West Virginia Drivers Risk Neck Injuries in Rear-End Crashes

Feb 2015

West Virginia motorists, like all drivers throughout the United States, could become involved in a rear-end accident at any time. In fact, a personal injury lawyer knows that a rear-end crash occurs once every 17 seconds on U.S. roadways. When rear-end accidents occur, drivers risk many different injury types including facial injuries and broken bones. However, one of the most common injuries to occur after a rear-end accident is whiplash.455681155

Whiplash can be debilitating and there is no clear cure to this condition. As a result, prevention of whiplash is very important. The best way to prevent whiplash is to avoid a rear-end crash, but you cannot control who is behind your vehicle and what they do. This means you need to make sure your car is as safe as possible so you have a reduced chance of serious injury when a rear-end accident happens.

Preventing Whiplash in Rear-End Accidents

According to Consumer Reports, many vehicles that were made before 2009 do not have adequate protections for whiplash.

Whiplash can be prevented by using an effective head restraint system. However, in 2004 and 2005, tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that almost half of all front head restraints in vehicles received a rating of “Poor.” Only 12 percent of head restraint systems in vehicles of these model years received a rating of “Good.”

To address this problem, new federal standards were set in 2005 imposing minimum height restrictions for the restraints and setting limits on the amount of distance allowed between a person’s head and the front restraint. The new regulations phased in over several years and by 2009, all vehicles were required to have the new head restraint systems. This made a big difference and IIHS tests of 2014 vehicles showed that 95 percent of cars received a “Good” rating for their head restraints.

Because safety technologies have advanced a lot in recent years (and not just when it comes to whiplash prevention), those with older vehicles may wish to consider an upgrade to a car with more advanced safety technologies.

Any driver, however, can take some steps to try to prevent whiplash in whatever vehicle he happens to be in. For example, most head restraints are adjustable so you need to make sure that they are positioned properly. The top of the restraint should be ideally at the top of your head, but when this is not possible, it needs to reach at least up to the top of your ears. The restraint should also be no more than four inches from the back of your head.

Wearing a seat belt and sitting upright in your car can also reduce the chances of whiplash occurring. And, if you are in your car and see a rear vehicle coming towards you, be sure to lean back and press your head against the restraint while looking forward.

Contact a West Virginia accident attorney at the Recht Law Offices.  Call 1-800-487-8546 today for a free consultation or visit http://www.rechtlaw.com.

New Developments in Brain Injury Diagnostics Could Help West Virginia Victims

Jan 2015

Brain injuries are far too common in West Virginia and throughout the United States. Each year, around 50,000 people in the country die because of a traumatic brain injury. Another 235,000 people are admitted to the hospital to receive treatment for damage to the brain.  Among individuals 35 and under, traumatic brain injury is the top cause of death.

Traumatic brain injuries frequently occur due to car crashes; sporting accidents; slip and falls and violence.  Many TBIs need to be promptly treated in order to prevent permanent and serious damage from occurring to the brain. Even milder traumatic brain injuries like a concussion can have an impact on your health that lasts for weeks. A personal injury lawyer knows that traumatic brain injuries also have a long-term adverse impact on your health because they can make you more likely to develop dementia in the future.

Treatments for brain injuries are limited because these injuries can be hard to detect, hard to diagnose and hard to monitor. A lack of a classification system to quantify brain injuries has also made it difficult for medical professionals to run clinical trials to advance brain injury treatment.  Now, however, Forbes reports that a new study could be an important step forward.

Eye Tracking Technology Could Help Brain Injury Patients

Forbes reported on a study that was published in the Journal of Neurosurgery. The study tested the ability of eye tracking to detect brain injuries. Eye tracking technology was developed at New York University’s Langone Medical Center.

There were 169 patients included in the study, including 157 people who were neurologically normal and 12 people who had sustained damage to the brain. The patients with the damage to the brain had either injury to parts of the brain affecting the optical nerves or they had swelling in the brain that was near to these nerves.

All of the study participants were asked to watch television videos or music videos. Their eye movements were tracked as they watched. The purpose was to detect the ratio of horizontal and vertical movements (moving the eyes up-and-down versus moving the eyes side-to-side).

