Wet Roads Raise the Risk of an Auto Accident: A Kansas Attorney Discusses

Rain leads to more car accidents than any other inclement weather

According to recent data released from AAA Kansas, rain causes more auto accidents than any other weather condition. Roughly 68% percent of weather-related auto accidents (or 518,000) each year are caused by rain-washed roads. That is more than weather-related accidents caused by sleet, snow, and fog combined.

“Rain significantly impacts driving conditions – from visibility to traction and stopping time,” AAA Kansas spokeswoman Jennifer Haugh said in a statement. “But often, motorists don’t make the needed adjustments to their driving habits or address simple maintenance items on their vehicles that can make driving on rain-slickened roadways much safer.”

Safety tips when driving in the rain

  • Slow down: Wet roads can spell disaster, especially if you lose control of your car. The slower you drive, the easier it is to maintain control of your car, and the more time you have to react to hazards in the road.
  • Keep your distance: When on the road, leave more space between you and the car in front of you. That way, you have plenty of time to slow to a complete stop.
  • Watch for standing water: When water accumulates on the road, it can cause hydroplaning. This occurs when a car tire loses contact with the ground and drives on top of water lying on the road instead. If your car starts hydroplaning, immediately take your foot off the gas, turn on your hazard lights, and keep the wheel straight. Using cruise control also increases the risk of hydroplaning.
  • Find higher ground: If your vehicle is caught in a sudden buildup of water, leave your car and get to higher ground, if it is safe to do so. Your safety is much more important than your car.
  • Stick to the middle: If you are on a road with more than one lane, avoid outer lanes. Water tends to accumulate more on the edges of a road. When possible, stick to the center.

The Kansas car accident lawyers at Bretz & Young Injury Lawyers have seen how devastating weather-related accidents can be. If you or a loved one was injured in an accident due to someone else’s negligence, contact us for a free case evaluation.

The Dangers of Defective Farm Tractors

Operating a farm tractor can be extremely dangerous, even for those who are experienced. If a piece of equipment malfunctions, and accident can happen that leaves someone seriously hurt. 

That’s exactly what happened to a Reno County man who was planting wheat. The man was operating a tractor pulling a 30-foot “no-till” drill. He reportedly got off the tractor and began spreading the wheat seed. The tractor was designed to automatically shift into park when there is nobody in the driver’s seat. However, the shift feature malfunctioned, and the man was run over by the tractor. The man was airlifted to Wesley Medical Center in Wichita, where he was listed in critical condition.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that farming is one of the most dangerous occupations. In 2016 alone, 417 farmers and farm workers were killed in work-related accidents. The majority of these deaths were attributed to transportation incidents. According to the National Agriculture Safety Database (NASD), accidents involving tractors are the leading cause of death among farm workers. 

Filing a product liability claim 

If you were hurt in an accident involving farm equipment that failed to do what it was designed to do, you may be eligible for a product liability claim. This means that you can sue a farm equipment manufacturer or distributor for a dangerous defect. However, one of three factors must apply: 

  • The equipment design itself resulted in the accident; 
  • The quality of the materials used to manufacture the equipment was inadequate and caused the accident; or 
  • There was a failure to warn the operator of potential hazards. 

Common injuries caused by defective products include (but are not limited to):  

  • Broken bones 
  • Head injuries 
  • Spinal injuries 
  • Cuts, bruises and lacerations 
  • Organ damage 
  • Paralysis 
  • Death 

The attorneys at Bretz & Young have decades of experience representing injury victims across the state of Kansas. We understand how devastating a farm tractor accident can be.  

If you were injured in an accident that may have been caused by a defective product, contact us today to learn more about how we can help. 

Back to School Safety for Kansas Pedestrians and Bicyclists

As the new school year begins, AAA and the Kansas injury law team at Bretz & Young are urging drivers to please watch for pedestrians and bicyclists while driving through school zones.

Each year, some 55 million children across the U.S. return to school. Among them, 13 percent walk or ride bicycles. It’s imperative for drivers to be especially watchful for pedestrians before and after school.

