One person killed, 16 injured when man drives into crowd of pedestrians

boardwalk2.jpgBecause pedestrians have nothing to shield them from the force of a vehicle's impact, pedestrians are extremely vulnerable to serious, life-threatening injury when they're involved in car accidents. Our Missouri personal injury lawyers know there are a number of common factors that contribute to pedestrian accidents, including speeding, reckless driving, and driver distraction. However, though it's hard to believe, there are some collisions that simply aren't accidents at all.

This week, a Colorado man pleaded not guilty to one count of murder, 16 counts of assault with a deadly weapon, and 17 counts of hit and run after he drove around a vehicle barrier and into a crowd of pedestrians on the Venice Beach boardwalk. Authorities told NBC Southern California that 38 year-old Nathan Louis Campbell has been accused of intentionally driving his vehicle onto the boardwalk, killing one woman (32 year-old Alice Gruppioni, an Italian woman who was visiting Los Angeles on her honeymoon) and injuring 16 others.

Surveillance video footage shows Campbell driving a Dodge Avenger into the crowd on the boardwalk, striking several pedestrians without stopping. "There was no indication that he knew anybody that he hit," Los Angeles Police Department Commander Andy Smith told CNN. "It looks like this guy wanted to run over a bunch of people. One guy bent on doing evil." Eventually, Campbell abandoned the vehicle and ran away on foot, but turned himself into police within a matter of hours, saying he was "connected" to the incident. Investigators and witnesses believe he intentionally drove into the crowd, but Campbell's lawyer maintains that the incident was just a "horrible accident." Campbell's bail has been set at $1.48 million. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison.

Pedestrian accidents: The facts

• Within the next 24 hours, an average 460 people will receive emergency room medical treatment for traffic-related pedestrian injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Within the next two hours, a pedestrian will be killed in a traffic crash.

• On each trip, pedestrians are 1.5 times more likely than passenger vehicle occupants to suffer fatal injuries in a motor vehicle accident.

• The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that 4,432 pedestrians were killed and over 69,000 suffered injury in 2011 auto accidents.

• The CDC says "higher vehicle speeds increase both the likelihood of a pedestrian being struck by a car and the severity of injury."

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Missouri Water Patrol releases drowning, boating accident statistics

648678_sparks.jpgOur Columbia personal injury lawyers know that Missouri's waterways experience more traffic during the warm summer months. Many people take advantage of the beautiful weather by hitting Missouri's bodies of water for various forms of recreation, like boating, fishing and swimming. Unfortunately, increased activity on waterways during the summertime tends to increase the number of accidents that take place. To raise and promote water safety awareness, the state of Missouri has implemented an annual initiative called "Operation Dry Water," which is a national campaign that raises awareness of the dangers accompanied with boating under the influence (BUI) by highlighting enforcement efforts.

This year Operation Dry Water held their fifth national campaign during the weekend of June 28-30. In Missouri, troopers inspected 747 vessels and 1,405 boaters in total. The boat inspections led to 14 arrests for boating while intoxicated. Along with BUI arrests, the Missouri Water Patrol had 114 boating violations, 482 warnings, and 82 non-boating violations. The special sobriety checkpoints, saturations, and heightened awareness during normal patrols helped detect and remove hazards from state waterways.

As is customary in Missouri, many people were out enjoying the water over the Fourth of July holiday. During the holiday counting period (July 3rd through July 8th), troopers investigated 17 boating crashes and 11 injuries. In addition, 17 people were arrested for boating while intoxicated and 3 people drowned. Comparatively, during the 2012 Fourth of July holiday, there were six crashes with two injuries; seven arrests for boating while intoxicated; one drowning; and two electrocutions. Authorities say the increase in water fatalities can be partly attributed to a longer holiday counting period this year.

Alarmingly, our state has experienced a large increase in the number of water fatalities this year. The number of drownings has tripled in Missouri, compared to 2012. Thus far, 24 people have drowned in Missouri - last year, at the same time, eight people had drowned, reports the Kansas City Star. The Army Corps of Engineers connects the increase in drownings to busier public beaches and unnoticed slips under water. The Corps highly recommends that people use life jackets and/or other floating devices to help reduce water safety risks.

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Hands-free isn't risk-free: New distracted driving study reveals dangers of hands-free devices

bluetooth_headset_2.jpgIt's no secret that distracted driving is a common factor in many fatal auto accidents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), distracted driving contributes to more than 9 deaths and 1,060 injuries every day in the United States. As our Columbia car accident lawyers know, cell phone use is one of the most notorious forms of distraction, and texting has proven to be especially hazardous for drivers. Texting requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention, meaning it takes a driver's eyes off the road, his hands off the wheel, and his mind off the task of driving. In recent years, new forms of "hands-free" technology have been developed to help discourage driver distraction. However, new studies have recently found that hands-free devices may actually just create a new - and dangerous - source of distraction.

A recent study conducted by Dr. David Strayer
and researchers at the University of Utah observed changes in brainwaves, eye movement and other mental capacities when drivers attempted to "multi-task" while operating motor vehicles. To fully examine the effect of these activities on brain function, researchers had drivers engage in relatively common activities: listening to the radio, listening to audio books, talking on the phone, and listening or responding to voice-activated emails. After observing the effects of these cognitive distractions, researchers were able to identify three levels of mental distraction, according to the severity of the distraction created by different tasks. The first category includes tasks that create minimal risks for drivers, such as listening to the radio. The second category consists of more hazardous tasks that create moderate roadway risks, including talking on a cell phone (whether the device is handheld or hands-free). The third category is comprised of the most risky roadway tasks, which include listening and responding to in-vehicle devices and voice-activated features on cellular devices.

