Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) a common consequence of Missouri car accidents

ct-scans-2-262491-m.jpgWhen a loved one suffers from a traumatic brain injury, his or her life can be permanently changed, impacting not just the victims but their loved ones as well. Often, those afflicted with these injuries are forced to relearn basic tasks, as brain injuries can impact an individual's thinking, sensation, language and emotions. Traumatic brain injuries can also result in long-term financial consequences associated with medical care, disability, and rehabilitation.

What is a traumatic brain injury?

According to the Brain Injury Association of America, a traumatic brain injury is defined as "an alteration in brain function, or other evidence of brain pathology, caused by an external force." These injuries are, unfortunately, common. They can be associated with a number of incidents, including the following:

• Workplace accidents (like falls, which make up 35.2% of traumatic brain injuries each year)
• Birth injuries and loss of oxygen to the brain
• Medical errors (i.e. medical malpractice, also known as "anoxic encephalopathy" or "anoxic brain injury")
• Auto accidents, including car, truck, and motorcycle crashes

Auto accidents account for 17.3% of traumatic brain injuries in the United States, and medical professionals report that it is remarkably easy to suffer a brain injury in a car crash. You don't have to be traveling at a high rate of speed, and you don't even have to strike your head on an object to suffer injury. Clinical neuropsychologist Dr. Glen Johnson explains a common scenario: "If a person is driving a car at 45 miles per hour and is struck head-on by another car traveling at the same rate of speed, the person's brain goes from 45 miles per hour to zero in an instant. The soft tissue of the brain is propelled against the very hard bone of the skull. The brain tissue is 'squished' against the skull and blood vessels may tear. When blood vessels tear, they release blood into areas of the brain in an uncontrolled way."

Bleeding in the brain can be especially dangerous, because it can cause brain tissue to stop functioning or even die off - and it can happen fast. In many cases, symptoms of these injuries don't appear right away: "Some people have sustained a head injury from a car accident and [seemed] 'just fine' right after at the accident. Some have even gotten out of the car and directed traffic," Dr. Johnson says. "Within a short period of time, they began to get more and more confused until they eventually [lapsed] into a coma."

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Preventing hot car deaths in Missouri children: Facts & tips for caregivers

September 3, 2014

closed-825531-m.jpgSummer is nearly over, but high temperatures and heat advisories are still with us here in the Ozarks. Our Springfield personal injury lawyers want to remind you to take precautions to prevent heatstroke and hot car deaths in children - not just during the summer months, but all year round. Recently, national media outlets reported the tragic death of a 22-month old Georgia boy who was left in a vehicle by his father. After authorities investigated, they determined the father's actions were deliberate. The father, Justin Ross Harris, has since been indicted on three murder charges and seven other offenses.

Of course, the vast majority of hot car deaths are not caused by parents who intend to do harm to their children. Sadly, most cases of vehicle-related hyperthermia are accidental, and they're disturbingly common - this year alone, 26 children have died nationwide. In this post, we discuss some important facts about hot car deaths and provide a few simple tips to help you keep your children safe.

Facts about hot car deaths: What Missouri parents and caregivers need to know

• Since 1998, 619 children in the U.S. have died of heatstroke after being left unattended in vehicles, according to data compiled by the Department of Meteorology and Climate Science. That's an average of 38 children every year.

• Roughly half of hyperthermia deaths happen when caregivers, often distracted, simply forget that a child is in their vehicle. About 30% occur when a child gets into a vehicle without a caregiver's knowledge and becomes trapped; 20% happen when a caregiver intentionally leaves a child in a vehicle.

• Children's body temperatures can rise three to five times more quickly than the body temperatures of adults. Heatstroke occurs when a person's body temperature reaches 104 degrees, causing symptoms like dizziness, disorientation, seizures, sluggishness, increased heart rate and loss of consciousness. A body temperature of 107 degrees or higher can prove to be fatal, as cells begin to suffer damage and internal organs begin to fail.

• A vehicle can heat up extremely fast, warming up by as much as 20 degrees within a 10 minute time frame. In fact, the temperature inside a vehicle can rise to 110 degrees when the temperature outside is only in the 60s - and a vehicle occupant can experience hyperthermia when the temperature outdoors is as low as 57 degrees. Heatstroke deaths have occurred in 11 months out of the year.

