Archive for December, 2015

Why Auto Accident Injury Victims Need Legal Advice Even If They Might Be At Fault

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

If you suffer serious injury or someone you love dies in an auto collision in Mississippi, you might experience severe pain, intense anxiety, disabilities, disfigurement, and a long grueling process of rehabilitation.  These difficult physical and emotional challenges can be even more upsetting when you are faced with financial obstacles like high medical bills, prolonged periods off-work, and even an inability to return to work.

Although injury victims have the option of pursuing a legal claim for damages for such a loss, many people never pursue a claim or even talk to their insurance company, especially if the other driver did not suffer significant vehicle damage or any injuries.  A common reason that many people elect not to pursue an auto accident settlement or judgment is because they assume they are at-fault for causing the crash.  Motorists might base their assumption on a traffic ticket, law enforcement accident report, witness feedback (such as passengers or the driver of the other vehicle), or the driver’s own conclusions.  This blog analyzes why collision victims should not simply rely on the conclusions of an accident report or an investigating police officer.

Why Police Accident Reports Might Be Wrong Regarding the “At-Fault” Driver

While the fact you received a traffic citation or you were identified as the “at-fault” driver in a police report is certainly important, police officer and the reports they prepare do not constitute the final word on liability for a car crash in Mississippi.  There are a range of reasons the report might be inaccurate, such as:

  • The injured driver was rushed to the hospital to receive medical attention, so the officer only heard the other driver’s version of the accident.
  • Mistakes might have been made during the investigation by the officer that resulted in an invalid conclusion.
  • Witnesses at the scene who were not truthful might have persuaded the officer to write the report in a way that favored their version of events.
  • Police accident investigators often fail to consider factors like unsafe roadway design, construction, or maintenance issues as a cause of accidents.
  • The officer’s interpretation of physical evidence at the scene might be influenced by witnesses who were mistaken because of faulty vision or a partially obstructed view.

These are just a few reasons that the conclusions of the police officer in a law enforcement accident report might be inaccurate.  If you are involved in a crash, you should ask the officer for the report number as well as the name and badge number of the officer.  This information will make obtaining a copy of the report easier after it has been completed.  If you find any missing or inaccurate information in the report that might explain why you were determined to have been responsible for causing the accident, you should contact the officer to attempt to get the information corrected.  The officer might amend the report or write a supplemental report.

Issuance of a Traffic Citation Also Is Not a Good Indicator of Financial Responsibility for a Crash

It also is misguided to rely on the assumption that a traffic citation establishes that the crash was your fault.  There are a number of reasons that receipt of a traffic ticket is not necessarily a reliable indicator that you caused a crash:

The traffic ticket might have been issued for a violation unrelated to the car crash.  The officer might have determined that you had non-functioning headlights during the crash investigation.  Although you might be cited for this violation, your non-functioning headlights would not be relevant to the issue of fault if you are rear-ended while at a stop sign.  Further, people get traffic tickets dismissed all the time, which often is based on the fact the officer did not have sufficient evidence to prove that the person cited engaged in the unlawful driving practice.

Our Mississippi Car Accident Lawyers are here to assist you in learning more about your legal options, even if you may partially or completely be at fault for an accident.  Contact Barrett Law today at 800.707.9577 to schedule your free consultation.

 

Most Common Factors That Cause Auto Collisions in Mississippi

Monday, December 28th, 2015

The range of causes that contribute to serious motor vehicle collisions fall into many categories, such as negligent driving, poor vehicle maintenance, defective components/systems, dangerous roadways, and more.  However, certain factors constitute more common causes of serious traffic accidents.  When a motorist understands unsafe conduct that contributes to crashes, the driver is better prepared to exercise caution and prudence to mitigate exposure to such hazards.  This blog post provides information on causes that often are asserted as a form of negligent conduct in personal injury lawsuits involving motor vehicle accidents.

