Texting and driving is a major cause of injury and fatal car accidents in the U.S. It is a common source of driver distraction in Nebraska and around the country. In 2017, distracted drivers caused car accidents that took a total of 3,166 lives. The known risks of distracted driving, and especially texting and driving, has led many states to pass laws related to banning cellphone use behind the wheel. Nebraska is one of them.
The Risks of Texting and Driving
Texting and driving checks off all three forms of driver distraction: manual, visual and cognitive. Looking down at a cellphone and pressing its buttons can slow reaction times, making it impossible for a driver to stop quickly enough to prevent a collision. Reading messages also distracts a driver mentally, impairing judgment and reflexes. Looking down at a message for five seconds while driving at 55 miles per hour is the equivalent of crossing a football field blindfolded, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Texting and driving can be just as dangerous as driving drowsy or impaired.
Texting and Driving Is Illegal in Nebraska
No driver in the state of Nebraska may use a handheld wireless communication device of any kind to send, read or write text messages. The language of the law is broad enough to ban all types of written communication, including texts, instant messages, social media posts, and emails. It is illegal to read, manually type or send any kind of written communication while operating a motor vehicle.
For the purposes of the law, operating a motor vehicle includes any time the vehicle has come to a temporary stop, such as at a stop sign or red light. Parking the vehicle, however, will enable a driver to read or send electronic messages without breaking the law. The fine for breaking Nebraska’s texting and driving law is $200 to $500. Breaking the law will also put three points on a driver’s record. Enough points can result in consequences such as a suspended or revoked driver’s license.
A few important exceptions to the texting and driving rule exist. A driver may text behind the wheel in an emergency situation, for example, or if the driver is a medical professional, police officer or emergency service personnel on official duty. Devices permanently affixed to the motor vehicle, hands-free devices, and voice-operated devices are also exceptions to the rule. All texting violations in Nebraska are secondary, meaning the police need another reason to stop a driver. An officer can only write a texting and driving citation if another violation motivated the stop.
Cellphone Calls Illegal for Some Drivers
Drivers that owe additional responsibilities to public safety, such as commercial vehicle drivers and school bus drivers, have stricter cellphone laws the must obey. In addition to being unable to text and drive, these drivers also may not make phone calls from handheld wireless communication devices. They cannot use handheld devices for any reason while driving, except in emergencies or to input navigation information. Texting and driving is a serious traffic violation for commercial and school bus drivers. Getting two or more such violations can lead to the loss of driving privileges for commercial drivers.
Repercussions for Causing an Accident While Texting and Driving
Causing a car accident while breaking Nebraska’s texting and driving law could lead to civil and criminal penalties. The driver may receive a reckless driving citation or criminal charges for more serious cases. In crashes involving catastrophic injuries or deaths, for example, the distracted driver could face a vehicular manslaughter charge for wanton disregard for the safety of others. The driver would also be civilly liable for all victims’ damages. Civil liability means the driver must pay for all related losses, including medical bills, property repairs, lost wages, and pain and suffering. No driver should ever text and drive, for his or her safety and the safety of others.
Chain-reaction or multivehicle accidents in Nebraska can injure several people at once. In a chain-reaction accident, the driver that struck you may not necessarily be the person at-fault or responsible for the collision. Understanding the complex matter of liability in a crash involving multiple vehicles may take assistance from a car accident attorney. Someone will need to investigate your accident to trace your injuries back to the liable, or at-fault, party.
What Is a Chain-Reaction Car Accident?
A chain-reaction accident involves more than two vehicles striking each other. Three or more cars may end up in a chain of rear-end collisions, or multiple cars could collide to form a pileup. Pileups are more common in situations involving wrong-way drivers, commercial trucks or dangerous conditions such as snow.
Chain-reaction car accidents are often catastrophic for the initial victim hit since the collision must occur with enough inertia to force the vehicle into other cars. As the energy from collision to collision lessens, so does the force with which the vehicles collide. Property damages and injuries will grow less serious until the kinetic energy dies out and the vehicles stop.
