July 2012

North Carolina Car Crashes – Running on Empty

July 31, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

One of the great things about creating content for a North Carolina auto accident blog is that you get to explore different speculative and theoretical ideas that could help accident victims and also spark critical conversations in the policy establishment.

The “mainstream” media and policy people focus on standard “stuff”, like fighting DUIs, getting people to put down their cell phones while driving, etc.

But looking at seemingly minor elements that define/contribute to auto accidents has value, too!

One common theme we keep coming back to is… how your driving behaviors and attitudes can radically influence your accident risk.

To illustrate, here’s a cool thought experiment.

Imagine you’re stuck on the freeway. You glance at your fuel gauge and notice that you are almost out of gas. Maybe you have a mile left on your tank, maybe five miles. But you’re close to running out of fuel. Imaging the panic that would grip you. How would your imminent fuel shortage problem change your driving behavior? Would you speed more? Cut through traffic? Make riskier decisions?

Almost certainly, you would.

This illustrates a hugely important point – namely, that the focus we maintain while driving radically, subconsciously influences how we drive.

Small factors — like the amount of stress we’re under, our fatigue levels, our general distractibility — might not seem that important over the short term. Indeed, all that psychological “stuff” probably won’t make a measurable difference on any given trip.

But over time — over tens of thousands of miles driven, and years of driving — those little subtle factors can add up to big risk. Perhaps, we are too focused on the acute stuff — i.e. stopping people who are DUI or on drugs. Perhaps we’re missing a huge opportunity to encourage auto safety by focusing on getting people to generally improve their “driving mindset” – i.e., to drive without any distractions; drive while totally alert; avoid letting negative emotions like anger or annoyance interfere, etc.

Imagine, for a minute, if everyone on the road became highly aware of their physical and emotional states.

Imagine how that kind of universal awareness would change not only our accident rates but also our whole attitude towards citizenship on the road.

All that said, if you or someone you care about was recently hurt – or your vehicle damaged – you can put yourself on a strategic path by getting in touch with the team at DeMayo Law today.

Are North Carolina Truck Accident Prevention Experts Focusing on the Right Things?

July 26, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

North Carolina truck accident prevention is a high priority for everyone who uses roads in Charlotte and beyond. If you’ve personally been injured — or if a loved one has been hurt or killed in a truck crash — you likely have a visceral understanding of what out-of-control truckers and trucks can do.

In addition to your quest for justice (which our team here at the Charlotte truck accident law firm of DeMayo Law can help with) you probably also want to understand your accident in context. How is it possible that regulatory agencies, businesses, and generally the whole system could have let you down so badly? Moreover, what can be done to prevent accidents like yours from happening to you or other people in the future?

These ponderables are important. The answers may be pretty counterintuitive.

A lot of effort currently goes into enforcing trucker regulations, designing trucks to be safer, designing the highway systems to be more easily navigable, etc. In other words, many people are working on a lot of very potentially important accident prevention projects.

But part of the problem is that it is very difficult to do controlled experiments to determine which safety features or mechanisms work and which ones don’t. To do a truly scientific experiment, you need to set up a situation wherein you create two groups and then change one variable between those two groups to test a hypothesis. Your aim is to disprove that hypothesis or to fail to disprove it. Doing good science is hard in any field. It’s harder still to be objective when you’re dealing with emotionally fraught concerns, like truck accident prevention, where human lives are in line.

We all want to “do something – anything” to solve our problems or at least move in the direction of actively solving our problems. Thus, we’re happy to take any action as long as it offers a vague promise of getting us to results we want. The trouble with this approach is a) it’s not scientific and b) it has the potential to backfire because it creates opportunity costs.

Here’s why. Say we determine that XYZ technology might be potentially useful at reducing truck crash rates by 5% every year. But we really don’t know, and it’s going to cost $30 million to test the hypothesis. If we dump $30 million into that hypothesis and spend time really testing it, that means we’ve invested $30 million, plus however long the study takes — time and money no longer available to research other safety initiatives.

At the end of the day, people want results.

What works in terms of North Carolina auto and truck accident prevention? Let’s definitely be bold and diverse in exploring possible solutions, but let’s also be humbled by the difficulties that doing truly good science presents for us.

Could Forward Warning Collision Systems Be the Future of North Carolina Auto Accident Prevention?

