Could COVID-19 Affect Whether Or Not I Can Sue After A Car Accident?

Litigation over the next few months will inevitably look a little different than it has over the last few years. That’s because people will want to find a way to assert that coronavirus somehow affected their wellbeing, and it was really someone else’s fault. While some of these cases will have merit, most will not. Many have emailed our firm asking whether or not a car accident lawsuit might be reassessed with COVID-19 in mind.

What does that mean exactly?

Government authorities have urged residents for months to stay indoors whenever possible, and only to venture outside when absolutely necessary for things like groceries and exercise. But plenty of people have ignored mandated restrictions and “strong suggestions” alike. Many people, for example, continue to refuse a mask because they’re convinced coronavirus is a leftist conspiracy theory. Facts don’t matter to those people, so making the argument for truth can be difficult.

So what if you were in a car accident with a person who was not legally allowed to be driving at the time of the accident? 

Situations like these are rare, because very few state and local authorities have imposed restrictions stringent enough to keep people off the road. But if you happen to live somewhere where certain groups of people have been legally mandated to stay inside, you might be entitled to additional compensation when they don’t. Broken laws and criminal acts make civil litigation much simpler in the eyes of the law — and in our eyes too.

For now, we ask you to please abide by the rules. Go above and beyond them if you can. Coronavirus is no joke, and will likely become more serious in the coming months. If you have questions about a recent accident or coronavirus-related legal concerns, please contact us as soon as possible. If you are uncomfortable coming into the office, we will contact you over the phone or through video conference!

Will COVID-19 Impact Car Accident Litigation?

Many of us have questions about the potential impacts of what appears to be the most dangerous viral outbreak in the modern era — and sadly, few of those questions seem to have answers. Science has been slow to provide them even though researchers are working nonstop to do exactly that. Will COVID-19 impact car accident litigation? Of all the questions asked, it seems like one of the silliest until you dig into the details.

After all, this pandemic has affected aspects of our world — and how it functions at the most basic levels — that no one ever imagined. And yes, COVID-19 will absolutely affect car accident litigation moving forward.

First, we expect many fewer lawsuits in the coming weeks and months. Car accident attorneys provide a resource for those who have been injured in, well, car accidents. And with fewer people traveling on the road during lockdowns and self-isolation, accidents have dwindled to a few. This is good news! Hospitals are already under intense pressure because of a lack of resources to fight the new viral threat, and they don’t need the added strain of car accident victims to make things worse.

Second, we expect fewer lawsuits over the long-term. This is primarily because COVID-19 could — and probably will — crop up in peaks and troughs, hitting parts of the world that weren’t initially affected months later. Likely, it will return with a vengeance later this year if Americans are successful in flattening the curve (although the preventative measures taken so far should have been far more restrictive if that was the ultimate goal).

Many non-essential businesses have been asked to close their doors for the duration of this outbreak, but law firms were not among their number. That’s because people need financial protection now more than ever, and regardless of how many fewer car accidents there are over the next few months or even years, there are still some. We’re here to help those who need it now the most.

We urge our readers to heed CDC warnings and take cautionary measures while going about their day to day lives. Are you a non-essential employee, suddenly out of work? Please stay home! You can still go out for a walk or to pick up some groceries, but socializing as you normally would will cause great damage heading into May. 

Should the numbers continue to advance at such a pace, we can expect 3,000 dead Americans each day by the end of April. We’re on track to eclipse seasonal flu deaths very soon. Please take care of yourselves and others!

Does Car Insurance Cover Damage Done By Tornadoes?

Nashville, Tennessee residents are picking up the pieces after 16 of its residents were killed by a tornado. Mother Nature’s destructive force reared its ugly head for many people who live there, and they’re wondering what it means for the future. More than that, they have many questions regarding how they’re going to pay for everything they’ve lost.

Meade County resident Sarah Mills said, “I honestly did not sleep, because I was traumatized. Like every time I closed my eyes I just heard the sound…It was kind of like going through the car wash when the dryers are on, times ten. It was just like in my ear. I knew people were screaming but I couldn’t even hear because it was so loud.”

