October 26, 2012

Knoxville Injury Attorney Shares Autumn Accident Risks

When we turn the clocks back an hour Sunday Nov. 4, it will signal the final turn toward autumn and the deadliest two months of the year on our nation's roads.

Our Knoxville injury lawyers note the nation is already dealing with an uptick in the number of fatal accidents after several years of decline attributed to the poor economy. The National Safety Council reports 21,560 motorists were killed through August this year -- up 7 percent from the 20,200 deaths reported last year. 490062_night_traffic.jpg

The number of fatal Tennessee traffic accidents increased more than 10 percent -- to 693 this year, compared to 629 last year.

Common Factors in Autumn Traffic Accidents

Early Dark: The end of Daylight Savings Time often plunges the evening commute into darkness. This can increase the risk of all types of accidents, including bicycle and pedestrian crashes and those caused by drowsy driving.

Deer Accidents: Tennessee can expect more than 24,000 motorists to collide with a deer this year, according to the annual report released each fall by State Farm. The average motorist has a 1 in 183 chance of striking a deer in Tennessee, which ranks the state 29th. More than 1.2 million of these crashes occur annually and about 200 are fatal. Serious and fatal crashes involving deer typically result when a motorist loses control of the vehicle and drives off the road or into oncoming traffic. November is the deadliest month, followed by October and December.

Pedestrian Accidents: Back-to-school and early dark both increase the risks for pedestrian accidents. Parking lot accidents are also prevalent through the busy upcoming holiday shopping season. Elderly consumers and children are most at risk.

Drunk Driving Accidents: One-third of the nation's traffic fatalities involve a driver under the influence of alcohol or drugs. That means about 2,000 people will be killed by a drunk driver through the last two months of the year. However, the real number is likely to be even higher, as pro and college football season and the trio of year-end holidays increase the number of drunk drivers on the road.

Aggressive Driving:
Fewer than 60 shopping days left until Christmas! Stressed yet? We all face additional pressure through the holidays. How we handle it is a major determining factor in our risks of being involved in an accident. Speeding, disobeying traffic control devices, driving too fast for conditions and tailgating are all driving behaviors that increase risk. Give yourself a break this holiday season -- and give the drivers around you a break.

Bad Weather:
Now is the time to have your vehicle serviced. Check your tires, your battery and your fluid levels. Being prepared for inclement weather is the first step in reducing the risk of a serious or fatal accident.

Continue reading "Knoxville Injury Attorney Shares Autumn Accident Risks" »

October 18, 2012

Tennessee Trucking Accidents & the Effort to Reduce Your Risks

Congress recently passed a host of improvements aimed at reducing the risk of fatal tractor-trailer accidents in Tennessee and elsewhere. But much work remains to be done.

The $105 billion 2013-2014 transportation bill (MAP-21: Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act), was signed by President Obama in July and is the first long-term highway authorization act passed since 2005. 753303_sunset_on_main_street.jpg

Among the biggest improvements: The creation of a database for drug test results and the electronic logging of drive time. "These rules, along with the new drug and alcohol database, will go a long way towards reducing truck/car fatalities in America," said Steve Owings, who founded RoadSafe America with his wife after their son was killed in an accident involving a commercial semi.

Trucking accident
lawyers understand there are many other improvements that could be made to reduce the risks for millions of motorists who share the road with trucks.

Better Drug Testing:
Even once a drug-testing database is up and running, a Congressional report indicates these federal tests are easily beat. Testing of hair (instead of urine) would drastically increase accountability. The other serious concern is medical exemptions for narcotic pain medication. There are safety concerns about allowing truckers to drive while using narcotic painkillers -- even with a note from their doctor.

Collision Avoidance and Adaptive Cruise Control: Proven technologies, including speed-limiters, should be adapted to help improve safety.

Liability: Shippers and receivers must be held more accountable. The owner of freight has an obligation to ensure its safe transport. Entities hiring truckers to transport goods must be encouraged to put safety ahead of the cheapest transport option.

Trucker Health: The new law will establish a database of certified medical examiners. These doctors will be recognized by the USDOT as qualified to give annual trucker physicals. Under the current system, many drivers allegedly are paying unethical practitioners for the medical results they need to continue driving. However, there are a number of other serious health concerns -- including sleep apnea -- that need to be addressed by federal safety officials.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration was formed in 2000 with a primary mission of preventing commercial motor-vehicle related fatalities and injuries and continues to take steps to improve safety. This month, it announced that it was expanding its Pre-Employment Screening Program. While the system allows potential employers to access a driver's immediate past history of accidents and inspections, it requires the driver's written permission.

The system also cannot be used to check the status of current employees -- only drivers under consideration for hire. Moving forward, regardless of who wins the election in November, there must be a renewed focus on the effort to pass some of these common-sense approaches meant to reduce the risk of Tennessee trucking accidents and serious and fatal commercial driving accidents nationwide.

Continue reading "Tennessee Trucking Accidents & the Effort to Reduce Your Risks" »

October 12, 2012

Tragic Tennessee Dog Attack Highlights Owner's Residential Liability

A 4-year-old Union County girl received more than 200 stitches and staples in her face after being attacked by the family's coon hound.

