Experts believe car accidents can cause fibromyalgia and other chronic pain conditions, and there is a precedent for crash victims to recover compensation as a result. Fibromyalgia symptoms often begin after significant physical or psychological trauma, such as a collision. Doctors often ask patients if they experienced any recent traumatic events as a part of the diagnostic process.

Physical or emotional stress or post-traumatic stress related to a crash could trigger the onset of fibromyalgia or worsen symptoms for someone who already has the condition. They could recover financial compensation as part of the car accident case. If you have more localized pain, you could have chronic myofascial pain syndrome. You can also recover damages if you link this diagnosis to your crash.

What Is Fibromyalgia, and How Is it Related to Car Accidents?

According to Mayo Clinic, fibromyalgia refers to a disorder that causes widespread, chronic musculoskeletal pain. While the current understanding is not yet fully developed, researchers generally believe the body of those with fibromyalgia processes pain signals differently, amplifying the sensations.

In addition to a dull, widespread, aching pain that lasts for three months or longer, those with fibromyalgia often have related symptoms. These include:

Pain Points

Many people with fibromyalgia experience extreme tenderness in some regions of the body. This symptom is so common that it was initially part of the diagnostic criteria for the disorder. However, this presents diagnostic challenges since each individual feels varying pain levels when a doctor presses a pain point.

Today, doctors ask people who could have fibromyalgia if they have pain in four of five larger body areas.

Fatigue

Those with fibromyalgia report extreme fatigue even with extended sleep. To make matters worse, many people living with fibromyalgia do not sleep well because of unmanaged pain. Others deal with co-occurring sleep disorders, including sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome. In addition, some people struggle with daily self-care activities because of their extreme fatigue.

Decreased Cognitive Ability

Aside from their physical pain, one of the most concerning symptoms those with fibromyalgia report is decreased cognitive abilities. They struggle to concentrate, remember, and focus when necessary. Known as “fibro fog,” this makes it difficult to work, manage chores, or run a household.

Women, seniors, people for whom fibromyalgia runs in the family, and those with certain other conditions have an increased risk of fibromyalgia.

These associated conditions include:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Migraines
  • Interstitial cystitis and other bladder conditions
  • Temporomandibular joint issues (TMJ)
  • Anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders
  • Postural tachycardia syndrome​

How Do Car Accidents Cause Fibromyalgia?

While researchers still have no solid conclusions about what triggers fibromyalgia and what causes symptoms, many researchers believe that specific types of nerve stimulation cause a change inside the brain of those at risk for the condition. This change leads to a significant increase in pain signals traveling up the spinal cord to the brain.

Researchers identified four common causes or contributors to the development of ​​fibromyalgia:

#1. Genetic Factors

Fibromyalgia appears to have a genetic component. Those with family members with the disorder are much more likely to develop it themselves. This leads researchers to assume genetic mutations could play a role.

#2. Infections

Certain viruses and infections may cause the disorder or aggravate fibromyalgia symptoms. Researchers are unclear on this link, but the infections could include the hepatitis C virus, HIV, and Lyme disease.

#3. Physical Trauma

The physical trauma and injuries associated with a significant accident could trigger fibromyalgia. Here, car accidents could play a role. Researchers believe physical trauma during a crash, assault, or another incident could affect the brain’s neurotransmitters and alter pain signals.

#5. Psychological Trauma

Evidence suggests that prolonged or intense psychological stress could cause fibromyalgia or worsen the condition’s symptoms.

These factors support the theory that car accidents cause fibromyalgia and other related conditions. Several studies, including those published in Traffic Injury Prevention, support these findings. Researchers observe that a car accident can act as a major stressor on the body, disrupting normal nervous system function and sensory processing.

Crashes can also worsen symptoms for those who already have the disorder.

How Can I Prove My Fibromyalgia Occurred Because of My Crash?

Unlike a broken arm or severe laceration, fibromyalgia symptoms do not necessarily develop immediately. Those with fibromyalgia may not recognize symptoms in the first days or even weeks after a crash. Getting a diagnosis presents the first hurdle to proving that your car accident caused your fibromyalgia.

Because the condition is complex and misunderstood, getting a diagnosis requires ruling out several other conditions. This creates another hurdle because you must have a diagnosis to claim the related damages. Additionally, there is a deadline for suing an at-fault driver in a South Carolina crash case.

One good option for proving your car accident caused fibromyalgia and you suffered related losses is to work with a personal injury lawyer familiar with this condition and these cases.

