Personal Injury Updates

Information about Personal Injury in Washington State

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Drivers Often Unaware of Motorcycles, Increasing Risk of Collision

Categories: Auto Accidents

By Jacob W. Gent. Posted on .

Many drivers involved in a collision with a motorcycle state after word that they didn’t see the motorcycle.  A recent study recently published in the journal Bike travelAttention, Perception & Psychophysics examined why drivers might say that.

According to researcher Vanessa Beanland of the Australian National University, “The fact that motorcycles are less common than cars might make it harder for car drivers to see motorcycles.”

Using a driving simulator, the study tested the ability of 40 adult drivers to detect and respond to motorcycles and buses on the roads.  During the simulation, half of the participants were shown a high number of motorcycles and a low number of buses, while the other half of the participants were shown the reverse.  All participants were told to be on the lookout for both motorcycles and buses. The study found that the drivers’ attention favored whichever of the two vehicles they saw more of during the simulation, and this affected the speed at which they detected the vehicles.

Participants who saw motorcycles more often were able to detect them an average of 167 feet farther away than those who saw motorcycles less often.  Driving at a speed of 37 miles per hour, this additional distance gave the drivers an extra three seconds to respond.  At the same speed, drivers who saw buses more often had an extra 4.4 seconds to react.  The findings suggest drivers often fail to see motorcyclists partly because motorcycles are not common on roads.  Researchers concluded that drivers have more difficulty detecting vehicles and hazards that are rare, compared to those objects seen more frequently.



Alarming Increase in Traffic Fatalities Involving Marijuana Use

Categories: Auto Accidents

By Jacob W. Gent. Posted on .

The legalization of marijuana is an idea that is gaining momentum in the United States.  But there may be a dark side to pot becoming more commonplace.

A recent study has determined that fatal motor vehicle collisions involving marijuana use have tripled over the past 10 years.  The study from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health report, found that one in nine drivers involved in fatal crashes test positive for marijuana.  According to Dr. Guohua Li, director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia, and co-author of the study, “If this trend continues, in five or six years non-alcohol drugs will overtake alcohol to become the most common substance involved in deaths related to impaired driving.”

The conclusions of the study were based on crash statistics from six states that routinely perform toxicology tests on drivers involved in fatal motor vehicle collisions: California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and West Virginia. The data included over 23,500 drivers who died within one hour of a collision between 1999 and 2010.

The study found that alcohol contributed to about the same percentage of traffic fatalities during the same time period.  However, drugs played a gradual increasing role in fatal collisions.  Marijuana proved to be the main drug involved in the increase, contributing to 12 percent of 2010 traffic fatalities compared with 4 percent in 1999.  Overall, drugged driving accounted for more than 28 percent of traffic deaths in 2010, up from just over 16 percent in 1999.  According to the researchers, the increase in marijuana use occurred across all age groups and in both sexes.

Authors of the study noted that the combined use of alcohol and marijuana dramatically increases a driver’s risk of death.  “If a driver is under the influence of alcohol, their risk of a fatal crash is 13 times higher than the risk of the driver who is not under the influence of alcohol,” Li said. “But if the driver is under the influence of both alcohol and marijuana, their risk increases to 24 times that of a sober person.”

In an endnote to the study, the researchers acknowledged several limitations with their conclusions.  One is that marijuana can be detected in the blood up to one week after use. Therefore, “the prevalence of nonalcoholic drugs reported in this study should be interpreted as an indicator of drug use, not necessarily a measurement of drug impairment.”

Source: Trends in Alcohol and Other Drugs Detected in Fatally Injured Drivers in the United States, 1999–2010, American Journal of Epidemiology, Jan. 2014.

Older Professional Drivers More Likely to Die in Motor Vehicle Collisions

Categories: Auto Accidents

By Jacob W. Gent. Posted on .

Older workers who drive as part of their job have a significantly higher fatality rate as a result of motor vehicle collisions than younger workers.

A recent report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted workers 65 and older are three times more likely to die in motor vehicle collisions than workers aged 18 to 54.  The risk for older drivers begins to increase at 55, and then increases much more at 65 and older. 

According to the CDC report, more than 11,500 workers aged 18 and over died while driving for work between 2003 and 2010. Among these deaths, 26.9 percent were among those aged 55 and older.  The traffic death rate varied with race and ethnicity, with the highest rates among older American Indian/Alaskan Native drivers, more than four times that of younger drivers.  The traffic death rate for older white and black drivers was three times that of younger drivers, while Hispanic drivers aged 65 and older the death rate was twice that of younger drivers.

