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Michigan Teenagers and driving: How to be prepared

By Michael Morse | August 3, 2009

As a parent here in Michigan, we all know how scary it is to even think about the fact that your child is driving a car. However, there are some new tools out there that can help make the transition as smooth and safe as possible for your teens.


We all know that cell phone use can be distracting and causes accidents. A new national study shows that you are 5.9 times more likely to get into an accident while dialing your phone and 23.2 times higher when you are texting. There is absolutely nothing that important that you cannot wait until your car is at a stop to send that text. If you are a passenger in a vehicle and the driver is texting or dialing, you should offer to help and demand that he/she stop doing that activity with you in the car. It is effective and works. Everyone knows you shouldn’t be doing it, but the addictive nature of texting and cell phone use takes over common sense.

Parents should also be aware than when your teenager has a friend in the passenger seat, the risk of a fatal crash doubles. When there are 3 or more passengers in the car, that teen driver’s risk of a fatal crash is three times higher than if he or she is driving alone. This is because of the distraction passengers create. But researchers also believe drivers are more inclined to speed and do other risky things because others in the car egg them on or they want to show off. More than half of all deaths in crashes of 16- and 17-year-old drivers occur when passengers younger than 20 are in the car with no adults present.

New Products

New products are hitting the market to help you as a Michigan parent keep a better eye on your teen.  Sprint and Verizon both have applications that you can download to your phones so you can know exactly where your teenager is at all times.  These applications are a wonderful way to know where your kids are.  However, they do not allow you to track the speed of your teen’s vehicles.

A “black box” similar to devices used to track emergency vehicles and commercial trucks lets parents monitor teen driving in real-time through a laptop or cell phone. The system, which blends cell phone technology with GPS, can be preset to snitch by sending automatic alerts when a young driver is driving too fast, too far or somewhere he’s not meant to be. The system also records speed, miles covered and other driving details on a memory card that can be downloaded later. One Black-box makers is Alltrack USA.

DriveCam’s more advanced system employs a tiny onboard camera that records when risky driving, including speeding, hard-braking or swerving from lane to lane, occurs.

According to a recent IIHS study, high tech devices worked best when a teen heard an alert in the vehicle and had a chance to correct the behavior — before the parents were notified. For these teens, driving more than 10 miles per hour over the speed limit dropped by almost 60 percent, and sudden braking and acceleration fell by almost 40 percent.

Get it in writing with your Teenagers

One of the best ways is to draw up a clear contract that spells out the details of your house’s graduated licensing law and some very specific consequences if it is violated. By way of example, AAA and Allstate have very comprehensive teen driver contracts free for download. By having both parents and your child sign it, you’ll drive home the point that teen driving is a privilege, not a right — one that needs to be earned through responsible behavior.

Who is responsible?

In Michigan, we have a state law which is best known as the Michigan Owners Liability Statute.  This law basically says that if you lend out your car to anyone, a friend, family member or stranger, you are responsible for those people’s actions.  If that person hurts someone while driving negligently, the owner of the vehicle is responsible, as well as the negligent driver.  It is never a good idea to give your vehicle to someone you do not know very well.  The law presumes that if a spouse, father, mother, brother, sister, son, daughter or other immediate member of the family is driving, that you gave the vehicle to that person with permission to drive it.  If your car is taken without permission, then you would not be responsible for the actions of the driver.

Michigan Laws on cell phones and texting while driving:

Detroit, Michigan has a local law prohibiting people from making cell phone calls without a hands-free device.  The law states:

·  Ordinance  Chapter 55 of the 1984 Detroit City Code, Traffic and Motor Vehicles, by amending Section55-1-1, Definitions, of Article I, In General, to add definitions for the terms, ‘Engage in a telephone call’,  ‘Hands-free mobile phone’, ‘Hand-held mobile phone’, ‘Mobile phone’, and ‘Using a hand-held mobile phone’: and by adding Section 55-4-28, Use of a hand-held mobile phone while operating a motor vehicle on a freeway, highway, street or alley prohibited; not applicable to hands-free mobile phone; exceptions; burden of proof ; penalty, to Article IV, Operation of Vehicles.
Passed May 3, 2006

There is a host of pending legislation that can be reviewed here.  Michigan is considering a state wide ban, just like Detroit’s ban.  Just yesterday, the United States Senate has had discussions about a national ban on texting while driving.  Obviously, this issue is not going away and some serious new laws should be in effect soon.


