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2022 Was the Deadliest Year on Nebraska Roads Since 2007

254 people were killed in car accidents in Nebraska last year, the highest number of accident fatalities in a single year since 2007. This statistic represents a nearly 15% increase over 2021’s traffic fatality count, which was 221.

During the pandemic, the number of motor vehicle accidents in the United States fell considerably as fewer cars were on the roads. As restrictions have been lifted across the country, however, fatal crash rates have skyrocketed– in some cases, they are outpacing pre-pandemic levels.

These statistics are concerning for anyone who spends time on Nebraska roads. To keep yourself and everyone else safe, it’s important to stay informed and commit to driving safely. To find more information about Nebraska accident statistics, common causes of car crashes, and tips for handling motor vehicle accidents, keep reading below.

Nebraska Traffic Fatality Statistics 2022

  • Urban areas, like Omaha and Lincoln, saw fatalities increase by 58% from 2021 to 2022.
  • Fatalities in rural areas stayed about the same as totals from 2021.
  • The average number of fatal accidents from 2017-2021 was 232, while 2022 alone had 254.
  • 24 pedestrians were killed on Nebraska roads in 2022. This is tied with 2018 for most pedestrian deaths in the state in a single year (though data is only available from 2011 on).
  • 7 people were killed by trains last year, the most since 2007.

Causes of Nebraska Traffic Accident Fatalities

One of the best ways to prevent accidents is to know what causes them. Being aware of and avoiding risky behaviors can keep you and everyone you interact with on the road safe.

Speeding

According to Sgt. Jeremy Thorson of the Nebraska State Patrol, more than 4,000 speeding citations were issued in 2022 for speeds of over 90 miles per hour.

Speeding is one of the leading contributors to fatal motor vehicle accidents. By traveling faster than is safe for road conditions, you may give yourself insufficient reaction time if a hazard becomes present. Speeding also increases the chances of losing control of your vehicle.

Additionally, when speeding is a factor in an accident, the risk of serious injury or death increases. Speeding kills thousands of people every year. By following the speed limit and slowing down in winter weather or other hazardous conditions, you can save lives.

Distracted Driving

Woman texting and driving

According to traffic cameras, around 10% of all Nebraska drivers are on their cell phones while driving, says Bill Kovarik, Nebraska Highway Safety Administrator.

When driving at 55 miles per hour, taking your eyes off the road for 5 seconds means that you travel the length of a football field without looking. Texting, fiddling with the radio, applying makeup, and even talking to passengers can all create dangerous distractions for drivers.

 

When behind the wheel, commit to focusing solely on the task at hand: driving safely.

Impaired Driving

Alcohol is involved in about one-third of fatal motor vehicle accidents. Drivers ages 21-34 are overrepresented in alcohol-involved accidents in Nebraska.

Never, ever drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Assign a designated driver or don’t drive until you have sobered up.

Failure to Wear a Seatbelt

Seatbelts are required for all vehicle occupants under Nebraska law. Unfortunately, Nebraska ranks 47th in the nation for seatbelt usage. Only 81% of Nebraskans buckle up before hitting the road.

A seatbelt won’t prevent a crash, but it can decrease your risk of injury or death. Make sure everyone in your car is buckled up before beginning your drive.

What to Do if You Are Involved in an Accident

Even if you’re doing everything right, you may still be involved in a traffic crash. The time immediately following a wreck is often overwhelming and stressful, but it’s important not to panic. Remain at the scene of the accident– leaving the scene when property damage or injuries have occurred can lead to fines and jail time.

Take the following steps to protect yourself and your right to a claim after a car accident.

Check for injuries

As soon as an accident occurs, check yourself and your passengers for injuries. If anyone has serious injuries, call 911 right away. Be sure to pay attention to any pain you are feeling– your wounds might not be visible.

If no one is seriously hurt, move your vehicle out of traffic if possible. If the other driver is seriously injured and needs assistance, call 911 for them.

Contact law enforcement

Even if no one is seriously hurt, you should call the police and file an accident report. Your auto insurance company may require a police report before approving any accident claims. This also ensures there is a record of your accident, should you choose to file a personal injury claim later.

When the police arrive, keep your statements factual. Do not admit fault or apologize to the other driver. The police may conduct an investigation that finds you were not responsible for the accident. If you take the blame right away, the investigation may never be conducted.

Document the scene

While waiting for law enforcement to arrive, pay attention to the scene of the accident. Take pictures and videos of your vehicle, the other party’s vehicle, your injuries, marks on the pavement, and the scene as a whole.

This evidence can be used to build your case later. Even if you do not believe something is important, take pictures anyway. Your attorney can help you decide what information is helpful later on.

Two people exchange insurance information after a car accident

Exchange information

Calmly exchange the following information with the driver of the other vehicle:

  • Name
  • Phone number
  • Address
  • Insurance information
  • License plate number

Keep this conversation short and avoid speculating or talking about the accident. You may be feeling upset with them, especially if the accident was caused by their negligence. However, raising your voice, becoming aggressive, or assigning blame will not help the situation.

Seek medical attention

Even if you do not believe your injuries are serious, you should see a medical professional right away. Tell them you were involved in an auto accident– they will be able to look for hidden injuries that you may not be aware of at the time.

If you plan to file a personal injury claim, you will need to complete treatment before your case can settle. The sooner you see a doctor, the more quickly you can begin the road to recovery.

Consider hiring a personal injury attorney

If you were injured due to another person’s negligence in the state of Nebraska, an Advocate can help you. When dealing with physical pain, emotional trauma, medical bills, and property damage, fighting insurance adjusters is probably the last thing you want to do.

The car accident attorneys with The Advocates have been taking on injury cases for three decades. We know how to build a solid accident case, negotiate with insurance companies, and fight for the best settlement possible. 

In addition to fierce legal representation, a car accident lawyer with The Advocates will be there to listen to your story, make sure your needs are met, and provide regular updates on your case. Our job is to take the stress off your plate so you can focus on feeling better.

If you or a loved one have been involved in an accident, you deserve a legal team who truly cares about you. You deserve an Advocate.

What Medical Conditions Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits?

Doctor comforting patient by holding their hand

If you have been diagnosed with a medical condition or disorder that has left you unable to work, you may want to consider applying for social security benefits. Generally, disabled Americans with qualifying medical conditions can apply for either Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or supplemental security income (SSI).

