Jan 17 2020

How Drowsy Driving Factors into Personal Injury Cases

There are many potential causes for vehicle accidents that take place on the road, and one that doesn’t get enough attention in general is drowsy driving. A huge percentage of US drivers have driven while drowsy or even fallen asleep while driving a car, a wildly dangerous action that puts not only your own life but other lives in danger.

At the offices of William Rawlings & Associates, drowsy driving cases are just one of many auto accident injury cases our attorneys help handle for clients who deserve compensation based on injury due to another’s negligence. Drowsy driving absolutely counts as a form of negligence; let’s go over the facts behind why it’s dangerous, plus its signs and how it plays in personal injury cases.

drowsy driving personal injury cases

Is Drowsy Driving Really Dangerous?

Simply put: Yes. Drowsy driving is absolutely dangerous, both for you and those on the road around you. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF), which we’ll cite again momentarily for some numbers on drowsy driving, tells us that anyone driving after being awake for at least 18 hours consecutively is driving under effects similar to that of a .05 blood alcohol concentration – that’s the current legal alcohol limit in the state of Utah, one for which you can receive a DUI.

After 24 hours of being awake, this number increases to a .10 BAC, double the legal limit for driving in Utah. This means your reaction time will be slower, your judgment will be impaired and you will not make the proper decisions as a driver.

Drowsy Driving Numbers

Per the NSF, the numbers behind drowsy driving are startling and worrisome. Roughly 60% of drivers surveyed in one of their polls said they have driven while drowsy at some point, and a full 37% said they have actually fallen asleep while driving. Many say they cannot tell if they’re about to fall asleep while driving.

Signs of Drowsy Driving

There are many potential signs that you might be too tired to drive. These include common yawning, snapping in and out of attention based on vibrations of the vehicle, and not having a clear memory of the areas you just drove through.

If you fear you are too drowsy to drive, there’s only one solution: Stop driving. Have someone else drive if possible, or take a short nap on the side of the road.

Drowsy Driving and Personal Injury Cases

Unlike DUI cases, where specific blood alcohol or other tests can be used to determine if the driver was impaired and this evidence can be admitted into the resulting personal injury case, there is no such test for drowsy driving. This can make personal injury cases more complex, but there are absolutely still situations where drowsy driving can be proven and the driver in question can be held liable for injuries or damages sustained by victims.

For more on the risks of drowsy driving, or to learn about any of our auto accident attorney or other personal injury services, speak to the staff at the offices of William Rawlings & Associates today.

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Jan 10 2020

Eggshell Plaintiff Rule and Pre-Existing Conditions, Part 2

In part one of this two-part blog series, we went over some of the basics on personal injury, pre-existing medical conditions and the Eggshell Plaintiff Rule. This rule essentially states that in cases where an injured party in a liability case had a pre-existing condition that may have made the incident worse, the party responsible for the injury is liable for the full extent of the injury regardless.

At the offices of William Rawlings & Associates, we’ve provided our personal injury attorney services to numerous clients with pre-existing conditions looking to receive compensation despite insurance companies’ efforts to deny them based on such conditions. In today’s part two, we’ll go over a basic example of the Eggshell Plaintiff Rule at play, plus how you’ll want to proceed in such cases and some of the pre-existing conditions that may play a role in such cases.

eggshell plaintiff pre-existing conditions

Eggshell Plaintiff Example

As a simple example of the Eggshell Plaintiff Rule, imagine you’re in a vehicle accident caused by your own negligence because you were writing a message on your cell phone. The accident is a small one, with only light vehicle damage that likely won’t cost a ton in a simple settlement.

However, the victim in this case happened to have a pre-existing back condition, one that was exacerbated significantly by the accident’s force. In this case, the Eggshell Plaintiff Rule states that you as a defendant must take the victim as they are found – the victim will have a right to damages for all exacerbation or worsening of their condition due to the accident, even if such costs are far higher than the accident would have cost normally.

