Marijuana Legalized in the States of Washington and Colorado

Washington and Colorado voters made their states the first in the nation to legalize recreational pot use on November 6, 2012 even though use is a violation of federal law.  The measure sets up a system of state-licensed marijuana growers, processors and retail stores, where adults over 21 can buy up to an ounce. It also establishes a standard blood test limit for driving under the influence.  Home growing has also become legal in Colorado, but not Washington.  The state of Oregon also voted on the issue in 2012 and legalization with unrestricted cultivation received 47% of the vote.  The issue is expected to be voted on again in 2016 in Oregon, as well as in California and Maine. 

Though it currently remains illegal to sell non-medical marijuana in the state — recreational pot shops won’t be able to get licenses to open for about another year — the law allows people to give marijuana to one another without compensation.
 
The Governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper, is on the record opposing his state’s amendment which seeks to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol.  “Colorado is known for many great things –- marijuana should not be one of them,” Hickenlooper said in a statement. “Amendment 64 has the potential to increase the number of children using drugs and would detract from efforts to make Colorado the healthiest state in the nation. It sends the wrong message to kids that drugs are OK.”
 

Supporters of the new law argue that legalizing marijuana could help bring in hundreds of millions of dollars a year in pot taxes, reduce small-time pot-related arrests and give supporters a chance to show whether decriminalization is a viable strategy in the war on drugs.

House Bill 2230, the West Virginia Compassionate Medical Marijuana Bill includes this clause concerning the medical use of marijuana:  “States are not required to enforce federal law or prosecute people for engaging in activities prohibited by federal law. Therefore, compliance with this article does not put the State of West Virginia in violation of federal law.”  But, be aware: just because state laws have changed, that doesn’t necessarily mean if you are caught in possession of marijuana in a state which has legalized recreational use you won’t go to jail — because federal law still trumps state law. “Several states with legal medical marijuana have received letters from their respective United States Attorneys offices explaining that marijuana is a Schedule I substance and that the federal government considers growing, distribution, or possession of marijuana to be a federal crime regardless of the state laws. These letters have caused some states to delay or alter implementation of their medical marijuana programs.” 

As a law firm which has helped many people  who are suffering permanently life-altering injures from auto collisions, we have grave concerns about the effect of the legalization of the recreational use of pot on the safety of all drivers.  While alcohol is the predominant substance in fatal crashes, marijuana is the second most frequently found substance in crash-involved drivers, according to a NHTSA study. Alcohol and marijuana are also frequently found together, which results in a dramatic decrease in driving performance and spike in impairment levels.

Another area of strong concern is child safety.  West Virginia leads the nation in accidental prescription pain medicine overdoses.  Although medical professionals seem to agree that it is almost impossible for an adult to overdose on cannabis, the health risks for a young child are very serious.  For more information about the need for tamper-proof packaging for West Virginia’s proposed medical use marijuana, see our post:  http://wvaccidentlawyer.org/2013/04/08/medical-marijuana-in-wv-child-safety-packaging/.

Trends and Current Marijuana News

April 2013:  They are smelling something green on the West Coast, and it’s not necessarily cannabis —  entrepreneurs are smelling money as they position themselves to  be the first to invest in, develop, and market the cultivation, distribution, software tracking, vending machines and vaporizers for legal pot.     

According to Fortune Magazine, the CEO and co-founder of ArcView, a leading cannabis investment group, says:  “A geyser is going to go off, and the question is ‘Which company is going to be on top when it does?’  Business is driving this change.  Where there is money for government, money for investors, and money for entrepreneurs, there is a powerful incentive for change.”   Source:  Fortune Magazine, April 8, 2013:  “Yes We Cannabis” by Roger Parloff.

West Virginia debates Compassionate Medical Marijuana Act. http://www.statejournal.com/story/21829210/speakers-at-public-hearing-advocate-for-medical-marijuana-use-in-wv.

New study highlights the dangers of driving under the influence:  (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130301122256.htm)

January 2013:  Several bring-your-own pot clubs have now opened for business in Colorado.  The first legal pot dens popped up less than a month after Colorado’s governor signed into law a constitutional amendment allowing recreational pot use. Club 64, a club near Denver, gets its name from the number of the amendment.

Colorado’s marijuana amendment prohibits public consumption, and smoke-free laws also appear to ban indoor smokeouts. But Club 64 attorney Robert Corry said private pot dens are permissible because marijuana isn’t sold, nor is it food or drink.  The first marijuana club to open in Colorado has already been shut down. The club in a tiny southern Colorado town of Del Norte opened on Monday, but the lease was not to begin until Tuesday.  The landlord cancelled the pending lease of the club owner after all the publicity came out about the club’s opening.  The club owner stated that their business profit plan included customers from New Mexico who were planning to drive over the state line to participate. 

