Six Tips for Getting Your Car Unstuck from the Snow

Wintry conditions can make Utah roads very treacherous. Salt Lake City receives an average of 47 inches of snowfall each year, according to the U.S. government climate data center. It is important to slow down when driving during winter weather conditions. If your vehicle is equipped with winter tires, then it should have better traction on slick roads. The rubber in winter tires is designed to remain flexible in cold temperatures, which improves the tires’ grip.  Of course, you can have your car well prepared and drive cautiously and still slide off the road.

Getting stuck in the snow is an issue that many Utah drivers have faced at some point. To assist drivers whose car is stuck in the snow, our firm has provided six tips for getting it out.

How to Get Your Car Unstuck in the Snow

  • Remain Calm

If your vehicle gets stuck in the snow, you need to remain calm. Panicking will only make things worse. You need to relax and think clearly so that you can assess the situation and determine how to get your vehicle out in a safe manner.

  • Do Not Spin the Tires

When a car is stuck in the snow, the tires may lose traction. If your tires are spinning, take your foot off of the gas pedal. Spinning tires will only dig deeper into the snow. You will not be able to drive your car out until you can get more traction. Try releasing some air from the rear tires to increase the amount of tire in contact with the road surface. Deflating your tires slightly may provide the traction you need to get unstuck. Remember to re-inflate your tires to the specified pressure as soon as possible.

  • Put the Vehicle in Low Gear

A method to increase traction is to put the vehicle in the lowest gear possible. If your vehicle has a winter mode, use that gear setting. Even if your car has an automatic transmission, there will typically be a ‘low gear’ available. Shift your car into low gear, make sure the tires are pointed straight ahead and press gently on the gas pedal to try to move it out of the snow. Resist the urge to slam on the gas pedal. Pressing the gas pedal too quickly or too strongly will only spin your tires again and send you back deeper into the snow.

  • Slowly Rock Your Car Back and Forth

Another method that can be used to gain traction is slowly rocking your car back and forth. This is done by putting the car into drive, pushing the gas pedal lightly and then shifting the car into reverse and doing the same thing. A slow rocking motion can often allow your car to gain just enough momentum and traction to get itself out of the snow.

  • Find an Outside Source of Traction

When rocking does not work, you may have to find another way to increase the traction. Sometimes this can be done by digging and removing the snow from around the tires. You may need to supply traction from an outside source. Some examples of products that can be used to increase traction are sand, gravel, kitty litter and wood chips. It is good idea to carry a bag of cat litter or sand in the trunk of your car during the winter to spread under your tires if you get stuck.

  • Get Help

Keep in mind that it is not always possible to get your car out of the snow on your own. If you are stuck, you may need to call for help. You do not want to risk an injury of any kind.  If you cannot get your car out, please call a friend or a roadside assistance company. Wait in the vehicle until help arrives. Check to make sure your car’s exhaust pipe is free of snow to prevent carbon monoxide from backing up into the passenger compartment. Towing your car out might be the only way to get it unstuck.

Were You Injured in a Winter Weather Accident?

Even when you drive cautiously, you cannot prevent other drivers from driving carelessly and causing crashes on snow covered roads. The experienced Utah personal injury lawyers at the Kramer Law Group are ready to help if you have been injured in a crash caused by another driver. To request a free review of your case, please contact our West Jordan office today. Our team serves victims throughout the state, including Park City, Provo, Sandy and Ogden.

 

What to Do within 30 Days of Being in a Commercial Truck Crash

Being involved in an crash with a commercial truck is terrifying, and may leave you with a totaled car and lots of medical bills. You may be entitled to claim compensation for your injuries, but a failure to act in a timely manner may hurt your chances of recovering the full amount you deserve. Here are a some things that you should do within 30 days after a truck accident:

  1. Get the truck driver’s name and insurance information. The first thing that you should do is to get the truck driver’s name, the name of the trucking company, and the insurance information of the company. While Utah is a no-fault state, you can bring a lawsuit against the truck driver/trucking company if you meet a minimum dollar threshold. (see: the website of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association for more information).
  1. Use your phone’s camera to take photos of the crash. If you are able, you should take pictures of the accident scene, including the license plate number of the truck. Be sure to photograph the vehicles’ positions, any skid marks in the road and all damage and debris.
  1. Obtain a copy of the accident report. You should report the accident to the police and wait for a law enforcement officer to arrive. At the scene, the investigating officer will create an accident report. Ask the officer when the report will be available and how you can get a copy.
  1. Seek medical attention. Be sure to seek medical attention as soon as possible for your injuries. In some cases, your injuries may require emergency medical care. In most cases, it is best to travel directly from the scene of the accident to the hospital for a checkup. Even if you do not feel injured, you should visit a doctor for an assessment and inform the physician that you have been in a collision. Some injuries are not immediately apparent after an accident.
  1. Report the accident to your insurance company. You must report the accident to your insurance company in a timely manner. Provide your insurance company with the identification information about the truck driver and the truck driver’s insurer.
  1. Decline to give the trucking company’s insurance company a statement. You will likely be contacted by the insurance company of the trucking company seeking a recorded statement. You do not have to provide a statement to the other driver’s insurer. Doing so may undermine your chances of obtaining a settlement. Politely decline and refer them to your attorney.
  1. Do not accept an initial settlement offer. An insurance adjuster may offer you a quick settlement offer if you will sign a waiver releasing the trucking company from further liability. While you may be tempted to take the money and be done with the case, initial settlement offers are often far less than the fair compensation that accident victims deserve. You should never accept a first settlement offer without having a knowledge attorney review it and discussing whether it is reasonable.
  1. Contact an experienced Utah truck accident lawyer. Truck crashes in Utah are often more complex than traditional car crashes, and the damages are usually much more serious. If you have been involved in a truck accident and need money to pay for your losses, our experienced Utah truck accident team at the firm of the Kramer Law Group knows how to navigate the claims process and seek the money you deserve.

To schedule a free case consultation with our knowledgeable truck crash attorneys today, contact us by filling out our online form.

Utah Tractor Trailer Accident Implicates Possible Driver Distraction

A tractor trailer driver hauling frozen food westbound on I-84, swerved off the road at 8:30 this morning, causing one lane of traffic to close a few miles from the Snowville, Utah, Interchange.

According to the Utah Highway patrol, the driver of the semi-truck drifted off the right side of the road for some unknown reason and then over-corrected, causing his truck to roll on its side. The highway was down to one lane during the cleanup. There was no word whether the driver was injured in the crash.

Distracted Driving or Fatigue?

This tractor trailer crash makes me wonder whether the driver was rested enough or perhaps was driving while distracted. This crash happened relatively early in the morning and is described as the driver “drifting” off to the right. This might mean that the driver had nodded off and then suddenly awoke, taking sharp, evasive action.

Distracted driving could also explain what happened. I know from experience, that as drivers, we can drift out of our lane if we get distracted. The simple truth is that this crash would not have happened if the truck driver were following the safety rules that require drivers to drive alert and avoid distraction. Thankfully, no other person, other than possible the driver, was injured in the wreck.

Ron Kramer is a Utah tractor trailer attorney with a Commercial Driver’s License, handling cases throughout the state of Utah.

How My CDL Helps Give You an Advantage in Tractor Trailer Cases

Since I handle tractor trailer crash cases here in Utah, I thought it would be a good idea to get my commercial driver’s license, or CDL, so I could understand what a driver has to go through to get their license. So, cleared my schedule enough to make it happen, and I passed my CDL exam in four months ago in June 2016.

 

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The time issue that I thought was the biggest hurdle, turned out to be not that big of an issue. I found out that there are many schools that allow you to get the instruction on your own time table. In my case, I did the driver training in the early morning and was back at the office by 11:30, no later than 12. And even with a lot of out-of-town things going on, it took less than six weeks to get the instruction – and have the confidence – to take the driving test and actually pass in the first time.

I was pretty excited when at the end of the grueling road test, the examiner told me I had passed. I almost felt like leaving the practice of law to start driving with one of the myriad of companies that are looking to hire CDL holders! I restrained myself, however, and returned to the office to actually continue working on cases involving tractor trailers, rather than just driving one.

So how were things different after having a license in hand that allowed me to jump into a tractor trailer and take that thing over the road?  The following are a few insights I came up with.

Hands-On Experience with the Pre-Trip Inspections

There is something about being around the tractor trailer, going through all the moving parts that are there, on a daily basis, that you just cannot get from just reading instruction guides. At my school, there were two tractor trailer combinations, each with a 53-foot trailer hooked to them, that were used for training. And these were long tractors too, with sleeper bunks in them. (They sort of needed these as this is where the students would cram when they weren’t actually behind the wheel.) These combinations, as they are called, were quite intimidating at first. But the more time I spent around them, the more comfortable I became. This was good, because drivers are expected to become intimately familiar with all the major moving parts and safety systems on these rigs. For example, every time we started class, we were supposed to do what is called a “pre-trip inspection” and look at all those major parts to make sure they were intact and had no issues with them. Every day, a driver should at a minimum do a pre-trip inspection before they start and at the end of the day.