How to Proceed

If you’re on the flip side of the above equation and have been injured due to someone else’s negligence in an incident that worsened a pre-existing condition, it’s vital to take the proper steps, which our attorneys will assist you with. Here are some basics:

  • Seek immediate medical attention, during which you fully disclose all pre-existing conditions and ask the doctor to compare past medical records and tests with current ones for an objective picture of how the accident worsened your condition.
  • Do not lie about or exaggerate your pre-existing condition in any way, as insurance companies will research it.
  • Consult with your attorney about the proper argument that the incident weakened your pre-existing condition and made you more susceptible to larger and newer injuries.

Examples of Pre-Existing Conditions

Here are just some of the pre-existing conditions insurance companies may try to use to deny a personal injury claim:

  • Heart conditions
  • Major degenerative disc disease
  • Osteoporosis or osteoarthritis
  • High blood pressure
  • Asthma
  • Depression
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Complications from various recent or historical medical treatments

For more on pre-existing conditions and the Eggshell Plaintiff Rule, or to learn about any of our car accident attorney or other personal injury attorney services, speak to the staff at the offices of William Rawlings & Associates today.

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Jan 03 2020

Eggshell Plaintiff Rule and Pre-Existing Conditions, Part 1

If you’ve recently suffered an injury that you believe was the fault of another party’s negligence for which you might be due compensation, you might be worried about being able to collect damages based on a pre-existing condition. Those who have dealt with insurance companies in the past know they will try to find any excuse to avoid paying out damages, and one such area is pre-existing conditions in patients that they will claim were the cause of their issue rather than a personal injury situation.

At the offices of William Rawlings & Associates, we’re here to ensure your liability claim does not get denied based on a pre-existing condition that was exacerbated or worsened due to someone else’s negligence. We handle a wide variety of personal injury cases, from car and truck accident injury lawyer services to wrongful death and numerous other case types. In this two-part blog, we’ll go over everything you need to know about pre-existing conditions and the role they may play in your case, including a vital area known as the Eggshell Plaintiff Rule that often applies.

eggshell plaintiff pre-existing conditions

Insurance, Personal Injury and Pre-Existing Conditions

Sadly, as we noted above, most insurance companies are not really here to help plaintiffs or those injured in these cases receive their just compensation. Rather, they’re looking for any and all potential reasons to avoid paying out such settlements.

In cases where the plaintiff in a personal injury case has a pre-existing medical condition, this is often the primary area the insurance company will seize onto as they try to fight the charges. They will attempt to claim and prove that injuries suffered in the case were only due to the pre-existing condition, and not due to anything that happened during the incident in question.

Eggshell Plaintiff Rule

However, in most such cases, you as a plaintiff will have an important rule on your side, one known as the Eggshell Plaintiff Rule. This states that any defendant in a personal injury or liability case must take the victim in question “as they are found” – this means that if the victim happens to be someone who is at a higher risk for injury than average, including those who have pre-existing conditions, the defendant remains liable for all damages.

It’s important to note here that this rule holds true even if it’s highly likely the defendant would have paid far less in an identical case where the victim did not have increased injury risk. Damages covered by the Eggshell Plaintiff Rule can include medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and often even punitive damages or damages for emotional distress.

In part two of this blog, we’ll go over examples of the Eggshell Plaintiff Rule, plus examples of pre-existing conditions and how to ensure they don’t create an issue in your case. To learn more about this or any of our personal injury attorney services, speak to the staff at the offices of William Rawlings & Associates today.

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Dec 20 2019

Taking Pictures to Document an Auto Accident Scene

If you’re involved in a vehicle accident, especially one where you believe there’s even a chance another party was at fault, the time period directly after the accident is very important. While we realize this is a stressful and potentially traumatic period, it’s also the very best time to collect evidence that may prove extremely valuable in your upcoming liability case.

