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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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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Oct 11 2019

Understanding Liability and Negligence for Hunting Accidents

While cases like car accidents, pedestrian concerns and various traumatic injuries are those most commonly handled by personal injury attorneys, there are also several rarer and more unique types possible. Any situation where an individual has experienced injury or distress due to the negligence of another party could lead to a personal injury claim, and those making such claims will need the best representation on their side.

At the offices of William Rawlings & Associates LLC, we’re here to help. Our personal injury attorney services range from the most common case types to extremely rare ones, with a high-level legal team that can handle even your most unique concerns. One such rarer form of personal injury that’s nonetheless important to understand if you spend time in this activity area: Hunting accidents. Let’s look at some basic statistics on the frequency of these incidents, their causes and how to prevent them – plus what to do if you happen to be involved in such an accident.

liability negligence hunting accidents

Basic Statistics

According to survey data from the US Fish and Wildlife Service taken back in 2016, over 100 million people over the age of 16 go hunting each year in the United States. And while you might think this is a dangerous pursuit in general based on the use of firearms and other lethal weapons for hunting, the rate of accidents is actually very low.

In fact, combining with Canada, fewer than 1,000 people per year are the victims of shooting-related hunting accidents. Under 10 percent of these, or roughly 75 people per year, are killed in these accidents. The most common accident causes are mistaken hunters who think they’ve seen a deer or other prey, but end up shooting a person who is running or performing some other task.

And while these cases are rare, they can still happen – and in many situations, they’ll be caused by negligence that could lead to a personal injury claim.

Negligence Causes

In most cases, hunting injuries or deaths qualify as negligence cases – these require the injury victim to prove that the defendant did not take reasonable care, and was responsible for the accident. Some of the reasons a defendant might be considered negligent include:

  • The hunter did not responsibly handle their firearm.
  • The hunter did not learn how to discharge their weapon safely.
  • The hunter did not take care to ensure the area was cleared of potential human bystanders.

A parent teaching their child to hunt could be held liable for lack of training or supervision if the child is involved in the accident.

Caution and Responsiveness

For both hunters and non-hunters, it’s important to exercise major caution when in the woods or any other area where hunting takes place. Wear bright and reflective clothing, and apply intelligent firearm training and handling if you’re a hunter.

If you happen to be involved in a hunting accident in any way, contact our team of personal injury lawyers for assistance if a negligence or liability claim is being filed.

For more on any of our personal injury lawyer services, speak to the staff at the offices of William Rawlings & Associates LLC today.

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Aug 09 2019

Basics of EDR Vehicle Systems and Role in Accident Cases

At the offices of William Rawlings & Associates, LLC, we have a long history with car accident cases and can tell you about one common complicating factor: Hazy, unreliable memories. As authorities (and then later, personal injury attorneys) attempt to reconstruct the events of a given accident and determine who is at fault, imperfect memories – skewed even further by the trauma that just took place, in many cases – can make this process more difficult and complex.

Many know that the air industry has what are called black boxes, event recorders that keep track of important information in case there’s a crash or some other incident. Did you realize that modern vehicles have a version of this same technology as well? It’s called an event data recorder (EDR), and it’s a piece of technology that can often play a big role in auto accident injury and related personal injury cases. Here’s a primer on EDR systems and what you need to know about them.

EDR systems accident cases

EDR Basics and History

EDR systems were first created in the 1990s, and were originally designed as monitors for airbag deployment during vehicle accidents. Since then, they’ve increased their capacity significantly – they now record over 30 different data points, from seatbelt use to vehicle speed, brake usage, seat position, roll angles during a crash, weight of the occupants in their seats, and much more.

In the year 2014, US Congress passed a law requiring that all new vehicles manufactured in the country contain EDR systems. Most manufacturers had been using them well before this, however.

