May 24, 2013

North Carolina Motorcycle Accidents in Focus this May

Motorcyclists face many dangers on the road--distracted drivers, potholes, construction sites, failing traffic control devices and blind spots, just to name a few. While new riders may learn safety tips to avoid accidents and injuries, veteran motorcyclists may forget the importance of safety after years of riding. To raise rider awareness, May has been deemed "Motorcycle Safety Month" for riders in North Carolina, South Carolina, and nationwide.

Our Charlotte motorcycle accident lawyers have seen countless accidents involving serious injury and fatalities. Motorcycle injuries can range from road rash and broken bones, to brain and head injuries, permanent injuries and accidental death. While many of these accidents are caused by negligent vehicle drivers, motorcyclists can take precautions to avoid unnecessary dangers or accidents.

To increase rider safety, here are some reminders for the month of May and into the summer season.

Be aware of blinds spots. Remember that other drivers cannot always see you. Don't assume that a car is going to yield or that a driver can see you. Unfortunately, riders are less visible on the road and therefore prone to accidents caused by blind spots.

Make yourself visible. In addition to remaining mindful of your blind spots, you should also make yourself visible to other drivers. Ensure that your lights are in working order and that you are wearing appropriate gear.

Never drink and drive. While everyone knows that drinking and driving is dangerous, a healthy reminder can improve rider safety. Even one or two drinks can impair reaction time, and those two seconds could save your life.

Drivers should share the road. May is motorcycle safety month, but drivers of vehicles should also remember to share the road. Riders have additional dangers to face and drivers should make an extra effort to avoid accidents and injury involving motorcycles.

Be proactive. As a rider, you should always take extra safety precautions. Always use your mirrors and double-check before changing lanes. Continue to size up risks and potential dangers you may encounter on the road.

While most motorcyclists appreciate the risky nature of riding, it can be eye-opening to realize the number of accidents and serious injuries caused by collision. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motorcyclists account for 14% of accident traffic fatalities (even though they make up just 3% of all registered vehicles). The NHTSA estimates that riders are 30 times more likely that car passengers to suffer a fatal injury.

Motorcyclists face some of the most catastrophic injuries when involved in accidents. In many cases, riders will need long-term medical treatment and care, including rehabilitation. Our firm is highly experienced in complicated accident cases involving motorcycle accident and injury. We know that rider safety is important, but that even the most careful drivers can become victims of catastrophic, even fatal motorcycle collisions. We will initiate an immediate investigation to determine the cause of the accident, identify responsible parties, and help you pursue the compensation you are entitled to.

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May 19, 2013

Dangerous Drug Maker to Pay $500M in Federal Fines

A generic drug manufacturer has pleaded guilty to a host of federal felony drug safety violations and will ultimately pay approximately $500 million in both criminal and civil fines - the largest settlement involving a generic drug maker, according to the U.S. Justice Department.
The settlement includes $350 million for civil claims and $150 million for criminal penalties.

Our Rock Hill personal injury lawyers understand that the defendant, Ranbaxy, has admitted not only to the sale of substandard drug products in the U.S., but also lying to federal regulators with the U.S. Food & Drug Administration regarding its manufacturing practices at two Indian factories.

In all, the company pleaded to three felony counts related to the production of those drugs, which failed to meet minimum federal safety standards, as well as four counts of making materially false statements.

Five years ago, the company was barred from producing some 30 different drugs in the U.S. after the FDA discovered the manufacturing deficiencies, as reported by the company's former director and global head of research information. That individual is entitled to some $50 million for having been a whistleblower. He was later quoted as saying that administrators for the drugmaker were well aware of the serious and widespread problems at the factories. Yet, they failed to take any sort of corrective action, which the whistleblower said left him no choice but to take his knowledge to authorities.

The dangers were first reported eight years ago, and it's taken this long to hold Ranbaxy accountable. The firm is a subsidiary of a Japanese pharmaceutical company called Daiichi Sankyo.

The company later admitted that it had utterly failed in its responsibility to conduct thorough tests for quality and safety or a number of the drugs it produced, including generic versions of a number of common medicines used to treat epilepsy, high cholesterol, nerve pain and bacterial infections.

For example, one of the drugs the company manufactured was gabapentin, a critical drug used to treat epilepsy patients. During the summer of 2007, the company conceded that testing had revealed the presence of unknown impurities and that the shelf life of the drug was unreliable. However, the company waited several months before alerting federal authorities - potentially putting thousands of lives at risk in the meantime.

