Hit and run drivers can face criminal charges, personal injury lawsuits

1191524__broken_window.jpgWhen you're involved in an accident, the law requires you to stop, provide your personal information, and, when needed, assist anyone who may have been injured. Unfortunately, as our Columbia personal injury lawyers know all too well, not all drivers follow the law.

Recently, a Tennessee man was found guilty of 11 criminal offenses associated with a hit and run accident that killed a young woman, her unborn child, and a Good Samaritan. Witnesses testified that the driver, 23 year-old Curtis Harper had been drinking on the evening of May 30, 2012, when he struck 24 year-old Chasity Thornell and 45 year-old Nelson Soto Sr. as the two stood along the side of the road. According to police, Thornell, who was seven months pregnant, had gone to help a friend who ran out of gas in front of Soto's house. Soto, who had just arrived home from work, assisted the two women. Thornell was reportedly hugging Soto in thanks when the two were struck by Harper's vehicle.

Investigators say both victims were dragged a significant distance following impact. Soto was found about 123 feet away from the point of impact, while Thornell was found 164.5 feet away from where she was struck. Both victims and Thornell's unborn child were pronounced dead at the scene. At Harper's trial, his roommate and several friends testified that Harper had been drinking on May 30 and that he tried to cover up his role in the accident by washing blood and hair from his vehicle and planning to have the damage repaired out-of-state. Ultimately, Harper was convicted of three counts of vehicular homicide by DUI, three counts of vehicular homicide by reckless conduct, and one count each of DUI, tampering with evidence, reckless endangerment and leaving the scene of a fatal crash. An eleventh charge (DUI second offense) was added when it was revealed that Harper was also convicted of drunk driving in 2009. He now faces more than 46 years in jail and over $100,000 in fines.

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety,
about 11% of all police-reported crashes involve a hit and run driver, and about 1500 are killed annually in U.S. hit and run accidents. Around 60% of hit and run fatality victims are pedestrians, the Foundation reports. So, why do drivers hit and run? "It's the way of avoiding responsibility," Jack Levin, a criminal justice expert at Northeastern University, told The Stoughton Journal in December. "The hit-and-run driver knows the consequences and can't face them." Experts say that drivers who flee the scene of a crash often do so because they are guilty of other offenses, like driving without a license, driving without insurance and driving under the influence.

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Drowsiness a common contributing factor in Columbia, Missouri car accidents

825580_freeway.jpgMost people are aware that distracted driving and driving under the influence are common causes of Missouri car accidents. However, there's another form of impairment that can prove to be just as lethal: drowsiness. In this post, our Columbia personal injury lawyers discuss some important facts about drowsy driving and share a few key warning signs and safety tips.

Drowsy driving and car accident risks: Facts and statistics

• According to a poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), approximately 60% of adult drivers (or about 168 million Americans) admitted to driving a motor vehicle while drowsy within the previous year. In addition, 37% of drivers (or about 103 million Americans) say they have actually fallen asleep while driving.

• Estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicate that driver fatigue is a contributing factor in about 100,000 police-reported crashes every year. These accidents cause an estimated 1,550 deaths and 71,000 injuries.

• The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports that drivers who sleep six to seven hours a night are twice as likely to cause an accident, compared to drivers who sleep eight hours or more. Drivers who sleep five hours or less each night are four to five times more likely to cause a sleep-related crash.

• Sleep loss affects the brain in a way that's similar to alcohol use. One study found that being awake for 18 hours is equivalent to having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.05%. Being awake for a full 24 hours is akin to having a BAC of 0.10%.

