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Did you know that one person is injured or killed in a truck accident every 16 minutes? 

The United States Department of Transportation estimates that over 500,000 truck accidents occur every year. More than 75% of truck driving accidents are due to the driver of the passenger vehicle.

Did you know that typically the injuries to the victims are severe and often fatal?

Large trucks account for only about 3% of auto accidents, yet because of their sheer size and weight, a semi-truck or 18-wheeler can cause incredible damage to the other vehicles involved and their passengers.

Do you know what to do if you are injured in an accident involving a commercial truck?

Seek medical help immediately, make sure everything is documented, make sure that law enforcement has responded to the accident and made a report.  Never take any calls from insurance companies without consulting with an attorney that specializes in trucking accident collisions first.  Often these accidents are the result of trucking safety or driving law violations. State and federal regulations often come into play in a truck collision. Truck accident cases can be complicated because the truck, trailer and contents can be owned by different companies and operated by yet other independent companies. For this reason, it’s imperative that you work with a Florida truck accident attorney who is skilled in this area of litigation.

Do you know what to do if someone loses their life in a trucking accident?

Once again, it is important that you speak with a skilled truck accident attorney.  There are many processes that the families of the deceased must go through and it can be very overwhelming given the grief and stress they are already enduring.  Having the right attorney and her staff helping them through the process can provide a lot of relief at that time.

Did you know that Marianne Howanitz is a nationally recognized truck accident attorney?

I am always available to answer any other questions or concerns you might have about a truck accident. And, as always, there is no charge to you at any time until or unless a settlement is reached.  You may reach me at 352-512-0444 or through my website: www.ocalaaccidentlaw.com.

Did you know this fun fact?

The world’s most solitary tree is located at an oasis in the Tenere Desert in Central Africa. There’s not one other standing tree within 31 miles. In 1960, it was smashed into by a truck.

As always, stay safe out there friends!

YOUR #truckaccidentattorney, Marianne

car-accident-lawyer-in-las-cruces-nm

So, why should you hire me? Besides the fact that I like to eat? 🙂  Here are some good reasons to hire me, or another Personal Injury Attorney.

There are many benefits to hiring a personal injury attorney when you’ve been injured in a car accident, especially if your injuries are serious. See below for some of the ways hiring a personal injury lawyer can help you deal with your claim.

Experience with Car Insurance Companies

You don’t deal with insurance companies every day. These lawyers do. They understand the process of reaching a settlement, and because they’ve seen cases like yours, most personal injury law firms have a good idea of the type of settlement you can expect.

An attorney also understands how to negotiate with auto insurance companies to get you the fairest settlement possible.

Knowledge of the Law

An experienced personal injury lawyer knows the particular laws that apply to your accident. Because of this, they may see other avenues for settlement that you don’t. This can be especially important if the accident involved an uninsured driver.

Understanding of Accident-Related Injuries

Because lawyers who specialize in personal injury cases deal with injuries caused in car accidents frequently, a trained attorney may be able to make recommendations for medical tests and care you should explore.

More importantly, he will understand the long-term effects, if any, of your injuries. This is vitally important in deciding whether a settlement offer is a fair one.

Court Experience

Finally, if you are unable to reach a settlement with an insurance company, or if the cost of the injuries exceeds the insured amount, a personal injury lawyer can represent you in court.

This is essential if you have to sue the auto insurance company or others to get full coverage of your medical expenses and other pain and suffering.

Source:  DMV.org

asheville
asheville

Heading out for a trip to see the fall foliage? Make sure that you check out the condition of your tires before you leave.  For many drivers, there is nothing more frightening or potentially dangerous than a tire blowout at almost any speed. While the number of tire-related crashes has dropped dramatically since 2008, when all new vehicles were required to have automatic tire pressure monitoring systems, these numbers still remain high. The stats do not lie, as tire blowouts and flats result in nearly 11,000 collisions and 200 fatalities each year.[1]

With all the advances in safety standards and technology, why are tire blowouts still such a significant safety issue? According to Traveler’s Insurance, one reason may be that since blowouts are now a rarer occurrence, when they do happen, drivers are less prepared to handle them and react properly. When a tire blows out, it can take about ¼ second before your ride suddenly becomes a struggle to avoid an auto accident. How you react can make all the difference in how the situation resolves itself. The first step is staying calm and in control of your vehicle.

