Keeping your Teen Safe Behind the Wheel

If you have a teen in your house who just recently passed their driver’s license exam or is taking the exam in the near future, you have a lot of things to think about. For your child, this is one of the most exciting times of their life – the chance to finally have a license to drive a car on their own means the ability to move around more freely. Now they can drive to school, drive to and from work, or just hang out with their friends.

Amidst all of the excitement of helping your teen get licensed to drive, you cannot forget about safety. Teenagers are inexperienced, have strong emotions, and they tend to be less focused and more susceptible to getting distracted. This is why motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among teens in the US.

Important Steps to Help Keep Teenage Drivers Safe

Educate your Teen on the Hazards to Avoid When Driving

You should work closely with your teen during the licensing process, taking time to discuss the common hazards that they need to steer clear from when they are driving. As we touched on earlier, teens are very susceptible to distractions, so you must stress the importance of not using their phone while they are operating the vehicle. Peer pressure is another common problem, so make sure to talk with them about not giving in to dangerous behaviors that may be encouraged by their friends like driving recklessly or driving after having too much to drink.

Put your Teen Driver Under Contract

In addition to educating your teen, many parents choose to take it a step further and have them sign a contract committing to follow certain rules when they are driving. This way, they will have no excuses later on if they violate one of your rules and you need to take away their driving privileges for a while.

AAA has a good parent teen driving contract that you can use which lays out several rules, such as:

  • Your teen must always drive within the speed limit and obey all other traffic laws.
  • No one else other than your teen is allowed to drive the vehicle.
  • All vehicle occupants must wear seatbelts at all times.
  • No one who is intoxicated is allowed to drive or ride in the vehicle.
  • No alcohol, drugs, or weapons are allowed to be inside the vehicle at any time.
  • Your teen must never conceal any warnings or tickets that they receive, or any accidents that they are involved in.
  • Your teen must never engage in any thrill-seeking stunts, such as street racing or playing “chicken”.

Understand the Alabama Graduated Driver’s License Process

Alabama has a Graduated Driver’s License (GDL) law for teens who are getting licensed for the first time. Under this law, a Restricted License is granted to 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds until they have been driving for at least six months. With a Restricted License, your teen is not allowed to have more than one non-family passenger who is under the age of 21. In addition, they are not allowed to operate the vehicle between the hours of 12 AM and 6 AM unless they are accompanied by a parent, legal guardian, or a licensed adult who is 21 years of age or older, or they are going to or from work or another approved activity. Understand the rules that your teen needs to abide by if they have a Restricted License, and make sure these rules are followed.

Give your Teen Driver Access to Emergency Roadside Assistance

No matter how new or how well-maintained a vehicle is, there is always the chance that something may go wrong when your teen is driving. To provide extra security and peace of mind, sign up for an emergency roadside assistance plan and instruct your teen on how to access the service if they need it. Most insurers offer roadside assistance these days for a nominal fee, or you can obtain more comprehensive coverage through a motor club like AAA.

Use Technology to Help Prevent Hazardous Results

Having a well-educated teen driver and a written contract are extremely helpful, but you might also want to take preemptive action through the use of available technology. For example, there are several apps that can be put on your teen’s phone to block them from texting or calling while driving. Some of these apps also allow you to map out their trips, so you know that they are going where they said they were going to go.

Set the Example of How you Want Your Teen to Drive

At the end of the day, much of your teen’s driving behavior comes from watching how you drive. No matter how much you preach safe driving to them, if they see you sending text messages, speeding, or taking other unnecessary chances, on some level they will believe that these behaviors are acceptable. If you want to keep your teen safe behind the wheel, the best place to start is by driving safely yourself.

Injured in an Auto Accident in Alabama? Contact Hedge Copeland, P.C. for Assistance

Driving safely and teaching your teen to be a safe driver will significantly minimize the chances of getting in a vehicle accident. Unfortunately, you cannot control the actions of other drivers. If you or someone close to you got hurt in a car accident in Alabama, Hedge Copeland, P.C. is here to help. Message us online or call our office today at (251) 432-8844 for a free consultation and case assessment with one of our lawyers.

Left Turn Accidents: Who is Liable?

Making a left turn is always a fairly dangerous maneuver. In countries like the US where we drive on the right side of the road, left turn drivers are going against the flow of traffic and a lot can go wrong when a driver is trying to complete the turn. This is especially true when you are trying to turn left at a stoplight that does not have a left turn arrow.

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), left turns are a contributing factor in approximately 61% of all accidents that happen while a vehicle is crossing an intersection, and they are a factor in 22% of all motor vehicle accidents. Right turns, on the other hand, are only a factor in 3.1% of intersection crossing accidents, and 1.2% of overall accidents.

