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Who’s at Fault When Robot Cars Crash and Injure People?

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Engineers rank vehicle automation from zero to five. Click chart to expand.

Where We Are Today

Most cars now already feature some form of self-driving technology. This includes cruise control and electronic stability control. It also includes recent innovations like automatic braking, lane departure alerts, and self-parking. The latest technologies, like Autopilot from Tesla and Drive Pilot from Mercedes-Benz, automatically steer, adjust speed, and brake. Instead of relying on eyes, ears and a brain for control, autonomous vehicles depend on data. This includes data from cameras, radar and high-tech sensors that detect light – all fed into an onboard computer.

Since we share the road with both old and new vehicles, all with a mix of technologies, the Society of Automotive Engineers created a six-level ranking system. Level Zero, One and Two vehicles still require human drivers to monitor the driving environment. Level Three, Four and Five vehicles put the computer in charge of monitoring the driving environment. Only Level Three vehicles, like the Tesla, are commercially available today. But traditional manufacturers, along with new players like Google and Uber, are testing fully autonomous Level Five vehicles. They predict these cars will be available to the public in the early 2020s.

What Autonomous Vehicles Mean to You

Tesla Model S
Tesla has rejected responsibility for crashes even when its Autopilot system is engaged.

The most encouraging prediction from the transition to driverless cars is a dramatic reduction in crashes. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 37,000 people died in auto accidents in 2016 and millions more were injured. NHTSA estimates that 94 percent of crashes are caused by human error.  Self-driving cars are never tired, distracted, or impaired. They could dramatically reduce accidents, saving 30,000 lives or more each year.

The reality, however, is that Americans will still suffer injuries and deaths from auto crashes as self-driving technology is perfected. No technology is foolproof, especially when it involves the highly complex sensors and artificial intelligence central to self-driving cars. We’ve also learned the hard way that automakers deny responsibility or cover up manufacturing defects to protect profits. And even if Level Five automation is available to the public in 2020, it will be another 15 to 20 years before all vehicles on the road have the latest self-driving technologies.

Operators Still Blamed for Crashes

According to the car crash lawyers at Manning & Zimmerman Law, in a collision involving autonomous vehicles, the question of liability is murky at best. Is the operator at fault, the manufacturer, the software designer? Unfortunately, the trend has been to blame the operator. Manufacturers suggest that humans should be ready to take over when self-driving systems hand over the controls. Research shows, however, that humans are not well adapted to re-engage with complex tasks. These tasks include driving in an emergency situation, once attention has been allowed to wander.

As more and more vehicles become completely driverless, it makes less and less sense to hold their human operators liable. Instead, the car crash lawyers at Manning & Zimmerman Law see strict liability as the best solution, where manufacturers take full responsibility for crashes when the robot system is driving. This same principle already applies to common carriers like bus companies, airlines, or train operators, where passengers are completely dependent on the carrier for their safety. Auto insurance as we know it today would be eliminated under this scenario. Who needs an insurance policy if they’re not driving?

In the Meantime …

Self-driving technologies and eventually fully autonomous cars will likely be a reality sooner than later. Consider these tips along the way:

      • Do your research: Cars that already have backup cameras or automatic braking are already on the road today. Before you purchase a new car, review safety ratings for both the mechanical and the computer-driven technologies already on board.
      • Stay vigilant: Just like driving a car with no automated features, keep your attention on the road. It’s tempting to believe that once self-driving cars are introduced, you can relax your focus. Don’t exclusively rely on automated features to keep you safe.
      • Support accountability: There are laws currently being written about liability and safety when it comes to driverless cars. Support the laws and lawmakers that insist on strict liability for autonomous vehicle manufacturers.

Contact Experienced New Hampshire
Car Crash Lawyers for a Free Consultation

Have you or a loved one been injured by another person’s careless acts? If so, it is essential that you have competent legal representation from the onset of your case through litigation. Big insurance companies have lawyers looking out for their interests and you should too!

For a free consultation, contact the Manchester car crash lawyers at the Law Office of Manning & Zimmerman PLLC. We may be reached at (603) 239-2315 or by email at info@MZLawNH.com. We may also be contacted by using the “contact us” or chat feature on our website.

Experienced.  Knowledgeable.  Personally Committed to Justice.

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We invite you to subscribe to our newsletter. You can also follow us on Twitter.

