Can You Be Held Liable For Someone Else’s Driving?

If you accidentally collide with another vehicle because you ran through a stop sign or made an illegal turn, you will probably be held liable for the other driver’s injuries. But did you know you can also be held liable in car accidents where you aren’t even the one driving?

Who does your car insurance cover?

Most car insurance policies will cover anyone who permanently lives in your home and who has been identified to the insurer as a potential driver of the car. This means if you allow your spouse or child over the age of 16 to drive your vehicle, he or she will probably be covered by your insurance in the event of a car accident.

What is a “Family Purpose” vehicle?

Under the “Family Purpose Doctrine”, you may be personally liable for the negligent driving of immediate members of your household (spouse, children, and even otherwise unrelated adults) if you provided the vehicle they were driving for their “pleasure, comfort or convenience”, and they were using the car for a “family purpose” when they caused an accident. This can be an important consideration in a personal injury case. For instance, in a situation where a minor driving a “family purpose car” has caused an accident, and the available insurance is insufficient to cover all the damages, an injured party is not limited to pursuing the minor (who will likely have few assets). The injured party can also sue the parent who provided the car to minor; and that parent is far more likely to have significant assets.

What is the “Permissive User” rule?

If you choose to allow your close friends or family members who don’t live in your house to borrow your car on occasion, these individuals may also be covered if your insurance policy has a “permissive use” clause. This provision states that the policy will apply to any person who drives the vehicle with the permission of the owner.

In some cases, this may mean that two different insurance policies may both apply: the one on the car, and also any separate policy which the permissive driver may have obtained . This is called “stacking.” Sometimes the insurers may not agree on which policy is primarily responsible, and which one is secondary. In such a situation, the injured person needs an experienced attorney to be sure that ALL the insurers are identified, and that they all pay their fair share.

When may you be held liable?

Sometimes, policyholders choose to purposely exclude certain members of the family from their insurance coverage. This is usually done when one person has a bad driving record that will increase the policyholder’s insurance rates. These individuals are known as excluded drivers, and they should NOT be driving your vehicle. If you knowingly allow an excluded driver to operate your vehicle, you may be held liable if they cause an accident.

If your vehicle was taken without your permission, you shouldn’t be held liable if the driver gets into an accident. However it can be very difficult to prove that you never gave the driver permission to use your vehicle. This often becomes a case of “he said, she said” where it is your word against the driver’s. Car owners may be held liable even when they are adamant they never gave the driver permission to use the vehicle.

Individuals can also be held liable when they allow someone to operate their vehicle who is intoxicated, or under the legal driving age, or whom they otherwise know to be incompetent to drive.

To protect yourself, it’s best to limit the number of people who have access to your car. Even if you believe you can fully trust someone, you never know when their poor judgment will cost you.

If you have been injured in a car accident by a negligent driver, contact Frank Harris. Mr. Harris and his team can review the details of your case, help you determine who is liable, and then begin negotiations with the insurance company. Contact Frank Harris today by email at info@FrankHarrisLaw.com or by calling 678-483-8655. You can also submit your information using the online form on his website, www.FrankHarrisLaw.com.

The Dangers of Drowsy Driving

The media often places a lot of attention on the dangers of distracted or drunk driving, but these aren’t the only careless behaviors that can lead to car accidents. According to estimates made by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, over 100,000 car accidents per year can be attributed to drowsy driving. As if that wasn’t enough proof, a new AAA study shows just how dangerous fatigued drivers can be on the roads.

The AAA Study on Drowsy Driving

AAA researched how drowsiness affects a person’s ability to safely operate a vehicle. The results were astounding—AAA found that people who only slept for five or six hours the night before were twice as likely to be involved in an accident. But that’s not all. The study also looked at people who slept for fewer than five hours a night. According to this study, drivers who have slept four to five hours are more than four times as likely to be involved in an accident, and drivers who have slept less than four hours are 12 times more likely to be involved in a crash.

The results of this study may come as a surprise to many, especially because AAA concluded that drowsy driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving, but it shouldn’t. Most people are well aware that fatigue can lead to slower thought processing, impaired judgment, and blurry vision. All of these effects of sleepiness can make it very difficult to safely operate a motor vehicle. Yet many people still continue to get behind the wheel when they are struggling to stay awake. In fact, it has been reported that about one-third of drivers admit to driving when they could barely keep their eyes open.

Preventing Drowsy Driving Accidents

This study shows the importance of a good night’s sleep when it comes to keeping our roads safe. How many hours of sleep should drivers get before they have to hit the road? The more, the better, but it’s recommended that you never get behind the wheel if you have slept for less than seven hours.

If you plan on taking a long road trip, it’s best to bring someone along with you so you can take turns driving and prevent fatigue. Don’t rely on caffeinated products to keep you alert at the wheel. These products are designed to give you a quick boost of energy, but the effects will not last long and you will soon find yourself struggling to stay awake once again.

If you have been injured because of a drowsy driver, discuss your case with a Georgia attorney who is well versed in personal injury law. Frank Harris and his team of legal professionals will fight tirelessly to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. Schedule a consultation with Frank Harris by sending an email to info@FrankHarrisLaw.com or visiting the website www.FrankHarrisLaw.com. You can also call our offices at 678-483-8655.

