If you haven’t been involved in a fender-bender, consider yourself fortunate. According to the latest data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2016, there were more than 7 million police-reported traffic crashes. More than 37,000 people died in these accidents, and more than 3 million people were injured.
Some of the most common car accident causes are preventable. These include:
- Not paying attention to other vehicles
- Failing to adapt to changing road conditions
- Following other vehicles too closely
- Ignoring blind spots
- Driving while impaired
- Allowing emotions like anger to influence unsafe driving behaviors
- Ignoring dangerous driving conditions
Defensive driving is the safest driving technique that requires that drivers stay alert and aware of their surroundings and adapt accordingly. Using defensive driving strategies helps drivers avoid problems unsafe drivers or road conditions can cause.
As we’ve learned in the cases that we’ve helped clients earn more than $800 million in settlements from, when it comes to driving, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Here are some defensive driving strategies you can use to avoid a costly accident – not just in terms of money, but in terms of human safety.
1. Focus on Driving
Don’t text, don’t look down at your phone, and don’t turn around to talk to the passenger in the back seat. Don’t eat food or apply makeup while driving.
Keep your eyes focused on the road and changing traffic conditions. Observe speed limit changes, the state of the road and any obstacles, traffic controls and cars in front of, behind and next to you.
2. Make Safety the Top Priority
You may encounter unsafe driving behaviors that tempt you to react unsafely, as well. For example, if someone is tailgating you on a freeway, you may want to speed up to create some distance, but that just makes you speed, as well.
If another driver is swerving, following you too closely, changing speeds erratically or driving in another way that is unsafe, don’t react – avoid the driver and move away from them.
3. Assume the Worst
You may be an impeccable driver, but you can’t count on other drivers to be as safe as you. That’s why you should always follow all traffic laws, which are in place to keep motorists safe.
In addition to paying attention to unsafe driving behaviors that are happening, you should take extra precaution while driving in case something dangerous happens unexpectedly. Be sure to:
Leave at least one car length in front of you and the next driver in front of you for every 10 miles per hour you are driving, in case the driver stops suddenly or decreases speed for some reason.
Drive the speed limit.
If you need to change lanes, do so early and check your blind spots before merging, so you can avoid a driver speeding up and preventing you from doing so safely.
Use turn signals and obey all traffic controls.
Even if you have the right of way, yield for drivers when it appears they won’t yield for you. Remember that some reckless drivers will run red lights or fail to let you pass in front of them.
Constantly scan your surroundings to identify any unsafe behaviors you want to avoid. Don’t just look directly in front of you. Be aware of conditions down the road to anticipate how to react to them.
4. Never Drive While Impaired
Alcohol, illegal drugs and even some prescription drugs can all impair your ability to drive alertly. Follow all directions to avoid driving after taking certain prescription drugs. Never drive while intoxicated, because that will slow down your reaction time.
You should also avoid driving while sleepy. As we’ve covered, drowsy driving is a significant hazard to you and other motorists.
Avoid driving while your emotions are heightened, as well. Anger could cause you to drive aggressively, while even a positive emotion like euphoria could make you feel more confident in using reckless driving behaviors.
5. Maintain Your Car
Finally, one of the easiest ways to increase the safety of your driving is to make sure your car is in perfect working condition. A car that breaks down in the middle of the freeway can cause car accidents. If your windshield wipers don’t work, and it starts raining, your visibility will suffer. Proper car maintenance goes hand-in-hand with safe driving behaviors.
Are You a Victim of Someone’s Unsafe Driving?
If another driver’s aggressive or unsafe driving habits caused a car accident where you were seriously injured due to their negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact the Birmingham car accident attorney team at Pittman, Dutton & Hellums for a free car accident consultation.
Business owners who are hosting holiday parties for their employees must consider one serious factor when planning: alcohol. Employees who get drunk at a party might drive off and get into an accident. You don’t want to face a lawsuit from an employee or someone they hurt, and you definitely want to keep your employees safe and sound after any work party where alcohol is served.
Excessive alcohol use contributes to more than 88,000 deaths a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With Christmas right around the corner, if you plan on serving alcohol at your work holiday party, read this guide to help employees stay safe and prevent drunk driving after holiday parties.
