Trucker Dead After Fiery Truck Crash in Utah

A collision between two semi trucks on I-80 in Parley’s canyon during a heavy snow storm has left one trucker dead. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the roads were slippery and snow covered on Wednesday night, February 22, 2017, when a truck on the right-hand side of the road began slipping backward. At this time, the driver of a truck hauling crude oil for D&A McRae, began moving around this truck on the left side, going around 15 miles per hour. According to reports, the trucks collided, causing one of the tanker’s tanks to rupture and ignite, spilling crude oil on the road. While the driver of the tanker truck was able to get out unscathed, the driver for Voyager Express, who is from Maricopa, Arizona, sadly lost his life.

The cleanup of the crash left the westbound lanes of I-80 closed for hours as the crude oil burned through the night. This caused major traffic delays in the morning. The cause of the crash is still under investigation.

Legally speaking, drivers of commercial vehicles driving in inclement weather are required to follow trucking regulation 49 C.F.R. §392.14 during inclement weather. The trucking reg states:

Hazardous conditions; extreme caution. Extreme caution in the operation of a commercial motor vehicle shall be exercised when hazardous conditions, such as those caused by snow, ice, sleet, fog, mist, rain, dust, or smoke, adversely affect visibility or traction. Speed shall be reduced when such conditions exist. If conditions become sufficiently dangerous, the operation of the commercial motor vehicle shall be discontinued and shall not be resumed until the commercial motor vehicle can be safely operated.

Many questions remain after this tragic crash: Was the equipment of these trucks in good shape? Did the tires have good tread on them? Should the trucks and trailer have had chains on them? Should the trucks even have been on the road if the drivers were following the above trucking regulation? Had the truckers received appropriate training on best practices in driving during inclement weather? During my CDL training, I learned that many drivers of tractor trailers will simply not drive during hazardous weather until conditions improve. This is a conservative approach, but can keep truckers out of dangerous situations like this.

Additional story here at KSL.com.

How to Fire Your Lawyer, Part II

In the year 2010, I wrote the blog titled “How To Fire Your Attorney or 50 Ways to Leave Your Lawyer.” Over the years, this blog has been read hundreds of times by people whom I presume are fed up with their lawyer. After all, why would they want to read it if all was well with them and their legal counsel?

Since I wrote it, I have been contacted by people across the United States (and even from Europe) who were wanting to fire their lawyer. And even though we focus only on personal injury law here at the Kramer Law Group, it seems like only a minority of the people who reached out actually had a personal injury case. One thing I learned was that being unhappy with your lawyer is not confined to just one practice area. Indeed, disgruntled clients can be found in almost all practice areas out there.

Sadly, over the last six years, the problems behind people wanting to fire their lawyer remain, and in fact, seems to be escalating. Clients continue to be upset by lawyers who don’t do what they promised, who are not returning phone calls, who are taking money for work they didn’t do, who are rude to their clients, who are “messing up” their clients’ cases, etc. As I expressed in my original blog, while a client is generally free to fire their attorney, doing this in many cases is not always the best call. I’m sure that in many cases, if the lawyer and client were able to sit down together that most of the problems could be resolved. Many, however, don’t have the stomach to do this and are simply “done” with their lawyer, and no amount talking is going to ever fix that.

The Next Step: Get a Second Opinion! Even if you hate your lawyer, keep your head and make sure you can make a change without damaging your case. Although telling off and firing your lawyer in the moment may feel good and “feed the flesh,” the aftermath might be a bitter pill to swallow. So first, Do Your Homework! What I mean is, you want to get a second opinion before you get rid of your lawyer.

If you are unhappy with your lawyer and sitting down with them to discuss your concerns is not an option, I recommend that you first get a “second opinion” with an attorney that practices in the same practice area as your current attorney. These meetings don’t have to cost a lot of money and often might be totally free. For example, a personal injury attorney that works on a contingency fee may agree to meet with you for free, no charge. Even an attorney that charges something for the meeting might well be worth it in the end. But be aware that not every attorney will want to meet with you if you are currently with someone else. They might see you as “damaged goods” or a “red flag” that they instinctively will want to shy away from you.

Under most state’s ethics rules, including Utah’s, however, an attorney can meet with a client who is currently being represented if they are seeing that person to offer a “second opinion” on the facts and applicable law involved in that case. Click here for opinion. You seeing another attorney for a second opinion is not much different than getting a second medical opinion where you want to make sure that the diagnosis or recommended treatment plan for the first doctor is legitimate and reasonable.

