Articles Posted in In The News

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Nahon, Saharovich & Trotz is proud to announce that 11 of the firm’s lawyers have been selected as Mid-South Super Lawyers by Thomson Reuters.

The following attorneys were named Super Lawyers in the area of Personal Injury:

  • Alex Saharovich
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iStock-837009352The Tennessee House of Representatives has passed a bill that would make it against the law to talk on hand-held devices, such as a cell phone, while driving on any road within the state. Laws like this, known as hands-free laws, have been passed in other states already. The bill that just passed in Tennessee is HB 0164, and it now goes to the Tennessee Senate for a vote.

HB 0164 seeks to add language to Tenn. Code Ann. 55-8-207. Specifically, it seeks to prevent any driver under the age of 18 from talking on a mobile phone while the car is in motion, whether it’s a hand held device or hands-free device. Drivers who are 18 or older would only be allowed to talk while driving on a hands-free device. A driver who violates this statute would be subject to a fine of $100, but if the violation led to an accident, the fine would increase to $200.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tracks accident data across the United States with a goal of reducing wrecks and traffic fatalities. The NHTSA succinctly defines distracted driving as “any activity that diverts attention from driving.” They go on to list several examples, such as texting, eating and drinking, talking to passengers, fiddling with the radio, or monitoring GPS systems while driving.

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iStock-1086630316-LargeTennessee was recently given an unfortunate distinction – the worst state for distracted driving among all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Value Penguin recently released a study analyzing deaths in each state related to cell phone use between 2015-2017, and Tennessee did not perform well when compared to other states.

Between 2015-2017, there were over 1,400 fatalities nationwide involving some form of distracted driving. Distracted driving is defined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as “any activity that diverts attention from driving.” It encompasses many acts while operating a motor vehicle, including cell phone use, texting while driving, looking down at GPS, changing the radio station, eating, talking on the phone or to passengers, or engaging in any conduct that can take your eyes off the road.

Tennessee had the highest distracted driving fatality rate in the country, according to the comprehensive study. The average for all states was 1.49 fatalities per 10 billion vehicle miles. Tennessee’s rate was nearly five times as high, coming in at 7.20 fatalities per 10 billion miles. The next highest states were Delaware (3.28 fatalities), Wyoming (3.22 fatalities), Texas (3.00 fatalities), and Montana (2.91 fatalities). During the surveyed period of time, these five states were responsible for 31% of all distracted driving related fatalities, an astonishingly high number.

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Another talcum powder verdict was handed down against Johnson & Johnson – this time, the large Fortune 500 company was ordered to pay $4.69 billion to 22 women (and their families) who argued Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder products caused them to suffer ovarian cancer. The verdict was awarded in Missouri, following a trial with claims that the company failed to warn the victims of cancer risks associated with use of J&J products such as baby powder. The jury verdict consisted of $550 million in compensatory damages and $4.14 billion in punitive damages.

The trial, which was held in St. Louis, Missouri, lasted nearly six weeks. Jurors heard testimony from expert witnesses on both sides. They also heard testimony of the plaintiffs. 15 of the 22 plaintiffs were in the courtroom. Unfortunately, six of the plaintiffs died as a result of ovarian cancer before trial, and one was too ill to attend due to her chemotherapy. According to reports, the jury spent eight hours deliberating over compensatory damages but just 45 minutes on punitive damages.

Why Are Talcum Powder Lawsuits Filed?

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Each year, legislators from all states introduce proposed bills in an effort to better their particular state, and Tennessee is no different. Throughout legislative sessions, proposed bills are introduced among a wide range of topics, including healthcare, motor vehicles, watercraft, child custody, drug offenders, constitutional rights, firearms, public contracts, taxes, and real estate. Through the voting procedures of the state, many of these bills get signed into law. In Tennessee, more than 150 bills became law effective July 1, 2018. Here is a summary of all of the new Tennessee laws. Below are a few that apply specifically to public safety:

  • Boating laws – Bill SB1335 affects boating across Tennessee’s bodies of waters, including numerous lakes where people like to enjoy holidays. One new requirement is that any Tennessee resident born after January 1, 1989 must obtain a boating education certificate before renting a boat. If a resident from another state wishes to rent a boat in Tennessee, that individual must present a boating education certificate from his or her home state.
  • Proof of motor vehicle registration – Bill SB0727 will now allow people to show evidence of proper title and registration of their motor vehicle via electronic formats. These formats could include cell phones or similar electronic devices such as tablets.
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On March 18, 2018, a 49-year-old woman was killed after being struck by one of Uber’s autonomous vehicles in Tempe, Arizona. Around 10:00 p.m. that evening, the victim was crossing the street when she was struck by an Uber autonomous vehicle traveling approximately 40 miles per hour. This tragic accident has received heavy media coverage as a story of major public interest. Autonomous and self-driving vehicles have surged in popularity recently, with some of the biggest tech companies in the world investing heavily in the technology.

