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Bicycle Safety

Bicycle Safety

The weather is finally turning, and Spring Break is almost here. Both mean children and adults alike will be dusting off their bicycles and riding through our neighborhoods and streets. Bicycling is a fun and healthy activity, but precautions should be taken to avoid personal injury and automobile accidents.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has created the “Roll Model” program. As listed on their website, this if for everyone to adopt advanced bicycle safety.

In this program, being a “Roll Model” means:

• Riding and Driving Focused – never distracted.
• Riding and Driving Prepared – always expect the unexpected.
• Putting Safety First – we never know when a crash will occur, regardless of skill level or age; always wear a bicycle helmet when on a bicycle and a seat belt when in car.
• Following the Rules of the Road — a bicyclist is considered a vehicle on the road with all the rights on the roadway and responsibilities of motorized traffic.
• Expecting law enforcement officers to monitor and address unsafe behaviors between motorists and bicyclists that put bicyclists at risk.
• Sharing the Road – both vehicle drivers (motorist and bicyclist) should look out for one another and show mutual respect.

The website also has pledges that children, youth and parents may take to be good “Roll Models.”

While these precautions are great, if you or a child have been injured in a bicycle accident, please call Goodin Abernathy, LLP to discuss your situation.

Image courtesy of khunaspix at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Fire Investigations

A recent Indianapolis Monthly Magazine article by Megan Fernandez tells the story of Kristine Bunch, a Greensburg mother who spent sixteen years in the Indiana Women’s Prison for a crime she did not commit.

In 1996 a Decatur County Jury convicted Kristine of murder and arson for a fire that destroyed Kristine’s home and killed her three-year-old son, Tony.

In 2012, after a long and hard-fought legal battle, Kristine’s conviction was overturned, and she was set free.  Kristine has always maintained her innocence, and it was ultimately determined that the science used by fire investigators to convict her was flawed.  This same flawed science is still being used by insurance companies to deny claims that are made by their insureds after a fire.

In the Bunch case, fire investigators wrongfully concluded that the fire was started and spread with the use of accelerants.  An accelerant can be any flammable liquid spread around and then set on fire.  An ATF report entered by the prosecution of Bunch suggested “heavy petroleum distillate,” the most common of which is kerosene.  However, as Bunch’s legal team would later discover, years after her conviction, the ATF report was flawed.  The investigator made assumptions about certain gas chromatography tests that were taken using carpet and other samples from Bunch’s home, specifically that they contained evidence of accelerant.  Kristine’s conviction came four years after the National Fire Protection Agency promulgated its manual known as NFPA 921; yet the State Fire Marshall who testified against Kristine conceded he had never even read it.

One of the many lessons we can take from the Bunch case is that fire investigations can be very complex.  After any fire, if there is insurance involved, the insurance company is going to hire a fire investigator to attempt to determine the cause and origin of that fire.  In the event the insurance company suspects that the fire was intentionally set, their next step will be to engage an attorney to subject their policyholder to an Examination Under Oath, or (“EUO”).  An EUO is basically a deposition that everyone agrees to submit to when they buy an insurance policy.  If you don’t submit to the EUO, the insurance company will deny your claim.  The job of the insurance company lawyers is to determine if there was a motive to intentionally set a fire.  They are going to ask for your tax returns, credit card and bank statements, and many other personal documents.  If you refuse to cooperate, they will deny your claim.  This is not a process that anyone should submit to without an experienced lawyer in their corner.

Featured image is a copy of an altered ATF lab report analyzing samples from the fire scene became one of the keys to Kristine’s exoneration. (Photo courtesy Kristine Bunch)

If you or someone you know has suffered the agony of losing a loved one or property to a fire, and the insurance company is refusing to pay the claim, you need to hire an experienced fire attorney immediately.  An insurance company that refused to pay for damages caused by a fire, without reasonable cause, can be subject to punitive damages.  If you have questions about the way your insurance company is handling your fire claim, please contact us for a free consultation.

