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Archive for the ‘Traffic Law’ Category

Understanding the Lemon Law

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

When a purchase fails to meet quality and performance standards, we call it a lemon. The Lemon Laws, which is the common nickname for the various state laws, provide legal remedies to consumers who purchase cars, RVs, boats, motorcycles, wheelchair and computers that turn out to be lemons. The federal lemon law, more properly the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, can cover purchases in any state. Even if your purchase is stated upfront as being in “as is” condition, you may still be eligible under the federal or state lemon laws to pursue damages. However, as state laws vary, your state may or may not cover used or leased vehicles. The term “vehicle” is being used to mean any article purchased, as listed above.

Under the laws of your state, your rights may surpass those rights awarded to you in any purchase contract warranties. California law and federal law cover mechanical failures, but that may not be the case in your state. You should consult an attorney if you wish to pursue a claim under the lemon laws. Be advised that your attorney fees may be covered by the seller or warrantor, if you are successful in your claim.

Not all purchases are covered under the lemon laws. You may be able to sue for other damages under certain situations. For instance, you may have a claim for breach or warranty if there was manufacturer warranty still in effect on a vehicle at the time of purchase or if you purchased an extended warranty. Some used vehicles have been “certified” by the dealer which may increase an existing warranty or add a short warranty under which you may have a breach of warranty claim. These claims would not fall within the scope of the state lemon law, although they maybe covered under the federal law.

There are also consumer protection laws that are not part of the lemon laws and which may also cover a purchase. If there is no warrant existing on the purchase, you may be eligible for damages as a result of violations of these laws. An example of such a situation would be if there were issues with the vehicle which the seller know about but did not disclose, like if there were previous mechanical problems, if the vehicle had been in an accident, in a flood or was salvaged, if the odometer had been tampered with, if the vehicle had been stolen and/or rebuilt, or if the vehicle was previously a police car, a taxi or a rental car.
There are also technical service bulletins, issued by manufactures, which can tell you if there may be a potential issue with a particular vehicle or product. Sadly, dealers are not obligated to share that information with you upon making a purchase. Therefore, it is wise before making a purchase to be sure to do your homework. No one can be certain that what they are getting is what they paid for all the time, but there are steps you can take to make sure that you aren’t being taken by an unscrupulous sales person.

The Lemon Law and Leases

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

The Lemon Laws, which is the common nickname for the various state laws, provide legal remedies to consumers who purchase cars, RVs, boats, motorcycles, wheelchair and computers that fail to meet quality and performance standards. The federal lemon law, more properly the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, can cover purchases in any state.

State laws vary, so that a leased vehicle may or may not be completely covered under the Lemon Laws. Lease agreements themselves can be very tricky and confusingly worded. As a result, there could be language that would adversely affect your ability to recoup losses in a lemon law damage claim on a leased vehicle. Prior to commencing a claim under the lemon laws for a leased vehicle, you should consult an attorney who can assist you in determining whether or not you have a legitimate claim under the lemon laws.

It can be difficult to establish damages in a leased vehicle lemon law claim. This may be partly due to the fact that under a lease, there is little to no equity in a purchase and, therefore, limited damages. If you do lease your vehicle and think you have a lemon law claim, there are a few things you should know. First, your damages are generally limited, as mentioned above, based upon how much you have actually paid into the vehicle at the time of the claim.

Secondly, you should bring any lemon law claim earlier in your lease, rather than later, as the less time you have left in your lease the more likely your claim can be ignored until it “goes away” with the termination of the lease. Once the lease has expired and you have returned the car, you can continue with the claim, however, it is not worth much at that point and it would be wiser to settle.

Another issue that can negatively impact on your claim is the mileage on the leased vehicle. You will have a much weaker claim should you have significantly exceeded the mileage allowed under the lease.

Also, if you do receive damages, you will still have to pay off the lease or it can adversely affect your credit rating. Ideally, your lease should be completely paid for in the claim; however, in some cases you are paid only for the residual value of the vehicle. The residual value is the purchase price of the vehicle at lease termination. Additionally, should you settle your claim, you may get even less.

Claims for lease or finance fraud are not handled under the lemon laws. There are many types of unfair and deceptive practices that fall under the banner of lease fraud, including abusing the lease terms, additional costs that were not explained, manipulation of residual values, early termination penalties that are excessive, and other deceptions perpetrated by sellers relative to the transaction. If you feel you have claim for fraud, you should contact an attorney who can assist you in filing such a claim.