  • Inattentive Driving: Talking and texting on cell phones constitutes the driving distraction that gets the most attention.  However, there are many other types of driver inattention that cause crashes ranging from other electronic distractions like surfing the internet or posting on a social media site to disciplining children in the back seat.  Electronic distractions have dominated the attention of lawmakers, the media, and traffic safety experts because of the sharp rise in the number of drivers who admit to engaging in this unsafe driving behavior.  This form of negligent driving involves many types of multi-tasking that involve mental, cognitive, and visual distractions.  Traditional distractions like grooming, adjusting the car radio, reaching for an object, eating, or rubbernecking can be even more insidious than use of a cell phone because this type of negligent conduct can be more difficult to prove.
  • Driving Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol: Although drunk driving gets most of the attention, collisions caused by prescription drugs have risen in recent years.  Substance impaired driving impacts the lives of many Mississippi families.  According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), someone dies in a drunk driving crash every fifty minutes.  Although many people assume that the devastating consequences of alcohol or drug impaired driving only impact other families, one in three people will be involved in a drunk driving accident during his or her lifetime.
  • Following Too Close (Tailgating):  When motorists do not observe a safe following distance, the probability of a collision rises sharply.  Tailgating drivers often have insufficient time to react to road hazards, an interruption in the flow of traffic, or other obstacles.  Whether a driver needs to swerve or stop to avoid a collision, a motorist’s ability to execute evasive driving maneuvers depends to a significant degree on the amount of time a driver has to react.  Many motorists are familiar with the rule of thumb referred to as the two second rule (or three second rule), but they do not understand this following distance is predicated on optimal weather and road conditions.
  • Unsafe Speed: Like tailgating, traveling too fast reduces a motorist’s reaction time.  Excessive speed poses a dual threat because it impacts both the probability that a traffic collision will occur and the severity of injury.  Although driving at an unsafe speed often involves exceeding the maximum posted speed limit, slower speeds also can pose an unreasonable risk.  Drivers should never travel faster than is safe given road, weather, and traffic conditions.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that a third of all fatal crashes are speed related.

These forms of careless or inattentive driving constitute some of the most common forms of negligent conduct in personal injury lawsuits arising out of motor vehicle crashes.  Motorists that observe these forms of unsafe driving should try to keep a safe distance and exercise caution.  Our Mississippi Auto Accident Attorneys review law enforcement accident reports, skid marks, vehicle damage, medical records, witness statements, and other evidence to build a compelling claim for compensation.  Contact Barrett Law today at 800.707.9577 to schedule your free consultation. 

 

 

Tactics Insurance Companies Use to Deny Auto Accident Injury Claims

Friday, December 25th, 2015

If you are involved in a serious car accident in Mississippi, you may suffer serious injury or the tragic loss of a loved one.  The liability claim typically will be handled by the negligent party’s insurance company.  Insurance companies maximize profits by minimizing the number and amount of payouts on valid claims.  Insurance carriers have teams of attorneys, experts, and a wealth of resources that they use to minimize the recovery of accident victims.  Insurers handle tens of thousands of claims each year so they have an enormous wealth of experience in avoiding or minimizing liability claims.

Car accident injury victims need to understand the deceptive tactics that auto insurance carriers use to avoid paying claims.  This blog provides an overview of some of the tricks and tactics that the other driver’s insurance company might employ to mitigate liability.

Delaying Settlement of a Claim: Insurance companies are aware that car accidents that result in any form of serious injury impose enormous financial pressures on a car accident victim and his or her family.  Mortgage lenders, credit card companies, utility companies and other creditors do not stop sending bills when a breadwinner is injured.  Insurance adjusters know that the challenge associated with paying household expenses is compounded by mounting medical bills. An insurance company may intentionally drag out the settlement process to increase the financial pressure on a disabled injury victim. The insurance carrier hopes that the financial pressure becomes so intense that you simply settle the case for whatever the insurance company is prepared to offer.  There are also crucial time limits like the statute of limitations and deadlines for filing a claim against a public entity.  Many personal injury lawsuits are permanently barred because a car accident victim fails to file a lawsuit or file a claim against a public entity within the required deadlines.

Use of Recorded Statements: Once the other driver’s auto insurance carrier has been informed that you have been injured in a car accident, the insurer might contact you and ask you to agree to a recorded statement.  The insurance adjuster may even imply that they cannot process your claim unless you provide such a statement.  Because your claim is a third-party insurance claim based on the liability of the insurance company’s policyholder, you are under absolutely no obligation to provide such a recorded statement.  Any inconsistencies, confusion, or misstatements might well be used against you to deny or minimize your claim.  The sole purpose of such a statement is to develop damaging evidence against you and to craft an effective litigation strategy to deny liability or reduce the value of your recovery.

