Munley News

What you MUST know before buying car insurance

8111184_sOne of the most important factors in determining whether you are able to take legal action after a car accident is the tort option on your auto insurance policy. Unfortunately, many people don’t know what tort option they have.

Listen as Attorney Marion Munley explains the difference between full and limited tort, and why it makes a big difference.

Full Tort vs. Limited Tort

When buying car insurance In Pennsylvania, you have the option to choose full tort or limited tort. Full tort allows you to pursue legal action in the event of an accident, regardless of the severity of your injuries. Limited tort, on the other hand, limits your right to compensation in an auto accident. And, this limitation does not just apply to you – it may also apply to the other members of your household.

With a limited tort policy, you may only sue the at-fault party for the cost of medical bills, but not for pain and suffering (and pain and suffering often make up the bulk of a personal injury case settlement) unless the accident caused death, permanent or severe impairment of a bodily function, or serious disfigurement. So, if you have a limited tort policy, you might not receive any compensation for your suffering if your injuries are not deemed “serious” enough.

But, there are also some exceptions to the limited tort rule, regardless of your injuries:

  • If you were hit by a drunk driver
  • If you are a pedestrian who was hit by a vehicle
  • If the defendant’s vehicle is registered out-of-state
  • If you were riding in a commercial vehicle
  • If you were riding with a resident relative or spouse who has full tort, and were injured as a passenger
  • If the defendant is uninsured

In any of the situations above, your limited tort constrictions would no longer apply.

Why do people opt for limited tort?

Two reasons:

  1. It is slightly less expensive
  2. They don’t realize what they’re giving up by selecting limited tort

When buying car insurance, many people forgo the full tort option in an effort to save money on their policy. As attorneys who regularly meet with victims of car or truck accidents, we know how disheartening it is for people to learn that their car insurance policy’s tort option limits their ability to sue – especially when they may not even be aware of what their tort option is. There are lots of ways to save money on car insurance, but giving up your legal rights should not be one of them.

All it takes is one accident to put things in perspective. If you have been involved in a car accident and you’re wondering what your legal options are, call Munley Law today. We will gladly answer your questions and help you decide the next steps to take. You can reach us at 855-866-5529.

Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety Rank States in Annual Report

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On January 22, the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety released their 12th annual “Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws” report. The report outlines the number of people killed and injured in motor vehicle crashes in the United States in 2013 (the latest data available), and what can be done to improve safety on our nation’s roads.  Areas of focus include child passenger safety, teen drivers, impaired driving, distracted driving, seat belt and helmet laws.  The report also provides a state-by-state breakdown of where safety laws are enforced, and issues “green” “yellow” and “red” ratings based on this. See how your state compares to the rest of the country when it comes to safety laws and traffic deaths. If you want clear, reader friendly analysis or quick facts about car accidents where you live, click here to check it out.

Key findings:

32,719 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes in the United States in 2013—a  3% decrease from 2012.  An estimated 2.3 million people were injured in motor vehicle crashes in 2013.  Almost half (49%) of passenger vehicle occupants killed were unrestrained.

Here’s a breakdown of how PA scored in the report’s 5 categories:

Occupant protection: Including primary enforcement front and rear seat belt laws, and all rider motorcycle helmet laws – PA ranks in the red. Meaning, our state lacks two or more of those three laws.

Child passenger safety: PA is in the green, we have optimal booster seat laws enforced.

Teen driving: In this section, there are 7 provisions under consideration: that the minimum age for acquiring a learner’s permit is 16; that student drivers have a 6 month holding period before they may receive a driver’s license; that they have 30-50 hours of supervised driving before they may receive a driver’s license; nighttime driving restriction; passenger restriction; cell phone restriction; that the age requirement  for an unrestricted license is 18. PA is yellow, meaning it only meets 4 of those 7 provisions.

Impaired driving: The three aspects of this category are laws concerning ignition interlock devices, child endangerment, and open containers.  Pennsylvania ranks  yellow, as we have no ignition interlock law. An ignition interlock device is similar to a breathalyzer. It is linked to the vehicle’s ignition, and is designed to prevent someone who is intoxicated from driving. These devices are to be used by those convicted of a DUI. Ignition interlock device laws are currently in place in 24 states – PA is not among them.

Distracted driving: Pennsylvania ranks green in this category, as we have optimal texting restriction laws.

Pennsylvania received a yellow rating overall.