How bad is driving without a license?

Monday, February 4th, 2008

You should always make sure that you have your driver’s license on you whenever you are operating a motor vehicle. Driving without your license isn’t just a minor traffic violation and should not be compared to that of a speeding ticket. It is a serious criminal offense and penalties can be severe depending on the laws governing your state. For example, driving without a license in New York is considered a misdemeanor and is punishable by a fine up to $500 and imprisonment for up to 30 days. In Illinois, you can have your driving privileges and right to apply for a license revoke for driving without a license.

If you don’t get a new license after moving to a new state, you could also get into trouble. As soon as you move to a new state, apply for a driver’s license. The timeframe within which you are required to change your driver’s license is different in every state. If do not do so in a timely fashion, your old license will be considered void and you will become an unlicensed driver. Don’t wait! Apply for a new driver’s license as soon as possible to avoid any penalties.

Don’t ever allow an unlicensed driver to operate your car or vehicle. Some states enforce serious penalties if an unlicensed driver is caught driving your own vehicle. For example, you can be put in jail and ordered to pay a large fine in Florida for this offense.

Unlicensed driving remains a serious problem in the United Sates. Over 10 percent of the drivers involved in fatal crashes are caught without a valid license, and approximately 20 percent of all fatal crashes involve at least one of these drivers. Driving without a license undermines the effectiveness of the driver licensing system by preventing the allocation of “points” and reducing the impact of license loss. People tend to think that unlicensed drivers drive more cautiously because they are afraid of getting caught by the police, but this isn’t necessarily true. There is also a growing number of statistics linking unlicensed driving to high-risk behaviors such as drunk driving, speeding, failure to wear seatbelts and other hazardous driving habits. Crashes involving drivers who do not have a valid license are also more brutal than those involving licensed drivers, resulting in higher rates of fatality and serious injury. This is most prevalent amongst those drivers who have never obtained a license in the first place and those who have had their driver’s license suspended for criminal related charges.

Lawmakers are cracking down on people who are arrested for driving without a license; therefore you will most likely need a lawyer if you are caught driving without one. Depending on the state and the charges you are facing, he or she can provide you with sound legal advice in order to deal with the charges. Driving without a license isn’t worth the risk. Have with you at all times, especially if you are planning on driving anywhere.

What happens if I get caught driving without insurance?

Monday, February 4th, 2008

The first thing you need to do when you buy a motor vehicle is purchase auto insurance. Auto insurance will protect you when or if you are involved in a car accident. Having car insurance is just as essential as a driver’s license. Driving without insurance is considered one a serious violation. Mandatory penalties regarding this specific traffic violation are stiffer than the punishments for driving under the influence or marijuana possession. These penalties vary from state to state.

Much like other crimes, you can’t use the “I-Didn’t-Know” strategy in court. If you can’t come up with a policy that proves you were insured when the offense occurred during the trial only proves the assumption that you were uninsured when you were initially charged. However, it can also be hard for the prosecution to prove that you were driving uninsured in order to ensure you suffer the penalty. For example, the prosecutor must prove that the insurance was cancelled and possess the notice you got in order to prove that you are guilty. Regardless, you should never use a vehicle you know isn’t insured just as you should never drive without a license. There are too many risks involved.

In every state, drivers are required to demonstrate the ability to pay up to a certain amount to cover their liability if they are involved in an accident. These particular laws are often referred to as “financial responsibility” laws because all states require some form of proof of financial responsibility. Laws in most states differentiate between driving a vehicle that is not insured and driving without proof of insurance. Penalties for first-time offenders for driving without insurance can range from a $100 fine to having your driver’s license suspended for one year.

Obtaining car insurance is relatively easy. Insurance companies generally do a strong background check of your previous claims and your driving record. They will also check to see whether or not you have been given any citations over the years or been involved in lots of collusions. You may have more trouble getting car insurance if you do not have a perfect record. Some insurers might even deny your application because they don’t have to cover you if you present an excessive risk to their company. Other insurers may issue you a policy but it may be at a higher premium than they charge someone who is not considered high-risk.

There are actually some insurance companies that specialize in drivers who pose a higher-risk. You may have already seen or heard their ads on media outlets. The bottom line is that you should always be able to get some kind of insurance coverage for your vehicle. There is no excuse why you should be driving without insurance. If you have trouble obtaining insurance coverage, contact an insurance agent for more information. He or she can help guide you in the right direction.

