Do Not Disturb Features Do Not Protect Portland Drivers from Injury

Drivers across Oregon are succumbing to a national trend of driving while distracted. Eating, drinking, attending to pets or children—there are some many things that can divert a driver’s attention from the road. Lately, technology has become an increasingly widespread problem for drivers. Navigation and entertainment systems in vehicles contribute to this problem, but the most obvious culprit is the ubiquitous smart phone.Distracted Driving Accident Lawyer

Mobile phone manufacturers are attempting to address this problem by improving and enhancing “do not disturb” features on smart phones. Apple has been at the head of this trend. Business Insider reports that the iOS 11 operating system for iPhone—due for release in late 2017—will include a comprehensive “do not disturb while driving” function. This function will detect when a user is driving and automatically engage itself. The user receives no notifications and cannot access the home screen until he or she stops driving. The user can override this setting by following a series of prompts. While this override feature is necessary in the event that a user is the passenger in a vehicle, it leaves open the possibility that drivers can override the feature and still be able to use their smart phones while driving.

Who is Responsible for Distracted Driving?

Do Not Disturb features raise a broader discussion into the issue of distracted driving. Distracted driving is responsible for thousands of deaths and injuries every year. In fact, Apple’s move to introduce the comprehensive function for iOS 11 comes after it was sued for failing to include such features in earlier versions. According to the Guardian, Bethany and James Modisette sued Apple for the wrongful death of their five-year-old daughter, who was killed in a car accident by a driver using FaceTime while driving. The Modisettes alleged that Apple held patents on technology to lock out iPhone functions while driving, but had failed to implement them in their products, thus contributing to their daughter’s death.

While the implementation of Do Not Disturb features can certainly help target the problem, each individual driver must accept personal responsibility for practicing safe driving habits. No technology can completely eradicate the dangers of distracted driving. No Do Not Disturb feature can be forcefully implemented in every driving situation. Only a personal commitment to avoiding distractions can prevent someone from becoming distracted. Passengers should speak up when they notice their driver is becoming distracted. Parents should enforce specific guidelines for their teen drivers, whose inexperience makes distracted driving particularly dangerous.

Just a few weeks ago, lawmakers in Oregon passed a strict new hands-free law that prohibits all drivers from touching their phones—or any electronic mobile device—while operating a motor vehicle. House Bill 2597 was approved by both the House and Senate and is expected to be signed by the governor. Language in the new statute will make it easier to cite and convict drivers of distraction. Historically, many such cases have been dismissed because the law requires police officers to actually see your fingers moving or your mouth talking into the phone in order to issue a citation. A one-time citation can be erased from your record by taking a safe driving course. However, if you are cited twice in 10 years, you face a maximum fine of $2,000. A third time citation will be accompanied by that same maximum fine, but also possible jail time.

Car accident victims throughout Oregon and Washington trust the attorneys at Zbinden & Curtis to secure full and fair compensation for injuries sustained in a car accident due to distracted driving or any other form of negligence. Zbinden & Curtis protects victims and holds negligent drivers responsible so that the roads of Portland are safer for everyone.

Oregon Summer Travel Raises Risk Of Portland Car Accidents

Portland has become a destination for travelers from around the country – and even across the world. Visitors spend an estimated $10.8 billion annually – up 66 percent since 2003. And while this has been fantastic for our economy, it’s been taxing on our roads. The state reports that fatal crashes rose 28 percent just from 2014 to 2015, and non-fatal injury crashes have increased more than 18 percent.

Visitors are not necessarily to blame for this, but the fact is, more cars on the road means more risk of a car accident. AAA reports more than one-third of Americans are planning to take a family vacation this year, and most of those are taking place in the summer.

Summer Travel Dangers

For those preparing to head out on summer road trips, common risk factors on the road include:

  • Distracted driving.
  • Commercial trucks.
  • Fatigued driving.
  • Congested highways.
  • Speeding drivers.
  • Impaired drivers.
  • Unfamiliar roads/ conditions.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that summer has a disproportionate number of traffic fatalities as compared to other months. This is especially true for children.

For example, while the average number of traffic accident deaths in June, July and August is 3,198, the average for the rest of the year is 2,833. This number is nearly 13 percent higher.