What Does a Tire Blowout Sound Like?

Expect to hear three key sounds that may vary depending on your specific situation. First, you may hear a loud boom or bang of the tire popping reverberating through your car. You may then hear a whooshing sound or the sound of the air quickly escaping from the tire, and finally, a repeated flapping or flopping of the deflated tire hitting the road.

What Does a Tire Blowout Feel Like?

When a tire explodes at speed, first you will feel the vehicle slow down, then it will pull strongly to the left or right depending on which tire burst.[2] If it was a front tire that burst, you will feel the force mostly within the steering of your vehicle. With a rear tire, you will feel it more in the seat or body of the car. Whether the blowout occurred in the front or back, your response should be the same in either situation.

How to Drive Through a Tire Blowout

According to the National Safety Council and other safety experts, there are some important tips and best practices to remember if you experience a tire blowout.

  • Keep a firm grip on the steering wheel.
  • Do not slam on the brakes.
  • Let your car slow down gradually.
  • Pull to the side of the road once you have slowed to a safe speed.
  • Activate your emergency flashers.[3]

What to Do After a Tire Blowout

After a blowout, only exit your vehicle if you are certain you are safely off the road and out of harm’s way. Turn your emergency flashers on to alert other drivers, and put out reflective cones or triangles if you have them. If it is not safe to change the tire where you are, or you are unsure how, call for roadside assistance.

Also keep in mind that a spare is only recommended for emergencies and should not be driven for long distances or at high speeds. Take the time to read your owner’s manual to learn where your spare tire and necessary tools are located. Your manual may also provide instructions on how to change a flat tire. It is a good idea to be familiar with these procedures before you get stuck on the side of the road.

How to Prevent a Tire Blowout

The good news is that many tire blowouts are preventable with the proper effort and attention. Most occur from May through October when the road surface is the hottest, resulting from an underinflated tire, excessively worn treads, or an overloaded vehicle. A simple, routine inspection of your tires to check for slow leaks, wear and tear, and proper pressure is important. Keeping your load light, within your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations (found in the same spot as the recommended tire pressure), can help too.[4] 

So head on out for a great fall adventure, and stay safe out there friends!

YOUR #accidentattorney,

Marianne Howanitz

[1] http://www.safercar.gov/tires/index.html
[2] http://www.ntb.com/tires/Tire-Blowout-Education.j

[3] http://www.nsc.org/news_resources/Resources/Pages/WhattoDoIfYouHaveaBlowoutontheHighway.aspx
[4] http://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/how-to/repair/why-blowouts-happen-and-how-to-avoid-them-15832078

 

no see zones
no see zones

Ready to hit the road this summer? There’s nothing fun about driving next to an 18-wheeler. They’re big and they have a frightening tendency to drift in and out of your lane more often than you’d like. But sharing the road with a big rig need not be a nightmare — there are things you can do to make it easier on yourself and your friendly neighborhood truck driver.

Michael Taylor, transportation special programs developer for the Tractor Trailer Training Program at Triton College in River Grove, Ill., says the top five pet peeves truckers had with fellow motorists are:

1) Riding in a trucker’s blind spots. Trucks have large blind spots to the right and rear of the vehicle. Smaller blind spots exist on the right front corner and mid-left side of the truck. The worst thing a driver can do is chug along in the trucker’s blind spot, where he cannot be seen. If you’re going to pass a truck, do it and get it over with. Don’t sit alongside with the cruise control set 1 mph faster than the truck is traveling.