Before and After School Hours the Most Hazardous

According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), the afternoon is especially perilous for pedestrians and bicyclists – with a quarter of all pedestrian deaths occurring between the hours of 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Motorists must be particularly vigilant at this time, bearing in mind that children and parents are on new routes and a new schedule as they are getting in and out of cars and school buses. Moreover, there are going to be a lot of inexperienced teenage drivers on the road during these hours, which creates additional safety concerns.

Drivers have an important role to play in keeping kids safe on their way to and from school.

According to AAA, as detailed by KSAL.com, drivers’ responsibilities include:

  • Slowing down. School zones have reduced speed limits for a reason. A pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling at 25 mph is two-thirds less likely to die in that collision than one hit by someone traveling 35 mph.
  • Being prepared to stop. Studies have shown that 1 in 3 motorists rolls through stop signs in school zones or neighborhoods. It is very important that you come to a complete stop because not only is it the law, you need to be able to check for children in the crosswalk before you head through.
  • Paying attention. Taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds can double your risk of a crash.
  • Backing up carefully. Just like every other vehicle, yours has blind spots. This is especially true where kids are involved because they may not be tall enough for you to see on sidewalks or while passing your driveway.

If you or a loved one was injured in a pedestrian or bicycle accident while in a school zone, it is important that you speak to an experienced attorney who can help you with your claim. Bretz & Young Injury Lawyers will fight to hold negligent drivers accountable for their actions. Contact us today and find out how we can help you.

Tips to Help Teens Avoid Kansas Car Accidents

Helping your teenager avoid Kansas car accidents involves more than a single approach. That’s a big part of the reason the Kansas Division of Vehicles has a series of graduated driver license requirements for teen drivers.

Recent data from the Kansas Department of Transportation reveals that in 2016, teen drivers were disproportionately represented in statewide crash data. For instance, those in the 15-to-19-year-old age bracket were involved in 11,997 crashes during that time, of which 42 had fatalities and 2,782 resulted in injuries.

By comparison, those in the 40-to-44 age group had a total of 6,728 crashes, 41 fatal and 1,609 causing injury.

Why Young Drivers Are So Crash-Prone

Teen drivers are much more prone to crashes due to several factors including inexperience, distraction – often by smartphones – and the tendency to misjudge the risk of certain driving behaviors.

In 2016, a total of 381 of Kansas’ crashes resulted in 429 deaths, with the No. 1 contributing factor being that the driver failed to provide his or her attention to the road. That was cited in 26 percent of all collisions. Other leading causes were right-of-way violations (13.4 percent) and following too closely (10.6 percent).

Exacerbating the problem at the moment is that we are in the midst of the “100 Deadliest Days of Summer,” defined as the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day when teens are at especially high risk of involvement in serious or fatal crashes. Reasons include lack of a routine schedule, more nighttime driving and increasing likelihood of having other teens as passengers (a top crash risk for young drivers).

Making Sure Teens Drive Safely

We recognize that learning the basics of road safety can be a lot for teens to process. The key points to consider are keeping speed in line with statutory limits and road conditions, never driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, avoiding nighttime driving when possible and limiting driver distraction, such as cell phone use. Parents should help their teens practice with plenty of time in the passenger seat helping to instruct them.

In the event that you or a loved one has been injured in an auto accident, you should speak to an experienced attorney at Bretz & Young Injury Lawyers and find out how we can help you.

Boating Accidents: An Underestimated Danger in Kansas

When vehicle accidents come to mind, we usually think of accidents that frequently happen on Kansas roadways. But what about the accidents that happen on our waters?

The Kansas City Star reported a tragic boating collision that killed three people and injured two others. The accident happened late at night and in an area of low population. One occupant was arrested on suspicion of operating a vessel while drunk, but evidence ruled out that individual. Law enforcement officers continue to investigate who caused the crash.

This is just one case in which negligence may have been a factor. In the event of a boating accident, it’s always best to speak to an experienced personal injury lawyer who can launch an investigation and find out who was responsible.

How prevalent are boating accidents?