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Join us for the Cherish Kids 5K/10K on Saturday, August 16 at James River Assembly in Ozark!

runnergirl.jpgHere at Aaron Sachs and Associates, we're proud to be the presenting sponsor of the Cherish Kids 5K/10K, which will be held this Saturday, August 16, at the James River Assembly South Campus in Ozark (at Highway 65 and CC). Our team will be there handing out free bicycle safety helmets to kids ages 12 and under who are registered for the Kids K! We hope you'll join us for what promises to be a fun event, with 100% of all proceeds going to support a great cause.

Cherish Kids 5K/10K: Event details

8:00 - 10:00 a.m.: Cherish Kids Family Fun! This year's event features a number of activities for the whole family, including bounce houses, games, face painting, giveaways, a silent auction, a hot air balloon launch, and an amazing all-you-can-eat Pancake Breakfast ($5 per person). Special guests Sara and Ethan Forhetz will also be in attendance. And if you have a child age 12 or under who's participating in the race, be sure to stop by our tent for a free bicycle helmet!

8:00 a.m.: Start time for the 5k/10K! Participants will receive a race T-shirt and bag and free snacks - and they'll also be eligible for over $3000 in prizes. Water stations will also be positioned along this year's new, improved course.

9:00 a.m.: Start time for the "Kids K" portion of the event! The Kids K is a 0.6 mile race for participants age 12 and under (and all participants 12 and younger will receive a medal, whether they run the 5K/10K or the Kids K). Children in foster care will receive a free registration.

9:30 a.m.: Award Ceremony! The ceremony will include Overall Winners (1st, 2nd, 3rd Male & Female); Masters (1st, 2nd, 3rd Male & Female); 1st Place in each 5 year age group (Including age groups 10 & under to 75 & over); and Overall Kids K: Boy & Girl Trophies.

About Cherish Kids

• Founded in 2009 by Debbie Lindell, Cherish Kids works tirelessly to find homes for the nearly 2,000 orphans living throughout Missouri. Their mission is three-fold: to raise awareness about the needs of children in crisis, both locally and worldwide; to offer resources to people who want to help these children; and to provide support by helping meet these children's various needs and offering financial, emotional and spiritual support to families who wish to foster or adopt.

• The organization's efforts include supplying gift cards to children to purchase clothing when they are suddenly placed in foster care; providing summer camp scholarships to foster children; and hosting special events to encourage and support foster children.

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Seat belts save lives and reduce injury risks in Missouri and nationwide

buckle-up-107206-m.jpgNo matter how carefully you drive, the odds are that you'll be involved in a car crash at some point during your lifetime. While you can't control other people on the road, you can take one simple, basic precaution to reduce your risk of serious injury: wear your seat belt. In this post, our Springfield personal injury lawyers share ten things Missouri drivers should know about seat belt use and roadway safety.

Ten things Missouri drivers should know about seat belts:

1. Wearing a seat belt is the easiest, most effective step you can take to reduce your chances of being injured in a car accident.

2. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that lap/shoulder seat belts reduce fatal injury risks by 45% and moderate-to-critical injury risks by 50%.

3. According to the Missouri Highway Patrol, Missouri drivers who aren't buckled up are 42 times more likely to be killed in an auto accident.

4. Since 1975, seat belt use has saved nearly 300,000 lives in the U.S. alone, according to the AAA Exchange.

5. In 2012, seat belts saved 12, 174 lives - and over 3,000 more lives could have been saved if all passenger vehicle occupants over age four had buckled up.

6. A NHTSA study estimates that over 1,600 additional lives could be saved annually - and 22,000 injuries prevented - if seat belt use was 90% in all 50 states.

7. Air bags are not a replacement for seat belts: the two devices are meant to work together. If you're not wearing a seat belt when your air bag deploys, you could be thrown into the air bag as it opens. That kind of force can cause serious, even fatal injury.

8. Seat belts should be worn so that the lap belt is secured across your pelvis (across the hips, below the stomach); the shoulder belt should be secured across your rib cage (away from your neck). These areas are able to withstand crash forces better than other parts of the body.

9. The way your seat belt fits makes a difference. When you're shopping for a vehicle, check the fit of the seat belts. In addition, you can use seat belt adjusters or extenders to help ensure the fit is right.

10. All passenger vehicle occupants should be buckled up. If you're carrying young passengers, make sure they are properly restrained in appropriate child safety seats. (To learn about Missouri's Child Restraint Law, click here.)