While a statement from Ranbaxy officials indicated an eagerness to move on from this "past issue," the reality is that problems have continued to plague the company. Most recently, in November, the company had to stop production of the generic version of Lipitor, used for high cholesterol patients, after it was revealed that glass particles were present in medications that had been distributed to U.S. patients. As it turned out, cracked glass lining at another Indian factory was to blame.

While we are certainly pleased that this case represents some modicum of accountability for past actions, what this case really did was shine a light on how little federal oversight that U.S. regulators have on drugmakers whose productions are primarily located overseas. In fact, inspections of foreign drug factories only occur about once every dozen years or so, compared to every other year for sites here in the U.S.

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May 15, 2013

Surgical Errors in North Carolina Result in Profits for Hospitals

It seems we hear a great deal of protest regarding the higher insurance premiums that doctors and hospitals must spend to cover the cost of medical malpractice claims, filed when they make an egregious error that leads to serious injury or death.
However, our Charlotte personal injury lawyers have learned via findings published in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association that hospitals actually profit when there is a surgical error, versus when patients emerge from a surgery unscathed.

This backward payout comes in the form of insurance payments, according to the study. Researchers discovered that on average, hospitals raked in an additional $30,500 in profit in cases when a patient developed at least one preventable surgical complication. It was about $40,000 for those patients with private insurance. The reason is that insurance plans pay more money to the hospital when the patient stays for a longer period of time and requires extra care.

Of the nearly 35,000 surgical discharges in a system of Texas hospitals examined by the researchers in 2010, more than 1,800 (about 5.3 percent) experienced some type of post-surgical complication.

An accompanying editorial to the study penned by Dr. Uwe E. Reinhardtputs forth the troubling assertion that the current profit motives could prove a dangerous temptation even for otherwise admirable individuals.

Not only that, but we know that there is ample research on effective measures that can help curb surgical complications. Methods to improve safety have been clearly identified - yet are slow to be implemented. Now, it appears we have a very clear answer as to one reason why.

This whole framework is called a "fee for service compensation." Reinhardt suggests we all take a cold, hard look to evaluate whether a new approach is necessary.

The authors of the study don't say this explicitly, but it's fair to infer that because hospitals could expect to take a significant financial hit by adopting efforts to reduce post-surgical complications among patients, there is a very low incentive for these institutions to take action. At the very least, it's clear that they are not addressing this very serious problem with the kind of vigor that they should.

This is evidenced by the fact that hospital errors are rising - dramatically so. Back in 1999, the Institute of Medicine released analysis indicating that hospital errors were responsible for approximately 100,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. To put this into perspective, that would be akin to four hug jets crashing every single week, killing everyone on board.

In the last decade, one would think that the medical community would have had ample time to boost safety measures. But in fact, the problem has worsened. It now affects one out of every three hospitalized patients, which is a rate that is 10 times higher than what had been previously estimated, according to a 2011 Health Affairs study.

As one doctor noted, "If medical error was a disease, it would be the leading cause of death" in this country.

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May 13, 2013

Child Injuries From Chemicals to Rise in Summer

A new study released by researchers in Ohio indicates that while overall chemical-related injuries involving small children have decreased significantly over the last 10 years, they are likely to increase during the summer.
Our Spartanburg personal injury lawyers know that primarily, we're talking about injuries caused by lamp oils, gasoline and other similar chemicals.

The drop in these kinds of poisonings and burns began in 2000 and 2001, according to the study's author, Dr. Heath Jolliff, who is also the associate medical director for the Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus. The study was published in the journal Pediatrics.

This reduction coincides with the time period during with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission required that such products be encased in packaging that was child-resistant.

However, the summer always seems to result in a marked increase in chemical injuries for children. Primarily, these would be due to things like the fuel used in tiki torches or the kerosene that is used for outdoor camping stoves or the gasoline used in lawnmowers. These are all known as hydrocarbons.

Children have greater access to these chemicals during the summer, and toddlers especially are at high risk for both ingestion and burns.

These type of fuels, the study author reported, is the third-leading cause of child poisoning deaths. The study was motivated by a child that Jolliff personally treated. That child had reportedly been exposed to hydrocarbon and, as a result, became very sick.

In establishing the study, researchers culled information from databases that were compiled over the course of a decade, between 2000 and 2009 and includes records from more than 100 hospitals across the country, as well as phone calls made to nearly 60 poison control centers.

From there, the researchers were able to isolate only those calls and visits that involved children younger than five and some type of hydrocarbon. That involved some 65,000 poison control calls and some 40,000 emergency room visits.

