Archive for November, 2010

The six most common causes of car accidents

Here is a link to an interesting article that sets out the 6 most common causes of car accidents.  Here are some highlights from the article:

  • The first automobile crash related fatality occurred in London, England in 1896; since then the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates 25,000,000 people have died in automobile related accidents
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that automobile accidents are the leading cause of death in persons aged 3 to 33 years
  • Worldwide close to 1,200,000 people die each year on the roads.

The six leading causes of automobile accidents are:
1. Distracted drivers
2. Driver fatigue
3. Drunk driving
4. Speeding
5. Aggressive driving
6. Weather

Two car crashes in Houston on Sunday result in deaths

James Goggin, 55, died Sunday when the Mazda CX-7 he was driving crashed into concrete barriers on a northwest Harris County freeway.  Authorities say the vehicle struck concrete barriers on both sides of the freeway before coming to rest. Mr. Goggin was transported by paramedics to North Cypress Medical Center, where, tragically, he died.  Authorities suspect Mr. Goggin may have experienced a seizure or other medical event prior to the accident.

In another Sunday incident one man is dead and another injured when their truck crashed into a wall in north Houston. The black Nissan Frontier was being driven west on Bay Street at around 7:00pm when the driver ran a stop sign at the Eastex Freeway. The truck crossed the service road before crashing into a concrete wall that is part of the freeway on ramp. The driver was transported to LBJ Hospital in Houston where he died.

Toyota is attempting to dismiss sudden acceleration lawsuit

News Channel 2 story is here

A federal judge is California is soon to consider a motion filed by Toyota Motor Company in which Toyota seeks to dismiss lawsuit alleging there was a defect in Toyota’s vehicles that caused sudden acceleration.  Toyota has recalled millions of its vehicles yet is asking the judge to throw out hundreds of the lawsuit filed over sudden acceleration collisions. Toyota is claiming that attorneys for people injured due to sudden acceleration have failed to prove that there is a design defect in Toyota’s electronic throttle control system that is responsible for the sudden accelerations.  The lawsuit seek damages for injuries and deaths caused by the sudden accelerations, and also for economic loss due to the reduction in market value Toyota owners have experienced due to the bad publicity surrounding the recall.

Products liability lawsuits are based on one or more theories that a product caused injury because: (a) users of the product were not adequately warned of the dangers associated with the product’s use; (b) the product was defectively designed, and the design defect made the product dangerous and caused injury; and (c) the product was defectively manufactured, and the manufacturing defect caused injury.

Houston car accident victim not “put back where she belongs” by Farmers Insurance.

Smith & Hassler currently represents “Mary”* in a lawsuit against a Farmers Insurance insured driver who rear-ended Mary in a severe automobile collision in May 2010.  The Farmers insured was driving a Ford Excursion, the largest, heaviest SUV available to the public (Ford Motor Company marketed the Excursion as being bigger than the Chevrolet Suburban).

Mary, who was driving a Toyota Corolla compact car was stopped for a red light in Houston at an intersection.  The Farmers insured smashed into the rear of Mary’s Corolla pushing her car completely through the intersection.  As you can see from the picture below, the damage to Mary’s Toyota was very significant:

Mary was taken by ambulance to Memorial Hermann Hospital where she was treated for neck and back pain and released that day.  Mary had a total of $11,878 in medical bills for treatment related to the accident.  After the hospital visit Mary had follow up physical therapy and chiropractic treatment.  She stopped seeing her chiropractor in July at which time it was noted she was still impaired, still having pain, and her pain would flare up when she exerted herself.

Farmers Insurance was offered an opportunity to resolve Mary’s claim on fair and reasonable terms.  Instead after they were provided a copy of Mary’s medical bills, records and photographs of her car Farmers Insurance offered Mary $11,170.

That means Farmers Insurance was taking the position that Mary should pay over $600 of her own medical expenses for being rear-ended by their insured, and should receive zero compensation for several months of physical pain and limitation due to her injuries.

Unfortunately when an insurance company doesn’t want to pay a fair settlement, their insured gets sued, which is what happened in Mary’s case.

Farmers Insurance’s advertising slogan is: “Farmers puts you back where you belong.”  Apparently that doesn’t apply to Mary.

* Client’s name has been changed for this blog post.

San Antonio bus driver given 30-days jail in texting while driving accident

Adrian Alfredo Perez, 29, a former public bus driver in San Antonio, was ordered to serve 30 days in jail yesterday for what prosecutors say is the first conviction in Bexar County for reckless driving that is directly related to texting. His attorney had asked for probation, 30 days was the maximum sentence the driver could receive. Perez was driving a Metropolitan Transit vehicle when he crashed into the back of an SUV while traveling 34MPH: prior to the wreck he had been checking text messages on his cell phone. His sentence was decided by the judge after the jury found him guilty of the misdemeanor reckless driving charge.  Perez gained notoriety on the Internet when surveillance video from inside the bus was posted online. You can read the San Antonio Express News report of the story here.

Allstate applies its “good hands” to an 8-year old boy with a head injury.

