June 12, 2010

Stopping Asheville Teens From Texting While Driving

texting-while-driving cartoon.jpgMost adults recognize the dangers associated with texting while driving, but many teens do not appear to appreciate how serious a danger it can be. The facts about distracted driving are startling:

1. Using a cell phone while driving decreases the amount of brain activity connected with driving by 37% (source: Carnegie Mellon);

2. More than 6,000 people were killed by distracted drivers in car accidents in 2008, and more than 500,000 people were seriously injured (source: NHTSA);

3. Drivers under 20 years of age are responsible for the vast majority of distraction related fatal collisions;

4. Texting drivers are five times more likely to cause a car accident serious enough to put themselves in the emergency room (source: Insurance Institute For Highway Safety); and

5. Using a cell phone while driving decreases a driver's reaction time to the same degree as having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% - the legal limit in North Carolina (source: University of Utah).

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June 3, 2010

Reckless Truck Driver Kills North Carolina DOT Worker On I-40

DOT Worker KilledI-40 Truck 1 6-2-10.jpgA distracted tractor-trailer driver ran-over and killed a North Carolina Department Of Transportation (NC DOT) worker on Tuesday morning. The crash occurred as several NC DOT workers were beginning to place Work Zone signs and cones in preparation for a lane closure on I-40 West in Duplin County. North Carolina DOT was closing the lane so that workers could perform maintenance on a bridge at the intersection of NC Highway 24 and I-40 West. This is a rural area where Interstate 40 is straight and level, and the line of sight for approaching drivers is at least one-half (1/2) mile. Click here for 27 photos taken at the scene.

ABC News Channel 11 (WBTV) out of Raleigh dispatched a helicopter and crew to the scene and obtained areal footage of the crash site:

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May 21, 2010

Teen Texting Responsible For Increase in North Carolina Crashes

With the recent death of an Asheville teen caused by texting while driving, more attention is being focused on this extremely dangerous activity. Thus far, 25 states have passed laws banning texting while driving. In North Carolina, the ban went into effect on January 1, 2010, and the penalty if you get caught texting while driving is $100.00. So far, few North Carolina citizens have been caught breaking the new law, but, as anyone who is on the road knows, the illegal activity is rampant on our roads and highways.

Given the difficulty of enforcing the new law, the North Carolina Highway Patrol has taken a new strategy aimed at educating teen drivers when they are first learning to drive. The Highway Patrol is encouraging teen drivers to text while driving a golf cart around a parking lot full of orange cones. The results are eye opening for the teen drivers as they run over multiple cones while trying to navigate sharp turns and stop at stop signs. The golf cart experience is gaining popularity across the state and the nation. Each student in Lenoir and Duplin County will get behind the wheel of the golf cart before the end of the school year.

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May 18, 2010

I-40 Tractor-Trailer Accident: Truck Runs Over Car

Statesville Truck Wreck.JPGA serious crash closed Interstate 40 for over an hour Monday evening when a westbound Lincoln Town Car crossed the median and went under the rear wheels of an eastbound tractor-trailer. The collision happened just east of the Radio Road bridge that crosses I-40 near Mile Marker 150. Emergency workers and the North Carolina Highway Patrol shut down all 4 lanes of Interstate 40 while they attempted to rescue the occupants of the car.

Statesville Truck - SHP Qns.JPGTrooper Marty Liles of the State Highway Patrol (SHP) investigated the crash and reported that the car, driven by Rashad Whitner, 32 of Hickory, originally went off of the right side of the westbound lanes, re-entered and crossed the westbound lanes, entered the median and went under the median cables, and then entered the eastbound lanes at which time the car went under the rear of the tractor-trailer and was run over by the trailer's rear axles.

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May 15, 2010

Teen Texting While Driving Caused Deadly Asheville Accident

text messaging.jpgOn Friday, Asheville Police disclosed that they had accessed the information stored in Ashley Johnson's cellphone. Police investigators who examined the Arden teenager's cellphone stated that the information showed that Johnson, 16, was retrieving a text message just seconds before the BMW she was driving crossed the center line and struck an MB Haynes pickup truck head-on. Investigators also retrieved data stored in Johnson's vehicle's airbag module to determine her pre-impact speed. The airbag module showed that the she was traveling 52 mph. The posted speed limit for Long Shoals Road is 45 mph. The driver of the pickup truck suffered injuries, but he is expected to recover.

Emergency workers airlifted Johnson to Mission Hospital's Trauma Unit, and she remained in the Intensive Care Unit for several days before she eventually died from her injuries. This is a terrible tragedy that should never have happened.

