Distracted Driver Gets 10 Year Sentence

Earlier this week, lorry driver Tomasz Kroker was sentenced to 10 years of prison, five of which will be behind bars, after he failed to stop for stationary traffic because he was checking his phone.

The crash which occurred in August on the A34 in Berkshire, also left one other motorist with a senior injury and four others with minor injury.

 

“Not enough”

The incident, which was filmed on the cab’s dash cam, caught the moment that Mr Kroker paid no attention to the stationary traffic as he checked his phone. His vehicle, which was travelling at 50mph, hit a Vauxhall Zafira, that in-turn shunted a Corsa underneath another HGV in front of it. The Corsa was reduced to “a third of its usual size” killing 45 year old Tracey Houghton, her two sons Ethan (13) and Joshua (11) and her step daughter Aimee (11).

The judge residing over the proceedings, Maura McGowen, said that Mr Kroker “might as well have had his eyes shut”. Mr Kroker pleaded guilty to all counts and was told he would receive no leniency for his actions. He will now spend at least five years behind bars, as part of a ten year sentence.

The family of the victims don’t believe the sentence is an adequate deterrent or warning to mobile phone users behind the wheel. The mother of 11 year old Aimee who died in the accident told reporters “The 10-year sentence will not ease our pain and suffering, nor do we believe it will send a strong enough message to those who lack the self-restraint to not use a mobile phone when driving.”

Not worth the risk

If you search for examples of crashes or incidents that have been caused by a motorist using a mobile phone whilst driving, you will find plenty of results. These incidents, as displayed in the accident caused by Mr Kroker, often have the potential to cause serious injury to other motorists.

The question on the lips of those affected by a mobile related collision will often be “was it worth risking a life?” Some of the common reasons given by motorists for checking their mobile phones while driving include changing music, boredom, to send a text or to make a call. Each of these reasons are 100% trivial, when you weigh up the risk of injury that being distracted from driving carries. In Mr Kroker’s case, that risk took the lives of four people, three of which were young children and that is something he will now have to live with for the rest of his life.

Sincere Law - Google Maps audible updates

“What if I’m injured?”

There are legal repercussions expected when a driver is reckless behind a wheel. The police will often file criminal charges but you are also able to ensure any injuries you, your family or friends suffer are treated seriously.

It is very easy for distracted drivers to hit cars at faster speeds, potentially causing more harm as they are not monitoring speed, road positioning or checking for hazards. In the case of a serious injury a specialist legal firm like ourselves will be required to look deeply into the situation and arrange much more than just a financial settlement. An injured person may need surgery, rehabilitation, physiotherapy, counselling and a host of other services.

Here at Sincere Law, we  have a network of specialists across the country dedicated to helping serious accident victims and their families attempt to put their lives back together as best they can.

If you feel this could be something that you, your family or friends could use following an incident on the road, you can call in confidence on 0800 092 2896 for free, impartial advice on how best to move forward in your circumstances.

If you would prefer to contact online we also have a contact form where you can leave details. We can then call you when it convenient to talk about the incident and what you may need from us.

 

“Calculating New Route”- Google Maps Now Warns You of Traffic Audibly

Great news for road traffic accident prevention! Google Maps has recently released an update that now audibly tells drivers when they are approaching congestion, giving them the knowledge without needing to take their eyes off the road.

Seamless Journeys, Safer Journeys

Spoken traffic alerts are the latest innovation to hit smartphones by Google. With the ability now to automatically hear traffic updates along your route, you will not only be on top of your journey, but will also be much safer having not being required to pick up the phone whilst driving.

With smartphone injuries up 43% in 2015, the lure of staring at a screen has become too much for many Brits, who now see themselves falling victim to avoidable accidents like walking into obstructions (43% of people admitted walking into something).

Research conducted back in 2014, gave us an indication that up to 1 in 4 car accidents are now caused by mobile phone use while driving, with further studies showing a rise of 16% in just the first quarter of 2014 of pedestrians killed or seriously injured in incidents where smartphones have beared the brunt of the blame.

Fatal injuries from texting while driving - Sincere Law

Saving Time, Saving Lives

With the introduction of audible updates on all smartphone devices, the new feature could go a long way to addressing the growing concerns about driver and pedestrian safety at the hands of distractions like phones.

Having been banned since 2003, mobile phone use while driving is still unfortunately a common cause of road traffic accidents over the last decade, with offenders not always easy to spot by police given the sometimes discreet nature of texting below the door line.

