Understanding Pedestrians and Limited Torts

Pedestrian Accident Lawyer in West Chester, PA
The Herald-Mail reported last month that the Waynesboro Area School Board and the Borough of Waynesboro on the southern border of Pennsylvania had been “brainstorming ways to improve safety for pedestrians and motorists near the Waynesboro Area Middle School entrance,” as school administrators said students are crossing the borough-owned road to access the local mall parking lot.

In the northwest corner of the Commonwealth, the Erie Times-News reported on June 12 that a group of more than 60 people marched along the Bayfront Connector, “an area that has a bicycle path along part of the route, but no sidewalk.” Some of those who marched were remembering 8-year-old Jazarion Paul, who was flown to Pittsburgh by helicopter after he was struck in a hit-and-run pedestrian crash on May 28.

Even ahead of the Stanley Cup victory parade Downtown for the Pittsburgh Penguins on June 14, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) urged motorists and pedestrians to be aware of each other. PennDOT said in a June 13 press release that there has been an average of more than 250 pedestrian crashes in the City of Pittsburgh each year since 2011, with 20 of those crashes being fatal and 60 percent occurring in broad daylight.

As we enter summer, communities all over Pennsylvania will see an increase in the number of pedestrians engaging in outdoor activities. Whether it is outings in Brandywine Picnic Park or attending any one of a number of festivals or concerts, visitors and residents alike will choose to commute by foot in order to enjoy the favorable weather. When a motorist is intoxicated or distracted, there is an increased risk of a pedestrian being struck and severely injured.

In many pedestrian crashes, automobile insurance policies cover the damages of pedestrians struck by motor vehicles. Some victims who purchased limited tort coverage policies instead of full tort policies believe that the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (MVFRL) prohibits them from recovering non-economic damages, but the truth is that tort limitations do not apply to pedestrians.

Pedestrian Accident Lawyer in West Chester, PA

In L.S. v. David Eschbach, Jr., Inc., 874 A.2d 1150 (Pa. 2005), an 11-year-old girl (L.S.) suffered multiple contusions, abrasions, and fractures while attempting to cross the street after exiting her school bus. The girl’s natural parent and guardian commenced a timely negligence action in the Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster County against the driver of the school bus and the owner of the bus company, but the trial court granted the bus driver and bus company owner’s Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment and denied the plaintiff’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment after concluding that L.S. had failed to meet the “serious injury” threshold as required by the limited tort provision to recover noneconomic damages.

L.S. appealed both Orders to the Superior Court, but a majority of the Superior Court determined that Section 1705 of the MVFRL expressly precludes a pedestrian, who is insured by a limited tort automobile policy, from recovering noneconomic damages absent serious injury. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, however, reversed the portion of the Superior Court’s decision that deemed Section 1705 applicable to pedestrians and remanded the matter to the trial court after concluding that “neither the plain language of the statute nor the express legislative intent support a statutory interpretation of Section 1705 that restricts the right of recovery of a pedestrian based upon his or her limited tort election.”

Many drivers in Pennsylvania opt for the limited tort option when purchasing automobile insurance in order to save some money on their monthly payments. While there are inherent risks to this decision when it comes to motor vehicle accidents, the Supreme Court’s decision in L.S. v. Eschbach has been cited by other courts in determining that not only are pedestrians not bound by limited tort restrictions, but bicyclists are also similarly able to seek noneconomic damages.

When it comes to compensatory damages for any kind of motor vehicle accident, economic damages refer to specific calculable losses such as medical bills and lost wages while noneconomic damages apply to forms of harm that cannot be quantified, such as pain and suffering or emotional distress. In many cases, noneconomic damages can be several times the amount awarded for economic damages.

If you suffered serious injuries or your loved one was killed as a pedestrian struck by an automobile in Chester County, it is in your best interest to immediately seek legal representation. The dedicated team of West Chester personal injury attorneys at [[$firm]] will fight to get you all of the possible compensation that you are entitled to.

Pennsylvania requires drivers to remove snow and ice from cars

Don’t feel like cleaning off the snow and ice from your car? In Pennsylvania, that could result in you getting a fine of $ $25 and $75 for each offense.

Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-Lehigh County, has reintroduced a bill that would require drivers to make “all reasonable efforts” to remove all ice or snow from their vehicles.

Recently, Boscola reintroduced a similar bill that would fine truck drivers for not clearing the snow and ice from their rigs.

“Many times while driving on our roadways, we have all been the victim of falling snow and ice coming from vehicles in front of us,” Boscola said in a memo about her bill. “This is not only extremely dangerous but can lead to personal injuries and fatalities.”

