The Smith System for Truck Drivers: Is It Being Followed?

The Smith System states that following these five rules can dramatically reduce the risk of major accidents on highways and roads.

1.   Aim High

The first rule for this method is “Aim high in steering”. Staying alert of the dangers and traffic ahead not only avoids rear-end collisions, but it also alerts other drivers behind your vehicle to slow down. The driver should steer and focus their attention high, so as to view the road as whole and not just a few feet ahead.

2.   The Big Picture

“Be aware of your surroundings at all times” may seem obvious to say, but distracted drivers are just as dangerous as intoxicated ones. Erratic and angry drivers take up a large portion of the traffic we see daily, so avoid major accidents by noticing how other drivers behave on the road. Having the whole picture means that you are doing your part to keep your vehicle as safe as possible while moving 1000ft a second. There are a variety of hazards between your own vehicle and other drivers, and a keen awareness of these dangers will reduce these risks.

3.   Keep Your Eyes Moving

The third standard of the Smith System asks drivers to remain alert. Energy drinks can only do so much before they cause the body to crash, and any repetitive motion sends us into a trance. Consistent eye movement prevents your body from entering the trance state, keeping you alert to every driving condition ahead of you.

4.   Leave Yourself an Out

The fourth principle of the Smith System states to leave yourself a way out. This means ensure that other drivers do not box you in while selecting their lanes. Do not follow other vehicles too closely, and always anticipate what choices other drivers make.

5.   Make Sure They See You

The worst thing a driver can do is assume. Assume other drivers can see them, assume other drivers are not dangerous, or even assume that they will just get to their destination safely. The final rule for the Smith System is “Make Sure You Are Seen”. This rule prevents accidents by removing assumptions made behind the wheel. As a driver, make sure that other drivers can see you and anticipate your move. If you feel you are coming into another driver’s blind spot, use the horn to get their attention.

The Most Overlooked Injury in Auto and Trucking Crashes

Having practiced in the area of personal injury law in Indiana for over 35 years, I have seen one injury that is typically missed by a lot of attorneys. The symptoms can be subtle, but persistent and can have profound effects for the injured down the road. You must have patience and persistent to fully ascertain this injury and get treated with the right doctors and medical professionals that understand this injury and its effects. What is this injury? It is a TBI or a traumatic brain injury.

What is the medical definition of a TBI? TBI is defined as an alteration in brain function, or other evidence of brain pathology, caused by external force. Alteration in brain function is defined as one of the following clinical signs: 1) any period of loss of consciousness or a decreased loss of consciousness; 2) Any loss of memory for events immediately before or after an injury; 3) neurological deficits such as weakness, loss of balance, change in vision, sensory loss, dizziness, headaches: 4) Any alteration in mental state at the time of injury (confusion, disorientation, slowed thinking). There can be subtle changes in attention, memory, cognitive functioning, speech and language and personality. These wide ranging physical and psychological effects may appear immediately after a crash or appear days or weeks later. One can have normal testing from a CAT Scan and still have a TBI. A TBI can be caused by blow to the head or even a jolt to the head. The brain hitting the sides of the skull in an hyper-extension and hyper-flexion movement can cause a TBI. A concussion can be a sign of a TBI also. Post-concussive symptoms must be monitored for months to see if they subside or continue. A personal injury lawyer cannot be in a rush to settle these TBI cases.

Often a person with a TBI experiences changes in their thinking skills. There can be problems with memory, reasoning, judgment, concentration that were not there before. A person with a TBI can have communication problems including difficulty understanding speech or writing, inability to organize thoughts and ideas, difficulty in speaking or writing and trouble engaging in conversation.  There can be behavior and emotional changes including personality changes, difficulty in self-control, mood swings, anger, depression and irritability. There can be sensory changes including persistent ringing in the ears, trouble with balance or dizziness, double vision and impaired eye-hand coordination.