The animal was a rescue dog the family took in several months ago. The animal has been given to the Union County Humane Society. Its fate is uncertain, although the family reportedly thinks it should be euthanized, rather than readopted. Meanwhile, according to news reports, the family is struggling to determine insurance coverage as doctors say the little girl will need months of treatment. 98417_kiva_the_pit.jpg

We are a nation of dog lovers. The Humane Society of the United States reports about 40 percent of U.S. households own 78.2 million dogs. Unfortunately, serious and fatal dog attacks are not uncommon. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 4.5 million people are bitten by a dog each year -- or more than 12,000 dog bites per day!

Nearly 1 million victims a year seek emergency medical treatment and more than 30,000 are forced to undergo reconstructive surgery.

Tennessee dog bite law was updated by the legislature in 2007 and now establishes strict liability for dog owners only under certain circumstances. The Dianna Acklen Act of 2007, T.C.A. sec. 44-8-413, provides that dogs must be under reasonable control and not running at large. "A person who breaches that duty is subject to civil liability for any damages suffered by a person who is injured by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in or on the private property of another."

There is also no liability for injuries that occur on a dog-owner's property unless the victim proves scienter, meaning that the dog owner knew or should have known of a dog's dangerous propensities. The Insurance Information Institute reports more than 50 percent of dog bites occur on a dog owner's property. Thus, under the new law, guests in a dog owner's home may not be covered by his insurance, while strangers on the street enjoy full protection. Tennessee is unique in having passed such a "residential exclusion," which is certain to undergo a battery of legal challenges as these cases make their way through the system.

As it stands now, a victim bitten on a dog owner's property must prove the defendant owned the dog, the dog caused the injuries, and the owner knew or should have known the dog was dangerous. As we see in this case, the rescue dog responsible for the attack could well be "rescued" again by another unknowing family.

The truth of the matter is these cases frequently involve a pet known to the victim, whether a family member's, neighbor's or close family friend's. And children are the most likely victim.

The risks increase as children begin spending more time inside with pets. End-of-year family gatherings and new pets invited into the family during the holidays also increase the risk. While adopting a dog, rescuing an animal or taking in a stray can be admirable alternatives to the pet store, none of these options are without risk. Choose a pet carefully. Supervise its interaction with the family and teach young children how to stay safe around dogs, whether the neighborhood pet or a stray on the street.

Continue reading "Tragic Tennessee Dog Attack Highlights Owner's Residential Liability" »

October 5, 2012

Tennessee Supreme Court Rejects Emotional Distress Claim Against Uninsured Motorist Policy - Garrison v. Bickford

When we purchase uninsured or underinsured (UM/UIM) motorist coverage, we expect our insurance company will be there in the event we are in an accident with a motorist who does not have car insurance or whose policy limits are not sufficient enough to cover the damages suffered.

However, personal injury lawyers understand recovering from your own insurance policy is often no easier than recovering damages from the at-fault driver's insurance policy. When you make a claim, you and your insurance company are in adversarial roles. And, unfortunately, that frequently means you cannot count on being treated fairly without the help of an experienced law firm. 952313_gavel.jpg

Tennessee law requires motorists carry a minimum of $25,000 personal injury coverage per person ($50,000 per accident) and $15,000 for property damage per accident. Unfortunately, even when a motorist carries legal minimums, this coverage is often inadequate in the event of an accident. Think of the cost of one new vehicle and compare that to the $15,000 in total coverage, and you begin to see our state minimums are woefully outdated.

That makes UM/UIM coverage even more important. And motorists should purchase as much coverage as they can reasonably afford. Frequently $250,000 in coverage is available for as little as $75 every six months. This coverage will be a critical resource in the event that you or a family member is involved in a serious or fatal accident.

Whether you have an experienced attorney in the aftermath of such an accident, and how a lawsuit is filed, will also have an impact on the outcome. In August, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled in Garrison v. Bickford that the "bodily injury" clause of a motorist's UM coverage did not include "emotional distress."

In this case, Jerry and Martha Garrison sued the driver for wrongful death and negligent infliction of emotional distress after their son was struck and killed while riding a minibike near his home. They also served the lawsuit on State Farm, their own insurance company, under their uninsured motorist policy.

The trial court determined "bodily injury" included mental injuries. However, that decision was reversed by an appeals court and upheld by the state Supreme Court, which found "bodily injury" in this case, and under this policy, did not include "emotional harm." The court also found the policy's definition of "bodily injury" did not conflict with the state's uninsured motorist statute.

The at-fault driver's insurer paid $25,000 for wrongful death and $25,000 for emotional distress. The parent's insurer paid $75,000 for wrongful death but refused to pay the emotional distress claim, taking the case all the way to the state's high court, where it ultimately prevailed.

You'll note the couple's UM coverage paid more than the at-fault driver's coverage. But it certainly wasn't paid voluntarily by the couple's insurer. Instead the family had to fight for it in the midst of dealing with this terrible tragedy.

Continue reading "Tennessee Supreme Court Rejects Emotional Distress Claim Against Uninsured Motorist Policy - Garrison v. Bickford" »

September 26, 2012

Tennessee Tractor-Trailer Accident Kills 2 in Road Construction Zone

Two motorists were killed this week in a tragic accident involving a tractor-trailer, a highway patrol cruiser and a TDOT truck.