UPS is the largest private ground courier in the world. They have thousands of trucks out on the roads every day delivering packages. Because the company has to invest so much time and resources into making their deliveries, they have studied carefully the various factors that can help them save money and reduce the chances of an accident. One policy UPS has had since the 1970s is that their routes are designed so that their drivers almost never take left turns.

UPS has found that by avoiding left turns whenever possible, they are able to reduce the number of miles driven per route and save 10 million gallons of fuel per year. They are also able to minimize their exposure to the potential hazards of making left turns, keeping their drivers safer and saving the company money on insurance premiums at the same time.

Why are Left Turn Accidents So Dangerous?

As we talked about earlier, vehicles that are making a left turn are going against the grain of the traffic, and when this occurs, there are a lot more things that could go wrong. Some of the dangers of left turn accidents include:

  • Facing Oncoming Traffic: When you make a left turn at a stoplight, you are turning into the face of oncoming traffic. This type of maneuver increases the chances of a collision with a car that you are crossing in front of.
  • Increased Acceleration Necessary: In order to complete the left turn, you will need to increase your acceleration as you get through the intersection. This is one reason why left turns burn so much more fuel (along with the fact that the vehicle idles longer at the intersection). In addition, left turn drivers have to be a lot more skilled at judging the speed of an approaching vehicle and how much they will need to accelerate to complete the turn safely. Finally, if something were to go wrong with the engine while trying to accelerate, this could cause the car to get stuck in the middle of the intersection where a crash would be more likely.
  • Potential for Obstructed View: With certain types of vehicles, particularly larger ones where the driver sits up higher like full-size trucks and SUVs, it is more difficult to get a clear view of oncoming traffic. This makes it easier to miss motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians that are crossing because of their smaller profiles.

Who is At Fault in a Left Turn Accident?

Because of all the difficulties that go into making a left turn, the driver who is turning will often be the one who is assumed to be at fault if there is an accident. While this might be a correct assumption in a lot of cases, it is not always true.

There are times when the left turn driver might not be the one at fault in a crash. Here are some examples:

  • The left turn driver has a green arrow and the vehicle coming from the opposite direction runs a red light.
  • The vehicle coming from the opposite direction exceeds the speed limit and arrives at the intersection before they should have.
  • The driver of the other vehicle involved in the crash was sending or receiving a text on their phone and not watching where they were going when the collision occurred.
  • The driver of the other vehicle was legally intoxicated.

Injured in a Left Turn Accident in Alabama? Contact an Experienced Auto Accident Lawyer

Left turn drivers are often thought to be responsible when an accident occurs at a traffic crossing, but this is not always the case. As with every car accident, there are factors and circumstances that are unique to each case. If you or someone close to you got injured in a vehicle accident, you need strong legal counsel in your corner working hard to navigate the complexities of your case and recover the full and fair compensation you deserve.

If your accident occurred in Alabama, contact Hedge Copeland, P.C. for assistance. Message us online or call our office today at (251) 432-8844 for a free consultation and case assessment with one of our attorneys.

How Common is Drowsy Driving?

Americans are more stressed than ever these days, and this has been especially true during the past few months as we have been dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. A lot of people are just plain exhausted with everything that is happening, and there are many people out there driving when they are tired, fatigued, or sleepy.

Drowsy driving is defined as driving a motor vehicle when you are ready to fall asleep or even in the process of dozing off. Fatigued driving is similar, but it is characterized more as tiredness that is born of physical exhaustion. In either state, the driver has a hard time staying alert and focused on the road, and there is an inherent danger of falling asleep at the wheel.

Some of the common symptoms that drowsy drivers often experience include heavy eyelids, blurred vision, continuous yawning, drifting from their lane, and missing an exit. Motorists may try to combat drowsiness by consuming high amounts of caffeine or other stimulants, turning the radio louder, rolling the window down, talking to passengers, blinking their eyes more rapidly, and making an extra effort to keep their eyes open.

In spite of a driver’s best efforts to stay awake, however, no one can really tell at what point they cross over from being sleepy to falling asleep. And therein lies a major part of the problem. A motorist may believe that they can “handle” driving while drowsy, but they cannot really know what their breaking point is.

As catastrophic as it is, falling asleep at the wheel is not the only potential hazard that drowsy drivers face. Even if a tired or fatigued driver does not fall asleep, drowsiness still negatively impacts the way a motorist drives a vehicle. Because they have to expend so much of their available faculties to stay awake, their ability to pay attention to the road is severely compromised. In addition, a drowsy driver has slower reaction times, and they are unable to hit the break or adjust the steering wheel as quickly when an adverse condition arises.