What is Whiplash?

If you are involved in a car crash, it’s possible you could leave the scene of the accident without any bumps or bruises. But many people are not so lucky. Whiplash is one of the most common injuries associated with car accidents. What is it? How can it be treated? Here’s what you need to know:

How does whiplash occur?

The impact of a car accident can often cause your neck to jerk forward and backward suddenly. When this happens, the muscles in your neck may stretch too far and tear. Whiplash is often associated with being rear-ended by another vehicle, but you can sustain this injury in any type of collision.

What are the symptoms?

Most whiplash victims will immediately begin to feel pain in their neck, shoulders, and upper back. But if you don’t experience pain right away, that doesn’t rule out the possibility you have whiplash. Sometimes it can take a few hours or days for the pain of whiplash to set in. It will become difficult for you to move this part of your body without experiencing pain and stiffness. The entire area may be tender to the touch, but this is not true of all whiplash cases. Some victims may also have pounding headaches that feel as if they are stemming from the back of the neck and moving towards the forehead.

Can it be treated?

Seek medical attention right away if you believe you could have whiplash. A doctor can diagnose this condition by asking you about your symptoms, performing a physical examination, and examining X-rays or CT scans.

Doctors usually recommend applying ice packs to the affected area to reduce inflammation and numb the pain. Anti-inflammatory over-the-counter medications can also be taken to stop the swelling so the muscles can properly heal. A doctor will probably suggest that you wear a brace to support your head and neck until the pain has subsided.

If you are experiencing serious pain or if you have a history of prior injuries, the doctor may advise you to try physical therapy. Physical therapists can teach you stretching exercises that will help reduce the pain and promote healing.

Treating whiplash can be expensive and may cause you to miss work while you recover. But if your injury was caused by a negligent driver, you could be entitled to compensation to cover these expenses and lost wages.

If you have been diagnosed with whiplash after a car accident, reach out to experienced personal injury attorney Frank Harris right away. Whiplash can lead to long-term aches and pains, and you shouldn’t have to suffer with this injury in silence. Contact his office today by sending an email to info@FrankHarrisLaw.com or visiting us online at www.FrankHarrisLaw.com. You can also place a call to our offices at 678-483-8655.

Safest Cars on the Road

According to the National Safety Council, over 38,000 people were killed in car accidents in 2015. Many of these car accidents could probably have been prevented by avoiding distractions, following all rules of the road, and of course, driving safer vehicles.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety releases an annual list of the safest cars available for motorists. Some of the makes and models that made the 2017 list include:

1) Small Cars

The IIHS named 16 different vehicles in this category of the safest small cars of 2017. One of these cars is the 2017 Chevrolet Volt, which scored high in head restraints, roof strength, and overall crashworthiness. However, this vehicle did not receive top scores across the board. It was given a “marginal” rating in the “ease of use of child seat” category.

2) Midsize Cars

Sixteen cars also made the list in the midsize car category, including the 2017 Nissan Altima. This vehicle scored high ratings in part because of its recent redesign, which strengthened the door sill, hinge pillar, and footwell to provide additional protection to passengers in a collision.

A redesign of the side airbags helped the 2017 Toyota Camry rank high on this list; however, testers did not give top marks to this car’s child seat anchors. Researchers commented that the lower anchors were placed too deep into the seat, which made it difficult to install a car seat.

3) Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs)

The 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport was listed as a top safety pick among all SUVs. However, this vehicle received a “poor” rating for its headlights. The testers found no issues with the high beams, but said the low beams created an excessive glare that could be dangerous for other drivers on the road.

Another SUV on the list is the 2017 Kia Sportage, which performed well in crash tests, but also scored low in the quality of headlights. Researchers found that visibility was poor while using the low beams and driving around curves, which could be risky for people who regularly drive on this type of road.

4) Luxury Cars

Volvo is known for its high safety standards, so it’s no surprise that the 2017 Volvo S60 was one of many vehicles from this manufacturer that made the list. This vehicle performed well during crash testing, and even scored a “superior” rating for its front crash prevention because of its optional collision warning and pedestrian detection features.

The 2017 Cadillac XT5 also made the list of safe luxury vehicles, in part because of the head protection provided to the driver and passenger dummies during a collision.

If you plan on purchasing a new vehicle in 2017, keep this list handy so you can make a safe, smart decision for you and your family.

Accidents happen—even if you are driving in one of these vehicles. If you have been involved in a car accident, don’t hesitate to get help from an experienced personal injury attorney in Georgia. The quicker you reach out to attorney Frank Harris, the sooner he can begin fighting for you to receive the compensation you deserve. Email info@frankharrislaw.com or call 678-483-8655 today to schedule a free consultation. You can also contact us via our website, www.FrankHarrisLaw.com.

Who is Liable When a Self-Driving Car Crashes?

On May 7, 2016, a tractor trailer made a left turn in front of a self-driving Tesla car that failed to brake in time to avoid a collision. The incident marked the first time in history that a vehicle operated completely by computers, radar equipment, and sensors was involved in a fatal accident. It also raised a lot of questions about the future of liability on the roads. If self-driving cars increase in popularity as expected, who will be responsible when they are involved in car accidents?