July 24, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

A stunning new study put out by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) suggests that the next era of North Carolina auto accident prevention may be dominated by a technology known as the Forward Collision Warning System.

The HLDI studied collision data for Acura and Mercedes vehicles equipped with this tech – which automatically causes the car to brake when a threat of a crash gets detected – caused a statistically significant drop in claims – down 14%.

Another technology, adaptive headlights, also reduced claims in a sample group by approximately 10%. Curiously, the HLDI data found that a third technology, Lane Departure Warning, had no statistically significant effect on claims. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) appears to be very excited about the potential of Forward Collision Warning Systems, in particular. Experts there believe that this technology may be able to slash the number of rear-end crashes on our roads by 15% annually. Given that there are 1.7 million of these kind of crashes a year in the U.S. – many thousands of which happen in North Carolina – prepare to be seeing a lot of car commercials boasting about the “competitive advantage” of this kind of technology.

The U.S.’s Chief Auto Safety Regulator, David Strickland of the NHTSA, has made it the mission of his agency to reduce crashes. If more data on Forward Collision Warning Technology bears out the safety advantages, this feature might soon become mandatory in all new vehicles. It could signal a sea change.

Of course, while positive shifts in auto accident prevention technology are always good news, if you or someone you care about was recently the victim of a car crash, you are probably more interested in picking up the pieces than you are in fantasizing about a “crash-free” future.

The DeMayo Law team has extensive resources and passionate people who can help you come to terms with your rights and responsibilities and recover damages…and regain a sense of control over your life and next steps.

Odd North Carolina Auto Accident News: Banana Truck Explodes 18th Century Building (No, Not A Monty Python Sketch!)

July 19, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Some North Carolina truck accident cases sound absurd when you first read about them.

Case in point: An out-of-control 18-wheeler carrying bananas flipped over just outside Providence, Rhode Island last Sunday and slid into the Old Grist Mill Tavern, an 18th Century building, causing a gas main to explode ,which in turn consumed the landmark in flames.

Fortunately, no one was in the tavern when the accident happened, although the truck driver suffered injuries and got treated at a Providence area hospital. An area resident who heard the crash rushed down to see flames soaring above the street utility poles. David Elderkin told The Sun Chronicle in Attleboro, MA: “It sounded like a jet engine…this is a sad day. This is a very popular restaurant.”

The owner of the Old Grist Mill, Greg Esmay, told the Providence journal “[the 18-wheeler] slid along the ground and took out the main gas line and the electrical lines…there was a pretty good explosion, and it started a fire.”

The truck accident is currently under investigation, and who knows what will be found.

The scary/weird truck crash illustrates the profound dangers that trucks pose not only to people and vehicles but also to standing structures, like buildings and bridges. We all intuitively understand that trucks are “more dangerous” than cars. There is an actual reason for this intuition, however. Big trucks – especially 18-wheelers carrying lots of cargo – have enormous amount of mass. As any elementary physics student will tell you, when you accelerate mass to high velocity, you set a lot of force in motion. A truck weighing 20 tons going 30 miles per hour that crashes into you will impart as much force as a two-ton car traveling at 300 miles per hour. A ridiculously large amount of force, in other words – capable of creating instant catastrophes.

If you or someone you care about was hurt in a truck accident in North Carolina, the DeMayo Law team is available for a free, thorough, and compassionate case evaluation to help you make sense of your options to get a recovery.

Massive 19 Car Los Angeles Auto Accident Heard All the Way in North Carolina?

July 17, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Rarely do you read about a Charlotte auto accident involving more than five or six vehicles. Rarer still do you read about accidents involving a dozen plus car/trucks.

A ridiculously large multi-multi car/truck collision shook Southern California on Tuesday, June 22 on State Route 14 between Los Angeles and the Antelope Valley. Reports from the Los Angeles County Fire Department found that 19 cars and a big rig slammed together in the North Los Angeles County Mountains. Two people were critically injured, and 17 other people were hurt. Miraculously, no one died, and there were no reports of hazardous materials being spilled or fires. The crash happened early around 9:45 in the morning; by 2:00 in the afternoon, all the lanes had been reopened, thanks to the fast work of the California Highway Patrol.