February 2013:  If a California company has its way, recreational marijuana users in Colorado and Washington state will one day be able to get their pot out of vending machines.

Such machines are already in use in some states where medical marijuana is legal, but now the maker’s founder says the Medbox company is working to adapt the machines to comply with new laws in Colorado and Washington, where adults can legally use marijuana for recreation.

Currently, the vending machines for medicine require a fingerprint scan to verify the identification of the patient, which is then linked to a prescription on file. 

Read more: Colorado’s first marijuana den shut down in landlord dispute – The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_22292647/colorados-first-marijuana-club-shut-down-landlord-dispute#ixzz2GwIGaGzL

http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/01/03/16327561-recreational-marijuana-users-could-get-pot-from-vending-machines-company-says?lite

http://www.policymic.com/articles/23326/marijuana-legalization-state-laws-matter-little-to-the-feds/347231

From the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC, Call today for free information for WV serious injury victims.  Order your copy of Righting the Wrong:  WV Serious Injury Guide today:  304-594-1800.  We have answers for your questions concerning your serious injury and insurance matters.

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Drowsy Driving Prevention Week November 3-10, 2013

In an effort to reduce the number of fatigue-related crashes and to save lives, the National Sleep Foundation has declared November 3-10, 2013 to be Drowsy Driving Prevention Week®.  Most of us realize how dangerous driving under the influence or texting while driving is, but driving while drowsy can be equally dangerous. Sleepiness can cause slower reaction times, blurred vision, lapses in judgment, and delays in processing information.

FedEx Truck Accident in West Virginia

In October, 2012 near Morgantown, WV a FedEx truck was traveling north in the southbound lanes shortly before 1 a.m. when the driver tried to make a U-turn to correct his direction. FedEx Truck Crash on I-79 The FedEx driver caused a truck accident when he struck a tractor-trailer which then crossed the median into the northbound lanes and crashed through a guardrail on the east edge of the road.  A passenger car traveling ahead of the tractor-trailer ran off the west edge of I-79 south, coming to rest against a guardrail.  Amazingly, no one was killed or seriously injured.  Three people were taken to the hospital, treated, and released.  The FedEx driver was from North Dakota and the semi-truck driver was from Arizona.

Early Morning Collision in Huntington WV:

More recently,  The Huntington Police Department is investigating a crash involving two tractor-trailer trucks which shut down all westbound lanes of Interstate 64 in Huntington.  Dispatchers received word of the crash at about 4:30 a.m. Thursday, October 17, 2013.

The crash involved a box truck owned by the U.S. Mail and a tanker truck carrying an unspecified substance. Dispatchers said the box truck overturned due to the crash’s impact and was leaking fuel from its tanks. One of the trucks also hit a bridge and knocked off a chunk of its concrete wall.
The accident happened at the 9.5-mile marker, located just east of the 5th Street Road exit in Huntington. Officials were diverting westbound traffic off the Hal Greer and 29th Street exits.
Thankfully, there were no reported injuries, and unlike a May 2013 accident on I-64 in Kentucky involving a mail truck which caught fire as a result of a fuel leak, the contents of this US Postal Service truck was not destroyed and was transferred to another truck by Postal Service crews.

 

All of these truck drivers illustrate the type of drivers that are most at risk for driving error due to drowsiness.  Before we launch into the fall and winter holidays, we need to consider the potential impact of driving while exhausted could have on our own safety, our families, and other drivers sharing the road with us.

Specific At-Risk Groups for Drowsy Driving

  • Young people-especially males under age 26
  • Shift workers and people with long work hours-working the night shift increases your risk by nearly 6 times; rotating-shift workers and people working more than 60 hours a week need to be particularly careful
  • Commercial drivers-especially long-haul drivers – at least 15% of all heavy truck crashes involve fatigue
  • People with undiagnosed or untreated disorders-people with untreated obstructive sleep apnea have been shown to have up to a seven times increased risk of falling asleep at the wheel
  • Business travelers-who spend many hours driving or may be jet lagged

Fast Facts about Driving while Fatigued:

  • 100,000 crashes each year are caused by fatigued drivers
  • 55% of drowsy driving crashes are caused by drivers less than 25 years old
  • Being awake for 18 hours is equal to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08%, which is legally drunk and leaves you at equal risk for a crash
  • In 2010, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released a study that shows that fatigue is a factor in one in six deadly crashes; one in eight crashes resulting in hospitalization, and one in fourteen crashes in which a vehicle was towed.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that drowsy driving results in 1,550 deaths, 76,000 injuries, and more than 100,000 accidents every year.

