Personal Injury Lawyers

Baltimore Car-Sharing Motorists at Risk

Car sharing services have become increasingly popular in Baltimore, Ellicott City, Clarksville and surrounding areas. The prevalence of these services exists because drivers can make money by offering rides and passengers can find affordable and convenient transportation. While this may seem like a great system, a personal injury lawyer knows that there are some significant risks for those using a car sharing service.taxi-bubble-sign-1442111-m

Liability Issues with Car Sharing

Both passengers and drivers face big risks when they participate in ride or car sharing services like Lyft or Uber. Drivers are at risk of being sued if they cause a crash, for which they may not have adequate insurance coverage. Passengers are at risk of getting hurt in a collision and not being able to find an appropriate defendant to take legal action against in order to recover full compensation.

Forbes recently took a close look at who can be held legally liable after an accident happens when a driver is operating his vehicle as a de facto taxi. The companies that facilitate this process are generally going to be immune from liability.

These companies typically work by providing an app that people download. The app then connects passengers with drivers. The car sharing company does not employ the drivers, and it is not responsible for the driver’s actions. Instead, the drivers are independent contractors. Further, the car sharing company will typically make passengers sign a release of liability promising not to hold the company accountable if a problem happens or something goes wrong.

Because of the liability release and the fact that the driver is not an employee, passengers are not able to pursue a damage claim against the company after a crash. In most cases, neither are other motorists, pedestrians or bicycle riders who may be harmed by a careless car-sharing driver. Not only does the independent contractor relationship protect the company, but the Communications Decency Act may provide protection as well. The car sharing companies claim to provide an informational service only, and are thus not accountable for what the individual drivers do.

If the company cannot have a claim made against it when a driver is careless, pursuing a case against the driver is typically going to be the only option for injured victims. Sometimes, however, the driver does not have insurance coverage for the crash or the coverage is insufficient.

Many private insurance companies, including State Farm, have declined to provide auto insurance coverage for ride sharing services. Geico also will not cover motorists who drive for these types of services. SF Gate recently reported on leaked memos showing that Geico is very strict with making sure no coverage is provided. Geico staff members are instructed to group reject people who will be participating in car sharing. The leaked documents also contain a script that Geico staff should use to explain to policyholders that they’ll need to get a different policy unless they can prove that they are no longer driving for Uber or any other related services.

The limitations on liability and restrictions on insurance coverage can put victims of crashes with car sharing drivers in a difficult position when it comes to recovering compensation for loss.

Accident lawyers in Baltimore, MD can help if you have been injured in an accident. Contact the Mike Slocumb Law Firm at 1-800-HURTLINE or visit http://www.slocumblaw.com. Serving Baltimore, Ellicott City, Clarksville and surrounding areas.

Snowy Driving Increases Teen Accident Risks in Baltimore

Winter is coming to Baltimore, Ellicott City, Clarksville and surrounding areas and this is bad news for drivers as the risk of a crash increases significantly when there is snow on the ground. While all drivers are at greater risk of getting into an accident when there is ice on the roads, teen drivers especially face significant dangers of getting into a traffic collision. winter-in-poland-1445158-1-m

A personal injury lawyer knows that teens are always more likely to become involved in a collision than older drivers. During the winter months, this risk is exacerbated. As the weather gets colder and the storms start brewing, now is the time for parents to talk to their kids about safe winter driving.

Helping Teens Avoid Winter Driving Collisions

Teenagers who get their license are at the greater risk of getting into a crash during their first six months of driving. According to Drive Steady, the risk of a crash during the first year of having a license is 10 times greater for a teen than for a more experienced driver who has had a license for longer. Many factors contribute to the higher risk of teen collisions, including inexperience; an inability to recognize hazards and respond appropriately; and overconfidence in driving abilities. All of these are big issues during the winter when teens may think they can handle snow and ice but really may make wrong choices that could directly lead to an accident.

Parents can help to mitigate the risk by taking some basic steps. Brand Connection has suggested a few things that parents can do to try to help their kids stay safe as they go into their first winter as licensed drivers. Parents should:

  • Get in some snowy driving practice. When there is snow or ice on the ground for the first time, parents should go with their kids to a parking lot where there is a lot of space. Parents can have their kids spin the car out in order to learn how to get back into control of the vehicle when it is sliding. parents can also go over safe braking and how to recognize when there is black ice on the ground.
  • Limit the time that kids drive when there is snow and ice. Sometimes, teens have to drive even if the weather is bad. When the trip is not absolutely necessary, though, parents should just say no to getting behind the wheel if there is ice on the ground or a storm predicted. Kids can wait to take non-essential trips until after the roads have been cleared.
  • Enroll their sons or daughters in a class designed to teach winter driving skills. Such classes are frequently offered at schools and as part of local driving education programs.

Car accidents remain a leading cause of fatalities for teens. By taking some extra precautions as bad weather arrives, parents may be able to reduce the chances that their sons or daughters will become involved in a collision during the cold weather months.

Accident lawyers in Baltimore, MD can help if you have been injured in an accident. Contact the Mike Slocumb Law Firm at 1-800-HURTLINE or visit http://www.slocumblaw.com.  Serving Baltimore, Ellicott City, Clarksville and surrounding areas.