At the offices of William Rawlings & Associates, we’ve been providing auto accident injury attorney services and other personal injury solutions for many years. We’re happy to provide you with tips or expertise on the value of evidence obtained from the scene of an auto accident, particularly one of the most important types out there: Photographs. In today’s day and age where virtually everyone has a smartphone that can take pictures, it’s vital to document the scene of the crash in visual detail. Here are some important areas and themes to ensure you take detailed pictures of at the site of a vehicle accident.

pictures document auto accident

Overall Scene

First and foremost, you should take broad pictures of the entire accident scene, showing the entire area in full. Look for wide-angle shots from a few different perspectives, allowing anyone who views the pictures to have a simple understanding of the scene plus the positioning of things like stop signs, traffic signals and road markings.

If the incident caused skid marks or other items on the road, take pictures of these as well. Look for any missing vehicle parts or other pieces of evidence that will help establish the pattern that led to the accident.

Any Visible Injuries

Another vital area to ensure you have visual documentation of is any injuries you’ve sustained as a result of the crash. We’re talking cuts, scrapes, bruises and any other injuries that can be easily seen. If you are incapacitated or must receive medical attention for injuries, ask either a friend or family member – or even medical staff, if necessary – to take pictures for you.

One note here: Always seek medical attention for any serious injuries before you attempt to take pictures. Your health comes first.

All Vehicles Involved

To whatever degree possible, take pictures of the cars involved and the damage that occurred to them. Note the positions they’re in and try to take pictures from multiple angles so there is no doubt about the contents of the documentation. Be sure to take pictures of both the damage to your own car and that to any other vehicles involved in the accident, as both could be relevant for your case.

For more on taking the right kinds of pictures after an auto accident to use as evidence in a liability case, or to learn about any of our other personal injury attorney services, speak to the staff at the offices of William Rawlings & Associates today.

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Dec 13 2019

Coverage for Vehicle Repairs During Accident Liability Cases

If you’ve been involved in a vehicle accident where you believe another party was at fault, there are multiple types of damages you could be seeking. These could be to pay for medical bills and other results of your pain and suffering, they could relate to emotional distress, or they might speak to paying for repairs to damage to your vehicle.

At the offices of William Rawlings & Associates, our auto accident injury attorneys are here to help you get your just compensation if this has happened to you. We’ll help you understand all the ins and outs of a car accident case, including vital information on how repairs will be covered and handled depending on the fault in the case. Here are some basics you might need to know about this area moving forward.

vehicle repairs accident liability cases

No-Fault Insurance and Collision Coverage

For starters, it’s important to know that Utah is a no-fault state when it comes to auto accidents and resulting damages. This means that your own vehicle insurance covers your economic damages all the way up to its policy limits – in cases where you believe someone else is at fault, however, you file a lawsuit against that driver.

Because there is not necessarily a guarantee of winning such a lawsuit, however, we highly recommend purchasing collision coverage in addition to your own basic car insurance policy. In situations where your claim is not successful, your basic no-fault insurance does not apply to vehicle damages, rather only to economic ones.

If you do not have collision insurance in this case, you could be on the hook for the entire cost of the repairs. And on the flip side, if you happen to be at fault in an accident at any point, collision coverage will also pay for your repairs in this case.

At-Fault Drivers and Liability

In cases where fault can be proven in another party, the at-fault driver will be responsible for paying for the repairs of any innocent party’s vehicle. This is generally done using the insurance of the at-fault driver, which can range up the policy limits. If this policy comes up short, a claim will be filed against the driver’s insurance company to help cover the difference.

Total Loss Situations

If the estimate for repairs needed on your damaged vehicle exceeds the Blue Book value of the vehicle itself, it’s likely the vehicle will be declared a total loss. In these cases, rather than insurance covering repairs, it will pay you out the Blue Book value on your vehicle from the time of the accident.

For more on how to handle vehicle repairs in auto accident liability cases, or to learn about any of our personal injury attorney services, speak to the staff at William Rawlings & Associates today.

