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Category Archives: Practical Tips You Can Use

Best Used Cars for New Teenage Drivers

Categories: Practical Tips You Can Use

By PI-Advisor. Posted on .

Teenage DriversConsumer Reports recently published a list of vehicle recommendations for new drivers.  Budget are safety concerns are usually the first things parents consider when purchasing a vehicle for their teenage drivers.  To handle the budget issue, a pre-owned car is a great way to go. On the safety side Consumer Reports looked into the key factors on safety for used vehicle.  First safety feature is electronic stability control (ESC) technology to maintain control of the vehicle, antilock brakes, and air bags.  The size of the vehicle is also important.  Many parents think a large SUV or pickup (“tanks”) are safe; however, these vehicles are more prone to roll over in collisions.  Furthermore, more seating capacity in the car increases the chances that the teenager will drive their friends, meaning more distractions and a higher likelihood of crashing.   Vehicles with high variant speed capability, such as sports cars, also increases collision and insurance rates.

These are the top five recommended used vehicles for teens (in no particular order):

  1. Ford Focus (2009-2011)
  2. Hyundai Elantra (2008 or later)
  3. Mazda3 (2011 or later)
  4. Mazda6 (4 cyl., 2009-2013)
  5. Subaru Impreza (non-turbo, 2009 or later)

Is Health Insurance More Trouble Than It’s Worth?

Categories: Practical Tips You Can Use

By Steven J. Angles. Posted on .

I recently came across a couple of studies about health insurance that I found truly troubling because of the messages they convey.  One study concluded that having no health insurance while hospitalized can lead to less effective care.  The other indicated that having health insurance while hospitalized can lead to less effective care.  See the problem?

A January 2014 study at the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences found that uninsured patients with a range of medical diagnoses are significantly less likely to be transferred between hospitals for treatment. [1] This was contrary to the study’s original presumption that uninsured patients would be transferred between hospitals on a more frequent basis because they were “unprofitable.”  The projected result?  Uninsured patients face reduced access to health care, and are not necessarily being transferred when they should be.

On the other hand, a February 2014 study published in JAMA Surgery by researchers at Stanford University Medical Center concluded that emergency rooms are less likely to transfer injured patients to trauma centers if they have health insurance because these patients are profitable.[2]  Thus, patients without insurance can be at less risk for receiving sub-optimal trauma care than those with insurance.

As attorneys representing individuals who are seriously injured, we often see clients with and without health insurance.  Despite the conflicting messages of the studies above, it is always our recommendation that those who have access to health insurance carry it, and not simply because it is now the law.  It’s impossible to predict how serious an injury will be, or how much care it will ultimately require.  Having health insurance will afford greater access to care and a greater chance for a speedy recovery. 



[1] Janel Hanmer, Xin Lu, Gary E. Rosenthal, Peter Cram. Insurance Status and the Transfer of Hospitalized Patients. Annals of Internal Medicine, 2014; 160 (2): 81-90 DOI: 10.7326/M12-1977

 

[2] M. Kit Delgado, Michael A. Yokell, Kristan L. Staudenmayer, David A. Spain, Tina Hernandez-Boussard, N. Ewen Wang. Factors Associated With the Disposition of Severely Injured Patients Initially Seen at Non–Trauma Center Emergency Departments. JAMA Surgery, 2014; DOI: 10.1001/jamasurg.2013.4398

 

Long Road Trips for the Holidays

Categories: Auto Accidents, Practical Tips You Can Use

By PI-Advisor. Posted on .

