June 13, 2013

Carolina Boating Accidents Too Often Fueled by Alcohol


Despite the known dangers of drinking and driving, boaters in North Carolina and nationwide continue to struggle with giving up their beers and drinks, whether on the road or on the water.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, alcohol is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. This summer, be aware of the risks and dangers of alcohol and boating, whether you are an avid boater yourself, spending an afternoon with friends, or sending your child out with another family.

Boating accidents and collisions can have grave consequences including severe injury, paralysis, and drowning. An afternoon of partying on a boat can turn deadly when a driver is under the influence. In 2012, alcohol was the main factor in 17% of the 651 deaths that involved recreational vehicles. Our boating accident attorneys are experienced with the investigation of boating accidents and will help to protect the rights of victims and their families.

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Many states are cracking down on drinking and driving. Often, those efforts are extending to the water. National Safe Boating Week occurs in June and many states are making efforts to reverse the trend of deadly boating accidents. Georgia has lowered its blood-alcohol content limit for boaters from .10% to .08%. The state has also imposed harsher penalties for those convicted. Where a boater used to get a slap on the wrist for drinking and driving, they may face severe criminal penalties, including fines and jail time. A driver could also lose their driver's license if charged with drinking and driving. Illinois has recently passed a bill that authorizes the state to suspend a driver's license if caught drinking and driving a boat. Washington State recently passed a law that extends penalties to boaters who are under the influence of marijuana, not just alcohol.

For legislators, drinking and driving a boat is considered reckless and has been the cause of a significant number of deaths and injuries. With harsher laws and penalties, many of these boating accidents could be prevented. Whether out on a lake or boating off the coast, drinking and boating is a serious risk and potential threat to passengers and other boaters.

Nationwide, horror stories have emerged about children and other innocent victims who have lost their lives to drinking and boating. Last year in Georgia, two boys were killed after their family pontoon boat was struck by a drunk driver. In Illinois a 10-year-old was killed on a lake when his father ran over him with a 29-foot powerboat. He was charged with operating a boat under the influence of cocaine and alcohol.

Another danger of drinking and boating is that many of these drivers will also be responsible for getting the boat to shore. They may also get behind the wheel of a vehicle after a long day of drinking and sun. This puts all passengers and other motorists at risk.

While Americans will always enjoy the relaxation and pleasure of being out on the water, they should try to do so without combining it with drinking activities. Drinking culture has long been associated with boating, but legislators hope that bringing awareness can help prevent future tragedies on the water.

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June 11, 2013

Carolina Pool Safety: Signs of Drowning May Not Be What You Think


Whether out on the lake, in the ocean, or at a pool, swimmers and observers should be aware of the signs of drowning. Taking immediate action can make the difference between permanent injury, or life and death. A recent article published by Slate highlights the reality that it is often difficult to identify a drowning victim. While some may assume that drowning victims will be screaming or thrashing, this is not often the case.

According to experts, drowning is not usually identifiable by thrashing in the water, violet yelling or a call for help. Drowning can be "deceptively quiet" according to a former Coast Guard rescue swimmer who has often seen victims of drowning overlooked, even by close bystanders. Our Charlotte swimming accident attorneys want to keep our clients and the community safe by promoting swimming safety and to provide information on how to spot a drowning victim.

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When watching movies, drowning victims wave, yell and call for help. In fact, drowning victims may not splash or show any sign of struggle. Medical experts in the field have reported that The Instinctive Drowning Response, is what victims actually do to avoid suffocating underwater. Essentially, a drowning victim may go into shock and the reaction is not very dramatic to bystanders.

Drowning is the number two cause of accidental death to children under the age of 5. Surprisingly, nearly half of deaths will be within 25 yards of a parent or other adult. Parents may even be watching their children without knowing that they are drowning.

In reality, victims are unable to call out for help. A respiratory system, designed for breathing, makes speech secondary. Victims may become paralyzed as the body focuses exclusively on taking in air. A drowning victim's mouth may sink under water then reappear. Mouths of victims are usually not above the water long enough to inhale and call for help so they breath in quickly before their mouth sinks below the surface.

The same way that a victim is unable to call for help, a victim cannot wave. Instinctively, victims will extend their arms and press down on the surface of the water to leverage for air. In this position, victims cannot control arm movements. A victim will usually remain upright in the water with no evidence of kicking. The terrifying thing about drowning, is that the physiological response to drowning makes victims unable to call out for help; and, a victim can usually only struggle between 20 and 60 seconds before they are fully submerged.

If you and your family will be out swimming this summer, remember to keep small children away from the water when unattended. You should also remain aware of the signs of drowning including a head low in the water, tilted back, glassy or empty eyes, closed eyes, hair over forehead or eyes, the inability to use legs, or gasping. By identifying the signs of a drowning victim, you can also take appropriate action when a victim needs help.