Tips for avoiding becoming a drowsy driver statistic:

  • Get a good night’s sleep (seven to nine hours) before you begin your trip.
  • Plan breaks into your driving schedule; don’t be so rushed to arrive at your destination that you can’t stop for rest.
  • Stop every 100 miles or two hours for a walk, run, snack, or drink.
  • Bring a buddy who can share the driving.
  • If you think you could fall asleep, pull over and take a 15-20 minute nap.
  • Avoid driving at times you would normally be asleep.
  • Avoid alcohol and medicines that cause drowsiness.
  • Caffeine can increase alertness for several hours, but you will still need adequate rest if you want to prevent fatigue related errors.

Warning Signs that it is time to pull over:

  • Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, heavy eyelids.
  • Trouble keeping your head up.
  • Drifting onto rumble strips, swerving in your lane.
  • Inability to clearly remember the last few miles driven.
  • Missed exits or traffic signs.
  • Repeated yawning.
  • Feeling restless or irritable.

Posted by the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC in Morgantown, WV.  You may not have been able to avoid the collision that caused your injuries, but you can avoid the unnecessary pitfalls of dealing with the insurance adjusters who are motivated and trained to devalue your claim, if not destroy it altogether.

Call our office today for free books for WV accident victims: Collision Care: West Virginia Auto Collision Guide, and Righting the Wrong, West Virginia Serious Injury Guide. 

304-594-1800 

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Ten Warning Signs for Senior Drivers

Should Grandma and Grandpa Still Be Driving?

For those of us who find ourselves in the “sandwich” generation , we are concerned about our teenage and young adult drivers.  At the same time, we also worry about the safety of our aging parents on our curvy and sometimes slippery West Virginia roads.  Statistics tell us that fatality rates for drivers begin to climb after age 65. From ages 75 to 84, the rate of about three deaths per 100 million miles driven is equal to the death rate of teenage drivers.  Even more concerning, for drivers 85 and older, the fatality rate skyrockets to nearly four times higher than that for teens.  If you are in that difficult position of caring for an aging parent or grandparent, the following are some signs to be looking for in evaluating your loved one’s driving safety, especially if prescription pain medicines or the onset of dementia are issues.

Ten Signs That it is Time to Stop or Limit Driving:

  1. Almost crashing, with frequent “close calls”
  2. Finding dents and scrapes on the car, on fences, mailboxes, garage doors, curbs, etc.
  3. Getting lost, especially in familiar locations
  4. Having trouble seeing or following traffic signals, road signs, and pavement markings
  5. Responding more slowly to unexpected situations, or having trouble moving their foot from the gas to the brake pedal; confusing the two pedals
  6. Misjudging gaps in traffic at intersections and on highway entrance and exit ramps
  7. Experiencing road rage or causing other drivers to honk or complain
  8. Easily becoming distracted or having difficulty concentrating while driving
  9. Having a hard time turning around to check the rear view while backing up or changing lanes
  10. Receiving multiple traffic tickets or “warnings” from law enforcement officers

Even if we know or suspect any of the above indicators to be true, do we really want to be the ones to tell an aging parent that it is time to give up the keys?  As people advance in age, it seems that they are losing more than they are gaining, and giving up independence and mobility is going to be a hard blow.  “Having a professional involved can keep family relationships intact,” said Pam Bartle, a driver rehab specialist at Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital in Wheaton, Ill.  It’s a hard choice for people. They can’t imagine how they’ll manage without driving.   Getting a doctor or occupational therapist involved can shift the hard choice to a neutral professional, rather than a close family member.

Insights from a Driver Safety Professional

Glenard Munson, a corporate trainer, business owner, driver safety trainer with 30 years’ experience, and award-winning author and speaker on driver safety issues shares his insights:

“One PART of the solution (I am a senior who teaches driving, both novice and remedial) is for physicians and LEO’s to enforce their own regulations requiring reporting of irregular driving.  Families also have a moral obligation to report ANY family member, irrespective of age, for erroneous/irresponsible driving.

Once reported, most states REQUIRE a minimum of a written test to re-evaluate the driver in question, and/or a drive test to subjectively, (no drive test is completely OBJECTIVE), evaluate the driver’s skillset. I take many seniors and or medically-tagged drivers out for lessons, and I find that, over my 20 years+ of experience, that roughly 2/3rds of those tagged by the DMV/LEO/Doctor were correctly evaluated.