They have access to the resources necessary to prove your case, including:

  • Your medical records
  • Experts to analyze your records and discuss your condition
  • Experts to link fibromyalgia to the trauma you experienced in the crash
  • Documentation of your related expenses and losses

An attorney knows how to document your injuries and damages, whether your fibromyalgia occurred due to your crash or you had a pre-existing fibromyalgia diagnosis. They can create a clear link between your crash, diagnosis, symptoms, and how those symptoms affect your everyday life.

Getting a Diagnosis and Beginning Treatment for Fibromyalgia

You need a diagnosis before filing a claim and seeking compensation for your fibromyalgia-related damages. Your diagnosis also allows you to start a treatment regimen as soon as possible. Currently, no cure exists for fibromyalgia, but doctors prescribe medications to manage symptoms and help people live a more normal life.

Getting a diagnosis of fibromyalgia requires meeting the diagnostic guidelines set by the American College of Rheumatology. To meet the criteria, you need to have widespread pain for three months or longer. This pain can occur on both the right and left sides and above and below the waist. While getting a diagnosis seems straightforward, it is not always easy. Many other conditions also cause chronic, widespread pain.

Your doctor will need to rule out:

  • Rheumatic diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and other conditions that cause similar symptoms
  • Autoimmune disorders, including multiple sclerosis
  • Mental health concerns that can cause dull body aches, including depression

The workup to diagnose fibromyalgia may include a variety of tests, examinations, and bloodwork. Doctors may spread this over several appointments, which could take weeks or months.

You could require:

  • A physical exam of your muscles and joints to identify any issues causing pain
  • A neurological exam to identify any other causes of your symptoms
  • Blood work to rule out other conditions

According to Mayo Clinic, ruling out other conditions could involve additional tests, such as:

  • Complete blood count
  • Cyclic citrullinated peptide test
  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate
  • Rheumatoid factor
  • Thyroid testing
  • Anti-nuclear antibody tests
  • Celiac serology to rule out celiac disease
  • Vitamin D to determine your levels

As you move through this process, discuss your lawsuit timeline with your doctor. They could run several tests simultaneously, and they may push for a diagnosis more quickly if they understand the time constraints in your case.

Holding the At-Fault Driver Legally Responsible for Your Crash Damages

Hiring the right lawyer can prove invaluable to recovering compensation based on your fibromyalgia diagnosis. Your lawyer should listen to your concerns, provide sound advice and guidance, and go to work on your case. In addition, they should work closely with you to identify, document, and seek your related damages, including your future losses related to your diagnosis and symptoms.

Hire a car accident lawyer experienced with these cases. Ideally, seek a lawyer with a strong track record of favorable settlements and verdicts in tough cases. Your lawyer should also have the resources and connections to call in medical experts.

Your attorney should take the following steps to help you hold the at-fault driver legally responsible:

#1. Investigate What Happened

Demonstrating a car accident case almost always requires an investigation, but those involving complex medical diagnoses can prove even more involved. Your attorney must show negligence, fault, and causation like in other collision cases. However, they must also identify and document a link between the crash and your fibromyalgia diagnosis.

#2. Consult With Experts

Proving your case generally requires at least one medical expert. However, your attorney may call in multiple experts. A medical professional can testify about your condition, how it affects your life, what caused it, the treatments you need, and your prognosis. Their testimony can prove crucial if the case goes to trial.

#3. Demand a Fair Payout

Your attorney can approach the at-fault driver’s insurance company with a strong case to support your car accident claim and demand a fair settlement. This generally leads to settlement negotiations in most cases. In addition, many attorneys reach out-of-court settlements for their clients through this process.

#4. File a Lawsuit, If Necessary

Fibromyalgia claims can prove controversial. The insurance company could deny responsibility for your diagnosis even with strong evidence.

If the insurance company refuses to accept your case, your lawyer could take the case to trial. Your attorney should prepare and file your case, then represent you during this process.

Recoverable Damages With a Fibromyalgia Diagnosis

Fibromyalgia does not only affect your body in the days and weeks following a crash like many other injuries would. Instead, you live regularly with the pain, fatigue, brain fog, and other symptoms interfering with your everyday life. Fibromyalgia affects your ability to work, manage physical tasks, and even handle jobs that require memory or cognitive function.

This often leads to depression, frustration, and anxiety. At the same time, many people do not understand the condition or outright deny it exists. This worsens the mental health of many who live with symptoms.

With your attorney, you can consider all these hardships when determining your recoverable damages and the losses. Your recovery could include:

#1. Medical Bills, Current and Future

This includes the cost of diagnosis, treatment, and any psychological care you may need due to your trauma or diagnosis. It also covers future medical care and support for your disorder and other injuries.