When I first arrived at trucking school and saw some of the more tenured students going through these different components and, out loud, identifying what they were looking at, what they were looking for, and pronouncing a clean bill of health on it, I was worried that I would have a hard time doing the same thing. But after watching for a few days and doing some inspections – and using a cheat sheet! — it became more comfortable to me. And at the end, I thought it was actually sort of fun.
Hands-On Experience with the Braking Systems
One thing I learned through all of this is how critical the braking systems are on these commercial vehicles. Since almost all of these heavy trucks have air brakes, the driver is expected to be quite familiar with how these systems operate and how to make sure that on any given day, the air brake system is going to be working properly and actually stop the vehicle. Our training, for example, had us inspecting the thickness of the brake pad material, gaps between the shoe and the drum, looking for abrasions, cuts, bumps or leaks in the air lines, visually inspecting the brake chambers and other components. The physical brake inspection involved testing, with gloves on hands, the slack adjusters to make sure the free play was no more than one-inch and checking the physical air-line connectors and connections that ran between the tractor and trailer to make sure there was a good seal.

And then there were the in-cab brake inspections that drivers are expected to do daily. These inspections involve individual testing of the tractor service brakes, the trailer “spring” brakes, and an actual moving 5 mph test to make sure the truck actually stops. We would also check to make sure the compressor was supplying enough air and check for leaks in the system using the in-cab air pressure gauges. Having gone through this, I walked away with the impression that short of an unanticipated catastrophic failure, drivers and their companies really should have a good read on the status of their truck’s brakes and see problems coming a long way off.

Behind-the-Wheel Training and Experience

Actually getting behind the wheel and driving this thing down the road was probably one of the more intimidating things I’ve done. I got to do this on my first day and was able to show my instructor and the other students who were in-cab how proficient I was at grinding gears! It turns out that these trucks, with ten or more gears, don’t have synchromesh like our modern-day passenger cards have. This means you have to pretty much match the speed of the engine with that of the transmission to avoid grinding gears. Some drivers “double clutch” to make this smoother and some drivers “float” the gears, not even using the clutch when they shift their already-moving vehicle. Since I struggled with the whole double clutching things, I would do my best to time the shift so as to minimize the grinding. I was consoled when I learned that even drivers that have been doing this for over a decade will still grind gears.

On the road, I was able to put into practice the safe driving rules I learned about in the written materials that drivers are required to follow and master – or at least pass with 80% proficiency. These rules include keeping a safe and generous following distance, making safe turns, braking early, going slow down steep grades, etc.

Understanding Where the Trucker Is Coming From

As a trucker, being a defensive driver and anticipating, identifying and safely responding to hazards is very much job one. I learned that you can never quite anticipate what a “four-wheeler” (trucker speak for a passenger car or truck) might do on the road. And on the road, we saw lots of examples of cars cutting us off, suddenly pulling out in front of us, etc. And after a while, even as a student, you come to expect bad driving by other motorists on the road. The foreseeability of these unsafe drivers is a big reason why truckers keep the long following distance they are required to keep, why they can’t drive down the road as if they’re in a passenger car, why they need to anticipate their next red light, why they need to make sure they wait for a large gap in traffic before pulling out, etc. It’s now easier for me to spot trucks on the road that are not following these rules, such as the rule about keeping a safe distance, driving at a safe speed, etc. These drivers stick out like sore thumbs to me as being unsafe, and as rule breakers, just crossing their fingers that the car in front of them doesn’t stop suddenly or move suddenly into their lane of travel.
Not Getting Snowed by the Driver or Safety Manager
Shortly after getting my CDL, I took the deposition of the driver in a tractor-trailer case I have. Having driven a tractor trailer and having the hands-on experience of doing the pre-trip inspections, gave me the context of the inspection and the ability to talk about it in depth with the driver. At one point in the deposition I just smiled when the driver said: “You wouldn’t understand this since you haven’t driven a semi-truck.” Without showing off the CDL in my wallet, I said “probably not” but maybe you can help me understand this … and this, topic areas I had gained an understanding of because of my training. I was also able to hold the line when the driver tried to get away with just giving a superficial overview of the inspections that he would do. Knowing about the exacting list of things that drivers are required to identify and inspect helped me establish that the driver’s inspection of the braking system was cursory, at best, and that he took a hand-off approach to inspecting the braking system.

Confidence to Go the Distance

Having an active CDL requires the driver to keep it current, where you basically need to have ongoing training at least every six months. Fortunately, the training school I enrolled in has a program that allows me to come back whenever I want – without cost — to fulfill the continuing training component. As long as I keep my license active, I expect to be up-to-date on the different facets of actually driving a commercial vehicle safely. Not only will this help me stay current on trucking safety, I see it as a unique advantage that I can offer my clients who are looking for a knowledgeable tractor trailer lawyer.