One way to protect yourself from civil liability in case your Michigan teenager gets into a crash and injures someone, is to have adequate insurance.  You should make sure that your insurance company is aware that you have a teen in the house that is starting to drive.  You should notify them as soon as driver’s education classes begin.  You should also increase your bodily injury limits to $250,000/$500,000 or more if you can afford to do so.  You should also make sure that you have adequate limits for both uninsured and underinsured motorist benefits.

What is Uninsured Motorist Coverage?

This is a provision in your insurance policy that helps protect you if the negligent driver did not have insurance coverage or if you were involved in a “hit and run” situation.

You can purchase this type of coverage in addition to your policy. So, for instance, if you are ever involved in an accident with someone that is uninsured or that has fled the scene, then you can recover money under this provision from your own insurance company.

What is Underinsured Motorist Coverage?

Underinsured Motorist Coverage is a provision in your policy that applies when the other driver didn’t have enough insurance to cover your injuries.

Say, for instance, you were involved in a car accident where the negligent driver only had $20,000 in coverage, and you suffered injuries costing you $40,000. Because the negligent driver only carried a policy worth $20,000, you could only recover a maximum of $20,000 from the negligent driver. If you had an underinsured motorist provision in your policy, then you could make the claim against your own carrier for additional money to help pay for your expenses.

If you have any questions about Michigan No-Fault Insurance, or what to do after an accident, you can call for free answers to your questions today at 800-281-0606 or email

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Do You Want To Make Better Decisions In Your Law Practice?

By Michael Morse | June 4, 2009

I recently read a book recently called Traction by Gino Wickman. It was a great management book. I highly recommend it. The same author recently wrote an E-book called Decide! You can download it for free. I just read it and it covers a lot of the material that was in Traction but in a very easy to read way. I think you will benefit just from reading Decide! Mr. Wickman’s website identifies other tools that I use in my practice that you can also download. Don’t be stuck any longer when trying to make tough decisions. Download Decide! at no cost and learn techniques to make hard business decisions with less effort and energy.

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$700,000.00 for client riding an ATV

By Michael Morse | April 28, 2009

Michael Morse, P.C. settled case for client for $700,000.00 recently in St. Clair County.

Our 30 year old Plaintiff was visiting his friends home to watch football games on a Sunday afternoon. The defendant brought out a Honda ATV and drove it around the driveway. The plaintiff asked if he could ride the ATV. Both Plaintiff and Defendant had 5-6 beers before this point. The defendant acquiesced and Plaintiff hopped on the ATV. This was Plaintiff’s first experience ever being on an All Terrain Vehicle. Plaintiff asked for a helmet and was told none was available. Very little instruction was given to Plaintiff on how to ride the ATV. No instruction was given as to where Plaintiff could and should ride. Defendant own a large piece of property which housed several horses with a large wire fence surrounding the back of the property. Plaintiff hopped on the ATV and took off. Within seconds he ran into a nearly invisible wire fence. He cut open his throat and suffered a complete transaction of the trachea. He was rushed to the hospital where he had a tracheostomy surgery. He has a permanent scar across his neck and still has a tracheostomy hole and breathing apparatus.

The main problem with the case was that Plaintiff was barred by the Recreational Use Act, MCL 324.73301 from bringing a claim as he was on private property. The only way around this act is to prove gross negligence or willful and wanton misconduct, or to prove that Plaintiff was an invitee on the premises. No valuable consideration was given to the land owner to use the ATV. Further, defendant argued that Plaintiff should have known that wires would be present as large posts were present in the area, and a large red gate to let the horses in and out. Defendant also argued that Plaintiff had a large share of the blame as he was drinking, drove the ATV without asking for much instruction, and was over 50% comparatively negligent.