#2. Lost Income

If you missed income because of your injuries-salary, hourly pay, commission, tips, or other losses-these losses can constitute part of your damages. If your fibromyalgia makes it difficult or impossible to return to your previous work or work the same hours as before, seek compensation for these losses.

#3. Property Damages

This includes the repair or replacement of your vehicle.

#4. Intangible Damages

They could include physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, scarring and disfigurement, diminished quality of life, and loss of enjoyment of life.

The intangible damages available for fibromyalgia and other life-altering, long-term conditions can prove substantial, even if you did not suffer additional injuries. Therefore, your attorney could seek ample compensation for your disorder’s widespread effects on so many aspects of your life.

Act Quickly to Protect Your Right to Recover Compensation

One of the most difficult parts of recovering compensation for fibromyalgia caused by a car accident is the tight timeline that applies to these cases. While South Carolina provides up to three years to sue an at-fault driver or another liable party under South Carolina law, three years is not very long when you consider the months or years it could take to get an accurate diagnosis.

Contact a South Carolina car accident law firm as early as you can following your crash. They may go to work gathering evidence in your case immediately. First, however, you should discuss your symptoms with your lawyer. They can wait until you reach maximum medical improvement, have a good idea of your prognosis, and fully understand your condition before demanding a payout or suing.

The 100 deadliest days of summer are almost here. These deadly days are the summer days after many schools have let out, between Memorial Day and Labor Day, when more teen traffic fatalities historically have occurred. In 2016, the most recent year for which data is available, during the 100 deadliest days of summer more than 1,050 people died in crashes involving teenage drivers. This figure averages out to over 10 people dying each day, which is a 14 percent increase compared to the rest of the year, according to the AAA Foundation for Highway Safety.

Fatality Facts During the Deadliest Days

The data shows that speeding was one of the biggest factors in teen accidents during this time period. In fact, 29 percent of the motor vehicle deaths involving teen drivers were related to speed. The other major factor was driving at night. Of the fatality accidents, 36 percent happened between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. Nighttime crashes involving teenagers increased by 22 percent during the deadliest days of 2016, compared to the rest of the year.

Additionally, distracted driving and not wearing seatbelts are also major reasons for teen accidents and deaths.

South Carolina Nighttime Driving Restrictions

When it comes to nighttime driving, it’s important for teens and parents to remember that there are state laws that restrict when teenagers can drive. Teenagers who are not yet 17 years old and haven’t earned their full driver’s license privileges are restricted as to when and with whom they can drive at night in South Carolina:

  • Conditional license for 15 year olds: With a conditional license, teens are required to have a licensed driver who is at least 21 years old in the car while driving between 8 p.m. and midnight during summer daylight time. (During standard time, hours are between 6 p.m. and midnight.) Between midnight and 6 a.m., teens with a conditional license may drive with a parent or legal guardian.
  • Special restricted license for 16 year olds: The nighttime restrictions are the same as for a conditional license, except that teens who have this restricted license can ask for a waiver of time restrictions if the restrictions adversely affect work, school or other vocational or employment opportunities. They will need to show statements from both parents and school or work officials.

What Parents Can Do

AAA recommends that parents frequently communicate with teenagers about their driving, including discussing risky behaviors, not only during the deadliest days, but all year long. Speeding and other traffic violations are not only dangerous, they can also affect a teenager’s ability to get a full license. For example, teens who are younger than 17 who accrue 6 or more points on their driving records for violations or at-fault accidents, if they haven’t held a restricted license for a year, face having their licenses suspended for six months.

Young people learn by example, so parents should also model safe driving habits themselves. Additionally, AAA recommends setting driving rules and limits that are stricter than state laws.

Experienced Columbia Car Accident Attorneys

If you’ve been in a car accident, our knowledgeable attorneys at the Louthian Law Firm are here to help you. Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.

Highway 61 may be scenic, but its beauty is sadly compromised by its danger. According to data from the South Carolina Department of Public Safety, over the past 10 years, 52 people have lost their lives in car accidents on the approximately 65-mile-long road, which travels from Bamberg County to Charleston’s West Ashley district. Last year, there were five people killed. The deadliest year during the last decade was 2011, when seven people died. Charleston County leads the way in deaths.

Here is the breakdown of fatalities by county for the entire 10-year period:

  • Charleston: 18
  • Dorchester: 17
  • Colleton: 15
  • Bamberg: 2

Why Are There So Many Deadly Car Accidents on Highway 61?