How Often do Americans Drive while Drowsy?

Drowsy driving is a lot more common than most people realize. The CDC reports that drowsiness is responsible for more than 70,000 crashes and 44,000 injuries each year. They also state that 800 deaths a year are due to drowsy driving, but these are just the official numbers, and they believe that up to 6,000 fatal crashes annually may be caused by drowsy drivers. The discrepancy occurs because drivers who get into accidents are unlikely to admit that it happened because they were sleepy or fatigued, so this often does not show up on a police report.

Back in 2005, the National Sleep Foundation conducted a Sleep in America poll of adult drivers that yielded some staggering results about drowsy driving. The poll found that 60% of adult drivers in the US – or approximately 168 million people – admit to having driven while feeling drowsy within the past year. 37% of those polled – or approximately 103 million people – admitted to having fallen asleep behind the wheel. 4% of those polled – or approximately 11 million people – said that they have had an accident or nearly caused an accident because they fell asleep or they were too tired to drive.

Anyone who does not get an adequate amount of sleep is at risk for drowsy driving, but there are certain segments of the population in which this behavior is more common. These include:

  • Shift workers – those who work long shifts that usually run into the evening and overnight hours.
  • Commercial drivers – those who drive commercially for a living, such as bus drivers, tow truck drivers, and long-haul truckers.
  • Drivers with untreated sleep disorders such as sleep apnea.
  • Adults (more often in males than females) between the ages of 18 and 29.
  • Adults with young children in the household.
  • Drivers who take certain medications that are known to make them sleepy.

When we think of dangerous driving behaviors, drowsy driving is not usually at the top of our list. Unlike drunk driving and distracted driving, there are no laws against driving while drowsy, and there is no test that can be given to determine sleepiness, as there is with chemical impairment.

The bottom line is that we need to do a better job as a society of warning people about the dangers of drowsy driving. The best way for a motorist to avoid driving while sleepy or fatigued is to make sure they get a good night’s sleep before driving. For adults, this means at least seven hours of sleep, and for teen drivers, this means eight hours.

Other helpful preventative measures include avoiding driving late hours when possible, carpooling with a coworker, taking a cab or Uber home from work after a long and exhausting shift, making sure any sleep disorders or other health conditions that could impair your driving are properly treated, and for commercial drivers, taking frequent breaks from the road and making sure you do not violate federal Hours of Service regulations.

Injured in a Drowsy Driving Accident in Alabama? Contact an Experienced Auto Accident Lawyer

If you or a loved one got injured at the hands of a drowsy driver, you may be entitled to compensation. If the accident occurred in Mobile or any of the surrounding Alabama communities, Hedge Copeland, P.C., is here to help. Call our office today at (251) 432-8844 or message us online for a free consultation with a member of our legal team.

Can You Sue if You Get COVID-19 at Work?

Businesses are gradually reopening in a number of states after the COVID-19 lockdowns. After the lockdown, the opening of businesses raises two vital questions: Is it mandatory for employers to ensure that the workplace is sanitary and safe? And will they be held accountable if workers contract coronavirus at the workplace?

The brief answer to the above questions is that while medical care professionals must abide by federal safety guidelines for protection against the virus, the federal law does not make it mandatory for other businesses to do the same.

Also, sick employees seeking compensation usually through worker’s comp must show that they contracted the Covid-19 illness at the workplace, which can be quite challenging to prove. 

According to guidelines by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), employers must create a work environment that is “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm” to workers.

To be able to meet the above standard, OSHA advises businesses to follow the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), such as instructing employees to maintain a distance of six feet from colleagues or customers, disinfecting surfaces, taking temperatures, and providing hand sanitizers, face masks, and barriers when necessary.

According to Debbie Berkowitz, Worker Safety and Health Program Director for the National Employment Law Project, OSHA is enforcing guidance issued by the CDC and performing inspections in response to deaths in hospitals, but not otherwise.   

Berkowitz reveals that 4,000 COVID-19 related complaints have been filed against businesses that do not provide sanitary workplaces, but OSHA has not issued any fines or citations. She says that OSHA instead is nudging businesses towards the voluntary guidelines.

The Labor Department, which encompasses OSHA, responded to criticism with a statement that OSHA will consult CDC guidelines as well as its own guidance as it assesses if a workplace is “free from recognized hazards.” According to this statement, OSHA will issue a citation and impose a civil monetary penalty on offenders.