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Dec 06 2019

Basics on Utah’s Specific Personal Injury Laws, Part 2

In part one of this two-part blog series, we went over some of the specific statutes and laws that govern common personal injury cases in Utah. Every state has different rules and regulations for these areas, and these can vary pretty significantly even between states that share borders.

At the offices of William Rawlings & Associates, our personal injury attorneys are here to help you manage any case within our purview, from auto accident cases to wrongful death, dog bite or attack situations and many others. In today’s part two, we’ll go over a few additional areas to be aware of that pertain specifically to the way Utah state law treats certain kinds of personal injury cases.

utah’s personal injury laws

Dog Bite Liability Laws

There are many states in the US that observe that’s known as a “one bite” rule. This rule allows protection for dog owners for only the very first time their dog bites someone, so long as there is no apparent reason the owner could have suspected the dog to be dangerous.

In Utah, though, there is no such rule. In particular, part of the Utah state code makes dog owners strictly liable for their animal’s behavior, even if there is no past history of aggression or violence. If you are bitten by someone else’s dog, there is no burden of proof required that the dog was vicious or violent or that the owner knew about it – the owner of the dog is liable regardless.

Government-Involved Injury Cases

In cases where you are injured or harmed in some way due to negligence from a government employee or agency in Utah, it’s important to know that a different set of standards will be applied to your case. One major area to note here is the time period, which differs from traditional personal injury cases – you have a full year to file a claim in these cases, plus another year to file an appeal if your claim is denied originally.

Our attorneys can provide you with further information on government-related cases if needed.

Medical Malpractice Injury Damage Caps

Along with many other states, Utah places a cap or limit on certain kinds of damages in personal injury cases – namely non-economic or “pain and suffering” damages for medical malpractice. In such cases, the cap for damages is $450,000 so long as the issue occurred on or after May 15, 2010. If the issue occurred before then, there is a sliding scale used that our attorneys will explain to you. This cap, however, does not apply to economic or punitive damages, and only applies to medical malpractice, not all personal injury cases.

For more on specific Utah laws that govern certain personal injury areas, or to learn about any of our attorney services, speak to the staff at the offices of William Rawlings & Associates today.

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Nov 15 2019

Basics on Utah’s Specific Personal Injury Laws, Part 1

When it comes to personal injury cases of a variety of types, rules and regulations vary fairly widely between states. Every state has its own set of laws and statutes that apply to personal injury cases, whether they’re in the form of vehicle accidents or numerous other injury types that could take place.

At the offices of William Rawlings & Associates, we’re here to help with any and all Utah-specific statutes or laws for any personal injury case. Our personal injury attorneys will help you navigate any restrictions or roadblocks that come up along the way, all with a detailed knowledge of the applicable laws here and how they apply to your case. In this two-part blog series, we’ll go over some of the specifics of Utah law as it relates to personal injury, auto accidents and other specific case types that might come up.

Utah’s specific personal injury laws

Shared Fault

For non-vehicle accident injury cases in Utah, it’s important to note that the state has what’s called a shared fault system in place. This means that injury cases can have more than one party that’s at fault, and liability cases may reflect partial fault from multiple parties.

In some cases, this rule – known as the comparative fault rule – may reduce the damages you can recover from another party. In these situations, the goal of a judge or jury will be to ascertain a percentage of fault for each party involved. If you are found to have at least 50% of the fault, you may not be allowed to collect damages at all.

Example of Shared Fault

Let’s go over a basic example of shared fault in an injury case. Let’s say you’re in a restaurant and you trip and fall on a broken floor tile, breaking your arm as you land. The restaurant did not properly mark the broken floor tile, but at the same time, multiple witnesses saw you distracted by your cell phone and not looking where you were going when you fell.

In this case, a court will factor both these considerations into a decision on fault. They may determine you were 20% at fault for not paying full attention, but the restaurant was 80% at fault for the dangerous conditions on their premises. If your total damages were set at $20,000, you would actually only receive $16,000 in this case under the comparative fault rule. As we noted, if you’re determined to have at least 50% of the fault, your damages will likely drop to zero and you cannot collect any compensation.