Nationwide statistics from U.S. Coast Guard’s Boating Safety Division reveals that in 2016, July saw the highest number of boat accidents at a total of 728. Approximately 623 of those were non-fatal, while 129 were fatal. A total of 143 Americans lost their lives to boating accident in July of that year.

December had the lowest number of boating accidents at a total of 75, approximately 60 of which were non-fatal and 15 of which were fatal. A total of 18 people were killed in boating accidents during that month. Out of 4,463 boating accidents, 2016 had a total of 701 deaths.

While operating a vessel, a total of 2,600 accidents occurred, resulting in 1,908 injuries and 285 deaths. The majority of boating accidents occur while a vessel is in operation. The leading causes included:

  • Operator inattention: resulted in 597 accidents, 373 injuries and 45 deaths
  • Operator inexperience: resulted in 480 accidents, 301 injuries and 62 deaths
  • Improper lookout: resulted in 475 accidents, 380 injuries and 20 deaths
  • Excessive speed: resulted in 360 accidents, 275 injuries and 39 deaths
  • Alcohol use: resulted in 282 accidents, 264 injuries and 87 deaths
  • Other factors included: drug use, failure to vent, inadequate onboard navigation lights, navigation rules violation, restricted vision, sharp turns, and starting in gear.

Other factors included:

  • Loading of passengers or gear: resulted in 145 accidents, 94 injuries and 60 deaths. These accidents are caused by improper anchoring, improper loading, overloading passengers, or passengers on unsecured parts of a boat.
  • Failure of boat or equipment: resulted in 419 accidents, 149 injuries and 20 deaths.
  • Environment: resulted in 660 accidents, 381 injuries and 139 deaths. The leading factors included: congested waters, hazardous waters and waves, weather conditions, and navigation issues.
  • Other factors have resulted in 639 accidents, 371 injuries and 197 deaths. These included carbon monoxide exposure, ignition of fuel or vapor, sudden medical complications, and other unknown causes.

Local statistics

In 2016, Kansas had a total of 32 boating accidents, 17 of which resulted in non-fatal injuries, and seven of which resulted in fatal injuries. This only accounted for one percent of all boating accident-related deaths nationwide. Alcohol was a factor in six accidents, resulting in five injuries and two deaths.

If you have been injured in a boating accident, you may be eligible for compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and suffering. An experienced Kansas personal injury lawyer will advocate for you. Contact us today and find out how we can help.

Integrity, Trust, and the Legal Profession

Lawyers have been part of the bedrock of our country since it was founded. Twenty-five of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence were lawyers, and 32 of the 55 framers of the Constitution were lawyers. Participation in government, community service and advocacy for those in need of a voice are part of the very fabric of the legal profession.

Moreover, lawyers hold a special position of trust in their communities. It is that trust which gives a lawyer some measure of value. When the chips are down and we have to take a case to trial, we depend on the trust we’ve earned from the members of our community who are chosen to sit on a jury. As injury lawyers, when we advocate for people who have been hurt or disabled due to the negligence of others, we’re fighting not only to right the particular wrongs they have suffered, but also to make our community safer and prevent others from being hurt in the future.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that for the majority of attorneys, reputation and trust are everything. When a lawyer engages in misconduct and dishonesty, it is a betrayal of trust. It is an affront to the legal profession and to our entire community.

That is why we at Bretz & Young were so saddened by the news that Wichita lawyer Bradley Pistotnik was charged in a federal indictment.

According to the Wichita Eagle, Pistotnik and a software engineer, David Dorsett, have been charged with five counts of computer fraud and two counts of conspiracy. Pistotnik has also been charged with three counts of making false statements to the FBI.

We are disheartened by the negativity that the actions of one individual have brought upon the legal community. We work every day to be worthy of our clients’ trust and to obtain the compensation our clients need and deserve. We know this to be true of many of our colleagues.

And as Mr. Pistotnik’s indictment has rightly drawn more attention to the issue of ethics and integrity in the legal profession, we reaffirm our commitment to be worthy of trust in the community we serve.

Farm Machinery Traffic Accidents a Summer Risk in Kansas

Kansas motorists will face the added risk of slow-moving tractors, combines and other farm machinery through the autumn harvest season.

