Is Driving More Dangerous On New Year’s Eve?

Driving is more dangerous on any day on the calendar that increases the number of vehicles on America’s roadways as well as the number of drivers who still get behind the wheel while under the influence of intoxicating substances. Nevertheless, it may come as a surprise that New Year’s Day is statistically not the most hazardous driving day of the year. That dubious distinction belongs to July 4th.

In a study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety analyzing traffic fatalities from 1986 through 2002, the researchers found that New Year’s Eve was the fourth most hazardous driving day of the year with an average of 142 deaths. The top three were July 4th, (161), July 3rd (149), and December 23rd (145). The study analyzed only fatalities and not the entire number of reported accidents.

Even the fourth most hazardous day of the year for traffic fatalities deserves serious reflection and appropriate caution if venturing out on New Year’s Eve. The following are some common sense precautions to assure you return home safely:

  • Allow yourself plenty of time traveling to and from your destination.
  • Make sure your vehicle’s headlights and taillights are functioning properly so you can see and be seen.
  • Wear your seat belt.
  • Avoid distractions in your vehicle from cellphones and other devices.
  • IF YOU CONSUME ALCOHOL OR OTHER CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES, FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE, DON’T GET BEHIND THE WHEEL. HEAVEN DOESN’T NEED YOU YET.

Although traffic-related deaths may increase around certain holidays, the number of fatalities across the entire 17-year period covered by the study still averaged 117 per day. As Allan Williams of the IIHS cautioned, “While more deaths do occur on some of the holidays, the toll of fatalities is relentless every day, all year long.”

If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident, contact Scott Fegley at the Fegley Law Firm, (215) 493-8287 or by email at scott@fegleylaw.com. We Give You Peace of Mind.

Love ’em And Leash ’em

Whether you own a poodle or a pit bull, you have a legal responsibility for your dog’s behavior. Two recent Pennsylvania court cases reaffirmed that failure to control a dog may have serious legal consequences.

In Franciscus v. Sevdik, 135 A.3d 1092 (Pa.Super. 2016), an employee of a pet sitting business was out walking a client’s dog when the dog, a pit bull, jumped up and bit a 5-year old girl on her chin. Interestingly, the trial court held only the dog owner responsible for the girl’s injury and dismissed the pet sitter. On appeal, the Superior court reversed. The evidence showed the owner had posted a “Beware Of Dog” sign on his property. Moreover, the owner specifically wrote in the service request form to the pet sitter to avoid routes with children when walking the dog. It seems the pet sitter rather than the owner should have been held responsible. The court ruled the pet sitter had knowledge of the dog’s dangerous propensities and should not have been dismissed from the case. The court held that a pet care business has the same legal responsibility for a dog bite as the owner when the dog is in its care.

The court declined to recognize pit bulls as a dangerous breed. The court held the breed of the dog is not the issue. The focus must be on the owner’s knowledge of behavior that indicates the dog may attack a human. Knowledge of growling or aggressive behavior, such as a fight with another dog, may give rise to liability even if the dog has not previously bitten anyone.

In Skotnicki v. Pennsylvania Dept. of Insurance, (156 C.D. 2015), the court upheld an insurance company’s cancellation of a homeowner’s insurance policy after it learned the homeowner’s dog had bitten someone. The dog, an English Springer Spaniel, bit the owner’s neighbor on his calf as the owner and the neighbor were talking. The owner described the attack as “out of the blue.” It is a simple fact that dogs who bite are more costly to own.

Dog bites are preventable in most situations. Dog owners should always keep a dog on a leash, even in an unfenced yard. Even smaller breeds may run away and encounter people. A dog owner should never allow a person who is a stranger to the dog to approach the dog and pet it without the owner’s introduction. An introduction involves the owner specifically talking to the dog to calm it and let it know the owner approves. If the owner knows the dog has a tendency to be protective or be anxious around strangers, it is best to err on the side of caution and avoid contact at all. Dog owners must also exercise caution when a visitor enters the home. The same rules for outside interaction apply. An aggressive or protective dog should be confined before allowing anyone to enter.

