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Virginia Family Awarded $14 Million in Damages from Hyundai For Son’s Car Crash Injuries

The family of a 16-year-old driver in Virginia was awarded $14 million in damages by a Virginia jury after the side airbag in the car the boy was driving one night in February 2010 failed to deploy after he crashed the vehicle.

In its verdict, the jury ruled that Hyundai Motor America, which sold the 2008 Hyundai Tiburon the teen was driving that night, “breached the implied warranty of merchantability, meaning the company made a vehicle that was ‘unreasonably dangerous,’” according to a story in The Roanoke (VA) Times. The jury found that the breach of merchantability is what caused serious, life-changing injuries to the youth, Zachary “Gage” Duncan, who suffered a severe brain injury in the crash.

The crash on Feb. 27, 2010, put Duncan in a hospital for treatment of a coma, according to the newspaper. Following his hospitalization, he had to spend time in a rehabilitation center where he had to relearn how to talk and walk, the paper reported.

Emergency workers inspect a damaged SUV following a traffic accident in this stock photo. Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/ApplebyTexas

The brain injuries occurred when the boy’s head struck the roof rail of the Tiburon as the vehicle smashed into a tree, The Roanoke Times reported. Just before the crash, Duncan’s vehicle passed another car that was being driven by his friend, then “ran off the right side of the road, hit a snowbank, traveled down a hill, hit a hay bale and then struck a tree.”

The jury ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, who argued that because the impact into the tree didn’t deploy the side airbag in the vehicle, that the sensor meant to deploy the airbag was improperly situated under the driver’s seat, where it didn’t protect the driver, the story reported.

Had the airbag sensor been properly located where it would have detected the crash and activated the airbag, the boy might have been prevented from suffering his severe injuries, his attorney argued.

The teen’s parents, Keith and Vanessa Duncan, also sued the car dealership where they bought the Tiburon for their son, but that case was settled out of court with an undisclosed award, the paper reported.

A spokesman for Hyundai told the Reuters news service that the company “strongly disagrees with the verdict” and will appeal. “Hyundai had argued that the car’s airbag system met federal safety standards and had been thoroughly tested and found to be safe. The company had said that Duncan rolled his vehicle into a tree, and that a side air bag would not have kept him from being injured.”

The case was previously in court in September 2012 but ended in a mistrial when those jurors said they could not reach a decision in the case.

The new jury awarded the family $14 million for Duncan’s injuries, including $140,000 for medical expenses related to his original hospital treatment and for his rehabilitation hospital stay, according to The Roanoke Times. Duncan, who is now 20 years old, will have to live in a long-term, supervised facility due to his brain injuries from the crash, the paper reported. The estimated price tag for lifetime care for the victim is more than $11 million.

Tiburons were built by Hyundai from 2003 to 2008, when they were discontinued, reported Reuters.

Vehicle safety is a critical factor to consider today when buying any new or used vehicle for your family.

In May, new tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that only two widely-available small SUV models earned ratings of “good” or “acceptable” out of a field of 13 small SUVs that were run through certain frontal crashes called “small overlap” crashes, according to a previous MyPhillyLawyer blog post. The Hyundai Tiburon was not included in the IIHS study.

The crash that injured Duncan is the kind of incident that happens every day across the United States when people suffer terrible, life-changing traumas due to the actions or indifference of others.

That’s where having a legal team on your side that uncovers every fact to bolster your case and maximize your damage award is key.

We here at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to assist you with your legal case if you or a loved one is ever seriously injured in a vehicle incident or accident anywhere in the United States. We represent the families of victims who die in such tragedies as well, to ensure that their families receive every penny of damages that they are eligible to receive.

Call MyPhillyLawyer at 215-227-2727 or toll-free at 1-866-920-0352 anytime and our experienced, compassionate, aggressive team of attorneys and support staff will be there for you and your family every step of the way as we manage your case through the legal system.

When Winning Matters Most, Call MyPhillyLawyer.

