How Insurance Companies Dispute a Rear-End Collision

Auto AccidentThe most frequent type of traffic accident in the U.S. happens when one motor vehicle runs into the back of another. Usually, these rear-end collisions occur because one driver is following too closely, is not paying attention to traffic or is driving too fast for conditions. Insurance companies will try anything to avoid paying these types of claims, but a Houston auto accident lawyer will help you get the settlement you deserve.

Common Injuries

Whiplash is the most common injury associated with rear-end collisions. It happens when the sudden impact to the rear of the vehicle causes the driver’s body to lurch ahead while the head remains stationary. This makes the neck whip forward and hyperextend. Rear-end collisions can also cause serious back injuries due to the abrupt whipping motion. Whiplash is difficult to prove or disprove. In fact, the word itself has become synonymous with faked injuries and fraudulent insurance claims.

Most people believe that whiplash only occurs when vehicles are traveling at a high rate of speed. However, most cases of whiplash happen when the vehicles are moving at slower speeds. Whiplash is considered to be a minor affliction, but the damage to the soft tissue of the spine can have severe, long-lasting consequences. A neck injury might take several days to develop, and it can greatly impact your quality of life. You should see a doctor as soon as possible if you have been hit from the rear.

The most common symptoms of whiplash or back trauma include the following.

  • Limited range of motion
  • Headache
  • Blurry vision
  • Dizziness
  • A tingling or burning feeling in the neck or back
  • Stiffness and pain in the neck, back, shoulders or arms

Determining Fault

Many people think that the tailing vehicle is always at fault when a rear-end collision occurs. That is simply not true. Liability is determined on a case-by-case basis.

The type of damage sustained by the vehicles can help prove how the accident happened. An experienced Houston personal injury attorney can use physical vehicle damage to establish who caused the accident.

Insurance companies will frequently dispute fault in rear-end collisions even if their case has no real merit. They do this for a few reasons.

1. The insurance companies hope to get people who do not completely understand their legal rights to accept a settlement that is far too low. If they can get an accident victim to admit to being partially at fault, they will only have to pay a portion of the damages.

2. They intend to delay the case with the hope that the statute of limitations will expire so that they will not have to pay. This tactic is used regularly against victims who do not have a Houston car accident lawyer who knows how long the statute of limitations is and who pays attention to time restrictions.

3. Insurance companies will dispute a rear-end collision case if the victim hires an attorney who is afraid to go to court. They are hoping the lawyer will give up and settle for damages that are insufficient.

Settling a Rear-End Collision Case

When a rear-end collision case does go to court, the amount of the settlement is based on the extent of general and special damages. Pain, suffering, physical discomfort and emotional trauma are general damages. Medical costs and lost income are special damages. After hearing the evidence, the judge or jury will decide who was at fault and the size of the settlement. People who retain lawyers usually receive three times as much as people who are not represented by an attorney, so it pays to hire a qualified lawyer.

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Chemical Safety Board Approved to Investigate Offshore Accidents

BP-Rig-ExplosionIn April 2010, one of history’s worst oil industry disasters occurred in the Gulf of Mexico. Many individuals remember watching as an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig caused massive amounts of oil to pour into the world’s water supply. Besides the devastating environmental effects this event had on the planet, Jones Act attorneys worked overtime to defend the innocent victims who suffered severe injuries or death. This tragic occurrence was a result of well integrity failure. The entire incident was caused by the negligent behavior of Transocean and BP, the rig’s owner and operator. Since the spill, the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) has been examining the causes of the accident. The process has not been easy. The agency was forced to file a case in a federal Texas court against the rig’s owner so that Transocean would release subpoenaed documents.

In March 2015, a federal court upheld the authority of the CSB to investigate the involvement of Transocean in the 2010 disaster. Despite petitions from Transocean, it was ruled the Chemical Safety Board could probe the incident. Many drill contractors were not pleased with this decision and warned that years of case law concerning offshore drilling may become compromised. It is unsure what further actions will be taken by Transocean.