During those 10 years, the number of emergency room visits dropped to about 14 out of every 100,000 children, down from 19 out of every 100,000 children. Poison control center calls too tapered off during that time frame, down to 21 out of every 100,000 children from 34 out of every 100,000 children.

Most commonly, 1 and 2-year-olds were the ones injured. Of those, the most serious injuries were caused by exposure to lighter fluids, lamp oil and kerosene. The highest percentage of deaths was caused by lamp oil.

Although the injuries are down quite a bit, every summer saw a spike. In fact, nearly a third of all hydrocarbon-related poison control calls and emergency room visits came during those three months.

One of the most surprising causes for exposure? Parents who were allowing their children outside of the vehicle at the gas station. Children subsequently pull the house from the car and get splashed with the fuel. The liquid quickly transforms to a gas, and those gases become inhaled - something that becomes quickly very dangerous, especially for young children.

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May 10, 2013

North Carolina Traffic Safety: Uncovering Distraction Not Unusual in Accident Investigations

"I'm going to crash!" were the last words Kelsey Raffaele ever said. She was talking on a cell phone while driving when she clipped a snow bank, spin out of control and right into the path of oncoming traffic. An SUV T-boned her vehicle. She later died at the hospital, according to the Citizen-Times.
Local police simply chalked up the accident as a mistake that's commonly made by newly-licensed drivers. Later, they found out that she was on the phone when the accident happened. They credited the accident to distracted driving after finding her cell phone in the back of the car. Distracted driving is unfortunately also a common cause for novice driver accidents.

Our Asheville car accident lawyers understand that the paperwork was already filed when officials discovered that it was a distracted driving car accident. Because these accidents aren't oftentimes discovered in a timely manner, if they're ever discovered at all, the statistical risks are well under reported.

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), the problems associated with these kinds of accidents appear less serious because of this discrepancy. This discrepancy impedes efforts to win passage of tougher laws.

Currently, drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from talking on a cell phone. That's not stopped most of them though.

Unfortunately, drivers don't see the risks involved in this behavior and they're not deterred by current laws. According to the NSC, close to 200 fatal accidents were reviewed from 2009 to 2011 in which a cell phone was probably the cause of the accident. Unfortunately, only about half were recorded as distracted driving accidents.

Even in many cases where drivers openly admitted to using a cell phone in the accident, officers many times don't record them as distraction related.

According to the latest statistics, there over 32,000 roadway fatalities recorded in the U.S. in 2011. Less than 400 were listed as distracted driving accidents involving cell phones. Yet other sources report that close to 4,000 people were killed in distracted driving car accidents.

It's no secret. We've all been behind the wheel on a cell phone at least once in our lives --whether we were making a phone call, answering a text message or even checking out email. But it's these dangerous behaviors that can cause a deadly accident -- in a matter of seconds.

Now is an important time of the year, with summer break approaching, to talk to our younger drivers about the importance of attentive driving. Make sure they understand the risks involved with texting or calling behind the wheel. Make sure they're pulling over and coming to a safe stop before attending to business. It's a move that could wind up saving their life.

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May 8, 2013

North Carolina Bicycle Accidents a May Focus

May is nationally recognized as Bike Month. North Carolina is getting in on the action, too. This year, Bike to Work Week will be held from May 16th to May 20th.

Bike to Work Day is Friday, May 20. In celebration, many communities across the state are going to be organizing bike rides, cycling socials and safety sessions. You can check out what's going on in your area by stopping by the North Carolina Active Transportation Alliance's website.
Whether you bike to work or school, to save money or time, to preserve your health or the environment, to explore your community or get to your destination, our Charlotte bicycle accident lawyers are asking you to get involved in Bike Month in your city -- and help get more people in your community out riding too!

But before you start riding, there are a few things we want to go over with you, as cycling on our Carolina roadways is no walk in the park. Unfortunately, many drivers fail to recognize two-wheeled travelers -- even though we have just as much right to the roadway as they do. It's time to step up, speak up and make our presence known this summer.

According to the latest statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were close to 700 bicyclists killed in traffic accidents in the U.S. in 2011. What's even worse is that there were another 50,000 who were seriously injured.

And the problem does appear to be getting any better. Last year, we saw a near 10 percent increase in the number of bicyclist fatalities compared to 2010.

To help to get the message across to motorists, officials with the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) have created the Division of Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation (DBPT). Everything that the Division of Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation (DBPT) does is geared toward improving the safety of North Carolina's millions of bicyclists and pedestrians.

You want to know the rules of riding safely, and you want to make sure that you're staying clear of vehicular traffic. Unfortunately, drivers don't always see or predict our presence out there. We have to stay one step ahead of the traffic around us. Make sure you can be easily seen while pedaling around town.

