Your Child’s Car Seat After An Automobile Accident

If you have been in an automobile accident with a child buckled into a car seat or booster seat, you may need to replace the child’s seat. Although there is no Federal or State law requiring replacement of a car or booster seat after a crash, the impact and force of a collision may cause unseen damage to the structural integrity of these seats. This hidden damage may prevent the car or booster seat from properly protecting your child in the event of a future crash. However, manufacturers are constantly working to improve the quality of these seats and the positive results are being noticed by many safety agencies.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) originally recommended that any car seat involved in an automobile accident be replaced. Obviously, this can be expensive for parents. With the results of recent studies showing that many of today’s child safety seats can withstand the impact of a minor accident without damage, the NHTSA has revised its recommendation. The NHTSA recommends that, after a minor crash, parents should use their own judgment in determining whether or not the car or booster seat is damaged and needs to be replaced. After a severe automobile accident, the car seat should always be replaced.

To determine whether the car crash qualifies as minor and determine whether the car seat is undamaged, use the following criteria:

  • You were able to drive your vehicle away from the crash.
  • The vehicle door nearest the car seat was not damaged in any way.
  • No one in your vehicle was injured.
  • The airbags in your vehicle (if any) did not deploy.
  • When you carefully inspect the car seat, including under its padding, you do not see any cracks or deformities of any kind that may have been caused by the crash.

If any of the above statements are not true or if you are unsure if the car or booster seat will properly protect your child in a future accident, you may take the car seat to an authorized inspection station for advice.

If you find that you need to replace the seat after an accident, contact your insurance company as some policies cover the cost of replacement.

If you or someone you know has been involved in an automobile accident in or around Atlanta, you should contact James Rice Law as soon as possible to understand your rights; contact us or call 404-255-4448 to learn more.

Tractor Trailer Accidents

It seems like an everyday occurrence that we hear about an 18-wheeler truck being involved in a crash that ends up closing a portion of the freeway. These truck drivers have very long days and don’t always get a lot of sleep while on the road. They are more prone to getting into accidents because of this. Federal laws have been created to prevent drivers from becoming too tired. Drivers are not allowed to drive for more than 11 consecutive hours in a 14 hour period and they must have a rest period of nothing less than 10 hours.

Even with these rules in place, there are still accidents involving tractor trailers. Just like every other law, there is a chance that it will be broken. This law was created in 2011, but in 2012 3,802 trailers were involved in fatal accidents, 77,000 were involved in crashed were an injury was reported and 253,000 were property-only crashes. Granted, some of these accidents could have been caused by weather or traffic violations and not falling asleep at the wheel but that doesn’t make much of a difference when you are injured in the accident.

As personal injury lawyers, it is our job to determine if that the accident that you or your loved one was involved in was due to the truck driver’s negligence. These cases can be difficult to prove and need to be documented carefully. If you need help proving your case, call the personal injury lawyers at James A. Rice today.

The Issue Of Drunk Driving

Drunk driving is a huge problem in America today. We are constantly hearing about accidents caused by people who had been drinking before getting into the car. Famous actors and athletes are often found guilty of this, namely Lindsay Lohan, Warren Sapp, and Todd Helton. It seems as though, because these people have money, they are able to move on with their lives without any repercussions. But most people don’t hear about the behind the scenes, court proceedings.

In the United States alone, someone dies from an alcohol related accident every 51 minutes. More than one million people are injured in drunk driving accidents every year and that number is on the rise. It is believed that a person will drive under the influence 80 times before they will ever be arrested. Because we can’t take away someone’s right to consume alcohol and get behind a wheel, all we can do is deal with the aftermath if, heaven forbid, anything were to happen.

It seems like no matter what laws are put in place to prevent drunk driving, we will always have an issue with it. If you are involved in an alcohol-related accident and have been injured, the first thing you should do is find a great personal injury lawyer so that you can get the help that you will need to pay for medical bills and any other bills you will have if you have to be out of work.

If you are in the Atlanta or Duluth area and are in need of a personal injury lawyer, call us at James A. Rice today.

What The World Would Be Like If Car Accidents Didn’t Exist?

Can you imagine it? Everyone following all traffic laws and going the speed limit. No one screaming at the driver in front of them. No one cutting off another car causing said car to veer off into the ravine. What would police officers do with their days? They would have a whole lot of time to solve other crimes, that’s for sure. OH! And the traffic. Freeways wouldn’t be so backed up because drivers are slowing down and looking at accidents. On the other side, emergency rooms may be used less because there wouldn’t be any car accident victims to tend to. There are just too many things in our daily lives that would change if there weren’t any car accidents.

At James A. Rice, we want to provide you with some tips to help avoid accidents when you are out on the roads in your car.

Don’t Be On Your Phone. Period.

