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In A Car Accident? Remember To Take Photos!

Any time you have been involved in a car accident it is extremely important to remember to take pictures. These pictures can be extremely useful in court when trying to detail exactly what happened to you. Fortunately you don't need to be a professional photographer with a high-end camera, all you need is a smartphone.

But what should I photograph? The general rule of thumb is to take photos of anything that you would use in describing what happened to someone else. Then take about a whole lot more. Digital photography is very inexpensive so it is important to error on the side of caution by being as comprehensive as possible. A few examples of what to photograph may include:

  • Damage that has been done to your car as well as to the other car
  • Minor damage (such as scratches) both inside and outside of your car
  • If you have had any, and if possible, photograph your injuries
  • Other parties involved in the crash, including your passengers
  • The license plate numbers or VIN numbers of all cars involved

Luckily almost everyone has a camera at their disposal virtually all of the time. Whether it's a smartphone, an iPad, or a more traditional camera, the importance of taking pictures cannot be understated. These pieces of often-critical evidence can play an important role in assisting you with getting what you're owed.

Fatal Accidents Involving Large Trucks on the Rise

If you frequently drive on WV’s major highways, such as Interstate 79, you most likely notice semi-trucks, or big-rigs, driving alongside you basically at all hours of the day. Many drivers are nervous when passing these trucks, and now, a new investigation has found that those worries may be warranted because according to a federal investigation, big-rig trucks and busses were responsible for 14,000 fatal accidents between 2009 and 2013.

Truck Tire Blowouts

Truck tire blowouts are responsible for 223 of the 14,000 fatal truck accidents.

"What happens to your tires when you drive, especially on secondary roads, is you get impact breaks in the tire compound itself. It has steel woven belts inside, and from hitting potholes, bridge overlaps, big potholes on the interstate, you can actually break the inside of the tire," said Mark Lett, Owner of Total Care Auto Repair in Clarksburg. "Going unnoticed, that can cause a tire to start egg shaping out around, and eventually can lead to the tire blowing out."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that high speeds are largely to blame for tire blowouts. The American Trucking Association says that it is best not to go above 65 miles per hour. However, many states have speed limits greater or equal to 70 miles per hour. Experts say tires have a specific speed they can handle, and if a driver is consistently driving at higher speeds than what the tire is built for, that could cause problems.

"If you put a tire that wasn't rated for that ongoing speed, that tire can fail at that speed," said Bob Eyrolles, AAA Auto Repair Service Specialist.

Eyrolles says dual speed limits, one for cars and one for trucks, might be the way to go. "If you have dual speed limits, cars could travel 70-75 but trucks could be in the 60s. I'm not really sure if they've enacted that because of speed ratings on trucks, but it sounds like a good idea," Eyrolles said.

Defensive Driving Around Trucks

The operator of the automobile, or its passengers, and not the truck driver are usually the ones killed in a fatal automobile-truck crash four out of five times. Therefore, automobile drivers should take extra precaution when driving near larger trucks.

The following defensive driving tips can help you take your safety into your own hands:

  1. Always maintain a safe distance when driving behind large trucks. It is recommended that you maintain at least a minimum of a four-second following distance.
  2. Keep in mind that trucks tend to have special hazards including large blind spots. A trustworthy rule to follow at all times is if you cannot see the operator of the truck in their outside mirrors, then he/she probably cannot see your vehicle.
  3. Trucks are longer than cars and therefore will take longer to pass. Maintain a constant speed when passing and be sure you can see the front of the cab of the truck in your rear-view mirror before pulling back into the lane of travel in front of the truck.
  4. If you are stopped behind a large vehicle on an incline, leave space between the vehicle and yours in case the vehicle operator allows the vehicle to drift backwards slightly when it starts to move.
  5. In the event of a truck tire blowout, keep in mind that sometimes it’s best to let the pieces of the tire hit your car instead of swerving. However, always use your best judgement.

If possible, try not to drive next to a large vehicle. The best defensive driving technique when dealing with large vehicles is to stay away from them when possible.

I-79 Vehicle Collision Leaves Pennsylvania Woman in Serious Condition

A three vehicle collision, with entrapment, occurred on Interstate 79 on April 1st. The accident occurred just before 5 p.m. near mile marker 136 in the northbound lanes. 

Authorities said a Dodge Ram operated by John Hill, 40 from Homer City, Pa, a Toyota Camry, operated by Hershey Bowers Jr., 72 from Chambersburg, Pa, and a dump truck operated by Michael Winkleman, 54 from Morgantown were in the line of cars due to a fatal motorcycle accident that occurred earlier that afternoon.