Common symptoms of drowsy driving

If you experience any of these symptoms when you're behind the wheel, it may be time to pull over and rest:

• Frequent yawning, blinking or rubbing your eyes
• Wandering thoughts, confusion or persistent daydreaming
• Drifting or weaving in and out of your lane; veering onto a rumble strip
• Difficulty remembering the last few miles you've driven
• Missing exits, turns, traffic signs or signals
• Heavy eyelids; trouble keeping your head up

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Negligent and careless drivers increase bicycle accident risks for children

675925_adventure_in_the_mountain_1.jpgAs temperatures grow warm and the end of the school year draws near, Columbia drivers will want to be on the lookout for young bicyclists in our city's neighborhoods. At this time of year, our Missouri personal injury lawyers want to encourage all motorists - and parents - to keep bicycle safety in mind. Research indicates that child injuries and fatalities caused by bicycle accidents can be reduced, provided parents discuss safe riding practices with their children, but drivers must also be proactive and responsible in order to keep young riders safe. When motorists are careless or negligent, they place our community's children at risk.

Last week, an Illinois judge sentenced a Skokie woman to five years in prison for causing a crash that killed a second-grader on his bicycle. Last May, authorities say 24 year-old Hanin Goma was attempting to make a left turn when she collided with an eastbound van. The impact caused Goma's vehicle to spin over the median, careen onto the sidewalk and strike 8 year-old Carter Vo. Carter's bicycle was forced into a parked car, and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Ultimately, Goma pleaded guilty to one felony count of aggravated driving under the influence resulting in death and one misdemeanor count of driving under the influence of drugs. Law enforcement officials say Goma tested positive for marijuana and amphetamines after the accident, and she admitted to smoking marijuana earlier in the day.

Last summer, Carter's elementary school organized a community bike ride to honor the second-grader's memory and to reassure his classmates and their parents, many of whom were feeling anxious about bicycle safety in the aftermath of the accident. Hundreds of people in the community participated in the event. "It was really shocking and scary for us parents to know that anything can happen," said Marilou Castillo, who attended the event with her three young sons. "We just have to pay attention to safety as best we can."

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Missouri motorcyclists extremely vulnerable to injury in crashes involving passenger vehicles

1115272_harley_davidson_indicator_focus.jpgIn 2010, there were approximately 8.2 million motorcycles registered in the United States, and that number continues to grow each year. With such a large motorcycle population on the road in Columbia, Missouri, it's all the more essential that other drivers treat riders with courtesy and respect, and that all motorists work together to share the road safely. After all, when another vehicle is involved in a collision with the motorcycle, the motorcyclist is extremely vulnerable to serious, life-threatening injury, in large part because riders lack the protection of an enclosed vehicle. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the number of deaths on motorcycles was approximately 30 times the number in cars per mile traveled in 2010.

A recent fatal crash in Delaware underscores the very real dangers facing motorcyclists and their passengers. On Tuesday, a woman was killed and her husband was seriously injured after a car pulled into their motorcycle's path. The Delaware News Journal reports that the couple's 2000 Harley-Davidson struck the front left corner of a vehicle that was exiting a private business and failed to yield the right of way to the oncoming bike. The Harley's passenger, 48 year-old Judy Kibler, was ejected from the motorcycle and pronounced dead at the scene. Her husband, 49 year-old Lawrence Kibler, was also ejected and remains hospitalized in critical condition. Neither of the Kiblers was wearing a helmet, but Delaware state law only requires helmet use in riders age 18 and younger.

Meanwhile, the driver of the other vehicle, 20 year-old Ann Breeding, was not injured in the collision. The accident is currently under investigation by the Delaware State Police Reconstruction Unit, and criminal charges against Breeding are reportedly pending.

Facts about motorcycle accidents involving other passenger vehicles:

• About 40% of fatal two-vehicle motorcycle accidents in 2011 occurred when another vehicle turned left as a motorcyclist was going straight, passing or overtaking the vehicle.

• According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 50% of motorcycle-vehicle collisions occur in intersections, often because a turning driver doesn't see an oncoming rider or fails to yield the right of way.

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Spring safety tips for Missouri pedestrians

1181506_one_step_2.jpgThough it doesn't feel much like spring today, recent weather forecasts promise that we can expect warmer temperatures in the weeks and months ahead. And when the weather's suitable, there tends to be an increased number of pedestrians on and along Columbia's roadways. In this post, our Missouri personal injury lawyers discuss pedestrian traffic accidents and recommend a few safety precautions for Missourians who plan to travel by foot this spring.

