Category Archives: Car Accident Statistics

West Virginia is the 8th Most Dangerous State to Drive In

According to an article published by Walstreet 24/7, West Virginia has been ranked as the 8th most dangerous state to drive in:

8. West Virginia
> Average auto fatalities per 100,000: 19.8
> Auto fatalities/year: 359 (18th fewest)
> Lifetime medical costs due to 1-yr, auto accidents: $2,938,686 (18th lowest)
> Lifetime work loss costs due to 1-yr. auto accidents: $289,051,095 (16th lowest)
> Pct. commuters traveling 30 mins. or more: 33.11% (17th highest)

Of the states with the highest auto fatality rates, West Virginia was one of the few with a large percentage of commuters traveling at least 30 minutes to work each day. Between 2007 and 2009, West Virginia averaged 359 auto fatalities each year, or 19.8 per 100,000 people. According to estimates, auto fatalities in one year cost the state $289 million in lost productivity. Of the four policies highlighted by the report, the state has adopted two — mandatory helmets and booster seats — but remains one of only 18 states that does not have a primary seat belt law.

Read more: The Most Dangerous States to Drive In – 24/7 Wall St. http://247wallst.com/2012/05/24/the-most-dangerous-states-to-drive-in/#ixzz1wvT9291L

What is the law on texting and driving in West Virginia?

As of right now, unlike other states, texting and driving is not illegal in West Virginia.  However, for drivers under the age of 18, cell phone use while driving is illegal, which includes texting.  There is legislation currently under consideration in WV which would make texting and driving a traffic infraction.  However, it has not yet been adopted, partially because it also criminalizes texting while parked in traffic.  There was recently an article in the Charleston Gazette on the legislation, which included some of the following information:

As drafted, texting while driving would be a primary offense — meaning that police officers could pull over drivers for texting, without observing any other traffic violations. However, there would be no court costs or driver’s license points assessed for a conviction.

Under the bill, drivers who pull over to the side of the road to read or send text messages would not be in violation of the law.

However, as currently drafted, drivers could be cited for texting while on a roadway, even if they were stuck in a traffic backup, and their vehicles were not moving.

Both nationally and in West Virginia, texting and driving is a substantial cause of serious injury and death in car wrecks.  Essentially, texting and driving is driving while distracted.  The federal government actually has a website which informs people about the dangers of distracted driving.  It contains some of the following information:

Research on distracted driving reveals some surprising facts:

  • 20 percent of injury crashes in 2009 involved reports of distracted driving. (NHTSA).
  • Of those killed in distracted-driving-related crashed, 995 involved reports of a cell phone as a distraction (18% of fatalities in distraction-related crashes). (NHTSA)
  • In 2009, 5,474 people were killed in U.S. roadways and an estimated additional 448,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes that were reported to have involved distracted driving. (FARS and GES)
  • The age group with the greatest proportion of distracted drivers was the under-20 age group – 16 percent of all drivers younger than 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted while driving. (NHTSA)
  • Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves. (Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)
  • Using a cell phone use while driving, whether it’s hand-held or hands-free, delays a driver’s reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent. (Source: University of Utah)

Police-reported data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and the National Automotive Sampling show that:

  • In 2009, there were 30,797 fatal crashes in the United States, which involved 45,230 drivers. In those crashes 33,808 people died.
  • In 2009, 5,474 people were killed in crashes involving driver distraction (16% of total fatalities).
  • The proportion of fatalities reportedly associated with driver distraction increased from 10 percent in 2005 to 16 percent in 2009. During that time, fatal crashes with reported driver distraction also increased from 10 percent to 16 percent.
  • The portion of drivers reportedly distracted at the time of the fatal crashes increased from 7 percent in 2005 to 11 percent in 2009.
  • The under-20 age group had the highest proportion of distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes (16%). The age group with the next greatest proportion of distracted drivers was the 20- to-29-year-old age group – 13 percent of all 20-to-29-year-old drivers in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted.
  • Of those drivers reportedly distracted during a fatal crash, the 30-to-39-year-old drivers were the group with the greatest proportion distracted by cell phones. Cell phone distraction was reported for 24 percent of the 30-to-39-year-old distracted drivers in fatal crashes.
  • Light-truck drivers and motorcyclists had the greatest percentage of total drivers reported as distracted at the time of the fatal crash (12% each). Bus drivers had the lowest percentage (6%) of total drivers involved in fatal crashes that were reported as distraction-related.
  • An estimated 20 percent of 1,517,000 injury crashes were reported to have involved distracted driving in 2009.