The new app will eradicate previous faults, which include having to look for new routes while driving into traffic, as an update of traffic on your route will be described before you set off, enabling you to change routes before leaving your house. You will also receive updates as soon as congestion develops, giving you time to choose a new route or simply be aware that you will need to slow down as you approach queues.

 


The dangers of texting while driving

A practical Approach

Sincere Law feel that while the initial innovation of the app was to give road users more warning and more choice when commuting, we are pleased to see a company like Google take a proactive approach in reducing accidents, as a result of distracted driving.

Driver error causes 90% of accidents, with mobile phone use being a large percentage of that. With phones consistently evolving and giving us more applications and uses, it could be easy to become carried away and allow the different distractions a mobile can offer to affect driving.

The urge to find a particular album or playlist on your iPhone library, or check out how your village is getting along in Clash of Clans, while only taking a few seconds to accomplish, can prove fatal. Sincere Law Senior Partner David Byrne spoke to us about the update; stating:

With so many uses for a smartphone nowadays it is such an easy distraction. The user can potentially think ‘it won’t happen to me’ that they could lose control while using a device. Unfortunately it does happen and it can destroy lives, this new feature will go a long way to fighting that. Congestion can lead to stress and to more accidents, alleviating this is a major step towards reduction in road traffic accidents from distraction, stress and poor driving decisions”.

 

Have Texting Drivers Affected You?

Distracted drivers (in any sense) are high risks on the road to fellow drivers, cyclists, motorcyclists, pedestrians, runners or anybody within their vicinity. A crash as a result of distracted driving can easily spiral into catastrophic or fatal accidents.

With over 23 years of experience and an entire team of Road Traffic Accident specialists, Sincere Law knows what the impact of an accident can be and what is needed to begin the healing process for all affected.

The process can affect families, an individual’s whole life (physically and psychologically) and also cause considerable damage to their own property, such as their car, motorcycle or bike.

These cases can be sensitive and require careful consideration as to what steps to take. This is something we’re well versed in. We have made it our pledge to conduct all claims under a ‘No Win No Fee’ basis, providing an upfront and honest account has been given, in order to reduce stress and eliminate any risk for those that have already suffered so much.

Sincere Law - Google Maps audible updates

To get free, impartial advice from one of our team of experts, you can get in touch via either filling out our contact form here, by emailing us at [email protected] and giving the relevant details, or by calling us when convenient for you (we’re open every day from 8am – 9pm) on 0800 092 2896.

We’re always ready to advise you on the best course of action and will always be honest about what we can do for you. If you have suffered at the hands of a negligent driver, begin your claim today. Remember, claiming compensation is your best way of ensuring the guilty party comes to justice.

If you are a driver and use Google maps to get about, we encourage you to update your app and make good use of the new innovation today!

Tougher Fines for Corporate Manslaughter Offenders

Companies guilty of committing corporate manslaughter are set to face tougher fines in an attempt to make the workplace a much safer and better regulated environment.

The Cost of Corporate Manslaughter

The Sentencing Council revealed recently that judges are being advised to impose heavier fines (in relation to size) on organisations guilty of committing corporate manslaughter.

Previous legislation, the “Corporate Manslaughter & Homicide Act 2007” doesn’t establish an upper limit to penalties. The new guidelines, however, push to take a very tough stance on guilty parties; suggesting companies with £50 million or more turnover should be fined £20 million and up to £10 million for fatal Health & Safety offences.

Corporate Manslaughter Law Blog

The 2007 act establishes what duty of care an employer owes to its employees. Legally every employee has the right to expect their employer to have taken all necessary steps and followed all necessary processes to ensure their safety. This counts not only for higher risk industries, like construction and manufacturing, but to any working environment.

 

What Is Corporate Manslaughter?

The act of failing to keep an employee safe, resulting in an accident at work, causing a fatality is the literal definition of corporate manslaughter. When one employee is instructed by another in a higher position to carry out a task that results in a fatality, the company is held responsible if that person’s instructions are in a working capacity. All that is required is that the grossly negligent party is in control of the company affairs relating to the incident; for example a foreman on a construction site, is the company representative portioning out tasks to the other employees.

Unfortunately, cases of corporate manslaughter have increased in recent years, including a spike of 40% between 2012 and 2013. Cases can take years to resolve but usually receive stringent fines as a harsh warning to ensure the same incidents are never repeated. This year saw the 11th prosecution for Corporate Manslaughter since the introduction of the legislation.

 

One recycling company convicted of corporate manslaughter

 

What The Changes Mean?

What do the new guidelines mean for companies and employees? Coming into force on the 1st February 2016, the new guidelines aim to serve as a larger deterrent than previously, to companies allowing Health & Safety processes to be neglected during their day to day activity.