EDR Recording Types

There are two kinds of data recorded by EDR systems:

  • Deployment events: If any airbags in the vehicle deploy during the collision, all data from the event is permanently saved. This data includes information from just before the accident, during it, and then following it (about 20 seconds of data in total).
  • Nondeployment events: In cases where the airbags do not deploy, the same information will be tracked – but will only be stored for a period of time, then eventually overwritten. However, it can still be accessed in the short-term if necessary for investigators.

Reconstructing Accidents

As you might imagine, the data provided by EDR systems can be enormously valuable for helping reconstruct the events of an accident. Instead of working only with physical remnants of the accident and the memories of those involved, which can be hazy and outright unreliable in some cases after trauma, investigators can use the data provided to get a clearer picture. If you’re ever involved in an accident and believe the other party was at fault, contact our auto accident attorneys right away for help with locating and preserving EDR data for use in your case.

For more on EDR systems and how they can assist with vehicle accident cases, 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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Jul 19 2019

Personal Injury Claims and Pre-Existing Conditions

If you’ve suffered one of several forms of personal injury where another party is potentially liable, you’ll often be claiming compensation from the insurance company associated with this party. And as unfortunate as it may seem, while these companies are ostensibly in place to protect groups and individuals in case of incidents like this, insurance providers will often fight tooth and nail to avoid paying out this compensation if they don’t have to.

At the offices of William Rawlings & Associates, our personal injury attorneys have years of experience dealing with insurance companies and their various tactics for attempting to refuse payment to deserving clients. One common strategy these companies will take: Attempting to deny your claim based on what’s called a pre-existing condition. Let’s go over everything you need to know here.

personal injury pre-existing conditions

Insurance Companies and Pre-Existing Conditions

As we alluded to above, even if they attempt to claim otherwise, insurance companies generally aren’t on your side whatsoever as you attempt to seek damages for an accident. One of their top potential tactics is using a pre-existing medical condition you already had present as the reason for injuries that were actually caused by a vehicle accident that, in reality, had nothing to do with the condition in question.

Unfortunately, this reflects the fact that insurance companies are for-profit businesses that want to keep their profits high. Even when it involves morally questionable areas like erroneously leaning on your medical history to direct the blame for your injuries elsewhere, they’re willing to do it. They’ll generally attempt to prove that your injury was solely caused by your pre-existing condition, and not in any way cause or even aggravated by the accident in question.

Pre-Existing Condition Examples

There are a number of pre-existing conditions insurance companies may look to here, including (but not limited to) each of the following:

  • Various heart conditions
  • High blood pressure
  • Asthma or allergies
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Depression
  • Type 2 diabetes

Complications from various past medical treatments you’ve received (this one is particularly common if you’ve had any recent surgeries or operations).

Making a Successful Claim

A few areas that are important for ensuring an insurance company is not successful at erroneously placing the blame for an accident on your pre-existing condition include:

  • Doctor: You should see a doctor or another medical professional as soon as possible after the accident. They can specifically document the injuries you suffered due to the accident, including exacerbation of prior conditions due to the accident (if the accident is proven to have not been your fault, you’ll be due compensation in this case).
  • Truthfulness: Never lie about your pre-existing condition – insurance companies have high-level researchers in their employ, and they’ll find out the truth. If you are dishonest, this can be used against you in court.
  • Police: Cooperate with all police and first responders after an accident, plus ask for a full police report to use as evidence in your case.

For more on avoiding circumstances where an insurance company denies your claim based on a pre-existing condition, or to learn about any of our personal injury or auto accident attorney services, speak to the staff at the offices of William Rawlings & Associates today.

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Jul 12 2019

Fault and Liability for Construction Zone Vehicle Accidents

While we wish it were not the case, construction zones on or near roadways are potential hotbeds for accidents and hazardous conditions. A far-too-large number of both construction workers and drivers alike are hurt or even killed in work zones due to traffic accidents every year, in many cases due to negligence by one party or another.