As Pennsylvania car and truck accident lawyers, highway and auto safety is among our top concerns. While it is encouraging that the number of traffic deaths nationwide has decreased some, there is much room for improvement, especially in our home state. If you or a loved one have suffered an injury or been in an accident, contact Munley Law. Our initial consultation is free. We can be reached at 855-866-5529.

Boston and New York leading the way toward safer streets

18600457_sSteven Gursten of the Michigan Auto Law blog has a great new post about truck safety. A few months ago, Boston became the first US city to require side guards on large commercial trucks. The purpose of the side-guard is to prevent other vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians from becoming caught underneath trucks.

Why is this important? Well, “underride” accidents are actually a serious concern. Underrides occur when a smaller vehicle becomes caught under the back of a truck in the event of a crash. Most trucks have underride bars, which are designed to prevent this from happening. When they function correctly, they can prevent significant injury. When they fail, passengers inside the smaller vehicle can be crushed, killed, or decapitated.

The side-guards will help to thwart these kinds of accidents for other drivers on the road. But, they also serve to protect cyclists and pedestrians. Of the fatal pedestrian accidents that occurred in Boston since 2011, most of them involved a truck or a bus. The side guard is designed to keep cyclists and pedestrians out from under large trucks, thereby, hopefully, preventing collisions from being fatal when they do occur.

In addition to the side guards, Boston has also implemented the use of new “cross over” mirrors that significantly improve truck drivers’ ability to see pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists who may be traveling in large blind spots in front of the cab.

In the same year, NYC made some significant changes in order to promote the safety of its pedestrians and eliminate traffic deaths. By reducing the speed limit and ramping up law enforcement, the city was able to bring the number of pedestrian deaths – which was on the rise – to an all-time low.

This is the kind of action we would like to see more of across the country, and especially here in Pennsylvania, where we see a great deal of commercial trucking traffic. But, a lot of those trucks we see on the road are from out of state, so it truly must be a national effort to make our roads safer. The good news is that cities like New York and Boston are making moves in the right direction.

If you or a loved one have been in an accident involving  a large truck, the truck accident attorneys at Munley Law can help. We welcome your inquiries and our initial consultation is free. Contact us at 855-866-5529.

Trucker rest rule suspension puts all drivers at risk

tractor trailerWATCH: Attorney Dan Munley weighs in on the suspension of trucker rest laws and what it means for other drivers on the road.

Last month, we covered the breaking news that the federal government moved to suspend certain laws that had been put in place just a year earlier regarding rest requirements the maximum weekly hours of operation for truck drivers. The previous law required that the 34-hour interim between work weeks include at least two periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. – this was intended to provide truckers with the opportunity to get more sleep before getting back at the wheel. Now, the break between work weeks need only include one 1 a.m. -5 a.m. period. Thus, truck drivers may begin a work week having gotten less sleep, and that work week may be as long as 80 hours.

Proponents of this change, including Senator Susan Collins, have claimed that the previous laws had “unforeseen” consequences requiring further study. Among these consequences is the fact that drivers who are required to be off the road during the aforementioned 1a.m.-5a.m. periods were then forced to operate during busier daylight hours, and that this created more opportunity for accidents.

As Dan Munley explains in this interview, our concern for public safety results not from what time of day these truckers are operating, but from whether or not they are driving while sleep-deprived.

While an accident can occur at any time of day, darkness is conducive to drowsiness, and drivers are more likely to be less alert after one night of sleep rather than two. Even if accidents are more frequent during daylight hours, it is illogical for drivers to be operating on less sleep, regardless of what time of day truckers are on the road.  It simply makes sense to require that drivers be better rested, and therefore better able to perform their jobs safely. Decreasing the minimum rest requirements only benefits trucking companies, while it puts truckers themselves and the general public in danger.

The final arbiter of safety is physiology, not Congress,” said Barbara Phillips, a medical professor at the University of Kentucky in Lexington who sat on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Medical Review Board from 2006 to 2010.

“Fatigue and sleep deprivation are contributors to crashes in all drivers,” said Phillips. “Performance begins to decline after about four hours and is very severely impaired after 10 hours. Accidents happen because of impaired vigilance and delayed reaction time, so you don’t hit the brake as fast.”

What is it really like to be a truck driver? This is a fantastic article from Bloomberg’s  Jennifer Oldham, riding along with truck driver Tracy Livingston for six days as on her route from Michigan to Tennessee. Livingston shares her experience traveling 14 hours a day, with not-so-restful rest periods being spent in the cab of her truck.