The accident in Bradley County occurred shortly before 3:30 a.m. Monday just north of the Charleston exit on 75. A road worker and the driver of the semi were killed. 714551_sign_1.jpg

Knoxville car accident lawyers understand that the fall season brings a confluence of risk to Tennessee and the Great Smoky Mountain Nation Park region. Road crews are racing to get work completed before cold weather; school buses are back on the road; leaf-peepers will fill lodges and cabins through the busy autumn tourist season; and even as it gets darker earlier we are feeling that autumn chill in the air that signals the beginning of cold winter weather.

Organizations like the National Safety Council are already reporting the number of serious and fatal accidents has increased nationwide with the economic recovery. Through July, more than 20,000 motorists were killed on the nation's roads this year -- up nearly eight percent from last year. Tennessee is not bucking the trend, unfortunately, and the last three months of the year are typically the most dangerous.

Interstate 75 was closed for more than eight hours after the crash. Authorities say a 53-year-old Grainger County man was driving a semi load of live chickens through a marked construction zone when he slammed into a truck from the Tennessee Department of Transportation. The truck driver and a 28-year-old construction worker from Ohio were killed. The trucks also struck a trooper's cruiser, sending him to the hospital.

"They're risking their lives every day just doing their jobs and it's sobering," Jennifer Flynn, a TDOT spokesperson, told NBC3 News in Chattanooga.

TDOT said it is trying to do as much work as possible either at night or during other off-peak hours. And safety advocates are reminding motorists to obey the state's Move Over Law (T.C.A. 55-8-132).

-Motorists are required to move over and/or slow down when approaching a stopped emergency vehicle at the side of the road when emergency lights are activated. The law gives equal protection to recovery vehicles, highway maintenance vehicles and tow trucks.

-Violation is a Class B misdemeanor, which is a fairly serious charge punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.

-Motorists may also face substantial fines for speeding in a marked road construction zone.

Speeds through such projects are lowered to give drivers and road crews more time to react. One such project here in Knoxville is the widening of State Route 62/Western Avenue, which started in 2010 and is not slated for completion until 12/31/2013, according to the Tennessee Department of Transportation. Two lanes of traffic are being maintained (one in each direction) and the speed limit has been reduced to 40 mph. The Knoxville Police Department monitors traffic through the construction site.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports about 700 people are killed in highway construction zones each year. In 2008, a total of 11 people were killed in work-zone accidents in Tennessee.

Continue reading "Tennessee Tractor-Trailer Accident Kills 2 in Road Construction Zone" »

September 20, 2012

Tennessee School Bus Accident Injures 20

A high school student was in critical condition after a Tennessee school bus accident injured 20. Authorities report the bus flipped three times on Mount Wesley Road in Washington County.

Knoxville personal injury lawyers understand autumn is the most dangerous time of year for school bus accidents. Bus drivers are new to the job or coming back after summer break. Motorists are often impatient when the slow, lumbering yellow buses reappear on our roads. Add to that the large number of children walking, riding bikes and taking the bus to and from school each day and the risks for accidents increase exponentially.

While most think the majority of busing accidents occur when traveling to and from school, the fact is a significant number of these accidents occur when a bus is traveling on a field trip, sporting event or other after-school activity.

In this case, the Tennessee Highway Patrol reports one of the bus' tires slipped off the narrow shoulder of the road.

CNN reports the bus was carrying 67 passengers at the time of the crash, which was caused by the driver overcorrecting. Accident victims were taken to Johnson Medical Center, Holston Valley Medical Center and Franklin Woods Community Hospital. Two underwent surgery and were expected to recover, according to hospital staff.

Twelve patients were hospitalized overnight. Neck injuries, scalp lacerations and broken bones were among the injuries reported. 793842_school_bus.jpg

The Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security reports nearly 10,000 school buses a day hit the roads in Tennessee. Public school districts are responsible for bus safety. Bus drivers with a school-bus endorsement must undergo a mandatory 4-hour safety-training session and buses must undergo two types of inspections -- annual and follow-ups, which occur during the school year.

At the age of 12, buses must also undergo extended utilization inspections each summer. At age 17, a bus must be removed from service.

But the fact remains many school-bus accidents are pedestrian accidents that occur around a bus or near a bus stop -- either when a school bus or a passenger vehicle strikes a student. It's for this reason that Tennessee law requires all cars to stop for a bus displaying red flashing lights (unless traveling the opposite direction on the other side of a divided highway). This is your signal that the bus is loading or unloading passengers.

Motorists should remain vigilant in neighborhoods, especially during the early morning and afternoon hours. And parents should teach their child how to get to and from the bus stop safely. Clarksville Online reports children are most at risk of being hit when running to catch the bus.

Tennessee School Bus Safety Tips:

-Teach children to get to the bus stop on time and not to engage in horseplay. Students should wait at least 5 giant steps away from the curb.

-Teach your child to make eye contact with the bus driver and other motorists and make sure it's safe to cross.

-Children should be taught never to attempt to retrieve an item dropped beneath the bus; notify the bus driver.

-Parents who believe a bus stop is located in a dangerous place should be proactive in contacting their school district.

