Archive for May, 2011

Preventing Auto Accidents Involving Elderly Drivers in Mississippi

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

The U.S. Census Bureau is predicting that by the year 2030 there will be 9.6 million people in our country that are over the age of 85.  When it comes to the elderly and driving, this figure is a little daunting because according to a study done by Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, fatality rates for drivers begin to increase substantially after the age of 65.  The figures are consistent with the numbers for teenage drivers with about 3 deaths per 100 million occurring between the ages of 75 to 84 and for drivers 85 and older, the fatality rate is about four times higher than that of teenagers.

What Are States Doing to Address the Issue of Car Accidents Involving the Elderly?

These kind of figures and a looming sense of concern for the future has led states across the nation to consider how to better evaluate older drivers to see if they are still safe and competent enough to drive.  As far back as 1995, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicated that the only scientifically sound method for lowering the fatality rate among senior drivers was to make it mandatory for them to show up at their local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office and renew their driver’s license in person.

Currently, there are only two states – Illinois and New Hampshire – that actually require that older drivers pass a road test.  Most states still do not require senior drivers to renew their licenses in person.  This prevents most states from genuinely assessing an elderly person’s current physical abilities or mental prowess as they relate to driving ability. If an elderly driver’s physical or mental driving skills have diminished over time, there is no system in place to prevent a driver with age impaired driving skills from driving and putting their safety or the safety of others at risk.

There was an incident a few years back where a 90 year old woman backed out of her driveway and displayed an inability to operate her vehicle as soon as she got behind the wheel.  According to her neighbor, she backed over her lawn and the curb before hitting the gas instead of the brake and slamming into another curb behind her.  She drove off oblivious to the havoc she had caused and continued on down the street.  Tragically, she ended up running a red light down the street and ran down a 17 year old girl on her way to school.  The teenager died from her injuries a few days later.  This is an example of someone who could have been identified as someone who was no longer a safe driver with even a minimal screening system.

While there has been a huge focus on teenage driving and how to address that issue, the issue of incompetent elderly drivers in Mississippi has received much less attention.  It is a natural part of the aging process that a person’s reflexes, vision, flexibility and concentration can decline. Some elderly people also take medications that can affect their driving abilities.  It is certainly the case that many senior drivers are excellent drivers, but we risk a growing number of serious auto accidents involving elderly drivers if steps are not taken to identify those senior drivers that should no longer be driving.

Cognitive Impairment

Vision tests do not give a qualitative assessment of a person’s diminished physical capacity and cognitive awareness, but this is all that is being required of older drivers in many cases.  Cognitive impairment refers to a decline in one or all of the following areas: attention, orientation, judgement, short-term memory and visual-spatial skills.  When someone experiences more than one of these conditions, then it is usually referred to as dementia. About 4 percent of current drivers over the age of 75 years of age have dementia according to the Journal of the American Medical Association.

One solution to the problem of preventing Mississippi auto accidents caused by elderly drivers would be to have an senior driver go to an occupational therapist to obtain a comprehensive driver evaluation.  This usually entails an evaluation that would include vision tests, memory tests, cognitive function tests and a road test. The therapist could then recommend that the driver be allowed to continue driving, drive with limitations, update their driving skills or retire from driving. A physician could also conduct a medical exam to help determine whether or not a person is still fit to drive.  While there are costs and other logistical challenges in imposing mental and physical evaluations on senior drivers, there are ways that the roads could be made safer by employing these types of strategies.

Mississippi Car Accident Lawyers

The statistics are frightening and innocent people can get injured or killed by elderly drivers who are still on the road driving even after their mental and physical abilities have declined.  It is also unfair to senior drivers that do not realize their driving skills have declined because they also are placed in danger.  If you or a loved one has been injured or there has been a wrongful death resulting from a Mississippi car accident involving an elderly driver, the Mississippi car accident lawyers at Barrett Law, PLLC may be able to help you obtain compensation for your injuries or loss.  Barrett Law, PLLC represents car accident victims throughout Mississippi and has roots that reach back 75 years.  We have helped thousands of people just like you so call us today at (662) 834-2376.