It is hard for me to tell anyone that they will need to give up their driving privilege, but an independent desire to drive does NOT outweigh the safety and security of the public at large.”

Simple Tests for Doctors to Use in Evaluating Older Drivers:

Today, the American Medical Association recommends that doctors administer a few simple tests in advising older drivers.

  • Walk 10 feet down the hallway, turn around and come back. Taking longer than nine seconds is linked to driving problems.
  • On a page with the letters A to L and the numbers 1 to 13 randomly arranged, see how quickly and accurately you draw a line from 1 to A, then to 2, then to B and so on. This so-called trail-making test measures memory, spatial processing and other brain skills, and doing poorly has been linked to at-fault crashes.
  •  Check if people can turn their necks far enough to change lanes, and have the strength to slam on brakes.

Dr. Gary Kennedy, geriatric psychiatry chief at New York’s Montefiore Medical Center, often adds another question: Are his patients allowed to drive their grandchildren?  ‘‘If the answer to that is no, that’s telling me the people who know the patient best have made a decision that they’re not safe,’’ Kennedy said.

Restrictions can Prolong Driving Independence

Rather than prematurely taking away the privilege of driving from a person who may still have the ability to safely drive for several more years, individually assigned restrictions may be the answer to prolonging an aging person’s independence for as long as possible.  Restrictions similar to those assigned to teenage drivers may include no driving on high-speed roads, driving outside a certain area, or driving at night.  These restrictions would increase safety for those with visual impairments, prescription medication dependence, and impaired physical mobility.

The best situation, of course, is when the older driver independently comes to the conclusion that they need to limit or quit driving, but in cases involving dementia, Alzheimer’s, and plain stubbornness, a consensus of caring adults may be needed to persuade that older driver that “the time has come.”  A great rule of thumb is to “let everything you do be done with love.”  That principle should especially apply to those older folks to whom we need to show the most honor and respect, while at the same time, looking out for their personal safety and the safety of other drivers on the road.  Remember, they had the same concerns about you when you were young!

righting_the_wrong_3dBeside_Still_Waters_-_Covers_3DCollision CareTwitterLinkedinGoogle +Facebook

Sources:

The Dominion Post, “Families Key, but Docs have a Big Role in Driving Decisions,” AP: Lauran Neergaard, Associated Press writer Carla K. Johnson in Chicago contributed to this report,Washington, September 27, 2012.

Website:  AARP: “10 Signs that it’s Time to Limit or Stop Driving,” http://www.aarp.org/home-garden/transportation/info-05-2010/Warning_Signs_Stopping.html, January 2010.

Risk Factors for Senior Drivers in West Virginia

When is it Time to Hand over the Keys?

Since 1863, the West Virginia State Motto has been Montani Semper Liberi, or “Mountaineers are Always Free.”  We love and value our freedom, no matter what our age.  One of the greatest freedoms we possess in this country is the freedom to travel without restrictions, usually by car.  Ask older folks in the nursing homes what they miss the most, and many will tell you that they miss the ability to drive when and where they like.

According to the U.S Census Bureau’s population estimates by age and gender, West Virginia remains among the oldest states in the nation. The median age of West Virginians is 40.5 years (third highest) and the share of those who are 65 years or older is 16.2 percent (second highest), and these percentages are predicted to rise every year. As the number of older drivers increases, senior-driver safety is becoming more relevant for many families. With years of experience behind the wheel, older drivers likely are among the safest on the road. However, skills and abilities required for safe driving do deteriorate with age. The “silver tsunami” or great increase in the percentage of seniors driving in West Virginia raises the question of how families and doctors must be working together to determine if and when age-related health problems — from arthritis to frailty to Alzheimer’s disease — are severe enough to impair driving.

A recent hit-and-run tragedy in West Virginia illustrates the need for families to keep a watchful eye on Alzheimer’s patients in their care.

The investigation of a fatal hit and run accident in Kanawha County this week took an unexpected turn when sheriff’s deputies learned that the woman behind the wheel of the vehicle which struck Terry Stanley, 50, of Hernshaw, was an 80-year-old who suffers from Alzheimer’s.

The sheriff commented:  “We know from past dealings with individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia they are at times able to sneak off and get into a vehicle without the knowledge of family members.”

Investigators said the woman had a valid driver’s license.