The winter road trip: long, family-packed car rides for holiday gatherings or ski-trips into the mountains.  It is a time for scenic beauty, family memory making, but also a potentially dangerous time with snow, ice and slick road conditions.  Here are a few pre-cautions to take before you hit the road to ensure you and your loved ones are prepared for the long trip this season:Winter Driving

  1. Before taking off always check road and weather reports, especially if driving over mountain passes and isolated areas.  If you must travel through bad weather, be prepared for longer travel times and road closures.   The Washington State Department of Transportation has a mobile app for iPhones and Android for statewide access to traffic alerts, cameras, ferry schedule and more.
  2. Check traction on tires and pressure levels.  Good tires are important to winter driving.  Always have chains in your vehicle, especially if the vehicle is not all wheel/four wheel drive.  In Washington State, the penalty for not using chains when advised is a $500.00 fine.  Lastly, know how to install chains before leaving on your trip.
  3. Visibility is also key to winter driving.  Check headlights, blinkers and brake lights before trips.  Wash your car before any trip to ensure windows are clear and headlights are bright.  Ensure windshield wipers are working proper and windshield wiper fluids are topped off.
  4. Have an emergency kit in your car including flashlights, extra batteries, flares, jumper cables, first aid kit, water, and non-perishable food.  Many local auto supplies store have preassembled emergency kits.
  5. Before long road trips, have your vehicle checked by an automobile mechanic, including fluid levels and brakes.  Breaking down on the side of the road in bad weather means increased risks and increased wait time for help.
  6. Pack extra blankets, clothes, gloves, food and water.

For more tips on winter driving, visit www.aaa.com for their complete list.

Most drivers will make it to their driving designation without any issues.  However, it’s always best to prepare for the worst to stay safe this winter season.  And while this last tip may not be on AAA’s list of winter road trip tips, we recommend bringing a good soundtrack.

Ride Safely Out There

Categories: Other Physical Injuries, Practical Tips You Can Use

By Steven J. Angles. Posted on .

Living in the Pacific Northwest means being surrounded by miles of natural beauty that can sometimes be best experienced on the back of a motorcycle or scooter.   However, it’s also no secret that a motorcyclist’s (or scooter operator’s) best defense against sustaining traumatic injury is proper training, constant awareness, reliable equipment, and taking appropriate safety precautions.  For those who prefer this two-wheeled mode of transportation, or are thinking about the transition from driving to riding, here is a quick safety review of Washington State’s “on-road” motorcycle laws:

Are safety helmets required by law?

A: Yes, as of January 1, 2007.  Following the letter of the law also means that your helmet must be certified by the manufacturer as meeting the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) standards listed under 49 CFR 571.218.  The Washington law itself can be found at RCW.37.530

Is eye protection required by law?

A: Yes.  Unless your motorcycle is equipped with a windshield, you are required to wear glasses, goggles, or a helmet with a face shield. RCW.37.530

Does Washington require the daytime use of a headlight?

A: Yes, pursuant to RCW 46.37.522.  As an extra safety precaution, the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 49, 571.108, permits modulating headlights (which flicker quickly between high and low beams in order to make an approaching motorcycle more visible).

How loud can your motorcycle be?

A: This is a tricky one since plenty of riders believe that a louder exhaust note means higher visibility, and therefore, increased awareness from those around them.  However, the letter of the law can be found at section 173-62-030 of the Washington Administrative Code.  It specifies that exhaust systems or mufflers causing “excessive or unusual noise” are prohibited.  The code section also specifies the decibel levels that are legally acceptable when measured at a distance of 50 feet.

Is lane –splitting allowed in Washington?

A: Unlike states such as California, Washington does not allow lane-splitting (riding between lanes of stopped or slower moving traffic, or moving between lanes to the front of the traffic stopped at a traffic light). RCW 46.61.608

What are the Washington State insurance requirements for motorcycles, scooters, or mopeds?

A: Believe it or not, Washington State does not require motorcycles, scooters, or mopeds to be insured under a motor vehicle liability policy, according to RCW 46.30.020.  All other forms of insurance, including “first-party” coverage (i.e. PIP or MedPay), uninsured motorist coverage (UM), or underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) are similarly “optional.”

