July 2013 Archives

July 31, 2013

Tire Maintenance & Summertime Traffic Accidents in Tennessee

The hot weather is doing more than just making us sweat. It's also putting us at some serious risks for a traffic accident. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), hot weather and under-inflated tires pose some serious threats to motorists. When driving at highway speeds, the heat and the hot pavement can contribute to the wear and breakdown of your tires, and increases the risk for tire failure.

Many drivers are aware of the importance of their vehicle's performance and crash-test ratings. But are we as familiar with one of the most important features of our vehicle in avoiding a crash?
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Our Knoxville car accident attorneys understand that there are more than 10,000 accidents each and every year because of tire failure. The most common cause of these kinds of accidents include under-inflated tires, bald tires, blowouts and tread separations. When your tires are under-inflated or extremely worn, not only are you at higher risks for an accident, but you're also going to get poor fuel economy, worse handling, a longer distance to stop and increased stress on tire components.

Keeping your tires properly inflated is critical when it comes to maximizing performance. With properly maintained tires, you're going to be able to improve your steering, your stopping distance, your traction and your ability to carry heavy loads. As a matter of fact, properly-inflated tires can improve your gas mileage by close to 5 percent, and that means more money in your pocket.

Rubber begins to break down over time. Heat accelerates this process.

To help to prevent these kinds of accidents, consider these safety recommendations:

-Make sure that your tires are filled to the proper pounds-per-square-inch (PSI) for your car. You can find this information in the vehicle's owner's manual or on the vehicle's door placard.

-Get your own tire pressure gauge, keep it in your vehicle and use it frequently. You can lose a significant amount of air in just a month. Make sure to check tire pressure often, at least monthly, if not more frequently.

-If there's a tire pressure monitor on your dashboard, make sure you take immediate action if it alerts a warning.

-Take a look at the vehicle's owner manual to know how often your tires should be replaced. Some cars require replacement every six years while others only once every 10 years. (This includes spare tires.) Some tires may need replaced in as little as 18 to 24 months.

-Keep an eye on the tread of your tires. When tread is worn, consider purchasing a new set.

-Don't forget about your spare tire. Just because the tire hasn't been used and the tread is not worn doesn't mean the tire isn't still too old to operate safely.

-Even after all that is done, remember that a seat belt is your best defense against injury and death in the event of a motor-vehicle collision.

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July 24, 2013

Tennessee Boating Accident Risks Skyrocket through Summer

Boating season is in full swing. And while it's time for some fun, it's also a time for some important safety reminders. In recent weeks, several high-profile Tennessee boating accidents -- one in Norris Lake and another in Cumberland River -- have authorities preaching safety.
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According to WBIR, a man from Andersonville was recently charged with boating under the influence (BUI) following an overnight boating accident. This one happened on Norris Lake in Union County. Near midnight, a runabout slammed right into the back-end of a pontoon boat. There were 11 people on these two boats. Two passengers on the pontoon were taken to Tennova-North Knoxville Medical Center and two passengers of the runabout were thrown into the water. Accident reports indicate that the runabouters were not wearing life jackets. While officials with the TWRA are still investigating, the captain of the runabout has been charged with BUI.

Our Tennessee boating accident attorneys understand that there was also a fatal accident that claimed the life of a woman from Clarksville. According to KnoxNews, the woman was tubing one evening when somehow she got caught in the boat's propeller. Officials with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency report that the woman was dead when they arrived. An additional boater was also injured in this accident. Officials are still looking into whether alcohol was a factor in the incident.

According to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, there were close to 260,000 registered vessels in the state of Tennessee in 2011. That's about 2,000 more than the previous year. With that being said, we also saw an increase in the number of reported boating accidents, from 162 in 2011 to more than 170 in 2012. Of all of the bodies of water in the state, Norris Lake and Chickamauga Lake were rated the most dangerous during the year, with close to 20 reported accidents each. Overall, Polk County was the county with the most reported boating accidents. The costs of boating accidents in Tennessee in 2013 totaled $2.3 million, also an increase from previous years.