2) Cut-offs. Don’t try to sneak into a small gap in traffic ahead of a truck. Don’t get in front of a truck and then brake to make a turn. Trucks take as much as three times the distance to stop as the average passenger car, and you’re only risking your own life by cutting a truck off and then slowing down in front of it.

3) Impatience while reversing. Motorists need to understand that it takes time and concentration to back a 48-foot trailer up without hitting anything. Sometimes a truck driver needs to make several attempts to reverse into tight quarters. Keep your cool and let the trucker do her job.

4) Don’t play policeman. Don’t try to make a truck driver conform to a bureaucrat’s idea of what is right and wrong on the highway. As an example, Taylor cited the way truck drivers handle hilly terrain on the highway. A fully loaded truck slows way down going up a hill. On the way down the other side of the hill, a fully loaded truck gathers speed quickly. Truckers like to use that speed to help the truck up the next hill. Do not sit in the passing lane going the speed limit. Let the truck driver pass, and let the Highway Patrol worry about citing the trucker for breaking the law.

5) No assistance in lane changes or merges. It’s not easy to get a 22-foot tractor and 48-foot trailer into traffic easily. If a trucker has his turn signal blinking, leave room for the truck to merge or change lanes. Indicate your willingness to allow the truck in by flashing your lights.

By taking simple common-sense steps to protect yourself and your family when driving near large trucks, traffic fatalities will continue to drop. Over the years, the trucking industry has improved the quality of truck drivers by making it more difficult to qualify for and keep a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). Mandatory drug testing has also been instituted. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published the following data in 2008. The intoxication rate for drivers involved in fatal accidents was:

27% for motorcycle riders- 23% for light truck drivers (pickups and SUVs, that is)-23% for passenger car drivers-1% for truck drivers

Still, more work must be done to combat tightly scheduled deliveries, overbearing stacks of paperwork and driver fatigue caused by federal regulations that work against the human body’s natural circadian rhythm.

Should you, or someone you know be injured or killed in an accident with a big rig, make sure to contact an attorney that specializes in these types of accidents and make that call as soon as possible to preserve your rights.

Stay safe out there friends, Marianne

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So you’ve had an accident and your insurance company wants to “total” your car, motorcycle or truck.  What does that mean and what should you be aware of?

If your car is totaled and you have comprehensive and/or collision coverage, an insurer will pay you the full market value of your car or the limit of the policy, less your deductible if you are at fault. Cars typically are totaled when the cost of repairs approaches 65 percent of the car’s market value. The damage threshold varies by insurer, however, and may be established by state insurance regulators. To know for certain, you should contact your insurance company.

If you believe your totaled car is worth more than your adjuster thinks, you may be able to change his or her mind. Adjusters are experts at analyzing the used-car market to determine what your damaged car was worth before the accident. However, in some cases vehicles may be more valuable because they were kept in exceptionally good condition.

In such cases, you should be prepared to show your maintenance records and explain the steps you have taken to keep the car in top shape, says Robert Hunter, insurance director of the Consumer Federation of America.

“You can say ‘Look, it has been garaged, here are my service records, it is not an average car,'” he says.

Pete Moraga, a spokesman for the Insurance Information Network of California, says cars that have been customized may be more valuable than vehicles that have not been upgraded.

However, modified engines and other special features may not count if you failed to tell your insurer about them before the vehicle was damaged. If they weren’t written into your policy, the insurer is under no obligation to consider their added value, he explains.

“If you soup up the engine and put on different exhausts, if you put in a really expensive radio, you need to let your insurer know,” he says.

When you hire an accident and injury attorney, routinely these negotiations will be handled by them, at least they are in my firm.

Be safe out there friends!

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Many drivers don’t think about their insurance coverage until after they have an accident and call their insurance company to file a claim to help pay for car repairs, a rental car and other expenses.

