There’s good news and bad news for travelers this Thanksgiving. For the first time in years, gasoline prices at many stations are expected to drop below $2 per gallon over the holiday travel days. Here in Jacksonville, the current average is $2.10 compared to $2.79 this time last year. That’s the good news,
The bad news: The fuel price drop means a higher number of travelers expected on the roadways for the holiday in eight years, according to estimates from AAA. That means an even higher risk for auto accidents during what is statistically one of the most dangerous times on America’s roadways. An average 500 deaths and upward of 46,600 injuries occur in America in the days stretching from the Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving through the Sunday after. Stress, unfamiliar routes and driving under the influence of alcohol all are major contributing factors.
To help keep your family safe while traveling this holiday season, Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell offers these five top tips:
- Avoid driving during peak times when more drivers are on the road including the days immediately before and after Thanksgiving and Christmas as well as New Year’s Eve. Opt instead for driving on the actual holiday or extend your trip and travel two days before and after.
- Carefully plan your route, opting for the less traveled back roads over the main thoroughfares sure to be packed with cars.
- Wear your seatbelt and insist all passengers do the same.
- Minimize distractions while behind the wheel. Put away mobile phones, keep the radio at a reasonable volume and pack toys, books or other items to help keep kids quietly occupied in the back seat.
- Don’t drink and drive. If you do enjoy a holiday cocktail or two, have a non-drinking designated driver lined up, take a taxi or opt for spending one more night at Grandma’s. Also, know that even if you remain perfectly sober, chances are you’ll encounter inebriated drivers on the roads during your travel. Know the signs and take extra caution.
If you or your family members are injured in an auto accident this holiday season, get medical treatment and contact Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell at 800-251-1111.
From all of us here at Harrell and Harrell, have a happy and safe Thanksgiving.
Road rage and aggressive driving are among the top causes of car crashes and are likely to have fatal consequences. In fact, statistics show that 66 percent of traffic fatalities are caused by aggressive driving and that 37 percent of these cases involve a firearm.
While the term “road rage” may conjure a picture of a violent, unstable personality, the truth is that it can occur in anyone experiencing a high degree of stress or frustration while behind the wheel. Consider these red flags:
- Regularly speeding
- Regularly punching the gas while approaching a yellow light in an effort to beat the red light
- Tailgating or flashing headlights at the car ahead
- Honking the horn often
- Using obscene gestures, shouting or cussing at other drivers
- Frequently using mobile phones or other distractions while driving
- Keeping high beams on regardless of oncoming traffic
- Switching lanes or making turns without using your turn signal
- Failing to check your blind spot before switching lanes to assure you won’t cut off another driver
Take an honest assessment of your behind-the-wheel behavior. If you are guilty of any of the first five, statistics show that you may be prone to committing road rage. The last four behaviors listed can be a trigger for other drivers to commit road rage against you.
To avoid a road rage-provoked accident, stay calm while driving and carefully follow all road rules. If you find yourself engaged with an agitated driver, don’t react to or retaliate against his or her aggressive actions. Avoid eye contact, let the other driver pass and if needed, call police.
If you or your dependents suffer an injury or loss caused by someone else’s aggressive driving, get medical treatment and call 800-251-1111 to speak with an auto accident attorney with Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell.
Motor vehicle crashes are the fifth leading cause of accidental death in the United States each year, according to statistics from the National Safety Council. The most heartbreaking factor in that research is the fact that many of these fatal accidents are entirely preventable.
Among the most easily preventable cases are those involving pedal error – a top contributing factor in some 16,000 fatal crashes annually, according to research by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. Pedal error occurs when a driver mistakes an automobile’s accelerator for the brake, causing a vehicle to lurch forward or backward unexpectedly. This poses serious risk to fellow passengers, drivers and passengers of other vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists sharing the roadways.
On average, drivers press down on their vehicles’ brakes upward of 1 million times per year. That’s a lot of opportunity for disaster. To help prevent a pedal error-involved accident, Harrell and Harrell offers these tips:
- Choose lightweight, flat-soled footwear for driving. Skip flip-flops, high heels or heavy boots.
