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Distracted driving continues to take a deadly toll in California

The San Francisco Chronicle recently featured a news story on the perils of distracted driving. Each year, over 3,000 people die from distracted-driving accidents. Another 421,000 people sustain personal injuries-many severe-due to distracted driving crashes. The good news is that California’s restrictions on mobile phone use while driving “appear to be sinking in.” Annual citations for distracted driving in 2013 totaled 426,000 which is down from a high of 476,000 citations two years earlier. According to the article, distracted-driving citations are not cheap. While the base fine is $20, penalties add up to $160 for a first offense and increase to $279 for a second offense.

While California highways may be safer thanks to restrictions on cell phone use while driving, distracted driving continues to result in fatal car accidents. Earlier this year, San Francisco’s KPIX-TV reported on a tragic car accident in Santa Rosa that resulted in the death of two women who were sitting in the backseat of a Toyota Camry. According to the California Highway Patrol, the Camry was struck by a pickup truck driven by a distracted driver “who was checking his phone.” The Camry was struck with such force that it was pushed into another vehicle just ahead of it. A front seat passenger of the Camry who survived suffered serious injuries.

A New England Journal of Medicine study published this year notes that one of the riskiest driving behaviors is the performance of distracting “secondary tasks” such as mobile phone use, programming an MP3, eating or grooming. The performance of secondary tasks increases the risk of a car accident because it prevents a driver from giving his or her full attention to driving and takes the driver’s eyes off the road ahead. Of all distracted-driving behaviors, the worst is texting since it is a secondary task which demands visual, manual and cognitive attention from a driver. Research revealed that cell phone use delays reaction to potential hazards and decreases the driver’s visual scanning of the highway.

Young and novice drivers appear to be particularly prone to engaging in secondary tasks while driving. Although distracted driving is dangerous for any age group, novice drivers using a cell phone on a test track were found to be more likely than experienced adult drivers using a cell phone to enter an intersection upon a red or yellow light. A novice driver’s youth and inexperience plays a significant role in making them more vulnerable to accidents while engaging in secondary tasks such as cell phone use.

Safety tips

Distracted driving can result in rear-end collisions, head-on collisions and intersectional t-bone collisions-all of which pose a significant risk for serious injury or even death to other motorists and their passengers. The CHP urges that drivers follow these safety tips to avoid causing a distracted driving accident:

  • Never text and drive.
  • Turn off your phone when you get behind the wheel.
  • Do not eat, drink or groom while driving.
  • Do not program your GPS or MP3 player while driving.
  • If something rolls onto the floor, stop the car before trying to retrieve it.

Seeking compensation

California law permits those harmed due to negligence the right to seek compensation for any injuries sustained. Do not allow yourself to be the uncompensated victim of a distracted driver. If you or a loved one has been injured due to distracted driving, you should contact a California attorney experienced at handling motor vehicle accident cases.

Fatal drugged driving accidents a growing threat to California motorists

California has made significant strides in reducing drunk driving; in the last decade, alcohol-related fatalities have fallen 33 percent, according to the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility. Unfortunately, the state has not made similar progress against car accidents involving drugged driving. In fact, data suggests accidents involving marijuana and other substances are increasingly likely to affect innocent drivers in San Rafael.

Dangerous driving on the rise

A study from Columbia University recently called this risk to attention. Researchers collected fatal car accident data from six states, including California, and reviewed toxicology tests performed on more than 23,000 deceased drivers within an hour of the accident. According to CBS Seattle, the study found that:

  • In 1999, drugged driving contributed to just 16 percent of fatal car accidents.
  • By 2010, drugged driving played a role in 28 percent, or over one-quarter, of fatal accidents.
  • Marijuana was the most commonly involved drug, playing a role in over one-third of 2010 drugged driving accidents.
  • From 1999 to 2010, the proportion of marijuana-related accidents tripled, from 4 percent to 12 percent.

Of course, drugged driving still is less of a threat than drunk driving, which caused about 40 percent of all traffic fatalities reviewed in the study. Still, the gradual increase in deadly accidents involving drugged driving is alarming.

Just as disturbingly, data suggests this problem is much more prevalent in California. In 2013, NBC Bay Area reported that California drugged driving fatalities had increased a shocking 39.3 percent over the last decade. Worse, the majority of drivers who caused injuries or deaths while using drugs were not convicted of DUI.

Challenges of detection

Reporting and detection of drugged driving remains an issue. Until the start of 2014, California did not even code drugged and drunk driving separately, making it difficult for authorities to track the scale of the problem, according to NBC Bay Area.