The Transocean explosion fatally injured 11 workers and resulted in one of the country’s most devastating offshore oil spills. Although the CSB has not involved itself with details of the spill, the agency has worked tirelessly to uncover the cause of the blowout. Since federal law states it is not authorized to oversee oil spill cases, Transocean felt the CSB should not be involved in any way. Lawyers defending the agency explained that CSB could investigate accidents at stationary sources. Representatives for Deepwater Horizon considered the unit to be a floating vessel, so they felt the Chemical Safety Board should not have gotten involved. This argument was supported by the International Association of Drilling Contractors, a group vocally against the court’s ruling. It feels the decision opens the door to disruption of five decades of legal framework that governs the high number of rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, and it has the potential to wreak havoc on precedents in the offshore oil sector.

To support the idea Deepwater Horizon was unconstrained at the well site, IADC explained no chains or morrey lines were used, and the dynamic thrusters adjusted according to the ocean’s patterns so that the rig was suspended over the well. The Justice Department countered the Macondo project and drilling was contained as a stationary source. The Deepwater Horizon unit was one part of a larger portion involved with the drilling operation. The thrusters kept it in continual motion at a set location so that it could perform a stationary activity.

As a result of this verdict, a representing attorney for Transocean claimed an opening was created that would allow the Chemical Safety Board to examine other offshore incidents. “The CSB has been given the power to investigate any marine spill on an offshore rig that causes an accidental and hazardous leak.” This means the costs of drilling companies will be heightened, and questions will be raised concerning what agency has the authority to investigate future spills. Certain maritime lawyers argue this is an added safety measure to protect seamen.

Despite the victory given to the CSB, the agency has been attacked by allegations it misused and mismanaged private email for government purposes. However, this seems to be a minor setback. In the meantime, it is essential that anyone injured in this or any other maritime accident contacts an oil rig accident attorney. This will help protect the rights of innocent victims harmed by offshore incidents.

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Self-Driving Semis Point Way to Safer Streets and Highways

18-wheelers-150x132Self-driving vehicles have been in the works for several companies over the past decade. Google recently unveiled its own self-driving car in Mountain View, California, in May 2015. Audi has also joined the field with race car Robby, a retooled RS7 equipped with cameras and radar that can navigate the track without human intervention. The first truly practical application of this technology, however, is currently being implemented in the state of Nevada. The Daimler Freightliner Inspiration Truck has been approved for use on Nevada streets and highways. If this test run is a success, it could provide added help in preventing Houston 18 wheeler accidents and the serious injuries these incidents can cause.

Technologies Years in the Making

The new self-driving 18-wheeler vehicles incorporate many technologies already available on high-end passenger cars, including the following:

  • Crash avoidance measures that include automatic braking and radar sensors at the front of the vehicle
  • Cameras that constantly observe surrounding cars and trucks and adjust to suit the flow of traffic
  • Adaptive cruise control functions that deliver added guidance for maintaining a safe rate of speed and adequate distance between the Inspiration 18-wheeler and other vehicles on the road
  • A dashboard display panel that provides ongoing information regarding traffic conditions and system performance

A driver will still be necessary to manage situations not yet covered by the Inspiration’s self-driving systems. This advanced truck will alert the driver well in advance to allow timely intervention and to ensure the safest possible operation of these new transportation options.

Prototypes on the Road Now

While most experts estimate that self-driving vehicles will not be available for purchase for years or decades, the prototype vehicles from Google and Daimler are currently being tested in the real-world conditions of streets and highways. The state of Nevada is ideal for these test runs thanks to its long stretches of largely uninhabited and government-owned land crossed by straight highways. This provides a safe environment in which the advantages and limitations of self-driving semi trucks can be identified clearly.