In the neurologically normal patients, the ratio was very close to 1:1. In the patients who had problems with the nerves in the brain, on the other hand, these ratios were abnormal. When the brain swelling was surgically corrected, however, the ratios returned to the standard 1:1.  The extent of the abnormality in patients with neurological problems varied depending upon the extent of the brain injury and the location of the brain injury.

Because this approach can be used by physicians to identify brain injuries and monitor improvements, there is hope that it will be a positive step forward in helping brain injury patients. One day, first responders could potentially use this eye tracking technology to determine if people who suffered accidents sustained brain injuries. Doctors could also use it to monitor a patient’s progress over time.

Contact a West Virginia accident attorney at the Recht Law Offices.  Call 1-800-487-8546 today for a free consultation or visit www.rechtlaw.com.

West Virginia Motorcycle Riders Face High Risk of Injury

Dec 2014

Motorcycle collisions began to spike towards the end of April, as several deaths occurred during one of the first warm weekends. WOWK-TV reports the fatalities prompted safety experts to issue a warning to both drivers and bikers to be careful on the roads. Motorcycle riders taking their bikes out for the first time this season are also advised to check the bike carefully, looking at brakes and tires and run the engine.

Because motorcycle accidents start to increase as the weather gets warmer, May is National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has provided some tips for both motorcyclists and drivers to kick off this month-long focus on reducing motorcycle collisions.  Following safety tips can save lives and reduce driver liability for collisions. If a driver is responsible for causing an accident, an auto accident lawyer in West Virginia can help the victim or surviving family members to make a damage claim.

Keeping West Virginia Motorcycle Riders Safer

The number of motorcycle accident fatalities has increased dramatically in recent years, but 2013 finally saw some good news. According to preliminary reports from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), there was a seven percent decrease in the number of motorcycle deaths in the early part of 2013. This reduction in the death rate is just the second drop in deaths to occur since 1997.

In West Virginia, there was a very large drop in motorcycle accident deaths from 2012 to 2013. While there were 17 motorcyclists killed in the first six months and 30 killed in the first nine months of 2012, there were just 13 killed in the first half of 2013. This was a 24 percent decline in the death rate. By the end of the first nine months, only 20 motorcyclists had been killed in 2013, which was a 33 percent decline as compared with 2012.

This is good news, but it should not be seen as an indicator that the roads are actually safer for riders. As Forbes points out, the reason there were fewer accidents in early 2013 is likely because there were fewer motorcyclists on the road. While 2012 had relatively warm and dry weather, 2013 was both much colder and much wetter, which prevented people from taking their bikes out as often.

There are better ways to reduce accident risks than simply hoping motorcyclists get bad weather and stay home. The NHTSA advises drivers to:

  • Look carefully for motorcyclists before changing lanes or merging.
  • Remember that motorcycle riders are much harder to see than cars because their vehicle is much smaller.
  • Avoid driving while distracted, keep focused on the road and be aware of the potential that a motorcycle rider is in your blind spot.
  • Give a motorcycle rider the full width of his lane to travel.

Motorcycle riders can also do their part by wearing bright clothing, communicating with hand signals and turn signals, staying sober and obeying speed limits. If both drivers and riders focus on safety, hopefully fewer motorcyclists will be killed in West Virginia in the future.

Contact a West Virginia accident attorney at the Recht Law Offices.  Call 1-800-487-8546 today for a free consultation.

Teaching West Virginia Kids to Avoid Winter Auto Accidents

Dec 2014

Driving can give young teens a sense of independence and can take the pressure off of parents to chauffeur their kids to school and extracurricular activities. While many young people in West Virginia  get their driver’s license as soon as they are legally allowed to do so, parents may be nervous about the day when their son or daughter gets behind the wheel.

Young people who are inexperienced at driving are at greater risk than other motorists of becoming involved in a collision. In fact, an experienced personal injury lawyer knows that a new teen driver has 10 times the chances of becoming involved in a car accident during his first year of driving a compared with someone who has had a license for a longer period of time. Drive Steady indicates that the most dangerous time of all for a teen driver is during the first six months of having a new driver’s license.