What Medical Conditions Qualify for Social Security Benefits?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a list of impairments, disorders, and disabilities that may qualify applicants for SSDI or SSI benefits. This list is known as the “Blue Book.” Hundreds of impairments are listed in the Blue Book, though they all fall under one of 14 categories.

Keep in mind that a diagnosis in one of these areas does not automatically qualify you for SSDI benefits. 

Musculoskeletal Disorders

Musculoskeletal disorders include disorders of the spine or extremities. These disorders may impact your movement.

Man pushes himself in a wheelchair

Special Senses and Speech

This category includes blindness and visual impairment, deafness and hearing loss, and loss of speech.

Respiratory Disorders

Respiratory disorders include asthma, cystic fibrosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Cardiovascular System

Cardiovascular diseases include chronic heart failure, recurrent arrhythmias, and aneurysms.

Digestive System

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), chronic liver disease, and other digestive disorders fall under this category.

Genitourinary Disorders

The genitourinary system includes the organs in the reproductive and urinary systems. Chronic kidney disease is a genitourinary disorder.

Hematological Disorders

Hematological disorders disrupt the function of white and red blood cells. They include certain types of anemia and bone marrow failure.

Skin Disorders

Qualifying skin disorders include dermatitis, burns, and chronic infections of the skin.

Endocrine Disorders

Endocrine disorders cause hormonal imbalances. Most endocrine disorders cause impairments to other systems in the body, such as the cardiovascular, digestive, and neurological systems.

Congenital Disorders that Affect Multiple Body Systems

Non-mosaic Down syndrome (Trisomy 21) is evaluated under this section.

Neurological Disorders

Neurological disorders can impair both physical and mental function. Some neurological disorders included in this section include epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury, and muscular dystrophy. 

Mental Disorders

Mental disorders can include mood and personality disorders, as well as intellectual disabilities and mental health disorders. Some disorders listed under this section include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anxiety and depression, autism spectrum disorder, and eating disorders.

Cancer

Most types of cancer are evaluated under this section.

Immune System Disorders

This section includes immune deficiency disorders, inflammatory arthritis, and other disorders that impair your immune system.

What Else Is Required to Qualify for SSDI Benefits?

Generally, having a disabling condition does not automatically qualify you for SSDI benefits. After you submit your disability application, the SSA will determine whether your medical condition meets their definition of disability.

The SSA uses three criteria to determine disability:

  1. Your medical condition prevents you from working and engaging in substantial gainful activity (SGA)
  2. Your medical condition prevents you from doing work you did previously and from adjusting to other work
  3. Your medical condition has lasted or will last at least 12 months

To qualify for SSDI, you must also prove that you worked in jobs covered by Social Security. The longer and more recently you worked, the better your chances of qualifying for SSDI.

The qualifications for SSI are slightly broader. The Social Security Administration may approve your SSI application if you:

  • Are 65 or older, are blind, or have a qualifying disability
  • Have limited income
  • Have limited resources

How Do I Prove I Have a Disabling Condition?

X-Ray of rib cage

For both SSDI and SSI, you will need to provide medical evidence of your disability. This evidence must come from an “acceptable medical source,” and may include things like:

  • Treatment notes
  • Bloodwork panels
  • Imaging, like an X-ray or MRI
  • Medical exam results
  • Vision screening results 

What Are Compassionate Allowances?

In many cases, it takes months for the SSA to approve your disability application and for you to begin receiving benefits. Some disabilities, however, clearly meet the SSA’s definition of disability. People with these conditions may be given Compassionate Allowance. 

Compassionate Allowances help the SSA reach a disability determination more quickly for more serious medical conditions. If you have a disability that qualifies under Compassionate Allowance, your waiting time may be reduced. Conditions that qualify under Compassionate Allowance include a number of cancers, brain disorders, and rare childhood disorders.

What if My Disability Is Not Listed in the Blue Book?

You may still qualify for social security benefits, even if the Blue Book does not mention your specific medical condition(s). 

If you experience a number of illnesses or disorders that do not exactly match the listings in the Blue Book, your combined symptoms may still match the severity of one qualifying disability. If you can prove that your symptoms are equal in severity to those of a Blue Book listing, you may still qualify for benefits.

How Can a Social Security Disability Lawyer Help Me?

The disability claims process can quickly become complex, stressful, and overwhelming. Attempting to apply for benefits on your own can be confusing and even upsetting. A Social Security Disability Lawyer can help.

The SSDI attorneys with The Advocates have been helping disabled Americans with their disability claims for years and we are ready to help you too. An SSDI lawyer can help you:

  • Determine whether you qualify for benefits
  • Understand the difference between SSDI and SSI, and decide which is right for you
  • Compile medical evidence of your disability
  • Fill out your disability application
  • Appeal the SSA’s decision if your application is denied
  • Present your case to an administrative law judge if necessary

Contact The Advocates today for a free consultation. You deserve an attorney who will fight for your rights. You deserve an Advocate.

How to Drive in the Snow

The winter months often signal the arrival of two things: holiday travel and snowy roads. Regardless of where you live, you may find yourself navigating winter weather and icy conditions as you visit family and friends during the season.

For some, winter driving feels stressful or even frightening. Keep yourself and your loved ones safe by following these tips on how to drive in the snow.

Clear Snow and Ice Off Your Vehicle

If your car is parked outside overnight, ice and snow will likely build up on your hood, windshield, rear window, and the top of your car. It’s critical that you clear this buildup off before beginning to drive, for the safety of everyone in your car as well as everyone else on the road.

To clear your windshield and other windows, turn on your defroster and let it melt the ice a bit. It can take a long time for your defroster to remove all the snow and ice completely, so it’s a good idea to have an ice scraper handy to speed the process along.

Additionally, you should brush all the snow off the hood and roof of your car. This may not seem very important, since this snow generally doesn’t impact your visibility. However, as you drive, the wind may blow the snow up onto your windshield, or onto the windshields of cars behind you. Many ice scrapers have a brush on the other end that you can use to clear loose snow off of your car.

Finally, check your headlights and taillights and make sure they are not covered in snow or ice. When visibility is low, it’s crucial that other drivers can see your lights.

