Bliven Law Firm, P.C.

Blog

Serving all of Montana for over 25 years

Bliven Law Firm, P.C. is a Montana personal injury law firm located in Northwest Montana serving all of Montana. A group of experienced, dedicated professionals who care about their clients’ needs. Our Montana personal injury attorneys have over 25 years of experience in aggressively pursuing the goals of our clients.

TAG ARCHIVES: FLATHEAD COUNTY

WINTER DRIVING DANGERS – CONSIDERATIONS AND REMEDIES

We have recently had the usual dangerous winter driving conditions in Kalispell, Whitefish, Columbia Falls and other areas of Flathead County, Flathead valley, and surrounding areas, such as Lincoln County (Libby, Eureka), Lake County (Polson, Ronan, Mission Valley), Sanders County (Plains, Thompson Falls), Mineral County (St. Regis, Superior), and Glacier County (Browning, Cut Bank). The November ice rain, snow and ice gave way to December ice rain, snow, ice, fog and and other dangerous conditions -particularly in northwest Montana – as Flathead County sits on the west slope of the Swan Range of the Rocky Mountains. While one of the most beautiful places in the world, our weather can make driving more treacherous than it appears, even to local residents. The variable conditions can catch drivers off guard. Reference to local media shows us the dangers out on our roads, and sadly fatal car crashes are simply too common:

http://www.dailyinterlake.com/members/article_3610c362-87df-11e4-93b1-ebad69941f92.html?mode=jam

http://www.kpax.com/category/flathead-county-coverage/

http://www.nbcmontana.com/kcfw/news

In all of Montana we have many injuries in car wrecks. Factors that contribute to the high rate of injury crashes include a unique combination: high travel speeds, bad weather, challenging road conditions, and drunk driving – drunk driving that is unfortunately among the highest rates in the country. According to the latest statistics available in a recent article linked below, Montana ranks second worst,with only North Dakota, our neighbor to the east, with higher (worse) rates:

2. Montana
Drunk driving deaths per 100,000: 9.0
 Total DUI arrests: 4,418 (9th lowest)
 Beer consumption per capita: 41.0 gallons (3rd highest)
Pct. of minors consuming alcohol: 29.7% (7th highest)
pct. of binge drinkers: 19.2% (17th highest)

“Montana was among the states with the highest youth consumption of alcohol and the highest rates of binge drinking among underage residents. Sadly, for every 100,000 people in the state, 3.8 underage residents were killed in drunk driving accidents, second highest in the country. Montana residents, on average, drank 41 gallons of beer per capita, more than all but two other states — North Dakota and New Hampshire. Nearly 20% of minors said they engaged in binge drinking over the prior 30 days, sixth highest in the country. In total, 19.2% of state residents said they engaged in binge drinking over the previous month, among the highest percentages in the country.”

Read more: States With the Most Drunk Driving – 24/7 Wall St. http://247wallst.com/special-report/2014/04/25/states-with-the-most-drunk-driving/#ixzz3N9Vwi3gO

Kalispell, Columbia Falls, Whitefish and the other areas around Whitefish Mountain Resort (formerly known as Big Mountain, as it is still known to most local residents) and Glacier Park are beautiful and provide winter recreation second to none. However, local residents and visitors must always be mindful of the conditions and dangers on our roads. Many of the visitors to the area find our road system that has struggled to keep up with population growth continue to be a challenge. While we look forward to the completion of the US Highway 93 bypass, and we have had significant upgrades to our local infrastructure in the past few years, we still are behind in terms of the infrastructure to handle the amount of traffic as our population grows and the number of visitors to Glacier National Park continues to set records. This creates conditions that are dangerous for local residents and our visitors from other states – as well as Alberta, British Columbia, the rest of Canada. While many of our visitors are from states like Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin, the Pacific Northwest and other regions that see much snow and ice, we also have a large number of visitors each year from places like Texas, Arizona and California that do not. Car wrecks that occur even at low speeds can result in serious injuries – despite what insurance claims adjusters – and the “biomechanics experts” and insurance defense attorneys they hire to defend their denials of fair compensation for these injuries say.

At this time of year, snow tires (whether with studs or similar), and careful driving are highly recommended. The use of seat belts at all times is also essential. The failure to utilize a seat belt and ejection from the vehicle are factors in many fatal car wrecks. Wearing a seat belt is a critical and well established way to reduce fatal injuries, regardless of the cause of motor vehicle crashes. Another factor to consider is the time of day or night – at this time of year in particular given holiday parties – staying off the roads after midnight and recognizing that between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. that a rather significant percentage of drivers on the road that have been drinking – makes staying at home (or at the hotel etc.) a good decision.