1. Set Guidelines Before the Party
If you’re going to serve alcohol at a holiday party, let employees know beforehand. This way, they can plan for transportation to and from the event.
Make it clear that the party is not about drinking. Highlight all the non-alcohol entertainment you’ll have at the party, whether it’s games, food, music or dancing. This can help to lessen any pressure employees may feel to drink, and make the purpose of the party one that’s not about alcohol.
State consequences for employees who engage in destructive behavior because of drinking. You may want to add these to your employee handbook and outline that:
Your business is not responsible for damage an intoxicated employee causes to any property.
Your business will enforce punishments for inappropriate behavior, whether a work event is held on-site or not.
Employees are responsible for their behavior at all times.
You may even want to create a written contract to hand out to employees before they attend, where they agree that they are responsible for their actions, even when fueled by alcohol. This can discourage excessive drinking.
2. Prevent Over-Indulgence
One way to avoid over-serving employees alcohol is to employ trained bartenders at your event and instruct them to not serve alcohol to anyone who is visibly intoxicated, or host the event at an establishment with a liquor license.
You may also consider handing out a set number of free drink tickets for the night, like one or two per person. Forcing employees to pay a cash bar for additional drinks may discourage them from drinking too much.
Serving mixed drinks, like holiday punch, or drinks that are made with various types of liquor, can make keeping track of how much you’ve imbibed more difficult. You may want to just serve beer or wine, so it is easier for employees and their guests to track how many drinks they’ve had throughout the night.
You should also serve food at any event where alcohol is served. This can help to give employees a non-drinking activity to participate in (eating), and help to prevent employees from getting drunk as quickly as they would on an empty stomach.
3. Provide Easy Access to Transportation
Ideally, you’ll host a holiday party close to public transportation. If not, you could partner with a ride-sharing service to provide holiday party ride codes to employees, so they have a free ride home if they’re intoxicated.
Think about how much each of your employees is worth, and what kind of hit your business will experience if you lost one due to an injury or even death. Adding free rides to your holiday budget, whether it’s a party bus or ride-sharing credits, can keep everyone safe. At the very least, have the numbers of local taxi cab companies available for attendees to call.
You could also host a party near a hotel, so that attendees have a place to stay afterward without having to worry about driving home.
4. Get Extra Protection
At any event where you’ll be mixing alcohol with employees, you might want to get extra insurance to protect you. You may face the risk of being sued by a victim of an employee who drives while drunk, so covering your bases with insurance and signed contracts by party attendees may help protect you.
Also, make sure you have some party attendees who agree to be sober drivers for the night. These people can be the ones to do last-minute errand runs or trips to get an item that is running low or has run out of stock. You might also consider offering a bonus to employees who volunteer to be sober designated drivers for their coworkers, so that there are lots of sober driving options available.
Host a Safe Holiday Party This Season
At Pittman, Dutton & Hellums, we wish you, your business and your employees a very merry holiday season. Make employee safety a priority at any event where alcohol is served, so you protect employees and your business.
Driving in a zone where there are human beings working requires extra care and vigilance. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, in the past 5 years, 4,400 people have died in work zone crashes – and 85 percent of those were passengers or drivers.
Work zones don’t just put you at risk as a driver. Not paying attention or driving dangerously puts construction workers at risk. Your negligence could seriously injure or even kill a worker, which could result in a personal injury lawsuit brought against you. Use these tips to stay safe and avoid harming those around you.
1. Follow All Signage
When you’re approaching a work zone, there should be ample signage alerting you about entering a work zone and providing directions for how to safely navigate one. Usually, work zone signs are orange and/or diamond-shaped. Some common work zone signs you might encounter are:
- Road work ahead
- Traffic traveling in both directions
- Lane is ending and requires merging
- Flagger ahead – a flagger is a work zone worker
- End of work zone
- Speed limit change
- Fines double
You may encounter completely different directions for work zone driving within just a minute or two. Roads and navigation may change completely, sometimes turning one-way roads into two-way traffic. Pay attention to all signs, and make sure you’re obeying each one as you drive.