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How Inadequate Auto Insurance Leaves Drivers Financially Vulnerable

Let’s say that you’re driving along and minding your own business when suddenly your vehicle is struck broadside by another vehicle that ran a red light.

The police are summoned as you sit there assessing your injuries and pains, but at least, you think, you have adequate insurance coverage that will take care of your medical care, personal needs and your recovery.

The problem with that scenario, though, becomes very real if the other driver has no insurance, or even worse, has inadequate coverage.

That’s one of the biggest dangers on our roads today – drivers who have only state-minimum coverage or no insurance at all.

I just heard an anecdote about a civil servant in his 40s in the Philadelphia metropolitan area who was in a store parking lot, simply minding his own business and walking back to his car recently.

Two Emergency Medical Technicians lower a crash victim onto a stretcher. Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/Spiritartist

Two Emergency Medical Technicians lower a crash victim onto a stretcher. Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/Spiritartist

At the same time, another driver in the parking lot apparently mistakenly hit her vehicle’s gas pedal instead of the brake while backing her car out of a parking place. Her car backed into the man, pinning him between the two now-smashed vehicles.

The victim suffered two broken legs and other serious injuries and had to endure the surgical installation of pins to repair bones in his legs. His medical treatment is probably going to total several hundred thousand dollars, and he will most likely not ever be able to return to his former job due to his severe, life-changing injuries.

The other driver did have insurance, but she only carried the minimum $15,000 of liability coverage that is required by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. That means that all the man can recover from the woman’s insurance company for his serious injuries is $15,000, which is a far cry from his actual losses. And that, of course, leaves nothing for him to recover from the other driver’s insurer for his pain and suffering, income losses and other related damages.

And worse for this man, he didn’t have any Underinsured Motorist (UIM) or Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage under his own vehicle insurance policy, leaving him very vulnerable.

Yes, his additional medical expenses and recovery expenses will be covered under the health insurance he receives through his employer, but his options under his auto policy appear to be very limited.

This didn’t have to happen, however.

The problem is that many drivers are operating their vehicles on public roadways while not even realizing that they probably have inadequate insurance coverage to guard against UM and UIM incidents.

The minimum $15,000 liability requirement in Pennsylvania was set some 30 years ago and has not been changed since then, which is absurd. It’s a travesty of justice for working people who drive around thinking that they have adequate insurance coverage and then find out how wrong those assumptions can be when the unthinkable happens and they are injured by an uninsured or underinsured driver.

It was a whole different world 30 years ago when the $15,000 minimum coverage limit was established, and unbelievably, no provisions were ever created to increase that figure annually for inflation and for changing times.

Another coverage area where drivers often find they are underinsured is for medical expenses in the event of a crash. The minimum amount for coverage in Pennsylvania is $5,000, and that miniscule, inadequate amount is what most people carry to help keep their insurance premiums lower.

So what can drivers do to better protect themselves?

You need to carefully review your vehicle insurance policies on your own and with your insurance agent to find out what coverage you actually have, and then find out how much it would cost to better protect yourself and your loved ones when you are in your vehicles. Often, higher coverage limits are not as expensive as people might think, especially when that’s compared to not having adequate coverage.

Having adequate insurance coverage to protect yourself from the irresponsible actions of other drivers is critical. It’s a necessity for peace of mind and for the long-term safety and financial security of your family.

You don’t want to find out after you have been seriously injured that your insurance is inadequate and that your future is now more clouded and uncertain due to perceived savings of a few bucks on your vehicle coverage.

These kinds of incidents and injuries happen every day when innocent victims are hurt in vehicle accidents through no fault of their own due to the actions or indifference of others.

That’s where having a legal team on your side that uncovers every fact to bolster your case and maximize your damage award is key.

We here at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to assist you with your legal case if you or a loved one is ever seriously injured in a vehicle incident or accident anywhere in the United States. We represent the families of victims who die in such tragedies as well, to ensure that their families receive every penny of damages that they are eligible to receive.

