Common Car Accident Questions and Answers

Roads and streets get us where we need to go, but they can also be dangerous for drivers and pedestrians alike. Here are some common issues that affect people on the roads.

Red Light Runners:

In 2017, over 900 pedestrians were hit and killed by vehicles running red lights. The worst thing about it is that while most drivers say they realize running red lights is very dangerous for themselves and for pedestrians, almost 33% of them still run one or more red lights on a monthly basis. Running lights is, of course, a crime in itself, but injuring someone while running a light also brings up the question of civil liability. Breaking a law designed specifically to protect people from harm has a good chance of establishing the law breaker's civil negligence in addition to the crime they committed.

If you are injured by someone running a red light, be sure to note that when you talk to your insurance and your attorney. Evidence that someone ran a light is a big boost to any case or claim you may need to bring against the offending driver.

Pedestrian Injuries:

It's not just red light runners that are a danger on the road. Pedestrian deaths in general have been on the rise. Last year was the most deadly for pedestrians in almost two decades. One of the biggest reasons is that so many people are driving larger vehicles than they did in years past. Coupes and sedans are steadily being replaced by crossover vehicles, SUVs, and full size trucks. The larger the vehicle, the less survival a collision is for a pedestrian.

Another reason for the increase in pedestrian deaths is the rapid rise in smartphone use. Just like vehicle on vehicle accidents, distracted driving has had a major effect on pedestrian deaths as well. Like with all accidents, a pedestrian needs to establish that the driver that hit them had a duty to the person hit and that they violated that duty which resulted in an actual injury or other harm.

Hit and Runs:

Sometimes, car accidents happen but the other party does not stick around to see about the damage. Fortunately, there are some thing you can do if you are the victim of a hit and run accident. First thing to remember is the driver that runs is almost always assumed to be at fault. If the hit and run driver can be found, they will have a pretty heavy burden of proving why they are not at fault.

If the driver can't be found, you may have a clause in your car insurance that deals with hit and run drivers. This is usually part of your uninsured motorists coverage. Not every policy has this coverage, though, so you'll need to check with your insurance company before filing a claim. If you ever have trouble with your insurance company, it may be time to call an attorney. At the end of the day, sometimes you and your insurance company can have conflicting interests, and it can take the involvement of a good lawyer to set things right.

So, when is the right time to involve an attorney after a car accident? There are a few incidents where it just makes sense to get legal assistance:

If there's a dispute as to who caused the car accident.
If there's a dispute as to how much you are owed after an accident.
If you suffered a serious injury that will require continued medical care.
If the other driver decides to sue or countersue you for the accident.

A lawyer team that knows the local court system can help you through the rules and requirements involved in a car accident dispute. They can help you evaluate settlement offers and make sure that insurance companies and other drivers don't try to slip past the rules or take advantage of you.

If you or a love one has been involved in a car accident or a pedestrian accident, you call the Martin Walker team at 903-526-1600.


Is Distracted Driving More Common Than We Thought?

How bad has the threat of distracted driving become? Bad enough that Texas passed its first law against cellphone use while driving, ending a back and forth debate that had been ongoing since 2011. And now, a company called Zendrive says it might be 100x worse than previous government statistics predicted.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration previously estimated that some 600,000 drivers made use of their phones each day. But according to Zendrive, which collected data from across 100-billion driver hours, says that they had reason to estimate that 69-million drivers use their phones while driving each day.
Zendrive also found that the there were more distracted drivers on the road between 11am and 5pm than any other time, and that since drivers spent an average of almost 2 minutes looking at their phone for every hour that they drove, it was almost as if they were closing their eyes and driving the over a mile totally blind each hour.
These new number have large implications. For instance, Texas’s new distracted driving law, while a good first step, requires that a police officer see and offender texting while driving instead of banning it in all cases. If there really are 100 times more distracted drivers on the road, it might be time for lawmakers to take a second look at the wording or penalties attached to distracted driving laws.
What else does Zendrive suggest? Most phones these days have access to modes or apps meant to help curb distracted driving. Up-to-date iPhones can now lock out text messages and phone calls while you are driving if you let them, and Android-based phones can accomplish much the same thing by using one of multiple well established distracted driving apps. Here’s eight other steps that Zendrive suggested:

  1. Hands free – Put your phone in a mount or cup holder while driving. Keep it out of your hands, and stay focused on the road.
  2. Set up your music and maps – The majority of phone use happens in the first 10% of a trip. Take an extra moment to get your technology in order before putting the car in drive.
  3. Finish up before heading out – Send one last text to let your friend know you’re getting behind the wheel and need to put the phone down.
  4. Airplane mode for phones – Use Do Not Disturb mode to block incoming messages, let people know you’re driving and that you’ll be in touch later. iOS 11 devices come with this functionality, while Android users can use an app.
  5. A little help from my friends – Designated drivers help us all get home safely after drinking. If you have passengers, ask them to help you navigate, change the music or respond to texts.
  6. Lock it up – Put your phone somewhere you can’t peek at it, like the trunk, backseat or glove compartment.
  7. Drive time, Zen time – Is a text worth your life, or that of someone else on the road? I didn’t think so. Be patient, and wait until you arrive to read your texts.
  8. Be the example – Speak up if you see someone driving while distracted. Tell them you’re uncomfortable with that behavior. Teach your children to speak up when they see you or a friend distracted behind the wheel.