2. Be Aware of Sudden Changes
“Expect the unexpected” is a wise mantra for driving through work zones. Because there are likely to be construction equipment and a multitude of workers and work vehicles in a work zone, these elements may enter your lane without warning or cause a change to your driving directions in an instant.
Pay attention to humans entering a work zone, as well as other vehicles changing lanes or stopping or slowing unexpectedly. Because sudden changes may occur, it’s a good idea to drive no faster than the speed limit that is posted.
3. Comply with Directions
As mentioned, in addition to the signage that is posted, flaggers may enter the road to give additional directions. These flaggers will most likely be wearing reflective construction garb or a uniform in neon colors, as well as a hard hat. They’ll likely be carrying actual flags to point vehicles in the direction they want them to go, or to stop vehicles.
Roll down your window in case the flagger attempts to communicate with you. Follow the direction of the flagger if it conflicts with something a sign has posted. The flagger has the most relevant directions based on what the work zone team needs to accomplish at that moment.
4. Give Plenty of Room
Because there can be sudden changes or flaggers amending driving directions, allow for plenty of room between your vehicle and the one in front of you – at least two car lengths is a good amount. The car in front of you may need to stop suddenly, or a work zone vehicle may enter your lane, or you may need to come to a stop to pay attention to a flagger. Without ample room, you could ram into the vehicle in front of you and set off a dangerous chain of events.
As soon as you see the first “road work ahead” construction sign, start to slow down, and increase the distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. If you need to change lanes, make sure there is also plenty of room to do so before moving.
5. Don’t Drive Distractedly
As we’ve covered, driving distractedly is one of the most dangerous forms of driving behaviors. Add work zone equipment and workers to the mix, and the likelihood of harming someone or another vehicle increases. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, not looking at the road for more than 2 seconds doubles crash risk.
You should never attempt to do anything else besides driving while you are behind the wheel. In work zones, this is even more important, since someone could walk into the road or change the driving directions in an instant. Put down your phone, keep both hands on the wheel, and make sure your eyes are only on what’s in front of you when driving through a work zone.
6. Have a Positive Attitude
Road rage is a major risk factor for vehicle accidents, motorists, passengers, pedestrians and construction workers. According to the Insurance Information Institute, aggressive driving plays a role in more than half of fatal crashes. When you’re about to enter a work zone, take a deep breath, stay calm, and be grateful for the beautiful new roads those workers are helping to create and maintain.
Don’t get angry at slow drivers, or at workers for doing their job. Be patient and rational. Follow all driving laws, and don’t let a bad attitude turn into a deadly driving situation.
If you neglect to follow work zone signs and directions from flaggers, you are putting yourself and others at risk. Your negligence could result in someone else getting seriously hurt or dying. You could also make yourself vulnerable to a personal injury lawsuit. Next time you see a construction zone, make safety your top priority.
According to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Transportation, there were nearly 6.3 million car crashes in the United States in 2015, a number that was the highest it had been in more than 10 years. Out of those crashes, there were 32,166 fatalities and more than 1.7 million injuries. Nearly one in three car crashes will result in a serious injury or fatality. If you drive, you should be prepared to take steps to protect yourself if you are in a car crash, and that includes gathering the proper records and evidence in case you decide to pursue a car accident claim.
If you were in a car accident caused by the negligence of another party, and you pursue a car insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit against them, the success of your claim or lawsuit will depend on your ability to prove fault and the extent of your damages. Having proper paperwork helps your case.
Car accidents can be jarring and stressful. Make sure you keep these records so that you have peace of mind you have all the documents you need, should you decide to pursue legal action if the negligence of another made you a car accident victim.
1. Police Report
If you’re seriously injured in a car accident, it’s always a good idea to call 911. Police can file a formal report of the scene of the accident, as well as interview witnesses and the other parties involved. A police report is a document that holds major clout in the eyes of insurance companies and in court.
When talking with police, be honest about what happened, but do not make statements that place fault or blame on you if you are a victim. In the stress of the car accident environment, sometimes victims offer an apology, even when they did nothing wrong. Don’t do this.