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Missouri burn injuries more common during the summer months

sparkler-1431759-m.jpgThe Fourth of July holiday weekend is almost here, and our Missouri personal injury lawyers want to remind you about the importance of fireworks safety at this time of year. On average, 200 people are treated in emergency rooms nationwide during the month around July for fireworks related injuries. As you celebrate this year, be sure to take precautions to help prevent injury. Below, we share a few useful safety suggestions

Fireworks safety: A few tips for the Fourth of July holiday

• Don't allow children to play with or ignite fireworks.

• Never try to pick up or re-light "duds" - fireworks that haven't fully ignited.

• Always keep a bucket of water or garden hose on hand.

• Never throw or point fireworks toward people, animals, vehicles, structures, or any flammable materials.

• According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than half of all fireworks-related injuries are burns. 41% are injuries to hands/fingers, and 19% are to hands, faces and ears. Be sure these areas are protected when igniting fireworks.

• Illegal and homemade fireworks were involved in all six fireworks-related deaths that occurred last year: if you plan to use fireworks this holiday weekend, make sure the ones you purchase are legal.

Burn injuries more common during the summer months

In general, burn injuries occur more frequently in the summer, when temperatures soar and conditions tend to be dry, creating ideal circumstances for fires. According to the National Fire Protection Association, fires cost residents of Missouri and the US more than $15.5 billion in damage in recent years. These kinds of incidents can lead to property damage, serious personal injury, and even death. Many fires lead to serious burn injuries that can have long-lasting negative effects on victims and their families.

The American Burn Association reveals that more than one million burn injuries require medical treatment every year, and the cost from medical bills resulting from these injuries can be financially crippling. Burn injuries can take years to recover fully from, and some sufferers never completely recover. Treatment can be lengthy and painful, and is often extraordinarily expensive. Victims of burn injuries should be aware that they may be entitled to compensation for their losses.

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Excessive speed contributes to many Missouri car accidents, increases injury risks for motorists

relax-speed-2-578724-m.jpgAccording to the Missouri Highway Patrol, excessive speed is a leading cause of auto accidents in Missouri: each year, drivers traveling well in excess of the posted speed limit are responsible for car accidents that result in serious injuries and fatalities. As with many other kinds of accidents, car crashes caused by excessive speed are easily preventable: catastrophic injuries and expensive medical costs caused by these accidents can be avoided. Missouri drivers are urged to follow a few simple rules to help prevent car accidents, and keep all motorists and passengers safer on our state's highways.

Observe and obey posted speed limits. Speeding can limit the time you have to avoid a dangerous collision.

Pay attention. Distracted driving, often caused by cell phone use and texting, leads to a loss of focus on the road, and can be as dangerous as driving while intoxicated.

Don't drink and drive. If you do plan to drink, appoint a designated driver.

Don't tailgate. Following too closely reduces the time and space you need to avoid a car crash.

Don't drive while tired. Tired driving carries many of the same risks as drunk driving, and can lead to a deadly accident.

The Highway Patrol reports that in 2012, there were 286 fatal crashes involving speed and over 6,500 speed-related crashes that resulted in personal injuries to vehicle occupants. 320 people died and 9,723 were injured in these accidents.

Safe and careful driving is the best way to prevent these senseless injuries and fatalities. By paying attention and following the rules of the road, Missouri drivers can get where they're going safely, and protect other drivers as well. Safe and careful driving can help you avoid the dangerous, careless driving of others, and help prevent car accidents, personal injury, property damage, and costly medical bills.

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Avoiding Missouri ATV accidents & injuries: Tips & info for summer 2014

1109243_quad.jpgSummer is just about here, and many Missourians are already enjoying the numerous outdoor activities that are popular in our state. In this post, our personal injury lawyers share some information and safety tips related to all-terrain vehicles (ATVs).

Facts about ATVs, accidents and injuries

• In the U.S., approximately 800 deaths and 135,000 injuries occur each year as a result of ATV accidents.

• Around one-third of ATV-related deaths and injuries involve children under age 16. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of children killed in off-road vehicle accidents rose by 88%.

• ATVs are especially prone to rollover accidents, especially when they encounter unexpected obstacles or uneven terrain. Since ATVs can weigh up to 800 pounds, these rollover accidents commonly cause serious, life-threatening injuries.

ATVs and Missouri law

• Under state law, all ATV riders (whether operators or passengers) under age 18 must wear a helmet.

• ATVs may not be used on highways, except for agricultural or industrial purposes.

