August 2012 Archives

Uninsured motorist coverage: Basic facts for Missouri drivers

August 22, 2012

Under the terms of Missouri law, all drivers are required to carry some kind of liability insurance coverage - in fact, you can't license a vehicle or renew your plates unless you can show proof of insurance. The state minimum requirements are as follows:

642052_burned_car.jpg• $25,000 per person for bodily injury
• $50,000 per accident for bodily injury
• $10,000 per accident for property

However, here's a sobering fact: despite the requirements of state law, approximately 14% of Missouri drivers don't have auto insurance. This is especially bad news for those motorists who are unlucky enough to be involved in collisions with these drivers. The Office of the State Auditor of Missouri reports that uninsured motorists cost insured drivers an estimated $90 million dollars annually.

For this reason, Missouri drivers are also required to carry uninsured motorist coverage, with a minimum limit of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident for bodily injury. Policy holders can add increased uninsured motorist coverage, which provides additional protection.

Who is an uninsured motorist?

• A motorist with no insurance
• A hit and run driver, or a driver who is otherwise unidentifiable

Note: If a motorist has auto insurance coverage, but the policy does not provide sufficient funding to cover your losses and damages, he or she is considered an underinsured motorist. Damages exceeding the underinsured driver's coverage limits can be paid by your own underinsured motorist coverage, but there is no statutory requirement that compels Missouri drivers to carry this insurance.

Why do I need uninsured motorist coverage in Missouri?

Many drivers don't understand why they are required to have this kind of insurance, and how it works to protect them. Uninsured motorist coverage can cover your wage loss, medical care, and property damage if you are injured by a driver who either doesn't have insurance, or by a hit and run driver who cannot be identified.

When does my uninsured motorist coverage kick in?

Missouri courts have established the following criteria for drivers who wish to file uninsured motorist claims against their own insurance companies:

(1) the insured incurred bodily injuries; (2) the injuries occurred as a result of an accident with an underinsured motorist; (3) the insured is "legally entitled" to collect from the owner of the underinsured vehicle; and (4) the limits of all applicable policies [are] exhausted by payment or settlement. [State ex rel. Shelton v. Mummert, 879 S.W.2d 525, 528 (Mo. banc 1994)]

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The problem of distracted driving: Is there an app for that?

August 15, 2012

file0001482309685.jpgDistracted driving accidents continue to plague roadways in Missouri and throughout the country. An auto accident involving distraction happens about every 24 seconds, according to the National Safety Council. This year alone, American drivers using cell phones to talk or text have caused over 800,000 crashes. Here are just a few of the many distracted driving news items we've seen in 2012:

• This week, police in Edmonton, Canada observed a man texting while riding a motorcycle. When they attempted to stop the vehicle, the motorcyclist attempted to flee, but he lost control of the bike and struck an oncoming vehicle. The rider then left the scene on foot, but law enforcement officials were able to locate him quickly: after all, he left his wrecked bike behind. He now faces multiple criminal charges in connection with the incident.

• A 24 year-old Iowa woman was recently sentenced to five years in prison for causing a serious injury accident while texting: she crossed the center line and struck a motorcycle. The rider lost her left leg as a result of the crash.

• A Washington teen was nearly impaled after he ran off the road while texting and crashed into a fence. A fence post speared his windshield: "it nearly took his head off," said a state trooper at the scene. The 18 year-old man suffered facial lacerations.

• Moments before he drove into a ravine, a 21 year-old Texas man sent the following text message: "I need to quit texting, because I could die in a car accident." He survived, but suffered a punctured right lung, numerous facial fractures, a severe skull fracture, and bleeding of the brain. "He had to learn everything over again," his mother told NBC News. "He had to learn to speak with proper voice inflection. He had to learn how to convey emotion. Prior to the accident, he was an extremely intelligent child. He painted, he played music, he was a math whiz."

Distracted driving has proven to be especially deadly for teens, who already lead other age groups in terms of accident risks. In June, federal statistics revealed that 58% of high school seniors admitted to texting or sending emails while they're behind the wheel. What's more, distracted driving is the leading contributing factor in fatal accidents involving young drivers: it accounts for approximately 16% of teen traffic deaths.

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"Distracted walking" now causing increased injury risk to pedestrians

604772_traffic_sign.jpgThough it remains an epidemic problem, most people know that distracted driving is a serious threat to roadway safety. After all, distracted driving car accidents - and the legal penalties associated with such accidents - often receive a great deal of media attention. However, distraction is proving to increase injury risks for another kind of traveler: the pedestrian. It may seem hard to believe, but a growing number of pedestrians have suffered injuries caused by "distracted walking." Within the last seven years, reports of such injuries have quadrupled, with pedestrians reportedly walking off train platforms, falling off piers, and strolling into oncoming traffic:

Evidence of the distracted walking problem can be found on busy city streets throughout the country. More and more people are regularly using electronic devices while walking - which means that many pedestrians are focused on these devices instead of being attentive to what's going on around them. When crossing the street in heavy traffic, such inattention can be deadly.

Since 2010, pedestrian fatalities have increased by 4.2% and injuries by 19%, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It's impossible to determine exactly how much of that increase is related to distraction, because law enforcement agencies often don't collect that kind of information from pedestrians. However, data submitted to the Consumer Product Safety Commission reveals that emergency rooms have treated at least 1,152 people for distracted walking injuries within the last year. In fact, it's likely that the actual number is considerably higher: here again, patients may fail to mention that distraction played a role in an injury, and even if they do, emergency room professionals don't always include that detail in medical reports.

Because distracted walking has become such a prevalent issue, several states are attempting to pass laws that prohibit the use of electronic devices while walking. For example, the Utah Transit Authority tried to implement on ordinance banning pedestrians from using "cellphones, headphones or other distracting electronic devices while crossing the tracks of its light rail system on the streets of Salt Lake City." If caught violating this ordinance, offenders faced a $50 fine. However, the ordinance failed to pass the Utah Legislature. Other states (such as Arkansas, Illinois, and New York) have drafted distracted walking bills, but none have passed into law.

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