As you talk to police, be sure to point out:
- Any traffic violations the other party carried out
- Any suspicious behavior you observe in the other party, such as the smell of alcohol or marijuana
- Anything the other party said, such as admitting guilt
If there are witnesses of the car accident, ask them to stay at the scene until police arrive, so police can question them, as well. At the very least, ask for the name, driver’s license number and phone number/email address of witnesses, so they can be contacted for statements later.
Get a copy of the police report by contacting the police department that came to the scene. Give your name and the names of any other drivers involved, as well as the name/badge number of the officer who came to the scene, and the date and location of the accident. You’ll want to take note of all this information at the accident scene.
2. Car Accident Evidence
In addition to the police report, it’s helpful to document your own evidence of the car accident. Shoot photos or videos of the damage to your car, as well as damage to any other vehicles involved. If property was harmed in the accident, take photos and videos of that. If there are signs of a car accident like skid marks, take photos of those, too.
You can also document any physical injuries to you or other passengers. If you hear questionable statements from any party, write them down in addition to telling police about them. If your injuries prevent you from gathering evidence at the car accident scene, ask someone for help in doing so, including from police.
After the accident, you may also want to contact businesses close by, who may have had video surveillance and footage of the accident. A video of the accident while it occurred can be extremely helpful.
3. Medical Records
It’s essential to keep all records of medical treatment you receive. It’s helpful to create a binder dedicated to housing all records from your car accident, so you have everything organized in one place. Make sure to keep all your bills in addition to treatment documents. Treatment documents include treatments received, diagnoses, prescribed medications and any other files that contain medical recommendations.
Your medical treatments may last months or more. Gather records that range from emergency medical services you receive at the scene of the accident, all the way to physical therapy that occurs weeks or months after the accident. Verbally request these at your appointments, or call the medical/billing department at your healthcare provider to obtain them.
4. Lost Wages Proof
If you have to miss time off work due to your injury, you’ll want to quantify how much money you’ve lost by showing proof of income. To do this, gather any pay stubs and/or tips records that show your income.
If you receive any documentation from your employer, keep those records, too. If your injury prevents you from returning to work altogether, keep any documentation that shows those losses.
5. Vehicle Repairs and Damage
As you get your vehicle repaired after the accident, keep all records documenting repair work. If your vehicle was totaled, you’ll want to get documentation that shows the estimated value of your car before it was destroyed. If your vehicle was towed away from the scene, contact the towing company and ask them to keep the vehicle intact until it can be examined and documented.
You can consult with several auto body repair shops to get an accurate estimate of damages. Your car insurance company will likely play a prominent role in assessing damages, as well, so retain all documents sent from them.
6. Personal Account
Because you may not file a claim or lawsuit until well after the car accident has occurred, the more details you can remember and have access to, the better. Keep in mind, though, that the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit in Alabama is two years, which means you must file a lawsuit within two years of your accident.
To keep the details of your accident fresh in your mind, keep an accident journal. This will help especially when you provide testimony in your case. It will also be of great assistance to your legal team.
Begin your journal on the day of your accident. In your journal, document everything that happened at the scene of the accident and how your injuries progress. Also, note vehicle repair chronology. A journal can help you see how the severity of the accident impacts your life, from the medical treatment you have to receive, to how it affects your work. Make sure to date each entry and write about how you’re feeling physically, mentally and emotionally.
Contact a Birmingham Car Accident Lawyer for Help
If you are a car accident victim, the Birmingham car accident attorney team at Pittman, Dutton & Hellums can help. We offer no-obligation, free consultations and will only take on your case if we believe we can win. You don’t pay unless your case is successful.
If you’ve compiled records like those mentioned, those are helpful in how we determine what your case is worth. Contact us for a free consultation today.
Vehicles are driving more miles in the United States, and that means the risk of car accidents is higher, too. According to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of vehicle miles traveled on U.S. roads in 2016 increased 2.2 percent year-over-year, and the fatality rate increased 2.6 percent.
