This weekend, at least three bicyclists were injured in collisions with cars. We’re cyclists here, so we always read these types of stories with a heavy heart. Both stories were reported on WRAL.com.
On Friday evening, just north of Selma, two bicyclists were struck by driver Marie Jania. They suffered only minor injuries. It is not exactly clear who was at fault. According to the WRAL.com article:
Car driver Marie Jania, 37, moved into the southbound lane to pass bicyclists Renny Barnard, 17, and Richard Baker, 20, who were going north on N.C. 96, troopers said. At the same time, the bicyclists moved into the southbound lane to let the car pass them. The car struck the back of the bicycles.
This story brings to mind two related pieces of advice: 1) know (and follow) the rules of the road; and 2) share the road by respecting bicyclists and drivers alike. Cyclists and drivers need to follow the same rules of the road–we need to be able to count on others to act safely and logically.
The other accident, which happened in Raleigh, was more clear-cut. According to a separate article on WRAL.com, driver Brandis Chevelle Thomas was drunk and talking on a cell phone when she struck cyclist Justin Gabriel Walker.
Walker and his bike were thrown 110 feet and landed on the pavement of the right side of the road, according to the wreck report. Thomas kept driving for 2,000 feet before making a u-turn and returning to the scene.
Walker was taken to WakeMed, where he was in critical condition. …In addition to DWI, Thomas was charged with felony serious injury by vehicle.
The lessons of this wreck are obvious: Don’t drink and drive, and don’t drive while distracted by talking on a phone.
While you don’t have control over the actions of others, cyclists can reduce their risks of being hit at night by making themselves as visible as possible. Make sure your bike has lights and reflectors, put reflective tape on your helmet (because you ARE wearing a helmet, right?), and wear white or light-colored clothing. If you drive a car at night, watch more carefully for cyclists.
By the shortest day of the year, December 21, sunrise will occur at about 7:20 am, and sunset will occur at about 5:07 pm. That means many people will be driving to and from work in the dark. So whether you ride on four wheels or two, let’s be careful out there!
If you have been injured in a bicycling accident and want to explore your legal options, contact the attorneys of HensonFuerst. We understand cycling, and we protect the rights of the injured. If you have questions, HensonFuerst has answers.
This is a story everyone remembers. On September 11, 2009, Dr. Raymond Cook went drinking…then drank some more…then got behind the wheel and caused the wreck that killed Elena Bright Shapiro, a promising ballerina with the Carolina Ballet.
According to an article on WRAL.com, Cook’s trial begins today.
Raleigh police said Cook, of 10516 Beckridge Lane, was traveling 90 mph when he crashed into the back of Shapiro’s vehicle at Lead Mine and Strickland roads.
Cook had been drinking at a local country club and at a local tavern prior to the crash, witnesses said.
Cook, a former plastic surgeon, surrendered his medical license and went to rehab. He is charged with second-degree murder, driving while impaired, and felony death by vehicle. He was offered a plea deal in May, but Cook didn’t accept it.
His trial begins on the day when the medical journal The Lancet published the results of a study that found that alcohol is the most dangerous of all drugs, including heroin and crystal meth, in terms of the amount of harm it does to individuals and to society. This case could be exhibit 1: A young woman’s promising life is snuffed out… her family must live with the traumatic aftermath of this tragedy… a a physician’s career is destroyed… his family suffers… and a community is left with the remnants of memories of two lives that should have soared. Except that alcohol, hubris, and bad judgment destroyed them.
“You can’t imagine a bigger tragedy,” said Robert Weiss, the artistic director of the Carolina Ballet. “A beautiful, young girl, who’s talented and at the prime of her career, getting cut down like that and not having a chance to live her dream.”
This is a haunting tragedy with so many levels of pain. As the holiday season nears, with all the requisite parties, the attorneys of HensonFuerst would like to take this opportunity to remind you that even two drinks can impair your ability to navigate a 2,000-pound vehicle. Please don’t drink and drive; we don’t need anymore alcohol-related tragedies.
Follow the story of the trial here: WRAL.com
Read about the study that found alcohol to be the deadliest drug here: HensonFuerst blog
The New York State Insurance Department announced that Allstate has agreed to pay New York $1.2 million as part of a $10 million regulatory settlement. In all, 45 states will share the settlement dollars. The agreement follows an 18-month targeted, multi-state examination of Allstate’s claims handling practices. What turned up wasn’t pretty.
