April 9, 2013

Carolina DUI Accidents & The BAC Debate

In the United States, everyone knows that a blood-alcohol content of .08 or higher means you are above the legal limit. However, few stop to question how or why the government came up with the .08 number or whether this is really a reasonable way to determine when someone is intoxicated. 806619_tequila_and_flower.jpg

Our Spartanburg accident lawyers know that other countries and locations throughout the world have different ideas when it comes to drunk driving. For example, according to the International Business Times, one Irish town that recently relaxed its drunk driving laws still has tougher laws than those that exist throughout the United States.

Drunk Driving Limits
According to the International Business Times, the local government in Ireland voted in January to permit people in certain isolated areas to drive after they had consumed a couple of drinks of alcohol.

Politicians in favor of loosening the drunk driving laws expressed the belief that rural residents might want to head out to the pub occasionally and, in fact, that doing so could help to prevent mental illnesses. The politicians argue that these rural drivers were not likely to become involved in crashes on deserted country roads and thus advocated loosening the BAC rules for when they would be considered too drunk to drive back home.

This may sound shocking and dangerous, until you consider the fact that their looser laws are still more stringent than the "strict" laws we have in the United States. Under the new laws in Ireland, for example, drivers are now permitted to drive on rural roads if they have a BAC of up to .07. This gives more leeway than the normal rule that indicates a driver is drunk if he has a BAC of .05. Of course, .07 is still below the legal limit of .08 in the United States.

The BAC requirements have changed over time in the U.S., and for decades the limit was between .10 and .15. However, in 1995, a report was published by National Highway Traffic Safety Administrators indicated that the increase in accidents once a driver has a BAC of .08 or higher is significant. In general, the accident risk directly correlates with drunk driving, going up as the BAC level of the driver rises. However, the increase in crashes rises rapidly after the driver has a BAC above .08.

This study, other scientific studies like it and pressure from groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, already brought the BAC limit down from where it was in the past to the current .08 level. When the BAC legislation went into effect and set the bar at .08 to determine illegality, driver deaths in alcohol-related dropped significantly. The exact decline in the number of drunk driving deaths varies from location to location, with a 4 percent reduction in alcohol-related fatality crashes in California as compared with a 40 percent drop in Vermont.

So despite what Ireland is doing with its DUI laws (or may not be doing since the proposition passed by the legal council may actually have no legal status), you can rest assured that the laws in the U.S. have made a difference in keeping people safe. However, a tougher BAC law might do more.

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April 6, 2013

Buckling Up a Lot Less Trouble Than Coping with Injury

When you get into your car, it takes a split second to buckle your seat belt. Unfortunately, it also takes just a split second to get involved in a car accident. If you've taken the time to buckle up, you're likely to fare a lot better if your vehicle is involved in a crash.

Yet, despite how easy it is to take the steps to save your own life, there are a surprising number of drivers who make the choice not to buckle up. 602535_seatbelt.jpg

In fact, according to Health Canal, around 15 percent of drivers and passengers who sit in the front seat of a car do not regularly buckle their seatbelts. Our Greenville accident attorneys know that drivers tend to buckle up more for longer trips than they do for shorter ones. Unfortunately, this isn't good enough and drivers need to buckle up every single time they get into a car if they want to keep themselves safe.

Drivers on Shorter Trips Often Neglect to Buckle
Health Canal reported on a recent study conducted by researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. The study was focused on the factors that affect a driver's decision about whether to buckle up. Buckling a seat belt can decrease the risk of becoming involved in a fatal car accident by 45 percent, so it is surprising that there are so many drivers who refrain from putting their seat belt on every time. Researchers wanted to learn more.

The study attempted to identify why occasional seat-belt wearers didn't buckle up every time. A total of 100 cars were studied, with 108 primary and 299 secondary drivers. The driving of those in the study was monitored over the course of a year and data was collected from 150,000 driving trips.

The results shouldn't come as that big of a surprise. For example, the study revealed that drivers tend to buckle up for longer trips and/or trips on high speed roads at greater frequency than they do on shorter trips on local roads. When the trip had an average speed of 30 miles per hour, for example, 72.7 percent of occasional bucklers (someone who buckles up sometimes but not all the time) would have their seat belt on. However, when the trip had an average speed of 50 miles per hour, a much higher percentage- 89 percent of occasional bucklers- would have their seat belts on.

Researchers believe road type was the primary factor in this difference, not speed limits. Data from a GPS sensor was used to confirm that theory and the GPS Information did show that occasional belt users buckle up more on interstates, regardless of speed, when compared with secondary roads.

