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San Francisco Personal Injury Law Blog

Honda to NHTSA: 'Hmm, what? Oh, yeah, $70 million. Sure thing.' p2

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration's early warning reporting system has been in place for almost 13 years. The agency collected data before the EWR's time, but it relied on consumer complaints and manufacturers' technical service bulletins as sources. Congress gave the NHTSA the authority to require manufacturers to report certain information about accidents with injuries and fatal accidents, both here and abroad.

The regulation requires that automakers and equipment manufacturers report quarterly. But it came to light in fall 2014 that Honda had not reported any information about 1,729 accidents that had resulted in injuries or deaths.

Honda to NHTSA: 'Hmm, what? Oh, yeah, $70 million. Sure thing.'

There used to be an ad campaign for some brand of margarine that had the tag line, "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature." Mother Nature's irritation took the form of enormous thunderclouds and huge bolts of lightning.

It's not nice to fool the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration either, but the agency's response will be more than bluster. Honda Motor Co. has learned the hard way that NHTSA can impose steep fines on companies that fail to report accident and injury data. Earlier in January, the company agreed to pay two $35 million fines for its transgressions.

Older Americans and teens have something in common: Bad driving

An accident in Sacramento raises an interesting public policy issue: driving privileges for the elderly. A 94-year-old man approached a drive-through car wash and apparently mistook the gas pedal for the brake on his sedan. The car blew through the car wash, taking out a good deal of equipment as it went.

The incident was recorded by a surveillance camera, so it is possible to watch it over and over again. Auto World News reports that the video quickly went viral. Fortunately, no one was injured, but the manager estimates that property damage could run as high as $100,000. Immediately following the accident, the driver said he believed insurance would cover it.

2013 NHTSA fatal crash report shows minor but noteworthy shifts

Overall, U.S. highways were safer in 2013 than they have ever been. The number of people killed in all types of vehicle crashes declined by 3.1 percent from 2012, to 32,719.

Nearly 4,000 of those deaths occurred in accidents with big rigs. And though the number increased only slightly from the year before -- 0.5 percent -- it shows a continuing trend in the wrong direction. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2013 was the fourth year in a row that the death toll increased for accidents involving heavy trucks.

Take the earbuds out and listen: Distracted walking is dangerous

If you watched the second (and last) season of "Smash," a television show about putting on a Broadway show, you may remember the death of one of the characters. He was walking the streets of New York, singing his heart out, when he heedlessly stepped into the path of an oncoming car.

The show's writers may not have realized how timely his death was. When that episode aired in May 2013, the editors of the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention were just putting the August issue to bed. One article, "Pedestrian injuries due to mobile phone use in public places," would catch the attention of national news outlets.

What good is sitting alone in your room? Xmas travelers abound

It's hard to imagine that anyone would want to leave San Francisco over the holidays, but we may want to prepare for an influx of visitors. AAA predicts that 99 million Americans will leave home this Christmas and New Year's, most of them by car.

AAA cites lower gas prices as a major reason more people are driving than flying. Travel itself looks better this year because the economy is on the upswing and, perhaps most importantly, the holidays easily accommodate a long weekend. In fact, the federal government has, perhaps at the specific request of its workforce, declared Dec. 26 a paid holiday.

With ridesharing services, are you sharing liability, too? p4

We are wrapping up our discussion of ridesharing services and liability. In July, the California Public Utilities Commission issued a revision to its recently adopted ridesharing regulations regarding insurance coverage for transportation network companies. The PUC had learned the hard way that the original language was not enough.

TNCs had been required to carry commercial liability insurance to cover their drivers while they were "providing services" to the company. A driver was involved in a fatal accident last year, and the insurer refused coverage. The reason: The driver was not on his way to pick up a customer and did not have a customer in his car at the time of the crash, and, therefore, he was not providing services to the TNC.

With ridesharing services, are you sharing liability, too? p3

We are continuing our discussion of transportation network company regulations in California. The state was the first to adopt regulations specifically for these ridesharing operations, and, it seems, those regulations are a work in progress.

The tricky issue is liability. The drivers use their own cars, and, initially, TNCs had not been buying commercial liability insurance to cover any accidents involving drivers carrying TNC customers. As we said in our Dec. 15 post, the driver's insurance wouldn't cover the accident either (no coverage for commercial enterprise). The state regulations required TNCs to purchase insurance.

With ridesharing services, are you sharing liability, too? p2

Earlier this month we started to talk about ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft and California's efforts to regulate them. (Read the post here.) Cab companies objected loudly to the state's seemingly casual treatment of the industry's new lower-cost competitor. One reason transportation network companies could charge their customers less is that they were not required to carry commercial liability insurance on the drivers in the network. Further, TNCs were not required, as cab companies are, to carry workers' compensation insurance, either.

The result was the lower fare, but passengers could have paid a very high price if their TNC driver were in an accident. Without a commercial policy behind them, the TNC drivers would have to turn to their own insurance. However, personal auto insurance does not cover commercial activities. If the driver were at fault, the insurance situation would be even more convoluted.

Identifying Signs of Physical Elder Abuse

More than two out of every five Americans will need long term care at some point during their lifetime. Long term care typically encompasses assistance with daily living activities such as: bathing, feeding, dressing and eating. When people require long term care, they are in their most vulnerable state of their lifetime. This precise reason highlights why long-term care patients can succumb to extensive elder abuse.

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