The Heightened Risk to Bicyclists Caused by Dangerous Road Hazards in Mississippi

Friday, May 27th, 2011

Dangerous road conditions account for many of the road accidents in our country.  When you are on a bicycle, road hazards can cause pose an increased risk of serious accidents. Road bikes have narrow wheels and lack the stability of a vehicle with four wheels so when a rider hits a pothole, grate in the road, or railroad track, he or she can be in serious trouble.  What a lot of bike riders might not know is that if they are seriously injured due to a road hazard, it is possible to sue the entity that is responsible for the design, construction or the maintenance of the roadway where the hazard is encountered.

A bicyclist has to ride so defensively when on public streets and other roadways that it can be difficult to keep one’s eyes down to catch discrepancies in the road surface.  A rider must watch the traffic around one’s bicycle as well as the road ahead to keep safe while riding.

Road Hazards

There are different types of road hazards a cyclist might encounter which would be insignificant if the rider where in a car, truck or SUV:

  • Potholes and cracks in the pavement
  • Sewer grates and manhole covers
  • Parked cars
  • Train tracks
  • Construction zones, cones, and barriers
  • Loose gravel and debris
  • Flooding water that makes a bikeway slippery

In the case of potholes or damaged pavement, the liability issue will depend on a number of factors including:

  • The length of time the hazard was present
  • Attempts to repair it
  • Complaints made or prior accidents involving the hazard
  • Types of warnings used to warn cyclists of the hazard
  • Reports may regarding the hazard to the public entity responsible for the roadway

Sewer grates have slowly been changed to accommodate bike tires and prevent them from slipping through the openings in the grate, but not all cities have made this effort.  It is a simple fix, and you as a cyclist have the right to ride on safe roads. If the city hasn’t addressed this problem which results in you being injured in a bicycle accident, you may have a right to seek compensation in a personal injury lawsuit.  Similarly, railroad tracks that are should have warnings posted around them, or if they are abandoned, they should be covered over by the local governing authority. When crossed by cyclists, these tracks can be deadly.  If a government or a company could have taken reasonable steps to prevent any of these types of problems, then you might have a basis for a Mississippi lawsuit to recover for your bicycle-related injuries.

If you are involved in an accident caused by one of these types of hazards, it is important that you contact the police to file a police report.  When you are physically able you should take pictures of the hazard or have someone you trust do so.  The chance that you will be able to seek full compensation for your injuries is also increased if you promptly seek medical evaluation and treatment.

Liability

These types of cases can be difficult.  It is almost essential that you enlist the aid of an experienced bike injury attorney due to the complex nature of these cases and the challenge involved proving liability.  Another challenge that may arise when deciding to seek compensation from a public entity that may be liable for your injuries is the preservation of the accident scene. Many times when the city or local government is notified about the accident, they attempt to go out and fix the hazard before investigators can examine it.  This is why it is important that you try and get photos.  Public entities also benefit from limited immunity from lawsuits so it is important to consult and experienced Mississippi bicycle accident lawyer who will be familiar with the special notice of claim and timing requirements involved in Mississippi lawsuits against government entities.

It also is always important to speak to an experienced Mississippi bicycle accident lawyer before you speak with an insurance company adjuster.  While these cases often are settled without going to trial, cases where the victim does not attempt to negotiate with the insurance company without an attorney provide the best chance of a successful settlement or trial verdict.

If you have been seriously injured or a loved one has suffered wrongful death in a Mississippi bicycle accident caused by a road hazard, Barrett Law, PLLC utilizes careful investigation, innovative litigation strategy and zealous advocacy to obtain the compensation that our clients deserve.  Our experienced team of attorneys and staff carefully investigate our clients’ bicycle accidents so that we can help our clients obtain the compensation they need to get their lives back on track after a serious Mississippi bike accident.

