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Wisconsin Personal Injury Law Blog

Remember to drive safely this Labor Day weekend

Long recognized as the unofficial end of summer, the Labor Day holiday weekend typically sees a healthy volume of travelers, as people are anxious to squeeze in one more trip before children have to head back to school and the weather starts to become cooler.

This year should prove to be no exception as AAA is projecting that over 34 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles from their homes over the weekend. If this turns out to be the case, it would constitute a 1.3 percent increase from last year and the highest number of travelers since 2008.

Closer to home, AAA is projecting that Wisconsin will see roughly 731,000 people traveling for the holiday weekend, a 1.4 percent increase from last year.

While a significant number of these anticipated travelers will be flying, an even larger number will be driving, meaning the risk of car accidents will be significantly higher over the coming days.

WI Supreme Court examines liability for parade train accident - II

accident.jpgLast week, out blog started discussing how a serious train accident in the Milwaukee suburb of Elm Grove was recently at the epicenter of a fascinating decision handed down by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in Partenfelder v. Rhode, a case that examined whether a railroad company was liable for injuries sustained during the course of a 2009 Memorial Day Parade.

To recap, the plaintiff and his wife filed a lawsuit against Soo Line Railroad Company, claiming that it was negligent in that it failed to take the necessary precautions despite having notice about the parade.

In response to the lawsuit, Soo Line contended that the lawsuit filed by the plaintiff and his wife was preempted by the Federal Railroad Safety Act, which expressly declares that lawsuits filed in state courts relating to the speed of a train are preempted by the act.

However, an exemption to the FRSA states that lawsuits filed in state courts relating to the failure of a train to either slow down or stop despite the presence of a "specific, individual hazard" are not subject to preemption, meaning they can move forward at the state level.

Can truck driver fatigue be combated via smartphone?

smartphone2.jpgWhile we would perhaps prefer to imagine that crashes involving the massive big rigs with which we share the road are few and far between, the reality is that trucks accidents continue to be a very real problem here in the U.S.

Indeed, statistics from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reveal that 104,000 people suffered serious personal injuries and another 3,921 people lost their lives in truck crashes in 2012 alone.

While there are many causes for truck accidents, one that has come into the national spotlight due to the recent crash involving comedian Tracy Morgan is truck driver fatigue.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, as many as 13 percent of truck accidents can be definitively linked to driver fatigue and another 31 percent of truck accidents identify driver fatigue as a contributing factor.

WI Supreme Court examines liability for parade train accident

Gavel.jpgIn an era where technology is evolving to such a degree that we can now use our phones for almost every imaginable task and self-driving cars are on the cusp of mass production, it seems inconceivable that train accidents resulting in serious personal injuries or fatalities could still occur.

However, the simple truth is that accidents between cars and trains occur somewhat regularly on the hundreds of miles of track crisscrossing the state of Wisconsin.

In fact, a serious train accident in a Milwaukee suburb was recently at the epicenter of a fascinating decision handed down by the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which examined whether a railroad company was liable for injuries sustained during the course of a parade.

Report identifies states where pedestrians are most at risk

male pedestrian.jpgFor many people, the workday begins with a walk to their vehicle followed by a relatively short drive to their place of employment. While those who undertake this commute upwards of five times a week likely think of themselves only as motorists, the fact remains that if they have to cross the street, traverse the parking lot or use the sidewalk at any point during the course of the workday, they are also pedestrians.

Given the fact that most of us are pedestrians whether we realize it or not, it becomes all the more important to start paying attention to some of the staggering numbers concerning fatal pedestrian accidents, which suggest that we have something of an epidemic here in the U.S.

Indeed, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that in 2012 (the most recent year for which comprehensive data is available), 4,743 of the 33,561 recorded traffic fatalities were pedestrians.

Who is responsible for clearing Milwaukee's roads after a crash?

Car accident.jpgIn the aftermath of a serious car crash, emergency responders are rightly focused on providing assistance to the injured parties and, if necessary, evacuating them from the accident scene. Furthermore, if the crash occurred on a freeway or other major thoroughfare, emergency responders will also devote considerable resources to making sure traffic is either stopped or rerouted.

While this protocol is certainly acceptable and understandable, questions naturally arise as to the accident wreckage itself. Specifically, while emergency responders will remove the vehicles involved in the crash, what about the remaining debris? After all, there's a very good chance that you've seen everything from plastic pieces and vehicle glass to shredded tires and entire fenders sitting on the roadside.

Simulator shows young drivers why it's important to stay focused

simulator.jpgIn our last post, we discussed how primary texting laws targeting teen drivers -- meaning those that allow police to pull over drivers solely for this offense -- have proven remarkably effective in reducing car accident fatalities among this demographic.

Here in Wisconsin, we have a law banning texting while driving by all drivers and designating it as a primary offense. Furthermore, we also have a law banning those drivers holding learner's permits or probationary licenses from using a cellphone in any capacity.

While it's encouraging to know these protections are in place, the fact remains that many teen drivers continue to knowingly flout the law and engage in distracted driving.

It's for this reason that the Wausau Police Department frequently rolls out its very unique and very effective instructional anti-texting tool to demonstrate to both high school students and college students just how dangerous -- and deadly -- this habit can prove to be.

Study explores just how effective texting bans can be

texting.jpgA brief survey of road safety laws here in the U.S. reveals that many states have identified distracted driving as one of the single biggest hazards facing motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists.

Indeed, 44 states currently have laws in places expressly prohibiting texting while driving, while 13 states ban the use of handheld devices in any capacity.

While the states, including Wisconsin, have gotten tougher on distracted driving, the question remains as to whether these efforts have paid off. In other words, have these respective crackdowns on distracted driving served to reduce the total number of fatal car accidents?

Interestingly, a group of researchers at the University of Alabama recently published the results of a study examining this very issue.

Golf cart accident highlights the very real danger to teens

golf cart.jpgSo long as the weather cooperates, you will likely find no shortage of golfers on any course in Wisconsin during the summertime. While many of these golfers choose to hit the links on foot, still others prefer to use a golf cart to transport them -- and both their clubs and refreshments -- through 18 holes.

What people might not realize is that these golf carts can actually be rather dangerous if not operated in the proper manner. Indeed, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has determined that golf carts are behind as many as 15,000 personal injuries necessitating emergency medical treatment in the U.S. every year, and that as many as 40 percent of these accidents involve children younger than 16.

Consider a recent incident in New Glarus last Thursday afternoon involving three teens who suffered serious injuries after the golf cart in which they were riding flew into the air and overturned.

Court: No immunity for police who don't exercise 'due regard'

Gavel.jpgBack in January, our blog discussed how the Wisconsin Supreme Court was being called upon to decide a very important case concerning the issue of police immunity in motor vehicle accidents.

In general, state law dictates that law enforcement officials have the right to break traffic laws -- speeding, running stop signs and red lights, etc. -- while responding to an emergency or chasing a suspect in the line of duty, and generally enjoy immunity for any damages resulting from official acts.

Nevertheless, state law also dictates that law enforcement officials must abide by a few rules in these scenarios, including activating their flashing lights and sirens, reducing their speed "as may be necessary for safe operation," and driving with "due regard under the circumstances for the safety of all persons."

Those law enforcement officials who fail to do this and demonstrate a "reckless disregard for the safety of others" behind the wheel do not enjoy immunity from damages.

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