Articles Posted in Vehicle Safety Standards

Last year, one man was killed when he was driving a vehicle equipped with a semi-auto-pilot feature and crashed into a truck. According to a recent report discussing the findings of a National Highway Safety Board (NTSB) investigation, it appears that the driver of the vehicle was given many warnings to take control of the vehicle in the moments leading up to the fatal accident.

Front-End DamageThe Accident

The driver of the vehicle was traveling on a Florida highway on a sunny day, using the auto-pilot feature on his Tesla Model S. At some point, a semi-truck made a turn in front of the Tesla, and the driver of the Tesla failed to stop, slamming into the side of the truck. The driver was killed instantly.

After the collision, the NTSB conducted a year-long investigation, only recently releasing its findings. Apparently, for the 41 minutes prior to the accident, the vehicle was in auto-pilot mode for 37.5 minutes. For all but 30 seconds of that time, the driver had his hands off the steering wheel. According to the newly released report, the vehicle’s automated system warned the driver seven times to place his hands back on the steering wheel and retake control of the vehicle.

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Earlier this month, the United States Supreme Court issued a written opinion in a product liability case involving the question of which types of damages are appropriate when a party acts in bad faith during the discovery process. Ultimately, the court concluded that damages to compensate the plaintiff for actual costs incurred are appropriate, but punitive damages may not be awarded by the court.

Tire TreadThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were involved in a serious accident when their motor home swerved off the road and flipped over. At the time of the accident, the plaintiffs’ motor home was equipped with Goodyear tires. The plaintiffs filed a product liability lawsuit against Goodyear, claiming that the tire was not safe for motorhome applications because it was not designed to withstand the amount of heat generated when driven at highway speeds.

The pre-trial discovery process lasted for several years. Goodyear was slow to respond to many discovery requests. Specifically, the plaintiffs repeatedly asked Goodyear to hand over the internal test results for the model of tire installed on the motor home, but the information released by the company failed to include any of the requested information.

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Over the past several years, the driverless car has become a reality. In fact, most major auto manufacturers have started production of semi-autonomous models and are developing fully autonomous models that would require no driver effort. However, as the technology for driverless cars advances, issues regarding safety and legal liability in the event of an accident are coming to the forefront of the conversation.

Futuristic CarAccording to a recent news article discussing semi-autonomous cars, there is a division among auto manufacturers as to whether drivers are capable of taking over control of the vehicle when a potentially complex driving situation arises. With the current technology, vehicles alert a motorist when he or she will need to take over control because the on-board computer does not know what to do. Depending on the model of vehicle, the driver will then have somewhere between five and 30 seconds to take over control of the vehicle. However, some research has shown that sleeping or otherwise distracted drivers can take about two minutes to acclimate to the situation and safely take control of the vehicle. Because of these concerns, some manufacturers have opted to forego manufacturing semi-autonomous vehicles and focus on fully autonomous technology.

Another potential issue with driverless cars is who is liable when an accident occurs. At least one large auto manufacturer has stated that it plans on acknowledging liability in all accidents involving the company’s driverless technology. Other manufacturers, however, plan on handling each situation on a case-by-case basis. The unanswered question is whether the “driver” of an autonomous vehicle will also be liable. This is a question that only lawmakers or the courts can decide.

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As motorists driving on public roads we all have a responsibility to other drivers, pedestrians and our passengers to operate our vehicles in a safe and prudent manner. Unfortunately, circumstances occasionally make safe driving difficult even for the best drivers. When an accident situation arises, the average driver doesn’t always have the necessary skills to perform rapid emergency maneuvers to avoid an accident.

As Maryland personal injury attorneys, automobile and commercial trucking accident lawyers, we know that many accident situations are difficult to get out of simply because a two-ton vehicle traveling quickly can easily get out of control, especially at higher speeds. SUVs in particular, due to their higher centers of gravity and more pliant suspensions, can actually roll over given the right circumstance, which can threaten the lives of all the occupants, causing closed-head injuries, broken bones, and many times resulting in a person being thrown from the vehicle onto the roadway. Survival in that latter case is slim due to the violent action of being ejected from a moving vehicle.