Even under the 2013 laws, driver fatigue was still a major issue. The news, local and national, is full of stories involving truck drivers who fall asleep at the wheel. Drivers will sometimes falsify their work logs in order to appear to be compliant, while remaining on the road longer than law allows. Some drivers will even resort to extreme measures, taking drugs such as amphetamines to stay awake.

As a law firm, we see firsthand  how these kinds of accidents can wreck the lives of individuals and families. If you or a loved one have been involved in an accident with a large truck, contact Munley Law at 855-866-5529. We specialize in truck accident cases.

Attorney Julia Munley to Child Sexual Abuse Victims: “You are Not Alone”

Julia MunleyIn a recent interview, Attorney Julia Munley discusses misconduct and sexual abuse perpetrated by adults in positions of authority against minors. Attorney Munley has long been an advocate for victims and their families. Today, she helps to shed some light on this issue and offers some key pieces of advice for those who are concerned.

WNEP reported that Pennsylvania is ranked second in the country for reported claims of misconduct by teachers. In the last few months alone there have been at least seven stories just in our home region of Northeast PA.

It’s difficult to get hard and fast numbers on just how many of these incidents are occurring because claims do not always result in criminal charges. Moreover, victims don’t always report abuse.  In fact, it is estimated that the majority of instances of abuse are not reported.  The Children’s Advocacy Center says that 1 out of every 4 girls will be abused, as will 1 out of every 6 boys. While it’s hard to know for certain if these cases are on the rise and to what degree, we seem to be hearing more and more about tales of abuse inflicted by  teachers, coaches, clergy, or other trusted community members.

There is a great deal of speculation as to what has caused this increase.  It is possible that increased media coverage is a partial explanation, along with an increase in the number of victims who feel comfortable sharing their experiences. But, it is also likely that in our rapidly changing world, the ways in which abusers gain access to victims is changing as well.  So, are these cases on the rise, or are we simply hearing about them more? Attorney Munley says, it is two-fold. Factors such as the Internet and social media can easily be exploited by abusers seeking access to minors.  But, it is also likely that victims are feeling more comfortable and safe coming forward to expose misconduct, as we strive to raise awareness of this type of abuse.

Another aspect of the issue is that even when cases of exploitation are brought to light, school officials or other authority figures often keep the incidents quiet, perhaps to protect the reputation of the school or to prevent outcry.  The perpetrators leave, and move on to another school district or community and continue the same behavior with a different group of children. There is not nearly enough/adequate record of these types of cases, not enough communication among districts, and this must change.

Attorney Munley stresses that those who become aware of abuse are obligated – ethically and legally – to come forward and contact the authorities.

Finally, Attorney Munley extends some advice to victims and parents.  First and foremost, she says, “you are not alone.” 19536521_sSexual abuse is never the victim’s fault. It is important to come forward and seek justice, especially in order to prevent other children from being abused by the same perpetrator.  As Attorney Munley explains, the criminal justice system will see that the perpetrator is punished accordingly, and then the civil justice system will seek reparation for the suffering endured by the victim and his/her family.

While these stories of exploitation are disturbing and heartbreaking, it is important that they are brought to light, rather than brushed off or hushed up. Hopefully, bringing attention to these abuse issues is one step toward creating a safer world.

Watch the full interview here.

If you or someone you love has been a victim of sexual abuse by an authority figure, call the authorities as soon as possible, and seek support from groups like the Children’s Advocacy Center or the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-444-4435.  Then, contact Munley Law.

Honda hit with record-setting $70 million fee; drivers remain unfazed

hondaHonda Motor Co. has been hit with a record-setting $70 million fine after failing to report over 1700 injuries, deaths, and warranty claims linked to their vehicles. While this is the largest penalty ever imposed on an automaker by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, car-buyers seem unfazed.

Honda has agreed to pay two fines, each for $35 million, for underreporting the number of injuries and deaths in their vehicles, as well as for the number of warranty claims, from 2003-2014. The number of injuries and deaths related to Honda’s vehicles is more than double what the company had initially reported.

The fines imposed on Honda were the highest allowed by law. This reflects the government’s “tough stance” on auto safety issues, continuing the trend we have seen over the last year.  Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx says last that the NHTSA issued more fines last year than in the rest of its entire history put together. Pennsylvania Injury LawyerFoxx stresses that automakers have a responsibility to American drivers, and reporting safety concerns – and doing so in a timely manner –  is an extremely important part of that responsibility. Automakers are required by law to report information such as injuries, deaths, and warranty claims though an “Early Warning System.” This information is then used to help identify widespread defects and determine if additional action, like a recall, is necessary.

