Articles Posted in Auto Accidents

Amid media coverage of prom, spring high school sports, and graduation season, we have started to see more tragic coverage of fatal auto accidents.

A Litchfield man was killed in a Presque Isle motorcycle crash; a Maine East High School teenager was killed in a single-vehicle accident; several turnpike accidents caused injuries and lengthy delays; and Maine’s governor said he will need surgery after a bicycle accident, while noting a helmet likely saved his life.lighthouse

Maine Travel & Summer Car Accident Risks

The Maine Bureau of Highway Safety is reminding motorists to obey the state’s Move Over Law, after a trooper’s dash-cam video recorded a truck side-swiping a motorist stopped by Maine State Police.blocked road

You can view the video at the Boston Globe. The officer had been standing alongside the motorist’s vehicle in the moments before it was struck by a box truck, and he likely would have been very seriously injured or killed. Authorities report the at-fault truck driver told police he was looking at his phone.

Maine’s Move Over Law (Title 29-A §2054-9) was passed in 2001 and requires motorists approaching stopped emergency vehicles to slow down and pull over to the lane furthest from the traffic stop (whenever possible). Emergency vehicles under the law are defined as law enforcement, fire department vehicles, or ambulances. Wreckers were added to the law in 2007. The law provides for a minimum fine of $311.

A number of legal questions are being raised by the death of an Arizona pedestrian, who was struck earlier this month by a self-driving Uber vehicle in Tempe, Arizona.crosswalk

It is the first death in the country involving a self-driving vehicle, and the Insurance Journal reports legal liability in the case is being closely watched. It could raise issues relevant to Maine car accident victims as well.

The self-driving SUV was operating in autonomous mode under the supervision of a safety driver when the Volvo XC90 struck and killed a 49-year-old woman walking her bicycle outside a crosswalk on a four-lane road, according to police. The incident has been caught on videotape.

An increasing number of motorists are driving without insurance, according to an article published this month in the Insurance Journal.

Nationwide, the Insurance Research Council estimates 13 percent of all U.S. motorists were uninsured in 2015, up slightly from 2010 following a number of years of decline. Maine reported about 5 percent of all motorists are on the road without insurance, which put it ahead of other states. But motorists in Maine still remain at substantial risk of uninsured motorist accidents — in part because poor driving records have often left such motorists without either a driver’s license or liability insurance. driving

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage in Maine

The Maine Department of Transportation is releasing a new Strategic Highway Safety Plan in response to an increasing number of traffic fatalities.

MDOT reports about 33,000 Maine car crashes a year with about 150 traffic deaths. The improving economy and low gas prices were both cited as factors in the increase. Still, motorists are urged to do their part.snowy highway

“Crashes are not accidents,” said Highway Safety Director Lauren Stewart.

Our injury attorneys in Bangor and Portland have posted recently about the risks of driving in Maine’s harsh winter conditions, as well as the increased risk of slip-and-fall injuries. Children face even greater risk of injuries in both scenarios. winter street

The Associated Press has reported a six-year-old child was hospitalized after a Garland crash being blamed at least partly on bad weather, including low visibility and slushy roads. A Penobscot County sheriff’s deputy noted such conditions can make vehicles more prone to leaving the roadway, which increases the chances of serious injuries.

The Maine Bureau of Highway Safety reports Maine motor vehicle collisions remain the number one cause of unintentional deaths of children under age 16. Poor driving conditions make it even more important that parents and caregivers are following Maine’s Child Passenger Safety (CPS) law.  Under the law, children who weigh less than 40 pounds must ride in a child safety seat. Those under age eight who weigh between 40 and 80 pounds must be in a federally approved child restraint system. The state also reminds parents that recommendations of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration urge motorists to keep children ages 8-12 in a booster seat until they are big enough to fit properly in the lap belt.

Sad news was reported recently when an 88-year-old driver and his 82-year-old wife were killed after the husband lost control of their sport utility vehicle on a snow-covered road in Sanford, ME and collided head-on with another vehicle. The driver of the other vehicle he struck was not injured, although a passenger was taken to a nearby hospital to receive medical attention. Although The Bangor Daily News reports the car accident is still under investigation, authorities have been clear to say that snow and ice played a role in the collision.snowy road

As our Maine car accident attorneys can explain, no driver can control the weather, but that doesn’t mean the issue of liability is negated. That is because all motorists have a responsibility to drive their vehicles in a manner that is safe, considering the current road conditions.

