January 2012 Archives

City Council Deliberates About Two Bills Impacting Springfield's Red Light Camera Program

January 31, 2012

254346_stop_on_red.jpgLast week, our Springfield, Missouri car accident attorneys discussed our city council's plans for Springfield's red light camera enforcement program. On Monday night, the council met and discussed two separate proposals regarding the cameras, which advocate opposing courses of action. Local media sources report that the issue was hotly debated, with some council members arguing that cameras help prevent certain kinds of collisions, and others maintaining that voters should make the final decision.

Councilman Tommy Bieker had initially lobbied a council committee to recommend doing away with the cameras permanently. When he was unsuccessful, he then proposed a bill that would place the issue on August ballots and in the hands of Springfield residents. Other city council members have since presented their own bill to resume use of the program: six members have signed on as sponsors of that measure.

Only two councilmembers (Bieker and Doug Burlison) appear reluctant about bringing back the cameras, which photograph cars passing through intersections when the light is red. Offenders then receive traffic citations by mail. At the council's meeting on Monday, Bieker again attempted to intervene, moving that council should table both bills and instead explore alternatives to the cameras (including increasing yellow light time at busy intersections). Council rejected his motion, and both bills were discussed.

According to a recent analysis of Kansas City camera use, the number of T-bone and right-angle accidents did decrease at camera-equipped intersections: these types of collisions are often the result of red light violations. However, the number of overall accidents increased, as drivers were more likely to slam on their breaks when the light turned yellow, creating the potential for more rear-end collisions. Traffic engineers in Springfield have argued for the cameras: they maintain that reducing T-bone and right-angle accidents is considerably more important, since these types of wrecks are more likely to cause serious injuries and/or fatalities.

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The Lowdown on Springfield Missouri Rental Car Accidents and Injuries

January 30, 2012

Rental car customers in Springfield, Missouri - and nationwide - rarely consider the safety ratings or safety features of the cars they are renting--they merely assume the vehicles must be safe. Our Springfield personal injury attorneys wanted to bring you up to date on just how safe rental cars currently are, what you should look for when renting, and what you should do if you are injured in an accident in a rental car.

648681_parking_lot.jpgIn a recent study by USA Today comparing 213 of the most popular rental car models, 95% performed well in front end crash tests. Since head-on collisions are the number one form of fatal auto accidents, this is good news indeed.

However, only 77% of the same models had good protection in side impact collisions, which is cause for concern: occupants of vehicles with good side impact safety ratings are 70% more likely to survive a serious car crash. The percentages get even worse when roof strength is considered (important in a rollover accident), with almost 40% of vehicles testing poorly.

Although many Springfield residents consider a vehicle's safety ratings before they choose to buy, they often don't follow the same practice when choosing a rental car. Remember, the maintenance and upkeep of rental cars is vital to the safety of the vehicle.

What to Look For When Renting A Car in Springfield, Nixa, or Ozark:

• Check the tires. Are they worn? Are they properly inflated?

• Make sure all lights (including four way flashers, turn signals, and horns are in good working order.

• Ask the rental company when the fluids were last checked.

• Check the wiper blades: if they are worn, ask the rental company to change the blades, or to switch you to a different vehicle.

• Ask about the vehicle's safety features (such as airbags).

Continue reading "The Lowdown on Springfield Missouri Rental Car Accidents and Injuries" »

Starting a Dialogue: Discussing Safe Driving With Missouri Teens Before They Get Behind the Wheel

January 25, 2012

atthewheel.jpgOur Nixa, Missouri car accident attorneys believe that parents can be the most important influence on a teenager's driving behaviors. We frequently support safety campaigns and initiatives that target teens: they are, after all, one of the groups most at risk for accidents (distracted driving accidents in particular). Recently, we were pleased to discover that the AAA Foundation for Safety has developed a new website, Keys2Drive, that's geared toward providing resources for teen drivers and their parents. Importantly, they emphasize being proactive about starting a dialogue with teens, encouraging parents to build a strong foundation by starting to discuss defensive driving long before their children are ready to get behind the wheel.

AAA Keys2Drive Tips for Parents in the "Learning to Drive" Process

• Evaluate your teen's readiness. If, as a parent, you have concerns about your teen being responsible or following rules, those are issues to address before adding an automobile to the mix. It's likely that these issues will affect your teen's driving as well.

Get informed. It's important that you're knowledgeable about the licensing process and current traffic laws, so your teen recognizes you as a voice of authority about driving. You want to make sure that your information is current: as AAA points out, it's probable that a great deal has changed since you got your driver's license. (AAA offers the Dare to Prepare program, an online workshop, via their website.)

Start talking. As an experienced driver, AAA encourages you to share your "road wisdom" with your teen sooner rather than later. Also, there are important issues that you'll want to make clear early on: What does it mean to be a safe driver? When exactly will your teen start driving? Will your teen be responsible for gas costs or insurance fees? What specific rules should you put in place?

