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Impaired driving leaves a community in mourning

community in mourning holding lit candlesticks

Drivers who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs are a danger on the roads. Far too often, it is others who suffer the consequences of their decision to get behind the wheel in that condition. There is an accident that causes fatal injuries. Lives are cut short. Families and friends are left to grieve.

That’s the situation many people in Estacada are now struggling with after a recent fatal car accident.

On Memorial Day, a car was traveling on South Springwater Road when the driver appeared to lose control. The car went into a spin, crossing the center line and crashing into a white Ford pickup truck traveling in the opposite direction.

Three of the car’s five occupants were killed in the crash – Zackary Brian, 18; Jordan Stores, 17; and Reagan Alves, 14.

The 18-year-old driver was arrested and is facing multiple charges, including driving under the influence of intoxicants.

Remembering the victims

Residents of the rural community of about 3,500 in Clackamas County were left in shock by the deadly crash. In June, more than 400 people attended a candlelight vigil for the three teens who lost their lives. Friends shared their memories – “a confident, energetic middle-schooler,” “a goofball and class clown,” a friend who “gave the best hugs in the world.”

The driver made his first court appearance earlier that day.

Driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs is against the law in Oregon, and for good reason. It is not safe for anyone on the road when a driver is under the influence. Different drugs can affect driving ability in different ways.

For example:

  • Alcohol and marijuana can slow reaction time and impair judgment of time and distance.
  • Methamphetamine and cocaine can lead to aggressive and reckless driving behaviors.
  • Opioids can cause drowsiness and impair memory and thinking skills.
  • Sedatives, such as benzodiazepines and barbiturates, can cause dizziness and drowsiness.

Impaired drivers can easily cause car accidents that result in serious or fatal injuries. Despite widespread knowledge about the dangers of impaired driving, it remains a serious problem. According to the CDC, 1,176 people were killed in crashes involving alcohol-impaired drivers in Oregon from 2009 to 2018.

That doesn’t even take into account accidents caused by drivers who were impaired by other drugs.

Our car accident lawyers help Oregon families seek justice

The Oregon Department of Transportation’s Impaired Driving Program continues its effort to reduce drunk and drugged driving on many fronts – including education, law enforcement, and public outreach.

Kya Bentley, 17, was the only surviving passenger in the Estacada crash. She suffered serious injuries, but she doesn’t remember any details about the accident.

“All of a sudden everybody was dead,” she said.

Generally, families of loved ones can take civil action to hold impaired drivers financially accountable for their reckless actions. Nothing will ever replace their loss, however, and the process is far from straightforward or easy.

That’s why it’s important to get experienced legal representation. The attorneys at Zbinden & Curtis have been fighting for the rights of crash victims in the Portland area for decades. If you were injured in a car accident or a loved one died in an accident caused by an impaired driver, contact us for a free case evaluation.

Portland taking steps to improve deadly intersection, but is it enough?

A Portland roadway known for pedestrian and bicycle accidents is getting an upgrade that city officials say will make the area a lot safer for people on foot.

This has a Hawthorne Boulevard neighborhood feeling left out and vulnerable.

A grieving father recently reached out to the city’s commissioner to see if changes could be made to the plans that would address risks to cyclists.

Seth Smart, the father of Fallon Smart, a 15-year-old girl who was killed while crossing Hawthorne legally about 5 years ago, said the street needs more effective improvements. Smart said he was excited when he heard about the city’s plans to pave and paint Hawthorne, but as the plans developed, he lost hope.

No bike lanes will be added to the street.

“As this process has developed and the redesign solidified, it has become clear that the changes do not address the safety needs for a street like Hawthorne,” Smart wrote. “A redesign plan that does not include clearly marked protected bike lanes is doomed to repeat the mistakes and the hazards of the past.”

Cyclist safety? Not this time

In response to his letter, the commissioner said that the city’s funds are limited and that the work they have planned is geared toward pedestrian safety. If bike lanes were added to the street, she argued, pedestrians would have to cross them as well as lanes of vehicle traffic. Pedestrian islands would also have to be made smaller.

