Personal Injury News & Developments

Dangers in Underground ConstructionThe latest data now suggests that a worker is injured once a minute in digging accidents. If you have any experience as a construction worker at all, you are already aware of the dangers that construction workers are exposed to on a regular basis while digging. Only if you work in construction, can you truly appreciate the risks and sacrifices that must be made to perform the jobs of those on work sites and those not directly exposed to those dangers don’t place nearly enough value on the safety of those who are putting their bodies and lives at risk. Even if you take every precaution you have been instructed to, it is still possible for things to go incredibly wrong at only a moment’s notice, so we’ve provided these additional tips in hope that they might prevent an accident or save a life.

Understanding the Data Can Alert You to Danger

Even the most experienced workers find themselves involved in an accident at one point in time and the moment that you feel safest is often when you are most vulnerable. You shouldn’t be in a constant state of paranoia, but be aware of the locations and situations in which many construction workers are harmed so that you can be wary and ready to avoid danger. When digging or working near utilities, accidents commonly occur around these hazards.

  • Electrical transformers, conduits or wires. Striking a power line is a common cause of injury when digging and you may be shocked to find that this type of accident usually results from inaccurate ground markings. Don’t immediately trust that utility markings are correct and proceed carefully whenever breaking the ground or knowingly performing work near a live power source.
  • Gas lines. Accidents involving gas lines can have the potential to reach a level of devastation on the level of stories the local news likes to sensationalize. Minor injuries can occur as well if a gas line has been breached and begins to leak, exposing workers to the gas through inhalation. At the first sign of a gas leak, you and your fellow workers should vacate the area immediately and contact the gas company responsible for the lines in the area.
  • Manholes, sewer drains and cleanouts. Slip, trip and fall injuries are one of the most common forms of harm on construction sites because it only takes one moment to lose track of your surroundings and take a step in the wrong direction. The best practice is to mark off potential trip and fall hazards and put up physical barriers in order to prevent workers from tripping or falling into an open hole.
  • Underground storage tanks, fill ports and vent pipes. Digging into an underground fuel or power source can have disastrous consequences and these hazards are often unmarked during an initial survey by utility companies. You will normally need to perform a visual assessment of the site in order to locate the possible locations of underground tanks and pipes which have not been identified.

How to Identify Hazards Prior to Digging

It is the law across the entire United States that the utility companies be informed prior to any digging so that they may perform an assessment of the area and lay down identifiers to indicate the location of their lines. They may place flags or paint the ground to indicate where their lines are located but these lines have proven to be approximations according to recent data. You should treat these markings as caution signs and look for additional signs that a hazard is present in the immediate vicinity of the flags and paint.

  • Obtain as much data possible through blueprints, records of building changes over time and aerial surveys of the area to identify possible hazards. Utility lines and places where lines may have been altered or moved could be identified in these records.
  • Assess the site in person while looking for potential evidence that indicates the present of hazards. Use the features that are above the ground to reveal potential safety hazards such as electrical boxes, fire hydrants, gas meters and other devices which may provide clues. If there is a cable or electric box above ground then you know that lines must lead to the device.
  • Walk the site with others who know what they are looking for. It is always advisable to conduct your walk with others so that they can identify hazards you may have missed. Bringing in experts who are aware of what to look for will increase the odds that you identify and avoid all potential hazards.
  • Contract the services of a private geophysical investigation company if you are working on private property and unsure of where utility lines may be located. Utility companies don’t provide much data on where their lines are located on private property other than where they enter and exit the property. The rest of the information is assumed to be located in the building blueprints and records but this information may not be up to date. Rather than take chances, it may be better to allow a private firm to assess the property, often using a form of radar that can locate hazards such as non-metallic objects, voids beneath the ground that suggest utility lines or storage tanks and piping and wires.

Steps to Take Just Before Breaking Ground

Human error is the driving factor in most of the injuries that result from digging. Lines are not marked properly. Someone misses an obvious indicator of a hazard. The firm you’ve hired to perform a geophysical assessment fails to identify the location of a gas line. You cannot simply proceed without caution even if you’ve done your homework and feel you’ve covered your bases. Prior to digging, make sure you take these final steps to ensure your safety.

  • Look for physical disturbances in the ground that indicate someone else has performed work. This will alert you to possible changes in the environment that were not indicated in blueprints or were not discovered during previous assessments.
  • Try not to use hand tools to assess the ground as these put you or others at risk. Air and water vacuum trucks allow workers to break up the ground in order to get a better look at what is beneath the soil before proceeding and are much safer than having workers break the dirt by hand. This technology is also less likely to cut any lines that it encounters, which reduces the need to repair broken lines.
  • Mark out the area that you will be digging so that you can assess the locations of hazards and potential hazards in comparison to where you will be digging.
  • Begin digging while exercising caution. Even if you have done everything right, you may be surprised so be prepared to react accordingly as your knowledge of the environment changes.

It may seem tedious and trivial to go to such lengths prior to breaking ground but these measures could save your life should they help you locate hazards you would have never been aware of otherwise. The rate in which construction workers are being injured in digging accidents, however, suggests the need for more patience and caution. It may result in additional costs and delays initially, but no cost is too great when your life is on the line.