No-Fault Car Insurance

In car accident cases, on the other hand, things are very different. Utah is among many no-fault states, which means that after an accident, your insurance company will cover your medical expenses and lost income – even if you believe another party was at fault for the accident.

Only in cases where your case meets a “serious injury” threshold can you hold the other driver liable, meaning this is the primary area our attorneys will look to help you prove. In these cases, you can step outside the no-fault system and file a liability claim. Our auto accident injury attorneys will help explain what meets the criteria for “serious injury” in your case.

For more on Utah-specific personal injury regulations, or to learn about any of our personal injury attorney services, speak to the staff at the offices of William Rawlings & Associates today.

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Nov 08 2019

Understanding Timing Requirements for Auto Accident Injury Claims

If you believe you’ve been the victim of negligence or any other issue that puts another party at fault for personal injury or property damage after a car accident, one of the first things you may be wondering about is how soon you have to file such a claim. Various laws have their own sets of statutes and limitations, and some worry they have to file quickly or else risk letting the statue expire.

At the offices of William Rawlings & Associates, LLC, we’re here to help with this and any other auto accident attorney services you may be requiring. Let’s go over our basic recommendations on filing your claim, what the Utah statute of limitations is for these kinds of issues, and some documents to ensure you have in order when preparing to file.

timing requirements auto accident claims

General Recommendations

Generally speaking, we always recommend you file a claim for a vehicle accident as soon as realistically possible following the event. Insurers and the at-fault party will try to use any tactic they can to hurt your case, and one such tactic might be muddying the waters by claiming they can’t accurately determine how much damage was caused since you took so much time to file.

While this is generally a spurious argument to begin with, it begins to hold a bit more weight if you wait too long to file. Our attorneys will advise you on the precise timing you should consider for your claim.

Utah Statute of Limitations

The Utah statute of limitations for personal injury cases involving personal harm or property harm in a vehicle accident is four years. If you do not file it within this period of time, the Utah court system is within their rights to refuse to hear it whatsoever. For more specifics on this, you can view the Utah Code with the full text on injury cases and their statute of limitations.

Important Documents for Filing a Claim

There are a few important documents to ensure you have in order for your filing, something our personal injury lawyers will help you with. Here are the most vital:

  • Police report: You should have filed a police report at the time of the accident, plus ensured you took the report number. This is to ensure the proper evidence is brought to court and the case isn’t decided by your word against another’s.
  • Medical documents: If you have to go to the hospital or emergency room as a result of your injuries, or even have to have a future medical appointment due to lingering whiplash issues, keep all the paperwork for your filing.
  • Insurance information: Be sure you get insurance information from the other driver, plus their contact information. Record their license plate as well.

For more on the timing involved in filing auto accident injury claims, or to learn about any of our personal injury attorney services, speak to the staff at the offices of William Rawlings & Associates today.

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Nov 01 2019

Determining Liability for Bicycle Accidents With Vehicles

While many are aware of the fact that they can seek compensation if they’re injured in a car accident by a negligent driver, you might not know that the same theme applies for bicycle riders. Unfortunately, a great number of cyclists are hit by vehicles during the course of a given year, and there are many such cases where driver negligence was the underlying cause and the bicyclist might have a liability claim against this party.

At the offices of William Rawlings & Associates, LLC, we’re here to help if you’ve been injured in a bicycle accident, just the same way we would be if you were injured in a typical car or motorcycle accident. We’ve spent 35 years as advocates for victims of such events, and we’ll represent you with vigor and expertise in these and other personal injury lawyer needs. Let’s look at some of the basics on bicycle accident negligence, bicycle hit-and-run situations, and how you should respond in the aftermath of such an accident if one occurs.

liability bicycle accidents vehicles

Bicycle Accident Negligence

In any case where a bicyclist is hit by a vehicle on the road, the goal of the judge and jury in a resulting liability case will be to determine which party’s negligence caused the accident. If a vehicle driver is speeding, running a stop sign, drifting into a designated bike lane or breaking the law in any other way at the time of the accident, this will often be used as evidence of negligence.