However, it is always advisable to insure your motorcycle or other 2-wheeled vehicle to the extent possible.  Most attorneys or medical providers that handle personal injury situations will tell you that at some point, they have come across a situation where a motorcyclist has caused serious injury to another person, possibly a pedestrian, or a passenger.  These same attorneys and providers can also share stories of terrible situations where even a fully helmeted and armored motorcyclist or scooter operator has sustained life-altering traumatic injuries, only later to discover that the vehicle causing the collision was uninsured, or woefully underinsured.   Other situations are simply a matter of gravel in the wrong curve causing a motorcyclist to lay down their bike.  When you consider the fact that motorcycle insurance policies in Washington can be less expensive than similar policies for cars, and can offer very similar coverage amounts, it becomes clear why it’s important to invest in coverage regardless of the legal requirements, especially when you’re not protected by the “cage” of your automobile.

Pop Quiz: How Much Do You Know About Your Health Insurance?

Categories: Practical Tips You Can Use

By Steven J. Angles. Posted on .

With open enrollment for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also called “Obamacare,” beginning on October 1st, 2013, now is an excellent time to ask yourself how much you know about your own health insurance.  If you plan on shopping for health care insurance in the Washington State marketplace, are you familiar enough with the terms used by insurance companies to make the most informed decision for yourself and your family?  For example, do you think that a “premium” is an expense at the time of receiving medical service or a prescription? Do you think a “copay” is the cost of obtaining insurance?

According to poll results released in August 2013 by the American Institute of CPAs, more than half of Americans are not equipped with the basic knowledge of health insurance concepts and definitions to understand the basics of health insurance plans.[1]  According to the poll, 51 percent of adults surveyed could not accurately identify at least one of the three most common health insurance terms present in insurance contracts: premium, deductible, or copay.  (Incidentally, the poll also found that 41 percent of those surveyed were not knowledgeable about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, with 48 percent of young adults ages 18 to 34 having no knowledge of this change in health care laws.)  This is especially troubling given that the Affordable Care Act requires all Americans to buy health insurance or pay a penalty beginning in 2014.

If you have suffered a traumatic personal injury and are lost in a sea of unfamiliar insurance terms, understanding the basics of health insurance is important to help you make more informed decisions about your medical needs and expenses, and how they affect your household finances.  However, knowing what your medical provider’s billing department is referring to when you speak with them during an appointment, or how to read the constant stream of statements you receive in the mail will also reduce the stress already there when you are living with and treating for injuries caused by another person’s negligence.

In addition to the many ways available on various web sites to help you increase your Insurance 101 I.Q., we have additional resources on our web site.



[1] http://www.aicpa.org/press/pressreleases/2013/pages/us-adults-fail-health-insurance-101-aicpa-survey.aspx

BUI Laws Toughened Up as of 2013 Boating Season

Categories: Personal Injury Resources, Practical Tips You Can Use

By Steven J. Angles. Posted on .

Summer on the waters of Washington State means getting boats out of dry dock, picturesque  white sails dotting the horizon, and flotillas of vessels grouped together to celebrate our  spectacular weather.  However, as of July 28, 2013, the Washington State Legislature has empowered law enforcement to crack down even more on boaters that operate their vessels under the influence.

According to Washington State Park data, alcohol is a factor in 30 percent of boating fatalities.[1] Senate Bill 5437, signed by Governor Inslee on May 16, 2013, creates stiffer penalties for boating under the influence (“BUI”) and expands prior BUI laws to include offenses for operating while under the influence of marijuana.  Boaters should be aware of the following new changes[2]:boating

  1. Per the revisions to RCW 79A.60.040, the penalty for BUI is no longer a misdemeanor (which carries a maximum of 90 days in jail and a fine of no more than $1,000.00.)  Boaters will now face gross misdemeanor charges for BUI, which means a maximum sentence of 364 days in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.00.
  2. Boat operators are deemed to have given implied consent to have their breath or blood tested for the concentration of alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs in their system, subject to RCW 46.61.506.  If the operator refuses to take the test, they will be issued a class 1 civil infraction under RCW 7.80.120 that carries a penalty of $1,000.00.
  3. Law enforcement officers are authorized to issue citations when investigating boating accidents, or, perform an arrest for violations of any criminal statutes.
  4. Operating a vessel without the proper safety equipment may result in citations for both the owner and operator of the vessel

In essence, the new laws allow law enforcement on the water more of the authority already permitted when investigating DUI cases on land.  The laws are also clearly anticipating the potential rise in BUI incidences due to the legalization of marijuana in Washington State.