The National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey (NMVCCS) is a nationally representative survey specifically focused toward documenting events and conditions leading up to crashes.

  • NMVCCS captures distraction as an associated factor to the crash and/or as the critical reason that made the crash imminent. Driver distraction was coded as the critical reason in 18 percent of the crashes. Data describing the specifics of the distraction — for example adjusting the radio or eating — are included in this data set.

Another method for collecting pre-crash data is through naturalistic driving studies, in which vehicles are equipped with cameras and data recording equipment.

  • During NHTSA’s 100-Car Naturalistic Driving Study, driver involvement in secondary tasks contributed to more than 22 percent of all crashes and near-crashes recorded during the study period.

Data Sources

The following NHTSA data sources were used in the research:

  • Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS)
  • National Automotive Sampling System (NASS) General Estimates System (GES)
  • National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey (NMVCCS)
  • The 100-Car Naturalistic Driving Study
  • National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS) of Driver Electronic Use
  • Motor Vehicle Occupant Safety Survey (MVOSS)

Please understand that although texting and driving is not yet a traffic infraction in West Virginia, it is punishable through civil liability in a personal injury lawsuit.  One of the first things we do as WV car wreck attorneys is to subpoena cell phone information for drivers who may have been using cell phones at the time of the car accident.  In close liability situations this can seal the deal.  In other situations, it helps ensure that our clients cannot be threatened with potential liability issues at trial.

Automobile Accident Statistics and Injury Prevention

Between the years of 2000 and 2005 there were over 6 million auto accidents in the United States. In each of those years approximately 2.9 million people were injured and over 42,000 people were killed. About 115 people are killed every day in vehicle crashes in the United States. In 2007 there were approximately 300 million people in the United States. Of the people killed in automobile accidents in 2007 approximately 20% were passengers. In 2007 approximately 5,000 people were killed in motorcycle accidents. Also, in 2007 approximately 4,600 pedestrians were killed in accidents involving motor vehicles. There were 255 million vehicles registered and approximately 200 million licensed drivers.

The motorists advocacy group AAA reports that accidents cost $162 billion each year. The cost of auto accidents to each American is more than $1,000 a year. Also, according to AAA car accidents involving drivers 15 to 17 years of age cost society more than 34 billion in medical expenses, property damage and related costs in the year 2006. 15-18 year old drivers were involved in 974,000 crashes that injured 406,427 people and killed 2,541. According to the Center for Disease Control motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among U.S. teens, accounting for 36% of all deaths in this age group.

So, what can be done to protect motorists from injury and death caused by motor vehicle accidents? The answers to this question are as follows:

  1. Don’t’ drink and drive. Don’t ride in a car when the driver has been drinking.
  2. Require your teenagers to enroll in driver safety programs.
  3. Drive large vehicles. Full sized passenger cars weighing over 4000 pounds have a lower injury and fatality rates.
  4. Lower your speed. Speed kills.
  5. Practice defensive driving.
  6. Stricter enforcement of traffic laws.
  7. Make drivers who cause accidents criminally and civilly responsible.
  8. Lower the center of gravity on Vans, SUVs, and pick-ups to prevent roll over accidents.
  9. Incorporate some form of roll cages in vehicles.
  10. Incorporation of more safety glass in vehicles.
  11. Restricted licenses for the elderly and those with poor vision.
  12. Better highway design. Fix the bad roads before we build new ones.
  13. Raise insurance rates for at-fault drivers and lower them for safe drivers.
  14. Better DMV reporting of traffic infractions to insurance companies.
  15. Use of and incorporation of safety equipment such as seat belts, air bags, side curtain air bags, crumple zones and energy absorbing bumpers.
  16. Don’t drive if you’re tired.
  17. Raise the driving age to 19.
  18. Require drug and alcohol testing for all traffic infractions.

 – John H. Bryan, West Virginia Car Accident Attorney.

What is my West Virginia auto accident injury claim worth?