Through multiple depositions, a site visit, help from an ATV expert, and other discovery, evidence was gathered to help prove gross negligence and willful and wanton misconduct. The defendants admitted for example that a reasonably careful person would have taken more time to explain to the plaintiff where he should and should not have ridden and that plaintiff would not have seen the wire fence until he was right on it. Other good testimony was procured that helped push the settlement.

Michael Morse, P.C. specializes in handling complex Michigan Truck, Motorcycle, Automobile, ATV, Bicycle and pedestrian accident cases. If we can be of service to you, please email Michael Morse personally at or call toll free for a free consultation at 800-281-0606.

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Beware of Dangerous Toys this Holiday Season

By Michael Morse | December 5, 2008

With all of the news about harmful chemicals in our everyday products, it should be no surprise that this danger exists in children’s toys as well.  There have always been risks from chemicals in children’s toys, since children tend to put toys and their hands into their mouths, which transfers the chemicals from the toy to the child’s system.  The risk doesn’t only come from lead either; these toys also contain flame retardants, bromine, arsenic, mercury, and various other harmful chemicals.  And, despite the focus on toys made in China, these dangers are not exclusive to toys made in that country.

The State of Michigan has established a limit of 600ppm as a “safe” level of lead, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a ceiling of just 40ppm.  However, a recent study by the CDC has established that even lower levels of lead can cause problems for young children.  These problems can exist even if there are no external symptoms of lead poisoning.  This indicates that there is no “safe” level of lead exposure for children.

The symptoms of lead poisoning include diarrhea, lack of appetite, irritability, insomnia, a constant metallic taste, stomach pain, nausea, headaches, and seizures.  Higher levels of exposure can cause problems with the kidneys, reproductive harm, and coma.  Lead exposure in children can also lead to extreme learning disabilities.  Treatment is available to remove the lead in a person’s system, but avoiding exposure is the best approach.

There are several fast, effective, and inexpensive home-based test kits available.  These kits allow a parent to test toys, paint, and any other surface for lead contamination.  Some examples that were rated highly by Consumer Reports are here and here .

The Ann Arbor-based group, the Ecology Center has a study regarding the chemicals in children’s toys.  The study reveals that 20% of toys tested were above the state threshold for lead levels and 10.7% were above the AAP safety level.  Others had medium to high levels of other chemicals.  The good news is that 62% of toys tested had low levels of potentially unsafe chemicals and 21% of all the toys had no unsafe chemical content.  These safer toys were of the same type and quality as the unsafe ones, proving that manufacturers can make toys free of these dangerous chemicals.

If a child is harmed by lead exposure, an attorney may help you recover expenses and compensation from manufacturers, distributors, and/or retailers of the harmful toys.  Contact us for more information at 800.281.0606 or click here.

Click here for a quick reference on how to keep children safe from dangerous toys this holiday season.

For information on the toys studied by the Ecology Center, including a list of the safest and the most dangerous toys, as well as a searchable database, click here.

For information from the Centers for Disease Control, click here.

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The Bradley-Wilder Effect in the 2008 Election? Maybe in Michigan.

By Michael Morse | October 12, 2008

Barack Obama’s race has been a topic of discussion throughout the Presidential campaign. He is obviously the first minority nominee for a major party. And he has a real chance of winning, according to the barrage of polling taking place across the country. But pollsters are wondering if they still have to adjust for lingering social biases. Among the polling community, the Bradley-Wilder Effect is used to describe the discrepancies between pre-election polls and the actual results when a white candidate runs against a non-white one. The name comes from the 1982 California Governor race involving Tom Bradley and the 1989 Virginia Governor race involving Doug Wilder. In both races, the polls drastically understated the support for the white candidate; the results for the black candidate proved accurate in both races though.

This phenomenon continued into the 1990’s, but many pollsters believe that this effect has faded, and maybe even died. Results from 2006 elections failed to show the Bradley-Wilder Effect. The notable difference was Michigan’s vote on Proposition 2, the anti-affirmative action initiative. Polls showed a narrow margin on this proposal before the vote, but the vote ended overwhelmingly for the proposal, striking down affirmative action initiatives. So, although the Bradley-Wilder Effect may be dead in the rest of the country, look out for it in Michigan come November 4. Let’s hope this nasty phenomenom has breathed its last breath in 2006 and Michigan voters vote for the better candidate: Barack Obama.