One SCDOT official said the No. 1 cause of serious injuries and deaths on the roadway is people driving off the highway and striking trees and other fixed objects. There is a lack of shoulders on the highway, which allows little room for drivers to correct if they make driving errors. Possibly contributing to the dangers for drivers are the greatly increased amount of traffic on the highway in recent years and the darkness of the highway at night.

Improvement Plans

Plans are in the works to add a four-foot-wide shoulder with rumble strips to major portions of the highway, especially in the most deadly areas. SCDOT has completed surveying work from the Givhans state park area to the Charleston/Dorchester County line. There were delays to the project caused by a refocusing of work effort when Hurricane Florence slammed into the state last year. More improvement work is planned.

SCDOT says that hearings are also planned for the spring to get public input about the safety improvement project. If you are interested in attending a hearing, check the SCDOT website’s programs and projects pages for updated scheduling information.

Safe Driving Tips

Drivers can reduce their chances of being in a car wreck on Highway 61 and any other roadway by always practicing safe driving. Here are some basic tips for helping keep yourself and others safe on the road:

  • Adhere to posted speed limits. Give yourself plenty of time to get where you are going so you don’t feel pressured to speed or otherwise drive aggressively.
  • Be sure your headlights are in good working order for traveling dark roads at night.
  • Avoid distractions while driving. Keep your cell phone in your purse, in the back seat, or in another area where it isn’t easily accessible and you aren’t tempted to reach for it. Texting and use of other electronics behind the wheel are the No. 1 cause of distracted driving accidents.
  • Don’t drink and drive. If you have had too much to drink, arrange an alternate form of transportation or stay where you are for the night, if possible.
  • Pay attention to other vehicles on the roadway. If someone is swerving or showing other signs that they might be driving under the influence, distance yourself from the vehicle and then call 911 to report it.

Let Columbia’s Louthian Law Firm Help

If you’ve been injured in a car accident, contact our experienced  injury attorneys. If you’ve been injured by a negligent driver, it’s important to act quickly. The statute of limitations in personal injury claims is three years, unless the negligent driver was driving a city, county or state vehicle, in which case the statute of limitation is two years. However, it’s always best to begin the process as soon as possible to ensure you have time to build a solid case and receive compensation in a timely manner. Call us at 803-454-1200 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

If you buy a new car, your purchase is protected by warranties and state law. You can hold manufacturers accountable for dangerous defective parts, and the business that sold you the car might even try to save face and make things right.

But what happens when you buy a used car? If that car contains defects, you might be on your own, according to Will Wallace, senior policy analyst at Consumer Reports. In a Consumer Reports article, Wallace is quoted in reference to the undue burden buyers of used cars face in comparison to those who buy a new vehicle.

Shockingly, neither dealers nor private party sellers are obligated by law to fix defects on used cars. Not only that – they don’t even have to tell you about a vehicle’s defect.

Wallace and countless other safety advocates think that should change, and it’s hard to find any reasonable argument against their stance. It’s hard to believe that these changes even need to be made. Unfortunately, it’s a reality that all used car buyers should be aware of. And if a defective vehicle causes someone serious harm, then the injured person should consider a legal claim to get the compensation they deserve.

How Great is the Risk of Buying a Defective Vehicle?

About one quarter of all recalled vehicles currently on our roads have not been repaired. Any of these vehicles can be resold to a buyer without any notification of the defect. That means there’s always a risk that the used car you’re buying has been recalled and remains defective.

Obviously, we need laws to address this problem, and hopefully safety advocates will be able to pressure lawmakers to take the issue seriously. Until that day, the burden is on consumers to make sure they aren’t being sold a bum vehicle.

Do Your Homework When Buying a Used Vehicle

Before purchasing any vehicle, see whether it has been recalled. Consumer Reports lays out the process quite well if you want to reference their article, but the process is relatively simple. Identify the vehicle’s VIN and go to safecar.gov to enter the number. If the vehicle has been recalled, it should be repaired at no cost.

Not all dealers neglect to tell consumers about recalls. Sellers can have a vehicle repaired at no cost. Many do, and they are upfront about a vehicle’s history. But not all sellers are created equally, and anytime you buy a vehicle from a private seller, you should be extra cautious about defects. Request to have the vehicle inspected by a trusted mechanic before purchase. If the seller refuses, heed the red flags that pop up in your mind.

“Buyer beware” should be a thing of the past, but clearly more work should be done to protect consumers. If you’ve had the misfortune of being involved in a vehicle accident because of a defective vehicle or vehicle part, you should know that you have legal options available.

