Bart Bernard Injury Lawyers Blog

Bart Bernard Injury Lawyers Blog

How Vicarious Liability Law Affects Truck Accidents

March 23, 2017 Truck Accidents 0 Comments

auto-accident-truck-accident-2

Based on the laws of physics, truck accidents are far more dangerous for the occupants of the passenger cars involved than they are for the occupants of the truck. These crashes led to more than 1600 injuries in Louisiana in 2015, and more than 80 deaths. In the aftermath of these serious crashes, there is often a trail of heartbreak over lost loved ones, physical disabilities that impair one’s way of life, emotional pain and suffering, and financial distress related to mounting medical bills.

Injury victims are entitled to recover for losses caused by the negligence of another. In a truck accident, the driver may have been at fault, but it is often his or her employer that is legally responsible under a theory of vicarious liability.

What is vicarious liability in truck accidents?

Vicarious liability, also known by the Latin phrase “respondeat superior”, is holding one party legally responsible for the actions of another.

For an employer to be vicariously liable for the unintentional actions of its employee, the employee must have been working within the scope of employment at the time. The action must have been for the employer’s benefit, even if the employee may have been violating the company’s rules or procedures at the time of the accident.

Vicarious liability is different from an employer’s independent liability. For example, the company may be liable for its own wrongful act of poorly maintaining the vehicle. A truck accident lawyer is experienced at investigating the many factors related to an accident to ensure the victim’s rights are protected.

Causes of truck accidents in Louisiana

There are many possible causes of commercial vehicle accidents, including:

  • Driver fatigue
  • Poor judgment
  • Mechanical problems
  • Speeding
  • Improper vehicle maintenance
  • Poor driver training

An analysis of Louisiana commercial vehicle crashes for 2015 showed that the most frequent citations received by truck drivers in fatal crashes were careless operation and failure to yield.

There are also a lot of federal and Louisiana laws that regulate the actions of trucking companies and their drivers. For example, these laws determine how many hours at a time a driver may drive, how the load may be secured, and when and how the vehicle is to be inspected. These regulations are in place to protect the safety of the public and violations can play a key factor in causing deadly crashes.

Vicarious liability of independent contractor truck drivers

Trucking is different from most other industries, where a company may only be liable for a worker’s actions if the worker was an employee, rather than an independent contractor.

To prevent legal maneuvering that is often detrimental to accident victims and the public at large, federal motor carrier laws deem drivers of interstate carriers to be “statutory employees” for purposes of respondeat superior liability – the company is treated as the employer regardless of whether the driver was an independent contractor. This relationship is important to understand because trucking companies have historically tried to avoid liability by deeming a driver an independent contractor. These motor carrier laws mean accident victims are not limited to recovering from the individual drivers; their employers often have greater means to compensate victims.

Lafayette, LA personal injury attorney

At the law offices of Bart Bernard, in Lafayette and Baton Rouge, LA, we are dedicated to making sure truck accident victims can focus on the future, not on who to file a lawsuit against. Trust experienced Louisiana personal injury lawyer Bart Bernard to hold the trucking companies accountable so you can see your most favorable outcome.

Additional Truck Accident Resources

  1. e-CFR, Part 390 – FEDERAL MOTOR CARRIER SAFETY REGULATIONS; GENERAL, http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/retrieveECFR?gp=1&ty=HTML&h=L&mc=true&=PART&n=pt49.5.390
  2. LSU, Commercial Vehicle Safety in Louisiana: An Analysis of Truck Crashes for 2015, http://datareports.lsu.edu/Reports/SpecialReports/2015_CMV_Summary.pdf
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What is Whiplash from a Car Accident?

March 16, 2017 Auto Accidents 0 Comments

Bystanders describing the scene of an accident to the police officerEven minor vehicle crashes can be horrific experiences for everyone involved. Beyond the property damage and emotional trauma, physical injuries can take a serious toll on victims. A whiplash neck sprain is a common injury associated with car accidents.

Statistically, most cases of whiplash stem from rear-end collisions at speeds of less than 15 miles per hour. Whiplash occurs when the head is quickly jolted forwards and backwards (or vice versa), in a sudden whip-like movement, stretching ligaments and muscles abruptly. When muscles and ligaments are hyperextended, or forcibly thrust beyond their normal range of motion, this injury can result in long-term pain, reduced mobility and other complications.