Car, truck and motorcycle accidents happen in Maryland with amazing frequency. Emergencies on the highway, city streets, or rural routes can come in the form of another car or commercial truck that has lost control, a mechanical problem with one’s own vehicle, poor roadway conditions or bad visibility due to inclement weather. Whatever the initial cause of a potential traffic collision, a driver may be placed in a position where he or she must act instantly; deciding what to do and trying to guide their vehicle out of danger to the best of their ability. Quite often a driver is unable to avoid a collision likely caused by another driver’s negligence.

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Time marches on, as the saying goes, but one thing that comes with time is the steady development of new and better technologies for every aspect of human life. Granted, there are instances were certain products end up being detrimental to our health, exemplified in most any successful products liability case. Yet, on the who we as human beings do benefit from constant improvements to existing devices, as well as through the innovation and development of new and better technologies.

As Baltimore automobile and commercial trucking accident lawyers, I and my personal injury legal staff have seen the results of a wide range of injury-related car, truck and motorcycle wrecks. Even so, there is no end to the potential bodily harm that can come to individuals caught up in serious roadway collisions, many times due in no part to themselves. Many of these innocent victims may have received even worse injuries — including traumatic brain injury, pneumothorax, ruptured internal organs and spinal cord damage — if it wasn’t for the variety of safety devices found in many modern cars, SUVs, minivans and crossover vehicles.

Seatbelts
By many experts thinking, tops on the list of protective automotive technologies would be the lowly three-point safety belt. With airbags, stability control and other “high tech” safety technologies, seatbelts are still the unsung heros of auto safety; one reason why safety experts and law enforcement agencies place great importance on the use of these basic, yet very effect devices. First offered as standard equipment in the 1959 Volvo 122, the two-point lap belt graduated to a lap-and-shoulder-harness design (the now-ubiquitous three-point system) about a decade later, and was made mandatory on U.S. passenger cars in 1974.

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We’ve all seen this happen; children, teens, 20-somethings or full-grown adults — who, we might remind, should know better — riding in moving vehicles without the benefit of a safety belt. Parents are responsible for their children wearing seatbelts or using approved safety seats in the family sedan, minivan or SUV, but what happens when the adults don’t use seat belts? Sometimes very bad things.

As Maryland personal injury attorneys, I and my team of legal professionals have seen more than our share of car, truck and motorcycle accident victims. What everyone of us knows is apparently a well-kept secret among a small, but unnerving percentage of the driving public. What could be so mysterious? That seatbelts save lives and reduce the potential for serious injury in the event of a bad roadway collision.

It may come as a surprise, but there are grown, thinking people who either through stubbornness, arrogance, or mere lack of foresight actively choose NOT to wear a safety belt when driving or riding in a motor vehicle. Never mind the fact that a high-speed crash between a couple passenger cars, or even a medium-speed impact with a commercial truck, can turn an unbelted occupant into a 150-pound missile heading right for the windshield.

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As Maryland personal injury attorneys, I and my legal staff keep ourselves up-to-date on the latest federal and state legislation affecting car, truck and motorcycle accident law, as well as traffic safety and enforcement issues. Understanding that traffic accidents take the lives of many thousands of Americans ever year, as well as injuring, maiming and permanently disabling many more individuals whose only mistake was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Automobile and commercial trucking accidents are without a doubt a continuing threat to the health and safety of many Maryland motorists and their families. One of the more common accidents, this time involving pedestrians hurt by cars and trucks, is the typical reversing collision with a person on foot or injuring a bicycle rider. These sometimes fatal collisions can happen almost anywhere; from supermarket parking areas and multi-level parking structures to church parking lots and residential driveways.

As many of our readers may already have noticed, a number of automobile companies have had rear-view “backup” cameras from several years or more on selected vehicle models. And while more and more companies are including these devices as part of their multi-media hardware and software systems, there remain many cars that do not offer the feature.