Cameras Watching All Entering Nursing HomesIllinois lawmakers have decided to take action in response to the alarming number of cases of nursing home abuse reported in the state. In order to provide concrete evidence of abuse that can be used in criminal and civil proceedings, a bill has been proposed which would allow patients and their families to elect to have cameras installed which would monitor patients and their caregivers. Illinois’s neighbor, Missouri has already implemented this measure and numerous states are following suit in a day where the exploitation and abuse of the elderly in homes meant to care for them has become an epidemic.

Granny Cam Bill Weighs Privacy against the Need for Transparency

One of the key concerns raised during the creation of the bill was whether the installation of cameras in nursing homes would violate the privacy of residents and their visitors. This concern needed to be weighed against the fact that many nursing home abuse cases devolve into the word of patients against the word of their caregivers— who will deny any allegations brought against them under any circumstance. In order to clear these hurdles, the following stipulations were included in the bill following numerous amendments.

  • Patients, their roommates and family members must consent of the installation and use of the cameras.
  • Signs must be placed in appropriate areas to make staff, patients and visitors aware of the surveillance. Visitors or patients can then choose to avoid areas that are being monitored if they wish to maintain their privacy.
  • The families of patients wishing to install the cameras would be required to pay for the equipment and installation cost as well as any monthly fees required for the family members to access the feeds.
  • A special process has been developed to establish consent of those whose mental capacity may limit their ability to make decisions or provide consent of their own accord.
  • If a resident elects to receive video monitoring but cannot due to the failure to receive consent from a roommate, the nursing home must offer other concessions such as pairing the resident with another who wishes to install the cameras.
  • Special fines and punishments would be brought against any nursing facility that discriminated against patients or punished them for electing to install the cameras.

Cameras will Assist Caregivers in Addition to Patients

While cameras will capture and record any incident of abuse or negligent care, they can also be used to improve the quality of care nursing homes may be able to offer. Family members would be able to monitor how their loved ones were being cared for, but the nursing home staff would also have access to the same feed. There are numerous ways that this can improve the amount of care and response to potential issues or concerns.

  • Nursing staff would be able to notice when a patient attempts to get out of his or her bed, move around the living area or leave his or her room. In some cases, patients may stubbornly attempt to move without the assistance or supervision that they should have and this will allow staff to be aware of when a patient is putting him or herself into a potentially dangerous situation and respond accordingly.
  • In the event that a patient is injured, staff would be notified sooner and able to respond rather than allowing a patient who has suffered an injury remain for hours without attention.
  • Staff can ascertain more quickly whether patients have disturbed implements such as oxygen tubes or other medical equipment. This would improve response time and allow staff members to adjust the equipment as needed.
  • Cameras would allow nursing facilities more power to govern themselves. It is not always possible to identify and remove potentially abusive staff members and the monitoring of staff members’ interactions with patients would allow nursing facilities to notice and react to incidents rather than to adamantly protect the abusers.

The Granny Cam bill passed both state legislative chambers and will be presented to Governor Bruce Rauner, who has not given a position on the bill or declared whether he will sign it into law yet. The bill strikes close to home for the Governor, who was involved in a controversy due to his financial ties to a chain of nursing homes that has been brought under fire for numerous allegations of neglect and abuse. Should he choose to sign the bill into law, Illinois will be the sixth state to enact such measures. Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Maryland and Washington have already signed similar bills into law.

Dog Bites and Homeowner InsuranceApproximately one out of every three liability claims made against insurance policies are due to dog bites or some form of dog attack and the cost of medical treatment for dog bites is soaring even though the number of incidents in 2014 was lower than in 2013. The total cost of claims made due to injuries brought on by dog attacks was $530 million nationwide. This highlights the need to continue to educate homeowners on how to properly train and supervise their animals in order to avoid being liable in the event the animals cause bodily harm to others.

Illinois in Top Five States by Instances of Dog Bites

California continues to lead the nation in dog bites due to its massive population and dog ownership rates. Almost 1900 claims were filed in California for a value of $62.8 million and while other states are doing far better, comparatively, there is still plenty of concern with the data. Illinois recorded 872 incidents and the average claim against the homeowner’s insurance was $34,894 per dog bite incident. Aside from California, only Ohio and New York reported more claims.

Illinois is also one of the most expensive states to file a dog bite claim in. Only New York ($56,628) and Michigan ($38,302) recorded higher average claims per incident, making Illinois the third costliest state to treat injuries resulting from dog bites. The cost of all claims is skyrocketing nationwide, with an uptick of about 15% in the last year alone and this is being attributed to the rising cost of healthcare and attacks that are more severe.

Ways to Reduce Dog Bite Incident Rates

Homeowners are responsible for their pets but everyone can take actions that will limit their risk of being attacked or injured. The actions that homeowners may take to reduce the chances that their animals will attack other human beings include the following.

  • Choosing a less aggressive breed. While it is true that any dog can be made violent, some have stronger instincts toward violence than others. Never underestimate the ability of any animal to do harm, however, as golden retrievers are involved in many dog bite cases as well.
  • Socializing your animal. Dogs tend to be much more docile when they have had plenty of exposure to human beings. When they’ve been kept in isolation, they take a more defensive stance toward people and view them as a threat.
  • Refrain from violent training methods. Hitting an animal teaches it to view your hand or the item used as a threat. Should the dog get loose, it could attack simply because it feels threatened by the hand movements of the person it comes in contact with.
  • Make sure the animal is contained. This means walking the dog on a leash, providing a fenced yard that the dog cannot escape from and supervising the animal when in the presence of guests.