Call to speak to a Mississippi bicycle accident lawyer to discuss you legal right for fair compensation.  Barrett Law, PLLC represents bicycle accident victims throughout Mississippi and has roots that reach back 75 years.  We have helped thousands of people just like you so call us today at (662) 834-2376

Evidence of Prior Near Miss Accidents in Mississippi Personal Injury Lawsuits

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Many times in a Mississippi personal injury case involving a motor vehicle accident, the most compelling potential evidence involves prior accident or near misses.  These prior near misses or actual accidents can be compelling because they can provide evidence of both the danger associated with a location of an accident and the defendant’s knowledge of this potential hazard.  Because Mississippi courts recognize the potential power of such evidence, it may only be used in limited situations where the past accident or near miss is substantially similar to the motor vehicle accident that is at issue in the pending Mississippi personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.

A skilled and experienced personal injury attorney will typically conduct a detailed investigation to search for past accidents and then build as compelling a case as is possible for the admissibility of that past accident or near miss.  The case of Irby v. Travis, 935 So. 2d 884 (Miss. 2006) provides a primer on how Mississippi courts analyze the issue of the similarity between a past near miss and an accident that is the subject of a pending Mississippi personal injury lawsuit.

In the Irby case in Holmes County, the defendants were a railroad and its locomotive engineer who were sued for wrongful death following a train’s collision with the deceased car.  The appellate court reversed the trial court’s admission into evidence of a prior near miss accident at the railroad crossing because it was not substantially similar to the accident in the train accident victim’s wrongful death lawsuit.  The court specifically relied on the following factual distinctions:

(1)     the accidents involved trains traveling in different directions;

(2)     after the 1994 incident and before the accident in this lawsuit, there had been extensive tree-cutting;

(3)      the driver in the 1994 accident drove up on the tracks at the crossing without stopping, while the deceased in the pending case drove up to the tracks, stopped, backed up and stopped to allow a farm tractor to cross the tracks, and then drove up on the tracks;

(4)     the 1994 incident occurred in September while the incident in the pending lawsuit occurred in May; and

(5)     the 1994 incident occurred in the late afternoon while the accident at issue occurred in the late morning.

When one looks at this list of factual distinctions that influenced the court, it should be clear that courts are extremely cautious about admitting this type of evidence.  One might wonder why the accidents occurring in different months or occurring in the morning as opposed to the afternoon is relevant.  However, this shows how difficult it can be to persuade a court to admit the potential damning evidence of prior near miss accidents.

There are cases where evidence of near accidents may be admissible for the purpose of showing the dangerous character of a place and to show notice thereof to the person in control. Miss. R. Evid. 401, 402.  On the other hand, the fact of a near miss or a past collision, in and of itself, proves very little and may be quite prejudicial. Miss. R. Evid. 403.  The fact that an accident almost occurs at a particular location does not necessarily imply any fault or neglect on the part of the person in control of the premises. Therefore, the fact that there were near misses does not necessarily prove negligence.  As was the case here, a near miss does not really prove negligence, even though a subsequent serious accident occurs.

The bottom line is that courts have many rules that exclude evidence that an ordinary person would consider the most compelling evidence of fault.  Experienced Mississippi personal injury attorneys understand these evidentiary standards and the best strategies for persuading a court to consider such evidence.  Although the Irby, case involved a train collision with a car, the principle applies equally to SUV accidents, tractor-trailer collisions, bicycle accidents, motorcycle crashes and even pedestrian accidents.

If you or a close family member has been the victim of a motor vehicle accident anywhere in Mississippi, the legal team at Barrett Law PLLC have roots that extend back over 75 years assisting motor vehicle accident victims who are injured by the negligence of others.  We are committed to helping accident victims improve the quality of their lives and helping prevent future auto accidents in Mississippi so call our offices today at 662-834-2376.

Comparative Negligence for Assuming Compliance with the Rules of the Road

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

An interesting question arises in accidents wherein Mississippi car accident victims assume that the other driver will obey the rules of the road (i.e. comply with right of way laws), but the other driver fails to do so which results in a serious auto accident.   Because Mississippi follows the legal doctrine of comparative negligence in auto accident cases, the question arises whether a driver is negligent for not anticipating a violation of the rules of the road by the other driver.  The consequence of the answer to this inquiry makes it very important.  An interesting issue comes up in a fair number of Mississippi motor vehicle accidents.