One things the Rule (Rules of Professional Conduct 4.2) on this says is that the second opinion of the lawyer should not be used as a way for the lawyer to solicit the case away from the first lawyer. In fact, the opinion says that “the lawyer should make every effort neither to impair the first attorney-client relationship nor to use the consultation as a means of soliciting the represented party.” You are there for information – and the attorney’s opinion – on how they would handle your case if it was in their office.

When I have met with clients, I have told them, in effect, what I would do if this were my case. And this is something you’ll want to ask the attorney you meet with. If it’s a communication problem, ask them how often they stay in touch with their clients how they respond to client phone calls, emails, etc. In other words, ask the attorney about those things you are most concerned with that are happening in your case.

Once you have the benefit of having met with an attorney that practices in the same subject area, then you are in a position to know whether you may have possibly prejudged the attorney or whether they are in fact not doing the job they should be doing in your case. Then you know and you won’t have to second-guess your decision to let your attorney go.

Having been asked to come in as the second (or sometimes third) attorney over the years, I can tell you that the idea of firing an attorney gives most people anxiety. They are not sure it’s going to go well or are worried they won’t “do it right.”  I can tell you from experience that the attorney-firing option that clients like the best is when the second attorney handles all those details. This removes much of the anxiety that the client has. When I’ve told the client that I can take care of the “dirty work,” most of them will breathe a sigh of relief.

Now, some timid attorneys might suggest that the client needs to do “the deed” so as to avoid the second attorney getting hit with an attorney lien from the first attorney. (See the discussion about attorney liens here.) To this I would say that the substitute attorney needs to “own up” to the case and be bold about coming in as the replacement attorney. After all, they’ll need to collect all bills, records, reports, statements, photos, etc., that may have been collected by the first attorney. They may even want to have a phone call with that attorney.

And yes, there may be an attorney lien on the case that the first attorney will send to the replacement attorney. This is especially true and applicable in contingency fee, personal injury cases. But this lien amount – whatever it is – will be absorbed by the second attorney. In your personal injury case, it should not increase the total attorney fee that comes out at the end. If the lawyer says that it will increase the amount deducted, then you need to find an attorney that won’t penalize you for your decision to change attorneys.

Finally, I wrote this blog to provide general information to people that might be unhappy with their lawyer. I cannot come into a case like Donald Trump and tell your attorney “You’re fired!” That’s the job of your replacement attorney, as discussed above. You’ll want to get that second opinion mentioned above and ask the attorney the best way to go about replacing your attorney for your state and for your specific legal practice area.

Ron Kramer is the managing attorney at the Kramer Law Group, a Utah personal injury law firm licensed to practice in the state of Utah, Idaho and California.

Utah Considers Bill to Allow Cameras To Help Catch School Bus Stop Sign Violators

Among the bills being considered for the 2017 legislative session in Utah is a bill that will allow cameras to be mounted on school busses to help catch motorists who blow by the extended stop arm mounted on most school busses. According to KSL News, the safety problem of motorists ignoring the extended stop-sign arm has become epidemic. The bill’s sponsor, Representative Mike McKell of Spanish Fork expressed that his primary desire is that school kids getting on or off the bus be kept safe.

Thus started sponsorship and evolution of House Bill 235 which: “Authorizes the use of a photograph or video image obtained by an automated traffic enforcement safety device as evidence of certain traffic violations.”

Ben Horsley, spokesperson for the Granite School District, weighed in on this issue, calling the problem the “number one safety issue” in his district, saying that this happens there at least a dozen times a day. “It just takes once for that driver not to stop, a kid to step out when they’re expecting to be given the right-of-way, and a child to be killed,” he said.

As for the cameras, the technology exists to implement the program right away. Supporters of the program stress that the bill is not designed as a revenue source, but rather as a school safety program to help keep kids safe. The fines that are generated will be used to offset the cost of the program so the school districts won’t have to pick up the tab.

I agree that motorists passing school buses that have their red lights flashing or have extended a stop-sign arm is a serious safety problem. Recently, KSL published  that these violations happen over 1500 times a day! Yet I worry about big brother expanding his surveillance on the citizenry. We already have the NSA that monitors our phone calls and internet usage and cities have patrol cars loaded to the gills with cameras that help track the comings and goings of its local residents. Cameras abound everywhere and video saturation will only continue. In this instance, however, I would endorse using cameras on school busses provided that the public was advised of it. Maybe the best place would be on back of the bus, where approaching motorist are told that a school bus-stop sign violation will likely be recorded. This will help motorists who are thinking of breaking the law to think twice – and maybe save a life.