At the offices of William Rawlings & Associates, LLC, we’re proud to provide auto accident injury attorney services for a variety of car accident types, including those that take place in or around construction zones. Let’s look at some data on how common these incidents are, some important information on both driver and work zone responsibility, and how to handle things if you believe you have a case against another party in this realm following an accident.

liability construction zone accidents

Data on Construction Zones and Accidents

Per a study by the Federal Highway Administration back in 2010, construction zone sites featured nearly 90,000 vehicle accidents per year at the time of the research – numbers that have only increased in the subsequent years. Those accidents led to nearly 40,000 injuries, plus significant property damage and, of course, many deaths.

In addition, hundreds of road construction workers are hurt or killed in work zones every year. These deaths or injuries are often avoidable based on a few important factors, which we’ll discuss below.

Driver Responsibility

It’s important to note that despite the fact that construction zones do often present different road conditions or even potential hazards, drivers in these areas have reasonable levels of responsibility placed on them. They must remain within the proper directed areas within any work zone, and also need to be paying attention, observing the speed limit and preparing themselves in case of being instructed in any way by a licensed construction zone worker. Failure to meet any of these basic standards could mean liability for an accident rests at the feet of the driver in many situations.

Work Zone Requirements and Possible Issues

In addition to driver requirements, there are several basic conditions that must be met by construction zone organizers and workers to ensure the area is safe near a roadway:

  • Signage: Signs must be both correct and easily legible, plus not confusing or misleading in any way.
  • Warnings: In any situation where lanes close, shift or merge, or when a significant change in speed is required, drivers must be given sufficient visual warning.
  • Cones and barrels: Cones and barrels are regularly used to mark off certain construction areas, and they must be placed correctly.
  • Dangerous road conditions: Pavement that’s uneven, blocked, contains large holes or isn’t properly lighted should be limited, and must be identified to drivers.

Vehicles: Construction vehicles entering or leaving the primary roadway must do so carefully and without being reckless.

Accidents and Liability

If you’ve been involved in an accident in a construction zone, the above factors will go a long way toward determining fault and liability. If you feel a construction zone has not met any of the above-stated conditions, you might have a claim against this party – contact our car accident attorneys right away to find out more.

For more on this or any of our other personal injury attorney services, speak to the staff at the offices of William Rawlings & Associates today.

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Jun 14 2019

Getting Just Compensation After Motorcycle Accidents

For those who ride motorcycles as a primary form of transportation, safety is vital. Motorcycle riders are eight times more likely to be injured in an accident than passengers in a vehicle, and these injuries are often severe due to limited protection for those riding them.

At the Law Offices of William Rawlings & Associates, LLC, we’re here to help if you have a motorcycle accident injury and believe you may have a case for damages against a liable party. Unfortunately, there are a few strange misconceptions out there that may impact the way your case goes – let’s clear these up and look at some common statistics and case values for motorcycle accidents, plus how you can get your just compensation.

just compensation motorcycle accidents

Motorcycle Injury Statistics

There are a high number of motorcycle accidents in the United States each year, and while precise figures vary based on the source, there’s no question that over 5,000 drivers die each year due to motorcycle collisions. Nearly another 90,000 will be injured in such accidents.

As we noted above, these accidents often come with major injury risks. Even minor motorcycle collisions pose significant such risks to those riding them, especially if any safety equipment is lacking at the time.

Common Prejudice Against Motorcyclists

Unfortunately, there’s a common prejudice that may make its way into certain folks’ opinion of motorcycle-related accidents. Like it or not, some people view motorcycles as inherently dangerous or flashy, and thus will attempt to pin the blame for any accident involving them on the motorcycle driver – even if the incident clearly was not their fault in reality.

Speaking of reality, it doesn’t line up with this perception. A high percentage of motorcyclists are at least 40 years old, not the daredevil youths some are imagining, and well over half of all collisions involving motorcycles are actually caused by drivers of other vehicles. An experienced personal injury attorney will be able to highlight these important realities to all necessary parties during your case.

Case Value Potential

Per information form Jury Verdict Research, motorcycle injury verdicts are often quite high, with a median approaching $75,000 per case for years in the early 2000s (amounts that have gone up since due to inflation and other factors). Know that if you’ve been injured in such a situation, you could potentially have a claim for a high dollar value.

