Driving Drowsy as Dangerous as Driving Drunk?

drowsy-drivingRegardless of where you live or what type of car you drive, driving while drowsy is an incredibly risky endeavor which is seriously underappreciated by motor vehicle operators nationwide. In a study conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, 37% of individuals polled admitted to having fallen asleep while driving. Additionally, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 83,000 accidents across the country are caused by fatigued driving each year. These accidents result, on average, in over 40,000 injuries and 1,500 deaths annually.

So, with these facts in mind, let’s take a closer look at the “Drowsy Driver”.

Who fits the bill as being described as a “Drowsy Driver”? The most frequently cited example is an individual who sleeps, on average, less than six hours per night.

And when are accidents caused by “Drowsy Drivers” most common? Not surprisingly, drowsy driving accidents are most common at night, followed by mid-afternoon.

And who are the most common “Drowsy Drivers”? Shift workers are the most common segment of society to feel the effects of drowsy driving, but high school and college students are not far behind.

Many researchers who study the effects of sleep deprivation draw a comparison between being over-drowsy and intoxicated. Research has indicated that individuals operating a motor vehicle on only 4 or 5 hours of sleep are likely to experience symptoms similar to that of intoxication. These symptoms include a pronounced inability to focus, inattentiveness, delayed response and reaction time, blurred vision, impaired field-of-depth judgment, and even falling asleep at the wheel.

If you’ve been injured in a motor vehicle accident where the other driver was deemed to be “drowsy” or “fatigued”, the team of lawyers at Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy & O’Connell, LLP are ready and able to fight for your rights to compensation for injuries, property damage, and medical expenses. Call today for a free consultation at (215) 947-6240 or contact us online.

Legal Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended solely for informational purposes. They neither constitute nor imply an official legal opinion on behalf of Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy and O’Connell, LLP, nor do they establish an attorney-client relationship of any kind. Howland Hess O’Connell encourages all readers to seek and consult professional counsel before acting upon the information contained on this site.

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What to do When: Injured on the Job

It’s an unfortunate fact of life that workplace injuries do occur, and when they do it is possible the injured employee may be eligible for workers’ compensation. This article will not detail whether or not any particular employee is or is not eligible to receive workers’ compensation or their probability of success, but instead will detail the steps an employee should take following an injury at work.

  1. Report the Accident: In Pennsylvania, an employee is provided 120 days to notify his or her employer about a work accident that causes either an injury or sickness/illness. There is an exceptions to this strict 120 day rule and it is based on workers-compwhen the employee first discovers the injury or illness (if it’s not immediately detectable), known as the “Discovery Rule”. Therefore, if an employee develops a medical condition due to his or her workplace environment but doesn’t show any symptoms for weeks, months, or even years, that employee may still be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits BUT will be held to the same 120 day window to notify his or her employer from the date the employee first discovered the issue. Failure to notify the employer within 120 days of a work-related injury or illness will likely mean that the employer does not need to pay the employee’s workers’ compensation benefits.
  2. Ensure Your Employer Filed a “First Report of Occupational Injury” Form: In addition to doing your part as an employee by notifying your employer of your injury or illness, an injured or sick employee should also confirm that his or her employer has filed with its insurance company and the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation what is known as the “First Report of Occupational Injury” form. The insurance carrier is then provided twenty-one (21) days to make a determination on the claim. This means the carrier has 21 days to either accept the employee’s work injury claim, meaning the carrier will cover medical treatment and lost wages, or the carrier can deny the claim.

  3. Promptly Schedule an Appointment with a Workers’ Compensation Doctor Approved by Your Employer: If an employer posts a list of approved workers’ compensation doctors, an employee must see one of those doctors for treatment throughout the first ninety (90) days of their injury or illness. The sooner an employee can get in to the doctor’s office, the better. What happens if an employee decides to seek out his or her own doctor instead of one listed by their employer? The result is that the employer, through its insurance carrier, is not required to pay any medical bills until after the first 90 days of the employee’s injury. An employee should be sure to verify whether or not its employer has a list of approved doctors. If there is no list posted, an injured or ill employee can see a doctor of his or her own choosing from the start without risking losing coverage for medical bills during the first 90 days of the injury or sickness.

  4. Receive Employer’s Decision and Determine Next Steps: An employer can either accept or deny responsibility for an employee’s injury. If an employer accepts responsibility, the employee receives a “Notice of Compensation Payable”. If denied, the employee receives a “Notice of Compensation Denial”. If an employee feels he or she has been wrongfully denied coverage, the next step is to file a Claim Petition for Workers’ Compensation. Employees should be aware that there is a timeline for filing this petition, which is 3 years from the date the employee was injured or made sick at work. It is important to note that it is NOT 3 years from the date of the employer’s decision.

If you’ve been injured at work and denied workers’ compensation benefits, the attorneys at Howland Hess O’Connell are available to help you today. The petition and appeals process following a denial is lengthy and, at times, complicated. If you are considering appealing your employer’s decision regarding workers’ compensation and want to learn more about your rights and options, call today for a free consultation at (215) 947-6240 or contact us online.