Continue reading "Tennessee School Bus Accident Injures 20" »

September 14, 2012

Tennessee ATV Safety: Fatal Campbell County Accident Highlights Autumn Risks

A teenager from Campbell County was recently killed in an ATV accident. The 17-year-old LaFollette youth was thrown off of his ATV while riding along Doaks Creek Road. He was taken to the University of Tennessee Medical Center where he was later pronounced dead.
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The driver of the ATV, a 16-year-old Speedwell teen, was heading eastbound on that roadway when he tried to make a U-turn. That's when his passenger fell off of the vehicle, according to KnoxNews.

Our Knoxville accident lawyers understand that fall in Tennessee is prime time for enjoying the outdoors, and that includes riding four-wheelers and all-terrain vehicles. Please keep safety your top priority. There were close to 320 people who were killed in ATV accidents in the U.S. in 2010. Another 120,000 people were injured in these accidents. In Tennessee, more than 430 people died in ATV accidents from 1982 to 2010. About 100 of these fatalities were of child riders who were under the age of 16-years-old.

Tennessee State ATV Laws:

-Both riders and passengers who ride on three-wheeled ATVs are required to ride in specific state park riding areas.

- All riders must wear helmets and eye protection at all times.

- All four-wheeled ATVs are not allowed in any state parks.

- ATVs are not allowed to be driven on the state's highways, except to cross the road.

- Each ATV is required to be titled with the owner receiving an identification device that shall be placed on the ATV.

Remember that manufacturers build different size ATVs for use by different age groups. You should always make sure that you're driving an ATV that is designed for your size and experience level. You should also never let children ride an ATV without adult supervision.

Nationwide, children under the age of 16 account for close to 30 percent of all ATV accident fatalities. Over the last 10 years, the number of children killed in off-road vehicle accidents has increased by more than 85 percent.

These are costly accidents, too! According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), medical treatment for riders under the age of 16 total nearly $3 million each year.

Tips for ATV Riding:

- Consider taking a hands-on training course.

- Always wear your protective gear. Wear gloves, a helmet, long pants, goggles, boots, long-sleeved clothing and proper footwear.

- Never drive your ATV on a paved road. ATVs are difficult to handle on paved roadways. This also makes collisions with cars more likely.

- Never drive an ATV with a passenger. Most ATVs are only designed to carry one person.

- Never allow children to drive or ride without an adult. Kids who are under 16 who ride on an adult ATV are about twice as likely to be injured as those riding on a youth ATV.

- Never drive an ATV under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Continue reading "Tennessee ATV Safety: Fatal Campbell County Accident Highlights Autumn Risks" »

April 9, 2012

Knoxville Motorcycle Accident Attorneys: Watch for Riders, Enjoy the Weather!

A recent sobriety checkpoint in Blount County netted a large number of citations given to motorcycle riders wearing non-compliant helmets.

The checkpoint on U.S. highway 129, resulted in 17 citations. Fifteen officers worked the checkpoint, which saw more than 200 vehicles in about two hours. As authorities work to reduce the risk of Tennessee drunk driving accidents, they found themselves monitoring the start of motorcycle riding season. 1111010_motorcycle_reflections.jpg

Knoxville motorcycle accident attorneys know May is motorcycle safety and awareness month. But that doesn't mean thousands of riders aren't already hit the streets following the unusually mild northern winter. Motorists are reminded to look twice and save a life as the spring and summer riding season gets under
way.

Eight riders at Saturday's checkpoint were given citations for wearing non-compliant helmets, which means they were not approved by the Tennessee Department of Transportation. Helmetcheck.org is a resource riders can use to help ensure they are wearing an approved helmet; the DOT or Snell sticker should also be located on the inside or outside of the helmet.

The truth is that the vast majority of riders are safety conscious, and all too aware of the risks inherent in riding a motorcycle. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports more than 4,000 riders a year are killed and nearly 100,000 are seriously injured in riding accidents.

About 100 riders a year are killed in motorcycle accidents in Tennessee.

And in more than half of all fatal accidents involving another vehicle, the driver of the other vehicle is at fault. Failure to yield and turning left in front of a rider is the most common cause of serious and fatal motorcycle accidents.

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation offers 10 Tips every car and truck driver should know about motorcycles:

-Look for motorcycles, particularly at intersections.

-A motorcycle's size may mean it is closer than it appears. Speed can also be difficult to judge. When pulling into traffic, whether at an intersection or from a private drive, assume the rider is closer than he looks.

-Blind spots can hide motorcycles. So can obstacles like bushes, fences and parked cars. Take a moment to check thoroughly.

-A motorcycle's small size makes it look fast; don't assume a rider is speeding.

-Brake lights don't always activate when a rider is slowing -- bikes can be slowed by rolling out of the throttle and down shifting. Allow plenty of following distance.

-Turn signals on motorcycle's don't shut off on their own. Therefore they can be left on accidentally. Make sure of a rider's intentions before proceeding.

-A motorcycle is entitled to it's own lane of travel, and may move around in that lane to avoid debris, for better visibility or for other reasons. Don't crowd a rider.

-While a motorcycle can be quite maneuverable, don't expect a rider to be able to dodge out of the way.

-Motorcycles can be slow to stop, particularly on wet or slippery pavement.

-Think of a motorcycle in motion as a person.