Check Your Wipers and Washer Fluid

If you find yourself driving in a snowstorm, it’s important to have working windshield wipers that completely wipe away snow and water. If your wipers are old or have been used a lot, their blades can wear down and stop working as well as they should.

Before winter starts, it’s a good idea to check your wipers and consider replacing them. You will be able to tell they need replacing if the rubber is cracked or 

damaged, or if they leave streaks on your windshield when you use them. If you have a wiper on your back window, check it as well.

Another key feature for safe winter driving is a full supply of washer fluid. Slushy road conditions often leave a layer of dirt and salt on your car, including on your windshield. If you run out of wiper fluid (or if it freezes), you’ll have a much harder time cleaning it off and your ability to see may be impacted.

Check your wiper fluid to make sure it is made for the weather you’ll be traveling in. The bottle will typically indicate the lowest temperature the fluid is made for.

Check Your Tire Pressure and Tread

You should be checking your tires all year long and ensuring they are maintained and rotated as needed. This is especially important before you drive on icy roads. Tires with worn down tread are more likely to skid on ice or snow. Tires that are low on air can also lose traction more easily than properly inflated tires.

As temperatures get lower, your tire pressure may also decrease. Typically, you can find the ideal tire pressure for your tires on the sticker inside your driver side door. If the information isn’t there, check your owner’s manual.

Invest in Snow Tires

If your area regularly receives snow in the winter time, or you often find yourself driving on snowy roads in the winter, you should consider purchasing snow tires or winter tires. Some states even have traction laws requiring certain types of vehicles to have snow chains or snow tires for a few months out of the year.

Winter tires are made for driving in cold weather and light snow. They have a deeper tread than all season tires, allowing them to grip the road more effectively.

Snow tires are designed for driving in heavy snow. They have an even deeper tread than winter tires, and some have metal studs for additional traction.

Use Four-Wheel Drive

If your car is equipped with four-wheel drive, make sure it is engaged when driving in snowy conditions. All-wheel drive also works well on snowy and icy roads.

If your car is front-wheel drive only, you may still be able to drive in the snow, depending on the state of your tires and the road conditions. You will likely want good snow tires, and avoid attempting to drive in very deep snow.

Rear-wheel drive does not perform well in the snow. If you only have a rear-wheel drive vehicle, consider staying home or using a different car when roads are very snowy.

Keep in mind that having four-wheel drive does not absolve you of driving safely in winter weather. Four-wheel drive does not improve the function of your tires or brakes, which means it is still perfectly possible to lose control of your vehicle when turning or stopping on snow-covered roads.

Use Your Headlights

When snow or sleet is falling, it can decrease visibility, making it harder for other drivers to see you. Use your headlights in a winter storm, even during the day. Resist the urge to turn on your high beams, however. They will reflect off of the falling snow and make it harder for you to see.

Slow Down

One of the most important ways to drive safely in the snow is to slow down. This is for several reasons.

When roads are slick, your required stopping distance will be greater than usual. In fact, it can take up to 10 times longer to stop snow-covered roads than on dry roads. By driving slowly, you both decrease your stopping distance and give yourself more time to react to unexpected hazards.

Turning can also be tricky in the snow. If you slow down, you lessen the chances that you will lose control during a turn. If you do start to slide, your slower speed will give you more time to regain control before hitting something.

Avoid cruise control in winter weather conditions. You should be constantly assessing and adjusting your speed for the conditions. If you begin to skid while using cruise control, your car may accelerate to try and achieve the target speed, possibly causing you to lose control.

Stay Alert

Winter driving conditions create a number of hazards that you need to be aware of as you drive. Other drivers may lose control of their vehicles and enter your lane. Black ice may be present on the roadway. Wildlife, such as deer and elk, are especially common in rural areas.

It is always critical to avoid becoming distracted while driving, but especially so in the winter. Because it will take you longer to stop when a hazard appears on the road, you need as much time as possible to decelerate. If you are distracted by passengers, scenery, or a cell phone, you may not see the hazard until it is too late.

Give a Safe Following Distance

Do not tailgate other cars in winter weather conditions. Snowy roads make an already dangerous practice even more risky. On dry roads, you should generally allow three seconds of following distance. On wet or snowy roads, increase the distance to 6-8 seconds. This means that after the car in front of you passes a landmark, it should take at least 6 seconds before you pass the same landmark.

Don’t Panic

If you feel your car start to slide, the most important thing you can do is remain calm. If you panic, you may forget what to do and act on instinct.

If you skid, take your foot off the gas pedal, but do not slam on the brakes. Gently turn your steering wheel in the same direction that the rear of your car is sliding. If you feel your rear tires slide to the left, turn your steering wheel to the left. Do not make any quick maneuvers– jerking the steering wheel or slamming down on the brake pedal can cause you to lose control even further.

Keep an Emergency Kit in Your Car

If you do happen to crash into a snowdrift or break down on a highway, it may take some time for tow services, like AAA, to reach you. You can take steps to get your car unstuck by having the right tools in your car.

Snow Shovel

If you have room, a small snow shovel will allow you to dig out the snow around your tires. Even if you’re calling a tow truck, they’ll have an easier time getting you out if the path is clear.

Cat Litter or Sand

Sandbox sand and kitty litter can help provide traction to your tires when you’re stuck in the snow. Sprinkle the sand or cat litter around your tires and you may find yourself able to drive out of your sticky situation.

Heavy Coat, Gloves, and a Blanket

Whether you try to get your car out yourself or decide to wait for help, it won’t be much fun if you’re freezing. Some heating systems don’t work as well when the car is not in motion, so you may find the inside of your car getting chilly even with the heat on. Always have warm clothes and a blanket handy in case of emergency.

What is Rubbernecking?

Woman rubbernecking while operating a motor vehicle

When coming upon something interesting on the side of the road while driving, it may feel natural to want to slow down and crane your neck to see what’s going on. However, this action, known as “rubbernecking,” can actually create more issues for everyone. Rubbernecking, while a seemingly innocuous act, can lead to traffic jams and car accidents.

What Are Examples of Rubbernecking?