In a city that has more bicycle commuters than any other major U.S. city, this seems short-sighted, not only to Seth Smart, but other members of the biking community.

Among the upgrades planned for Hawthorne this summer are:

  • The addition of a center turn lane.
  • Pedestrian islands, better lighting, and more crosswalks to be installed at 10 key intersections.
  • The reduction of traffic lanes from four (two for each direction) down to two and a center turn lane.

In the future, updates to Hawthorne may include wider sidewalks and curb extensions — two more features that don’t specifically address bicycle safety.

Is Portland good for bicycles?

Portland is a bicycle-riding paradise — mostly. As of the last count, more than 6% of commuters — or 22,600 people — ride bikes to work. Nationally, the rate of bicycle commuters is 0.5%.

The busiest place for bike traffic in Portland is in the city’s center along SW Naito Parkway.

The city features at least 94 miles of neighborhood greenways, 162 miles of bike lanes, 85 miles of paths, and another 9 miles of marked, shared roadways.

Out of Portland’s nearly 400 designated miles of bikeways, less than 40 miles provide protection between motor vehicles and bicyclists.

To be fair, the City of Portland does put a lot of work into improving infrastructure for the bicycling community. The city features more than 30 intersections with bike-specific traffic signals and 42 “bike boxes” that raise a cyclist’s visibility at intersections.

Bicycle accidents in Portland

On any given day in the summer, Portland can see nearly 49,000 people on bikes getting around the city. For the most part, riders enjoy the trip and have no issues, but accidents do happen.

Every year, about two people die in Portland bicycle accidents. The most recent happened in December when a 64-year-old man was killed in a car vs. bicycle accident on North Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard and North Union Court.

When a bicyclist is involved in an accident, it’s almost always the rider that pays the highest price. Injuries caused when a car hits a person on a bike are often severe and include brain injuries, facial fractures, scars, deep cuts, internal bleeding, spinal column injuries, and broken bones.

Injured cyclists have legal rights

If you or a loved one was injured in a bicycle accident that was not your fault, do not rely on an insurance company to look out for your best interests. Yes, you can file a claim with an insurance provider to request compensation for your injuries and other damages. Often, these requests are denied.

The problem is insurance companies are profit-driven and aren’t interested in paying you appropriate compensation for your losses. That’s why you need a savvy, experienced bicycle accident lawyer who understands how to fight for the money you deserve.

At Zbinden & Curtis, LLC, we know how to deal with insurance companies and advocate for maximum compensation. Our firm also offers legal representation on a contingency fee basis, which means you pay nothing unless you win.

See how our attorneys can help you. Take the first step and contact us today for a free consultation.

Causes of Halloween Pedestrian Accidents

Portland auto accident attorneyHalloween 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.

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.

Getting Medical Bills Paid After a Rear-End Crash in Portland

Portland auto accident attorneyPortland drivers have to purchase liability insurance coverage, personal injury protection (PIP) insurance coverage, uninsured motorist coverage, and underinsured motorist coverage. After any accident, PIP should pay medical bills for all drivers no matter who caused the accident. If a collision caused serious injuries, victims can make a claim against the driver who was at fault and the driver’s liability insurance should provide compensation for excess medical bills and financial loss, as well as for non-economic damages like pain and suffering.

When a Portland rear-end accident happens, usually the driver in the rear vehicle is presumed to be at fault for hitting the back of the car in front of him. The front driver is thus going to have more options for having larger losses covered, since the front driver can use PIP coverage, file a lawsuit to get compensation through liability coverage, and use uninsured or underinsured coverage if the rear driver didn’t have sufficient insurance to cover losses.

Getting Medical Bills Paid After a Rear-End Crash

Because most motorists involved in a rear-end crash are going to be making some type of insurance claim to get medical bills paid, victims of crashes need to know how to deal with insurers.  Insurance companies tend to try to underpay claims or even deny claims where they should provide payouts.

