Archive for June, 2016

Mississippi Personal Injury Lawyer Provides More Important Answers about Dog Attack Injury Claims

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

This blog post is the second installment of our two-part blog post that addresses typical questions our personal injury law firm receives about legal claims for dog bite injuries.  While we have attempted to answer frequent questions, the best way to obtain information about your unique circumstances is to speak to an experienced Mississippi dog bite lawyer.

 

What do I need to know about the Mississippi dog bite statute?

 

Unlike the majority of states, Mississippi does not have a dog bite statute.  The State of Mississippi has delegated the issue of control of dangerous animals to municipalities.  A common law legal claim may be brought based on the “one bite rule” or other applicable theories of liability.

Does the type of dog owned by a person increase the risk of a serious dog mauling?

While any dog can cause severe injuries, certain breeds statistically account for the vast majority of fatal dog mauling incidents.  For example, Pit Bulls caused 82 percent of fatal dog bites in 2015 despite severe regulations and bans involving this breed of dog in over 700 cities across the country and military housing.  Rottweilers accounted for the second most common breed involved in fatal dog attack incidents during the same period.

Are particular groups of people more likely to be the victim of a dog bite?

The CDC estimates that fifty percent of children 12 and under experience injuries caused by a dog bite.  Further, children age 14 and under account for 48 percent of fatal dog attack victims.  Other groups frequently exposed to injury in dog bite incidents include the elderly, meter readers, mail delivery carriers, and other home service providers.  For example, 5,600 U.S. Postal Service carriers experience a dog bite in a typical year.

What legal deadlines apply to dog attack injury claims in Mississippi?

The statute of limitations is a legal deadline that requires an injury victim to file a lawsuit within a certain period to avoid having their claim permanently barred.  While there can be subtle issues that complicate this situation, the general rule is that a plaintiff must file a dog bite claim within three years of the incident that caused the injury.  This deadline applies whether the injury was caused by a bite or in another way such as knocking over a bicyclist.  If you delay in seeking legal advice, and you file your lawsuit after the statute of limitations has “run” (expired), the dog owner and his or her insurance company will ask the court to dismiss the lawsuit.  Typically, the request will be granted, except in rare circumstances when the time is “tolled” (paused).

What defense strategies might a dog owner and his or her insurance company use when I file my lawsuit?

While the specific defense strategies the insurance company might employ depend on the specific facts and circumstances, some approaches our Jackson, MI personal injury lawyers frequently encounter include the following:

  • Trespassing by the victim (not necessarily a viable defense if the injury victim is a child)
  • Provoking and teasing the dog
  • Unreasonable carelessness of the dog bite victim
  • Violation of the law at the time of the injury (e.g. police dog attacking fleeing suspect)
  • Lack of knowledge of viciousness of dog
  • Trivializing or disputing the injuries suffered by the victim

Our Mississippi dog attack lawyers analyze situations to determine the tactics an insurance company or dog owner will use to avoid taking responsibility for irresponsible canine ownership.

If you are in a Mississippi dog bite incident, our Mississippi Personal Injury Lawyer successfully represented many animal attack victims.  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.

Mississippi Dog Bite Attorneys Answer Common Questions about Dog Bite Claims

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

While you might view dog bites and attacks as rare occurrences that result in minor injuries, our Mississippi personal injury lawyers recognize that canine attacks all too frequently cause disfiguring injuries.  Because dog bites often result in severe physical injury, families can struggle with significant financial hardships that might include loss of income, costly medical bills, counseling expenses, and other expenses.  In this two-installment blog, our Mississippi dog bite accident attorneys answer common questions about dog bite injury claims.

Are dog bite incidents common enough that I need to worry about my right to compensation?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that over 4.5 million people suffer dog bite injuries in a typical year.  The CDC also reports that approximately one out of every five of these bite incidents are serious enough that the victim must obtain medical treatment.  During a recent one-year period, 27,000 people in the U.S. were forced to undergo reconstructive surgery because of a dog bite.  Approximately 1,008 people per day visit emergency rooms across the U.S. because of dog bite injuries.

Does the severity of a typical dog bite claim justify retaining an attorney and pursuing a legal claim?

