Steven Barcus

According to the National Drivers Test, administered by GMAC insurance last month, one in five motorists – roughly 38 million Americans – are unfit to drive on our nation’s highways.

The insurance company asked motorists from all 50 states and the District of Columbia 20 questions from their local DMV’s written driving test. The average score was only 76.2 percent, and about 20 percent of currently licensed drivers would have failed the test.

Of all states, New York drivers ranked last, for the second year in a row, with an average score of 70 percent. New Jersey motorists followed their neighbor state with a 70.5 percent. Kansas drivers, with an 82.3 percent average score, ranked highest. Idaho and Wisconsin tied for first last year.

According to Wade Bontrager, senior vice president of marketing at GMAC, in an article for BusinessWeek, it is pretty typical for areas with large urban populations to do poorly. This is because the areas tend to be more congested and fast paced.

Male drivers scored better than females on both average scores (78.1 percent male versus 74.4 percent female) and failure rates (24 percent female versus 18.1 percent male). In addition, other results showed that the older the driver, the higher the score.

One scary statistic: about 25 participants admitted to driving while talking on mobile phones, eating and adjusting the radio or selecting songs on an iPod. However, only 5 percent of participants reported texting while driving.

A new study from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NCIB) shows that questionable claims for fraudulent, staged accidents went up 46 percent from 2007 to 2009. While questionable claims have risen, the overall rate of bodily injury and personal injury protection claims have fallen.

According to the report, there were 4,802 questionable claims involving staged accidents in 2009. These claims usually involve several vehicles plotting to set up an innocent driver for an accident in which injuries are feigned. The top three states were Florida (1,446), New York (765) and California (622). The top three cities were New York (618), Tampa (425) and Orlando (188). The NICB adds that nearly one out of every four phony car accidents in the U.S. came out of Florida.

The two most common scams include the “swoop and squat,” which involves three staged vehicles, and the “left turn drive down,” which targets female drivers in and around entrances to parking areas in shopping malls. The schemes are usually so complex and so precise that the innocent victims truly believe they are at fault. Staged accidents have become such a problem that the NICB has videos on its website to expose how these carefully choreographed scams work.

According to Thomas Lohmann, the New York-area operations director for the crime bureau, in a recent article for the New York Times, the false claims are run by organized crime, and the perpetrators are able to make as much as $200,000 for one “accident” with four “victims.” Lohmann also explained that the “victims” often work with a doctor who is part of the scam and certifies the injuries.

Disney Waterway Crash

May 18th, 2010

A Walt Disney World waterway was the site of a traumatic collision between a small vessel and a ferryboat last month. The accident left one woman, Barbara Wormwald, with serious injuries, including a collapsed lung and broken ribs.

According to the ferry’s captain, Will Green, the small boat was travelling “recklessly” towards the ferry. Upon contact, the small craft went under the ferry and “surfaced in front of it with the injured passenger.”

Wormwald and her husband, Michael, rented the small boat at Downtown Disney. Michael Wormwald told the sheriff’s office that he assumed the ferry would allow them to pass by when it saw the two-seat watercraft coming near. However, even though the ferry attempted to reverse, it was too late before the woman was trapped between the two.

Barbara Wormald, 61, of Celebration and Skipton, England, was immediately transported to Orlando Regional Medical Center to receive treatment. All operations on the waterways were resumed after the collision cleared, and no citations have yet to be issued. Wormwald, however, may allegedly face charges for reckless boating.


April 10th, 2010

Welcome to Steven Barcus’ law blog.  This blog will cover laws and current events related to personal injuries. Visit this blog frequently as we will be updating it often.

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