To make sure you do everything possible to get the insurer to pay bills in full, it is important to follow some basic tips:

  • Report the collision. The crash should be reported to the police so the police can document how the accident happened. The insurance companies should also be notified right away after the crash happened.
  • Immediately seek medical attention. To get medical bills covered after a rear-end accident, collision victims have to demonstrate their injuries were actually caused by the accident. A medical report from immediately after the crash which documents the injuries can be essential.
  • Ensure all injuries are documented. Let your doctor know you plan to make a car crash claim for compensation. Be sure the treating physicians carefully document the full extent of all injuries caused by the collision.
  • Keep careful records of treatment. You should keep careful records of all treatment you undergo so you can show how bad the injuries were and how costly your care is.
  • Get experts to help estimate ongoing costs. If you settle your claim or if you go to court and make a car accident claim, you may still have injuries that you are being treated for at the time your case is resolved. You’ll want a medical expert to help you estimate what ongoing expenditures you’ll incur so you can try to get compensation for those so the insurer covers your costs.

It is also a good idea to consider getting legal hep so an experienced attorney can deal with the insurer on your behalf and help you to fight to get your bills covered.

How to Report Your Car Accident in Portland

Portland auto accident attorneyOregon law requires you report accidents under certain circumstances. You may also wish to report accidents to your own insurance company or to the car insurance provider offering coverage to other drivers who were involved in the collision. It is important to understand how to report a car crash in Oregon so you remain in compliance with the law and so you maintain your right to receive benefits and compensation after a collision.

How to Report a Car Accident

An Oregon Traffic Accident and Insurance Report must be filed within 72-hours of certain types of accidents. This report is called Form 735-32. It must be filed if:

  • There is damage to your vehicle exceeding $1,500.
  • There is damage to any vehicle equaling $1,500 or greater and any vehicle must be towed away from the scene of the collision due to the accident.
  • Injury results from the collision.
  • Death results from the collision.
  • Any person’s property, other than a vehicle involved in the collision, sustains $1,500 or more in damages.
  • The accident occurred in an area open to the public for use of motor vehicles.

Accident reports have to be filed even if your vehicle was the only one in the crash. Drivers who agree not to file accident reports when $1,500 or more in damage is done are in violation of the law, even if the other driver agrees to pay for damages.

Your accident report has to show the name of your liability insurance company. If any driver did not have insurance coverage at the time of the crash, the motorist’s driving privileges can be suspended for a year. This is true regardless of whether that driver was at fault. Insurance companies have to tell DMV about accidents in which any driver is uninsured.

As of January 1, 2010, there is also a separate requirement mandating drivers notify law enforcement of accidents. The non-emergency number can be used to provide a required crash report, however 911 should be called in the event that injuries are serious. When 911 is called, no additional notification to law enforcement is necessary.

If any driver is involved in a crash but is physically incapable of providing notice to a law enforcement agency, vehicle occupants are required to call the police when it is possible for them to do so.

In addition to making legally-requried reports to the DMV and police, you should also report the collision to your insurer. Oregon requires the purchase of personal injury protection (PIP) so your insurance company will cover medical treatment expenditures for more minor injuries. Liability coverage is also required. In the event of serious injuries or a wrongful death, crash victims can pursue a claim for compensation from a driver whose negligence or wrongdoing causes the collision. A claim can be settled outside of court or a jury or judge may decide liability and damages in a personal injury or wrongful death civil suit.

Rear-End Collision Risks in Portland Construction Areas

Portland auto accident attorneyOver the course of five years, there were 4,400 fatalities in construction zones. The majority of victims were in cars, rather than engaged in construction work. There were also 200,000 victims injured in accidents in construction zones.  Many different types of motor vehicle accidents caused these workplace injuries. However, Federal Highway Administration reports the most common type of car accident that occurs in construction work zones is rear-end accidents.

Rear-end collisions happen if a driver strikes the back of the lead vehicle. The rear driver is usually held responsible for crash losses, although there may be some exceptions to this rule.  If the rear-end crash causes injuries or death, the motorist responsible for the accident must provide compensation for losses. The majority of people killed in accidents in construction work zones are working-aged individuals, which may mean a lifetime of lost income for victims or families of those who are no longer able to work in the wake of a serious collision. The financial and emotional impact of losing a healthy, productive person can be devastating on families.