• No one under age 16 may operate an ATV, except when accompanied by a parent or when on land owned by a parent.

• All ATVs must be titled and registered, with the registration to be renewed every three years. No one under age 16 can legally register an ATV.

ATV safety tips

Always wear appropriate protective gear. Wearing a helmet certified by the U.S. Department of Transportation is the most effective way to reduce your risk of sustaining head injuries in an ATV accident. In addition, protective gear like boots, goggles, and gloves can help protect you from cuts, abrasions and other injuries caused by outdoor debris.

Don't allow children to ride adult-sized ATVs. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, children under 16 are twice as likely to be injured when riding adult ATVs compared to youth ATVs. Many safety experts recommend that parents prohibit young children from operating ATVs because they lack the necessary knowledge, strength, size and cognitive ability.

Don't carry a passenger - or ride as a passenger - on an ATV designed to carry a single rider. Most ATVs are only meant to carry one rider - and ATVs are meant to be ridden interactively, so that the vehicle responds when the operator shifts his or her weight. A passenger can alter the distribution of weight and limit the operator's ability to control the vehicle.

Avoid riding an ATV on paved roads, unless you are crossing a road legally and safely. ATVs are meant to be driven off-road, and they can be tricky to maneuver on pavement, making accidents more likely.

Take an ATV safety course. Whether you're an experienced ATV rider or you're just learning, a safety course can help you build and develop safe riding skills. The ATV Safety Institute offers a free online E-course along with information about hands-on courses offered in your area.

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Missouri reports sharp decline in auto accident fatalities in 2013

motion-1197254-m.jpgDespite law enforcement initiatives, innovations in vehicle safety features, and campaigns designed to curb dangerous driving behaviors, fatal car accidents are disturbingly common. Consider these statistics:

• The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates that over 35,000 people died in U.S. car accidents in 2013 - and approximately 3.8 million more suffered crash-related injuries that required medical attention.
• According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a motor vehicle death occurred every 16 minutes in 2012. A motor vehicle injury occurred every 14 seconds.
• On average, car accidents cost the U.S. $230.6 billion each year. That's about $820 per person.
• Given current trends, experts say car accident injuries will become the fifth leading cause of death worldwide by 2030.
• The vast majority of auto accidents are caused by simple human error.

Here in Missouri, however, there's some good news to report: data from the Highway Patrol indicates that car accident fatalities have declined steadily over the past few years. In 2006, there were 1,257 crash deaths statewide, but in 2013, the number of fatalities dropped to 757. That's a difference of 500 lives: as a Patrol news release points out, it's the equivalent of the entire town of Irondale, MO. What's more, it's only the second time since 1949 that Missouri experienced fewer than 800 annual traffic fatalities.

Unfortunately, however, the decline hasn't continued into this year. Thus far in 2014, Missouri has experienced a 9% increase in car accident deaths. In response to this increase, the Patrol is urging Missouri motorists "to make a conscious decision to help lower that number by being safe drivers."

Preventing fatal car accidents in Missouri: Three simple things you can do to make a difference

Always wear your seat belt. Of the 757 people who died in Missouri auto accidents last year, the Patrol says 63% of those required to be restrained were not buckled up when the crash occurred. Fastening your seat belt is the easiest way to reduce your risk of life-threatening injury: in fact, seat belts can reduce crash injury risks by 50%. It only takes a second, and it really might save your life.

Follow the law. Sadly, factors like excessive speed, alcohol use and improper lane changes play a role in many Missouri car accidents. These accidents are entirely preventable, provided we all follow the rules of the road. When drivers break traffic laws, they pose a threat to roadway safety for all motorists.

Don't divide your attention between driving and other activities. The NSC reports that some form of cell phone cause causes over one in four crashes nationwide. However, cell phones aren't the only source of driver distraction. Other high-risk secondary tasks (such as eating, fiddling with the radio, talking to passengers, etc.) can be extremely dangerous. Remember, safe driving requires your undivided attention.

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Warm weather brings increased risks for Missouri hot car deaths

carseatphoto.jpgAs warmer temperatures return to Missouri, our Springfield personal injury lawyers would like to remind parents and caregivers about the dangers of leaving children alone in cars. Every year, there are more and more serious injuries sustained by children who are abandoned in hot vehicles. Statistics show that more than half of children who die after being left in hot cars are simply forgotten by caregivers who were rushed or stressed.