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Our Next President’s Impact on the United States Supreme Court

By Michael Morse | October 11, 2008

Though history will ultimately judge the legacy of President George Bush, we need not wait for the historians to determine that the President’s impact on the Supreme Court has been one of moving it decidedly to the right.  Conservative legal activists have hailed the nominations of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Samuel A. Alito Jr. and view President Bush’s agenda of creating a more conservative court as a remarkable success, regardless of any reservations or frustrations they may have regarding his overall performance as our country’s chief executive.

But now, with the presidential election only weeks away, the future of the Court again hangs in the balance.  Should Barack Obama be elected it is likely that with the support of a Democratic Senate we could see the resignation and replacement of three liberal justices, John Paul Stevens, age 88, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, age 75, and David Souter, age 69. Though not creating a liberal majority, as the Court consists of four liberals and four conservatives with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy creating a swing, it would narrow the age imbalance between the right and left (Antonin Scalia, the oldest justice on the right is only 72).   However, should the next president be John McCain, the opportunity arises for the creation of a clear conservative majority, which could affect legal precedence on constitutional issues ranging from the separation of church and state to a woman’s right to abortion.

Thus, as the Court reopens today for a new session, all eyes peer toward the future of the Judicial Branch, a future that will differ radically upon whom our country elects as its 43rd President.  Regardless of whether or not the next President is Barack Obama or John McCain that individual will be placed in the extraordinary position to greatly affect the makeup of our Supreme Court, which in turn will create the laws us citizens will be subject to for generations to come.

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Michigan Child Booster Seats

By Michael Morse | October 4, 2008

Recent legislation passed in Michigan requires that children 4 to 8 years-old and under 4’ 9” use a booster seat. This common-sense requirement ensures that the seat belt is properly positioned to protect a child in a car accident. However, research by the University of Michigan and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) discovered that many of these booster seats do not put children in the best position to protect them. Of the 41 most popular seats, 13 received a ‘not recommended’ rating in the tests. IIHS President Adrian Lund said the 13 boosters “may increase restraint use by making children more comfortable, but they don’t position belts for optimal protection.” All of these seats do meet federal regulations.

Parents should also keep in mind that all of these booster seats offer more protection that simply strapping the child in without any booster seat. “Since seat belts are designed for adults, they do not fit children properly and can actually cause injuries during a crash,” said Michigan Department of Community Health Director Janet Olszewski. “Booster seats are a simple and inexpensive way to protect children in motor vehicle crashes.” Partners for Child Passenger Safety (PCPS) conducts the world’s largest ongoing study of children in crashes and analyzes actual crash data from 16 states, including Michigan. PCPS reports that the risk of injury for a 4 to 8 year-old child is reduced by 59 percent when using a car seat or booster seat. Children in seat belts alone are four times more likely to suffer head/brain injuries as compared to those in booster seats. Booster seats position the seat belt across the child’s lower hips and mid-shoulders instead of the abdomen because the liver and spleen are more vulnerable to injuries.

Many police and fire departments will do free safety inspections of child car seats and booster seats. Check with your locality to see if they offer this service.

For more information on this, or other car accident questions, call the Auto Accident Claim Center at 800-281-0606, or visit us online at

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Why the Right Attorney is so Important After a Michigan Car Accident

By Michael Morse | October 3, 2008

News stories about large personal-injury settlements evoke vastly differing emotions. But how do you put a dollar amount on life-long injuries? How much money is someone’s life worth? Or their ability to play with their children, take care of their home, or attend to their own personal hygiene needs? When injuries from a car accident affect someone’s life forever, no amount of money can fully compensate. Unfortunately, we have to place a value on these things. The right lawyer will make sure that car accident victims get all of the compensation they deserve.