Prevention of Rear-End Collisions in Construction Areas

Drivers are the people most likely to die in car accidents in construction zones. Together, drivers and passengers in vehicles made up 85 percent of total victims killed in collisions in construction areas. Prevention of rear-end crashes could go a long way towards saving the lives of motorists and vehicle occupants involving in such construction zone accidents.

Motorists must understand how long it takes to stop their vehicles. The majority of fatal accidents in construction areas occur on roads where the speed limit is faster than 50 miles per hour. At a 50 MPH speed, a vehicle on a dry road will take 300 feet to stop. Unfortunately, some drivers don’t leave enough room between vehicles to safely stop.

Larger vehicles have more momentum and take longer to stop. An 80,000 pound truck will take 50 percent longer distance to stop. If the road is wet, the passenger car will take 400 feet to stop when going 50 MPH and the truck will take as much as 50 percent longer.  Maintaining a safe following distance to allow enough time to stop is essential to avoiding crash risks. Many drivers become frustrated with construction zones, especially if there is traffic, and tailgate and do not leave enough space.

A leading cause of rear-end crashes, including in construction zones, is distracted drivers. The Washington Post reports 87 percent of rear-end accidents happen due to driver distraction. Construction zones can be a major source of distraction as motorists do not focus on the car ahead but instead look at work being done on the road. When drivers take their eyes off the road to check construction, they may not notice and not react quickly enough if the vehicle stops in front of them. Drivers who look at a phone or GPS device to see if there is an alternate route to avoid construction might also take their eyes away from the road and increase the risk of causing a rear-end crash.

Portland accident victims should contact Zbinden & Curtis, Attorneys at Law, by calling 1-503-287-5000 or visiting http://www.zbinden-curtis.com Serving Portland, Hillsboro, Gresham and surrounding areas.

How Much Space Should Portland Drivers Leave to Prevent Rear-End Crashes?

Portland auto accident attorneyDrivers in Portland, Hillsboro, Gresham, and surrounding areas must ensure that they make smart and assertive choices behind the wheel in order to avoid being involved in a traffic accident. An experienced rear-end accident lawyer knows many motorists make one fundamental mistake that significantly increases the risk of a collision: drivers tailgate or follow too closely behind the car directly in front of their own vehicle.

Tailgating is the fifth leading cause of all motor vehicle crashes in the U.S., and rear-end collisions caused by tailgaters are one of the most common crash types. These collisions are preventable in most cases if the driver that is in the rear vehicle makes a commitment to leave a safe following distance between his own car and the car directly in front of him (the lead vehicle).

How Much Space Should You Leave Before the Lead Vehicle?

Motorists need to make a choice about how much space they should leave before the lead vehicle. Driver’s Prep indicates that there are a few different guidelines that have been used over the years to help ensure that drivers are leaving a sufficient amount of space to avoid crash risks.

The old rule of thumb motorists were usually taught was to allow a set number of car lengths between your vehicle and the lead car. The number of car lengths varied based on the speed a motorist was going, in recognition of the fact that a car that is going faster has a great deal more momentum and is going to take a longer period of time to stop.  Typically, motorists were supposed to leave one car length for every 10 miles per hour of speed. This would mean a person going 10 MPH would leave one car length and a person going 60 MPH would allow six car lengths.

The car length metric was confusing because people had to adjust depending on their speed and because most drivers are bad at judging a car-length.

A new metric is much easier to use. Drivers are told to observe when the vehicle in front of their own passes a fixed point on the side of the road like a road sign or a tree or other object that is not moving.  Once the front vehicle passes it, you start counting the number of seconds that pass before your own car also passes the same fixed object.  Motorists traditionally were told to allow two seconds, so this rule was dubbed the “two-second rule.” However, now safety experts advise that motorists should leave around three to four seconds between the time their own car passes the fixed object that the vehicle in front of them passed.

Counting seconds works at every speed and has the advantage of simplicity. However, motorists should remember that when weather is bad, they should leave a longer following distance so they have more time to react to what the motorist in front of them does.

Portland accident victims should contact Zbinden & Curtis, Attorneys at Law, by calling 1-503-287-5000 or visiting http://www.zbinden-curtis.com.