Research indicates a heightened risk of serious injury or death for children, accidentally or purposely, left in vehicles in the heat. Hyperthermia, or heat-stroke, is a leading cause of death for children under the age of 14. And according to the Department of Geosciences at San Francisco State University, there have been over 600 hyperthermia deaths of American children since 1998 that directly resulted from children being left in vehicles. Sixteen of those deaths occurred in Missouri.

It's essential that parents and caregivers are extra cautious when exiting their vehicle during the warmer months. Tragedies may also occur under the watch of babysitters, daycare centers, schools and summer camps. We urge you to talk with day care employees, school employees and caregivers to stress the important of checking for children when they leave their motor vehicles. You should ask that you be notified immediately if any of the parties notice that your child did not arrive on-time to a destination. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), at least 27 documented deaths caused by children being left in hot motor vehicles are reported each year.

NHTSA offers you these tips to help prevent your child from getting left in a vehicle and experiencing hyperthermia:

• Never ever leave an infant or a child in a vehicle unattended -- not even if the windows are open or the engine is on and the air conditioning is running.

• Do not allow children to play in an unattended vehicle. You should be sure to teach them a vehicle is not a play area.

• Make a habit to look in the vehicle before locking the door and walking away. Be sure to check the front and back seats.

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Fiery CA accident involved FedEx truck, high school bus

asphalt-3-724075-m.jpgYesterday, ten people were killed in northern California when a FedEx truck veered across a grassy highway median and struck a bus filled with high school students en route to a college visit, causing an explosion. According to USA Today, the truck driver and the bus driver were among the dead, along with eight passengers on the bus. In addition, an estimated 36 or 37 other bus occupants suffered injuries ranging from life-threatening to minor. The victims were reported to suffer burns, broken bones, and head injuries. First responders reported that the aftermath was nothing short of catastrophic. "The victims were all teenage kids. A lot of them were freaked out. They were shocked. They still couldn't grasp what happened," said Jason Wyman of the Volunteer Fire Department in Orland, CA. In the coming weeks, authorities and safety officials will conduct an investigation into what factors may have contributed to this terrible crash.

Because of their massive size and weight, accidents involving large commercial trucks can be extremely dangerous for other vehicle occupants. Here are a few factors that commonly play a role in these crashes.

• Driver fatigue. Truck drivers are notorious for working long hours with little rest, and research indicates that fatigue plays in a key role in many collisions involving large commercial trucks. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), truckers are twice as likely to crash after driving for more than eight hours at a time.

• Nighttime driving. Driving after dark can be tricky for all motorists. In low-light conditions, a driver's depth perception and peripheral vision are not as sharp as they are during the daylight hours, which makes it even more difficult to judge a semi's speed and proximity. Federal data reveals that roadway fatalities happen at a rate three times greater at night compared to the daytime.

• Inclement weather. Conditions like rain, snow and fog can complicate roadway travel, especially for semi-trucks, which can be even more difficult to maneuver in poor weather.

• Driver inexperience. Young drivers tend to have higher accident risks, regardless of what kind of vehicle they're operating. The IIHS reports that research "conducted in Australia, New Zealand and the United States [indicates] that truck drivers younger than 21 and in their 20s have a higher rate of involvement in both fatal and nonfatal crashes than older drivers."

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Talking with teens about drunk driving risks: Strategies and tips for Missouri parents

file000739321417.jpgThe end of the school year will be here before we know it, and Missouri high school students are beginning to plan for big events like prom and graduation. It's a great time for parents to talk with their teen drivers about the dangers of driving under the influence (and of riding with impaired drivers). As personal injury lawyers, we know that teen drunk driving accidents are all too common: in fact, approximately 25% of fatal crashes involving teen drivers also involve alcohol.

Parenting expert Dr. Michelle Borba offers several useful tips to help parents approach this topic with the teen drivers in their lives. Dr. Borba's advice is especially useful because she offers specific, practical methods that parents can easily implement. "Adolescence has always been a time of experimentation," Dr. Borba says. "But the choices parents make and the conversations you have with your teen matter."

Here are a few of basic strategies she recommends:

1. Set clear rules against drinking.

Often, as parents, it can be tempting to put off a conversation until our children are "older." But the fact is that teens are being exposed to drugs and alcohol at extremely young ages. It's best to talk to your teen before a situation presents itself, rather than after it's already happened. Also, it doesn't matter whether or not your teen has a license and/or a vehicle - even if they don't, their friends do. According to Dr. Borba, when parents set clear boundaries and monitor activities, their teens are four times less likely to "engage in risky behaviors like drinking and driving."