As noted by the Maine Department of Transportation, that means first of all “maintaining a safe cushion,” or in other words giving yourself enough time to react if another driver ahead makes a mistake or if conditions suddenly change. The only way to do this is to keep enough space between your vehicle and those around you – particularly the vehicle ahead. When the roads are slippery (i.e., rainy, snowy, or icy), motorists need to give themselves even more time to slow or stop. That means maintaining a greater distance and also slowing down.

Black ice on the roads was cited as a factor in a number of central Maine car accidents recently, though thankfully, no serious personal injuries were reported. In a single icy morning, the dispatch center for Kennebec County and Somerset County reported 85 reports of crashes and cars that had veered off the roadway. Calls started around 3:30 a.m., and within the hour, authorities on site were informing dispatch and other emergency responders about the perilous black ice that coated Interstate 95 and surrounding areas. One official was quoted as saying the interstate “looks like a skating rink.” Officials did choose to close the Messalonskee Bridge for a time after four crashes happened back-to-back, as reported by CentralMaine.com.car accident attorney

Although weather certainly can be a factor in any car accident, it’s important to point out that even the worst road conditions do not relieve motorists of their duty of care to use reasonable caution in their operation of a motor vehicle. That means exercising constant vigilance when conditions are right for hazards like black ice. It means slowing to a safer speed and avoiding distractions and maintaining a safe distance from the vehicles ahead of you. Failure to do so can be grounds to assert negligence when it results in a collision.

What is Black Ice?

As part of a $120 million settlement with General Motors Co. for concealing safety issues related to vehicle defects, Maine is slated to receive $1.1 million in compensation. It stems from a settlement reached between the Michigan-based auto manufacturer and attorneys general from 49 states plus the District of Colombia.injury lawyer

Maine Attorney General Janet Mills released a statement characterizing the deception as creating a dangerous situation for the public. It stemmed from information that came to light following seven vehicle recall from GM affecting more than 9 million vehicles that reportedly had defective ignition switches that had the potential to cause a loss of electrical power to the vehicle, affecting power brakes and power steering. There were also reports that airbags could fail to deploy in the event of a Maine car accident. The recalls in and of themselves weren’t the issue, but rather that some GM insiders were aware of these safety problems for at least a decade before the recalls were issued. Furthermore, the company continued to market the vehicles as reliable and safe. These actions, Mills office indicated, ran afoul of Maine’s Unfair Trade Practices Act. The more than $1 million of that settlement slated for Maine will go into a consumer trust account. There is still a class action lawsuit pending that involves several people who allegedly suffered personal injuries and wrongful death as a result of these dangerous vehicle defects, The Press Herald reports.

Although most car accident lawsuits in Maine involve the negligence of other drivers, injury lawyers cannot overlook the possibility of automobile defects, given the fact that the number of vehicle recalls has reached record rates in recent years. Reuters reported U.S. auto recalls in 2016 affected a record 53.2 million vehicles, in large part due to defective Takata airbag inflaters. Last year topped the previous record, set in 2015, of auto recalls affecting 51.2 million vehicles. Continue reading

Maine elected officials say they are prioritizing road safety in all future road construction projects. They are intent on driving down the number of injuries and deaths among drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists.crosswalk

The renewed commitment to improve safety comes amid reports from the Maine Transportation Safety Coalition that 131 people have died so far this year in Maine auto accidents, compared to 105 the year before, 112 the year before that, and 95 the year before that. Furthermore, a state-commissioned task force assigned in February to study ways to reduce traffic accidents in Maine has just released its final report. As of October 15th, there were 15 people killed in Maine pedestrian accidents so far this year. That’s substantially more than the nine who were killed at the same time last year, according to the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety.

It’s part of a larger trend of rising road deaths and injuries that is reflected nationally. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports there were 6.3 million police-reported traffic crashes in the U.S. in 2015, with 35,000 people killed and another 2.4 million people injured. While drunk driving, distracted driving, and speed do play an out-sized role in these incidents, the task force also underscored the importance of better road design in Maine.  Continue reading

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