Pedestrian accidents: The facts

• According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), 4,432 pedestrians were killed and more than 69,000 were injured in 2011 motor vehicle accidents in the U.S. Pedestrians account for approximately 14% of all auto accident fatalities.

• Within the next 24-hour period, an average 324 people will receive emergency medical treatment for pedestrian-related injuries, reports the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

• Data from the Missouri Highway Patrol reveals that 91.2% of 2011 pedestrian traffic crashes resulted in injuries or fatalities, where only 36.3% of all traffic crashes caused someone to be killed or injured.

• Fatal accidents involving pedestrians are more likely to happen in urban areas, and they often occur on crosswalks, sidewalks, median strips and traffic islands.

Safety tips for Missouri pedestrians

Obey all signs and signals. Follow all pedestrian signals, but don't rely on these signals alone. Unfortunately, the fact that you have the right of way doesn't guarantee that other vehicles will stop for you.

Take steps to make yourself visible to drivers. When you're traveling by foot, wear white or light colors to make it easier for drivers to see you. Use reflectors and a flashlight when walking at night. When you're preparing to cross the street, be sure to stand clear of obstructions (such as parked vehicles, hedges, etc.) so approaching drivers will know you're there.

Stay focused on what's happening around you. In today's world, distractedness is proving to be just as hazardous to pedestrians as it is to drivers. A study published in the journal Injury Prevention found that nearly one out of three pedestrians is using a mobile device while attempting to cross a busy roadway. Furthermore, texting pedestrians were four times less likely to follow safety rules. Your best chance of avoiding involvement in a pedestrian accident is to pay close attention to the vehicles traveling near you.

Use extra care when crossing. When possible, use designated pedestrian crossings, as drivers are more likely to anticipate foot traffic in such crosswalks. Before stepping into the roadway, always look left, then right, then left again - and keep your eyes peeled for turning vehicles.

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Distracted driving dangers: Preventing distraction-related car accidents in Columbia and throughout Missouri

file000897811811.jpgAccording to a recent study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, nine out of 10 U.S. drivers believe that distracted driving is a bigger problem now than it was a mere three years ago. Unbelievably, despite growing awareness of this problem, 53% of survey respondents admitted to sending texts or emails while behind the wheel. "As a safety advocate, AAA finds it concerning that the majority of motorists recognize distracted driving dangers, yet choose to engage in them anyway," said Linda Gorman, director of communications and public affairs for AAA Arizona. "Drivers of all ages contribute to this problem. However, this issue tends to be more prevalent among young drivers, as electronic devices, such as cell phones, are proven to be the most common form of distraction for teens."

Facts about distraction and its effect on driving performance:

• There are four basic kinds of distraction: visual (looking at something besides the road); cognitive (thinking about something other than driving); physical (using your hands to perform a non-driving related task); and auditory (listening to something not associated with driving). Depending on the cause of a driver's distractedness, more than one of these forms of distraction may occur at the same time.

• Numerous studies indicate that all forms of distraction have a detrimental effect on driving performance. However, texting is widely viewed as the most "alarming" source of distractedness because it involves three of the four basic kinds of distraction (visual, cognitive and physical). Texting drivers are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash than non-distracted drivers.

• While texting may be one of the most driving risky behaviors, it's certainly not the only distraction that can increase a driver's risk of having an auto accident. Other potentially dangerous non-driving related tasks include using a cell phone (whether it's hand-held or hands-free), eating and drinking, talking to passengers, reaching for objects, and fiddling with the radio. Trying to perform any of these tasks while behind the wheel reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving, making you less likely to identify potential roadway emergencies and respond to them promptly and safely.

Avoiding distraction: Tips for Columbia drivers

• Turn off your electronic devices when you're behind the wheel. Stowing them where you can't see or reach them can help you avoid the temptation to use them while driving. If you can't turn off or silence your phone while you're driving, pull over in a safe location to answer important calls or messages.