One winter driving danger that folks do not consider – in addition to driving without adequate or appropriate tires, awareness of conditions, not using seat belts – is driving (or being a passenger) without adequate insurance coverage.

We have a high rate of uninsured and underinsured drivers in Montana. “Defensive driving” as far as we concerned, also includes carrying substantial uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage to protect your family and passengers from irresponsible drivers on the roads. Underinsured motors coverage is some of the least expensive, and most critical coverage one can purchase. I have seen underinsured motorist coverage of $100,000 for $21 per year. The most challenging part of underinsured motorist coverage is asking for it from your agent or the insurance company, and making sure everyone is covered under the policy you believe is covered under the policy. “Full coverage” means that you have enough insurance and kind of insurance to meet your needs. This includes having substantial med pay coverage, uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. A good agent will strongly recommend adequate uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, even insist on it or require you to sign an acknowledgment and waiver if you decline it, or simply decline to write an inadequate policy. An agent should write the policy coverages and sell you a policy with adequate coverage that considers your potential expenses and potential lost earning capacity, among other factors. However, if buying a policy online or over the phone in a few minutes, it requires that the consumer be aware and seek the coverage, or even seek it from a different company if not offered. This is a lot to ask of the consumer, and buyer beware. Of the ways to save money on an auto policy, skipping underinsured motorist coverage is not the way. A better approach would be to increase the deductible for collision or comprehensive coverage. Please also make sure that everyone who lives in your home is listed on the insurance policy, family member or not, so that the insurance company does not have that as a basis to try to deny coverage.

At Bliven Law Firm, P.C., the attorneys are happy to answer questions about your auto insurance converge, including reviewing your policy, and we counsel clients about getting coverage that will address their situation and needs to help protect their family in the event of a motor vehicle crash that results in injuries.

At Bliven Law Firm, P.C., we emphasize representing the insured, sick and disabled. Whether a car wreck, other injury, workers’ compensation injury, or disability claim, we have the skill, experience and dedication to assist you and your family. We are located in Kalispell, Flathead County, Montana, in the heart of the Flathead Valley. We are a law firm the represents the innocent victims injured by the negligence and wrongful conduct of others. We do not represent the insurance companies – or the wrong doers. We are firmly rooted in the community, and we are here to serve you.

BOZEMAN CRASH INJURES TWO

The driver of a Subaru caused a two-car accident in Bozeman after the driver of the Subaru turned left into oncoming traffic.

The Bozeman car accident occurred on Secondary Highway 205 and Valley Center spur.

A woman in a Subaru wagon sustained an injury to her face but was talking and coherent, Montana Highway Patrol Sergeant Patrick McLaughlin said. She was taken to Bozeman Deaconess Hospital. The second occupant of that vehicle was also taken to the hospital.

For updated information on the Bozeman crash, visit KAJ18

Bliven Law Firm, P.C. a Kalispell law firm with three attorneys who represent personal injury clients, aggressively represents the victims of car accidents in Bozeman and other towns in Montana including Kalispell, Whitefish, Columbia Falls, Kila, Lakeside, Polson, Missoula and throughout the state of Montana.

For Montana residents injured in a car accident, we provide a free consultation to discuss your case. For most car accident cases, in Bozeman, Kalispell, Missoula or elsewhere, we represent car accident clients on a contingency basis. We aggressively represent our clients rights to reach a fair and just outcome, inside or outside of the courtroom.

DOWNPOUR CAUSES 2 CAR ACCIDENT OUTSIDE OF MISSOULA

51ad03c61020e.preview-620Heavy rain and bald tires caused a two-car accident outside of Missoula A two-car crash caused by a heavy downpour and bald tires slowed westbound traffic on Interstate 90 early Monday afternoon.

Emergency crews responded to the accident near East Missoula at mile marker 108 at roughly 1:30 p.m.

Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Paul Pfau confirmed what witnesses said after the accident: The driver of the Nissan was going too fast for conditions.

“The car was going a little too fast for conditions with bald tires,” Pfau said. “It hydroplaned on the bridge deck, hit the bridge guardrail and bounced into traffic, where it was T-boned by another vehicle,” Pfau said.

Dave and Theresa Scott were traveling from Twin Falls, Idaho, to Spokane, Wash., when the accident occurred in front of them. The couple pulled over to see what they could do to help.

“We didn’t know if anyone was calling 9-1-1,” Scott said. “The rain was coming down pretty hard. We were one of the first who pulled over.”

Pfau said the driver of the Nissan was cited for driving too fast for conditions.

