July 18, 2014

Dangers of Driving While Drowsy

We as a society tend to not value sleep. Instead we often feel that we can overcome the necessity with stimulants and sheer will power. The truth of the matter is that we do not perform at our best when we deprive our body of much needed rest. You think clearer, are more emotionally stable, and less prone to illness and weight gain when you consistently incorporate quality sleep into your life. Yet a staggering number of drivers are operating their vehicles daily they are sleep deprived. According to the National Sleep Foundation's Sleep in America poll, 37 percent of those polled had fallen asleep at the wheel in the past year with another 60 percent stating that they had driven knowing that they were feeling tired.

The signs are fairly consistent among drivers. You tend to yawn excessively, blink to varying degrees, your eyelids feel heavy, and your head begins to droop. While we may think sleep can be overcome, upsetting your sleep-wake rhythm can cause your body to over compensate by forcing you into an episode of micro-sleep to help make up the loss. Micro-sleep allows parts of your brain to rest while your motor skills are still functioning to some extent. Micro-sleep is described as a light form of sleep that lasts for 5 to 10 seconds at a time in which one's brain forces sleep involuntarily most notably occurring during monotonous tasks, such as driving.

One of the telltale signs that you just experienced an episode is the sudden jerk of the head. If you are driving it is advised for the safety of the driver as well as other motorists to pull over, take a nap, change drivers is possible, and allow 20 minutes for caffeinated beverages to kick in. Some signs that you are driving while drowsy are rubbing your eyes, yawning, driving into the shoulder lane or over the shoulder rumble strip, drifting into another lane, and having a difficult time being able to focus or recall the last few miles that you just drove. It is advised to not drive during times in which your body is used to being asleep such as late at night and early in the morning. However some drivers choose to drive at off peak hours especially if traveling a long distance to help avoid traffic and shorten their overall travel time. In these circumstances it is best to prep the night before with adequate amount of sleep, and to factor in both nap breaks and coffee breaks.

The Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention recently released a drowsy driving survey in which it found that 1 in 25 adults stated that they had fallen asleep while driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that roughly drowsy drivers likely caused 5,000 to 6,000 fatal crashes each year. While we often report on the dangers of driving while under the influence, sleep deprivation accounts for about 3 percent of traffic fatalities each year with some estimates significantly higher.

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July 9, 2014

Deadly Speeding in Construction Zone

A fatal multi-vehicle accident involving six vehicles and one tractor-trailer on the New Jersey Turnpike brought national attention to drowsy professional drivers, the importance of adhering to posted speed limits especially in construction sites, and industry truck regulations. As reported by CBS Philly, early Saturday morning on June 7th at about 1 a.m. in the Cranbury Township of New Jersey a chain reaction crash gravely injured comedian Tracy Morgan fatally injuring his mentor while severely injuring several passengers in other vehicles. According to New Jersey State Police the accident involved professional driver, Kevin Roper, who set off a chain reaction car crash involving 5 other cars in a construction zone, when he allegedly swerved his Wal-Mart tractor-trailer to avoid hitting traffic while on the New Jersey Turnpike. Instead of crashing his truck directly into traffic the driver allegedly swerved and struck the side of a limousine carrying comedian Tracy Morgan and friends. Fellow comedian and mentor James McNair was fatally injured in the crash and pronounced at the scene, several other passengers were listed in critical condition spending several weeks in critical care. Nearly two weeks after the crash Tracy Morgan was released from the Intensive Care Unit at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, for further rehabilitation.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration ("FMCSA") regulates nearly every aspect of the trucking industry including the transportation weight limit, maintenance records, blood alcohol levels, and limits the consecutive number of hours a professional driver can log. Shortly after the accident originated many questioned the length of time the driver had been behind the wheel prior to the accident. With one such criminal complaint alleging that the driver had not slept for 24 hours prior to beginning his shift. Investigators are currently reconstructing the hours and actions of the driver prior to the crash. While drowsy driving is a real safety concern, with about 13 percent of all commercial drivers accidents involving fatigued drivers, sleep deprivation may not have been the leading cause of the crash.

Slowed down reactionary traffic may have been an aggravating factor for the Wal-Mart driver on the night of the crash. The National Transportation Safety Board ("NTSB") released their preliminary report regarding the suspected cause of June 7th crash. Driver Kevin Roper had logged 13 hours and 32 minutes the day of the crash. The federal limit on consecutive hours that a commercial driver can log is 14 hours; therefore Kevin Roper had not surpassed the legal limit at the time of the crash. Far more interesting was the reported speed that the Peterbilt combination truck was traveling 60 seconds prior to the crash. According to the truck's electronic engine-control system the truck was traveling 65 mph prior to striking Tracy Morgan's limousine. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. spokesperson, following the preliminary report's findings stated that their fleet of trucks are all equipped with devices that limit the maximum speed of their trucks to 65 mph, therefore the driver was traveling at the maximum speed allowable at the time of the crash.

Further troubling was where the driver was traveling which was in a construction zone at the time of the crash. The driver was traveling 20 mph above the posted speed limit. Construction, and subsequently construction zones and their lethargic traffic are a necessary evil for maintaining roadways. In this case a road-widening project that began in 2009 limited the speed and funneled traffic from three lanes down to one. According to the NTSB report, lane closure and speed reduction signs were clearly posted prior to the lane shift. As was the case here, large truck accidents often prove deadly for the occupants of smaller vehicles. Speed limits are in place to allow all motorists to know what the maximum speeds allowable in which to safely travel on a certain patch of road. Unfortunately the driver either ignored, did not pay attention to, or simple disregarded the posted speed limit and many suffered from his actions.

