Posted on Saturday, March 30th, 2019 at 5:43 pm
It has taken years for Texas politicians to get their head around cell phone and driving legislation. There were attempts by one politician or another to restrict the use of cell phones while driving, but every time a bill was introduced it became defeated with opponents of legislation claiming that it would limit personal freedom. It wasn’t until September 2018 that House Bill 62 was finally passed. The law makes it illegal for anyone in Texas to use an electronic device to read, write or send messages while driving. Emergency use is the only exception.
It hasn’t been long since the bill was passed, but there is already some sound evidence that the change in the law has made a difference to crash fatalities. Prior to the law change, the number of accidents had been increasing year after year. What statistics that are available suggest that the increase was due to innovations in cell phone technology and the rise in use of social media making it more attractive for Texans to use their device wherever they are, including behind the wheel.
A survey in 2017 made by Cambridge Mobile Telematics revealed that a quarter of all motor vehicle accidents were caused by cell phone texting. It has also been reported that over 1,000 collisions on U.S. roads take place every day due to distracted driving, of which cell phone use is regarded as the most prevalent.
Until September last year, Texas was one of only four states that still allowed drivers to use cell phones, but no longer. How has this changed accident rates? According to the Insurance Council of Texas in its 2019 Annual Report, although the fatality rate had climbed 34% in the 9 years since 2010, there has been a 4% decrease in fatalities and pedestrian casualties since HB62 came into force.
Of course, analyzing accident causes like distracted driving can be problematic. How can you tell that a crash took place because someone was texting just before the crash took place, unless someone actually saw the driver, or the driver survived and admitted to using their phone? Some opponents of cell phone use legislation have claimed that restricting cell phone use won’t have much effect as it cannot be properly enforced.
The issue of unenforceability came out when HB62 was being debated in the Texas Senate. Senator Larry Taylor, for example, raised the example of using the cell phone as a navigational tool and for listening to music, both of which were exempted by the bill. Other Senate representatives were keen to counter this viewpoint, however. As Senator Joan Huffman said at the same hearing, if the law saved only one life, it would be worth it. Sen. Huffman said that when people know that what they are doing is against the law, they will still hesitate, even if it won’t stop all illegal behavior.
Two other similar laws have been passed in Texas before HB 62 was passed. One, HB 339 prevents any driver younger than 18 using any sort of wireless electronic device while driving, even hands free cell phone technology. The law was passed in response to the horrifying fatality rate amongst younger drivers in particular, most of which is ascribed to cell phone use. HB 55 stopped adult drivers from using hands-held devices of any type while in school crossing zones and bus drivers from using any device while minors are on board.
HB 62 might still prove to be not strong enough; such is the power of attraction of electronic gadgetry and the ease of communication it provides, so those statistics are going to be watched carefully over the next few years to make sure that the fatality and serious injury rates do continue to decline.
If you, or a member of your family, have been injured in a vehicle accident caused by a distracted driver, you have a right to claim compensation from that driver.
You should contact an experienced personal injury attorney in San Antonio as soon as your injuries allow you to do so. You can contact a San Antonio Lawyer for professional and dedicated legal help at 833-210-4878.
Posted on Sunday, May 27th, 2018 at 6:42 am
If you have been hit by another driver and suspect that the driver wasn’t concentrating at the time, how can you prove it? It’s all very well being told that personal injury claims can only succeed if there is sufficient proof that you were not to blame and that it is your responsibility to show that the other driver was negligent, but how do you do it? The good news is that while it is not always possible to prove that the driver who hit you was a distracted driver, in many cases it may be possible, but you will need the help of an experienced and dedicated car accident attorney.
Distracted driving is one of the most common reasons for car accidents in Texas
Statistics held by the Texas Department of Transport (TxDOT) for 2017 show that there were a total of 537,475 traffic crashes. Of this total number it has been estimated that 19%, nearly 110,000, involved some kind of distracted driving. Of these distracted driving accidents, there were 2,889 people with serious injuries and 444 fatalities.
Distracted driving in Texas is defined as driving when the driver fails to concentrate sufficiently on their driving because of something that is taking up their attention. Many distracted driving crashes happen because the driver is using a cell phone, making or taking a call or texting, but there are other distractions while driving, too. Here are some examples:
- eating or drinking;
- talking to a passenger;
- dealing with an annoying flying insect;
- adjusting or programming a GPS system;
- reading a magazine, book or newspaper;
- staring out of the side window.