During a recent one-year period, 27,000 people in the U.S. were forced to undergo reconstructive surgery because of a dog bite.  From a claims perspective, the American Information Institute reports that dog bites constitute a third or all homeowner’s insurance liability claims.  These claims amount to approximately $530 million in payouts with the average payout exceeding $32,000.  Further, the amount paid out on dog bite claims appears to be on the rise.  During a recent one-year period, State Farm Insurance paid out $109 million in claims which exceeded payouts the prior year by over seventeen percent.

Are dog owners strictly liable for the injuries their dogs inflict?

While many states impose strict liability on dog owner for “bites” or “injuries” caused by a canine, Mississippi is a “one bite” jurisdiction.  This term is a misnomer to some extent because it does not predicate the liability of an owner on a dog’s “bite” history.  Rather, this rule imposes liability on a dog owner who knows or should reasonably know that his or her dog might bite if the owner fails to exercise appropriate precautions.  The rationale behind this liability rule is that a dog that has exhibited prior aggressive behavior will do so again in the future.  If the dog has not previously physically attacked, mauled, or bitten a person, a careful investigation and artful advocacy often will be needed to prove the dog owner had the requisite knowledge of the dog’s vicious tendencies.

Evidence that we might use to establish the liability of the owner could include some or all of the following:

  • Tendency to lung, attack, threaten, or bark at people
  • Prior complaints about the dog
  • Dog’s breed
  • Prior fight training
  • Muzzling of dog
  • Growling and snarling at people approaching the dog
  • Displaying aggressive behavior toward other animals

Even if the dog owner does not possess the requisite knowledge that his or her dog poses a danger to the public, there might be other applicable theories of liability such as negligence of the dog owner or strict liability based on a violation of a leash law or related ordinance.

Our Mississippi Dog Bite Attorneys analyze situations to determine the tactics an insurance company or dog owner will use to avoid taking responsibility for irresponsible canine ownership.  At Barrett Law, we are here to help.  Contact our law firm today at 800-707-9577 to schedule your free consultation, so we can answer any questions you may have regarding filing your claim.

 

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Mississippi Construction Accident Lawyers Discuss Compensation for Fall Accidents

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

Falls from scaffoldings, ladders, and other elevations constitute the leading cause of injury in the construction industry and account for over 100,000 injuries per year.  Fall accidents also are the number one cause of construction-related fatalities with one in ten fatal construction accidents involving a fall.  The injuries sustained from a fall can have long-lasting financial consequences for both the worker and his or her family.  The chances of permanent disability are high, and catastrophic injuries are common.  The types of severe injury associated with falls from scaffoldings on construction sites usually result in enormous medical expenses and long periods of painful rehabilitation.

If you have a fall on a construction site and suffer serious injuries or a loved one dies in a fall, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.  Our experienced Mississippi construction accident attorneys at Barrett Law conduct careful investigations into the circumstances of our clients’ injuries so that we can pursue the fullest recovery.

Falls from scaffoldings and ladders can result from a variety of causes including:

  • The scaffolding collapses because it is improperly set up or poorly maintained.
  • The ladder or scaffolding is defectively designed or manufactured.
  • The worker is not trained on proper safety practices and use of the equipment.
  • The worker is not furnished with proper safety equipment.
  • Careless workers on the ground strike the equipment or damage the equipment in some way, which leads to its weakening.

“Fall through” accidents constitute another type of serious fall incident that is common on Mississippi construction sites.  These construction accidents involve workers on rooftops or upper floors falling through an open floor.  These accidents usually result from improper safety measures or failure of a co-worker to properly mark an unfinished open floor. By adhering to government safety guidelines and regulations, nearly all of these types of construction falls could be prevented, or the severity of injuries might be substantially decreased.  These guidelines include education of workers, the use of protective equipment, and installation of rail and netting to prevent falls.

OSHA safety measures must be complied with to protect construction workers from serious falls.  If an employee is injured during a fall while working on a construction project, the injured construction worker might be entitled to medical treatment, partial wage replacement, and disability benefits.  A claim against an employer would be in the form of a worker’s compensation claim.

Because worker’s compensation benefits are typically more limited than damages awarded in a personal injury lawsuit, our experienced Mississippi construction accident attorneys will carefully investigate negligent conduct by third-parties.  We typically pursue both worker’s compensation claims against an employer and a personal injury lawsuit against negligent third-parties.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a fall on a construction site, our attorneys help injured construction workers pursue both personal injury damages and worker’s compensation benefits.  At Barrett Law, we are here to help.  Contact our seasoned Mississippi Construct Accident Lawyers today at 800-707-9577 to schedule your free consultation, so we can answer any questions you may have regarding filing your claim.