What are the Stages of a Personal Injury Case?

3 Stages Of A Personal Injury Case

Contact Experienced New Hampshire Attorneys for Your Personal Injury Case

Have you or a loved one been injured by another person’s careless acts? If so, it is essential that you have competent legal representation from the onset of your case through litigation. Big insurance companies have lawyers looking out for their interests and you should too!

For a free consultation, contact the Manchester injury attorneys at the Law Office of Manning & Zimmerman PLLC. We may be reached at (603) 239-2315 or by email at info@MZLawNH.com. We may also be contacted by using the “contact us” or chat feature on our website.

Experienced.  Knowledgeable.  Personally Committed to Justice.

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We invite you to subscribe to our newsletter. You can also follow us on Twitter.

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New Hampshire Injury Lawyers: Protecting Civil Justice

Profit Motive Fuels Attack on Civil Justice Protections in 2017

Advocates for individual rights, including the New Hampshire injury lawyers at Manning & Zimmerman Law,  might someday call 2017 The Year of Reversal for an unprecedented number of attacks on America’s civil justice system. Pick your poison, for examples:

      • The rollback of restrictions on forced arbitration
      • Passage of legislation that will weaken protections against medical malpractice and nursing home abuse
      • A slew of proposed “tort reform” measures

      At the root of these initiatives is corporate profits rather than the safety and legal rights of all Americans. Here’s a closer look:

      Forced Arbitration Is Forced Injustice

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      Forced arbitration clauses, now used in a wide range of product, service, and employment contracts, prevent a wronged party from bringing a case to court. Instead, the dispute must be settled in secret arbitrations, usually by an arbitrator chosen by the defendant. These clauses often ban class-action lawsuits as well. Such lawsuits are used by thousands of consumers to hold major companies accountable for illegal or deceitful behavior. Think Wells Fargo charging millions of customers for accounts they didn’t open, for example. Or the recent Equifax data breach that exposed 143 million people to identity theft and fraud.

      Following a comprehensive, multiyear study, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued a rule banning financial institutions like credit card companies and banks from adding forced arbitration clauses to customer contracts. However, in October the Senate voted to overturn this rule, giving big financial corporations the upper hand when customers are ripped off.

      Forced arbitration clauses buried in employment contracts also keep employees from suing, in some instances, for discrimination, sexual assault and harassment, and workplace safety concerns. An executive order called the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule prohibited these clauses in federal contracts. But in March this rule was eliminated, compromising workplace protections and denying 28 million American workers their day in court if wronged on the job.

      Medical Malpractice Caps Penalize Injured Patients and Families

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      An estimated 200,000 to 400,000 people die each year from preventable medical errors. Patients are injured or killed by mistakes at hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, and nursing homes, or by faulty medical devices. Many victims of medical malpractice have little choice but to retain the New Hampshire injury lawyers at Manning & Zimmerman Law to take those responsible to court to receive some semblance of justice. But a bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives was passed earlier this year that will cap medical malpractice damages at $250,000. That’s a slap in the face for those who have suffered extreme trauma or loss. It makes it clear that some members of Congress will only protect insurance companies and negligent healthcare providers. They should instead protect injured people.

      “Tort Reform” Will Delay and Deny Justice

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      Several other attacks on civil justice were launched this past year under the guise of “tort reform.” This is a phrase used by corporations and their allies to justify measures that would curtail access to the courts. It is also intended to reduce compensation to injury victims. One such bill, H.R. 725, would allow corporate defendants to move cases from qualified state courts into overburdened federal courts, resulting in delays and increased costs to plaintiffs and taxpayers. Another bill, H.R. 985, will “shield powerful corporations from being held accountable from scamming, injuring and discriminating against Americans” by limiting the ability of consumers and workers to join together in class action suits. One part of this bill even forces asbestos victims to add their private information to publicly accessible databases. This furthers their victimization and makes them vulnerable to identity theft and online trolls.

      According to the New Hampshire injury lawyers at Manning & Zimmerman Law, both of these anti-safety, anti-consumer bills passed the House and are now before the Senate.

      Contact Experienced New Hampshire Injury Lawyers for a Free Consultation

      Have you or a loved one been injured by another person’s careless acts? If so, it is essential that you have competent legal representation from the onset of your case through litigation. Big insurance companies have lawyers looking out for their interests and you should too!