Identifying drugged drivers can be more challenging for authorities than detecting alcohol-impaired drivers. There is no quick and simple test, such as a Breathalyzer, that can determine how impaired a driver is. Authorities often must undergo special training and judge impairment based on a driver’s field sobriety test performance. This can make detection and conviction difficult.

Unfortunately, public perceptions about driving while on drugs may play into the issue. While many drivers recognize that drunk driving is dangerous, they may think it is harmless to drive after using substances such as marijuana.

According to CBS Seattle, research shows that alcohol increases fatal crash risk 13 times, which is much more than many other substances increase crash risk. However, drugged driving does enhance accident risk, and crashes are even more likely when drivers mix substances. For instance, drivers who have used both alcohol and marijuana are 24 times more likely to experience a fatal accident.

Sadly, until driver perceptions change or law enforcement efforts become more effective, many California drivers may be harmed by these accidents. If you or a loved one has been hurt in an accident involving a driver who was under the influence of any substance, please consider speaking to an attorney about pursuing compensation.

CA lane-splitting controversy could prove harmful for motorcyclists

Motorcycle riding is incredibly popular in San Rafael. With 800,000 riders, California as a whole has more motorcyclists than any other state, according to Business Week. Sadly, the state also experiences a high rate of motorcycle accidents; from 2010 to 2011 alone, almost 11,000 injuries occurred, representing a 20 percent increase over the year before.

The issue of motorcycle accidents has recently been brought to attention by the state-wide controversy over motorcycle lane-splitting during traffic jams. Unfortunately, the state’s current position over this issue could leave motorcyclists in danger.

Growing controversy

Lane-splitting occurs when motorcyclists drive down the space between lanes while traffic is stopped or moving slowly. According to the Los Angeles Times, California is currently the only state that does not outlaw this practice.

In the past, the California Highway Patrol and the Department of Motor Vehicles provided lane-splitting guidelines to help make the maneuver safer. According to Business Week, the guidelines encouraged riders only to lane split if they were competent, traveling under 30 miles per hour and riding in between first and second lanes. The guidelines also warned other drivers against moving between lanes to intentionally block lane-splitting.

Earlier this year, however, a complaint prompted the Office of Administrative Law to ask the CHP to remove its guidelines. The DMV soon followed suit. Critics worried that the agencies were endorsing lane-splitting, which is a maneuver that makes most drivers uncomfortable and is often viewed as dangerous, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Despite these perceptions, studies indicate that prudent lane-splitting may actually lower motorcycle accident rates. Most lane-splitting accidents involve drivers or riders who were making unsafe decisions. This means the removal of the guidelines could leave motorcyclists in greater danger.

Accident avoidance

When performed correctly, lane-splitting can offer various benefits for motorcyclists. The Los Angeles Times reports the following facts:

  • Motorcycles often lack radiators and rely on air cooling, so standing in traffic can result in overheating. Lane-splitting allows motorcyclists to keep moving and maintain proper vehicle function.
  • Lane-splitting reduces the likelihood of a motorcyclist being struck from behind while stopped in traffic. Such incidents pose a real threat to riders, representing one-quarter of all motorcycle accidents, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data.
  • One study has suggested that the national allowance of lane-splitting could prevent 18,000 motorcycle accidents and 170 fatalities on a yearly basis by helping motorcyclists avoid other common accident causes.
  • The risks of lane-splitting may be exaggerated, as some accidents occur due to poor choices, rather than risks inherent to the maneuver. For instance, a 2012 report found that 7 percent of California drivers admitted to swerving to block a motorcyclist from lane-splitting.

Unfortunately, without guidelines in place, California motorcyclists may face unnecessary dangers while performing a perfectly legal maneuver. According to the Los Angeles Times, more than half of drivers think lane-splitting is illegal, and two-thirds disapprove of the practice. This raises the risk of drivers being unaware of riders or performing dangerous maneuvers such as lane blocking.

Any motorcyclist who has been hurt because of the negligent actions of another driver should consider speaking with an attorney about legal remedies.

Traffic accidents may result in serious injuries for California motorists

Car accidents can cause devastating injuries, including broken bones, spinal cord damage and traumatic brain injuries.
Many people in California and across the nation rely on their vehicles to take them where they need to go. However, traveling by car may not be the safest mode of transportation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, motor vehicle collisions are the number one cause of death and injury in America. In just a split moment, these tragic occurrences can change the outcome of one’s life forever. Whether people are involved in a minor fender bender or a catastrophic collision, they may incur serious personal injuries as a result of another driver’s negligence. These injuries may include, but are not limited to the following.