School Bus Accident Liability

School Bus Accident Liability

It's been less than a week since the accident that took the life of a young boy in Athens Texas. This accident has affected many in our state and has raised awareness for improved school bus and train track safety standards. According to several news articles, the bus driver made the correct stop before crossing the track but unfortunately was still struck by the train. School buses may initially seem to be an unsafe form of transportation for children with their lack of seat belts and the large number of children that usually occupy the vehicle at one time. However, the fact remains that school bus fatalities are rare with an average of four to six annual fatalities, but they do still happen too often. Even though fatalities don't occur at an alarming rate it still causes a large number of injuries each year. These injuries can leave children injured emotionally as well as physically for long periods of time. For that reason, we feel it's important that East Texans know who is liable if their child is injured on a school bus.
In most cases, one of the following will be responsible for your child's school bus injury:

  • The school
  • A private bus company
  • Another driver
  • A parts manufacturer
  • A public entity

If your child is injured your first reaction may be to blame the school your child attends. This may be the case, but only under certain circumstances:

  • The driver was performing negligently while under the school's employment.
  • The vehicles malfunction caused the accident and should have been noticed under routine maintenance.
  • The school contracted through a private bus company did not legally have to perform the duties that caused the accident.

There are many layers to who is responsible for getting your child home safe while on a school bus. The laws vary from state to state and from school district to school district so it's important to ask for help from a local professional. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families affected in last Friday's accident. We know authorities are doing all they can to make sure all the facts are in place before any blame is placed. If you're struggling with knowing who is liable for you or your family members injury in any situation, don't hesitate to call our office for a consultation. (903) 526-1600


Tips For Staying Safe on New Year's Eve 2018

Tips For Staying Safe on New Year's Eve 2018

It's one of the most fun and exciting holidays of the year. There are fireworks, bonfires, and sparklers all around and large amounts of people gathered together. It's a time to think about how far we have come as well as the goals we have for the future. However, for some the new year will begin with a DWI charge on their record and some jail time. It's important to be smart on this holiday and plan for any potential mistakes that may come your way. Here are our top safety tips to keep your new year moving in a positive direction.
Forget the Alcohol
This will be a hard tip to follow for most people, but it could end up saving lives. If you have been designated as the driver for the night, this is your only option. When you think about it, this can only help you with drunk drivers all around the roads and cops keeping a look out on every turn.
Have a Sleepover
If you find yourself out at a New Year's Eve and you think you've had too much to drink don't be embarrassed to ask to stay the night.  Any good host will have already made sure this was possible for their guests. A good thing to keep in mind is that you can always ask ahead of time if this is an option. If not, you might want to think about going to another party.
Pick a Driver
Make sure you and your group have chosen a reliable and responsible driver to get everyone home safe. There are plenty of New Year's Eve activities to partake in for fun besides drinking. Try and stay encouraging to your DD and help them have fun without the drinks.
Download Uber or Lyft
Choosing a ride share option is one of the smartest and easiest ways to avoid drunk driving on this holiday. Make things even easier by downloading and creating an account with the app before the party even starts.
At Martin Walker Law, we want to encourage all East Texans to stay safe out there on New Year's Eve. It's important to have fun on this holiday, but it's not worth it if you get hurt or if you cause someone else to get in an accident. Happy New Year! Stay safe out there.


Distracted Driving vs. New Car Tech

Distracted driving kills thousands of people each year, but somehow we still keep looking away from the road. If casually asked, most people would probably say that they are good drivers and that they do not let anything distract them from the task of driving. But, when taking part in a formal survey, the result work out very differently.
Car insurance company Esurance recently conducted a study relating to distracted driving and how new vehicle technologies like lane-assist or automatic breaking are affecting drivers. In this study the real facts begin to come out. According to Esurance, 95% of those that took part agreed that texting while driving was a serious distraction, but then more than half of those people reported that they do text while they drive on a daily basis.
Interestingly, talking on the phone no longer ranks as the most distracting thing drivers do anymore. According to the study, the number one cell phone distraction is now using apps while driving, with talking while driving only a close second.
The study also took a look at how newer, automated driving technologies were affecting driver distraction. Surprisingly, they found that new in-car technologies actually increased driver distraction slightly. They can also lead to overconfience that the car itself will protect against bad driving behavior. One respondent is even quoted as saying he likes his car’s lane-keeping feature because it lets his car stay in its lane while he leans over to recover a dropped French fry!
At the end of the day, the best way to prevent driving accidents and deaths, even with new safe driving technologies, is to keep your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.