 

 

Mississippi Train Accident Lawyers Discuss Fatal Amtrak Collision That Reminds of the Dangers of Unsafe Rail Crossings

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

While passenger trains and commuter trains constitute one of the safest forms of travel, collisions between motor vehicles and trains usually result in catastrophic injuries or even fatalities for the occupant of a car, SUV, van, or pickup.  During a derailment accident caused by such a crash, the train passengers also frequently experience life-altering injuries.

A recent fatal train crash in Flora, Mississippi led to the death of a father, his 7-year-old daughter, and a 1-year-old son.  The train was headed to New Orleans after a stop in Jackson when it struck the vehicle.  The truck became lodged under the train before being ripped in two.  Media sources reported the Kearney Park fire chief indicated all three family members were killed on impact even though all vehicle occupants were properly buckled up or in age-appropriate child safety restraints.

Trains, railroads, and railyards are inherently dangerous, so thousands of railroad accidents cause hundreds of deaths each year.  When train companies fail to take adequate precautions to protect the public and employees, the result can be devastating injuries and fatalities.  Some of the most significant types of train accidents include:

  • Derailment of trains transporting hazardous or toxic substances
  • Crashes between motor vehicles and trains at unsafe railroad crossings
  • Train derailments or collisions
  • On-the-job injuries to railroad workers involved in accidents
  • Railroad employees exposed to toxic chemicals

If the railroad company does not implement appropriate measures to prevent these types of train accidents, the railroad company can be liable for failure to utilize appropriate equipment, safety training, or other forms of carelessness.  Typical examples of railroad negligence that frequently cause serious injury include:

  • Use of improper equipment on locomotive tracks or crossings
  • Failing to perform proper maintenance to keep train crossings and tracks safe
  • Lack of timely and regular inspections
  • Employees forced to work excessive hours resulting in fatigue-related accidents
  • Inadequate training of railroad employees
  • Failure to provide clear markings, warnings, or barriers at rail crossings

While train derailments and other railroad accidents can occur in many situations, train crossing accidents like the fatal train accident in Flora, MS constitute one of the most common types of deadly train accidents.  When overgrown vegetation or other hazards obstruct the view at a train crossing, motorists can make miscalculations regarding their safety at train-road intersections.  In other cases, the rail crossing gate or signal might be improperly installed, poorly maintained, or ambiguously marked, so that approaching motorists are not properly warned of the approaching train.  Laws require train conductors to sound whistles and reduce their speed to warn approaching motorists and pedestrians of an approaching train, and the failure to do so often causes horrific railroad crossing accidents.

While passengers often suffer serious injury in train accidents, railroad employees labor on a daily basis in one of the most dangerous of occupations.  The Federal Employer’ Liability Act (FELA) imposes a duty on railroad companies to protect their employees from unnecessary risks that could cause disabling injuries.

Common examples of train injuries include but are not limited to the following:

  • Vibration injuries (e.g. joints, spine, feet, ankles, etc.)
  • Physical injuries (e.g. amputations, lacerations, severe burns, broken bones, etc.)
  • Trip and fall and slip and fall accidents
  • Damage to hearing
  • Ballast injuries (e.g. spine, feet, legs, ankles, knees, etc.)
  • Toxic chemical exposure
  • Repetitive motion injuries (carpal tunnel)
  • Lung Cancer

If you have been injured in a Mississippi train accident, our Mississippi Train Accident Lawyers have successfully represented many train and railroad injury victims in obtaining compensation for their injuries.  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.

 

Mississippi Worker’s Workplace Injury Lawyers Discuss Employer Use of Independent Contractor Misclassification to Evade Worker’s Compensation Obligations

Monday, June 20th, 2016

An increasing number of companies are using independent contractors rather than W-2 employees.  While many jobs like commission sales positions have traditionally been filled by independent contractors, companies in other sectors of the economy are increasingly using independent contractor (IC) agreements to avoid the financial costs associated with W-2 employee status.  Businesses gain substantial financial advantages by filling their personnel needs through IC labor both in the form of reduced cost and potential limits on liability.  Since ICs are not subject to worker’s compensation benefits, companies might attempt to veil their relationship with workers as non-employees to avoid the obligation to obtain worker’s compensation insurance and the cost of benefits.