Education can be a powerful tool for changing behavior and improving safety skills. Bicyclists and motorists alike can benefit from educational tools and messages that teach them the rules, rights, and responsibilities of various modes of travel.

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May 6, 2013

Anderson Injury Risk With High-Powered Magnets, CPCS Warns

A group of six retailers has issued a swift recall of two high-powered magnet products by the same manufacturer, warning that the products are defective in design and fail to warn consumers of the "substantial risk of injury and death to children and teenagers."
Our Anderson personal injury lawyers understand that the Buckyballs and Buckycubes are the latest in a long list of magnet products that the Consumer Product Safety Commission has warned against.

In fact, the CPSC issued a release two years ago, warning of severe consequences for children of all ages who had ingested high-powered magnets. The problem is not only the potential choking risk, but the fact that when one or more of these magnets are swallowed, they can attract one another internally. That can cause serious injuries or even death due to small holes in the intestines and stomach, or by causing intestinal blockage or blood poisoning.

Such incidents have been on the rise since 2009, according to the CPSC. There was one incident that year. There were seven the year after and they had doubled to 14 the following year. They have continued to rise, with 54 total reports of children ingesting the product - 53 of those requiring intensive medical intervention.

Unlike many ingestion warnings, the danger is posed not just to babies and toddlers, but also to older children and even teenagers. The oldest person affected was 15 years-old. From 2009 through 2011, there were 11 surgeries required to remove the magnets. In a lot of the cases where doctors ordered surgery to remove the magnets, additional procedures were required to repair the child's intestines and stomach.

So far, there haven't been any reports of death, but the risk is very real, particularly if multiple magnets are consumed or if treatment is delayed.

Part of the problem is a lot of these sets - including the Buckyballs and Buckycubes, come in sets of about 200 or so magnets, so it's tough for parents to identify when a few might go missing. Very young children have found stray magnets on the table, in the refrigerator, on the floor or between sofa cushions.

With teenagers, a number of the ingestion incidents were unintentional, but a few were intentional.

Buckyballs' manufacturer was quoted back in 2011 as saying that the products were only intended for adult use or in homes where children were over the age of 14.

But in some cases prior to 2008, children's toys actually contain a number of high-powered magnets and there have been reports of those magnets falling out of the toys. There is now a mandatory standard in place that prohibits magnets or magnet components in toys made for children under the age of 14.

The most recent recall stems from a July 2012 administrative complaint that the CPSC filed against the company's manufacturer, after they failed to institute a voluntary recall. (The agency has only submitted four such complaints in the last dozen years, so it truly speaks to the negligence of this firm.)

The agency said it is still receiving injury reports relating to these magnets, which is why the retailers themselves chose to act.

Retailers include:

  • Barnes & Noble;

  • Bed Bath & Beyond

  • Brookstone

  • Hallmark;

  • Marbles the Brain Store

  • ThinkGeek

Continue reading "Anderson Injury Risk With High-Powered Magnets, CPCS Warns" »

May 4, 2013

Diagnostic Errors Most Common Cause of Carolina Medical Malpractice Claims

When it comes to medical malpractice claims, our Spartanburg personal injury lawyers know there are many possible triggers.
It could be a surgical mistake, an obstetric error, even an overdose.

But if you thought any of those were the most common reason for filing a medical malpractice claim, you'd be wrong.

In fact, nearly 30 percent of medical malpractice settlement payouts stem from diagnostic errors. That's according to the National Practitioner Data Bank, which keeps track of action by state licensing officials against health care providers.

Behind diagnostic mistakes, errors made in treatment and surgery were the second and third most frequent claims. All other types of errors, including anesthesia, medication, monitoring and obstetric, accounted for about one-fifth of medical malpractice payouts.

These figures were recently published by BMJ Quality and Safety, which had discovered that between 1986 and 2010, there were approximately 100,000 medical malpractice payments made just for diagnostic errors. These incidents accounted for nearly 34 percent of disabilities and 40 percent of the deaths that eventually resulted in a medical malpractice payout.

The authors of the study note that this is a huge health problem, and that hospitals, physicians, nurses and insurers all have a responsibility to help address it. The problem is, few singular entities view it as their problem.

A diagnostic error would be one in which your true diagnosis was somehow delayed or missed.

Part of the reason these types of errors don't get nearly enough attention is that they are so difficult to track and measure. Individuals who may be victims may not even realize it, at least not on the same scale as someone with a surgical error. The latter would be very obvious, very definitive. A diagnostic error, meanwhile, might not be as evident.