As stated earlier, homeowners are responsible for their animals but being attacked by a dog is never a pleasant affair. Consider the following ways that you can protect yourself so that you are not the victim of a dog attack.

  • Never approach a dog that you are unfamiliar with. The animal might not be as kind and gentle as the family dog you remember well and its owner may have taught it to be violent.
  • Don’t make any sudden or threatening movements when encountering a roaming animal. These can make the dog view you as a threat. Most dog bites are defensive, meaning the dog is just trying to make the victim respect its territory.
  • If you are indoors, remain inside and report the presence of a roaming dog rather than running out to meet it. You’ll never know if the dog is diseased, aggressive or completely harmless. It is best not to take the chance.

Dog Bites Not the Only Form of Attack

Keep in mind that your dog does not need to actually bite another person in order for you to be held liable for its actions. Many of the claims made due to dog attacks include incidents where the animals knock over the elderly, are too rough with children or push bicyclists off of their bikes when they are passing by. Even the friendliest of animals can unintentionally hurt other people so make sure that your animals are always under supervision and cannot roam your neighborhood freely.

To learn more about what steps to take following a dog attack or whether you should file a claim, contact the Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers.

Errors in Medication May Occur at Time of PrescribingMedication errors in hospitals and nursing facilities have become a serious concern now that studies have suggested these errors occur at a rate of once a day per patient. The driving factor influencing medication errors may be the quantity of medications being prescribed and administered. On average, patients are prescribed between nine and ten medications, increasing the likelihood that at least one of those medications will be administered incorrectly or interact with another medication being taken. It appears that the solution to this dilemma may be as simple as limiting the amount of medications that any patient is administered during a hospital stay and reevaluating the need for patients to continue taking medications following discharge.

Administering Fewer Medications Has More Benefits than Risks

On first glance, it may seem irresponsible to take patients off of medications that they are taking regularly prior to intake, but medical professionals are beginning to find that the benefits outweigh the risks. There are certain medications that are considered to be a part of a never stop list such as blood pressure medications or medications taken to regulate blood sugar levels, but most other drugs can be evaluated when a patient is admitted to a hospital to determine whether the patient truly needs the medication and if he or she could do without it during a hospital stay. The benefits of eliminating unnecessary medications include the following.

  • With fewer medications comes a reduced risk of administration error or drug interaction. Studies have shown that the incident rate increases as patients are placed on more medications and that it is much safer to care for patients who are on fewer medications.
  • Some of the medications patients are on may be inappropriate or interact with the medications needed to address their current medical conditions. It may be more beneficial to temporarily suspend a medicine rather than to risk complications.
  • Evaluation of a patient’s medications may ultimately improve his or her quality of life by allowing physicians to identify medications that are no longer needed or which are the cause of complications and side effects that are detrimental to the patient’s overall health.

Organization is required to Determine Which Medications to Administer

While some experts are advocating the cessation of many medications during a hospital stay, they are equally concerned with the manner in which doctors would determine which medications patients should continue to take and which should no longer be administered. The rule of thumb is that all home medications should be discontinued unless the patient’s tending physician is able to justify continuation of the medicine. This would weed out all medications that are not essential to the treatment of potentially life threatening conditions such as heart disease or diabetes.

Once the physician ceases the administration of medicines, a more clear determination can be made concerning the medicines that were truly necessary as the patient’s condition stabilizes. If a patient reacts favorably in the absence of a medication, he or she would no longer need to take the medication— even when he or she has been discharged and returned home or to a nursing facility.

Reduction in Administration of Medications May be Cost Effective

In addition to the potential safety benefits of taking patients off their nonessential medications during hospital costs, the practice could save hospitals, insurance companies and patients quite a bit of money. Hospitals tend to overcharge for medications that are prescribed during hospital stays in order to cover the cost of caring for patients who do not have insurance or who cannot pay for the treatment they receive. These costs are ultimately passed down to the patient but they initially affect the insurance companies that need to foot the hospital bill.

Additionally, medications that are eliminated permanently will save insurance companies money by reducing the number of medications they must cover through their prescription plans. When the overall cost of medications is reduced, the patient is the ultimate beneficiary of the savings because the out of pocket costs he or she may be responsible for will be lowered.

It really should not be difficult to surmise that the ultimate solution to medication errors caused by an excess of prescriptions might actually be a reduction in the medications given. The development of an effective system that would reduce the number of medications patients are required to take during their hospital stays will reduce the number of medication errors experienced and allow hospitals to increase the quality of care provided. This is coupled with a reduction in cost to insurance companies and patients and provides a benefit to every party involved.

Cars Safer Than Those That Came Before?It seems that safety is the focal point of every car advertisement we see these days and manufacturers are boasting the latest state of the art technologies that aim to improve safety by reducing the risk of accidents altogether. There are questions regarding just how effective these features are and whether they actually do what they claim to. As more vehicles are being outfitted with safety technologies, the cost of maintaining vehicles is also going up because the most minor fender bender can now result in the need to replace expensive sensors and circuits that are an integral part of key safety features.