Countless people suffer these injuries from automobile and trucking crashes and may not even know it. An experienced personal injury must look for these symptoms and get his client the right medical treatment. Often these injuries can be permanent and cause life-changing alterations for the injured. If these are injuries are missed, this will significantly decrease the value of your personal injury claim. Insurance companies continue to downplay these injuries and question their validity. They do not want to pay the true value of these claims. If an attorney misses these injuries and is not trained to look for them, he or she is doing a serious disservice to their clients.

If you have been injured in an auto or truck crash and think you may have a TBI, it is important you see an experienced personal injury lawyer that is thoroughly familiar with these type of injuries and can fight for fair compensation. At Rowe Law Offices, we know the devastating effects a TBI can have on you and your family. Please call Rowe Law Offices if you have been in an accident and think you may have a TBI so that we help you get a fair and reasonable compensation for your injuries.

How Long Does It Take to Resolve a Personal Injury Case?

An accident whether it be a trucking, auto or fall case is not a pleasant thing to experience. It comes unexpectedly often with devastating consequences. Medical bills can pile up, income can be lost, and you can be put in a desperate financial situation. The insurance looks at your case through different lens. They want to settle your case as quick as possible so they can move onto the next case. They often pressure you to settle now with promises that they will pay your medical bills and throw a few hundred dollars at you to sweeten the pot. Their promises are usually hollow and have many strings attached to them and not in your best interests if you are genuinely hurt. The payment of medical bills often is conditioned on a period of time or a certain amount that the insurance company thinks is reasonable, and often you are left holding medical bills that still need to be paid. Insurance companies do not care. You are a statistic to them or an avenue for a bonus for an adjuster if the claim is closed quickly. Don’t fall for this trap.

It is usually never in your best interest to try to push for a quick settlement in your personal injury claim because this leads to taking far less for your injuries than you are entitled to. It is often difficult to hold out and be patient in your personal injury claim, but it is the best strategy to get fair compensation. It can be a burden financially and mentally to endure through the claims process, but you must if you want justice for your injuries. A good personal injury attorney will not delay in his representation of you, but understands certain things must happen before the claim can be submitted with a settlement demand.

  • You must finishing treating with all your medical providers. If you try to short-circuit the process by not showing up for appointments or discharging yourself from treatment, it will dramatically effect the value of your claim. You are not a doctor and you must trust your doctor’s advice. Do what your doctor, physical therapist or chiropractor tells you to do. Do not slack off if you want to get better. If you do not treat or discharge yourself, the insurance company will think you are not injured or your injuries are not severe. Treatment varies by the severity of the injury. Insurance companies try to pigeon hole treatment into a set amount of time or a set amount of bills. This is not true as it varies for each person. A sprain/strain injury could take 5 weeks for some of treatment or 6 months of treatment.
  • Make sure you receive treatment for all of your physical and mental complaints. This also entails getting to the right specialist for your injuries. A good personal injury attorney will be able to help you to make sure you get to the right specialist and medical providers for your injuries. All physical complaints need to be checked out and treated if necessary. Not getting to the right specialists can undermine the value of your case.
  • Document all loss of income or loss wages due to your injuries. This can include tax returns, W-2s and letters from your employer. Also letters from your medical providers taking you off work. You need proper documentation for the insurance company to consider this loss.
  • Be truthful about your injuries and do not exaggerate or have selective memory. It is not credible if after the accident every ailment you have experienced is suddenly caused by the accident. If you exaggerate, it hurts your claim and makes the insurance company question your motivations in the case. Be truthful with your treating medical providers and make sure you give them an accurate history. Often pre-existing injuries can be aggravated and this is still a compensable injury.
  • Keep copies of all bills, prescription expenses and out of pocket expenses and provide them immediately to your attorney.
  • Be patient with the process. If you try to push the claim thru quickly or become desperate for money, it can dramatically affect the amount the insurance company offers on the claim. Finish treatment and be patient. A good personal injury attorney will not cause delays, but keep the process moving.

