January 31, 2013

Rain, Snow on Knoxville Roads Heightens Hazards

Knoxville traffic collisions are expected to be on the upswing over the next few weeks, due to a tumultuous mix of intermittent rain and snowstorms throughout the region. treeswithicecrystals.jpg

Our Knoxville injury lawyers understand the roads have been slick, slippery, icy and snow-laden - causing major traffic jams, a flurry of accidents and a request by authorities to stay home when the roads warrant it.

At one point, Knox County dispatchers were so overwhelmed with injuries caused by car accidents, they asked drivers involved in non-injury accidents to trade numbers and report those crashes to police once the weather had cleared.

The conditions were so bad that the local Knoxville Area Transit was only running limited snow routes, entirely bypassing streets that weren't deemed safe for travel.

Parents of schoolchildren throughout Knox County flooded local news sites and police substations with concerns that their children had left school at 2:30 p.m., yet had not made it home two hours later. As it turned out, at least one school bus got stuck in the snow. Thankfully, no injuries were reported.

Weather forecasts are predicting "a little bit of everything" before the week is out - snow, wind, rain, thunderstorms - mixed with a bit of sunshine here and there.

At the same time, a huge swath of U.S. 441, also known as the Newfound Gap Road, on the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park - has completely disappeared, having been swept away by recent flooding amid record rains. In fact, it's about 50 feet deep and the size of a football field. No word yet on how long repairs are going to take.

Meanwhile, a rock slide on Alcoa Highway has shut down that road indefinitely as well. Rock slides are more common when there are dramatic temperature changes, accompanied by increased precipitation.

A spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Transportation had one word for the weather of late: "Interesting."

The fact is, motorists are going to have to be prepared for anything. The National Highway Safety Administration offers the following advice to help you in unpredictable weather:

  • Get your car serviced. Have it checked for bad worn hoses, leaks or any other replacements or repairs.

  • Check your battery. When the temperature drops, your battery power does as well. It can be tougher to get your vehicle to start if the weather is below freezing.

  • Check your cooling system. When coolant freezes, it expands and it can damage your car's engine block. Make sure you have enough, make sure the kind you have is designed to work in colder temperatures and have a mechanic check it out for leaks.

  • Fill your windshield wipers. The fluid can go quickly in just a single snowstorm. This could prove fatal if it happens while you're driving. Fill it up, use no-freeze fluid and keep extra in the vehicle, just in case.

  • Double check your floor mat. If it isn't correctly installed, it could interfere with your ability to operate the accelerator or brake, leaving you at greater risk of a crash.

  • Look over your tires. In optimal conditions, you'd still inspect them about once a month. If there is significant or uneven wear, it's time to get new ones.

  • Plan your travel route. Check the road conditions, weather and traffic and plan to leave early if need be so you don't feel pressured to speed and you know your planned route.

  • Stock your vehicle. Essentials in winter include snow shovel, ice scraper, abrasive material (sand or kitty litter) for if your car gets stuck in the snow, jumper cables, flashlight, warning devices, blankets, cell phone charger, food, water and necessary medicine.

Continue reading "Rain, Snow on Knoxville Roads Heightens Hazards" »

January 24, 2013

Tennessee Traffic Accident Prevention -- Tougher Laws Needed

Last year, the federal government passed a multi-billion dollar initiative known as MAP-21 to improve roadway safety across the country. The act offers grants, tax breaks and matching dollars to those states that pass certain legislative measures aimed at improving roadway safety. road.jpg

However, our Knoxville accident lawyers have learned that many states - including Tennessee - haven't taken the government up on all of the incentive dollars available. Of more critical importance is that such lack of action is increasing the risks motorists face on the road.

A number of these measures, including graduated driver's license programs, distracted driving prevention and enhancement of drunk driving penalties, have multiple benefits. For starters, laws like these save lives and reduce injuries. This in turn reduces both the actual and societal cost of crashes, including less resources expended by emergency responders, law enforcement and the health care industry. And finally, there is federal funding available to not only cover implementation costs but to exceed them, providing a boon for cash-strapped state governments.

Nationwide, the cost of motor vehicle crashes topped $230 billion last year, according to the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, which recently released its "2013 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws" annual report. In Tennessee, the costs topped $4.6 billion.

Although our state was given a high "green light" rating for overall road safety improvement laws, there are still numerous areas where we're lacking.

In 2011, there were nearly 950 traffic fatalities in the state. In the last decade, there have been roughly 11,500.

Among the laws that we're lacking, according to the research group, are:

  • A GDL program requiring teens be at least 16 to obtain a learner's permit;

  • A GDL program requiring restrictions for teens driving at night;

  • A GDL program requiring drivers be at least 18 years-old to obtain an unrestricted license;

  • An Ignition Interlock program for all DUI offenders, not just repeat offenders;

  • A law requiring mandatory BAC testing for drivers involved in fatal crashes;

  • A law banning open alcoholic beverage containers in vehicles.

