Accident & Injury Law Blog

Tips for Avoiding Wrecks/Collisions in Huntsville During the Holidays

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While the holiday season brings its share of good times and festive occasions, it can also be a more dangerous time for driving. At the very minimum, the change of season brings shorter hours of sunshine and, as we all know, night-time driving is more hazardous.

We here at Hornsby, Watson & Hornsby wish everyone the best during the holidays and during the winter months. Here are a few tips for being safe if you are coming to visit the Space and Rocket Center or traveling the roads of Madison County.

Avoiding Car Accidents in Huntsville: Reasons for More Accidents During Winter Months

It may seem obvious, but really, it cannot be said enough times: Extra caution is needed on the roads during the holidays and winter months. There are many reasons for this:

  • Stress of the holidays creates more distractions: Preoccupied drivers may not pay full attention to the roads and traffic.
  • Hurrying for the holidays causes dangerous driving: Holiday shopping, getting to and from parties and family gatherings, hurrying to finish preparations, driving too fast because you started out late, or rushing to get to the airport on time all lead to drivers driving a bit less safe than usual.
  • Less daylight makes driving more hazardous: December 21 is the shortest day of the year and, as such, there is less daylight, leading to more accidents.
  • New Year’s Eve and the Superbowl and other “football” weekends are drinking holidays: While many may only have a beer or a glass of champagne or two, many others fully partake. Studies show that drunk driving spikes during the holidays and during the “football” weekends.
  • Bad weather makes the roads wet and/or icy.
  • More traffic increases the number of wrecks: Traffic spikes in the summer and then again around the holidays.

Avoiding Car Accidents in Huntsville: Spotting Distracted, Drunk or Dangerous Drivers

As you are driving during the holidays and winter months, be more cautious and more defensive as a driver. Giving yourself more distance between your vehicle and those ahead of you will help on wet and icy roads. Likewise, be as watchful as you can and watch for these signs of dangerous drivers on the road:

  • Drivers veering right and left, not staying in their lanes
  • Speeders and those weaving in and out of lanes — these behaviors are particularly dangerous during inclement weather
  • Failure to use turn signals
  • Failure to come to full stops at lights and stop signs
  • No lights on at night
  • Taking “bad” turns and coming too close to other cars and objects on the roadAll of these and other signs are clear signals to avoid these drivers and these vehicles. By being more defensive on the road and more watchful, wrecks and crashes can be avoided. If a wreck DOES occur, there is an additional advantage to your extra focus during the winter months: You are in a better position to testify about what happened. You can tell the jury: “Because it was winter time, I was paying close attention ….”

Contact Our Huntsville, Alabama Accident and Personal Injury Lawyers

If, despite your best efforts as a defensive driver during these holiday and winter months, you find you or someone you love injured or killed in an auto wreck in Huntsville, in Madison County or anywhere else in Alabama, contact an experienced Huntsville and Madison County personal injury and accident attorney like the ones at Hornsby, Watson & Hornsby. We have the skills; we know the law; we are proven and courtroom-tested. You can email us or call (256) 414-9803, toll free (866) 986-1371. Consider Hornsby, Watson & Hornsby to be YOUR Huntsville auto accident law firm.

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Driving in Huntsville: What are Your Duties as a Driver?

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You are on a road trip to visit the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville. Everything is going well. The weather is bit rainy, but not too bad. You are traveling up Rt. 65 and are almost to Mooresville and you see traffic is snarled. In our hypothetical journey, there is a terrible accident up ahead like this one reported in July 2017. Tragically, accidents like this happen all the time in Madison County and all over Alabama. See report here from early November 2017.

If you or a family member are injured through no fault of your own in a car wreck, you are entitled to recover money damages for all of your injuries. You should seek advice and legal counsel from experienced and proven auto accident lawyers who know Alabama law. Drivers in Alabama owe various duties to others on the road and to their guests and passengers. Here is what you should know about those duties.

Duty of Care in Huntsville

Alabama law mandates that any driver of a motor vehicle is under a duty to exercise reasonable care to avoid inflicting injury and damages upon others who may be lawfully using the same public highway. Likewise, any driver owes the same duty to exercise reasonable care not to inflict injury upon a passenger in the driver’s vehicle.

Alabama law defines “reasonable care” as such care as a reasonably prudent person would exercise under the same or similar circumstances.