Once you are done treating, your personal injury attorney needs to act quickly and not delay. All of the medical records and bills from the remaining providers must be requested immediately. The medical providers have 30 days to provide this information, but often provide it much quicker. Your attorney and his staff must keep up with each provider to get the records and bills as expeditiously as possible. Provide you attorney with all documentation concerning your wage loss claim including paycheck stubs and or letters from the company showing the time missed because of the accident. If the attorney needs to request this information, let them know immediately so there is no delay. Often it is quicker if you get this information directly from your employer.

If you have had a history of pre-existing conditions, it is important to let your attorney know as usually the insurance company will request past medical records going back 3-5 years to explore these issues and what injuries were caused by the accident. Do not be offended as when you make a personal injury claim, your medical condition becomes at issue and this is normal procedure if you have had problems before with the same body area that was injured. A good personal injury lawyer will request these past records before the insurance company wants to see them as this will expediate an offer on your claim. Also if you need future medical treatment, this should be documented by the medical provider which should include the future cost.

Once all of your medical records, bills and lost income information is received and you have reached maximum medical improvement, a pre-suit demand is submitted to the insurance company. The insurance company usually takes 30-60 days to evaluate this information and will then make a pre-suit offer. There initial offer is usually low and is negotiated up until they make their final pre-suit offer. This offer is evaluated in the context of what a jury may award on the case and if it is reasonably in that ballpark. Bills can be negotiated down and liens reduced and you will have a net amount you walk away with. At Rowe Law Offices, I will not recommend a settlement where I am getting more on my fee than the client is walking away with. This will entail at times reducing the fee if it is necessary to settle the case. If you decide to reject the offer, you must also look at the cost of litigating the claim in court that can become expensive with filing fees, expert witness fees, deposition costs and demonstrative evidence costs. Unfortunately filing a lawsuit is not free as there are litigation costs associated with it that are additional to the attorney fee. Although sometimes the offer is so low, that filing suit is your only alternative. Often the offer is at or below medical bills which leaves no alternative but to file suit. A good personal injury attorney will discuss your options with you and the risks and benefits of pre-suit settlement or filing suit.

If suit is filed, the insurance company hires a defense attorney to defend the claim, and the suit proceeds into the discovery phase where you will be required to answer written questions on your claim and have your deposition taken which is a statement under oath where you answer questions by the defense attorney. This process can take 6-9 months on average. The court will order mediation before the case goes to trial and many cases settle in the mediation process. A certified mediator conducts a mediation session with the parties, the insurance company and the mediator present and offers and demand are exchanged in an attempt of settlement. Mediation is usually conducted a year or more after the suit is filed. Sometimes the parties may agree to conduct a pre-suit mediation also. If mediation is unsuccessful, then you have the right to have your case tried in front of a jury and to let the jury decide its worth. Jury trials can go either way and carry a certain amount of risk expense that you must be aware of. Furthermore a jury trial further pushes your case out and may not be conducted until a year and a half to two years or more after suit is filed.

Sometimes when a lawsuit is filed, a new set of eyes with the insurance company gets assigned to the claim, and the new adjuster may call and offer more money before the case proceeds into litigation. This does not always happen, but it provides another good opportunity to settle before incurring further costs of litigation.

This is just a basic outline of the personal injury case, but there are more details that a good personal injury lawyer will discuss with you. It is important your personal injury attorney communicates with you each step of the way so you can make fully informed decisions on your case. If you have been injured in an accident and want to consult an attorney for free about your case, call Rowe Law Offices now to discuss your case.

 

Dangerous Highways and Distracted Driving: A Hazardous Mixture During the Holidays in Florida

During the holiday season, many will travel on the highways around the country to visit loved ones and enjoy this wonderful time of the year. The last thing we want is the highways to be the means we hurt or injured ourselves or others on the road. Unfortunately Florida has the dubious distinction of having some of the most dangerous highways in the nation. Florida also is rated number one in distracted drivers, and along with these dangerous highways can make Florida a perilous place to drive.