The term rubbernecking refers to drivers taking their eyes off the road ahead to look at something else, usually off to the side. There are a variety of reasons a curious person might slow down for a better view of something off the shoulder of the highway. Rubbernecking is often used to refer to drivers slowing down to look at vehicle accident sites, but motorists may also find themselves distracted by:

  • Flashing lights on police cars, tow trucks, or first responder vehicles
  • People standing or walking on the side of the road
  • Landscapes
  • Wildlife

It is natural for humans to be interested in accidents or other tragic events in the lives of other people. Often referred to as “morbid curiosity,” many people experience horror or sadness when viewing an accident scene, but find themselves unable to look away.

Why Is Rubbernecking Dangerous?

Rubbernecking is a form of distracted driving, and can create a serious hazard on the road. A rubbernecking driver may slow down as they gawk at the distraction, becoming an obstacle to those around them still traveling at normal speeds. They may also cause rear-end collisions, as they may fail to see traffic slowing down in front of them while they look at the crash site.

Rubbernecking is such a widespread problem that it is the leading cause of traffic jams. When one car crash occurs, traffic often piles up as drivers all slow down as they pass the scene.

How to Avoid Rubbernecking

Even if those around you are slowing down to gape at a crash site, you can avoid becoming part of the problem by refusing to rubberneck.

Keep your eyes on the road

Do not let anything, inside or outside the car, distract you from the task at hand. When you are behind the wheel, your only job is to get yourself and your passengers to your destination safely.

Refrain from using cell phones, fiddling with the radio, or becoming preoccupied with happenings on the side of the road, no matter how tempting it may be to sneak a peek.

Practice safe driving when passing an accident

Anticipate that cars around you may be slowing down as you pass an accident scene. Watch closely for brake lights and for drivers who appear to be distracted. If you must slow down quickly, use your hazard lights to communicate that to other motorists.

Incident screens

In order to stop rubbernecking, some accident responders have begun using incident screens. These large screens can surround the site of the crash, giving passing motorists nothing to look at as they drive by. This helps prevent traffic from slowing around the area.

What to Do if You Are Involved in a Rubbernecking Accident

Anytime you are involved in a car accident, be sure to take the following actions to protect yourself and your right to an insurance claim.

Check for injuries

Immediately after a crash, check yourself and your passengers for injuries. If anyone is seriously injured, call 911.

Call the police

Even if no one in your car requires immediate medical attention, you should call the local non-emergency line and ask that a police officer be dispatched to the scene. Many insurance companies require you to file a police report before they will approve any claims.

The police officer will take statements from you and the other driver and make notes about the scene. This report may be useful to you if you choose to file a claim later.

Take note of the accident scene

While you wait for the police to arrive, document the scene of the accident as thoroughly as possible. Take pictures and/or videos of both cars, your injuries, marks on the pavement, weather and traffic conditions, and the scene as a whole. Even things that may not seem important at the time may be helpful later on.

Exchange information with the other driver

When speaking with the other driver, remain as calm and professional as possible. Do not admit fault or apologize for the accident. Simply collect the following information:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Insurance information
  • License plate number

Do not speculate about what caused the accident. This could be used against you later.

Seek medical attention

If you were not checked by a medical professional at the scene of the accident, see your physician right away. Let them know you were involved in a car accident, so they know what to look for. You may have hidden injuries that you are unaware of.

Notify your insurance company

Call your auto insurance provider and inform them that you were involved in an accident. Depending on your policy, some vehicle repairs and medical treatment may be covered.

How Can a Personal Injury Attorney Help?

If you were involved in an accident with a rubbernecking driver, you may be entitled to financial compensation for your damages. An attorney with The Advocates can offer you a free consultation to determine whether you have a case.

If you choose to file a claim, doing it on your own will likely not be easy. The at-fault driver’s insurance company will make it difficult for you to obtain the settlement you deserve.

The Advocates have decades of experience negotiating with insurance companies and helping accident victims get fair compensation for their injuries, and we are ready to help you too. You deserve an attorney who will fight for your best interests. You deserve an Advocate.

States Where Lane Filtering Is Legal

In recent years, a handful of states have legalized the practice of lane filtering for motorcyclists, and several more states are working toward it. While lane filtering can be a controversial topic, several studies support it as a safer way for motorcycles and other motor vehicles to share the road.

What is Lane Filtering?

Lane filtering is a lane sharing technique that allows motorcyclists to pass between cars traveling in the same direction– typically when the cars are stopped and the motorcycle is moving at low speeds. Four states have changed their traffic laws to allow lane filtering, and several others are considering passing legislation to allow it.

What Is the Difference Between Lane Filtering and Lane Splitting?

The terms “lane filtering” and “lane splitting” (also called white lining or stripe-riding) are often used interchangeably, although there is a difference between the two– a big difference, considering that lane splitting is only technically legal in one state.

While lane filtering generally refers to the practice of motorcycles moving between stopped or slow-moving vehicles, lane splitting allows them to share lanes with traffic moving at normal speeds.

Where Is Lane Filtering Legal?

As of October 2022, five states have legalized lane sharing of some kind. The conditions under which a motorcycle rider may filter between cars vary from state-to-state.

The following states allow lane splitting or filtering under certain conditions:

California

So far, California is the only state to make lane splitting legal. When splitting lanes, bikers should not ride the white line faster than 10 mph above the speed of surrounding traffic. Lane splitting is also discouraged when traffic speeds are higher than 30 mph.

Utah

Lane filtering is allowed in Utah under the following conditions: 

  • There are two lanes of traffic traveling in the same direction
  • Traffic is stopped (typically at a stoplight or in heavy traffic)
  • The speed limit is not more than 45 mph
  • The motorcyclist is traveling at not more than 15 mph

Montana

In Montana, motorcyclists may split lanes to pass slow or stopped vehicles as long as the biker is not traveling faster than 20 mph and traffic conditions make it safe to do so.

Arizona

Bikers may filter between cars in Arizona under the following conditions:

  • Traffic is stopped
  • The speed limit is 45 mph or less
  • The biker is not traveling faster than 15 mph

Hawaii

Motorcycle riders in Hawaii may use the shoulder of the road to pass stopped traffic on roads with at least two lanes of traffic. Because Hawaii’s roads tend to be narrow, motorcyclists may not travel between two lanes.

In all states, it is the motorcyclist’s responsibility to ensure that the maneuver may be made safely before riding the white line.