When we look just at deaths involving children under 13 (who are more likely to be traveling or on vacation during the summer months, when school is out), the difference is even more stark. While the summer months have an average of 100 traffic deaths, the other months have an average of 71. That’s a difference of 41 percent.

Portland car accident lawyers recognize that when out-of-town visitors are involved in crashes, there are complications local claimants may not face. In general, your insurance should extend coverage to you no matter where the crash occurs. However, there are sometimes logistical challenges that can make the process more challenging. That can include everything from where you will stay the night of a crash (if your car isn’t drivable) to returning to town for depositions, independent medical exams and court hearings.

Beyond that, the auto insurance laws in your own state could differ from the provisions in Oregon, leaving you potentially unprotected – or not as protected as you may have anticipated.

Oregon Auto Insurance Laws

Oregon is a “fault” state when it comes to liability for crashes, which means the driver who caused the crash is liable (legally responsible) to cover the damages. However, Oregon is also somewhat unique in that all car insurance policies sold in the state must also include personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, which covers the policyholder and other insureds regardless of who was at-fault.

PIP requirements are standard in no-fault states, but Oregon is unique as a “fault” state that requires this no-fault provision. Still, unlike many “no-fault” states, the PIP requirement doesn’t prevent injured victims from suing the at-fault driver for compensation of losses such as medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering. There is no threshold of injury or expenses the victim must incur or suffer before filing a claim against the responsible party.

PIP covers all necessary medical, hospital, dental, ambulance or prosthetic services within one year of the date of the person’s injury – up to $15,000 total.

If you have questions about your car accident claim, our dedicated car accident attorneys in Portland can help.

Portland Car Accidents Spurred by Aggressive Drivers

Most of us are guilty at some point of aggressive driving, sometimes without even realizing it. But some drivers allow their anger to get the best of them and take driving aggressively to a whole new level, described colloquially as “road rage”. Road rage can result in shocking levels of violence that sometimes end up splashed across news headlines.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports more than half of all fatal car accidents are the result of aggressive driving, which may include:

  • Driving too close to another vehicle to compel them to speed up or move over (tailgating);Car Accident Lawyers Portland
  • Making an angry gesture at another driver;
  • Yelling at another driver;
  • Blocking other drivers from changing lanes;
  • Purposely cutting off other vehicles;
  • Honking horn to show anger or annoyance;
  • Bumping or ramming another vehicle on purpose;
  • Speeding;
  • Failure to yield or stop for a traffic sign or signal.

Our Portland car accident attorneys are committed to fighting for the rights of those who are injured by aggressive drivers, as well as those who take their inappropriate rage out on other innocent motorists.

A recent analysis by non-profit journalism outlet The Trace revealed the number of road rage incidents involving a firearm more than doubled in the last three years, totaling 620 incidents in 2016. Over the course of the study period, 354 people were injured and 136 people died in these road rage incidents. Most of these cases appear to be disputes among strangers.

It can be difficult to obtain damages in these types of cases, because most auto insurance policies contain exclusions for injuries inflicted by an intentional act of violence, as opposed to an accident. One could still potentially seek damages from the individual, but recovering those damages will depend on the extent of his or her personal assets.

Those kinds of incidents are still in the minority in terms of car accidents. Most crashes will be the result of some form of aggressive driving.

The AAA Foundation reported that more than 78 percent of drivers admitted to having engaged in at least one of the aggressive driving behaviors examined in the last year. Half had tailgated another driver. Forty-six percent had yelled at another driver, a quarter intentionally blocked another vehicle from changing lanes, and 12 percent intentionally cut off another vehicle. Only about 4 percent exited their vehicle to confront another driver.

A significant percentage of drivers say they engaged in these behaviors fairly regularly.

In order to prove negligence, our injury lawyers will need to show:

  • At-fault driver owed a duty of care (to operate vehicle in a safe manner);
  • That duty of care was breached;
  • This breach of duty proximately caused the accident;
  • The accident caused our client injuries.

Oregon is considered a “fault plus PIP” insurance system. It’s a hybrid between the “fault” and “no-fault” auto insurance system. Personal Injury Protection insurance covers a portion of one’s own injuries — up to a certain limit — in the first year after the crash. However, unlike most no-fault states, the law in Oregon doesn’t prevent injured motorists or passengers from filing a lawsuit against another driver before exhausting PIP limits.