Surveillance and Monitoring of Social Networks: Insurance companies can and often do gather evidence by way of social network monitoring.  A growing number of people disclose many intimate details of their life on social network websites.  Insurance companies are aware of this practice and may monitor your site for compromising admissions, photos, and video clips.  Examples of damaging admissions might include the fact that you were not wearing your seatbelt, or you were using a cell phone when the accident occurred.  More and more car accident lawsuits are derailed when pictures emerge of an injury victim dancing the limbo, engaging in extreme sports, or otherwise engaging in conduct that is inconsistent with serious injury.

Challenging the Existence or Severity of Injuries: Insurance companies often argue that your injuries are either faked, exaggerated, or the product of a cause other than a car crash. Insurance companies routinely request disclosure of any prior injuries or illnesses and attempt to determine whether any of your current injuries may be characterized as pre-existing.

Requests to Sign Documents: It is not uncommon for the other driver’s insurance company to ask you to sign legal documents.  Two common documents that you may be asked to sign are an authorization for the release of personal or confidential information and a general release of liability. An authorization for release of information may enable the insurance company to conduct a fishing expedition by seeking your employment records, medical records, criminal records, and many other types of documents and information. Car accident victims that sign a general release of liability may waive all future claims for liability, which include those linked to legal claims that they were not aware existed and injuries that have not yet manifested symptoms.

Our Mississippi Car Accident Lawyer anticipate these tactics and act to protect our client’s best interests.  Contact Barrett Law today at (800) 707-9577 to schedule your free consultation.  We can evaluate your right to financial compensation.

Fatigued Drivers Make Mississippi Roadways Dangerous

Thursday, December 24th, 2015

Most drivers have been in the position of feeling their eyelids start to droop as they struggle to stay awake while navigating Mississippi freeways.  Although it is extremely dangerous to drive when a person is overly tired, drowsy driving is all too common.  People are working longer hours to make ends meet, so they are getting less sleep at night. This lack of sleep means that motorists often struggle to stay awake and concentrate on the roadway.  Many drivers have had the experience of briefly dozing off before desperately trying to steer their vehicle back into their lane or onto the roadway.

The growing number of Mississippi car accidents caused by sleep deprived drivers is the product of a number of factors, which includes the general trend of people to get less sleep.  Long work hours combined with traffic laden commutes often prevent people from balancing family and employment responsibilities.   When family and parenting obligations must be fulfilled after getting home from work, this leaves little time to get an adequate night’s rest. There also has been an increase in the number of diagnosed sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea related to obesity.

Recent research reveals the impact of lack of sleep on traffic safety.  A survey conducted by the AAA Foundation revealed that a third of respondents indicated that they had operated a motor vehicle while overly tired during the prior one month period.  A separate study conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found that six in ten drivers conceded that they had operated a motor vehicle while extremely sleep deprived during the prior 12 months.  Further, four in ten drivers admitted dozing off behind the wheel.

Although drowsy driving might be harder to prove than operating a motor vehicle while impaired by drugs or alcohol, these studies suggest that tired drivers might pose as great a risk of traffic fatalities as alcohol impaired drivers.  Efforts to eliminate drowsy driving might be less successful because this unsafe driving practice is not viewed with the same level of disdain as substance impaired driving.  This difference in attitudes might be based on the belief that drunk driving is more dangerous.  However, research reveals that a driver who has been deprived of sleep for a 20 hour period exhibits impaired mental and physical driving abilities comparable to a motorist with a blood alcohol concentration over the level limit of .08 percent.

Motorists without adequate sleep exhibit a range of impaired abilities, including the following:

  • Sluggish reflexes
  • Distorted or blurry vision
  • Impaired concentration and decision-making
  • Tendency to doze off (micro-naps)
  • Less precision when using fine motor skills

One indicator of the magnitude of risk associated with driving without adequate sleep is that law enforcement investigators often find no skid marks at sleep-deprivation related crash site.  Since a sleeping motorists cannot even slowdown prior to a crash, the risk of fatality increases significantly.  Our Mississippi Traffic Collision Lawyers are committed to holding unsafe drivers accountable for their actions and seeking compensation for individuals who suffer serious injury or lose a loved one.  Contact Barrett Law today at (800) 707-9577 to schedule your free consultation. 