She was in a restaurant when the tornado came. 

“A server, or the owner, or someone said, ‘Get in the back, now,’” she explained. “Like, he screamed it, and right when he said that you could hear a window shatter. Things were flying. I was praying to God. I was like, ‘Please, please, please, please, please. This is not the time.’ I’ve never actually been terrified of dying before, and I really thought that was the end.”

The damage to local business, residences, and — cars — was devastating to those already struggling financially. That’s left a lot of people asking whether or not their insurance will pay for some of the damage. The good news is that homeowners insurance or renters insurance can cover much of the damage done to your home — if you thought to cover yourself beforehand.

And auto insurance does indeed cover damage done by Mother Nature. But how much is covered all depends on the specific policy. If your vehicle is scratched up, you can expect nearly all damages to be covered. However, if your car was totaled during the Nashville tornado event, you might not have as much coverage as you need to recover the costs of a new vehicle. The most sensible thing to do is have a chat with your carrier.

Were you in a car accident during the storm? You might benefit from a conversation with a personal injury lawyer first. Accidents that result from a tornado can be tricky in court — and you could even be sued for an accident you didn’t cause! No one should have to pay damages for something that wasn’t their fault. Make sure you’re covered both financially and legally before someone can take advantage of the situation to sue you.

Are Tesla Vehicles With Autopilot More Or Less Dangerous Than Other Vehicles?

Tesla is under a lot of scrutiny right now because of mounting public pressure to lockdown its popular “autopilot” feature. Autopilot systems allow the vehicle to make decisions on its own when on certain roadways. According to Elon Musk, drivers are still supposed to keep their eyes on the road and be ready to take over at a moment’s notice, and so the liability for autopilot software error should still fall on the driver.

But the real question is this: are vehicles with autopilot more dangerous than those without? After all, a few accidents doesn’t mean anything. They were inevitable.

It’s the answer to that question that many outlets are ignoring. Studies have indicated that autopilot actually increases safety rather than decreases it. In other words, keep it on and you’re less likely to have an accident. Isn’t it suspicious that the news has left that little detail alone?

The accidents have increased during winter, which was a reality that Tesla said it expected. And to be fair, the safety information we’re relying on actually comes from Tesla itself. It would be far more reliable from a third-party. That means trust is a big issue for those who argue Tesla should be taking more responsibility for deaths that occur when autopilot fails.

The last quarterly report for 2019 said: “In the 4th quarter, we registered one accident for every 3.07 million miles driven in which drivers had Autopilot engaged. For those driving without Autopilot but with our active safety features, we registered one accident for every 2.10 million miles driven. For those driving without Autopilot and without our active safety features, we registered one accident for every 1.64 million miles driven. By comparison, NHTSA’s most recent data shows that in the United States there is an automobile crash every 479,000 miles.”

There are a lot of facts to swallow, but here are the main takeaways: somehow, Tesla owners seem to be somewhat safer than your average driver. In addition to that, those who engage autopilot are much less likely to get into an accident than those who have an average vehicle. To put it mathematically, Autopilot means you’re about six times safer. 

Electrek reported: “The main complaint about Tesla’s set of Autopilot data is that the system is mostly used on the highway versus city driving, where accidents are more common. Therefore, it’s not really useful to compare those two datasets. Also, the comparison with the overall NHTSA data also includes older vehicles, which are more likely to be involved in accidents than Tesla’s much more recent vehicles on average.”

In other words, what we really need to know is how they stack up against other newer models of traditional vehicles and all their safety features as well.

Conservative Lawmakers In Louisiana Make A Move To Limit Car Accident Compensation

Car accidents are extremely common. You won’t live your life without being involved in at least a few. That’s why car accident lawsuits are common too. People get badly injured, or even worse, are killed. Generally speaking, people can be barred from building a case against an at-fault driver in court when insurance-related alternatives are available. That means that insurance companies themselves are often the target of these lawsuits.