Unfortunately, many crashes happen not on long trips on highways but on the local roads that are traveled most frequently. Drivers, therefore, should be sure to buckle up for any trip even if they are just going up the street. While it may seem inconvenient at first to have to buckle every time, the inconvenience is nothing compared to the hardship that can occur in situations where you get into a crash and get seriously hurt because you have no seat belt on.

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April 3, 2013

Car Safety Tips Every Parent Should Know to Avoid Accident Injuries

Our Rock Hill accident attorneys know that car accidents are a leading cause of death for children. While teen drivers often put themselves in bad situations when they get behind the wheel, younger children are at risk of dying or being seriously injured in a car accident when traveling with parents or other adults in the car. 1155335_giraffe_in_baby_seat_.jpg

While kids are supposed to be in car seats and booster seats to ensure they are safe, the CDC indicates that as many as 72 percent of car seats may be misused in a manner that makes kids more likely to get hurt. Some parents aren't even aware of the requirement for car seat use nor of other important safety rules intended to avoid injuring children in auto accidents.

To help parents become better informed about how to keep their children safe in cars, Safer Car.gov provides many resources including informative tips on child safety seat use. The information is available in the Parent's Guide to Playing it Safe with Kids and Cars.

Parent Safety Tips for Children in Cars
Safer Car provides four basic pieces of advice that every single parent should be sure to follow. This advice includes:

  • Always using a car seat for every trip even for short ones when you are just going down the street. Most car accidents happen not on long trips but instead when you are close to home. An unrestrained child could be seriously hurt in an accident that occurs anywhere, including when you are running routine errands very close to where you live. In general, kids should be in car or booster seats until around age eight but this will vary depending upon the requirements of your state as well as the height and weight of your child.
  • Selecting a car seat appropriately sized to your child. You will need to take both age and size into account when shopping for the right car seat. Directions provided by the manufacturer should also be followed carefully both in terms of size/weight limits as well as in terms of use.
  • Ensuring the car seat is compatible with the car that you drive. The manufacturer of the car seat should be able to provide this information to you and the information is often found in the instructions for the carseat.
  • Ensuring that children sit in the back until they are age 12 or older. A front air bag is designed for an adult-sized person, not for a child. If an accident were to happen with a child in the front seat, then the child could be seriously hurt by the airbag, which inflates at a rate of around 200 miles-per-hour.

Safer Car also provides links to additional resources that parents can use to learn more and to provide even better protection for their kids. For example, there is a link that offers guidance in what to look for when buying a vehicle. Information on child car seat installation (including a video) is also available. This information can be invaluable in arming parents with the tools they need to ensure that the car is a safe place for their young passengers.

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March 31, 2013

Dog Bite Injuries in Carolinas a Spring Risk

Dogs may be mans best friend, but unfortunately they aren't always so friendly. The American Humane Association estimates that around 4.7 million dog bites occur each year in the United States, approximately 800,000 of which are serious enough that the bite victim needs medical care. These dog bites cause more than $1 billion in insurance claims to be paid out. 1267447_muzzled.jpg

Our Charlotte dog bite lawyers know that the spring and summer season may be the times when people are most at risk of dog bites. Kids and adults tend to spend more time outside during the warm seasons where they may encounter dogs who bite, and dogs may also be more likely to be outdoors once the weather is warm. More interaction with dogs outdoors can potentially up the chances of bite incidents occurring.

Dog bites can cause lasting disfigurement, serious harm and sometimes death, especially when a child is bitten. Avoiding a dog attack and preventing a dog bite from occurring are very important and dog owners and individuals should all be aware of how to stay safe to minimize the risk of dog attacks from occurring.

Safety Tips for Dog Owners
Dog owners are ultimately responsible for the behavior of their dogs and can be held liable if a dog bite or a dog attack occurs. As such, dog owners should do everything possible to ensure their dogs don't bite. Some tips include:

  • Keeping dogs on a leash at all times. Most areas throughout North Carolina have leash laws or ordinances requiring dogs to be leashed.
  • Ensuring your yard is dog-proof or that your dogs are kept in a secured area when let outdoors. You should never let your dog roam free since your dog could get hurt or hurt someone else.
  • Socializing puppies to new experiences. The best way to prevent a dog bite is to make sure your dog is not aggressive. A great deal of aggression is caused by fear, and you can help to make your dog more comfortable and less prone to fear by providing proper socialization as a puppy.
  • Keeping aggressive dogs contained. A dog that seems to present a bite risk should be kept away from areas where the dog might hurt someone. If the dog has to be in a public area, the use of a muzzle is appropriate.
  • Seeking behavioral training for bad behaviors. If your dog shows aggression or fails to be obedient to you, then you may wish to find a trainer who can help you to solve your problems before something bad happens.

By following these basic safety tips, you can help to ensure that your dog doesn't hurt anyone.

