Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Car Accidents Caused by Distracted Drivers: Types and Prevention

According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles,1 each year approximately 200 Floridians are killed, 3,000 suffer incapacitating injuries, and 10,600 to 32,000 suffer personal injuries as the result of “distracted driving.” In Florida, “distracted driving” is defined as a crash that occurs because a driver was doing one or more of the following:

  • Using an electronic communication device; 
  • Using another electronic device; 
  • Texting; 
  • Talking to passengers;
  • Eating/Drinking;
  • Reading;
  • Grooming; 
  • Adjusting the radio, 
  • External factors, such as witnessing an accident, and
  • General inattentiveness. 

Nationwide, the Center for Disease Control’s Injury Center2 reports that distracted driving causes nearly one in five motor vehicle crashes.

Categories of Distracted Driving

There are generally three categories of distracted driving:

  • Visual: When a driver’s eyes are not on the road at the time or immediately before the accident;
  • Manual: When a driver’s hands or feet lose contact with the steering wheel or pedals, and
  • Cognitive: When you are not focused on driving, i.e., daydreaming.

Although it seems difficult for the typical driver to image how another driver can lose manual control of the vehicle due to distraction, a 2015 survey3 reported that some drivers actually change clothes and brush their teeth behind the wheel!

Importantly, the reason why texting while driving is extremely dangerous is because it takes your eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, and mind off of driving all at the same time. This means you are visually, manually, and cognitively distracted, while many accidents are caused by only one of these categorizations. Unsurprisingly, drivers under the age of 20 have the highest rate of distraction-related fatal car crashes, the majority of which are attributed to texting and use of electronic devices. It was further reported that, when compared to European drivers, Americans had a higher rate of distracted driving incidents overall because they were more likely to be e-mailing, texting, or talking on a cell phone while driving.

Florida Distracted Driving Law

It is reported that distracted driving may be reduced if a state passes and enforces strong distracted driving laws, such as laws against texting and cell phone use while driving. Florida, however, has some of the weakest distracted driving laws in the nation. Under Florida law,4 texting while driving is illegal, but it is not punishable as a “primary” offense. This means that if you are stopped at a red light and a police officer sees you texting, you cannot be stopped for this alone. You must have committed another traffic offense, such as speeding, and a violation of the texting statute would be “secondary” to that offense.

Further, Florida does not have a ban on handheld devices, i.e., cell phone use, or a ban on cell phone use for drivers 18 and under. Florida is one of only a few states that permits drivers under the age of 18 to use their cell phone while driving, which can have a dangerous impact on Clearwater.

Crashes Caused by Distracted Driving

Although many car crashes are caused by a combination of factors, such as aggressive driving, distraction, and intoxication, certain accidents are more likely to be caused by a distracted driver. One such accident is a “rear-end” accident, which occurs when the front-end of your vehicle impacts the back-end of the vehicle in front of you. This is common if you are visually or cognitively distracted such that you do not realize the car in front of you has slowed or stopped before it is too late. Another type of distracted driving accident is an intersection accident, which is commonly caused when you miss traffic control devices such as stop signs and red lights and drive straight into oncoming traffic. This can result in you T-boning another vehicle, which is an extremely dangerous type of accident if it occurs while you are driving over 55 mph.  

How to Prevent Distracted Driving in Florida

Education about the dangers of distracted driving, especially for those under the age of 20, is the key to preventing many distracted driving accidents. It is speculated that if young drivers are presented with the statistical likelihood of suffering or causing a fatal or serious injury due to texting or cell phone use, it would decrease their likelihood of engaging in distracted behaviors. It is further speculated that stronger distracted driving laws and strict enforcement of those laws will also help to reduce distracted driving accidents.

While on the road you cannot always protect yourself from another driver’s negligence, especially if they are distracted, however, there are some tips for staying safe:

  • When stopped at an intersection, wait two seconds after the light turns green before proceeding. This will allow any drivers who might have speed-up to catch or missed the red light to pass.
  • When at a multi-way stop, never assume another vehicle is going to stop or give you right-of-way. Be sure that the other vehicle has come to a complete stop at the stop sign before proceeding.
  • If you witness a driver swerving or engaging in abnormal behavior, change lanes and put distance between yourself and the driver and/or report the driver to the police. 

Injured by a Distracted Driver in Clearwater? Contact an Experienced Florida Personal Injury Attorney Today

If you or a loved one has been injured due to the negligence or distraction of another driver, you are not alone. In this modern technological era where both navigational services and e-mail are available on your mobile phone, nearly 70% of drivers have admitted to using their device while operating a vehicle. Further, drivers under the age of 20 have been raised with this technology, and it is ingrained into most aspects of their lives.

The Dolman Law Group understands the challenges faced by Florida drivers in this modern era, especially when they are without the full protection of Florida law. We are your go-to personal injury firm for distracted driving accidents in Clearwater. With experience handling complex truck, car, and multi-car cases, our attorneys are here to ensure you get all of the compensation you deserve. Contact us today at (727) 451-6900 for a free, no-risk consultation.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765
(727) 451-6900

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Common Causes and Statistics Behind Commercial Truck Accidents

It is no secret that Americans love to buy things. We are constantly buying new electronics, kitchen gadgets, clothes, new and trendy food items, and home goods. If it’s for sale, Americans are buying it. 