Interestingly, while Anthony Foxx and the NHTSA might be cracking down on Honda, consumers do not appear to be similarly concerned. Honda reported record sales in 2014.  According to the Guardian, Honda sales are still up, and Honda is still a trusted brand, despite its series of safety issues this year. In addition to its failure to report safety concerns, Honda was also the automaker most affected by faulty Takata airbags. The airbag defect caused Honda to recall over five million of its vehicles. Despite the negative press surrounding Honda, it is still a favored brand among many loyal American consumers. And, this trend is likely to continue, as the 2015 versions of some of Honda’s most popular models have earned the IIHS’s Top Safety ratings.

Honda’s representatives have attributed the oversight to data entry errors, and stated that in 2015 the company will implement better training methods for its employees in an effort to prevent future mistakes.

Hopefully, the fines and recalls that have plagued the auto-industry over the last year will prove to be indicative of a larger trend in which safety is becoming more of a focus.

If you or a loved one have been involved in a car accident or truck accident in a vehicle that was recalled or defective, contact Munley Law to discuss your legal options. Our consultations are absolutely free. We can be reached at 855-866-5529.

9 cars and 9 trucks in deadly pileup during snow squall

snowsquallOn Wednesday, a sudden snow squall lead to an 18-vehicle pileup on Interstate 80 in Pennsylvania. This was the third in a series of similar accidents in one week. When it comes to winter driving concerns, “snow squall” seems to be the latest buzzword.

While driving this week, you may have noticed signs on the highways flashing “be alert for snow squalls.”  What makes a snow “squall” different from typical snowfall? Snow squalls tend to appear more suddenly, and therefore pose a different kind of danger. In a matter of a few moments, drivers can suddenly find themselves in white-out conditions and get caught off guard. Roads that are completely dry one minute can be covered and slippery just a few minutes later.  Drivers who do not adjust their speed and take extra care can end up in an accident.

On New Year’s Day, a snow squall was to blame for a series of pileups involving “dozens of vehicles” on a highway in Ontario, according to Time Magazine.

The next day, about 35 vehicles were involved in a massive crash caused by a snow squall in Ashland, NH. One vehicle caught fire and 12 people were taken to the hospital for injuries.

Then, on Wednesday, 18 vehicles including 9 trucks, several of them tractor trailers, collided in a deadly accident during a whiteout in Clarion Township, PA.   Two people were killed, several others were injured. A tractor trailer driver was hit by another vehicle and killed and when he got out of his truck to try to help others who had been hurt in the crash.

In the winter, driving conditions can change quickly and take you by surprise. But, keeping in mind a few safety tips can help you to avoid an accident. In winter weather, reducing your speed helps you to maintain control in slippery conditions, and improves your ability to brake in order to avoid hitting a car in front of you. When it snows, turn on your headlights. In the middle of the day, conditions can go from crystal clear to whiteout in a matter of minutes, and many drivers don’t immediately remember to turn their headlights on.  It’s important not only that you be able to see other vehicles but that other drivers can see you, too.

If you have been involved in a car or truck accident, it is important that you have the best possible legal representation to guide you through this difficult time.  Contact Munley Law at 855-866-5529 to arrange a free consultation with a lawyer who will help you determine the best course of action.

Attorney Chris Munley Ambassador for Meals on Wheels in Happenings Magazine

James Christopher MunleyIn addition to being a dedicated lawyer, husband, and father, Attorney Chris Munley shows unwavering support for worthwhile causes in the community.

In the January issue of Happenings Magazine (pg. 99-100),  Chris Munley tells us about his involvement with Meals on Wheels. The magazine’s annual contest, “Ties that Bind,” features four local men and their “ties” to various non-profit organizations. In “Ties that Bind,” Munley shares the story behind his purple tie and tells us why he is proud to represent Meals on Wheels, a nonprofit organization that provides those in need with over 800 meals per day, all year round.  The program provides nutritious meals for economically disadvantaged adults in our home region. Many of the recipients are elderly people who would not otherwise be able to remain in their own homes. But, adults of all ages, including those who are recovering after being discharged from the hospital, are eligible. Though we may not realize it, hunger is a reality for so many people in our own communities. Meals on Wheels relies on donations from the public in order to continue to help those who would otherwise go hungry.