Duty to Keep a Lookout in Madison County

In addition, in Madison County, Alabama, a driver is under a duty to keep a lookout for those who are also using the highway and, further, must exercise due care to anticipate the presence of others upon the highway. In other words, if it is dark, a driver must anticipate that there are other cars, trucks, and vehicles on the road. Thus, every driver is duty-bound to keep a lookout for such vehicles and, to thereby avoid accidents and injuries.

In a similar manner, if a driver sees another vehicle or person in a dangerous situation upon a highway, the driver has a heightened duty to exercise due care to avoid. This applies to a vehicle that is not functioning (either in the lanes of traffic or off to the side of the road), people walking along a road, and road repair/grass cutting crews.

Duty to Not Drive While Impaired

It almost goes without saying, but all drivers are duty-bound to not drive while impaired. Most think of this as not driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The duty also applies to driving while drowsy and while using prescription or over-the-counter drugs that might cause impairment. The duty also applies to medical conditions that might cause a driver to lose control of the vehicle or lose consciousness. Under Alabama law, loss of consciousness which causes an accident is not negligence unless the driver had warning symptoms and/or prior knowledge that such a condition of unconsciousness could occur.

Duty to Maintain Your Vehicle in Alabama

Furthermore, every owner or operator of a motor vehicle is duty-bound to make sure that the vehicle is in a reasonably safe condition before driving it. Failure of an owner to keep a car or truck or other vehicle in good working condition can lead to liability for negligence if there is a mechanical failure, which could have been avoided with customary maintenance, and such mechanical failure is the sole proximate cause of the injury or damages.

Duty to be Extra Cautious When Vision Impaired

Weather conditions sometimes obstruct and obscure a driver’s ability to see properly. This can include sunlight very early or late in the day or fog or smoke or slashing heavy rain. Under such conditions, all drivers are duty bound to exercise even more reasonable care, even to the extent of stopping their vehicles until it is safe to proceed.

Heightened Duty of Care: Small Children and the Blind

All Alabama drivers have a heightened duty of care with respect to small children and those who are blind. With respect to small children, any driver who sees a small child near a roadway must assume the possibility that the small child might suddenly run onto the roadway. Thus, the driver is duty-bound to watch the movements of the child and must take all necessary steps to avoid injuring the child.

Likewise, with respect to the blind, every driver in Alabama who approaches a person who is blind must use every precaution and effort, including coming to a complete stop, if necessary, in order to avoid an accident or injury to such pedestrian.

Breach of This Duty

If any driver breaches or violates any of these duties, said driver can and will be liable for negligence if the violation proximately causes injury or damage.

Contact Our Huntsville, Alabama Accident and Personal Injury Lawyers

If you or someone you love has been injured or killed in an automobile accident in Madison County, or anywhere else in Alabama, caused by the wrongful acts and negligence of another driver, contact an experienced Huntsville and Madison County personal injury and accident attorney like the ones at Hornsby, Watson & Hornsby. Call today. You can email us or call (256) 414-9803, toll free (866) 986-1371.

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Construction Accident Injuries

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A part of the University of South Alabama was recently undergoing construction. The university was in the process of building a new football practice facility—the Jaguar Training Center—for its football team. However, several news outlets have recently reported that the construction project has taken a substantial step back. What had already been constructed as part of the new project recently collapsed. Luckily, nobody was hurt during the collapse. However, that is not necessarily always the case in construction accidents, which often result in severe injuries and death.

Construction Accidents

Some say that “the road to success is always under construction.” As such, construction projects to build new arenas, libraries, skyscrapers, hospitals, transportation facilities, and more can bring joy to people. However, there is a lot that goes into constructing a new structure or even updating an existing structure.

Most of the effort that is required to complete a construction project includes human work. Although various equipment and technologies can assist in the construction project, humans still play a large part. Human work, however, can unfortunately sometimes lead to human injuries or worse. Construction accidents can come in many forms, including human falls, injuries by falling objects, injuries by equipment, explosions, collapses, like what happened with the Jaguar Training Center, or anything in between. Such incidents can lead to broken bones, internal body damage, emotional/psychological injuries, or more. Some injuries are slight and do not create long-term effects, while other injuries are substantial and can affect the remainder of a person’s life. Whether slight or substantial, the bottom line is that if you or a loved have been injured due to a construction site accident, you will want appropriate relief for your pain.

Possible Claims

After you or a loved one have been injured, and after you have sought medical attention, you and your attorney will of course want to determine the best claims to bring against those who are responsible for your injuries.

Most injuries that occur on onstruction sites are subject to workers’ compensation laws. With some exceptions, an employer is required by Alabama law to carry workers’ compensation coverage. Your attorney can help you determine if workers’ compensation applies in your case and can then help you in obtaining the benefits and relief that you deserve.