What is my West Virginia car accident injury case worth?  This is a great question, and indeed almost every West Virginia car accident case client has asked me this question.  Unfortunately, there is no easy answer.  Obviously, money is not everything, but the purpose of our civil justice system is to compensate people for the wrongs of others, and the only manner of compensation which can be achieved is through money.  One of the most difficult aspects of handling West Virginia personal injury actions, including car accident cases, is to discuss, and agree on, a settlement value.

The basis for a settlement is simple.  Assuming your attorney can prove the other party is at fault, what does an insurance adjustor believe  your attorney can convince six West Virginians, sitting as jurors, that your claim is worth?  Of course there’s a whole lot more to it, but everything else is merely a weight on either side of the scales of justice – either weighing for, or against, the value of your case.  This forms the basis over which your case can be negotiated and settled.  If no settlement is possible, then you have to actually ask those six individuals to give you what you are arguing you deserve.  Of course, juries are made up of individuals, which means that different juries could come up with different values, which means that the value of your case is unpredictable.

Some things we can predict.  More often than not, the value of a case will increase over time.  In almost every case, the value of a settlement offered the day before trial is going to be greater, if not much greater, than the value of a case settled before a lawsuit is filed.  But there are many factors that could weigh the scale in either direction (i.e., sway, or potentially sway, jurors in favor of either side’s arguments):

The arguments usually consist of disagreements over the severity of injuries, as described by you, other witnesses, and your medical records, and over the causal connection between the accident and the injuries incurred and complained of.  Another factor is the persuasiveness and credibility of the testifying witnesses.  Yet another factor in consideration is – what venue in West Virginia would the case be brought in (i.e., what county).  For instance, in the coalfields of McDowell County, jurors are notorious for giving large verdicts.  But, in Greenbrier County or Monroe County, although they also are in southern West Virginia, jurors are notoriously conservative, and thus have a record of handing out smaller verdicts.

It helps to understand how insurance companies determine the value of a West Virginia car accident injury case:

Many insurance companies we deal with in West Virginia injury cases use computer software called Colossus, which is reportedly used by more than half of American insurance claims adjustors.  The enter data received from your lawyer, including medical records and the amount of any lost wages.  The program then considers the severity and location of the accident.  It will even consider whether a lawsuit will have to be brought in Greenbrier County, or McDowell County, or Mercer County, or Raleigh County, West Virginia.

The program gives value to certain injuries, and awards more value to permanency of injuries.  Higher value is given to objective injuries, such as broken bones, or herniated discs.  Lesser value is given to subjective injuries, such as complaints of chronic pain or headaches.  Value could also be added or removed due to other factors, such as whether the injured person went to the hospital immediately after the accident, or whether there were preexisting injuries, or injuries which have occurred after the accident.

Also considered will be who the accident attorney is responsible for the case. The insurance adjustors know which attorneys settle cases without proceeding towards trial, or even filing a lawsuit.  Even more important, it will be up to your attorney to take your case from a number generated by computer software to a realistic view of human compassion and needs.  Your accident attorney has to communicate your everyday pain and suffering to the jury.  This is a very subjective task.  One attorney may not do well at it, but another may do extremely well.  The resulting compensation which juries award for that pain and suffering will be the result.  I believe that the more effective your accident attorney is at trial and persuasion, the more compensation you will receive.

Example Values of Specific Injuries (According to a recent national Jury Verdict Research analysis):

Foot Injuries: the overall median award was $98,583.  Multiple fractures to the same foot increase the median to $144,000.  11% of these injuries were from motorcycle cases.  Another 28% of these injuries were from car and truck accidents.

Leg Injuries: the overall median award was $141,847.  However, there are many types of leg injuries and fractures, some of which command remarkably higher verdicts, such as a femur fracture, which holds a median award of $482,273 – with the highest recorded verdict being $4,000,000.  Multiple fractures in the leg carry a mean and median verdict of $596,618 and $192,762, respectively.

Rotator Cuff Injuries: the overall median award was $72,667.  These typically occur in side-impact car collisions.  

Knee Injuries: the overall median award was $34,550 – which does seem a little low.

Vertebrae Fractures: the overall median award was $112,537. 66% of these cases were from car accidents, which are the leading cause of spinal injuries.  The overall award for multiple vertebrae fractures increases to $207,000.

Hip Fractures: the overall median award was $175,000, and the overall mean award was $435,581.