Call MyPhillyLawyer at 215-227-2727 or toll-free at 1-866-920-0352 anytime and our experienced, compassionate, aggressive team of attorneys and support staff will be there for you and your family every step of the way as we manage your case through the legal system.

When Winning Matters Most, Call MyPhillyLawyer.

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Beware When Buying Small SUVs: Many Are Performing Poorly in Certain U.S. Frontal Crash Tests

When you buy a new or used vehicle for your family, you likely shop for good fuel mileage, roominess and perhaps most importantly – safety and crashworthiness.

The problem, though, is that your expectations may not meet the real-world safety and crash-worthiness of some of the vehicles out there, especially if you are shopping for a small SUV.

In new tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), only two widely-available small SUV models earned ratings of “good” or “acceptable” out of a field of 13 small SUVs that were run through certain frontal crashes called “small overlap” crashes.

Just how important is this? It’s huge, because your family’s safety is at stake.

An SUV lay overturned after a crash in this stock photo. Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/BrandyTaylor

An SUV lay overturned after a crash in this stock photo. Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/BrandyTaylor

In the IIHS tests, which were announced May 16, only the 2014 Subaru Forester earned an overall rating of “good” for protecting its passengers in a small overlap frontal crash amid a field of 13 vehicles, according to the group. The 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport earned an “acceptable” rating in the small overlap test, which gave it the runner-up spot in the safety tests.

For the other 11 competitors, frontal crash protection in a small overlap crash was a weak spot, earning each of the finalists a “poor” or “marginal” rating.

“With the redesigned Forester, Subaru’s engineers set out to do well in our new test, and they succeeded,” Joe Nolan, the Institute’s vice president for vehicle research, said in a statement. “This is exactly how we hoped manufacturers would respond to improve protection for people in these kinds of serious frontal crashes.”

The small overlap test was added to the IIHS safety evaluations last year to replicate what happens when the front corner of a vehicle strikes another vehicle or an object like a tree or a utility pole, according to the agency. “In the test, 25 percent of a vehicle’s front end on the driver side strikes a 5-foot-tall rigid barrier at 40 mph,” with a crash test dummy strapped into the driver’s seat.

The problem is that vehicles that test well in other frontal and side crash tests don’t necessarily do well in the small overlap crash tests, according to the IIHS. “In a 2009 IIHS study of vehicles with good ratings for frontal crash protection, small overlap crashes accounted for nearly a quarter of the frontal crashes involving serious or fatal injury to front seat occupants.”

When a vehicle is involved in a crash with a 25 percent overlap, the damage typically “misses the primary structures designed to manage crash energy,” which means that passengers aren’t protected, according to the group. “That increases the risk of severe damage to or collapse of the occupant compartment structure. Also, vehicles tend to rotate and slide sideways during this type of collision, and that can move the driver’s head outboard, away from the protection of the frontal airbag.”

While the small SUVs in the tests did well in other crash tests for side, rear, moderate overlap frontal and rollover impacts, the test results for small overlap crashes were disappointing, according to the agency.

The 2013 small SUVs that received “marginal” ratings for frontal crashes are the BMW X1, Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, Volkswagen Tiguan, Nissan Rogue and the Jeep Wrangler  2-door, according to the IIHS results.

The 2013 small SUVs that received “poor” ratings for frontal crash protection are the Buick Encore, Ford Escape, Hyundai Tucson, Jeep Patriot and the Kia Sportage.

“In one example of poor structure, the front pillar of the Nissan Rogue’s door frame was pushed far inside the occupant compartment and after the crash was almost touching the driver seat,” the report said. “The Jeep Patriot was among the worst for restraints and kinematics. The dummy’s head slid off the frontal airbag as the steering wheel moved 8 inches up and nearly 6 inches to the right. The side curtain airbag didn’t deploy, and the safety belt allowed the dummy’s head and torso to move too far forward.”

Despite the low marks in the small overlap crash tests, 11 of the 13 small SUV that were run through the test were still given the IIHS’ Top Safety Pick+ honors because of good performance in the other moderate overlap front, side, rollover and rear tests. To qualify, a vehicle must earn good ratings in 4 of the 5 tests and no less than acceptable in the fifth, according to the IIHS.