In other instances, however, there might be additional or alternative avenues for you to recover compensation. For example, there could be negligence or even product liability claims to pursue. Determining what claims to bring, however, requires a fact-intensive investigation into your or your loved one’s specific accident.

Need Legal Advice?

Every construction project is different, every construction site is different, and every construction accident is different. Although nobody wants injuries to occur during construction projects, they still sometimes happen. If you or a loved one have been injured, you will want to make sure to get an attorney involved to get the relief that you deserve. The experienced construction accident attorneys at Hornsby Watson & Hornsby are ready to help you analyze your case and get you the relief that you deserve. Contact us today.

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Injured in a Boating Accident on Wheeler Lake?

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Tragically, boating accidents and personal watercraft injuries occur all the time. Not too long ago, there was a fatal boat collision on Bankhead Lake. Wheeler Lake, here in Madison County, and Guntersville Lake over in Marshall County are both among the top four best Alabama lakes for water and boating tourism.

Like driving a car, boaters and watercraft operators have a duty to not cause injury. Sadly, some boats and watercraft — like a rented Wave Runner or Jetski — are captained by people who have absolutely no experience boating and who do not understand how boating is different than driving a car. It is a recipe for people getting seriously injured. If you were injured in a boating accident out on the water at Joe Wheeler State Park, you need to contact an experienced and skilled personal injury attorney like the ones at Hornby, Watson & Hornsby.

Rules of the Water are Same as Rules of the Road

Rules that apply to cars, trucks and motor vehicles apply to boat owners and boat drivers, as well. If you are injured on the water, the owner and/or driver/operator of the boat can be liable for your injuries if they were negligent. To establish negligence, you must prove four elements: duty, breach, causation, and injury.

As with cars, every boat owner and driver owes the following duties to passengers, others on the water, and those nearby onshore/dock:

● Duty to be careful
● Duty to operate the boat safely given the water and weather conditions
● Duty to keep a lookout
● Duty to avoid collisions and injury

Many fail to realize that boating is very different and unique from driving a car. Waves act on and have significant effects on a boat; thus, another boat that is many yards away can still impact your boat. Likewise, submerged obstacles like sandbars, rocks, tree limbs, and even large fish present very different challenges. Here are some common examples of behaviors that breach or violate the duties listed above:

● Excessive speed
● Hitting waves or wakes at an unsafe speeds or angles
● Ejections of passengers due to improper operation, speed, angles, or hitting waves or underwater objects
● Contact with the propeller
● Failing to see a water skier or other on the water
● Not understanding navigational rules and warning signs/signals/buoys
● Collision with another watercraft, a pier, or a bridge
● Overcrowding a boat or overloading a boat
● Boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs

What Should I do? Get Immediate Medical Care

If you have been injured in a Madison County boating accident, the first thing to do is stay safe, swim to shore, or find floatation and get immediate medical care. Your health is the most important thing.

Go to the Hospital as Soon as Pain Presents Itself

After your immediate health is secured, we here at Hornsby, Watson & Hornsby recommend you go to the hospital as soon as pain presents itself. Often, trauma injuries do not present at the scene. There is the adrenaline rush that can some time mask a trauma. The cold water can also mask an injury. Plus, some injuries such as muscle strains and other soft tissue damage do not immediately register pain.

If you feel okay at the marina, but then start to feel aches and pains later or the next morning, we here at Hornsby, Watson & Hornsby recommend you see your family physician as soon as possible. As said, some injuries do not present symptoms until some time after the accident.

Write Down Some Notes on What Happened

At some point, it is important to make a few notes about what happened. Nothing fancy is required; just write down what you remember and put a date on the page. Write down what you remember about the following:

● What happened? collision, ejection, etc.
● If another boat was involved, when did you see the other boat/watercraft?
● What were you doing?
● What did you see the other driver/operator doing?
● Weather and lighting conditions
● Time of day
● Do you remember any witnesses?

All of this information might be useful for insurance claims and if litigation is necessary. Memories fade and a few notes will help you remember details later. You should do this even if you think the other boater was at fault. You might have to prove your case at trial.

Contact Our Huntsville, Alabama Accident and Personal Injury Lawyers

If you or someone you love has been injured or killed in a Madison County, Alabama boating accident caused by the wrongful acts of another boater, contact an experienced Huntsville and Madison County personal injury and accident attorney like the ones at Hornsby, Watson & Hornsby. We have the experience, we know the law, we can help you understand your legal rights. Call today. HW&H has over 27 years of experience. You can email us or call (256) 414-9803, toll-free (866) 986-1371. Contact us today.

