Month: August 2016

Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed Against Hillary Clinton

The parents of Sean Smith and Tyrone Woods, two of the Americans killed in the Benghazi attacks, have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, according to a report by the New York Times. In the suit (available here), the parents allege that Hillary Clinton negligently contributed to their sons’ deaths by using a private email server and purposefully passing along incorrect information. This case presents interesting legal questions what a plaintiff must prove in terms of jurisdiction, statute of limitations, and causation to win a wrongful death claim in a court of law. Jurisdiction and Venue Two of the initial steps in bringing a lawsuit are establishing jurisdiction and venue. It’s important to point out that most wrongful death lawsuits are filed in state court and are governed by state wrongful death statutes. These statutes and state civil procedure can differ dramatically between the states. However, the lawsuit filed against Hillary Clinton was filed in federal court. In order to have a case heard in federal court, the plaintiff must establish that a federal district court can exercise jurisdiction over the matter.

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New distracted driving bill could ban drinking, eating, and more while driving

Distracted Driving Laws in AlabamaWhile 46 states currently ban text messaging while driving, other forms of distracted driving are still technically not illegal. In fact, over 70% of respondents in a recent survey admitted to eating while driving. Even more prevalent was drinking (non-alcoholic drinks) while driving, at 83%. However, this may be changing soon. In Maine, lawmakers have passed a bill that fines drivers up to $500 for distracted driving. The New Jersey legislature is considering a similar law in response to a study that shows about half of accidents in New Jersey involve distracted driving. The New Jersey law would prohibit drivers from doing anything "unrelated to the actual operation of a motor vehicle," including drinking, eating, using a navigation system, talking to passengers, putting on makeup, watching a video, or reading a map or book. In other words, that morning cup of coffee on the way to work would have to wait until you reach your destination. While these behaviors seem innocent enough, anything that takes the driver’s focus off the road poses an immediate danger to passengers and other motorists.

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Legal Liability with Pokémon Go Accidents

Pokemon Go! AccidentsThe new game Pokémon Go has been a big hit around the offices of Martinson and Beason; Pokémon trainers from across the city have gathered around Huntsville’s Big Spring Park and Courthouse Square to catch ‘em all. But unlike the safe land where the classic Pokémon games took place, the real world is full of dangers and possible injuries. So what happens if you trip and fall while catching ‘em all, or if you get hit by a truck chasing a Psyduck? Incidents have already started happening: a Pokémon trainer was robbed at gunpoint while playing the game, a driver crashed into a police car while distracted by Pokémon, and two players even walked off a 90-foot cliff. So could any of these people, or anyone else injured while playing the game, sue Nintendo, Niantic, or the Pokémon Company, all of whom are part owners? The answer is probably not. We’ll go into some of the top reasons why: 1) Niantic warned users of the potential dangers. In negligence and product liability cases, a manufacturer can argue be held liable for a “failure to warn,” leaving out adequate warnings that might inform consumers on the risks of a product. This argument would likely not hold water in a lawsuit against Pokémon Go; the game’s extensive terms of service, to which all users must agree, read, in part, “You agree that your use of the App and play of the game is at your own risk, and it is your responsibility to maintain such health, liability, hazard, personal injury, medical, life, and other insurance policies as you deem reasonably necessary for any injuries that you may incur while using the Services.” While one could argue against the validity of such a liability disclaimer, a lawyer for Niantic could certainly argue that the injured party had been fairly warned of the risks.

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Liability in Self-Driving Car Accidents

Tesla CarWhile self-driving and autonomous cars loaded with crash avoidance features seem to be the way of the future, there will inevitably be bumps along the road. Recently, a man in Florida was killed while using the autopilot feature on his Tesla automobile. The Tesla smashed into a truck turning left in front of it after it failed to anticipate the truck’s movements. The family of the deceased accident victim is now suing Tesla. According to Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk, the car failed to break due to the high ground clearance of the truck and a white reflection from the truck, which the car may have anticipated as an overhead road sign. It’s important to point out, however, that Tesla drivers using autopilot are required to keep their hands on the wheel and be ready to retake control of the vehicle at any time. The autopilot feature is not (yet) capable of allowing drivers to completely tune out, Tesla reminds us. Read Tesla’s statement here.

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Who pays if you’re injured in an Uber accident?

While the Uber app is turned on, the company’s insurance policy will cover an Uber driver and pay for any subsequent injuries you might experience. However, while the Uber app is off, the company is not liable for any injury, and the driver’s individual insurance company will have to cover any damages.

Uber Insurance

Here is a quick breakdown of Uber’s insurance policy as of July 2016.
  • Liability Coverage—An Uber driver’s liability to riders and third parties is covered from the moment the driver turns on the app, accepts a trip, and finishes the ride. Uber’s policy has up to $1 million of liability coverage.
  • Coverage for Physical Damage —If an Uber vehicle is physically damaged during a trip, the company’s insurance policy will cover the damage up to the vehicle’s cash value after payment of a $1,000 deductible.
  • Uninsured and Underinsured Injury—If another motorist causes an accident with an Uber vehicle and that motorist doesn’t have adequate insurance, Uber will provide up to $1 million of bodily injury coverage to all occupants of the rideshare vehicle.
  • Coverage between Rides—While a driver is driving around awaiting his or her next trip, Uber’s policy can cover up to $25,000 for property damage, up to $50,000 for bodily injury, and $100,000 for the total accident in the event that the driver doesn’t have adequate coverage.
  • Commercially Licensed Drivers—Drivers for UberBLACK, UberTAXI, and UberSUV are covered by their own commercial insurance policies.
As they specify on their site, each state has a slightly different policy due to differences in local laws. Click here to see Uber’s policy for each state.

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