Michigan is a no-fault state, which means that your own insurance company pays for the economic losses that you suffer in an auto accident. These first-party benefits include lost wages, medical expenses, nursing care, help with household chores, home modifications, and other accident-related expenses. Fortunately, Michigan is the only state that does not limit the amount of these benefits.

In addition, you can recover excess economic losses and pain and suffering from a negligent driver. These third-party benefits attempt to cover the gap between the measurable economic losses that your insurance company pays, and the pain, suffering, and other intangible losses suffered in a car accident. Although the negligent driver is responsible for these third-party benefits, the reality is that personal assets are not available from most individuals. The only source of compensation is the negligent driver’s insurance policy. Tragically, Michigan only requires very low liability limits for driver . . . just $20,000. This amount is not enough to adequately compensate most people that are permanently injured in a car accident. And, even though Michigan requires all drivers to have insurance, many drivers on the road do not have the required coverage. To protect you from these situations, insurance companies offer uninsured and under-insured motorist coverage. These policies offer third-party benefits if you are injured by an uninsured driver or a driver with low policy limits. You should review your insurance policy to make sure you have this coverage.

When you are injured in a car accident, or any other type of personal injury, the right lawyer makes all the difference between getting something, and getting what you deserve. Insurance companies tell you that you don’t need a lawyer; that they are looking out for your interests. That is just not the case. Insurance companies have law firms and teams of lawyers working for them. You should too!

In 2007, there were 324,174 car accidents in Michigan; that averages over 888 each and every day. These crashes resulted in 80,576 injuries and 1,084 deaths. If you or someone you know are injured in a Michigan auto accident, or for a free review of your insurance coverage, call the team at the Auto Accident Claim Center at 800-281-0606, or visit us on the web at

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October is ‘Michigan Car-Deer Crash Safety Awareness Month’

By Michael Morse | October 1, 2008

With the start of Michigan’s hunting season just around the corner, Governor Granholm has just declared October to be “Car-Deer Crash Safety Awareness Month” in Michigan. Car-deer collisions increase greatly in October and November due to natural mating movements as well as influence from hunters. Michigan has a deer herd of over 1.75 million.

There were nearly 62,000 such crashes last year, but the number may be much greater since many car-deer accidents are not reported. These collisions account for $130 million in property damage annually, but also result in numerous deaths and injuries. In 2007, 11 motorists died and 1,614 were injured in car-deer collisions. In 2006, 12 died and 1,676 were hurt. Motorcyclists are at particular risk for serious injury and death, accounting for 7 of the deaths in 2007 and 9 in 2006.

Although a majority of the crashes (80%) occur on two-lane rural roads between dusk and dawn, drivers should always be aware for deer. Most deaths and injuries occur when drivers swerve to avoid hitting a deer. Instead of hitting the animal, the car hits a tree, another vehicle, or some other object. If a crash with a deer is unavoidable:

If you or someone you know are injured in a Michigan car accident, call the Auto Accident Claim Center at 800.281.0606, or visit us on the web at

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Michigan Text Message Ban Proposed

By Michael Morse | September 30, 2008

The recent California train crash that killed at least 25 and injured over 100 was caused by the driver text messaging and missing a stop signal. This same inattentiveness results in countless car accidents in Michigan and around the country every day. Any activity that takes a driver’s attention from the road is extremely dangerous. Cell phone use is distracting enough, but texting requires a driver to take their hand off the wheel and their eyes off the road, making this activity incredibly risky while driving.

There is a proposed bill in the Michigan Legislature that would punish drivers that text message while driving. The proposal calls for a $100 fine, but would only be a secondary offense. This means that police can only write the ticket if the driver is pulled over for some other offense, or if they cause an accident.

Unfortunately, if you are injured in an accident because of the driver’s text messaging, the $100 fine is little relief. If cell phone usage or texting are suspected in an accident, attorneys can subpoena the cell phone records to use against the negligent driver in court (think of the Kwame Kilpatrick case), and hold the driver accountable for the injuries they caused.

If you or someone you know are injured in a Michigan Car Accident, call the Auto Accident Claim Center at 800-281-0606, or visit us online at

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