Boscola said that she first proposed the bills after one of her constituents was killed in 2005 when an “ice missile” fell off a tractor-trailer and struck her vehicle.

Both bills have been sent to the Pennsylvania Senate Transportation Committee for review. Previously, the bills have died in the same committee. The bill aims to keep Pennsylvania’s drivers safer while commuting during the winter months.

This article was last updated January 20, 2017. 

Using Facebook live while driving

Recently, it has been observed that users of Facebook are going live while behind the wheel. Being on Facebook Live while driving has backfired several times on the driver. There was an incident last year when a Florida motorist, Whitney Beall was arrested for allegedly using Periscope while driving drunk. She even titled her live stream “drunk girl driving” and someone called 911 and was able to get the police to find her location.

As officers attempted to pull over the driver she hit the curb with her front tire. Officers said that they smelled alcohol on Beall after she was pulled over, her speech was impaired and her eyes were glossy. She failed the standardized field sobriety tests but refused the breathalyzer test. Beal was arrested and charged with driving under the influence.

In Rhode Island, Onasi Olio-Rojas was driving over 100 mph and got seriously injured in an accident while streaming on Facebook live. Rescuers had to remove Rojas from the car and he was in critical condition.

smart phone

Being on Facebook live and driving can cause serious personal injuries to drivers, passengers, and other vehicles. Be smart when driving and do not become distracted by your phone. Everything on your phone can wait until your car has come to a complete stop and been turned off.

The simple rule is don’t drive while live. For the record, it’s 100 percent illegal to hold your phone while driving and second it’s 100 percent illegal to hold your phone while driving and going live. View § 3316.  Prohibiting text-based communications. To see Pennsylvania’s laws on texting while driving.

Aggressive driving enforcement in South Central PA

South Central Pennsylvania’s law enforcement agencies have joined the Pennsylvania State Police and municipal agencies statewide in conducting targeted aggressive driving enforcement from July 6 through August 28.

41 local agencies came in contact with 3,233 vehicles total during this time period, 3,085 of these stops were related to aggressive driving and the drivers received citations. 2,093 of the stops resulted in the driver receiving speeding violation citations.

Speeding remains the most common aggressive driving-related behavior observed by law enforcement officials. Speeding is also a main factor in many car accidents.

Seven drivers were arrested for impaired driving; five were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol only; one person was arrested for driving under the influence of drugs, and one person was arrested for driving under the influence of both alcohol and drugs.

The officers also cited people for not wearing seatbelts or not following child passenger safety laws. 104 citations were issued; 78 of these citations were issued to unbuckled drivers 18 years of age and over.

The wave of aggressive driving enforcement focused on drivers who were observed speeding, tailgating, and running red lights. The drivers who exhibited other unsafe behaviors such as driving too fast for certain conditions (construction, rain, etc.), texting and driving, or violating Pennsylvania’s Steer Clear Law were also issued citations.

Pennsylvania’s “Steer Clear Law” requires drivers to move over or slow down when they encounter an emergency scene, traffic stop or disabled vehicle. There were four citations issued to drivers who violated the Steer Clear Law during this time.

This enforcement effort was a part of Pennsylvania’s Aggressive Driving Enforcement and Education Project and is partly funded by PennDOT’s investment of federal funds from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Visit Pennsylvania’s Department of Transportation website to see other projects going on in the state.

Also check out the Pennsylvania Traffic Safety Enforcement Resource Center.

Seat belt use during the holiday season

The Pennsylvania State Police and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) invite parents and caregivers to make this holiday season a safer one by taking advantage of free car seat checks across the state that will complement the nationwide Click It or Ticket “Operation Safe Holiday” enforcement effort occurring from November 20 through December 4.

Troopers and other department members certified as Child Passenger Safety Technicians will conduct no-cost car seat fittings, at various locations no appointment necessary. Car seats will be checked for suitability, and participants will receive instruction on proper installation and child restraint. For a complete list of child passenger seat fitting stations, please visit http://www.psp.pa.gov.

Under Pennsylvania law, children under the age of four must be properly restrained in an approved child safety seat. A new provision, signed into law this summer, mandates that children under two-years-old be secured in a rear-facing car seat. Children from age four to age eight must use an appropriate booster seat.

“Seat-belts and child passenger safety seats save lives when used properly,” said Major Edward Hoke, Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Patrol Director. Troopers will be issuing citations for seat-belt and child-seat violations as part of the enforcement effort.

Children ages eight to 18 must wear a seatbelt when riding anywhere in a vehicle and all drivers and front-seat passengers 18-years-old and older are required to buckle up.