The 10th grader was an exceptional and popular student. She attended Buncombe County Early College, where she was working toward earning her associate degree.

I have several prior posts about the deadly dangers associated with texting while driving. Unfortunately, many people feel that, if they are careful, they can safely text while they are driving. This is impossible. Several studies have shown that if you text while driving your attention level is worse than that of a drunk driver. In fact, a texting driver is 23 times more likely to have a deadly accident that a non-texting driver.

Several mobile applications (apps) are on the market to help us restrict our, and our teenage children who drive, impulse to text while driving. Applications that can deactivate a phone's ability to send or receive texts while in motion are quite effective.

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May 14, 2010

Digital Copiers Pose Security Risk

Copier Machine.jpgThis year marks the 50th anniversary of the good, old fashioned copier machine. Over the years, copiers have become increasing sophisticated, and many of today's copiers are more like computers than the copiers that originally hit the market.

As a result, all of the information that is copied is now permanently stored on the copier's hard drive, just like on your computer's hard drive.

From medical records to tax returns, it is all there on the copier, just waiting to be retrieved by anyone who has the desire to use other peoples' personal information for their own gain.

CBS News recently aired a story on this issue, and the implications range from identity theft to national security. It's worth watching.



Watch CBS News Videos Online

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May 13, 2010

Class Action Heats Up Against Toyota For Diminished Value

toyota building.jpgThe National Law Journal recently reported that plaintiffs' class action attorneys could seek more than $7 Billion in damages from Toyota Motor Company for the decreased value to Toyota consumers' vehicles as a result of the problems associated with sudden unintended acceleration.

Plaintiffs attorneys believe that the members of the Toyota class action will enjoy some distinct advantages over members of other class actions, in that numerous consumer rating agencies have indicated that the value of Toyota vehicles have dramatically declined from 2.6% to 3.77%. Those figures may not sound like much, but, when you consider that Toyota sold almost 9 million vehicles in 2008 and is the world's largest automaker, it quickly adds up.

The National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA) also fined Toyota the maximum amount ($16.4 Million) for its failure to timely disclose its knowledge of the sticky pedal problem. The basis for the fine was that manufacturers are required to notify the government whenever they have reason to believe that a product they manufacture may not be safe. Toyota did nothing until the issue was picked up by the national media. NHTSA has confirmed that Toyota knew that there were safety issues with its gas pedals for several months before they publicly disclosed the problems.

Toyota could have easily taken issue with the amount of the fine and demanded explanations about the method NHTSA used to arrive at the record penalty. $16.4 million is a mere drop in the large bucket of cash Toyota has amassed in recent years. Toyota paid the full fine last month without so much as a whimper. The auto manufacturer was careful not to admit any legal liability with regard to the sticky pedal problem. The following statement by Toyota indicates that the plaintiffs are probably going to be in for a fight as they seek to recover for their harms and losses.

"We have acknowledged that we could have done a better job of sharing relevant information within our global operations and outside the company," Toyota said, "but we did not try to hide a defect to avoid dealing with a safety problem".

At this point, Toyota would probably just like to "move forward."

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May 10, 2010

Asheville No Phone Zone Pledge

Motorcycle inside car.jpgThis shocking image illustrates the potential dangers of trying to use a cell phone while driving. The young driver of the Volkswagen failed to see the motorcycle when he pulled out into the highway. Records showed that the Volkswagen driver was texting at the time of the collision. Not surprisingly, the driver of the car, his passenger, and the motorcyclist were all killed instantly.

As I have discussed in a prior posting, driving while texting is illegal in North Carolina, but the new law has not stopped many drivers from continuing to text as they drive down the road. Recently, Oprah Winfrey decided to use her fame for yet another great cause - stopping people, and particularly teens, from using their cell phones while driving. Oprah calls it the "No Phone Zone Pledge." Basically, it is a way for people to promise to themselves and their loved ones that they will stop texting while driving. Oprah has asked that everyone take the pledge.

Our nation's Congress has also been evaluating ways to prompt each state to enact legislation to ban texting while driving. Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, asserts that, if it were up to him, he would ban texting while driving immediately.

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May 8, 2010

Lack Of Enforcement Leads To High North Carolina Truck Accident Ranking

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weigh station.jpgA lack of manpower in the North Carolina State Highway Patrol Motor Carrier Enforcement Section means that many tractor trailer trucks are running illegally on North Carolina roads and highways.

North Carolina currently ranks sixth (6th) in the nation for truck accidents. This staggering statistic is certainly related to the fact that so many trucks and their drivers are operating outside of the law. In 2009, more than 50 percent (50%) of the tractor trailers inspected in North Carolina had serious safety and/or equipment violations. Of those found to be in violation, more than twelve percent (12%) were in such bad shape that they were shut down and "put out of service." Being "put out of service" means that, as a result of serious safety violations, a tractor trailer or its driver are deemed an imminent danger to the general public.