- Know your brake pedal’s capabilities. Many modern vehicles have adjustable pedals, which means placement can be modified for very short or tall drivers.
- Minimize distractions by shutting off mobile phones, turning down the radio and asking passengers – particularly active children – to keep calm and quiet throughout the drive.
- Repeated movements over a period of time develop what is known as “muscle memory.” By consistently aiming your foot at the center of the brake pedal, you’ll develop muscle memory that helps to ensure you won’t miss should you be forced to hit the brake quickly or unexpectedly.
- If you’re driving a new or otherwise unfamiliar vehicle, take extra time and caution to adjust the seat, mirrors and steering wheel and to familiarize yourself with the unique features and feel of the car.
If you or your dependents suffer injury or loss in a vehicle crash caused by someone else’s negligence, no matter the cause, you may be entitled to compensation. Call 800-251-1111 to speak with an auto accident attorney with Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell.
It seems officials at the US Veterans Administration are in face-saving mode after missing the October 1 deadline issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs to eliminate a massive backlog of military veterans’ disability claims.
“Zero for us is not an absolute zero,” VA Under Secretary for Benefits Allison Hickey said recently as the deadline loomed and some 75,000 months-old claims still had not been cleared.
A 2013 report showed that the backlog of pending disability claims had hit an all-time high of more than 611,000. The report, and the public backlash that followed, prompted the agency to design and implement an improvement plan. As of April 2014, that backlog had been reduced to about 344,000 and veterans were waiting an average 119 days less for a decision on their claims than they were the year prior.
Dan Caldwell, legislative director at Concerned Veterans for America (CV4A), points to three primary reasons for the missed deadline:
- The crash of 2008 hit many veterans hard financially, forcing them into the disability system.
- The VA’s decision to expand eligibility for Agent Orange-related disability claims and to re-adjudicate many claims that were previously rejected in the 1970s and 1980s prompted an influx of claims from Vietnam-era veterans.
- Veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq have applied for disability at significantly higher rates and received higher disability ratings than previous generations.
There’s also the issue of what some call the “hidden backlog,” hundreds of claims that have entered the claims appeal process, where a case may take years to resolve. Though the VA has reduced the backlog by some 84 percent since 2013, the error rate on claims completion has increased dramatically, hitting upward of 30 percent in some areas – this despite the implementation of the Veterans Benefits Management System, a $500 million software system designed to address the inefficiency of paper-based claims. According to an inspector general report, the system has largely failed.
“If you look at how they’ve been able to reduce the backlog, it’s been by throwing a lot of manpower at it, outsourcing, and hiring more claims workers,” Caldwell said in a conference call with reporters. “They really haven’t fixed some of the bottlenecks that have led to the claims backlog.”
The DVA has extended the deadline December 31, but many are calling for the resignation of key agency officials, including Hickey, as well as an independent team appointed to examine agency records and implement new accountability measures.
If you are a veteran planning to submit a claim, appealing a claim decision or waiting for a long overdue clearance of your claim, call 800-251-1111 and speak with a dedicated veteran’s disability benefits attorney with Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell.
Toyota Motor Corp. this week announced a voluntary recall of 6.5 million vehicles worldwide, including upward of 2.7 million in North America, over a driver’s side window switch defect that poses a fire risk.
At issue is grease that was improperly or insufficiently applied during the manufacturing of electrical contact modules. If moisture or debris enters those modules, it can short circuit, which in turn could cause the switch assembly to overheat and melt. A melting switch can produce smoke and potentially lead to a fire.
Thus far, Toyota officials have received 11 reports (including seven in North America) of the defect causing fire damage to a vehicle’s door. Another incident here in the US caused a burn injury on a passenger’s hand.
Models affected in the recall include:
- 2007 and 2009 Camry and Camry Hybrid
- 2009-2011 Corolla
- 2008-2011 Highlander and Highlander Hybrid
- 2009-2011 Matrix
- 2006-2011 RAV4
- 2009-2011 Sequoia
- 2009-2011 Tundra
- 2006-2010 Yaris
- 2009-2011 Scion xB
- 2009-2010 Scion xD
If you are the registered owner of an affected vehicle, look for notification via first class mail. If you haven’t suffered an injury or loss caused by the defect, take your vehicle to your nearest Toyota dealership, where technicians will inspect and repair the switch free of charge. However, if you have suffered an injury or loss that you believe is a result of the issue, call 800-251-1111 to speak with a product liability attorney with Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell who can help you secure fair compensation.