The risk is not restricted to workers employed in typical transportation occupations, such as drivers of tractor-trailers or delivery trucks.  The risk cuts across all industries and occupations.  Workers in transportation and warehousing accounted for a third of the deaths. The traffic death rate was highest for all age groups in that category, but highest (21.2 percent) for those aged 65 and older, the report noted.  By occupation, the rates were highest among those working in transportation and material moving.  These jobs accounted for 50 percent of all the deaths, with workers aged 65 and older accounting for 22.9 percent of deaths.

Most deaths were caused in collisions between vehicles, and 48 percent of these deaths were of drivers aged 65 and older.  Among those aged 65 and older, 23 percent of the accidents happened while driving a car, 22 percent while driving a tractor trailer and 15 percent while driving a pickup truck.  Drivers over 65  accounted for 9 percent of the deaths involving off-road or industrial vehicles, compared with 2 percent for younger workers.

The report was published Aug. 23 in the CDC publication Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.


Adult Seat Belt Use Statistics

Categories: Auto Accidents

By Jacob W. Gent. Posted on .

Did you know:Seat belt

  • Approximately 6,400 adults are injured in a motor vehicle collision each day in the United States?
  • More than 2.3 million adult drivers and passengers were treated in emergency departments for injuries from crashes in 2009.
  • In one year alone, deaths and injuries to drivers and passengers from crashes cost $70 billion in medical and lost work.
  • Young adults age 18-34 have the highest crash-related injury rates of all adults.
  • 7.3 million more adults would have worn their seat belts in 2008 if all states had primary enforcement seat belt laws achieved 88% use.*

Motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of death for people between the age of 5 and 34.  Seat belt use by adults is the most effective way to reduce injuries and death caused by motor vehicle collisions.

  • Seat belt use reduces serious injuries and deaths in crashes by 50%. Air bags provide added protection but are not a substitute for seat belts in a crash.
  • Seat belt use is higher in states that have primary enforcement laws (88%) than in those states that do not have them (79%).
  • In 2009, about 12,000 more injuries would have been prevented and about 450 more lives saved if all states had primary enforcement seat belt laws.

Between 2002 and 2008, the percentage of adults who always wear seat belts increased from 80% to 85%.  Still, 1 in 7 adults do not wear a seat belt on every trip. Primary enforcement seat belt laws have a significant impact on getting people to buckle up.*  In 2010, 19 states–where 1 in 4 adult Americans live–did not have a primary law.

Be smart. Be safe.  Buckle up!



* A primary enforcement seat belt law means a police officer can pull someone over and issue a ticket to the driver just because someone in the vehicle is not wearing a seat belt. A secondary enforcement law allows a police officer to issue a ticket for someone not wearing a seat belt only if the driver has been pulled over for some other offense.

Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention Vital Signs

Department of Health raises ceiling on copy fees for patient records

Categories: Personal Injury Resources

By Jacob W. Gent. Posted on .

Medical recordUnder the Uniform Health Care Information Act (HCIA), health care providers are allowed to charge certain fees to produce copies of a patient’s medical records.  The Act states copy charges may be adjusted every 2 years for inflation based on the consumer price index.  Recently, the Washington State Secretary of Health updated the maximum charges providers are permitted to charge for records copies.

Effective July 1, 2013, reasonable fees for duplicating health care records are as follows:

  • A maximum $24.00 flat fee for clerical searching and handling, up from $23.00 over the last two years;
  • A maximum $1.09 per page for the first 30 pages of records, up from $1.04; and
  • A maximum .82¢ per page after the 30th page, up from $.79.

Rates are based on the Seattle-Tacoma consumer price index and are reviewed every two years. These rates will remain in effect until July 2015.

Bicycle helmet laws linked to fewer child deaths

Categories: Bicycle Injury, Brain Injury

By Jacob W. Gent. Posted on .

HelmetAccording to a new study, state laws requiring children and teenagers to wear helmets are effective in reducing the number of deaths related to incidents involving bicycles and cars, according to a new study.   Researchers analyzing the number of bicycle deaths between 1999 and 2010 found that states with bicycle helmet laws reported about 20 percent fewer bike-related fatalities involving riders under 16 years old.

