June 2013 Archives

June 26, 2013

Tennessee Injury Attorneys: Enjoy Safe, Responsible Fourth of July

With the Fourth of July weekend, most of us are looking for fun with friends and family. It's a beautiful holiday, but it comes with some serious risks.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), roughly 200 people on average visit an emergency room every day with fireworks-related injuries in the month around the July 4th holiday.

"We would encourage you to enjoy the holiday at a public display presented by trained professionals, where compliance with state-of-the-art fire codes offers a safer way to celebrate our nation's independence," said Julie Mix McPeak, the State Fire Marshal and Commerce and Insurance Commissioner.

Our Maryville personal injury attorneys understand that one wrong move with a firework can result in serious injuries and painful memories. Children are actually the most at risk for these kinds of accidents. Children ages 5-19 are at higher risks than any other age group. Fireworks, if used improperly, can result in injury to the eyes of a child or adult as well as varying degrees of burns on the skin.

Before beginning any firework celebrations, make sure you're aware of the state and local laws. Once you've done that, you want to make sure that you're as safe as can be. Consider following these safety tips:

-Never allow children to play with or ignite fireworks.

-If you ever purchase fireworks that are in a brown paper bag, discard them. The brown bag oftentimes means that they were intended for professionals and can be very dangerous.

-Make sure that an adult is supervising all firework activities.

-Be sure that no body part is ever placed directly over a firework device when it's being lit. The safest way to light a firework is to back up a safe distance as soon as it's lit.

-Never point a firework at another person.

-Make sure that there is a bucket of water or a hose nearby for emergency use.

-Don't put fireworks in your pocket.

-Don't light fireworks and ignite them on a metal surface or on grass. Ignite all fireworks on a flat, hard surface.

-One light of fireworks one at a time.

-Never alter the use of fireworks of produce your own homemade fireworks.

-If you come across a "dud," don't attempt to relight it. Simply place it in a bucket of water or hose it down.

-Alcohol and fireworks do not mix. Have a "designated shooter."

-Be cautious of lighting any aerial firework during strong wind conditions. The firework should be lit with the prevailing wind blowing away from the spectators. If there is a significant wind shift during the time you are lighting the firework, the shooting site should be rearranged.

-Remember that sparklers are not toys and cause hundreds of injuries every year. They burn hot, reaching temperatures as high as 1,200 degrees, and they stay hot long after they've burned out.

Your best bet when it comes to staying safe during your Fourth of July holiday this year is to attend your local celebration and leave the fireworks to the professionals.

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June 19, 2013

Tennessee Premise Liability Lawsuit Goes to High Court

Could businesses be responsible for removing intoxicated patrons from a facility if that patron then harms someone else on the premises?
Our Knoxville injury attorneys understand that is the question before the Tennessee Supreme Court in Jolyn Cullum v. Jan McCool. If the high court sides with the plaintiff in this case, that could mean we could see an influx of negligence cases against businesses that fail to protect customers from the actions of a person expelled from their property.

Lower courts have come down on different sides of this issue, and now the state high court has agreed to take it on.

To understand more about the issue, let's explore a bit of background regarding the case at hand.

In February 2011, the plaintiff went to a Wal-Mart store to buy groceries. She finished her grocery shopping, went to the parking lot, located her vehicle and began to place her purchased items into the trunk of her car.

What she didn't know was around this same time, another woman had also just left the store and was entering her vehicle in that same parking lot. The other woman had attempted to purchase prescription medications at the pharmacy department of the store. However, she was denied service by workers who deemed her to be intoxicated. Infuriated with her inability to obtain her medicine, this woman reportedly became belligerent with store workers. The employees responded by ordering her to leave the store.

She complied. She also located her vehicle and got inside.

It was at this point that the two women's lives intersected. The allegedly intoxicated woman backed out of her parking space without locking behind her. In doing so, the suit says, she backed directly into the plaintiff. The plaintiff was knocked to the grown, crushed by the shopping cart and pinned between the two cars. The plaintiff screamed, but the intoxicated woman reportedly did not hear her. It was not until bystanders stopped her. She then got out of her vehicle and, in apparent attempt to help the injured women, moved her and caused her further pain and injury.

In addition to filing a negligence claim against the inebriated driver, the plaintiff filed suit against Wal-Mart, alleging negligence and gross negligence on the part of Wal-Mart staffers. The reason was that the staffers failed to call police, despite the woman's clearly intoxicated state and the fact that they knew she was alone and would have to drive herself off the premises in order to comply with employee requests to leave. Employees were reportedly familiar with the intoxicated woman, as this was not the first time this sort of thing had occurred. This failure to take further steps to protect other patrons, the plaintiff alleges, was negligent.

Initially, a country trial court dismissed the claim against Wal-Mart, saying the store couldn't be held responsible for the actions of a drunk patron. However, the Tennessee Court of Appeals found that because the intoxicated woman was invited onto the property as a customer, the store had a responsibility to protect other customers from harm.

Should the state supreme court side with the plaintiff, many businesses across the state - bars in particular - should pay close attention and adjust their policies accordingly.

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June 14, 2013

Fatal Tennessee Tractor-Trailer Crash Precedes New Federal Safety Rules

Two Bonnaroo music festival goers were killed in a Tennessee tractor-trailer crash before ever reaching the concert.
The crash happened just two weeks ahead of implementation of federal rules designed to reduce the number of fatal tractor-trailer accidents here and across the country.