Investigators are still trying to figure out what happened in this accident. That stretch of Southern California freeway is high up in the San Gabriel Mountains, and it’s often beset by fog and gusty winds and visibility problems.

Even if your recent Charlotte auto accident was not nearly as complicated or intertwined, odds are that the investigation will require intricate and careful handiwork. Especially if you suffered serious injuries – or someone in your vehicle died – the stakes for potentially liable parties could be enormous. Medical bills, loss of companionship damages, lost wages and income, etc from your accident could total hundreds of thousands of dollars or more.

Moreover, to build a compelling and creditable case to collect those damages from an insurance company — or from someone else who’s liable for causing or contributing to what happened to you — you need to be extremely careful.

A small mistake in your methodology or treatment path can create major headaches for your case and potentially reduce or even eliminate your legal options. They can even potentially expose you to your own liability concerns. An experienced Charlotte car accident law firm, like the team at the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo, can give you a knowledgeable perspective and start you on the road to recovery and control.

Heat Exhaustion and North Carolina Auto Accidents: A Fiery Combination

July 12, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

As summer heats up, expect to read about more North Carolina auto accidents, especially over the 4th of July holiday.

It’s a tragedy, but it’s a classic pattern – on national holidays like Independence Day, more people in North Carolina and elsewhere “party.” That means there are more intoxicated drivers out on the roads… and thus more scary DUI car accidents in Charlotte and elsewhere. If you or a loved one was hurt in one of those accidents, you can get immediate and powerful legal help by connecting with the team at the law offices of Michael DeMayo for a case evaluation.

Of course, in an ideal world, we want to do more than just react to car accidents: we want to understand how to prevent them.

To that end, let’s talk about heat. Specifically: How might the dog days of summer impact the behaviors and reaction times of drivers?

Some statistics suggest that hot weather makes people worse drivers. But these studies, by and large, are difficult to use as guides, since they rarely effectively tease out correlation from causation. In other words, say you find a study that determines that, on super hot days, more accidents occur. Why might that be? Assuming the statistics are decent, why might that relationship occur?

The kneejerk answer is to “blame” the hot weather – to tell yourself a story like “on really hot days, drivers get overheated and thus become more likely to get distracted behind the wheel or fall asleep.”

But we need to be careful about leaping to such conclusions!

For instance, maybe the period over which the study was conducted fell on a national holiday, like Labor Day. And maybe over the Labor Day, accident rates spiked. And maybe this spike in accidents was solely responsible for the overall spike in the number of accidents during the period of hot days assessed. And maybe the reason why more accidents happened over the Labor Day was simply that more people “partied” on Labor Day.

Thus, the hot weather had nothing to do with it!

It’s important to surface potential methodological flaws like this, since if you don’t understand “what causes what,” you can make inaccurate conclusions about how to prevent accidents or even how to determine the causes of an accident.

Two different ways of framing your problem can lead you to two radically different types of investigations.

In 2032, Will Safer Cars Have Led to Fewer Auto Accidents in Charlotte?

July 10, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

How can we reduce the number of auto accidents in Charlotte, North Carolina and elsewhere?

This question obsesses not only policy analysts and auto manufacturers but also road designers and people who have been recently injured in North Carolina car accidents. After all, it’s important for victims and their family members to get justice and fair compensation. (The team here at the law offices of Michael DeMayo can help you, if you or someone you care about has incurred damages.)

We also want to learn from our collective mistakes, so that our world gets safer and easier to navigate.

The problem is that many of the assumptions we hold about what leads to safety may be flawed on fundamental levels.

One of those assumptions is that, if we keep making safer and safer cars, we will eventually reduce accident rates – or at least make accidents less injurious. To a degree, history has borne this idea out. After all, compare today’s auto accident statistics with those from, say, the 1950s. We’ve made progress! We’ve installed seat belts, airbags, antilock brakes, computer assisted safety technologies, et cetera, and we’re collectively doing a lot better, per mile driven, safety wise.

But when we dive deeper into the numbers, the story becomes less clear.

As author Tom Vanderbilt detailed in his ground breaking book, Traffic, the advent of the airbag was one of the most surprising “unsuccess” stories of automotive safety history. The engineers who developed the airbag assumed that the contraption would radically reduce injury rates in serious crashes. An airbag, obviously, should be superior to nothing.