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June 12, 2014

Recreational Trampoline Injuries

With the rise of indoor trampoline parks becoming a widespread trend trampoline injuries are projected to escalate especially among those under the age of sixteen, yet it is not in the commercial setting that poses greater risk but at home trampolines. A study recently published in The Journal of Pediatric Orthopedics, analyzed trampoline fracture patterns and costs. The released findings indicate that between the years 2002 and 2011 there were an estimated 1 million visits to the emergency department relating to trampoline injuries costing more than $1 billion. The most common injury sustained from trampolines was fractures. The average age for those with a fracture injury was approximately 9.5 years old with over 92 percent of those injured from a trampoline were under the age of sixteen. Over $400 million has been spent on broken bone injuries most of which included upper extremity injuries such as fingers, elbows, hands, and forearms. While less common spine injuries, head, and rib injuries account for 4 percent of all trampoline injuries. The leading place that one becomes injured from using a trampoline is at home. Preventative measures can go a long way to both decreasing the rate of serious injury as well as lower the societal costs.

Perhaps it is the ability to fly even if for a short amount of time, or defying gravity with flips and sky high jumps, but there is something about a trampoline that makes children and adults gravitate towards the equipment. The American Academy of Pediatrics has consistently warned of the dangers of at home trampolines. Specifically warning "most trampoline injuries occur with multiple simultaneous users on the mat." Further noting that serious injuries such as cervical spine injuries "often occur with falls off the trampoline or with attempts at somersault or flips." Interestingly enough a 2012 American Academy of Pediatric study, entitled "Trampoline Safety in Childhood and Adolescence" found that even implemented safety measures did not have a strong enough impact on the risk of harm and accordingly "the home use of trampolines is strongly discouraged." Similarly the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that homeowners view trampolines similar to swimming pools as far as attractive nuisance and homeowner insurance is concerned.

Steps to Prevent Trampoline Injuries:

  1. Solo jumpers. Trampoline use should be limited to one person on the trampoline at a time. Smaller more lightweight individuals are particular at risk when multiple jumpers are on the trampoline as they are more prone to flying in the air and colliding with other jumpers.

  2. Somersaults and Flips should be limited to commercial settings. While rare, devastating and long-term cervical spine injuries are directly linked to attempted flips and tricks in a home setting where there is less supervision and knowledge of proper technique.

  3. Check Your Equipment Regularly. If your property has a trampoline it is vital that the trampoline is level with adequate padding and aligned springs.

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May 22, 2014

Rise in Reported Link Between Talcum Powder and Ovarian Cancer

Women and children have long used talcum powder as part of their personal hygiene routine as a way to stay fresh and clean after a shower, and as safe way to prevent diaper rash. Products manufactured and distributed by Johnson & Johnson and other talc producers have recently come under scrutiny after the first talcum powder lawsuit alleged that baby powder could place users at a heightened risk for ovarian cancer. Deane Berg, the plaintiff in the lawsuit Berg v. Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies, Inc., U.S. District Court, District of South Dakota, Case No. 09-4179, is the first to allege that the use of asbestos-free talcum powder can lead to ovarian cancer. Like many women before us, Deane Berg was a faithful user of Johnson's Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower products. After 32 years of use, Deane Berg was diagnoses with ovarian cancer in 2006 at the age of 49. The plaintiff in the body powder lawsuit alleges that Johnson & Johnson and other manufacturers not only should have known that their products are potentially cancerous but that they failed to warn consumers of the known dangers. The jury in the Berg v. Johnson & Johnson case found that the defendant failed to warn consumers about the known link between talc powder and female hygiene use creating a heightened risk for ovarian cancer. In failure to warn cases the manufacturer often argues that the injured plaintiff failed to follow the instructions or ignored the warning. Here, the manufacturer of the talc powder instead of warning the public Johnson & Johnson chose to promote the safe female hygienic use with products such as Shower to Shower and Baby Powder.

While new studies have come to light that strongly suggests that talcum powder acts like a carcinogen, these harmful side effects have been well known. The Johnson & Johnson website states the safety of a product in use for over 100 years. Also stating that the U.S. Food & Drug Administration and the National Toxicology Program, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, have concluded in the past that talc is not a carcinogen. However, more recently the American Cancer Society has suggested that while there is not enough data to definitely conclude whether or not talc powder should be considered a carcinogen, it has advised women to consider an alternative product, specifically cornstarch-based cosmetic products instead of their talc alternative. The International Agency for Research Cancer part of the World Health Organization classifies talc that contains asbestos as "carcinogenic to humans" and uses of talc-based body powder especially near the genitals as "possibly carcinogenic to humans." More information and more studies will be required before the true safety of talc is revealed.