To get a better understanding of your legal rights after a Portland traffic accident, contact our experienced injury attorneys.

Portland, OR Accident Risks are Greater for Young Adult Drivers

Young people are the highest risk drivers on the road. You might be surprised to find out it is not necessarily the newly-licensed drivers who are posing the greatest risk of a car crash. It is the group between the ages of 19 and 24 that is flouting the law and their duty to use reasonable care behind the wheel. This troubling information on the irresponsible driving behaviors of this age group Younger drivers pose a greater car accident riskcomes from a new survey conducted by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Young Adult Drivers Engage in High-Risk Driving Behaviors

Three of the most dangerous behaviors on U.S. roads involve driving while distracted, running red lights, and speeding. AAA Foundation found young adults ages 19 to 24 were more likely than any other age groups to engage in each of these dangerous behaviors. When asked if they had done any of these three things in the prior 12 months, 88.4 percent of drivers aged 19 to 24 said they had, compared with just 69.3 percent of drivers ages 16 to 18.

Texting and driving was a big problem for young motorists ages 19 to 24. Study authors reported 66.1 percent of these drivers said they had either read a text or an email while behind the wheel, compared to 40.2 percent of drivers overall who had read an email or a text. Sending texts or email was an even bigger issue. Drivers 19 to 24 were about twice as likely as other motorists to admit they’d typed up text or email communications while driving. Just 31.4 percent of all drivers had done this, compared with 59.3 percent of drivers 19 to 24.

Speeding 10 mph or more over the speed limit was another behavior drivers 19 to 24 were more likely to engage in. Five percent of all drivers thought it was fine to exceed the speed limit in a residential area by at least 10 miles per hour. Meanwhile, among drivers 19 to 24, twelve percent found this to be OK. Since young millennial drivers were more likely to find speeding acceptable, it should come as no surprise they were 1.4 times as likely to go this fast as compared with other drivers.

Finally, while just 36 percent of all drivers admitted to running a red light, almost 50 percent of motorists ages 19 to 24 said they had gone through a light shortly after it turned red, even though they could have stopped.

Young drivers need to know how unacceptable and dangerous these behaviors are. Addressing these issues effectively will likely involve some combination of approaches, including increased law enforcement and ongoing education. We don’t want more young motorists to learn the hard way how deadly these kinds of careless actions can be.

Trucker’s Increase in Opioid Use Increasing Accident Risks in Portland

Opioid use has hit epidemic levels throughout the United States. Since 1999, the number of deaths due to opioid use have quadrupled, according to Health and Human Services. More than 165,000 people have been killed by opioid overdose since 1999, and opioid overdose is rapidly moving up the list as a leading cause of death. According to HHS, 2014 had the highest number of deaths because of drug overdose since the time when records started to be first kept on this cause of death. Truck Accident Risks

Approximately six out of 10 of the drug overdoses that occurred in 2014 were caused by opioids, according to HHS. The term “opioids” refers to heroin and prescription drugs like fentanyl and oxycodone.

Those who use opioids are not just endangering themselves by putting themselves at risk for overdoses. Some opioid users hold jobs where they must be alert, but opioids undermined their abilities. For example, when truck drivers use opioids, they could cause a collision that could cause serious injury or even death for the victims.

There are growing concerns about how the rise of opioids will effect safety as truck drivers begin using opioids in increasing numbers, along with others caught up in the opioid epidemic.

Because of the concerns about escalating risks of drug use among professional truck drivers, Trucks.com reports that some industry carriers actually want to change the way that trucking industry employees undergo drug screenings. The carriers want to use hair tests to check for signs of substance abuse, rather than continuing to use the current method of urine testing. Carriers believe switching to a hair test could help to identify cases of substance abuse that might otherwise go unnoticed.

The concern about trucker drug use is not an unfounded one, as Reuters reported back in 2013 that there was a major drug problem among truck drivers. Reuters showed how drivers were using drugs to try to be deal with the realities of their job. For example, some drivers were taking cocaine or other similar drugs to drive for longer and stay away for longer. Around 20 percent of truckers who had been surveyed admitted to marijuana use, according to Reuters, and one study showed 12.5 percent of truckers testifying positive for alcohol.