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Car Wrecks in Huntsville: Tactics by Insurance Companies to Deny Your Claim (Part II)

huntsville alabama car accident lawyerIn this two-part series, we are discussing some of the common tactics and dirty tricks used by insurances companies to delay your claim, deny your claim, and underpay your claim. In Part I, we discussed some of the dirty tricks used right after a car wreck. In this Part II, we will discuss some of the tactics used later in the claims settlement process.

If you have been in a car wreck in Huntsville or near Huntsville, you are entitled to compensation for your injuries and for damage to your car. You do not have to face the insurance company alone. Hire the skilled attorneys at Hornsby, Watson & Hornsby.

Dirty Tricks by Insurance Companies: Offering a Quick Settlement and Preying on Your Need for Money

As discussed in Part I, right after the car accident, insurance company adjuster calls or visits and uses a number of tactics to try and convince you not to hire an attorney and to get ammunition from you in a recorded oral statement or in a written statement. There are a lot of dirty tricks used and you should not fall for any of them.

After that, the next most common dirty trick is to prey on your need for money. Most of us need to work to pay bills and, if we are seriously injured in a big car wreck, we may not be able to work. How are we going to pay the bills and provide for our families? Insurance companies know this and know that many families cannot go a month or two without income. So, they end up preying on a car accident victim’s need for money.

They do this by offering a quick settlement and making it sound like it is a favor. “We can settle now; no need to wait,” they say. But this is a trick. The insurance company is trying to “wait you out” until you are desperate enough to take bottom dollar.

Moreover, despite what the adjuster may say, a properly worked-up claim settlement process takes time. You have to be medically evaluated to establish the full extent of your injuries or the injuries to your loved-ones. There may be long-term injuries and, as such, there might be the need for long-term medical treatments. The costs for those long-term medical treatments need to be paid now. Once you settle with the insurance company, that is ALL the money you will ever be able to recover. There is no going back and saying: “Hey, I need more money because there are new medical bills.” That is why you need excellent auto wreck attorneys to help and advise you on your legal rights.

Dirty Tricks by Insurance Companies: Saying Cooperation Will Help Settle the Claim

Another dirty trick is like a form of a threat: The adjuster says something like, “If you cooperate fully, we can get this case settled real quick.” That sounds very reasonable, but beneath the surface is a threat: “If you do NOT cooperate the case will not get settled quickly.” Do not fall for the dirty tricks.

Dirty Tricks by Insurance Companies: Asking for a Medical Authorization

As the settlement process continues, the next tactic is to ask you to sign a medical authorization form for medical records. Never sign an open-ended or blank medical authorization form. It may sound reasonable. “Oh, we just need to pull the medical records from the accident.” But, in reality, an open-ended and/or blank authorization allows the insurance company to get ALL of your medical records from years ago. Then, the insurance company can go through all of your personal medical history and find some ammunition. Do not give them ammunition. Seek legal assistance from attorneys that know how to protect your privacy and how to limit such open-ended fishing expeditions.

Dirty Tricks by Insurance Companies: Fibbing About the Insurance Coverage

Another dirty trick used later in the process is fibbing about the insurance coverage. The adjustors never outright lie, but they say: “Well, I am not sure your injuries are covered?” or “Well, there might not enough coverage to pay for all of your medical bills” or something similar.

Do not take their word for it. Get a lawyer to read the insurance policy and to help you get the facts.

Dirty Tricks by Insurance Companies: Delaying Payment Even After Settlement

Even if you settle, the insurance companies still try and delay. For them, time is money and they can make some bank interest by waiting “another week” before writing the settlement check. You need a good lawyer to prevent the insurance company from playing games.

Contact Our Huntsville, Alabama Accident and Personal Injury Lawyers

If you or someone you love has been injured or killed in an auto wreck in Huntsville, in Madison County or anywhere else in Alabama, contact an experienced Huntsville and Madison County personal injury and accident attorney like the ones at Hornsby, Watson & Hornsby. Do not try and deal with the insurance companies yourself. You will end up short-changed. As noted, you cannot go back for more money after the settlement is completed. Consider Hornsby, Watson & Hornsby to be YOUR Huntsville auto accident law firm. You can email us or call (256) 414-9803, toll-free (866) 986-1371.