Whiplash after a car crash

According to the Spine Research Institute of San Diego, an estimated 3 million whiplash injuries occur every year in the U.S.  Some 20 percent of people involved in rear-end auto accidents develop symptoms of whiplash neck strain – generally within the first few days, reports the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

When the neck is unexpectedly jerked back and forth beyond its normal limits in a collision, the cervical vertebra and supporting tissues flex and then extend causing localized damage to the neck and upper back. In more serious cases of whiplash injury, ligaments are torn and can bleed. In the immediate aftermath of a car accident, some victims may notice minor symptoms like a stiff neck, which is usually indicative of whiplash. For this reason, it’s imperative to visit your nearest clinic or hospital for a thorough medical evaluation.

There are no definitive tests used to diagnose whiplash after a car accident. Unlike broken bones, which can be easily detected by X-rays, soft tissue injuries can be harder to assess and evaluate. In some situations, MRIs, CT scans and ultrasounds can point to ligament and muscle damage, but doctors largely rely on patient history and ongoing symptoms.

Symptoms of whiplash

Whiplash neck strain symptoms normally appear within hours of a motor vehicle accident. However, they can also slowly manifest over a period of days.  Be alert for the following signs:

  • Neck stiffness
  • Headaches
  • Blurry vision
  • Pain in the neck and upper back
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Inability to rotate neck left or right
  • Numbness or tingling in the shoulders or arms
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Constant fatigue

The prognosis for most whiplash injuries is good, as long as patients adhere to treatment protocols, which may include muscle relaxants, physiotherapy, chiropractic adjustments, traction, heat, and pain killers.

In some cases, whiplash injuries do not heal properly, leaving victims with headaches and lingering pain for many months or years following the accident. These complications may be traced back to permanent damage to ligaments, nerves or discs.

Louisiana car accident attorney

At the Lafayette law offices of Bart Bernard, we believe that whiplash injury victims should be focused on their recovery, not on filing a claim for damages. Amid all the stresses and life complications that follow a collision, you want an experienced legal advocate who can truly fight for the compensation you deserve. As your trusted Lafayette car accident lawyer, Bart Bernard will work diligently to achieve the most favorable outcome possible, recovering compensation for all medical bills, loss of wages, lost future earnings and pain and suffering. Even if your accident was caused by an uninsured motorist, Bart Bernard has the resources and skill to get a fair settlement.

To schedule a free, no-obligation case review, call us today.

Additional Whiplash Resources

  1. HealthLine, Whiplash http://www.healthline.com/health/whiplash
  2. PatientInfo, Whiplash Neck Sprain http://patient.info/health/whiplash-neck-sprain
  3. SpineResearch of San Diego, Whiplash http://www.srisd.com/consumer_site/
  4. FulkChiropractic, 5 Early Warning Signs of a Whiplash Injury http://www.fulkchiropractic.com/whiplash-injury-auto-accident/
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How to Take Car Accident Photos

March 15, 2017 Auto Accidents 0 Comments

Man photographing his vehicle damages for accident insuranceAnyone who has been in an auto accident knows how disorienting and alarming the immediate aftermath can be. However, the minutes and hours after a crash are the best time for victims to capture photographic evidence that can make all the difference in the success or failure of any subsequent claim for financial compensation.

Why post-accident photos matter

Issues of fault and negligence in auto accidents are not always easily or quickly determined. Therefore, photographic evidence taken soon after the fact can prove invaluable when it comes time to file claims with insurance carriers or pursue a personal injury lawsuit in the courts. Photos provide clear depictions of what happened, the physical locations of the vehicles involved and the damage resulting from the impact.

Because recollections can rapidly fade or be tainted by personal bias, head trauma or other factors, documentation of this type really can make or break arguments concerning liability.