Key Advancements in Safety Technology

Only a generation ago, the concept of airbags and antilock brakes was innovative and a major deal in the progression of safety. Prior to the implementation of airbag and braking technology, seatbelts were the only true protection that drivers and passengers could rely on. While these advancements seem archaic now, they really did allow the industry to make important strides in the right direction by improving stopping power in inclement weather and protecting passengers by keeping them from striking the dashboard in violent collisions. Over the last decade, we’ve seen the development of a seemingly endless number of systems that are advertised as means to prevent accidents rather than respond during a collision, and this takes the conversation about safety in an entirely new direction.

Some of the latest advancements in technology include the following key technologies and the industry is continuing to release progressive updates to these features while developing another generation of safety features.

  • Stability control technology— next generation stability control has evolved from antilock brakes to systems that control torque and brake power to individual wheels. They are advertised as measures to maintain driver control by correcting oversteer and understeer and managing the power delivered to each wheel.
  • Adaptive cruise control— the development of radar sensors has allowed manufacturers to design systems that will adjust your speed on the highway to match the speed of the vehicle directly in front of you, providing the convenience of allowing drivers to set their preferred speeds and then take their feet off the pedals. This is a two edged sword, however, as its efficacy is dependent on circumstances and the driver’s behavior.
  • Blind spot detection— arguably one of the most useful features to surface over the last decade, blind spot detection alerts you to vehicles hiding out where you are unable to see them. This allows you to keep your focus on the road ahead and reduces your risk of colliding with another vehicle when changing lanes.
  • Lane departure warning— by mounting a camera on the dash that monitors your position on the road, this system can alert you when you are flirting with the center line. There are arguments to be made against its effectiveness on city streets and back roads, however, but it seems to work well on the highway.
  • Pre-collision response systems— these systems are meant to detect an imminent accident and automatically make adjustments within the interior of the vehicle to protect occupants. This includes alerting the driver, charging the brakes and airbags, moving the seats into the optimal position for airbag deployment and closing the windows. Unfortunately, if the system detects a false positive or the driver actively attempts to avoid the accident, these actions can be as cumbersome as they are meant to be beneficial.
  • Braking assist technology— sometimes drivers don’t hit the brakes nearly hard enough during emergency braking and this technology detects braking patterns that indicate panic and assist by charging and applying the brakes with full force to increase braking power and reduce stopping distance.
  • Curtain and side airbags— vehicles are becoming equipped with more airbags than ever, including curtain and side airbags that deploy with the primary purpose of keeping passengers inside of the vehicle during a collision. They may also provide protection from broken glass and debris.
  • Rollover mitigation technology— this technology is advertised as a method accident prevention that uses sensors to detect pitch, roll and other factors that precede rollover events. When it detects the vehicle beginning to roll, it uses a combination of brake force distribution and torque to select wheels to force the wheels back onto the ground. If the vehicle continues to roll, airbags are deployed to contain passengers and prevent ejection.
  • Forward collision warning and mitigation systems— these systems use the same radar sensors used for adaptive cruise control, but monitor the distance between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead of you and constantly calculate distance and approach speed to determine if you are getting too close. If an accident is imminent, it sounds an alert to make the driver react and the advanced systems will even apply the brakes automatically.
  • Backup cameras— allowing drivers to see a view of everything behind them while backing up is a pretty useful feature and the displays often include lines that help the driver gauge how much distance remains between the vehicle and an object or person.
  • Rear cross traffic alert— useful in situations where visibility is hindered due to terrain, buildings or other vehicles, rear cross traffic alert technology uses sensors to detect oncoming vehicles and alert drivers of hazards.
  • Telematics systems— the most commonly recognized telematics system is OnStar, but plenty of others have surfaced. These systems monitor your vehicle to detect signs of a collision, such as airbag deployment and when a crash is detected, you are connected to emergency services through your phone or a system operator so that you may receive assistance faster.
  • Hands free technology— many of the advanced features advertised in vehicles today are boasting the ability to control your radio, navigation and other devices through voice commands and controls located on the steering wheel. While the technology has become more accurate over time, talking on the phone can still be distracting even if you have both hands on the wheel.

Common Concerns with Safety Technology

In concept, the latest generation of safety technologies could make our roads much safer through accident prevention and mitigation, but there are some problems in the application of these technologies and how they influence the behavior of drivers. These technologies are not completely useless, but the following factors need to be considered when determining their value.

  • Increased cost of ownership— the sensors, radar systems and infrared scanners included in these systems are extremely expensive and a fender bender can end up costing you thousands of dollars if sensors are damaged rather than the several hundred that typical bodywork would run you.
  • Encouragement of bad habits— systems such as adaptive cruise control, hands free technology and stability control may actually encourage drivers to act more recklessly by giving them a false sense of security. They may take risks they wouldn’t have otherwise and are more likely to pay less attention to what is in front of them when they believe technology will slow or stop their vehicles on their behalf.
  • Not all systems are created equalNHSTA and IIHS ratings have revealed that some manufacturers’ systems are far more effective than others and some consumers may become sold on safety technology that has not been proven effective. It is important to always check each vehicle’s crash and safety ratings prior to purchase to determine whether you can rely on the technology.
  • The technology itself can become a distraction— the many alerts and warnings that drivers are subject to can prove to be distracting and voice recognition and steering wheel controls allow drivers to access their mobile devices, make calls, read and send text messages and play music. As they are using these features, they still need to divert their attention from the road to read their screens and can easily be lost in a conversation through text or phone.
  • Safety technology creates a false sense of security— it is still possible to cause or be involved in an accident when driving a vehicle that is loaded with state of the art safety technologies. Drivers may become too dependent on these features to protect them rather than continue to drive defensively and use sensibility and reason to avoid collisions.

