Friday, July 20, 2018

NTL member Bert Louthian urges his state to improve road safety

Bert LouthianNational Trial Lawyers member Bert Louthian says his state must improve the safety of its roads after being ranked at the bottom of a recent study from WalletHub in which South Carolina fared poorly. The study ranked states based on a number of safety-related issues, including climate disasters, on-the-job injuries and road safety. Overall, South Carolina placed 41st, but it ranked 49th in road safety and dead last in the rate of traffic deaths per miles traveled.

Injury attorney Bert Louthian said that in his years of experience representing victims of negligent driving, he’s come to believe that there are solutions available to improve road safety.

“There are two significant ways to make our motorists safer,” Louthian said. “The first requires institutional change, while the second requires personal responsibility. Primarily, this entails enacting better laws and improving driver behavior.”

Louthian said that distracted driving has become a major problem on our roads over the last decade. The emergence of the smartphone, along with other mobile devices, has contributed significantly to the increase of distraction behind the wheel, he said.

Louthian is not alone in his concern over distracted driving. In a recent survey conducted by AAA, 88 percent of drivers said that distraction is an increasing problem. Half of those surveyed said they had witnessed other drivers texting or emailing, and more than one-third admitted to doing it themselves.

Self-regulating our behaviors can lead to fewer crashes and save lives, Louthian said.

“Human error contributes to more than 90 percent of crashes,” Louthian said. “I see it frequently in my practice. It’s frustrating, because so many of the injuries people suffer on our roads are entirely preventable.”

While encouraging drivers to take safer measures behind the wheel, the influence of South Carolina’s traffic laws on driver behavior should not be overlooked, Louthian said.

South Carolina’s traffic safety laws are not as strict as those in other states. For example, the state does not have a complete ban on mobile device usage by drivers. Motorcyclists are not required to wear helmets after the age of 21.

Improving state laws and giving police the tools for enforcement could dramatically impact driver safety, Louthian said. To illustrate this point, he referenced the effectiveness of Operation Southern Shield, a week-long period in July during which law enforcement in South Carolina and four other states ramp up efforts to ticket speeders,  distracted drivers and drivers not wearing a seat belt.

In 2017, Operation Southern Shield led to around 15,000 traffic stops, which reduced highway fatality deaths by around 35 percent, according to law enforcement officials. Louthian said this highlights the need for both traffic officers and drivers to take speed limits seriously.

Growing the ranks of state troopers to patrol roads could also help reduce the number of crashes year-round, he said.

Speeding contributes to more than 25 percent of all traffic fatalities in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In 2017, there were more than 45,000 speed-related collisions on South Carolina’s roads. Nearly 38 percent of road deaths stemmed from speed-related crashes, according to the South Carolina Department of Public Safety.

Other measures could also be taken by South Carolina, including investing in the state’s infrastructure and shoring up conditions of rural roads. The state’s rural roads are some of the deadliest in the U.S.

The Department of Transportation has estimated that fixing South Carolina’s roads would require an annual investment of $943 million, which could be used to repave and widen deteriorating roads, in addition to adding safety features such as rumble strips and guard rails.

Louthian said that while allocating nearly a billion dollars annually in infrastructure might not be realistic, lawmakers should strive to dramatically increase the amount of money invested in fixing crumbling roads.

“There are several options we have at our disposal,” Louthian said. “We should consider all of them and make some big investments to fix this problem. Nearly 1,000 people die on our state’s roads every year, and I believe that we can do better by our motorists.”

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Thursday, July 19, 2018

Top 40 Under 40 President Stephen Burg obtains $146K verdict for rear-end collision victim

National Trial Lawyers Top 40 Under 40 President Stephen Burg secured a verdict plus interest and costs of $146,000 for the victim of a rear end collision in Colorado. Burg says his client, David Jimenez-Santana was driving his pickup truck and was rear-ended by the defendant, Robert Baker in December 2014 in Grand Junction. Although there was no visible physical damage to the plaintiff’s truck, the plaintiff was injured. The plaintiff had a prior worker’s compensation back injury to the same area injured. Burg reports Jimenez-Santana sustained a disc injury at L4-5, and had to undergo a discectomy at the L4-5. Burg says the verdict plus interest and costs was $146,532.67 and 18 times greater than the $7,500 defense offer. The verdict was handed down on June 8, 2018. Burg tried the case along with David Crough of Burg Simpson before Judge Kenneth Plotz. Burg is also a member of The National Trial Lawyers Top 100.