According to the study, hands-free and voice-activated devices require drivers to focus on responding to those devices, which lessens the amount of brain activity associated with driving. In other words, the cognitive demands of responding to voice automated devices create hazards for the driver because of the increased mental workload. "These new, speech-based technologies in the car can overload the driver's attention and impair their ability to drive safely," said Dr. Strayer, a Professor of Cognition and Neural Science. "An unintended consequence of trying to make driving safer - by moving to speech-to-text, in-vehicle systems - may actually overload the driver and make them less safe."

These recent findings have led many safety organizations to warn manufacturers and the general public of the dangers accompanied with voice-activated and hands-free devices. In response to Dr. Strayer's study, Robert Darbelnet, President and CEO of AAA, made a statement urging manufacturers of vehicle and electronic devices to consider the risks of building "potentially dangerous mental distractions" into vehicles. Darbelnet also advises manufacturers to add devices that disable voice-activated electronics while vehicles are in use. "Specifically, these increasingly common voice-driven, in-vehicle technologies should be limited to use for just core driving tasks unless the activity results in no significant driver distraction," Darbelnet said.

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Missouri in the minority when it comes to texting and driving laws

683316_mobile_communications.jpgAs our Columbia personal injury lawyers know, texting while driving is a key contributing factor in many serious car accidents. And yet, at present, Missouri is one of only six states that are holding off on enacting a texting ban for drivers of all ages. Our only current texting and driving law exclusively applies to drivers under age 21. This year, Missouri lawmakers will not pass a bill expanding the ban to include all drivers. Many safety authorities have argued that expanding the law would significantly reduce the risk of auto fatalities, especially here in Missouri: in 2012, the Missouri Highway Patrol attributed 1,600 accidents to some form of cellphone usage.

State law enforcement officials report that it's been extremely difficult to enforce the current law, leaving many citizens concerned that the ban is not being enforced at all. According to CBS St. Louis, only 70 drivers were ticketed for cellphone usage in 2012, and there are no records that document how many of those drivers were actually convicted of the offense. It is very difficult for officers to identify texting drivers, because many hide their phones below the window or in other areas that are hard to see from the exterior. Another issue is determining the age of the driver from a distance. Some lawmakers agree that expanding the texting and driving ban would help police identify offenders. Currently, lawmakers are considering all the possibilities to create safe roadways for all motorists.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), texting drivers are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash. Nowadays, cell phones are a staple of modern life, leading many drivers to check their phones frequently for incoming calls, texts and emails. Many motorists do not fully recognize the dangers associated with texting and driving and the increased risk to everyone on the road. Distraction.gov reports that the average time it takes a driver to send or receive a text (approximately 4.6 seconds) is equivalent to driving the length of a football field blind at 55 mph. The dangers accompanied with texting and driving are serious and can cause deadly crashes.

It's also important to remember that distracted driving is not always associated with cellphone usage: in fact, anything that takes your eyes off of the road can be a potentially dangerous distraction. Simple tasks are among the most common distracting behaviors. Tasks such as eating, drinking, talking to passengers, operating navigation systems, and adjusting radio or car settings can be risky on the road. To prevent distracted driving, try to eliminate anything that will take your attention off the road. Set your navigation and other settings before you begin to travel. Always remember that you can pull over to the side of the road if you need to adjust settings or direct your attention to something other than driving.

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Train/vehicle collisions often occur at railroad crossings, cause fatal injuries

1397213_crossing_light.jpgAs Columbia auto accident lawyers, we know that collisions involving passenger vehicles and trains are often deadly. Research indicates that passenger vehicle occupants are 40 times more likely to be killed in train/vehicle collisions than in accidents involving two passenger vehicles. Sadly, around two-thirds of these crashes "occur during daylight hours, in crossings equipped with automatic warning devices."

Recently, two young children were killed when their mother attempted to drive around lowered crossing gates at an Iowa railroad crossing, causing the family's minivan to be struck by an oncoming train. Police say 25 year-old Tara Lewman had initially stopped at the crossing, where a freight train was stopped on the tracks. Ultimately, however, Newman drove around the crossing's lowered gates and pulled in front of the stopped train, apparently unaware that another set of tracks ran parallel to the tracks where the freight train was stopped. The stopped train reportedly obscured Lewman's view of an oncoming train on the second set of tracks, and her van was struck on the passenger side, killing two of her three children, 4 year-old Erika Clark and 5 year-old Kallie Clark. Lewman and another daughter, 1 year-old Jordan Clark, were also injured in the collision: Jordan Clark remains hospitalized, but Lewman has since been released.

In the wake of this tragic accident, the Iowa Highway Patrol's Sergeant Scott Bright reminded drivers of the importance of yielding to gates, lights and other warning signals at railroad crossings. "They're down for a reason. People need to stop and wait until the cross buck goes back up and then proceed," Bright told KCCI News.

Auto accidents and railroad crossings: A few facts and statistics

• Nationwide, there are over 210,000 railroad crossings, according to the Angels on Track Foundation. Of that number, nearly 130,000 intersect with public roadways.

• A person or vehicle is struck by a train about every 3 hours, reports Operation Lifesaver.

• In 2012, there were 1,960 collisions at railroad crossings throughout the continental United States. These collisions resulted in 235 deaths and more than 900 injury victims.

• An average locomotive weighs about 400,000 pounds (200 tons) and can weigh as much as 6,000 tons, meaning "the weight ratio of a car to a train [is] proportional to that of a soda can to a car."

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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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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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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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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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