 

While many companies utilize an independent contractor agreement as a tool to evade obligations to employees, an IC agreement is not dispositive if the business-worker relationship functionally amounts to an employee-employer relationship.  Under Mississippi law, an IC contracts to perform work based on his or her own methods without the exertion of control by the employer, except as to the results of the work.  The IC is free from the authority of the employer regarding how the designated work will be performed and the assertion of control as to the methods of completing the employment objectives.  When making a determination regarding an employee’s status under this test, Mississippi courts consider the following factors:

 

  • Whether the servant is engaged in a distinct business or occupation
  • Whether the work constitutes a type of regular business engaged in by the employer
  • Degree to which the employer exercises control over details of performance of the work
  • If the employer supplied the place of work and tools to perform the required tasks
  • Whether compensation is based on time or completion of the job
  • Level of skill required of the employee in the occupation
  • Duration of the master-servant relationship

 

The point is that an employment relationship exists if the services provided are an integral part of the ordinary business of the company, and the service provider is not offering an independent business or professional service to the company.  The ultimate classification is controlled by the actual conduct of the parties irrespective of the worker’s designation in a contract between the company and the service provider.  Of the factors above, control over the specific manner the work is performed constitutes the most important consideration.

 

A growing number of companies are taking advantage of the economic benefits of classifying service providers as independent contractors.  There are substantial advantages for companies in taking this approach, including shifting the tax burden to the service provider, as well as potentially avoiding the expense associated with unemployment or worker’s compensation benefits.

By the same token, the cost to a person providing services of being characterized as an independent contractor is extremely high.  The person must pay both income and self-employment taxes.  This arrangement effectively means that the service provider is covering the portion of FICA that would be covered by an employer in a traditional employment relationship.  The employee also may bear the risk of job loss or a job-related injury.

If you are a worker misclassified as an independent contractor who suffers an on-the-job injury, our experienced Mississippi Worker’s Workplace Injury Lawyers can analyze your employment relationship.  We have successfully represented clients in obtaining worker’s compensation benefits despite attempts by their employer to claim they were exempt IC service providers.  At Barrett Law, we are here to help.  Contact our law firm today at 800-707-9577 to schedule your free consultation, so we can answer any questions you may have regarding filing your claim.

Mississippi Car Accident Lawyers Discuss Study Indicating Rise of New Forms of Distracted Driving: Selfies & Social Media Activity

Thursday, June 16th, 2016

While distracted driving has always been a significant cause of car accidents that result in serious injury, cell phones have magnified the danger because of the number of drivers that own these portable communication devices.  Although the majority of drivers are aware that texting on a cell phone is one of the most dangerous forms of distracted driving, people continue to discover new risky practices that endanger those with whom they share the roadways.  A study conducted by AT&T reveals that cell phone distractions go far beyond texting and driving.

While no text message or telephone call is worth causing an auto accident, drivers are finding even less important reasons to endanger the safety of vehicle occupants, motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians.  The ATT&T study found the following disturbing results regarding the prevalence of frivolous uses of cell phones while driving:

  • 27 percent of drivers between the ages of 16 and 65 use cell phones for Facebook.
  • 14 percent of drivers use cell phones for Twitter.
  • 30 percent of motorists admitted using their cell phone to tweet “all the ”
  • 28 percent surf the web.
  • Over 10 percent use Snapchat and Instagram.
  • 17 percent use their cell phone to take selfies.
  • More than 10 percent video chat with Skype or other apps.

AT&T conducted the study to promote awareness regarding the risk of using portable electronic devices while driving.  Despite past public awareness campaigns, more than 62 percent of drivers continue to report that they keep their cell phone within reach when driving.  Further, 22 percent of drivers admit using their cell phone for social networking while operating a motor vehicle.

The vast majority of the public condemns drinking and driving as unacceptable because of the toll drunk drivers exact in accident-related injuries and fatalities.  However, an increase in new types of mobile phone uses while driving suggests that people might still have a more tolerant view of distracted driving.

This more accepting attitude is alarming given that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that texting while driving is six times more dangerous than alcohol-impaired driving.  Motorists engage in multi-tasking behavior while driving approximately half the time they spend behind the wheel according to the NHTSA.  This failure of motorists to focus all of their attention on their driving leads to a million accidents, including 16 percent of fatal accidents annually based on data from the agency.