• If you're traveling with passengers, have a companion answer any calls or messages that can't wait until you arrive at your destination.

• Don't try to save time by performing certain tasks during your drive-time. If you're short on time, don't try to make up a few minutes by eating or grooming while you're behind the wheel.

• Remember that safe travel (for you, your passengers, and the other motorists traveling near you) should be your number one priority. The vast majority of non-driving related tasks can wait until you've arrived safely at your destination. Help reduce preventable accidents caused by driver distraction, and keep your attention on the road.

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Preparing teens for safe roadway travel: Tips and info for Missouri parents

February 25, 2013

1413873_.jpgAs teen drivers prepare to get behind the wheel, it can be an extremely frightening time for parents. After all, car accidents are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, accounting for about one out of three deaths within this age group. However, there are several steps parents can take to help keep their teenagers safe - in fact, parent involvement can be extremely influential on teens' driving habits. Numerous surveys have shown that teens are more likely to practice safe driving habits when their parents actively support and monitor their driving education. In this post, our Columbia personal injury lawyers share some tips and information to help parents stay informed and involved.

Facts about teen driving

• In large part because they lack driving experience, teen drivers between age 16 and 19 are four times more likely to be involved in auto accidents than adult drivers between age 25 and 69.

• Distracted driving is an especially prevalent problem among teen drivers: drivers under age 20 have the highest proportion of fatal crashes involving driver distraction.

• A teen driver's crash risk is even higher when other teens are in the vehicle. According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly two out of three auto accident fatalities involving 16 year-old drivers occur when one or more peer passengers are riding in the vehicle.

• The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that two-thirds of teens who are killed in traffic accidents are not wearing seat belts.

• Teen drivers with involved parents are more likely to wear seat belts, avoid drinking and driving, obey posted speed limits, and refrain from using cell phones while driving.

Teaching your teen about roadway safety:

• Remember that obtaining a driver's license represents a major milestone for teens as an important step towards independence. Be sure to praise and celebrate your teen for the accomplishment.

• Research indicates that teens often fail to recognize their limitations as novice drivers, and many view driving "experience as something that's solved by getting a driver's license." That's why it's so important for parents to stay involved: talk to your teens about roadway safety on a regular basis, even after they've passed their driver's tests and started driving on their own.

• When you talk to your teen about driving, make the conversation a dialogue instead of a lecture. Teens are more likely to listen and respond when they feel their ideas and perspectives are being respected. If they feel they're just being criticized or reprimanded, they're more likely to stop listening and less likely to share their experiences and questions with you.

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Common terms used in Missouri personal injury cases

February 18, 2013

file000871975023.jpgIn this post, our Columbia car accident lawyers discuss some of the terms that are commonly associated with Missouri personal injury claims.

Missouri personal injury cases: A glossary of terms

• Catastrophic injuries: Extensive injuries that necessitate long-term medical treatment and often result in temporary or permanent disability. Such injuries can permanently restrict a victim's ability to perform everyday tasks and to maintain employment.

• Contingent-fee basis: An arrangement between a personal injury lawyer and an injury victim which means that the fee for legal services is contingent on recovering compensation. There is no initial payment required for representation, and the fee is a percentage of the compensation recovered on the victim's behalf.

• Damages: The various, reasonably-related costs associated with a victim's injuries. Depending on the circumstances, these costs may affect victims (and their loved ones) financially, physically or mentally.

• Loss of consortium: Refers to a loss of companionship, care and affection between an injury victim and his or her spouse. An uninjured spouse may be entitled to damages for loss of consortium when a car accident victim is fatally injured or disabled following a crash.

• Negligence: Careless or reckless conduct that causes injury to another person. Missouri law requires drivers to use reasonable care to avoid harming other people or property. A person or party can be intentionally or accidentally negligent.

• Settlement: A final compromise between both parties involved in a lawsuit, wherein plaintiff and defendant agree to end the lawsuit for a set amount of compensation.