Case Name: David Jimenez-Santana v. Robert Baker

Case number: 17 CV 30484

Case Type: Jury Verdict

Verdict for: Plaintiff

Verdict Date: 06/08/2018

Amount: $83,788.76

Best offer from defense:$7,500

Area of Law: Personal Injury

Court: Grand Junction, Colorado


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NTL Top 40 Under 40 President Stephen Burg obtains $1.6M verdict for motorcycle accident victim

Stephen BurgNational Trial Lawyers Top 40 Under 40 President Stephen Burg secured a $1.6 million verdict for a Colorado motorcyclist injured in a 2014 collision. According to Burg, the plaintiff was riding his motorcycle eastbound on Highlands Ranch Parkway in Highlands Ranch, Colorado on August 16, 2014. At the same time and place the defendant was driving west on Highlands Ranch Parkway. The defendant turned left directly in front of the plaintiff’s motorcycle. The front of the plaintiff’s motorcycle collided with the passenger side of the defendant’s vehicle. Burg says his client suffered a broken nose, separated shoulder, non-displaced fracture of the tibia, non-displaced fracture of the patella, as well as $10,000 in lost wages. Plaintiff had a left shoulder scope surgery and left knee scope surgery. Burg handled the case along with attorney David Crough of Burg Simpson before Judge David Stevens. Burg says the defense’s best pre-trial offer was  $265,000. The verdict plus interest and costs was $1,668,365.80, and was handed down on May 24, 2018.

Case Name: Moon v. Gooden

Case number: 16 CV 30907

Case Type: Jury Verdict

Verdict for: Plaintiff

Verdict Date: 5/24/2018

Amount: $1,300,000.00

Best offer from defense:$265,000

Area of Law: Personal Injury

Court: Douglas County, Colorado


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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

How texts can help keep people out of jail

mobile social mediaA simple solution could help keep defendants from failing to appear in court: texts. Court date reminders sent via text in pilot projects are proving to be a good way to bring down the number of bench warrants that can end in arrests, the ABA Journal reports. The Pretrial Justice Institute says that pretrial arrests cost taxpayers about $14 billion a year. Software by a company called Uptrust helps public defenders notify and remind defendants about upcoming court appearances. In addition to reducing the number of arrests, the text notification software can help defendants avoid having their bail revoked or forfeited. The software is being used in jurisdictions in four states, with plans to expand to two more. Uptrust’s CEO says most defendants aren’t flight risks; they’re attendance risks, and the software sends them two text reminders about upcoming court appearances.

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Monday, July 16, 2018

Video: Georgia cops used app to decide whether to arrest

police sirenTwo Roswell, Georgia police officers are on administrative leave after bodycam video showed them using a coin toss app to decide whether to arrest a woman they caught speeding, according to WXIA-TV and Think Progress. Officers Courtney Brown and Kristee Wilson had pulled over Sarah Webb for speeding at 80 mph in April. The coin flip app actually recommended that Webb be released, but the officers arrested her anyway. According to WXIA, Roswell Police Chief Rusty Grant issued a statement saying he was “appalled that any law enforcement officer would trivialize the decision making process of something as important as the arrest of a person.”

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Podcast: How to be a better associate

legal toolkitAssociates at law firms face many challenges, not the least of which is balancing marketing themselves while also giving their best to their firms. In this edition of Legal Toolkit from Legal Talk Network, host Jared Correia talks to attorney and author Jay Harrington about how young associates can build their brands while also being accountable to their firms. They talk about the advantages of certain types of marketing as well as the importance of finding your identity both in and out of the law office.

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Rating the cops

smartphoneThanks to commonality of online ratings and reviews, it’s fairly easy to find out what others think about a restaurant, a product, or even a law firm. But what if you could let others know what you think about the police in your neighborhood? That’s exactly what the New York City Police Department is doing with its “sentiment meter.” The Marshall Project calls it a sort of “Yelp for Cops.”

Precincts now receive a monthly “trust score” along with rankings that measure overall satisfaction with police performance and how safe residents feel. The data is culled from questionnaires administered through about 50,000 smartphone apps, including Candy Crush and WeatherBug, as well as traditional landline calls. Facebook and Instagram began to advertise links to the surveys in June.

It’s not just New York City, either; police departments in Los Angeles, Chicago and Grand Rapids, Michigan are also getting involved. Read more about it at The Marshall Project. 

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