Researchers believe that in the last 25 years, somewhere between 100,000 and 160,000 people have been negatively affected by diagnostic errors. They may have suffered anything from minor injuries to death as a result.

The cost of this over the course of 25 years, adjusted for inflation, was nearly $40 billion, with a mean per-claim payout of about $390,000 each. Per-claim payouts were higher depending on the severity of the injury. For example, someone who suffered something like brain damage or anything that resulted in a lifelong care requirement on average won settlements of about $810,000, while those whose injuries were deemed significant received about $270,000 each.

Some suggested efforts to help reduce diagnostic errors include technology-based aids and electronic alerts. One example is a program that generates a list of possible diagnoses based on the list of patient symptoms. It wouldn't mean the condition was necessarily on that list, but it would be a guide of potential options for doctors to explore.

Previous studies have suggested this sort of thing may help produce tangible results. One study conducted in the early 1990s found that when doctors used standardized form to diagnose abdominal pain, there was a 9 percent reduction in diagnostic errors with regard to appendicitis.

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May 2, 2013

Charlotte Car Crashes Top Weather-Related Fatalities

If you asked a people to guess the most dangerous aspect for Americans of being involved in severe weather, you'd probably hear answers that ranged from being swept up by tornado-force winds to being crushed by hurricane-strewn debris.

Certainly, those things tragically happen, and they get a lot of media attention when they do.
However, our Charlotte personal injury lawyers have learned that in fact the deadliest aspect of severe weather is seen on the roadways.

That's according to meteorology researchers at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire.

News stations will cover multi-car pile-ups, especially when they are serious. There have been quite a few of them so far this year - 19 on U.S. highways, and they've left 700 wrecked cars and 8 fatalities in their wake.

However, it's the everyday, bad weather wrecks that actually cause the most wrecks. In most cases, it's a single or two-car crash on wet roads.

In an average year, an estimated 7,000 people in the U.S. die in highway crashes that are caused by weather such as heavy rain, sleet, fog or snow. Most of these incidents involve one, maybe two deaths at a time, so they tend to receive very little coverage. They aren't catastrophic or sometimes even dramatic, so you won't see the kind of attention paid to deaths caused by flash floods, tornadoes, hurricanes or heat.

There is one group that is paying closer attention.

A recent gathering in Washington D.C., the American Meteorological Society's Washington Forum, was primarily focused on how to reduce or prevent this glut of weather-related crashes across the country.

The group said that until recently, even the National Weather Service didn't include weather-related vehicle crashes into its weather death tolls. The reason was that the standard was whether the weather played an active role in the person's death.

So for example, if a huge pile of snow falls from a tree and crushes a person, the NWS would consider that a weather-related death. However, if someone crashes in a snowstorm, officials would have said that the person was driving too quickly in the elements, and therefore it wasn't the snow that killed the driver but his or her own actions.

The meteorological group said the recognition of these deaths as legitimate, weather-related deaths will help them formulate informational releases to the public to help reduce these kinds of incidents.

One of the options being explored is something called a Vehicle Data Translator, which would provide motorists with real time information on atmospheric and road conditions. This technology would get information to people faster than roadside signs, and could warn of conditions such as wildfire smoke, fog, black ice, hail or blizzard whiteouts.

You can't necessarily prevent drivers from speeding or not paying attention or driving drunk. However, the idea is to cut down on the surprise element that so often contributes to weather-related crashes.

Ultimately, the goal is to make sure everyone makes it home safely.

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April 30, 2013

Carolina Traffic Safety - Stats Show Seat Belts Still Best First Line of Defense

We all know we're supposed to wear seat belts. Not only do we know it's the best way to save our life in the event of an accident, but we also know that it's the law. According to, all drivers and passengers, in the rear seat as well as in the front seat, ages 16 and older must wear their seat belts. Children less than age 16 are covered by the NC Child Passenger Safety law.
Still, roughly 20 percent of people are not slapping on that seat belt, according to the latest statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In 2011, close to 21,500 occupants of passenger vehicles (passenger cars, pickup trucks, vans, and SUVs) died in motor vehicle traffic crashes. Of those fatalities, only about 9,500 were restrained. Restraint use was not known for 1,634 occupants. Looking at only occupants where the restraint status was known, more than 50 percent were unrestrained at the time of the crash.

Our Winston-Salem car accident attorneys understand that our young ones are some of the worst offenders when it comes to seat belt usage. In 2011, 64 percent of the passenger vehicle occupants ages 21 to 24 killed in traffic crashes were not using restraints -- the highest percentage out of all age groups.

