Archive for August, 2013

How the Decision to Buckle Up Can Protect Your Safety and Legal Rights

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

Although the manufacturers of motor vehicles have made enormous strides in terms of safety innovations that include more extensive airbag coverage, improved roof strength, vehicle stabilization equipment, crash avoidance warning systems and more, buckling up with a lap belt and shoulder harness remain the most effective way to prevent serious injury in a motor vehicle collision in Missouri.  While seatbelt use has reached an all-time high among vehicle occupants in the U.S., there is still a significant minority of individuals that do not fasten their seatbelt when traveling in a motor vehicle.  Because our Missouri car accident lawyers are committed to the safety of our friends, neighbors and community, we have provided a reminder of the physical safety and legal benefits of always fastening one’s seatbelt.

The most important reason to always properly wear a seatbelt is the indisputable safety benefit of buckling up.  Seatbelt use nationally has reached an impressive 88 percent according to the National Safety Council.  However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that more than four in ten motor vehicle accident victims killed in a collision during a recent twelve month period was not using a seatbelt.  Although the NHTSA estimates that seatbelts saved the lives of 75,000 people during a recent four year period, the federal agency also indicates that raising usage rates just 2 percent would prevent another 1,600 car crash fatalities per year along with 22,000 injuries.

Some traffic safety experts in Missouri contend that the state could improve the extent of seatbelt usage by strengthening the state’s seat belt laws.  Generally, states that have mandatory seatbelt laws employ one of two types of legislative schemes: primary seatbelt laws and secondary seatbelt laws.  Primary seatbelt laws are more effective because they permit a law enforcement officer to pull over and ticket a driver exclusively for failing to buckle up provided the officer has observed that a driver is violating the seatbelt law.  By contrast, secondary seatbelt laws do not permit drivers to be cited unless they are stopped by a police officer for some other traffic safety law violation.

Missouri has one of the least effective seatbelt laws because it only makes a violation a secondary offense.  Further, the nominal level of the fine means that those who do get cited may not have much incentive to strap themselves in because the fine is relatively nominal.  There are other factors that make Missouri’s seatbelt law less effective than that of other states, which include an exemption for vehicle occupants over the age of 16 who are not sitting in the front seat or riding with a driver who only has a driving permit.

While the safety benefits of wearing a seatbelt should provide sufficient incentive to fasten a vehicle occupant’s seatbelt, there is also an incentive based on a potential legal claim when one is involved in a collision that causes serious injury or wrongful death.  Missouri is one of a minority of states that recognizes the so-called “seatbelt defense.”  The seatbelt defense allows the defendant in a personal injury case to reduce or avoid paying damages for injuries that would not have been incurred had the vehicle occupant been properly fastened into a seatbelt.  Although this defense is not applicable if a person does not suffer more serious injuries because of a failure to wear a seatbelt, it can reduce the available recovery when injuries are related to the failure to buckle up.  Fortunately, Missouri limits the potential reduction in recovery based on the seatbelt defense to one percent of the damage award.

If you or someone you love is injured or a family member dies in a Missouri auto accident, we urge you to contact us if you have questions.  Our experienced Missouri car accident injury attorneys at Hubbard & Kurtz, LLP work diligently to obtain financial compensation for our clients’ injuries so contact us toll free at (877) 535-1163 to see how we can help!

Missouri Pedestrian Accident FAQs

Sunday, August 4th, 2013

The severity of injury and probability of fatalities are extremely high when a pedestrian is struck by a motor vehicle like a car, truck or SUV.  Because even an economy car may weigh several thousand pounds, the impact between the human body and more than a ton of steel and solid plastic can result in permanent debilitating injuries and wrongful death.  Although the increasing number of people that walk, jog or run to shed pounds and maintain a healthy lifestyle puts all pedestrians at-risk, kids and elderly pedestrians face the greatest probability of being struck by a moving vehicle.  Because of the high probability of life-altering injuries when pedestrians are struck by motor vehicles we have provided answers to common questions we receive about pedestrian accident claims.

What should a pedestrian do after being hit by a motor vehicle?

The first priority in this situation is to allow medical personnel to check you out and cooperate with any attempt to take you to the hospital.  While this is obviously the best way to ensure a more positive prognosis, there also are many pedestrian injury claims that result in less significant recovery because the injury victim delays seeking a medical diagnostic exam and treatment.  If you are with family or friends, you also may have them obtain the names and contact information of potential witnesses to the pedestrian collision.

Do I really need a lawyer given that the driver will almost always be at-fault?

While it is true that drivers are expected to exercise a high degree of care to avoid hitting pedestrians with their vehicle, there are situations where drivers are not found liable for injuries to a pedestrian.  If a child darts into the street from behind a parked car so that the driver has no opportunity to stop in time, this may be a situation where a driver is not found to be at-fault.  This defense is sometimes referred to as the “darting child defense.”  Insurance carriers regularly use this defense and similar types of claims to shift the responsibility for a pedestrian collision to the injured pedestrian.  Even if this defense is not applicable, insurance carriers frequently try to blame the injury victim to reduce the amount of damages their insured is ordered to pay, but a Missouri pedestrian accident lawyer will have the experience to effectively rebut this type of claim.

Can I still seek compensation for injuries suffered in a pedestrian accident if I was crossing the street in the middle of the block?

While the most clear cut circumstances where liability will be imposed on a driver in a pedestrian accident involves pedestrians crossing the street at intersections or crosswalks, the fact that someone is jaywalking does not preclude a successful claim for damages.  Drivers must still exercise reasonable care to watch for and avoid hitting pedestrians even when they are crossing the street at a place where they would not regularly be anticipated to cross.

What are the most common causes of pedestrian accidents in Missouri?

Although there are many reasons that drivers hit pedestrians, some of the most common causes involve the following:

  • Alcohol or drug impaired driving
  • Not reducing one’s speed in a school zone
  • Distracted driving (i.e. using a cell phone to text or call)
  • Running red lights or stop signs
  • Violating the speed limit
  • Disregarding flashing lights and signs on school buses
  • Failure to anticipate pedestrians near school zones, parks and shopping center parking lots

These are just a few of the questions we often hear from those who have been injured in a pedestrian accident in Missouri.  If you or someone you love is injured or a family member dies in a Missouri pedestrian car crash, we urge you to contact us so that we can answer your specific questions.  Our experienced Missouri pedestrian injury attorneys at Hubbard & Kurtz, LLP work diligently to obtain financial compensation for our clients’ injuries so contact us toll free at (877) 535-1163 to see how we can help!