In addition to material goods, Americans are consuming other materials at a high rate as well. Gas, oil, timber, coal, and metals are just some of the things that Americans consume in one way or another on a daily basis. But how do all these trillions of pounds of goods get to where they’re going? How does a TV end up on the supercenters’ shelves? How do those grocery stores keep their shelves stocked so completely? 

The answer is commercial trucks, and lots of them.

Semi-trucks, commercial trucks, 18-wheelers, big rigs, whatever you call them, they are the dominate way goods are transported across the United States every day. And with so many good beings moved around, it only stands to reason that there are a lot of trucks on the road. 

Every year, 15 million commercial trucks are crisscrossing America as they transport nearly 70% of all U.S. goods. With so many trucks on the roads, accidents are bound to happen. Unfortunately, trucking accidents are among the most severe. That’s because the size and weight of these trucks creates accidents that tend to result in severe injuries or fatalities. 

Organizations like the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) are attempting to keep both truckers and non-truckers safe, but there is only so much they can do. Safety rules and regulations can be put in place, but they have to be followed to be effective. 

The most concerning part of this whole scenario is that truck accidents in the US have increased by 20% over the past decade. 

What is causing commercial truck accidents? 

There are many factors that contribute to truck accidents. Some of them are like those issues that cause passenger car vehicles; some of them are unique to the industry. Conditions like fatigue and drug abuse can be more common in the trucking industry because of the demand of the job. Truckers are often pressured to put in long hours on the road. This is exactly what FMCSA attempts to limit with their regulations. 

According to the FMCSA, the most common causes of truck accidents are:

Truck Accident Causes by Data

Driver fatigue is responsible for 13% of commercial truck accidents. In order to combat this, drivers are required by law to: restrict the number of hours that they can drive; record their driving and resting hours in a log book; and pull over if they sense any fatigue. So far, these regulations don’t seem to be helping, but perhaps over time these regulations will become second-nature. 

-Nearly 25% of all accidents involved a truck that was breaking the speed limit. Of course, everyone speeds now and then, but this is a large statistic. It is most likely that strict deadlines and tightening competition have incentivized drivers to pick up the speed. 

-18% of semi-truck accidents involved some type of prescription or over-the-counter drugs. This may be due in part to the pressures of staying awake or perhaps the nature of living life in near solitude. 

-25% of truck drivers involved in an accident were found to have drugs or alcohol in their system.

-Distracted driving causes 8% of commercial truck accidents. With the proliferation of smartphones and other electronics, that number is increasing. Since truckers spend most their time in the cab of their truck, it can be tempting to spend time as if they were not driving.

-Negligent driving is responsible for 7% of truck accidents. This mostly includes failing to obey traffic laws.

This is not to say that truckers are always responsible for accidents involving passengers and trucks. Often, passenger vehicle drivers make mistakes when driving near a truck that causes an accident. The most common causes of truck accidents by passenger vehicle drivers are:

  • Driving in the “no visibility zones". These are the areas behind and beside a semi-truck where the trucker cannot see the car. 
  • Abruptly changing lanes in front of a truck. 
  • Turning in front of a truck at an intersection. 
  • Attempting to pass a truck on the right side as they make a right turn.
  • Cutting off or merging too slowly in front of a truck. 
  • Passing a truck without allowing for enough clearance. 
  • Getting too close to a truck and succumbing to its turbulence. 
  • Driving unsafely or too close between two large trucks.
  • Stopping in front of a truck without giving it sufficient braking room. 

Have you been injured in a truck accident?

If you have been injured in an accident with a commercial truck or other commercial vehicle, contact an experienced truck accident attorney. Often, people make the mistake of assuming that truck accidents are just like passenger car accidents when they’re not. Truck accidents involve many distinct factors, like regulations and liable third parties, like the owner of the cargo. An attorney who has experience with truck accident cases will understand all these intricacies, allowing you to get the most out of your case. If you have questions or would like to consult with a Florida truck accident attorney, contact Dolman Law Group at 727-451-6900. 

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765
(727) 451-6900

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Traumatic Brain Injury and Schizophrenia

When a person suffers a traumatic brain injury (TBI), they may experience emotional side effects in addition to physical side effects. This is an unfortunate but real result of head injury. Victims may experience mood swings, anxiety, depression, or other emotional issues. In the last decade, researchers have found that there may even be a link between TBI and schizophrenia.
This article will explore these four potential symptoms as well as the possible cause of psychological problems after suffering a TBI.
Mood Swings

After a patient suffers a head injury from a car accident or some other trauma, they may experience rapid changes in temperament, known more commonly as mood swings. Some patients experience these emotions in intense, short bouts, often lasting for only a small amount of time. Other patients may experience mood swings, but the emotional change stays with them for longer periods of time. This is often described by victims of TBI as being “on an emotional roller coaster” as they switch between feelings of sadness, happiness, and anger, all within a short time period.
Mood swings are common after a TBI because head injuries often damage the part of the brain that is responsible for controlling emotions and behavior. If this area is damaged, it is easy to see how it may adversely affect a person’s mood.
As damage to the emotional control center of the brain can cause mood swings, damage to other areas may cause similar unpredictable behavior. For example, a TBI patient may experience random bouts of crying or laughing without the accompanying emotions if the areas of the brain that control these responses are damaged.
Patients who experience mood swings after a severe head injury can often expect the symptoms to recede over time. As the brain heals, the affected areas of the brain will return to normal. If the problem persists, doctors can prescribe mood stabilizers and other psychotropic medications to help.