Approximately 900 people die as a result of bicycle-related crashes every year in the United States.   Three quarters of these fatalities are caused by head injuries.  Previous research found that wearing a helmet reduces a person’s risk of a head or brain injury by up to 88 percent.

Researchers analyzing data tracking the number of traffic-related deaths nationwide compared the number of children and teenagers killed while riding bicycles in the 16 states with helmet laws enacted in 1999 with states without such laws.

In 1999, only 16 states had helmet laws in place.  The overall rate of bicycle-related child deaths in the U.S. was 4 per million.  Between January 1999 and December 2010, there were 1,612 bicycle-related deaths among children younger than 16 years old.  During that time, states with helmet laws reported 2 bicycle-related deaths per 1 million children under age 16 years old, compared to 2.5 deaths per 1 million children in states without helmet laws.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children wear a helmet approved by the Consumer Product Safety Commission every time they ride a bicycle.

Motorcycle Deaths on the Rise

Categories: Auto Accidents

By Jacob W. Gent. Posted on .

According to a recent report released by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), an estimated 5,000 motorcyclists lost their lives on U.S. roads in 2012.  This figure is near an all—time high and represents a 9 percent increase from 2011.  Motorcyclists are one of the few roadway user groups where no progress has been seen over the past decade, the GHSA report noted.Motorcycle

The projected number of motorcyclist deaths for 2012 is based on state-by-state data for the first nine months of the year. Similar projections in previous years mirrored the final numbers.

Data comparison for the first nine months of 2011 and 2012 revealed the number of motorcyclist deaths increased in 34 states last year, decreased in 16 states, and stayed the same in the District of Columbia. Increases were noted in every region of the country and were quite high in many states. For example, motorcyclist deaths rose 32 percent in Oregon and 29 percent in Indiana.

The report also found that the number of states with compulsory helmet laws had dropped from 26 in 1997 to just 19 states in 2012.

The report outlined a number of ways to reduce motorcyclist deaths. These include: increasing helmet use; reducing speeding and impaired riding; providing rider training to all who need or want it; ensuring proper licensing of riders; and encouraging all drivers to share the road with motorcyclists.


SOURCE: Governors Highway Safety Association, news release, April 24, 2013

Teen fatalities involving teen drivers decreased between 2008-2011

Categories: Auto Accidents

By Jacob W. Gent. Posted on .

Teen DrivingA new national safety study released in April 2013 reported teen driver-related fatalities have dropped by almost 50% over the last six years.  The number of teen passengers killed in crashes involving teen drivers fell 30 percent in the United States from 2008 to 2011.

The joint report by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and State Farm Insurance showed positive news in that 54 percent of teen passengers reported that they always used seat belts.  Other encouraging trends among teen passengers between 2008 and 2011 included:

  • A decline in the risky behaviors of teen passengers, ages 15 to 19.
  • The number of teen passengers killed in crashes and who were not wearing seat belts fell 23 percent.
  • The number of teen passengers killed in crashes where a teen driver had been drinking dropped 14 percent.

Despite the progress outlined in the study, a number of risky behaviors remain serious problems. These include texting or emailing while driving, drinking and driving, and low levels of seat belt use.

The study found that one-third of teens admitted to texting or emailing while driving. Speeding was a factor in more than 50% of fatal crashes involving teen drivers in 2011, similar to 2008.  The number of teens who died in crashes and had a blood alcohol level higher than 0.01 rose from 38 percent in 2008 to 41 percent in 2011.

The study cited a number of key areas that have the greatest potential to reduce teen traffic crashes and deaths, including reducing distractions from passengers and technology; improving skills in scanning, hazard detection and speed management; and increasing seat belt use.

The study, called “Miles to go: Focusing on Risks for Teen Driver Crashes,” is the third in an annual series.

SOURCE: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, news release, April 4, 2013

Obese Drivers More Likely to Die in Auto Collisions

Categories: Auto Accidents

By Jacob W. Gent. Posted on .

It’s not like we need another reason to get and keep excess weight off, but here it is.  A new study finds obese drivers are up to 80% more likely to die as a result of a motor vehicle collision compared to normal-weight drivers.