Republican lawmakers in Louisiana are pushing to place strict caps on damages recouped by drivers involved in car accidents. Not only will this result in unfair compensation, but lawyers will make less money too. And that’s not necessarily a good thing, since most personal injury lawyers are paid only if they win a case. The new Republican push might result in unexpected blowback somewhere down the road — but no one’s thinking of that.

Those in favor of the potential legislation believe that these lawsuits result in higher insurance rates. They believe that the state might gain more business if the rules are changed. But opponents of the legislation say that there’s no reason to believe that, and ask for empirical data to support those claims. To date, there’s none forthcoming.

Worse, those involved in terrible car accidents might never be able to recover financially if the caps are placed.

Representative Sherman Mack is battling to become the next House speaker in the state of Louisiana, and he contended that this law would become “the biggest copic you’re going to hear most about in this next legislative session. We have to let the middle class and the public know that we are attempting as the leaders of this state to help them with these high insurance rates.”

But everyone acknowledges that the state needs to make some changes to address the rising premiums, which are currently around an average $2,200 annual rate, second-highest in the nation.

Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards said, “I know that there is some movement, some compromise that’s possible.” But he also acknowledged that he doesn’t plan on “creating any red lines” as far as damages limitations are concerned. 

Republican Senator Rick Ward doesn’t necessarily agree that new legislation would result in lower rates. “We can certainly take a look at how we differ from other states, but the problem there is I think a lot of times … the reason the general public doesn’t trust us is because we go out and sell something, and then we pass what we sell and then it never materializes.”

He continued, “So, if we all go run around the state and tell everybody that we’re going to pass this and you’re going to see your insurance rates reduced, what happens in two years whenever we passed it and their rates don’t reduce?”

Are Car Accidents On The Decline? Safer Vehicles Reducing Fatalities!

Car accidents are still a leading cause of death in the United States (although they’re still not really comparable to heart disease and cancer, which rank numbers one and two). Vehicle-related fatalities run in the tens of thousands per year, but there’s good news: The number of fatalities is on the decline two years running. Around 36,500 people were killed in 2018, but that represented an important 2.4 percent reduction in the number of average annual deaths.

Statistics for car accident fatalities can be difficult to look at, because they often hit peaks and troughs. In 1970, for example, the number of deaths hit a peak of 52,627 in the United States. They then declined until 1975, getting down to 44,525 before beginning to climb once again. They’ve been going up and down ever since, but the overall trend for the past decade is down, down, down.

A big dip occurred between 2007 and 2008, from 41,259 to 37,423 dead.

Why are car accident fatalities going down so much? A lot of reasons, but there are two big ones. First, it’s important to know that pedestrian deaths are included in yearly car accident fatality statistics. That means anyone hit by a car when out for a walk becomes a number on a graph. Sadly, pedestrian deaths have actually been trending up. This is in part because more people have been exercising alongside roads over the past decade.

There’s hope that this number will decline as more people begin to use the dedicated foot traffic pathways or bike paths that are being built at increasing rates. The number will also likely diminish as onboard artificial intelligence software begins to use driverless technology to stop whenever a pedestrian gets in the way. This technology is expected to be implemented at a much higher rate over the next few years. 

That same technology will likely reduce the number of car accidents in general even further. Automated software has been implemented slowly over the past decade: features like automated parking, rearview camera, and automated braking are included in almost every new model of vehicle sold. As more people transition to newer models, we can expect the number of car accident fatalities and pedestrian deaths to go way, way down.

Although it seems nearly impossible, we might be approaching the day when the number almost disappears completely. That’s because full automation is probably coming within at least another decade. If politicians decide to enforce laws banning other vehicles from city roads, for example, then we can expect the number of people killed in car accidents to flatline.

Car Accidents In Review: Last Week

37,000 Americans die in car accidents every year, many of which involve distracted driving behaviors like texting, talking on the phone, or listening to music. Many of the dead include children aged 16 to 20. These are last week’s car accidents in review!