Opioids can also be justified as necessary by drivers who have a prescription for opioid-based pain medicine. Driving while under the influence of opioids is dangerous regardless of whether or not the driver holds a prescription. Getting a prescription for these types of drugs can often lead to dependency, which means the potential for more truck collisions to occur.

Who’s Responsible for Car Accidents Involving Self-Driving Cars? Investigators Explain

Remote Sensing System of Vehicle, front view. smart car, safety car, autonomous car, vector

Car technology continues to move closer to self-driving cars. And with each advancement, the promise of a future free from car accidents seems possible. But what happens when such systems fail? What if a self-driving car causes an accident? Who’s legally responsible for financially compensating accident victims for their damages and injuries?

Such questions came to the forefront recently in response to an investigation of fatal car accident involving a self-driving car. On May 7, an Ohio driver was killed in Florida when his Tesla Model S crashed while being operated using the car’s autopilot system. The car drove in front of a tractor-trailer, which crashed into the car, killing the car’s driver, according to The New York Times.

Recently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) closed its investigation of last year’s deadly car accident. Investigators ruled the accident was not caused by a defect and that the vehicles did not need to be recalled, according to The Los Angeles Times. Specifically, the NHTSA ruled that the vehicle’s autonomous driving system worked as designed and that the company should not be held responsible for the accident.

However, investigators insisted that vehicle manufacturers need to do a better job explaining to consumers how self-driving cars work so drivers fully understand their responsibilities. Others agreed. “Carmakers have to be clear on what the driver’s responsibility is,” Michelle Krebs, a senior analyst at Autotrader.com, said in an interview with The New York Times. “No car buyer should think there are fully automated vehicles on the market.”

Can car companies be held responsible for self-driving auto accidents?

The NHTSA’s finding seems to let auto makers off the hook for accidents involving self-driving cars. But like other car crashes, not all motor vehicle accidents involving self-driving vehicles are the same. As a result, car companies could potentially be held responsible for future self-driving car accidents, especially if the accidents involve defective product liability claims.

“Not all systems can do all things,” NHTSA spokesman Bryan Thomas said in a recent interview with The New York Times. “There are driving scenarios that automatic emergency braking systems are not designed to address.”

Specifically, Tesla’s self-driving software has been effective at preventing rear-end car accidents, Thomas said. However, situations involving crossing traffic “are beyond the performance capabilities of the system,” Thomas said.

In addition, in the case of last year’s fatal Tesla car accident, investigators determined that the driver “was not paying attention to the road,” The New York Times reported. Tesla has said the accident occurred because the vehicle’s camera “failed to recognize the white truck against a bright sky,” according to The New York Times.

As a result, even though the car’s self-driving system was not found to have been at fault for this accident, the investigation leaves the door open to the possibility of future legal cases involving self-driving car accidents. This means that autopilot systems – and thus their manufacturers – could potentially be held liable for future self-driving car accidents.

What are possible product liability cases involving self-driving cars?

There are many possible scenarios in which a car company could be held responsible for an accident caused by a self-driving car. Such scenarios include:

  • Mechanical defects
  • Computer errors
  • Failing to take hazardous weather conditions into account
  • Failing to educate drivers about how to properly use self-driving car
  • Falsely inflating safety features of self-driving cars
  • Car manufacturers not including features requiring drivers to keep hands on wheel

These are just some of the ways accidents involving self-driving cars could occur. Car accidents can happen any time for a wide range of reasons. And in each case, the person or company responsible for such accidents should be held accountable for their actions. Otherwise, similar accidents could occur in the future. And as our Oregon auto accident attorneys can tell you, no one ever wants to be in a serious motor vehicle accident.

Inaccurate GPS Devices and Portland Accident Risks

Many motorists rely on GPS devices to tell them how to get where they’re going, but the mapping programs sometimes contain inaccurate or incomplete information. If a GPS device directs a motorist to a dangerous area because mistakes were made in the mapping software, they could get hurt or could hurt others. In such a situation, victims may wonder exactly who is to blame for what happened.

Google Maps Navigation on a Samsung S6 smartphoneRisks of Accidents From Inaccurate GPS Devices

GPS devices can help contribute to motor vehicle accidents in many different ways.