Comparative negligence is essentially the failure of an accident victim to exercise the ordinary care of a reasonable person to prevent injury to oneself.  If a Mississippi car accident victim is found to be partially at-fault in contributing to one’s own injuries, the damages awarded for the car accident victim’s injuries may be reduced by the victim’s percentage of fault.  If an auto accident victim were 40 percent at fault in an auto accident then a $100,000 damage award would be reduced to $60,000.  Because the original damage award was the true assessment of the victim’s injuries, such a reduction can mean very harsh results.  A practical example of how the legal principle of comparative negligence is affected by a failure to anticipate violations of Mississippi’s rules of the road is provided by the Mississippi case of Busick v. St. John, 856 So. 2d 304 (Miss. 2003).

In Busick, the injured auto accident victim filed a personal injury lawsuit contending the other driver was negligent in operating her vehicle, which caused a parking lot collision. A jury in Rankin County, Mississippi, found that the defendant’s driving conduct was not the cause of the injured victim’s serious spinal injury so the injury victim recovered no compensation and appealed the unfavorable verdict.

The evidence established that the injury victim was driving along the side drive of a parking lot. The other driver was stopped at a row of bushes that cut her visibility as she was exited the parking lot.  The defendant inched forward but stopped when she saw the injured person’s vehicle coming.  The injured person admitted she continued to travel 300 feet, making no attempt to stop before the collision.  The court considered the issue of the injury victim’s reliance on right of way rules (i.e. the rules of the road).  The court held that the rules of the road did not apply because the accident occurred on private property so ordinary negligence rules applied.

However, the law in Mississippi provides that a driver having the right of way may assume that the driver of the other car will stop his car before entering an intersection, but this general rule has limitations.  While a motorist has a right to assume that the driver of a vehicle proceeding toward an intersection will obey right of way rules, this right exists only until the accident victim knows, or in the exercise of ordinary care, should know otherwise.  While the driver in the Busick case had a right to presume that the driver exiting the parking lot would obey the rules of the road, once it was obvious that the driver was violating right of way, the court found the injury victim had an obligation to take reasonable precautions for the victim’s own safety.  The tragedy of this case is that the victim suffered a serious spinal injury but recovered nothing because of the victim’s degree of fault in the accident.

If you or someone close to you suffers a serious injury or wrongful death in a Mississippi car accident, the insurance company will often look for grounds to assert that you are partially at-fault for your own injuries.  This can have a devastating impact on your ability to pay medical bills or compensate for past and future lost income.  It can even result in an accident victim receiving no compensation for one’s injuries as in Busick depending on one’s degree of fault.

The experienced Mississippi car accident attorneys at Barrett Law, PLLC are very familiar with insurance company defense strategies including blaming the victim.  We carefully investigate the facts of our client’s cases so that we can build the evidence needed to assign liability and fault to the party responsible for our client’s injuries.  If you have been injured or have lost a loved one in a serious motor vehicle accident in Mississippi, the attorneys at Barrett Law, PLLC may be able to help so call us today at (662) 834-2376.

Admissibility of Prior Accidents in Mississippi Slip and Fall Lawsuits

Friday, May 20th, 2011

A key issue in many slip and fall cases is whether a business owner knew or should have known of hazardous conditions on the premises.  One of the most compelling and persuasive types of evidence for juries in such a situation is evidence of prior similar slip and fall or trip and fall accidents at the Mississippi business establishment.  However, courts recognize that evidence of this kind can have a dramatic effect and will sometimes exclude such evidence if its probative value is outweighed by the prejudice it may cause.  If the evidence is not highly relevant to the specific accident in a personal injury lawsuit, the court may choose to exclude the evidence.  A Mississippi slip and fall case against Wal-Mart, Yoste v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 822 So. 2d 935 (Miss. 2002), provides insight into the analysis conducted by a Mississippi court when deciding whether to permit evidence of prior slip and fall accidents on the premises.