      For a free consultation, contact the Manchester injury attorneys at the Law Office of Manning & Zimmerman PLLC. We may be reached at (603) 239-2315, by email at info@MZLawNH.com, or by using the “contact us” or chat feature on our website.

      Experienced.  Knowledgeable.  Personally Committed to Justice.

      nh car accident lawyers

      We invite you to subscribe to our newsletter. You can also follow us on Twitter.

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NH Injury Lawyers Discuss Home Safety

Make Your Home Safer with the “Three-F” Safety Check

According to the NH injury lawyers at Manning & Zimmerman Law, about 146,571 people died from unintentional injuries in 2015. The National Safety Council reports that many of these injuries were suffered at home. Safety check your home for the three F’s; Fires, Falls and Firearms.

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Sawdust is highly combustible. Remember to clean up!

Fires

According to the National Fire Protection Association, there were more than 380,000 residential fires in 2015. Most of us know common sense fire safety rules: don’t let candles burn unattended, unplug curling irons or space heaters when not in use, don’t overload outlets, etc.  Also consider:

  • Wiring: Poorly installed or old wiring is a hidden danger. One way to prevent electrical fires is to replace old circuit breakers with arc-fault circuit interrupters. These inexpensive safeguards detect dangerous electrical arcs, abnormal power surges that signal bad insulation or loose connections and break the circuit.
  • Kitchen Clutter: Almost 51 percent of home fires are caused by cooking in the kitchen. Items like kitchen towels, pot holders, and cook books can ignite quickly. Maintain a three-foot zone between any combustible items and your burners, and keep a kitchen fire extinguisher nearby.
  • Clothes Dryer: Lint buildup can spell disaster. Clean out lint traps after ever dryer use and make sure to regularly check for lint in the dryer cabinet, located in the back or bottom of the machine. The vent pipe should also be cleaned out every three months.
  • Excessive Sawdust: Sawdust burns quickly and easily. Regularly clean up with a vacuum designed for combustible dust. Also, avoid using compressed air to blow around dust – propelling it into the air can cause it to ignite.

Falls

The National Safety Council reports that 33,000 Americans died from falls in 2015. A majority of those deaths were suffered by people over age 65.

  • Clean up clutter: Scarves, hats, boots, oh my! Pulling off your cold weather gear and dumping it on the floor creates a tripping hazard. Put away anything that you or others may stumble over.
  • Keep walkways clear: Ice and snow on driveways and sidewalks can be hazardous to you or your visitors. Keep up on snow removal, and use salt when icy.
  • Avoid loose or ill-fitting clothing: Oversized clothes can easily cause a tumble for older Americans. Pants should be properly hemmed so they don’t drag on the ground.
  • Wear footwear with a sole: Shoes or slippers with a good sole are much safer to walk in than fuzzy socks that slip and slide.

Firearms

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Lock and store guns and ammunition separately.
  • UNLOADED firearms should be stored in a locked cabinet, safe, gun vault, or storage case that is inaccessible to children.
  • Gun locking devices are a good second security measure that can be used in addition to locked storage.
  • Ammunition should be stored in a locked location separate from firearms.
  • Thoroughly double check firearms to confirm that they are unloaded when put in or taken out of storage.

Injured? Contact the NH Injury Lawyers at Manning & Zimmerman

If you or a loved one have been injured through no fault of your own, it is essential that you have competent NH injury lawyers representing you from the onset of your case through litigation.  Big insurance companies have lawyers looking out for their interests and you should too! The experienced NH injury lawyers at the Law Office of Manning & Zimmerman are ready to represent you immediately.  Call (603) 624-7200 today for a free initial consultation, complete a request for a consultation on our website, or send us an email.

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Website Helps Disabled Reduce Living Expenses

According to the federal government’s census website, people living with a disability make up almost 20% of our population and are more than twice as likely to experience persistent poverty. To help reduce costs, Coupon Chief has created a guide that offers a great deal of information on different discount programs available to these individuals. The NH personal injury attorneys at the Law Office of Manning and Zimmerman, PLLC are pleased to share this information to help those living with disabilities with their day-to-day living expenses.

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New Hampshire Injury Lawyers: What Is My Case Worth?