For prospective SUV buyers, these results should at least be considered when making purchasing decisions.

“Small SUVs have become an increasingly popular choice for families, with sales of all SUVs and sport wagons rising 13.6 percent this year through April,” based on statistics from auto researcher Autodata Corp., according to a recent story from Bloomberg News. “Total vehicle sales were up 11.3 percent for that period.”

The new small overlap crash test was introduced by the IIHS “because that type of accident accounts for almost one-fourth of frontal crashes that seriously injure or kill people in front seats,” according to Bloomberg. “Last year was the first year since 2005 when deaths on U.S. roads increased, rising 5.3 percent to 34,080, according to preliminary estimates from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.”

Vehicle safety is a critical factor to consider today when buying any new or used vehicle for your family. In fact, by considering vehicle safety and crashworthiness BEFORE a crash in a real-life situation on our nation’s roads, we can work to prevent more serious injuries from happening in the first place.

In the meantime, we here at MyPhillyLawyer want to make sure that you have all the information you need when considering a vehicle purchase. And of course, we stand ready to assist you with your legal case if you or a loved one is ever seriously injured in a vehicle accident anywhere in the United States. We represent the families of victims who die in such tragedies as well, to ensure that their families receive every penny of damages that they are eligible to receive.

Call MyPhillyLawyer at 215-227-2727 or toll-free at 1-866-920-0352 anytime and our experienced, compassionate, aggressive team of attorneys and support staff will be there for you and your family every step of the way as we manage your case through the legal system.

When Winning Matters Most, Call MyPhillyLawyer.

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11 Teens Dead in Two Horrific Car Crashes in Ohio & Texas: Lessons Learned

The news in Ohio was bad enough on March 10, when six teenagers were killed in an overcrowded, speeding, stolen SUV that left a roadway and overturned into a pond.

It got worse hours later on that same fateful Sunday, when across the country five other teens were killed in Texas when the SUV they were riding in ran through a stop sign and collided with a gas tanker truck, leading to an inferno that spared only the adult truck driver.

In the Ohio crash, near Warren, the six teens were among eight who had crowded into a stolen black Honda Passport SUV that is only designed to hold five passengers, according to a report by CNN.com. Two of the teens survived by swimming to safety after breaking a window in the overturned, water-flooded vehicle, the story reported.

The SUV was speeding down the two-lane road, faster than the posted 35 mph speed limit, police told CNN. The Honda apparently veered off the left side of the road and crashed into a guardrail before flipping into a pond. No sign of drugs or alcohol were found in the SUV, police said.

“Investigators are trying to determine why, but Ohio State Highway Patrol Lt. Brian Holt said Monday that weather was not a factor in what he called the deadliest traffic accident in Trumbull County history — and the worst in Ohio in at least three years,” CNN reported.

Particularly frightening was the news that none of the eight passengers in the SUV was wearing a seat belt.

The victims included the driver, Alexis Cayson, 19; and passengers Andrique Bennett, 14; Kirklan M. Behner, 15; Daylan Ray, 15; Brandon A. Murray, 14; and Ramone M. White, 15, according to CNN. All of the teens were from Warren.

Two horrific car crashes like the one in this stock photo claimed the lives of 11 teens in two separate crashes in Ohio and Texas on March 10. Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/creatingmore

Two horrific car crashes like the one in this stock photo claimed the lives of 11 teens in two separate crashes in Ohio and Texas on March 10. Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/creatingmore

The two surviving teens ran a quarter mile to a nearby home to call for help after they escaped from the submerged SUV, according to the report.

In the Texas crash just hours later, 16-year-old Jacob Paul Stipe failed to stop at a stop sign in a rural intersection in Dumas as he drove a Chevrolet SUV, according to a report from CNN. The SUV was struck broadside by the tanker truck, causing both vehicles to burst into flames.