Dealing With Insurance Companies

Unfortunately, like with other car accident formats, your insurance company is not actually always trying to help you here. Rather, they’re trying to find reasons not to pay out compensation for an accident, such as attempting to prove you were at fault when this isn’t the case. Luckily, our attorneys are here to represent your interests to these bodies and get you the compensation you deserve, whether through a fair settlement or even a trial process.

For more on motorcycle accidents and liability, or to learn about any of our personal injury lawyer services, speak to the staff at the Law Offices of William Rawlings & Associates, LLC today.

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May 03 2019

Understanding Common Forms of Distracted Driving

There are several potential causes to vehicle accidents on the road, and one of the most common and dangerous is distracted driving. Distracted driving is a broad category that can refer to several specific types of distraction, from visual ones to manual or even cognitive issues.

At the offices of William Rawlings & Associates, LLC, we’re here to tell you that regardless of which type of distraction was the cause, you could be owed damages if you were injured in a car accident caused by a distracted driver. Here are some basics on defining this term, how an auto accident injury attorney can help, plus an investigation into a few specific examples of distracted driving – including a couple that some people mistakenly think don’t put them at risk for liability if they cause an accident.

common forms distracted driving

Defining Distracted Driving

Simply put, the law defines distracted driving as any behavior or activity that turns the driver’s attention away from the task of driving. Many of the basics here come back to simple science: Even a single second spent looking away from the road in front of you will cause you to be unaware for a huge amount of ground covered, particularly if your vehicle is traveling at a high rate of speed.
For this reason, anything that causes this sort of diversion of attention could be considered a distraction. While we’re about to lay out a few specific examples of the most common forms of distracted driving, know that a far greater number of potential actions or distractions could also fit the bill, and you should be aware of them at all times when operating a vehicle.

Cell Phones and Texting

In today’s modern day, texting on cell phones is considered the single most dangerous type of distracted driving facing US drivers. It is responsible for literally thousands of deaths on the road every year, plus untold additional thousands of injuries. This is extremely straightforward: Not only does texting require a driver to move their eyes from the road to a phone, it takes at least one hand off the wheel and uses it for another purpose.
In addition, several other phone behaviors outside texting may cause distraction. Talking on the phone can apply if you aren’t using fully hands-free devices, and even voice commands may distract the brain. Those looking to fully avoid distractions will not use their phones at all while driving.

Daydreaming or Preoccupation

This is a bit more of a nebulous category, but distraction can also be easily caused by our own mental picture. Daydreaming or distraction are particularly common for tired drivers, part of the reason you often see reminders to pull over and rest if you feel tired while driving.

Rubbernecking

It’s often used as the butt of jokes due to it’s silly-sounding name, but rubbernecking – or slowing down and losing focus on driving so as to view accidents or other things happening on the side of the road – is extremely dangerous. It’s the cause of numerous additional accidents, in fact, and is a form of distracted driving that is not viewed favorably by courts.

For more on the common types of distracted driving, or to learn about any of our car accident or personal injury attorney services, speak to the staff at the offices of William Rawlings & Associates today.

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Apr 05 2019

Sporting Events and Personal Injury Liability Concerns

At the offices of William Rawlings & Associates, we’ve seen virtually every variety of personal injury case out there. While the most common in this category are car accidents and those involving other vehicle types, we also handle cases involving various other injuries, dog bite claims and even trampoline-related injuries.