How to capture valuable car accident images

The ubiquitous nature of cell phones equipped with cameras makes it easier than ever to capture a large volume of good-quality photos following a car crash. Take as many images as possible from a variety of angles and distances, waiting until later to select the ones that best illustrate what occurred. Some of the most useful shots to get include those that encompass:

  • All vehicles involved in the collision and the damage on each
  • Your own vehicle and the damage sustained
  • Shards of glass and broken vehicle components on the roadway
  • Skid marks on the road surface
  • Details of the prevailing weather conditions at the time of the accident
  • The immediate surroundings including intersections, sidewalks, traffic signals
  • Relevant geographical reference points such as road signs or mile markers
  • Immediately noticeable injuries to all parties involved
  • Police and ambulance personnel responding at the scene

Being as thorough as possible in documenting the accident site can greatly enhance an injury victim’s chances of securing a fair amount of compensation in the event of an insurance dispute or in litigation.

Other valuable post-accident photographic evidence

While it is true that many serious car accident injuries are apparent almost instantaneously, it must be remembered that there are others that take several days or even longer to manifest themselves. Deep bruising, contusions and swelling may exhibit delayed signs of onset, and it is therefore wise to continue taking photos of all harm produced by the collision, whenever it actually presents. Doing so ensures that the full scope of the damage done is recorded for use in the claims and compensation process.

Aggressive advocacy for car accident victims in Louisiana

Each and every vehicle crash has a distinct fact pattern and unique nuances which must be carefully explored if a victim’s recovery claim is to be successful. Louisiana auto accident attorney Bart Bernard understands which types of documentary evidence are most persuasive when doing battle with insurance companies and at-fault drivers. He works collaboratively with medical experts, crash investigators and others to build convincing cases for injured parties across Louisiana.

For a no-cost consultation and a confidential discussion of your legal options following a serious accident, we invite you to contact us by calling our offices in Lafayette or in Baton Rouge.

Additional “taking photos after a car accident” resources

  1. Edmunds, How Car Insurance Companies Handle Car Accident Claims, https://www.edmunds.com/auto-insurance/how-car-insurance-companies-handle-car-accident-claims.html
  2. DMV, How Car Insurance Companies Investigate Accident Claims, http://www.dmv.org/insurance/how-car-insurance-companies-investigate-accident-claims.php
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Investigation Reveals Concerns About Extent of Nursing Home Abuse Epidemic

February 28, 2017 Nursing Home Neglect 0 Comments

Nursing Home AbuseA recent, in-depth investigation by CNN has revealed that America’s seniors are facing an even greater threat than most would have ever suspected in the form of rampant abuse in nursing home facilities nationwide. Examination of voluminous federal and state-level records, interviews with regulatory officials, advocates and the families of victims has presented a devastating picture of failed oversight, unspeakable offenses and profound neglect of the duty owed to those whose well-being has been entrusted to so-called professionals.

Major gaps in reporting of nursing home abuse

After detailing a series of particularly horrific incidents involving the sexual, physical and emotional abuse of nursing home residents, the CNN report draws much-needed attention to the fact that no exhaustive national clearing house of data exists concerning the true number of such events occurring in elder care facilities annually. State investigators are typically the ones to delve into allegations of this type of mistreatment, though a lack of uniformity in how such claims are treated and resolved has made it extremely difficult to quantify the actual scope of the problem on a national level. The CNN study did find, however, that the facilities themselves contribute greatly to this problematic lack of transparency, with over 500 of them having been censured for not properly exploring and reporting allegations of abuse to the relevant authorities or screening prospective employees for troubling past histories.

Aging population boosts demand for quality nursing home care

With medical advances and greater emphasis on healthy lifestyles making it possible for Americans to live longer lifespans than ever before, the need for quality residential elder care facilities is virtually certain to grow in the coming decades. The National Study of Long-Term Care Providers recently put the number of existing licensed nursing home beds in the United States at 1.8 million, a total expected to rise in the near future. While a majority of nursing homes do provide seniors with the dedicated, caring attention they deserve, far too many others are characterized by abhorrent patterns of neglect, abuse and unaccountability to residents and their families.