States Without Lane Splitting Laws

Eleven states have no lane splitting laws that prohibit the practice, so it is technically not illegal. However, you may still be cited for changing lanes improperly or driving recklessly, particularly if you are involved in an accident. States without laws regarding lane splitting or filtering include:

  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • Idaho
  • Kentucky
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • New Jersey
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Texas
  • West Virginia

Washington DC also does not have laws pertaining to lane splitting.

Lane sharing of any kind is expressly prohibited in 34 states, including New York and Florida. However, a handful of these states (Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Oregon, to name a few) are considering or have considered passing legislation to legalize the practice.

What Are the Benefits of Lane Filtering?

More and more states are putting forward legislation to legalize motorcycle lane splitting or filtering, thanks to studies that have found the practice is generally safe. One study in particular, done by the Safe Transportation Research and Education Center at University of California Berkeley, found that there are several benefits to lane filtering, as long as it is done safely.

Eases traffic congestion

Motorcycles who do not lane split take up the same amount of space as a passenger vehicle. Lane-splitting riders allow more space for cars, easing traffic for everyone around them.

Lane filtering at stoplights can shorten lines at the light, allowing more cars to get through on green and keep traffic moving more efficiently.

Protects motorcyclists from collisions

The study by UC Berkeley found that lane splitting and filtering can actually increase motorcycle safety. Some of the leading causes of motorcycle accidents are failure by motorists to give bikers sufficient space, and failure to see motorcyclists. This often leads to rear-end collisions in heavy traffic.

When motorcyclists are allowed to keep moving through traffic, it may decrease their risk of being hit from behind, the study found. It also found that injuries from lane-splitting accidents tend to be less serious than those sustained in other types of motorcycle accidents.

Helps prevent motorcycles from overheating

Some motorcycles rely on airflow to keep their engines cool. In hot states like California and Arizona, the ability to keep moving through stop-and-go traffic can help prevent these motorcycle engines from overheating.

When Is Lane Splitting or Filtering Unsafe?

Lane sharing must be done correctly in order to keep motorcyclists and other motorists safe. Violating motorcycle laws or otherwise engaging in unsafe behavior negates the benefits of lane splitting and filtering.

Motorcyclists should only practice lane sharing in places where it is legal. Doing so in states where it is prohibited may catch other drivers by surprise, increasing the risk of an accident. It is always good practice to behave as predictably as possible on the roads in order to avoid an accident.

The UC Berkeley study also found that large speed differentials between motorcycles and other vehicles dramatically increase the risk of injury. Lane sharing is generally safe, the study said, when traffic is moving no faster than 50 mph, and when the motorcycle is traveling within 15 mph of the speed of surrounding traffic.

How Can A Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Help Me?

If you have been involved in an accident with a negligent driver while motorcycle riding, a personal injury lawyer can help you navigate the next steps in your recovery. The motorcycle accident attorneys with The Advocates have decades of experience representing accident victims and helping them obtain fair compensation for their damages.

When you hire an Advocate, you get fierce representation and thoughtful, compassionate care. Your attorney will help you:

  • Access medical care
  • Get your motorcycle repaired
  • Communicate with your employer regarding your accident
  • Negotiate with insurance companies
  • Take your case to court if necessary

Our legal team is standing by, ready to listen to your story and get started on your case. Contact us today for a free consultation. You deserve an attorney who truly cares about your recovery. You deserve an Advocate.

The Top 5 Most Dangerous Roads in Montana

With few dense urban centers, most people are surprised to learn Montana is the most dangerous state to drive in. With a record 22.6 car accident deaths per 100,000 people, Montana’s roads and highways are some of the most deadly in the entire country. The biggest reasons why are due to low seat belt use, only 74% compared to the national average of 87%, and a culture of drinking and driving. Too often, driving in Montana is a gamble for too many commuters. Below is a list The Montana Advocates have compiled of the top 5 deadliest roadways in all of Montana.

5. US Highway 191: An Icy Gauntlet of Death

During the winter US Highway 191 is so dangerous that locals suggest avoiding driving through the Canyon despite it being the quickest route to Bozeman and the Yellowstone National Park. Running north to south from Bozeman down to West Yellowstone, US 191 is a snaking and twisting reach of carnage and destruction during the snowy season and is responsible for plenty of car accidents each year. Built in the shadows of two mountain ranges and long known as the preferred route for hurried 18-wheelers that skid and slid as they rush to deliver their cargo, driving through this expanse of Montana asphalt is a little like running the gauntlet. Traveling down an iced US 191 is without a doubt a white-knuckle, panic-inducing experience. Any motorist prone to heart palpitations or a weak bladder should probably just take Highway 287 instead.

4. US Highway 12: The Road of Treachery

From forest fires to rock slides to moose crossings, US Highway 12 surely has its fair share of treacherous obstacles for drivers to overcome. But what earns this roadway a spot on this list is the winding and bending dangers of the infamous Lolo Pass. Located on the border of Montana and Idaho, Lolo Pass is a sky high mountain roadway twisting through the Rocky Mountains at an eye-popping elevation of over 5,000 feet. With few guardrails and sharp turns that seem to pop up out of nowhere, Lolo Pass is a dizzying experience that requires absolute attention of any driver willing to test the mettle of its asphalt. Do yourself a favor when traveling on US 12 and just ignore any texts you receive while driving and try not to blink too long because a moment of distraction is all it takes to send you careening off the road and down into the chasm below.

3. US Highway 93: Where the Wild Things Are

Reaching south from the Canadian border straight through Missoula and all the way down to Idaho, US Highway 93 is one of the most deadly roads to travel on in the United States due to the enormous amount of animal crossings. With over 3,000 wildlife crashes reported in Montana for the year of 2015, Highway 93 is ground zero for animal car accidents in the US. The most dangerous section, however, is the 20-mile stretch between the 90 and 110 mileposts, which studies have shown to have the highest concentration of deer, elk, and even bears lumbering across the roadway. So if you ever find yourself traveling down northwest along Flatlead Lake on US 93, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for any lonely moose crossing the road.

2. US Highway 2: The Lonely Road

What lands the infamous US Highway 2 in the penultimate spot on this list is how remote much of this roadway is at times. Indeed, the Center for Excellence in Rural Safety lists Highway 2 as one of the most dangerous roads in the country due to its abnormal fatality rate, which is easily the highest in the nation. The reason for Highway 2 is due to how long it takes for emergency vehicles to respond to an accident. Car accident victims must often fend for themselves while they wait on average of 80 minutes for ambulances arrive. And considering that Montanans have a propensity of not using seat belts, Highway 2 is deathtrap just waiting to spring.