Safety Tips for Individuals

Even the best trained dog could bite when provoked. As such, everyone has the responsibility to try to keep himself or herself safe from becoming the victim of a dog attack. Tips to do this include:

  • Refraining from approaching dogs you do not know. If you wish to pet or interact with a dog, ask the dog's owner first.

  • Greeting dogs in a calm manner by holding out your hand to let the dog sniff it first. Avoid approaching dogs you don't know head-on or overly aggressively as this can be seen as a threat.

  • Supervising your kids when they are interacting with dogs.

  • Leaving animals alone when they are eating and not taking things from dogs such as toys or food.

  • Remaining calm and still. If you shout or try to run away when confronted by a stray dog or a potentially dangerous dog, you can increase the chances of getting hurt since the dog may see you as prey.

While an individual who is bit by a dog can generally hold the dog's owner accountable depending upon the circumstances, you cannot make a claim against a dog's owner if you were bit after provoking the dog. Treat dogs with respect and you should hopefully be able to avoid a bite or attack.

Continue reading "Dog Bite Injuries in Carolinas a Spring Risk" »

March 29, 2013

Swimming Pool Safety Tips for the Spring Season

In July of 2012, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services sent out an alert urging people to use caution around water. The alert was sent out after six accidental drowning deaths had occurred in the state since Memorial Day, two of which involved kids under the age of 18. 1340372_infinity_pool_4.jpg

Our Charlotte swimming pool accident lawyers know that swimming pools are an attractive place to be on a summer afternoon and that kids and adults alike are drawn to pools to cool off. Unfortunately, swimming pools and other bodies of water are dangerous places where people of any age could drown within just a matter of minutes. As the weather gets warmer, it is important to keep the risks associated with swimming pools in mind and to ensure you are doing everything possible to be safe.

Safety Tips for Swimming Pool Owners
Pool owners are the first line of defense when it comes to swimming pool safety. If you have a pool in your home, it is very important to ensure that the pool area is securely fenced and that children are not able to get into the pool unsupervised.

If you leave the gate open or your pool is accessible to kids, you create a dangerous situation where a child could be hurt or killed and you could become liable. This is tragic for everyone involved, with the child losing his or her life and the pool owner potentially subject to a lawsuit.

Pool owners also need to be careful of their own kids, family members and friends. No one should use the pool without supervision or a buddy there with them, and safety equipment should be accessible from the pool. Refraining from alcohol (and making sure other swimmers do too) and avoiding swimming when overtired are also both helpful tips to avoid swimming pool accidents.

Safety Tips for Swimmers and for Parents
Pool owners can control access to the pool and make sure that the swimming pool area is safe. However, the behavior of swimmers and the behavior of parents supervising their kids will also have a major impact on whether a pool is a fun place to be or a dangerous one.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services recommends that kids be taught to swim as early as possible. If a child- and especially a young child-knows how to swim, the child will be less at risk of drowning if he or she accidentally falls into a swimming pool.

Parents also need to supervise their kids at all times and no one should ever swim alone. If you start to drown, you can usually make a full recovery if you are rescued after a minute or less. Once a longer period of time passes, however, the chances of permanent brain damage or death increase. By having someone there with you and watching you when you swim, or by keeping a close eye on your kids, you can make sure that when trouble starts there is someone there to help right away.

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March 27, 2013

Back Injuries Common After Car Accidents - NASCAR's Denny Hamlin Suffers Compression Fraction

According to Washington Post Sports, Denny Hamlin flew home to North Carolina on Monday March 25th to be evaluated by a specialist at Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates. 467188_draft.jpg

Hamlin had been eagerly awaiting his return from a Southern California hospital where he was airlifted after an accident at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana sent him careening into the inside wall on the last lap of Sunday's event. In fact, the Post reports that he tweeted his desire to just go home several days ago. The Nascar driver was in the hospital awaiting his return to the Carolinas because he had suffered a serious back injury after a car accident while racing. Our Carolina car accident attorneys know that Hamlin, like many other accident victims, may have a lengthy recovery period as a result of the damage to his back.

Hamlin Suffers Back Injury
Hamlin is the driver of the No. 11 Toyota and was participating in Sunday's Auto Club 400 at the Auto Club Speedway. His car came into contact with Joey Logano as both were exiting the fourth turn of the two mile raceway. Unfortunately, Hamlin's vehicle then struck the inside wall and Hamlin was injured.

Hamlin's injuries consisted of a compression factor of his L1 vertebrae. This is one of the vertebrae (bones) along the spinal cord. A compression fracture is a collapse of the vertebrae caused by trauma. There was concern that the back injury would necessitate surgery. However, after the Nascar driver was evaluated in North Carolina, it was determined that no operation would be necessary.