Anxiety is another common psychological side effect of TBI. Like generalized anxiety, anxiety from a TBI is characterized by a feeling of fear or nervousness that does not match the situation at hand. This may mean that a person feels more worried than they should about an event, has more fear about a future event than the situation warrants, or fear and worry for no obvious reason.
Anxiety brought on by a TBI may be a result of physical damage to the brain tissue, causing neurological problems, or may be related to fear from the event itself. It is possible that the traumatic incident that caused the TBI is what’s causing the anxiety. This may take the form of the TBI patient playing the incident over and over in their mind, which can cause panic attacks, interfere with sleep, or create generalized anxiety.

TBI-related anxiety is often linked with other known injury-induced psychological problem, such as difficulty thinking, concentrating, and solving problems. It is thought that perhaps these inabilities lead to a state of feeling overwhelmed, which then causes anxiety.
Anxiety can be treated in a multitude of different ways. Patients may find relief in certain medications, through counseling, or more likely, through a combination of the two.

After suffering any type of severe injury, it is normal to have feeling of sadness and loss. After a severe head injury, this is just as normal, if not more common. Often, this feeling of sadness sets in toward the later stages of recovery as the person begins to realize what kind of long-term disabilities they will now be living with. However, if this feeling is more than just a general feeling of loss and disappointment, it may be depression.
Symptoms of clinical depression usually are more severe and longer lasting than post-injury sadness. These symptoms include feeling sad or worthless, sleeping much more than usual or not sleeping at all, loss of appetite, trouble concentrating, loss of interest in people, things, and activities you once found important, lethargy, or thoughts of suicide.
Like TBI-related anxiety, depression may be a result of circumstances surrounding the injury or from actual damage to areas of the brain that control emotions. This can be from physical damage to the brain tissue or from changes in biochemistry caused by damage.
Again, a combination of medications and counseling is often most effective in treating depression. If possible, find a psychiatrist who is familiar with depression linked to TBI.
Can TBI Cause Schizophrenia?

Recent findings have suggested a link does exist between TBI and schizophrenia, but this doesn’t prove that head or brain injuries cause schizophrenia. Instead, it may be more likely that patients who’ve suffered a head trauma were already developing the psychiatric condition associated with schizophrenia. Had the head injury not occurred, they may or may not have continued to develop the disorder.

What is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder that affects behavior, mood, and thinking. Although there is an array of symptoms associated with the disorder, the most widely known symptoms are auditory hallucination (hearing voices) and visual hallucination (seeing things that aren’t there).

Traumatic Head Injury and Schizophrenia

Traumatic brain injuries are a result from blow, jolt, or penetration to the head. This may be caused by something hitting someone in the head or the head hitting something, like a head hitting a steering wheel; when the head jerks forward, like in whiplash; or when something penetrates the skull and enters the brain. Symptoms of TBI can be minor, such as a mild concussion, or more severe, like permanent mental disability.
It is well known that TBI is linked to some types of psychiatric disorders, but the link between schizophrenia and TBI are just now being investigated.
Researchers at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin recently compiled a meta-analysis of nine different studies to study the connection between the two medical issues. What they found is a definite association between TBI and an increased risk of schizophrenia.
The meta-analysis showed that people who suffer a traumatic brain injury are 1.6 times more likely to develop schizophrenia compared with those who have not suffered a head injury. People who incur a TBI who also have a relative with schizophrenia are 2.8 times more likely to develop the condition than those who don’t suffer a head injury.
The research found that a brain injury can disrupt and tear neural connections. They concluded that this may be the trigger that causes those patients with a predisposition to the illness to develop the condition. An injury may disrupt things in the brain enough to allow the illness to break through, whereas the brain, if not injured, may have found a way to avoid or compensate for the illness and its symptoms.
It is also possible that those who are predisposed to schizophrenia are also more prone to accidents, causing them to incur TBIs more often. For example, daydreaming or a lapse in concentration may make them more susceptible to accidents and injuries that can cause TBI. Research on the topic is still developing, but if a causation between TBI and schizophrenia is found, it could be a major breakthrough in both fields of cognitive science and mental illness.

Dolman Law Group

If your loved one has suffered a head injury due to someone else’s negligence, contact an experienced Clearwater brain injury attorney. At the Dolman Law Group, our team of experienced brain injury lawyers are ready to fight for your recovery and help you obtain the compensation you deserve. Call our Clearwater office at 727-451-6900 or email us for a free case evaluation.