time of the accident. Further, 59 percent of the 513 people who died in car accidents in 2012 were not wearing their seat belts at the time when the fatal crash happened.

Many of these people were likely involved in accidents close to where they lived, since drivers who stay nearby are more likely to skip the seat belt. In fact, researchers from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute discovered that:


  • 72.7 percent of occasional seat belt wearers buckled up on trips with an average speed of 30 miles per hour. Trips at this average speed were more likely to be journeys around town.

  • 89 percent of occasional seat belt wearers buckled up on trips with an average speed of 50 miles per hour. These trips were more likely to be longer trips or road trips as opposed to casual trips around town.

The researchers used the drivers' GPS devices to confirm that drivers who were traveling at the lower speeds were more likely to be traveling on local roads while drivers traveling at higher speeds were more likely to be traveling on interstates and going further away.

Researchers also indicated that drivers who rarely buckled up would do so if forced to by legal deterrents such as laws mandating the use of seat belts and giving law enforcement the authority to pull people over for failure to wear a belt.

In Alabama, people sitting in the front seat are required by state law to wear seat belts. Kids between the ages of 6 and 15 must also wear belts while children under the age of six must be in a federally approved child seat when in the car.

Alabama, therefore, tries to take steps to make drivers buckle up whether they are traveling nearby or going on a longer road-trip. Yet, many drivers fail to do so despite the laws and some of the drivers who chose not to buckle up pay for this decision with their lives.

Continue reading "Montgomery Traffic Safety - Seat Belts Still First Line of Defense" »

April 4, 2013

Speeding is the Leading Cause of Car Accident Deaths in Alabama

In Alabama, every road has a speed limit that drivers are expected to follow. These speed limits exist for motorist safety. Our Montgomery accident lawyers know that the faster you are traveling, the greater the chances of becoming involved in an auto accident. High-speed crashes are also more likely to be deadly because a car that is moving faster will collide with more force. speedlimit.jpg

Unfortunately, many drivers choose to exceed the speed limit despite the dangers. As a result, speed is the number one factor in causing Alabama car accidents that result in fatalities. A recent article published on the website of The News Courier also indicated that speeding combined with high traffic volumes can be especially deadly.

Speeding & High Traffic Don't Mix
When analyzing crash data in Alabama from 2007 through 2011, it is easy to identify certain specific areas where a high number of fatal accidents occur. The high rates of death in these areas can be explained by both the traffic congestion and by the fact that drivers often exceed the speed limit within these particular locations.

The News Courier identified six of the locations where there are an abnormally high number of fatal accidents. These locations include:


  • Interstate 20/59 at Arkadelphia Road. Along Arkadelphia Road, there are around 40,000 cars each day while the Interstate has upwards of 140,000 travelers. Twelve crashes and 13 deaths occurred in this area.

  • Interstates 65 and 459. These areas saw more than 100,000 cars each day. Seven crashes occurred in this high-traffic pocket, resulting in ten fatalities.

  • Interstate 20/59 from 1st Avenue North to Roebuck Parkway. Between 55,000 and 70,000 vehicles travel here daily. Seven crashes, including three single vehicle accidents, occurred and resulted in seven deaths.

  • U.S. 78 from Cherry to Dugan Ave. Six crashes and six deaths occurred in this area where between 40,000 and 45,000 cars travel each day. Two of the deaths were pedestrians.

  • Interstate 65-Interstate 20/59. Traffic counts exceed 125,000 vehicles. Six deaths resulted from six accidents.

  • Interstate 20/59 at Tallapoosa Street. As many as 151,000 cars each day travel through this stretch of road. Five deaths and five crashes occurred here.

These specific areas represent a high number of the total deaths that occurred in Shelby and Jefferson Counties. From 2007 to 2011, there were a total of 537 fatal accidents within these counties and 590 people died. Many of the deaths could have been prevented if drivers did not speed so much through these high traffic zones.

When a driver chooses to speed, he may lose control of his vehicle. He may also be unable to stop or get out of the way if the car in front of him stops or if he approaches an accident or an obstacle. All of these are among the reasons why speeding causes crashes, especially in areas of peak congestion.

Continue reading "Speeding is the Leading Cause of Car Accident Deaths in Alabama" »


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