The Miami County Republic notes tractors, combines and other equipment are required to display slow-moving vehicle (SMV) reflective triangles and hazard lights when traveling on public roads. The signs signify that the equipment is moving at less than 25 miles per hour, alerting road users of the potential risk.

Farmers must ensure SMV signs are clean and visible and that hazard lights and reflectors are not blocked by machinery. Motorized equipment traveling after dark must also have working headlights.

Safe Traveling Around Farm Machinery

The Kansas injury lawyers at Bretz & Young know traffic collisions involving farm machinery are complex cases that often result in very serious or fatal injuries. Motorists who collide with combines or other large pieces of farm machinery face risks similar to accidents involving tractor-trailers or other large commercial vehicles. However, unlike commercial drivers, Kansas farmers enjoy a host of exemptions that permit them to bypass commercial-driving requirements, including hours-of-service, log-book requirements and medical certificates. These rules, which are meant to protect the safety of other motorists on the road, do not apply to farmers operating farm machinery on Kansas roads located wholly within the state, according to the Kansas Highway Patrol.

Many crashes involving farm equipment are rear-end collisions, wherein a motorist comes up behind slow-moving machinery while traveling too fast to stop. Thus, slowing down may be the best thing you can do on the rural roads of Kansas. The Republic notes the increasing prevalence of large farming operations means more and more farm equipment is on the road while traveling to distant fields.

A study by Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health found the majority of these crashes occur during the harvesting season, from September through December. Most occur during daylight hours in clear weather. The 5-year study found nearly 3,000 were seriously injured and more than 160 killed in collisions with farm machinery in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

The Kansas Department of Transportation reports more than 100 collisions a year occur between farm machinery and passenger-vehicle traffic.

Liability for Accidents with Farm Machinery in Kansas

Safe passing is critical when dealing with slow-moving farm machinery. Injured motorists may pursue a claim for damages against a farmer determined to be negligent in causing or contributing to a collision. However,  K.S. 60-258a outlines contributory negligence under Kansas law, which may reduce the plaintiff’s damage award in cases where the injured victim is found to be partially at fault.

Claims of negligence against a farm machinery operator and/or his employer may include general negligence, gross negligence, recklessness, willful or wanton conduct, negligent hiring and retention, negligent entrustment and vicarious liability. If you have been injured in a crash with farm equipment, you should consult with an experienced attorney at Bretz & Young Injury Lawyers.

Local Attorney’s Office Features Abraham Lincoln Statue

Visitors to the offices of Bretz & Young, a Hutchinson personal injury firm, will spot a familiar face on a prominent piece of art displayed in the office.

A statue at the firm depicts Abraham Lincoln, who worked as a trial lawyer before becoming the sixteenth President of the United States. Lincoln is shown leaning forward with his head slightly bowed, as though carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders.

“The Lincoln statue is a centerpiece of our work here at Bretz & Young,” said attorney Matthew Bretz, founder of the firm. “Abe dedicated his life to righting wrongs, both as an attorney and as president during the most trying time in our nation’s history. He gave everything he had, and he inspires us to this day.”

Gib Singleton, the artist who created the statue, was widely considered a modern master of bronze sculpture. Singleton’s work is featured at the Vatican, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and the Olympic Museum in Switzerland, among many other world-class collections.

Kansas Hit-and-Run Accidents Reach Record High

Recent reports indicate that hit-and-run accidents have reached alarming highs across the state of Kansas. This data raises serious questions of safety on roads all over the state. Additionally, pedestrians and bicyclists are the most affected, accounting for roughly 65 percent of hit-and-run accidents.

The Data on Hit-and-Run Accidents in Kansas

The Topeka Capital-Journal reports on data released by AAA Kansas. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety had found that hit-and-run accidents increased by 60 percent nationwide between 2009 and 2016. AAA Kansas reports that more than one hit-and-run crash per minute occurs in the United States.

Here in Kansas, 2016 saw 365 crashes involving pedestrians and 324 crashes involving bicyclists. These accidents resulted in 23 pedestrian fatalities and three bicyclist fatalities. The Kansas Department of Transportation also reports that 371 injuries occurred as a result of these accidents.