The author, Ron Kramer, is a tractor trailer and personal injury attorney who handles cases throughout the state of Utah.

Child Dies At West Jordan Day Care Center

On Thursday, September 8, 2016, a 23-month old child died while being cared for at the West Jordan Child Center. According to KSL News, video footage shows the child crawling under a large bean bag. A short time later, a staff person apparently sat on the bean bag and remained there for at least 10-15 minutes before the boy was discovered. When they found him, he was unconscious and not breathing. Continued treatment at Primary Children’s Hospital proved fruitless and he was pronounced dead that evening. West Jordan Police have called this a tragic accident.

I send my condolences to the family for their tragic loss.

The article in KSL says that the parents have questions following this event. They wonder how this happened and how an adult would not know something or someone was under the bean bag. Why they would not have heard anything. In response, the day care’s attorney issued a statement expressing condolences, but providing no answers.

From my perspective, there are a number of questions that need to be answered, such as whether it was appropriate to have a large bean bag in an area where small children played that they foreseeably could crawl under; whether staff were properly tracking the children in their care; whether the staff person should have made certain that no small children were under a lumpy, large bean bag before sitting down on it. According to Utah’s Department of Health child-care licensing program, the Center has received a violation in the past five years for children being left unattended. See https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/09/13/toddler-suffocated-under-bean-bag-chair-as-day-care-employee-sat-on-it-reading-to-other-children-police-say/. A violation like this is notice to the Center that there are or have been deficiencies in supervision that need to be addressed. Certainly this incident raises the question of whether they have adequately responded to those deficiencies.

I would advise the family to seek the services of a West Jordan wrongful death attorney to continue the investigation as to how this event was allowed to happen.

Texas Teen Loses Life in Moab Car Crash

A 15 year-old Texas teenager from San Angelo lost her life following a crash between two cars just outside the entrance to Arches National Park on Saturday, May 14, 2016.

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According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the crash happened when a driver of a 2012 Jeep CJ failed to see oncoming traffic and made a left-hand turn onto southbound State Road 191, pulling right in front of a 2013 Toyota Rav4 which was heading north. The force of the crash caused the Jeep to roll and the Rav4 to spin out. A teenage female passenger in the Rav4 was taken to Regional Medical Center in Colorado where she was later pronounced dead. According to reports, the teenager was wearing her seatbelt incorrectly. The other three in the car who were reported to have been wearing their seatbelts correctly only suffered minor injuries.

I send my condolences to the victims of this tragic crash that could have been so easily prevented had the driver of the Jeep just maintained a proper lookout and had seen what was there to be seen. The sad reality is that when you are negligent and cause a crash such as this, you cannot choose the fate of what happens to your victims. Some may go unscathed or suffer only minor injuries. Yet others – who may have been impacted more directly or who may have not been properly restrained – will suffer the maximum harm of losing their life.

Legally speaking, the parents of the young teenager have a “wrongful death” claim against the driver of the Jeep and/or its owner if the driver is less than 18 years-old. As the value of the claim will likely exceed apparent insurance limits, an under-insured claim should also be made on the policy covering the Toyot

Lake Powell Drowning Takes Man’s Life

A man from Lewiston Montana, lost his life on May 5, 2016, when he was thrown out of his kayak and drowned in Lake Powell. According to KSL News, the man was paddling his kayak in the Wahweap Bay area of Lake Powell when high winds knocked him out of the kayak and into the water.

Wahweap Bay

Unfortunately, the man was not wearing a life jacket and drowned. Search and rescue were able to find his body the next day using sonar. The Kane County Sheriff’s Office issued a statement to all boaters to be vigilant of changing weather conditions and to always wear a life jacket.

I echo the need to wear a life jacket. I’m sure the paddler thought he would be fine when he started out, probably when the weather was much calmer. Perhaps he was a good swimmer and didn’t think there would be a problem. But none of us know what might happen once we get out in the middle of the lake. I know that boaters have lost their lives on Utah Lake because of high wind conditions. This is why every vessel – even a kayak – should have a life jacket in it. And I would say that if you are in a kayak, you should be wearing it at all times for unexpected emergencies that can come up. A life jacket combined with another safety item, a whistle, could have helped to preserve this man’s life.

As we head into the warmer months, boaters need to make sure that they have life jackets for every person who is on board their boat. They need also to make sure those children 14 and under are actually wearing their life jacket when they are on the water. (Kids will often take them off when adults are not looking!) Emergencies can happen quickly, such as a boat on boat crash, and the most vulnerable members of our society need that special protection.