If you’ve been in a car accident and feel fine afterward, you may be tempted to assume you have zero injuries and that the accident was minor. Unfortunately, you may have sustained serious injuries that just aren’t apparent yet. The shock or adrenaline you’re feeling after an accident may mask pain or injuries.
Delayed symptoms can lead to life-long ailments if they’re not treated. Ignoring the potential for injuries could also damage your chance of success if you decide to pursue a car accident lawsuit later. Here’s what to be aware of.
What Is Whiplash?
Whiplash in car accidents can cause serious bodily damage. According to Mayo Clinic, whiplash is a neck injury due to forceful and rapid back-and-forth neck movement, occurring most often during rear-end car accidents. Whiplash can cause chronic neck pain and life-long complications. If whiplash occurs in someone who has reduced mental or physical abilities, it can lead to increased social isolation.
The following are some signs that you’ve experienced an injury from a car accident, even if you experience any of these days or even weeks after the accident. If you can get medical help immediately after any car accident you’re in, that’s best to protect your health. But you should also be aware of these symptoms that may emerge later. Even if they seem minor, they could be indicators of serious problems.
Back pain can be a sign of whiplash, which can cause serious injuries like muscle damage and soft tissue injuries, pinched nerves, a herniated disc or a sprain. Watch out for tingling and numbness and any back pain that is more severe than you’ve experienced in the past.
Headaches and Dizziness
Headaches caused by car accidents may be a result of whiplash, concussion, a neck injury, a brain injury or a blood clot. Dizziness may occur due to neck instability or a concussion. You may also experience headaches or dizziness as a result of emotional stress from the accident, as serious as post-traumatic stress disorder.
Neck and Shoulder Pain
Neck and shoulder pains are a sign of whiplash and could also indicate a herniated disc or other spinal injury, or ligament sprains, muscle sprains or damage to nerves, joints or bones. Neck and shoulder pain may occur in isolated areas or may radiate down a shoulder to affect the entire arm and hand. Other delayed symptoms include neck stiffness or a reduction in range of motion.
Stomach pain can arise several days after an accident and indicate damage to internal soft tissues.
Bruises that develop or worsen in color over time may be an indication of internal bleeding.
Numbness and Tingling
Tingling and numbness may be signs of nerve damage, which can occur due to a herniated disc. Unusual sensations throughout the body should also be monitored. Any tingling, numbness or weakness that radiates throughout a body part, like an arm or shoulder, can be a serious sign.
A concussion or nerve damage can cause blurry vision or impaired vision.
Problems speaking, swallowing, yawning or chewing may be indicators of a jaw injury or injury to the esophagus or larynx.
Tinnitus is a ringing or buzzing in one or both ears that may occur from whiplash. Injuries like a brain injury, nerve or vascular damage, or jaw injury may cause tinnitus, too. Stress may be another cause of tinnitus.
Mental Health Issues
Lingering pain in the body may show up as a symptom when it affects mental health. Anger and increased irritability, sadness and depression, trouble concentrating, fatigue and sleep problems are all signs of mental health issues like post-traumatic stress that may be a result of the accident.
Stay Protected If Delayed Car Accident Symptoms Arise
Because many pain symptoms may occur after you leave the scene of a car accident, you should avoid saying anything like, “I feel fine,” right after an accident. In some cases, an admission of zero pain after an accident may hurt your ability to prove delayed pain was caused by an accident. Another attorney could claim your pain arose because of a factor not related to their client’s negligence.
You should also avoid signing a release of liability form right after an accident, and definitely not until you’ve seen a medical professional. The sooner you can get a medical consultation, the better protected you’ll be. Even if your doctor gives you a medical evaluation that is positive, you should still stay vigilant of the warning signs mentioned above and get further treatment if any occur.
Avoid settling a claim before you have reached “maximum medical improvement,” which means a condition has stabilized, and further improvement is unlikely. At this point, you’ll have an idea of the true scope of your injuries.
In any case where someone else’s negligence is to blame for a serious car accident you’re in, you should contact a Birmingham personal injury lawyer to stay protected. The Birmingham car accident attorney team at Pittman, Dutton & Hellums provides free no-risk consultations. Your health and finances deserve protection. Contact us for a free consultation.