While he does not need surgery, Hamlin will still have a lengthy recovery period. According to the Nascar website, he may be out for as long as six weeks and could miss at least five races as a result of the injuries.

Back Injuries from Car Accidents
Hamlin's back injury occurred under unique circumstances as part of a NASCAR race. Unfortunately, the sad fact is that even people who don't drive for a living are at risk of getting into car accidents and could suffer serious back injuries as a result.

Car accidents typically result in pressure and impact traveling from the car into your body. You may be abruptly thrust forward or backward in the crash and, in many cases, your back absorbs the force of the impact and/or is bent out of position.

Some of the common car accident back injuries that occur include lumbar sprains and strains; fractures of the lumbar or thoracic vertebrae, and herniated discs. Soft tissue and spinal cord injuries are also common results of auto accidents that can necessitate expensive recovery and impose significant limitations on your mobility.

The accident involving Denny Hamlin underscores how long the recovery process can be when a back injury happens. Unfortunately, ongoing medical care and treatment over a six week period can be very expensive. Those who aren't NASCAR stars and who are hurt in auto accidents during a regular drive will need to ensure they can cover their costs during recovery. A lawsuit against the driver who caused the crash can be the best way to ensure the bills get paid.

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March 24, 2013

Distracted Driving Awareness Month Aims to Prevent Car Accidents

The National Safety Council (NSC) launches many education initiatives and efforts to try to keep drivers safe in the Carolinas and throughout the U.S. Many agencies are promoting Distracted Driving Month, to remind motorists of the danger throughout the month of Apirl. 993854_cell_phone_4.jpg

Distracted Driving Month begins on the 1st of April, but unlike April Fools Day pranks, distracted driving is a deadly serious problem. Our Charlotte accident lawyers know that almost 33,000 people were killed in crashes in the U.S. in 2010 and NSC indicates that approximately 24 percent of all crashes occur due to drivers using cell phones. Other distractions can also make roads dangerous, but NSC calls out cell phone use as worthy of special concern, so the use of phones is a major focus during distracted driving awareness month.

NSC Efforts to Educate the Public on Distracted Driving
National Safety Council has many different types of educational and informational material available on its website to help people to learn of the dangers of distracted driving during the April awareness month. For example, posters are available and there is a white paper that helps to explain the distracted brain.

One of the most important tools on the website, however, is the pledge to drive cell free . Every driver should take this pledge and make up the decision to give up using their cell phones when they are driving. NSC's reasons for focusing on cell phone use include:

  • Risk: NSC points out that the dangers of cell phone use are just as bad whether you're using a cell phone or a hands free device. Either way, you're four times as likely to crash.

  • Frequency: NSC says that around 9 percent of all drivers on the road at any one time are on a cell phone. More drivers are on their phones than doing any other type of distracting behavior.

  • Prevalence: Greater than two out of every three drivers reported in a survey that they'd talked on their cell phone while driving in the past month.

NSC believes the combined risk of a crash coupled with the frequency of cell phone use in cars makes this behavior especially deadly. Yet, as the Governor's Highway Safety Association reports, only 10 states have imposed a statewide ban on all handheld cell phone use by all drivers. This means lots of people are likely going to continue to drive and talk as long as it is legal- even though it is still really dangerous.

With efforts like April's Distracted Driving Awareness Month, however, hopefully fewer people will decide to talk on their phones once they have been made aware of how risky it is. However, NSC cautions that education alone can only go so far and encourages both tougher laws as well as visible enforcement efforts of distracted driving laws.

Past public service campaigns have made a difference on action but people are far more likely to make the safe and smart choice when forced to do so by laws. As NSC points out, for example, only about 14 percent of people regularly wore their seatbelts in 1981 (and this was after 15 years of effort). In the last two decades, though, enforcement and stronger laws have resulted in about 84 percent of people wearing seat belts today.

Hopefully states will toughen up their distracted driving laws and the laws as well as public education efforts will make a difference in the number of people on cell phones. In the meantime, you can sign the pledge and vow not to be one of the people making the roads more risky for everyone.

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March 23, 2013

New Information on Traumatic Brain Injury Could Lead to Medical Breakthroughs

Our Winston-Salem accident attorneys know that traumatic brain injury has devastating symptoms including cognitive and memory problems; seizures; mood changes and a host of other medical complications.

Unfortunately, traumatic brain injury can occur for lots of different reasons including car wrecks, sports injuries, slip and falls and workplace injuries. In many cases, your injury can not only cause you immediate problems but could also result in neurological impairment later in life. 880737_brain_001.jpg

Treatments of traumatic brain injury are limited, preventing future neurological damage impossible, and many people do not ever fully recover when they have suffered brain trauma. Unfortunately, this can mean that those who are injured need lifelong medical care and cannot work. Doctors and researchers are continually looking for solutions to help those suffering from brain injury and to find new ways to prevent permanent harm from occurring. A new study may represent a breakthrough.