For more information click here

Our office has three Montana attorneys who practice personal injury law for injured Montanans. If you or someone you know has been injured in a Missoula car accident, contact the personal injury attorneys at Bliven Law Firm, P.C. for a free case evaluation.

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured or worse in a Montana or Missoula car accident, you may be entitled to advance payment of medical expenses, lost wages and other damages. Each case is different and depends on the facts. Our Kalispell lawyers aggressively represent and fight for the rights of innocent victims of car accidents in Montana.

ROLLOVER CRASH ON I-90 NEAR CLINTON LEAVES SEVERAL HURT

download (2)The Montana Highway Patrol reported that a pickup truck carrying at least five people rolled over on Interstate 90 near Clinton on Sunday night.

The pickup was heading west on Interstate 90 when the driver lost control and rolled through the median and into oncoming traffic.

Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Wade Palmer says he believes all five people were taken to the hospital, but there’s no immediate word on their conditions.

For more information, click here

If you or a family member has been injured a car accident or a rollover accident in Montana, contact the attorneys of Bliven Law Firm, P.C. for a free consultation. If you have suffered injuries from a Kalispell car accident, you may be entitled to advance payment of medical expenses, lost wages and other damages.

The Montana Attorneys of Bliven Law Firm, P.C. help individuals injured in Montana car accidents. Representation is usually based upon a contingency basis depending on what our firm can do for you. For personal injury cases, consultations are free.

COLUMBIA FALLS MAN FACES CRIMINAL CHARGES AFTER KALISPELL CAR ACCIDENT

Sean Francisco West, A 27-year-old Columbia Falls man, pleaded not guilty Thursday in Flathead District Court to negligent vehicular assault, criminal endangerment and failure to remain at the scene of a Kalispell car accident.

The charges stem from a Jan. 19  Kalispell caraccident where West allegedly ran a red light in his sport utility vehicle and smashed into another car.

According to a court document, when Kristy Elrod entered the intersection of Reserve Drive and U.S. 2 on a green light, West T-boned her vehicle.

The crash ejected Derrick Hayward, one of Elrod’s two passengers. Hayward flew approximately 63 feet before landing in the road. Hayward was hospitalized for several days after the Kalipsell car accident with a lacerated liver and other injuries.

A witness reported hearing a crash and running around the corner of a gas station to see a man running away from the SUV. She told him to stop, to which he responded, “I can’t do this,” and kept running.

For more information on the story, click here

For more than 18 years, the Kalispell lawyers of the Kalispell law firm, Bliven Law Firm, P.C. have been aggressively representing innocent victims of Kalispell car accidents.

If you or someone you know has been injured in a Kalispell, Whitefish, Columbia Falls or Montana car accident, contact the Kalispell attorneys of Bliven Law Firm, P.C. for a free case evaluation. You may be entitled to advance payment of medical expenses, lost wages and other damages.

THREE CAR CRASH ON HIGHWAY 93 IN VICTOR STOPS TRAFFIC

5115029bb0c92.preview-620A three car crash in Victor on Highway 93 stopped traffic on Thursday.

The accident was first reported a few minutes after 1 p.m., Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Lath Keith said.

A pickup truck was in the southbound lefthand lane, stopped to turn into the Axmen Propane in Victor, when it was rear-ended by a utility truck. The collision sent the pickup into the northbound lane, where it was struck by a white SUV, Keith said.

The white SUV rolled numerous times, crossing Highway 93 and ending up on the southbound side of the highway in the ditch heading west.

“The scene was so spread out,” Keith said.

“Both impacts were probably near highway speed,” he said.

The male utility truck driver was transported to St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula for a compound fracture. The two occupants in the white SUV were taken to Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital in Hamilton.

Keith said that the accident was technically a four-car accident, although the fourth car was not struck. He said the fourth car was not impacted, as it swerved to avoid the head-on collision. He said the individual in the fourth car is now a witness in the accident.

Shortly after the accident occurred, Keith said they blocked Highway 93 off for two reasons: first for safety and second to see what exactly took place. Highway 93 was blocked for almost two hours from Bell Crossing to Victor Crossing.

For more information on the crash, visit the Missoulian

For more than 18 years, the Montana attorneys of the Montana law firm have represented injured innocent victims of car accidents in the Flathead and Mission Valleys.

If you or someone you know in the Flathead or Mission Valleys has been injured in a car accident, you may be legally entitled to lost wages, advance payment of medical expenses and other damages. Contact the Montana attorneys of the Montana law firm Bliven Law Firm, P.C. for a free case evaluation.