For cyclists, on the other hand, negligence could refer to riding the wrong way on a certain street, turning unexpectedly into traffic or running a red light. Cyclists are required to obey the rules of the road when they’re on it just like vehicle drivers – do not simply assume that the other party is liable if the accident was a result of you being reckless or ignorant to your surroundings.

Hit-and-Runs

Just like accidents involving two vehicles, hit-and-runs are a risk in bicycle accidents as well. A driver may flee the scene after, an act that’s a felony if they had reason to believe you were injured by drove away anyway. In these cases, working with police to identify the party responsible will save you from having to use your own insurance to cover any medical bills or repairs.

How to React

If you are involved in an accident with a vehicle as a cyclist, the first and most important step involves remaining at the scene for police to arrive. You should do this even if you don’t believe you are injured, as many injuries don’t show up until hours later. Make sure your version of events are recorded by officers, along with those of any witnesses who can corroborate your story. Also be sure to take pictures if possible.

For more on bicycle accidents, or to learn about any of our personal injury attorney services, speak to the staff at the offices of William Rawlings & Associates, LLC today.

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Oct 18 2019

Assessing Liability in Ride-Sharing Vehicle Accidents

At the offices of William Rawlings & Associates LLC, one of the most common needs for our attorney services is in the realm of car and truck accidents. Sadly, there are tens of thousands of vehicle accidents, injuries and even deaths per year, many of which are caused by negligence or other factors that necessitate a personal injury claim.

One area here that’s on a major rise over the last several years is incidents that take place involving a ride-sharing company such as Uber or Lyft. More and more Americans are utilizing these services every year, but the legal field is still catching up in terms of liability when accidents take place involving ride-sharing drivers. Let’s go over some basic numbers here, the role insurance plays and the limited likelihood of successfully bringing suit against these companies directly.

liability ride-sharing vehicle accidents

Ride-Sharing Usage and Increasing Accident Deaths

While there is not necessarily direct proof to link these two trends, traffic incidents and fatalities have gone up over the last few years – at a similar rate to the increase in ride-sharing services, per several area of research. This has led some to speculate that more ride-sharing drivers are clogging the roads and helping contribute to a greater number of traffic incidents. And whether or not this is the case, the fact remains that many people utilize these services and need to be prepared in case an incident takes place during such a ride.

Which Insurance Applies?

In cases where you’re injured as the passenger of a ride-sharing service and your driver is at fault, the insurance coverage of the individual driver is the first place to check. If this person has a commercial insurance policy or a personal policy that includes a ride-sharing provision, you’ll be covered. The problem: Most Uber and Lyft drivers do not have this kind of insurance.

Luckily, Uber and Lyft carry third-party liability insurance coverage up to $1 million for personal and property injuries. These kick in after the driver’s own policy is used up, if applicable, so you’re covered in these cases regardless.

What about situations where your driver is not at fault and the incident was caused by another motorist? In these circumstances, you’d seek coverage from the at-fault driver’s insurance via an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit. In rare cases where this third party does not have car insurance that will cover your injuries, ride-sharing companies also offer a $1 million policy for uninsured or underinsured cases.

Suits Against Ride-Sharing Companies

Uber and Lyft list their drivers as independent contractors, not employees, in large part so they don’t have to be legally responsible for driver negligence. For this reason, it’s generally very difficult to bring and win a personal injury suit directly against these companies. While you’ll generally be able to take advantage of their $1 million policies for negligence issues, suing them directly usually isn’t a viable option.

For more on who is responsible for damages in a ride-sharing vehicle accident, or to learn about any of our auto accident attorney services, speak to the staff at the offices of William Rawlings & Associates LLC today.

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