 

Hospitals Settle Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator False Claims Action for $257 Million

Saturday, December 19th, 2015

A recent massive settlement between 457 hospitals spread across 43 states and the Department of Justice (DOJ) has culminated with the medical providers agreeing to pay $257 million.  Cardiac devices implanted into Medicare patients in violation of coverage restrictions constituted the impetus for the qui tam action.  The DOJ settlement involved almost seven dozen hospital systems, including some of the nation’s largest health care systems.

The False Claim action was filed pursuant to an extensive investigation regarding excessive implantation of implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs).  ICDs are implanted in the chest in the vicinity of the heart.  When the patient experiences dangerously rapid fibrillations, the medical device provides an electrical shock designed to restore the heart’s normal rhythm.  While Medicare does provide coverage for implantation of the device, the public insurance program specifies detailed risk factors and clinical indications that determine coverage.

The criteria that dictate eligibility are governed by the National Coverage Determination (NCD) system.  This protocol was adopted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and uses a range of information to verify that treatment under the publicly funded medical program is based on scientifically established medical diagnostic and treatment regimens that are “reasonable and necessary.”  The information relied on under the NCD in making this determination regarding ICDs included but was not limited to the following:

  • Testimony & recommendations of cardiologists and other medical professionals
  • Clinical trials
  • Patient advocacy groups
  • Manufacturers of cardiac medical devices
  • Professional cardiac societies

The False Claims lawsuit was filed based on implantation in patients where use of the device was expressly excluded under the NCD.  The restrictions prohibited implantation in patients who have undergone a recent angioplasty or bypass surgery.  Implantation also is not authorized for patients who have suffered a recent heart attack.  While patients that fit these criteria can receive the heart implants, a waiting period of forty days must be observed after a patient has suffered a heart attack.  This waiting period is ninety days for patients who have undergone an angioplasty or bypass surgery.  The rationale for this delay is to ensure the heart has time to recover before undergoing the implantation procedure.

The qui tam settlement involved hospitals that performed these heart implant procedures between 2003 and 2010 without observing the mandated waiting period.  The qui tam action was filed by a cardiac nurse and health care reimbursement consultant.  The whistleblowers were awarded in excess of $38 million out of the settlement amount.

At Barrett Law, we know that whistleblowers often have concerns about retaliation that might dissuade disclosure of improper medical billing and fraud.  However, our Mississippi Qui Tam Lawyers work diligently to protect our clients from such acts under applicable state and federal laws.  Further, we work closely to ensure that our client’s degree of involvement and cooperation in pursuing a recovery results in an appropriate award.  We invite you to contact our firm today at (800) 707-9577 to schedule your free consultation, so we can answer any questions you may have regarding your qui tam lawsuit.

Frequently Asked Questions about “No Fault” Workers’ Compensation Claims

Monday, December 14th, 2015

If you suffer a workplace injury, the experience can be stressful and debilitating.  Many people are aware that the Mississippi workers’ compensation system provides benefits for on-the-job injuries, but they are unclear about how the program works.  Anxiety associated with these unanswered questions can mount while you are missing work.  The mortgage bill, groceries, gas, utilities, and other expenses do not disappear when you are unable to work.  This process can be less stressful when you understand your legal rights and the workers’ compensation system.  This blog post answers frequently asked questions about what “no-fault” means in the context of workers’ compensation claims.

How does no-fault in the workers’ compensation system differ from negligence claims in personal injury lawsuits?

When a third party like an equipment rental company is sued rather than an employer, the company that provided improperly maintained equipment might be liable for negligence in keeping the equipment in safe working order.  When fault is an issue, the negligence of the third party generally must be established by the injury victim to obtain a judgment.  Further, the third party might reduce or avoid liability by shifting some or all of the blame for an accident to the injured employee.  When workers’ compensation benefits are at issue, the negligence of the claimant is irrelevant subject to the intoxication exception discussed below.

What is the rationale for making benefits available on a no-fault” basis?

Workers’ compensation benefits are granted on a no-fault basis for a number of reasons.  The no-fault criteria permits an injured worker to obtain immediate medical care free of charge regardless of who caused an on-the-job injury subject to limited exceptions.  This prompt access to free medical care facilitates the ability of the employee to get back to work and earning income promptly.  Litigation is a more lengthy process especially when it involves establishing fault based on evidence that often is in possession of the other party to a personal injury claim.  Because the cost of litigation is avoided, the insurance company and the employer save money and time in resolving the dispute.