2. Put a no drinking and driving rule in writing.

Dr. Borba says anything you can do to give your teen pause - to make them consider what they're doing just one more time - is worth doing. She suggests including the following provision: your teen agrees that drinking and driving (whether as driver or passenger) will mean an automatic loss of his/her license; you agree that your teen can call you for a ride any time, and keep his/her license. Importantly, you have to honor your end of the bargain: if you make your teens promise to call you for a ride, and then you lecture and punish them, it's unlikely that they'll call you for help again.

Dr. Borba also recommends the "waiting at the front door technique," where you hug your teen (smell for liquor and check eyes for redness), and ask how the party was (check speech patterns; smell breath; check for mints and gum to mask the smell). Again, if your teen realizes you're paying attention to these things, he or she may think twice before drinking.

3. Form an alliance with other parents.

80% of parents believe their teens are attending "substance free parties," but half of teens who attend parties say that drugs, alcohol, or both are available at high school gatherings. What's more, while 99% of parents say they would never serve alcohol at a teen's party, somehow 28% of teens have been served alcohol at parties supervised by parents. It's important to know your teen's friends' parents - simply calling to introduce yourself can make a world of difference. Then, you can always send a quick text to verify plans or confirm that a party is supervised.

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Join us on March 22 for Safe & Sound Saturday in downtown Springfield!

675926_adventure_in_the_mountain_2.jpgHere at Aaron Sachs and Associates, we're proud to be participating in "Safe and Sound Saturday" on Saturday, March 22, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Springfield Expo Center in downtown Springfield. The event, hosted by KY3 and KSPR, provides a chance for families to learn all about different kinds of safety, whether at home, at play or on the road. Members of our staff will be there to hand out bicycle helmets to local children in need and to discuss the importance of safety helmets in preventing bicycle accident injuries.

For nearly two decades, our firm has participated in a child safety helmet program that has provided thousands of helmets to children throughout Missouri. Since spring is nearly here, we think it's a good time to highlight the importance of safe bicycling and helmet use. We hope to see you at Safe and Sound Saturday!

Facts about auto accidents involving bicycles:

• According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), approximately 2% of all motor vehicle accident fatalities are bicyclists. In 2011, 675 cyclists were killed in crashes nationwide.

• Annually, about 300,000 children are treated in hospital emergency rooms for bicycle-related injuries, reports KidsHealth.org. Of that number, at least 10,000 suffer injuries that require hospitalization.

• During the summer months, child bicycling fatalities increase 45% above the monthly average throughout the year.

• Life-threatening head injuries are common in serious accidents involving bicycles. About 67% of cyclists who were fatally injured in 2011 were not wearing helmets.

• Bicycle helmet use has been proven to reduce head injury risks by as much as 85 to 88%.

• Safety helmets are essential, wherever you or your children are cycling: about one-half of all bicycle crashes happen in driveways or on sidewalks.

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Common questions from Missouri car accident victims

February 13, 2014

metal-570770-m.jpgAt Aaron Sachs and Associates, we work with car accident victims every single day, so we know that our clients often come to us with numerous questions and concerns. In this post, we discuss a few questions we commonly hear from injury victims.

Q: What should I do if I was hurt in the accident?

A: You should seek medical care for your injuries as soon as possible. Some injuries such as head, neck or back injuries can worsen unless you obtain prompt medical treatment. Be sure to tell the doctors about all of your injuries and any pain and discomfort stemming from the wreck: their records could help establish your claim for damages. Failing to get the care you need to recover could not only jeopardize your health, it could also negatively impact your claim.

Q: How will my medical bills get paid?

A: There may be several sources to pay your medical bills including your own health insurance, government benefits (such as Medicare or Medicaid), and/or medical payment coverage from an auto insurance policy. While some of these sources may require reimbursement from any settlement you receive in the future, using them to pay your medical bills should keep your balances current and could result in a higher net recovery when your case is resolved. The liability carrier for the responsible party typically will not pay medical expenses as they are incurred, but will wait until the final settlement. The same is also true of your own uninsured motorist coverage.

Q: Do I have to cooperate with insurance adjusters?