Baltimore Crash Risk Slashed by Avoiding Distraction

While most motorists know it is dangerous to use phones or other electronics when they should be focusing on the road, drivers continue to reach for their phones.

Some drivers also use voice control systems under the mistaken belief it will be safer if they keep both hands on the wheel. a-car-key-with-lock-2-879310-m

In light of more new evidence regarding the dangers of distracted driving, it is more important than ever for every driver to simply commit to staying focused on the road. If a driver isn’t paying attention and causes a collision, a personal injury attorney can help victims whose lives are forever altered by the crash.

Drivers Should Never Focus on Anything Other Than the Road

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has published several new studies underscoring some of the high risks associated with driving while distracted. One focused on the use of hands-free or voice-controlled devices. That study found the use of these devices may not actually be safer and may, in fact, be more of a distraction as compared with the use of handheld phones.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) also published a comprehensive report about distracted driving risks. The report highlighted some of the dangers associated with phone use in the vehicle. For example, a driver who is reaching for a cell phone, dialing a phone or answering a call is at three times greater risk of a crash than someone who is not doing these things. When talking is factored in, a driver on a cell phone has a 17 percent greater risk of a collision.

Not only do drivers on phones have delayed reaction time, they also suffer from inattention blindness. Essentially, this means even when they see objects or obstacles on the road, their brains do not process them because their focus is on their phone call or manipulation of electronic devices. Drivers are not nearly as effective at multi-tasking as they may believe.

While IIHS did review the risks of distracted driving, the National Safety Council (NSC) interpreted the IIHS rather critically, finding it downplayed the true extent of the danger. One point made by the NSC was IIHS reported 12 percent of crashes in 2012 involved distracted driving. In reality, that number is likely higher, the NSC argues, because many people who are involved in accidents do not tell law enforcement they were using their phones. Because “distraction” is not easily proved by investigators, it’s less likely to make it onto an official report, which means it’s vastly under-reported – a fact IIHS failed to note.

Another problem was the IIHS assertion that during the same time period as the number of texting drivers increased, the number of traffic accident deaths declined. This could be interpreted to mean texting has not had a big impact on the number of collissions. The reality is the death toll has gone down because of improved safety features – not because texting isn’t deadly.

With every new study confirming that driving distracted is dangerous, drivers need to make a new commitment that they truly will be serious about preventing distracted driving crashes by staying 100 percent focused on the road ahead.

Accident lawyers in Baltimore, MD can help if you have been injured in an accident. Contact the Mike Slocumb Law Firm at 1-800-HURTLINE or visit http://www.slocumblaw.com.  

Daylight Savings End Increases Risk of Baltimore Crashes

In discussing the issue of daylight savings time, a University of Washington professor who studies the subject indicated that, “Darkness kills and sunlight saves lives.”

According to Time Magazine, this concept is the crux of an argument that daylight savings time, which allows for daylight well into the evening, should not be ended but should be carried through during the entire year. clock

Although there are arguments for not changing the clocks, the fact is that daylight savings time does currently end in November and the clocks have recently been changed. A personal injury lawyer knows this is a time of year when there is a greater risk of accidents on the road as a result of the fact that it now gets darker sooner. Drivers need to be aware of the impact that daylight savings time has on road safety and should adjust their driving behavior to ensure they are making safe choices.

Why Daylight Savings Time Can Be Dangerous

It is unquestionably clear that the roads are safer when it is brighter out because drivers can see pedestrians, motorcycle riders, bicycle riders and other vehicles more clearly. When it is dark, it is much harder to identify others on the road. This is especially dangerous for pedestrians and bike riders since they don’t have bright lights to alert motorists to their presence.

When daylight savings time ends, there is an extra hour of sun in the morning, but it gets dark earlier. Those who believe daylight savings time should be in effect perpetually throughout the year argue that there are more people out at 5 p.m. than there are out at 7 a.m. Since most people are awake in the afternoon, it would be better for it to be brighter at this time and darker in the morning.

There is evidence that supports this argument. A study conducted in 2004 indicated 170 pedestrian deaths and 200 deaths of motor vehicle occupants could be prevented if daylight savings time did not end, but stayed in effect throughout the year.

Reduced visibility is especially a problem because the clocks suddenly change on a Sunday and drivers are expected to adjust immediately by the time they go to work the next day. People don’t adjust that quickly in reality, and as a result, many drivers will drive too fast and operate their vehicles as if it was light out on their commute home, even though it’s darker.

Although these are valid concerns, there are also safety advocates who argue that it is better for the extra light to be in the morning. In particular, the National Parent Teacher Association and other child safety advocates believe  it is important for it to be light when kids commute to school in the morning. The National PTA opposed proposals to shift daylight savings into March instead of April for this reason.

The fact is, no matter when it gets dark, drivers need to be aware that it is more dangerous to be on the roads when it is not light out. If drivers slow down and pay careful attention to pedestrians, hopefully fewer collisions will occur now that the clocks have changed.

Accident lawyers in Baltimore, MD can help if you have been injured in an accident. Contact the Mike Slocumb Law Firm at 1-800-HURTLINE or visit http://www.slocumblaw.com.