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May 14, 2014

Soft Tissue Damage and Your Insurance Policy

Two points came to mind after reading the April 8th verdict in the Murray v. Progressive Specialty Insurance case. One, being that soft tissue damage while difficult to initially detect can lead to long term complications and how one handles the treatment can effect compensation, and secondly, after signing up for car insurance can one recall our their insurance policy limits? Both of these issues played out during a two-day trial that resulted in the jury deliberating for two hours before unanimously awarding the plaintiff a $133,000 award. The accident occurred when plaintiff Garry Murray, aged 57, was rear-ended at the intersection of Cheltenham Avenue and 7 Oaks Drive. According to court documents Murray had suffered soft-tissue damage to his back, neck, and shoulder. Because injuries after a car crash are not always clearly visible, it is always advisable to be seen by a medical professional following a car crash. Soft tissue injuries are very common in car crashes as the body tends to be thrown around and jerked in unnatural positions leading to tears, inflammation, and chronic pain. It is not uncommon for pain from soft tissue to set in after the initial event. Murray who had car insurance through Progressive Specialty Insurance Co., carried the policy for underinsured motorist benefits, but after his claim was denied Murray sued seeking recovery under the policy.

Progressive disputed the injuries noting that the initial police report only documented minor damage to Murray's vehicle and that no injuries to the plaintiff were recorded, nor did the plaintiff undergo any emergency treatment following the car accident. Under reporting can play a role in the success of your case. As documentation from the initial police report, hospital visits, and ongoing treatment can all help establish the causal effects of the initial car accident, without documentation representation while not impossible can be far more difficult with unknown outcomes. Unlike deep lacerations, traumatic brain injury, and broken bones, soft tissue damage by many is viewed as a less severe form of injury. However for the thousands of Americans who suffer from chronic pain and limiting range of motion soft tissue damage is a serious injury. Depending on the level of damage, soft tissue injuries can require physical therapy, trips to a chiropractor, time off from work, as well as time to heal and recover. Murray required physical therapy after being rear-ended and was also recommended by his osteopath to receive facet injections to his injured shoulder. The jury ended up awarding Murray a substantial award of $133,000 but was later reduced to the $50,000 insurance policy limit.

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April 23, 2014

Combating Distracted Driving

Spring officially kicks off the national effort for police forces across the United States to crackdown on distracted drivers in hopes of decreasing fatalities on the road. In 2008 distracted driving caused 16 percent of fatal crashes, with an estimated 21 percent of car accident injuries involving distracting driving. Recent public awareness campaigns targeting both teens and adult drivers have resulted in a greater awareness associated with texting and driving. Even knowing that texting while driving makes a crash 23 times more likely to occur, nearly 40 percent of adults habitually continue to text while they drive. National statistics state that at any time of the day about 9 percent of drivers are talking on the cell phone resulting in about 26 percent of all car crashes involving cell phone use. Yet surprisingly cell phone use is not the leading cause of distracted driving fatalities, "daydreaming" accounts for nearly 62 percent of fatal car accidents. If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a car accident that was caused by another's negligence do not hesitate to speak with an experienced Pennsylvania and New Jersey personal injury specialist.
Dangers of Distracted Driving:
According to the official distracted driving US government website, distracted driving is considered any activity that diverts a driver's attention away from the primary task of driving. In 2012 an estimated 421,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes in the United States with another 3,328 people fatally injured in distraction-affected crashes. After a serious car accident, broken bones, traumatic brain injury, spinal injuries, deep lacerations, burns, and soft tissue damage has been known to occur. Many of these injuries can require long-term rehabilitation, often requiring the injured party to relearn basic movements. Often times the injured party can be left disabled with mounting medically costs. Because of the seriousness of the offense, distracted driving is becoming better regulated, and in ways that many drivers may not consider. In Annapolis this week undercover cops set up multiple distracted driving stings where one cop scanned traffic then phoned in for the telltale signs of distracted drivers, including cell phone in hand, or more commonly head bobbing. Especially as April is the National Distracted Driving Awareness month police departments everywhere have stepped up their efforts in cracking down on distracted driving. Instead of getting a ticket for distracted driving you can help save lives everyday on the road by simply make the choice to not partake in any activity that diverts your attention from the primary task of driving.

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April 14, 2014

Faulty Buckles Trigger Child Car Seat Recalls

Within months of one another two major child car seat manufacturers Graco Children's Products, Inc. ("Graco") and Evenflo Inc. ("Evenflo"), voluntarily recalled millions of defective buckles due to similar safety concerns. In Pennsylvania and New Jersey a child must be securely strapped into a federally approved child car seat, which meets certain safety requirements. The inability to unlatch a child, especially in the worst-case scenario, such as a car emergency that requires a quick release can potentially endanger both the child and the driver. Select Evenflo convertible car seats and harnessed booster seats sold during 2011-2014, approximately 1.4 million buckles may be impacted according to the April 3, 2014 child seat recall report released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Evenflo stresses that their car seats still meets the federal FMVSS 213 safety standard for crashworthiness, and that only the crotch buckle requires replacement which can be submitted for free on their website. The car seat and booster seats can remain in use while awaiting the free replacement. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ("NHTSA") vehicle crashes is the leading cause of serious injury, debilitation, and death for children between the ages of one and thirteen. If your child or family member was injured by a defective car seat you may be entitled to financial compensation for the injuries caused by the defective product. At the law firm of Rosenbaum and Associates the personal injury and products liability specialists have over 25 years experience successfully representing thousands of injured clients throughout the New Jersey and Pennsylvania region, call today for a free case evaluation.