The Wal-Mart customer brought a personal injury lawsuit in Madison County for a slip and fall that occurred in the store’s parking lot.  The Mississippi slip and fall victim alleged that the store negligently maintained its parking lot. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the store.  The customer argued the trial court erred by excluding evidence of previous accidents that had occurred in the store parking lot after other customers tripped on uneven pavement.  The court indicated that evidence of prior accidents is admissible only upon a showing of substantial similarity of conditions.  The key problem is that the customer was not sure what caused his fall.  Therefore, the court held the evidence of the prior accidents offered by the customer were too remote and dissimilar not to be prejudicial. The court also held that the evidence had questionable probative value since the customer could not conclusively state what caused him to fall.

The admission of the prior accidents often will be excluded if they are not in the immediate vicinity of the plaintiff’s accident and/or the plaintiff is not able to establish that the hazards that caused the plaintiff’s fall are the same as in the prior accidents.  These past accidents may be excluded because they have little probative value given the lack of similarity between the accidents, and the risk that they will prejudice the jury into assuming that because past slip and falls were caused by uneven pavement that this accident must have been caused the same way.

The fundamental issue is that when prior accidents are offered as evidence in a Mississippi slip and fall lawsuit, the facts and circumstances of the prior slip and fall incident must strongly correlate to proving the existence of the dangerous condition in the case before the court.  Mississippi slip and fall cases generally are very fact intensive so it is critical to work with an experienced Mississippi slip and fall accident attorney who will carefully investigate the facts surrounding your slip and fall accident.

At Barrett Law PLLC, we represent slip and fall victims throughout the State of Mississippi.  We have built a reputation for providing diligent and compassionate legal representation to Mississippi injury victims based on zealous representation and empathy with our clients.  If you have been seriously injured in a slip and fall accident, we understand the physical, financial and emotional challenges that you are facing so call us today at 662-834-2376 to see how we can help.

Fighting the Battle against Auto Accidents Caused by Impaired Drivers in Mississippi

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

Every year, thousands of people die due to alcohol and drug related motor vehicle accidents. To combat the problem of auto accident fatalities, many communities and courts have set up substance abuse treatment programs.  An important question to be considered is whether substance abuse programs and other measures really reduce auto accidents and prevent motor vehicle accident related fatalities.

Studies indicate that in communities where substance abuse programs have been established, the number of automobile accidents has declined anywhere from 8 to 13 percent. While these results are encouraging, it remains the case that there are over 30,000 motor vehicle fatalities in the U.S. annually with over 30% being alcohol or drug related.  A variety of measures have been implemented to discourage people from driving while high or intoxicated. These measures include implementation of alcohol taxes, bans on Sunday alcohol sales, drivers license revocation, ignition interlock programs and teen license restrictions.

Every year, over 2 million people are treated in substance abuse facilities for alcohol and drug addiction. For those that are seriously addicted, the impact of these programs can be significant.  Besides the direct impact on auto accident fatality rates, there are other potential indirect affects on car crash rates associated with increases in self-confidence, improved mental stability, and improvement in coping with stress at home or work.

With the number of deaths resulting from fatal auto accidents, the state and federal government has implemented measures designed to reduce fatal accidents caused by drivers impaired by drugs and alcohol.  This includes a variety of legal measures including:

  • Mandatory seat belt laws
  • Stricter enforcement of speed limits and DUI laws
  • Zero tolerance alcohol laws for teen drivers
  • Dram shop laws that impose liability on those who furnish alcohol
  • Stricter DUI penalties
  • Use of sobriety checkpoints
  • Creation of dry counties
  • Increased taxes on alcohol

Drivers impaired by drugs and alcohol are still responsible for far too many Mississippi auto accidents resulting in catastrophic injuries and wrongful death throughout Mississippi.  Impaired driving car crashes are especially disheartening because they are completely avoidable.  If you or someone you love has been seriously injured in a car accident with a driver impaired by drugs or alcohol, an experienced Mississippi drunk driving accident attorney at Barrett Law, PLLC may be able to help.  We have roots in Mississippi representing those injured by the negligence of others that extend back over 75 years.  We offer a free initial case evaluation so contact us at 662-834-2376 to see how we might be able to help.