• Soft tissue injuries: Damage to muscles, ligaments, tendons, joints and other connective tissues in the body. Soft tissue injuries are extremely common in car accident victims. They often don't appear on X-rays and symptoms can take days to appear, so these injuries can be trickier to diagnose and treat. Depending on the severity of the damage, soft tissue injuries can cause chronic pain and long-term disability.

• Statute of limitations: Governs the time period during which a personal injury lawsuit must we filed. If you've been injured in a Missouri car accident, we encourage you to seek legal advice as soon as possible to protect your right to compensation for your damages.

• Wrongful death: A death occurring as the result of an individual's negligence or wrongful act. When a wrongful death occurs in an auto accident, certain surviving relatives may be able to recover compensation for their losses, which may include medical and funeral costs, lost wages and benefits, pain and suffering, and loss of consortium.

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Whiplash & Columbia car accidents: 5 FAQs answered

February 11, 2013

575021_x-rayed.jpgOur Columbia car accident lawyers know that whiplash is one of the most common injuries reported among car accident victims. In this post, we answer five frequently asked questions about whiplash injuries, their symptoms, and their effect on the lives of injury victims.

What is whiplash?

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) defines whiplash as "a soft tissue injury to the neck-is also called neck sprain or neck strain. It is characterized by a collection of symptoms that occur following damage to the neck, usually because of sudden extension and flexion." A whiplash injury is caused by a sudden jerking or whipping of the head or neck, which commonly occurs during car accidents (especially rear-end collisions).

What are the most common symptoms of whiplash injuries?

Depending on the severity of the injury, there are numerous symptoms associated with whiplash injuries. These symptoms may not appear until hours or even days after an injury occurs. They include the following:

• Neck, shoulder or back pain, especially when turning the head
• Swelling or muscle spasms in the neck or shoulders
• Headache; impaired concentration or memory
• Dizziness or fatigue
• Blurred vision
• Tightness or pain in the jaw
• Insomnia or sleep disruptions
• Ringing in the ears

When should I see a doctor?

In general, if you think you may be suffering from whiplash, it's often wise to seek medical attention as soon as possible - again, symptoms may not appear right away, so you may not know how badly you're hurt. Here are some "red flags" that may indicate a visit to the doctor is necessary:

• The pain or stiffness in your neck becomes severe, or it returns after appearing to go away.
• The pain or stiffness spreads from your neck to your shoulders, arms or back.
• You experience numbness or tingling in your arms or legs.

How are whiplash injuries treated?

It depends on the severity of the injury. Mild whiplash injuries are often be treated with over-the-counter pain medication, heat and ice combinations, and rest. On the other hand, severe whiplash injuries often cause chronic pain and require extended medical attention, including visits to the chiropractor, physical therapy, ultrasounds, and medicine.

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Five bad driving habits that lead to Missouri car accidents

February 4, 2013

234254_road.jpgEvery year, more than six million auto accidents happen throughout the United States. Sadly, a good number of these accidents are the result of driver error, which means they're 100% preventable. In this post, our Columbia personal injury lawyers discuss five bad driving habits that commonly contribute to Missouri car accidents.

1. Following too closely

Also known as "tailgating," this practice is a common contributing factor in rear-end collisions. When drivers follow too closely, they often don't have enough time and space to stop if traffic slows in front of them. To avoid tailgating, use the three-second rule to ensure you've left enough space between your vehicle and the one traveling in front of you. Choose a non-moving object on the road ahead of you, like an overpass or sign. Start counting to three slowly when the vehicle in front passes the object - if you reach the object before you get to three, you're following too closely.

2. Driving while distracted

A distracted driver is engaged in any non-driving related activity that takes his or her attention away from the road. Cell phones and other hand-held electronic devices are notoriously dangerous distractions, but there are several other activities that divide a driver's focus, making it more difficult to assess and react to roadway situations. These activities include eating and drinking, putting on makeup, fiddling with the radio or GPS system, talking to passengers, reading, and watching videos. Remember, to ensure safe travel, you need to devote all your attention to the task of driving.