Florida has about 1500 miles of interstate highways and over 17 million licensed drivers. According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, there were more than 400,000 vehicle crashes in 2017. These crashes involved more than 686,000 drivers with about 1,100 crashes each day on Florida interstates, highways, and other roads. More than 3,100 people died in these crashes and over a quarter million people were injured. More than 20,000 vehicle accident victims suffered injuries that were incapacitating. Hillsborough County had 27,909 accidents in 2017 with 191 fatalities and 20,682 injuries. Collier County had 5135 accidents with 23 fatalities and 2819 injuries.

Interstate 4(I-4) has been named the most dangerous highway in America by Teletrac Navman, a GPS tracking company, with 1.25 fatalities per mile. I-4 runs 133 miles and connects Tampa, Orland, Daytona Beach and Lakeland.

US Route 1 is another dangerous highway that runs 500 miles along the east coast. There were over 1000 fatal crashes over the past 10 years killing 1079 people.

Interstate 95: The Atlantic Coast Highway, which runs from Miami to Maine, is one of the most dangerous stretches of road, not only in Florida, but in the entire nation. The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration reports that of the 1,040 miles of the I-95 corridor that traverse through urban areas, 60 percent is under heavy congestion. In fact, the average amount of daily traffic in the corridor is 72,000, with maximum daily traffic reaching as high as 300,000 vehicles. Not only are there thousands of cars using I-95, but thousands of trucks too, increasing the danger for everyone. To be sure, the same source reports that truck traffic totals as much as 31,000 as a daily maximum.

US 41: Another study found that in 2014, that the most dangerous Florida road was U.S. 41. 559 crashes in 2014 caused death or an incapacitating injury. Some of the dangerous US. 41 stretches include roads near Charlotte, Collier, and Lee counties and North Fort Myers.

But any road can be dangerous due to distracted driving. We live in the age of distracted driving with our cell phones becoming a dangerous distraction with texting and GPS. Distracted driving is anything that takes your hands off the wheel, your eyes off the road or mind off driving. It is extremely risky behavior that puts everyone on the road in danger. Distractions can range from texting, to tending to kids in the car, to adjusting the radio, eating or taking your mind off driving.

To successfully avoid a crash, a driver must perceive a hazard, react and give the vehicle time to stop. Driver perception distance, or the distance a vehicle travels from the time a driver sees a hazard until the brain recognizes it, and reaction distance, the distance a car will continue to travel after seeing a hazard until the driver physically hits the brakes, dramatically affects a vehicle’s stopping distance. Even a focused driver going 50 mph will travel nearly the length of a football field before coming to a complete stop.

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles is partnering with the Florida Department of Transportation and law enforcement partners to educate Floridians on the changes to distracted driving law with the Put It Down: Focus on Driving campaign. The Wireless Communications While Driving Law, section 316.305, Florida Statutes, took effect on July 1, 2019. This new law requires drivers to put their phones down and focus on driving.

What is the Wireless Communications While Driving Law?

Section 316.305, Florida Statutes allows law enforcement to stop motor vehicles and issue citations to motorists that are texting and driving. A person may not operate a motor vehicle while manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers or symbols into a wireless communications device to text, email and instant message.

Section 316.306, Florida Statutes, is a prohibition on using wireless communications devices in a handheld manner in school and work zone.  A person may not operate a motor vehicle while using a wireless communications device in a handheld manner in a designated school crossing, school zone or active work zone area. Active work zone, as it pertains to Section 316.306, Florida Statutes, means that construction personnel are present or are operating equipment on the road or immediately adjacent to the work zone area.

This holiday season let’s establish the good habit of driving focused without distractions and putting our cell phone down and concentrate on driving. We all want to make it to our family and friends safely without an accident. Also do not drive angry or aggressive as it increases the risk of an accident. You will get where you are going and getting there a few minutes early is not worth the risk of an accident. There are more road rage incidents during this time of the year when the highways are packed. Take a deep breath, and relax and do not anger control your actions behind the wheel.

If you have been injured by the actions of a distracted driver, call Rowe Law Offices, PLLC, to understand your rights and what actions to take to protect you and your family.

Let’s make this the best holiday season ever and let it start with driving safe without distractions and aggression.