Part of Penn DOT’s mission is to educate the public on safety concerns and encourage them to do the right things while driving to protect themselves and their families from harm or injury. They are working with law enforcement to urge travelers to always buckle up and never drive impaired by drugs or alcohol.

During enforcement operations, law enforcement will conduct seat belt and impaired driving enforcement simultaneously because unbelted and impaired driving crashes are shown to be significant contributors to traffic injuries and deaths, especially during nighttime hours

According to Penn DOT data, during the Thanksgiving holiday travel period in 2015, including the weekend before and after the holiday as well as the day itself, there were 4,029 crashes and 45 fatalities in those crashes statewide. The Christmas and New Year’s travel periods, including the weekend before Christmas, New Year’s and the weekend after, saw 4,985 crashes and 46 fatalities.

Additionally, during the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays last year, 1,209 of the statewide crashes involved a driver impaired by drugs or alcohol, with 38 fatalities in those crashes. In that same period, there were 1,076 crashes with unbuckled occupants, with 48 fatalities in those crashes.

Officials also encouraged travelers to use the Safer Ride app. The app, developed in 2014 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in an effort to curb drunk driving, is available for free download on Android and Apple devices and is a great option to facilitate a safe ride home after you’ve been drinking. Once the app is downloaded, you can use it to call a taxi or a friend by identifying your location so you can be picked up.

For more information on Penn Dot’s highway safety efforts during the holiday seasons visit, http://www.penndot.gov/safety.

This article was last updated on January 19, 2017. 

  PennDOT wants to test driverless cars

PennDOT has applied to make Pennsylvania a testing ground for a pilot federal project designed to prepare for the kind of self-driving cars. “We submitted a very thorough application detailing our safety standards,” said Pocono the Raceway President and CEO Brandon Igdalsky.

Pennsylvania’s interest comes in response to a U.S. Department of Transportation request for applicants to be designated as an Automated Vehicle Proving Ground for a federally run project to study a technology that’s already here. Companies such as Tesla, Ford, and BMW have signaled that automated cars are going to be the future of motor vehicles in the years to come.

Automated vehicle companies can legally test self-driving vehicles on Pennsylvania’s roads now without special permission. However, as of now, Pennsylvania law does require that someone occupy the driver’s seat while the vehicle is in use.

Pocono Raceway officials say their 2.5-mile, three-turn track is the perfect place to test this emerging technology in the state. Nicknamed the Tricky Triangle for its unusual configuration, the raceway, infield and parking areas can be transformed into a variety of tracks that can challenge even the most sophisticated computers.

Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that more than 90 percent of accidents are due to human error or human choices and many believe that when you remove that element from the equation, you make driving safer.

John Schubert, a member of the Lehigh Valley Coalition for Appropriate Transportation and a member of a national task force on autonomous vehicles, says that he will need to see a lot of data before he’s convinced that self-driving cars are as adept at detecting bicyclists and pedestrians as they do cars and trucks. He is also hopeful that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Pennsylvania will take their time in making sure that they do.

Hundreds of people die every day because of human error and Schubert believes that eventually, the computer will do fewer stupid things than humans. Scientists say autonomous cars can even help move traffic along more quickly because they have the ability to talk with other self-driving cars to detect upcoming signals and congestion zones, enabling them to choose alternate routes on the fly.

PennDOT has a task force that’s been studying the issue since last June and it has designated a safety officer to comply with the federal pilot. It is unclear how soon Penn DOT will know if Pennsylvania will be chosen for the pilot, but the federal guidelines require that each testing facility is ready by Jan. 1, 2018.

State officials say, if chosen, PennDOT will oversee the pilot in Pennsylvania, but private companies testing the cars, such as Uber, will work directly with the testing facilities.

Resources: http://www.mcall.com/business/mc-pa-driverless-cars-20170110-story.html

This article was last updated on January 19, 2017. 

Penn DOT and Governor give safety tips for driving in winter weather

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and Governor Tom Wolf give safety tips for driving in the winter.

