Uber’s Self-Driving Division May Be Having Problems

What’s going on at Uber? Recode reports that Uber is having corporate disputes in the self-driving car division. Check out the article here.


The Shocking Truth About Cell Phones That Could Save Your Life

The number of people injured in car accidents involving a distracted driver is on the rise, and distracted driving is a factor in nearly one in five accidents resulting in injuries. This increase coincides with an increase in the use of cell phones and smart phones in general and particularly while driving.

Approximately 95% of Americans own cell phones and 77% own a smart phone, and the use of these devices appears to be increasing in frequency and duration over time. Approximately two thirds of drivers reported talking on a cell phone while driving, and nearly a third reported reading or sending text messages or emails while driving. One study reported that over 90% of college students initiate, reply or read a text message while driving.

Distracted driving can take many forms including texting, using a cell phone, talking to passengers, looking at maps, grooming, eating, daydreaming, smoking, adjusting the stereo, or using a navigation system. These distractions are often classified into four broad categories: (1) visual distractions, such as taking your eyes off the road; (2) physical distractions, which include eating or smoking; (3) audible distractions, like listening to someone speaking; and (4) mental distractions, including daydreaming or focusing on something other than driving.

A distraction can include one or more of these categories. For example, reading a text message may involve receiving an audible notification, picking up the phone, looking at the message, and thinking about the content.

Mobile phone use while driving is common and can easily distract a driver from the road. Talking on a cell phone is a problem, but smart phones offer many functions to divert a driver’s attention, such as text messages, emails, social media, music, and map features.

Texting is particularly dangerous because it takes the driver’s attention away from driving more frequently and for longer periods of time than other distractions. One study found that text messaging increased distraction-related accidents six fold. The average time a driver takes their eyes off the road while texting is five seconds. At 55 mph, five seconds is enough time to travel the length of a football field.

California has attempted to address the problem by prohibiting drivers from holding or using a cell phone unless it is set up for hands-free operation. Nevertheless, drivers continue to reach for their phone while driving. So put down the cell phones while driving, and contact an attorney if you have been injured by a distracted driver.

What the media hasn’t told you about concussions

A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) that results in a temporary loss of brain function. Every car accident victim is at risk for concussions or TBI, particularly children and older adults. A TBI is caused by a blow or jolt to the head or penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain. TBI may range from mild to severe depending on the symptoms.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that millions of traumatic brain injuries occur each year and approximately 15% of all traumatic brain injuries in the US are caused by motor vehicle collisions. Motor vehicle accidents were the leading cause of hospitalizations for persons ages 15-44 years of age.

Severe traumatic brain injuries can result in death, unconsciousness, or amnesia, and can lead to a wide range of long and short term issues. However, concussions are the most common form of TBI and are likely the most underreported because the symptoms are not always immediately apparent and many people do not seek appropriate medical attention. A concussion is a mild type of TBI that results in a temporary loss of brain function.

Recovery from concussions varies among individuals, but symptoms may last for weeks or longer. Symptoms of a concussion generally fall into four categories: (1) thinking/remembering (difficulty thinking clearly, feeling slowed down, difficulty concentrating, difficulty remembering new information); (2) physical (headaches, fuzzy or blurry vision, nausea or vomiting early on, dizziness, sensitivity to noise and light, balance problems, feeling tired); (3) emotional/mood (irritability, sadness, more emotional, nervousness or anxiety); and (4) sleep (difficulty sleeping and sleeping more or less than usual).

People with a concussion should be seen by a healthcare professional, who can evaluate a concussion and determine if a referral to a specialist is appropriate. Getting help soon after the injury may help to improve recovery. Healthcare professionals may perform a brain scan or other tests on learning, concentration, or problem-solving abilities to identify the effects of a concussion.

Most people recover from concussions, but it may take a while depending on a number of factors. Some people may have difficulty performing daily activities, going to work, relaxing, and getting along with others. The recovery period may require plenty of sleep and rest, avoiding physical activities such as exercise and housework, avoiding mental activities that require a lot of concentration like doing taxes and balancing the checkbook, and may require time off work.

Should your car be considered a total loss after an accident?

After an accident, car owners and their insurance companies make a determination of whether a vehicle is a total loss. This determination can be a source of conflict when a car owner wants the car to be totaled in order to avoid driving a repaired vehicle that was badly damaged and the resulting diminished value of the car. On the other hand, some owners may wish to avoid a total loss determination because the actual cash value that the insurance company agrees to may not be enough to purchase an acceptable replacement vehicle or for some other reason the owner wishes to continue driving the car.