Of the almost 10 million tractor trailer trucks coming through North Carolina weigh stations each year, only a mere one percent (1%) are inspected. If more than fifty percent (50%) of those inspected are in violation of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, then one can conservatively surmise that at least every other truck you see on the road is operating in violation of the law.

Most states operate their inspection and weigh stations for commercial motor vehicles on a 24/7 basis. But not North Carolina. In North Carolina, weigh stations operate approximately 15 hours a day, five (5) days a week. At many weigh station locations, there is no State Trooper present to chase down truck drivers who refuse to stop at the weigh station. In the truck industry, North Carolina is considered "trucker friendly" due to our low number of inspections.The North Carolina State Highway Patrol says the problem is manpower. If that is the case, the North Carolina General Assembly needs to dedicate some funding toward increased enforcement. It should crack down on the truck industry by requiring that more trucks be inspected, by putting dangerous truck drivers and their unsafe rigs out of service, and by levying heavy fines to the truck companies that allow these drivers to be on the road.

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May 6, 2010

ABC News Features North Carolina Truck Accident Case To Illustrate Truck Industry Abuses

Doug Harrell.jpgOn October 13, 2005, a young man road his bicycle on the side of a rural North Carolina highway from his cousin's house back to his own home. At the same time, a truck driver had been driving his tractor trailer for 23 hours in a row and was heading back to the truck terminal. As the trucker came up from behind the bicyclist at 73 mph, he didn't see the bicycle or rider until the last second. The collision killed the young man on the bicycle, and then the truck company cover-up began. Because of the cover-up, no criminal charges were filed, but a relative decided to go under-cover and work for the truck company. The hidden evidence he discovered became the foundation of a wrongful death lawsuit.

Channel 11 ABC Eyewitness News (WTVD) decided to run a feature story about this case because of the disturbing evidence Truck Accident Attorney Brian Davis discovered during the litigation of this case. Click on the below window to view the ABC News Video and see how greed and big business drove one North Carolina truck company to ignore the law and the safety of the general public.

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April 27, 2010

Asheville Bus Driver Had History Of Prior Crashes

Ralph Terry Dowdle had a history of minor traffic accidents in his bus prior to the serious crash he caused on Saturday, April 17, 2010 in downtown Asheville. The attached video shows the bus driver slumping over to his right just a few moments before the bus veers left and crashes into a parked car and the fronts of several buildings along College Street.

The accident seriously injured 55-year-old Susan Jane Zakanycz. Her leg was almost severed in the wreck. Unfortunately, the doctors at Memorial Mission could not save her leg, and she had to undergo an amputation.

The Buncombe County District Attorney's Office decided not the charge the bus driver criminally after it was discovered that he was suffering from an undiagnosed medical condition. Officials have said that the condition is what caused him to crash the bus. Strangely, no one has indicated what this undiagnosed medical condition is or how long he has had it. One condition that could cause similar symptoms is narcolepsy. This is the condition that causes one to suddenly fall asleep. We have encountered this condition in some of the tractor-trailer accident cases we have litigated. In the cases that we've handled involving narcolepsy, the at-fault driver was aware of the condition prior to the crash and had not sought medical treatment for fear of losing their job.

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April 26, 2010

Meeting The President Of The United States In My Backyard in Asheville, NC

President Obama.jpgOn Saturday morning, April 24, 2010, I met the President of the United States in my own backyard! When we got up that morning around 7:30am, we noticed some unusual activity on the Grove Park Inn golf course that backs up to our house. There were the black SUVs parked in various spots along the course, there were the casually dressed, muscular men with binoculars peering about, and then there were the guys in golf carts without any golf clubs. We called some of our neighbors to join us, and everyone met in our backyard to watch the happenings. My kids were still in their PJs.

Once we got into our backyard, more neighbors started showing up. Ryan and Anne Hammonds and their kids, Elllie and Will came over. Katie Campbell showed up with her two dogs. Several neighbors from down the street came up. James Johnson, his family and their dog dropped by. Soon, we had a small crowd.

Within about 15 minutes, two guys, one wearing a bulging nylon jacket, pulled up in a golf car and announced that they were with the Secret Service. I fully expected they would tell us to back up or maybe even get lost. One of the neighbors preemptively asked if we had to leave, and the Secret Service guy said we had every right to stay on our property and could do whatever we wanted. Then he added, "Almost." Then they asked if anyone had any weapons or metal objects in their pockets. They said a guy with a security wand would be coming by in a minute to search and scan us. We were still just thinking we might be lucky enough to get a waive or a nod from the President.