1. Interstate 90: Don’t Let the Good Times Roll

It’s little surprise that Interstate 90 sits atop the rankings for most dangerous Montana roads. In fact, I-90 is considered the most dangerous stretch of highway in all of the United States. And the reason why has nothing to do with the road itself or any wildlife wandering over its paved lanes.

Unfortunately, I-90 owes its reputation of recklessness to one thing and one thing alone: drunk driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration there was an average of 5 drunk-driving-related deaths per 100,000 people between 2004 to 2013 along Interstate 90. Heavy drinking is a big part of Montana culture and when you mix this with the usual distracted drivers, excessive speeding, and a statewide habit of not using seat belts, Interstate 90 is, by far, the de facto highway of mayhem and destruction in the entire United States.

Call the Attorneys with the Advocates Today

And there you have it. The worst roads and highways in all of Montana. Automobile accidents are a grim reality of the road for far too many people. If you’ve been hurt in an accident through no fault of your own you will need an Advocate on your side. Our car accident lawyers have decades of experience helping victim of an accident victims recover what they are owed according to Montana law. Don’t wait to get back on the road to recovery. Contact the Montana Advocates today. You can either call our office at 406-534-7179 or chat online with a live car accident attorney right now from our homepage. You deserve an Advocate!

The Burden of Proof in Personal Injury Cases

You’ve likely heard the term “beyond a reasonable doubt” when referring to evidence in criminal cases. However, civil matters have a lower burden of proof. In a personal injury case, the injured party must prove that the defendant is liable for the damages listed in the claim. The extent to which a plaintiff must prove fault differs depending on what kind of damages they are seeking.

What is Preponderance of the Evidence?

In personal injury claims and other civil cases, the standard of proof is often referred to as the “preponderance of the evidence.” This standard requires that the plaintiff have better or more convincing evidence than the defendant does. The plaintiff must have enough evidence to show that there is a greater than 50% chance that the defendant caused the damages the plaintiff suffered.

For example, if a car accident victim is able to prove that the other driver ran a stop sign, causing them to collide, this evidence might meet the burden of proof for their case. Evidence for this claim might include eyewitness statements, traffic cameras, or body damage on the two vehicles. If the victim’s injuries were a result of this car accident, they would likely be entitled to financial compensation for their medical bills and other expenses related to the accident.

Other types of evidence that can help substantiate a plaintiff’s claims:

  • Photographs from the scene of the accident
  • Police reports
  • Statements made by the at-fault party after an accident
  • Medical records regarding the victim’s injuries and medical history
  • Testimony of health care providers

In general, people in public owe each other a “duty of care,” or a reasonable amount of attention, caution, and prudence. Each person has the responsibility to avoid causing harm to others or their property. The plaintiff must prove that the defendant violated their duty of care to win the case.

The Issue of “More Likely Than Not”

You may also hear the preponderance of the evidence in civil cases referred to as “more likely than not.” This is because the plaintiff must prove that it is at least 51% likely that their version of events is true. In a personal injury case, if the jury is convinced that the defendant’s negligence more likely than not caused the plaintiff’s injuries, the plaintiff will win the case.

What are Punitive Damages?

In most personal injury settlements, the money involved is a form of compensation for the damages the victim suffered. These are referred to as “compensatory damages.” They are meant to pay for the victim’s medical bills and other expenses, as well as compensate them for non-economic losses, such as pain and suffering.

However, punitive damages are also sometimes awarded in personal injury lawsuits. Punitive damages are meant to punish the at-fault party for extreme or intentional dangerous behavior and discourage others from participating in that same behavior in the future. Punitive damages are rarely allowed in personal injury cases, unless the victim can prove that the defendant acted with gross negligence or intentional malice.

The evidence standard for punitive damages differs between states, but it is higher than the standard of proof for compensatory damages. Rather than simply needing the preponderance of the evidence, the plaintiff must provide clear and convincing evidence for their version of events.

What is Clear and Convincing Evidence?

In order to prove a fact by clear and convincing evidence, a plaintiff must show that it is highly more likely to be true than untrue. For punitive damages, a 51% likelihood is not enough evidence. The plaintiff’s version of events must be highly probable in order for punitive damages to be awarded.

For example, if a drunk driver caused an accident that killed another motorist, punitive damages may be awarded on top of the compensatory damages in the wrongful death claim. However, the plaintiff would need clear and convincing evidence that the defendant was, in fact, under the influence.

In order to meet the “clear and convincing” standard of proof, the plaintiff will need more or better evidence than they would for compensatory damages.

Does the Defendant Have to Meet a Burden of Proof?

In general, the defendant in a personal injury case does not have the burden of proof. The plaintiff is the one bringing the case, so they must prove their story is true. However, a defendant will likely provide evidence of their own in order to introduce doubt into the minds of the jury regarding the plaintiff’s version of events. There are also certain cases where the burden of proof is shifted onto the defendant.

Shifting the Burden of Proof

There is one circumstance where the burden of proof shifts to the defendant. An affirmative defense is a set of facts that acknowledge the plaintiff’s claims, but mitigate the consequences for the defendant’s actions. If the defendant presents an affirmative defense, the burden of proof is shifted to the defendant. Some examples of possible affirmative defenses are:

  • The statute of limitations has expired
  • The plaintiff assumed the risk of being injured
  • The jurisdiction of the court does not extend over the case
  • The defendant’s actions were done to avoid greater harm

The defendant must provide evidence for these claims to meet the standard of proof.

What to Do After an Accident to Help Your Case

After any accident, it’s important that you take the following steps to protect yourself and provide evidence for your eventual personal injury claim:

Check for and document injuries

Make note of any pain you are feeling and take pictures of any visible injuries. Seek medical attention as soon as possible. If an ambulance is summoned to the scene of the accident, the medical team can check your injuries for you. If injuries are minor and no ambulance is called, you should still see a doctor as quickly as possible. Some injuries may be hidden or may progress gradually. A doctor will check for any injuries you may not see or feel immediately. They will also document your treatment.

Take pictures of the scene

Photographs provide compelling evidence in personal injury claims. Take pictures of any vehicles involved from multiple angles. Be sure to also get pictures of the accident scene as a whole. Make note of weather and traffic conditions at the time of the accident.