If a Defective Vehicle or Vehicle Part Causes an Injury, You Can Take Legal Action

When a car accident is caused by a defective vehicle part, the injured party has the right to file a personal injury or product liability claim to get the compensation they deserve. If your vehicle’s defect led to an injury, a product liability claim can be filed against the manufacturer. If another driver caused your injuries, you should contact an attorney to learn more about your options.

The South Carolina product liability attorneys at the Louthian Law Firm has several decades of experience getting clients justice. To explore your legal options, contact Bert Louthian to schedule a free consultation of your case. We’ll hold negligent manufacturers and bad drivers accountable for the harm they have caused. Give us a call or fill out our online contact form to get started.

If you have a complaint about a vehicle defect, you may already have tried filing a complaint with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). If you’re having trouble getting them to address your concerns, however, it might be time for you to consider filing a defect petition.

A defect petition is a little more in-depth than a conventional complaint, and it doesn’t guarantee an overnight response. But if your complaint is important to you, filing a defect petition will ensure that your complaint gets the consideration it deserves.

What is a Defect Petition?

A defect petition is a complaint you can file with the NHTSA about a defect you may have encountered with your vehicle. This petition could eventually lead to a product recall, if it is found that your vehicle’s defect is a problem with the whole product line rather than your vehicle alone.

When a defect petition is filed, the NHTSA has to do a review of your complaint and issue a written decision on whether or not to begin an in-depth investigation. While this doesn’t guarantee that there will be an in-depth investigation or that your complaint will lead to a recall, it does require the administration to justify their decision to investigate or not.

Defect petitions are fairly rare. As of December 6, 2018, for example, only four defect petitions had been filed with the NHTSA nationwide. In addition, defect petitions are fairly low-priority for the NHTSA. According to Matthew Oliver of the North Carolina Consumers Council, “Defect petitions seem to have low priority for the agency, even when submitted with complaint data and/or having the same symptoms as recalls that have already been issued for other vehicles of the same kind.”

The agency disputes this, saying that they take seriously their responsibilities to keep drivers on American highways safe. Regardless, the fact is that when you file a defect petition, your complaint is likely to take some time to resolve.

Filing a Defect Petition

The process of filing a defect petition is more in-depth than filing a standard complaint on the NHTSA website. It is rare for the agency to start a full-scale investigation on the basis of a single conventional complaint. Filing a defect petition can require more information and time investment than a conventional complaint, but it can also be a more effective way of getting the NHTSA to address your concerns.

When a Serious Defect Causes You Harm, Contact Us

Though complaints are powerful tools for consumers, in more serious cases where injuries are caused by faulty parts, product liability claims are the preferred option. In a vehicle-related product liability claim, an injured person seeks payment, typically from the manufacturer, for the injury-related costs they face.

The Louthian Law Firm has represented injured South Carolinians in car accident lawsuits since 1959. If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a car accident, it’s important to make sure that you understand your legal rights. South Carolina law can be complex, and there is a deadline for filing a claim. The initial consultation is always free, so reach out to us today by calling us or by filling out our online contact form.

When someone’s negligence has injured another, determining the at-fault party in order to name them as the defendant in a lawsuit may not be cut and dried. In some cases, multiple parties who bear responsibility for a person’s injury might need to be named as co-defendants. Factors attorneys consider when deciding who to name as a defendant are (1) what the evidence reveals, (2) the legal requirements for bringing a successful case, and (3) whether damages could be collected if the case is won.

The Question of Evidence

Evidence can take many forms—what witnesses have to say, the contents of police reports, photographs of the scene, video recordings, and other data that might turn up through relevant research. Reviewing the available evidence carefully is the first step in establishing fault. Fault must be determined to initiate a case that is likely to succeed.

For example, if you were injured in a car crash where the other driver ran a red light, and their blood alcohol content indicated they were driving under the influence, it’s likely they are at least one of the at-fault parties who can be named in a personal injury suit.

What is Needed to Bring a Strong Case

Certain legal elements with regard to a potential defendant can make it much more likely that you will succeed. In personal injury cases, the following aspects must be established:

  • Does the defendant owe a duty to the injured person? For example, all drivers on the road have a duty to operate their vehicles in a responsible manner that does not endanger others.
  • Did the defendant breach that duty? For example, if a driver ran a stop sign and hit another vehicle, they would have violated their duty to drive safely.
  • Would the injured person be uninjured had it not been for the defendant’s actions? For example, if the defendant had not been driving recklessly, the plaintiff would not have suffered a broken leg.
  • Was the injury that was caused proximate, meaning directly related, to the harm caused? For example, it was the car wreck caused by the negligent driver that was directly responsible for the broken leg.
  • Was there provable financial loss? Losses can be economic, such as for medical bills, and non-economic, such as for pain and suffering.
  • Are you operating within the statute of limitations? In most states, you have only a few years to bring a personal injury suit. In South Carolina, the personal injury statute of limitations is three years.