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Car Wrecks in Huntsville: Tactics by Insurance Companies to Deny Your Claim (Part I)

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If you or someone you love has been in a car collision in Huntsville or anywhere in Alabama, you need to hire skilled and trial-tested auto accident lawyers from Huntsville to help. Otherwise, you are taking your chances with the attorneys and claims adjusters from the insurance companies. The insurance companies do not want to pay your claim, do not want to pay your medical bills, do not want to pay for your car repair. Alabama law requires that they pay claims, but they do not WANT to.

You do not have to fight the insurance companies alone. Protect yourself by hiring excellent auto wreck attorneys who can help. In this two-part series, we are discussing some of the common tactics and dirty tricks used by insurances companies to delay your claim, deny your claim, and under-pay your claim. This Part I discusses the tactics used in the few days after the accident; Part II discussed tactics used later in the claims settlement process.


Dirty Tricks by Insurance Companies Saying You do Not Need a Lawyer

In the first few days after an auto wreck, particularly where there are serious injuries, the adjuster from the insurance company will make contact. He or she will be nice and polite and will sound like he or she is on your side, but never believe that. The adjusters work for the insurance company.

The most common dirty trick used at the beginning is for the adjuster to say “you don’t need an attorney.” In fact, often, they go further and say that having a lawyer will be “bad for you” or a lawyer will “take all your money.” That is a dirty trick and bad advice. That is only good advice for the insurance company.

A good lawyer expects to be paid; but a good lawyer is also worth what he or she is paid. Many non-lawyers do not fully understand the value of their case. You may think $25,000 is terrific and more money than you might have ever seen. But maybe your case is worth $100,000. A good lawyer can maximize the settlement of your case. No one could argue that $25,000 is better than $100,000. Even if the lawyer is being paid one-third, $67,000 is better than $25,000.


Dirty Tricks by Insurance Companies: Preying on Your Bravery

Shortly after the accident, the insurance adjuster calls you on the phone or “stops by” to visit. Despite what they might say, they are not calling or stopping by out of kindness. They are doing their job for the insurance company. What you say is possible ammunition for the insurance company to use against you.

One of the worst dirty tricks by insurance adjusters when they call or visit is to prey on your bravery. This is used a lot with men. Most people — and men in particular — do not want to seem weak and want to put on a “brave face.” Insurance adjusters know this and prey on that feeling.

It is really simple and easy for the adjusters. They just ask, nice and polite: “How are you today?” And then: “How are you feeling today?” Those questions sound like normal nice questions, but if you say “I am fine” like most people do, you have given the insurance company ammunition. Insurance adjusters are trained to get that ammunition from you.


Dirty Tricks by Insurance Companies: Preying on Your Niceness

In the same way, adjusters prey on your niceness during the phone call or visit. Most people try to be nice and try to be reasonable and the insurance companies and their adjusters/lawyers prey on that niceness. If you do not have a lawyer to give advice and explain the law, you might be duped into saying something that will hurt your case. As an example, the adjuster might ask: “Who was at fault?” You say: “The other driver.” Then the adjuster asks, very nice and sweet: “Do you think, maybe, you could have done anything differently to avoid the accident?” That is a completely loaded question. If you say “yes” and then mention something like “pay more attention” or “watch more closely,” then you have given the insurance company ammunition to defeat your case.

Dirty Tricks by Insurance Companies: Asking to Record the Over-the-Phone Statement

It may seem reasonable to a non-lawyer that the insurance company is asking to record your statement. It is not reasonable at all. The adjuster will make it seem normal, will say “everyone typically agrees” and may even imply that the law REQUIRES you to agree to have your statement recorded.

Do not believe the adjuster and do not agree to be recorded. You do NOT have to be nice to the adjuster. Being nice will not get the insurance company to pay you more money.


Dirty Tricks by Insurance Companies: Asking for a Written Statement

Another dirty trick used early right after the accident is to ask for a “written statement” or a “letter” explaining what happened. This is just another way for the insurance company to prey on your niceness, your bravery and your status as a non-lawyer. You will inevitably say something in the letter that gives the insurance company ammunition. Worse still, if the insurance company asks you to sign a statement that THEY prepared. Never, under any circumstances, sign something given to you by an insurance company without having a lawyer look at it and do not send any sort of written statement.

Contact Our Huntsville, Alabama Accident and Personal Injury Lawyers

If you or someone you love has been injured or killed in a car wreck, do not talk to the insurance adjuster without first talking to an experienced Huntsville and Madison County personal injury and accident attorney like the ones at Hornsby, Watson & Hornsby. When the adjuster calls or visits, tell them that Hornsby, Watson & Hornsby is YOUR Huntsville auto accident law firm. Call today. You can email us or call (256) 414-9803, toll free (866) 986-1371. Contact us today.