New Study on Traumatic Brain Injury
According to a March 6 publication on Medical Xpress, researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center and the Cleveland Clinic have discovered that the degeneration resulting from brain injury may be caused by an autoimmune response, similar to multiple sclerosis (MS).

Researchers indicated that certain types of head injuries or certain traumas to the brain can result in the blood-brain barrier opening up. They recognized that S100B was found in the blood samples of football players after the players completed a game, even though the players did not exhibit any evidence of having a concussion at the time.

S100B is a protein marker that is known to be commonly found in brain injury victims. When you have S100B in the body, antibodies are triggered to fight it. These antibodies accumulate in the blood, and they may cross the blood-brain barrier and leak into the brain. When the antibodies leak into the brain, an autoimmune response is triggered. It is this autoimmune response, similar to the response that occurs in MS patients, that may cause the lasting neurological problems suffered later in life by head injury victims.

Based on this finding, it is possible that researchers may now be able to identify new drug therapies that help victims of brain injuries to better recover and avoid long term complications. It may also be possible to develop vaccines that can prevent long-term neurological damage resulting from serious brain injury.

Taking Action After You've Suffered a Brain injury
While the research is promising, brain injury victims will not find any easy or immediate cures to their health issues nor is there currently a way to ensure that a brain injury you sustain will not result in you suffering from serious neurological impairments later in life.

The person or entity that caused your brain trauma should be required to pay for all damages caused by their actions even if some of those damages- the later neurological impairments- are not immediately apparent. A lawyer can help you to review or negotiate your settlement and, in conjunction with projections from a medical doctor about your future health, can help you to ensure you get the money you'll need to care for your medical issues.

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March 19, 2013

Contamination at NC Marine Base May lead to Tort Claims

On March 14, 2013, NBC News published an article highlighting the dangers of contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune Marine base. Camp Lejeune is one of the most storied Marine bases in the United States, but new evidence shows contamination of the water supply at the base may go back for as long as 60 years. 1409533_glass_of_water_1.jpg

According to past estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it was thought that somewhere between 500,000 and 1 million people were exposed to contaminated drinking water at the Lejeune base between 1953 and 1987. New evidence, however, suggests that the contamination may go back even further to 1948. Our North Carolina injury attorneys know this means more people may have potentially been exposed to toxins and may have developed, or may be in danger of developing, serious health problems.

The Contaminated Drinking Water
It has long been established that there were several wells on the Lejeune Marine base that were contaminated with a variety of different chemicals. The contamination occurred because of fuel leaks and potentially because of a nearby dry-cleaning plant. However, while federal officials were aware of the contamination for years, it was not previously thought to extend back for as long as 60 years.

Past reports indicated that some of the wells were potentially tainted with trichloroethylene (TCE) between 1948 and 2008 while others were tainted with benzene between 1951 and 2008.

A new report, however, indicates that the TCE contamination may have begun either during construction in 1941 or right after construction in 1942. If this is the case, then the TCE may first have exceeded the maximum content level by 1948. A potential 60-year history of contamination is tragic and can have devastating outcomes for the Marines and their families who drank and bathed in the toxic water. The highest levels of TCE were reached in the 1970s, but anyone exposed during the time they lived on the base was potentially at risk.

Determining exactly who was affected by the toxins and how much contamination existed is complicated since different housing areas and office areas are affected in different ways. However, it is clear that Marines have complained that they and their family members, including children, have suffered from cancer as a result of the contaminated water.

Cancers caused by exposure to the toxins include fatal leukemia and breast cancer. The chemicals in the contaminated water at the marine supply may also cause kidney disease, aplastic anemia, lupus, infertility, Parkinson's disease and a host of other health problems.

Taking Action Due to Toxic Water Exposure
The federal government has taken responsibility for exposing the marines and their families on the base to toxins, and those exposed can seek compensation and medical care through the government. With the new report indicating that the exposure to toxins from contaminated wells may have occurred sooner, it is possible more people will now be eligible for compensation.

In many cases, those who are exposed to toxic chemicals in the water, at work or anywhere else often have a very hard time obtaining compensation since it can be challenging to prove that there is a clear link between the toxic exposure and illness that often develop much later in life. In this case, the Marines and their families are fortunate that at least their bills are being taken care of and that money is available to help meet their needs.