When a manufacturer, supplier, distributor, and even possibly a retailer of a child safety seat sells a defective product knowingly, which causes the child serious injury multiple parties may be held responsible. Anyone who has ever cared for or witnessed childcare knows that it is a messy endeavor. Both Graco and Evenflo car seats suffered from similar design flaws, stuck buckles after prolonged use. Multiple models were under investigation by NHTSA, as buckles with an excess accumulation of dirt, debris, and sticky grime, in the crotch buckle or harness, potentially caused the buckle to jam trapping the child in the car seat. Here, both Graco and Evenflo have acted responsibly and in compliance with the Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance, which tests and regulates equipment to ensure that the applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards are met. Graco in February announced a recall of nearly 3.8 million toddler and booster seats, which suffered the same buckle flaw as Evenflo. Yet, the February NHTSA recall report alleges that the Graco rear-facing infant car seats, making up an additional 1.8 million units should also be included in the Graco recall as the infant car seats use the same recalled buckle, and therefore is equally susceptible to the same design flaw. Graco insisted that the use differs as a "unique design" in that the base and the infant car seat can detach at the base for a quick release. Thus far though, only toddler and booster seats are listed on Graco's recall website. For those who use Graco infant car seats and are beginning to experience similar buckle difficulties according to the Graco baby blog, a free replacement buckle is also available. While many customers have taken to the companies' Facebook page to express their concerns and frustrations, thus far no injuries have been reportedly linked to either car seat manufacturer.

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April 3, 2014

Surgical Pelvic Mesh Complications and Johnson & Johnson

Surgical mesh was originally designed for hernia repair procedures, but in 1990 Johnson and Johnson ("J&J") developed, manufactured, and began marketing surgical pelvic mesh implants as a way to treat Pelvic Organ Prolapse and Stress Urinary Incontinence in women. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ("FDA") in urogynecologic procedures a surgical mesh is permanently implanted to reinforce the weakened pelvic wall, or to support the urethra, or bladder neck. For many women after childbirth, or as a part of aging, the pelvic floor weakens or over stretches allowing for organs to bulge into the vagina and in some extreme cases organs can bulge into the vaginal opening. Organs normally associated with pelvic organ prolapse include the uterus, bladder, intestine, and rectum. Pelvic organ prolapse affects 30 to 50 percent of women with only about 2 percent developing symptoms. Stress urinary incontinence also treated with surgical mesh surgery involves the unintentional leakage of urine caused by sneezing, laughing, coughing, or physical exertion. If you or a loved one were injured as a result of a failure to warn of known complications associated with surgical pelvic mesh implants, a licensed Pennsylvania and New Jersey personal injury attorney may be able to assist you in recovering just compensation for your injuries.

A rather alarming article ran last week in the Philadelphia Business Journal entitled, "Johnson & Johnson accused of destroying records in product injury suits." The article references a group of advocates and lawyers calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the alleged destruction of thousands of documents by Johnson & Johnson ("J&J") in connection with the development of its pelvic mesh implants. This comes on the heels of last months ruling in West Virginia where U.S. District Court Judge Cheryl Eifert held that J&J had destroyed thousands of documents relating to the development of its pelvic mesh implants, but that there was no evidence proving that the act was done intentionally. Corporate Action Network, a nonprofit group that highlights businesses wrongdoings and seeks to hold them accountable, was one of the advocacy groups that wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder asking him to look into J& J destruction of pertinent information regarding the safety of its pelvic mesh implants. Corporate Action Network alleges that J&J knowingly destroyed evidence relating to a federal probe and further obstructed justice. Thousands of cases are pending where women allege that Johnson and Johnson knew that their surgical pelvic mesh implants caused serious complications that they never warned of prior to the implant.

Since the introduction of surgical mesh Johnson & Johnson has developed, manufactured, and marketed several vaginal mesh devices under the subsidiary Ethicon, Inc. Ethicon's previous versions of surgical pelvic mesh were Gynecare TVT, Gynecare Secur, Gynecare Prosima, and Gynecare Prolift. Currently, Ethicon's website does not mention any pelvic floor repair products or procedures on their consumer website. One link under women's health conditions lists uterine prolapse but then takes you to a page about hysterectomies. Interestingly enough on the website geared towards healthcare professionals two pelvic floor repair products are advertised, Artisyn Y-Shaped Mesh and Gynecare Gynemesh PS Prolene nonabsorbable. A recent FDA Safety Communication on Surgical Mesh updated March 18, 2014 warns that while rare, frequent complications associated with surgical mesh used to treat Pelvic Organ Prolapse and Stress Urinary Incontinence, include infection, pain, urinary problems, erosion through the vagina, scaring, and pain during sexual intercourse.

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March 18, 2014

Jury Awards Plaintiff $200,000 in Damages for a Trip and Fall Accident

For residents of Philadelphia and other urban areas, walking your dog -- a daily necessity, often involves ambling along sidewalks all around the city. Consider that in Pennsylvania there are approximately 3.2 million pet dogs, with over 390,000 dogs estimated in the Philadelphia region alone. Particularly as the weather warms, swarms of dog walkers will take to our city streets with their furry friends. If you are a property owner, it is advisable to check on the current state of the sidewalk directly in front of your property, as you can be held liable for the injuries caused in a slip and fall accident.