The New Hampshire injury lawyers at the Law Office of Manning & Zimmerman, PLLC are frequently asked how we determine what is fair compensation for a case. In other words, how do we determine what a personal injury case is worth? The answer to this question varies as every personal injury case is unique. However, we wanted to provide our readers with an explanation for how damages are generally calculated in a New Hampshire personal injury case.

Compensatory Damages

Different types of damages exist in every personal injury case, whether the victim was injured as a result of an automobile collision, a dog bite, a workplace accident, or any other type of personal injury. Compensatory damages are amounts of money that directly compensate the injured victim for the physical and financial injuries suffered as a result of someone else’s wrongdoing (known as “negligence” in the law). Compensatory damages include medical bills from physicians and other medical professionals. Also potentially included within compensatory damages are out-of-pocket charges such as prescription medication costs, mileage costs for traveling to physician appointments, and financial losses that are tied directly to the victim’s injuries (i.e. lost wages).

Pain and suffering is also considered a compensatory damage because the injured victim is being compensated for enduring pain and the loss of enjoyment of life that would not have been suffered without the negligence of those who caused the injuries. In some cases, if the actions of the person who caused the injuries were exceptionally or knowingly negligent, the injured party may be awarded what are known as enhanced damages. For information on enhanced compensatory damages, see this article from Manning & Zimmerman Law.

Two Types of Compensatory Damages

Specific damages

Specific damages are those that can be quantified on paper. For example, if an injured victim goes to the emergency room to receive medical treatment, the bills from the hospital and medical professionals qualify as specific damages. The injured victim would receive a bill showing what treatment was received and the cost of each item. It is very easy to get copies of physician bills, prescription receipts, and medical supplies receipts.

Regarding lost wages, for those who are W-2 employees and unable to work, it is very easy to calculate how much income was lost as a result of the injuries. For those who are not hourly or salaried employees, or have infrequent periods of work or payment, it may be difficult to  prove special damages with their own testimony. The New Hampshire injury lawyers at the Law Office of Manning & Zimmerman may need to hire an expert to calculate what an injured victim’s lost wages are based on. This is generally done by an analysis of an injured person’s past income and the income of those who work a similar job in the area.

The most difficult type of lost wages to calculate and prove is lost opportunities. New Hampshire injury lawyers must be able to prove to a jury or judge that, had a victim not suffered any injuries, they would have been able to accept employment, while also calculating how much income would have been received as a result. Given how difficult this is to prove in a court of law, injury victims are not always guaranteed to recover all of their lost wages unless they are employed on an hourly or salaried basis.

In addition to compensation for past and present specific damages, if the injuries are severe or permanent, a claim may be made for future medical expenses. The New Hampshire injury lawyers at the Law Office of Manning & Zimmerman, PLLC  can determine future medical expenses when the injured victim’s physician performs a medical evaluation and finds that the injured person will require future medical treatment to maintain their quality of life.

General damages

General damages are those that cannot be assigned a dollar value on paper. Pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and permanent injury are the most common types of general damages. New Hampshire injury lawyers may present to the jury an amount or a formula for calculating general damages, but ultimately it is up to the “enlightened conscience of an impartial jury” to determine the compensation an injured victim receives for general damages. Also, where a lawsuit goes to trial is very important in determining how much a jury might award a plaintiff for general damages. In New Hampshire, a lawsuit may be filed in the county where either the plaintiff or the defendant(s) reside.

A good rule of thumb (while not infallible) is that general damages will be based loosely on the amount of these types of damages, particular in regard to medical bills. The amount of pain and suffering also depends on the severity of the victim’s injuries. Juries award more general pain and suffering damages to those who, for example, lose a limb, than those who experience six months of neck and back pain.

It can be a very complex process to determine the value of personal injury cases. Often the true value of a personal injury claim cannot be assessed until the injured victim has received the bulk of their medical treatment. Medical providers must determine the full extent of a victim’s injuries and provide that information to the injured person’s New Hampshire injury lawyers via bills and medical records.

Contact the New Hampshire Injury Lawyers at Manning & Zimmerman

If you or a loved one have been injured through no fault of your own, contact the New Hampshire injury lawyers at the Law Office of Manning and Zimmerman, PLLC. There are no up-front costs for our services. All personal injury and workers’ compensation cases are handled on a contingency basis, meaning that we are only paid for our services if we successfully recover damages from the responsible party. For a free consultation, call (603) 624-7200, email us at info@manningzimmermanlaw.com, or contact us by using the chat feature on our website.