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Motorcycle Safety Awareness

May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month!

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motorcycles account for 15 percent of traffic accidents resulting in death, despite motorcycles only accounting for 3 percent of all registered vehicles and only traveling less than 1 percent of all miles on the road.  These statistics, however,  do not report the number of personal injuries motorcycle riders experience each and every year.

The reasons for more fatalities directly correlate to why a motorcycle is fun to ride – not being enclosed in a vehicle while the wind blows across your face or through your hair.  Motorcycles also are harder to see because they simply do not take up the same amount of space a traditional car does, so other motorists do not see motorcyclists as well.

Even though not required by Indiana state law, if you do wear a helmet, make sure you consider the fit, whether it has adjustable pads , facial coverage, and good ventilation.  In addition, make sure it has the “DOT” (Department of Transportation) label or at least the Snell or American National Standards Institute (ANSI) labels so you know it is certified to meet minimum safety standards.  Also consider wearing protective clothing, jackets, and shoes specifically designed for motorcycle use.  Not only will you be more protected, you’ll look good also.

If you do have a motorcycle accident or if your loved one suffers a wrongful death while riding, the attorneys at Goodin Abernathy, LLP can sit down with you to discuss your options (contact us by clicking here).  Be safe and enjoy motorcycling!

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“U Drive. U Text. U Pay.”

The U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx kicked off the National Distracted Driving Enforcement Campaign across the United States entitled: “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.”

This catchy phrase is simple and to the point when only a financial loss is considered; however, the “Pay” portion also includes the emotional element people go through when involved in a motor vehicle accident. Per statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 10 percent of traffic accidents resulting in death and 18 percent of personal injury traffic accidents were due to distracted driving. 2013 had 244 teenagers lose their life due to distracted driving. The emotional toll that is taken on people injured and their friends and family is impossible to quantify. The guilt the distracted driver will experience and “pay” is also impossible to quantify.

It is important for all of us to put down our cell phones and concentrate on our driving. For adults, it is also important to set a good example for our children and teenagers that a cell phone should not be used while driving, as pretty soon, they will also be behind the wheel as an inexperienced and novice driver.

Be safe and put down the cell phone while driving.

Who is to Blame when Defective Road Conditions Cause an Accident?

Who is to Blame when Defective Road Conditions Cause an Accident?

Poor road conditions, such as missing guardrails, erosion, pot holes and faulty design, can be the cause of vehicle damage or serious personal injuries for the unwary driver and his passengers. However, whether a person can sue for the resulting damage or injuries is a complicated question.

Anyone who is a victim of a car accident due to poor road conditions must prove that the road conditions actually caused the damage to the car and/or the injuries. The victim must be able to demonstrate that the agency or company responsible for maintaining the road was negligent in its duty to provide a safe roadway — or that they failed to adequately warn drivers of a potential hazard. Finally, the plaintiff must determine if the agency responsible is allowed to be sued in court.

Who Maintains the Roadway?

Roads are typically maintained by cities, counties and states. Different maintenance responsibilities for a certain roadway can also be shared by more than one governmental agency. For example, a state might be responsible for filling pot holes and paving the roads, while a city might be responsible for snowplowing and de-icing the roadways. When roads are constructed, there are strict rules for the implementation of signs and guardrails to warn motorists of road conditions. Figuring out which agency was responsible is important, not only for suing the proper party, but for determining if the particular agency can be sued at all.

How can you Prove a Road was Negligently Designed or Maintained?

Once it is determined who is responsible for maintaining the roadway, the victim of an accident must prove that the agency was negligent in the way the road was designed, or in its failure to maintain the road. That is to say the agency could have, and should have, repaired the road but chose not to do so, or that the agency constructed the road in a defective manner.

For example, a county might choose to reduce funding for the addition of guardrails in an area where cars are known to frequently leave the road and roll down a steep embankment. If a car goes off the road and rolls down the embankment, and it can be proven that guardrails would have prevented such an accident, the county may be responsible for the resulting injuries to the driver and passengers in that car.