A recent ruling on a slip and fall case in Philadelphia highlighted the risk a property owner faces when they fail to properly maintain the sidewalk in front of their property. Under Pennsylvania premises liability, both the City and Township are not responsible for the maintenance of the sidewalks; instead the obligation falls on the property owner to ensure that sidewalks are free of known defects, obstructions, or visible hazards. All property with sidewalks accessible to the public must be maintained as to be reasonable safe for pedestrians to use. In Butler v. City of Philadelphia, the court held that the two property owners, defendants Cui Lan Dong and Benyi Zhu, were legally liable for the injuries caused when the plaintiff, Abbie Butler, tripped and fell on an alleged defect in the sidewalk in front of their residential property, causing the plaintiff severe injure her dominant right shoulder.

The incident took place on November 12, 2012, when Butler, was out walking her dog along Cottman Avenue, in Northeast Philadelphia. The plaintiff alleged that she tripped on a large crack in the sidewalk causing her to loose her balance and fall. Butler who was in her sixties at the time suffered a fracture and dislocation of her right shoulder that required pain medication, physical therapy, surgery, and on going future medical care. On the day of the accident, Butler was transported by ambulance to Nazareth Hospital, where she was diagnosed and underwent a reduction procedure to reset her shoulder. After undergoing four separate physical therapy treatments, Butler was sent to an orthopedic specialist. Following her surgery the plaintiff was prescribed Oxycodone, which was taken twice a day for three months. Butler required assistance in everyday tasks, such as bathing and getting dressed. The plaintiff further alleged that the fall greatly restricted her daily actions and hindered her ability to enjoy her favorite pastime, gardening.

The defendants contended in their pretrial memo that they were never made aware of a defect in the sidewalk by neither their tenants, nor had the city of Philadelphia recorded any complaints about the maintenance of the sidewalk. The defendants also stated that the day of the alleged accident was a clear sunny day and that there were no obstructions in place to block plaintiff's sight. The defendants also argued that the condition of the sidewalk was open and obvious, so much so, that the plaintiff should have seen the crack as there was grass growing out of it. The jury found that the defendants were negligent, and that Butler was not contributorily negligent, awarding the plaintiff $200,000 in damages.

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March 10, 2014

Pennsylvania Dram Shop Law and Designated Drivers

There is a profound importance held in the role of the designated driver. Typically a designated driver more commonly known as the "DD", is the often seen as the selfless individual in a group, who takes on the role of the sober driving buddy in a group where varying degrees of inebriation is often expected. As a Philadelphia personal injury attorney I understand first hand the perils of drinking and driving. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 30 people die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver every day in the United States. A designated driver can be the difference between a group safely arriving home and potentially ending the night in a dire situation. A recent case was brought before the Courts of Common Pleas that reflected the real concerns of drinking and driving, and the need to uphold Pennsylvania's Dram Shop law. In Specht v. Kenny's Bar and Restaurant, the decedent's estate settled with the driver and multiple bars involved in the fatal DUI crash that claimed the lives of two young women in Bensalem, Pennsylvania.

On February 25, 2011, a group aged 20, and 21 went out for a girl's night, which included dancing and libations. The night ended in the deadly crash along Byberry Road in Bensalem, after the driver lost control of her vehicle and struck a utility pole. Melissa Lees and Caitlin Hennessey both passengers, died as a result of the crash. Hennessey's father and Melissa's mother, plaintiff Susan Specht, sued, the driver Susan Pond who was 20 at the time, along with Kenny's Bar and Restaurant Inc., and CMJ Sheffield. The cases, which were initially consolidated, were settled separately. Plaintiff Specht contends that Pond was negligent in the operation of her vehicle while she was intoxicated, and that both Kenny's Bar and CMJ Sheffield violated the Dram Shop law. Specht's memo stated that Pond was served alcohol at both establishments even though she was under the legal drinking age of 21. In Pennsylvania the Dram Shop law makes it unlawful for a liquor license holder or agent such as an employee, to serve alcohol to any minor or visibly intoxicated individual. In order for a bar or restaurant to be held legally liable, it must be (1) proven that the license holder violated the law by serving a minor or visibly intoxicated person, and (2) that the violation of the Liquor Code caused the injuries and or damages.

Kenny's Spirited Eatery, which was owned by defendant Kenny's Bar and Restaurant Inc., a place known to attract and is specifically marketed towards a younger crowd, was the first stop of the night. Pond's pretrial memo contends that the two bars were liable in serving an underage visibly intoxicated individual. Kenny's Bar stated that they have a policy of checking everyone's ID prior to entering their bar. Further stating that police had found a driver's license of a 22-year-old woman who resembled Pond in Pond's car on the night of the crash. After spending time dancing at the Kenny's Spirited Eatery the group went to Paddy Whacks, a bar and restaurant owned by defendant CMJ Sheffield Inc. Surveillance video at Paddy Whack's showed Pond consuming alcoholic beverages, dancing with the bouncer who both knowingly acknowledged letting underage drinkers into the bar and occasionally drank while on the job. During the night of February 25, 2011, it is alleged that Susan Pond, the driver and 20-year-old, was provided alcohol at both establishments after she was visibly intoxicated, and that her intoxication was a direct cause of her loosing control of her SUV that ended in the death of her two friends Melissa Lees and Caitlin Hennessey. Part of growing up is learning that every decision we make have consequences. On the evening of February 25, a group decided to engage in risky behavior coupled with no designation of a sober driver. The parties settled for $750,000 with comparative fault distributed against the defendants. Accordingly, Pond, who was insured by State Farm, was liable for $250,000, Kenny's contributed $100,000, and CMJ the remaining $400,000.