Elder abuse estimates indicate need for vigilance

The National Council on Aging has suggested that no less than 1 in every 10 Americans aged 60 or older has been subjected to one type of elder abuse or another, but that only 1 of every 14 such cases will be reported to law enforcement or other supervisory authorities. As a result, friends, relatives and others who are close to elderly individuals must take it upon themselves to stay vigilant and attuned to the signs of possible abuse, particularly in residential care environments. Some of the critical hallmarks for which to watch include:

  • Unexplained decline in hygiene
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Bruising or scratches
  • Uncharacteristic agitation or aggressiveness
  • Withdrawal from personal relationships or favorite hobbies

It is especially important for loved ones to investigate the circumstances surrounding the appearance of one or more of the above symptoms, largely because nursing home residents may already be in the throes of mental or communicative decline and unable to express concerns for themselves. Anytime abuse is suspected, it is crucial that further inquiry be conducted as soon as possible, and the help of an experienced elder law attorney can often prove invaluable.

Unwavering advocacy for Louisiana’s seniors

If you believe that someone you love may have been victimized in a care facility, nursing home abuse attorney Bart Bernard stands ready to zealously assert your family’s rights, seek justice and pursue full accountability from those responsible. Whether by assisting in the filing of a complaint with the Health Standards Section of the Louisiana Department of Health or initiating a civil lawsuit against an unscrupulous nursing home operator, our firm is prepared to offer the aggressive advocacy the circumstances require. To discuss the facts of your case contact us today in Lafayette or in Baton Rouge.

Additional “nursing home neglect & abuse” resources

  1. CNN, Sick, Dying and Raped in America’s Nursing Homes, http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2017/02/health/nursing-home-sex-abuse-investigation/
  2. Louisiana Department of Health, Complaints, http://dhh.louisiana.gov/index.cfm/page/254
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Elder Abuse Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/features/elderabuse/
  4. National Council on Aging, Elder Abuse Facts, https://www.ncoa.org/public-policy-action/elder-justice/elder-abuse-facts/
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Long-Term Care Providers and Services Users in the United States, Data From the National Study of Long-Term Care Providers, 2013-2014, https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_03/sr03_038.pdf
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5 Most Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents

February 28, 2017 Motorcycle 0 Comments

Motorbike Accident on the road with a car

Each year, there are roughly 2,000 accidents involving motorcycles in Louisiana, including more than 80 biker fatalities. “Some of it are people not driving up to their ability; some of those crashes involved people not being aware of motorcycles in the area,” said Trooper Bryan Lee with the Louisiana State Police. Most accidents are caused by a variety of factors, including:

1. Left hand turns

The most dangerous situation for motorcycle drivers is approaching an intersection where cars are attempting to turn left. Cars making lefts are involved in 42 percent of all motorcycle accidents. Usually, cars strike motorcyclists who are driving straight through the intersection or attempting to pass. The car driver may misjudge the motorcycle’s speed or fail to realize a motorcycle is coming at all due to blind spots, inattention, or distraction.

2. Driver inexperience

The HURT Report, the most comprehensive motorcycle safety study ever done, found that more than half of motorcycle accident victims had less than five months of experience on the bike they were riding at the time and about 3 years of riding experience in total. Two-thirds of all accidents involved a slide-out from a preventable biker error, such as over-braking, taking a turn too wide, speeding, or under-cornering. The Louisiana Motorcycle Safety Program has trained over 200,000 local riders within the last 40 years.

3.  Alcohol use

The NHTSA reported that 29 percent of motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes had blood alcohol concentrations at or above the legal limit of .08 percent. Comparatively, 22 percent of motor vehicle drivers in fatal crashes were intoxicated at the time. In total, almost half of all motorcycle accidents involve some type of alcohol use. Other factors in these crashes include: low visibility from driving at night, inexperience with an average age between 35-39, and reckless behavior such as riding without a helmet.

4. Speeding

The NHTSA also found that a third of motorcyclists killed in crashes were speeding at the time, compared to 20 percent of passenger car drivers, 17 percent of light truck drivers, and 7 percent of large truck drivers. Some motorcyclists are more likely to speed than others. More than half (57%) of super sport motorcycles were traveling in excess of the posted speed limit at the time of their accidents, compared to 27 percent of cruisers or standards, and 22 percent of touring motorcycles. The HURT Report found that 1 in 1,000 accidents involved motorcycles traveling over 86 mph. Speeding usually results in cars missing the oncoming cyclist entirely, and cyclists being ejected off their bikes.