According to investigators' accounts from the Tennessee Highway Patrol, the accident occurred shortly after midnight on a Thursday, as cars were slowing due to heavy traffic from an earlier accident near I-24 near Murfreesboro.

The driver of the truck was reportedly unable to halt in time. Eight other vehicles were struck. Two of those vehicles burst into flames. One of those vehicles became fully engulfed, causing the deaths of two people from Indiana, a 25-year-old woman and a 28-year-old man. Five other people suffered serious injuries. Seven others, including the trucker, were not injured.

The truck driver, from Kentucky, was cited for failure to exercise due care, and additional charges are pending.

Our Knoxville injury lawyers can't say for certain that driver fatigue played a role in this crash, but it does seem to fit the mold: The crash occurred after midnight and involved the trucker's delayed reaction time. By many accounts, drowsy driving affects reflex times just as much as alcohol consumption.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association reports that nearly 15 percent of all fatal trucking crashes are the result of drivers who were overworked and fatigued. It's for this reason that over the past five years, the agency has been battling to enact a series of hours of service rules that would limit the amount of time a trucker could remain behind the wheel at any given stretch.

Now, those rules will be formalized July 1, 2013.

It should come as no surprise that the industry has put up a fierce fight on this issue, arguing that the changes will deliver a devastating blow not only to the trucking industry but to small businesses nationwide that depend on timely delivery of goods to provide their services. There is no question that the new rules will have some impact on the industry, but we believe the problems stated have been overblown.

What's more, industry advocates' assertions that current rules are doing more than enough to tamp down the number of fatal crashes simply doesn't hold water when you consider crashes like the recent one that happened in Murfreesboro. In no other industry would it be acceptable to allow thousands of innocent people to die and become seriously injured every year, and then chalk it up to merely being a cost of doing business.

That's why the FMCSA has pressed forward on these rules. They include limiting drivers to a maximum of 11 hours on the road at any given stretch. Drivers are also expected to take at least a 30-minute rest break every eight hours (so at least once a shift) and they have to be off-duty at least 10 hours before getting back on the road after a full shift. Drivers will go from being allowed to work a maximum of 82 hours in a seven-day week to being allowed to work only 70 in a work week. This will ensure that drivers have more time to rest and recharge so that when they do get back to the road, they will be refreshed - and less likely to fatal mistakes, like the one that senselessly claimed those two young lives in Tennessee.

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June 7, 2013

Knoxville Crash Risk Heightened During Summer Travel

The summer travel season is upon us, and with it, our Knoxville car accident attorneys expect to see a spike in crashes related to long-distance travel.
Last month saw a spate of serious crashes throughout Tennessee, and we fear the trend shows no signs of abating.

One of the more serious incidents involved a three-car crash on Highway 96 in Williamson County, resulting in 13 injuries. Victims included seven 16-year-old girls, a 1-year-old child and a 2-year-old child. Authorities say four people had to be flown by helicopter to a hospital, as they were in critical condition.

One of the vehicles involved in that crash was a van transporting two adult coaches and seven athletes from an out-of-state girls' basketball team.

None of the children were wearing proper safety restraints.

This is troubling when we consider that 30 percent of all road trips taken in the U.S. involve children under the age of 12. It's critical that these children be put in the proper safety restraints - every single time and for the duration of the trip. It can be tempting on long trips to allow young children out of their seats, even if just for a few minutes. But an accident can unfold in a matter of seconds; taking the risk simply isn't worth it.

Another recent crash involved a Knoxville motorcyclist who had to be flown by helicopter to a nearby hospital after an accident on Highway 14 in Knoxville. A vehicle pulling out of an establishment apparently did not see the motorcyclist approaching and struck him, causing the rider to be thrown many feet in the air.

Travelers should take special care to watch for motorcyclists. They tend to be out and about more in the summer, for obvious reasons, but we're not always as used to checking for them. Motorcyclists risk greater potential injury than those on four wheels, and crashes are frequently caused by other motorists who simply aren't paying attention.

In yet another May crash, a 19-year-old Knoxville woman was killed when the vehicle in which she was a passenger careened off the road around 12:30 a.m. on a Tuesday. Two young men in their 20s, survived, but were badly injured. One of those two, who had been driving the vehicle, had already had his license revoked. Authorities believe alcohol may have been a factor in the crash.

While vacations are undoubtedly about indulging, drivers must be careful not to get behind the wheel while intoxicated. Sometimes, it's hard to be a good judge of when you've crossed the line, so the best rule is that if you've consumed any alcohol, wait to continue your trip until at least the next day. Better to get there late than never at all.

In addition to following all applicable traffic laws, anyone planning a road trip to or from Tennessee should bear in mind the following:

  • Have your vehicle checked out before you go. Get the oil changed, have the tires rotated and checked for proper inflation, ensure belts and hoses are in good shape, get a tune-up, have your battery checked, make sure your lights are working, your windshield wipers are sharp, your cooling system is flushed and refilled and your fluid levels are adequate.

  • Get plenty of rest. Driving drowsy can be as dangerous as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Take frequent breaks and take turns driving.

  • Plan your trip well in advance. At the very least, plug in the GPS or have your route mapped out before you start driving. If you get lost, pull over so you aren't trying to fiddle with the GPS or map while you're still driving.

  • Allow yourself plenty of time to get there. Factor in time for extra traffic and other unexpected delays. You don't want to feel pressured into speeding or aggressive driving or anything else that could potentially jeopardize your life or the lives of your passengers.

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