Overall, the value of your case can only be determined with respect to your individual injuries and circumstances.  Also at play is the amount of insurance available to compensate you  for your injuries.  In many, many cases, there is not enough insurance.  Sometimes alternate sources of insurance or liability can be found.  For this reason, among many other important reasons, it is very important to consult with an experienced West Virginia car accident injury lawyer about your particular case – and preferably one who has a reputation for going to trial often and winning.  As I have said before, almost every car accident attorney offers a free consultation.  And if they don’t, then call someone else.

 – John H. Bryan, West Virginia Car Accident Attorney.

Insurance Company Issues Report on Deer-Vehicle Collisions in West Virginia

Erie Insurance issued a report a few days ago on the PRNewswire detailing the rise in deer-vehicle collisions in West Virginia. Generally, across the country deer-vehicle collisions cause more than 200 deaths, tens of thousands of injuries, and up to 1.1 billion in property damages. But across the country, deer insurance claims have declined over the past 10 years. But the report notes that deer insurance claims frequency is highest in West Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

In West Virginia, deer collisions have been on the rise for the last two years. Erie notes that in 2007, claims increased 11 percent. Apparently, in Wirt, Pleasants, Calhoun and Pocahontas Counties, drivers are three times more likely to hit a deer than in other parts of West Virginia.

Erie offers 10 tips for “bucking” the deer-vehicle collision trend:

1. Stay alert, awake and sober.
2. Always wear your seatbelt and drive at a safe, sensible speed for
conditions.
3. Do not rely on devices such as deer whistles, deer fences and reflectors
to deter deer.
4. Deliberately watch for deer — including the reflection of deer eyes and
deer silhouettes on the shoulder of the road — particularly when driving
late at night or early in the morning.
5. Use high-beam headlights at night when there is no opposing traffic.
6. If you encounter a deer, assume nothing, slow down and blow your horn to
urge the deer to leave the road.
7. If you see a deer in or near your path, brake firmly but stay in your
lane.
8. Never swerve your vehicle to avoid striking a deer — if a collision is
imminent, hit it while maintaining full control of your vehicle.
9. If you do strike a deer, and are uncertain whether or not the deer is
dead, keep your distance.
10. If the deer is blocking the roadway, contact the Game Commission or a
local law enforcement agency.

– John H. Bryan, West Virginia Car Accident Attorney

West Virginia Roads are Deadly for Young Drivers

There was a report just released from the federal government indicating that younger drivers are more likely to die on West Virginia roads than anywhere else in the country. According to an article on WSAZ.com, statistics show that West Virginia’s death rate among younger drivers was 70 percent higher than the national average. Thirty six West Virginians between the ages of 16 and 20 died in crashes in 2006.

The article notes that “experts say traffic fatalities are twice as high in rural areas where drivers are more likely to speed and less likely to wear seat belts.”

I think those are two factors involved, but not the only ones. A reporter called me today and asked me what I thought were the main reasons for this problem. I responded that I think that younger drivers are reckless drivers no matter what state you are in. But when you put them on windy, mountain roads with no enforcement of the speed limit, you are asking for disaster. And that is my theory at least, about why the young fatalities are so high on West Virginia roads. But certainly the advent of new cell phone technologies and their 24/7 usage by younger persons is playing a part as well.

– John H. Bryan, West Virginia Car Accident Attorney

Settle Your West Virginia Car Accident Case, or Go to Trial?

Okay, so you have a car accident case pending in West Virginia. Should you take your car accident case to trial, or should you settle? On August 7, the New York Times published an article entitled, “Study Finds Settling is Better Than Going to Trial.” The article, though probably wrong about Plaintiff reluctance to settle, offers some interesting statistics that they gathered regarding the choice of settlement vs. trial.

For instance, for plaintiffs who made the wrong choice to proceed towards trial, it cost them an average of $43,000. On the other hand, when the defense makes the wrong choice, it costs them an average of $1.1 million. The NYT makes the argument that the decision to go to trial is an incorrect one. But to me it seems that the statistics show the benefits of heading towards trial in many cases. The fact is, that regardless of the choice for any particular case, every case needs to be treated as if there will be a trial at the end of the road.

You can read the full article here.

– John H. Bryan, West Virginia Car Accident Attorney.