The Dram Shop Act

The Dram Shop Act

Dram Shop laws allow for those injured by drunk drivers to seek redress against the bars or persons who furnished the alcohol under certain circumstances. Indiana’s Dram Shop law can be found at Indiana Code section 7.1-5-10-15(a). Specifically, the Dram Shop Act prohibits the furnishing of an alcoholic beverage to an intoxicated person, provided the person furnishing the alcoholic beverage knows the other person is intoxicated.

The Dram Shop Act represents a legislative judgment and the declared public policy of this state that providers of alcoholic beverages should be liable for the reasonably foreseeable consequences of knowingly serving visibly intoxicated persons.

In the recent Indiana Court of Appeals decision entitled, Pierson v. Service America Corporation, a young girl was killed and her friend seriously injured when they were struck by a vehicle driven by Trenton Gaff as he was leaving an Indianapolis Colts Football game.

Evidence revealed that Gaff drank beer before, during, and after the Colts game. He then drove and killed the Plaintiff and injured her friend as they were walking down the street. A lawsuit was filed against the vendor who was responsible for selling beer to Gaff at Lucas Oil Stadium. The vendor, in this case, uses hundreds of volunteers to sell beer at the games with portions of the proceeds going to their organization. Plaintiffs could not identify the actual person who sold the beer to Gaff. Vendor filed a motion for summary judgment and prevailed at the trial court because the Plaintiffs could not prove that the person who served Gaff had actual knowledge that he was intoxicated.

The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s decision. Evidence showed that Gaff had blood alcohol content (BAC) of .20 at around 8:00 p.m. that evening. An expert said that Gaff’s BAC would have been much less than that if the witnesses’ claims that Gaff had “only a few beers” were accurate. The Court of Appeals found that summary judgment was inappropriate even though the evidence was unclear as to who actually served him, how many drinks were served, and at what point Gaff would have exhibited signs of intoxication.

This decision could be considered a loosening of the high threshold required to prove Dram Shop liability in Indiana.

If you or a family member have been injured by a drunk or impaired driver and you have questions about who is at fault, contact the attorneys at Goodin Abernathy LLP for a free, no obligation consultation.

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How Prevalent is Gender Discrimination?

Indianapolis Business Journal reporter, Dan Human, recently penned the article, “Explanations Vary for Dearth of Women in Top Rungs of Business.”  Many explanations for the lack of top leadership roles held by women in Indiana businesses, as well as the disparity in income levels between men and women are proffered.  However, Human writes that despite a glaring gap of women in the tops spots of business, “Experts mostly brush off discrimination as an explanation for the pay gap.”

Nevertheless, discrimination may be playing a role in a company’s decision to pass over an otherwise qualified female candidate for a similarly qualified male.  Like any prejudice, there are deep-rooted misconceptions and stereotypes that creep in to the decision-making process.  Traditionally, women have had to choose between their careers and their families, but why?  And is it fair?  If your work environment feels like an old boys club, then it probably is.  Proving discrimination, on the other hand, can be a very difficult task.  Particularly if your employer is seeking skilled legal counsel when making decisions regarding the promotion or termination of employees.  However, your claim can change behaviors in the future bringing greater equality in the workplace.

If you think you may have been the victim of gender discrimination, I would encourage you to talk to an attorney and find out about your rights, as well as the obligations of your employer.

Drinking More Dangerous for Young Drivers

Graduation parties and summertime for teenagers and young adults should be fun and carefree. Unfortunately, when these events are combined with alcohol, tragedy can occur.

A recent New York Times article “For Young Drivers, Drinking Is More Dangerous” provides graphics which starkly show young drivers have many fatal accidents even at low blood-alcohol levels. The article also focuses on the latest recommendation by the National Transportation Safety Board to lower the current blood alcohol concentration limit of 0.08 percent to 0.05 percent, which may also lead to a reduction in teen and young adult deaths due to impaired driving.

GOODIN ABERNATHY congratulates all recent graduates and wishes everyone a safe, carefree summer.