Is It Likely That Damages Would Be Collectible?

Damages are the financial costs of the injury that are awarded to the injured party. If you won your case, you would want to be able to collect damages owed to you, such as for your medical bills, any property loss, and your pain and suffering. In any personal injury case, you must consider whether the defendant can actually pay a judgment.

The court can tell you that you are entitled to damages, but it cannot help you collect them. Therefore, you must consider whether the defendant will have the ability to pay them. For example, a negligent driver who is unemployed, with few assets, and who does not carry liability insurance is unlikely to be able to pay any significant damages. However, if the bar who sold the negligent driver alcohol over-served them, you might have a case against the bar’s owner. The owner of a business is more likely to have insurance and assets that could be accessed if damages were awarded for injuries.

When it comes to determining at-fault parties, sometimes you must be creative to find out who is truly at fault that also has the ability to pay. For example, suppose a truck driver caused a wreck. In such a case, do you sue the driver, the trucking company, or another party? For example, if the driver is an employee of the trucking company and not an independent operator, the trucking company might be considered responsible as well and could be named.

In another example, if the accident occurred because of brake failure due to poor maintenance, and not because of any negligence on the driver’s part, the defendants could be the trucking company and whoever was responsible for performing the truck’s maintenance. Both the trucking company and the truck’s mechanics or servicing firm would be defendants who likely could pay damages.

If you have suffered from an accident where another person’s negligence was involved, it’s a good idea to talk with an experienced personal injury attorney before you decide whether or not you want to bring a suit. It could be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make.

Securing justice for hardworking people and families.

Has your family suffered from a preventable injury that you believe was caused by the negligence of another? You may have strong legal grounds to initiate a South Carolina personal injury suit. Whatever the reason for your claim, the lawyers at the Louthian Law Firm have represented South Carolinians in personal injury suits since 1959. We are committed to providing personalized service to you while aggressively pursuing your claim, working hard to protect your rights and gain the best possible outcome. The clock is ticking on your deadline to file a claim, so call the Louthian Law Firm for help today. If you prefer, you can fill out our confidential online contact form.

Although we currently check truck drivers for drug use through urinalysis, such tests do not always accurately reflect drug usage. Opioids are one glaring example—this class of drugs is not detectable in the body after a few hours, even in someone who uses the drugs regularly. Hair-sample testing provides a more accurate test than urinalysis because it can reveal opioid usage from the previous 90 days. However, hair tests are not currently a legal substitute for federally-mandated urine testing.

Because of the increase in opioid abuse, the Trucking Alliance is advocating for legislation that would require testing of hair samples from truck drivers, rather than taking urine samples. The Trucking Alliance, also called the Alliance for Driver Safety & Security, includes large trucking companies such as Swift, J.B. Hunt, Knight Transportation, U.S. Xpress, Maverick, Dupre Logistics, and others.

Congress would consider the legislation in January, 2019.

The Superiority of Hair-Sample Tests

Lane Kidd, the managing director of the Trucking Alliance, has stated that most companies use only urine tests because of the expense of double-testing both urine and hair samples. He believes drivers who failed hair tests done at J.B. Hunt likely found jobs at other companies that test only urine. Since 2006, Hunt has turned down more than 5,000 truck driver applicants who passed a urine test but failed a follow-up hair-sample test. Kidd added, “Multiply this company’s experience by the hundreds of thousands of truck driver applicants each year across the United States, and we have a major problem.”

The Trucking Alliance has cited a Brazilian law put into effect during 2016 that required drivers to submit a hair sample for drug testing before their truck driving license could be renewed. The result of Brazil’s testing requirement was that over one million truckers in that country either failed the drug test or declined to take it, thus becoming ineligible to renew their license. The tests kept drug users from getting behind the wheel of large vehicles that often cause catastrophic damage when an accident occurs.

U.S. laws have not kept pace with the recent explosion in opioid addiction. Some of the many drugs abused by some truckers include hydrocodone, oxycodone, hydromorphone, and fentanyl, as well as a number of morphine compounds sold under several brand names. Once an opioid abuser runs out of ways to procure legal prescriptions for these drugs, they may even turn to heroin. All opioids have the potential for deadly results on the road, because drivers can pass out or die behind the wheel from taking too much of any opioid. Until recently, such drugs were commonly prescribed for pain problems of all types.