Fatality rates for drivers begin to climb after age 65, according to a recent study by Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, based on data from 1999-2004. From ages 75 to 84, the rate of about three deaths per 100 million miles driven is equal to the death rate of teenage drivers. For drivers 85 and older, the fatality rate skyrockets to nearly four times higher than that for teens.

Risk Factors Linked to Aging Process

Specific physical and cognitive abilities may decline with advancing age such as changes in vision, hearing and reaction time. However, there are large individual differences in the onset and degree of functional impairments, so age alone does not provide sufficient information to judge driving ability. Still, functional impairments can interfere with driving and may become particularly evident in stressful or challenging driving situations such as merging or changing lanes.

Several studies have shown that higher levels of physical, cognitive or visual impairment among older drivers are associated with increased risk of crash involvement. Statistically, fatal crash rates begin to increase at age 75. Per mile traveled, crash rates and fatal crash rates start increasing at about age 70.

A study of older drivers’ elevated fatal crash rates per mile traveled between 1993 and 1997 revealed that the main factor was not seniors’ over-involvement in crashes but their fragility, defined as the risk of death in a crash. Fragility increased starting around ages 60-64 and continued to rise with age.

Compared with younger drivers, senior drivers are more likely to be involved in certain types of collisions — angle crashes, overtaking or merging crashes, and especially intersection crashes. Studies of senior-involved crashes have found that failure to yield the right-of-way is the most common error among seniors.

Many older drivers also take medications with side effects which can impair driving ability of both young and old. As a person ages, their muscle mass and liver and kidney functions decline, so that person’s ability to metabolize (break down, use, and eliminate) medicines declines as well, leaving a higher concentration of medications in the body which may affect response time and driving ability.

Simple Restrictions can Prolong Driving Independence

Rather than prematurely taking away the privilege of driving from a person who may still have the ability to safely drive for several more years, individually assigned restrictions may be the answer to prolonging an aging person’s independence for as long as possible. Restrictions similar to those assigned to teenage drivers may include no driving on high-speed roads, driving outside a certain area, or driving at night. These restrictions would increase safety for those with visual impairments, prescription medication dependence, and impaired physical mobility.

Study Finds that Warning Patients of Risk Greatly Reduces Collisions

A large study from Canada in 2011 found another key component in reducing serious crash injuries among older drivers: simply having the doctors warn patients, and tell driving authorities that the older patient may be medically unfit to be on the road. Where this has occurred, there’s a drop in serious crash injuries among those drivers. The study, in the New England Journal of Medicine, couldn’t tell if the improvement was because those patients drove less, or drove more carefully once the doctors pointed out the risk.

While the study included adult drivers of all ages — for conditions ranging from epilepsy to sleep disorders, alcoholism to dementia — most were over age 60. This study highlighted one reason physicians don’t like to get involved: About 1 in 5 of the patients who were warned changed doctors. There also was an uptick in reports of depression.

Doctors aren’t necessarily trained to evaluate driving ability, and the study couldn’t tell if some drivers were targeted needlessly, noted Dr. Matthew Rizzo, of the University of Iowa. Yet he considered the research valuable. ‘‘The message from this paper is that doctors have some wisdom in knowing when to restrict drivers,’’ Rizzo said. His own research shows some cognitive tests might help them better identify who’s at risk, such as by measuring ‘‘useful field of view,’’ essentially how much your brain gleans at a glance — important for safety in intersections.

Other families turn to driver rehabilitation specialists, occupational therapists who can spend up to four hours evaluating an older driver’s vision, memory, cognition and other abilities before giving him a behind-the-wheel driving test. Some doctors and state licensing authorities order those evaluations, but programs can be hard to find, often have waiting lists and cost several hundred dollars that insurance may not cover.

Having a professional involved can keep family relationships intact, said Pam Bartle, a driver rehab specialist at Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital in Wheaton, Ill.

Still, “you could have the sweetest, nicest little old lady and she’ll turn on you on a dime if you tell her she can’t drive,” Bartle said. “It’s a desperate thing for people. They can’t imagine how they’ll manage without driving.”

Driving Safety Tips provided by the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC:  http://www.robinettelaw.com — Morgantown, WV Car Accident Injury Lawyers

Source: The Dominion Post, “Families Key, but Docs have a Big Role in Driving Decisions,” AP: Lauran Neergaard, Associated Press writer Carla K. Johnson in Chicago contributed to this report,Washington, September 27, 2012.

Lawsuits Filed Against Bars Become More Common In West Virginia

West Virginia is one of the majority of states that have enacted dram shop liability laws. “Dram shop” is a reference to colonial times when alcohol-serving establishments (shops) used units of liquid measurement called drams to serve alcohol.