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Car Wrecks in Huntsville: Avoid 18-Wheeler Blind Spots

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Along I-65 and on the roads of Huntsville, big tractor trailer trucks and highway tankers are some of the most dangerous vehicles on the road. Not long ago, a tanker overturned, shutting down I-65 near Gardendale. In August, a mother and her baby and a third passenger were killed in a wreck with an 18-wheeler in Birmingham.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released its 2015 Fact Sheet in February 2017. Here are the sobering statistics

● Fatalities in crashes involving large trucks were 4,067 in the US, an increase 4% from 3,908 in 2014
● Of the fatalities in 2015, 74% (2,990) were occupants of other vehicles
● 116,000 people are estimated to have been injured in crashes involving large trucks in 2015
● Injuries were up 4% from an estimated 111,000 in 2014
● 78% of the fatal crashes involving large trucks in 2015 occurred on weekdays
● 2 % percent of the large-truck drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2015 were driving drunk

If you are injured in a big truck wreck, you are going to need skilled and courtroom-tested auto accident lawyers from Huntsville to help.

Defensive Driving: Understanding Big Truck Blind Spots

As dangerous as tractor trailers can be, if you are a good Huntsville defensive driver, you can reduce your risks. Many times, these accidents are because the truckers cannot see the other vehicles on the road. It is important to understand big truck blind spots.

All Alabama drivers have personally experienced the idea of a “blind spot.” Because of the support columns in the vehicle and because of where another vehicle is located on the road, you do not see them in your mirrors or see them as you look quickly back or to the side. That is the main reason that you wait before changing lanes, you look more than once, and you move slowly. Moving slowly gives another vehicle time to honk their honk or take evasive action.

For big trucks, these blinds spots are even more pronounced. There is a large blind spot directly behind an 18-wheeler and large blind spots to the side. Unlike a car, trucks have no “back-seat” windows. So the drivers are dependent on their mirrors. But the trucks are tall and long, so the mirrors do not always show where the other vehicles are. Here are the areas and behavior to avoid:

● Never follow too close: The trucker cannot see you if you are tailgating directly behind the truck
● Avoid “riding” alongside a big truck at all: Accelerate beyond the truck or slow down and let the truck pull forward in the lane next to you
● Pass on the left: Blind spots are larger on the right side
● Be extra watchful around big trucks: Blind spots are not the only hazard; high winds and bad weather make a big truck more difficult to control
● Watch for truck turn-signals and give them room to move change lanes: Blink your light to signal you have noticed the truck and are staying a safe distance
● Be very careful if you have to brake in front of a big truck: They are massive in weight and big trucks CANNOT stop in the same distance that a car can stop; it is literally better to crash into a car in the next lane or drive off to the right than be rear-ended by a big truck

Being extra cautious and defensive around tractor-trailers and other big trucks will help you stay safe on Alabama roads and highways.

Contact Our Huntsville, Alabama Accident and Personal Injury Lawyers

If you or someone you love has been injured or killed in a wreck involving a big truck, highway tanker, or an 18-wheeler in Madison County or anywhere else in Alabama, contact an experienced Huntsville and Madison County personal injury and accident attorney like the ones at Hornsby, Watson & Hornsby. Call today. You can email us or call (256) 414-9803, toll free (866) 986-1371. Do not trust the trucking company or the insurance company to do “right by you.” You need an attorney to fight by your side.

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Huntsville Car Accidents: Does a Pre-Existing Injury Prevent Me From Recovering?

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If you have been injured through no fault of your own, in a car wreck in Huntsville or in any part of Alabama, you are entitled to recover in full for all injuries and damages caused by the wrongful and negligent driving of the other driver. A pre-existing injury will NOT prevent you from recovering the full amount of compensation to which you are entitled under Alabama law. You will need to hire experienced and dedicated personal injury attorneys because any pre-existing injury does require careful handling during the legal process. Pre-existing injuries are common, however, particularly with respect to injury victims that are aging. During our lives, we all accumulate injuries that can be termed “pre-existing.” Such are not a bar to recovery and do not necessarily reduce your monetary recovery when handled properly by your Huntsville, Alabama personal injury attorney.

Sometimes, victims of a serious car wreck feel like they should hide or downplay a pre-existing injury, but the opposite is true. Tell your lawyers about anything that might be a pre-existing injury so that your lawyer can deal with it properly and fully during the work-up of your settlement and case. While YOU might think it is pre-existing, maybe it is not from a legal or medical standpoint. Through review of the medical records and with the help of medical professionals, a pre-existing condition can be shown to be too far distant in time to be relevant or not really related to your current injury or can otherwise be minimized, legally and medically speaking.