Unfortunately, many insured drivers are surprised to find out that their auto insurance does not automatically cover the cost of a replacement rental car after an accident. Since the average car is in the repair shop for two weeks after an accident, it can cost as much as $500 to rent a replacement car. But, some insured drivers pay little or nothing to rent a car because of an inexpensive but often overlooked option known as rental reimbursement.

Rental reimbursement coverage is available for only $1 or $2 a month with almost every auto insurance policy, but it is bypassed frequently by those who believe they will not have a car accident or those shopping only for the lowest cost premium. The cost of a rental replacement car adds up fast, so even if you don’t have an accident for eight or nine years, the coverage pays for itself when you need it most.

Sometimes working out the details of a claim with the auto insurance company can take time. Even if the accident is the other driver’s fault, you may have to wait several days or longer to get the other insurance company to agree to pay for a rental car. With your own coverage, there is no waiting.

A great resource for your information questions can be found here: http://www.iii.org/insurance-topics/auto-insurance or you can always contact me at (352)512-0444 or www.ocalaaccidentlaw.com  if you’ve been injured in an accident and just need some answers.

Be safe out there friends!

YOUR #ocalaaccidentattorney,

Marianne Howanitz

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So you’re ready to “head out on the highway, looking for adventure” (showing my age there!) this summer?  Independent women are more and more finding themselves traveling our country’s roads alone for pleasure.  While it is wildly thrilling to be the only one in the car, singing along to your personal playlist, and stopping only when you want, where you want, I want to make sure you stay safe out there my friend!  Below are my Top 10 Safety Tips for Single Women on Road Trips.

  1. Take your car to the auto shop first—Before starting out on any road trip, always take your car in for service. Make sure your car is “road ready,” and that your oil is changed, tires are in good shape, antifreeze and the heater all working and there is not a lot of junk in your trunk (stop snickering). Start out fresh and clean!
  2. Always let someone know where you are—Though you may enjoy the freedom of feeling “lost” on the highway, it’s always best to check in with a family member or friend so someone always knows where to find you.  Texting is a quick and easy way to share your whereabouts, just not while you are driving. Sending a selfie of you in front of significant landmark signs can be fun, too.
  3. Notify credit card companies—Some credit card companies will block your card if they see “suspicious” activity like continuous gas charges. Inform companies that you will be traveling so they do not cut off your credit and leave you stranded without easy access to money. This happened to me!
  4. Keep cell phone charged—Before you start out on the road each day, charge your cell phone so it is ready for use in case of emergencies. You can also buy a portable battery to extend the phone’s life in case there is not a charger handy or use a car charger.
  5. Listen to weather reports—Be aware of the weather conditions where you are traveling and prepare accordingly. Many times, I have had to pull off to the side of a road and wait for a storm to pass. Be safe and be prepared.
  6. Always have maps and know how to read them—GPS systems may not always be reliable; carry current road atlases with you and know how to read them as a backup resource. Trace out alternative routes. Always have a Plan B route figured out in case your original highway choices are closed or backed up with traffic.
  7. Stop at places that are busy and well-lit—Look for locations that have other people around. Do not stop at deserted, dark places. It’s always a good idea to look like you know where you are and where you are going. If you have to ask for directions, casually ask employees at the establishment instead of random strangers. Be careful of walking and using your phone, these unaware moments can sometimes present opportunities for crime.
  8. Don’t stop for someone stranded on the side of the road—Though you may feel compelled to assist someone in trouble, if you’re alone, don’t stop unless you are sure it’s safe. It’s always a good idea to get to a safe place first and then call for help for the stranded driver, dialing 911 is helping out enough.
  9. Should your car break down, keep windows rolled up and do not open the door to strangers who stop to “assist” you. Make sure you have a current roadside assistance plan and contact them to come out to help you. Ask to see their ID for the service before getting out of the car when they arrive.
  10. And last, but certainly not least, do not pick up strangers—Do not offer rides or agree to share a room with anyone you don’t know. Though you may think the person you are helping is harmless, you can never fully know someone’s true intentions after just a few minutes of conversation. It’s hard to get rid of someone later, so don’t get into this situation by picking them up in the first place.