The accident occurred when Hill, the driver of the dodge ram, failed to maintain control and collided into the Camry, causing it to strike the rear end of the Peterbuilt dump truck.

Bowers was taken to Ruby Memorial Hospital and was listed in serious condition following the accident according to hospital officials. Ruby Memorial Hospital released new information the following day, listing Bowers are in good condition. 

The passenger in Bower’s vehicle was flown to Ruby Memorial following the accident. State Police released the name of the passenger in Bower’s car the following day as well, identifying her as Freda Bowers, 69, of Chambersburg, Pa. Neither John Hill, nor Michael Winkleman, were hurt in the collision.

I-79 was shut down in both directions near the scene, but was reopened to traffic later that evening. 


New Apple Watch Deemed A Potential Driving Hazard

The Apple Watch is set to be released April 24th, putting many people's minds on smartwatches. When it comes to any emerging technology, it is important to consider the potential negative impact it may bring. 

One area in which one could see smartwatches having the potential to have negative effects is traffic safety. One could easily imagine a situation in which a driver who is wearing a smartwatch may be tempted to use the functions of the watch while they are driving. 

Drivers reading messages on a smartwatch take 36% longer to react to emergencies on the road than those using a smartphone without a Bluetooth hands-free device, according to a study from the U.K.’s Transport Research Laboratory (TRL). Drivers in the study who read a message on a smartwatch took 2.52 seconds to react to an emergency situation like a pedestrian wandering into their path, while smartphone users took only 1.85 seconds.

Given this study's results and the general dangers associated with distracted driving, one hopes that all drivers who end up getting a smartwatch take care to avoid being distracted by their watch when driving.

It is a scary new world where driving is concerned. The hazards of using hand-held devices such cell phones while driving have been well documented. Most states have laws regulating their use (either for calls, texting and/or emails). For instance, West Virginia currently bans texting while driving for all drivers, and bans cell phone use for drivers under the age of 18. Distracted driving due to cell phone use, particularly texting, has been the subject of discussion in previous blog posts by Colombo Law. But will those regulations apply to a cell phone that is a watch?

Some argue that having the equivalent of a mini-computer on your wrist is just too tempting to use, and therefore too much of a likely distraction to driving. Even if using the watch for a navigational system, or a similar driver assist app, the fact that the information is on the driver's wrist means that one hand must remain steady while the other hand accesses the information which leaves no hand entirely devoted to driving. Add to that the fact that the watch and its design is new, and therefore a big learning curve will accompany its usage, and now a driver is fumbling with new apps on a small screen on his or her wrist while he or she is supposed to be driving.

When a driver gets distracted behind the wheel, whether it be by the latest tech device or something more basic like the radio or a food or drink, and they cause an accident which hurts others, there may be legal recourse for those injured in the accident. Personal injury lawyers can give legal guidance to motorists who have been injured as a result of a distracted driver's actions. 


Motorcyclist Killed in I-79 Crash

A motorcyclist was killed on Interstate 79 Wednesday afternoon in Marion County near the Monongalia County line.

Troopers said there were no other vehicles involved in the crash. The motorcycle, a 2000 Yamaha XVS, was operated by William Cody Vandergrift, 19, of Fairmont, West Virginia. According to troopers, Vandergrift lost control of the motorcycle just before 3 p.m. and collided with a bridge rail, then finally rested in the middle of the interstate. He was found dead at the scene.

The cause of the accident has not been determined. State Police are continuing the investigation.

Interstate 79 North has been shut down near mile marker 142 after a motorcycle crash in Marion County.

It happened just before 3 p.m. Wednesday, according to 911 officials.

A medical examiner was dispatched to the scene, according to 911 officials, along with state police, the Marion County Rescue Squad, and fire departments from Winfield and Pleasant Valley.

Teens’ Distracted Driving Habits Caught On Camera

A tiny camera captured 1,700 videos of teens while they were driving. The dramatic results showed distractions were common and often led to crashes.

The study was done by AAA. It found distracted driving causes almost one million crashes with 16 to 19-year-old’s in the United States, 383,000 injuries, and over 2800 deaths. 

A video shows the 6 seconds leading up to car crashes involving teen drivers.


Jim Hanni from AAA says the study shows cell phone use while driving causes 12% of car crashes. However the number one leading cause for distracted driving is interacting with other passengers in the car. Hanni says parents need to lead by example.

“Parents put the dang phone down! And put it in the back seat, in the trunk and concentrate on driving and model good behavior,” says Hanni.

Singing to music, and grooming were toward the bottom of the list of distractions causing about 6% of car crashes in the study.