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March 5, 2014

Recovering from Uninsured Motorists Can Often Require a Legal Battle

A recent court decision from the Court of Common Pleas, in Hall v. Irving, held that plaintiff Elsie Hall, who had suffered severe soft tissue injury to her back and neck, including herniated and bulging discs in her spine, had sustained serious injuries at the fault of an uninsured driver to warrant a $100,000 verdict for pain and suffering. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, yearly there are more than 1,700 fatalities and over 840,000 injuries caused by vehicle crashes off of public highways, as was the case in Hall v. Irving, a car accident that occurred on Broad Street in Philadelphia, PA. This case and resulting verdict is particularly interesting as it shows that even if you do carry an uninsured motorist policy, insurance companies can still be hesitant to pay. Car accidents can result in long term injures as occupants in a car crash can be violently jostled, most commonly causing whiplash, traumatic brain injury, lacerations, spinal cord injury, and other soft tissue damage.

In Hall v. Irving, plaintiff Elsie Hall, was a passenger at the time of impact, when she and her husband were driving on Broad Street in Philadelphia, back in September 2011. Hayden Hall, the plaintiff's husband was driving, when they allege that a second vehicle, owned and operated by Bernard Irving, collided with their car as the vehicle was exiting a gas station at the same time as the Hall's were attempting to make a left hand turn. Defendant Irving's vehicle collided with the front passenger side of the plaintiff's car that was carrying the Halls. As we know, car accidents can have long-term effects on the injured party. Here, the plaintiff allegedly sustained back and neck injuries causing her to undergo physical therapy, electric stimulation, massage therapy, traction, and an MRI, which further revealed that Mrs. Hall had disc desiccation, as well as, multiple herniated discs. Following the car accident the Halls attempted to sue Irving for just compensation caused by the accident. Irving was found to be uninsured; therefore the Halls sought limited tort recovery from their insurance company State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., as they had carried an uninsured motorist policy. Uninsured motorist policies are often seen as a way to plan for the unexpected injury to person and property caused by an uninsured motorist. The driver trying to make a claim under the policy must prove that the uninsured motorist was in fact at fault for the accident caused.

In Hall v. Irving, State Farm, the court found discrepancies as to the cause and the extent of the damages resulting from the car accident. According to State Farm's memorandum, State Farm found both drivers to be comparatively liable for the collision on Broad Street. State Farm sought to prove that the second driver, Irving, had already established himself in the left lane at the time of the accident, and that the Halls had not seen the defendant in time to avoid the crash. Pennsylvania has an affirmative defense to negligence actions called comparative fault. If driver Hayden Hall's own negligence contributed to the Hall's injuries, then the Halls would be barred from recovering the full amount of damages up to the percentage of their own liability in causing Mrs. Hall's injuries. After a three day trial and two hours of jury deliberation, they found Hayden Hall was not liable for any part of the accident, and awarded Elsie Hall $100,000 in pain and suffering.

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February 18, 2014

Why One May Seeks Legal Representation After a Car Accident:

When a car crash occurs involving three or more vehicles, it can set off a chain of events where proving liability can become a mammoth of a puzzle. As has been true this winter season, when weather conditions become hostile, extra caution such as leaving more driving distance between cars, not driving while distracted, and decreasing driving speeds, are all tools needed to help prevent car accidents. After being involved in a car accident it can be difficult to determine if you should enlist the services of a personal injury attorney. To complicate matters there is a time limit of 2 years from the date of injury where one is able to bring a personal injury claim, in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The 2-year time allotment to file a lawsuit is known as a statue of limitation, and claims are dismissed, or unable to proceed if the 2 years has already passed. Therefore, in order to have a greater chance at a successful claim, preservation of all necessary evidence is required if the case should go to trial. There are over 6 million car accidents that occur every year in the United States, at an alarming rate of 18,000 car accidents occurring daily, with roughly 40,000 fatalities annually. Chances are at some point in your life you will either directly be involved in a car accident, or a loved one's life will be greatly impacted by a car accident.

A highly experienced personal injury trial attorney knows how best to represent and preserve your legal interests. Usually, when a multi-vehicle or chain reaction car crash takes place, one or more parties were at fault. The theory behind determining fault can be established by a multitude of resources, some of which the injured party can attain, such as medical records, police reports, witness statements, as well as documented images from the scene of the crash. Proving who is at fault relies on negligence, meaning that the injured party must establish that the other driver failed to act in a reasonable manner when operating their vehicle. Furthermore, the driver's reckless, negligent, or careless actions while driving directly caused the party's injuries. The burden of establishing negligence is on the party that brings the lawsuit, the injured party.

A driver's license is a contract of sorts, by attaining it you are legally allowed to operate a 3,000 pound motor vehicle and accordingly, you are also agreeing to abide by the rules of the road and to not drive in a manner that endangers the lives of other motorists. When a driver fails to uphold their legal duty, car accidents can occur. The injuries associates with a car accident can be grave, from broken bones, torn ligaments, deep lacerations, soft tissue damage, and loss of limb, traumatic brain injury, and even loss of life. Distracted driving, driving under the influence, excessive speeding, failure to yield, dangerously changing lanes, running a stop sign, and failing to signal, are some instances where a driver can be held liable for their negligent driving actions, if these actions cause another party to be injured. By seeking compensation or money damages for the medical expenses, lost wages, and the injury itself, personal injury attorneys attempt to make their clients whole, as if they had not been involved in a serious accident, and further help to deter other motorists from driving in a dangerous manner, thus making driving a little safer.