Hope this was helpful.  Now, go hit the road and have some fun adventure time!

YOUR #ocalaaccidentattorney,

Marianne Howanitz

www.ocalaaccidentlaw.com

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The more information your attorney has about your case, the more quickly and completely you can be compensated for your medical expenses and pain and suffering. Documenting accidents, site situations, and road conditions has proven priceless in dealing with and settling claims.  It has often changed the outcome of resulting lawsuits and helped establish just settlements.

To ensure a complete, speedy resolution to your case, make sure your lawyer has all the information and documentation he needs to pursue a settlement. If the accident happened a while ago that information may include:

  • Your vehicle, insurance, and driver’s license information.
  • Details of the accident, including:
    • Date, time, location.
    • Weather and traffic conditions.
    • Information about other vehicles, drivers and passengers.
    • Names and contact information for witnesses and copies of any accident or incident reports filed.
    • Any pictures you have taken at the scene. Sometimes the law enforcement officer takes pictures, make sure to get copies of those, also.
  • Copies of traffic tickets writtenat the scene and information about any charges brought against drivers involved, including DUI charges.
  • Physician reportand medical records related to the accident.
  • X-rays and test results related to injuriesfrom the accident.
  • Information about pre-existing conditionsor injuries that may have been exacerbated by the accident.
  • Record of expensesfor ongoing medications, treatment, and therapies.
  • Any other expenses incurred because of the accident, including transportation costs.
  • Documentation of days, hours and wages lostbecause of the accident.
  • Copies of all correspondencewith insurance companies related to the accident.

It is always helpful to keep a personal injury diary to note appointments, expenses, contacts with the insurance company and your general feelings and medical condition following the accident. Also, keep track of your medical mileage for re-imbursement.

Keep your attorney up to date and let them know about new doctor visits, Radiology visits or surgeries that you have scheduled.  An email to paralegal is usually sufficient so they can get updated records.

Stay safe out there friends!

multitasking
multitasking

Myth #1:  Drivers can multitask.

Reality:  Contrary to popular belief, the human brain cannot multitask. Driving and talking on a cell phone are two thinking tasks that involve many areas of the brain. Instead of processing both simultaneously, the brain rapidly switches between two cognitive activities.

Take the classic example of the act of walking and chewing gum. There is a common misconception that because people appear to simultaneously do both that they can just as easily talk on their cell phones and drive safely at the same time. The truth is that walking and chewing gum involve a thinking task and a non-thinking task. Conversation and driving are both thinking tasks.

Myth #2 Talking to someone on a cell phone is no different than talking to someone in the car.

Reality: A 2008 study cited by the University of Utah found that drivers distracted by cell phones are more oblivious to changing traffic conditions because they are the only ones in the conversation who are aware of the road. In contrast, drivers with adult passengers in their cars have an extra set of eyes and ears to help keep the drivers alert of oncoming traffic problems. Adult passengers also tend to adjust their talking when traffic is challenging. People on the other end of a driver’s cell phone cannot do that.

Myth #3 Hands-free devices eliminate the danger of cell phone use during driving.

Reality: Whether handheld or hands-free, cell phone conversations while driving are risky because the distraction to the brain remains. Activity in the parietal lobe, the area of the brain that processes movement of visual images and is important for safe driving, decreases by as much as 37% when listening to language, according to a study by Carnegie Mellon University. Drivers talking on cell phones can miss seeing up to 50% of their driving environments, including pedestrians and red lights. They look but they don’t see. This phenomenon is also known as “inattention blindness.”

Myth #4 Drivers talking on cell phones still have a quicker reaction time than those who are driving under the influence.

Reality: A controlled driving simulator study conducted by the University of Utah found that drivers using cell phones had slower reaction times than drivers with a .08 blood alcohol content, the legal intoxication limit.