File a police report

Many insurance companies require a police report in order to file a claim. Even if the accident does not seem serious, call your local non-emergency line and ask for a police officer to come to the scene. The officer will ask questions of those involved and document the facts surrounding the accident.

Exchange information with the other party

Be sure to get the other party’s name, phone number, address, and insurance information. Gather the contact information of witnesses to the accident, in case they need to provide a statement later.

Report the accident to your insurance provider

Even if you end up filing a claim against the other party’s insurance company, you need to report the accident to your own insurance. Depending on your policy, they may cover some expenses until you receive a settlement and are able to repay them.

Consider hiring a personal injury lawyer

An experienced personal injury attorney has the knowledge necessary to offer legal advice, build your case, file a claim, and negotiate a settlement. You can file the claim yourself, but an attorney can make the process easier and less stressful as you recover from your injuries.

How a Personal Injury Attorney Can Help

After an accident, it’s easy to feel stressed and overwhelmed. You are likely trying to deal with pain, property damage, medical bills, and insurance companies all at once. A personal injury lawyer can help you receive the compensation you deserve for the following:

An attorney can help you access adequate medical treatment, get into a rental car, navigate the recovery process, and understand what evidence is necessary for your case.

The Advocates personal injury law firm is a team of caring, competent professionals who are ready to help you throughout your entire case. When you hire an Advocate, you get up-front, honest communication, compassionate care, and fierce representation. Call or chat online with a live attorney for a free consultation. Don’t go through tough times alone. The Advocates are here to help.

 

Personal Injury Case Timeline

Helping Client

If you’ve been injured and are considering filing a personal injury claim, you may find yourself wondering how long the whole process will take. Every personal injury case is different, so there is no definite amount of time from the day of the accident to the day you receive your settlement.

How Long Do Personal Injury Claims Take?

The length of time a personal injury claim takes depends on a number of factors. The first is the severity of your injuries and how long medical treatment takes. Your attorney will wait to file a claim until your injuries have been fully treated, in order to ensure your settlement covers all your expenses.

If the insurance company is willing to settle before a lawsuit is filed, a personal injury case may take
less than a year. If the case goes to trial, it may be years before it is settled.

What to Expect When Filing a Claim

Filing a personal injury claim can be overwhelming and stressful, particularly if you aren’t familiar with the process. Here are a few things you should know before filing a claim.

 

 

Seek medical treatment quickly

A settlement from a personal injury claim is intended to compensate accident victims for losses and damages related to their accident. This includes medical bills, vehicle repairs, and loss of wages, as well as non-economic damages such as pain and suffering. This means that you need to seek medical attention and vehicle repairs as soon as possible following your accident.

Hiring an attorney can increase your settlement

Studies have shown that accident victims who hire an attorney can receive settlements up to 3.5 times larger than if they filed the claim on their own. An experienced personal injury attorney can navigate the legal process and ensure you don’t miss out on compensation you are legally entitled to.

Time will run out

If you plan to file a claim, you should do so sooner rather than later. Each state has a statute of limitations, or a designated time frame, for filing a claim. Once the statute of limitations has expired, you will not be able to file. For that reason, it is important to reach out to a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible so that they may evaluate your claim and help you avoid missing the deadline.

There are two ways to win a case

Once you file a claim, it can go a few different ways. In most cases, your attorney and the at-fault party’s insurance company will be able to settle out of court. If negotiations are unsuccessful or the other party’s offer is too low, your case may go to trial.

Initial Investigation

Once you have met with an attorney and made the decision to file a claim, the initial investigation into the accident will begin. Your attorney will ask you questions about the accident, read the police report, and look over any evidence you have. They will gather medical records, document your damages, and speak with eyewitnesses. They will also be responsible for communicating with insurance companies. The investigation process can take more than a year, depending on how long your recovery takes and how long it takes your attorney to gather evidence.

It is important that you continue to receive medical treatment and document all new symptoms or pain. The associated expenses will be added to your claim.

Settlement Negotiations

When the investigation process is complete, the attorney will send a settlement demand letter to the other party (typically to their attorney or insurance company). The demand letter will ask for a certain amount of compensation for your injuries, depending on your expenses and the policy limits.

At this point, negotiations may begin between your attorney and the other party’s insurance provider. The insurance company may respond with a lower offer than what was asked for in the demand letter. It may require some back-and-forth between your attorney and the other party, but most injury cases are settled before they ever go to trial.

If negotiations are successful, a settlement agreement will be drafted and signed by both parties. You will receive the agreed-upon compensation to pay off bills and reimburse your own insurance provider for anything they covered.

If the two parties cannot agree upon a settlement during negotiations, your attorney will file a personal injury lawsuit, and the case will move into the litigation phase.

Litigation

During litigation, there are several steps that must be taken before your case ever makes it to a courtroom. In fact, the lawsuit may still be settled out of court. Below are some of the steps in the personal injury lawsuit timeline.

Discovery Process

To file a lawsuit, you must formally file a complaint with the court. The complaint outlines your claim and the amount of money you are asking for as compensation. The complaint is then served to the defendant, who then typically has 30 days to file an answer to the complaint.

After the lawsuit is filed, the discovery phase begins. During this time, each party investigates what evidence the other party has. This evidence may include medical records, video footage, police reports, and other relevant information. The two parties will send interrogatories, or lists of questions, for the other party to answer. Depositions, or testimonies given under oath, are taken from each party as well as witnesses of the accident. Discovery can, and often does, last several months.

Mediation and Negotiations

Negotiations continue to happen throughout the litigation phase as well. Settlement negotiations can happen over the phone between the two attorneys, or they may be more formal. Your attorney always has to get your approval before accepting a settlement offer.

If negotiations aren’t working, other means of reaching a resolution, such as Mediation, might be explored. Mediation is where both clients and their attorneys negotiate with the help of a neutral third party. In many cases, mediation works, and the case is settled before it goes to trial.

Trial

If mediation is unsuccessful, your case will go to trial. During the trial phase, there are several steps that can potentially drag a trial out. Some cases last a matter of days, while others can go for more than a week.

First, a jury will be selected. Evidence will be presented to the jury, including expert testimony. The jury must weigh all the evidence before coming to a verdict. Once the jury has come to a conclusion, they will decide whether you have won your suit or not and how much compensation you will be awarded.