New Study: The Importance of Education in Brain Injury Cases

The Center on Brain Injury Research and Training (CBIRT) recently received a grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to study the effects of brain injuries on kids returning to high school. Rather than conducting new research to develop new  brain injury protocols or assessment measures, the study is designed to assess the efficacy of existing school programs that help kids return to the classroom and extracurricular activities after suffering a concussion or another form of traumatic brain injury (TBI).

According to a recent KTVZ News report, the study will be led by CBIRT Director, Ann Glang, who will work with local university professors and other education specialists to assess how existing models for addressing TBI recovery work. As Glang explained, “this research is unique in that it allows us to evaluate an existing model of support for students with brain injuries, rather than develop a new approach that may take years to translate into practice.” Accordingly, Glang discussed, the study “helps us to close that research-practice gap.”

As part of the study, the researchers will start with an assessment of how brain injuries are identified and how screening practices are implemented at high schools and in high school sports. They will examine the communication methods that exist between “medical and educational systems” to improve students’ recovery after a head injury or concussion. Next, the researchers will track the progress of students with brain injuries over time as they move through high school. Finally, the study will explore “professional development for school personnel” when it comes to helping students cope with the aftermath of having a concussion or other brain injury, and how effective those programs might be for helping students.

One school official clarified the importance of this study, noting that “although hospitals treat children and adolescents with TBI in their initial course of recovery, it is ultimately the school system that serves as the long-term provider of services to these students.”

Facts About Brain Injuries

How often do brain injuries happen, and how severe are they? Where do head injuries happen most often? Are some people at greater risk of a concussion than others? The following are key facts and figures about TBIs cited by Brainline.org that help to answer these questions:

  • About 2.8 million people sustain brain injuries every year;
  • Of the people who suffer a TBI, approximately 50,000 will die and 282,000 will be hospitalized;
  • 153 people die every day, on average, from a brain injury;
  • TBIs are contributing factors in about 30% of all reported injury-related deaths;
  • People between the ages of 0-4, 15-19, and 65 and older are at greatest risk of sustaining a brain injury;
  • Approximately 330,000 children aged 19 or younger are treated in emergency departments each year for TBIs resulting from sports or other recreational activities;
  • Adults aged 75 and older are most likely to be hospitalized for a TBI or to suffer a fatal brain injury; and
  • Falls are the leading cause of TBIs (47%), followed by accidents involving being struck by or against an object (15%) and car accidents (14%).

Brain injuries are some of the most overlooked injuries in auto and trucking crashes. It is important to work with an attorney that understands brain injuries and can fight for full compensation. If you sustained a brain injury because of someone else’s negligence, or you think you may have a brain injury from an auto, motorcycle or trucking crash, call  Rowe Law Offices for a free consultation about brain injuries and your best path forward..

