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Springfield car accidents can cause both physical and emotional injuries

August 12, 2014

file0002062790027.jpgFor most of us, getting behind the wheel is the riskiest thing we do all day. As Missouri personal injury lawyers, we know auto accidents are one of the leading causes of death in the United States. However, the general public doesn't always recognize how dangerous driving can be. Because crashes are scattered throughout the country, many of us lose sight of how many accidents occur on a daily basis: nationwide, an average of 18,000 car crashes happen throughout the U.S. every single day.

If you've ever been involved in a serious accident, you know the experience can be nightmarish. What's more, in addition to the physical consequences that accompany car crash injuries, research has shown that motorists may experience mental consequences as well. Traumatic accidents can cause symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Although PTSD is most often associated with the horrors of combat, millions of Americans suffer from this mental disease, which can be brought on by a number of different causes: many Americans report PTSD symptoms after living through auto accidents, house fires and natural disasters.

Of course, it's natural to feel nervous, afraid and upset after an accident. In fact, most people do. It's good to have a healthy fear of the road, but too much fear can actually put a driver in danger. To help overcome feelings of anxiety about driving, start slow. Start by just sitting in the driver's seat and simply starting the engine. Then, step by step, try to work your way up to taking a short drive. As you become more comfortable behind the wheel, extend the length of your driving time. Remember to push yourself, but not too far. Take small steps. Over time, driving will become easier, and fear and panic will subside.

However, there's an important distinction between normal feelings of uneasiness and fear and PTSD symptoms. reports that "strong feelings that stay with a person for a long time and start to get in the way of everyday life are signs of [PTSD]." For most car accident victims, the symptoms subside as time passes, but those afflicted with PTSD experience fear and panic that seems overwhelming and never-ending.

Here are some common indications of PTSD following an auto accident:

1) An ongoing feeling of general uneasiness, especially when driving or riding in a vehicle
2) Irritability, excessive worry and/or anger
3) Persistent nightmares or sleeping problems
4) Persistent memories from the accident that you can't control
5) Fainting, or feelings of dizziness and nausea
6) Chest pains
7) Excessive sweating
8) Inability to breathe and/or the feeling of a dry, closed throat
9) The lack of clear vision or hearing

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Safe driving in severe weather: Tips for Springfield, Missouri drivers

file000290552615_tornado.jpgSummer weather is moving in here in the Ozarks, causing drastic changes in air temperatures and creating the ideal atmosphere to produce tornadoes. Our Springfield personal injury lawyers want to offer area drivers a few helpful safety tips, just in case you find yourself faced with one of these unexpected natural disasters.

Tornadoes are unpredictable storms that can produce extremely dangerous conditions in a matter of moments. Because severe storms can develop quickly, it's important to act with safety and caution whenever tornadic conditions occur while you're on the road. Of course, it's always best to avoid driving when severe storm warnings have been issued, but it's essential to follow certain safety protocol if you happen to be on the road while a storm or tornado hits.

First, always be on the lookout for signs of dangerous weather approaching. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), motorists should immediately seek shelter whenever there is a dark or green-colored sky; a large, dark, or low-lying cloud; large hail; and/or a loud roar similar to a train. All of these conditions suggest a tornado or large storm may be developing. When these conditions are present, immediately tune in to a local radio station or news outlet to check for warnings and watches in your area.

Again, if possible, stay off the road when there are signs of severe weather nearby. However, if you're already on the road when severe weather develops, don't try and outrun the storm or tornado. Strong winds can push or pick up a moving car, which can cause life-threatening injuries to motor vehicle occupants. Depending on the specific circumstances, there are several actions you can take to protect yourself, including the following:

Try and seek shelter in a sturdy building nearby. The best place to be is on the lowest level of the building, away from any windows.

If there is nowhere to seek shelter indoors, stop your vehicle and leave it running, if possible. Keep your seatbelt on and lower your head below the windows of your car. Then, cover your head with your hands or a blanket. Once the storm has passed, the Red Cross recommends that you collect yourself and evaluate your surroundings. If there is no debris flying around, check yourself and your passengers for injuries, and call for emergency assistance if needed.

Leave your car if you can get lower than the roadway. Most Missouri drivers are familiar with this familiar tornado safety tip: leave your vehicle and lie in a ditch with your hands over your head. However, in recent years, the Red Cross has changed its recommendation in response to new research, which "found that a relatively small percentage of vehicles are overturned, tossed, and demolished in tornadoes." However, if you feel more comfortable following the long-time safety rule, the Red Cross suggests getting far enough from the car that it will not potentially tumble onto you. Also, it is very important to cover your head to protect from as much debris as possible. (To learn more about both sides of the "Cars vs. Ditches" argument, click here.)

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Prepare for Missouri boating season: Take a boating safety course

866863_seattle_boating.jpgThankfully, warmer temperatures have made their way back to the Ozarks this week, and it won't be long before boating season is upon us once again! To promote safe boating and help prevent boating accidents, Missouri law requires certain individuals to pass a state-approved boating education course before hitting the water.

These individuals include:

• Operators who were born after January 1, 1984.

• Operators who have been convicted of certain boating offenses, which include boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs, negligent operation of a vessel, leaving the scene of an accident, and failing to yield to an emergency watercraft. Click here for more information.