When a distracted driver who is using a cell phone rear-ends a vehicle stopped for traffic, drifts into an adjacent lane, or otherwise causes a collision, the distracted driver can be liable for causing injury to others.  Victims of distracted drivers should seek legal advice promptly following a collision because distracted driving can be difficult to prove.  Texting on a cell phone might be proven by obtaining cell phone records from a phone carrier.  Other types of use of a cell phone such as selfies, social media posts, and similar activities might be established through the effective use of discovery tools and an investigation.

If you have been injured in a car accident in Jacksonville or the surrounding areas, our Mississippi Car Accident Lawyers have successfully represented many victims of negligent drivers.  At Barrett Law, we are here to help.  Contact our law firm today at 800-707-9577 to schedule your free consultation, so we can answer any questions you may have regarding filing your claim.

 

 

Mississippi Traffic Accident Lawyers Discuss Side of the Road Crash Involving Highway Patrol Officer

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

Most drivers have passed a police officer interacting with motorists pulled over for a traffic violation.  Because motorists see vehicles stopped on the side of the road so frequently, drivers might have a tendency to view the situation as routine.  However, an officer with the Mississippi Highway Patrol recently experienced the potential danger involved in this scenario.  The officer and his K-9 suffered injuries after a motorist collided with the patrolman’s squad car parked on the shoulder of Mississippi 45 in Tupelo, MS.  Although the officer and his K-9 were both injured, they were expected to make a full recovery.

While this story had a happy ending, shoulder of the road accidents frequently cause severe and permanent injuries.  Road shoulder accidents usually occur because a motorist with car trouble is stranded or a worker is fulfilling job duties.  A flat tire, mechanical problems, blowout, or traffic stop might stand a motorist.  Workers most typically injured in these dangerous crashes include law enforcement officers, tow truck drivers, construction crews, emergency responders, etc.

The edge of the roadway does not provide a safe environment for workers or drivers experiencing mechanical problems.  Drivers approaching vehicles on the shoulder often fail to allow enough room when passing.  When a stranded or stopped motorist is outside of a vehicle dealing with maintenance, repair, or traffic violation issues, the risk of a fatal collision or catastrophic injury rises because of the human body’s proximity to traffic without any form of protection from impact.

Many states have passed “Move Over” laws to reduce the risk of shoulder accidents.  These laws generally require that drivers take the reasonable precaution of scooting over to an adjacent lane when emergency responders are present on the side of the road.  The Mississippi Move Over statute directs motorists traveling on interstate highways in the direction of an emergency vehicle to vacate the lane closest to the emergency vehicle.  If traffic conditions make it unsafe to change to an adjacent lane, drivers are supposed to reduce their speed and be prepared to stop.  When a motorist observes an emergency vehicle on the shoulder of the roadway with flashing lights, the law requires drivers to slow down and proceed with caution.

Although Mississippi’s Move Over law does not extend to stranded motorists and public works employees working on the shoulder, prudent motorists must keep in mind that these individuals also are vulnerable.  Drivers should strive to leave sufficient space in the event a vehicle occupant exits a car parked on the side of the road and attempts to walk around the vehicle.

When drivers violate Move Over laws or fail to exercise reasonable caution to avoid hitting vehicles or pedestrians on the shoulder of the road, their negligent conduct might justify financial compensation.  If you have been injured in a road shoulder accident in Jacksonville or the surrounding areas, our Mississippi Traffic Accident Lawyers have successfully represented many victims of negligent motorists.  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.

Mississippi Car Accident Lawyers Discuss Strategies for Identifying a Viable Defendant

Friday, June 10th, 2016

When car accident victims are involved in a collision in Mississippi, they often face challenges in identifying a viable responsible party to sue.  A motorist who slams into you from behind might lack sufficient insurance coverage to compensate you fully for your losses.  Alternatively, the at-fault driver might even flee the scene. Despite an exhaustive investigation, many car accident victims cannot track down the driver responsible for their injuries even with assistance from law enforcement officers.

Tragically, some injury victims simply give up when they learn that the other driver cannot be identified or does not have insurance.  Our experienced Jackson County car accident attorneys at Barrett Law have successfully assisted many car accident victims facing this difficult scenario.  This blog discusses some effective strategies for dealing with a situation where the most obvious at-fault party (i.e. the other driver) is not a viable defendant.