Texas has more road construction zone fatalities than any other state

In 2016, there were over 750 road work zone fatalities in the United States, 172 of which occurred in our state of Texas. Only Florida had numbers remotely comparable, and even then they only totaled 80 work zone fatalities in the same time period.
Based on the latest data from the Federal Highway Administration, well over 50% of road work zone fatalities occur when a driver strikes an object or debris that has been left or made its way into the roadway. The next most common type of fatal work zone accident are rear end crashes.
There are a number of things you as a driver can do to reduce your chances of being involved in a work zone accident. They include:

    • Slowing down and following the indicated work zone speed limit.
    • Paying attention to the location of workers and road work supplies.
    • Keeping a safe, reasonable distance between you and the vehicle in front of you.
    • Watch for construction vehicles pulling out onto the roadway
    • Obey the signals and instructions of workers directing traffic

If you or a loved one were injured in an auto accident involving road work, your case may have an added layer of complexity compared to a normal traffic accident. At Martin Walker P.C. we will work with you to see your case through to its proper conclusion. For a free case evaluation, give us a call at (903) 526-1600 or email us at info@martinwalkerlaw.com .


New iPhone Feature Might Save Lives, If Drivers Turn It On

Two big things have happened this month that will hopefully reduce the number of Distracted Driving deaths in Texas. Starting at the beginning of September, Texas’ new texting while driving law went into effect making it illegal to use a phone while operating a vehicle. With it came a $99 minimum fine for anyone caught texting while driving.
Now, as of September 19th, iPhone users have a new way to prevent their phones from distracting them while driving. iOS 11’s new Do Not Disturb While Driving mode offers to lock down iPhone users’ phones automatically while they are driving. The new mode can even send a helpful message back to someone trying to text you letting them know you’ll contact them once you are done driving. Do Not Disturb While Driving can activate when your phone connects to your car’s Bluetooth system or automatically based on things like the phone’s motion.
The key hang up, of course, is you have to turn the feature on to begin with. The new version of iOS will prompt users to enable this new proactive mode, but it also gives them the option to turn it off entirely. For all the good this new feature might do, it still relies on drivers admitting to what the scientific evidence already shows: distracted driving is dangerous and ends hundreds of lives every year.
At some point, perhaps these kind of software based protections against distracted driving will enabled by default and locked into the “on” position. Until then, we hope iPhone users will choose to enable this new feature and help protect themselves and others on the road.


Texas' New Texting While Driving Ban Goes Into Effect

This is the first week Texas’ new cellphone texting while driving ban has been in effect. As of September 1st, driving while using a cellphone to text or read a text message while driving in the state of Texas is illegal.
This necessary law was a long time coming. It took well over a decade for politicians in Texas to put together this law and get it passed and signed. At times it looked like they were about to do something about the high number of deaths that came with distracted driving and cellphone use while driving, but then the potential laws would stall out or almost pass or get vetoed.
A part of the problem is that in Texas we like our independence. We like deciding for ourselves what the right thing to do is, and we don’t like it when government interferes with our decision making process. But, in this case, it was necessary.
Over 400 people have been killed by distracted drivers in Texas each year for the past several years. As cellphones have become more and more essential parts of our lives, they have also become bigger and bigger distractions. The smart thing for us to do is to ignore our phones while driving, but calls and texts are important, and because decisions can be made right now, people expect them to be made right now. But, those four hundred dead each year is far too many, and it is clear that we, as a state, cannot ignore the temptation and obligation of our phones long enough to get from point a to point b safely.
This new law, House Bill 62, makes it illegal to use a phone for reading or sending text messages and places a $99 fine on anyone who is found doing so. And that is for a first offense. Later offenses can cost you up to $200.
By passing this law, Texas has taken a first important step in making our roads safer. Yes, it came at the cost of some small amount of personal freedom, and yes it will be some time before this new law filters down into the through process of Texas drivers, but we are hopeful that over time this ban on texting while driving will put a dent in those 400 yearly deaths and make driving safer for all of us.


New Required Program Helps Inform Young Drivers About Distracted Driving

The Texas Department of Public Safety has introduced a new course designed to help teenagers and young adults better understand the dangers posed by Distracted Driving.
This new course called “Impact Texas Young Drivers” is a 1 hour information course that, starting September 1st, will be required by all those under 24 seeking a driver’s license. Split up into four separate parts, its goal is to inform young drivers about how Distracted Driving can be a danger to them and others. It features real stories from individuals and families who were harmed by Distracted Drivers, as well as facts and statistics that show just how big of a problem Distracted Driving has become in recent years.
According to the TXDPS, one of the main themes of the hour long video is that distracted driving isn’t “about bad people doing bad things, but about good people making poor choices.” Some of the topics discussed including texting while driving, using a phone while driving, and attempting to multitask while driving.
Impact Texas Young Drivers is based on a similar program introduced in California. It joins a longer 2 hour course called Impact Texas Teen Drivers that is required to be viewed by drivers 15 – 17 years of age before they can get driver license.
For more information on these programs, you can visit the Impact Texas Young Drivers webpage by clicking here, and view the Texas Department of Public Safety page located here.