In February 2010 8-year old Smith & Hassler client R.G. was involved in a serious automobile accident on I-45 in Houston. R.G. was sitting belted in the center of the back passenger seat with his 12-year old sister to one side and his 3-year old sister to the other.  R.G.’s mom was driving.  The family was stopped in traffic when an Allstate insured driving a full-size heavy duty pickup slammed into the back of their vehicle.  The family was pushed into the vehicle in front, and that vehicle was pushed into the vehicle in front of it, and that vehicle into the vehicle in front of it.  All told this was a 5 vehicle accident.  The family’s vehicle sustained very heavy damage and was totaled. The rear window glass of the family’s car entered the passenger compartment and split open the back of R.G.’s head, causing him to bleed profusely.  The family was transported by ambulance to the hospital, where emergency room doctors used 8 staples to close the cut in the back of R.G.’s head.  He now has a permanent scar as an ever lasting reminder of the car accident: hair will not regrow over scar tissue.

Smith & Hassler presented Allstate Insurance an opportunity to settle R.G.’s claim on fair terms and sent Allstate pictures of the family’s car, pictures of R.G.’s staples, the scar left after the staples were removed and R.G.’s medical records and bills.  R.G. had a little more than $3,300 in medical bills for treatment for injuries he sustained in the collision.  That’s just R.G.’s medical bills, that doesn’t take into account physical pain, physical impairment, disfigurement due to the scarring or the mental anguish R.G. experienced in the wreck.

Allstate’s response was to offer R.G. a settlement of $3,142.  If that were your 8-year old child, would YOU think that was a fair and reasonable settlement offer?

A lawsuit against Allstate’s insured promptly followed.  You might run a Google search and see what you turn up with regards to Allstate’s settlement practices and how Allstate handles personal injury claims made against their insureds.  Allstate’s absurdly unreasonable offer to this little boy resulted in an entirely avoidable lawsuit against their insured.  So much for “You’re in Good Hands.”

Pedestrian killed in collision trying to cross Highway 6

A pedestrian was hit and killed this morning at approximately 5:30am in an accident on Highway 6 near Piping Rock. Details are sketchy at this time, it appears the pedestrian was either trying to cross Highway 6 or was walking along it. The identity of the pedestrian has not been release. Houston Chronicle report is here.

The web site for Safe Kids USA offers lots of valuable information regarding pedestrian safety, including a Pedestrian Safety Fact Sheet. Safe Kids USA reports that:

* Children sustain more than 39,000 nonfatal pedestrian injuries each year.
* In 2005, there were 339 pedestrian fatalities in children ages 14 years and under. The year prior, 583 children died and nearly 70 percent of these deaths were motor vehicle-related traffic crashes.
* 33,571 children were treated in hospital emergency rooms for pedestrian-related injuries in 2005.
* Between 1995 and 2005, the number of child pedestrian fatalities decreased by 51 percent.
* The maturity level of a child under 10 years of age makes him/her unable to correctly gauge the speed of vehicles putting them at greater risk for injury and death.
* Other than in the street, driveways, parking lots and on sidewalks are where young children ages 0-2 years suffer the highest number of injuries as pedestrians.
* 83 percent of child pedestrian deaths occur at non-intersection locations.
* 1 in 4 child pedestrian deaths occur between 6 – 9p.m.
* On average, 12 children die each year in school bus-related crashes

Garbage truck in deadly accident with Houston bicyclist

A bicyclist was killed in Houston yesterday in an accident with a garbage truck. Police say the collision happened on Briar Forest Drive near Wilcrest at around 9:50am. Authorities say the trash truck was heading westbound on Briar Forest and had started to make a right turn onto Wilcrest. The garbage truck hit the front tire of the bicycle throwing the bicyclist to the ground. The bicyclist, whose name has not been released, sadly died at the scene.

Woman killed in multi-vehicle accident in North Harris County

A woman died this morning in a multi-vehicle collision in North Harris County at the intersection of Hopper Road and Bentley Street at around 8:30am. Deputies say a woman driving in a pickup truck with a child passenger ran a red light, causing the accident. The pickup truck hit a car, pushing the car into a flatbed truck.  The woman in the car, whose name has not been released, was killed. The woman in the pickup truck was transported to Memorial Hermann with non life threatening injuries. News Channel 2’s report is here.

Insurance claims for injury in “minor impact soft tissue” accidents

Some of the most challenging cases for personal injury attorneys and their clients are automobile accidents that involve minor property damage.  The insurance industry has a term for these cases: M.I.S.T. for Minor Impact, Soft Tissue.

The acronym MIST is problematic in itself because it uses the term “Impact” interchangeably with “Property Damage.”  Just because a vehicle does not have heavy damage on visual inspection does not mean a vehicle sustained low impact forces.  For example: if one armored car rear-ends another armored car at 35 miles-per-hour, neither armored car will sustain much visible damage but that doesn’t mean the occupants inside the armored cars weren’t subjected to a significant impact.  Of course, we don’t all drive armored cars but the example illustrates the basic concept.

SUVs and pickup trucks typically sustain significantly less damage in a car accident than passenger cars, particularly when the car or SUV is rear-ended.  Insurance adjusters are very quick to point to the minimal damage to the injured person’s pickup or SUV and claim that is evidence the impact was minor, hence there should be little or no injury to the people inside.

An interesting journal article published in a 2005 edition of Pain Research & Management and written my medical doctors found little support for the insurance industry’s position that injuries due to low property damage collisions are in people’s heads.  That article is available here: A Review of the Literature Refuting the Concept of Minor Impact Soft Tissue Injury