Liability of Other Parties

Third-parties (i.e. not a driver of either vehicle) often play a role in causing a car accident.  Depending on the facts and circumstances of your case, a wide range of third-parties might be liable for your injuries. If the person who was at fault in your accident was performing a work-related function, the company that employs the driver might be responsible for your injuries. These cases can be complex because the employer often disputes whether the particular tasks that the driver was performing at the time of the crash were within the scope of employment.  Mississippi law does not make it dispositive that the task occurred after hours or even that the employee voluntarily decided to undertake the errand.

An owner who entrusted the negligent third-party with the vehicle also might be liable for a crash victim’s injuries. When people entrust their vehicle to a person who lacks the maturity, competence, or responsibility to drive safely, they can be liable for negligently entrusting a vehicle to a third-party.  For example, a vehicle owner might lend his car to a friend who the car owner knows has a history of driving under the influence of alcohol or a pattern of past traffic accidents.  The imprudent decision to provide a vehicle to a driver with this background could provide a basis for imposing liability on the vehicle owner.

Another party that might be liable for your injuries includes a public entity that designed or maintained an unreasonably dangerous roadway.  Our experienced Mississippi car accident attorneys always explore the possibility of liability of a public entity, but the potential liability of a municipality, county, or the State of Mississippi is especially important.  Public entities that know or should know of dangerous roadway conditions can be financially responsible for failure to make a roadway safe or failure to provide adequate warnings of potential hazards.  Special requirements and deadlines apply when suing the government, so you should seek prompt legal advice from an experienced Jackson auto accident attorney.

An automaker that produces a defective automobile also might be liable for your injuries if the defect contributed to your car accident.  Companies that design, manufacture, or sell motor vehicles and their components can be liable for product defects that contribute to a collision.  Since you are seeking damages against large companies in this situation, you should talk to a personal injury attorney with a proven track record in lawsuits against large corporations.

Uninsured Motorist (UM)/Underinsured Motorists (UIM)

If there is no other viable party against whom you may recover for your injuries, our Mississippi car accident attorneys can explore filing a claim against your uninsured motorist UM coverage.  Uninsured motorist coverage is optional supplemental insurance coverage that can provide compensation if you are involved in a hit-and-run accident or an accident with an uninsured driver. Uninsured motorist coverage is typically available for a relatively modest additional premium and can be invaluable if you find yourself involved in a serious car accident with no viable defendant to compensate you for your injuries.

Underinsured motorist coverage is slightly different in that it provides additional compensation when the at-fault party does not carry enough insurance coverage to compensate you for all of your loss. Your underinsured motorist coverage can provide additional compensation on top of the insurance coverage of a negligent driver.

If you are in a Mississippi auto collision caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver, our Mississippi Car Accident Lawyers have successfully represented many crash victims.  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.

Trucker Ordered Out-Of-Service after Multiple Convictions of DUI

Sunday, June 5th, 2016

Although the prospect of an intoxicated truck driver barreling down I-55 at sixty miles per hour might sound alarming, some in the trucking industry contend that drunk driving is no longer an issue.  While the use of stimulants and other drugs might be more prevalent than alcohol in the trucking industry, alcohol-impaired drivers continue to claim lives.  Shockingly, stories are still reported by the media of repeat DUI offenders operating tractor-trailers.

 

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently deemed a truck driver with a license in another state to be an imminent hazard to public safety.  Based on this determination, the trucker was ordered not to operate his big-rig in interstate commerce.  The truck driver was stopped and issued a citation in March 2016 for driving under the influence of alcohol.  A blood test of the driver at the time of the citation revealed a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of .308 percent.  This level of intoxication is seven times the legal limit for driving after consuming alcohol.  The tractor-trailer operator also received a citation for possession of an intoxicating beverage while on-duty and failure to maintain a proper logbook.  Both violations led to the driver’s immediate change in status to out-of-service.

 

This unsafe truck driver had a record of prior violations of trucking laws and regulations.  These prior violations included three prior convictions for alcohol-related driving violations.  In one of these prior incidents, the truck operator refused to submit to a breath test, which led to an eight-month license suspension.  The truck driver received a 15-month suspension following yet another DUI incident.  Before these incidents, the negligent truck driver was convicted of multiple violations of driving under the influence of alcohol/drugs while operating a commercial motor vehicle, which resulted in a one-year license suspension.