The worse situation is when the pre-existing condition comes to light late in the process. Then it will seem like you were trying to hide something. That never goes well and can have a negative impact on your settlement and on your case.

Likewise, it is important to be upfront with your doctor. It never goes well if your doctor is asked at trial if he or she knew about something in your medical records. If your doctor says “no,” that looks bad to the jury. Even worse is when the opposing lawyers asks: “Did your patient tell you about this pre-existing condition?” and your doctor has to say “no.” That is really bad. There is no need to hide a pre-existing condition. A driver who wrongfully and negligently causes injury must take his or her plaintiff as they are.

Huntsville Car Accident Lawyers: Recovery for Aggravation of a Pre-Existing Injury

Essentially, the legal rule in Alabama is that you can recover for any injuries or damage to your body that is an aggravation of a pre-existing injury. As a simplistic example, if before the accident on Highway 72, your hand was 20% limited in use, but now after the accident, you cannot use your hand at all, then you deserve to be compensated for 80% of the use of your hand. It is never that simple, but that is the idea.

A good case law example is Brown v. Lawrence, 632 So. 2d 462 (Ala. Supreme Court 1994). In that case, the plaintiff was injured in an automobile accident. The plaintiff had undergone surgery for lower back problems five years before the accident. After the accident, the plaintiff began to suffer severe back pain. At trial, his doctor gave opinions based on his medical expertise that the accident had injured the back again and that the accident exacerbated his pre-existing back condition. The doctor testified that the plaintiff had now suffered a permanent impairment of his back and that he had a 20% impairment to his body as a whole. The jury returned a verdict for plaintiff awarding him $38,000 in “past compensatory damages” and $162,000 in “future compensatory damages.” The jury verdict was upheld by the Alabama Supreme Court.

As can be seen, a pre-existing injury does not preclude recovering damages after a car wreck or car collision. Skilled car accident lawyers can retain medical experts to provide the needed testimony. See also Norfolk Southern Ry. v. Bradley, 772 So. 2d 1147 (Ala. Supreme Court 2000) (jury was properly instructed that it could compensate the plaintiff only for injuries resulting from the accident; not for injuries from a pre-existing injury/condition).

Contact Our Huntsville, Alabama Accident and Personal Injury Lawyers

If, you or someone you love injured or killed in an auto wreck in Huntsville, in Madison County or anywhere else in Alabama, contact an experienced Huntsville and Madison County personal injury and accident attorney like the ones at Hornsby, Watson & Hornsby. You can email us or call (256) 414-9803, toll free (866) 986-1371.

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Who is at Fault for a Chain Reaction Collision on Alabama I-65?

huntsville alabama car accident lawyer
If you have ever been involved in a chain reaction vehicle wreck, you know how frightening and dangerous they can be. If you are lucky enough to just be reading about a pile up, you may have thought to yourself: “Who is at fault in a chain reaction collision?” The question is complicated under Alabama law, and you are going to need to hire skilled and talented Huntsville auto accident attorneys.

Car Accidents in Huntsville: Legal Basics

Liability for car accidents is governed by the Alabama law of negligence. In order to establish a negligence claim, a plaintiff, the person injured in the accident, must prove:

A duty to a foreseeable plaintiff;

Abreach of that duty;

Proximate causation; and

Damage or injury.

With respect to chain reactions, often the hotly contested legal issue is the element of causation. Take the case of Miller v. Cleckler, 51 So. 3d 379 (Ala. Court of Civil Appeals 2010). That case involved four cars driven by Mr. Cleckler, Mr. Miller, Mrs. Miller, and Mr. Williams. The four-car pile up occurred on I-65 in Shelby County on a sunny Friday afternoon in the summer of 2006. Mr. and Mrs. Miller were in two separate cars following each other with Mr. Miller in front. Cleckler was driving a white pickup truck and Williams was in a vehicle behind Mrs. Miller. Cleckler was accused by witnesses of “darting” through traffic “at a high rate of speed” “trying to pass everyone.”

At some point, Cleckler moved in front of Mr. Miller’s car. Cleckler testified that, shortly after moving into the lane in front of Mr. Miller, the vehicles in front of him began to brake, causing him to apply his brakes “pretty good” as he said. By contrast, Mr. Miller claimed that Cleckler “slammed on his brakes.”