I seems that Allstate used a giant analyzing software called Colossus to figure out how much to offer for bodily injury claims after a car wreck. However, Colossus is fallible and inconsistent, and many claimants were paid less than they should have been. Because Colossus is an in-house program, it is the intellectual equivalent of a big black box—you can’t see inside to see how it’s working. And that lack of transparency is what got Allstate in trouble.
According to the press release:
The examination found that Allstate had failed to modify or ‘tune’ the software in a uniform and consistent manner across its claims handling regions.
Allstate’s payment will be used to establish a regulatory fund. The fund will be used by the 45 signatory states, to the extent consistent with applicable state laws, to develop and train examiners to review and monitor the property/casualty industry’s use of software technology in adjusting claims.
That’s a fancy way of saying that we can’t always trust computers to do the humane thing—or even the statistically correct and proper thing. While this should help improve fairness for consumers, we’re not sure how it helps those who might have been short-changed on proper payments. And it really begs the question: Are you really in “good hands” with Allstate?
If you have been in a motor vehicle wreck and have questions about bodily injury claims, feel free to call our dedicated attorneys at 1-800-4LAW-MED. Someone is there to answer your call 24 hours a day. Or, explore our website at http://www.lawmed.com. If you have questions, HensonFuerst has answers.
This is the kind of story that makes you want to stay off the roads, build more prisons, and require mandatory severe sentencing for DWI offenders.
According to the online edition of the News & Observer, Monroe resident Kevin Ohagan fled a traffic stop just after midnight on Sunday (October 24, 2010) and minutes later slammed head-on into another car, killing 41-year-old Daniel Herring. A father of three, Mr. Herring was on his way home from a church event at Emmanuel Theological Seminary (where he had played Jesus in a pageant) when his vehicle was struck.
In stark behavioral contrast, the 29-year-old suspect has had a long history with the police. Ohagan has been arrested nearly 20 times as an adult, and he had been previously convicted of DWI six times. That means six missed opportunities to have taken this threat off the road. But he has more than just driving problems. In the state of North Carolina, Ohagan has been convicted of many types of offenses, including larceny, breaking and entering, assault on a female, false imprisonment, and stalking. Currently, he awaiting trial for felony child abuse causing serious bodily injury.
According to the article:
Police said Ohagan faces charges of second-degree murder, driving while intoxicated, felony death by motor vehicle, driving left of the center line, speeding to elude arrest and driving with a revoked license.
So this guy was convicted of DWI six times before he again gets behind the wheel after drinking, and this time he killed a man. A good man. A man who will be mourned and missed by more than just his family…he will be mourned and missed by a whole community.
Please, this time, take Kevin Ohagan off the road for good.
To read the full article, click here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2010/10/25/758565/police-suspect-causes-deadly-accident.html#ixzz13P9TGxw5
And for more information about motor vehicle wreck injuries, visit our website at http://www.lawmed.com. If you have questions, HensonFuerst has answers.
Distracted driving–driving while talking on a phone, texting, applying make up, reading a newspaper, etc.–accounted for 16% of all traffic fatalities in 2009. The actual number of people who died on the road fell from the previous year, but the proportion of cases caused by driving while distracted (DWD) remained the same.
According to an article on WRAL.comthis morning, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said that these numbers:
…could be the “tip of the iceberg” because many police reports don’t document whether distraction was a factor in vehicle crashes, making it difficult to know the full scope of the problem.
LaHood, a former Illinois congressman, is kicking off a second national summit on distracted driving on Tuesday. He has pushed states to adopt tougher laws against sending text messages from behind the wheel and other forms of distractions.
Thirty states, including North Carolina, have banned texting while driving. Eight states have passed laws barring drivers from using hand-held cell phones. Of course, we know from scientific research that using any cell phone, even a hands-free phone, increases your chances of having an accident to the same level as driving drunk. In other words, it’s not your hands that get you into trouble, it’s your distracted brain.
HensonFuerst attorneys are happy that the total number of traffic fatalities was lower in 2009 than in 2008. But there were still 5,474 people who died as a result of someone driving while distracted. That 5,474 people dead as a result of cell phone use, texting, or other equally foolish activity. That’s unacceptable.