Continue reading "Knoxville Motorcycle Accident Attorneys: Watch for Riders, Enjoy the Weather! " »

March 28, 2012

Mills v. Fulmarque Illustrates Time Limitations in Knoxville Injury Claims

Timing is a critical component of all lawsuits. Federal and State statutes clearly and concisely designate specific time-frames for which pleadings and papers can be filed in order to be considered timely. Mills v. Fulmarque is an Tennessee personal injury case which arose when a man fell off of his chair and injured himself while in the workplace. The victim, Calvin Mills, then sued his employer as well as the seller of the faulty chair. Two years later, there was an attempt by one of the co-defendants to add the manufacturer to the litigation alleging comparative fault. The problem in the litigation arose because the statute of limitations had run and no other parties could be added to the litigation, thus leaving an at-fault party free from answering for their negligence.
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The court in this case finally clarifies any possible ambiguity in Tennessee statute by holding that where a state statute states, "a cause of action for injuries to the person must commence within one (1) year after the cause of action," additional parties cannot be added after the one year has run from the time of the original injury. Tenn. Code Ann. Ā§28-3-104(a)(1)(2000). The court interpreted statutes to show that any statute of limitation extensions applied to the naming of new parties. This holding prevented Mills from seeking recovery from the manufacturer of the faulty office equipment. By failing to identify all potentially at- fault parties, the attorney denied Mills his opportunity to recover the injuries he sustained due to the negligence of others.

It is extremely important when involved in a lawsuit to have a Knoxville injury attorney who is well versed in the law and can file the appropriate filings within the allotted time. It is important to get it right the first time because if you do not, you can be limited in future recovery. In Mills, the attorneys did not exhaust their resources in investigating possible parties to their lawsuit and as a result, their client was not able to receive the justice he deserved. Had there been more time, the injured worker would have been able to seek remedies from all of the parties at fault. However, as in all litigation, there are strictly applied time limits for which you can file a claim. If no claim is filed, or if it is not filed against the proper parties, then you can lose your ability to sue and obtain the judgment you so rightly deserve. Lawsuits are complex and it is critical to have a well informed and meticulous advocate zealously representing your rights.

The allotting of fault and the choosing of parties is a strategic decision that is contingent on your specific state law. When determining negligence involved in an injury, you need to know how each state addresses fault and what possible defenses are available. States vary on which doctrines they follow, such as comparative negligence, contributory negligence or assumption of the risk. This is a concept that is not a central point in this case or decision, but is important for people to be aware of. This is yet another reason why you need help from a competent attorney to obtain the maximum recovery for you.

Continue reading "Mills v. Fulmarque Illustrates Time Limitations in Knoxville Injury Claims" »

March 20, 2012

Tennessee Trucking Accident Watch: Unfair Insurance Company Settlement Practices in Rhodes v. AIG

When you are involved in a Tennessee trucking accident it is important to have an experienced personal injury attorney to guide you in the settlement and trial process. A veteran Knoxville injury attorney can help you identify the parties that are at fault or those who are acting negligently. And most importantly can help you deal with insurance companies focused on limiting your claim and protecting their bottom line.
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Rhodes v. AIG is a case that illustrates the deceptive practices of insurance companies. The issue addressed here is how to manage damages where the defendant insurance company is engaged in willful and knowing unfair settlement practices.

Rhodes was the driver of a passenger vehicle when the defendant Carl Zalewski, who was negligently driving an eighteen wheel truck, hit plaintiff in the rear of her car. While Zalewski was driving this truck, he was acting within his job duties as a driver for Driver Logistic Services (DLS). DLS had their primary insurance with Zurich and their excess policy with National Union Fire Insurance Company ("National Union"). Their coverage was $2 million and $50 million respectively.

Excess insurance coverage is used by large companies to shield themselves from the risks and liabilities of these highly dangerous accidents involving trucks.

Upon the impact to the plaintiff's vehicle, Rhodes suffered a fractured spine leading her to become paraplegic. Plaintiff spent several months in the hospital after spinal fusion surgery. She also suffered from several other health issues because of this injury to her spine.

Through this case it is seen how tragic the injuries can be in trucking accident cases. This plaintiff, who was not at fault, will spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair. Also, her family suffered and will continue to suffer greatly because of the injuries Rhodes sustained.

The court in this case was charged with interpreting their state statute in determining how to establish a punitive damages award in the instance where one party fails to promptly, fairly and equitably negotiate settlement with the plaintiff. The Georgia Statute does not require insurance companies to settle with plaintiffs, but what is required is that the insurance companies act promptly and reasonably when the negotiations are taking place.

In order to find the defendant's guilty of this, the court said that the plaintiff had to prove that the breaching party willfully and knowingly participated in these unfair settlement practices. Plaintiff alleges that both of the insurance companies involved were participating in this behavior, which was therefore a violation of the statute at issue.

Five months after the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the two insurance companies, plaintiff settled with National Union, the excess insurance carrier, through their claims administrators at AIG.

Although the plaintiff settled with one of the parties, the case continued to the superior court where the court heard the case. They found that the primary insurance company did not violate the statute because it did not infringe on the integrity of the settlement process. The court went on to explain that the issue of whether National Union or their claim administrators at AIG violated the statute was irrelevant because even if the plaintiff proved that those parties were engaging in this behavior, she would be barred from collecting damages from them two times.

What the court did explain was that the state statute that is controlling in deciding punitive damages associated with unfair settlement practices, awards damages where the plaintiff is able to prove that there is a link between their injuries and the unfair practices she is contending. If the plaintiff is able to prove this, the court held that the statute indicates the plaintiff's award for punitive damages is two times the award plaintiff received in the original suit.