The 2013 study covers a wide range of traffic safety issues, but given that Tennessee has problems in particular with teen drivers and DUI offenders, we'll focus there.

Tennessee is not alone in its lack of protection for teen drivers. In fact, only 12 states and D.C. have a "green light" rating for teen driving laws, though no state has yet adopted all of the optimal GDL recommendations.

In Tennessee, traffic fatalities from 2006 through 2011 involving a driver between the ages of 15 and 20 topped 1,120. GDL programs allow teens to gradually learn important driving skills in phases, and have proven effective in reducing teen crashes and deaths.

The federal government offers grants for implementation of such laws, provided they include a learner's permit stage lasting six months, during which time drivers are barred from cell phone use behind the wheel. There must also be an intermediate stage that lasts until the driver is 18, during which passengers are limited to one non-family member under the age of 21. Nighttime driving is also restricted.

With regard to impaired driving, Tennessee is the only state in the country to receive the lowest "red light" rating. In 2011, more than 30 percent of all traffic fatalities involved alcohol, with nearly 10,000 people killed as a result.

Incentives to enact drunk driving legislation include money for high visibility enforcement campaigns, interlock ignition programs, improved BAC testing, DUI courts and judicial training programs.

Continue reading "Tennessee Traffic Accident Prevention -- Tougher Laws Needed" »

January 17, 2013

Tennessee Tractor-Tractor Trailers Running Too Fast and Too Heavy

Our Knoxville truck accident lawyers know that speed kills. truck.jpg

That fact is especially compounded when the vehicle that's moving too fast is a tractor-trailer truck and is overweight.

This is why we are in firm support of regulations proposed by the U.S. Department of Transportation that would require all heavy commercial vehicles to set their top speed at 65 miles per hour. It's not a formal rule yet, but the department administration has indicated it intends to push such regulation hard in 2013.

That push is further fueled by recent reports like the one out of Atlanta, indicating there are a number of companies that, despite racking up dozens of tickets for overweight vehicles, continue to put overweight vehicles on the road - right beside you and your family. A recent Florida report found an estimated 30 percent of tractor-trailers and dump trucks are running overweight -- that's about 1 in 3! Fines for a first offense are often small and tight budgets have enforcement officers in short supply. Meanwhile, about 1 in 8 fatal collisions involves a large truck.

It's cheaper and there is more money to be made -- even if they got caught and are forced to pay the fine.

This is particularly troubling when you consider that in 2010, more than 3,600 people died and another 80,000 were seriously injured in crashes that involved a large truck. These trucks are defined as having a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or more.

Here in this country, there were more than a quarter million of these vehicles involved in traffic crashes in 2010. That represented a nearly 10 percent increase from the previous year.

It's unsurprising that the majority of those hurt in these crashes are those in the other vehicles. In fact, these accounted for approximately three-quarters of the injuries and deaths.

Large trucks account for less than 5 percent of all vehicle miles traveled in this country. But when they are involved in crashes, they have a higher likelihood of fatalities, due to their size. They account for approximately 8 percent of all vehicles involved in fatal crashes. Being overburdened with weight and then speed - makes for a deadly combination.

In Tennessee, large trucks account for approximately 6.5 percent of the roughly 1,400 fatal crashes we see each year. Very few of these incidents involved truckers who had been drinking (about 2 percent). However, about a quarter of all truckers involved in fatal crashes did have at least one prior speeding conviction. That's a higher rate than passenger car drivers, whose rate is about 18 percent.

All of this contributes to the transportation department's recommendation to require trucks to lower their top speeds. Setting these limits won't prevent every trucking accident, but it may go a long way in holding both the drivers and their employers accountable.

Continue reading "Tennessee Tractor-Tractor Trailers Running Too Fast and Too Heavy" »

January 10, 2013

Increase in Sleep Problems Exacerbates Drowsy Driving Dangers

If you are having sleep problems, you aren't alone. In fact, according to new data from Money News, there are as many as 70 million Americans who have insomnia, sleep apnea or other issues that make it impossible to get a good night sleep.

Unfortunately, all of these tired Americans could be putting themselves in danger. Getting an insufficient amount of sleep contributes to obesity, high blood pressure and other physical ailments. Of more immediate concern, however, is grave dangers of drowsy driving. 804037_sleeping_wife.jpg

If you are one of those Americans who is facing sleep struggles, it is very important that you understand just how dangerous drowsy driving can be. Our Knoxville injury attorneys understand fatigue is often an undetected factor in serious or fatal traffic collisions. When we are tired, we simply don't react quickly to dangers on the road. A new study shows just how widespread the risks are and is cause for concern for every driver.

