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Avoid wrecks with awareness of motion induced blindness

I was copied on an email thread recently about motion-induced blindness (MIB). That's a phenomenon where moving objects in an observer's peripheral vision can disappear. Researchers think this can cause motor vehicle collisions when a driver simply can't see someone approaching from the side. Awareness here is key: one can avoid MIB by not simply staring in front of the car, but rather shifting one's gaze every few seconds. We've all heard from driver's ed that you should check your mirrors every few seconds, and that helps avoid MIB as well.

Source:  Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

Here's the entire email thread:

In a motor accident, where a speeding car hits a slower moving vehicle coming from the side, the speeding car driver often swear that they just didn’t see the vehicle coming from the left or right. Well, they aren’t lying. They really don’t see the vehicle coming from the side, in spite of broad daylight.
This phenomenon on the car drivers’ part is known as “Motion-Induced Blindness.” It is definitely frightening and explained at the website noted below.
Once airborne, pilots are taught to alternate their gaze between scanning the horizon and scanning their instrument panel, and never to fix their gaze for more than a couple of seconds on any single object. They are taught to continually keep their heads on a swivel and their eyes always moving. Because, if you fix your gaze on one object long enough while you yourself are in motion, your peripheral vision goes blind.
‘Till about three decades ago, this “heads on swivel & eyes moving” technique was the only way to spot other aircraft in the skies around. Now days they have on-board radars, but the old technique still holds good.
Just click on the link below for a small demonstration of motion-induced blindness. You will see a revolving array of blue crosses on a black background. There is a flashing green dot in the centre and three fixed yellow dots around it. If you fix your gaze on the green dot for more than a few seconds, the yellow dots will disappear at random, either singly, or in pairs, or all three together.
In reality, the yellow dots are always there - just move your focus to see them.
Just watch the yellow dots for some time to ensure that they don’t go anywhere!
So, if you are driving at a high speed on a highway, and if you fix your gaze on the road straight ahead for not very long, you will not see a car, a scooter, a buggy, a bicycle, a buffalo or even a human being approaching from the side.
NOW REVERSE THE SITUATION. If you are crossing a road on foot and you see a speeding car approaching, there’s a 90% chance that the driver isn’t seeing you, because his/her peripheral vision may be blind. And you may be in that blind zone!

Tips to avoid collisions with big rigs


Some of the most violent collisions we see as injury attorneys involve big trucks, so this post will focus on what you can do to avoid having a wreck with a big truck.

Our first set of tips comes from Road Safe America. This organization was founded by the father of a W&L student who was killed by a speeding big rig on I-81 near Lexington, Virginia, while Hilary and I were in law school there. RSA has these tips:

  • Avoid blind spots around trucks. If you can't see a truck's side mirrors, the truck driver can't see you. One-third of all crashes between large trucks and cars take place in the blind spots around a truck.
  • Do not pass a truck on the right while the truck is turning right. Trucks must swing wide to the left to negotiate right turns safely, as the rear wheels follow a shorter path than the front wheels.
  • Do not cut in front of any large vehicle, including a truck or a bus. Since they require much more distance to stop in comparison to cars, forcing a large vehicle to stop quickly can result in a fatal accident.
  • Use the proper procedure to pass a large truck or bus on the highway. Accelerate slightly and maintain a consistent speed while passing. Wait until you can see the entire cab in your rear-view mirror before signaling and pulling in front of it.
  • Observe a truck's turn signals before trying to pass it. If the truck appears to be starting a left turn, check which way the driver is signaling before passing the truck on the right.
  • Give trucks at least four to six seconds of space in wet conditions and at highway speeds.
  • Call authorities if you see unsafe driving.
  • Do not cut off a truck in traffic or on the highway to reach your exit or turn.
  • Be extra alert as you approach a large truck. They behave very differently from cars.

 Tractor-trailers and dump trucks can legally weigh up to 80,000 pounds. While big trucks are necessary for our economy, they are also capable of causing great harm (you can read more about this on our Big Truck Collision page). We hope these tips help you avoid trouble with big trucks.

Chaney Firm verdict upheld on appeal

I argued a case to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in January (here's an earlier report on the argument). We tried the case in January 2012 in federal court in Hot Springs and received a nice verdict for our client. We're pleased that the Eighth Circuit agreed with us and allowed the verdict to stand. The Court's decision is posted here.

One issue on appeal dealt with the routine use of medical visual aids based upon CRMAdigitized x-rays, and proton density MRIs. The defense claimed that the visual aids were misleading and were used as actual evidence, rather than illustrations to help doctors testify about injuries to specific body parts. The Court held that the medical illustrations were not misleading because a doctor testified that they were accurate and helped him teach the jury about complex medical issues.

The other main issue on appeal was a procedural question concerning two professional defense witnesses that were excluded; the defense tried to call these new experts at the last minute because its original expert's theory of degeneration did not hold up under cross-examination. When the trial judge didn't let them call new witnesses, they changed tactics and tried to claim they needed the new experts because they were surprised by what our client's doctors had to say. The trial judge saw through this charade. On appeal, the defense claimed that our client's doctors should have been excluded. The appeals court rejected the surprise argument, as the defense had all the relevant medical records, had received a summary of the anticipated testimony, and never took depositions of the doctors.

We're pleased to have obtained a good result for a deserving client. 

Cite: Bradshaw v. FFE Trans. Servs., Inc., 715 F.3d 1104 (8th Cir. June 3, 2013).


Hilary, Nathan, and oral argument – It's not what you think


Ordinarily, the mention of husband and wife in the same sentence as the term "oral argument" isn't a good thing. However, Hilary and Nathan recently showed there is an exception to this rule!

Nathan argued a big truck collision case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit on January 16 in St. Louis. In this case, the Chaney Law Firm is defending a jury verdict it won for a client in federal district court in Hot Springs in January 2012. One issue on appeal dealt with the routine use of medical visual aids based upon digitized x-rays and proton density MRIs. The other main issue on appeal was a procedural question concerning two professional defense witnesses that were excluded; the defense tried to call these new experts at the last minute because its original expert's theory of degeneration did not hold up under cross-examination. You can listen to Nathan's argument here.

Hilary argued a social security disability case before the Eighth Circuit on February 14 in Kansas City. Hilary's case involved issues of whether the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) gave the proper amount of weight to all the medical evidence. Hilary argued that the ALJ erred by only considering just five pages of medical records from just one doctor who said he didn't have enough information to fill out the disability paperwork, when hundreds of other pages of records from four other doctors showed our firm's client is truly disabled. Even the one doctor the ALJ relied upon prescribed narcotics on at least 13 different occasions, yet the ALJ found our client's pain was not severe enough to preclude work. This case truly shows why many people need legal representation when dealing with the Social Security Administration. You can listen to Hilary's argument here.

It is truly a high honor and great privilege to argue before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. Below are pictures from the courtrooms in St. Louis and Kansas City. Which has the better view?