Challenging for Employees to Prove Liability

Across the United States, workers or their families can claim monetary damages if employees contract an illness or death. However, in a majority of states, employees who are eligible to make a claim through worker’s compensation (a form of insurance), must follow that path and give up the right to sue, attorneys say.

Further, it can be challenging to win such claims. The employee will have to prove they contracted the virus in the workplace, which is setting the bar very high during a pandemic.

The CEO of the Workers Compensation Research Institute, John Ruser, says that while it is known that certain groups of employees are at a higher risk of contracting the virus, it is still possible that they may catch it outside the workplace. It would be very difficult for the employee to prove that contracting the illness was workplace related.

If several employees at a workplace contract coronavirus, the claim for worker’s compensation could be stronger.

Torrent of Lawsuits

Some employees and their legal teams are approaching the courts and are the pioneers of what could be a significant surge in lawsuits related to the pandemic.

When a Walmart employee in Illinois contracted and died from coronavirus, their family sued the company, alleging that the retailer did not undertake adequate measures to protect its workers from the virus. 

The family of the employee, Wando Evans, expresses several concerns, such as Walmart did not take appropriate measures to enforce social distancing protocols, effectively sanitize the store, or equip workers with proper protective equipment.

Meanwhile, in Missouri, a nonprofit workers’ advocacy group brought a lawsuit against Smithfield Foods on behalf of its employees after a COVID-19 outbreak in a plant owned by the company lead to many employees becoming infected.

In the lawsuit, the workers’ group alleges that Smithfield employees were made to work without proper protective gear in close proximity to each other. They were not given the breaks to wash their hands, were discouraged from taking sick leave, and offered bonuses for working when sick.

In addition, the lawsuit alleges that Smithfield had not put in place a plan for testing and contract-tracing employees exposed to the virus.

Businesses Strive to Limit Liability

In anticipation of such lawsuits and a potpourri of state laws, the US Chamber of Commerce, along with many business groups, is asking Congress to determine a federal standard that sets a limit on the liability for enterprises following CDC guidance.

According to Harold Kim, the President of the chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform, they are seeking a concise policy that will offer business-owners the confidence to reopen their enterprises without being under the perennial threat of liability. For instance, businesses that check worker’s temperatures could have a distinct set of criteria for what comprises an illness.

Legal Counsel from an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer

If you believe you may have a workplace injury claim, it is important to speak with a skilled and knowledgeable Alabama personal injury attorney. The seasoned attorneys at Hedge Copeland, P.C., will consult with you to thoroughly assess your case and advise you of your legal rights and options.

If you end up retaining our services, we will work hard to investigate the evidence and build a strong case for you. We will represent you in court, handle the insurance company, and make sure that you get fair compensation for your losses.

For a no-charge case review, message us online or call (251) 432-8844 today. We accept all personal injury cases on a contingency basis, so you do not pay attorney fees unless we win your case.  

What Are the Most Common Causes of Commercial Trucking Accidents?

Large commercial trucks are involved in some of the most catastrophic crashes on Alabama roadways today. In general, big rig and other commercial truckers are trained and skillful drivers, but they are still prone to human error and negligence like any other driver.

Apart from the hazards posed by the huge size and weight of the trucks used in commercial transportation and shipping, several other factors can contribute to serious truck accidents. These may include:

  • Insufficient training on safety issues, driving technique, and defensive driving
  • Compensation systems that promote the operation of vehicles at higher speeds as well as more hours of continuous driving than advisable
  • Impracticable schedules and unrealistic expectations of trucking companies encourage truckers to rush, irrespective of the safety risks involved.

The following parties could be at fault in a commercial truck accident:

  • The trucker or the trucking company they work for
  • The manufacturer of the truck or truck components
  • The truck maintenance and quality inspection agency
  • A government agency or a municipality

Truck Accidents due to Driver Error

Most truck accidents, unfortunately, occur due to truck driver error. Some common reasons for errors on the part of the truck driver include:

Driver Fatigue

Many truck drivers are on the road for long hours. The primary reasons for commercial truck crashes include driver fatigue and sleep deprivation.

Drug Abuse

In order to cope with their stressful lifestyle, many truckers seek solace in alcohol and drugs. However, this is also a leading cause of fatal accidents, despite strict laws governing alcohol and substance abuse.

Speeding and Negligent Driving

A commercial truck that is speeding or does not follow traffic rules puts the lives of other motorists on the road in jeopardy. Excessive speed, reckless lane changes, and trucks tailing other vehicles too closely are the causes behind countless truck accidents.

Records Falsification

The government put laws in place to govern the trucking industry and its workers. However, some companies try to bypass these rules by falsifying their logbooks and other records. In these types of cases, both a trucker and their company could be held responsible for an accident.