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June 8, 2013

Preventing Ladder Falls: June is National Safety Month


Slip and fall accidents can result in very serious, even catastrophic injuries. In the most severe cases, a slip and fall cause permanent brain damage, paralysis, or death. This month the National Safety Council is raising public awareness to prevent slips, trips and falls in North Carolina and nationwide. In addition to preventing falls from ladders or rooftops, the agency is promoting general awareness related to slip or trip and fall injuries.

On June 2, the National Safety Council launched its campaign to promote wellness and to prevent slips, trips and falls as part of National Safety Month. Every year, the month of June is used to educate citizens and to provide information to prevent injuries and death. This week, advocates are using resources to raise public awareness and to help individuals, families and businesses avoid the dangers of slip and falls. Our North Carolina slip and fall attorneys are committed to raising public awareness to prevent these accidents.

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According to the NSC, falls are the second-leading cause of unintentional death. Falls may involve rooftops or balconies, home improvement, staircases, or the workplace. During the summer months, slip and fall accidents are on the rise because more homeowners are using ladders in and outside of the home. Here are some tips to prevent slip and falls when you are at home:

Ensure you have the right ladder and equipment. Choosing the right ladder is important to staying safe. You should make sure you know how to properly use and lock a ladder and ensure that the ladder is in good working condition.

Check your work area. Many falls are the result of hazards surrounding your work area. You should check for cords or other objects in the walkway. Be sure that you are not working with small children around and that your ladder is secured before you start working.

Weather makes a difference. Working in the rain or when it is windy can create additional risks of falls. You could slip on a wet ladder or a ladder could lose its grip. If the weather changes suddenly while you are working, you should head indoors and suspend work on your project.

Position yourself correctly. Proper balance is key to reducing the chance of falling or slipping off a ladder. You should always have three points of contact with the ladder. For example, you should have two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand. Don't overreach, just move the ladder if you are too far away.

A slip and fall may be related to negligence, defective equipment, or unsafe premises. If you or someone you love has suffered from a fall, an investigator can identify those individuals and entities responsible. You may be entitled to significant compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, wages, and other personal losses related to the accident.

Nationwide, the National Safety Council is requesting that agencies, community leaders and the general public join in the campaign to prevent accidental falls. Encouraging safe behavior and knowing how to properly use ladders and other equipment can reduce the chances of an accidental fall, injury, or death.

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June 6, 2013

Carolina Bridge Safety a Serious Concern Among Officials


We're sure you've heard of the recent bridge collapse in Washington. According to USA TODAY, "The 58-year-old bridge had a 'fracture critical' design, meaning loss of a single structural support could undermine the crossing.
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In light of that incident, officials with the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) are working to educate residents and visitors about ways to help keep our state's bridges safe and maintained.

"We have comprehensive inspection, rehabilitation, and maintenance programs in place because our bridges play a vital role in connecting people to work, school and popular vacation destinations," said Transportation Secretary Tony Tata.

Our Asheville personal injury lawyers understand that close to $500 million in state funds have been thrown into our area's bridges to help to repair, preserve and replace these critical structures. Thankfully, the Transportation Department has been able to improve roughly 1,000 bridges. But is that enough? According to the current proposed state budgets, officials are looking to spend roughly $300 million to keep the program going for the next two years.

Under federal law, each of our areas bridges are required to undergo an inspection every two years. If a bridge has been found to be unsafe, the department is required to close the bridge, stop travel and repair it accordingly.

In an inspection, officials take a look at the substructure, the superstructure, the expansion joints, the decks and the railings. When these bridges are inspected, they're given a condition rating and a list of what repairs need to be made.

In the state of North Carolina, we have close to 14,000 bridges. Of these bridges, close to 3,000 of them have been deemed "Structurally Deficient." This means that it's okay to drive on, but there are things that need to be done to get it up to current safety standards.

A bridge can also get a "Functionally Obsolete" rating, which means that the bridge is safe, but needs to be replaces to keep up with traffic demands. Currently, there are close to 4,500 bridges in the state with this rating.

Currently, we have close to 40 bridges that are the same kind of bridge that was involved in the recent Washington accident. We're not trying to scare drivers, we're just trying to raise awareness about the risk that are involved when driving over a bridge.

With these conditions, we're asking drivers to be cautious out there. Sometimes, there's no getting around a bridge. When this is the case, make sure you approach every one of them with extreme caution and safety. When driving over a bridge, please try to eliminate all distractions while driving. When there is the possibility of a car traveling in the opposite direction only inches from your car, being mindful of your surroundings and paying attention to the road can potentially save you from an accident and injuries. Avoid changing lanes on bridges or making any sudden movements. On wrong move could wind up taking lives.