56-year-old actress Helen Hunt was riding in the back seat when she was involved in a car accident in Los Angeles, California. The SUV flipped when the vehicle was struck. She was temporarily hospitalized, but released only a few hours later with minor injuries.

A gravel truck driver in Howard County, Maryland overturned his vehicle after striking another car trying to turn left onto River’s Edge Road. The driver was killed. U.S. Route 29 was temporarily closed while authorities cleaned the site of the accident.

There was a four-car accident in Osceola, Indiana earlier last week, sending two people to the hospital. One vehicle whose driver is likely at fault smashed into another car head-on, forcing it off the road and nearly pushing it into the nearby river. Chief Mike Mclain said that authorities would release more details after they investigate.

A tragic accident occurred on the Ben Shemen interchange (Highway 4) in Israel, leaving a 12-year-old girl and pregnant mother dead at the scene. When the mother was pronounced dead, medical personnel at the hospital successfully delivered the baby in serious condition. Two other passengers, an 8-year-old daughter and her father, survived the accident with minor injuries.

Car accidents like these occur every second of every day — and yet many of us continue to fail to take seriously the consequences of those accidents. Don’t forget that there are many options available to you after a car accident that was not your fault. You deserve compensation for injuries and trauma sustained.

Personal injury attorneys work on contingency, which means they don’t get paid unless you do. That means there’s no reason to try to file a lawsuit on your own. 

If you were in a car accident, try to document the events that led up to the accident as best you can. Photograph your vehicle. Photograph your injuries. Keep a journal of your daily thoughts and feelings after the accident. Make sure your bills are all forwarded to the attorney of your choice.

Not sure which personal injury or car accident lawyer is for you? Most reputable lawyers will provide you with a free consult. There’s no reason not to ask around!

Whistleblowing Lawyer Takes On The Auto Industry To Make Your Trip Safer

You might have heard about one of the biggest recalls in the history of the auto industry: 30 million General Motors cars were taken off the roads when Lance Cooper, a 56-year-old attorney, found out about faulty ignition switches in their vehicles. Before those vehicles were removed from the streets, at least 124 people died because of the defect. 

What you might find most disconcerting about the news, however, is that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) didn’t know anything about it. 

Cooper discussed the problem with the Free Press: “Frankly, I’m skeptical of government bureaucracies.”

And who can blame him? The government might do the best it can, but people are still dying because the “best it can” isn’t good enough. 29 million vehicles were recalled in 2018 by order of the NHTSA, but Cooper fears there might be many more cars out there with similarly faulty mechanisms to the GM fiasco. 

“The best way to hold automakers accountable is through the civil justice system,” Cooper said, propping up the legal work his firm does to protect consumers. He might be onto something. In the 1970s, exploding gas tanks killed up to 180 people by some estimates. Lawyers were the ones to hold Ford accountable for the deaths. And barely fifteen years ago, a Firestone tire defect killed hundreds. 

One of those killed by the exploding tires was a 14-year-old girl, whose parents filed a lawsuit using the services of a lawyer named Randy Roberts. Once again, lawyers got to the bottom of it. The vehicle the girl’s parents had been driving lost the tread of its left-rear tire, which resulted in the vehicle flipping and rolling. Roberts subpoenaed Firestone and won the documents he needed to prove wrongdoing. 

While Roberts was on the Firestone case, so were others. Roberts found them, collaborated with them, and it was that collaboration that led to the massive Firestone recall — also by order of the NHTSA

Cooper said, “Toyota’s unintended acceleration, it wasn’t NHTSA that uncovered that — it was trial lawyers who used the civil justice system to uncover corporate malfeasance.”

And it’s through such service that Cooper wants to reduce the stigma against lawyers, who people sometimes see as greedy parasites who are out for themselves and no one else. It’s not always true. Some lawyers simply want to defend those who don’t know the law well enough to defend themselves, or those who can’t afford to take the chance.