The teen died at the scene, as did his four passengers: October Dawn Roys, 17; Elizabeth Kay Roys, 15; Derrek Lee Hager, 17; and Christopher Lee Moore, 17, according to the report. The Roys girls were sisters.

The truck driver, Ezequel Melecio Garcia, survived and was flown to a hospital burn unit.

Both tragedies are certainly unbearable for the families, friends and communities that are involved.

The crashes are stark reminders of the dangers that await teens every time they step into motor vehicles, according to sobering statistics from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Traffic accidents continue to be the leading cause of death for young people – ages 15 to 20 years old – in America, according to the NHTSA. “Mile for mile, teenagers are involved in three times as many fatal crashes as all other drivers,” the agency states.

As many as 5,000 teens are killed in passenger vehicle crashes in the U.S. each year, according to agency statistics. “During 2006, a teen died in a traffic crash an average of once every hour on weekends and nearly once every two hours during the week.”

Contributors to those terrifying statistics include inexperience and immaturity combined with speed, drinking and driving, not wearing seat belts, distracted driving (cell phone use, loud music, other teen passengers, etc.), drowsy driving, nighttime driving, and other drug use, according to the agency.

In vehicle accidents involving teens, they are at far greater risk of death in an alcohol-related crash than the overall population, despite the fact that they are below the minimum drinking age in every state, according to the NHTSA. “Among 15- to 20-year-old drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2006, 31 percent of the drivers who were killed had been drinking and 77 percent of these drivers were unrestrained [by seatbelts].”

Also notable in accidents involving young people, according to the NHTSA, teens have lower seat belt use rates than adults. “Despite efforts aimed at increasing belt use in this age group, observed use among teens and young adults (16 to 24 years old) in 2008 was the lowest of any age group at 80 percent. In fatal motor-vehicle crashes, the majority of teens (16 to 20 years old) continue to be unbuckled (56 percent in 2009).”

So what can be done to help prevent more deaths in similar crashes?

That’s where parents, police and communities need to be more involved, according to experts.

The teens in the Ohio crash apparently had told different stories to their parents about where they would be that night, according to an Associated Press story.

There were lies told to parents, a car with five seats carrying eight teens, and an unlicensed driver,” reported the AP. “The car was speeding. No seat belts were used. If parents of teenagers need a real-life cautionary tale to sum up all their warnings and fears, surely the crash of a stolen car in Warren, Ohio that killed six teenagers is it.”

To help protect their children from such tragedies, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers a factsheet on the importance of parental monitoring, including talking to their children about where they will be, what they will be doing, who they will be with and when they will return home.

Some parents are already using the lessons learned from the tragedies in Ohio and Texas to remind their teens that driving or traveling in motor vehicles is serious business, according to the AP story. “You heard about that story?” Daniel Flannery, an Ohio father of three teens, asked his kids as news of the tragedy filtered out. “This could happen to you. It’s horrible. These kids are not coming home. I don’t want you to be that person.”

Mario Almonte of Queens, N.Y., told the AP that he and his wife talked to their teenage son about driving safety as the boy approaches the day when he will get his driver’s license. “We pointed to this tragedy and mentioned that he shouldn’t think something like this can never happen to him,” Almonte told the AP. “Sometimes it just takes one bad decision to end in tragedy.”

These tragedies are a good opportunity to talk with our children about their safety in motor vehicles, whether they are driving or if they are traveling in vehicles being operated by their friends. We can remind them not to make poor decisions, to respect the inherent dangers of vehicles and to not be afraid to call us if they need help or a ride or advice in any situation.

We all grieve with the families of the teens who died in these terrible crashes. May they all find the strength to get through the days and months and years to come.

We here at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to assist you with your legal case if you or a loved one is ever seriously injured in a vehicle accident caused by another driver anywhere in the United States. We represent the families of victims who die in such tragedies as well, to ensure that their families receive every penny of damages that they are eligible to receive.