It is important to take an objective view when considering how effective the latest safety technologies are prior to purchasing your next vehicle. Most of these features are only as effective as the driver using them, so remember to use common sense and drive responsibly regardless of whether your vehicle is loaded with the latest features. The vast majority of accidents are the result of distracted driving, so it is also important to make sure that you keep your attention on the road and avoid phone conversations and texting while driving. Waiting to return a call or text until you are safely at your destination is worth it if it saves your life or keeps you from causing a serious accident that will forever impact the lives of those involved.


Truck Driver Shortage Can Make Roads DangerousTrucking is the backbone of the commercial shipping and freight industries. More than two thirds of freight transported in the United States is carried by commercial trucking companies, whether in conjunction with other modes of transport or as the sole means of transport. Even though the movement of goods across the nation is highly dependent on the trucking industry, trucking companies are now finding themselves short of drivers and overworking the drivers they currently employ. This crisis could have a catastrophic impact on how safe the roads will be in the near and distance future and travelers should take note.

Aging Drivers and Poor Recruitment Contribute to Driver Shortage

There are approximately 2.6 million commercial truck drivers currently employed in the United States, but the American Trucking Association believes there is a shortage of about 40,000 drivers which continues to grow as time passes. This shortage could grow to 240,000 drivers before the end of 2022 if the trucking industry in general is unable to make commercial truck driving jobs more attractive. The age of current drivers and unattractive compensation plans offered are thought to be the driving forces behind the shortage of drivers.

  • Truck drivers are older on average than those working in other occupations and because more drivers are reaching retirement age, the shortage of drivers is growing as they leave the workforce.
  • Most trucking companies pay their drivers by the mile and this can frustrate or discourage drivers who are forced to wait at warehouses, are stuck in traffic or have reached their in service limits for the day.
  • Younger drivers are no longer attracted to careers in truck driving and the lack of new recruits is making is difficult to replace drivers who are leaving.
  • Overworked drivers are more prone to make mistakes and at a higher risk of being involved in an accident. For this reason, the government has cracked down on trucking companies and tightened regulations to limit the amount of hours each driver can work. These limits make the roads safer but they cost drivers money.
  • Drivers are now realizing that they are at risk of legal action should their actions result in a truck accident or injuries. Offering an hourly pay rate rather than pay by the mile may be the best way to attract new drivers and to retain existing drivers in an industry where drivers are feeling that the risks outweigh the benefits.

Traditional Pay Structure for Truck Drivers Creates Safety Concerns

Many of the safety concerns plaguing the trucking industry and the inability of companies to recruit drivers as they once could are driven by how compensation is determined. Especially when operating on long routes, drivers are paid at a rate determined by the miles traveled rather than the hours spent driving and this policy affects the morale of drivers and can encourage workers to bend the rules when they would not have otherwise.

  • Drivers are often mistreated because of how they are paid. Warehouses may not respect the value of drivers’ time because they can be held up without any additional cost.
  • Time spent on inspecting or repairing vehicles is not compensated, encouraging drivers to skip inspections or forego repairs in order to save time.
  • Limits on the time drivers may work each day or week may force them to make up time lost in traffic or while waiting at a warehouse by speeding or taking other risks on the road.
  • Some drivers falsify logs and break the rules in order to make more money and may work when they are overly fatigued.

Trucking companies that have altered their pay structure have noted remarkable changes in driver turnover and accident data. The companies offering an hourly rate are attracting more qualified drivers and only turnover about one fifth of the drivers that companies paying by the mile do. Most importantly, however, is that companies offering pay by the hour are reporting significantly lowered rates of accidents because their drivers are less prone to disobeying laws or working while fatigued.

Saving the trucking industry may be as simple as paying workers fairly and encouraging them to operate in a safe manner. Workers will be far more willing to wait at warehouses when required or to make their way through heavy traffic more patiently if they are assured that they will receive compensation for the time they’ve invested in their work. They will also be more willing to address safety concerns that they would otherwise conceal if they were paid by the mile.

Fault in Pedestrian AccidentsMost people consider car accident lawsuits involving pedestrians being struck by a vehicle to be slam dunks, but this misconception is driven by common misunderstanding of the law and how comparative negligence works. There are numerous factors that need to be considered when determining fault in any accident and the amount of compensation that can be recovered is now impacted by whether the party with the least fault still contributed to the accident. Whether you were a pedestrian struck by a motorist or the driver who was involved in an accident with a pedestrian, there is still a burden of prove required in order to determine fault and this needs to be considered when building a case or creating a defense.

Ways that a Pedestrian can Cause an Accident

In most scenarios, pedestrians are given the right of way when occupying roads and motorists must be aware of their presence and take the precautions needed to avoid causing them any harm. This is not a license for pedestrians to break laws that govern when and how they are allowed to enter or cross streets, however, and it is possible for a pedestrian to be declared partially or completely at fault for a car accident. The following considerations are taken when trying to assess fault following an accident involving a motorist and a pedestrian.

