San Jose California Personal Injury Legal Blog

The 3 main culprits of distracted driving

California became one of the first states to make driving and talking on a cellphone illegal. Even so, more and more drivers continue to drive while distracted by phones.

The statistics on distracted driving accidents have begun to look more like drunk driving statistics. What actually constitutes distracted driving? Here are the three elements behind driving distracted.

Commercial drivers, fatigue and safety

According to data collected and reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, vehicular fatalities in accidents involving large commercial trucks have increased every single year from 2013 to 2017 in the state of California. In 2013, there were 259 deaths in large truck collisions. That was followed by 301 and 305 deaths in 2014 and 2015, respectively. Another 354 people were killed in truck crashes in 2016. Finally, in 2017, 361 lives were lost on California roads and highways in truck accidents.

Trucker fatigue has long been identified as a common contributing factor to accidents involving semi-trucks and other big rigs. It is for this reason that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has put into place what it calls the Hours of Service rule

New IID law in California still lesser than in other states

Residents in California have good reason to be concerned about the problems associated with drunk driving. Despite the fact that there has been widespread education about how alcohol impairs a person's judgment over the past few decades, drivers refuse to give up their keys even when they know they will be drinking. Every year, numerous lives are lost at the hands of drunk drivers.

Another part of the problem with drunk driving is that many of the people who are arrested or who cause accidents after they have been drinking have been arrested and convicted of prior impaired driving offenses. It seems that people simply will not learn from the first experience in many cases. This is part of why California has now enacted a new law that requires the installation and use of an ignition interlock device for anyone convicted of a second or subsequent offense for driving under the influence. Drivers would be required to use IIDs for at least 12 months.

Pedestrian fatalities in the Bay Area

Residents in California know that they enjoy relatively mild temperatures and weather all year long. This makes it more pleasant to be out on foot more regularly than in other parts of the country. However, there can be a serious risk of being hit by vehicles for pedestrians even in daylight hours as well as when the sun has gone down.

In some situations, motorists even fail to stop after hitting pedestrians, such as in the case of a woman who was killed in a hit-and-run accident the week before Christmas in San Jose. ABC 7 News said the woman died after being transported to a hospital. 

Spotlighting the Glasgow Coma Scale

Dealing with the aftermath of a loved one suffering a traumatic brain injury in San Jose can be an extraordinary challenge, yet not one that is insurmountable if you are prepared for it. You just need to know what to expect in regards to their physical and cognitive limitations. Many come to us here at Shea & Shea immediate following their loved ones suffering a TBI wondering how they might now what their long-term prognosis may be. You can quickly develop a general expectation if you know your loved one's Glasgow Coma Scale score. 

The GCS is a test based off clinical observations that health care providers use to assess the extent of a brain injury. Specifically, they pay attention to the following types of responses from a TBI victim: 

  • Eye movement
  • Speech
  • Motor response 

What to do if a child suffers a brain injury

Parents hate to see their children in pain. It can be even more hurtful when the parent knows the injury, such as a brain injury, may last throughout the child's life.

In cases where the injury is the result of the negligent acts of another party, it may be possible to seek compensation through a personal injury case. One critical aspect in such cases is proving the child has a brain injury from the accident. There are a few key things to understand and recognize about brain injuries in children.

Detailing cognitive deficits

A mention of "traumatic brain injury" might prompt most San Jose residents to conjure up images of people in a vegetative or comatose state. That may be because the inclusion of "traumatic" in this term seemingly implies catastrophic results. In reality, many are able to recover from TBIs without experiencing many (or any) of the long-term physical issues one might associate with them. Yet there may be problems that remain that are much more difficult to spot, as they may only manifest themselves as one who has suffered a TBI attempts to resume their normal life. 

Cognitive impairments and deficits are among the major issues that TBI victims have to worry about. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association lists cognitive processes as being those related to attention, perception, memory and executive function. Trauma to the brain can damage those nervous system centers that regulate these processes. While not necessarily physical limitations, cognitive deficits nevertheless can impede people from effectively functioning in certain environments, particularly those that require complex thought processes. 

Drunk driving continues to plague U.S.

As people in California enjoy the holiday season, attention should be turned to the ongoing problems associated with drunk driving. This time of year tends to see an increase in the number of parties or other gatherings at which alcohol is served, thereby logically increasing the potential number of impaired drivers on the road. Despite increasingly tough laws and awareness campaigns, many people will simply not make a safe choice and avoid driving after drinking.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving reported based on data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that two-thirds of people will be involved in a vehicle accident in which alcohol was a factor during their life. The Federal Bureau of Investigation indicates that a person is likely to have driven while under the influence at least 80 times before they are ever arrested for a first driving under the influence offense. 

Understanding the concept of negligent entrustment

Those driving on San Jose's roads likely strive to be mindful of the other motorists around them, with the expectation that the same courtesy will be returned to them. Yet people have no control over the actions of others, and the chance of encountering a reckless or incompetent driver is ever-present. Teen drivers (whose skills are likely still relatively green) might pose a particular threat. While they need opportunities to gain experience behind the wheel, their parents or guardians are expected to try and ensure that experience is attained without posing a risk to others. If and when that expectation is not met, one might wonder if liability would then fall to said parents rather than their teens. 

Assigning liability to a parent when their teenage driver causes a car accident is possible through a legal principle known as negligent entrustment. To apply negligent entrustment to such a case, California's Civil Jury Instructions mandate that a plaintiff prove the following elements: 

  • The teen was negligent in the operation of the vehicle
  • Their parents had given them permission to use the vehicle 
  • The parents knew (or should have known) of the teen's reckless tendencies behind the wheel (or the risks they posed due to their lack of experience driving)
  • Knowing this, the parents still entrusted the teen with the vehicle
  • The teen's recklessness or incompetence was a substantial factor in causing the accident
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