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March 15, 2013

New OSHA Standards to Keep Kids Safe in Cribs and Play Yards

Officials with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recently announced tougher safety standards for child play yards. The new rules took effect in late January and they require all importers and manufactures of toddler and infant play yards to test them to make sure they're meeting the new standards.
Our Asheville child injury attorneys understand that parents expect these play yards to be a safe and reliable spot to keep our children. Unfortunately, there were holes in the safety standards that allowed these young children to face serious risks. As you may know, these play yards are areas that are framed and enclosed with a floor and a fabric or mesh side panels. These play areas can be folded up for easy moving or for storage. Unfortunately, their design wasn't as safe as it should be. And that's why OSHA officials stepped up to the plate.

Under the new play yard standards:

-The side rails of these play areas cannot form a sharp-V shape -- especially when folded. The elimination of this sharp V will help to eliminate the strangulation risks for children.

-The corner brackets on these devices are to be made stronger. This is going to help to eliminate sharp-edged cracks. The stronger brackets will also help to reduce the chances of these devices collapsing.

-The mattress attachments are required to be stronger. This is to help to keep the mattress down and to reduce the risks of children getting caught underneath. This is also going to reduce risks of them getting trapped, injured or suffocated.

All of these new standards fall under the Danny Keysar Child Product Safety Notification Act. This act is also referred to as "Danny's Law" and was named after a young child who died in a play yard in Chicago in 1998. He was napping in a play yard that had been recalled. It collapsed and he wound up suffocating.

For parents, it's not only important to make sure that you have a safe play yard and crib for your young ones, but it's important that you know how to properly use these devices. Every year, there are about 700 children under the age of 1 who are killing because of pillows and cushions placed in these areas. It's important that parents and guardians know what's safe for their young ones. About 60 percent of these fatalities are the result of suffocation from these items.

The safest place for your child to sleep is in a crib or in a play yard that meets these CPSC standards. This means that there should be no pillows, thick blankets, stuffed toys, or any other large items. If you're worried about your child getting cold, your best bet is to dress them in warm clothes. Blankets and quilts are more dangerous than warm.

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March 12, 2013

Fatigued Trucker Accused of Carolina Accident, Killing 5

A trucker from Wisconsin is looking at years behind bars after a serious traffic accident in North Carolina. The trucker pleaded guilty after slamming his big rig into a line of stopped traffic along Interstate 26. According to JS Online, 5 people were killed in this accident. The driver pleaded guilty to five counts of involuntary manslaughter from the October accident. Three of the victims were from Hendersonville. The two others were from Lexington. A judge sentenced the 50-year-old Bulgarian immigrant to between 48 months and 60 months in prison.
According to authorities, the driver was heading east on the interstate when his big rig slammed into a line of cars that were stopped by another accident. Officials say that the truck was traveling at about 70 miles per hour when the accident happened. They say it happened because the driver was fatigued.

Our Charlotte trucking accident lawyers understand that the U.S. government has already established laws regulating exactly how long a commercial driver can work in a given period of time. These laws were enacted to help to protect both the truck drivers and the motorists. Fatigued and drowsy driving is unsafe for everyone on the road.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), drivers are not allowed to drive more than 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off the clock. They're also not allowed to drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive hours off duty. Off-duty time does not extend the 14-hour period.

According to DrowsyDriving.org, there are about 100,000 accidents that are reported every year as a result of driver fatigue. Unfortunately, the actual number may be a lot higher as there's no real way to determine if a driver is drowsy or tired behind the wheel. We've got breathalyzers to test to see if drivers are under the influence, but nothing to test for drowsiness. With what we know, officials predict that drowsy and fatigued driving contributes to close to 2,000 fatalities and more than 70,000 injuries each and every year. These accidents are costly, too. Officials estimate that these accidents run a tab of more than $12 million in monetary losses.

Close to 75 percent of American adults drive a vehicle to and from work. Many of them are drowsy drivers. The ones who are driving while on the job may be even worse. Imagine spending more than 10 hours behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. You'd get tired, too. That's why it's important that our truckers are getting the rest that they need. Their trucks serve as death weapons out on our roadways. Our passenger vehicles stand little to no chance against the size, weight and power of these big rigs.

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March 7, 2013

NCDOT Wants Your Opinion on Bike and Walk Plan

Officials with the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) are all about getting you to your destination as quickly as possible -- if you're in a motor vehicle. But now, officials are also working on a draft of a statewide biking and walking plan.
The Statewide Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan has officials looking to determine how the state is going to invest in these modes of transportation. Officials are working on a blueprint that will help to improve biking and walking in communities and they're looking to do it by investing in bike lanes, sidewalks and greenways.

Our Asheville personal injury attorneys understand that residents can add their two cents about this plan. All you have to do is visit Walk Bike NC, review the plan and let officials know what you think. Remember to do it quickly! If you want to submit your comments, you better do so by April 30th.