When breaking down these kinds of accidents, it's clear that a "collision with another vessel" was the most common type of accident reported, followed by fire. The most common operation during an accident was "cruising."

According to the 2012 reports, there was an decrease in the number of accidents involving alcohol and/or drugs -- from roughly 5 percent to less than 3 percent.

But we're not off the hook.

There were still close to 20 boating fatalities in 2012. In addition to these fatalities, there were nearly 100 injury boating accidents reported, totaling more than 105 injuries. While we've seen a decrease in the number of deaths, by one fatality, from the year before, it's time to hone in on safe boating habits through the remainder of boating season.

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July 17, 2013

Tennessee Auto Insurance Myths and Misconceptions

Buying auto insurance can be a confusing endeavor, and many people are not sure either about how to buy insurance or about what happens when they have to make a claim after an accident. 111147_steering_wheel.jpg

Unless you know your rights, you could find yourself not getting the coverage that you deserve, without coverage that you believe you have, or left with a big bill in the event that an accident happens. Our Knoxville accident lawyers help those who have been in crashes to make informed choices and to deal with the insurance company. But if you are just buying insurance, it is important to understand some of the common myths and misconceptions that could affect your purchase.

Misunderstandings About Auto Insurance

Recently, the Digital Journal discussed some of the most common myths that people believe when it comes to car insurance.

  • Trusting that an agent always gets the best price. If you shop around on your own for car insurance, you may be able to get quotes from more companies than your agent will, and potentially do better on price.
  • Swerving into a car to avoid hitting a deer. Many people veer out of the way to avoid hitting a deer and believe that the accident will not be considered their fault. This is not the case. If you hit someone else when you swerve to avoid a deer, they can make a claim against you and your insurance costs can go way up. You may actually be better off hitting the deer rather than potentially getting into an accident that injures someone else.
  • Believing that you always have rental car coverage. You may not have this coverage after an accident unless you have specifically opted to purchase a rental policy.
  • Not reporting an accident because you think that will stop your rates from going up. If you don't report an accident, you jeopardize your rights with your insurer. Your rights also might go up anyway because other drivers involved in the accident might make claims or you might get a ticket due to the accident.
  • Thinking your car insurance will be enough to pay off your car loan if your vehicle is declared a total loss. Your insurance is not designed to cover the total balance on your car loan but is instead designed to cover the value of your car. You'll be paid market value if your vehicle is totally destroyed in an accident and if you owe more on the car than it was worth, you will be stuck paying off the car loan even once the car is damaged. This can be avoided through the purchase of gap insurance.

These are just a few of the mistakes that people make when it comes to buying insurance. Mistakes made during the purchase process and mistakes made during accident claims can be costly and you could end up giving up some important rights if you are aren't fully informed.

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July 10, 2013

Tennessee Tractor-Trailer Crashes & the Risk of Increasing Size and Weight Limits

If big rigs get any bigger, as some Congressmen are apparently hoping will happen, we can all but guarantee a spike in the number of injuries and fatalities attributed to tractor-trailer accidents in Tennessee.
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It's simple physics, really.

We know that the bigger a vehicle is, the more damage it is liable to cause. This is especially true when vehicles are only designed to hold a certain threshold of weight and are then overloaded. This poses a danger not only to the driver, but to everyone else who shares the road.

As it stands now, the maximum weight limit threshold is 80,000 pounds. A bill currently moving through the U.S. House of Representatives would up that to 97,000 pounds.

Increasing this weight limit will not serve to reduce overloading vehicles. That will still happen. It's just that with a measure like this, these massive trucks will have the power to inflict even more damage in collisions with motor vehicles.

The only ones who benefit from this are large shipping and trucking firms, which will be able to fatten their pockets by increasing the amount they can deliver at a time.