Dram shop laws make it possible for bar owners and alcohol servers to be held financially liable if a customer becomes obviously intoxicated on their premises and subsequently injures someone or causes property damage, typically by driving drunk.

So, if a person has several alcoholic drinks at a restaurant or bar and is visibly intoxicated, and then gets in a car and kills someone on the way home, the owner of the serving establishment can be sued for damages.

  • Many states hold commercial vendors of alcohol, such as bars, taverns and package stores responsible for injury caused by drunk patrons
  • Laws in most states require the injured person suing a commercial alcohol vendor to prove that the serving of alcohol was a “proximate cause” of the injury
  • Commercial vendors are liable for injuries caused by an intoxicated customer if they serve liquor to him after he was visibly intoxicated
  • An employer throwing an office party is liable for any bad misconduct or harassment on the part of an employee if the employee was acting within the scope of his employment and the employer failed to take reasonable preventative steps

Are you or a family member the victim of a drunk driver who went bar-hopping before driving intoxicated? Were you assaulted as a bystander by a drunk patron in a bar fight or a brawl outside a tavern? You may have a right to sue the bar under what are called “dram shop” laws.

Many states hold commercial vendors of alcohol (bars, taverns and package stores) responsible for injuries caused by drunk patrons. Different laws apply to social hosts and employers throwing office parties.

A drunk person can’t collect for injury to himself, but a third party injured by the actions of a drunk person can collect from a bar or tavern under certain circumstances. This is especially important when the drunk person has little or no insurance to cover a serious or fatal injury.

Laws in most states require the injured person suing a commercial alcohol vendor to prove that the serving of alcohol was a “proximate cause” of the injury. In other words, you must show a provable connection between your injury and the drunk person’s act of drinking at that particular bar or tavern.

Laws vary widely by state. In Nevada, commercial vendors won’t be held responsible for injuries caused by drunk patrons, probably because of the devastating impact it would have on the tourist industry. In some states, commercial vendors will only be held responsible for serving alcohol to minors.

In other states, the amount of damages that can be collected from a commercial vendor is capped at a specific amount, under the theory that the major share of blame for the injury should be placed on the drunk person.

Most states hold a commercial vendor liable where:

  • Alcohol was served to a minor
  • The vendor was reckless in serving or should have realized the extent of the patron’s intoxication
  • The vendor sold liquor without a liquor license
  • The vendor sold liquor after hours

The burden of proof is lower when a bar or tavern has served a minor, as it’s illegal.

The test for deciding whether a bar employee should have realized the extent of a patron’s intoxication is fuzzy. Courts look at the condition of the drunk person, and whether it should have been “foreseeable” to a bar employee serving him or her that the person was already “visibly intoxicated” and shouldn’t be served any more alcohol. It’s not a matter of how many drinks the person has had, but how the alcohol has affected them.

Proving Excess Intoxication

So how do you prove the person who injured you or your family member was “visibly intoxicated?” Some states have tried to clarify this vague test by requiring proof that the drunk person demonstrated “significantly uncoordinated physical action or significant physical dysfunction.” In other states, you must prove that the bar patron was so obviously intoxicated that he presented a “clear danger to himself and others.”

If you or someone you love has been injured by a drunk person whom you suspect may have been served alcohol by a commercial vendor before the injured occurred, it’s important to see a lawyer right away. Proving the obvious intoxication of a bar patron often requires eyewitness testimony of other bar patrons and employees. A lawyer can locate and interview these witnesses quickly, and get witness statements right away while they still remember accurately what happened and before they clam up.

The time limit for filing a legal action against a commercial vendor- called a “statute of limitations” – is often very short. So it’s very important to develop and file your legal action quickly in order to collect.

Employer Events

Sometimes employers will have events, such as holiday parties, after working hours for their employees. These parties will many times take place at bars or restaurants that serve alcohol. If an intoxicated employee causes property damage or commits harassment, the vendor and the employer may be found liable. The employer is liable if a court determines that the employee was acting within the scope of employment.

Employers need to take reasonable steps to prevent misconduct on the part of their employees at parties that serve alcohol. Some examples include:

  • Discourage excessive drinking by having a cash bar
  • Have strict alcohol and behavior discipline policies in place
  • Provide transportation after the party to prevent driving under the influence

Questions for Your Attorney

  • Who’s liable if an intoxicated person involved in a car accident visited multiple bars before the accident?
  • How do I track down witnesses from a bar to prove excess intoxication? Can I use waitresses that worked in the bar as witnesses to prove my case?
  • Who’s liable if an employee gives alcohol to his son at an employer event for employees and their families that’s held at a restaurant?
 If you have been injured due to someone else’s negligence, please contact our office by visiting www.robinettelaw.com or calling 304-594-1800.  We would be glad to answer your questions.