Important Benefits of Self-Driving Semi Trucks

The implementation of these new technologies can produce significant advantages for transportation companies, truck drivers and other motorists on the road:

  • Trucking firms may be able to negotiate lower insurance premiums and will reduce the risk of accidents that can result in unplanned downtime and liability issues.
  • Drivers of 18-wheeler trucks can reduce their level of fatigue and can drive with greater confidence due to the assistance provided by these advanced safety systems.
  • Risks to other motorists on the road may also be sharply decreased. Because of the size and weight of 18-wheelers, accidents involving these trucks typically result in catastrophic injuries to drivers and passengers in smaller vehicles. Self-driving mechanisms can reduce the role of driver error and ensure greater safety for cars and trucks sharing the highway with semis.

Although it is estimated that large commercial trucks comprise only 3 percent of all traffic on U.S. roads and highways, collisions involving these vehicles represent a disproportionate amount of the serious injuries and deaths associated with automobile accidents. Self-driving 18-wheeler trucks can potentially save lives and prevent some of these accidents, allowing a greater degree of safety for everyone on the road.

If you or someone you love has been injured or has sustained losses due to an 18-wheeler accident, retaining the services of a qualified Houston 18 wheeler accident attorney is critical to ensure that your rights are protected and that you receive the compensation to which you are rightfully entitled. By working with an experienced truck accident lawyer in Texas, you can also play a role in encouraging trucking firms to adopt these new life-saving technologies or to upgrade the safety equipment in their existing fleet vehicles. By seeking a fair settlement for your accident claim, you can also make a positive impact on the safety of drivers on Texas streets and roadways.

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Insurance Companies Grow Increasingly Wary of Oil Train Accidents

track-wreckSerious railroad accidents involving trains carrying crude oil have made the news in both the U.S. and Canada in the past few years. Among the most calamitous and notable of these accidents occurred in Lac-Megantic, Quebec. All told, 47 people were killed in the accident and a substantial portion of the city’s downtown was destroyed. However, the responsible railroad carried only $25 million in liability insurance, a sum that barely touched the estimated $180 million in damages. It is a story every FELA claim lawyer knows all too well. Without adequate insurance coverage, railroad companies simply cannot pay for the damage caused by serious oil train accidents.

As was the case in Canada, that likely spells bankruptcy for railroad companies whose trains get in serious accidents while hauling oil. Unfortunately, inadequate oil train insurance coverage leaves the individuals and property owners affected by such accidents in a tough spot too. Victims can work with an experienced railroad accident attorney to sue a rail company and recover damages. However, there are few options left when the cost of these accidents outweighs not only insurance coverage but also a company’s total assets.

The Railroad Industry Sees Increased Operation Hazards

Shipping crude oil by railway is a fairly new trend. In previous decades, almost all crude oil was moved via pipeline from its source to outlets near refineries. With the expansion of the North American oil business to new areas, though, came a need for a different solution to transportation needs. Enter railroad companies, which now transport crude oil at record rates. These companies operate on America’s rail infrastructure, which some experts consider badly outdated. Unfortunately, the ever-increasing number of crude oil shipments on railways means an increasing number of serious accidents with long-reaching repercussions.

In 2013, railroad accidents lead to approximately 1.15 million gallons of crude oil being spilled in the U.S. This represents an increase of 50 times greater than rates that held steady from 1975 to 2012. The insurance industry is one of many observers who is concerned about this drastic and sudden increase in serious railway accidents involving oil. After all, it is not just people who stand to lose their lives, homes and loved ones during a wreck. The physical environment can also become dangerously polluted or even unlivable after a major accident.

Insurers Take Note of Railroad Coverage Gaps

The accident in Canada and incidents in Alabama and North Dakota have many observers worried about serious gaps in railroad company insurance. Of course, the insurance industry has also assessed the potential damages of oil train accidents and weighed them against current railway company coverage. There is widespread agreement that no current railroad insurance policy can provide adequate financial protection in the case of a serious accident such as the one in Lac-Megantic. Unfortunately, insurance companies are wary of issuing adequate liability coverage to oil train operators.