5 Things You Must Do if You Are in An Auto Accident in Florida

  • Call police-It is important that the police come out and document the accident and do a report. Do not be fooled into just exchanging information as often the at-fault driver will change his story later to benefit him or her and the insurance company. The officer will document contributing factors to an accident, and the other driver is usually more truthful with the officer at the scene then he or she will be days later. The officer can also talk to important witnesses of the accident that may be hard to track down later. The insurance company has less wiggle room when the investigating officer concludes that their insured was at fault. If you are injured, tell the officer and if necessary ask for an ambulance.
  • Take photographs and document all physical evidence at the scene– This can become very important in the future if the insurance company tries to say you are at fault. Property damage photos of both vehicles and final resting places after impact are important to document. Also take photos of any other evidence at the scene such as tire marks, damaged signs, and debris. If you are in shock and not physically able to do this, it is always a good idea to call a friend or relative to come to the scene and assist you. If the case gets into litigation, this can be critical evidence in proving fault and even damages to a jury.
  • Seek Medical Attention Immediately- Do not delay. In Florida to qualify for PIP (Personal Injury Protection Coverage) you must seek medical care within 14 days of the accident. Often you may feel worse days after the accident, so it is important to have a complete diagnosis of your injuries. This can also help you heal from your injuries and give you a better prognosis on your future health. If there are gaps in medical treatment, the insurance company will not think you are hurt or in pain enough to seek medical treatment, and it could affect the ultimate outcome of your case. There is no reason to delay seeing a doctor or going to a hospital. Let the medical professional determine the nature and extent of your injuries and your need for further medical treatment.
  • Contact your Insurance Company- You need to contact your insurance company immediately and tell them you were in accident even it was not your fault. Also check the declarations page of your policy to determine all coverages you have including medical payments coverage, uninsured motorist and underinsured motorist and PIP coverage. So often people think they have “full coverage” when they do not. It is also important to get insurance information from the other driver. However be careful not to give a statement to the insurance adjuster until you have a chance to talk to an attorney. Adjusters are trained to get you say things that may diminish your injuries and raise issues of fault. Do not sign anything either until you have sought legal advice. You do not want to release your claim prematurely.
  • Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer-it is very important to talk to a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. Almost all personal injury lawyers will give you a free consultation so you know all of your legal rights. Insurance companies may offer you a few hundred dollars to try to get you to settle your case and sign a release. Do not fall for this tactic. When your injuries are in an acute phase, it is impossible to know the full extent of your injuries and your prognosis for the future. To settle quickly usually invites trouble as once you sign a release, the case is gone. A personal injury lawyer can advise you of the proper steps to take to make sure that you protect yourself and your right to compensation. At Rowe Law Offices, we represent the injured who are trying to put their lives together again. Call Rowe Law Offices for a free consultation to understand all your legal rights and what steps to take to navigate through your personal injury case.

Do Not Sign a Release Without Talking to an Attorney

When you have been in an accident, it is very important not to sign any release from an insurance company before you talk to an attorney. After an accident, you may be confused, and not understand what is going on and how to properly deal with an insurance adjuster. This is when the insurance companies pounce and try to take advantage of you in this vulnerable position. You often do not know the full extent of your injuries, whether you will have to miss time for work, and what the reasonable damages you are entitled to due to the other drive’s negligence. This does not stop many insurance companies whose goal is get out of the case as cheap as they can and try to get you to release the claim as soon as possible.

In Florida, there are restrictions on attorneys or medical professionals contacting you right after an accident, but there is no prohibition on an insurance adjuster contacting you on your claim. Many adjusters will seem very sincere and very concerned about you, but do not be fooled. Often they just want you to sign a release of all claims so they can move on to the next claim. You must understand that when you sign a release, all your claims against that driver have been released, and you cannot go back later against the person if you find out your damages or injuries are greater than originally thought. Many times they may offer you a nominal sum of money in exchange for a release, and the promise of some quick compensation is not always in your best interests. Often your claim for damages is worth far more than what they are offering. You need to talk to an attorney who is experienced in personal injury accidents who can properly advise you as to your rights before signing your claim away.

Many of the big name insurance companies, that their commercials say you can trust, are using these tactics to settle claims quickly and often pay less than what the claim is worth. Also a release does not necessarily have to be in writing. Some insurance companies are recording you and asking you on the phone if you orally agree to settle your claim for X amount of dollars, and then sending you a check. An oral agreement can be a binding contract and enforceable in certain circumstances. So be careful not to agree to settle your case over the phone without seeking the legal opinion of a personal injury attorney.

There is no hurry to settle your claim. The insurance company will try to put pressure on you to settle as quickly as possible, and if you are injured, this is rarely in your best interest. Often injuries from an accident can put financial pressures on you especially if you cannot work and bills are piling up. This is why it is important to seek legal counsel to discuss what your options are. Quickly signing a release without talking to an attorney can significantly reduce your right to fair compensation and cause you a lot of financial headaches in the future. Future medical bills and lost income and having to deal with debilitating injuries with no means of compensation can be a nightmare.

Be wise, and do not sign or agree to anything without talking to an experienced personal injury attorney first. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, contact Rowe Law Offices for a free consultation so you fully understand your rights and do not compromise your claim.