If you would like to join the fight against distracted driving, check out this website (one of Oprah’s favorites!): http://www.distraction.gov
Trust us…we know how difficult it is to break the cell phone habit. We’re lawyers; we like to talk. But we are hanging up. Driving is too important to multitask. We’ll keep you informed if anything important comes out of the national summit on distracted driving.
To read more about Oprah’s No Phone Zone campaign, click here: Oprah’s NO PHONE ZONE
HensonFuerst was honored this month with an article in Trial magazine (September 2010, Volume 46, No. 9). We were included in a special section called “Justice in Motion.” Here is the article, in its entirety:
Like most plaintiff lawyers, David Henson of Raleigh, North Carolina, has had clients whose stories struck close to home. He and his brother Thomas—who is also a trial lawyer—are avid cyclists, and just over two years ago, their firm represented the estate of a woman who was killed by a car while bicycling.
“We felt a personal connection to her husband,” Henson said, “and we wanted to do something to commemorate her.”
Henson’s firm decided to donate its fee from the case to create a public service announcement (PSA) reminding cyclists and drivers to follow safety guidelines and to watch out for each other. To recruit the right talent to create the PSA, the firm started an annual contest called “My PSA,” inviting high school students throughout the state to design, direct, and submit their own 30-second messages on bicycle safety.
“The response was amazing,” Henson said. “The schools were really enthusiastic. And we were just astonished by the production quality we see on these videos, which are often made with inexpensive and secondhand equipment. The talent is really impressive.”
All the students’ videos are uploaded to the firm’s Web site, where voting is open to the firm’s clients, staff, and the general public. “Our goal is to get the word out,” Henson said, “so we let anyone look at them and vote on them.”
The winner receives a free Apple MacBook loaded with editing software or a cash prize of $1,500. The winner’s school gets a $500 donation. Henson said that beyond bicycle safety, a goal of My PSA is to encourage high school students to become comfortable with new technology. Noting that the contestants come from a wide variety of socioeconomic backgrounds, he said, “One of our hopes is that these young people will go above and beyond the contest, learning important technical skills. Who knows? We may even see some future Hollywood directors and producers come through the ranks.”
This year’s winner, Terrell Grice of Fayetteville, plans to use his new MacBook to produce other PSAs on safety, aimed at high-risk teenagers. Last year’s winner, Clay Allsopp of Raleigh, used his prize money to develop two iPhone applications.
Henson’s firm includes the winning PSAs in its television advertising lineup. “The kids really get a big kick out of seeing their PSA on regular TV,” he said. “That seems to excite them a lot more than winning the prizes, even.”
[Posted with permission of Trial (September 2010). © American Association for Justice, formerly Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA®).]
Want to see what talented kids live in North Carolina? You can see videos from this year’s contest here: http://www.lawmed.com/contest/vote.php
We’ve met thousands of people who have been injured by drunk drivers. Which means that we’ve had a lot of time to ask the same question those victims and their families always ask: Why would anyone drive drunk?
A recent study published in a psychology journal (Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology), researchers found that when people have been drinking, the brain feels “not drunk” before the brain and the body stop acting drunk. That means that people might get behind the wheel and drive drunk because they think they have sobered up enough to drive. In reality, they are impaired, both cognitively and physically. That leads to bad decisions–the bad decision to drive after drinking, and bad decisions while on the road, such as making judgements while traveling through intersections or changing lanes.
According to Peter J. Snyder, Ph.D., professor of neurology at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, the bottom line of the study is that “subjective perception of intoxication is a poor indicator of sobriety and the ability to operate a motor vehicle.” (As quoted in an article posted on ScienceDaily.)
Our bottom line: If you have been drinking alcoholic beverages at all, don’t drive. Once your blood alcohol concentration reaches 0.08 to 0.10–that is, over the legal limit in all states–the risk of a motor vehicle crash is about 50 times higher than when you are sober. If you don’t stay off the road for your own sake, think of the potential devastation to the lives of other people on the road, and to the lives of your family if you are injured or sent to prison for DUI manslaughter.
At HensonFuerst, we are committed to seeing drunk drivers pay for their dangerous behavior. We support law enforcement efforts to keep drunk drivers off the road, and we fight tirelessly to get compensation for victims of drunk drivers.