Poor Maintenance or Faulty Design

The inability to maintain trucks properly is not the only reason behind a truck’s equipment failing at a crucial moment. At times, the truck parts manufacturers may be responsible for negligence during the production of the part, churning out faulty or hazardous components.

The truck manufacturer, truck parts manufacturer, the trucking company that sold the vehicle, and the mechanic/installer who made repairs to the truck are some parties that may be held accountable for faulty parts in a trucking accident.

The probability of an accident is much higher is a truck has not been properly designed or is equipped with bad parts, such as failing brakes or inappropriate tires. These manufacturers and designers may be held accountable for consequent damages.

Errors in Cargo Loading

Truck drivers and cargo loading teams have to follow industry-specific regulations when loading a commercial truck’s bed. A load has specific size, weight, width, length, and height limits along with particular methods of securing loads for transportation. A load could fall into the road and cause devastating accidents if mistakes are made during the loading process.

Improper Training or Unfamiliar Roads

A truck driver with improper training on how to manage a commercial truck, defensive driving, and other safety elements will pose a threat to others on the road.

Any individual traveling on an unfamiliar road can experience driving challenges. These challenges increase exponentially if that individual was driving an 80,000- pound truck for the first time and failed to realize how winding, narrow, or rough a specific road was. A combination of such circumstances can lead to catastrophic consequences.

Road Conditions that can Lead to Truck Accidents

A truck accident could result from various factors, including obstacles present on the road. A devastating or more severe crash could occur if there are obstacles on the road, whether or not a driver is operating their vehicle recklessly. A road flaw, due to improper design or maintenance, could also lead to a severe crash.

In such cases, the agency in charge of the road’s maintenance (typically a government body) may be held accountable in a truck accident suit.

Extreme Weather

Inclement weather can prove hazardous for a truck driver if they have not been appropriately trained to operate a truck in certain conditions. It can be particularly treacherous for truckers to drive in rainy and snowy weather because of the slower stopping speeds and the massive weight of the vehicle.

Truck drivers must travel at the right speed for every condition as well as learn correct braking techniques to avoid hydroplaning, skidding, or jackknifing.

Contact a Skilled Alabama Attorney for Your Truck Accident Case

Truck Accident cases can be complicated and contentious as there are numerous potential causes for such crashes. Understanding who is at fault for the accident is not enough to collect damages against a claim as the trucking industry is strictly regulated. Most trucking companies, their employees, and their insurers will attempt to deny liability for a crash or offer settlement amounts that are much less than what you deserve.

An experienced truck accident lawyer at Hedge Copeland, P.C., will work tirelessly for you to make sure that you get your rightful compensation. Call today at (251) 432-8844 for a free consultation with a seasoned attorney.

Pedestrian Accidents May Increase During COVID-19 Shutdowns

The coronavirus pandemic has most of us working out of our homes these days. Essential workers are still going out, but the rest of us are telecommuting. This has reduced vehicle traffic, which should result in fewer auto accidents. On the flipside, however, more people being at home means more people going out for walks. We also have some people going out for drives just to get out of the house.

The increased number of people walking of course heightens the risk of pedestrian accidents, and these accidents can result in some of the most serious and catastrophic injuries. Unlike vehicle occupants, someone who is out walking does not have a steel cage to protect them, so when they are struck by a car or truck, there is not much that separates their body from hitting the pavement. To make matters worse, with fewer cars on the road, those that are out there will be traveling at higher speeds, which increases the likelihood of deadly collisions.

Tips for Preventing Pedestrian Accidents during the Coronavirus or Anytime

Both motorists and pedestrians need to be aware of the heightened danger of a collision when there are more people walking:

For Pedestrians

  • Be Seen: Do everything you can to stay visible, so drivers on the road can see you. If you are walking during the day, put on brightly colored clothing. If you are walking at night, put on lightly colored or reflective clothing. Walk in well-lit areas whenever possible, and always try to make eye contact with drivers before you walk across the road in front of them.
  • Be Predictable: Be familiar with all of the traffic laws and rules wherever you are walking and follow them. For example, do not cross the road in places where it is illegal, dangerous, or unexpected. Stick to designated crosswalks and places where it is safe and legal, and always make sure that traffic is clear before you cross.
  • Be Alert: Pay attention to where you are walking and do your best to avoid unnecessary distractions. Most of us like to stay connected using our smartphones, but it is not a good idea to send and receive electronic messages while you are walking. If you need to send a text, stop walking and resume walking when you are done. Also, if you are listening to music, keep it low enough so you can still hear vehicles that are passing nearby.
  • Be Sober: Alcohol is a factor in approximately half of all pedestrian accidents. Most of these accidents are caused by a drunk driver, but about one-third of them involve an intoxicated pedestrian.