Read the full article to learn more about the other three contestants and their inspiring commitment to their communities. Click here to read on, and to show your support for Meals on Wheels by voting for Chris!

As personal injury attorneys, it is our job to help people during some of their most difficult times. But we want to do more than that. Munley Law is proud to serve our local community in as many ways as possible. You can join us by donating to Meals on Wheels here.

NYC’s “mean streets” just got a little nicer: 2014 saw the fewest pedestrian deaths in a century

pedestrian crosswalk accident lawyer paPedestrian deaths in NYC were at an all-time low in 2014. That year, the city saw the fewest fatal pedestrian accidents (132) since they started keeping track one hundred years ago.

Overall traffic fatalities fell from 293 to 248.

Such a drop seems incredible, particularly for a city with as much vehicle and pedestrian traffic as New York. So, how did they accomplish this? It is due in part to a mission implemented by Mayor Bill de Blasio and the NYPD called “Vision Zero,” an ambitious plan aimed at eliminating traffic fatalities in New York.  The plan involved lowering the speed limit and stepping up law enforcement. The city reduced speed limits from 30mph to 25mph, and increased the number of tickets issued for failing to yield to pedestrians by 126%.  The Taxi and Limousine Commission also issued thousands more for safety-related violations.

The change comes in response to a community who had evidently had enough. The number of people struck and killed by cars in New York City had been steadily rising for years.  According to the NYPD, there were 156 pedestrian deaths in 2013, an increase from 152 in 2012 and 142 in 2011.

One bill passed by the City Council, “Cooper’s Law,” was inspired by a 9-year-old boy who was struck and killed by a taxi in January, 2014. The bill allows the city to suspend or revoke the license of a taxi driver who kills or seriously injures a pedestrian who has the right of way.  City Controller Scott Stringer described Cooper’s death as “the last straw.”

It is encouraging to see that the changes made by the city of New York have actually yielded positive results. As personal injury lawyers, we have seen the kind of trauma and devastation wrought by pedestrian accidents, many of which are preventable. It is our hope that New York City’s apparent success in their endeavor to reduce the number of traffic deaths will serve as an example to other communities across the country, and that this decrease may become a national trend.

“If you or a loved one have been injured as pedestrians in a traffic accident, our firm can help you to secure the compensation you are owed for your suffering. Contact us to arrange a free consultation with an attorney who will help you determine the next legal steps to take.” –  Attorney Dan Munley

We can be reached at 855-866-5529.

Contemplating a new car? IIHS names 71 safest

car safetyAmid a series of safety issues and recalls this year, there is good news for drivers: more vehicles meet stricter safety standards in 2015.

It’s been a rough year for the auto-safety world, with recalls from GM followed by recalls from airbag manufacturer Takata affecting vehicles from seven major automakers. Last week, Takata’s president, Stephan Stocker, stepped down from his position.  He will remain with the company as a board member; Chairman Shigehisa Takada will take his place. Both Takada and Stocker, as well as other Takata executives, will reportedly take 50% pay cuts in the coming months.

While Takata has refused to expand the recall on its airbags nationwide, automakers including Honda, Chrysler, Ford, Mazda, and BMW have issued a nationwide recall on their vehicles containing Takata airbags.

But, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety offers drivers hope as they announced last week that their list of vehicles earning the  two top safety ratings (Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick+) is nearly twice as long as last year’s – and that’s with tougher criteria.crash test car safety A new test, the “small overlap” test, was added this year. The small overlap test replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with an object such as a tree or a utility pole. Because small overlap crashes are common in real life, the IIHS wanted to put pressure on automakers to make their vehicles more crashworthy in this respect. The Honda CR-V and the Toyota Prius are two 2015 models that have been modified for improved safety and have earned the top ratings this year.

Other safety features such as automatic brake technology and warning systems were important factors in determining the Top Safety Picks. In 2015, safety technology is not just about helping you to survive a crash – it is also aimed at  helping you to avoid an accident altogether.

For a full list of this year’s top picks, click here!

If you are involved in a car accident, the vehicle you’re riding in can make a big difference when it comes to the severity of your injuries and your chances of survival.  Do you know the safety rating on your vehicle? To see how YOUR car measures up, click here.

If you or a loved one have been in a car accident, or have been injured in a vehicle that has been recalled, contact the experienced car accident and recall attorneys at Munley Law at 855-866-5529 for a free consultation.