In most chain-reaction car accidents, Driver A (the person that caused the first collision) and Driver B (the first person hit) will suffer the most severe injuries. Driver C’s injuries may also be serious. Drivers D, E and so on may experience minor to no injuries. Chain-reaction accidents are often the result of a single driver’s mistake or recklessness. Multiple parties, however, could share fault.
Determining Fault and Liability
Chain-reaction crashes typically occur due to the force of an initial collision. For example, if a big rig rear-ends a car, the force of this first collision could be enough to push the car into the vehicle in front of it. The second collision could cause another rear-end collision between the third and fourth cars, and so on. While the crash may involve multiple vehicles, only one party might be liable. The driver that caused the first accident will be the party most likely at fault for everyone’s damages.
Just as a rear-end collision could involve an at-fault front-driver, so may a chain-reaction accident. The fault may not always lie with the first driver. If Driver B did something to cause Driver A to crash, for example, Driver B could be liable for the original collision and every related crash thereafter. Driver B could be responsible if he or she failed to replace broken taillights, for instance, making it difficult for Driver A to see Driver B braking.
The best way to assign liability for a chain-reaction car accident is to hire a team of investigators. Crash reconstructionists and forensic experts may need to visit the scene, interview witnesses and take other measures to determine exactly how the crash occurred. If you were in a multivehicle collision, work with a law firm for resources to help you get to the bottom of who caused your accident.
How to File an Insurance Claim
In Nebraska, the driver that caused the car accident will have to pay for victims’ medical expenses, property damages, and other losses. The state’s fault-based insurance system forces victims to determine the at-fault party before filing claims. If you get into a multivehicle collision, call the police to report the accident. The odds are high that the crash caused at least the minimum amount of property damage required to call the police: $1,000. The police can investigate the accident and help you determine fault.
Do not admit fault for the multi-vehicle crash, even if you were the first driver to strike someone. Another driver, the City of Omaha or a construction company could all be liable for your damages after a chain-reaction wreck. A conversation with an attorney can help you understand the multifaceted issue of fault that may surround your case.
Posted in Truck accidents on July 22, 2019
The commercial trucking industry is not always safe for its drivers or others on the road. Every year, trucking accidents take thousands of lives. More than 2,500 traffic crashes in 2016 involved heavy trucks in Nebraska, according to the state Department of Motor Vehicles. Truck accidents caused 46 deaths and 771 injuries. Liability for a trucking accident could come down to the truck driver, trucking company, the product manufacturer or another party.
Employer Liability for Truck Driver Misconduct
After an accident with a commercial truck, the discovery that the driver is an independent contractor could make a victim assume no corporation is liable for damages. This is not usually the case. Federal laws do not allow trucking companies to escape responsibility for their trucks and drivers, regardless of employment status. A trucking company’s liability for damages, however, is not always clear.
- The trucking company was negligent. The company could be responsible if it cut corners to try to save time or money, resulting in a collision. Examples include rushing driver training, ignoring fleet maintenance and violating hours of service regulations.
- An employee was negligent. An employer will be vicariously responsible for the actions of its employees. Truck driver fatigue, drunkenness, and drowsy driving could point to employer liability. If the driver was on the clock at the time of the collision, the company could be liable.
- The truck driver was an independent contractor. If an independent contractor is not fully connected to the trucking company, the employer might not be liable. However, in most cases, classifying drivers as contractors will not bar an employer from vicarious liability.
Proving an employer’s liability for the actions of a negligent or reckless driver may be difficult in Nebraska. Victims may benefit from truck accident attorneys in Omaha helping them investigate their accidents. The lawyer will need evidence to hold the company, rather than the independent truck driver or the plaintiff’s insurance company, liable. The lawyer will need proof that the company or one of its employees contributed to the crash.
Who Is Responsible for Improper Loading?
Improperly loaded cargo could fall into the road and cause serious accidents. Lost loads may force a vehicle following the truck to slam on its brakes or swerve off the road. Lost loads may send dangerous materials through windshields, killing or seriously injuring the occupants inside. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has cargo securement rules to optimize the safety of cargo during transport. If someone was guilty of improperly loading or securing the cargo, that party could be liable for the accident.