However, the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association, a group of about 150,000 smaller trucking operations, is staunchly opposed to HR612, mostly for safety reasons but also because the vast majority of trucking firms won't be able to afford to upgrade their fleet - usually consisting of 20 or fewer vehicles - to compete with the newer, larger models in states that choose to adopt the new federal standards, should they get approval.

It wasn't long ago that Congress grappled with this same issue. Last year, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), which revamped federal highway safety standards, rejected a proposal to increase tractor-trailer truck weight and size limits. Instead, it ordered a comprehensive study on the impacts of larger trucks on the integrity of highway infrastructure, motor vehicle safety and the economy. We are still awaiting the results of this research, though the Federal Highway Administration conducted its mandated listening session as part of that study at the U.S. Department of Transportation headquarters in Washington D.C. in late May.

In addition to opposition from OOIDA, the Automobile Association of America has come out against efforts to increase size and weight limits on commercial trucks. With a membership some 50 million strong, this could be a powerful voice in talking down these efforts.

As it currently stands, there are some 28,000 motor carrier companies across the country that are actively violating federal safety standards, having a direct impact on safety for all those who travel the highways. Increasing truck size limits won't help to reduce that number. It will however give these companies more room to push the limits, which in turn puts us all at even greater risk.

And as the OOIDA underscores, the change is in no way necessary to help improve the greater good.

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July 3, 2013

Knoxville Nursing Homes Liable for Fall Injuries to Patients

Adult portable bed rails - the kind used in so many nursing homes, hospitals and home health care facilities throughout Tennessee - will soon be under an updated set of voluntary safety standards, per a joint directive from the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.
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Our Knoxville premise liability lawyers know that while the rails themselves have come under heightened scrutiny in recent years, it is ultimately the responsibility of administrators and staffers caring for the infirm to ensure the health and safety of their patients. Because the dangers of these devices have been well-established, particularly among individuals who suffer from Alzheimer's disease or dementia, nursing homes should already have safety measures in place to prevent serious injury or death resulting from the use of the devices.

Adult bed rails are typically made of metal and are set up along both sides of the bed with the intention of helping persons to either pull themselves up or prevent them from falling.

The latter is a particularly important goal, considering recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noting that while about 5 percent of those over the age of 65 reside in a nursing home, this group accounts for about 20 percent of all deaths from falls. Patients often fall more than once, with the average falling about 2.6 times per year and about 35 percent of those unable to walk.

About 20 percent of falls at nursing homes cause serious injuries and about 6 percent are fatal.

So yes, it's important for facilities to do all they can to prevent falls from occurring among elderly residents. At the same time, these bed rails have been known to also cause serious injuries and deaths, since at least as far back as 1995. That's when the FDA received an extensive report on the matter.

Unfortunately patients, especially those with forms of dementia, become confused and end up becoming trapped in between the bed rail and the mattress. Since 1995, there have been at least 550 bed-rail-related deaths in the country. Of those, about 155 occurred between January 2003 through September 2012. The vast majority of those who were killed were over the age of 60.

Additionally, there were about 37,000 people from 2003 through 2011 who were seriously injured in bed rail accidents and had to be rushed to a nearby hospital emergency room. That's about 4,000 people each year.

In the past, the FDA and the CPSC attempted to pass the buck on regulations for these devices, as the agencies couldn't agree whether they were a consumer product or a medical device. At one point, the FDA tried to require warning labels on the products, but received such backlash that agency officials back down.

In the end, the compromise was a list of voluntary manufacturing standards, introduced in 2006. However since then, we have continued to see people killed and seriously injured using these adult bed rails.

So now, both federal agencies say they are dedicated to updating that list of guidelines. But again, they will be voluntary, so it remains to be seen whether the new standards will have much impact.

Nursing homes should be vigilant in either finding alternatives to keep elderly patients safe or in checking on them frequently enough that if an incident were to occur, they would catch it in time to avert a serious or fatal accident.

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