April 2011 Archives

Distracted driving is dangerous

Distracted driving in Tennessee is dangerous. The United States Department of Transportation has produced a nice website, The Faces of Distracted Driving, which highlights the problem. The site has interesting statistics and compelling stories.

  • In 2009, 5,474 people were killed in U.S. roadways and an estimated additional 448,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes that were reported to have involved distracted driving. Distracted driving comes in various forms, such as cell phone use, texting while driving, eating, drinking, talking with passengers, as well as using in-vehicle technologies and portable electronic devices.

  • Police-reported data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and the National Automotive Sampling show that:

  • In 2009, there were 30,797 fatal crashes in the United States, which involved 45,230 drivers. In those crashes 33,808 people died.

  • In 2009, 5,474 people were killed in crashes involving driver distraction (16% of total fatalities).

  • The proportion of fatalities reportedly associated with driver distraction increased from 10 percent in 2005 to 16 percent in 2009. During that time, fatal crashes with reported driver distraction also increased from 10 percent to 16 percent.

  • The portion of drivers reportedly distracted at the time of the fatal crashes increased from 7 percent in 2005 to 11 percent in 2009.

  • The under-20 age group had the highest proportion of distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes (16%). The age group with the next greatest proportion of distracted drivers was the 20- to-29-year-old age group - 13 percent of all 20-to-29-year-old drivers in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted.

  • Of those drivers reportedly distracted during a fatal crash, the 30-to-39-year-old drivers were the group with the greatest proportion distracted by cell phones. Cell phone distraction was reported for 24 percent of the 30-to-39-year-old distracted drivers in fatal crashes.

  • Light-truck drivers and motorcyclists had the greatest percentage of total drivers reported as distracted at the time of the fatal crash (12% each). Bus drivers had the lowest percentage (6%) of total drivers involved in fatal crashes that were reported as distraction-related.

  • An estimated 20 percent of 1,517,000 injury crashes were reported to have involved distracted driving in 2009.

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Top Ten Driver Safety Laws in Tennessee

The Tennessee Department of Safety has compiled a nice list of top ten driver safety laws in Tennessee. Violation of one of these laws is negligence per se. That means the legislature has determined that you are negligent if you violate these laws but the specific act of negligence must be the cause of the injury.

As a Nashville injury lawyer, I must also make sure my clients follow these laws. Tennessee is a "comparative fault" state. This means the jury compares the fault of the careless driver with the victim. If the victim was texting and could have avoided the collision but for texting while driving, a judge could reduce the damages by the percentage of fault of the victim.

Regarding seatbelts, the failure to "buckle up" is usually, in most cases, not admissible evidence in a Tennessee automobile accident case. There are a few exceptions, most notable product liability cases involving the safety of the automobile.

Other highlights from the list include:

Texting While Driving Law (TCA 55-8-199) Texting while driving a vehicle in Tennessee is illegal.

Move Over Law (TCA 55-8-132) When approaching a stopped emergency vehicle with visual emergency lights activated, drivers are required to yield the right-of-way to the vehicle by moving into the closest available lane from the emergency vehicle, whenever possible. When the roadway does not provide an additional lane, drivers are required to slow down and provide as much space as possible to protect emergency vehicle operators in action.

Speeding in Construction Zones Law (TCA 55-8-153) Drivers are required to obey speed limits at all times, especially when workers are in a construction zone. Violators are subject to a minimum $250.00 fine

Tennessee's DUI Law and Penalties (TCA 55-10-401 and 55-10-403) Individuals are presumed to be under the influence of alcohol with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .08%. First time offenders are subject to a $350.00 minimum fine and 48 hours in jail. Vehicle towing and storage will also be charged to offenders. Enhanced penalties and sanctions will result if BAC is greater than the legal limit or if children are present at the time of arrest.

Child Restraint Devices Law (TCA 55-9-602) All child passengers through the age of eight (8) must be secured in a Child Restraint Device. Infants are required in a rear facing child restraint device in the rear seat, if available, until the age of one (1) or weighing twenty pounds (20 lbs.) or less. Children ages one (1) through three (3) weighing greater than twenty pounds (20 lbs.) must be in a child restraint device in a forward facing position in the rear seat, if available. Children ages four (4) through eight (8) and less than four-feet, nine inches (4' 9") in height must be in a booster seat in the rear seat, if available. Children above the age of nine (9) must be secured by a safety belt restraint system.