So how serious was it in North Carolina? According to the statistics from the NHTSA, of the close to 900 occupants who were killed in traffic accidents in the state in 2011, only about half of them were belted at the time of the accident. This seems a little funny considering that officials report a seat belt usage rate of close to 90 percent.

For children, a properly used child restraint device (CRD) is required if the child is less than 8-years-old and weighs less than 80 pounds. Most parents and caregivers will be able to comply by using belt-positioning booster seats for children between 40 and 80 pounds. The child must be within the weight range for the child restraint/booster seat and it must meet Federal standards in effect at time of manufacture.

Seat belts work and the proof is in the numbers. Among passenger vehicle occupants age 5 and older, seat belts saved an estimated 12,000 lives in 2011. If all passenger vehicle occupants age 5 and older had worn seat belts, close to 15,500 lives could have
been saved in 2011.

If you don't want to buckle up to save your life, you might as well do it to save some money. If you're pulled over and busted for not wearing a seat belt. For a first-time violation, you'll be slapped with a $25.50 fine. You're also going to have to dish out more than $135 in court costs. Lucky for you, no driver's license or insurance points are assessed with this violation.

If you're busted with someone in the back seat who isn't properly buckled in, you're looking at a monetary penalty.

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April 29, 2013

Bicyclists Falling Victim to Irresponsible Drivers

Bicyclists face serious risks out there, sharing the chaotic roadways with our Carolina drivers. Unfortunately, close to 50 Carolina bicyclists experienced the wrath of those risks firsthand in 2011. According to the latest statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), that's how many cyclists were killed in the state during 2011.
Our Charlotte bicycle accident lawyers understand that the risks for these kinds of accidents are on the rise. According to officials with the NHTSA, the number of bicyclists killed in 2011 is close to 10 percent higher than the numbers from 2010. For the entire year, there were close to 700 cyclists killed across the nation. If that isn't bad enough, there were another 50,000 cyclists seriously injured in motor vehicle traffic accidents.

Most of these bicyclist fatalities, 201 (or about 30 percent), occurred between the hours of 4:00 p.m. and 7:59 p.m. The second-highest number of fatalities, 142 (or just more than 20 percent), occurred between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and 11:59 p.m. The fewest bicyclist fatalities occurred between the hours of midnight and 3:59 a.m. It's during the evening hours that you need to be safe and have your attention on your surroundings. If you can, avoid traveling during this time. But if you have to, please do so cautiously.

We're not placing any blame on cyclists. In fact, we want to give you a high five for getting out there, getting active and helping to make our community greener. Unfortunately, not many motorists share the sentiment. Many times, bicyclists are overlooked on our roadways, if not outright disrespected. Although cyclists share the same road and adhere to the same laws as motor vehicle drivers, they're not treated the same. It's important to remember that bicyclists have rights.

It's not a kid's game either. Older bicycle riders face some serious risks. As a matter of fact, the average age of bicyclists killed in traffic accidents in 2011 was 43. During the
last 10 years, that age has been steadily increasing.

Officials with the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) have NCDOT launched a project (the Statewide Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan) to improve walking and bicycling conditions statewide and develop a vision for the future of bicycling and walking in the state. Important tasks included reviewing the current status of bicycling and walking safety, researching appropriate strategies for improvement, and identifying the most efficient avenues to apply those strategies.

Bicyclists don't have the safe places they need to bike in too many areas of the state. Whether they're doing it for their health, for exercise or for transportation, we need to make sure they have a safe, more efficient way to get around.

It's important that drivers keep a lookout for these vulnerable travelers. Look before making turns or lane changes in traffic. Your extra second could mean the different between life and death for a bicyclist who could be a neighbor, coworker or friend.

Continue reading "Bicyclists Falling Victim to Irresponsible Drivers" »

April 27, 2013

Rock Hill Injury Lawyers Lament Long History of Industrial Accident Prevention Failures

The deadly explosion at a fertilizer plant in Texas recently has raised a host of questions about the safety of our industrial facilities.
As tragic as this incident was, our Rock Hill personal injury lawyers know it should not have been a total surprise to the company, considering a 2011 risk assessment report in which the firm told the Environmental Protection Agency that, yes, it had 54,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia on site, but there was absolutely no danger of an explosion or a fire.

Yet, here we are in the wake of an explosion involving that very chemical that killed 14 people and injured another 200 - most first-responders - and destroyed some 50 homes with a blast that could be felt an astonishing 50 miles away.

No risk? By whose standards?