A dog’s companionship can enrich our lives, but it brings with it responsibility just as children do. And just as with children, an adult’s carelessness can lead to injury. Take these simple precautions to prevent dog bites and protect yourself from expensive consequences.

 

 

Scott Fegley is the son of veterinarians who maintained a practice in Hatboro, Pennsylvania for over forty years. He has had dogs as companions his entire life. Scott Fegley also has veterinarians and pet care services among his clients, and has represented persons in dog bite injury cases.  If you have questions about a dog bite case, call The Fegley Law Firm at (215) 493-8287 or by email at scott@fegleylaw.com. 

Bicyclists at Risk

Bicyclists Can Be At Risk On Bucks County Roads

Bicycling the roads of Bucks County is a popular way to see the local sites and stay fit at the same time. Though bicycling is excellent exercise and a great way to experience Bucks County, our narrow roads are often poorly maintained and at times heavy with traffic. It should come as no surprise that an afternoon ride can become a dangerous activity.

  • In August 2015, a Washington Crossing resident was arrested after an accident that left a bicyclist riding on scenic River Road seriously injured, reports the Intelligencer.
  • A bicyclist was injured in an accident in Yardley borough in May. The driver of the truck that hit him was arrested for drunk driving, according to Bucks Local News.
  • In 2014, an accident left a 73 year old bicyclist dead in Yardley. He was riding on North Delaware Avenue when he was hit by a car, reports the Courier Times.

Nationwide the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates,

  • Over 900 bicyclists were killed, and bicycle related injuries resulted in about 494,000 emergency department visits in 2013.
  • Fatal and non-fatal accident bicycling injuries occurring in 2010 resulted in lifetime medical costs and productivity losses of $10 billion.

The CDC states those aged 15 to 29 and 45 years and older have the highest bicycle fatality rates with males being far more likely to be killed or injured on bicycles than are females. Head injuries occur in 22% to 47% of injured bicyclists and are most often caused by collisions with motor vehicles, according to an article published in American Family Physician. These head injuries account for more than 60% of bicycle-related deaths and most bicycle-related long-term disabilities.

In Pennsylvania, bicyclists have as much a right to use the roads (but not highways) as cars or trucks. Under Pennsylvania law, drivers are required to keep a four foot distance between their vehicles and a bicyclist and are allowed go into an oncoming lane (if it’s safe) in order to provide that distance and pass in areas where passing is otherwise not allowed. However, the best advice for cyclists is to take as many safety precautions as possible. Where available, cyclists should ride bike paths and trails and avoid heavily traveled roads.  Cyclists should always wear helmets and make themselves visible to drivers with lights and/or bright clothing.

While bicycling offers many benefits to riders, an accident can not only put a premature end to what should have been a great day of riding but can result in serious injuries and lifelong disabilities. If you or a loved one are injured in a bicycle accident, contact our office as soon as possible for the legal help you’ll need to recover for your injuries.

Allstate awards $22 million to accident victim

Chalk this up as a win for David versus an insurance company Goliath.  Insurance giant Allstate recently was socked with a $22 million verdict for bad faith in a case that was one for the record books in the state of Pennsylvania.  A jury awarded $19.1 million to Patrick Hennessy of Feasterville, PA.  Another S2.9 million was added for delay damages and interest.  Hennessy was the victim of an accident that ultimately resulted in the amputation of his right leg.  Allstate refused to pay its $250,000.00 policy limits to Hennessey because he was outside the insured vehicle when the accident happened.

Jim Boyle of The Pennsylvania Record has more on the accident:

At about 2 a.m. on July 26, 2009, Hennessy was a passenger in a vehicle driven by a friend, Ryan Caruso, when Caruso rear-ended another vehicle. Hennessy and Caruso got out of their vehicle to push their car to the side of the road.  Hennessey was then struck by a vehicle driven by Shawn Robertson, Jr., crushing his limb.

When Allstate refused to pay its policy limits, Caruso assigned his rights against Allstate to Hennessy, allowing the plaintiff to sue the insurer.  The $22 million judgment encompasses the $19.1 million verdict and subsequent delay damages plus interest.