3. Neglecting to use your turn signal

According to a study conducted by the Society of Automotive Engineers, an estimated 25% of drivers fail to use their turn signals when making turns, and 48% don't use their signals when changing lanes. Furthermore, the study found that over 2 million accidents happen annually as a direct result of this issue. "The turn signal can no longer be considered 'optional' and all drivers have an ongoing duty to use it, just as they have a duty to stop at a stop sign or red light," said Richard Ponziana, author of the study and president of RLP Engineering.

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Drowsy driving: Impairs driver performance; increases Missouri crash risks

January 26, 2013

718808_emotions_2.jpgWhen we hear about an accident involving an impaired driver, it's easy to assume that the driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. However, there's another factor that can similarly impair a driver's performance: fatigue. Fatigue can slow drivers' reaction time and limit their ability to assess and react to roadway situations, making their car accident risks considerably higher. In this post, our Columbia personal injury lawyers answer five basic questions about drowsy driving and its impact on roadway safety.

1. How widespread is the problem of drowsy driving?

In a recent survey conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, two out of five respondents (or about 41%) admitted to falling asleep while driving at some point in their lives. And the National Sleep Foundation reports that 60% of Americans have driven while drowsy within the last year.

2. Who is most likely to drive while drowsy?

All humans need sleep on a daily basis, so any driver can become fatigued under the right circumstances. However, there are certain groups of people who have a higher risk of being involved in a crash caused by drowsiness. They include the following:

• Young drivers, particularly men under age 26
• Truck drivers, especially long-haul drivers
• Drivers with undiagnosed or untreated medical conditions, or who use sedating medications
• Employees who work long or overnight shifts, or who drive frequently for business reasons

3. What are some warning signs that suggest fatigue is impairing my driving performance?

If you experience any of the following symptoms when you're behind the wheel, it may be in your best interest to pull over and get some sleep.

• Frequent blinking; heavy or droopy eyelids
• Difficulty keeping your head up
• Missing exits, turns or traffic signals
• Wandering, disconnected thoughts or daydreaming
• Repeated yawning
• Difficulty remember the last few miles traveled
• Drifting in and out of your lane; hitting rumble strips
• Feeling restless, irritable or disoriented

4. What can I do to avoid drowsy driving?

AAA offers several basic tips to help you avoid driving while drowsy:

• Take frequent brakes, at least every two hours (or 100 miles).
• Travel with a passenger who will stay awake with you.
• Avoid drinking even small amounts of alcohol before you drive.
• If you plan to drive a long distance, be sure to get plenty of rest (at least six hours) before you travel. Never plan to work a full day and then drive during the overnight hours.
• When possible, plan your drive time for hours that you're normally awake, or make arrangements to stay overnight.

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Distraction a contributing factor in Missouri train - pedestrian accidents

January 19, 2013

file3381282598756.jpgFrom January through October 2012, train accidents declined in almost every category, compared to the same time period in 2011. Derailments dropped by 14.3%, highway-rail crossing collisions decreased by 4.4%, and 25% fewer railroad workers were killed. However, the number of pedestrian railroad deaths increased by 9.2%, and the number of pedestrian injuries (which regulators refer to as "trespasser injuries") increased by 13%. Unfortunately, as our Columbia personal injury lawyers know, several Missourians are included in that number.

Pedestrians and trains: A deadly combination

Nationwide, 1,648 pedestrians were killed by trains between January and October 2012. California reported the highest number of state pedestrian railroad deaths (222), while New Hampshire reported the fewest (1). Missouri reported 30 pedestrian railroad deaths during that time frame.

So what accounts for the increase in pedestrian deaths? These accidents happen for a number of reasons, but a common theme in 2012 involved pedestrian distraction due to headphone use - and this behavior appears to be particularly prevalent among teens. In May, 14 year-old Cameron Vennard was struck by a train in Kirksville, MO as he walked on the tracks to meet friends. Police say the teen was wearing headphones at the time of the collision, and likely did not hear the train approaching from behind. Then, in July, 15 year-old Mitchell Maeserang was struck by a train in Wentzville while wearing ear buds and walking on train tracks.