Pedestrians getting walking directions from a GPS device could be directed to a high-risk area, like a highway. Motorists who are getting driving directions could be told to take roads that are one-way in the opposing direction, or could be told to drive on a road that abruptly ends or goes into water. Motorists could also be directed to areas where there are at-grade railroad tracks. These are particularly dangerous, with New York Times reporting around 200 annual fatalities happening at areas where there are railroad tracks on the same level as the ground.

If a GPS device directs a motorist to a place that is not safe and an accident happens, injury victims may want to blame the GPS maker for this series of events. In one case, a pedestrian was led to a highway by the Google Maps app on her Blackberry. She was hit by a car and hurt, and she sued Google Maps. She lost the case, with the court holding in Rosenberg v. Harwood that Google didn’t have an obligation to her. The court also indicated it was reluctant to impose what would amount to virtually unlimited liability on Google.

So, if the GPS maker is not responsible, who is? Generally, the driver. In its report on at-grade railroad tracks, the New York Times told the story of one of the fatal accidents that happened at one of these locations. The accident occurred when a tired driver followed GPS directions to an at-grade railroad crossing and proceeded to get his truck stuck on the railroad. The driver left his truck, where a commuter train approached and struck it. The resulting accident killed the train engineer along with 32 other people. The driver of the truck was charged with vehicular manslaughter.

Regardless of what a GPS device says, a motorist still has an obligation to follow the rules of the road and to pay attention to what is going on around him. This includes looking for hazards that could result in accidents. It is not a defense for a driver who causes an accident to claim he had followed the instructions of GPS software. Drivers remain responsible for their own safe driving behavior and can be held accountable to victims if they cause accidents to happen.

Keeping Safe from Rising Accident Risks Caused by Smartphone Technology

Some in-vehicle technology has substantial benefits and has contributed to saving lives. Unfortunately, other technology has been damaging to safety and has helped to contribute to the biggest year-to-year rise in car accident deaths in 50 years. You need to understand what kinds of in-car technology puts you at risk and you need to make sure you do everything you can to keep your family safe from the dangerous risks of mobile technology behind the wheel. mobile-phone-1243113

According to New York Times, there was a 10.4 percent jump in car accident death rates from the first half of 2015 to the first half of 2016. In January of June of 2016, 17,775 fatalities occurred in auto accidents.

There has not been this substantial of an increase in death rates in decades, and death rates had actually largely been declining until recently. The Times indicates most safety experts believe mobile technology both played a role in bringing the death rate down and played a role in causing the big increase in accidents which occurred between 2015 and 2016.

Technology has helped to bring down accident death rates by making it less likely people will get into accidents, and by making it less likely they will die if they do get into wrecks. Airbags, anti-lock brake systems, blind spot monitoring, forward crash avoidance systems, and a host of other technologies have helped bring the death rate way down since the 1970’s.

Unfortunately, some of these technologies today, and the increased automation in cars, are making motorists more complacent. Drivers tend to rely more on their cars to pay attention for them and help them avoid collisions… rather than staying as focused as they should on the roads. As we move towards driverless cars and more tech features are added, this is likely to continue turning into an even bigger problem.

Of course, there’s also another obvious way that new technologies has contributed to crash risks: it has dramatically increased the dangers of distracted driving. Today, many cars have infotainment systems people can use to do a lot of things hands-free, including talk on the phone and send texts. National Safety Council (NSC) warns that these hands-free systems are NOT risk free!

Just because you may not be holding or looking at your phone does not mean your not distracted. Your brain can’t really multitask or jump between activities efficiently, nor can it prioritize effectively between paying attention to the road and talking to your infotainment system to enter an address in the GPS.   You need to be aware your brain energy is going to be focused on the wrong thing, which could mean missing as much as 50 percent of what is going on around you. This significantly increases the chances of an auto accident happening. If you cause a crash while you are distracted, you could be held accountable for the resulting damages you cause to others. 

What to Do If I Get Into An Accident While Ride Sharing in Portland?