Either way, when Cleckler started braking, Mr. Miller and Mrs. Miller began to brake, as well. At that point, Williams’s vehicle struck Mrs. Miller’s vehicle from behind, causing her vehicle to collide with the back of her husband’s vehicle, which, in turn, collided with the back of Cleckler’s pickup truck. Mrs. Miller testified that her vehicle was not in danger of colliding with Mr. Miller’s vehicle before Williams struck her from behind. Mrs. Miller suffered injury and sued both Williams and Cleckler for negligence.

Madison County: Debating Causation

In this real-life example, assuming that Mr. and Mrs. Miller were driving properly, there are two possible guilty parties: Cleckler and Williams. Normally, Williams would be liable because the law requires him to keep a safe distance behind the vehicle in front of him.

Section 32-5A-89(a), Ala.Code 1975, provides:

“(a) The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicles and the traffic upon and the condition of the highway. Except when overtaking and passing another vehicle, the driver of a vehicle shall leave a distance of at least 20 feet for each 10 miles per hour of speed between the vehicle that he is driving and the vehicle that he is following.”

Clearly, Williams did not follow the law and, as such, breached his duty of care.

However, in this case, Williams can point the finger at Cleckler and say that Cleckler was the cause of the accident because, if Cleckler had not be driving recklessly, darting in and out of lanes, no one would have applied their brakes and Williams would not have needed to stop.

In fact, this is true. Cleckler might be have caused the accident since he was violating his duty to drive carefully and with due care. But, like Williams, Cleckler can try and deflect liability by saying that Williams was the real cause since both Mr. and Mrs. Miller would not have hit Cleckler’s pickup but for the fact that Williams was following too close.

In the actual case of Miller v. Cleckler, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals was responding to legal issues and the court sent the case back to the trial court to have a jury decide the facts. As the court said: “[t]pically, the question of proximate causation is a question of fact to be resolved by the jury; that question must be decided by the jury if reasonable inferences from the evidence support the plaintiff’s claim.”

Possible Resolution

We do not know how the case turned out. Very likely, the case reached a settlement. More than 90% of Huntsville and Alabama cases settle before reaching a jury.

But, from the facts that we know, Williams is the likely guilty party, particularly if he saw or should have seen Checkler’s aggressive driving. Under the law, causation includes all the foreseeable events that flow from your breach of duty. Williams was following too close and the chain reaction collision was foreseeable from his actions. Thus, he is likely liable for hitting Mrs. Miller’s car, for her subsequent collision with Mr. Miller’s car and then Mr. Miller’s collision with Cleckler’s pickup truck. If he saw Cleckler “darting in and out of traffic,” then Williams was duty-bound to slow down and given even more distance between himself and Mrs. Miller.

As for deflecting the blame from himself to Cleckler, the problem for Williams is that Cleckler’s “bad behavior” came before his. Thus, Williams’ breach of duty — following too close — is likely an “intervening cause” that relieved Cleckler of liability.

Contact Our Huntsville, Alabama Accident and Personal Injury Lawyers

As you can see, figuring out who is at fault in a pile up accident is complicated. The legal doctrine of “intervening causation” is complex and fact-dependent. Moreover, we assumed for this discussion that Mr. and Mrs. Miller were completely innocent, but that is not always the case. In a pile up accident, each person might have some degree of carelessness that contributed to the crash.

If you or someone you love has been injured or killed in a chain reaction wreck in Madison County or anywhere else in Alabama, contact an experienced Huntsville and Madison County personal injury and accident attorney like the ones at Hornsby, Watson & Hornsby. Call today. You can email us or call (256) 414-9803, toll free (866) 986-1371. These cases require attention to detail, experience, and knowledge of Alabama law. Hornsby, Watson & Hornsby is committed to helping injured Huntsville motorists recover the compensation to which they are entitled. Consider Hornsby, Watson & Hornsby to be YOUR Huntsville auto accident law firm.

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Proving Distracted Driving in a Huntsville Automobile Accident

huntsville alabama attorney for distracted driving auto accidentAutomobile accidents in and around Huntsville and Alabama are a daily occurence. Just a few days ago, a teen girl was killed on I-65 in a crash with an 18-wheeler. The Shelby County coroner said that she was texting at the time of the crash. Across the country, there are millions of accidents every year. In 2014, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash statistics show that that there were over 6 million accidents with over 1.6 million involving injury and death.

A great many of those accidents involved “distracted driving.” That is a term describing any activity that “… diverts attention from driving —anything that takes your attention away from the task of safe driving.”

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