Importance of an Expert Witness - Haygood Cleveland Pierce Thompson & Short

The Role of an Expert in an Injury Case

When someone is injured because of the negligence or reckless actions of another party, they have a right to be compensated. However, it is not always easy for injured parties to recover full and fair compensation. It is very rare that someone freely admits fault and writes a check to cover all your losses. In fact, most of the time, the injured party does not even deal directly with the responsible party. Instead, they must seek compensation from their insurer.

This is usually a lengthy process that involves a series of back-and-forth negotiations. And if the insurance company does not negotiate in good faith, you may have to file a personal injury lawsuit to recover damages. This is one of many reasons it is a good idea to have a skilled personal injury attorney represent you during this process. Attorneys with in-depth knowledge in this area of the law have years of experience putting together a winning case.

There are many critical factors that can decide the outcome of a case and how much the injured party will recover. This includes gathering all the key facts and evidence (such as accident reports, medical records, photographs and video footage of the scene, etc.), obtaining statements from eyewitnesses, and enlisting the testimony of expert witnesses. An expert witness can often play an important role during a personal injury case.

What is an Expert Witness?

Expert witnesses are not to be confused with eyewitnesses. An eyewitness is any individual that might have seen what happened. An expert witness almost never actually witnessed the event. Their value lies in their ability to lend their expertise to various facts and pieces of evidence in the case and provide a perspective that helps clarify the importance of this information and what it means to the case.

Expert witnesses are professionals with extensive experience who have achieved a high level of education, skill, knowledge, and training in their chosen field. They are reputable individuals who are held to the highest ethical standards. This gives them the credibility to speak authoritatively about the subject matter in which they have expertise.

There are many professionals who could potentially serve as expert witnesses in an injury case. These include:

The Role of an Expert in Injury Cases

Expert witnesses are used primarily in two ways:

  • A consulting expert is someone who works behind the scenes to consult with the legal team and provide essential support. They can review various facts and pieces of evidence, explain their importance, and assist the team with their legal strategy. Unless they are later converted to a testifying expert, the other side may never know that they were consulted.
  • A testifying expert is someone who is chosen by the legal team to testify in court. Testifying experts must be disclosed to the other side. For this reason, it is important to choose someone with strong communication skills, courtroom experience, and the demonstrated ability to make complex information understandable for the average person. Oftentimes, the presence of testifying experts with a proven track record may be enough to compel the other side to negotiate a settlement rather than going through with a trial that is likely to cost them a lot more.

The Importance of Expert Witnesses in Alabama Injury Cases

Personal injury cases can be difficult to win in Alabama because of the state’s “contributory negligence” legal doctrine. Under this doctrine, if an injured party is found to be even 1% at-fault for the event that caused the injury, they can be barred from recovering damages. Insurance companies and other defendants frequently try to take advantage of this high standard by trying to assign at least part of the blame to an injured party. Because of the ability for expert witnesses to clarify the facts and evidence, they can often make the difference between the success or failure of a case.

If you or someone close to you has suffered a personal injury in Alabama, be sure to work with an attorney who has a successful track record with these types of cases, and who is not afraid to call in an expert witness when needed to help ensure that you are in the best possible position to obtain a favorable outcome. Contact the experienced Alabama personal injury attorneys at (334) 821-3892 or through our website contact form.

How to avoid an accident with a big-rig truck - Haygood Cleveland Pierce Thompson & Short

Trucking Accidents: The Best Ways to Avoid an Accident with a Big Rig

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, there were approximately 475,000 police-reported accidents with large trucks in 2016. More than 100,000 of these accidents resulted in injuries, and almost 4,000 were fatal. In 83% of the fatal crashes, the victims are drivers and passengers of other vehicles, and not the occupants of the large trucks.

The data regarding fatalities in accidents with big rigs is not all that surprising. Common sense tells us that when an ordinary passenger vehicle crashes with a large commercial truck, most of the time, those driving and riding in the car are going to take the brunt of it. While some trucking accidents are unavoidable, most could be prevented. To avoid these types of accidents, motorists need to take extra precautions when driving near large trucks.

Here are five ways to avoid an accident with a big rig:

  1. Give Large Trucks Plenty of Space

18-wheelers and other large trucks need room to maneuver on the roadways. If you drive too close to them, you are at risk of several things that could go wrong. These include sudden braking, tire blowouts, truck rollovers due to high winds, and your vehicle being struck by cargo flying out of the back of a truck. Never tailgate a big rig truck (or any other vehicle for that matter), and always give a large truck plenty of distance. This goes double when there are adverse driving conditions such as heavy rain, wind, ice, etc.

  1. Stay Out of Blind Spots

Every vehicle has a blind spot, and nearly a million motor vehicle accidents a year result from drivers failing to see another vehicle that enters their blind spot. The dangers are greater for big rig trucks, because they have multiple blind spots. For this reason, it is very important for drivers to spend as little time as possible in an 18-wheeler’s blind spot. Going back to the previous point, give the truck plenty of space. Secondly, only drive alongside a truck long enough to pass them. If there is no opportunity to pass, slow down and give them the room they need.