Other Factors That Affect the Case Timeline

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to a personal injury case, therefore, each case will take a different amount of time to settle. Some of the factors that play into the timeline of your case include:

  • The severity of your injuries
  • How long treatment takes
  • The amount of compensation being sought
  • The defendant’s willingness to settle
  • The court’s caseload

When to Hire a Personal Injury Attorney

If you have sustained serious injuries in an accident due to someone else’s negligence (such as a car accident, a case of medical malpractice, or a slip and fall), and your damages exceed the amount allowed in small claims court, it is a good idea to contact an attorney. The claims process is long and complex, and a competent lawyer can make sure nothing is missed.

Contact The Advocates for a Free Consultation

The Advocates understand that your recovery is priority number one and are ready to help you every step of the way during your accident case. Call today for a free case evaluation. The sooner you contact an attorney, the more quickly you can get on the path to recovery.

COVID-19 Personal Injury Lawsuits: What You Should Know

With nearly 7.5 million cases of COVID-19 in the U.S, it’s no doubt the pandemic has reshaped society in many ways. The amount of negligence that continues to arise due to the virus has caused even more people to contract Covid-19 and either experience long-lasting symptoms or worse, they pass away.

As we continue adjusting to the norms of the pandemic, an increasing number of personal injury lawsuits are being filed against companies throughout the country. For example, many employees and customers are seeking recovery for financial and emotional damages caused by the drastic effects of COVID-19.

If you recently contracted the virus at work, you may be wondering whether or not you speak with a personal injury lawyer. In the following article, we will go over some of the most common questions involving COVID-19 personal injury lawsuits in the workplace.

1. What should I do if I was infected at work?

For people who are infected with COVID-19 at work, your best option to recover any damages is to speak with a workers’ compensation attorney right away. Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance provided by companies to cover employees who suffer any work-related injuries or illness on the job.

A workers’ compensation lawyer will help you determine whether your sickness arose during the course of employment and how to retrieve fair compensation for medical bills, lost wages or emotional distress you endured due to the virus.

2. How long do I have to file a COVID-19 personal injury lawsuits against an employer?

Like most personal injury lawsuits, states require civil tort claims to be filed two years after an injury. For injuries or deaths that occurred early in the pandemic, the statute of limitations will not expire until March of 2022.

3. If I file a lawsuit for a workplace transmission of COVID-19, will workers’ compensation exclusivity apply?

To put it simply, it depends on the state your job is in. State laws vary greatly when it comes to determining whether illness or death from COVID-19 is exclusively covered by workers’ compensation programs in your state. Several states, such as California, have adopted a rebuttable presumption that certain employees who test positive for COVID-19 contracted the virus at work for workers’ compensation purposes.

However, most states have not adopted a reputable assumption and instead can deny claims suggesting employees contracted the virus outside of the workplace. Although, many states are starting to recognize an exception to workers’ compensation exclusivity in instances where negligence or intentional harm is inherent. These instances include:

-Employees were denied access to proper protection equipment

-Employees were given false information about the safety of the workplace and the likelihood of contracting the virus

4. Can my employer receive tort immunity if they follow mitigation guidelines?

While most state laws vary depending on the type of business involved, several states have passed laws limiting tort liability for in-state business. However, the laws pertaining to the extent at which tort immunity applies greatly depends on whether the business followed local health department guidelines as well as if gross negligence or intentional torts are involved. Many COVID-19 complaints contain allegations of intentional wrongdoing on behalf of the defendant businesses.

Most Dangerous Safety Issues with Airbags

Car Accident

Did you know that millions of cars have been recalled due to faulty airbags? Airbags are designed to help keep drivers and passengers safe from serious injuries, but what happens if they don’t work?

In the last 30 years, car manufacturers have worked tirelessly to make motor vehicles safer to drive. For the most part, airbags have helped save many lives. In fact, airbags dropped the number of traffic fatalities by 29% in the U.S.

While they are certainly one of the most important safety features in a vehicle, defective airbags can cause serious, if not life-threatening, injuries.

In the following article, we will outline what can go wrong with airbags, common airbag-related injuries and how we can help you recover compensation for an airbag injury.

What are the Top 4 Airbag Defects?

A defective airbag can pose an imminent threat to a driver or passenger’s safety during a collision. But before we discuss some of the most common defects, it’s important to understand just how airbags work.

Airbag exploded at a car accident,Car Crash air bag,Airbag work

When a vehicle collides with another object, the speed of the vehicle reduces significantly. In those few seconds that your car decelerates, an accelerometer (which is an electric chip that measures acceleration or force) detects this rapid change. If the change in speed is drastic enough, then the airbag is triggered to deploy.

When this sensor stops working properly, the results can be alarming. Here are 4 common airbag defects you should know:

  1. Airbags can deploy at the wrong time
  2. Airbags can fail to deploy at all
  3. Not all airbags deploy
  4. Airbags can release too aggressively

If an airbag deploys incorrectly during an accident, you can suffer serious injuries from this malfunction. Even worse, a well-known airbag brand named Takata created a faulty airbag that exploded at the time of deployment and ended up claiming the lives of 16 people, leaving hundreds more injured. All of which could have been avoided with the proper safety inspection during the manufacturing process.

Common Airbag-Related Injuries

There are a number of factors that can cause airbag-related injuries. A few being the speed in which the airbag is deployed, the chemicals used in the device and the timing and effectiveness of deployment.

Below are the most common types of airbag injuries:

  • Burns to arms, hands and chest
  • Damage to the lungs
  • Abrasions to the upper part of the body
  • Spine injuries
  • Bone fractures
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Eye injuries

If you recently suffered an injury due to a faulty airbag, you should speak to a medical doctor right away. These injuries can worsen over time and create even more problems later down the road.

How to Sue for an Airbag Injury

You have the right to pursue a legal claim if you were injured by a defective airbag. This type of injury claim is called a product liability case, where our attorneys will hold the people responsible for your injuries accountable for their faulty product.

Here at The Advocates, we know the ins and outs of product liability law and will make sure you are fairly compensated for your pain and suffering. Your initial consultation is on us. Simply call our office today at 307-466-0003 or Chat with Us on our homepage. Don’t wait.

Your recovery is our top priority.