Generally speaking, a car is considered a total loss when the cost to repair the vehicle exceeds the actual cash value of the car. However, as a practical matter, insurance companies usually determine that a car is totaled when the cost to repair it is a large percentage of the actual cash value because at that point the damage is extensive enough that it would be uneconomical to repair the vehicle.

There are a number of variables in this equation that should be considered when dealing with an insurance company regarding the total loss determination. First, insurance companies are able to recoup some of the value of a totaled vehicle by selling it as salvage and will add the salvage value to the cost to repair the car. If that figure exceeds the actual cash value then a car may be determined to be a total loss.

The salvage value of the car and the estimated cost to repair the vehicle should be considered in making a total loss determination. Repair estimates can vary widely depending on the body shop that provides the estimate, and insurance companies may consider the reality that supplemental repairs may be required beyond those listed in a preliminary estimate. Furthermore, the salvage value of a vehicle depends on a number of factors, including whether parts for that model car are in high demand, what parts are damaged, and whether the vehicle will be sold for scrap.

The actual cash value of a car is another area of contention in a total loss determination. Insurance companies do not always use the full Kelly Blue Book value of a car in making this valuation. They may consider other measurements of the value such as quotes from local dealerships, sales reports, valuation guides, or advertisements. There may also be a dispute as to the condition of the vehicle.

If a car is determined to be a total loss, the DMV and vehicle code impose a number of reporting and registration requirements on the owner and insurance companies involved. This may also affect the insurance payout on the vehicle. For example, if the car owner retains a totaled vehicle, the insurance company will decrease the payout by the salvage value of the vehicle.

The property damage component of a car accident can create a large amount of confusion, and a qualified attorney may be able to help in evaluating a potential claim.

8 Things Insurance Companies Don’t Want You To Know About Car Accidents

Insurance companies begin investigating car accident claims as soon as they are reported. These are sophisticated businesses that know how to minimize the value of a car accident case and have a strong financial incentive to pay out the smallest amount possible. Below are eight things to consider in dealing with an insurance company after an accident.

You do not have to give a statement to an insurance company. As soon as an accident is reported, the insurance company for the at-fault driver will probably call you immediately to ask for a recorded statement. California law does not require you to give a statement to another party’s insurance company. Sometimes making a statement can help to move a case along, but usually insurance companies use the opportunity to go on a fishing expedition and to trip up unprepared parties with valid claims.

You do not have to sign a medical records release for an insurance company. Many insurance companies routinely send out broad authorization forms for medical records as soon as a claim is reported. They will also send out information sheets that request information about the accident and the injures. Again, California law does not require you to execute a release or give out free information to an adverse party.

You are entitled to damages for pain and suffering if you experienced these symptoms after an accident. Insurance companies sometimes request copies of medical bills and may offer to pay a hospital bill to settle a claim quickly. California law permits recovery of all damages caused by an accident, which includes the physical pain, emotion anguish, and inconvenience associated with an accident.

You can retain an attorney even for a small accident. Many clients worry that they do not have a claim or that a case is not worth pursuing. However, most attorneys will offer a free consultation to let you know if they can help and will not charge attorneys fees unless and until they get you a settlement. An attorney can also help you get medical treatment with no up-front fees.

Soft tissue injuries can be severe and long lasting, and you may be entitled to compensation for them. Whiplash, contusions, sprains, and strains are all common injuries in car accidents, which can cause a lot of pain and can make it difficult to go about your life. Soft tissue injuries can take time to recover from and can have flare-ups down the road. The bottom line is that insurance companies often try to minimize these sorts of injuries.

Car accidents can cause brain injuries. Even low speed impacts can cause blows to the head and jolting forces. The severity of traumatic brain injuries can range from mild to sever, with a range of short or long term changes and can potentially affect thinking, sensation, language, and emotion, which might include difficulties with memory, reasoning, sight, balance, communication, understanding, depression, anxiety, and many other potential difficulties.

Insurance companies can and will look through your social media profiles. If you are active on social media, you should realize that anything you post can be used against you by an insurance company to minimize your claim. People usually put out a polished image on social media, but insurance companies often use these sorts of posts and images to undercut damages claims.

You should be compensated for all of your damages caused by another party’s negligence. Tylenol, bandages, parking at the doctor’s office, time missed from work, all cost accident victims money, and these damages may be compensable.