MISSOULA THREE-CAR CRASH LEAVES ONE DEAD, OTHERS INJURED

The driver of a vehicle traveling north on Reserve in Missoula lost control of his vehicle and entered into oncoming traffic, Sunday, causing a three-car accident in Missoula.

Sergeant Scott Pastian with the Missoula Police Department says the accident occurred just south of the Reserve and Mullan Road intersection. He says two vehicles were southbound and one was northbound when it entered the southbound lane and was struck by the other two vehicles.

Pastian says the 35 year-old male victim was pronounced dead after being taken to a Missoula Hospital. He said two of the injured parties were transported to St. Patrick Hospital, while the third was taken to Community Medical Center.The other two individuals were treated and released.

The crash occurred around 10:30 a.m. Sunday near the intersection of Reserve and Mullan Road, according to a Missoula Police Department press release.

All three drivers involved in the Missoula crash were injured.

More information is available on Montana news sites

If you or someone you know has suffered a wrongful death or serious injuries from a Missoula car accident, the attorneys at Bliven Law Firm, P.C. can help you receive compensation you may be entitled to receive.

Contact the Montana attorneys of Bliven Law Firm, P.C. who represent the families of innocent victims of Missoula car accidents. Victims of Missoula car accidents may be legally entitled to advance payment of lost wages, medical expenses and home assistance.

Contact the law offices of Bliven Law Firm, P.C. for a free consultation. Our Montana lawyers aggressively represent the families of injured victims of Missoula car accidents.

ICY CONDITIONS CAUSE 25 CAR ACCIDENTS IN FLATHEAD VALLEY OVER THE WEEKEND

The Montana Highway Patrol reported it responded to more than 25 car accidents over the weekend.

Car accidents in Kalispell, Whitefish, Columbia Falls, Lakeside and other areas of the Valley are common this type of year.

Ice and snow create slippery conditions which can lead to car accidents in the Flathead Valley.

“If you can obviously afford studded snow tires, that’s the way to go, but if nothing else, have good safe all-season tires and know that your tires are in good shape,” said Tow Operator Dirk Meyer. “That’s 90 percent of safe winter driving…just have good tires and give yourself a little extra time.”

Some other common sense  tips to avoid Kalispell car accidents include:

  • Drive slower on snow and ice;
  • Give adequate room for the car in front of you to slow or stop;
  • Use 4 Wheel Drive if available on your vehicle;
  • Shift into a lower gear to prevent higher speeds and to use more torque;
  • Use a de-icer windshield wiper fluid; and
  • Change windshield blades every winter.

If you or someone you know has been injured in a Flathead Valley car accident, contact Bliven Law Firm, P.C. for a free car accident case evaluation.

Injured parties of a Kalispell car accident may be legally entitled to advance payment of lost wages, medical expenses and other damages. Insurance companies spend millions every year training their adjusters to pay as little as possible. The Kalispell lawyers of Bliven Law Firm, P.C. have combined over 30 years of experience aggressively representing innocent car accident victims.

Call (406) 755-6828 for a free case evaluation.

ACCUSATIONS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT AGAINST GLACIER HIGH SCHOOL MONTANA, HOW CAN CIVIL LAW PROTECT OUR CHILDREN

811asu055a-300x184Back to School Law:  Accusations of assault and sexual assault on a Glacier High School bus, how can Montana Civil Law protect students?

There are many harmful school yard incidents that seem to be on the increase right here in Montana, including Kalispell, Columbia Falls and Whitefish. This leads to vulnerability among the younger students along with escalating risk of injury or harm.

The focus of this article is student upon student assault and sexual assault along with the duties of the Kalispell School District under Montana Civil Law.  Strong anti-bullying and anti-hostile student environment policies are important but do not help if not properly enforced in a prioritized common sense manner.  While I have no specific evidence of failure to enforce policies in the Glacier High Bus assault case, one student accused of serious assault has already been returned back to school.  While possession of tobacco or marijuana merit immediate suspension and expulsion it appears that allegations of sexual assault and assault do not.

It is my opinion that assault and sexual assault upon another should warrant the suspension and if proven after investigation, expulsion on a much higher priority basis.  If the local Flathead County School Districts fail to prioritize their enforcement of harassment policies, then the more serious incidents will result in severe injuries. In this case, physical and permanent emotional harm to the victims of the alleged assault and sexual assault likely occurred all on a supervised Glacier High School Football Team bus trip.

The parents of Students according to the Daily Interlake and other unnamed sources state their opinion that the Glacier High School officials are trying to “make this go away” or “sweep it under the rug”.  In my effort to be fair to our hard working teachers here in Kalispell and the Flathead, I contacted Kalispell School District Superintendent Darlene Schottle, who refused to respond.