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April 20, 2010

Asheville Bus Driver Had Undiagnosed Medical Condition That Caused Loss of Consciousness

Asheville bus crash.jpgLast Saturday morning, an Asheville bus driver, Ralph Terry Dowdle, ran off of College Street, up onto the sidewalk, and struck a woman who was entering the Mediterranean Restaurant. After striking the woman, the bus continued to collide with the entrances of several businesses. The woman, whose identity has not been released, suffered a severe injury to her leg. Hospital officials have said that doctors had to amputate her leg. She is still listed at Memorial Mission Hospital as being in critical condition.

The Asheville Police Department (APD) has issued a report that says that the bus driver lost consciousness just before the accident. The loss of consciousness is allegedly due to an undiagnosed medical condition, though officials have not disclosed what that condition is. As a result, the District Attorneys office has decided not to file criminal charges against the bus driver.

Mr. Dowdle works for a subsidiary of First Transit, which operates the public transportation system in Asheville. One can only wonder how a bus driver could have a serious medical condition, that could cause him to lose consciousness, and not be aware of it. In this author's legal opinion, the bus driver, his employer First Transit and the City of Asheville are all liable for the woman's serious injuries. We can only hope that all of the responsible parties will do the right thing and help compensate the injured lady for all of her harms and losses. More often than not, in situations like this, we are told that there was no way that anyone could have known this might happen, and therefore we are not responsible for the injuries. In such cases, litigation is the only way to discover the truth.

Amputations are extremely serious injuries, and there are often severe complications associated with an amputation. Common complications from an amputation include infection, blood clots, pressure sores and phantom pain. Phantom pain is where one feels the sensation of still having the amputated limb, and it is painful.

In cases involving serious injuries like amputations, we often use medical animation to graphically depict the medical procedure. Such animations are helpful to show the other side (defendants and their attorneys) what our client has been through. In contested liability cases (where the other side denies responsibility for causing the incident), we will also often use computer animation to show how and why a particular accident happened.

In a case involving a bus accident that killed a pedestrian at an airport, an accident reconstruction animation was used to show how the accident occurred. As part of the animation, it was demonstrated how a simple concrete barrier could have totally prevented the collision.

At Davis Law Group, we use cutting edge computer technology to help our clients recover the compensation they deserve for their losses and harms caused by the negligence of others. If you or a loved one have been seriously injured because of someone's negligence or recklessness, contact attorney Brian Davis to discuss your situation. Consultations are free, and there is no obligation.

April 15, 2010

Boy Scouts Of America Found Liable In Sex Abuse Case

Boy Scout Emblem.jpgAfter 3 weeks of trial and two days of deliberations, a Portland jury returned a $1.4 Million verdict finding the Boys Scouts of America liable for negligently allowing a confessed child abuser to continue having contact with other Boy Scouts, including the man who brought the lawsuit. The assistant Scout master had admitted to abusing 17 out of 30 young boys in his troop.

During the case, the victim's attorneys were able to introduce evidence from the Scout's own "Perversion Files" which contained information the Scouts had gathered about its leaders who had sexually abused young boys in the Scouts. The jury, during its deliberations, were able to review approximately 1000 of the Perversion Files. Not only did the jury find the local chapter liable for allowing the abuse to continue, but it also found the national Scout organization, based out of Texas, liable for punitive damages. The jury did not decide the amount of punitive damages owed. Punitive damages are designed to punish a defendant and to deter it and others from committing similar wrongful acts in the future.

This $1.4 Million verdict is only the first phase of the trial, in that the case will resume on April 20, 2010 to begin the punitive damages portion of the trial. In many civil trials where punitive damages are alleged by the victim, the defense attorneys will ask the court to bifurcate the trial into two phases, a compensatory damages phase and a separate punitive damages phase. This tactic keeps the jury from hearing some of the most egregious evidence until after it has decided the amount owed for compensatory damages. Once a jury finds a defendant is liable for punitive damages, settlement negotiations often ensue as most defendants do not want to risk a huge punitive award.

The Boy Scouts have vowed an appeal, but, in my humble legal opinion, their chances of getting the verdict overturned are slim, unless the appellate court finds that the statute of limitations has already run.

At Davis Law Group, we have compassionately represented many individuals who have suffered abuse by those in whom their trust was misplaced. We have successfully argued that statutes of limitations have been tolled (suspended) due to the psychological nature of the injuries inflicted and the defendant's horrifically egregious conduct. If you or a loved one feel that you have a claim for sexual abuse, contact an experienced sexual abuse attorney to discuss your case and legal options.