In issuing the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s imminent hazard out-of-service order, the agency concluded that the trucker’s history “…demonstrates that [the driver] is unwilling or unable to cease operating a commercial motor vehicle while using alcohol.”  The agency characterized the risk posed to the public as follows: “[His] continued operation of a commercial motor vehicle…puts the motoring public at imminent risk of serious bodily injury or death….”

When a commercial driver disregards an imminent hazard out-of-service order, the consequences can include a civil penalty not to exceed $2,750 and disqualification from commercial driving for a term that is not less than six months for a first offense.  These penalties increase to $5,500 and disqualification for a two-year period for a second offense.  Criminal penalties also can be imposed for violation of an imminent hazard out-of-service order.

The FMCSA’s order temporarily limits this driver’s ability to endanger other vehicle occupants, motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians on Mississippi roadways, but he got far too many bites at the apple.  When trucking companies fail to conduct adequate background checks, pre-employment screenings, and chemical testing, dangerous truck drivers like the one involved in this story can seriously endanger public safety.

If a criminal conviction or regulatory violation cannot keep unsafe truck drivers off the road, a civil judgment against the trucking company often provides a motivation for commercial carriers to be proactive.  A civil lawsuit could impose a massive judgment or settlement on a trucking company that fails to perform random drug tests or take unsafe drivers out-of-surface.

If you suffer an injury in a tractor-trailer accident in Jacksonville or the surrounding areas, our Mississippi Trucking Accident Attorneys have successfully represented many victims of negligent commercial drivers and trucking companies in obtaining compensation for their injuries.  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.

 

Mississippi Qui Tam Attorneys Note SEC Award of $17 Million to Whistleblower

Thursday, June 2nd, 2016

An anonymous whistleblower has received an award of $17 million from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in what amounts to the second largest reward ever from the agency.  The whistleblower provided details that led to the recovery of a substantial sum related to securities fraud.  Details regarding the whistleblower case are limited because the SEC does not disclose specifics regarding its enforcement actions or investigations.  The agency protects the identity of the whistleblower by preventing disclosure of information that directly or indirectly could expose the whistleblower’s identity.  However, the amount recovered in the SEC enforcement action can be estimated at between almost $56 and $170 million based on the whistleblower’s award.

The chief of the SEC Office of the Whistleblower recently announced that during the one month period before the $17 million award, the agency had provided more than $26 million among five separate whistleblowers.  The SEC official indicated that he believes that these substantial rewards will motivate people who possess an awareness of federal securities violations to step forward and disclose illegal conduct to the SEC.

Most SEC whistleblower cases are initiated by company insiders such as financial advisors, investors, bookkeepers, tellers, bankers and others uniquely situated to discover conduct and schemes designed to defraud the government.  Whistleblowers who disclose SEC violations protect the government, taxpayers, and investors.  Eligibility for a reward is based on providing original information that facilitates the recovery of funds obtained by defrauding the government or securities violations.  The enforcement action must involve sanctions exceeding a million dollars.

The amount provided as a cash reward will amount to between ten and thirty percent depending on certain factors, which include the extent of the participation by the whistleblower and the nature of the information provided to the SEC.  The funds awarded to the whistleblower are paid from a fund established by Congress for the protection of investors.  Further, the reward does not involve any cost to taxpayers or investors who experience economic harm stemming from the securities violations.

A growing number of whistleblowers have come forward to report securities violations to the SEC in recent years, especially during the last five year period.  During 2015, the SEC received an all-time high 3,923 reports of illegal securities activity.  The total represented an eight percent increase over the previous year.  Approximately 37 million dollars were awarded among eight whistleblowers last year.  To put this amount of award money in perspective, the awards to whistleblowers in 2015 account for nearly seventy percent (68 percent) of the total amount paid by the SEC since the establishment of the SEC whistleblower program.

If you have information about a scheme or actions to defraud the government or securities violations that harm investors, you might be entitled to a substantial financial recovery if you blow the whistle.  At Barrett Law, we are here to help.  Contact our Mississippi Qui Tam Attorneys today at 800-707-9577 to schedule your free consultation, so we can answer any questions you may have regarding filing your claim.