Is talking on my cell phone while driving illegal?

Monday, February 4th, 2008

We’ve all done it. You’re in the car, the cell phone rings and you pick it up without evening thinking twice. Or, you’re speeding down the highway while simultaneously carrying on a detailed conversation on the phone with your best friend. Either way, it’s dangerous. Talking on your cell phone while driving is considered a distraction. Many accidents are caused by people who look away from the road for a fraction of a second, sometimes to answer a phone call. Because of this, driving while talking on a mobile phone is extremely controversial.

There is plenty of evidence that using a cell phone while driving contributes to car accidents and fatal crashes. Accidents involving careless driving, or someone who was distracted by talking on a cell phone, are being prosecuted as negligence similar to driving while intoxicated. Legislation to restrict mobile phone use had been proposed or enacted in 40 states thus far. Connecticut, New York and New Jersey prohibit talking on hand-held cell phones while driving. According to certain studies, however, current laws banning cell phone use in New York and Connecticut have proven to be infective due to a lack of enforcement. It is far to easy for people to hold the phone down when they see a cop drive by, and subsequently, far too hard for a cop to spot a driver using one.

Interestingly enough, in May of 2007, Washington became the first state to ban text messaging while driving. As of today, as many as 40 countries may restrict or prohibit the use of cell phones while driving.

Cell phones play an integral role in our society — they keep us connected. But the convenience they provide must be weighed against the dangers that they pose. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, careless driving accounted for 6.4 percent of crash fatalities in 2003. This kind of careless driving includes talking, eating, putting on make up and attending to children while operating a motor vehicle. Using mobile phones and other wireless technology (including hands-free devices) are also considered distractions. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that motorists use cell phones while driving only during an emergency. They estimate that at any given moment during daylight hours, 8 percent of all drivers are talking on a cell phone. Drivers talking on cell phones are almost twice as likely to get into crashes and cause rear-end collisions. The NHTSA is developing a campaign to help educate motorists on the dangers of cell phone use while driving.
Though it may not necessarily be illegal to talk on a cell phone while driving, you still should try refrain from doing so. Motor vehicle accidents are primarily caused by distractions, second only to drunk driving. These are all preventable accidents. Don’t drink and drive, and while you’re at it, don’t “call and drive” either.

To find out the cell phone restrictions in your area, visit your state’s Department of Transportation website or contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

When you don’t follow the rules of the road

Monday, February 4th, 2008

Unfortunately, traffic violations are a common occurrence. Whether it’s changes lanes without using a blinker, running a stop sign or speeding — everyone is guilty of violating a traffic law and one time or another. Though some traffic violations are far worse than others, it’s best to abide by the rules of the road. By doing so, you avoid car accidents, traffic mishaps and encounters with the police. You’ll also avoid such questions as these:

• What is a traffic ticket? A traffic ticket is essentially a summons issued to a person who has violated one or more traffic laws. The ticket is either given by a police officer or another authorized government official. If you are given a ticket, you may be required to appear in court before a judge depending on the severity of the violation.

• What should I do after I receive a ticket? If you have been given a ticket for a traffic violation in which you are guilty of, it might be best to just pay the fine. For instance, if you were caught speeding and you were, in fact, speeding. If you are certain that you are innocent of the violation, jot down some notes regarding the time and place of the incident as well as the circumstance involved. Then you can argue the ticket in court. This decision should be based upon all of the factors regarding the traffic ticket in question.

• What happens when I receive “points” on my license? Many states have a point system in which they assign a point value to each traffic violation. The greater the violation, the greater the point value. For example, speeding would carry a higher point value than running a stop sign. If you accumulate too many points on your license within a given time frame, you may lose all driving privileges and your driver’s license could very well be suspended.

• If I go to traffic school, can I have the “points” removed? Some states offer educational classes to help reduce future traffic violations. An educated driver is often a safe driver, so some states will let people plead guilty to minor traffic violations, pay the fine and go to traffic school. Traffic school us usually a six to 10 hour program on driving safety and traffic laws. After completing the course successfully and providing proof f completion to the local Department of Motor Vehicles, the violation and “points” are subsequently removed from your driving record.

• Who has access to your driving record? The local Department of Motor Vehicles and law enforcement agencies have immediate access to your driving record. Employers, attorneys and insurance companies also have clearance to view your record for legal intense and purposes.