For Motorists

  • Be Aware: Be mindful of higher pedestrian traffic, especially when you are driving around in your own neighborhood.
  • Be Lawful: Follow all of the rules of the road. Avoid excessive speeding and other forms of aggressive or reckless driving, such as running stop signs, going through red lights, making dangerous turns, and not yielding the right-of-way.
  • Be Awake: A surprising number of motorists drive while they are drowsy or fatigued, and this behavior is most likely to happen during the late evening or early morning hours. Drowsy driving can result in a motorist falling asleep at the wheel, which can cause deadly consequences for themselves and others on the road. But even if this does not happen, a sleepy driver still tends to make poorer driving decisions.
  • Be Alert: Walking while distracted by a smartphone can be dangerous, but distracted driving is even worse. Texting while driving and other forms of electronic activity on a smartphone distract drivers in three ways; manually, visually, and cognitively. The end result is that the driver’s entire focus is directed on their phone and away from the road. This can cause drivers to miss important details, such as someone crossing the road in front of them.
  • Be Sober: Alcohol and driving never mix well. Numerous studies have shown that driving while intoxicated greatly increases the risk of causing an accident, and there have been countless tragic and senseless deaths over the years because of drunk driving. Stay sober when you drive – for your own safety and the safety of everyone else on the road.

Injured in a Pedestrian Accident in Alabama? Hedge Copeland is Here to Help

If you or a loved one suffered injury in a pedestrian accident that was caused by someone else, you may be entitled to compensation. After seeking medical attention, the next step should be to speak with an experienced attorney to evaluate your case and discuss your legal rights and options.

During this difficult time for our country, we here at Hedge Copeland want you to know that we are still open and fully operational. We are taking all the precautions and following all the social distancing guidelines, but we have the technology and resources to continue providing the skilled personalized representation our clients have always received.

For a free consultation with one of our attorneys, message us online or call us today at 251 – 432 – 8844. We are ready to serve you!

What Kinds of Compensation can I Recover from a Personal Injury Claim?

When someone suffers an injury that results from the negligence or reckless actions of another party, they deserve to be compensated. This can happen because of a car accident, a slip and fall injury at a retail store, an injury at work, or any number of other events. These injuries could be minor and only last for a short period of time, or they could be moderate to severe, with the effects being felt for an extended period of time.

Compensation from a personal injury is meant to help restore the victim as much as possible to the condition he/she was in before the injury occurred. Of course, this cannot always be accomplished.

Clearly, no amount of money can bring back a loved one who was killed because of someone else’s negligence, and no amount of money can give you back the quality of life you enjoyed before suffering a permanent injury. That said, monetary compensation is the only mechanism our legal system has to make the victim whole in cases of civil wrongdoing.

Types of Compensation that are Available in Personal Injury Cases

The legal term for compensation in a personal injury case is known as “damages”. Compensatory damages can be broken down into two general categories:

Economic Damages

Also referred to as “special damages”, economic damages are those that are meant to compensate the victim for direct monetary losses that were incurred because of the injury. These types of damages are unique to each individual case, and they will vary widely from one case to another.

Some common examples of economic damages include:

  • Hospitalization costs;
  • Costs for surgeries and other procedures;
  • Rehabilitation and retraining expenses;
  • The cost of ongoing medical care (in the case of a debilitating condition);
  • Lost earnings;
  • Loss of future earning capacity;
  • Property damage.

Noneconomic Damages

Also referred to as “general damages”, noneconomic damages are losses that are real but more intangible. These damages address what generally happens to someone who suffers a personal injury.

Examples of noneconomic damages may include:

  • Physical pain-and-suffering;
  • Emotional distress;
  • Loss of enjoyment;
  • Disfigurement;
  • Permanent injury;
  • Loss of consortium;
  • Loss of companionship, guidance, and support.

There is another category of damages that is not technically considered “compensation.” These are known as “punitive damages” or “exemplary damages”.

Although they are awarded to the injury victim, punitive damages are not meant to make the victim whole, but rather to “punish” the party responsible for the injuries when their actions were willful, malicious, fraudulent, or grossly negligent. The purpose for awarding punitive damages is to ensure that those responsible for especially egregious actions are held fully accountable, and that they (and others) are highly discouraged from engaging in this type of behavior in the future.