Boating safety certification courses: What Missouri boaters need to know

• You are required to pre-register online in order to take a course. Courses have a maximum size and may also be cancelled if there is not sufficient interest. Click here to pre-register, or to view a complete list of boating safety classes offered throughout the state.

• You must be present at the course in order to receive certification.

• The course is free. If you pass, you can order a boating safety certification card for $15.

• There is also an online boating safety course available, which is approved by the Highway Patrol. Click here for more information.

Boating accidents: The statistics

• According to the U.S. Coast Guard, there were 4,588 boating accidents nationwide in 2011. These accidents caused 758 deaths, over 3,000 injuries, and $52 million in costs associated with property damage.

• Here in Missouri, the Patrol says 19 people were killed and 86 people were injured in 2011 boating accidents.

• Of 2011 boating accident deaths nationwide, 70% drowned, and of that number, 84% were not wearing life jackets.

• Only 11% of boating accident fatalities nationwide occurred on boats where the operator had received boating safety training.

• The Coast Guard reports that the top five contributing factors in boating accidents are as follows: operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed and equipment failure.

Here at Aaron Sachs and Associates, we encourage you to make safety a priority when you're on the water this year. Happy boating!

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Man, pregnant wife & two children injured in Illinois car/train collision

September 9, 2012

10544_chicago_metra_speed.jpgA 20 year-old Illinois man is facing charges in connection with a collision between a car and a Metra train on Saturday night. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Pedro Bustamante has been cited for driving without a valid license, driving too fast for conditions, and operating an uninsured vehicle that caused bodily harm. Bustamante, his pregnant wife and their two young children were all injured in the collision.

The accident happened in Elgin, a Chicago suburb. Authorities say Bustamante was traveling south on Raymond Street when he approached a sharp curve in the road, where the street bends before reaching a railroad crossing. Instead of following the curve, Bustamante's Lincoln Continental ran off the road, hit a guardrail protecting the crossing's control box, and continued onto the tracks. It was then struck by the locomotive of an oncoming Metra train.

Bustamante's 14 month-old daughter was airlifted to Advocate Lutheran General Hospital with serious injuries, but her condition has since stabilized and she is expected to recover. The vehicle's other occupants - Bustamante; his wife, 19 year-old Brenda Ceja; and their 5 year-old son - were taken by ambulance to Provena Saint Joseph Hospital in Elgin. Bustamante and his son were treated and released, but Ceja, who is pregnant, remains hospitalized.

No one on board the train was injured. The train that struck the vehicle was delayed for about 90 minutes after the crash: it was damaged, but still operational. In contrast, Bustamante's Continental was completely destroyed. According to the Sun-Times, passengers on the train reported seeing "a dark blue 1997 Lincoln Continental with its entire engine-area torn off and the entire windshield spider-webbed with fracture marks; the car's engine, lying in the street about 20 feet away; and the car's transmission, lying in the street about 10 feet away from the engine."

Police suspect that weather conditions may have played a role in the crash, as it was dark and raining when the accident occurred. Alcohol is also believed to be a contributing factor, though Bustamante was not charged with driving while intoxicated. All of the charges against him are traffic-related misdemeanors.

The accident prompted two other minor incidents on Raymond Street. Immediately after the crash, another vehicle struck the wrecked Continental, but that driver was not injured and his vehicle only sustained minor damage. Then, after the family had been transported from the scene, a second vehicle collided with the wreckage, but no one in that vehicle was hurt.

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John Edwards Acquitted on 1 Felony Count, Mistrial Declared on Remaining 5 Charges

952313_gavel.jpgThis afternoon, the jury in the campaign finance trial of former presidential candidate John Edwards indicated that it had reached a verdict. However, they returned to court with a unanimous verdict on count three, only one of the six felony charges against Edwards. Within the hour, the jury announced that it was deadlocked on the remaining charges, and the case was officially declared a mistrial.

U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Eagles was understandably confused when the jurors revealed their position earlier today. "I was obviously under the impression you had reached a verdict on all six counts," Judge Eagles said in court, according to CBS News. She then instructed the jury to continue deliberating on the remaining counts without revealing the jury's decision on the third felony charge. The Hill's Blog Briefing Room reported that Edwards' defense team immediately lobbied for a mistrial, but Judge Eagles insisted the jury continue deliberating.

About 45 minutes later, the jury returned to court again and announced that it had acquitted Edwards on count three, which charged him with accepting and receiving illegal campaign contributions from heiress Rachel "Bunny" Mellon. However, it was not able to reach a unanimous decision on the other five charges, prompting Judge Eagles to officially declare a mistrial.

Edwards had pleaded not guilty to the six felony charges against him, which included four counts of receiving illegal campaign contributions, one count of conspiracy, and one count of making false statements. The charges are connected to approximately $925,000 in payments he received from two campaign donors, Mellon and Fred Baron, which were allegedly used to hide his affair - and his child -with Rielle Hunter, who was a videographer for his 2008 presidential campaign.

The jury, comprised of eight men and four women, was tasked with deciding if Edwards "knowingly and willfully" violated campaign finance laws by using the funds to cover up his relationship with Hunter. The defense argued that Edwards had committed many "moral wrongs," but that his behavior was not illegal. His attorneys maintained the funds were not campaign contributions, but gifts given to help him hide the affair from his wife, Elizabeth Edwards, who was terminally ill with breast cancer. Elizabeth died in December 2010.

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