5. Time of day

The most dangerous time of day to travel by bike is on the weekdays between 3-6pm. During rush hour, the largest percentage of motorcyclists are killed (24%) or injured (34.2%). Around this time of day, there is higher than normal volume of cars, more noise, and glare from the setting sun. Glare or view obstruction was cited in about half of all multiple vehicle accidents, according to the HURT Report. The early morning hours before 9 am are the safest for motorcycle travel.

Need a Louisiana motorcycle accident lawyer?

It has been estimated that less than 10 percent of motorcycle riders have sufficient insurance to cover medical or property damage involved in a crash. Passenger car drivers are responsible for 60 percent of collisions with motorcycles, according to a 10-year review of Urban Transportation Research crash data. Get the help you deserve to hold those accountable for your accident and obtain compensation to ease your burden! Lafayette and Baton Rouge Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Bart Bernard is in the Multi-Million-Dollar Advocates Forum, recognized for his outstanding achievements in winning huge settlements for his clients. Contact Bart Bernard for a free case review. All legal assistance is free until the case has been won!

Additional “causes of motorcycle crashes” resources

  1. III – Motorcycle Crashes http://www.iii.org/issue-update/motorcycle-crashes
  2. USC Traffic Safety Center – The Hurt Report http://isddc.dot.gov/OLPFiles/NHTSA/013695.pdf
  3. Florida Sun Sentinel – Car drivers cause most crashes with motorcycles, study finds http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2013-03-09/news/fl-finding-fault-in-motorcycle-crashes-20130309_1_motorcycle-crashes-chanyoung-lee-motorcycle-riders
  4. Ride Apart – 10 Common Motorcycle Accidents and How To Avoid Them https://rideapart.com/articles/10-common-motorcycle-accidents-and-how-to-avoid-them
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New Report Shows Drunk Driving Rates Steadily Dropping

February 8, 2017 News 0 Comments

Beer mug with car keyRates of drunk driving have steadily dropped in the U.S., says a new report issued by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). According to the latest statistics from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the incidence of driving while impaired by alcohol plummeted from 15.3 percent in 2002 to 11.1 percent in 2014. The data shows that one of the steepest declines in drunk driving rates is among drivers aged 21-25, which are historically one of the biggest offenders. The drunk driving rate dropped over ten percent for this age group in the last 12 years.

While this downward trend is encouraging for road safety officials and motorists alike, driving under the influence of alcohol still claims thousands of innocent lives each year. “We must strive to save lives by reducing this public health threat through education, prevention, and all other possible measures,” said Frances Harding, head of SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, in a recent press release.

Rates of DUI – by gender & age group

The SAMHSA report offered valuable insight into DUI rates by age group and gender, showing that younger drivers were more likely to self-report instances of getting behind the wheel while impaired by either drugs or alcohol.

2014 drunk driving statistics included in the report:

  • 7 million Americans aged 16 or older drove drunk or while impaired by drugs
  • DUI rates increased steadily from age 16 until age 29
  • Drunk driving rates began to drop in people aged 30 and older
  • Only 4.1 percent of drunk drivers were aged 65 or older
  • Males were more likely to drive while drunk, or drive while impaired by drugs and alcohol compared to females

Additional sobering facts about the consequences of driving under the influence:

  • Alcohol–related deaths accounted for 31 percent of all traffic fatalities in 2014
  • 28 people die every day in a crash caused by a drunk driver
  • 9,967 Americans were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes in 2014
  • Up to 75 percent of convicted drunk drivers continue to drive on a suspended license

Drunk driving is a national hazard

In Louisiana, it is illegal for motorists to operate a vehicle when they have a blood alcohol concentration exceeding .08 percent. What many people don’t realize is that just two cocktails or glasses of wine are enough to impair motor skills and slow reaction times.

Victims of drunk driving accidents not only have to face the injustice of another person’s mistake, they have to deal with burdens of medical bills, lost income, property damage, and perhaps the premature death of a loved one.