When accidents do occur, it is important for drivers to follow through on their legal obligations to stay on the scene. Every state has made it illegal to leave the scene of an accident. The Kansas law is found at Section 8-1604 of the Kansas Statutes. This law requires any driver involved in an accident resulting in property damage, injury or death to provide their name, address, and vehicle registration number.

What accident victims can do after a hit-and-run accident

In a perfect world, the driver who caused your accident would stick around and follow all of the appropriate procedures. Unfortunately some drivers will flee the scene of a crash. After a conventional traffic accident, you would receive compensation from the negligent party’s insurance company. However, Kansas law requires all drivers to carry uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. This not only covers your medical expenses and lost wages if you have been involved in a crash with an uninsured driver, it also covers losses accrued in hit-and-run accidents.

The only downside to uninsured motorist coverage is that your compensation can be reduced depending on how much fault you contributed to the accident. If you’re a pedestrian or bicyclist who caries uninsured motorist coverage, your policy will also apply if you are injured by a hit-and-run driver.

Our Kansas car accident attorneys have seen the devastating damage victims and their families must suffer as the result of another driver’s negligence. Drivers who fail to meet their legal obligations to drive with due care must be held accountable for their negligence. By filing a personal injury claim or lawsuit, an injury victim is both asserting his or her own legal rights, and also protecting other potential victims from similar injuries in the future.

Kansas Targets Distracted Driving In “Don’t Stream and Drive” Campaign

Since the advent of smartphone technology, distracted driving has become a major public safety hazard. Public awareness campaigns by government road authorities and advocacy organizations have brought awareness to many important aspects of the problem. The safety of hands-free devices, non-technological distractions such as food and drink, and “do not disturb while driving” features are all important issues for drivers to consider.

Now, a new advocacy group is addressing yet another important issue related to distracted driving. 

The Dangers of Live Streaming While Driving

In recent years, live streaming has become a popular practice on many social media platforms. Facebook Live, Periscope, and similar programs have allowed social media users to broadcast their current activities. Unfortunately, this practice has also caused some drivers to let themselves become distracted from the road.

Live streaming requires users to devote attention to their phones. As a result, drivers who live stream from behind the wheel are paying little attention to the task of operating a motor vehicle. This unsafe and unnecessary distraction puts drivers, passengers, pedestrians, bicycle riders, and other road users in danger.

New advocacy efforts have been devoted to preventing the practice of live streaming while behind the wheel. Don’t Stream and Drive is an international awareness campaign started by a British police officer. Dozens of law enforcement agencies around the world have supported the effort to make the public aware of the risks of streaming and driving. Now, the Kansas Highway Patrol is also joining the effort. KSN interviewed one trooper who noted that the cognitive distraction of a phone is bad enough, but taking eyes off the road and hands off the wheel is a “disaster waiting to happen.” He reminds readers that automobiles are, in fact, deadly weapons.

What Can Be Done About Distracted Driving?

Live streaming can be particularly common among young drivers. These young drivers are some of the most common users of social media platforms, but they are also inexperienced and even less able to divert their attention from driving tasks than older drivers.

Parents should be vigilant about instilling safe driving habits in their teen drivers as soon as they learn to drive. Driving privileges should be contingent upon safe driving habits (such as not posting or live streaming on social media while driving).

Ultimately, it is the responsibility of each driver to keep his or her attention on the road. Advocacy efforts and public awareness campaigns have helped many drivers meet this responsibility. Unfortunately, other drivers do not, and injury victims continue to be hurt on the roads of Kansas as a result.

It is important for these injury victims to hold distracted drivers accountable for their negligent conduct. Without the deterrent of a personal injury lawsuit or insurance claim, many drivers will continue to let themselves be distracted by handheld devices and put other road users in danger. Personal injury lawsuits will not prevent all distracted driving, but they are an important deterrent to unsafe driving behaviors.

Kansas car accident attorney can help injury victims both protect their legal right to compensation and hold distracted drivers accountable for their behavior in order to protect other innocent victims on the road.