We know how hard it is to be away from your phone, even if it’s sitting on the seat beside you. Many states, including Georgia, have laws put in place where it is illegal to be on your phone, texting or surfing the web, while you are driving. In other states, it is illegal to be on your phone at all, even to make a phone call. This was done for your safety, not for politicians’ amusement. Statistics prove that more and more people are admitting to texting and driving and more accidents are occurring because of it (See our blog with the stats, here)

Obey The Rules Of The Road

It seems obvious, but it needs to be said. Remember that oncoming traffic has the right of way when you are trying to turn left, unless you have a green arrow. If you are not passing anyone, you need to be in the farthest lane to the right, not hanging out in the middle lane. Also, always pass on the left. Under no circumstances should you be passing on the right. You never know what could be in your path.

Be Mindful Of Other Drivers

You could be the best driver in the whole world, but if you encounter a bad driver on the road, you could be in serious trouble. It is good practice to know where everything is around you. Knowing where other cars are on the road makes it easier for you if you are looking to switch lanes or want to turn. Also, if you are not going the speed limit, be aware that other drivers want to get around you. If this is the case, there is always a place to pull off to the right for just a moment and let those drivers pass or you can simply just move to the right lane.

If for whatever reason you are still in an auto accident, we encourage you to call us at James A. Rice immediately. We want to be sure that we get all of the evidence as soon as possible so it’s integrity is not lost. We want to help you get on the road to recovery as fast as possible whether it is just getting your car repaired or having to undergo surgery, you will need all of the help you can get.

Child Car Seat Safety: LATCH & Upgrades To The Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard

Latch Guidelines

In light of the new LATCH Guidelines, which take effect in February, and the recent NHTSA proposal, I thought it important to alert parents to the upcoming changes affecting their existing car seats or future car seat purchase. Child car seat safety is the goal of all parents and in an accident, it is nice to know that organizations like the NHTSA are continuously looking to improve car seat safety guidelines.

Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children or “LATCH” anchors, were mandated in the United States in 2002 to more easily and safely secure a child in a car seat without the use of a vehicle’s seat belt. These anchors, or loop shaped rings in the back seat of your vehicle where the seat back and seat bottom meet, are the universal way to safely install your child’s car seat. However, many parents don’t realize that the LATCH anchors are designed for a limited amount of weight – 65 pounds.

Currently, the maximum weight limit of your child for LATCH use is 40 pounds but the problem with this standard is that it fails to take into account the varying weights of car seats. Next month, new guidelines take effect changing the maximum rated weight limit of your child and car seat combined, from 40 pounds to 65 pounds. If the combined weight of your child and the car seat is in excess of 65 pounds, you should install your child’s car seat using your vehicle’s seat belt rather than LATCH anchors.

Additionally, new labeling requirements will help clarify the limits of LATCH use for each car seat.

NOTE that it is always acceptable to utilize the top tether for forward facing car seats whether you install the car seat with the LATCH anchors or seat belt as it will help limit the child in a car seat in the event of a sudden stop or crash.

On January 22, 2014, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) proposed new regulations on Child Car Seats to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard which, for the first time, would protect children from death and injury in side-impact crashes.

The proposed regulations would include impact tests wherein a car seat designed for children weighing up to forty pounds would be placed in a specially designed sled to create a “T-bone” crash. The impact test is the first of its type; it will simulate both the acceleration of the vehicle being struck and the door of the offending vehicle crushing toward the car seat. The testing simulates the front of a vehicle traveling approximately 30 mph strikes the side of a small passenger vehicle carrying a car seat and traveling approximately 15 mph. Further, the test will use a 12 month-old child test dummy and a newly developed 3 year-old child test dummy developed specifically for the side-impact testing. The side impact testing will require that car seats demonstrate the safe restraint of a child by preventing head and chest contact with an intruding vehicle door.

The NHTSA proposal allows car seat manufacturers 3 years to make the changes necessary to meet the new regulations upon final publication.

If you or someone you know has been involved in an automobile accident in or around Atlanta, you should contact James Rice Law as soon as possible to understand your rights; contact us or call 404-255-4448 to learn more

“5 To Drive” Campaign To Keep Teen Drivers Alive

Data compiled by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) shows that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death in teenagers 14-18 years of age.

In an effort to keep our most inexperienced drivers safe, the NHTSA launched its “5 To Drive” in October. The campaign challenges the parents of teenage drivers to discuss the five critical driving practices that can have the greatest benefits in the event of a crash.