Flathead County Attorney Ed Corrigan has filed some criminal charges in the case.  Under Montana Law, pending investigations and other criminal investigative information is confidential under the Montana Confidential Criminal Justice Act.  Therefore, Flathead County Attorney, Ed Corrigan would be limited in any substantive comment he could make until the matter moves to trial.  Further charges may be on the way since investigations are ongoing and are confidential until the charge is filed.

Therefore, I will examine how our Montana civil justice system may assist in protecting the most vulnerable of our students through an examination of Montana and Federal Civil School Law.  Once again, the focus of this article is student upon student, harassment and assault.

In most cases involving civil suits against a school district, its employees and agents are provided under our United States Constitution protection from liability under the doctrine of sovereign immunity.  This comes from the common law where the State is considered the “King” and a subject may not sue his “King.”  States may waive this immunity under the tort claims act and statute.  The legislature has provided as follows:  Every governmental entity is subject for its torts and the torts of its employees, §2-9-102 MCA.  There are exceptions for police officers and others. The Montana Legislature decides these issues.  As a result of the above statute, tort claims for negligent supervision, violation of policy, negligent infliction of emotional distress and Negligence among other claims may be asserted against Glacier High School. The agents and employees would not be personally liable but if a suit was successful, the Kalispell School District would have the duty to defend and pay the damages in the case of any judgment based upon negligence theories.

The Seminal Case on this subject from the Montana Supreme Court is the case of S.M., et al. v. R.B. an individual, and Missoula School District No. 1., 261 Mont. 552.  The facts of this case involved a four year old special education student who suffered sexual assault by the hands of a third party bathroom aide.  The Court ruled that the legal issue involved whether the teacher or other school personnel knew or should have known of the sexual assault.

To apply the fact to this case, one must speculate as to what may be developed in a civil suit through discovery.  This process involves investigation, taking statements and depositions.  If the facts showed that coaches on the Glacier High School bus knew the other members of the Glacier Football Team had engaged in hazing and harassment of the younger freshmen previously, then it would be reasonable they protect against assault or sexual assault may occur.  The Kalispell School District could also be liable for violating its own harassment policy, even if a prior hazing event were less severe.

The Kalispell School District may also be liable for the Glacier Bus Assaults on the grounds of simple negligence.  The standard for negligence is what actions a reasonable person would under the circumstances to protect physical or mental injury to children.  All of the coaches sat in the front of the bus.  If the coaches were aware of hazing or harassment in the past, it would seem unreasonable not to separate the coaches on different areas of the bus for supervision.  To leave freshman members of a football team with older students on a bus without chaperone may be considered negligent, if school employees knew or should have known something inappropriate would happen.  In my opinion, if a harassment policy were followed, then the escalation would not have occurred.   Therefore the Kalispell School District may be held liable for negligent supervision and negligence.  If found liable, substantial damages for physical and mental injury may be awarded by a jury or judge.

The Glacier High bus assaults may also implicate Federal Law under Title IX.  Title IX is part of the civil rights act, which requires equal protection and due process.  The Courts are split on this particular situation, student upon student assault.  Several Courts around the County have held, “a safe school environment includes the absence of sexual harassment and discrimination.”  Citing Lenz School Security on Student Harassment and Bullying.  Under Title IX, a student, through his parent, may make a claim and receive remedial action and damages along with attorney’s fees.  Moreover, a Complaint to the Federal Department of Education may result in a review of the Kalispell School Districts Title IX funding.

As a counter argument, the facts may conclude that there were no prior incidents, nor any reason to believe that such behavior would occur.  All of the students may have been well behaved at all times in front of staff.  If no reports were made then the assaults may not have been foreseeable.  This is an issue for a jury to decide.  It is unfortunate that our hard working teachers are taking a lot of heat for the tortuous actions of other children whom they supervise.  Only a thorough proper and neutral investigation will sort this out.

As a result of the Title XI funding issue, there may be a high degree of incentive to just “make this go away” quietly.  The silence from Superintendent Darlene Schottle is deafening.  Nonetheless, all students and staff in the Kalispell, Columbia Falls and Whitefish School districts should be on notice that this behavior on a bus is foreseeable and there must be proper supervision.  This again brings us back to priorities.  While tobacco is very bad and should not be allowed, investigations of assault, sexual assault and harassment should take precedence over behavior which does not involve the immediate physical and mental harm of our students.  I would also suggest that when assault is alleged, that a thorough third party neutral investigation takes place promptly, without delay.  Hopefully through this article, and the collective action of the citizens of Flathead County, such an investigation with its results will be published without delay.