Young people are at great risk of collisions all the time when driving, which helps to explain why collisions are a leading cause of death for teens. However, it is especially risky when teens are behind the wheel during their first winter of driving. They may be unable to respond appropriately to bad weather conditions like snow on the roads; icy roads and snow falling. Parents need to help their kids prepare for these adverse weather conditions in order to reduce the chance of a serious or deadly car crash from occurring.

Helping Kids to Avoid Winter Driving Collisions

Primary reasons why teens have such a high accident risk is that they are not as good as older drivers at recognizing dangers and responding to hazards. They lack experience that they need to be good drivers, yet at the same time are overconfident in their driving abilities.

These problems could lead young people to take unnecessary and dangerous risk during a storm; or simply not to make smart choices when the weather is bad outside. Parents can help to mitigate the risk by preparing their sons or daughters to drive safely during the snow. Brand Connection has some tips for parents including:

  • Practicing driving with your teen. When the first snow starts to fall or there is ice on the ground for the first time, go to a big empty parking lot with your kids. Have them spin the car out and practice regaining control of the vehicle. Have them learn how to spot black ice on the roads, and learn what to do if they hit a patch of ice. Go over winter braking tips as well.
  • Keeping tabs on the weather. If it is bad outside and there is snow or ice in the forecast or on the ground, consider trying to keep your kids off the roads until the roads are clear and the weather has improved. While it is not always practical to avoid driving in bad weather, trips should be minimized.

Many schools and driver’s education programs also offer special winter driving courses. Parents may wish to enroll their kids in such a class to help them be as prepared as possible for winter weather.

Contact a West Virginia accident attorney at the Recht Law Offices.  Call 1-800-487-8546 today for a free consultation or visit http://www.rechtlaw.com.

When is a Car Declared a Total Loss in a West Virginia Crash?

Motor vehicle accidents can cause expensive and devastating damage to individuals. After a crash causes an injury, getting compensation for the medical bills, loss of wages and pain and suffering is a top priority.

A personal injury lawyer can assist with the process of recovering monetary damages after a negligent driver causes a collision.

Crashes inevitably cause property damage as well. In cases where your vehicle is greatly damaged, property damage claims will be handled through an insurer.

Recovering money from your insurance company for a damaged vehicle can be a hassle. The insurer is supposed to pay for the cost of repairs if the vehicle is fixable. If the car cannot be repaired, the insurer should pay for the replacement value of the car.

Unfortunately, sometimes the insurer will decide your car cannot be fixed. In these cases, you are to be compensated for the value of the “totaled” vehicle. However, you will not necessarily be able to obtain enough money to replace the car with something comparable.

When is a Vehicle a Total Loss?

If the insurance company decides your vehicle is too damaged to be eligible to be repaired, the insurer may declare the vehicle to be a total loss. This happens if the cost of repairs would exceed the actual value of the vehicle. However, according to Claims Journal, this is not the only situation in which an insurance company will make the decision to declare that the car is a total loss.

If the insurer does not believe that repair is a practical option,  the insurance company will make the decision that the car should be “totaled.” This can happen especially with lower valued cars. For example, if a car is valued at just $4,000 and the cost to repair the vehicle would be $3,000, the insurance company may decide that it is not worth paying 75 percent of the replacement cost just to repair the car.

When the insurer totals the vehicle, the insurance company takes possession of the car and obtains a salvage title. The insurer can then sell the car as a salvage vehicle. If the insured driver wants to keep the car for any reason, the insured’s payout would be reduced by the amount that the insurer would have gotten at salvage.

The insured doesn’t get to decide how the damaged car will be classified. If the insurance company makes the choice the car should be totaled, then the insured will have to accept a payment for the replacement value.

This can be an issue if it is difficult for the insured driver to actually find another vehicle that he can buy for the amount of money that is being offered. It can also be a problem when the insured has a new car, which depreciates in value very quickly.

The insured may not be able to find a similar new car for the cost that the insurer provides. While an insured can’t typically decide if he wants the car totaled, it is sometimes possible to convince an insurance company to pay more than the initial offer for a totaled car. Doing this requires the aid of an experienced crash attorney.

Contact a West Virginia accident attorney at the Recht Law Offices.  Call 1-800-487-8546 today for a free consultation or visit http://www.rechtlaw.com.