The “5 To Drive” Campaign topics for discussion with your teenage driver are:

  1. No cell phone use or texting while driving. Talking on a cell phone reduces your reaction time. Texting involves manual, visual and cognitive distraction.
  2. No extra passengers. Peer pressure encourages risky behavior in teen drivers.
  3. No speeding. Speeding, including showing off, racing, etc., is a major factor in teen crash fatalities.
  4. No alcohol. Although illegal to purchase alcohol as a teenager, drivers 15-20 years old are at greater risk of death in crashes involving alcohol.
  5. No driving or riding without a seatbelt. Wearing a seat belt is the best way for a teen driver to protect themselves and their passengers in the event of a crash.

In a recent NHTSA study, it was found that teens were over two times more likely to engage in potentially risky behavior when driving with a teenage peer than driving alone and this was three times more likely when driving with multiple teenage peers.

A parent is the biggest influence on a teen driver. In self-reported surveys, teens typically engage in less risky driving and are involved in fewer accidents if their parents impose driving restrictions upon them.

Distracted Driving

Distracted Driving is a deadly behavior and despite Georgia’s prohibition from texting while driving, it continues to be a serious problem. In every State, people are dying as a result of driver distraction. The next time you are sitting at a red light, look at the drivers around you. You may be surprised to see how many drivers are texting or reviewing emails or even web surfing as they sit at the same light. All of these activities are illegal in Georgia, even while sitting at a red light. **

In 2010, Georgia enacted laws making it illegal for any driver under the age of 18 to use a cell phone for any purpose while driving (HB 23) and illegal for a driver of any age to text while driving (SB 360). The texting ban isn’t limited to texting, it includes emails, internet “Surfing” and even use of your cell phone’s navigation system. Georgia law allows a driver’s use of a GPS-only device (i.e. Garmin) and not a communication device.

According to research by Virginia Tech transportation Institute, a driver takes his eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds to read or send a text message. At 55 mph, a driver will travel the length of a football field in that 4.6 seconds.

Today’s smartphones allow the user to send/receive texts, send/receive emails, access social media websites, and even surf the web. Obviously, the smartphone provides more opportunity for driver distraction than the earlier cell phones. The number of drivers reporting that they use their smartphones to access the internet while driving is rising and this is a deadly practice.

In 2009 State Farm began a survey of drivers, asking whether they went online while driving. The percentage of drivers who responded that they do so rose from 13% to 24% this year. Further, the percentage increased from 29% to 49% in drivers 18-29 years of age. State Farm’s Director of Technology, Chris Mullen, states that “It’s not just a youthful problem”. In the past three years, smartphone ownership has risen among older drivers. The percentage of drivers ages 40-49 that own smartphones rose from 47% in 2011 to 82% in 2013, drivers ages 50-64 the percentage rose from 44% in 2011 to 64% in 2013 and in drivers ages 65 and older the percentage rose from 23% in 2011 to 39% in 2013. Although the problem of driver’s texting while driving has continued to slowly rise from 31% to 35% in the past five years, the number has decreased from 71% to 69% in drivers 18-29 years of age.

Perhaps the dangers of distracted driving warrant our lawmakers pushing for a ban on the use of handheld devices while driving. Although no such bill has been passed to date, efforts of lawmakers continue while insurance companies and community organizations push to educate drivers on the dangers of distracted driving.

Should I Give The Insurance Company A Recorded Statement About My Car Accident?

Insurance Companies Move Fast in Auto Accident Cases

Unlike lawyers who represent persons who have been injured in an auto accident, insurance companies are able to begin their investigation and defense of a case immediately. It is commonplace for the insurance company for the Defendant to contact a person injured in a car accident within twenty-four hours of it occurring! Typically, their approach is to assert that they are there to “help”. They want to determine how the accident happened and what the injuries are.

Although I am certain some insurance companies have good motives, I truly believe that their real purpose is to try to lessen the value of your claim in combination with providing you significant guilt for pursuing it. It is rare, if ever, that I have heard an insurance company even let my client know that the recorded statement was optional, and sometimes, not even let them know they are being recorded.

Recorded Statements in Car Accident Cases are Your Option

It is important to know that recorded statements for the other parties’ insurance company are optional. If anything, you should certainly consult with an attorney before considering providing one. Most people know what happened in an accident and their injuries, but you need to remember that the adjuster for the insurance company knows all the “tricks” of putting words in your mouth, such as quickly having you agree that you are okay or that it was a “fender bender.”

Most of us are so polite and welcoming to speak to someone whom we think is going to help us, that we become more agreeable then the truth otherwise would allow.

A Recorded Statement Can Quickly Come Back to Haunt You

For example, most doctors will agree that it is not at all unusual for someone to begin experiencing pain for the first time two to three days after an accident. Imagine if the insurance company calls you within twenty-four hours and you are not having pain. A year or two later when you are in the middle of trial, it certainly is not a welcome sound to hear your voice telling the insurance company that you were not hurt or injured shortly after the car accident when you were in fact were. Keep these things in mind when you make a decision on whether or not to provide the insurance company with a statement.