Does the no-fault rule apply if my employer claims I caused my own injury?

Although the no-fault system permits injured employees to receive benefits even if they are partially responsible for causing their own injuries, there are narrow exceptions to the no-fault rule.  If an employee willfully intended to cause his or her own injury, this type of harm is not covered for reasons that are probably apparent.  However, the mere fact the employer alleges a worker intentionally injured himself does not necessarily mean that benefits will be denied.  Mississippi workers’ compensation law imposes a presumption that benefits the employee in this situation, so the employer has the burden of proving that a worker intentionally caused his or her own injuries.

The other narrow exception to the “no-fault” rule involves intoxication.  If the intoxicating substance is an illegal narcotic or a prescription drug that is ingested without the orders of a doctor, intoxication by these drugs or alcohol will raise a presumption against benefits being paid to the employee provided the intoxicant was the proximate cause of the worker’s injury. When a drug test reveals alcohol or drugs in an employee’s system, the employee has the burden of rebutting a presumption that the intoxicating substance was a cause of the accident.

Our Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Attorneys represent injured employees in workers’ compensation claims and lawsuits against third parties.  At Barrett Law, we are here to help.  Contact our firm today at (800) 707-9577 to schedule your free consultation, so we can answer any questions you may have regarding filing your claim.

Auto Insurers Count on You Not Knowing the Value of Your Car Accident Claim

Sunday, December 13th, 2015

If you settle an auto accident claim without obtaining legal advice, it is virtually impossible for you to know whether the settlement offered by the other driver’s insurance company is fair.  Because insurers know that non-attorneys lack the experience to evaluate a liability claim, they frequently take advantage of unrepresented car accident claimants by pushing lowball settlement offers.  The insurance company is well aware that car accident victims face severe financial challenges and frequently rely on this financial pressure to persuade accident victims to settle their case for pennies on the dollar.

An insurance company will often try to persuade injury victims that there is a simple standardized formula for determining the value of a car accident claim.  The insurance company adjuster may even suggest that retaining a personal injury lawyer will only result in a reduced net recovery.  This is a trap, and the insurance company is hoping you fall for this bad advice.

Evaluating a Car Accident Claim More Art than Science: Subjective Damage Factors

There are many subjective factors that are relevant to the proper estimation of the value of damages in a car accident lawsuit.  A few examples of these subjective factors include:

  • Moral outrage generated by the at-fault driver’s conduct
  • “Likeability” of the accident victim
  • Individual life experiences and impact on the victim’s quality of life
  • Persuasiveness and advocacy of your personal injury attorney
  • Closeness and quality of an injury victim’s marriage before and after the collision

This certainly is not an exhaustive list of the subjective factors that are relevant in determining the value of an auto collision claim.  However, these types of factors do not lend themselves to simply being plugged into a mathematical formula.  The weight, relevance, and impact of these factors are largely dependent on effective litigation strategy and persuasive advocacy.

When an insurance company tells you that they determine the value of your claim by use of a mathematical formula, this is misleading.  The insurance company will often multiply your medical costs by a factor based on the seriousness of your injuries.  For example, the insurance company may multiply all of your medical expenses by 1-3 for minor injuries, 4-6 for moderate injuries and 7-9 for serious injuries.  The insurance company adjuster may add to this total lost wages and property loss (i.e. vehicle damage) before making an offer to settle your case based on this calculation.  However, a skilled personal injury attorney often can obtain far more than the amount indicated by this type of simplistic calculation.

Balancing Evidence of Fault vs. Potential Recovery

While a wide array of complex subjective factors are important to determining the value of a car accident claim, the probability of a successful recovery and the amount of the potential recovery also constitute important factors.  Generally, personal injury attorneys consider an inverse relationship between the strength of the evidence of liability and the maximum recovery that might be available when evaluating a case.  In other words, a smaller recovery will still merit bringing a legal claim if the evidence of liability is compelling.  However, the possible recovery will need to be higher to justify the cost of litigation when fault will be a hotly contested issue.

Our Mississippi Car Accident Lawyers cannot guarantee any specific recovery, but we often provide a general estimation of the range of recoveries that might be possible based on an evaluation of your claim.  Contact Barrett Law today at 800.707.9577 to schedule your free consultation.