West Virginia Drivers May Be Distracted By In-Car Electronics

Oct 2014

In-vehicle electronics are very common, but they can also create significant risks for motorists. A driver who uses a cell phone, an infotainment system or other electronic devices while driving is not as focused on the road as he or she should be. The result is that the driver puts himself and other motorists in danger.

Unfortunately, recent studies have shown that multitasking can have a long-term negative effect on the brain. As a result, people who multitask and drive while distracted most frequently may be the worst at doing so safely. Furthermore, while drivers may think that they can be safe if they use hands-free kits, the reality is that systems designed to allow voice control of your electronics may actually be even more dangerous than cell phones. Drivers need to make the choice not to drive while distracted for any reason, and an experienced personal injury lawyer should be consulted for help if a distracted motorist causes a collision.

Multitasking and Car Accident Risks

According to Forbes, researchers from Stanford found that multitasking is less effective than doing one thing at a time. Unfortunately, people who are regularly bombarded with multiple streams of information or who frequently try to do multiple things at once can actually become worse at managing to split their attention.

The problem is that those who multitask performance worse if they are asked to focus because they have more difficulty filtering out irrelevant information, they are slower at organizing the thoughts they have, and they are slower at switching from one task to another.

This is bad news for road safety, as drivers who frequently multitask may become less capable of effectively focusing on the road. This risk exists not just for drivers who use handheld systems, but also for motorists using hands-free systems as well. Hands-free systems still divert brain energy away from paying attention to the road, and drivers cannot drive safely and effectively when using these systems.

Yahoo News reported on a recent study where drivers were tested on a simulated driving course using Apple’s Siri and using infotainment systems in vehicles made by car makers including Chevrolet, Hyundai, Mercedes, Ford and Chrysler. Each of the different systems were hands-free and were assigned a distraction score on a scale of one to five, with one being the least distracting and five the most distracting.

Siri was found to be the most distracting, with a distraction rating of 4.14. Several drivers who were on a simulated driving course and who were trying to use Siri actually rear-ended vehicles in front of them. Of the infotainment systems in vehicles, the MyLink by Chevrolet was the most distracting and it received a distraction score of 3.7. Although some of the other infotainment systems performed better, all were found to be more distracting than manually using a cell phone or entering data. As a result, drivers who believe hands-free systems are safer are misinformed. Motorists need to know that they should always stay focused on the road, and only on the road, while operating their vehicle.

Contact a West Virginia accident attorney at the Recht Law Offices.  Call 1-800-487-8546 today for a free consultation or visit http://www.rechtlaw.com.

Protecting West Virginia Kids from Sporting Injuries

Sep 2014

Participation in youth athletes is often encouraged or even required for children in West Virginia. There is no question that sports can help kids develop commitment, learn how to work as team players, boost kids’ self esteem and help them remain physically fit. However, despite the myriad benefits that are associated with kids playing sports, there is also no question that there are some very significant risks.

A personal injury lawyer knows a school has certain responsibilities in terms of protecting child athletes from getting hurt while participating in school sports. Unfortunately, once certain injuries happen, the damage is done and could have a long-term effect on a child’s development.

Prevention of School Sports Injuries

Preventing head injuries needs to be the primary goal of school athletic programs. As WCYB reports, a head injury can have very long-lasting consequences for a young athlete. Injury to the brain can lead to an increased risk of depression or suicide. A person who has sustained a brain injury is also more likely to develop dementia.

Schools need to recognize signs of concussion, which can include dizziness, disorientation and sensitivity to light. If a student has suffered any blow to the head or is exhibiting signs of a concussion, he or she should undergo a prompt medical examination and should not be cleared to return to play unless and until a doctor has issued clearance.

Damage to the brain from blows to the head is cumulative, so the more a child is hit in the head the greater the chances are of lasting problems. Parents should be aware that while football is the sports activity most associated with head injuries, other sports such as soccer, basketball and cheerleading can also present a significant risk of concussions and traumatic brain injury.