Because of persistent accounts of cell phone use by drivers, the Texas state government finally passed a law last year (2017) banning the use of cell phones for texting while driving. However, law enforcement has not resulted in many citations, despite research which has revealed that more than 80% of Texan drivers actually admit to have used their cell phone for calls or text messages while driving at some time.
Checking a driver’s cell phone records may be possible
If you have been hit by another driver and believe that the driver was texting or making a call just before you were hit and that this caused your injuries, you may be able to make a personal injury claim against the driver. Proving that the driver was using a cell phone may not seem easy. If police can’t catch drivers doing it, how could you? The answer is that your attorney may make a legitimate request for the other driver’s cell phone records to the insurance adjuster dealing with the claim during discovery. If the driver refuses to give permission, or the insurer is unwilling to co-operate, then the attorney has the option of filing a subpoena. Subpoenas are legal requests for information. Generally, if the case seems to rest on phone records then the sub-poena request will be granted. The records may then determine once and for all whether the driver was actually using the cell phone at the time of the crash or just before it.
Heads Up, Texas!
The Texas DOT is well aware of the human misery caused by distracted driving and has been campaigning to convince Texan drivers to change their ingrained habits. A recent campaign launched this year is called HeadsUp, Texas! The slogan is based on the fact that drivers who have their heads down while driving are probably texting (or asleep!). In fact, police are on the look-out for drivers with their heads down, but have had little success so far in dealing with the problem. The Texas DOT is also telling Texans to use their common sense when dealing with a call on their phone or an urgent need to send a message. The main advice is to turn off the phone while driving or pull over somewhere safe to deal with it.
If you have been hit by a distracted driver in or around San Antonio and are considering filing a personal injury claim, contact a San Antonio Personal Injury attorney at 833-210-4878.
Posted on Friday, April 27th, 2018 at 6:08 pm
The well publicized driverless Uber car crash and pedestrian fatality that occurred in Arizona last month has put the spotlight back on Uber, on one hand, and liability for driverless car accidents, on the other. Driverless cars are yet to be a real concern as the technology is constantly being modified and it is probably a decade away before they become common on Texas roads. But Uber and other rideshare company accidents do happen from time to time and it is important to be aware of who is liable if you decide to use these cheaper ways of getting around.
Your Uber driver should have personal liability insurance
It may have taken time and a lot of legal action, but Uber now ensures that its drivers have auto insurance in the event of an accident in which you are a legitimate passenger. Basically, liability insurance carried by an Uber driver should cover you if you are a passenger, between the time the driver picks you up to the time you are dropped off. The amount of insurance is a maximum of $1,000,000. Items covered include medical treatment, any loss of earnings, both to date and future losses, as well as compensation for any property damage.
As might be expected, if the accident was in any way due to something you did, e.g. distracting the driver, you may not be able to obtain compensation, or at least the payment may be reduced.
The chances of an Uber accident may be higher than a standard taxi ride
You probably take a greater chance of being injured if you choose to use a rideshare company like Uber or Lyft than regular taxi or public transport, although there are no hard and fast statistics which confirm that. However, rideshare drivers do need to use their app regularly to check on potential rides and navigate to where the passenger wants them to go to, inviting the potential for a distracted driving accident. To be fair, this is the case to some extent with taxi drivers as well, but they are more likely to use a hands free radio rather than a smart phone.
What happens if your vehicle is hit by an Uber driver?
The insurance situation is different if you are not a passenger, but in another vehicle and you are hit by an Uber driver. It then becomes a more standard personal injury situation and should be covered by Texas state laws on personal liability. According to Texas modified comparative negligence rules, you are entitled to compensation in proportion to the percentage blame as long as you were not more than 50% to blame for the accident. For example, if the accident was judged to be 70% blamed on the Uber driver and 30% blamed on your actions, then you should receive 70% of the compensation claimed, as long as the claim is accepted.