As more information continues to be released, here are 5 things to know at this time:

1. The accident happened with a human operator sitting inside Uber’s self-driving car. It is common for companies testing self-driving vehicles to utilize “test operators” to remain inside the vehicle. Their roles include monitoring the road and being able to grab the wheel, apply the brakes, or take other corrective action when necessary. Video footage of the inside of the Uber car showed the operator, a 44-year-old man, appearing to look at something else inside the car when the accident happened, instead of being focused on the road ahead at all times.

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Like all states, the Volunteer State sees its fair share of motor vehicle accidents. Accidents can cause one’s life to flip upside down in the blink of an eye. While some victims are fortunate in that the wreck causes little to no damage to anyone’s vehicle or property, others are not nearly as lucky. Catastrophic accidents can cause permanent injuries or even death. The Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security works to protect Tennesseans and reduce motor vehicle crashes, which includes providing driver education and keeping track of statistics.

2017 Tennessee driving statistics were recently released, and they yielded interesting results. For starters, there were a total of 208,104 motor vehicle crashes statewide, with 50,174 deemed to have caused an injury. Of course, these would only include injuries reported at the scene, so this figure is likely much higher considering some motor vehicle accident related injuries can take hours, days, or longer to develop. The total accident figure is an increase from 2016, when 206,404 wrecks were reported. While accidents saw a slight increase from 2016 to 2017, these figures represent a stark increase from 2008, when 159,214 accidents were reported.

In 2017, fatal car accidents slightly increased from 2016, going from 1,037 to 1,040. July was the deadliest month, with 120 fatal crashes. This can likely be attributed to the 4th of July, a holiday that typically sees a higher rate of drunk driving. 83 of the fatal crashes in 2017 involved teen drivers, compared to 103 in 2016. While teen driving fatalities decreased, the opposite occurred to seniors aged 65 and older. In 2017, 250 seniors were involved in deadly accidents, compared to 231 in 2016. Pedestrian fatalities also increased from 2016, going from 110 to 134.

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On March 1, 2018, in Carpenter v. Southern Transit, the Tennessee’ Workers Compensation Appeals Board affirmed the trial court’s ruling in favor of NST’s client that had suffered an on the job injury. Following his injury, our client’s medical treatment recommended by his doctor was denied by multiple insurance carriers, leading to NST attorney Monica R. Rejaei filing for an expedited hearing on the issue, which was granted. The decision was appealed, with the insurance companies claiming our client’s injuries were not caused by his employment.

Under Tennessee workers’ compensation law, “injury” is defined to mean “an injury arising out of and in the course of employment that causes either disablement or death of the employee and shall include occupational diseases arising out of and in the course of employment that cause either disablement or death of the employee.” To determine whether one’s condition constitutes an on the job “injury” compensable through workers’ compensation, relevant evidence can include the employee’s medical records and testimony of the treating physician.

Our client is a 66 year old resident of Memphis, Tennessee, employed as a truck driver for a logistics company. Occasionally, he would drive trucks belonging to another trucking company in the area when his primary truck was being serviced. In November 2016, while operating a truck belonging to the other company but within the course and scope of his employment, our client was transferring a trailer to another driver and bringing said driver’s trailer back to the hub. During this travel, the driver’s seat in the tractor was broken, continuously striking him in the lower back throughout his travel. He reported this injury to his supervisor that day. Just over one week later, as our client was stepping out of the truck belonging to the other company, he felt a sharp pain in his lower back that radiated down into his legs. This incident was once again reported to his supervisor.

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According to a recent report in the Chattanooga Times Free Press, the number of traffic citations issued to Hamilton County drivers decreased for the 5th year in a row in 2017. For example, in 2012, police officers in Chattanooga wrote 6,776 tickets for speeding and 1,653 tickets for seatbelt violations. In 2017, officers only wrote 2,119 speeding tickets and 378 seatbelt violation tickets. On a similar note, tickets for red light violations dropped from 668 to 280.

With tickets going down, that must mean more people are choosing to follow the rules of the road, right? Not so fast. The Chattanooga Police Department has provided several reasons why traffic citations are declining in the area. The first concerns officer discretion. A supervisor of the Chattanooga Police Department’s traffic division stated police officers have discretion when it comes to issuing tickets and citations. For example, if an officer pulls someone over for speeding, he or she can issue a verbal warning instead of writing a ticket. Since the police department wants to always encourage safe driving, some officers believe that having a conversation with the offender and providing a verbal warning can do more to prevent violations in the future than writing that person up with a citation.

Police attrition may also be linked to less tickets being issued. Losing officers has been a problem for many municipal police departments over the year, and the issue is no stranger to Chattanooga. According to the Chattanooga Police Department, between three and four police officers leave the department each month, on average, with some being transferred to new divisions and others leaving the force altogether.

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Sports Fans,

Be on the lookout for 2 of NST’s television commercials during the big College Football Playoff National Championship game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Georgia Bulldogs. The championship game between these SEC rivals takes place on Monday, January 8th at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA. Kick off starts at 7:00 pm Central time on ESPN. You don’t want to miss this game! Team NST and championship football…..a WINNING COMBINATION!!!

For a sneak peak, here are the commercials that will air during the telecast:

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