While brain injury is a primary concern because of the lasting effects, kids who play school sports could also sustain other injuries as well. Action News 19 has some tips for keeping kids safe, including:

  • Making sure young athletes are ready to participate before the season. Exercise programs should start between four and six weeks before the sport starts so kids are physically fit and ready to go.
  • Slowly acclimatizing kids to outdoor sports activities. For the first 10 to 14 days of practice, kids should be slowly given more time playing outdoors so they can get used to exercising in the heat.
  • Giving kids plenty of breaks while they are playing sports. It is a good idea to allow for a break every 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Ensuring that kids drink plenty of fluids while they are participating in athletic events.
  • Providing appropriate protective gear that is in good condition and that is appropriate for the particular sport.

If school athletic departments fail to take care of their student athletes, parents and kids can take legal action after an injury.

Contact a West Virginia accident attorney at the Recht Law Offices.  Call 1-800-487-8546 today for a free consultation or visit http://www.rechtlaw.com.

Drowsy Driving a Serious Risk for West Virginia Collisions

Aug 2014

Driving while you are fatigued can result in significant risk. A driver who has not gotten enough sleep may have delayed reaction times, impaired judgments and reduced cognitive function. The limitations faced by an impaired driver are similar to those faced by an intoxicated motorist.

Unfortunately, despite the dangers, most adults are not getting enough sleep and many are driving while fatigued. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help victims of motor-vehicle collisions.

Drowsy Driving Accident Dangers

Psych Central reports that an adult will generally require between seven and eight hours of sleep in order to get enough rest. An adult who gets less than this amount of sleep will start to build up a “sleep debt,” that has to be paid. The adult may experience health effects from the lack of sleep and may start to nod off or become extremely drowsy during the course of the day.

Unfortunately, the National Sleep Foundation conducted a poll and found that more than half of adults are getting less sleep than they should. Just 21.48 percent of adults responding to the survey said that they got between seven hours and eight hours of sleep. By contrast, 29 percent of survey respondents got less than six hours of sleep and 41.31 percent got between six and seven hours of sleep. Finally, 8.21 percent got eight hours or more of sleep. It should come as no surprise, then, that the data also shows that 1/3 of people admitted to dozing off behind the wheel in the past year and 60 percent of drivers admitted to fatigued driving in the prior 12 months.

The consequences of this can be seen on U.S. roads. A recent survey of drivers conducted by CarInsurance.com found that about half of motorists drove their cars even when it was not safe to do so. Of these motorists, 68 percent drove when they were drowsy. This was the number one problem cited by people who said that they operated a car despite concerns about safety.

People were driving drowsy despite the fact that Cheat Sheet reveals that 60 percent of survey respondents said they think drowsy driving should be illegal. Drowsy driving is not criminalized in most states. Only New Jersey and Arkansas deal directly with the offense; New Jersey classifies drowsy driving as reckless driving and Arkansas law says drivers can be charged with negligent homicide if they kill someone while fatigued.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration warns that a motorist who is fatigued behind the wheel is more likely to become involved in a road departure crash, a head-on accident or a rear-end crash. Drowsy driving accidents are taking a major toll on motorists. The National Sleep Foundation has reported that accidents caused by fatigued drivers cause 1,500 annual fatalities and 71,000 injuries each year. The costs of drowsy driving accidents exceed $12.5 billion annually.

Drivers need to understand these risks and make better choices when it comes to prioritizing sleep and avoiding fatigued driving.

Contact a West Virginia accident attorney at the Recht Law Offices.  Call 1-800-487-8546 today for a free consultation.

West Virginia Student Housing Violations Present Injury Risks

Aug 2014

Student housing is available for young people near the Marshall University campus in Huntington, West Virginia. This includes fraternity houses and other properties where students reside, which are owned by private landlords. Unfortunately, Marshall University student groups have had many complaints about the conditions of off-campus housing and their concerns were repeatedly raised with the Huntington mayor. As a result, the buildings were inspected and violations were found.

When unsafe conditions exist in college housing, student accidents could occur. An experienced attorney at the Recht Law Offices can represent victims of injuries that occur as a result of dangerous conditions. Students may take legal action and hold the landlords or others responsible for property maintenance accountable for damages if they get hurt due to unsafe conditions.

Unsafe Student Housing Could Lead to Accidents and Injuries

According to WOWKTV, city officials inspected 61 structures consisting of 204 units in response to student complaints about unsafe housing conditions.