April 12, 2010

North Carolina TV Station Is Focusing On Truck Accidents

Pate-Dawson Co.gifToday, a senior producer from a regional television station contacted me about Truck Safety in North Carolina. She started the conversation off by noting how many recent tractor-trailer accidents appear to be the result of either truck driver fatigue or unsafe truck equipment.

The producer told me that she was working on an upcoming program that will focus on truck safety and how some truck driver's and truck company's failure to be safe have seriously injured or killed North Carolina citizens. She wanted to know if I had any former clients whom I thought would be willing to be interviewed for her news article. One case immediately popped into my mind. The case was against a motor carrier called the Pate-Dawson Company.

One evening a few years ago on a dark rural highway outside of Goldsboro, NC, a tractor-trailer truck owned by restaurant food distributor Pate-Dawson Company ran over a young boy on a bicycle. At the time, the boy was riding his bicycle on the side of a two lane road outside of Goldsboro. The tractor-trailer came up from behind and ran him over.

After the wreck, the truck driver lied and told the police that the bike had darted-out from a side road into the highway, and that he had no time to react. The truck driver also lied and told the Trooper that he had only been on duty for 11 hours at the time of the wreck. The truck driver lied again telling the Trooper that his on-board electronic computer (black box) was not working and contained no electronic data about the crash. This information was confirmed to the Trooper by several company executives (including the owner) who rushed to the scene trying to perform damage control.

When the investigating State Trooper looked inside the cab of the big rig, he found two separate driver's daily log books. In the truck business, this conclusively shows that a truck driver is trying to beat the system and driver more hours than the law allows. The Trooper charged the driver with falsifying his logs.The Trooper did not charge the driver with anything else at the time because all he had to go on was the trucker's and company executives' word. Little did the Trooper know that everything he had been told was a bald-faced lie.

We were extremely lucky in this case in that after the crash, a cousin of the young boy who had worked in the trucking business applied for and took a job as a dispatcher at the company that owned the tractor-trailer - Pate Dawson Company (PDC). His sole goal was to find out what happened to his younger cousin. As a dispatcher, the cousin secretly investigated the crash and discovered the hidden electronic evidence proving the truck driver had been on duty and driving for 23.5 hours at the time of the wreck. When the family showed the Trooper what the cousin had found, the Trooper re-opened the investigation and did a reconstruction of the crash - concluding that the truck driver could have seen the young as far back as 1200 feet from the point of impact - significantly more than enough distance to stop a tractor-trailer that's going 55 mph.

The parents of the boy hired us approximately 2 years after the truck accident. Our team of experts thoroughly investigated the case and conclusively proved that the boy did not dart-out from a side road, that the collision actually took place just outside of the truck's lane of travel - on the shoulder, that the truck driver was speeding (73 in a 55 mph zone) when he struck the bicycle, and that the trucker had been on duty for 23.5 hours when the fatal collision occurred. Most importantly, we were able to show that the truck driver's employer not only knew about his numerous safety violations, but it encouraged, endorsed and at times demanded it.

During litigation, we uncovered unbelievable information about how this motor carrier had thumbed its nose at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration by not adhering to the hours of service regulations. We discovered internal company memos that showed this particular driver had been found to be "habitually driving more hours that the law allowed," and one manager at the company tried to persuade the President of PDC, Matt Sullivan, Jr., to put a stop to the illegal driving, but Matt Sullivan refused and knowingly kept putting this and other illegal drivers back on the road. A significant number of this company's tractor-trailer drivers were driving over the legal hours limit and had been for years. Unfortunately, this boy's death was the result of their refusal to operate safely and within the law.

Not surprisingly, the case settled as it neared the courtroom. At the time of the settlement conference, the owner of the company told the boy's father that his company had been doing some things it should have not been doing, and that they had changed their (evil) ways. It is just horrible that someone had to die and a family had to be torn apart for the truck company to understand why these safety laws are in place. Sadly, if the cousin had not gone undercover and discovered the damning evidence, the truck company would have completely gotten away with reckless homicide.

After confirming the television producer's credentials, I contacted the young boy's parents and they agreed to participate in the news report and tell their story. The senior TV producer says the parents' story is compelling and the news article will air in a few weeks. I will try to post an update as to the program's date and time. It should be interesting....

Brian Davis is recognized as one of the nation's top experts in serious truck accident injury cases. He serves as a national adviser for the Association of Plaintiffs Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America and is a member of the Interstate Truck Litigation Group of the American Association for Justice. Attorney Davis' goal is to help reduce the number of preventable truck accident cases in North Carolina.