Are Sleep Disorders on the Rise?
Money News reported that around 70 million Americans are suffering from sleep issues; it also indicated that many of those who have sleep problems are trying to get the help they need.

In fact, so many Americans have sought help that the American Academy of Sleep Medicine announced in December that they'd accredited their 2,500th sleep center. With this new accreditation, the number of sleep centers has significantly increased since the Academy started accreditation in 1977. In just the last ten years alone, the number of sleep centers has doubled.

While it could be seen as good news that more sleep centers mean more people are getting help with their sleep problems, the increase in demand for medical services related to sleep problems can also serve as an indicator that the problem of sleep interruption is becoming more widespread.

Why Are More Tired People a Problem?
Anyone who has trouble sleeping, including those working to overcome their sleep disorder, need to be aware that their fatigue can have consequences. If a drowsy person gets behind the wheel, this increases the chance of an accident significantly since the driver may be likely to nod off. A fatigued driver will also be less capable of thinking clearly or reacting quickly in an accident. The dangers of drowsy driving are so significant that drowsy driving may be just as serious as drunk or impaired driving.

Unfortunately, a new study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention discussed in the New York Times indicates that many people are engaging in this dangerous behavior. The study was conducted across 19 states and D.C. and involved asking 147,000 people to complete detailed questionnaires. According to the data collected:

  • More than 5 percent of younger drivers (ages 18-44) said they'd fallen asleep while they were driving in the past month preceding the survey.

  • 1.7 percent of drivers 65 or older said they'd fall asleep in the preceding month before the survey.

  • 4.2 percent of all drivers surveyed reported falling asleep at least one time while driving in the month prior to being surveyed.

With so many people falling asleep, it is easy to see why there were 730 deadly crashes in 2009 that involved a fatigued driver. Unfortunately, with more people than ever before facing sleep problems, the number of drowsy drivers -- and of drowsy driving deaths -- may only continue to increase.

Continue reading "Increase in Sleep Problems Exacerbates Drowsy Driving Dangers" »

January 3, 2013

Tennessee Traffic Safety: Resolve to Be a Safer Driver in 2013

Auto accidents happen every day in the state of Tennessee. Unfortunately, a huge number of these crashes happen because drivers are careless, aggressive or irresponsible in the decisions they make behind the wheel.

Our Knoxville personal injury attorneys believe that if everyone made a commitment to driving just a little bit more carefully, thousands of lives could be saved. As such, we encourage every driver to make an important New Years Resolution in 2013. We urge you to resolve that this year you'll stop dangerous driving behaviors and make an extra effort to be safe behind the wheel. 1308588_motorway_at_twilight.jpg

The Tennessee Department of Safety Office of Records and Statistical Management keeps track of car accident data. In 2008, they released a comprehensive report on Traffic Crashes in Tennessee by Driver Actions and County. This report took a look at the top driver-related factors that led to crashes between 2003 and 2007. Using this report, we've identified some of the most dangerous driving behaviors that you should resolve to avoid in 2013.

Dangers Driving Behaviors to Avoid in 2013
According to the crash data from 2003 to 2007:

  • A failure to yield the right-of-way was a contributing cause of 169,636 traffic accidents. To avoid these types of crashes, make a resolution to always come to a complete stop at a stop sign or at a red light intersection. Resolve to look carefully at the intersection before entering and not to cut other drivers off or try to make a quick turn when you aren't certain of the other car's speed. We pass dozens of intersections each day with indifference. The truth of the matter is that these are the most dangerous locations on the road.

  • A failure to stay in the proper lane or running off the road was a driver-related contributing factor in 157,321 traffic crashes. Failure to remain in your lane can occur for a lot of reasons, from speeding and losing control of the car to not paying attention to the road, to inclement weather conditions. Resolve to always paying careful attention and driving at a safe speed for road conditions.

  • Following improperly was a factor in 151,765 accidents. This refers to tailgating or following too closely behind the car in front of you. To avoid accidents caused by following improperly, resolve to leave a safe distance between your car and the vehicle in front. Usually, three to four seconds is a safe distance, which means when the car in front of you passes a fixed object, you shouldn't pass that same object until at least three to four seconds have passed. This will give you plenty of time to stop and avoid a crash.

  • Driver inattention was a contributing factor in 52,707 crashes. To avoid these types of accidents, make a resolution to always pay careful attention to the road. Don't use your cell phone, definitely don't text, don't enter info into a GPS when driving and don't do other things that cause you to take your eyes off of the road.

These are some of the most dangerous driving behaviors that lead to a high number of crashes. You should resolve not only to avoid these behaviors but also to exercise reasonable caution and care and to obey all safe driving rules in 2013. By making, and keeping, this resolution, you can do your part to keep yourself safe on the road.

Continue reading "Tennessee Traffic Safety: Resolve to Be a Safer Driver in 2013" »

December 27, 2012

Tennessee Accident Risks to Increase with Retiring Wave of Boomers?