A young man’s life was changed forever and Allstate refused to compensate him $250,000 because of a legalistic reading of its policy language.  Allstate was wrong and now deservedly should pay.

Casey, Hennessy’s attorney, summed it up to the Intelligencer this way:

It was a protracted but ultimately successful battle between a young man with a catastrophic injury and the largest insurance company in America.  It is a testament to what one individual can accomplish through our civil laws when an injustice occurs.

If you have a legal matter related to an injury or your employment, please call our Yardley office at 215-493-8287 or send us an email HERE. We will be glad to help.

GM Scandal Update: Number of Death Claims Rise

In a previous post on this blog, I discussed the growing ignition switch scandal and recall at General Motors.  The whole situation brought to light grave issues surrounding employee training and widespread panic within the automotive industry.  Now, since we’ve had some time to digest the information that has surfaced since the scandal broke, I would like to provide you with an overview to date and an update.

Scandal in Review

In an August 21, 2014 article for Fortune, Ben Geier, gives us a recap of the scandal that has surrounded GM since the beginning of 2014.  Geier writes:

For the better part of this year, General Motors has been embroiled in scandal. It began in February, when the automaker recalled thousands of small cars for faulty ignition switches. Those defective switches, it turns out, had been in cars for more than a decade, and they have been linked to numerous road accidents and 13 deaths.

Earlier this summer, as part of its effort to manage the crisis, GM launched a compensation protocol to pay back people who were seriously injured, or had lost loved ones, in crashes involving the ignition switch problem. GM tapped lawyer and compensation guru Kenneth Feinberg to manage the General Motors Compensation Protocol.

The list of eligible vehicles, though, is shorter than you might expect. Not all cars with faulty ignition switches, or key rotation problems, qualify for the Feinberg protocol.

Among the vehicles recalled since March, there have been three fatalities in two crashes involving Chevrolet Impalas, [Spokesperson Alan] Adler said.

A major sticking point for people is the fact that GM knew of the issue, yet still sold the faulty vehicles to unsuspecting customers.  Writing for Ring of Fire Radio, Joshua Schwitzerlett says this in an August 20th article (emphasis added):

At issue for many people are the faulty vehicle ignition switches that GM was aware of when it continued to sell them to people. The switches would allow the vehicle to randomly shut off at the slightest disturbance. The effect was potentially lethal. If an accident occurred during one of the incidents when the vehicle had randomly shut off, the airbags would not deploy.

Even after the threat was known and the danger was reported within GM, the company didn’t immediately recall the potentially deadly vehicles. Instead, GM engaged in a series of cover ups and minimizations to try and limit letting the public know how much damage had been done.

Update: More Death Claims

107.  That’s the number of death claims the GM Compensation Fund has received – not 13 as we originally thought.  Fortune’s Ben Geier has more in this August 27th article (emphasis added):

The GM Ignition Compensation protocol has received 107 death claims since it started accepting claims on Aug. 1, a spokesperson for the protocol said Wednesday. Some of those are claims for multi-fatality accidents. The spokesperson did not release how many fatal accident claims were multi-fatality versus a single fatality.

The number of death claims is higher than the 13 deaths that GM has officially attributed to the faulty switch.

The fund started accepting claims on Aug. 1 and will remain open until Dec. 31.

Claims for compensation will be evaluated by the fund’s administrators. They will look at whether the ignition switch was responsible for a severe physical injury, or a death, and Feinberg and his team will decide how much money to award.

GM has estimated the protocol will pay out between $400 and $600 million.

Worse than the lack of employee training we previously reported is the fact that the company withheld this information from the public.  I understand that companies need to make money, but doing so at the risk of harm (or even death in this case) to your customers is unconscionable.  One can only hope that this is a lesson to other companies and that GM satisfies every legitimate claim so the victims’ families receive some semblance of justice.

If you have a legal matter related to an injury or your employment, please call our Yardley office at 215-493-8287 or send us an email HERE. We will be glad to help.