The application of the law to the facts in this case would have led the plaintiff to receive an exorbitant amount of money. Although the court was very sympathetic to plaintiff's injuries, they do contend that they do not necessarily agree with doubling the original damages award as punishment for unfair settlement practices.

Rhodes is a case that warns the legislatures to make sure that the statutes that are used in determining damages, provide for an equitable award.

Had the attorney in this case warned her client not to settle, the client would have received an additional $22 million dollars.

You need the right attorney to help you navigate through all the law to get you the award you are entitled to.

Continue reading "Tennessee Trucking Accident Watch: Unfair Insurance Company Settlement Practices in Rhodes v. AIG " »

March 9, 2012

In Knoxville Motorcycle Accident Liability, Helmets Not an Issue

A bill that would have eliminated the requirement for motorcycle riders to wear helmets in Tennessee has been shelved this legislative session.

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Those against the bill say wearing a helmet dramatically curbs the risk of serious injury in the event of a Knoxville motorcycle accident. Proponents of the bill, meanwhile, believe that the decision about whether to wear a helmet should be a personal one, not dictated by politicians.


Knoxville personal injury attorneys
know this much: Whether the motorcycle is wearing a helmet holds no bearing on the liability of the other party in the event of a crash. What that means is that if you are involved in a crash, regardless of whether you are wearing a helmet, you can still move for legal action against the at-fault driver of the other vehicle. An experienced attorney can help you weigh all the options.

Still, the helmet issue was one that both sides were quite passionate about.

The Motorcyclist Liberty Restoration Act would have ended the requirement for riders over the age of 21 to wear a helmet in the state of Tennessee.

On the one hand, you had Libertarians, who viewed the issue as one of civil freedoms.

Rep. Glen Casada, R-Williamson County, was one of the bill's co-sponsors. He was quoted as saying that government should not serve as mother and father to its citizens. The mandate that all motorcyclists wear helmets was taking things one step too far.

In repealing the law, supporters said it would boost the state's tourism numbers, as more riders would begin flocking to the state.

On the other side, you have safety advocates, who said that helmet laws helped taxpayers avoid millions of dollars in expenses when riders suffered serious and long-lasting injuries. One study analyzed helmet use in states that had repealed their helmet requirement laws. They found that helmet use did indeed decline, and the number of motorcycle fatalities rose by some 30 percent.

Dr. Blaine Enderson of the University of Tennessee Medical Center, recently wrote an editorial that appeared in The Tennessean. He said that while he supported personal freedom of choice, motorcyclists don't live in a bubble, and the choice of whether to wear a helmet is one that could affect their family, their employer and the community at-large.

A spokeswoman for the Tennessee Nurses Association was quoted by the local press as saying the issue is no different than laws that require vehicle occupants to wear seat belts.

Using this comparison, our Tennessee injury attorneys would note that just because a person isn't wearing a seat belt at the time of a crash, it doesn't release the other at-fault driver from being held legally accountable. It's the same with motorcycle riders.

The truth of the matter is, the majority of motorcycle accidents are caused by drivers who either aren't paying attention or aren't being respectful of these two-wheeled vehicles sharing the roadway. In these cases, it's important to have an experienced attorney who will fight to win you the compensation you deserve.

Continue reading "In Knoxville Motorcycle Accident Liability, Helmets Not an Issue" »

March 6, 2012

Tennessee Injury Watch: Baker v. St. Paul Says You Cannot Double Dip

The law governing work-related injuries is very complicated and can be confusing. It is challenging to understand what to apply for and with whom. When you are injured and need medical attention, navigating through all of the rules can be disheartening. If you are confused about the benefits you are entitled to, you can very easily make a mistake that can leave you without the help you need. A Knoxville injury attorney can ensure your rights are protected in the wake of an accident.
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The First Circuit Court of Appeals decided a case where there was confusion about whether an injured worker could collect from both Worker's Compensation and their employer's insurance company. In this case it was held that a Massachusetts person could not recover for work related injuries under both Worker's Compensation and an employer's uninsured/ under-insured motorist (UIM) insurance coverage. However, the court created an exception for when the employer "explicitly purchased" the UIM coverage with the intention of protecting their employees. Baker v. St. Paul Travelers Ins. Co.

Essentially, the court said that UIM coverage in the case of a work-related injury is dependent on the employer's intent when purchasing the insurance coverage. If the employer's reason for purchasing the UIM coverage was to protect their employee in the case of injury during work, then the employee can recover from both Worker's Compensation and the employers UIM insurance carrier. However, if the employer did not intend for their employees to be covered or even if the employer did not think about coverage for their employees then the employee cannot recover benefits from both their state Worker's Compensation and their employers UIM insurance carrier. There is only a tiny distinction between instances where you can collect from both and instances where you can not. While this particular court ruling does not apply in Tennessee, it illustrates the complexities involved in seeking justice after a serious or fatal accident.

The decision in Baker arose in 2002 when Heidi Baker, who was employed by Safety Source Northeast (Safety), was severely injured in an automobile accident that caused by a third party while she was doing her job. Baker first applied for and collected Workman's Compensation benefits. These benefits were not enough to cover her bills so she later applied for benefits under the UIM provision of the commercial automobile insurance policy her employer had with St. Paul Travelers Insurance Company (St. Paul). Unfortunately, Baker was not aware of the benefits she was entitled to and she was left without the recovery she needed to pay for the cost and expenses incurred because of her injury.