  1. Be Careful Merging into Traffic with a Large Truck

Merging into traffic can be very tricky, especially when traffic is heavy and slow. If you are trying to merge into traffic with a truck in the lane next to you, make sure you have plenty of distance between the truck and the next vehicle. If you try to pull in front of a truck then have to slow down quickly, it can be difficult for the truck to brake quickly and adjust. Also, if the truck is passing you while merging, make sure to slow down and get out of his blind spot as quickly as possible.

  1. Lower your High Beems when Driving Near a Truck after Dark

Most people understand that, when you are driving after dark, you need to turn your brights off when approaching oncoming traffic. You should also have your brights turned off when you are driving behind a vehicle going in the same direction. This is especially true if you are behind a large truck at night. Bright headlights may reflect off the truck driver’s large sideview mirrors, blinding them and putting them in danger of a catastrophic accident.

  1. Avoid Distractions

Distracted driving is causing more motor vehicle accidents these days than ever before. Motorists have always had distractions (e.g., the radio, eating and drinking while driving, vehicle passengers, talking on their phone, etc.), but texting, checking emails, and doing other things on electronic devices while driving adds a whole new level of danger. If at all possible, stay off your phone entirely while driving. If you must talk on the phone, have it in “hands free” mode. And whether you are driving near an 18-wheeler truck or any other vehicle, there is never a good time to send texts while driving. Wait until your vehicle is fully parked before you respond to text messages or emails.

Speak with an Experienced Alabama Truck Accidents Lawyer

Even if you follow all the best practices for safe defensive driving, you could still end up in an accident with a big rig truck. This could happen because of truck driver negligence, poorly maintained trucks, faulty vehicle parts, and other factors. If you or a loved one was injured or killed in an 18-wheeler accident, you may have a right to compensation.

At Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce & Thompson LLP, we have in-depth experience representing clients in trucking accidents in Alabama. These types of cases can get quite complicated, and there may be multiple parties at fault. We thoroughly investigate the incident to get to the bottom of what happened, so we can ensure that our clients receive full compensation and that those responsible are held accountable. Call us today at (334) 821-3892 or send us a message through our web contact form for a free consultation and case evaluation.

Car Accident - Haygood Cleveland Pierce Thompson & Short

Should I Seek Medical Attention after a Rear End Collision?

A rear-end collision is one in which another driver strikes your car from behind and typically bears responsibility for causing the accident. This type of accident can range from a seemingly minor fender-bender to a crash at high impact. It is common for people involved in a rear-end collision to assume that they don’t have any injuries after the accident. That is because typical injuries from this type of accident, including whiplash and back injuries, do not always show up right away. Whether you feel immediate pain or not, it is very important to seek prompt medical attention if you are involved in a vehicle crash.

Why Prompt Medical Care is So Essential

When you visit a doctor, he or she will take X-rays and other diagnostic tests to determine if you sustained injuries in the rear-end collision. Your doctor can spot problems that might have gone undetected otherwise. This gives you the opportunity to begin treatment promptly, so you have a better chance of making a full recovery.

You will need proof of your injuries if you plan to pursue a personal injury lawsuit against the driver of the vehicle that struck you from behind. If you delay seeking treatment, his or her attorney will likely argue that whatever injuries you had could not have been that serious, because you didn’t go see a doctor right away.

Even if you do have obvious injuries and seek prompt medical attention for them, the attorney for the other party still might attempt to argue that something other than the rear-end collision caused them. Seeking medical treatment ASAP is one of the best ways to refute this type of argument.

It is also important to understand that Alabama uses the legal theory of “contributory negligence” in personal injury lawsuits. This means you need to prove that other party is fully responsible for causing your injuries. While it is usually assumed that the driver who collided into the other vehicle from behind is at fault in a rear-end collision, you still need to make the cause and effect as clear as possible when it comes to the injuries you sustained and the economic and non-economic damages you are due for those injuries.

Most Common Types of Injuries Caused by Rear-End Collisions

Even when you are struck at a low speed, a rear-end collision can cause significant and lasting damage to your body. Some of the most common injuries associated with this type of crash include:

  • Whiplash: The term “whiplash” describes injuries resulting when your neck, shoulders, and spine move suddenly and violently in an unnatural position beyond their typical range of motion. Whiplash can lead to a host of long-lasting symptoms, including neck and back pain, dizziness, fatigue, blurred vision, memory and concentration issues, and numbness and tingling throughout the body.
  • Injuries to the Face and Head: Striking the dashboard or seat in front of you in a rear-end collision can result in injuries such as broken facial bones, knocked-out teeth, or significant eye trauma. You could also suffer a concussion or traumatic brain injury due to the force of the crash. These head injuries can produce symptoms that linger for years such as headaches, cognitive difficulties, and mood disorders.
  • Injuries to the Back and Spinal Cord: It is common for victims of a rear-end collision to suffer a herniated disc in their back. This happens when the force of the crash compresses the disc and spine in the lower back. You could also suffer an injury to your upper back or spinal cord. Some spinal cord injuries are severe enough to leave the accident victim permanently disabled.
  • Injuries Caused by the Seatbelt: Although seatbelts are vital for saving lives in car accidents, sometimes they can cause injuries as well. This happens when the force of the crash thrusts your torso forward and you receive deep lacerations from the seatbelt.
  • Injuries to Arms, Hands, Fingers, and Wrists: It is a natural defense to place your arms out in front of you when you sense immediate danger. Unfortunately, this protective mechanism can also result in broken bones in arms, hands, fingers, and wrists. Sprains, bruising, and deep cuts are also common.