Motorcycle Helmet Law (TCA 55-9-302) All motorcycle operators and passengers are required to wear a helmet. Helmets must meet federal motor vehicle safety standards and be certified by the Department of Transportation (DOT).

Stay safe.

Why you need a Nashville disability attorney when applying for Social Secuity benefits

Our firm represents people applying for Social Security Disability benefits. The process is filled with traps, therefore if you have to file, you need an aggressive Nashville disability lawyer.

The Social Security Administration provides assistance to people with disabilities under two different programs. Social Security Disability Insurance benefits (SSDI) may be paid to you and certain members of your family if you are "insured." To be insured, you must have worked for a certain period of time (generally five of the past ten years) and paid Social Security taxes. If you do not qualify for Disability Insurance benefits, you may qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) which is paid based on financial need.

For example, you cannot collect SSI benefits if your assets (not including a single home and automobile) exceed $2,000.00 if you are single and $3,000.00 if you are married. Unlike other disability programs, Social Security does not pay benefits for partial disability or short term disability. Social Security pays benefits only for total disability. Disability is based on your inability to work.

Social Security will pay benefits only if it determines that you have a physical or mental impairment (or combination of impairments) that prevents you from doing not only the work you did before, but also that you cannot adjust to new work because of your medical conditions. In addition, to be eligible for benefits, your disability must have lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or result in death.

You can work and still qualify for disability benefits, but you must not make more than the limit set by the Social Security. The current limit in 2011 is $1,000.00 per month. If you can work and earn more than $1,000.00, then you are not "disabled." The Social Security Administration defines disability as not being able to achieve substantial gainful employment.

Children may qualify for SSI payments if the child has a physical or mental impairment (or combination of impairments) that causes marked and severe functional limitations and has lasted or can be expected to last for at least one year or result in death. You can apply for Social Security disability benefits on online, over the telephone or in person by visiting your local Social Security Office. If your application for disability benefits is denied (Social Security denies approximately two-thirds of initial applications) you can appeal the decision.

The first step in the appeals process is a Request for Reconsideration. You must request reconsideration of the denial of your initial application within 60 days from your denial letter. If your Request for Reconsideration is denied you may then request a hearing by an Administrative Law Judge. This request must be made within 60 days. If you are denied by the Administrative Law Judge you may appeal to the Appeals Counsel and then to the Federal District Court. If your initial application is turned down, it is very important that you appeal this decision rather than simply reapply.

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Is texting while driving a problem in Nashville?

As a Nashville injury lawyer, I have met with a lot of Tennesseans injured in a car wreck. A car or motorcycle crash usually occurs when a driver doesn't pay attention. It is careless to take your eyes of the road. In these cases, I develop a theme, the rule, that a driver has to keep his eyes on the road. If he does not, he is responsible for the harm.

A car wreck attorney should always ask the at-fault driver, "What were you doing when this collision occurred?" Why? Because he was probably texting or on the phone (accidents happen when you take your eyes off the road). I also send this written question:

If during the three minute period immediately before the impact with the Plaintiff's vehicle you were engaged in any activity which required the use of one or both hands, such as smoking, using a cell-phone, adjusting equipment or touching some person or object, please identify and describe such conduct or activity in detail, including in your response:

a) A complete description of the activity;

b) The duration of the activity; and

c) How long in seconds before the occurrence such activity ended.

In a recent study by Pew Research, two-thirds of teen texters reported being more likely to use their cell phones for texting than to dial them up and talk over a cell phone.

Other findings from the report:

-Half of teens send 50 or more text messages a day, or 1,500 texts a month. One in three send more than 100 texts a day (or more than 3,000 texts a month).

-15% of teen texters send more than 200 texts a day, or more than 6,000 texts a month.

-22% of teen texters send and receive just one to 10 texts a day, or 30 to 300 texts a month.

-Half (52%) of cell-owning teens ages 16-17 say they have talked on a cell phone while driving. That translates into 43% of all American teens ages 16-17.

-48% of all teens ages 12-17 say they have been in a car when the driver was texting.

-40% say they have been in a car when the driver used a cell phone in a way that put themselves or others in danger.

Texting while driving is illegal in Tennessee. It is also irresponsible.