Suffering an injury or losing a loved one in an automobile crash is never easy. But a devastating situation is made all the worse when the driver who caused the accident flees the scene. Unfortunately, that very scenario is all too common here in the Sunshine State, accounting for a quarter of all reported crashes.
Statistics from the Florida Highway Patrol show that hit-and-run accidents are increasing in frequency at an alarming rate:
- 80,000 hit-and-run accidents occurred in Florida in 2014 – a seven-percent increase from 2013.
- Fatal hit-and-run crashes rose 23 percent from 2013 to 2014.
- Nearly half of victims killed in hit-and-runs last year were pedestrians – a 17-percent jump from the prior year.
At-fault drivers often leave the scenes of accidents they cause, believing that they can allude punishment. But those same culprits increasingly are busted via modern road surveillance technology as well as age-old mistakes like heading straight to the auto body repair shops in an effort to quickly do away with evidence. Plus, Florida Governor Rick Scott last year signed into law stiffer penalties for leaving an accident scene. Today, leaving the scene of an accident that causes serious bodily harm is a second-degree felony (up the prior third-degree designation) requiring a mandatory minimum four-year for any driver convicted of leaving the scene of a fatal crash. New legislation also imposes a minimum three-year driver license revocation and driver education requirements for leaving the scene of a crash.
If you suffer an injury or loss in a hit-and-run accident, don’t despair. Investigative techniques and resources are constantly improving, allowing for the capture and conviction of those who leave accident scenes. Plus if you carry uninsured motorist coverage on your insurance policy, your insurer should cover a portion of your crash-related costs. Still, your best bet for securing fair compensation is to have an experienced auto accident attorney representing you. Call Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell at 800-251-1111 to discuss your case today.
“We are heading straight into it, Category 3, last we checked,” wrote Danielle Randolph, a crew member of the ill-fated El Faro cargo ship, in an email to her mother, according to CNN affiliate WFOX. “Winds are super bad. Love to everyone.”
This heartbreaking final message came just hours before news reports that the ship, which had departed Jacksonville for Puerto Rico in the early morning of Sept. 30 with 28 Americans and five Polish nationals aboard, had ceased all communications with shore. The El Faro was declared missing Oct. 2 and quickly became the subject of a massive search and recovery effort by the US Coast Guard in waters just northeast of the Bahamas Islands. That search ends at 7pm tonight.
At the time of the ship’s departure, Tropical Storm Joaquin was several hundred miles to the east of El Faro’s location, but would be upgraded to a category 4 with 115-mph winds just days later. Final communication from the ship indicated heavy seas, extreme weather and reports that it was taking on water and listing 15 degrees. “Listing” means that the ship was leaning to one side due to damage to the hull. Shortly thereafter El Faro was swallowed up, sinking 15,000 feet into the ocean, US Coast Guard officials say.
According to TOTE Maritime, the New Jersey-based company that owns the 40-year-old ship, Captain Michael Davidson sent an email indicating that he “understood the weather condition that was out in front of him…and that he had a sound plan, that the crew was well prepared and briefed.” But an as-yet-unexplained power loss caused the ship’s main propulsion to fail, leaving the crew stranded in the storm’s path. Thus far, Coast Guard search and recovery crews have located the body of one crewmember and a battered lifeboat in a 225-mile debris field. Officials with the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating in Jacksonville.
Here at Harrell and Harrell, our thoughts are with the victims and families affected by this tragedy. If you are affected by the loss of the El Faro and have questions about how to move forward legally, our dedicated maritime accident attorneys stand ready to help. Reach us at 904-251-1111 in Northeast Florida or toll-free at 800-251-1111.
Thinking of taking a cruise to an exotic locale for a little rest and relaxation? You’ll want to keep something in mind before booking your trip. Statistics from the Insurance Information Institute show that in 2014, maritime accidents killed 2,118 people and caused upward of $783 million in insured losses. Of these deaths, 2,000 occurred on passenger ships.
