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Charleston WV Personal Injury Law Blog

Distracted driving may be as big a challenge as drunk-driving

Distracted driving is an important issue in motor vehicle safety and personal injury litigation. Because of the prevalence of cellphone use and the failure of many drivers to exercise reasonable caution while driving, the rate of injury and death due to distracted driving accidents is much higher than they should be.

The problem, as commentators have noted, is not one that can effectively be addressed only at one level, and will require multiple avenues of response to tackle. In some ways, the issue of distracted driving could be likened to that of drunk driving. Not only are the impairment effects of distracted driving comparable to drunk-driving, but preventing its occurrence may be just as difficult. 

Walmart filing throws blame back on Tracy Morgan for NJ truck accident

Readers may remember that actor-comedian Tracy Morgan was involved in a truck accident back in June on the New Jersey Turnpike. An investigation of the truck accident determined that the accident was caused by a trucker who fell asleep at the wheel after having been awake for over 24 hours. In his personal injury lawsuit, Morgan accused Walmart of negligence for failure to keep tabs on its drivers and asked for punitive damages because the driver was in violation of federal safety regulations.

In its response to the charges, it appears that Walmart is trying to shift some blame for the incident back on Morgan for his failure to wear a seat belt. Blame was also thrown out to unknown third parties who may have contributed to Morgan’s injuries. All of this left Morgan pretty upset, not surprisingly, even though Walmart’s response could just be seen as standard language allowing the company to cover its legal bases.

Hours-of-service rules still a concern for trucking industry

According to the American Transportation Research Institute, federal regulations designed to ensure truckers are rested and free from fatigue while on the road is at the top of the list in terms of foremost concerns in the industry. To those who have been following the issue, this makes sense. The new hours-of-service regulations, which went into effect in 2013, reduced the amount of hours truckers could spend behind the wheel each week and put stricter requirements in place for rest breaks.

One of the effects of the changes, argue industry leaders, is that more truckers are on the road during the day which leads to more traffic congestion and reduced productivity. This reduced productivity has been a major complaint for industry leaders since the rules went into effect. Still, there was a reason why those rules were put into effect. 

Coal miners: you may be eligible for federal black lung compensation

Black lung disease, as readers may know, is a condition affecting coal miners and those who work with coal dust, which can lead to inflammation, chronic bronchitis, fibrosis and premature death in some cases. Workers who have been affected by black lung may be eligible for black lung benefits through the Federal Black Lung program.

These benefits are currently the subject of dispute between congressional candidates in West Virginia this year. Interested readers can follow the link provided at the end of this post for details. Here we’d like to focus on the program itself. The program was created to compensate not only coal miners, but also their dependents and survivors for the losses they experiences as a result of black lung disease. Benefits are available to anybody with a lung condition significantly connected to coal mine dust exposure. 

WV employers accused of retaliating in response to workers' comp filings

Workers’ compensation, as anybody who has been seriously hurt on the job knows, is a critical resource for injured workers. Despite its importance, though, workers’ compensation is not always something injured workers can count on, at least not without a fight. In some cases, employers or insurance companies put up resistance to legitimate claims. In some cases, employers may not directly interfere with a workers’ compensation claim, but end up retaliating against the injured employee either by demoting them, harassing them, or firing them after a workers’ comp filing.

Two recent cases that illustrate this last point are currently pending in West Virginia courts. In one case, a coal miner who was injured when he tripped over a rock on a catwalk in January claims that he was suspended and ultimately fired for supposed misconduct after filing a workers’ compensation claim. 

Proposed legislation would address issue of drowsy driving

Drowsiness behind the wheel has long been known to be a problem among commercial vehicle operators, particularly truckers, and the government has passed regulations to address the problem. These are the well-known hours of service regulations, which dictate how many hours truckers may work in any given day and work week, as well as the length and frequency of rest breaks. Even with these regulations in place, driver fatigue is still a significant problem among truckers and continues to need to be addressed.