The Tennessee Department of Transportation has a pamphlet on its website called Decisions for Tennessee's Senior Drivers. The purpose of the pamphlet is to help seniors (and their families) make an informed choice about whether the senior is still capable of driving.

This pamphlet is published because Tennessee recognizes that seniors may at some point lose their ability to drive safely. The fact that senior drivers do become a potential hazard is a cause for concern, and this issue will become a very important one as baby boomers age and the make-up of the driving population changes. 833820_hands.jpg

Our Knoxville injury attorneys believe that understanding the impact of an aging population on the roadways is very important. While one recent status report published by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety indicates that the aging population may not present the increased accident risk that everyone feared, it remains important for every family to keep an eye on the behavior of aging loved ones in their lives.

IIHS Data and the Changing Driving Mix
According to IIHS, there is a coming increase in the number of potentially eligible drivers (those in the U.S. over aged 15). From 2010 to 2030, the number of people who can drive legally in the U.S. is expected to increase by almost a fifth.

Despite this increase, the number of drivers within the majority of age groups will be declining. Data is kept on the number of drivers within each five-year age group (i.e. 15-19 year olds; 20-24 year olds and so on). In upcoming years, the number of potential drivers in each of these different five-year age groups will be declining (so the number of 15-19 year olds will go down; the number of 20-24 year olds will go down, etc.).

This decline, however, does not apply to those five-year age groups over age 65 (i.e. 65-69 year olds; 69-71 year olds, etc.). This means that those in the 65+ age groups are going to represent a larger percentage of the driving population.

This changing mix of drivers matters because, historically, those over age 70 had a higher rate of fatal crashes per mile driven than those under age 70. Further, although teen drivers ages 15-19 had the most insurance claims of any group, the number of claims declines from 19 straight through until age 65, when the number of claims starts to increase again. More older drivers, therefore, may mean more injuries, insurance claims and traffic deaths.

IIHS data, however, indicates that this may not be the case. The institute reports, for example, that there has been a 30 percent decrease in the rate of fatal auto accidents involving those ages 70+ during the years 1997 to 2008. Further, they report that data shows that the number of claims per 100 miles driven is going to remain largely steady. This number is expected to stay between 6.12 claims/hundred insured cars to 6.16 claims/100 insured cars. The slight increase, they say, is attributed to the fact that there are more drivers in general, not just more older drivers.

Keep Your Family Safe
While the aggregate data may show no increased risk of a driving population that continues to age, this is just one study. Seniors should be realistic about when they can no longer drive. And families should be watchful in case a senior doesn't recognize that he/she is no longer capable of operating a vehicle in a safely.

Continue reading "Tennessee Accident Risks to Increase with Retiring Wave of Boomers?" »

December 20, 2012

Knoxville Injury Attorneys Urge a Safe New Year

On December 5, 2012, the Director of the Tennessee Governor's Highway Safety Office joined state and local law enforcement in an event honoring the memories of those who lost their lives to drunk driving in the state. HobNob Franklin reported on this event, which was part of law enforcement's efforts to curb drinking and driving over the holidays.

Unfortunately, drinking and driving is rampant over the year-end holiday period, with Auto Guide reporting that New Year's is the worst day of the year for drunk driving accidents. Our Knoxville personal injury attorneys urge every driver to remember how dangerous drunk driving is and to make sure to stay safe and sober on New Year's and every other day of the year. 741831_man_and_his_beer.jpg

Drunk Driving a Holiday Risk in Tennessee
According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, 257 people were killed in accidents involving an intoxicated driver in Tennessee in 2011. While these 257 deaths occurred throughout the year, New Year's is an especially dangerous day due to the large volumes of people on the road and the large number of those who choose to drive drunk. In fact, according to Auto Guide, nearly half of the drivers involved in fatal New Year's crashes were intoxicated at the time.

Tennessee law enforcement is trying to cut down on the number of drunk driving accidents and injuries or deaths that occur over the holidays. The press conference to honor those killed by drunk drivers was just the beginning of their efforts. The Governors Highway Safety Administration, as part of their Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign, has also announced that there will be increased patrols as well as increased public safety announcements warning of the dangers of holiday drunk driving.

Stay Safe and Stay Sober
Getting pulled over for drunk driving would be bad news, but getting into an accident and hurting someone would be even worse. To avoid both fates and to make sure you have a safe holiday:

  • Either avoid drinking at your celebration or take a designated driver with you.

  • Consider alcohol-free celebration events where you won't have to worry about driving drunk.

  • Have money for a cab and a phone number to call one in case you get stuck without a ride.

  • Watch your friends for signs they might be drunk and make sure they don't drive.