The moral of the story here: You can be injured in many situations, and just because yours isn’t one of the most common for a personal injury case doesn’t mean you can’t receive compensation if another party was at fault for your injuries. One great example of this is with injuries sustained at a sporting event – let’s go over when you may or may not have liability claims in these relatively unique circumstances.
sporting events personal injury liability

Assumption of Risk

It’s important to note that when you attend a sporting event, particularly one put on by a professional-level team like the Utah Jazz or Real Salt Lake, there’s a legal element known as “assumption of risk” that you are taking. This assumption will generally be expressed in several areas: On your tickets themselves, plus at multiple locations within the arena or stadium. They will also generally be repeated by a public service announcer at some point before the event begins.
Generally speaking, these assumptions cover the reasonable, inherent risks presented by whatever sport you’re viewing. If you’re at a baseball game, then, it’s reasonable to expect that baseballs may fly into the crowd at some point, and you have to be watching for them – if you’re hit by one and weren’t paying attention, you won’t have a claim against the ballpark, for instance. This same level of reasonable assumption applies to any sport based on the basic rules, fields and materials used during play.

Exceptions to Risk Assumption

Now, assumption of risk is not a cover-all rule for arenas or the groups putting on these events. There’s also a reasonable expectation that the venue provide the adequate protections that should be in place.
Take a hockey rink, for example, which in recent decades have all installed protective nettings behind each goal to stop speeding pucks from flying up into the crowd and hitting spectators. If this netting is faulty in a rink you attend and results in a puck injuring you, you very well might have a liability claim against the venue.

Unforeseeable Events

There are other cases where events no one could have predicted lead to injury cases. Often these are incidents between fans, such as fights or similar events. If you’re unsure whether such an event qualifies, ask one of our personal injury lawyers, who can clarify for you.

Safe, Secure Facility

Finally, as we touched on above, it’s the venue’s responsibility to provide a safe and secure facility. This means well-maintained premises, including proper lighting and a maintenance staff that keeps walkways and other public areas clear. It also means hiring and maintaining proper security – certain personal injury cases involving sporting events related to issues where non-adequate security was present to prevent an incident.

For more on whether or not an injury sustained at a sporting event might leave you with a personal injury claim, or for information on any of our personal injury attorney services, speak to the staff at the offices of William Rawlings & Associates today.

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Mar 15 2019

Emerging Future Trends in Personal Injury Cases

Through our years of assisting clients with a variety of personal injury cases at the offices of William Rawlings & Associates, we’ve noted a number of trends. Whether due to changes in technology, laws, or some combination of other factors, there are stretches where certain kinds of cases become much more common.

Keeping an eye to these kinds of trends is valuable, not only to us but to our clients. With them, we can help advise you on the types of incidents that are on the rise and help you avoid any of their primary risks. With that in mind, here are a few of the areas that many in the personal injury world expect to be some of the biggest emerging sectors in the coming years.
emerging trends personal injury cases

Ridesharing Services

In a process we’ve gone over in this space in the past, ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft continue to be on the rise throughout the country. This is particularly true in larger metropolitan areas like Salt Lake City, where there are tons of drivers working for these services – and not all of them are safe or properly qualified.

These companies do have insurance policies in place to protect customers and drivers, but due to how new these services still are in many areas, there’s still some gray in terms of how settlements and compensation are worked out in cases where a rideshare driver is responsible for an accident. You car accident attorney can help you with the ins and outs here, many of which are becoming clearer with each passing year.

Drone Usage

Also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), drones are also experiencing a huge surge in popularity in recent years. They’re used in both the professional and recreational spaces, with a number of practical and entertainment uses.

But as they continue to become more popular, though, the conversation has shifted in some circles to their safety and regulation. What happens if a poorly piloted drone falls from the air and injures you, for instance? Who is responsible? This gets into areas of product liability and invasions of privacy, all of which our personal injury lawyers can assess for you.

Cell Phones and Distracted Driving

The primary causes of many vehicle accidents have shifted over the years, and one of the top items on the list in recent years is distracted driving due to cell phones. Our smartphones offer more information and entertainment than ever before, and even despite hands-free and car-safe formats, many people still continue to use these unsafely while on the road. Distracted driving itself is not new, of course, but both law enforcement and safety organizations are highly interested in curbing the cell phone usage that often causes it today – and these issues are important parts of resulting personal injury cases, as well.

For more on which areas of personal law are becoming more common, or to learn about any of our personal injury lawyer services, speak to the staff at the offices of William Rawlings & Associates today.

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