Serious Dangers of Mississippi Railroad Crossing Accidents in Mississippi

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Railroad crossing accidents are typically massive in scope and result in horrific injuries and wrongful death.  While sometimes these dangerous train accidents occur because of risky behavior by drivers trying to outrun the train, these dangerous railroad accidents may also be caused by the inattention or negligence of the train operator, a poorly marked railroad crossing or inadequate maintenance of the train or crossing.  When these accidents occur, the physical injuries can be devastating.  The warning systems for trains are often inadequate because they fail to account for limitations in human visual perception or because the warning systems are not functioning properly.

Our law firm uses railroad inspectors, train safety experts and other expert witnesses to investigate the cause of a train accident.  A common cause of train crossing accidents is poor maintenance of the railway crossing warning system.  Our investigative team carefully investigates railroad crossing accidents to determine if crossing arms, warning lights, and switches that activate the warning when a train approaches were functioning correctly.  A railroad company has an obligation to provide adequate maintenance to keep these critical warnings operating correctly.

This obligation of a railroad to properly maintain the warning system at a crossing is magnified by limits in human visual perception.  When drivers approach a train crossing, limitations to human perception make it easy for drivers to miscalculate the potential danger of a train accident.  Visual perception is distorted when drivers attempt to judge the speed of a train approaching a train crossing.  We also tend to misjudge speed based on the size of a moving object.  The bigger an object the slower it appears to move.  This problem is also compounded by a phenomenon known as object familiarity.  When assessing speed of strange objects, humans associate the speed with the speed of familiar objects.  Thus, there is a natural tendency of drivers to misjudge train speed as being comparable to a passenger vehicle.

The warning systems themselves even when functioning correctly are also inadequate.  The flashing lights used are much less bright than those used in traffic lights at roadway intersections.  The reason for the weaker lights is simply because the lights were designed to operate on battery backup in the event of an electrical outage.  The lights are also relatively small and when covered with the red cover the brightness of the light is reduced substantially.  This lack of visibility of the warning lights is further obscured by bright sunlight.  The bottom line is that even when operating perfectly the design of railroad crossing warning signs leave much to be desired.

All of these limitations in human perception explain why drivers are dependent on functioning train crossing warnings as opposed to simply observing an approaching train.  The other factor that can compensate for limitations on human speed perception at train crossings is an adequately trained and attentive engineer.  If the train engineer is distracted, such as using a cell phone to text or talk, he or she may not be able to stop the train or sound a warning to those in approaching vehicles.  Intoxication or driver distraction by an engineer at a railroad crossing can result in fatal railroad crossing accidents.

If a driver of a motor vehicle is struck by a train at a Mississippi railroad crossing there is an extremely high risk of catastrophic injury or wrongful death.  At the Barrett Law Office, we represent those who suffer personal injury in serious accidents throughout Mississippi.  A Mississippi railroad accident attorney from our firm may be able to review your case and provide a candid assessment of your prospects so call us today at (662) 834-2376.

Understanding Liability of Bars for Mississippi Drunk Driving Accidents

Friday, May 13th, 2011

Most states including Mississippi have dram shop laws that provide limited immunity from liability for auto accidents caused by patrons of bars and restaurants.  Some states also impose liability under similar circumstances on social hosts, but Mississippi is not one of those states.  These laws also impose liability in particular circumstances on those who furnish alcohol to drivers who are subsequently involved in drunk driving accidents.  The Mississippi dram shop law imposes liability on bars, restaurants and other businesses that serve alcohol to drivers who are visibly intoxicated or underage.  A recent Mississippi appellate case Robinson Prop. Group, Ltd. P’ship v. McCalman, 2011 Miss. LEXIS 19 (Miss. Jan. 13, 2011) provides insight into the complex factual inquiry that may be involved under the Mississippi dram shop law.

In McCalman, the defendant was a casino in wrongful death lawsuit brought on behalf of two passengers in a car that died when a drunk driver struck the car. The trial court held that the casino was liable because the drunk driver had been served alcohol at the casino before the car accident.  The appellate court analyzed the trial court’s imposition of liability on the casino under Mississippi’s Dram Shop Act, Miss. Code Ann. 67-3-73(4) (2005) that required proof that it served alcohol to the driver when he was visibly intoxicated.