Parents of teenagers also need to take special steps to make sure their kids don't drink and drive. Drive On recently published an article indicating that one in ten teens responding to a survey had driven while under the influence the prior New Year's Eve. Be sure you check where your kids are going to be, confirm that they'll be supervised, and offer to drive them yourself so they don't get into a car with someone who is drunk.

Continue reading "Knoxville Injury Attorneys Urge a Safe New Year" »

December 13, 2012

Fewer Tennessee Traffic Accident - Higher Risks for Bicyclist, Pedestrains, Motorcyclists

The overall number of traffic accident fatalities dropped about 2 percent in 2011, according to statistics released this week by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

However, we saw increases in the number of accident fatalities among bicyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians. Still, officials boast about this being the lowest overall number of road deaths since statistics were first recorded back in 1949.
"Even as we celebrate the progress we've made in recent years, we must remain focused on addressing the safety issues that are continuing to claim more than 30,000 lives each year," says NHTSA's Administrator David Strickland.

Our accident attorneys in Knoxville understand that officials continue to push safety campaigns as a means of education the public and reducing the risks. Unfortunately, all of these campaigns are useless without the participation of travelers. According to Ray LaHood, the Secretary for the U.S. Department of Transportation, officials have been pushing their distracted driving campaign for years now. Still, distracted driving saw a near 2 percent increase in 2011.

Tennessee was recognized in the recent NHTSA press release for being one of the states with the highest decrease, seeing about 85 fewer fatalities in 2011 than in 2010, but we're still falling victim to accidents involving our more vulnerable travelers. Drivers are just too caught up in themselves nowadays to keep their full attention on the road.

If you look closely at the trends from both 2010 and 2011, you'll see that people were traveling less in 2011. We were all feeling the effects of the struggling economy and higher gas prices and we traveled less because of it. Travelers were also looking for more cost effective ways to get around, causing more people to use bicycles, motorcycles and their own two feet -- hence the increase in the number of these kinds of fatal accidents.

Another contributor to these kinds of accidents is the design of many of our roadways. They were created with one thing in mind -- getting vehicles to where they're going fast! Not many of our roadways were created with considerations for bicycles or pedestrians. The design of these roadways put these travelers in serious risks for accidents.

Tennessee may have seen a more than 8 percent decrease in the number of traffic accident fatalities from 2010 to 2011, but we're far from done. We're calling on all travelers to be more cautious out there. No one goes out looking for an accident, but they happen. Drivers are asked to be more cautious of other travelers on our roadways. Remember that we all have rights to our roadways and those rights need to be respected. Slow it down, drive with compassion and help to make out streets safer for everyone. It's completely achievable, but it takes a group effort.

Continue reading "Fewer Tennessee Traffic Accident - Higher Risks for Bicyclist, Pedestrains, Motorcyclists" »

December 3, 2012

Winter Driving in Tennessee Often a Factor in Serious Accidents

The month of December and the rest of the winter season is a time when we see an increase in the number of traffic crashes.

This happens for a couple reasons. First, we have the onset of winter weather conditions. We've got snow and ice on our roadways -- and even that morning skim can leave slick patches on the road.

Then we've got the increase in traffic with the holiday travel season. Our car accident attorneys in Maryville are asking drivers to be extra cautious on the road through the remainder of the year. Preparation and safe driving habits are going to help to keep you out of a potentially fatal winter car accident this season.
Statistically speaking, you are most likely to be involved in a weather-related accident at winter's onset. According to recent studies, winter weather causes close to 2 million car accidents each and every year. Conditions can change quickly and causes vary.

Common Winter Road Hazards:

-Black Ice: This is the condition that causes the most collisions. Black ice can fool drivers because it appears as just water on the road. It's a thin layer of ice that's super slippery. It's most likely to be found under bridges and in shaded areas of the roadway. Often it presents the most risk during morning commutes to work or school.

-Blowing Snow: This creates a number of dangerous driving conditions. First of all, it can significantly decrease your visibility. It can also melt on streets and form ice.

-Frozen Roads. Remember that Overpasses and bridges are the first to freeze. When driving along these roadways, be sure you slow down and leave plenty of space between you and other vehicles.

Before you head out, make sure you check in with the Tennessee Department of Transportation's (TDOT) Smartway Mobile website. This is a tool that allows travelers with smart phones to check weather, road and other travel conditions throughout the entire state. There's even live traffic video, construction information, weather advisories and forecast information. If you didn't get a chance to check it out, or don't have a smart phone, you can get all of this information on displays posted on overhead dynamic message signs throughout the state.

Transportation officials are also asking you to keep an eye out for snow plows and other ice-removal efforts. Steer clear of these machines and allow road crews room to work. They're out there helping us, let's help them by practicing safe driving.

"This year, we have taken steps to ensure we have the supplies we need to keep our roads clear of ice and snow," said TDOT Commissioner John Schroer.