What's especially troubling is that notice of the storage of another chemical at the factory, ammonium nitrate, wasn't even reported to the EPA by the company. This chemical is even more volatile than anhydrous ammonia, which is only flammable in conditions of extreme heat.

Even worse, this was not even the worst explosion in our nation's history by any means. In fact, the West, TX explosion happened almost 66 years to the day after the most deadly industrial accident in America. That case too happened in Texas, less than 250 miles away from this one.

It was April 17, 1947 when a plant in Texas City caught fire, thanks to a boat that had docked nearby, which had caught fire. It too contained ammonium nitrate fertilizer. As firefighters began to battle the blaze, the ship - and its combustible cargo - exploded. A 15-foot tidal wave was generate that flooded a huge swath of the city. Buildings were destroyed. A barge was blasted out of the water, landing more than 100 feet inland. Earthquake seismologists in Denver, several hundred miles away, were actually able to measure the blast on the Richter scale.

By the time the wreckage was cleared, a total of 581 people were found to have died.

A few years before that, in Port Chicago near San Francisco, some 400 tons of explosives were docked in a war ship that exploded shortly after 10:15 p.m. one night. Nearly 400 were injured and 320 died - all soldiers, most of them black Navy soldiers.

Thirty years before that, about 150 people died within a matter of 20 minutes in a garment factory in New York, where the majority of workers were teen immigrants who worked in crowded spaces for stretches of 12 hours at a time with very little compensation. A fire broke out.

The list of safety oversights were almost too numerous to count. There were only two fire escapes. Exit doors were locked to prevent workers from leaving during their breaks. Others were blocked by scraps of fabric. Ladders owned by the fire departments were too short to reach the upper levels. The water pressure in the hoses was too weak to make much of a dent.

The building had been deemed fireproof, yet it burned to the ground.

When we look back in American history, it's important to see how far we've come in terms of industrial working conditions. But in examining the details of what happened recently in Texas, it appears we still have so much farther to go.

Continue reading "Rock Hill Injury Lawyers Lament Long History of Industrial Accident Prevention Failures" »

April 26, 2013

Anderson Injury Lawyers Urge Awareness of Alcohol Dangers in April

April is an appropriate month for national alcohol danger awareness, particularly for teens, on the heels of spring break and as we approach a steady stream of prom festivities and graduation parties.
Our Anderson personal injury lawyers know that a huge portion of the cases that are brought to us involve alcohol either directly or indirectly, most often involving alcohol consumption by someone operating a motor vehicle.

Teens are more at risk, especially this time of year, because they are less experienced behind the wheel, less likely to know their limits with alcohol, have more opportunities and are under a greater amount of peer pressure to drink toward the end of the school year.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving notes that when compared to classmates who don't drink, high schoolers who imbibe are more likely to die in a car crash, become pregnant, fail out of school, be a victim of sexual assault, become addicted to alcohol and to commit suicide.

Some three-quarters of teenagers say their parents are their No. 1 influence when it comes to their decision of whether or not to drink alcohol. Consider that 65 percent of eighth-graders reported alcohol was easy to obtain, with 35 percent saying they had consumed alcohol within the last 30 days.

The Centers for Disease Control reports that in 2011, nearly 1 million teens drank alcohol before driving. Car crashes have remained the top cause of death for teens between the ages of 16 and 19, and alcohol is involved in about a third of these crashes. April is one of the deadliest months of the year for teen drivers, for the reasons we stated earlier.

South Carolina is among the worst in this regard, with the CDC reporting that between 11.3 and 14.5 percent of teens 16 and older who reported having driven drunk at some point.

There are many resources that involve how to talk to your teen about alcohol use. The National Institutes of Health recommend starting with a foundation of the following:

  • Establish an open line of communication. You want to make it easy for your teenager to talk to you about anything. This involves initiating conversations, asking open-ended questions and controlling your emotions when you hear something you don't like. Try to stay away from lecturing; make it a conversation.

  • Make sure your child knows you care. Your counsel isn't going to mean much if your teen doesn't believe you care that much in the first place. Spend one-on-one time together in which you provide your loving, undivided attention.

  • Set clear and realistic expectations for behavior. Establish consistent and appropriate consequences for breaking the rules.

MADD says it's important for parents to drive home the following points:

  • Drinking is illegal for teens;

  • Drinking and driving is illegal for everyone - and there is a very good reason for that;

  • Drinking affects the brain, particularly in terms of good judgement, and a person who is intoxicated is not going to be a good judge of whether they are Ok to get behind the wheel;

  • Discuss ways to resist the intensive peer pressure that might accompany prom and graduation season.