Given the recent upturn in convictions for corporate manslaughter, the new fines will hopefully go some way to bringing about a downturn, ensuring companies take as much care and attention to employee wellbeing as is expected.

A matrix of costs has been developed to set a starting point based on the size of the company committing the offence. Starting points are:

  • Micro – Turnover less than £2 million
  • Small – Between £2 million & £10 million turnover
  • Medium – Between £10 million & £50 million turnover
  • Large – Turnover greater than £50 million

The costs provided by the matrix are not exhaustive of company size and not definitive totals, as companies with much larger turnovers than £50 million will require individual consideration. The hope for employees and the industry is that the fines will make enough of a financial impact that corporate manslaughter will become a thing of the past.

Corporate Manslaughter - Serious Injury Claims

Does This Affect Fatal Injury Claims?

For families of anybody affected by corporate manslaughter, the injury claims process hasn’t been affected negatively. The new guidelines are designed to be separate from private litigation and are a more official form of punishment alongside what a family can claim for the loss of their relative due to negligence.

Fatal injury claims as a result of an accident at work will remain the same taking into account what a grieving family is owed as a result of a fatality. Sincere Law have been involved in cases involving fatalities at work in the past that have also seen hearings regarding corporate manslaughter. Sincere Law Catastrophic Injury Partner Chris Walker agrees that the new fines are a good way of reducing the amount of fatal injuries at work, stating “while the claims process isn’t affected by the guidelines, it is a step in the right direction to attempt to reduce and eradicate the amount of fatalities coming from corporate negligence. Given the extreme emotional pressure it puts on the immediate family of the deceased (which Sincere Law has experienced first-hand in the past) we welcome any legislative changes that make the workplace a safer environment.”

 

Making a Fatal Injury Claim

Should one of your family or friends suffer a fatal injury at work or otherwise as the result of a negligent action by another party, we would encourage you to claim as an injury claim is one of the best ways to ensure the guilty party comes to justice. We understand a fatal injury claim is a very delicate process, and we advise you take as much time as you need before starting a claim (bearing in mind the 2 year limit to making a claim following the incident).

Making a claim is a very simple process which we can guide you through as well as giving you the opportunity to see specialists if required. We have dedicated, experienced Solicitors able to explain any aspect of a case whenever required. If you do want to get in contact about a fatal injury claim (or any catastrophic injury) you can contact us every day from 8am to 9pm on 0800 092 2896 or use our contact page here. One of our friendly operatives will be waiting to give you honest, impartial advice.

We sincerely hope the new guidelines will reduce corporate manslaughter cases to zero. Only time will tell, but the new tough stance is the first step in fully securing those in a hazardous workplace.

 

Be Safe on Bonfire Night – Avoid Serious Injury

Be Safe on Bonfire Night

 

Bonfire Night is a special holiday in the UK celebrating the commemoration of the failed attempt on King James’ life by, infamous plotter, Guy Fawkes. The tradition, steeped in history, is celebrated by thousands of firework displays up and down the country, in both small-scale back garden affairs and elaborate displays in front of packed crowds.

Whether you are participating at a high or low key event, it is paramount that all those involved are both aware of the risks that fireworks and bonfires pose, as well as taking the necessary steps to avoid accidents and potential serious injuries. In the last few years nearly 1,000 injuries have been attributed to fireworks, with almost half of them being children.

Sincere Law - Fireworks & Serious Injury

Beware the Risks

Bonfire night poses a selection of potential injury threats when fireworks and bonfires are treated irresponsibly. They can also cause further problems if the same risks are presented to children, who may be unaware of the full potential for danger.

Our safety tips are designed to keep you aware but also able to ensure that you can enjoy what can be one of the most mesmerising nights of the year. With a little care and attention, Bonfire Night can go off with a bang and without a hitch.

 

Sparkler Safety

To begin we touch on possibly the most common injury to children on Bonfire Night, using sparklers. These dazzling tools can provide a few moments of joy for many children by making patterns, writing their name or just waving them in the air. With a burning temperature of 2,000 degrees Celsius however, which is over 15 times the boiling point of water, third degree burns are not uncommon for those exposed to them.

The third degree is one of the most severe burns as it singes not only the epidermis but goes as deep as the dermis and the nerve endings in skin, often causing discolouration, scarring, blistering and disfigurement depending on where it takes place.

Sparklers should always be stored in a cool, dry box, only to be taken out one at a time for lighting. Always use gloves to avoid burning; this counts for both the lighter and the user. With that said, any children under the age of five are best left watching, rather than holding them themselves. Have a cold water bucket on hand for when the sparkler is spent (a used sparkler can still run hot for a long time following burnout). Cold water is the best way to ensure it cools, keeping it away from any young children who otherwise may be tempted to pick up a hot spent sparkler left on the floor.