For more information visit and

Texting While Driving is nearly as dangerous as driving while intoxicated. If you or someone you know has been injured or killed in a car accident involving a cell phone or text messaging, contact the Morgantown Distracted Driving Lawyers of Colombo Law at 800-860-1414.

Randolph County 2015 Hooked on Fishing Not on Drugs Expo

Colombo Law participated in the Randolph County Hooked on Fishing Not on Drugs (HOFNOD) Expo that was held Saturday, March 28 at the Elkins High School gym. HOFNOD is a nationally recognized drug prevention program, emphasizing the importance of healthy lifestyle choices and living a drug and alcohol-free life. 

This is the 9th year that Colombo Law has provided parents with free child photo IDs in the community.  These child photo IDs are basically like a driver’s license for children. It gives the parents a current photo of their child along with the child’s height, weight, hair color, and identifies any distinguishing marks.  In the event a child is lost, the parent will have the child photo ID that they can show to law enforcement. As usual, the child photo ID booth was very busy as we provided 150 child photo IDs to parents throughout the area.

It was an honor for us to participate in the Hooked on Fishing Not on Drugs campaign.  Over the years we have given out 1000s photo IDs to parents throughout North Central West Virginia. We are pleased to provide this service to the families in our community.


One Dead After Mine Collapse Near Cameron, WV

A coal miner died late Sunday following a roof collapse at the Marshall County Coal Co.'s Marshall County Mine near Cameron. Two other people were injured in the collapse.

Marshall County Emergency Management Director Tom Hart said the initial call to his office came in after 9:30 p.m. Sunday. He said reports did not indicate how many individuals were involved in the accident, which was reported as a roof collapse.

After arriving on scene, responders confirmed three individuals were trapped inside the Cameron Portal as a result of the collapse. After working to get to those individuals, crews air lifted one to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, while another was taken via ambulance to Wheeling Hospital. A third victim was pronounced dead at the scene, Hart said.

Hart said the cause of the accident remains under investigation, and any additional information -- including the names of those involved -- would be released by Murray Energy Corp., which is the parent company of the Marshall County Coal Co. Murray Energy released a statement late Sunday confirming the accident, and noted an investigation into what happened is underway.

Hart said portions of the road near the portal were closed Sunday as crews worked at the scene. Units from the Cameron Fire Department, Cameron Police Department and State Police responded.

For more information see

WV Distracted Driving - Highway Safety Plan 2015

West Virginia Legislature passed a cell phone/texting ban while driving law in the 2012 Legislative session. The law, which went into effect July 1, 2012, prohibits texting or using a cell phone without the use of hands-free technology while operating a motor vehicle. Operating a motor vehicle while texting or using a cell phone is a primary offense in West Virginia.

Despite these primary laws banning handheld device use and, texting for all drivers, and all cell phone use for novice drivers, distracted driving is still a problem in West Virginia. The Governor’s Highway Safety Program (GHSP) conducts surveys of drivers regarding their attitudes and awareness of programs addressing seat belt use, speeding, and impaired driving. Respondents were asked to self-report how often they talk on a cell phone and text when driving their vehicles. Just over 50 percent of the respondents indicated they talk on the cell phone some, most, or all of the time, while 37 – 40 percent reported texting while driving some, most, or all of the time. It should be noted that “some of the time” was by far the most prevalent answer among these three responses.

In the 1990s, West Virginia embraced the community/regional approach to traffic safety and the state continues to believe this is the most efficient approach in dealing with traffic safety problems and issues. The State is divided into eight regions based on geography and demographics.

The Division of Highways provided $1,000,000 to the GHSP for FFY 2015 to provide awareness, education, and enforcement programs which address distracted driving. The Governor’s Highway Safety Program continues to fund traffic safety initiatives throughout the eight Regional Traffic Safety Programs throughout West Virginia covering all 55 counties. These regions are tasked with traffic safety initiatives, including the prevention of cell phone/texting while driving and are tasked with conducting or facilitating at least one activity or media event on distracted driving and cell phone use/texting while driving.

Click here for more information on the GHSP’s Highway Safety Plan for FFY 2015.


Multiple Accidents Shut Down I-79 Saturday Morning

Four accident occurred between mile marker 127 and mile marker 129 on I-79 on Saturday morning. Slick roads were to blame.

According to Harrison County 911 officials, a delivery truck and a pick-up truck crashed into each other at mile marker 127 in the northbound lane around 10:30 a.m. Luckily, no one was injured. The road was shut down and traffic was backed up for miles.

The next accident happened around 11:15 a.m. at mile marker 128 in the southbound lane. An ambulance flipped on its side, shutting down both lanes. The driver of the ambulance was transported to the hospital with minor injuries.

For more information see