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April 24, 2013

Dog Bites a Spring Danger in the Carolinas

While we consider dog to be man's best friend, it's important to remember that dogs are not four-legged humans. Their methods of communication are different than ours -- and especially of our children's.

Dogs speak mainly through body language, which can be oftentimes overlooked or misunderstood by our youngest family members. It's important that we talk with our youngsters and make sure they understand these movements and what they mean. Misunderstandings can lead to accidents, injuries and even fatalities.
Our Greensboro dog bite injury attorneys understand it's important that our children understand how a pups thinks, how they're provoked and how to stay safe around them. One of the best ways you can do this is to set a good example. Many times, children with mimic how their parents act with dogs, just as they mimic everything around them.

He are some simple safety tips for your child:

-Never leave your child alone with a dog. Always make sure they're properly supervised. Supervision means being watched, not just standing in the same room.

-Make sure children know never to approach a dog that they do not know.

-Make sure there is somewhere your dog can go to get away from your child. This can help to relieve tension.

-Make sure children don't play with dogs while they're sleeping, eating or nursing.

-Before playing with a dog, make sure that you allow them to sniff you. This is how dogs get acquainted with who you are.

-Don't expect children under the age of 6 to be responsible for a pet or to have a full understanding of the risks involved in handling a dog.

According to the American Humane Association, there are more than 4.5 million dog bites that happen every year in the U.S. Close to 1 million of those bites require medical care. More than 90 percent of fatal dog bite accidents involve male dogs, close to 95 percent of them which weren't neutered. About 25 percent of all fatal dog bite attacks involve dogs that were chained at the time of the attack. More than 70 percent of these bites happen to a victim's extremities, like the hands, feet, legs and arms. In a good majority of all recorded dog bite accidents, the victim was bitten on their own property and even knew the dog that bit them.

These aren't cheap accidents either. According to the most recent statistics, the insurance industry dishes our more than $1 billion in these kinds of claims each and every year.

What's worse is that about half of all of the recorded accidents occurred to those who were under the age of 12. More than 80 percent of the dog bites that were treated in the emergency room were for children under the age of 15. Of all the reported fatalities from these incidents, about 70 percent were children under the age of 10.

Make sure you're keeping the conversation going about dog safety with your children. Make sure they understand how dogs act and what their movements mean. Understanding is the key factor in helping to prevent these attacks.

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April 22, 2013

Preventing Underride in Carolina Trucking Accidents

For the most part, the underride guards of large, commercial trucks are doing a good job in helping to protect passenger vehicle occupants.

The standards for the strength of these guards have improved in recent years -- and we're all safer for it. On the other hand these guards are primarily helping to prevent injury in straight-on rear-end accidents, and not when passenger vehicles make contact with side portions of the rear of these trucks.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), most semi-trucks are required to have these underride guards. Officials with IIHS are pushing to get these guards on even more vehicles though -- including dump trucks. These guards are steel bars that hang from the back of a large trailer or truck to help to keep passenger vehicles from sliding underneath in the event of a collision. Back in 2011, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) enacted tougher standards for these guards following a number of studies that proved they initial standards weren't strong enough. Unfortunately, Canada still has better standards.

Our Asheville trucking accident lawyers understand that our passenger vehicles don't stand much of a chance against large, commercial vehicles. We should rely on our safe driving habits to keep us out of accidents with these trucks, but we should also be able to rely on their underride guards to help to protect us in the event of an unavoidable accident.

The IIHS is working for tougher standards, but still haven't heard back from the NHTSA. According to recent IIHS studies, these guards generally work well to prevent underride, except in crashes occurring at the outer edges of trailers. It's time to make them work under all conditions.

The good news is that many underride guards do meet the current standards. As a matter of fact, many of them exceed the current standards. Officials believe that this is because the trucks are keeping up with the Canadian standards. Still, all of this is virtually worthless if you're slamming into only a portion of the rear end of a truck.

In 2011, less than 300 of the estimated 2,240 passenger vehicle occupants who were killed in accidents with a large truck were killed when the front of their vehicle slammed into the back of a truck. While that's still an alarmingly high number, that's a number that was nearly cut in half since 2004. Although many would like to credit the tougher standards for this decrease, officials also place a large part of the credit to the fact that both trucks and passenger car drivers have been spending less time on the road with our struggling economy.

In the meantime, we're asking drivers to be on their best behavior out there while sharing the road with these large trucks. You never want to travel too closely. They take a lot longer than we do to stop, and your risks for a rear-end accidents jump when you don't allow any ample amount of following space. Back off and stay safe.

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