Trust the Law Firm with More Than 50 Years of Experience in Personal Injury Litigation

In Alabama, you have just two years from the date of your rear-end collision accident to file a personal injury lawsuit against the responsible party. We invite you to contact Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce & Thompson LLP, at 334-821-3892 to request a free legal consultation. Please prepare for the appointment by collecting as much information about the accident and your injuries as you can get a hold of. We will fully assess your case and let you know what legal avenues you have available for recovering compensation.

Staying safe on Alabama playgrounds - Haygood Cleveland Pierce Thompson & Short

Playground Safety: What is Negligence on the Playground?

Summer vacation is over, and most Alabama kids are back in school. When we send our kids back to school (or to the day care center for younger children), there are a lot of safety concerns that can keep us up at night. We hope and pray that our kids can get safely to and from school on the bus, and that they will not be bullied during the school day. Another cause for concern is what happens on the playground during recess.

When we are the ones watching our kids play, we never take our eyes off of them. We are trained to watch their every move and be aware of any signs of impending danger. This, of course, is not the case when our kids are in school or daycare. We have to rely on others to do that for us, and we have to hope that they watch our kids as intently as we would.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than 200,000 children ages 14 and under are treated in emergency rooms each year for playground-related injuries. Many of these injuries can be severe and even life-threatening.

Some of the most common playground injuries children suffer include:

  • Scratches, cuts, and bruises;
  • Concussions and other head injuries;
  • Broken bones;
  • Internal injuries.

What Causes Playground Injuries?

There are several reasons playground accidents may occur. These include:

  • Broken Down or Faulty Playground Equipment: Some Alabama schools have playground equipment that is several years or in some cases several decades old. With ongoing wear and tear year after year, this equipment can start to deteriorate to the point of becoming hazardous. Wood rots, rust builds up, ropes become frail, screws fall out, and equipment often falls apart while children are playing on it. There are other instances when brand new equipment causes hazards due to a faulty design.
  • Poor Supervision: As mentioned earlier, children need to be watched closely while they are on the playground. We as parents do this instinctively, but unfortunately, those we entrust our kids with do not always make the safety of the children under their care a priority. When kids are not properly supervised on the playground, they can get into all sorts of trouble.
  • Damaged/Uneven Surfaces: Children playing on surfaces that have cracks in them or that are uneven in certain areas can lead to slip, trip, and fall accidents on the playground.
  • Other Children: Kids running around and having fun are not always as safety-conscious as they should be. This can lead to collisions with other kids, causing those involved to get seriously hurt. Another common issue is kids who simply behave badly. Examples include kids who push, hit, punch, or throw objects at other kids.

Staying Safe on Alabama Playgrounds

With so many potential playground hazards, we as parents need to be proactive and take steps to keep our children safe, even when we are not able to be there to watch them. Here are some helpful playground safety tips:

  • Dress your Kids Properly: We do not mean dress your kids up formally, like when you are going out to a fancy restaurant. We mean keep their play clothes free of hazards. Avoid loose clothing, scarves, and any material that might get caught on playground equipment.
  • Talk to your Kids about Playground Safety: Training is one of the best ways to keep your children safe on the playground. Teach them the safest way to handle playground equipment. Also talk with them about the dangers of running too fast and/or not being aware of trip hazards when they run around.
  • Speak with Adult Supervisors: Your child’s teachers or playground supervisors may not be as invested in their safety as you are, but if you communicate your concerns to them, they are far more likely to give your child the attention he/she deserves. The beginning of the school year is a good time to have a talk with those who will be charged with looking after your kids this year.

Negligence for Playground Injuries

If your child suffers serious harm on the playground, you may have a right to compensation. If the injury is the fault of the property owner (in this case the school or daycare center), it could fall under the purview of the legal theory known as “premises liability.”  Land owners owe a duty to exercise reasonable care to keep their property safe. When they fail to live up to that duty and children are harmed as a result, they must be held accountable. If the injury is a result of faulty or defective playground equipment, the designer, manufacturer, or distributor may be held liable. This would fall under the legal theory known as “product liability.”

Speak with a Seasoned Alabama Personal Injury Lawyer

If your child has been injured on a playground because of the negligent or reckless actions of another party, it is important to fully understand your rights and options. At Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce & Thompson LLP, we have extensive experience and in-depth knowledge of the complexities of premises liability and product liability cases. We work closely with clients, thoroughly investigating their case and exploring all potential legal avenues to ensure that they obtain full damages for the injuries sustained. Call us today at (334) 821-3892 or send us a message through our web contact form for a free case evaluation. You may also stop by our office on E. Glenn Ave. in Auburn to discuss your case.