The very top limit for liability insurance available to most railroad companies is $50 million. At most, companies can triple up on policies for a total of $1.5 billion in liability coverage, but even that might not be sufficient in the case of a catastrophic accident. After they have reached the $1.5 billion in coverage mark, railroad companies self-insure in case of an accident. In the end, railroad companies are only self-insured up to the amount of their total assets.

These gaps in insurance spell disaster for accident victims and their communities. Leading train accident lawyers worry that there simply will not be a way to recover adequate compensation for victims if nothing is done to address coverage woes. In the face of incredible recovery costs, it is likely that other railroad companies will go bankrupt, leaving accident victims and taxpayers to cover the cost of oil train derailments and explosions.

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Tennessee Derailment and Fire Leads to New Questions Regarding Railway Safety

Explosion1-150x150The railway industry is once again under fire after a CSX train derailed during the early morning hours of July 3, 2015, and the chemical contents of one car burst into flames in the city of Maryville, Tennessee. More than 5,000 residents in the area were evacuated due to fears regarding the fumes produced by spilled and burning liquid acrylonitrile, a flammable substance that is used in manufacturing plastics and in other industrial processes. Over 80 residents were seen at Blount Memorial Hospital due to exposure to this dangerous chemical; of that number, 36 individuals were admitted for further observation and treatment. By working with experienced train accident attorneys, these individuals can ensure that they receive fair compensation for any injuries sustained or lingering aftereffects from this derailment.

More than 5,000 Residents Evacuated

Because cyanide is one of the possible byproducts of liquid acrylonitrile when it burns, the train derailment and ensuing fire in Maryville necessitated the evacuation of residents within a two-mile perimeter around the accident. Local disaster relief agencies opened two shelters to provide temporary lodging for those displaced due to the dangerous fumes and smoke produced by this derailment. Residents were allowed to return to their homes after approximately 48 hours. The long-term effects of this accident, however, have yet to be determined.

Environmental Impact

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently implementing water treatment technologies in Culton Creek in response to reports of mass fish die-offs in the area around the derailment. While no definitive cause for this biological event has been determined, it is likely that chemical reactions with the water were at least partly responsible for the death of these fish. EPA officials are continuing to monitor the situation to determine the extent of the problem and to ensure public safety in this area.

An Increasingly Common Occurrence

Unfortunately, the Maryville derailment is far from an isolated incident. In recent years, numerous train accidents have claimed lives and caused serious environmental damage across the U.S. The 2013 Lac-Megantic rail disaster was responsible for the deaths of 47 people and destroyed much of the downtown area in this Canadian town. Similar oil train derailments have occurred in the states of West Virginia, Illinois and Louisiana during 2015. Aging train equipment, crumbling railway infrastructure and human error are among the most common contributing factors to these train accidents.

Industry-Wide Negligence

Rail companies are also responsible for their ongoing failure to enforce established safety protocols and to install the Positive Train Control (PTC) systems recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) for four decades. PTC implementations could prevent many rail accidents outright and could reduce the severity of others. Railroad companies, however, have generally resisted these recommendations and have failed to take the steps necessary to protect their own workers and the public. This widespread negligence has played a contributing role in many of the rail accidents in recent years.

Bringing Pressure to Bear

One of the most effective ways to encourage rail companies to implement NTSB recommendations and to make safety a priority is by holding them financially responsible for the injuries and deaths caused as a result of their negligence. A qualified railroad worker injury lawyer can provide the legal support necessary to ensure fair compensation for rail employees who have been injured in the course of their regular duties. For members of the public who have been affected by these accidents, a railroad injury attorney can negotiate with insurance adjusters, train company representatives and others to achieve equitable out-of-court settlements for medical expenses, pain and suffering and other losses sustained in these incidents.

If you or someone you love has been the victim of a train derailment or accident, consulting with an attorney who specializes in these types of cases can ensure the most positive outcomes. These legal professionals can provide the assistance needed to help you navigate the complexities of railroad regulations and to obtain the highest settlement amounts for your claims.

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