MA law says that a person cannot file claims under both Worker's Compensation and an employer's UIM insurance coverage except when an employer "explicitly purchased" the UIM coverage to protecting their employees. In this case, the President of Safety testified that was is solely in charge of purchasing commercial automobile insurance for the company, yet he was "unaware" of the UIM coverage under the Safety policy.

Through this testimony the court determined that the employer did not have the intent to protect their employees with this insurance, and therefore Baker was left without this assistance. The insurance company won this case and it was decided that the victim could not receive benefits from both Worker's Compensation and her employer's insurance policy.

In cases of work-related injuries the guidance of an experienced and trustworthy attorney is invaluable. Medical costs are high and the cost of a work-related injury can seriously impact your life. The application process and receipt of benefits can be confusing, and it can be difficult to determine what assistance you are entitled to. Especially when driving is a job duty, employees need to be aware of their employer's insurance coverage and how it applies to them. Additionally, there are even some states, such as MS, that have laws that limit your recovery. If you are ever involved in a job related injury you must know your state Workman's Compensation law and the rules governing your insurance policy before you enter a claim. When leaving these concerns to a dedicated attorney, you can concentrate on getting better.

Continue reading "Tennessee Injury Watch: Baker v. St. Paul Says You Cannot Double Dip" »

February 26, 2012

Knoxville Trucking Accidents Partially Blamed in Rising Teen Deaths

Trucking accidents in Knoxville and across the country are part of the reason more teenagers are losing their lives behind the wheel.

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A new report released by the Governors Highway Safety Association indicates that for the first time in 8 years, teen driver deaths overall were increasing. For the first six months of last year compared to the first six months of 2010, there was an 11 percent increase in the number of teen drivers killed nationwide. That includes statistics analyzed from all 50 states, as well as Washington D.C.

While our Knoxville trucking accident attorneys understand the report doesn't specifically break down how many of those were due to accidents involving big rigs, based on previous research, it is safe to say crashes with large trucks were at least partially to blame.

In fact, the National Highway Safety Association reported that between 1975 and 2005, more than 7 percent of all those killed in large trucking accidents were aged 17 and under. Drivers aged 18 to 25 accounted for 17 percent of all trucking accident fatalities - a larger portion than any other age group.

The new report from the governor's association found that in a state-by-state examination of teen fatalities, driver fatalities for 16-year-olds increased by 16 percent, while driver fatalities for 17-year-olds is up by 17 percent. Overall, 19 states (including Tennessee) reported some decrease in fatalities, while 23 states reported a marked increase. Some states, including Florida, North Carolina and Texas, reported a skyrocketing increase.

Researchers pointed to the fact that the benefits of graduated driver's license programs, such as the one implemented in Tennessee in 2001, are beginning to level off.

While many fatal trucking accidents in Knoxville involve truck driver error (most commonly, failure to maintain proper lanes, speeding or distracted driving), it pays for teens to be educated in how to maneuver around these large vehicles.

The fact is that when a passenger vehicle is involved in a wreck with a big rig, there is an increased chance that the injuries will be more severe or result in death.

This underscores how critical it is for parents to have some discussion with their teen about how to drive safely around large trucks, as they don't operate under the same laws of physics as passenger vehicles.

The Geico Educational Foundation, an arm of the car insurance company, recently released an easy-to-read brochure that breaks down some of the ways teens can be sure to avoid a Knoxville trucking accident.

The brochure first goes over the basics of any safe driver: Don't speed, drive aggressively or allow yourself to be distracted by your friends or cell phone.

Secondly, it urges teens to avoid the trucker's blind spots. These cover pretty wide swaths of roadway around the truck, but the best rule to follow is to make sure you can see the trucker's mirrors. If you can't, the trucker can't see you.

Thirdly, if you plan to pass a large truck, make sure you can see the front of the rig in your rear view. Don't ever flash your brights at a trucker to signal that you plan to change lanes. This can be very confusing, as it sometimes signals a police cruiser is up ahead. Either way, simply use your turn signal.

Finally, don't stop suddenly in front of a trucker or swerve abruptly in front of him or her. Truck drivers aren't able to slow or stop as quickly as someone in an SUV or passenger car. It's better to give yourself plenty of space so this won't be an issue.

Continue reading "Knoxville Trucking Accidents Partially Blamed in Rising Teen Deaths" »

February 15, 2012

Man Eludes Death Following Train Accident in West Knoxville

A local driver is counting his blessings today! He was able to avoid a potentially fatal car accident in West Knoxville when he escaped his truck just after it got stuck on the train tracks. After he made it out safely, the vehicle was hit by a 33-car CSX Corp. freight train. The accident happened near on Jackson Road, near Amherst.
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"He wasn't trying to beat the train, he just got stuck there on the tracks," said Knoxville Fire Department spokesman Capt. D.J. Corcoran.