  • Were any laws broken? Factors such as the speed of the vehicle, adhering to traffic signals and whether the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident can all be turned around on the pedestrian. Pedestrians must cross the street only at crosswalks or where traffic control devices allow them to cross safely and jaywalking or entering the street while intoxicated could make the pedestrian at least partially liable for the accident.
  • Where did the accident occur? The location of accidents involving pedestrians is important when determining fault because some roads do not allow pedestrian access. Such areas include bridges, highways and major thoroughfares.
  • Did the pedestrian take precautions? It is possible to be declared responsible when acting carelessly or recklessly. While it is the responsibility of drivers to be aware of pedestrians and provide them with the right of way, they cannot be expected to avoid accidents when the pedestrian carelessly enters the street or intentionally obstructs the path of the vehicle.

Many Pedestrian Accident Cases Result in Comparative Negligence

It can be possible to declare one party completely at fault following an accident, but this is the exception to the rule. More states are implementing comparative negligence doctrine, which assesses damages based on the role of each person in the accident. If one party is determined to be at fault but the other contributed by breaking a law or acting recklessly, the amount of compensation the at fault party is liable for may be reduced according to the amount of liability held by the victim.

The comparative negligence rule was primarily instituted to protect drivers from frivolous lawsuits or from pedestrians seeking unfair compensation for accidents that they caused directly. The down side is that it may significantly reduce the value of car accident lawsuits and make it more difficult for victims to recover an adequate amount of compensation to meet their needs.

An example of comparative negligence in practice would be if a motorist was determined to be at fault for hitting a pedestrian as he or she was crossing at a traffic signal. However, in this example, the pedestrian is considered liable for not being aware of traffic and for not crossing while instructed to by the walk sign. The party considered more liable than the other would receive compensation from the other and the compensation would be reduced by his or her percentage of fault. In this example, if the driver was considered 60% at fault and the value of the pedestrian’s damages was $15,000, he or she would receive $9,000 instead. Each state has different rules concerning how damages are divided as well as the amount of compensation the party most at fault may be required to provide.

For more information about comparative negligence laws and how they may impact your ability to sue for damages following a car accident, contact the Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers. Most states now consider comparative negligence when assessing these types of cases and we can let you know the laws that apply in your state and how best to approach your case.

Dangers of Loading DocksLoading docks can be dangerous places to work, especially when adequate safety measures are not taken or when workers are busy or hurried. Roughly one quarter of injuries in warehouses occur on the loading dock and the vast majority of the accidents reported could have been reported had workers followed safety protocols, proper equipment or devices been made available or been more careful. Whenever heavy machinery is involved in accidents, the injuries are more severe and require longer periods of recovery before workers may return to work— if they can return at all.

The Most Common Causes of Loading Dock Accidents

Numerous people are involved in the loading or unloading of trailers and each person’s actions can have a negative impact on others who must work on the dock. Many accidents are the result of a chain reaction of negligent behavior that ultimately results in the injury of workers and it is worth the additional time to make sure that forklift operators and others occupying the docks are not in harm’s way. Common causes of loading dock accidents include the following.

  • The truck driver does not chock the wheels of the trailer and it moves away from the loading platform. Forklift operators often move onto and off of trailers rapidly while carrying heavy loads. This can cause the trailer to rock forward or backward and if the wheels are not secured, it may move away from the dock while the forklift is entering or exiting.
  • The forklift driver does not distribute loads evenly. It is important to distribute the weight being loaded on a trailer evenly not only to make it safer to transport but also to prevent pallets from falling onto the workers entering and exiting the trailer.
  • Collisions with workers or other forklifts. When forklift operators are in a hurry, they may race into and out of trailers without checking to see whether other forklifts or bystanders are present. It is important that whenever a worker is passing a loading platform that he or she check to see whether someone is backing out, but it is also the duty of the forklift operators to be aware of whether there is any object or person present on the platform when backing up.
  • The forklift falls off the dock. This is often the result of the truck driver pulling away while the forklift operator is still working or failing to chock the wheels prior to loading or unloading. It is the responsibility of the driver to be fully aware of when it is safe to pull away from the dock.

Loading Dock Injuries are Often Serious

The injuries suffered in loading dock accidents are severe more often than not. Forklift operators are provided limited protection and are exposed when their forklifts fall from a platform or when objects fall on top of them. Loaders and other employees working on the docks may have even less protection from injuries when caught in the path of forklifts exiting or entering trailers. Following are some of the most common injuries suffered in these types of accidents.

  • Fractures and crushed bones. Many loading dock injuries involve multiple fractures in addition to other serious injuries.
  • Spine and neck injuries. These injuries are most prevalent when the forklift falls off the platform because the impact of the forklift often causes the neck to snap backward and the impact of the back against the seat can result in injuries to the spine.
  • Traumatic brain injuries. Sudden impacts or changes in direction can cause traumatic brain injuries even if there was no direct contact with the head. The brain may hit the skull and bruise or swell— a condition that often results in complications days or weeks after the injury.
  • Death. Loading dock injuries are some of the most lethal injuries suffered because of the force involved and the time it may require to get to the victims safely following an accident.

Loading dock safety is a sensitive subject because statistics show that as many as 70% of loading dock accidents can be prevented. Preventable accidents are unacceptable and it is unfortunate that many corporations are more concerned with keeping costs to a minimum than they are with keeping their employees safe. Whenever such companies cross the line, it is important to hold them accountable.