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City Council Considers the Fate of the Red Light Camera Program in Springfield, Missouri: Do Cameras Reduce Accidents?

January 24, 2012

1154152_traffic_lights.jpgHere in Springfield, our Missouri car accident attorneys have noticed that local residents have strong opinions about red light cameras. Currently, there are "Automated Red-Light Enforcement Devices" at 13 of Springfield's busiest intersections, but none of those cameras have been operational since early 2010. The city suspended the red light camera program immediately following a Missouri Supreme Court decision, and now a city councilman wants voters to decide whether or not to continue with the program.

Red light cameras were installed at certain Springfield intersections in June of 2007. The cameras are designed to photograph any vehicle that passes through an intersection while the light is red: the system also records the date, the time of day, the amount of time elapsed since the light turned red, and the vehicle's license plate number. The photographic evidence is then reviewed by city police officers, and tickets are sent to offenders by mail.

To learn more about red light cameras, courtesy of the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS), click here. To see where our city's cameras are located, via the Springfield Police, click here.

However, in March 2010, the Missouri Supreme Court dismissed a $100 fine imposed on Adolph Belt Jr., a former state trooper. The court found that the city was violating state law by using administrative hearings to process red light camera violations: instead, the court ruled, Springfield would have to deal with those tickets in municipal and circuit courts, which require traditional standards of proof, and allow offenders the right to appeal.

In response to the decision, the city immediately turned off the cameras and announced that all outstanding tickets would be dismissed. The chief problem is this: the existing camera system only photographs vehicles, not the people inside, making it impossible to prove who was driving. So instead, Springfield ordinance was written so that a vehicle's owner was held accountable if that vehicle committed a red light violation. But the Missouri Supreme Court's decision put a stop to that practice, so the current system can no longer be used. To continue the program, the city would need to upgrade to cameras that can photograph the faces of individual drivers. And now, Councilman Tommy Bieker is sponsoring a new ordinance that would allow Springfield voters to decide this very issue.

Continue reading "City Council Considers the Fate of the Red Light Camera Program in Springfield, Missouri: Do Cameras Reduce Accidents?" »

Frequently Asked Questions Answered: Pedestrian Accidents in Lebanon and Throughout Missouri

January 12, 2012

Thumbnail image for 175765_cross_walk.jpgA key part of any car accident injury claim is determining who is at fault. Each accident is unique, so the Lebanon, Missouri car accident attorneys have to consider several different factors in each case. When a pedestrian is part of the equation, there are additional issues that must be evaluated: in this post, we answer some frequently asked questions about car accidents involving pedestrians

Is a pedestrian accident always the driver's fault?

Every accident requires an investigation to determine liability, or who is at fault. There are instances where the pedestrian might have been reckless or negligent. Several factors that could cause a pedestrian to endanger his or her life, or to cause an accident through negligence (for example, impaired judgment due to alcohol or drug use, or a medical condition). Other accidents are caused by pedestrians who are simply distracted or careless, failing to pay attention to traffic around them. In any case, if the driver was being careful and following all traffic laws, and he or she was unable to avoid a pedestrian accident, the driver is not always legally liable. Once again, each case needs to be weighed separately.

If I am the driver and someone intentionally ran out in front of me, can I sue the pedestrian?

In a small number of cases, it's possible to sue the pedestrian, but it is extremely difficult: it is much easier to build a case against a driver. A case against a pedestrian requires witness statements and clear-cut evidence to demonstrate that the pedestrian was primarily at fault. In some situations, it is possible to seek damages from other responsible parties, if it can be shown that they contributed to the pedestrian's actions.

As a pedestrian accident victim, when can I sue a driver?
If you can establish that the driver was at least partially at fault (they could have avoided the accident, they were speeding, etc.) you are entitled to pursue a lawsuit. The amount you can recover is limited by the percentage the driver was at fault. That is why it is important to consult a lawyer, whether you were the pedestrian or the driver: to determine the percentage of liability, and therefore the viability of a personal injury suit.

Continue reading "Frequently Asked Questions Answered: Pedestrian Accidents in Lebanon and Throughout Missouri" »

Keeping it Legal: Liability Insurance and Missouri Law

January 11, 2012

338505_logbook.jpgThe Springfield, Missouri car accident lawyers in our office are well acquainted with the costs involved in car accidents. Between medical expenses and damage repairs, the bills can start piling up quickly. It's important to make sure you have the best insurance coverage you can afford, in case you're involved in an injury accident.

Missouri law requires that all motor vehicle operators are covered by some type of liability insurance. When injuries or property damage occurs as a result of your actions, liability insurance covers the cost. Also, Missouri motor vehicle owners are required to show proof of liability insurance when they register and obtain license plates for a vehicle, and when the registration is renewed.

Here are the minimum levels of liability coverage required in Missouri:
*$25,000 per person for bodily injury
*$50,000 per accident for bodily injury
*$10,000 per accident for property
*$25,000 per bodily injury per person for uninsured motorist coverage
*$50,000 per bodily injury per accident for uninsured motorist coverage

You are required to keep proof of liability insurance in your vehicle at all times. If a law enforcement official or Department of Revenue employee asks you for this proof and you are unable to produce it, you may be issued a citation. If you fail to maintain proper liability insurance coverage, your driver's license may be suspended.