The problem of impaired-driving is a serious one. While America witnessed a decline in the number of impaired-driving fatalities from 2007-2008, the numbers are still too high. That’s why law enforcement agencies throughout the country are participating in an intensive crackdown on impaired driving.
This national impaired driving crackdown—known by its tagline, Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest—-runs from Friday, August 20 through September 6 (Labor Day).
In 2008 alone, nearly 12,000 people died in crashes in which a driver or motorcycle rider was at or above the legal limit, according to the latest statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). More than 400 of those fatalities were in North Carolina.
According to the latest data, 32 percent of fatalities in motor vehicle traffic crashes involved a driver or motorcycle rider with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 g/dL or above — an average of one fatality every 45 minutes.
According to representatives of the NHTSA:
“Our message is simple and unwavering. If we find you driving impaired, we will arrest you. No exceptions. Even if you beat the odds and walk away from an impaired-driving crash alive, the consequences of driving while impaired can still virtually destroy your life.”
Violators often face jail time, lose their driver license, or are sentenced to using ignition interlocks. Their insurance rates go up. Other financial hits include attorney fees, court costs, lost time at work, and the potential loss of job or job prospects. And even if you aren’t injured, you may injure someone else, and have to live with that guilt for the rest of your life.
Driving impaired is simply not worth the consequences. Don’t take the chance. This crackdown will last through Labor Day, but it is a message that everyone should bear in mind everyday: If you’re over the limit, you’ll be under arrest.
Stay safe… drive sober.
Click here for more information about what you can do to join the fight against impaired driving: Stop Impaired Driving.
Another day, another automobile recall. Has there ever been a worse year for car safety issues?
Mazda is recalling 500,000 cars worldwide, about 215,000 in the United States, for problems with the power steering. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the recall includes all 2007-2009 Mazda 3 and Mazda 5 vehicles. The problem is that there is a risk of sudden loss of power steering assist, which can occur at any time while driving the vehicle. Without the ability to steer the vehicle as expected, the risk of a crash.
I looked on the Mazda corporate website and the Mazda USA website, and I couldn’t find any reference to this recall. However, according to the NHTSA website:
Due to short supply of parts, the first phase of mailing of owner notification letters will begin on or before September 15, 2010 and the second phase mailing will begin in September 2010 and be completed in February 2011.
Unacceptable! Are some Mazda drivers supposed to drive around with an increased risk of crashing for the next six months? Even one day of driving with the potential for power steering failure is unacceptable. According to an article in today’s New York Times:
The recall comes about a year after Mazda started fixing vehicles in Japan for the same problem. But Mazda told the American safety agency that since the “occurrence rate was low” in the United States it issued only a technical service bulletin to dealers telling them how to fix the problem.
Let me get this straight–vehicles in Japan have been getting fixed while U.S. drivers are continuing to drive at risk? I don’t care how low the occurrence rate is, a single crash that results in an injury or death is one occurrence too many.
The phone number for Mazda Customer Assistance is 1-800-222-5500. If you own one of the recalled cars, call and demand that they pay for a rental car until your car is fixed. You can also call the NHTSA’s Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 if you get no satisfactory answer from Mazda.
And if you were injured in a car wreck that involved a 2007, 2008, or 2009 Mazda 3 or Mazda 5, feel free to call HensonFuerst for information about your legal options. Our phone number is 1-800-4LAW-MED. Or visit us online at http://www.lawmed.com. If you have questions, HensonFuerst has answers.
Today, General Motors announced a voluntary safety recall of all 2009 and 2010 models of the Chevy Traverse, Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia, and Saturn Outlook crossover vehicles. The second-row seat belts may be damaged in a way that makes them appear properly latched, even when they are not.
The recall affects about 250,000 vehicles.
“Because of the potential for a false-latch condition, we want customers to return their vehicles to have the recall repair performed as soon as possible,” said Jeff Boyer, GM executive director of safety.
According to a GM press release, vehicle owners will begin receiving letters giving recall details, including how to schedule an appointment with the dealership.
If you own one of these vehicles, it would be prudent to avoid using the second-row seats until the problem is fixed–don’t take a chance with the lives of your loved ones. If you have been involved in a wreck and think that a faulty seat belt latch may have contributed to the injuries of someone in your car, feel free to call the injury lawyers of HensonFuerst for information about you legal options. If you have questions, HensonFuerst has answers.