 

 

SEC Makes Progress in Limiting Ability of Companies to Silence Whistleblowers

Wednesday, December 9th, 2015

Many companies attempting to avoid disclosures that cause embarrassment and exposure to civil and criminal liability have used restrictive non-disclosure agreements to silence whistleblowers.  These agreements essentially constitute documents imposing corporate censorship to prevent disclosure of misconduct that harms the public.  Earlier this year, the SEC took action to protect whistleblowers from these oppressive agreements in the context of Dodd-Frank.

The Dodd-Frank Act includes language that permits people to cooperate with the government by notifying the public and courts of inappropriate financial practices.  The value of this law in safeguarding the financial system and protecting the public is evidenced by the important role of whistleblowers in exposing the misconduct of Bernie Madoff and Enron.  The devastating impact of large scale financial misconduct that contributed to the financial meltdown in the U.S. can be exposed and prevented by freeing whistleblowers from restrictive confidentiality agreements.

Since enactment of Dodd Frank, companies have drafted elaborate and extremely restrictive non-disclosure agreements that are intended to handcuff whistleblowers.  These agreements generally only permit revealing confidential information to the legal department of the offending company.  The hammer used to enforce restrictions on disclosure of misconduct includes making such non-disclosure a condition of employment.  Further, employees have been presented with confidentiality agreements that condition severance pay or the settlement of claims related to termination on accepting such censorship.

While no two non-disclosure agreements are identical, they tend to share some common features.  A common provision within this type of restrictive confidentiality agreement only permits confidential information to be discussed with lawyers hired by the company.  Many even prohibit discussing such information regarding illegal or otherwise improper practices with government regulators like the SEC.  Some companies also impose a requirement that employees discuss information regarding the scope of inquiry under such government investigations with company representatives.  In other words, innocent employees are essentially turned into informants for the company and forced to report on representatives of government agencies.

A particularly egregious aspect of these agreements involves the requirement that the existence of such agreements not be disclosed.  Forcing employees to hide agreements that limit disclosure of illegal conduct and fraud by their employees amounts to having the wolf guard the henhouse.

Fortunately, the SEC has stepped in to put a stop to this tactic, which undercuts the purpose of qui tam claims and whistleblower statutes.  In early April 2015, the agency levied huge fines on KBR, a massive defense industry contractor, for mandating that employees sign restrictive confidentiality agreements.  The agreements were challenged by the whistleblower who exposed extensive fraud committed against the federal government by the defense contractor during the Iraq war.  The whistleblower challenged the agreements, which were used by KBR to silence other employees with knowledge of information relevant to proving his fraud claims.

It is still too early to tell how this action will impact whistleblowers under laws relevant to other agencies and fraud outside the financial sector.  The ruling marks the first time that a federal regulatory agency has fined a corporation for imposing non-disclosure agreements that impair the ability of an employee to report financial crimes.  Hopefully, other state and federal regulatory agencies will take a similar stance.

Our Mississippi Qui Tam Attorneys represent individuals who exercise the courage to disclose fraud and other criminal activity under state and federal whistleblower laws.  At Barrett Law, we are here to help.  Contact our firm today at (800) 707-9577 to schedule your free consultation, so we can answer any questions you may have regarding filing your claim.

 

Dispelling the Myth Motorcycle Helmets Contribute to Neck and Spine Injuries

Wednesday, December 9th, 2015

Motorcyclists in Mississippi face a heightened risk of collisions and catastrophic injuries or fatalities.  Motorcycles are inherently more dangerous than a passenger vehicle because of their lack of stability, small margin for error, and complete absence of structural protection for riders.  Given the heightened risk posed to those who ride motorcycles, it is widely acknowledged by most safety experts that a motorcycle helmet is an indispensable item of safety gear for any rider.

Head injuries are the most common cause of catastrophic injuries and fatalities resulting from motorcycle crashes.  Government data reveals that a rider who is not wearing a helmet is 40 percent more likely to suffer a fatal head injury according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).  When calculated on the basis of miles driven, a rider involved in a motorcycle accident is 37 times more likely to be killed in an accident than a passenger vehicle occupant.

Despite this data and general acceptance of the safety benefits provided by motorcycle helmets, there are those who contend that motorcycle helmets actually increase the risk of serious injuries to the neck and spine.  However, research in recent years debunks the myth that motorcycle helmets increase the risk of these types of injuries.  A recent study not only confirms that helmets do not raise the risk of injury to the spine and neck but also indicates that helmets actually reduce the risk of cervical spinal injuries.