Although the casino presented evidence that it had trained personnel who would have detected the driver’s intoxication, the casino was busy before the driver left the casino.  The heirs’ of the Mississippi wrongful death victim provided testimony from an expert witness who offered an opinion that the driver’s blood alcohol content was high enough that trained personnel should have spotted his intoxication.  The casino’s expert also acknowledged that the driver would have been intoxicated within the half-hour after he left the casino.

Mississippi’s statute commonly called the Dram Shop Act, according to its title, provides immunity from liability of persons who lawfully furnished or sold intoxicating beverages to one causing damage.  The statute includes the exception that the limitation of liability provided by this section shall not apply to any holder of an alcoholic beverage, beer or light wine permit, or any agent or employee of such holder when it is shown that the person making a purchase of an alcoholic beverage was at the time of such purchase visibly intoxicated. Miss. Code Ann. 67-3-73(4) (2005), Robinson Prop. Group, Ltd. P’ship v. McCalman, 2011 Miss. LEXIS 19 (Miss. Jan. 13, 2011).

In McCalman, the driver was visibly intoxicated when the alcohol was purchased so liability against the casino was imposed under Mississippi’s dram shop act. For bar owners, this means that serving alcohol to a drunken person who then drives will expose the bar to negligence damages if there is in a Mississippi car accident resulting in injuries or wrongful death.  This case also reveals that the specific facts of the case are important in establishing that the driver whose intoxication causes a Mississippi accident was “visibly intoxicated.”  Both sides in this case employed expert testimony, which is common in dram shop cases.  Other evidence that may establish that a drunk driver was served when visibly intoxicated includes testimony of serving staff, surveillance video footage, credit card statements or bar receipts and other similar evidence.

If you or a loved one is injured or you have suffered the loss of a loved one to a drunk driver in Mississippi, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries or loss.  The compassionate and dedicated attorneys at Barrett Law PLLC represent victims of Mississippi drunk driving accidents throughout the state.  Our law firm roots date back over 75 years in representing those who are injured or killed by the negligence of others.  A Mississippi accident attorney from our law firm can provide a free initial case evaluation when you call (662) 834-2376.

Seatbelts & Car Seat Use Essential to Keep Children Safe in Mississippi Auto Accidents

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Motor vehicles accidents remain the leading cause of death for those between the ages of 5-34, and over 2.3 million people are treated in emergency rooms each year in car collisions according the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.  Great strides have been made to make motor vehicles safer, but seatbelts and car seats remain the leading safety feature to keep kids safe in accidents involving motor vehicles.  Though many vehicles are adding more airbag protection, airbags are intended to provide supplemental protection to seatbelts or car seats in the event of a Mississippi car accident.  However, many children are left exposed because they do not use seatbelts or car seats or in the case of children in car seats, they are able to unbuckle the car seat.

Seat belts and car seats only provide protection if vehicle occupants use them.  There is a growing body of evidence that many children, toddler and infants are not receiving the benefit of the protection of seat belts and car seats.  A recent study has revealed that many car seats can be unfastened by small children leaving children unprotected.  A team of researchers from the department of pediatrics at Yale School of Medicine conducted a study involving 378 parents.  The study revealed that over half of the parents in the study revealed that they had a child that had been able to unfasten their car seat.  Even more alarming, 75 percent of the children who were able to unfasten their child restraint system were children age 3 or under.  Children as young as a years old were able to unbuckle their car seat.

Researchers point out that because there is a significant difference in the speed of development in children’s motor skills and cognitive skills, young children may develop the ability to unfasten their car seat buckle before understanding the safety function provided by a child safety restraint system in a car accident.  Auto accidents remain the leading cause of death for children age 4-8.  This feature which affects many car seats is an issue that has received little discussion but may represent the most significant car seat defect.  A child whose car seat is not buckled faces a high risk of suffering catastrophic injuries and wrongful death in a serious auto collision when traveling on Mississippi roadways.