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February 4, 2014

Unregulated Ride-Shares, a Thing of the Past?

Ride-share companies or transportation network companies, also known by their car service apps names, such as Uber, Lyft, Sidecar, Drive, LeCab, Snapcar, and Flywheel, many of which got their start in San Francisco, are beginning to see their liability free loopholes begin to close. The recent boom in ride-share companies has come with significant backlash, much from the already highly regulated and liability insured limo and taxi drivers and their representative organizations. For years now professional drivers have been bring to light the dangers of ride shares. Much of the unfair competition claims stem from the fact that ride-share companies are seen as unregulated, underinsured, limited liability companies, that are not required to maintain their vehicles as vigilantly, or limit the hours of operation for their contracted drivers thus lessening driver fatigue, nor must they run background or criminal checks on their drivers, or require the ride-share companies to have liability insurance as costly or as inclusive as other forms of transportation require by both state and federal law. Contrary to distracted driving laws, ride-share companies also tend to utilize a GPS like interfacing system to communicate with their drivers, potentially leading to more distracted drivers on the cities roadways. Furthering frustrations, when accidents do happen these ride-share companies are quick to distance themselves from the driver and the subsequent harm caused.

While a fairly new business model, ride-shares are the online equivalent of the middleman. A "user" also known as a passenger, downloads an app, signs up for the service, linking their account to a credit card, and simply logs in to hail a cab, all in the convenience of their own home, business, or social gathering. The user/passenger would then have a picture of their driver, license plate number, and expected arrival time texted back to them on their mobile device. Uber, which is available in Philadelphia works like this; within a short amount of time the user will be greeted by either a base car, picture a black Lincoln model car, with a price tag of $7 plus total travel time, or an SUV option with a $14 base cost, plus the cost of the total travel time. Included in the cost is a tip for the driver. There is nowhere to indicate that the driver actually gets the tip and it is not just incorporated into the drivers total daily takeaway, therefore subject to be split with whatever agreed upon percentage the middleman acquires.

As a Philadelphia personal injury attorney I was particularly interested in a recent wrongful-death suit brought against the ride-share company Uber, and an Uber driver charged with vehicular manslaughter. The driver, 57-year-old Syed Muzzafar of Union City, was a driver contracted to work with Uber this past New Year's Eve, one of the companies biggest surge pricing nights. The suit claims that Muzzafar was signed in to Uber and while not currently carrying an Uber passenger, the driver was interfacing with the Uber equipment on one of their busiest nights. While all rides vary in cost per the distance traveled in a taxi, for ride-shares companies, the cost is also contingent upon the particular time, place, or day that you happen to use your ride-share. Nearly all ride-shares use a form of price surging as a means to add incentive to drivers "to get out on the road during peak hours when riders need them the most."

In this instance the driver Muzzafar, was working during such a peak time. He had already picked up an Uber passenger, dropped off a passenger, and was awaiting anotehr Uber call when he turned into the intersection. Muzzafar struck a group of pedestrians as they crossed the street, in a crosswalk near the Civic Center, in San Francisco. 6-year-old Sophia Liu, was fatally injured and died at the scene. Her 5-year-old brother was seriously injured and was transported to local area hospital for treatment. Their mother was also struck and injured as she walked with her children in San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood. The suit alleges that Uber's business practices run afoul of California's distracted driving laws by requiring any Uber driver to interface with a device similar to a cellphone in order to secure and confirm a new passenger or user request. The suit requests unspecified damages as they claim negligent hiring and supervision by Uber, negligence with a motor vehicle, wrongful death, and infliction of emotional distress. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in court and what the rippling effects this lawsuit may have on the highly unregulated ride-share community.

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January 13, 2014

An Avoidable Tragedy- Backover Accidents

Yearly, thousands of children are injured and hundreds more are killed, by a preventable road collision called backover accidents. A backover accident occurs anytime a vehicle moving backwards strikes a person or property. According to the Department of Transportation, each year as a result of backover accidents, 292 people are killed and 18,000 more are injured. Approximately 44 percent of the fatalities resulting from a backover accident are children under the age of 5, with another 33 percent represented by adults over the age of 70. Backovers fall into the category of "nontraffic" incidents, meaning that they take place off of public roads or highways, and usually occur in private driveways and parking lots. Backover accidents typically occur at low speeds, but even at 5 MPH, your body and property can sustain significant damage, as a car on average weighs approximately 3,000 pounds. Typical injuries resulting from a backover accident include, broken bones, nerve damage, traumatic brain injury, internal bleeding, and death. According to KidsandCars.org, the first nonprofit organization to keep a record of children injured as a result of a backover accident, found that 50 children are backed over every single week, with two children dying as a result of their injuries. Even more tragic, in seventy percent of the cases, a family member or close relative was behind the wheel at the time of impact. Backover accidents devastate families across all cultures, races, and socioeconomic spectrums; despite the devastation of backover accidents these types of injuries are preventable tragedies.