Cruise ship accidents most commonly are the result of four top causes:
- High waves: Rogue waves can reach up to 100 feet.
- Storms: Weather experts report 10 storms per season on average.
- Fires: A total of 72 cruise ship fires occurred between 1990 and 2011.
- Collisions: Ships can collide with rocks, reefs and icebergs with devastating results. Most recently, the Costa Concordia capsized when it struck a rock in the Tyrrhenian Sea just off the eastern shore of Isola del Giglio on Italy’s western coast. The collision tore a 160-foot gash on the port side of the ship’s hull and 32 people were killed.
Illness also is a factor. Statistics from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show an average of 15 major cruise ship virus out breaks each year. Influenza, food poisoning and sun poisoning also are frequent complaints.
By and large, America’s cruise ships offer safe and enjoyable experiences. But accidents and incidents resulting in injuries, illnesses and even death do happen. If your cruise ship excursion is marred by someone else’s negligence or deliberate act, contact a maritime accident lawyer with Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell at 800-251-1111.
September marks the beginning of the fall season – the perfect time for the US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and the National Council on Aging’s launch of the Falls Free Initiative, a joint project aimed at reducing fall injuries and deaths among America’s elderly.
Consider these statistics:
- More than 10,000 Americans turn 65 every day, entering the age group for which falls are the leading cause of injury nationwide.
- Falls result in more than 2.5 million injuries treated in America’s emergency rooms annually, including more than 21,700 deaths and 734,000 hospitalizations.
- Fatal fall injuries claim an elder’s life every 20 minutes.
- America’s emergency rooms treat new fall injuries every 13 seconds.
- One of three older adults experiences one or more falls each year, yet less than half of senior fall victims tell their doctors.
- Total direct and indirect costs of fall-related injuries, including medical fees, lost wages, etc., was estimated at $34 billion in 2013. Experts say that figure could hit $67.7 billion by 2020.
Tips to help elders avoid falls include reglar exercise to keep the body’s core and limbs strong; getting annual vision exams and updating prescribed eyewear; and outfitting homes with preventative features such as stair railings, tub and shower grab bars and added lighting.
A fall can threaten an elder’s health, safety and independence and result in devastating economic and personal costs. If you or an elder you love suffer a fall caused by negligence on the part of another, such as a lack of adequate lighting, wet floor or trip hazard at a public facility, get medical treatment. Then, call 904-251-1111 to speak with an experienced slip and fall or premises liability attorney with Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell.
A new tracking report by the National Safety Council reveals a 14-percent surge in the number of fatal automobile crashes during the first six months of 2015 over the same time period last year. Experts point to a number of contributing factors, but drivers texting behind the wheel carry much of the blame, some say.
The rise comes as a surprise for safety officials and insurance professionals who had expected the decade-long trend of year-over-year reductions in fatal crashes to continue. That trend was aided by growing frequency in the use of seatbelts, tougher enforcement of drunk-driving laws and automotive safety improvements including stability-control systems and air bags.
Factors driving the increase in accident rates include falling fuel prices paired with ongoing economic recovery, as well as adverse weather in some parts of the country. All of these combined led to a 3.5-percent increase in traffic on America’s roadways, reflecting a record 1.54 trillion miles logged through June, according to research by the Federal Highway Administration. As a result, automobile accident deaths now are expected to exceed 40,000 for the first time since 2007, the NSC says.
But not everyone is convinced that the rise in car crash fatalities is simply a matter of numbers. Safety officials and insurance experts point instead to the growth in distracted driving, specifically texting behind the wheel.
“If cars are better—and they clearly are—drivers must be worse,” says Warren Buffett, Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, which owns insurance giant GEICO. He went on to explain to members of the media that the 3.5-percent rise in traffic alone doesn’t seem enough to warrant the 14-percent rise in fatalities. Indeed, statistics show that one in four automobile crashes involves mobile phone use, despite laws banning text messaging and hand-held cellphone use while driving in most states.
If you or your dependents are injured in an accident caused by another’s distracted driving, get medical treatment and contact Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell at 800-251-1111 to speak with an auto accident attorney.