But once drivers grasped that their cars were safer, they “upped” the amount of risk they took on the roads. They felt more confident that the car would “take care of them” and thus adjusted their driving ever so slightly in a risk-wards direction. This unanticipated shift in behavior massively blunted the potential safety power of airbags.

So the question for us is: Will the act of enhancing safety features on automobiles and trucks simply lead drivers to embrace riskier habits and behaviors? If so, might there be other simpler means of generating results?

These are powerful questions – and this North Carolina car accident blog obviously cannot give you all the answers – but hopefully this will get you to start thinking differently about why accidents happen and what can be done after the fact.

Supreme Court Rules in Fatal North Carolina Auto Accident Case

July 5, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Nearly a decade ago, a fatal North Carolina auto accident took the lives of Mickela Nicholson, Marianne Dauscher, and Michael Layaou on Highway 1010 in Johnston County. The estates of the three people killed sued the North Carolina Department of Transportation for negligence that led to the accumulation of water on the road, which in turn precipitated the fatal hydroplaning accident.

(Nicholson had been driving the speed limit. She veered off the road due to its disrepair. When she hopped back on, the eroded road and slick conditions caused her to hydroplane and slam into the jeep).

The DOT fought back against the lawsuit, claiming that the estates of the descedents could not sue for the failure to “make appropriate repair.”

On the Friday before last, the North Carolina Supreme Court weighed in on the matter and ruled decisively in favor of the estates of the deceased – giving the okay for them to sue the DoT.

Who knows what will happen next? Obviously, no ruling can ever bring back the young people who were killed in the crash. It’s also been nearly a decade since the incident – a decade of uncertainty for the families involved.

The case illustrates how slowly North Carolina auto accident cases can progress through the court system. Especially if someone was killed or seriously injured in a crash – where hundreds or thousands of dollars or millions of dollars might be at stake – the court process can drag on extensively. Plaintiffs can experience an emotional rollercoaster ride, as positive and negative news breaks periodically about the case.

How should victims and family members of victims comport themselves during these intense “ups and downs”?

First and foremost, it really helps to have a solid North Carolina auto accident law firm on your side – such as the team at the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo – to answer your questions, keep you feeling in control, and keep you focused on the best possible strategic outcomes. A good law firm can also help you navigate the surprises and opportunities that can emerge as you pursue justice and strive for compensation.

Beyond that, understand that getting over a serious car accident – or the fact that a loved one was in a serious car accident – is a process. There is no one-time “quick fix.” Even if a liable party agreed tomorrow to pay you as much as you wanted for the damages done, you would still need time to adjust to your new reality, and your “emotional immune system” would need to process what happened to you and bring you back to equilibrium.

Try to be compassionate with yourself; to be compassionate with those who might have caused you harm; and to be patient as the wheels of justice move forward. Be sure to educate yourself and connect yourself with great resources – legal, medical, and otherwise – to make the journey simpler and more certain.

North Carolina Auto Accident: Could Be a Forgettable Fender Bender… Then Again, Maybe Not!

July 3, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Not all Charlotte auto accidents are “black and white,” legally speaking.

Some accidents are so severe and scary that the people involved in those crashes – or the friends and family members of loved ones killed – know that they need the services of a North Carolina auto accident law firm, like the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo.

On the other end of the spectrum, we all have had the experience of getting “slightly tapped” while trying to pull into a parking space — where only the most ridiculously litigious minded person would consider legal action.

But what about the grey areas?

What about situations that don’t seem “that bad”? Like the following:

•    Someone hit your car at a stoplight and bent your bumper a bit. Your upper back ached in the days following the accident. Could it be related to whiplash or a spinal problem caused by the accident or not? You’re not sure.

•    You got hurt in a situation that was clearly “your fault” – or it sure seemed that way. For instance, you drove off into a culvert, totaling your car and hurting yourself in the processes. But were you really totally to blame? Or did the car’s safety systems malfunction? You can’t know without doing a detailed investigation.

Resolving ambiguity – the best way

We live in an ambiguous world; and everyone’s situation is different. However, given the long-term damage that car accidents can cause – damage both to your wallet and to your body – it behooves you to be thorough and err on the side of caution when contemplating your potential legal options. The effective Charlotte car accident team here at DeMayo Law can help you explore possible strategic solutions to get you compensated.