According to a study conducted by the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the University of Maryland Medical Center, serious injuries to pedestrians who are using headphones or ear buds have tripled within the last six years. Approximately 55% of the striking vehicles were trains, and around 29% of the striking vehicles attempted to use a horn or other warning sound to alert the pedestrian. And since it can take a mile to bring a train to a complete stop, an engineer who sees a pedestrian on the tracks will likely be incapable to stopping the train in time.

"Everybody is aware of the risk of cell phones and texting in automobiles, but I see more and more teens distracted with the latest devices and headphones in their ears," said Dr. Richard Lichenstein, lead author of the study. "Unfortunately, as we make more and more enticing devices, the risk of injury from distraction and blocking out other sounds increases."

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Columbia car accidents can cause catastrophic injuries with long-term consequences

January 12, 2013

Thumbnail image for 449234_hospital_room.jpgAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 2.3 million drivers were treated in emergency rooms in 2009 following motor vehicle collisions. As Columbia personal injury lawyers, we know that a serious car accident can have life-altering implications, especially when you or a loved one has suffered a catastrophic injury with long term consequences. In this post, we discuss a few of the more serious injuries that can affect car accident victims. Sadly, these injuries are all too common.

Traumatic Brain Injury
Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) can cause permanent, irrevocable brain damage, but symptoms don't always show up right away. For this reason, if you sustain a blow to the head in a car accident, you should seek immediate medical attention, even if you think you feel fine. "A patient can appear so deceivingly normal at first," Dr. Carmelo Graffagnino, director of Duke University Medical Center's Neurosciences Critical Care Unit, told CNN. "But they actually have a brain bleed and as the pressure builds up, they'll experience classic symptoms of a traumatic brain injury."

Symptoms of a TBI may include headaches, blurred or double vision, difficulty concentrating or remembering, and loss of consciousness. In the long run, TBIs can cause memory issues, cognitive impairment, loss of mobility, sight or hearing problems, emotional disorders, paralysis and even death.

Neck and Back Injuries
Injuries to the neck and back are common in motor vehicle accidents. In many cases, these injuries are caused by the sudden jerking that accompanies a collision. Soft tissue injuries like whiplash can cause muscle spasms, muscle weakness, tingling, numbness, and chronic pain. Injuries to the spinal cord can result in a number of permanent consequences, including nerve damage, loss of feeling in certain parts of the body, and paralysis.

Many back and neck injuries are easy to recognize, but soft tissue injuries are more complicated. The symptoms don't always show up right away - and injuries like whiplash can't be seen on a standard X-ray. Once again, it's best to see a doctor as soon as possible following a crash.

Broken or Fractured Bones
Car accidents can exert an extraordinary amount of force, and vehicle occupants are often subjected to the same level of force. Thus, it's common for accident victims to suffer broken or fractured bones. Under certain circumstances, severe fractures can require reconstructive surgery, rehabilitation, or extended medical care. Victims can experience long-term pain, nerve damage, infection, and a higher susceptibility to arthritis. These consequences can have a permanent effect on the victim's mobility.

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Missouri pedestrian safety: The facts (and a few safety tips)

January 5, 2013

521423_push_button_to_walk.jpgThe Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) reports that a pedestrian is killed or injured in the United States every seven minutes. Here in Missouri, a pedestrian was killed or injured every six hours throughout 2011. In this post, our Columbia car accident lawyers share some startling facts about U.S. pedestrian accidents, along with a few tips to help keep you safe as you walk Missouri roads.

Pedestrian accident statistics:

• According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 4,280 pedestrians died and an estimated 70,000 more suffered injury in U.S. auto accidents in 2010.

• NHTSA data indicates that children and the elderly are have the highest risk of involvement in pedestrian accidents. In 2010, children under age 15 accounted for 7% of all pedestrian fatalities and 23% of all pedestrians injured in auto accidents. Meanwhile, people over age 65 accounted for 19% of all pedestrian deaths and about 11% of pedestrian injuries.