Again, all Uber drivers are supposed to have liability insurance, so the worry that the driver who hit you was uninsured or underinsured should not be relevant. As in all personal injury claims, you still must be able to prove that the injuries you received were due to negligence on the part of the Uber driver. This is where a San Antonio injury lawyer with experience dealing with Uber and rideshare accidents can help with filing a legitimate claim.
Driverless car injuries – who is liable?
Uber is not the only company intent on introducing driverless cars. The Uber car that crashed in Arizona last month actually had a driver in it, but it appears that the driver may not have been looking just before the crash happened. Uber has withdrawn its driverless cars for the moment and there has been no decision yet on what happened and who was to blame for this particular accident. It may be that both the driver’s lack of supervision as well as a failure of the car’s detection mechanisms, including lasers, cameras and computers failed to detect the possibility of the accident.
Advocates for autonomous cars claim that these cars have the potential to reduce human error and ultimately lead to a lower traffic accident rate, but there are already worrying signs that car makers involved in developing fully autonomous cars are attempting to limit the ability of injured victims to sue in the event of a potential future accident.
If you have been injured in an Uber accident, whether as a passenger, or in a vehicle of your own and are considering legal action, contact an experienced San Antonio personal injury lawyer to discuss your legal options. Call 833-210-4878 today.
Posted on Thursday, July 6th, 2017 at 5:35 pm
May, if you didn’t notice it, was motorcycle awareness month. It is one month set aside every year when drivers of bigger vehicles are reminded of just how vulnerable the riders on two wheeled vehicles are. It’s not just for motorists but it’s a reminder to motorcycle riders about how to keep themselves safe.
The reason May is chosen as Awareness Month is because it is the start of warmer weather everywhere and the time of year when many people start wheeling their machines out of the garage and hitting the highway. It can be a problematic period when enthusiastic riders may not realize just how dangerous it can be on our highways and drivers are forced to remember that they must share the road with their more unstable fellow road users.
On the face of it, it’s an easy thing to do. All drivers have to do is to think ahead if they see a motorcyclist in front of them. If they decide to pass the rider, they must give him or her plenty of space. It’s as simple as that. The temptation amongst some drivers is to squeeze past a motorcyclist so as not to have to cross a double yellow line. That’s when the slightest change in direction by a rider can send them into the side of the larger more stable vehicle with potentially catastrophic consequences.
Texas is the Nation’s Truck Capital: It’s an extra danger for motorcycles
Big trucks on Texas roads are a potential danger for any road user, but the chance of being hit is higher for those on two wheels. Truck drivers are more likely to hit a rider because:
- they don’t see the motorcyclist because the rider is in their blind spot;
- the truck driver was distracted by something as they approached the rider;
- the truck driver was alcohol-impaired or too tired to concentrate.
- the truck driver did not notice the motorcyclist on their near side as they made a turn at an intersection.
Motorcycle accident statistics
According to the National Safety Council there were 88,000 non fatal motorcycle injuries in 2013. In the same year, there were 4,668 fatalities involving riders and their passengers. A quarter of these fatalities were alcohol related. Not all motorcycle accidents are due to motorists’ negligence. Some are due to a lack of care on the part of the motorcyclist. Motorcyclists are urged to wear protective helmets and high visibility clothing to protect their heads if they fall off and make them more visible to other road users.
In Texas, adult motorcyclists are not legally required to wear helmets as they are in some U.S. states and in many other countries. Not wearing a helmet is sometimes part of the culture of the rider. Texas laws make wearing a helmet mandatory only for under 21s.
It has been estimated from crash statistics that not wearing a helmet accounts for half of all motorcycle fatalities. 35% of motorcycle accidents cause head injuries so it is an easy step to consider protection for your head can save your life.
Texas statistics reveal just how motorcycle riding is a higher risk activity than driving a car. 13% of fatal accidents on Texas roads involved a motorcyclist, but only 6% of registered vehicles are motorcycles.
Value of a San Antonio personal injury lawyer
Despite the value of safety gear and reminders to motorists about looking out for motorcyclists, the fact is that the majority of serious motorcycle injuries are caused by negligence on the part of another road user. If you, or a member of your family, have been badly injured while riding on a motorcycle, you should see a San Antonio personal injury lawyer to discuss the possibility of filing a personal injury claim against the driver whose actions caused your injuries. Call 877-333-3333 today.