A: The answer depends on whether the adjuster is working for the other driver's insurance or your own insurance. If the adjuster is working for the other driver's insurance company, you have no duty to cooperate with the adjuster. You do not have to give the adjuster any information or a recorded statement. Most importantly, you do not have to sign any form or authorization sent to you by the other driver's insurance company. Your attorney will collect and provide the information the other driver's insurer may need to evaluate your claim while protecting your rights at the same time.

If the adjuster is working for your carrier, then your relationship is established by your policy, which is a contract between you and the insurance carrier. Most policies require that you cooperate with your insurance company in its investigation of your accident. That generally means, if asked, you must give a recorded statement about the accident. It is a good idea to consult with an attorney prior to giving a recorded statement, even to your own insurance company.

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Cell phones & semi-truck drivers: A dangerous combination for Missouri motorists

January 30, 2014

1412241_sunset.jpgIt's no secret that hand-held cell phone use is a common contributor to car accidents in Missouri and throughout the United States. As our personal injury lawyers know, numerous studies have indicated that cell phone use has a detrimental effect on a driver's performance. The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) estimates that driver distraction plays a role in 15 to 20% of all crashes at all levels, from those that result in minor property damages to those that cause serious, life-threatening injury. And when the distracted driver is operating a large, heavy semi-truck, the potential for damage is even greater. In fact, the odds of being involved in a "safety-critical event" are 23.2 times higher for truckers who text while driving.

In January 2012, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FCMSA) passed new cell phone and text message restrictions that apply to drivers of commercial vehicles. Notably, the rules completely prohibit semi-truck drivers from texting when they're behind the wheel. Texting is defined as "manually entering alphanumeric text into, or reading text from, an electronic device. This includes, but is not limited to, short message service, e-mailing, instant messaging, a command or request to access a Web page, or pressing more than a single button to initiate or terminate a voice communication using a mobile phone." The rules do permit truckers to talk on their cell phones under certain circumstances, provided they're in compliance with the terms of the 2012 restrictions.

Frequently asked questions about distracted driving rules and commercial truck drivers

Under FCMSA guidelines, is there an acceptable way for semi-truck drivers to use cell phones when they're behind the wheel?
Drivers may use cell phones to conduct a vocal conversation, provided they meet the following criteria:

• The phone must be located so that the driver can access it while wearing a seat belt.
• The driver must use a headset or a speaker phone feature to conduct calls.
• The driver must use a single-touch button or voice-activated dialing to initiate calls.

Are truck drivers permitted to hold cell phones or dial numbers?
No. Holding a cell phone or dialing a phone number constitutes a violation of FMCSA rules. In fact, just reaching for a phone - even if the driver intends to use a hands-free feature - is prohibited.

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Avoiding car accidents: Winter weather tips for Missouri motorists

January 16, 2014

snow-1336027-m.jpgHere in southern Missouri, we've already had our fair share of snow and ice this season - and winter isn't over just yet. In this post, our Springfield personal injury lawyers discuss the facts about car accidents and winter weather, and review a few useful tips to help you travel safe.

Car accidents and inclement weather: Facts and statistics

• According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), driving when the weather is bad increases your risk of being involved in a crash. Poor weather directly affects several aspects of driving, including driver capabilities, vehicle performance, pavement friction and traffic flow.

• Annually, of all car accidents that happen nationwide, an estimated 24% (over 1.5 million crashes) are weather-related, meaning they "occur in adverse weather (i.e., rain, sleet, snow, and/or fog) or on slick pavement (i.e., wet pavement, snowy/slushy pavement, or icy pavement)."

• Weather-related accidents cause an average 7,130 deaths and over 629,000 injuries every year.

Taking precautions in winter weather: Tips to help you stay safe when driving in snow and ice

• Prepare - and double check - your vehicle before hitting the road. In particular, you'll want to make sure your battery is fully charged, your heating system is functioning properly, and your tires are in good condition (check air pressure and tread depth). It's also a good idea to fill up your gas tank and get an oil change if you have to travel a long distance.

• Carry an emergency travel kit, just in case. Being prepared for the worst can be life-saving, especially when the weather is bad. Be sure you pack an ice scraper, blankets, jumper cables, bottled water and non-perishable food items. And be sure you have appropriate clothing in case you have to deal with the elements.

• Buckle up. Wearing your seat belt is the easiest, most surefire way to reduce your risk of being injured in a crash - and that's true in all kinds of weather. Fasten that belt, and likewise, make sure your passengers are properly restrained - especially if you have young children on board.

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