Virginia: Car Accidents – a Lawyer’s Transit

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Trial is the monthly journal of the American Association for Justice (“AAJ”), formerly the American Trial Lawyers Association (“ATLA”). Its issue for February, 2016, is entitled “TRANSPORTATION” and features multiple articles involving vehicle crashes. “Transportation Bill Raises Railroad Liability Cap” covers the proposed increase in the accident liability for railroads from $200,000,000.00 to $295,000,000.00 plus consumer price index inflationary adjustments every 5 years. Id. at 14.

“America’s Crumbling Infrastructure” is a 4-part glimpse into our country’s underinvestment and outdated technology affecting its roads, bridges, mass transit, and bikeways. Id. at 19-29. First, “MASS TRANSIT GAPS” exposes that “mass transit system are cutting costs and corners – and gambling with riders safety, id. at 20 – as “aging infrastructure is undermined by chronic funding shortfalls”. Id. at 21. Second, “SORTING THROUGH THE RUBBLE” explains “understanding and adapting to the restrictive National Transportation Safety Board investigative process . . . for attorneys litigating transportation infrastructure cases”. Id. at 22-24. Third, “WHERE RUBBER MEETS THE ROAD” marquees that 11,000 people annually are injured by vehicle crashes related to unsafe pavement edges; “erosion and poor maintenance can separate a highway shoulder from the pavement edge;” and AASHTO’s Roadside Design Guide mandates “no vertical drop-off greater than 50 mm [2 inches] should occur” and “pavement edge drop-offs greater than 75 mm [3 inches] immediately adjacent to traffic should not be left overnight”. Id. at 25-27. Fourth, “BICYCLING IN AN AUTOMOBILE WORLD” alerts that infrastructure defects should be considered in evaluating a bicycle crash case, and that a research letter published in Journal of the American Medical Association in 2015 found during 1998-2013 that bicycle-related injuries increased by 28%; that hospital admissions for bicycle accidents increased by 120%; and that bicycle injuries occurring on streets increased from 40% to 56%. Id. at 28-29.

“Self-Driving Cars & the Bumpy Road Ahead” heralds that “autonomous vehicles” (“AV”) likely will reduce crashes and save lives, yet raises many unanswered questions about regulation, shortcomings and liability, e.g., hijacking of AV controls remotely. Id. at 30-37. “LAYERING TRUCKING REGULATIONS AND INDUSTRY SOURCES FOR MAXIMUM EFFECT” details how 49 C.F.R. §383.110, §383.111, §383.113 and §383.131 bridge the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (“FMCSR”) and the industry CDL Manual. Id. at 38-42. Lastly, “FINDING DIRECTION IN MOTOR VEHICLE ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION AND RECONSTRUCTION” underscores “there is no substitute for on-scene investigation done under similar weather conditions, time of day, and light levels as when the accident occurred”. Id. at 46-51.

The February 2016 issue of Trial also reports 3 motor vehicle accident settlements in its “Verdicts & Settlements”. “Officer Fatally Shoots Man Seeking Help After Collision” is a $2,250,000.00 North Carolina settlement. Id. at 10. “Inadequate Guardrail on Bridge” is a $20,000,000.00 California settlement. Id. “Improper U-turn” is a $375,000.00 California settlement. Id. at 12. Finally, Trial also reports a $7,750,000.00 Maryland jury award in “Sexual Assault of Teenage Workers”. Id.

Mr. Waterman has been a member of AAJ/ATLA over three decades. His practice focuses on vehicle accidents, medical malpractice, sexual abuse, and other cases of wrongful death, brain injuries, and other serious personal injuries.