In most standard personal injury cases, punitive damages are not likely to be awarded. However, if someone engages in exceptionally reckless behavior, such as driving while intoxicated far beyond the legal limit and causing a serious accident, they may be warranted. It should also be noted that in an Alabama wrongful death case, punitive damages are the only type of monetary award that is available to help compensate the victim’s family.

Recovering Compensation from an Alabama Personal Injury

While an injured party may be entitled to damages when their injury was caused by someone else, recovering these damages is not always an easy task. This is especially true in a state like Alabama, where they apply the “contributory negligence” legal doctrine to personal injury cases. Contributory negligence means that if an injured party is found to have “contributed” in any way to the underlying accident, even 1%, they can be barred from recovering any damages at all.

When pursuing a personal injury claim, you are usually dealing with the insurance company for the party responsible. And the larger the claim, the harder they tend to fight it. With cases like these, you can be sure that the other side will look for any reason they can to pin at least some of the blame on you, so they will not have to pay out any compensation. For this reason, it is extremely important to get an experienced attorney involved as early as possible. Otherwise, your right to recover compensation could be jeopardized.

Suffered a Personal Injury in Alabama? Contact Hedge Copeland for Legal Help

If you or someone close to you suffered injury through no fault of your own, you need strong legal counsel by your side fighting hard to get you the full and fair compensation you deserve. If the injury occurred in Alabama, contact Hedge Copeland for assistance. Call our office today at 251 – 432 – 8844 or message us online to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys.

Steps to Take Immediately After an Auto Accident

Getting into in a car crash can be a traumatic experience. Your heart starts racing, emotions run high, and your mind begins processing everything that just happened. The fact that you just got into a collision can be very unsettling, and you may be in a bit of a state of shock wondering what to do next.

The first thing to do is take a deep breath and collect your thoughts. The actions you take right after getting into an auto accident will greatly impact your health and well-being, and your legal right to compensation if you are injured.

Here are some of the most important steps to take if you have been involved in a car accident:

Remain at the Scene

Never leave the scene of an accident until it is appropriate to do so. If you leave the scene right away and there are others involved who were injured or killed, it could be considered a “hit and run” and you may face criminal charges. No matter what the circumstances, always stay at the scene of the crash and exchange contact and insurance information with others involved.

Call for Medical Help

The first priority after any type of auto accident is to make sure everyone is okay. If any of the people in your vehicle or the others involved are hurt, call 911 to bring an ambulance to the scene. It is important to note that even with minor collisions such as fender-benders, injuries can still happen. In addition, some injuries are not noticed right away because they are masked by the adrenaline rush that happens when you get in a collision. If there is any possibility at all that someone might be injured, call for medical help just to be on the safe side.

Call the Police

If there are injuries, fatalities, and/or significant property damage, the police should be called to the scene as well. The police will be able to help secure the scene and regulate traffic, and they will also produce an official accident report. This report will be an important piece of evidence in helping to determine the cause of the accident in the event that a legal claim ever needs to be filed.

Create your Own Accident Report

Even though the police will have an official accident report, you should also create a report of your own. If you are able, right down in as much detail as possible what happened while everything is fresh in your mind. If you do not have anything to write with or you are unable to write, use the voice recorder in your smartphone to create an audio report that can be transcribed later. Finally, when the police report is available, ask to review it for any inaccuracies so corrections of any mistakes can be made right away.

Speak with Witnesses

If there are any individuals nearby who saw what happened, speak with them and obtain their contact information. In addition, ask them if they would be willing to provide a statement. Sometimes, a witness may allow you to record a video or audio statement at the scene, which you can add to your accident report file. Memories fade and stories can change later on, so if you are able to get statements from witnesses right away, this would be ideal.

Follow through on Medical Treatment

If you sustained any injuries, be sure to follow all the recommendations you are given by the health professionals involved. Go in for follow-up doctor visits and do everything your doctor tells you to do. For example, you may want to get back to work as soon as possible, and that is understandable. But if your doctor says you need a few extra days or even weeks to recover, do what he/she says. Remember, you have a legal obligation to mitigate your losses if you are injured in an accident. And if you try to return to work early and you end up aggravating your injury, the other side may argue that you did not live up to this obligation.

Speak Cautiously about the Accident

Whomever you are dealing with, whether it be the other driver, the police, witnesses, or your insurance company, NEVER apologize or admit any kind of fault for the accident. Alabama is a contributory negligence state, meaning that if you are found to have “contributed” in any way to the underlying accident (even 1%), you may be barred from recovering compensation for your injuries. Be courteous and polite; but leave the determination of fault to the experts.