Hair-sample testing more accurately detects the drugs companies test for, but running both urine tests and hair tests costs them more money. Moving to a federal hair-sample testing standard and dropping the urinalysis requirement would ensure better results and save an estimated $2 million a year in costs for trucking companies. The proposed law would set hair-sample tests as the new federal legal standard.

OOIDA Says No

OOIDA, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association of the trucking industry, believes that hair sample testing is unnecessary, citing statistics from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Data indicate that, in 2015, less than one percent of fatal truck crashes involved drivers who tested positive from drugs. For this reason, the Association characterizes the insistence on hair-sample testing as unwarranted; insufficient evidence exists to support the need for it.

However, the Trucking Alliance insists the new legislation is needed. Kidd is on record as saying, “We hope Congress will follow Brazil’s leadership and require a drug test that proves without a doubt that a truck driver job applicant hasn’t taken illegal drugs or abused opioids for at least 30 days. Too many loopholes allow truck drivers to skip random drug testing, even after they’re involved in a serious large truck accident.”

Listening hard. Working harder.

Truck accidents can be extremely complicated both because of the large amounts of money often involved and because of the potential for multiple defendants. It is important to consult with a qualified truck accident Attorney to make sure your rights are protected. If you’ve been in an accident with a truck, the Louthian Law Firm can help make things right. We’ll deal with the insurance companies on your behalf to help you get the compensation you deserve for your medical bills, repair bills, lost income and any other financial costs that the accident caused. Where appropriate, we’ll also seek compensation on your behalf for pain and suffering and other non-economic losses. With our hands-on approach, you’ll get exceptional results.

One of Uber’s autonomous vehicles in Tempe, Arizona (a Phoenix suburb) struck and killed a 49-year-old pedestrian on March 18, 2018. A “safety” driver was in the driver’s seat and was found to be unimpaired, though they did not take the wheel to avoid the crash. The death is considered the first pedestrian fatality associated with autonomous vehicles. After the crash, Uber, a ride-for-hire service, stopped all self-driving vehicle testing in Tempe, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, and Toronto, Canada. Police have yet to determine fault.

Driver error causes 94 percent of all vehicular crashes—an astonishing number—according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. We’ve been told that autonomous vehicles might eliminate driver-error types of crashes; it simply isn’t true, though a significant reduction seems likely. The software that runs driverless cars is far from perfect, because no software is perfect—ask anyone who’s ever experienced the frustration of the “blue screen of death” on a PC. Driving requires so many simultaneous decisions involving others’ unpredictable behaviors that it may well be impossible for technology to protect against all crash possibilities.

But we need to ask why the car in Tempe did not stop as it was supposed to, as well as why the backup driver didn’t take control of the car, which was traveling at approximately 38 miles per hour at the time of impact. In such a situation, is the crash due to negligence on someone’s part, or is it the technology’s fault (product liability)?

A Complex Question

Normally, a driver and his or her insurance company would be considered responsible for a driver-error collision—in other words, it would be negligence. But with an autonomous vehicle crash, it’s possible that, legally, a crash is not due to negligence, because technically the backup driver isn’t driving. Additionally, the collision may or may not be due to product liability, depending on legal interpretations. Clearly, there is fault at play—but how do you sue a “robocar”?

An attorney based in California, Sergei Lemberg, claims that Uber, Volvo (the maker of the SUV in the accident), the companies that supplied the self-driving technology, and even the backup driver could be held liable in a negligence scenario. Product liability does not loom large in his reading of the situation.

Others believe that the legal spotlight will become focused on product liability from the aspect of defective design, both of which call for liability without fault. What would need to be demonstrated for a defective design claim is that an inherent flaw arising from the product’s design rendered it unsafe.

Legal scholar Bryant Walker Smith, a University of South Carolina assistant professor of both law and engineering, thinks that crashes involving driverless cars will translate into a shift of fault from negligence to product liability. He has noted that drivers in Arizona (as in most states) are required by law to exercise “due care” to avoid striking pedestrians, even if they are not walking in a marked crosswalk, which was the case in Tempe. Therefore, the software in an autonomous vehicle must be designed to notice pedestrians who are crossing in unmarked areas.

Regardless of fault, however, Smith expects any litigation to be settled quickly by Uber to avoid public scrutiny: “Only if Uber believes that it was wholly without fault could I see this case going to trial.”