Lastly, we want you to be ready before you even pull the car out. Make sure that your windows and your mirrors are clear so that you can see where you're going. Clean off your headlights and your taillights to improve visibility for yourself and to help other vehicles to see you. Make sure your tires are properly inflated and that the tread is not too worn. Keep your tank at least half full at all times.

Continue reading "Winter Driving in Tennessee Often a Factor in Serious Accidents" »

November 30, 2012

Defective Product Risks for Children this Holiday Season

On November 20, 2012, Action News 5 in Memphis published an article called Survey finds dangerous toys on store shelves. The article discusses the release of the 27th annual survey performed by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group -- dubbed the "Trouble in Toyland" survey.

Parents reading this article and other warnings over the holiday season have cause for concern. Potentially dangerous toys are everywhere on shelves in stores throughout the United States, and the holiday season is a time when many of these toys are bought as gifts and make their way into our homes. Kids are especially vulnerable to being seriously injured as a result of a defective toy or other child's product. 1121740_christmas_gifts_2.jpg

To help parents keep their children safe from dangerous toys this holiday season, our injury attorneys in Knoxville urge parents to learn all they can about toy recalls and to keep up-to-date about any new recalls that occur. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) page on Recalls and Product Safety News is a good starting point for parents. Parents should also consider the information below to help protect their kids from dangerous toys.

Toy Dangers and Risks Over the Holiday Season

Although there are strict toy safety standards in place, a number of potential problems may exist in toys purchased for kids over the holidays. According to the Memphis Action News 5 summary of the Trouble in Toyland survey, some of the risks presented by toys on the shelves this year include:

  • Toys with magnets that could easily be swallowed.
  • Toys with small parts that could be swallowed, which are lacking in adequate choke hazard warnings to ensure the toys aren't purchased for kids under three.
  • Toys that violate safety regulations.

These are just some of the potential problems identified by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, whose full report can be found here. The hazards were identified by researchers who spent several months visiting stores throughout the United States and checking for potentially dangerous products.

Toy Recalls on the Decline, Injuries on the Rise

Although risky toys were found by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Memphis Action News 5 reported that lead and other toxins were not as much of a concern in toys this year as a result of a tougher product safety law passed in 2008. The new law imposed stricter limits on the amount of lead and other chemicals that could be present in children's toys.

A November 2010 report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) also indicated that tougher safety laws had started to reduce the number of fatalities associated with toys as well as the number of toys recalled each year. According to CPSC's report, the number of recalls dropped from 172 in 2008 to 50 in 2009 to 44 in 2010. The number of deaths caused by toys was also lower, with 12 kids under age 15 dying in 2009 as compared with 24 toy-related deaths for kids in the same age group in 2007 and 2008.

CPSC did indicate that the number of injuries was increasing, however, even as deaths and recalls dropped. This increase did not necessarily mean toys were more dangerous though, as CPSC indicated that many of the visits to the ER were for mild injuries such as cuts and were not specifically caused by the toy but instead were associated with the toy.

Cutting the Risk of Injury For Your Kids
While CPSC indicated in 2010 that things were looking up for toy safety, the fact is that there is still risk. As such, parents should be vigilant about monitoring the toys that children receive, checking to see if any of those toys have been recalled, and supervising play when any new or potentially dangerous toys are being used.

These steps can be helpful in cutting the risk of injury, but ultimately the best and only way to keep children safe from defective toys is for manufacturers to be held accountable. Manufacturers are in the best position to ensure a toy is safe, and they are held to a high standard of accountability under the law. In fact, injured victims who are harmed by a toy, or the family members of victims, can file a civil lawsuit against the manufacturer to recover damages. If you can show that the toy was used as the manufacturer directed and intended and if the toy caused injury, then the toy manufacturer, distributor or seller can all be held liable.

Continue reading "Defective Product Risks for Children this Holiday Season" »

November 23, 2012

Holiday Shopping & Knoxville Premises Liability Claims

It seems as though the holiday shopping season gets crazier with each passing year. Bigger sales. Bigger discounts. Bigger crowds.

premises liability lawyers in Knoxville frequently see cases stemming from injuries sustained during the holiday shopping season. Whether it's traffic accidents, injuries at home or accidents that occur in shopping malls, restaurants or on business property, the holidays can be a dangerous time. 1198678_hide_and_seek.jpg

Tennessee premises liability claims may include:

-Elevator and escalator accidents

-Crowd injuries

-Slip and fall accidents

-Dog bites

-Parking lot injuries

-Sidewalk or stairwell accidents

-Theater injuries

-Assault/negligent security

-Evacuation injuries

-Merchandise falling from shelves

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports more than $52 billion was spent during last year's holiday shopping season. And, as retailers continue to try to outdo each other, serious and even fatal injuries have been reported.

For the past several years, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration has issued a bulletin warning employers of the risks.