Artificial Intelligence Making A Number Of Industries Safer, Not Just Vehicles

Most of us know exactly how scary a car accident can be. This is especially true when someone is injured in the collision. Arriving authorities, paramedics included, must often administer immediate treatments after making a diagnosis — and rarely is there any time at all to hesitate. Because there is so little time when lives are in the balance, misdiagnosis of injuries after a car accident is a common form of medical malpractice.

We know the story here at home, but how about abroad? It turns out the statistics are very familiar: The European Commission of Mobility and Transport acknowledged that about 44 percent of car accident-related fatalities might not have occurred had reliable and accurate information been recorded directly after the accident.

Believe it or not, most fatalities that result from car accidents don’t actually occur at the scene of the accident — they occur either in transport to the hospital, at the hospital, or even at home. The ECMT said about 32 percent of recorded car accident fatalities occurred when victims were transported to the wrong hospital for their injuries, while 12 percent died because no information was available at all.

That’s where artificial intelligence comes into play.

Machine learning has grown exponentially over the last few years, and is expected to grow at the same or greater rate for decades longer. 

A company called MDGo founded by Dr. Itay Bengad, Eli Zerah, and Gilad Avrashi last year is combining artificial intelligence and machine learning technology with healthcare, especially in the niche of car accidents. MDGo is using a predictive technology using sensors that already exist on new vehicles.

These sensors would automatically provide doctors and surgeons with real-time information on the nature of the car accident and the likely injuries sustained by passengers at the time of the crash. The report includes damage to the vehicle — but more importantly it will provide specific information about the injuries sustained, such as type of injury and severity. 

The information will also help first responders and coordinators make better decisions about where to send patients for the most accurate treatment possible. In the future, it is likely the MDGo tech will be combined with driverless vehicles to provide even more information about the circumstances related to the car accident.

The AI is expected to reduce car accident-related fatalities both short- and long-term, while also slashing healthcare expenses for those who need post-accident care. Better yet, the system should reduce the number of lawsuits that result from these accidents.

Who Will Be Held Liable For Car Accidents Involving Driverless Vehicles?

It’s a question you’ll hear asked often enough in the coming years as more and more car manufacturers begin to add automated cars to their yearly lineup: who is liable for an accident involving a driverless vehicle? Many car manufacturers are adding features similar to Tesla’s autopilot already, software which is itself becoming much more advanced and allows the driver to hand over control to the onboard computer when driving on certain roads.

Apple is working on a program of its own and has about 66 driverless minivans operating in California. The Audi A8 will allow drivers to remove their hands from the steering wheel already, but only at speeds at or below 37 mpg. Volvo is aiming for a 2021 rollout for self-driving technology. BMW plans to get their own driverless vehicles on the road in the same year. 

No matter where you look, it seems like the early 2020s will be the era of the autonomous vehicle, and most car manufacturers are aiming for similar target dates. These vehicles will not be fully autonomous — they won’t use fully enabled level 5 automation, in other words. Instead they’ll rely on weak level 4 or advanced level 3 automation, which basically means the driver still needs to maintain awareness of what the technology is doing in order to prevent accidents.

Unfortunately for the drivers, this will place the burden of liability squarely on their shoulders in the foreseeable future. Most “scandals” involving driverless vehicle accidents until now are the result of lazy human passengers who decided to place trust in a technology that wasn’t supposed to be trusted yet. That makes them mostly responsible for the resulting injuries and fatalities.

However at some point in the future we will reach level 5 automation and passengers in these vehicles will not be expected to pay attention to the road. When this happens the burden of liability will shift primarily from the passenger over to other parties, including manufacturers, used car dealerships, and potentially mechanics or would-be saboteurs. The only case in which the driver would still be held responsible would be if the driver had tried to reprogram or work on the vehicle in a way that rendered the onboard software defective.

Unsurprisingly, the United States Federal Government is still slow to write new laws for the new technology. The Brits have outpaced us, already preparing for the future of driverless vehicles — and quite possibly they’ll therefore have legal access to these vehicles faster than we will if politicians don’t speed things up!