To learn more about your rights following a work place accident or how the Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers can recover the maximum amount of compensation you are entitled to, contact us for more information.

Wrongful Death Lawsuit using Power MorcellatorPower morcellator manufacturers and practitioners performing hysterectomies and other uterine procedures with the devices have come under fire following the discovery of a strong link between power morcellation and the spread of cancerous tissue to the uterus. The son of a woman who died from uterine cancer not long after undergoing a procedure which implemented the use of a power morcellator is seeking damages from multiple parties he alleges failed to warn his mother of the risks associated with the elective procedure and that had she underwent a more traditional procedure, she would still be alive today. The lawsuit was filed on April 10, 2015 and is being heard by the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina.

Storz Morcellator Cited as Responsible for Spread of Cancer

The plaintiff’s mother was advised to undergo a laparoscopic procedure to remove uterine fibroids and was diagnosed with adenosarcoma and sarcomatous overgrowth less than a week after the procedure. It is alleged that the Storz power morcellator used during her surgery disseminated cancerous tissue and spread it into her abdomen; she died of her ensuing condition on April 13, 2012. The plaintiff is seeking damages from Karl Storz Endoscopy-America, Inc., Karl Storz Endovision, Inc., and Karl Storz GMBH & Co. KG for wrongful death, misconduct and the failure of the device manufacturer to provide adequate warnings about the risks of power morcellation procedures.

Procedures Initially Marketed as Less Invasive Alternative

Power morcellation procedures similar to the one that the plaintiff’s mother underwent have been marketed as a less invasive and safer alternative to more traditional surgery. Laparoscopic procedures have the benefit of quicker recovery periods so that patients are able to return home and get back to their lives sooner but they often come with risks that patients are never informed about. This particular lawsuit is one in an exhaustive list that are expected to come as the major manufacturers of power morcellators have begun to recall the devices and remove them from the market.

Major insurance carriers have also made pointed responses of their own— several companies have announced that they will no longer cover the procedures and others are expected to follow suit. The FDA has gotten involved as well, issuing an advisory notice against morcellation procedures for women unless there is absolutely no other viable alternative. The largest manufacturer of power morcellators, Ethicon, is expected to become the subject of a growing mass tort as more victims and their families begin to come forward.

If you or a loved one underwent a surgical procedure involving the use of a power morcellation device and later received a diagnosis of uterine cancer, you may be entitled to compensation. This compensation may be in the form of the cost of cancer treatments and other medical care, wrongful death in the event your loved one has passed since her diagnosis, loss of income, pain and suffering and punitive damages to make the statement to the manufacturers of these devices that the safety of patients must always come before profits and the bottom line.

The Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers are a leading and reputable team of lawyers who represent people from all walks of life who have been injured due to greed, carelessness or reckless behavior and we would be happy to assist you in your time of need. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys to learn more about pending litigation and how it may impact your case, to discuss your own legal options and rights and to begin the process of gathering information which we can use to conduct a thorough investigation into your case so that we can give you the best advice possible on how to move forward. Unless we are able to secure compensation on your behalf, all of these services will come at no cost to you at all.

Common Foods and Food PoisoningIf you’ve ever felt queasy following a meal or regretted trying that new restaurant several days later, you are certainly not alone. Roughly 76 million people suffer from food poisoning every year in the United States and while most of the cases result in mild discomfort and sickness, some cases can be much more severe.

Tainted food claims the lives of about 5,000 people per year and the leading cause of food related deaths is food tainted with harmful bacteria or viruses. The most effective way to avoid food poisoning is to handle and cook foods properly and to avoid any food that has exceeded its expiration date.

Microorganisms Responsible for Food Poisoning Symptoms

Food poisoning occurs when you have consumed food that contains dangerous bacteria, viruses or parasitic organisms and the subsequent symptoms are the result of an immune response meant to remove the invading organisms from your system. The majority of foodborne illness and food related deaths are attributed to the following eight microorganisms.