Business owners incur a special obligation for the safety of employees and customers when promoting outrageous bargains that are likely to draw intense public interest. In such cases, barricades, rope lines and other crowd-control measures should be implemented. Emergency plans should be in place and security guards may even need to be hired.

"Crowd control and proper planning are critical to preventing injuries and deaths," said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. "OSHA urges retailers to adopt a crowd management plan during the holiday shopping season that includes a few simple guidelines."

Likewise, store owners, mall managers and property owners have an obligation to provide safe passage for customers and guests. Those who are injured may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and other damages.

The determining factor in a premises liability claim is whether a defendant enterprise was negligent in not properly managing the risk. Collection of damages is likely when an injury victim can prove a property owner knew, or should have known, about the presence of a dangerous condition. Business owners face a higher burden than private property owners, where a victim's ability to collect depends on their status as an "invitee," "licensee" or "trespasser."

Critical in such cases is contacting an experienced Knoxville premises liability attorney as soon as possible in the wake of an injury accident. Typically, property and business owners move quickly to make repairs once an injury accident has occurred. Documenting the location of your accident, talking to witnesses and determining the availability of surveillance footage or other evidence can have a dramatic impact on the outcome of your case.

As we reported recently on our Tennessee Injury Attorney Blog about fall accidents, comparative negligence law in Tennessee allows a victim to collect damages even if he or she was partially at fault.

Continue reading "Holiday Shopping & Knoxville Premises Liability Claims " »

November 16, 2012

NTSB's Safety Wish List & Risks for Knoxville Drivers

The National Transportation Safety Board has released it's Top 10 list of safety improvements -- and 2 of the top 3 are in your hands.

NBC News reports vehicle collision prevention, operator distraction and impaired driving round out the top three. 1251112_a_bridge_i_the_night.jpg

Our personal injury attorneys in Knoxville recently discussed autumn accident risks, including early darkness, aggressive driving and bad weather.

The truth of the matter is that darkness and the stress of the holidays amplify the risks associated with all sorts of poor driving decisions, and certainly driving under the influence of alcohol or driving distracted are chief among them.

NTSB's Most Wanted Safety Improvements

Collision-Avoidance Technology: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration should require vehicle manufacturers to include an array of available crash-avoidance technology on vehicles. While manufacturers continue to test vehicle-to-vehicle crash-avoidance systems, the industry has largely engaged in foot-dragging when it comes to mandated safety technology. Rear-view cameras, which could drastically reduce the risk of backover parking lot risks, are just one example. The industry has thus far successfully stalled an NHTSA initiative that would have required such technology be installed in all new cars beginning in 2014.

Operator Distraction: As we reported recently, Tennessee is one of two dozen states with a hybrid distracted driving law (underage drivers are prohibited from using cell phones while adults are only forbidden from text messaging). These types of laws continue to make enforcement difficult. Nationwide, the Governors Highway Safety Association reports 10 states have banned all hand-held cell phone use -- nearly 40 have banned text messaging. The NTSB continues to push for a ban on all non-essential cell-phone use by drivers, as well as those operating buses, vessels, trains and planes. The nation's lead transportation safety organization is also pushing for cell-phone companies to develop technologies that disable the devices when in the hands of someone operating a moving vehicle.

Driving Under the Influence: The NTSB is pushing for the development of technologies that can identify drivers under the influence of drugs, as well as additional in-car technologies like ignition interlock devices, which have been proven to reduce the risk of serious and fatal accidents involving intoxicated drivers. Tennessee drunk driving accidents were responsible for about one-third of the state's 1,031 traffic deaths in 2010.

The NTSB, which is responsible for investigating civilian aircraft accidents as well as significant accidents involving other modes of transportation, would also like to see improvements in airport runways, general aviation, intercity buses, the nation's aging transportation infrastructure, pipelines, train-control technology and fire prevention and suppression.

Certainly the cause of many traffic crashes are out of your control. But we can all improve our chances when it comes to arriving home safely. Remember the big three -- speed, distraction and intoxication -- which are responsible for the most number of serious and fatal accidents.

Be extra careful after dark and in bad weather. And allow yourself plenty of time to reach your destination safely.

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November 9, 2012

Tennessee Distracted Driving Law & Your Car Insurance Rates

Those busted for texting while driving could soon pay more for car insurance.

Our Knoxville personal injury lawyers understand distracted driving is responsible for a significant portion of traffic crashes. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates drivers using a hand-held cell phone are 4 times more likely to be involved in an accident; those texting behind the wheel face a 23-times greater risk of an injury crash.


Tennessee's distracted driving law makes it a primary offense to text while driving -- meaning you can be pulled over and cited. Drivers under the age of 18 are banned from all hand-held cell phone use behind the wheel.