- Using the incorrect straps
- Overloading or under-loading a trailer
- Failing to properly accommodate dangerous cargo
- Stacking boxes dangerously
- Forgetting to use edge protection
- Failing to use enough tie-downs
Debris falling off a truck could cause a fatal car accident in Omaha. In these accident cases, the trucking company could be responsible. The company will be accountable for its employees – including the people who incorrectly loaded the truck. Failure to adhere to the FMCSA’s securement standards is an act of negligence that could point to liability for a subsequent truck accident. If the cargo loaders operate under a separate company, that employer could be responsible.
Can an Employer Be Liable for Bad Weather?
Rain, fog, snow or sleet could compromise the safe transportation of cargo in Omaha. If bad weather contributes to a trucking accident, victims should not dismiss the possibility of employer liability. A combination of bad weather and human error could have caused the accident. A dangerous truck driver, improper braking techniques, speeding or poor truck maintenance could contribute to a crash that occurs in bad weather. If an investigation discovers a human-related cause, the trucking company or another employer could be responsible for damages.
Posted in Truck accidents on July 17, 2019
The structure of an 18-wheeler truck makes accidents happen differently than standard vehicle collisions. What might have been a regular rear-end collision with two passenger vehicles, for example, could take the form of an underride or override truck accident. These are two of the deadliest types of truck accidents for passenger vehicle occupants. Understanding the dynamics of an underride accident could allow you to prevent these fatal collisions in the future.
What Is an Underride Accident?
When a small passenger vehicle slams into the back of a semi and slides beneath the trailer, it is an underride accident. In this type of accident, the smaller vehicle generally does not stop its forward motion until the bed of the trailer contacts the highest part of the car – the cab. The trailer of the truck can kill vehicle occupants in underride accidents. Common fatal injuries are traumatic brain injuries and decapitation. If occupants survive, they may suffer disabilities from catastrophic injuries.
- Brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Internal organ damage
- Crush injuries
- Traumatic amputation
- Permanent disfigurement
Serious underride accidents could cost thousands of dollars in medical bills, vehicle damage and lost shifts at work. Depending on the cause of the collision, you could be eligible for financial recovery through an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit. Recovering compensation for a catastrophic truck accident could help you move forward. Holding a truck company accountable for underride accidents could help improve the safety of trailer designs in the future.
Underride vs. Override Accidents
Although the two terms are often used together, an underride accident is not the same as an override accident. In an underride accident, a passenger car rear-ends a truck. In an override accident, the truck rear-ends a passenger car. If an override accident occurs, the commercial truck rolls up and over the back of the smaller car. Override accidents can crush the smaller car and its occupants. These collisions are usually fatal for passenger car occupants.
Which Cars Are Most at Risk?
Passenger cars that are low to the ground are most at risk of getting into underride accidents. The average trailer rests a few feet off the ground. A vehicle with a low front could slide beneath the bed of the trailer rather than colliding into its back. Sports cars and small economy vehicles are most likely to get into fatal underride truck accidents. Larger vehicles, such as SUVs and pickup trucks, are more likely to crash into the bed of the truck than wedge beneath the trailer.
How To Prevent an Underride Truck Accident
Vehicle manufacturers and safety organizations are working on solutions to underride accidents. The Code of Federal Regulations already requires rear impact guards on most trailers. All trailers and semitrailers manufactured after January 26, 1998, weighing 10,000 pounds or more must have rear impact guards, or underride bars, to help prevent accidents. New and improved underride guards are currently in development with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
As a driver, do not solely depend on rear impact guards to prevent underride accidents. Take proactive steps to reduce your risk of rear-ending a commercial truck. Always keep a safe following distance of at least 30 feet behind the commercial truck. This will keep you out of the truck’s blind spots and give you ample room to come to a stop. Do not tailgate or speed when driving near tractor-trailers. Prepare to stop at any time behind a commercial truck.
Dedicate your attention to the road. Do not text or look down at your cellphone while driving. Distracted driving could make it easy to miss a stopped truck in front of you. Drowsy driving and drunk driving could also cause underride accidents. Any negligent or reckless behavior that could impact your driving abilities could lead to a deadly rear-end collision or underride accident in Omaha. Practice safe driving to reduce your risk.