Injuries caused by collisions on the water present special challenges for the injured parties, law enforcement, and emergency medical personnel.  An injured person may have to wait much longer to be evaluated at the scene for injuries due to the distances involved and the generally slower nature of boat travel.   Often times, there are few independent witnesses to what actually happened to cause the collision, making it difficult for law enforcement to perform a complete investigation.  In addition, there is the ever-present danger that an injured party may fall overboard and injure themselves more severely.

The attorneys at the law firm of Adler Giersch PS are experienced in cases of injuries from vessel collisions, and are available for a free consultation.



[1] http://www.parks.wa.gov/newsreleases/?number=%2013-021

[2] http://apps.leg.wa.gov/documents/billdocs/2013-14/Pdf/Bills/Session%20Laws/Senate/5437-S.SL.pdf

Mobile Hand-Held Devices Can Increase Musculoskeletal Symptoms

Categories: Personal Injury Resources, Practical Tips You Can Use, Spine Injury

By Steven J. Angles. Posted on .

Did you know that the average human head weighs 10 pounds in a “neutral position” – where the ears are aligned over the shoulders?  Did you know that for every inch you tilt your head forward, the pressure on your spine doubles? In other words, if you are reading this blog with your head leaning down, or slouched over in a chair, you are asking your neck to support 20-30 pounds of weight.[1]   Now ask yourself – how many hours per day do you spend hunched over your smart phone, tablet, or some sort of mobile electronic device?  Your musculoskeletal system, particularly your neck and arms, may be paying the price for the convenience of having instant and portable access to all that information.

Mobile DeviceIn 2011, Canadian researchers Berolo, Wells and Amick conducted the first epidemiological study to investigate the frequency of upper body musculoskeletal pain of in mobile device users. [2] This was the first study of this fast-growing health concern to provide empirical evidence of relationships between mobile device use and symptoms of the upper extremity and neck. Participants in the study reported their daily use of mobile devices and self-reported pain symptoms through an internet based questionnaire. 104 students and 32 staff or faculty members participated in the study (80 females, 60 males). 94% were right hand dominant, and 26% use both thumbs to type (vs. one thumb typing)).  The study revealed:

  • 98% of the study participants used a hand-held mobile device for emailing, scheduling, browsing the internet, making phone calls, watching videos, taking pictures, or gaming.
  • Participants used such devices for a mean time of 4.65 hrs/day
  • 84% reported at least some pain in at least one body part
  • Pain of any severity was reported as follows:
    • 68% in the neck
    • 62% in the upper back
    • 32% in the right elbow and lower arm
    • 52% in the right shoulder
    • 46% in the left shoulder
    • 27% in the left elbow and lower arm
  • Statistically significant associations were observed between total time spent using a mobile device and pain in the left shoulder, the right shoulder, and the neck

The study also indicated that musculoskeletal symptoms can also develop in the extremities with activities such as typing, as pain in the hands was a common complaint, particularly at the base of the thumbs.[3]  This would be consistent with case reports suggesting a link between device use and both tenosynovitis and osteoarthritis [4] at the base of the thumb (carpometacarpal joint), as well laboratory studies showing that smaller keyboards (as compared to desktop or laptop computers) may increase “static strain” on the hand and arm muscles.

While mobile electronic devices have become an indispensable part of life for many people, the Berolo Study underscores the importance of taking simple steps to limit the amount of time we place our bodies in an abnormal position that can increase stress on the muscles, cause fatigue, muscle spasms and even stress headaches.  These include improving posture, raising electronic devices towards the head (not vice-versa), taking breaks to break up static body positions, and using speech-to-text functions rather than typing.