Although these cars are designed to eliminate the need for a human driver, manufacturers have made it clear in their terms and conditions that the human driver must stay focused while behind the wheel even though the they are not technically driving the car. For example, Tesla customers must sign a release agreeing to keep both hands on the steering wheel while using a self-driving car. General Motors will require drivers of their future self-operating car to remain focused on the road and ready to begin driving in certain situations, such as bad weather. These contracts are intended to protect manufacturers from liability in the event of an accident, but will they be enough?

It’s predicted lawmakers will hold manufacturers accountable because they are choosing to market these cars as a replacement for human drivers. Lawmakers will likely argue if the cars are designed to replace human drivers, liability should be transferred from the driver to the manufacturers of the car.

You would think manufacturers would be resistant to take on this burden, but the opposite may be true. Some industry experts believe manufacturers will gladly accept liability in accidents involving self-driving cars. Why? For starters, there is reason to believe accident rates will be much lower than they are now, so the costs will not be astronomical.

Car manufacturers may also conclude that accepting liability will go a long way in winning customers over. From a marketing perspective, taking the blame for accidents shows customers the confidence these manufacturers have in their self-driving cars. A survey done in 2016 showed 55% of consumers are not willing to ride in a self-driving vehicle. Based on these results, building consumer confidence by accepting liability may be the marketing strategy that manufacturers need to win over those who are still reluctant to try this new technology.

Shifting the liability from the human driver to the car manufacturer would also mean major changes to the car insurance industry. Consumers would no longer have to shop for the best car insurance rate or deal with the hassle of negotiating with insurance companies following an accident. Instead, drivers would simply purchase coverage when they buy a self-driving car.

No decisions have officially been made regarding liability in these accidents. However, the family of a driver who was killed in a self-driving car accident in China is suing car manufacturer Tesla for damages. It’s possible the outcome of this case could affect how the United States handles similar issues moving forward.

If you were involved in a car accident, it can be difficult to determine who was at fault. Georgia personal injury attorney Frank Harris can investigate the details of your case to identify the liable party. Then he will fight to recover the compensation you deserve for your medical expenses, property damage, pain and suffering, and lost wages. But first you have to make the call. Contact Frank Harris by phone at 678-483-8655 or email info@frankharrislaw.com to schedule a consultation today. You may also visit our website, www.FrankHarrisLaw.com, to learn more about our services.

Aging and Driving

There are currently more than 40 million drivers in the United States who are 65 years of age or older. There are many benefits to these older adults getting behind the wheel. Not only does driving enable them to attend social events with friends and family, but it also helps them maintain their independence. In fact, some research has shown older adults may experience a decline in health once they stop driving.

However, at some point older adults may no longer be able to drive because of safety concerns. Here are some of the reasons why aging may affect the ability to drive safely:

1) Older adults have slower reflexes.

Drivers must be able to quickly swerve or slam on the brakes to avoid getting into car accidents, but this becomes harder to do as you age. Reflexes tend to slow down as people get older, and conditions such as arthritis can make it harder for older adults to move quickly to turn the steering wheel or put a foot on the brake.

2) Eyesight may worsen as we get older.

Even if you’ve never worn a pair of glasses in your life, your eyesight inevitably begins to worsen as we age. Older drivers may find it difficult to see at night, read traffic signs, or even spot a pedestrian crossing in front of their vehicle. Some older adults also experience a loss of side vision, which makes it challenging to drive safely with other vehicles on the road.

3) Hearing is affected by aging.

Drivers need to be able to hear sirens, horns, and other noises on the road in order to stay safe. However, hearing acuity decreases with age, so older drivers may not be able to tell when ambulance siren is approaching them, or from which direction. Even worse, older drivers may not hear when another driver is honking to warn them that they are about to collide.

4) Medications can interfere with driving ability.

Older adults tend to be on more medications than younger adults, and many of these prescription medications can interfere with a person’s ability to operate a motor vehicle. Side effects of medications can include drowsiness, nausea, or dizziness, which can all impact a driver’s ability to focus on the road and navigate safely through the streets.

If you are an older driver, it’s recommended you frequently check with your doctor to make sure it is safe for you to continue driving. But you should always use your best judgment. Even if a doctor says it’s fine, if you don’t feel comfortable driving, don’t put others at risk by getting behind the wheel.

If you are concerned about an older driver in your family or circle of friends, try to approach the topic gently. Help them figure out other methods of transportation so they do not feel isolated and alone without a car. Most importantly, be sure to emphasize you are only concerned about their safety.

Some older drivers are simply unable to safely operate a motor vehicle. If you or a loved one has been injured because of a negligent older driver, seek legal representation from Georgia personal injury attorney Frank Harris at once. Frank Harris has the experience and legal knowledge you need to recover compensation for your injuries, property damage, and more. Contact Frank Harris today by visiting www.FrankHarrisLaw.com or calling 678-483-8655 to arrange a consultation. You may also reach out via email at info@FrankHarrisLaw.com.