“Our findings suggest two things: first, that there is something about obese vehicle occupants that causes poorer outcomes. That thing is probably a higher prevalence of comorbidities — other health conditions — related to obesity that inhibit survival and recovery from severe injury,” said study co-author Thomas Rice, a research epidemiologist with the University of California, Berkeley’s Safe Transportation Research & Education Center.

Second, earlier research has shown that the proper interaction between seat belts and the human body is inhibited in the obese, Rice said.  He stressed the importance of proper seat belt use, especially among the obese. “It is critical that the lap belt be positioned as low as possible on the lap and as close to one’s pelvis as possible,” he said.

The study examined used fatality data from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for 1996 to 2008.  During that time, details of more than 57,000 car accidents were documented. The study focused on collisions involving two cars resulting in a death. The data was refined further to include only collisions involving cars of similar size and type. In all, the final pool included more than 3,400 pairs of drivers.

Obesity was determined by body mass index (BMI), a measurement that takes both height and weight into account.  As the level of obesity increased, so did the odds of dying in the collision. Compared to normal-weight drivers, those at the lowest level of obesity were 21 percent more likely to die, those at the next level were 51 percent more likely to die and those who were most obese were 80 percent more likely to die.  Obese women had a greater risk of dying than obese men, the researchers noted, while underweight men were slightly more likely to die in a crash than normal-weight drivers.  These risks remained even for drivers wearing seat belts and even when the airbag deployed, the authors noted.

Although the study found an association between obesity and death rates in car crashes, it did not establish a cause-and-effect relationship.

SOURCES: Thomas Rice, Ph.D., research epidemiologist, Safe Transportation Research & Education Center, University of California, Berkeley; David Katz, M.D., M.P.H., director, Yale University Prevention Research Center, New Haven, Conn.; Jan. 21, 2013, Emergency Medicine Journal, online


Distracted Walking Increases Risk of Injury to Pedestrians

Categories: Auto Accidents

By Jacob W. Gent. Posted on .

In previous posts, we discussed the growing concern and safety issues caused by distracted driving.[1]  There is another danger related to increased use cell phones and other mobile electronic devices: distracted walking.[2]  According to the Seattle Times, over 60,000 people are injured and 4,000 people die each year from vehicle-vs-pedestrian incidents.  There were 529 pedestrians injured in motor vehicle collisions in 2010, including 6 fatalities.  A recent study by the University of Washington which surveyed 1,000 pedestrians in 20 high-risk intersections found distracted walking may be a contributing factor to the growing number of pedestrian deaths caused by motor vehicle collisions each year.  The study found that 30% of pedestrians listened to music, texted or talked on the phone while crossing the street.  Pedestrians engaged in text messaging were four times less likely to look before crossing the street or obey traffic signals.  Those listening to music tended to walk faster and not look for traffic before stepping into the street.  It is easy to see that such conduct raises the risk of serious injury to pedestrians in any situation where motor vehicles are involved, including transit stops, railroad crossings and subway platforms.

Currently, there is no law prohibiting distracted walking in Washington, but some states, including Arkansas, Delaware, and Illinois, have attempted unsuccessfully to pass such measures in recent years.[3]  It is clear from the UW study and statistics from emergency departments nationwide that distracted walking is a very dangerous activity.  However, operators of motor vehicles are not relieved of their heightened duty imposed by the “Rules of the Road” to watch out for and avoid striking pedestrians, regardless of whether they are present in a crosswalk, or their attention is diverted by a cell phone or other electronic device, or some other distraction.

RCW 46.61.235 – Crosswalks

(1)   The operator of an approaching vehicle shall stop and remain stopped to allow a pedestrian or bicycle to cross the roadway within an unmarked or marked crosswalk when the pedestrian or bicycle is upon or within one lane of the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling or onto which it is turning. For purposes of this section “half of the roadway” means all traffic lanes carrying traffic in one direction of travel, and includes the entire width of a one-way roadway.

RCW 46.61.261 – Sidewalks, crosswalks; Pedestrians, bicycles

(1)    The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian or bicycle on a sidewalk.

Automobile drivers should always be on the lookout for all possible hazards.  As the popularity and prevalence of hand-held electronic devices grows, it is essential to exercise greater caution with pedestrians, especially if they are using an electronic device.  If you see a pedestrian using a cell phone or other device, it is very likely they are not paying attention to their surroundings.  Please be on the lookout for distracted walkers while driving.  If you have children, be sure to teach them when it is appropriate to use their hand-held, and when to hang up.