• Nearly ¾ of pedestrian deaths occur in an urban setting, and almost 80% of fatal collisions involving pedestrians occurred at intersections versus non-intersections.

• Surprisingly, weather does not appear to be a contributing factor to pedestrian accidents. NHTSA officials report that 88% of 2010 pedestrian deaths occurred in normal weather conditions, as opposed to rainy, snowy or foggy conditions.

• Time of day, however, seems to be a pertinent factor. Approximately 68% of 2010 fatal pedestrian accidents occurred during the nighttime.

• Alcohol use was a factor in 47% of auto accidents resulting in a pedestrian fatality, either for the driver or the pedestrian.

Safety tips for Missouri pedestrians:

Make yourself visible. Take steps to ensure you can be easily seen by motorists who may be driving near you. Wear brightly colored clothing - and if you're walking at night, use reflectors, carry a flashlight, and try to stick to well-lit areas. Before you cross a street, be sure to stand clear of any obstacles (parked vehicles, shrubs, etc.) that might keep a driver from seeing you.

Stay focused on what's happening around you. Watch for vehicles and be alert to what drivers are doing - avoid using a cell phone or wearing headphones. Never assume that a driver sees you, or that he or she will stop and allow you to cross. Additionally, keep your ears peeled for vehicle noises, like engines starting or backup alerts from larger vehicles.

Always cross with care. Look both ways (left, right, then right again) before you walk into the street. If possible, use marked crosswalks or cross at intersections, and be sure to obey traffic signals. You'll also want to watch for vehicles that might be turning onto your street.

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Winter weather may cause holiday travel headaches, car crashes in Columbia, Missouri & nationwide

December 21, 2012

file0001207618542.jpgMerry Christmas! The holiday season is here, which means many drivers will be hitting the road in Missouri and nationwide. This year, winter weather conditions have already created some travel headaches throughout the Midwest - and there's more snow and ice expected in the days ahead.

Yesterday, heavy snow and whiteout conditions contributed to a fatal 25-vehicle pileup north of Des Moines, Iowa. Authorities say the winter weather blinded drivers on Interstate 35, making it impossible for them to see vehicles that had slowed or stopped on the road. These conditions resulted in several chain reaction crashes involving several semi-trucks and passenger vehicles. Two people died in the incident: 27 year-old Colby Bostick and 43 year-old Sheila Blood, both of Arkansas. Bostick was reportedly killed when she was struck by a vehicle after she got out of her car to check on one of her passengers. Seven others were injured in the pileup.

At the same time, jackknifed tractor trailers shut down sections of Interstate 80, and, closer to home, Interstate 29 was closed down from St. Joseph, Missouri to the Iowa border.

Traveling in winter weather: A few holiday travel tips

• Slow down. Traveling in winter weather requires drivers to make adjustments, given the conditions. Reducing your speed is especially important, since you'll need to be able to stop safely if a situation or obstacle presents itself. In good conditions, you should allow about three seconds between your vehicle and the one in front of you, but safety advocates recommend you increase that distance to eight to 10 seconds in winter weather.

• Know your vehicle's limitations. Don't assume that your vehicle can handle any and all weather conditions: snow and ice can be troublesome for all vehicles, including those with four-wheel and front-wheel drive.

• Make sure you can see, and be seen. Drive with your lights on to make it easier for other motorists to see you, and keep your windshield and your lights clean as you travel.

• Avoid sudden maneuvers. Attempting to turn or brake suddenly can prove disastrous in winter weather. Signal your intentions in advance, and refrain from slamming on your brakes. Braking gently will reduce your risk of skidding - and if you do skid, ease off the brake slowly.

• Take precautions. Wear your seat belt, and make sure your passengers are buckled up as well. Give yourself plenty of time to travel so you don't feel you have to rush. Also, it's wise to carry a roadside emergency kit in your vehicle - jumper cables, blankets, flashlights and other similar items can come in handy if you find yourself stranded.

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