Call MyPhillyLawyer at 215-227-2727 or toll-free at 1-866-920-0352 anytime and our experienced, compassionate, aggressive team of attorneys and support staff will be there for you and your family every step of the way as we manage your case through the legal system.

When Winning Matters Most, Call MyPhillyLawyer.

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Bronx SUV crash kills 7 family members, leaving unanswered questions

The investigation is continuing into a horrific SUV crash near the Bronx Zoo in New York that killed seven people from three generations of one family. Now the questions into the crash begin as authorities work to figure out what happened.

The family members were traveling south on the Bronx River Parkway next to the grounds of The Bronx Zoo when the 2004 Honda Pilot SUV they were riding in “bounced off the median, crossed three southbound lanes and hit the curb, causing the vehicle to become airborne, continue over the guardrail and plunge 59 feet,” according to a story by The Associated Press (AP).

The crash killed Jacob Nunez, 85, and Ana Julia Martinez, 81, who were visiting from the Dominican Republic, their daughters, Maria Gonzalez, 45, and Maria Nunez, 39, and three grandchildren, ages 10, 7 and 3, the story reported. Gonzalez was driving, according to police.

Emergency crews arrive to assist at the scene of an overturned SUV in this stock photo of an accident. Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/BrandyTaylor

All of the victims were wearing seat belts, and no other vehicles appeared to be involved in the crash, police said.

The cause of the crash is not yet clear, the AP story reported. The vehicle didn’t hit the guardrail but apparently went over it after striking the median and hitting a curb which propelled it into the air, according to accident investigators. The vehicle landed on its roof, killing all seven passengers instantly.

This wasn’t the first crash in that same stretch of roadway recently, the story said. “Last June, the driver of an SUV heading north lost control and the SUV hit a divider, bounced through two lanes of traffic and fell 20 feet over a guardrail, landing on a pickup truck in a parking lot,” the story said. No one died in the earlier crash.

This latest crash has inspired the borough president of the Bronx to ask city agencies to “look at safety issues on the highway including guardrail height,” according to the AP.

Because this was the second similar crash in a year in the same area, authorities will take a look to see if higher fences and guardrails are needed, according to a blog post by The New York Times.

“After this happened one time, I think there’s some thought that it’s freak occurrence,” said John DeSio, a spokesman for the Bronx Borough president. “But it has happened again. So we’ll be speaking to the appropriate agencies and examining whether appropriate safety measures, such as higher fences and guard rails, should be taken.”

A story in The New York Post reported that the Honda Pilot was traveling “‘at a high rate of speed’ — about 70 mph in a 50-mph zone — when it suddenly veered into the center divider at about 12:30 p.m.,” according to police.

“They flew right over the guardrail, didn’t even touch it,” a law-enforcement source told the paper.

Another official told the paper that they believed that the vehicle accidentally struck the median divider, then the driver tried to correct the error and turned right, causing the vehicle to go over the guardrail.

For the families, the grief and healing processes have begun and it will take quite some time for true healing to arrive.

For investigators, the crash leaves many questions that will have to be answered, including how could the vehicle have jumped over a guardrail that was allegedly meant to contain a vehicle so it wouldn’t careen off the road and into the deadly area below?

That’s one of the issues that attorneys will no doubt investigate if the family would decide to file lawsuits in connection with the crash.

Could a low guardrail at the scene of the crash contributed to the deaths of the passengers?

How did the design for a low guardrail gain approvals when the road was built?

Was this all investigated when another similar crash occurred in the area last June, when another vehicle went over the guardrail?

If not, why not?

Those are the kinds of things that professional attorneys investigate on behalf of their clients so that no stone is unturned when working to assist clients who have suffered losses and injuries.

The answers in this crash are still out there.

We hope that officials in the Bronx quickly determine whether safety improvements need to be made along this stretch so that future tragedies can be avoided.

If you or your loved ones are involved in a vehicle crash which leaves you seriously injured, we here at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to discuss your case and help you plan your legal strategy.

When Winning Matters Most, call MyPhillyLawyer.

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