There is a simple solution – drivers talking on cell phones can immediately eliminate their risk by hanging up the phone, while drunk drivers remain at risk until they sober up.

Sources: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration | University Of Utah | The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety | National Safety Council

 

RonshayDugansFSAPic0902
RonshayDugansFSAPic0902

Our sincere condolences goes out to the family and friends of Joseph Grzeca. The day before yesterday Joseph was killed when a semi driver ran a red light on U.S. 301 near Summerfield, Florida and T-boned a pickup.  And then yesterday a Peterbuilt semi jack-knifed on I-75 closing it down for hours.  FHP stated that the driver “failed to drive in a safe and prudent manner”.  As an accident and injury attorney and a board member of the Association of Plaintiff Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America (APITLA), a national association of committed lawyers who have joined together to help eliminate unsafe and illegal interstate trucking practices, I am especially saddened and upset when this happens in my own community.

While large trucks make up less than 4% of all vehicles on US roadways, they account for over 12% of all traffic fatalities and this number has risen steadily since 2009.  Why is that?  It can be a number of reasons; negligent maintenance of trucks, unqualified truck drivers, unsafe management practices of trucking companies, but the truth is the number one safety problem in the interstate trucking industry for the last 30 years has remained the same:  fatigued truck drivers.

Even little Ronshay Dugans (pictured above), and her family’s best efforts, could not save Joseph Grzeca.  On Sept. 5, 2008, a school bus that belonged to a Boys and Girls Club was stopped in broad daylight when a cement truck plowed into the back of it in Tallahassee, Florida. Eight-year-old Ronshay Dugans was killed. The truck driver was reportedly drowsy when he got behind the wheel. Ronshay’s family worked tirelessly to get Florida’s legislation to pass a law that officially recognized that driving while fatigued is as dangerous as driving while under the influence and declaring the first week in September “Drowsy Driving Prevention Week”.  During this week, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and the Department of Transportation are encouraged to educate the law enforcement community and the public about the relationship between fatigue and performance and the research showing fatigue to be as much of an impairment as alcohol and as dangerous while operating a motor vehicle.

If you think driving drowsy is no big deal, listen to Leroy Smith’s view on the issue. Smith is a former official with the Florida Highway Patrol. “It is just as dangerous as drunk driving; just as alcohol and drugs could impair one’s normal faculties, so could sleeplessness and drowsiness. It could also slow one’s reaction time,” Smith reported to 10 News in 2010.

What is even more upsetting to me is that since the enactment of the Ronshay Duggans Act  in 2011, I have deposed many law enforcement officers who were in charge of investigating large truck related fatal accidents and they never heard of the Ronshay-Dugans Act!  Additionally, they failed to investigate the medical conditions, dispatch patterns, or any other risk factors related to fatigue driving of the truck driver.  If the log books looked in order and the toxicology screen came back negative there was no further investigation into the issue of whether trucker fatigue played a role in the fatal crash.  While drowsy driving may initially be difficult to detect, you can look at the facts of a case and, in retrospect, fatigue is the only explanation for the actions or inactions of the truck driver the moments before and after a fatal crash.

If a friend or relative is involved in a fatal or catastrophic truck accident, act quickly to get the advice and protection of an accident attorney with experience in investigating and litigating claims against trucking companies. Time is of the essence as critical evidence, such as event data recorders, dispatch records and on-board video tapes can be lost or destroyed if not preserved through prompt legal action.  These are businesses that don’t make money unless they “keep the wheels rolling” and don’t want to be slowed down or saddled with what the media would describe as “frivolous claims”.

To all the safe trucking companies and truckers out there, I thank you for doing your part in keeping our roads safe for all of us.  To those unsafe trucking companies and truckers, please change your ways and follow the rules and regulations that are already in place.  They may save your life as well as others.  But if you injure or kill someone because of your unsafe practices and I’m hired on the case, you better believe that I’m coming after you with everything I’ve got.  Be safe out there!