Individuals already suffering from musculoskeletal injury due to trauma may be at a higher risk for complications arising from the over-use of personal electronics.  Postural strain, overuse, or prolonged immobilization in these patients can result in additional changes in posture or body mechanics that may bring about spinal alignment problems and muscle shortening.  As such, patients recovering from traumatic injury to neck, back, arms, or hands should be particularly aware of their habits while texting or surfing the web on their electronic tablets to prevent additional injury or a prolonged recovery.

 

 



[1] http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/20/health/mobile-society-neck-pain

[2] http://www.ergoweb.com/news/detail.cfm?id=2722

[3] http://www.ergoweb.com/news/detail.cfm?id=2722 Id.

[4] http://www.jaoa.org/content/110/5/294.full

Lights, Camera, Action – Use of Dash Cameras On the Rise

Categories: Auto Accidents, Practical Tips You Can Use

By Steven J. Angles. Posted on .

Did you happen to see footage of the meteorite that entered Earth’s atmosphere several months ago? Did you ever wonder why most of the video footage of the event originated from ordinary citizens in the Russian city of Chelyabinsk? The answer has to do with one of the most important after-market components that Russian motorists add to their vehicles before they ever consider radar detectors or satellite radios – dashboard cameras. Unfortunately, drivers in Russia have a significant likelihood of being involved in a severe collision. In fact, in a 2007 study, Russian motorists averaged 25.2 traffic fatalities per 100,000 people. By comparison, motorists in the United States had 13.9 road deaths per 100,000 people in the same year, despite having six times more cars.[1]  Many Russian drivers opt to purchase cameras for their vehicles in order to maintain their rights and memorialize the facts.[2] The same principle applies in the U.S.

Most people involved in a motor vehicle collision quickly realize that a picture can truly be worth a thousand words. If that is the case, what is the value of a motion picture? The answer, often times, is priceless.  Regardless of whether the questions are coming from an insurance company, another driver, law enforcement, or an attorney, there is simply no substitute for being able to show first-hand what happened during a car crash.  This is largely why the idea of having a video camera mounted on the dashboard of a vehicle, or on top of the helmet of a motorcycle rider, is becoming increasingly common.  Video footage is the eyewitness whose memory does not decay with time, and whose bias or credibility cannot be questioned.

Personal injury attorneys can hire a number of experts to recreate what happened during a collision using calculations of time, speed, and distance. However, most of these experts would still agree that having first hand video footage of the event would be a tremendous advantage in reaching their conclusions.dash cam

While this technology became available to consumers about 10 years ago, there has been a spike in the number of cameras sold to motorists in recent years. The reason? Price. These days, it is easy to obtain a dash mounted video camera for your car for under $100. For an additional $100 you can obtain upgraded models that can record high definition video in total darkness, record what is happening behind and inside of a vehicle, pinpoint location by GPS, and can save recorded information automatically in the event of a collision.

These cameras can also help keep loved ones safe when they are borrowing your vehicle.  Are you worried about the driving habits of your teenager? Do you want to know whether your teen is texting while driving? Dash cam footage provides irrefutable answers and can help keep your children driving safely.

Ultimately, a video camera can help an injured motorist explain what happened before, during, and after a crash despite the toll that a physical or psychological trauma can have on that person’s recollection.



[2] http://www.rferl.org/content/dash-cams-russia-fighting-corruption-and-scams-car-crashes/24780355.html

Why Being “Anti-social” is Best After an Injury

Categories: Personal Injury Resources, Practical Tips You Can Use

By Steven J. Angles. Posted on .

For many people after an injury, they’re stuck at home, out of work and often isolated from friends and family.  To pass the time and stay connected they frequently take to social media like Facebook and Twitter to reach out, vent, etc. and it’s no wonder.  Facebook users alone spend almost 7 hours per month on the site and that number is growing daily.

We’ve all heard the adage to be careful what you share, but in today’s world it’s more important than ever. It is becoming increasingly difficult to keep track of what you post in social media and whether it is public or private, especially if a friend or family member has tagged you in a post or photo.iStock_000021488833XSmall (2)

Just the same, it is becoming easier and easier for insurance companies to search your name, general location or even your spouse’s name to find “evidence” to discredit you. They can use this information to track down photos, dates and more and then use the information against you to claim that you’re not hurt.