  • Carry a cellphone and a winter emergency travel kit.
  • Listen to weather and travel advisories, if you don’t have to travel in bad weather, don’t.
  • Keep your gas tank at least half full.
  • Slow down and increase following distance between you and other cars.
  • Do not pass or get between trucks plowing in a plow line (several trucks plowing side by side).
  • Use your low beams in particularly bad weather, especially in cases of heavy or blowing snow.
  • Avoid abrupt stops and starts.
  • Remove ice and snow from windows, mirrors and all vehicle lights before you drive and as often as needed.
  • Make sure someone else knows where you are going and when you expect to arrive.
  • If you do become stranded, it’s better to stay with your vehicle until help arrives. Run the engine every hour or so, but make sure the tailpipe is clear and keep the downwind window cracked open.
  • Do not drink and drive, and always wear your seat belt.
  • Beware of roads that may look wet, but are actually frozen, often referred to as “black ice.”
  • Use extra caution on bridges and ramps, where ice can often form without warning.
  • Do not use cruise control while driving on snow-covered roads.
  • Turn on your headlights when your wipers are on.
  • Remove snow and ice from the hood and roof of your vehicle. If snow or ice from your vehicle strikes a vehicle or person and causes death or injury, you can be ticketed.
  • Do not park or abandon your vehicle on snow emergency routes.

 

Being prepared is the best thing to do in order to successfully navigate winter roads. Winter weather can bring unexpected conditions, so make sure that both you and your vehicle are ready for ice and snow.

Click here to view a winter service guide that can help you stay safe during the winter weather.

Resources: http://www.penndot.gov/RegionalOffices/district-1/Pages/details.aspx?newsid=126

This article was last updated on January 19, 2017.

Consumer Product Safety Commission hopes to be tougher on violators

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is responsible for protecting children and consumers against unreasonable risks associated with thousands of consumer products.

For all products regulated by the CPSC, a Letter of Advice (LOA) is issued when there has been a violation of a mandatory standard. This letter advises the company of such a violation and any corrective action that can be taken such as to correct future production, stop the sale of a product, and recall the product. Click here to view lists of importers and manufacturers who have been issued a LOA beginning in the Fiscal Year of 2013.

Under 15 U.S. Code § 2068 – it is unlawful for any person to sell, offer for sale, manufacture for sale, distribute in commerce, or import into the U.S any consumer product, or other product or substance that is regulated under this chapter or any other Act enforced by the commission, that is not in appliance with applicable consumer product safety rules under the chapter, or any similar rule, regulation, standard or ban under any other act enforced by the commission.

Any person who knowingly violates provisions of the U.S Code mentioned above shall be subject to a civil penalty not to exceed $100,000 for each violation. In determining the amount of a penalty violators of Section 2068 have to pay, the Commission shall consider the nature, circumstances, extent, and gravity of the violation. This includes the nature of the product defect, the severity of the risk of injury, the occurrence or absence of injury, the number of defective products distributed, the appropriateness of such penalty in relation to the size of the business of the person charged, including how to mitigate undue adverse economic impacts on small businesses, and other factors as appropriate.

The term “knowingly” means:

  1. Having actual knowledge that you may be violating this mandatory standard.
  2. Having reasonable knowledge deemed to be possessed by a reasonable person.

Over the years the CPSC has increased staffing and funding with hopes to get tougher on violators who may face civil and criminal penalties. There is a ban on reselling recalled products, enhanced whistleblower protections, safety certifications, and product tracking labels. Being tougher on violators strengthens the CPSC’s ability to protect American Consumers from things that may harm them.

Now more than ever it is important for companies and producers to review their products safety policies and procedures to determine if they comply with all applicable product safety rules and regulations.

Personal Injury Attorney in Pennsylvania

Contact the attorneys at the Ciccarelli Law Offices if you have been injured or harmed due to a product not being safe. Your first consultation is free so call (610) 719-3190 today so that attorneys can start investigating the details of your particular case.

This article was last updated on January 18, 2017. 

Pennsylvania’s ‘Ride on Red’ Law Takes Effect

Act 101, more commonly known as Pennsylvania’s co-called “Ride on Red” law, went into effect on September 18. The law allows motorists in all types of vehicles to proceed through red lights if traffic-control signals are out of operation or are not functioning properly.

The legislation was sponsored by Representative Stephen Bloom of Cumberland County, who sought to change the law after being approached by motorcycle organizations that wanted solutions to situations in which bikes failed to trigger traffic lights to change, according to The Patriot-News. While the bill was originally designed specifically for motorcycles, it was ultimately expanded to apply to all vehicles.

“This law does not give drivers a free pass, but ensures a safe and legal option to avoid the danger and inconvenience of being trapped in perpetuity at a locked red light,” Bloom said, according to The Patriot-News. “This issue is more common than many people realize, especially on rural roads and during late hours when long periods often elapse before a heavier vehicle comes along to finally trip the unresponsive light.”

In applicable situations, motorists are expected to treat red lights like stop signs and proceed with caution. While the law is intended to apply only to broken or malfunctioning lights, there is some understandable concern that some more impatient drivers may use the law to pass through any red lights they believe are taking too long to change.