Many families directly affected by the loss of a child as a result of a backover accident have petitioned their legislature to reform the automotive industry to require all new vehicles to come equipped with rearview cameras. Dr. Greg Gulbransen, a pediatrician from Oyster Bay, New York, knows the heartache associated with backovers all too well. One evening in October 2002, Dr. Gulbransen reversed his wife's car down their driveway when he struck and killed his son. Cameron, Dr. Gulbransen's two-year-old son, had just learned how to open a door, and did so for his first and last time that evening. Cameron died in his father's arms. After many meetings with local representatives and interest groups, Congress unanimously passed, and former President George W. Bush signed into law, the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act on Feb. 28, 2008.

The law however did not specify how best to improve visibility behind vehicles, instead it left much to be decided by the regulatory system. After much delay, in November of 2010, the Office of Regulatory Analysis and Evaluation released their preliminary regulatory impact report indicating that backup cameras would save 95 to 112 lives per year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration charged with completing the new standards have repeatedly delayed proposal of any rule citing that it could cost up to $2.7 billion to equip a fleet of 16.6 million new vehicles with rearview cameras. Auto industry lobbyist through the Alliance of Automobile Manufactures, a trade group representing Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co., and other major automakers, agreed with the purpose of the law, but not in the proposed costly implementation. Instead regarding cameras as a consumer choice, not a government mandate. Approximately one out of every three cars sold in 2013 was equip with a rearview camera. In a writ of mandamus issued on September 25, 2013, Consumers Union, Kids and Cars nonprofit, and several families affected by backovers, petitioned the Second Circuit to compel the Department of Transportation to release a final rule within 90 days. The Transportation Department held that the court should dismiss the petition as NHTSA is examining "real-world evidence to analyze the performance of rearview video systems and how the drivers in those vehicles used the systems in the course of actual backover accidents..." Currently if the government meets its January 2015 deadline without further delay, automakers would still have over two years to fully implement the new safety requirements, and would not be in effect until 2017.

There seem to be two forces at work here, the unpredictability of children with their fearless attitude, and the lack of visibility in cars also known as "blind zones." Rearview cameras aim to address the second concern but should not be viewed as a silver bullet. One recent study from Oregon State University researchers found that only one in five drivers actually used a rearview camera when it was available, but 88 percent of those who did use the camera avoided striking a child-sized decoy. Even with advances in technology, there is no substitute for parental vigilance and guidance of their young. We need not wait for a final ruling to decrease the frequency of backover accidents. Children must to be taught how to coexist with cars, and all the dangers associates with large transportation vehicles. Drivers in residential neighborhoods with small children can reduce this child fatality by implementing a low cost alternative, a sweep of your car prior to turning on the engine. As Consumer Reports states, "Your first line of defense against back-over accidents is to get out of your car and check behind it just before you back up."

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December 31, 2013

Winter Driving Tips to Help Reduce the Likelihood of a Wintry Collision:

According to the Old Farmer's Almanac, winter begins with the solstice on December 21st and does not end until the commencement of the vernal equinox on March 20th; this leaves three long months of winter driving, with an increased potential for collisions, property damage, and loss of life. What makes winter driving so different from other seasonal driving? In short, the unpredictable weather factor, and the vast number of people on the road, many of whom are neither as experienced nor confident driving in winter conditions. The winter season happens to coincide with the three deadliest driving holidays, two of which fall within the winter months and one at the cusp, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's. Nearly 39 million motorists were estimated to have traveled more than 50 miles to celebrate this past Thanksgiving holiday. The estimate according to AAA for motorists who drove home for Christmas this past year is expected to have lapsed the Thanksgiving estimate by the millions. The unpredictability of the type of weather one may encounter on a winter drive encompasses everything from blinding sunshine to a nor'easter. By slowing down, and estimating into our winter arrivals a bit more travel time, as well as tripling the driving distance between vehicles, we can all help to avoid a potential car crash. If we accept for argument's sake that we as motorists in the United States enjoy the freedom of freely traveling, then we must also accept the responsibility for doing so in a safe manner.

Part of winter traveling that is especially different from other seasons is the cost of procrastination and the importance of preparedness. Take for example a typical springtime scenario, you got a flat while parked, and now your car wont start, and you have no idea where you placed those jumper cables. Assuming no other factors, you typically will be able to wait out a jump and tire repair from a local AAA road service assistant, without it impeding your health. Take that same example and place it during a February's winter storm, and we are talking the difference between a potentially life and death scenario. Now that winter has arrived you may want to ask yourself is my winter survival pack replenished, and or restocked, and ready for the 2014 winter season?

Things to consider in your winter preparedness include are the windshield wipers in working order? Have you replaced your wiper fluid with high-quality winter fluid? Especially helpful for long drives, have you treated your windshield and mirrors to a coating of water-shedding material such as Rain-X? Are your lights in working order? Will other cars in limited visibility be able to see your cars headlights? Are you going to be driving in a place that regularly has significant snowfalls? If so, has your county or state regulated winter tires? Do the tires currently on your vehicle have sufficient tread and air pressure? If there is any major repair that needs to be done to your car, do so before you must drive your car for an extended period, such as a 6-hour drive to visit your family for the holidays. Can you easily access your ice scrapper, booster cables, blanket, warning flares, small snow shovel, gloves, flashlight, and a bag of abrasive material (such as sand salt mixture, or cat litter)? Lastly, if you do need to use your car as a shelter while waiting for AAA or road assistance, do you have everything you need to survive? The main difference between driving during the winter months and any other season is that when you break down, or are involved in a collision, the situation shifts from what can we do while we wait, to can we survive the wait.

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