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As we have reported on in the past, our children are some of the most innocent of victims when it comes to traffic accidents here in Maryland and across the U.S. as a whole. Anything that can be done to better protect these youngsters from injury or death as a result of a car, bus or trucking-related accident would be well worth the time and effort expended on such an endeavor.

As Maryland personal injury lawyers, I and my staff of legal professionals are dedicated to our clients, many of whom have been hurt or injured as a result of another driver’s negligence or thoughtlessness. Whether those actions involve deliberate flouting of our traffic laws or other statutes created to make our society a safer place; or if the defendant was simply not paying attention to the job of driving a motor vehicle correctly, a personal injury lawsuit is often called for.

Many times, victims and their families are left to foot the bill for thousands of dollars of medical bills and physical rehabilitation costs following an injury-related traffic collision. Insurance companies will often try to lessen the payout, which leaves those injured victims with little or no option. For families with small children, the last thing anyone wants is for that little boy or girl to be hurt in a car or truck crash.

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Read almost any news story covering a serious rollover accident in Maryland or Washington, D.C., and you will likely learn about a victim who was killed or critically injured as a result of the traffic accident. Drivers who attempt maneuvers at high speeds in a sport utility vehicle or family minivan can sometimes find themselves out of control and possibly flipping the vehicle on its side.

A rollover car, truck or bus crash can cause terrible bodily harm to driver and passengers alike. In cases where passenger restraint devices fail to hold the occupants in place, head and neck injuries can easily result; traumatic brain injury is just one of a number of life-threatening outcomes of these rollover-type car or truck accidents.

As Maryland personal injury lawyers, I and my legal staff have been trained to help victims of car, truck and motorcycle collisions. Sadly, many rollover incidents can be fatal, and not only because of the injuries sustained when an occupant impacts the hard interior surfaces of the vehicle.

Many rollovers can cause one or more occupants to be ejected from the vehicle and onto the roadway. In fact, it is well known that drivers and passengers alike in greater danger of being killed or seriously injured if they are thrown from a vehicle during a crash. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has conducted studies that show vehicle occupants who experience partial or complete ejection from a passenger vehicle are three-times more likely to be killed as those who remain inside the car or truck.

The NHTSA has maintained over the years that seatbelt use is one of the primary ways that a passenger can avoid being ejected from a vehicle involved in a traffic accident. Even so, it was announced not long ago that the federal government has instituted a new law requiring car makers to develop additional countermeasures to help prevent unbelted adult passengers from being thrown from a car or SUV during a crash, according to news reports.

Going into effect in 2013, the new ruling will require every new car or truck under 10,000 lbs to be equipped with this anti-ejection countermeasures by 2018. What this means is that in less than eight years every new vehicle must be able to prevent an unbelted adult passenger from moving any further than 4 inches beyond a vehicle’s side window opening during a traffic accident.

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No matter where you live or work in Maryland, be it Owings Mills, The District, Annapolis or Columbia, car wrecks, pickup truck crashes and SUV rollovers can happen without notice. In fact, traffic accidents across the state injure hundreds of people every year. Some of those injuries and even a few deaths could likely have been prevented had the occupants been wearing their seatbelts.

As an experienced auto accident lawyer in the Baltimore area, my years of helping others recover from injury accidents have taught me that certain habits can save lives; others, however, can sadly contribute to the loss of life on our public streets and highways. One habit I’m always happy to see is when a person buckles that safety belt. It’s a small part of every driver’s daily ritual, but it’s a significant one.

Seatbelt use is usually pointed at as one of the top reasons why people survive automobile wrecks. There are many out there, I suspect, who feel that airbags and other safety devices do a better job, but that’s not necessarily true — all of these systems work together to imporve passenger safety. As basic as they may seem, safety belts play a key role in protecting occupants in the case of severe traffic accidents, including head-on collisions, roll-over accidents and other potentially fatal crashes.

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