Determining the Cause of the Car Damage or Injury

Proving that the damage to the vehicle or the injuries to passengers was the direct result of the agency’s negligence will almost always require an expert opinion. Therefore, it is very important to engage an attorney that is experienced in handling personal injury claims caused by defective road conditions. This way, an expert can be retained to examine the roadway, take photographs and measurements, and preserve important evidence before any changes can be made to the accident scene.

Can the Agency Be Sued?

Most government agencies, including states and the federal government, have immunity from lawsuits, which means that they cannot be sued (this is called “sovereign immunity” when it is applied to the federal and state governments, and “governmental immunity” when it is applied to city, county and other smaller governments). This immunity severely limits a victim’s ability to seek compensation from a responsible government entity.
Although government agencies are often immune, there are exceptions to immunity under specific conditions. Typically, negligence in maintaining a roadway will create an exception to immunity and allow a victim to sue. However, there may be narrow constraints, for example, the negligence must have been “gross” (i.e. extreme negligence).

The exact circumstances under which a plaintiff can sue for injuries due to defective road conditions can vary greatly from state to state. Indiana’s Tort Claims Act is found at I.C. 34-13-3-1. It requires that the State agency be notified within 180 days of the accident. Failure to timely file a Tort Claim Notice will mean that your case will be dismissed. In addition to the notice requirements of the Tort Claims Act, in Indiana a victim must file a lawsuit within 2 years of the date of the accident. This is known as the “statute of limitations.” If the victim fails to file the lawsuit in the correct court before the deadline set by the statute of limitations, a court will not allow the plaintiff to proceed, and the case will be dismissed.

If you believe you have been injured in an accident that was caused by a defective road condition, you can contact us for a free case evaluation.

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Is Your Child’s Playground Safe?

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 200,000 children go to emergency rooms each year in the United States due to injuries associated with the child’s playground equipment. Most of the injuries are due to falling and can result in traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, or other broken bones.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has provided the following Safety Checklist for parents to use to help make sure their children are safe.

1.  Make sure surfaces around playground equipment have at least 12 inches of wood chips, mulch, sand, or pea gravel, or are mats made of safety-tested rubber or rubber-like materials.
2.  Check that protective surfacing extends at least 6 feet in all directions from play equipment. For swings, be sure surfacing extends, in back and front, twice the height of the suspending bar.
3.  Make sure play structures more than 30 inches high are spaced at least 9 feet apart.
4.  Check for dangerous hardware, like open “S” hooks or protruding bolt ends.
5.  Make sure spaces that could trap children, such as openings in guardrails or between ladder rungs, measure less than 3.5 inches or more than 9 inches.
6.  Check for sharp points or edges in equipment.
7.  Look out for tripping hazards, like exposed concrete footings, tree stumps, and rocks.
8.  Make sure elevated surfaces, like platforms and ramps, have guardrails to prevent falls.
9.  Check playgrounds regularly to see that equipment and surfacing are in good condition.
10. Carefully supervise children on playgrounds to make sure they’re safe.

If you see any of these issues at a local park or your child’s school, these conditions should be reported to the appropriate authority so the hazardous condition may be corrected.

If your child has been injured on a playground due to one of these conditions or other conditions, contact Goodin Abernathy, LLP to discuss your options.

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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.

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Spring Break is Almost Here!

Soon high school and college students will be heading off to warmer weather to experience Spring Break. Whether you are going with your child or he or she is going with a group of friends, take the time to discuss safety tips from your own experience. Beyond the issues surrounding binge drinking and partying, consider discussing safety issues involving water, driving, hotels and money. Even if your child may roll their eyes at you or act like they are not paying attention, any information passed could prevent personal injury, traumatic brain injury, a water injury, or even death.

The Girls Fight Back organization has a “Spring Break Safety Tip Sheet”. This sheet provides a lot of tips for safely getting to Spring Break, Hotels, ATM use, Drinking, In the Water, Leaving the Country, and “let’s talk about sex.” If you have a child that is going on Spring Break, consider sharing this list with them, even if they are boys. Knowledge and prevention are powerful. After Spring Break, if your child is injured, contact Goodin Abernathy LLP to discuss your options.

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