Car Crashes Involving Government Vehicles

Any time you are in a car, riding or driving along the roadway, you can be involved in a car crash and get injured. And even though the Utah Department of Public Safety Highway Safety Office says that Utah’s fatal car accident rate is lower than the national average, it can still happen to you! After a crash with another driver, you typically will want to file a claim with your own car insurance company to tap into your “personal injury protection” or PIP coverage so they can cover your medical bills up to $3,000 (in most circumstances).

For injuries stemming from crashes with most other drivers, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim is four years from the date of the crash. But note carefully, if the other driver involved in the crash was a Utah government employee or a person working for a Utah government agency, the statute of limitations will only be one year following the wreck. Read on to learn more about the special circumstances that apply to car crashes involving government-owned and operated vehicles.

What are Government Vehicles?

The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) is responsible for maintaining Utah’s roadways. This can involve the use of vehicles like work trucks and snow plows.

During the winter, snow plows are used to clear the roadways. These large vehicles need to move slowly, which can slow down the flow of traffic. Like other large vehicles, snow plows need a greater length to come to a full stop after braking than cars and other passenger vehicles need – especially when there is ice and snow on the road. Crowding and improperly passing snow plows and other work vehicles can cause crashes. One recent example is the accident involving a snow plow and a semi-trailer in January 2017, described in an article published by Fox 13.

Who Insures Government Vehicles?

When a person’s injuries go beyond the “injury threshold” or result in more than $3,000 in damages, he or she may be able to collect damages from the at-fault driver’s insurance company. If the at-fault driver in your case was operating a government vehicle, he or she is insured by a policy that covers a group of government-owned vehicles. In order to get compensated after a crash with a government vehicle, you must file what is called a “Notice of Claim” with the State of Utah and the specific government agency, such as the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT).

What to Do if you are Involved in an Accident with a Government Vehicle

The Utah state government, like other state and local governments across the nation, has what is known as governmental immunity. In short, this means it can be quite difficult to file a successful injury claim against the government. If you plan to do so, you must file your claim within one year of your crash. Like a claim involving a private driver, you must submit evidence that shows the cause of your injury and the amount of the damages you are trying to get money for.

Work with an Experienced Utah Personal Injury Attorney

If you’re injured in a crash involving a Utah government vehicle, make sure you seek medical attention for your injury right away. This is the best way to help you get back to where you were – or as close as possible – as quickly and as smoothly as possible. Then, as you’re treating, contact one of the experienced personal injury lawyers at Kramer Law Group to schedule your FREE initial consultation in our office.

For more information on Utah car accidents, see out car accident page.

Utah Transit Authority Employee Blamed For Fed Ex Truck Crash

After a dramatic crash between a Fed Ex truck and a UTA FrontRunner train last week, UTA investigators announced that human error was to blame in the crash. According to KSL news, the crash happened on January 21, 2017, as a Fed Ex semi truck pulling two trailers was crossing a Frontrunner crossing in North Salt Lake City, Utah. The crossing arms were up when the truck crossed over and the train hit one of the last trailers on the semi. Luckily for all concerned, the train did not hit the cab of the Fed Ex truck. UTA’s chief safety and security officer Dave Goeres came clean and stated: “We have determined that the gates were raised by a UTA employee who responded to the scene, and the accident was caused by human error.”

According to the story, the arms had been stuck in the down position, prompting a UTA technician to come to the scene to fix the problem. However, under the proper protocol, the FrontRunner trains approaching a crossing that is being serviced are supposed to slow to 15 mph. That didn’t happen, as the video of the crash posted last week bears out. The UTA said it is reviewing its policies and plans to provide refresher training to its staff.

Legally speaking, this situation highlights a potential problem within the UTA with adequately training its employees to follow all safety guidelines when working on its equipment.  In my mind, what happened in this situation is like a technician working on high voltage equipment without bothering to turn off the power. Luckily, no one was seriously injured, but if the train had hit the cab of the Fed Ex truck, I very likely would be talking about a fatality collision.

Sometimes we get second chances in life, and UTA has a chance to learn from this situation so something like this never happens again.

In the meantime, we should do as UTA recommends and to be aware of our surroundings when crossing a rail crossing and never cross when red lights are flashing and the arm is lowering or is lowered.