Red Light Crashes in West Chester, PA

The new law does not specifically state how long motorists must wait before proceeding through red lights. The people who are expected to benefit the most are drivers in rural parts of the state with less traffic, but it remains to be seen how often motorists in busier more urban areas might use the belief of a red light being out of operation or not functioning properly as a defense against any tickets for running a red light.

More importantly, allowing more drivers to pass through red lights could increase the chances of motor vehicle accidents. According to the National Coalition for Safer Roads, more than 3.7 million drivers in the United States ran a red light in 2014. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says 709 people were killed and an estimated 126,000 were injured in crashes that involved red light running that same year.

Drivers who rush to get through red lights can be at risk of causing catastrophic crashes that result in serious injuries for all people involved. Oncoming drivers may be powerless to avoid collisions that can result in broken bones, traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), or death.

The Ride on Red law certainly comes as a relief to many motorcyclists who have been stuck at unresponsive lights, but drivers of other types of vehicles still need to be especially cautious in deciding to proceed at intersections in which they believe a traffic signal may be out of operation or not functioning properly. In virtually every case, it is far safer for a motorist to simply wait for a light to change than attempting to turn into or pass through an intersection where the light is red.

If you suffered serious injuries or your loved one was killed in any kind of automobile accident in which a negligent driver ran a red light, it will be critical for you to seek legal representation as soon as possible. Contact an experienced West Chester personal injury lawyer today to get a free review your case that will help you understand what compensation you might be entitled to for any medical bills, lost wages, and other damages.

Study Reveals Thousands of Drivers Playing ‘Pokemon Go’ While Behind Wheel

“Pokemon Go” is a free location-based augmented reality game (a video game that allows players to experience digital gameplay in a real-world environment) that created a worldwide craze when it was released this past July. Players use their mobile devices to locate, capture, battle, or train virtual creatures, and the popularity of the game was not without criticism.

Some people complained about players using the app in sensitive locations such as the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum or Arlington National Cemetery, and many other players suffered serious injuries or were killed because they entered dangerous settings or ignored certain real-life hazards while playing the game. On September 16, JAMA Internal Medicine published a study that demonstrated yet another concern about people using “Pokemon Go” at inopportune times: Playing while driving.

The study’s authors searched Twitter postings (tweets) containing the terms “Pokémon” and “driving,” “drives,” “drive,” or “car” for July 10 through 19, 2016, as well as Google News reports that included “Pokémon” and “driving” published from July 10 to 20, 2016. The Google News results yielded 321 story clusters, but the researchers found that the 33 percent of tweets indicating that a driver, passenger, or pedestrian was distracted by “Pokemon Go” suggested there were 113,993 total incidences reported on Twitter in just 10 days.

While the findings were certainly concerning, one of the study’s authors, John Ayers, told NPR that the analysts knew they were undercounting because not all players use social media and the study did not reveal how many of the players were involved in automobile accidents. The study noted that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among essentially the game’s primary audience: 16- to 24-year-olds.

Catherine McDonald, an assistant professor of nursing in the Family and Community Health Department at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing and a Senior Fellow with the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told NPR that young people may prioritize the game over the road. “The gaming aspect or the collecting of Pokemon and the competition aspect may outweigh some of the [safety] risks for them,” McDonald told NPR.

Distracted Driving Accidents in West Chester, PA

Even before mobile devices became more commonplace in society, motorists were still susceptible to various distractions that posed certain risks for others on the road. Generally, there are three types of possible distractions:

  • Visual — A distraction that takes a driver’s eyes off the road;
  • Manual — A distraction that takes a driver’s hands off the wheel; and
  • Cognitive — A distraction that takes a driver’s mind off of the task at hand.

The amplified danger of “Pokemon Go” is that people who are playing the game while driving are subject to all three of these kinds of distractions. Much like people who text while driving, “Pokemon Go” players are at increased risk of causing motor vehicle accidents.

Innocent people involved in crashes caused by distracted drivers may sustain any one of a number of catastrophic injuries, including paralysis, traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), or death. Negligent drivers will not necessarily admit that they had been preoccupied with “Pokemon Go” or something else on their mobile devices, which is why it is critical for any person who was hurt or had a loved one killed by a distracted driver to immediately retain legal counsel.

An experienced West Chester personal injury attorney can investigate the cause of a car crash and subpoena a negligent driver’s phone records, if necessary, to prove that the motorist was distracted. Contact a lawyer today if you suffered serious injuries or your loved one was killed by a distracted driver so you can get help obtaining compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and your pain and suffering.