Legal Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended solely for informational purposes. They neither constitute nor imply an official legal opinion on behalf of Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy and O’Connell, LLP, nor do they establish an attorney-client relationship of any kind. Howland Hess O’Connell encourages all readers to seek and consult professional counsel before acting upon the information contained on this site.

Can a NON-DRIVING Text Sender be Liable for Text Recipient’s Car Accident?

It seems to stretch previously conceived limits of legal liability, but a recent case out of Lawrence County, PA, suggests that even if you’re not the driver of a vehicle involved in an accident, you can possibly be civilly liable for that accident when you send a text message and the recipient of your text reads and responds while driving. Notably, you don’t even have to be in the car which is involved in the accident!

The case, Gallatin v. Gargiulo, is noted for allowing claims of negligence and wrongful-death to proceed against two individuals who were texting a driver who was involved in an eventual fatal accident. It should be emphasized that the Court did not determine that these individuals are liable or that there is a cause of action for such activity, only that the Court has allowed the claims against them to proceed for a later determination.

You are likely wondering, as was I on first read, “How can this be?” How can a person who sends a text message from his couch in Philadelphia possibly be liable for an accident which occurs on I-76? Well, it’s not that cut-and-dry in terms of establishing liability on the part of the text sender. To potentially be deemed legally responsible, a text sender must know or have reason to know at the time of the accident that the person they are texting is driving and will view the text.

Is this an easy burden to satisfy? Absolutely not! It does, however, demonstrate just how far the law is potentially willing to go to combat texting-and-driving in Pennsylvania. It’s also another pocket which could be available to a victim of a texting-while-driving accident.

PRACTICAL: It’s entirely too early to know the legal ramifications of the case referenced above. However, if the Court ultimately recognizes a cause of action against those who send text messages to a driver involved in an accident, that holding would certainly alter the legal landscape of civil motor vehicle lawsuits.

If you’ve been named in a lawsuit in which your only alleged misconduct was sending a text message to a third party, the attorneys at Howland Hess O’Connell are ready and able to defend you today. Call for a free consultation at (215)-947-6240, or contact us online.

Legal Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended solely for informational purposes. They neither constitute nor imply an official legal opinion on behalf of Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy and O’Connell nor do they establish an attorney-client relationship of any kind. Howland Hess O’Connell encourages all readers to seek and consult professional counsel before acting upon the information contained on this site.

Limited Tort v. Full Tort Car Insurance: PA Drivers Need to Know the Difference

In our last posting, we reviewed potential dangers for companies (LLC’s and incorporated businesses) who fail to comply with state requirements for limited liability protections. In today’s post we’ll look at the threat of individual damages sustained in a motor vehicle accident which may be non-compensable based on that individual’s choice of automobile insurance coverage, and ways to minimize your potential exposure to this risk.

Car crashIn Pennsylvania, auto insurance companies are required to provide consumers with a choice between “full tort” coverage and “limited tort” coverage. “Limited tort” means you have a limited right to claim damages from an at-fault driver causing a motor vehicle accident for pain and suffering and other damages which are not out of pocket losses, such as medical bills, wage loss and property damage. The insurance premiums for limited tort coverage are usually less expensive than full tort coverage; however, the selection of limited tort has the potential to cost consumers significantly more in the event they are involved in an accident.

However, there are exceptions to limited tort which would permit you to recover damages for pain, suffering and other non-monetary damages, even if you elected limited tort coverage: (1) If you are struck by a motor vehicle while a pedestrian or operating a bicycle; (2) if you are an occupant of a “non-private passenger” vehicle (e.g. a commercial vehicle); (3) if the at-fault driver is convicted, pleads guilty or is placed in ARD (Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (probation)) for driving under the Influence of alcohol or drugs; (4)if the at-fault driver’s vehicle is registered in a state other than Pennsylvania; (5) if the at-fault driver is uninsured; and (6) if you suffer a “serious injury.” A “serious injury” is defined as “death, serious impairment of bodily function or permanent serious disfigurement.” Whether or not your suffer a “serious impairment” or “serious disfigurement” is determined by a number of factors.

It is also important to note that the person making the tort election binds all relatives residing in the same household by that election if they don’t have their own policy. In addition, if you own a motor vehicle which is not insured you are automatically deemed to have limited tort.

We suggest that you take a look at your auto insurance policy and discuss with your agent or insurance company the election you have on your current policy. In Auto Insurancereviewing your policy, be aware that “Full Coverage” does not mean the same as “Full Tort Coverage.” Also note that there are other ways to reduce your premiums. For example, if you have personal health insurance, you may want to consider reducing the amount of medical coverage under your auto policy. You can also remove unnecessary coverage (i.e. collision for an older vehicle which has a low re-sale value) or increase your deductibles on the existing coverage.

This area of insurance law can be complicated, and each nuance cannot be addressed in one post. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact our personal injury attorneys – Bruce D. Hess, Esquire, Michael W. Cassidy, Esquire and Dennis R. Meakim, Esquire for more information.

Legal Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended solely for informational purposes. They neither constitute nor imply an official legal opinion on behalf of Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy and O’Connell nor do they establish an attorney-client relationship of any kind. Howland Hess O’Connell encourages all readers to seek and consult professional counsel before acting upon the information contained on this site.