Those who do survive a DUI accident in Louisiana may be entitled to sue for compensatory and punitive damages. Litigation can pursue money damages for things like past and future hospital and medical bills, pain and emotional suffering, diminished earning capacity and loss of enjoyment of life.

Experienced legal help in Louisiana

At the personal injury law office of Bart Bernard, we understand the traumatic and life-altering consequences of car accidents – especially those caused by drunk drivers. And as a leading car accident lawyer in Louisiana, Bart Bernard will leave no stone unturned to achieve the compensation you deserve.

To discuss your case free of charge, we invite you call any time, night or day.

Additional Impaired Driving/DUI Resources:

  1. SAMHSA, The rate of driving under the influence of alcohol has steadily declined from 2002-2014 https://www.samhsa.gov/newsroom/press-announcements/201612271200
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Impaired Driving: Get the Facts https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/impaired_driving/impaired-drv_factsheet.html
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DOT Targets Railroad Crossing Safety with New Campaign

February 1, 2017 Personal Injury Lawsuits 0 Comments

Railroad Crossing 2 tracks warning sign.Federal statistics on railroad crossing incidents paint a bleak picture – at least one pedestrian or vehicle is hit by a train every three hours in the U.S., reports the Federal Railroad Administration. Even worse is the fact that nearly all of these injuries and deaths are entirely preventable. In an effort to curb railroad crossing accidents, the Department of Transportation (DOT) kicked off a new safety ad campaign earlier this month with a startling video that depicts a freight train slamming into the side of a sports utility vehicle that is on the tracks. The train’s engineer applies the brakes to no avail, as the locomotive drags the SUV along the tracks.

The message, according to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx: “Too many people are still taking unnecessary risks and needlessly paying with their lives.” The video is a stark reminder of the deadly ramifications for those who ignore warning signs at railroad crossings or try and beat a train.

Railroad crossing ad safety campaign

The ad campaign is aptly titled, “Stop. Trains Can’t.” A collaboration between the Federal Railroad Administration and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the campaign’s main focus is educating drivers about railroad crossing dangers and keeping families safe. A train always has the right of way, and while it may seem harmless to ignore crossing signs, the consequences are not. FRA authorities say that it takes a train traveling 55 mph a full mile to come to stop after applying the emergency brake. In 2016 alone, some 232 people died in railroad crossing accidents. With hope, this new safety campaign — which is set to run in Louisiana and other states with high accident and fatality rates – will help improve awareness and prevent needless deaths.

The government has invested $7 million in media ads, as part of a two-year effort to reduce accidents at train crossing around the nation. The ads will target men between the ages of 18 and 49 in states with the most hazardous crossings and highest accident rates.  Authorities caution that young male drivers are involved in a staggering 75 percent of all rail crossing accidents.

NHTSA authorities remind motorists that trying to outrun a freight train isn’t worth the risk, and a mistake that may cost your life.

The following railroad crossing statistics are another eye opener:

  • More than 90 percent of railroad crossing fatalities involve drivers trying to beat a train, or pedestrians trespassing on railroad tracks
  • More than half of all railroad crossing accident victims were impaired by drugs or alcohol at the time of the incident
  • Louisiana, according to the FRA, is fourth in the country for the number of railroad crossing deaths

Legal assistance in Louisiana

As part of the program, public service announcements and ads have been running on TV and radio stations across Louisiana, and railroad intersections will be monitored by law enforcement for additional safety.

As a Louisiana resident and veteran personal injury lawyer, Bart Bernard supports any initiative aimed at reducing accidents and preventable loss of life.  If you or someone you care about was involved in a railroad crossing accident, whether as a train passenger, pedestrian or vehicle driver, it’s important to protect your legal rights.

Call 1-888-GET-BART to arrange a free and confidential consultation today.

Additional Railroad Crossing Ad Safety Campaign Resources:

  1. NHTSA, DOT Launches New Railroad Crossing Safety Ad Campaign https://www.nhtsa.gov/press-releases/dot-launches-new-railroad-crossing-safety-ad-campaign
  2. Federal Railroad Administration, U.S. DOT Launches New Railroad Crossing Safety Ad https://www.fra.dot.gov/eLib/details/L18522
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