Fatigued or drowsy driving is an issue among other motorists as well. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, over 100,000 crashes per year are reported as involving drowsy driving. The issue is serious enough that the National Sleep Foundation has proposed legislation which would address the problem. 

Fracking industry leads to increase in fatal accidents in drilling states

West Virginia are aware of many of the changes brought about by the boom in hydraulic fracturing—better known as “fracking”—in eastern states, including Pennsylvania, West Virginia, as well as Texas. Those changes include not only an increase in mining activity, but an increase in economy, environmental concerns, and in some places car accidents.

A recent article in the Houston Chronicle focused specifically on the increase in fatal accidents resulting from the fracking industry, both of oil and gas workers and motorists who share the road with them. As the article points out, accidents in which three or more people are killed have become dreadfully commonplace. In addition to leading the nation in overall motor vehicle deaths, Texas leads the nation in the number of workplace fatalities caused by transportation accidents. 

Technological solution to distracted driving proves a tough sell

Distracted driving, particularly due to the use of cell phones, has become a major highway safety issue which lawmakers, safety advocates car manufacturers and law enforcement have attempted to fight using various means at their disposal. Needless to say, more needs to be done, and some are holding out that a technological solution to the problem could be developed.

One proposed solution to the problem, developed by chemical engineer Scott Tibbitts, founder of the company Katasi, is to install little black boxes that would block text and cell phone signals from coming to and going out from drivers. This solution, which Tibbitts has had a difficult time pushing forward due to challenges obtaining a partnership with a wireless provider. Sprint had been in talks with Tibbitts for awhile, but eventually backed out, citing legal concerns. Specifically, the issue was Sprint’s liability in the event the technology fails and leads to a car accident.

Changes to workers’ comp law in WV have some attorneys concerned

Proposed changes to workers’ compensation law in West Virginia have become the subject of contention among attorneys who represent injured workers throughout the state. The proposed changes, which still have to be approved by the Workers’ Compensation Industrial Council, would give insurance carriers a choice as to whether they send benefits checks directly to injured workers or to their representatives. Another change, say workers’ compensation attorneys, could present barriers to injured workers obtaining copies of medical files.

The latter change has many attorneys concerned that they will end up not getting paid for their services, without which many injured workers would not be able to obtain their benefits in the first place. As it is, workers’ compensation litigation is a difficult area of practice due to burdensome regulation. The new rules, if approved, could mean that many injured workers will not be able to obtain counsel. 

New Apple technology raises concerns over driver distraction

Apple, as many readers probably already know, is releasing new technology in the form of the Apple Watch and a new iPhone with a larger screen size. The latter change will be particularly welcomed by man Apple fans, since it will allow for better screen display with additional uses. While the changes may be welcomed by many consumers, motor vehicle safety advocates have expressed concern that the change could affect enough people that it could negatively impact pedestrian and distracted driving accidents.

Distracted driving, of course, is a leading cause of car accidents nowadays. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that around 421,000 people suffered injury in car accidents in which distracted drivers were involved, and the actual numbers are likely even higher due to under-reporting. Cell phones, of course, are a leading cause of distracted driving, and the prospect of expanding cell phone usability by a major company like Apple should be cause for concern.

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Office Locations in Charleston, Logan and Summersville, West Virginia

Office Locations in Charleston, Logan & Summersville, West Virginia

213 Hale Street | Charleston, WV 25301 | Local: 304-932-4639 | Toll Free: 1-800-889-5851 | E-Mail Us| Map & Directions

116 Stratton Street | Logan, WV 25601 | Local: 304-932-4639 | Toll Free: 1-800-889-5851 | E-Mail Us | Map & Directions

704 Professional Park Drive | Summersville, WV 26651 | Local: 304-461-4733 | Toll Free: 1-800-889-5851 | E-Mail Us | Map & Directions

Fax Number for All Offices: 304-345-0375