How do these investments help us?

-Biking and walking helps to promote physical, social and mental well-being by helping to provide outdoor places to exercise, relax and socialize.

-Helps to provide easy biking or walking connections between schools, neighborhoods and trails.

-Increases property values, helps to promote tourism and works to foster local businesses by encouraging these easy and convenient modes of transportation.

-Helps to improve overall quality of life.

Unfortunately, biking and walking in NC may not be the easiest -- or the safest. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were close to 25 bicyclists who were killed in traffic accidents in North Carolina in 2010. Pedestrians were no safer. As a matter of fact, they were worse off. In 2010, North Carolina saw close to 200 pedestrian fatalities.

Until we get those much-needed sidewalks and bike lanes, we're turning our attention to drivers. It's important to remember that these travelers have a right to our roadways, too. We need to treat them with the respect of any of driver out there. Be sure to keep your distance from these travelers as they're much more likely to be seriously injured, and even killed, in the event of an accident. They don't stand a chance.

Walkers and bicyclists are asked to do their job, too. Stay as far away from vehicular traffic as possible. Make sure drivers can see you -- wear bright-colored clothing and make your maneuvers predictable. When you're crossing the street, the most important thing to remember is to make eye contact with drivers before doing so. You want to ensure that they see you.

Drivers are asked to be safe out there, and be on the lookout for our two-footed and two-wheeled friends. Their safety relies on you!

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March 3, 2013

Carolina Nursing Home Neglect: Nurse Lets Patient Die

Nursing home abuse and neglect is a major problem throughout the Carolinas and throughout the United States. One recent tragic case making headlines, however, is an egregious example of a retirement community that failed to provide even the most basic of assistance to a dying 87-year-old resident. The incident occurred when a nurse refused to provide CPR to a woman in an independent living community, resulting in the woman's death.

Our Charlotte injury attorneys believe that this tragic incident should be a wake up call to every single person entering a nursing home or admitting a parent or relative to an assisted or independent living community. The nurse and facility argue that they followed protocol as outlined in the nursing home contract. While it remains to be seen whether any action will be taken in civil or criminal court as a result of the events, this tragic incident is a key reminder that you must always read and understand your contract before entering into a retirement or elder living environment. Further, it is also a key reminder that you need to choose your living environment very carefully.

Nurse Refuses to Provide CPR To Patient
An article in USA Today published on March 4, 2013, relayed information about the incident in the independent living home that has been making nationwide headlines. According to the USA Today article, a nurse called 911 when an 87-year-old resident was in distress. The Dispatcher begged the nurse to perform CPR on the dying woman and asked whether there was anyone in the facility that was willing to help the woman and not let her die.

In response to the question, the nurse said "Um, not at this time." The dispatcher reminded the nurse that "it's a human being," but to no avail. On a tape of the call, the nurse could be heard telling someone else that the dispatcher was yelling at her and that she was not going to make the call on whether to perform CPR or not. Yet, no one came to the aid of the dying woman and the 87-year-old was declared dead at the hospital later that day.

While there has been a widespread public outcry as the tape was played on media stations and made national news, USA Today reported that the executive director of the assisted living facility defended the actions of the nurse because the nurse had followed policy.

The policy specified that emergency personnel would be called in during an emergency and that someone would wait with the patient in distress until help came. The independent living community had a contract in place that outlined the policy, and the director said that residents were informed of the no CPR rule when they moved in. At the adjacent assisted living and skilled nursing facilities, no such policy was in place.

USA Today reports that an investigation is underway by local police, as well as an internal investigation of the nursing home. According to their article, the daughter of the woman who died said she was not dissatisfied with the handling of the case since there was a do not resuscitate order on file. However, if the surviving family members had been displeased, then they might have been able to file a claim for nursing home neglect.

Of course, the existence of the contract and policy might have absolved the nurse and assisted living facility of the obligation to render aid, especially since there is no general duty to provide assistance to others under the law. However, a solid argument could also be made that it was grossly negligent to stand by and watch someone die who was under the care of the facility when simply performing CPR might have saved a life.

Without a lawsuit, the impact of the contract on liability for negligence in the death is something that an only be speculated about. It is clear, however, that this incident should serve as a very important reminder to ALWAYS check your nursing home or assisted living community paperwork before moving in so you know what your guaranteed rights are.... and aren't.

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March 2, 2013

Dangerously Exhausted Medical Residents and Patient Safety

On February 22nd, 2013, the Wall Street Journal tackled an important question. The question was whether medical residents are dangerously exhausted. Our Winston-Salem injury attorneys were very interested in the analysis and information presented in the article because we know that medical residents are often overworked and not given sufficient time to sleep. Sleep deprivation can compromise your faculties and cognitive abilities, and these overtired residents may, therefore, be dangerous if they are not equipped to provide reasonable patient care due to their fatigue.