Older children who are not buckled up in seat belts also are highly likely to suffer serious injury in a Mississippi car crash.  Over 55 percent of those killed in car accidents are not wearing seat belts.  Seat belts are credited with saving the lives of 13,000 people in 2008 and over 75,000 people during a recent 4 year period.  While mandatory seat belt laws have improved these statistics, many children and teenagers still do not consistently buckle up.  Parents are well advised to instill an expectation in their children from an early age that a child must buckle up every time.  A child who grows up with the expectation that a car does not move until everyone is buckled up is more likely to continue to do so when the child travels in other people’s vehicles or when becoming old enough to drive.

If you or your child have suffered serious injury in a motor vehicle accident anywhere in Mississippi, the experienced law firm of Barrett Law PLLC provides compassionate and dedicated legal representation to auto accident victims throughout Mississippi. A Mississippi auto accident attorney from our firm can provide a free initial case evaluation so contact us today to see how we can help at (662) 834-2376.

Can “Talking” Cars Prevent Mississippi Car Accidents

Monday, May 9th, 2011

Ford, GM, and Toyota are thinking futuristic and developing a new technology for cars that will allow them to talk to one another.  This new technology is called “Intellidrive”.  The technology utilizes GPS and WiFi that allow the vehicles to send out signals with their location and speed information so other vehicles on Mississippi roadways and know where they are and how fast they are going.  The cars essentially “talk” to each other.

The reason behind the push for this new technology is to keep drivers safer behind the wheel. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) believes that when this new technology is employed, it will help to reduce the risk of potential accidents by as much as 80%.

Some cars already employ more basic versions of what might be called smart car technology that warns drivers of impending accident risks and/or helps drivers avoid such car accidents.  Some vehicles already on the market let you know when you are drifting into another lane or when you might be in danger of colliding with a vehicle in front of you.  While this new technology that permits vehicles to communicate to each other might sound like something out of a science fiction movie, it could help to cut down on the 5 million car collisions per year in the U.S. that kill approximately 340,000 people and injure more than 2 million.  Any new technology that can significantly reduce Mississippi car accidents is a type of car industry advancement worth embracing.

The Technology

These new systems are not limited to just employing current radar technology to detect what is in front of them or behind them as with some current vehicles.  The smart car technology can detect a signal up to 900 feet away and 360 degrees around. The multi-directional WIFI signals send out a car’s location, cruising speed and brake status information to the other car. That car is then warned of an incoming hazard by a series of beeping noises and flashing red lights. The first warnings would alert the driver.  If the driver does not respond, then the car would take over and employ whatever action was necessary including applying brakes or changing speed or direction.

The goal of the system will be to prevent collisions by preventing a vehicle from changing lanes, approaching a stalled vehicle too quickly or entering an intersection if the light has turned red.  While the technology appears like a promising way to reduce the number of fatal Mississippi car accidents, there are some bugs that need to be worked out.  For example, the automakers are trying to determine an effective way to keep the channels the signals flow through clear.  They are also trying to determine how to keep hackers out of the system and how to protect privacy.

Working Together

There are several car manufacturers that are cooperating to make this happen.  For this system to work, different makes of cars have to be able to communicate with one another.  Even though the investment in the technology has been upward of $40 million dollars in federal money, the end cost to the automakers is only going to be about an extra $100 per vehicle.  The goal is to have this smart car technology become standard in some 2013 automobiles.

It remains to be seen how effective this new technology will be in preventing car accidents or reducing auto accident related injuries and fatalities in Mississippi.  It may help with distracted driving because the car will be interacting with the driver on a lot of different levels which might keep the driver more engaged on the business of driving.  The car may also alert drivers of hazards that the driver has not noticed because the driver was engaged in activities like using one’s cell phone.

It could very well increase the number of lawsuits if there are accidents as a result of the technology. If the system malfunctions causing a driver whom relies on the system to make an error in judgment, it may raise issues as to who is responsible for a resulting auto collision.  Despite these concerns, the technology looks like a promising step in the right direction.

If you or someone you love is involved in a Mississippi car accident, a car accident attorney in Mississippi from Barrett Law, PLLC may be able to help you seek compensation for damages such as medical bills, property damage, permanent disabilities, as well as pain and suffering.  The roots of Barrett Law, PLLC have grown and flourished during the last 75 years.  We represent those who have suffered serious injury or wrongful death throughout Mississippi so contact us today to see how we can help at (662) 834-2376.