Judge Finds Dog Owner Guilty After Bear Lake Dog Attack

This past Thursday, April 28, Rich County Justice Court Judge Ross McKinnon found a dog owner guilty of a class B misdemeanor in allowing a vicious animal to be at large. According to KSL News, the incident happened at a restaurant in Bear Lake, where a woman had her Great Pyrenees with her as she ate with her family in the outdoor eating area.

According to reports and a video camera that recorded the action, the dog “Lilly” first growled and nipped at a child that had come close to her. About 15 minutes later, the video surveillance shows the dog lashing out and biting a 2 year-old child that had come near her and shows the same dog dragging the child under the table.

For her part, the dog owner was sentenced to six months of probation and ordered to pay a $680 fine. In addition, the dog owner has been asked to dispose of the dog. According to Judge McKinnon: “The dog needs to be put down, or the dog can be given to a ranch.” While the dog owner protests the sentence and disputes what happened — suggesting that the child stepped on her dog’s tail — the video very clearly shows the dog latch onto the helpless child and pull him under the table. According to Rich County Attorney Gary Heward, putting the dog down is a “public safety issue.”

Legally speaking, dog owners are required to not let their dogs run at large, especially those with “vicious propensities.” In this case, the dog was brought to a very public place – a restaurant – where she was allowed to come in contact with a small child. The local ordinance, sometimes referred to as a “leash law,” is designed to prevent against this very thing from happening, if dog owners would follow it.

The parents of this young child certainly have a claim against the dog owner for past and future medical bills, for psychological therapies he might need, for any scar revision procedures, and an amount for “general damages” for the trauma of having to go through this and the expected anxiety that this child will most likely have because of this event.

Herriman Wrong-Way Car Crash Sends 9 To Hospital

A 16 year-old driving north in the southbound lanes of Mountain View Corridor, crashed into a fully-loaded minivan in the evening hours of April 23, 2016. According to KSL News, the 16-year-old driver was driving with a friend – another 16 year-old – at the time the crash occurred. According to Herriman police, the driver told them that he was traveling at 55 miles per hour at the time his car collided violently with the minivan. While drunk driving was ruled out, police are investigating whether the driver was distracted or just not paying attention.

The unlucky victims of this crash were treated at a local hospital and are said not to have life-threatening injuries. Thankfully, all were wearing their seat belts, or this crash may have had a different ending.

Legally speaking, I first question whether a 16 year-old driver can legally have another 16 year-old in the car who is not a family member. According to the Utah Department of Public Safety, a new driver may not drive with a passenger in the car until at least six months after they receive their license, unless the passenger is an immediate family member. The obvious reason for this rule is to prevent unneeded distraction while a young driver learns how to focus on the roads they’re driving down.

Victims of car crashes caused by drivers less than 18 years old also need to know that owners of cars driven by these under-age drivers are “jointly and severally” responsible for damages from that crash. See: http://le.utah.gov/xcode/Title53/Chapter3/53-3-S212.html. In other words, the car owner also bears financial responsibility for property damage as well as personal injuries.

Finally, it is common for under-aged drivers living with their parents to be insured by the parent’s insurance company. (This helps explain why insurance rates for families with teen drivers are so high!) The good news is that parents tend to have higher insurance limits than young adults who don’t live at home.

Magna Man Crashes Into Parked Semi on I-15

A 61 year-old man, Chris Hulse of Magna, crashed into a semi-truck that was parked on the shoulder of I-15 near Centerville, Utah. According to the Standard Examiner, a trucker had pulled over on the southbound shoulder of the road and was parked around 5:30 a.m. when this crash happened. The trucker reported that he pulled over because of a high-wind advisory. Officers believe that it may have been these strong wind conditions that pushed Hulse’s Ford F-350 pickup truck to the right and into the rear of the parked semi. Per reports, Mr. Hulse was not wearing a seatbelt. My condolences to the family for this tragic loss.

Legally speaking, drivers are not allowed to stop on a roadway unless their vehicle is disabled. See Utah Code 41-6a-1404(1): “Outside a business or residence district, a person may not stop, park, or leave standing a vehicle, whether attended or unattended, on the roadway when it is practical to stop, park, or leave the vehicle off the roadway.”

From the reports, it appeared the trucker could have pulled his truck off the highway to wait out the storm. It’s foreseeable that a heavy wind gust can cause vehicles to swerve out of their lane. All the more reason not to stop on the freeway when the next off ramp could have been taken. The facts and the law suggest that there is a claim here for wrongful death. Wrongful death claimants in Utah include the spouse, parents and children of the deceased.