Sparklers possibly pose the biggest threat on Bonfire Night, given the widespread use and proximity to them. It doesn’t get any closer than holding the mini firework in your hand, so the awareness of the threat they pose needs to be at the front of the mind.

Sparkler Safety with Fireman Sam

 

Firework Safety

Displays vary from a humble value pack bought at the local supermarket for the back garden, to the expansive public displays like the Lord Mayor’s show in London or the most popular in the UK, Lewes Firework Display, which is attended by over 30 Bonfire groups.

Fireworks offer the best visuals, lighting up the sky in a multitude of colours and patterns. While they provide the biggest spectacle of the evening, they must be managed with care as a mishandled firework can easily become a painful and dangerous mistake.

Our advice on firework safety would be to take the safest option and take the family to a public display. Displays are a managed event and will have all the relevant health & safety safeguards required to ensure all have a safe but mesmerising time.

An organised event near you is likely to have the most expansive display around and likely to beat out anything that can be bought from a local supermarket.

If you do decide you’d like to put on a small display at home, you may find that taking time to properly set up during the day can assist the smooth running of your display and maximise safety. Read the instructions on the fireworks during the day when it’s light and lay them out ready for you to set off later that evening. If you want a seamless display, you can purchase single fuse displays that only require lighting once, removing the need to walk over and light individually (reducing risk).

Sincere Law - Serious Injury & Sparklers

If you are setting up at home, ensure your display area is clear of trees, hedges, bushes, sheds and other structures blocking the firework’s path. If you have a lot of grass near the display area we would recommend placing each firework in a bucket of soft earth, lighting them with a taper to keep any early sparks away from flammable surfaces.

When the display starts in full, keep everyone watching away from the firework area and have a first aid kit on hand as a safeguard. If you have friends or family over, who are drinking alcohol, ensure they do not try and get involved in the display. Alcohol and fireworks do not mix!

 

Bonfire Safety

The main attraction and the annual events namesake, bonfires, are seen the length and breadth of the country. Bonfires can be made from the old shed in a back garden, good burning wood brought in for the community firework display and all manner of weird and wonderful materials. Each bonfire has its own story.

If you have made a bonfire at home and have invited visitors around for the evening, you’ll need to be aware of the threat of an open fire and manage it accordingly. You may have an effigy of Guy Fawkes sat atop your bonfire, whether you do or don’t, you’ll need to be aware of everything thrown on your bonfire to control the blaze, including what Guy is wearing.

For the base of a bonfire, it’s wise to use simple, good burning materials like cuttings of wood to build up the structure. The best materials for kindling (used to light the fire) include:

  • Dead plants and grasses
  • Wax
  • Lint
  • Birch bark
  • Wood shavings
  • Paper
  • Dry leaves

For the actual structure itself, it is best to use sturdy objects such as dry wood blocks, twigs and cardboard. Build up from a large base into a peak. To stop the fire spreading if it is on grass, place stones and rocks around the outer edge to contain the fire.

Sincere Law & Bonfire Safety

There should never be any highly flammable materials or liquids on the fire, as even the smallest amount can cause the fire to unexpectedly erupt, causing flames to shoot out from the main fire. Aerosols, alcohol, petrol and paints are all dangerous when thrown onto a fire given their highly reactive nature.

As with firework displays, all attendees should be placed well back in case the fire spits and should definitely be kept further away if consuming alcohol. Fireworks and alcohol are a bad mix, so is fire and alcohol.

 

Be Safe & Enjoy!

It can be easy to get sucked into the dangers of bonfire night, with the possibility of being burned by bonfires, fireworks and sparklers. It’s even easier if you are a parent to worry about your child, given the extensive campaigns promoting fire safety to children. The reality, however, is that if you are conscientious about the dangers and act in a level headed manner throughout the evening, you are more likely to have a fantastic time watching the flames spur up into the night, as the sky is blanketed by flashes and explosions.

Sincere Law do have the ability to help if you suffer as a result of somebody else’s negligent actions with fire or fireworks. We are open from 8am – 9pm daily and have a team of dedicated specialists to help you through a serious injury claim. To get in touch should you suffer the worst you can call on 0800 092 2896 or you can fill in our contact form here to get in touch. We do hope however that you, your family and friends have a safe, enjoyable bonfire night filled with cheer and spectacle.

Sincere Law & Bonfire Night Safety Tips