Broken bones

From a clean break to a compound fracture, broken bones can cause a significant amount of pain. It isn’t uncommon for a break to damage surrounding tissues, such as muscles, ligaments, cartilage and nerves as well. For some accident victims, the pain of a broken bone is not limited to the initial break and healing period. Some people may experience chronic pain following a bone fracture, which may persist for years after the incident.

Back and neck injuries

Sudden impact to the back and neck may result in whiplash, spinal cord damage, broken bones or slipped discs. These injuries can be severe depending on the location and the extent of damage inflicted on the victim. According to the Mayo Clinic, motorcycle and car accidents account for more than 35 percent of spinal cord injuries every year, and are the number one cause of such damage.

In some cases, the damage may be catastrophic. The spinal cord is comprised of nerve fibers, which conduct neural transmissions from the brain to all other parts of the body. Spinal cord damage or swelling may result in quadriplegia, the partial or complete loss of all four limbs. It may also cause paraplegia, where the victim loses the ability to feel or control their arms.

Traumatic brain injury

Car accidents are the third leading cause of traumatic brain injury in the United States, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Brain damage can occur when the soft tissue of the brain hits a solid, hard object, such as the bony skull. TBI ranges from mild to severe cases. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, symptoms vary greatly from person to person but may include headaches, nausea, vomiting, difficulty concentrating, sensory deficits, muscle weakness and long-term memory problems.

While CT and MRI scans are used to detect moderate to severe TBI cases, mild injuries may be harder to diagnose and could go unnoticed. Studies show that even mild traumatic brain injuries can cause extensive and sometimes permanent disabilities if left untreated.

Contact an attorney

You should not have to suffer because of another motorist’s negligence. People should be held accountable for the consequences of their behavior. If you have been seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident, you may want to contact an attorney in California who can help you explore your options. You may be able to collect compensation for any expenses associated with the accident.

Keywords: TBI, brain, injury, accident

An introduction to wrongful death in California

On behalf of Steve Brady
Wrongful death lawsuits are a powerful means of recovering economic and noneconomic losses following the negligent death of a loved one.

Losing a loved one is never easy. However, if your loved one died unexpectedly because of someone else’s negligence or carelessness, you may experience financial losses that you did not anticipate on top of your emotional pain and loss. In such situations, it is possible to recover such losses under California law in a wrongful death lawsuit.

When does a wrongful death occur?

Wrongful deaths happen more often than you may think. In general, any death where someone is killed because of the negligent or intentional act of someone else is potentially a wrongful death. In everyday life, examples of wrongful death included deaths caused by car accidents, medical malpractice, assault, product defects and dangerous property conditions. Additionally, wrongful death sometimes arises following a criminal act. However, since wrongful death is a civil lawsuit, the outcome of any criminal charges does not affect your right to seek compensation or the fate of your civil lawsuit.

Whom may file the lawsuit?

Unlike some other personal injury actions, California’s statutes set the rules surrounding wrongful death lawsuits. Under the law, the decedent’s spouse, children, domestic partner, parents, siblings or other persons financially dependent on the decedent may file a wrongful death lawsuit. In cases where there are no financial dependents, the executor (personal representative) of the decedent’s estate may seek compensation on behalf of the estate.

What type of compensation may be recovered?

In California, the purpose of wrongful death lawsuits is twofold: to compensate close family members for their financial and emotional losses; and to pay back the decedent’s estate for financial losses caused by the death. As a result, the type of compensation recoverable in a wrongful death lawsuit is rather varied and includes:

  • Loss of income the decedent would reasonably have earned had he or she survived.
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Medical expenses
  • Loss of decedent’s financial support
  • Loss of companionship, comfort, care, guidance or affection
  • Reasonable value of decedent’s household services

If the decedent died because of acts that constitute a felony, and the wrongdoer is convicted, punitive damages are also available. This type of damages is not based on the plaintiffs’ actual losses, but instead serves to punish the responsible party for their conduct. However, in most cases, wrongful death lawsuits serve as a way for dependents to recover their losses, not as a means of punishing the responsible party.

An attorney can help

Although the concept behind wrongful death lawsuits is rather simple, the lawsuit itself often involves very difficult issues of proof. As a result, it is necessary to have the assistance of an experienced personal injury attorney when making your claim. The attorneys at the Brady Law Group can work to ensure that you have the best possible chance of achieving a favorable outcome.

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Call 866.211.2562 to discuss your situation with one of our attorneys.