Train tracks are the location of numerous fatal car accidents. In these situations, motorists often stand little to no chance surviving the impact of an oncoming train. Our Tennessee car accident attorneys ask that all residents be cautious when traveling near trains and their tracks. While you may think you'd be able to see a train coming and escape its path, that's not always the case. Some statistics conclude that a train and a car collide every 12 minutes in the U.S. This means that about 9,570 train accidents happened in 2009. Of these accidents, it's estimated that nearly 650 people were killed and another 6,670 people were injured. More than 95 percent of these accidents happened at rail-highway intersections and in trespassing instances.

Neither the truck driver nor the operator of the train involved in the West Knoxville train-truck accident is facing any charges, according to Knox News.

According to Knoxville Police Department spokesman Darrell DeBusk, the flatbed truck was carrying an earth mover. It was heading southbound on Jackson when it was struck. The train was heading eastbound and unable to stop before hitting the truck.

The driver of the flatbed truck said he heard the warning bells and saw the railroad crossing arm descending. At that point, he jumped out of his vehicle. He said there was no other choice. The company owning the flatbed called its hazardous materials team to the scene of the accident for cleanup. After the collision, diesel fuel leaked out onto the tracks and the roadway. The train was carrying ethanol and butane. Thankfully, the cars carrying these materials were further back and not affected by the crash.

In the state of Tennessee there are nearly 2,820 public at-grade railroad crossings. To help to reduce the risks of motor-vehicle accidents in these locations, the Tennessee Department of Transportation previously launched a safety campaign. This safety campaign consists of posters and billboards scattered throughout areas near high traffic railroad crossings. These signs are to remind pedestrians and drivers to be alert near crossings and railroad tracks.

In 2009 and 2010, there were nearly 100 train-vehicle accidents in the state of Tennessee. In these accidents, five people died and more than 25 were injured.

Drivers are asked to use caution near all train tracks, but especially at ones near rail-highway intersections. Never attempt to cross train tracks unless you're sure you can make it all the way across. If you see a train coming, stop a significant distance from the tracks to avoid a collision. Turn your radio down when approaching these areas so that you can hear your surroundings, too. Accidents with trains are highly preventable with the proper safety precautions. Be careful out there and stay alert.

Continue reading "Man Eludes Death Following Train Accident in West Knoxville" »

February 7, 2012

Photos at Sobriety Checkpoints to Convey Message of the Dangers of Drunk Driving in Tennessee

A drunk driving car accident in Tennessee 41-years-ago is remembered by signs on the side of the road on Murfreesboro Road near Clovercoft Road. That night, the lives of two residents changed forever. A woman involved in the accident, who was seven months pregnant at the time, remembers it vividly. She says her husband, herself, their daughter and their nephew were heading back from a peach-picking trip is Nashville when a drunk driver crashed into the car. Their 19-month-old nephew and their 4-year-old daughter were killed in that accident.
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The pregnant passenger suffered from a broken neck and burns on almost three-quarters of her body. Her husband was badly burned as well.

Our Tennessee drunk driving car accident attorneys understand that the Franklin Police Department conducted its very first sobriety checkpoint this last Saturday to help to reduce the risks of anymore accidents like that one. The funds for the checkpoints were provided by the Governor's Highway Safety Office. That checkpoint was dedicated to the family, which has been mourning their run-in with a drunk driver for more than 40 years. Pictures of the woman, the husband and the pair's daughter, who was born prematurely and blind, were on display at that site of the DUI checkpoint, according to The Tennessean.

As this family is all too painfully aware, the consequences of drunk driving can last a lifetime.

"This kind of shows more of a powerful reason of why we are out there," said Franklin Police Officer Rachel Gobe. "We are out there for a reason: to save lives."

The woman involved in the drunk driving accident was the national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and started the organization's Tennessee chapter back in 1981. She even appealed to President Clinton, asking him to lower the drunk driving limit from .10 to .08 blood alcohol concentration (BAC). That national standard was passed late in 2000.

Although she is no longer the national president of the organization, MADD is still going strong in its fight against drunk drivers across the nation. According to a recent press release from MADD, new legislation is being pushed to require everyone convicted of drunk driving to install ignition interlock devices, or machines that measure a driver's blood alcohol content. The vehicle won't start if the driver has been drinking. The majority of drunk driving car accidents are caused by repeat offenders. The interlock devices would help to make sure these motorists won't be drunk on our roadways.

"While drunk driving remains the primary threat to American families traveling on our roadways, we are closer than ever to making sure no family must endure the pain of losing a loved one to this 100-percent preventable crime," said MADD National President Jan Withers.

These devices are one of the most beneficial components of the Campaign to Eliminate Drunk DrivingĀ®. The passage of laws requiring these devices for all offenders have already reduced the risks of drunk driving-related fatalities, as observed recently in Arizona and Oregon.

Ignition interlock devices save lives and save taxpayer money. For an offender who has been sentenced to use an interlock device, the user has to dish out about $2.25 for each day for its use. Researchers conclude that for every dollar invested in these devices for a first-time offender, it saves the public about $3. When you consider that drunk driving accidents cost the nation more than $130 billion every year, the fees required by these convicted drivers is a small price to pay to help ensure roadway safety and to help to reduce the risks of alcohol-related traffic accidents.

Lastly, MADD is hoping to get the ROADS SAFE Act into legislation. This act could help to offer research funds to those creating Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS). Both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety are working to advance this potentially life-saving technology.

Continue reading "Photos at Sobriety Checkpoints to Convey Message of the Dangers of Drunk Driving in Tennessee" »