I recall being involved in a case years ago as a defense attorney when my client’s insurance company was investigating a person who suffered a spinal injury and was unable to work.  This person’s job required long hours of sitting in front of a computer.  In a matter of moments with a simple, free search on Facebook, the insurance adjuster found pictures from a recent trip the person had taken out of town. The insurance company, in turn, argued that if the person was “really hurt,” they never would have been able to travel any distance (never mind that the reason for travel was to visit a terminally ill friend). The point is, the insurance company was able to introduce doubt into the case using basic social media search techniques, making it harder for the injured person to recover their losses.

I also recall another case in which a driver who caused a motor vehicle collision started reaching out to the passenger she injured, her “best friend,” on Facebook. The injured passenger did not feel much like socializing, but wanted to try and maintain the friendship.  She would occasionally send quick responses by simply writing, “I’m okay,” or “I’ll be fine” to the driver.  The relationship between the two cooled as the months went by. The driver ultimately provided her insurance company with screen shots of all of the “conversations” with the injured friend.  The insurance company used the screen shots to document how, in its opinion, the injured passenger had regularly shown that she was recovering quickly from her injuries, despite medical records to the contrary.

Social media is a wonderful way to stay connected, but if you’ve been injured you must be extremely careful not to discuss it in social media.  Avoid posting pictures of activities or “checking in.” Restrict your privacy settings and “un-tag” yourself from photos taken by others. Taken out of context they can be damaging to your case. Ultimately, the safest solution is to “go dark” while your claim is being resolved.

Drinking and Driving Among Teens Down by 54%

Categories: Practical Tips You Can Use

By Jacob W. Gent. Posted on .

According to the Center for Disease Control[1] the percentage of high school teens who drink and drive has decreased by more than 50% since 1991.[2]  Despite this positive trend, more needs to be done to reduce the likelihood of an impaired teen driving.  Nearly one million high school teens drank alcohol and got behind the wheel in 2011. Teen drivers are 3 times more likely than more experienced drivers to be in a fatal crash. Drinking any alcohol greatly increases this risk.

Although fewer teens are drinking and driving, this risky behavior is still a major threat to everyone on the road.

  • Drinking and driving among high school teens has dropped 54% since 1991. Still, high school teens drive after drinking approximately 2.4 million times a month.
  • 85% of teens in high school who report drinking and driving in the past month also report binge drinking, defined as having 5 or more alcoholic drinks within two hours.
  • 1 in 5 teen drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2010 had alcohol in their system. Most (81%) had BAC’s higher than the legal limit of .08%.

Preventing Teen Drinking and Driving – What Works:

Research shows factors that help keep teens safe include parental involvement, minimum legal drinking age and zero tolerance laws, and graduated driver licensing systems.

  • Minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) laws in every state make it illegal to sell alcohol to anyone under age 21.  Enforcing MLDA laws through alcohol retailer compliance checks reduces retail sales of alcohol to minors.
  • Zero tolerance laws:  It is illegal in every state for those under age 21 to drive after drinking any alcohol. Research has shown zero tolerance laws have reduced the number of alcohol related crashes involving teens.
  • Graduated driver licensing (GDL) systems help new drivers get more experience under less risky conditions. As teens move through stages, they gain privileges, such as driving at night or driving with passengers. Every state has a  GDL system, but specific rules vary. Research indicates GDL systems prevent crashes and save lives.
  • Parental involvement, which focuses on monitoring and restricting what new drivers are allowed to do, keep new drivers safe as they learn to drive. Research has shown that when parents establish and enforce the “rules of the road,” new drivers report lower rates of risky driving, traffic violations, and crashes.

The percentage of teens in high school, aged 16 years or older, who drink and drive has decreased by more than half.

 

 

 


[2] High school students aged 16 years and older who, when surveyed, said they had driven a vehicle one or more times during the past 30 days when they had been drinking alcohol.