  • Salmonella— most commonly associated with poultry and eggs, salmonella is one of the most well-known causes of food poisoning. Most people equate salmonella poisoning with undercooked chicken or raw eggs, but the bacteria can be found in raw fruit and vegetables, especially leafy vegetables such as lettuce and cabbage. It may also be spread through contact with someone who is infected.
  • Clostridium perfringens— these bacteria can be found in the intestines and is one of the most common forms of bacteria found in tainted food. Most cases of C. perfringens contamination are due to the consumption of foods which have been left out at room temperature for too long. Once a small amount of bacteria contaminate the food, they reproduce at a rapid rate and the large numbers of these bacteria are what cause humans to get sick, due to the toxicity of the waste the bacteria produce within the body.
  • Campylobacter— found in raw meat, undercooked poultry, untreated water and produce, these bacteria is one of the most common causes of diarrhea. Most people make the common mistake of assuming that frozen food is free of bacteria and while cold temperatures do slow the growth and spread of bacteria, forms such as campylobacter are able to survive in extreme cold. Undercooking meats after they have been frozen is a common means by which campylobacter is spread.
  • Staphylococcus aureus— commonly referred to as staph, these bacteria is actually found on our body and in our throats and is normally benign. It is when they make contact with certain food products that they multiply more rapidly and become dangerous due to their massive numbers. Salads, sandwiches and other foods that require no heat to prepare are at risk of staph contamination because the bacteria are often transferred from the food preparer’s hand to the food and not killed before consumption.
  • E. coli— there are many forms of E. coli and most of them are completely harmless. Others are extremely dangerous and the cause of massive outbreaks of food poisoning that result in widespread food recalls. E. coli is most commonly found in raw meat and dairy products but can also be contracted from tainted water or any food that has had contact with feces.
  • Listeria monocytogenes— this dangerous form of bacteria is able to grow at cooler temperatures, making it impervious to the most common food preservation methods and hitting victims by surprise. It can be found in deli meats, sausages, dairy products, seafood and undercooked meat and poultry. Because it can survive in ice cold temperatures and causes a severe infection that poses a serious risk to pregnant women, young children and the elderly, foods that are discovered to be contaminated are often recalled immediately.
  • Norovirus— the norovirus is one of the leading causes of food poisoning and its symptoms are often mistaken for the flu, causing many cases to go unreported or misdiagnosed. As a communicable disease, it spreads through contact with infected persons or surfaces, but it can also spread through the contamination of shellfish, fruit and vegetables and unheated foods.
  • Toxoplasma gondii— unlike the other foodborne illnesses on this list, toxoplasma gondii is the result of a parasite that is transferred through raw meat that has been in contact with feces, contact with a cat that has been on contact with an infected litter box and drinking contaminated water. Symptoms of infection mimic the flu initially and then become progressively more serious. Infections can result in muscle aches, swollen lymph glands, blurred vision and red or irritated eyes. Once contracted, the disease can last for months.

The Most Common Sources of Foodborne Illnesses

With good reason, most people associate foodborne illness with improperly prepared meat and poultry. Beef, pork and chicken are by and large the most common sources of food contamination, but other sources are often ignored due to lack of education. The Center of Science in the Public Interest tracked the instances of foodborne illness in a study involving 50,000 cases to determine which foods were most likely to be sources of contamination. The top ten follow below.

  • Leafy green vegetables— most people are unaware of how hospitable leafy vegetables are to bacteria. The reality is that when we consume lettuce and other leafy greens, we are feeding the good bacteria in our digestive tract and over consumption of greens can cause gas and bloating due to the overgrowth of these bacteria. Bad forms of bacteria also consume these vegetables and tainted greens were responsible for 13,568 of the 50,000 cases studied, which is 24% of non-meat related cases.
  • Eggs— caused mostly by poor handling of eggs during and after cooking rather than consumption of raw eggs, roughly 11,164 of the cases studied involved eggs. About half of the cases were the result of tainted restaurant food, calling for the need to enforce stricter standards on the quality of food being served.
  • Tuna— responsible for 2,341 cases of food poisoning in the study, tuna can decay quickly after being caught and this invites numerous forms of microorganisms to contaminate the flesh before it is consumed. Many people consume tuna out of the can without cooking it, only increasing the likelihood of infection.
  • Oysters— 3,409 cases involved the consumption of oysters, which is a commonly tainted seafood that is often enjoyed raw.
  • Potatoes— involved in 3,659 cases, potatoes are commonly contaminated when left out for too long and not properly reheated prior to eating.
  • Cheese— 2,761 cases of food poisoning involved the consumption of cheese, which may harbor listeria. Cheese is also commonly used as an ingredient in salads, sandwiches and other foods that are not heated, so its involvement may be incidental in cases where it joined other tainted foods.
  • Ice cream— because listeria thrives both in low temperatures and dairy products, ice cream is one of the products most likely to harbor it. 2,594 cases in the study involved ice cream consumption.
  • Tomatoes— some of the greatest outbreaks of foodborne illness have been related to tainted tomatoes, which can harbor salmonella, norovirus and other contaminants. Tomatoes were related to 3,292 of the cases included in the study.
  • Sprouts— often consumed raw, sprouts may also harbor bacteria and viruses that cause food poisoning. Sprouts were consumed by 2,022 of the patients involved in the study.
  • Berries— some bacteria and many forms of fungi thrive on sugar, which abounds in fruits and berries. Unsurprisingly, 3,397 of those who became ill had consumed berries.

How to Prevent Food Poisoning

It is much easier and safer to prevent food poisoning than to endure the symptoms of an infection. Following these tips will greatly reduce your chances of infection and help you prevent the spread of an outbreak.

  • Wash all fruits and vegetables before preparing them. Doing so will remove the majority of bacteria and viruses that are residing on the surface, which will greatly reduce your risk of becoming ill when consuming these foods raw.
  • Clean your hands thoroughly before preparing any raw food or meal that does not require heating the food. Due to the commonality of staphylococcus on our skin, contact with raw foods will spread the bacteria if we do not wash our hands prior to preparation. It only takes the introduction of a small amount of bacteria to a food source to allow it to balloon into a threat.
  • Use a meat thermometer to measure the internal temperature of meats prior to serving. recommends heating ground meats, poultry, eggs and leftover portions to an internal temperature of 165 degrees while it is acceptable to cook ham, pork, steaks and lamb to a temperature of 145 degrees.
  • When using a knife to cut contaminated foods such as poultry, avoid cross contamination by keeping the utensil away from other ingredients.
  • Pay attention to expiration dates and throw away food that has gone bad. It is possible for bad foods to spread contaminants to good foods in the same manner that mold moves from one object to another.