Along the same lines, be very careful what you say to other people about the accident, particularly what is said in electronic form. Keep in mind that there is no expectation of privacy with social media posts, and anything you post about the accident is discoverable by the other side. Even if you set the most secure privacy settings, these posts still have a way of surfacing. The ideal thing would be to disconnect altogether from social media for a while as your injury claim progresses. But if that is too much for you, just be sure not to talk about the accident electronically.

Contact a Seasoned Car Accident Lawyer

If you have sustained injuries from the accident, you must realize that the insurance company is not looking out for you, and their interests are not aligned with yours. Their goal is to pay out as little as possible for your injury, and there are numerous tactics they may use to accomplish this goal. With so much at stake, you need an experienced advocate in your corner who is looking out for your interests.

If your auto accident occurred in Alabama, contact the season personal injury attorneys at Hedge Copeland. We have nearly half a century of combined experience successfully representing individuals who have been injured in motor vehicle accidents, and we have the knowledge, skills, resources, and commitment to help ensure that our clients obtain the most favorable result possible.

Call our office today at 251 – 432 – 8844 to schedule a free consultation and case assessment with a member of our legal team. You may also send us a message through our web contact form or stop by our Mobile office in person at your convenience.

The Hidden Dangers of Sun Glare Accidents

You are driving along one day – maybe you are going to work or dropping off your child at school, and everything seems fine. Suddenly, a blast of bright sunlight penetrates your windshield. You lower your visor to try to block it out, but the glare from the sun is blinding. And as you drive along, you tread carefully hoping and praying that you do not crash into anyone or anything because you could not see very well in front of you.

Sun glare can pop up when we least expect it, and it can make what starts out as an easy and routine drive far more challenging. This becomes a much bigger problem during the late fall and winter months when the days are shortened, and sunrise and sunset tends to coincide with our morning and evening drive times. If you are not careful, bright sunlight can quickly result in disastrous consequences.

How Common are Sun Glare Accidents?

It is difficult to determine the exact number of accidents that are caused each year by sun glare. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) puts the official number at around 300, but AAA and other organizations believe it is much higher. The challenge is that bright sunlight is not usually listed as a cause of accident on a police report, because drivers are very hesitant to admit to being blinded by the glare of the sun.

A 20-year study from 1995 to 2014 by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) gives us a better idea of just how dangerous sun glare can be. According to the study, bright sunlight is a contributing factor in approximately one-third of all auto accidents that occur during daylight hours. The results of this study suggest that sun glare is a far greater hazard for drivers than most people realize.

Am I At Fault for a Sun Glare Accident?

There is no doubt that bright sunlight can severely disrupt your driving, and it can make it far more difficult to notice cars that hit their brakes and slow down in front of you, pedestrians and bicyclists that cross the street in front of you, and vehicles and objects that enter your blind spot. But since this is all caused by the sun, some people wonder if they would be considered at fault if the disrupting sun glare caused an accident. After all, isn’t bright sunlight “act of God”?

Unfortunately for the driver, “act of God” is not a valid defense for causing a sun glare accident. When we talk about “acts of God”, we are talking about extraordinary natural events that could not have been foreseen and could not have been avoided. Examples may include earthquakes, mudslides, or a deer jumping in front of your car.

Although the sun shining is a natural event, it is also an everyday occurrence that is very predictable. The sun rises and sets at certain times each day, and anyone can find out when that will happen by simply watching a weather report. For this reason, it is our responsibility to exercise reasonable care to prepare for the possibility of bright sunlight, just like we would with any other predictable event.

How to Prevent Accidents Caused by Bright Sunlight

There are several things you can do to make sure you are prepared in the event that you suddenly encounter sun glare:

  • Clean your windshield and make sure it is free of marks and streaks before driving;
  • Be sure you have functional wiper blades and plenty of washer fluid, so you can keep your windshield clean as you drive;
  • Where polarized sunglasses whenever you drive to help reduce the glare;
  • Consider purchasing sun visor extenders that will help you block out more of the sun as you drive;
  • When bright sunlight hits your windshield, drive slowly and allow plenty of space to deal with any problems that may lie ahead;
  • If possible, modify your driving route and drive time to do less East/West driving and minimize your exposure to sun glare;
  • As always, avoid unnecessary distractions such as making phone calls and texting on your cell phone while driving.

Injured in a Sun Glare Accident in Alabama? Contact Hedge Copeland for Assistance

In spite of our best efforts, we cannot control the negligent actions of others. If you or a loved one suffered injury in a sun glare accident that was caused by another driver, you deserve to be fully compensated. If the accident occurred in Alabama, call Hedge Copeland today at 251 – 432 – 8844 or message us online for a free consultation and case assessment. We will meet with you to thoroughly evaluate your case and advise you of your legal rights and options.