Cars of the Future at L.A. Auto Show – New Car Accident Prevention Safety Features

New Cadillac Features Accident Prevention TechnologyAt this year’s L.A. Auto Show, carmakers highlighted safety features that focus on preventing accidents rather than merely surviving them.

Warning indicators for blind spots and rearview cameras have become common, but many manufacturers are taking the technologies a step further.

The additional features act on the safety warnings when a driver fails to do so, said Jeremy Anwyl, chief executive of online auto research firm Edmunds Inc.

“I think they are too easy to ignore,” he said of the warnings. “If your car has a whole series of these different lights flashing and buzzers, it is too much to process in a panic moment.”

Lane Departure Prevention – Cars that Self-Correct Driver Errors:

Infiniti presented one solution with its Infiniti JX, unveiled last week at the auto show. The JX boasts the world’s first backup collision intervention technology. Like existing backup sensors, the system beeps if it detects potential obstacles while the vehicle is in reverse. But now, if the driver does not respond, the system automatically brakes to prevent a collision.

“We initiated this technology in the industry,” said Kyle Bazemore, senior manager of Infiniti product communications. He said Infiniti also pioneered other proactive safety systems.

“We were the first to have lane-departure prevention — if you’re drifting out of your lane, it’ll automatically nudge you back in,” he said. “Also blind-spot intervention — if you move with something in your blind spot it also nudges you back.”

Inflatable Seat Belts and Virtual Bumper Systems:

The new Ford Explorer on display at the auto show also integrates lane-departure technology. In addition, the Explorer features inflatable seat belts — a first in the industry — designed to reduce chest and neck injuries. Other safety options include blind-spot warnings and an automatic parallel-parking system.

“In the industry, the technologies are all already there,” said Cadillac spokesman David Caldwell. “The difference is what you tell these systems to do.”

One way Cadillac’s new XTS adopted these technologies is with its virtual bumper feature.

“For example, in a dark, low-speed place, like a parking garage with columns and pillars,” Caldwell said, “if you’re about to hit something, behind you or in front of you, the virtual bumper will alert the driver and apply full braking up to 25 mph.”

The XTS also offers a collision mitigation braking system that, simply put, understands and interprets the pressure the driver applies to the brake. So if the system feels a panicked stomp, the electronic brakes will intervene and help avoid nearby objects detected by sensors placed around the car.

Increased Air Bag Protection:

The new Scion iQ, the world’s smallest four-seater, has the most airbags in the industry, according to a spokeswoman at the carmaker’s auto show exhibit. The iQadded a rear-window airbag, an industry first, totaling 11 for the compact car.

The Cadillac XTS also added an airbag between the driver and front passenger seat, giving the vehicle a total of 10 airbags.

“It’s about as many as you can add without turning it into a pillow,” Caldwell said.

Airbags aside, Volvo spokesman James Hope summed up what safety means for future cars: “It’s the whole idea of intuitive technology.”

Pedestrian, Animal, and Bicycle Detection Features:

Four U.S. Volvo models currently offer an active pedestrian detection system. The vehicle automatically brakes if the driver does not react to pedestrians detected by the radar. The car fully brakes up to 25 mph.

“What’s coming in the near future for Volvo, we’re talking 2014, is animal detection,” Hope said. “In Sweden, for example, there’s a big problem with elk and moose. The full weight of this animal coming through the windshield can kill occupants.”

The new Cadillac XTS has sensors and cameras that can also detect if cyclists or pedestrians are approaching from the side. The system alerts the driver of this side traffic by vibrating the seat cushion on the corresponding side.

What’s Next?  Cars that Communicate with Each Other for Accident Prevention:

What else is next? Anwyl said there eventually would be technology that enables cars to adapt to surrounding vehicles and prevent potential collisions.

“Cars will be able to communicate so each car knows what to do,” he said. “The technology is here. It’s just a few years off.”

Volvo is among the automakers already thinking in that direction. It’s working on a concept it calls “platooning,” Hope said.

“You have the lead car, and the car behind it drives to the tune of the car ahead,” he said. “This increases efficiency and safety — cars can drive closer together safely.”

The Cadillac XTS already offers a speed-range adaptive cruise control, enabling drivers to set a following distance from the car in front of them. Caldwell said this was a useful bonus for Angelenos driving on crowded freeways in stop-and-go traffic.