The study reported in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons is significant because a number of states have repealed universal helmet laws based on concerns about the relationship between helmets and neck injuries.  This legislative trend has been partially based on a small isolated study conducted almost three decades ago that indicated motorcycle helmets might increase the risk of neck injuries.

The NHTSA has long criticized the methodology and reliability of the earlier study.  Motorcycle accident experts also have pointed out that motorcycle helmet standards have improved substantially since the earlier study.  Because helmets manufactured today are lighter and more durable, they provide enhanced protection against head trauma with less stress on the neck and spine.  The Journal of American College of Surgeons study reveals that a person involved in a motorcycle accident who is wearing a helmet is 22 percent less likely to experience a cervical spine injury.  The conclusions were based on analysis of data from over 40,000 motorcycle accidents.

As motorcycle helmet laws have been repealed, there has been a predictable increase in motorcycle-related injuries and fatalities.  During the last 14-year period, there has been an increase in motorcycle accident related injuries by about 5,000 per year while motorcycle accident fatalities have doubled according to NHTSA data.  This trend is directly correlated with the repeal of mandatory helmet laws in many states.  Hopefully, studies that debunk misconceptions about specious safety risks associated with motorcycle helmets will encourage legislators to review the appropriateness of universal helmet laws.

Our Mississippi Motorcycle Accident Attorneys see the tragic consequences of riding motorcycles without the benefit of a helmet all too often, so we encourage all motorcyclists to wear a helmet at all times.  At Barrett Law, we understand motorcycle accident victims often feel overwhelmed, and we are here to help.  Contact our firm today at (800) 707-9577 to schedule your free consultation.  We can evaluate your right to financial compensation.

 

 

 

 

Shady Fraud Notices Unwelcome Holiday Surprise for BP Oil Spill Claimants

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

Thousands of business owners with claims for loss submitted as part of the BP oil spill settlement received an upsetting “gift” in the form of a fraud notice during the Christmas holiday.  The notices provided virtually no information supporting the allegations despite the fact that all of the recipients of the claims notices had claims that were pending for at least six months.  Many of the claimants had submitted their claims over a year prior, yet there was no factual basis provided in any of the letters to indicate why the claims were being investigated for fraud.

This strategy of threatening fraud seems particularly suspect based on when the fraud notices were mailed.  The standard practice under the BP oil spill settlement has been to send out letters to claimants on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. that indicate whether a claim was denied, approved, or lacking in information.  However, these letters were sent out at close of business the Wednesday before the company closed for the Thursday through Sunday Christmas period.  This tactic left targeted claimants without the option to contact the BP claims office to obtain an explanation or justification for the investigation until the after the Christmas holiday period.

The real goal of this tactic might be to create financial pressure on claimants to abandon legitimate claims for loss.  The notices provided absolutely no specific allegations or facts to justify initiating a fraud investigation involving claims that have lingered for a prolonged period.  This intimidation tactic often is employed by insurance carriers to intimidate policyholders making claims for theft, fire, or vandalism loss.  The thinly veiled threat of criminal liability for fraud combined with the unavailability of information from the insurer for several days could well be designed to exact pressure on claimants to withdraw their claim.

While the fraud notices were short on substantive information, the motivations for the correspondence can be gleaned from the limited information provided to businesses that had submitted claims.  The notices indicate that recipients are under investigation by the Fraud, Waste, and Abuse Department, which is under the management of a former FBI Director.  The key information provided to recipients involves the claimant’s qualification for a new amnesty program.  Conveniently, this new program was launched just a week before sending the notices.  According to the correspondence, recipients can avoid potential criminal charges if they abandon their claim.

Many businesses who consider submitting claims as part of the BP oil spill settlement presume that they do not need legal advice and representation.  Tactics like these that amount to the denial of potentially valid claims, as well as threats to file criminal charges demonstrate the importance of working with a skilled and experienced BP oil spill claims lawyer.

Our Mississippi BP claims attorneys represent businesses who have suffered losses caused by the BP oil spill.  At Barrett Law, our seasoned Mississippi BP Claims Attorney is here to help.  Contact our firm today at (800) 707-9577 to schedule your free consultation, so we can answer any questions you may have regarding filing your claim.