The inspectors looked at fire protection systems, the upkeep of the exterior of the buildings, the plumbing systems and the electrical wiring. Unfortunately, it turned out that there were very serious problems with the conditions of off-campus housing.

In total, inspectors found 32 violations of building safety codes. In addition, 18 properties were put on notice that they would be required to update the fire protection systems.

If the owners of the housing units fail to comply, then a “Do Not Occupy” order may be issued by the city and posted on the door of the home. The city inspectors have indicated that the reason the inspections are being performed during June is so that landlords will have time to comply with orders to correct conditions before students return in the fall.

A “Do Not Occupy” order was already posted on one home located just two blocks from campus. Students also report similar orders on other homes near the school.

Landlords have an obligation to maintain their property to basic safety standards, even if students are living in the housing. Unfortunately, because students need to be close to campus, many young people were forced to put up with hazardous conditions. One senior commented that students felt “half-way forced to live in these conditions,” and expressed happiness that the mayor had responded to complaints and involved city inspectors.

If a landlord fails to fulfill his obligation to tenants to maintain the property in a reasonably safe way, the landlord can become responsible for the consequences. This means if a fire starts because of faulty wiring or if other dangerous incidents can be traced to the landlord’s negligence, the property owner could become responsible for losses in a personal injury or wrongful death claim. An experienced injury lawyer can help students or their family members after an accident to obtain compensation for losses and damages.

Contact a West Virginia accident attorney at the Recht Law Offices.  Call 1-800-487-8546 today for a free consultation or visit http://www.rechtlaw.com.

Preventing Summer Bicycle Accidents in West Virginia

Jul 2014

Preventing bicycle accidents is essential to saving the life of bike riders. Unfortunately, many accidents are caused by the negligence of drivers. The League of American Bicyclists recently published a comprehensive report identifying some of the top causes of collisions that result in bicyclist deaths.

Bike riders and drivers need to know the accident risks so they can take steps to avoid injury or fatalities. If an accident occurs, a personal injury lawyer should be consulted by victims or family members for assistance in pursuing a damage claim.

Top Bicycle Collision Causes

The League of American Bicyclists collected information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on fatal bicycle accidents from February of 2011 through February of 2013. There were a total of 628 accidents identified. Researchers then reviewed newspaper accounts of the collisions and other accident reports to identify the cause of the bicyclist’s death. In a total of 33 collisions, the researchers were unable to determine the cause of death and in 146 of the collisions the researchers could not determine how the accident had happened.

For the remainder of the collisions, researchers identified the circumstances of the crash. Unfortunately, the data showed that it was often the actions of a driver that led to the bicyclist’s death. The bicycle rider was responsible for causing the accident in just 94 of the fatal collisions. Many of the accidents were hit-and-runs where the driver fled the scene, or involved careless driving or distracted driving.

The accidents were divided into different types including:

  • Accidents where the biker was hit from behind. Although these types of collisions are relatively rare, they accounted for about 40 percent of bicycle rider deaths.
  • Side impact collisions or T-bone crashes. A T-bone collision occurs when a vehicle or bike is going straight and is hit from the side. A total of 10 percent of bike riders were killed in T-bone crashes.
  • Head-on accidents. Eight percent of the bicycle riders who lost their lives were killed when a car hit their bike head-on.
  • Right-hook collisions. Around six percent of bicycle rider fatalities were caused in this type of crash.
  • Failure-to-yield collisions. Six percent of bicyclists died because drivers did not yield the right-of-way. In another two percent of deaths, the bicyclist was the one who failed to yield to a car when it was the car’s turn to drive.
  • Sideswipe collisions. These types of accidents caused around four percent of bicycle-rider fatalities.

Drivers need to be aware of the circumstances under which bike accidents are most likely to occur and should do everything they can to try to reduce the risk. Drivers need to obey the speed limit, watch out for bikes, avoid distracted or drunk driving and respect bicyclists on the road. This means not trying to pass unless it is safe to do so and leaving at least four feet in between the car and the bicycle.

Riders also play a part in stopping traffic deaths. Bicyclists should stay in bike lanes whenever possible and should obey the rules of the road including all traffic signals and stop signs.

Contact a West Virginia accident attorney at the Recht Law Offices.  Call 1-800-487-8546 today for a free consultation or visit http://www.rechtlaw.com.