• How long do violations stay on your driving record? Unless your driving record is expunged by a court order, offenses will stay on your record permanently. However, your insurance company may only pay attention to violations that occurred within recent years if you’re lucky.

Speed Trap Laws and You

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

Depending on what State you live in, the speed traps will vary in number and their according legislation. While some regions of the country have dedicated their efforts to installing and maintaining speed traps for nearly the entire enforcement of speeding laws, others have remained more dependent on the traditional highway patrols. If you want to know what you are dealing with, it is best to do a little research because you probably already know that law enforcement agencies can be a little sparse with their information on a subject they’d like to catch you out on!

The major differences from State to State concerning speed traps are the use of such devices in recording speeding infractions or the primary use of highway patrolmen; another main difference is the speeds that are considered lawful on highways and in cities. The State itself will decide what the basic framework for speed trap use is, and lay down certain expectations for its local authorities who will then interpret the use of speed traps for their own populations. In Alabama, for example, changes in the speed limit must go through the proper channels so that drivers are not penalized for infractions that are only a matter of miscommunication. Only six changes to the limit may be made in a certain time frame and because of this it is hoped that drivers will not be confused and unfairly punished.

While anti-speed trap laws are prevalent in most States to prevent unfair usage, New Jersey boasts none of these except that the authorities may not set up a trap within one mile of a speed change zone. This means that otherwise, the traps may be set up as often as those in charge see fit, and that unlike Alabama and other similar States there are no restrictions on speed limit changes in a certain time frame.

Of course, some people view the Alabama anti-speed trap laws as slightly extreme and unnecessary; conversely there are those detractors from the straightforward methods of New Jersey because they feel drivers are at risk of being ‘caught’. The irony of the speed trap, in any State, is that it is meant to be secret and catch speeders so that they might be punished and not speed anymore; the more traps that are set, however, the more known they become and therefore drivers become more aware of their speed and are more likely to keep it in check.

In Massachusetts, the controversy lies on ticket quotas, where officers are expected to dole out a certain number of speeding tickets per a certain timeframe. The speed traps of course help with meeting this quota however there are a great number of people who feel that the existence of a ticket quota is not helping to slow people down but to actually keep speeding levels as they are. If people are aware of speed traps, they are more likely to slow down and that is the underlying purpose of the devices; wherever you’re driving, be aware!

No Speed Limits may be a precursor to Safer Highways in the States

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

Speed limits are something that is determined by local authorities in each State, so that there are no specific federally set speed limits – the highways are therefore not homogenous in their expectations of safe speeds. Notably, Montana has eliminated its highways speed limits, a move that has opened up debate on whether or not speed limits keep the roads safer for drivers. Did Montana drivers benefit from safer roads because of the lack of limits, or was this an unwise move on the part of the Montana government?

According to the National Motorists Association, the initial period of no limits for speed was one of the safest on Montana highways, followed by a period of road fatalities that doubled with the reimplementation of speed limits and full enforcement of those laws. The real question becomes, why is this the case? Why would established speed limits, created solely for the regulation of traffic and the safety of all those on the road, lead to more fatalities than without any restrictions on speed whatsoever? Researchers believe that the reason behind this odd circumstance may be the fact that the Montana government didn’t put enough research and thought into the new laws; it simply gave into pressure for the legislation and so miscommunication between law and drivers was to blame for heightened accidents on the highway.

Currently, Montana highways require drivers to travel at to “reasonable and prudent” standard, something clearly up for interpretation and debate. This means that it is also up to the local law enforcement agents to decide what a safe speed really is: weather conditions, traffic flow and the condition of the vehicle in question are all elements that must be considered by both the drivers on Montana highways and the police who patrol them. With such legislation, prosecution of speeders or otherwise unsafe drivers becomes very difficult as the driver may argue the case that according to his or her own perspective, the speed was indeed ‘reasonable and prudent’.

In terms of speed, it is documented that speed limits have no strict impact on the speed at which people will drive. Many comment that whatever the limit is, people will drive 10 mph over – based on this thinking, traffic planners have decided that the only real course of action is to stop wasting money on ticketing and enforcement of a speed law that will largely be discounted by drivers. To leave the safety of the road in the hands of the actual drivers seems to have had a big impact on Montana roads and planners agree that this freedom in comparison to poorly implemented speed laws that can possibly confuse commuters is much more effective.