Uninsured Motorist Auto Accident Claims may Require a Recorded Statement

Also, remember that there are some situations where you are required to provide a recorded statement. These are almost exclusively dealt with in situations where uninsured motorist coverage is involved. Your policy may require you to provide a statement.

Before agreeing to do so, I would always advise you to obtain a copy of your policy as well as speak with an experienced lawyer in this arena to discuss whether claims that you have to do so are accurate.

Why Is My DUI Case Worth More Than Others?

Many people ask this question but when the purpose behind punitive damages and jury anger and sympathy is explained, it seems much easier to understand. In Georgia, a person injured in an automobile accident can recover for their compensatory damages such as their medical bills and lost wages as well as punitive damages. Punitive damages are intended to punish the person to create a strong incentive for them not to do the same thing again. A financial incentive, as we all learned at a young age, is an extremely valuable tool to encourage people not to behave badly.

Insurance companies rightly fear punitive damages involving drunk driving accidents or drug related car wrecks. Juries certainly do not look fondly upon someone who, after consuming much too much liquor, beer or drugs decides to get behind the wheel while people are going to and from work, school, Church, etc.

The best thing you can do is to explore all of your options. We recently settled a case for the policy limits even though our client had $200.00 in medical bills. Our investigation, which was extremely thorough, revealed prior DUI’s, a high speed chase, etc. We were able to obtain the dash cam of the police officer which revealed the drunken stupor of the Defendant. We were able to send the settlement package, which included the video and information regarding the prior DUI’s, to the insurance company who promptly paid the policy limits without fight or delay. Otherwise, that case had a settlement value somewhere in the range of $250.00 – $300.00.

So what should you do if you are involved in a drunk driving accident?

First, if you have any belief the other driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, let the police office know. Often, it is our experience the Defendant involved in the collision “wakes up” pretty quickly and loses the drunken side effects you may have seen earlier. The police officer may not notice them and it would be prudent for you to let him/her know.

Second, if you see the other driver do anything such as place gum in their mouth, pour out beer, throw things away, etc., let the police officer know. You should not feel guilty about trying to get someone who decided to drive drunk off the road. We have had many cases where we have seen people literally place things in their trunk, go get chewing gum while waiting on the police, etc.

Third, let the police know of any statements made by the other driver. It is not unusual for a drunk driver to offer to pay money to avoid calling the police or urge you to contact their insurance company or otherwise play to your sympathies. Let the police know what is going on. If you do not, it will not make it into the report and will have less credibility when you mention it at your deposition or at the trial.

Punitive damages may hold an extreme value in these cases. However, if the investigating officer does not know what has occurred, it makes it very difficult for him to investigate it. Once he does that investigation, a talented lawyer can use that to best punish the Defendant through punitive damages and ensure that the Plaintiff receives just compensation as paid by the insurance company. Even if the physical injuries are not egregious, Georgia law is fair as it relates to the punitive damages.

If you have any questions, it is important to explore those with a lawyer.

Personal Injury From An Auto Accident

What is that numbness and tingling in my arms and legs?

This is one of the most common questions people have after an automobile accident. The most common response is that they think they have injured their hand, fingers, toes or feet. The truth is it may very well be related to an injury to your neck or back.

A herniated disk is a serious injury which may require ongoing and invasive treatment. A herniated disk may reveal itself through numbness or tingling in your arms if you have a herniation in your neck or in your legs if you have a herniated disk in your low back.

The numbness and tingling may begin at different areas of your arm or leg and affect a different number of fingers or toes. Sometimes it is accompanied by pain while other times it is simply annoying and constant. In addition to potentially herniated disks, it could also be a problem with your elbow such as the ulnar nerve or traumatic carpal tunnel.

So what do you do about a back or neck injury?

The best thing to do is to see an expert to help you find out the diagnosis. The best person to see is an orthopedist or a neurologist who can help you determine the exact cause of your injury.

Can it be cured?

Most of the time, yes. Sometimes the problems simply go away with time while others require physical therapy, injections, etc. On some occasions, moving forward with surgical intervention is necessary as well. The good news is that if you follow your doctor’s advice, you will have the best chance possible to make a great recovery.

The orthopedist will best know how to treat you as well as determining how to diagnose the injuries such as an MRI, physical exam, etc. Following that, the doctor will be in the best position to help you find out what to do which will assist in your recovery.

Motor Vehicle Accident Injury

Unfortunately, a herniated disk is not an unusual finding with persons being in a car accident. Certainly, this does not stop the insurance company from claiming that it was a pre-existing condition or arthritis. This may be one of the most common reasons that you may very well be benefited by a lawyer.

Keep in mind that from a legal standpoint, in addition to proving who is at fault for an accident, we must also prove the injuries. It is important to have an expert such as a medical doctor link the collision to the injury.