If you get into an accident while ride sharing, you have a potentially complicated legal situation on your hands. As a passenger, you weren’t responsible for causing the accident since you were dependent upon the driver to keep you safe. However, you need to know who exactly is responsible for causing the collision, as you should be able to pursue a case for compensation to recover for any losses. with-a-church-and-buses-3-1506485

What to Do If You Get into a Car Accident While Using a Ride Sharing Service

If you get into a car accident while using a ride sharing service, you should contact an attorney right away. You should talk to a lawyer as soon as practical so you can protect and preserve your rights and begin the injury claims process.

One of the most important things your lawyer will do is help you to determine who was at fault for the ride sharing accident. This could be the driver of the vehicle in which you were riding. Many people who drive for ride sharing services have to work long shifts. Some drivers will even drive for multiple different ride sharing services because this allows them to get in more hours. This can lead to situations where drivers are fatigued and suffer from delayed reactions and impaired judgment.

Since Uber and other ride sharing providers communicate with drivers via their smartphones, there is also a big risk that a ride-sharing driver will be paying attention to their phone and not the road. These and other dangerous behaviors can lead to drivers causing crashes. Your lawyer can help you to obtain police reports from the crash and other evidence which shows who actually was to blame for causing the collision to happen.

If the evidence shows the driver of the ride sharing service was the one responsible, your attorney can help you to decide who to actually pursue your case for compensation against. Most ride sharing services provide insurance. For example, Uber has provided up to a million per accident in liability coverage since 2013. Pursuing a case against the company facilitating ride sharing can make it possible to recover broader compensation.

Your attorney can deal with the insurer for the ride sharing company on your behalf. These insurers handle accident claims all the time, they know the ins-and-outs of settlement negotiations, and they often try to pay less than claims are worth. Your attorney can help to make sure this does not happen with your claim and that you get the compensation you deserve.

If the evidence shows another motorist was responsible for causing the accident, your attorney can also assist you in pursuing a case against that other driver. Whether you are making a claim against Uber, the ride-sharing driver of the vehicle you were in, or another motorist, your lawyer can help you to resolve your case inside or outside of court for the maximum about of compensation possible to cover your losses.

Causes of Halloween Pedestrian Accidents

Halloween pedestrian accidents are very common, with double the number of pedestrians dying in auto accidents on Halloween night as compared with on other days of the year, according to Safe Kids Oregon.  There are many different reasons why there are more pedestrian accidents on Halloween. Motorists need to understand the kinds of dangerous behaviors which cause pedestrian and car crashes, as well as the conditions which lead to an increase in Halloween pedestrian fatalities. neighborhood-kids-1384870

One common cause of Halloween pedestrian accidents is an increase in alcohol use before driving on Halloween night. According to Mix, 44 percent of the deadly accidents on Halloween involve a driver who has a BAC above the limit, and 23 percent of pedestrian deaths on Halloween occur in accidents with a driver who is intoxicated.

Just last year, Oregon Live reported on one such DUI accident which led to a tragic fatality. The incident occurred in North Portland. A driver who had consumed approximately three to four beers at a party got into a fight with his girlfriend and left the celebration. He saw a pedestrian who was halfway across the road as he was driving on North Lombard Street, and he tried to swerve to the right to avoid hitting the pedestrian but was not able to do so.

He ended up striking the pedestrian, who slammed into the vehicle by the driver’s side window. The driver tried to help the pedestrian, who had been spending time with friends and celebrating his 27th birthday which fell on Halloween. The pedestrian decided to leave and walk to the store but was struck by the car when he was on his way. Unfortunately, the driver could not help the pedestrian, and the pedestrian died of his injuries.  Friends did not discover what happened until the next day, as they thought he had simply run into other people on his way to the store and not returned.

Approximately two hours after the collision, the driver’s blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) was measured at .03, so police believe it was likely over the limit at the time of the incident. The driver also submitted an affidavit in which he rated himself a four on a scale of one to 10 when asked how comfortable he felt driving.  Police believe he was going around 40 to 50 miles an hour on the road when he hit the pedestrian.

Accidents like this one are far too common when people go to Halloween parties and then leave those parties too intoxicated to drive home safely. Drunken drivers, however, aren’t the only reason for elevated accident risks on Halloween. There are also more accidents simply because there are more cars on the road and more pedestrians out. Particularly after dark, there are many more children outside walking around then usual. If drivers aren’t prepared to watch for these kids, serious and sometimes fatal pedestrian accidents are the likely outcome.