It seems safe to say that at least in some circumstances, the best form of road safety is in letting the drivers take control over their own safety and that of the other people on the road.

Seat Belt Safety: Do the Numbers add up?

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

Seatbelts remain one of the most controversial elements in driving safety, since people can’t seem to agree on whether or not they are really making them safer in a vehicle. The idea behind the seatbelt is very simple and we all know that law dictates we wear one while operating a vehicle or whether we are a passenger. The strap restrains you in case of a sudden stop or an accident and by doing so it is thought to significantly increase your chances of surviving or of not sustaining any injuries during such an event. Fatalities are caused when people are sent through the windshields of vehicles who have collided with another vehicle or some other object and when this happens the injuries can be very great due to broken glass and the impact on landing sometimes on pavement or another dangerous object.

Because of this, seatbelt laws are in place and without wearing one in the majority of U.S. States you will be ticketed and fined an amount according to the local law enforcement agency. The American government, as well as a great many public organizations are dedicated to the enforcement of seatbelt laws to bring down the numbers of fatal accidents happening each day on American roads. But is there actually a link between strict seatbelt laws and lower fatalities on the road? A 2002 report reveals that of the ten States with the lowest road fatalities, five enforced the strictest seatbelt laws and five did not; in fact in New Hampshire, the only State without any seatbelt laws at all, the streets were rated third safest in all the country.

Clearly the link between strict seatbelt laws and road safety is not as straightforward as it might be; politicians continue to lobby for stricter rulings as do concerned citizens but the fact remains that a safe road is a safe road regardless of legislation. We must begin to consider whether or not people in New Hampshire wear their seatbelts as often as they do in any other State with strict laws regardless of the fact that they legally need not. Numbers are likely the same as in most other States, leading to the logical conclusion that like with most laws, they will be obeyed by those who would have done so in the first place and disregarded by those who would have done otherwise.

Not unlike removing speeding laws from highways, removing seatbelt laws has no particular effect on the safety of drivers on the roads. Although the laws were set in place with good intentions, perhaps it is best to admit that people will do as they please and their own safety should be left in their own hands. Of course there is no doubt that seatbelts are capable of saving lives and that they often do, law enforcement is too often ineffective in making people act a certain way when they are naturally inclined not to.

What are the differences in Helmet Laws from State to State?

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

Helmet laws are a relatively new addition to local legislation in America and other parts of the world, and as such many of us are actually still unaware what is expected of us in terms of a helmet. These laws pertain to both bicycles and motorcycles, and the specifics are written in terms of both age and the type of helmet accepted as safe on a certain type of vehicle. The differences come because of age standards and the specifics of operating a vehicle that may be expected to take high speeds. Bicycle helmet laws are usually in place for under 16 or 18 year-olds to protect children who otherwise often try to ride without proper protection.

If you are caught driving a motorcycle without a helmet, or with a helmet that is deemed inappropriate for the machine, you will be subject to points taken off your license or to a fixed fine. In Nevada this will mean 2 points removed; in Louisiana a fifty dollar fine. Pennsylvania police will fine you a total $92 for a helmet infraction or speeding on a motorcycle and the fine varies from State to State according to the severity with which the infraction is viewed and to the taxes and extra fees attached to the ticket.

Missouri law concerns not only bicycles and motorcycles but also some toy vehicles – the fines range in size but the highest extent of prosecution is $100 for the fine and possibly another $100 for the court fees if you wind up fighting the ticket. These laws are more restricting than most because they require parents to actually ensure that their children are not operating any toy vehicle that might be subject to the helmet legislation. In such a case, the parents would be responsible for providing their child or children with the proper helmet and of course for paying any incurred fines.

What denotes the proper helmet, you might be wondering? In most cases it is considered to be the helmet manufactured by the same maker as the vehicle (in terms of a motorcycle) and claimed by such to be used in conjunction with said vehicle. For bicycles and other toy vehicles, however, there will be local legislation pertaining to the safety standards and what the helmet should be made of and how it should fit the head. Certain head circumferences will require a different size of helmet than others, for example, and also a different amount of padding between the head and the inner part of the helmet.

Perhaps the widest range in fines for failing to wear a helmet while operating a motorcycle is in Oregon, where the amount may be anywhere from a general $67 to an astounding $300 in Brookings. It is best to look in with your local government office to find out exactly what is expected of you while biking, and just remember not to assume that the laws are the same when you cross the State line!