Who is Bryant Walker Smith?

Smith is a nationally-known expert in autonomous driving and the law. He taught the first-ever course on self-driving vehicles and legal issues and led the autonomous driving and legal issues program at Stanford University. Previous to his legal career, Smith was a transportation engineer.

Locally, Smith may well become influential in South Carolina as our state attempts to determine what kinds of laws and regulations, if any, should be imposed on autonomous vehicles, and where liability should be laid in cases of serious car crashes.

You may not think much about your tires because they generally last for years without giving you problems, but they are critical to a safe ride. Around 11,000 accidents occur annually because of bad tires, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Faulty tires can literally steal your life: tire-related crashes in 2015 alone took the lives of 719 persons.

Let’s run through some tire basics.

Preventing Blowouts

Checking tire inflation is the easiest and cheapest way to make sure your tires are operating within the proper parameters. Less than one-fifth of passenger vehicle owners (19 percent) check to ensure that their tires are properly inflated. There is at least one significantly underinflated tire on one-fourth of all passenger vehicles. Underinflation will wear out your tires and can cause deadly blowouts more often than any other factor. It’s estimated that around 400 deaths due to blowouts happen annually. The problem is especially pronounced in warmer weather; mid-May through early October is generally considered “tire blowout season.”

Overloading is another way to damage a tire. To be certain that you are not putting too much weight on your tires, be sure you know their load rating. Crucial for tire integrity, load ratings tell you how much weight each tire can handle. If you regularly carry cargo or tow loads, knowing your tires’ load ratings is a must.

How do you do that? You read the data on the sidewalls of your tires. The maximum number applies only when tires are properly inflated, so always check inflation before you tow or carry a load. You might see something on your tires similar to “Max Load 1200 Lbs.” It means that, if all four of your tires are the same, they can carry 4,800 pounds (1,200 x 4). If your vehicle weighs 4,000 pounds, then you can safely tow or carry only 800 additional pounds.

Age is another factor when it comes to tire problems. Many new tires these days are good for at least 50,000 miles. If you are someone who doesn’t drive many miles each year, you might think that you can keep going on your tires for 10 years or more—but that’s not true. After as little as 6 years, regardless of mileage or the appearance of the tire’s tread, age begins to take a significant toll. Over time, a tire degrades, reducing the ability of the tire’s belts to remain intact. A catastrophic crash can be the result.

Potholes can also kill a tire and cause a blowout if you hit one hard enough, especially if the tire is underinflated or too old.

Finally, using tires of different sizes and types on your vehicle is a recipe for tragedy: don’t do it. If more than one tire needs replacing, consider buying four new ones to make sure all of them are the same size and type.

Example Tire-Related Crashes

Tire malfunctions can occur for a number of reasons, such as using the wrong size for your vehicle or not maintaining them properly. Here are some common situations where tires can cause you to crash:

  • Your tire throws a tread. This situation is dangerous both to you and to other vehicles, which might be struck by the flying tread.
  • Your old, rotted, or worn tires have little tread. Therefore, during wet or slippery conditions, they cannot sufficiently grip the road’s surface.
  • It’s a hot day and at least one of your tires is overinflated or underinflated. This situation is a recipe for a blowout, which can mean a loss of control and a crash.
  • Your tire hits something and goes flat abruptly, causing a loss of control and a crash.

If you feel as if you don’t know enough about your tires, the NHTSA has some important fact sheets for you. One sheet is a FAQ for tire buyers; one covers tire maintenance.

Special Danger with Trucks

Faulty tires can be a factor in vehicular crashes where negligence is involved, especially when the crash is caused by bad tires on a large truck. Blowouts on large trucks often cause tire-related crashes. Between 2009 and 2013, 223 persons died in large-truck crashes because of tires. Often blowouts play havoc with a truck’s high center of gravity, meaning the risk of a disastrous loss of control and a rollover.

Hands-on help. Exceptional results.

Have you been injured in a crash, and suspect negligence by the other party? The South Carolina car accident lawyers at the Louthian Law Firm have represented injured South Carolinians in accident and personal injury suits since 1959. With our firm on the case, you can rest assured that you’ll get the personalized attention you deserve.

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured or killed in a crash where another party was at fault, South Carolina law entitles you to hold that party legally responsible for your medical expenses as well as any lost wages and other financial losses. You may also seek compensation for pain and suffering or loss of comfort, care and companionship of a loved one. The deadline for filing a claim is already running, so contact the Louthian Law Firm for help by calling us at 1-803-454-1200. If you prefer, you can fill out our online contact form.