Again, the amounts above only represent the minimum levels of coverage as required by state law. For most minor property damage accidents, minimum coverage is sufficient. However, more major accidents can cause extensive property damage and serious injuries: these costs can exceed the amount of coverage provided by basic liability insurance. A driver is considered "underinsured" when the amount covered by his auto policy is less than the actual damages incurred; or when bodily injury medical costs exceed the covered limits.

Actual medical costs for serious injuries can be much higher than $25,000. And if a traffic accident involves several vehicles or other property, $10,000 runs out in a hurry. For this reason, we encourage motorists to carry more thorough coverage than the minimum liability insurance required by Missouri statutes. Find a policy with the highest coverage and deductibles you can fit in your budget.

Continue reading "Keeping it Legal: Liability Insurance and Missouri Law" »

Whose Fault is It, Anyway? Proving Who's Responsible in Springfield, Missouri Car Accident Cases

January 5, 2012

Missouri Accident Lawyers
Establishing who did what, and when they did it, is a significant part of any injury claim tied to a Missouri car, truck, or motorcycle accident. It is in your best interest to remember and implement a few basic tips if you are ever involved in a crash. First and foremost, get yourself to safety. Then, you should call 911 and contact a Springfield, Missouri car accident attorney.

If possible, it's a good idea take pictures of the scene with your cell phone; and to make notes of road, weather, and other driving conditions. All of these materials can be used to demonstrate what circumstances caused the collision to occur. Below, we outline some other factors that are connected to the process of establishing fault.

Missouri Police Reports
Missouri police reports can provide crucial evidence in accident cases: you'll need a copy of the responding police officer's formal record. If a Missouri state traffic law was broken, or there was apparent negligent behavior, this information should be recorded in the report.

Missouri Traffic Laws
In most cases, as discussed above, the police officer will note violation of any Missouri traffic laws in the accident report. If you need more information to understand why a citation was (or wasn't) issued, review the Missouri Vehicle Code.

"No-Doubt" Liability: Rear End Collisions and Left Turn Car Crashes
Most people have heard that if another driver hits your car from behind, that driver is automatically at fault. This is usually true, no matter why your car stopped. Similarly, if a collision occurs when a driver making a left turn is struck by an oncoming vehicle, the driver turning is considered responsible, under most circumstances.

Why the "rear end collision rule?" Your job as a driver is to travel at a safe distance from the car in front of you. So, you must be able to stop without hitting the car in front of you, no matter what happens--even if you are hit from behind and pushed into the car in front of you, or if the car in front of you stops short.

Why the "left turn rule?" A driver only has legal permission to turn left if the path is totally clear. If the path is not completely clear, the left turn is not legal: thus, if an accident is caused, the left turning driver is almost always at fault. In extremely rare cases, traveling at excessive speed into the intersection can transfer some measure of fault to an oncoming driver who collides with a vehicle turning left.

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Protection and Prevention: Common Car Accident Injuries in Republic, Missouri and Elsewhere

January 4, 2012

photo_5961_20080516.jpgRepublic, Missouri car accident lawyers work with many people who have suffered injuries from car accidents. We want you to be aware of the most common injuries and share some ways to minimize or avoid these injuries all together. Of course, the type and severity of any car accident injury is dependent on the type of car accident, where the impact occurs on the vehicle, and how fast the vehicle is traveling at the time of impact, along with other factors. But most car accidents lead to the following types of injuries, in varying degrees of severity and combinations.

Common Car Accident Injuries in Republic, Missouri and Nationwide
*Face and head injuries
*Neck injuries
*Shoulder and arm injuries
*Knee, ankle, or leg injuries
*Back injuries
*Brain injuries

The majority of car accidents result in minor to moderate damage to the car. These types of accidents can lead to cuts, abrasions, bruises and sprains to the hands, face, neck, arms, knees, ankles, legs and sometimes the back--provided the occupants are wearing seat belts and the vehicle is equipped with airbags. In fact, with proper seat-belt use, many minor collisions don't cause injuries at all.

However, some minor collisions can cause "soft tissue" injuries, meaning damage to muscles, tendons, and ligaments. These tissues can be stretched by the force of impact, sometimes producing minor tears that lead to sprains, bruises, stiffness and soreness. A seat belt may also cause bruising and soreness, and airbags can cause cuts and abrasions. (However, it's always worth remembering that accident injuries are consistently much more severe when these safety devices are not employed.) Other injuries can also occur because of loose objects in the vehicle that fly into you during the collision.

More significant impact (or car accidents in which the occupants did not utilize seat belts) can result in bone fractures, dislocations, serious lacerations, spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, and internal organ damage.

Continue reading "Protection and Prevention: Common Car Accident Injuries in Republic, Missouri and Elsewhere" »