FOX Business reports insurance companies are moving quickly to use such citations as a reason to increase the cost of your car-insurance policy. The industry already uses a wide variety of moving violations to rate a driver's risk. A DUI conviction, for example, can double or even triple the cost of auto insurance. Under Tennessee's driver's license points system, drivers also accumulate points for various moving violations, which in turn can result in a premium increase.

Speeding citations are 1-8 points depending on how far over the limit a driver was traveling; reckless driving is six points; driving with a canceled license or fleeing a law enforcement officer will result in 8 points. Anyone accumulating 12 or more points faces a suspended license, in addition to whatever penalties may be assessed upon conviction for the underlying charge.

The state's distracted-driving law, which passed earlier this year, makes distracted driving a non-moving violation for which no points are assigned. However, that doesn't mean your insurance company will not raise your rates.

When it comes to texting drivers, the insurance industry is pushing hard for tougher sanctions. However, enforcement challenges continue to exist in states like Tennessee, where a hybrid law permits some drivers to continue to use cell phones. Frequently, the officer cannot determine whether a motorist is texting or dialing a phone. A motorist's age is also difficult to determine when an officer is faced with whether to stop a suspected minor for a cell-phone violation.

The Governors Highway Safety Association reports Tennessee is one of about two dozen states that have such mixed laws on the books; 10 states now ban all drivers from using a hand-held cell phone. In an effort aimed at developing effective enforcement measures, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced last month it would spend $550,000 to fund two pilot-enforcement programs in Connecticut and Massachusetts.

"These two new demonstration programs will help identify real-world protocols and practices to better detect if a person is texting while driving," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland.

Education campaigns and high-visibility enforcement campaigns will be conducted for 24 months and the results will be shared with states facing similar enforcement challenges.

The bottom line is cell phone use while driving is dangerous -- particularly if a driver is text messaging. If you can't stop reaching for your phone, the insurance industry will have you reaching for your wallet.

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November 4, 2012

Holidays a Dangerous time for Fall Accidents in Tennessee

Holidays are a dangerous time for slip and fall accidents and other premises liability cases in Tennessee.

Beginning with the leaf-peepers and other tourists in October and November, Knoxville personal injury attorneys understand a host of factors contribute to the increased risk of fall accidents. 1094356_escalator.jpg

While Tennessee is not exposed to the brutal winters endured by our northern neighbors, snow and ice accumulation can also increase the risk of a fall accident. And every few years, we experienced significant snowfall and accumulation, according to the National Weather Service. In fact, more than a foot of snow fell in 2011.

The holidays are upon us. Just three weeks until Thanksgiving and the hectic six-week, year-end holiday season that follows. Businesses have an obligation to provide customers and invited guests with safe passage.

Tennessee law permits those who suffer a fall injury due to a negligent condition on business or private property to collect compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, lost earnings, disability benefits and other damages.

Premises Liability Claims in Tennessee

-Wet or slippery floors

-Broken handrails

-Dark or dangerous stairwells

-Elevator and Escalator accidents

-Dog bite/animal attacks

-Dangerous parking lots

-Merchandise falling from shelves


-Negligent security

-Evacuation injuries

The Tennessee Supreme Court has abolished the doctrine of contributory negligence, which might otherwise prevent a claim by a plaintiff who is partially at fault. McIntyre v. Balentine, 833 S.W.2d 52 (Tenn. 1992). However, the state has instead adopted a form of comparative negligence, or comparative fault, which may limit or even eliminate your ability to collect damages. Under state law, a plaintiff may only collect damages if the defendant's negligence is greater than their own.

It's common for property or business owners to quickly repair a dangerous condition in the wake of an accident. So it's important you contact an experienced personal injury attorney in Knoxville as soon as possible after an injury accident has occurred. Conducting a thorough investigation in the immediate aftermath of an incident can help prove your case.

Knoxville Nursing Home Falls

Knoxville nursing home neglect attorneys would also encourage you to pay special attention to the conditions of local nursing homes and assisted-living facilities during holiday visits. This is prime time for these facilities, so if you see unsanitary conditions, lack of staffing or other warning signs, you can bet conditions are typically even worse for residents at other times of the year.

While it's true our most fragile older adults often reside in these homes because of their need for increased care and supervision, it's also true that short staffing, high turnover and inadequate training frequently result in resident neglect.

Fall accidents are epidemic in nursing homes. The National Institutes of Health reports the average 100-bed nursing home reports 200 falls a year. Many more falls go unreported.

These falls kill about 1,800 residents a year. Even outside nursing homes, older residents are most at risk. About 1.5 million senior citizens suffer a fall accident each year -- that number is expected to double to 3 million by 2030. Broken bones, broken hips, broken hands, and traumatic brain injury commonly result.

In fact, fall accidents are the leading cause of fatal injury accidents among those over the age of 65. And those who recover physically may suffer from the reduced mobility that often comes with a fear of falling.

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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.

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