The Rules on Medical Residents and Rest Periods

Before the year 2003, there were no laws, rules or regulations in place that set limits on the number of hours that a medical resident could work. This means that residents could theoretically work straight through all night and into the next day and could be kept working even as they grew more and more tired. The author of the Wall Street Journal article indicated he had experienced this himself, remaining awake for as long as 36-hours-at a time as a medical resident and becoming so tired by the time he left work that he fell asleep at stop lights on his ride home.

This situation was, of course, untenable since a doctor who is falling asleep on his feet is unlikely to provide the best quality of patient care. In 2003, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education took action and imposed an 80-hour-per week work limit for residents. Because this Accreditation program is in charge of determining which U.S. medical residency programs are accredited, this essentially created a de facto industry standard rule imposing a maximum 80-hour work week.

In 2011, the Accreditation Council decided that the 80-hour limit wasn't sufficient to protect the public from an overtired doctor. As such, they mandated that first year interns/residents could not work overnight or 24-hour shifts.

All of these limitations are, hopefully, going to help save lives. It is very clear that being awake for too long can be seriously impairing (in fact, this is why truck drivers have maximum drive time limits and why drowsy driving has become such a major concern). If limits are imposed on other professionals like truck drivers to avoid fatigue, it stands to reason that limits should be imposed to ensure that those who perform life-saving medical treatments don't do so after getting no sleep.

Unfortunately, as the Wall Street Journal author points out, there are costs to imposing limits like this as well. One issue is that handoffs from one doctor to another can be dangerous as crucial information vanishes in each shift. In some cases, it is even possible that the actual patient will become lost in the shuffle and may not get the necessary care.

The Wall Street Journal author also argues that the residents who are limited in their work time may not get sufficient exposure to the medical procedures they are expected to perform and the concepts they are expected to learn.

These are very valid concerns, and should be dealt with through appropriate policy adoptions including having strict guidelines on the handoff procedure and taking concrete steps to ensure that residents get real hands-on experience. It is clear, however, that having an overtired hospital worker is not good for anyone and could put the patient at risk. Every solution needs to be considered in light of what it takes to keep a patient safe from medical negligence or medical malpractice that causes harm.

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March 1, 2013

Death Rate of Teen Drivers Down in South Carolina

Auto accidents remain one of the top causes of death for teen drivers, and younger drivers face a significantly greater risk of becoming involved in a car wreck than their older peers. This is why our South Carolina personal injury attorneys were so happy to read the recent data indicating that young teen driver deaths had fallen in the state in 2012.

While it is great news that fewer teenage drivers died in 2012, however, the decline in deaths was only a small one. We still have a long way to go in making the roads as safe as they can be for young drivers and we encourage all teens and parents to remain vigilant about driver safety.

Teen Car Accident Deaths Declines in 2012
On March 5, 2013, The State published an article highlighting the good news from the Office of Highway Safety about the decline in the teen car accident death rate. According to The State, the number of deaths among drivers ages 16 and 17 declined slightly in 2012 as compared to 2011.

The change was in keeping with the long-range South Carolina trends on teen accident deaths. The number of young drivers ages 17 and 18 being killed in auto accidents has been on the decline since 2003.

The change is not an insignificant one. In 2003, there were 29 deaths among those ages 16 and 17 in the state. By 2012, there were only 13 deaths within the same age group over the year.

The ongoing decline in South Carolina teen car accident fatalities is at odds with the national average. Throughout the United States as a whole, the number of teen deaths has been rising. Predictions were also made that the death toll of young drivers was expected to go up for all of 2012.

South Carolina beat these expectations and had fewer drivers die for many reasons, but some of the most important include:

  • The mandatory seat belt law, which became effective in 2006. Today, almost 60 percent of teenagers who are killed in wrecks are not wearing seat belts but The State indicates this number used to be much higher.

  • The Alive at 25 Program, which is a 4 ½ hour course that is taught at eleven high schools and reaches 3,511 students. The program was started in 2007 and works to connect with students emotionally to foster safe driving habits.

  • Putting onto tickets clearly displayed traffic safety information dealing with the issues of texting and driving; drunk driving; speeding and seat-belt use.

  • Rollover simulators and driving simulators, which an estimated 15,000 people used last year. The simulators show teens how easy it is to become distracted and become involved in a wreck.

  • The Families of Highway Fatalities Program, in which parents of teens killed in avoidable car wrecks speak to students. This program reached over 15,000 students last year.

The laws and outreach efforts are clearly working as the rate of car accident deaths continues to decline among South Carolina's youth.

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