“This kind of technology is hugely useful because it doesn’t require that you pay full attention,” Anwyl said. “We are right at the beginning of what I think is going to be a huge wave of these features and it’s really all based on advanced technologies. Computers, processors are all getting to the point now where they can handle a vast amount of information and turn that information around.”

“In the end, it’s about helping the driver see better,” Caldwell said. “We don’t want to take over the driver, but we do want to assist the driver.”

Source:  Rosanna Xia, Los Angeles Times:  rosanna.xia@latimes.com

If you have been injured in a car accident and you need answers, please visit http://www.robinettelaw.com or call one of our accident lawyers at (304)594-1800 today.

Update on Texting Bill

The Senate sent the texting bill to the House with texting as a primary offense and talking on a hand-held cell phone a secondary offense.  The WV House voted to make both texting and use of a hand-held cell phone primary offenses with $100, $200, and $500 fines.  In conference committee Saturday evening, the three senators suggested a compromise phasing in the hand-held provision as a primary offense after two years.  The House responded that if the Senate would agree to a one year phase in, they would agree to lower the fines to $100, $200, and $300 for first and subsequent offenses.  When the bill goes to the governor, texting will be a primary offense as of July 1, 2012 and use of a hand-held phone a secondary offense.  Use of a hand-held phone will become a primary offense on July 1, 2013.  Though the governor’s original bill made both offenses secondary, the governor has said he supports the bill as it is and praises it as a measure to make West Virginia roads safer.

WV House Passes Texting Bill

The House passed the texting and hand-held cell phone ban by a vote of 87-12.  All local delegates voted for the bill.  Some opposed to the bill stated that it was either unenforceable or just too much government interference in personal lives.  The bill makes texting and using a hand-held cellphone while driving a primary offense, carrying fines of $100, $200, and $500 for first and subsequent offenses.  Third and subsequent offences would also add three points to your driving license which could lead to a license suspension.  Statistics show that a driver who is texting is four times more likely to cause an accident than a drunk driver and has the reaction time of a seventy year old driver. 

What About the Other Guy? Top Five Defensive Driving Tips

Driving is the most dangerous activity we engage in daily.  You know this, so you wear your seatbelt, don’t speed, and never drive drunk or text while driving.  You check for side effects of your medications and get enough sleep before driving so that you won’t be impaired by drowsiness.  What about the other guy? How can you manage the risks from other road users?  Here are five tips to help you stay safe.

1.  Pay close attention to your surroundings to spot driving behaviors that can signal trouble.  A driver who suddenly slows down, appears to be wandering, or is weaving may be impaired by any one of the above factors.

2.  Drop back, get out of the way, and call the police after pulling over if you suspect a serious problem.

3.  Watch also for speeding, tailgating, rolling past stop signs, hard breaking, cutting off other vehicles, and failure to yield the right of way.

4.  If someone cuts you off, resist the urge to “teach him a lesson.”  Just let it go.  Avoid honking, making eye contact, or gesturing in such a way that the situation might become escalated.  Never let an aggressive driver add to your own risk.

5.  Use turn signals to communicate your intentions to other drivers, make gradual lane changes, and keep a safe distance between vehicles.  Keep yourself fully engaged in the task of driving – you have everything to gain and nothing to lose.

Tips based on an article by Wayne Northey, President, AAA of West Virginia

Deadly Infection Lurks in Nail Salons

Many women treat themselves with a pedicure as a reward for a hard week of work, but according to AOL news, Nancy Swanson got a lot more than she bargained for at her local nail salon.  Nancy began to experience flu-like symptoms and then noticed that her skin had started to take on a yellow appearance.  She became so ill that she felt close to death and sought a doctor’s opinion.  Her medical providers found that she had contracted Hepatitis B, an incurable liver disease. 

Since thousands of Vietnamese are employed in U.S. nail salons, Dr. Robert Gish of UC San Diego has written a health policy for the Vietnamese government outlining the risks associated with Hepatitis B.  People can be carriers of Hepatitis B without presenting any symptoms and are capable of infecting others.  

To protect yourself from infection, look for a prominently displayed business license, make sure all clippers and scissors are disinfected properly and only disposable nail files are used.  For extra protection, take your own polish to the salon.  Also keep in mind that the whirlpool jets and drains of the foot tub are places where the deadly bacteria can lurk.

For more information about personal injury claims, visit us at http://www.robinettelaw.com or call 304-594-1800.  For 24 hour help, call 304-216-6695.