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June 4, 2013

Officials Looking for Two Missing Carolina Boaters


it was a deadly weekend out there on our South Carolina coast. According to Independent Mail, authorities have found the body of a missing fisherman, but are still on the hunt for two more people after separate boating accidents in South Carolina Lowcountry.
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The state of South Carolina has an abundance of water resources with 8,000 miles of river, 460,000 acres of lakes, and 3,000 miles of coastline.

Our Charleston boating accident lawyers understand that many residents and visitors look forward to hitting the open water and escaping the worries of life. Unfortunately, there are only more worried to be had on the water. According to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, there were close to 100 recreational boating accidents recorded in the state of South Carolina in 2011. Among these accidents, there were close to 20 fatalities.

It's important that boaters are up to speed with their boating safety before heading out on the water. Making a list, and check it twice, to help to prevent any boating mishaps.

On the Water:

-Check the weather before you head out.

-Make sure you've freshened up on your boating skills. Consider enrolling in a boater's safety course. You can never be too good of a captain. Operator errors account for 70 percent of boating accidents -- take a course.

-Make sure you understand how to navigate the waterways. It's critical for you to understand the buoy system.

-Never operate a vessel under the influence of drugs of alcohol.

-Check the fire extinguisher on your vehicle. Make sure it's working correctly before every time you venture out.

-Be on the lookout for overhead wires and power lines. This is especially important while traveling through canals and smaller bodies of water.

-Make sure that there are enough floatation devices in your vessel for every passenger on board.

-Make sure that all young children are wearing a life vest at all times.

-Before heading out, make sure that all of the lights on your vessel are working properly. You want to make sure you're seen out there at all times.

-Make sure you always carry a cell phone with you when hitting the water.

-Remember that state law says that vessels may not be operated in excess of idle speed within 50 feet of an anchored vessel, wharf, pier, dock, or a person in the water. Vessels may not operate in excess of idle speed within 100 yards of the Atlantic coastline.

-Make sure you designate a skipper. You don't want to be the only one on the boat who knows what they're doing. Every captain can use a little help.

-If you're going to be in and around the water, proper boating safety means knowing how to swim. Local organizations such as the American Red Cross and others offer training for all ages and abilities- check to see what classes are offered in your area.

-Get your boat checked. The United States Power Squadrons offer a free Vessel Safety Check (VSC). These boating safety equipment checks are meant to be educational and helpful, and are a good follow-up to any water safety course.

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June 2, 2013

Slick Roadways Send Two to Carolina Hospital


A North Carolina woman and her 19-month-old daughter are currently in the hospital fighting for their lives after a serious accident. According to the Citizen-Times, the two are at Mission Hospital after their vehicle collided with a pickup truck just before 6:00 p.m. Accident reports indicate that there was heavy rain in the area when the crash happened. The driver of the truck involved was not reported injured in the accident.
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Sgt. Craig Harris of the Highway Patrol says that the couple's car was heading west when the mother lost control, crossed over the center line and drove into the path of the pickup. Officials are still investigating the accident.

Our Asheville car accident lawyers understand that our weather can be tricky -- especially when we're behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. Driving through rain, snow and other dangerous conditions can return unfavorable outcomes if we're not careful. When it rains, our roadways become slick and slippery and we can lose control of our vehicles rather quickly if we're not careful. This is when a vehicle hydroplanes. According to The Weather Channel, hydroplaning happens when the water in front of your tires builds up faster than your car's weight can push it out of the way. When this happens, the water pressure can cause your vehicle to rise up and slide on a thin layer of water beneath your tires.

But there are ways that you can prevent hydroplaning:

-Be sure that you're driving slowly and carefully when it's wet out. This is especially important when you're turning or taking curves in the road. You want to make sure that you're steering and braking smoothly. When your maneuvers are too quick, your vehicle can quickly slide out of control.

-If you find yourself behind the wheel in a skidding vehicle, keep it calm. Your best bet is to ease your foot off of the gas and steer into the direction you want the front of the vehicle to go. If you don't have anti-lock brakes on your vehicle, avoid hitting your brake at all. If you have these kinds of brakes, brake firmly as you steer into the direction of the skid.

-To help to avoid these incidents altogether, make sure that you have enough air in your tires. Air pressure helps you to grasp the road better and more efficiently. It's also a good idea to make sure that there's adequate tread on your tires. When they're old and worn, your risks for an accident increase significantly.

-Always drive defensively -- but especially when there's inclement weather. You want to reduce your speeds and be even more cautious during these times to help to avoid a potentially serious accident. It's extremely important to leave more space between you and other vehicles during poor weather conditions. Drivers of all kinds need more time to react and need to keep safety as a number one priority.

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May 30, 2013

Traffic Fatality Rates High in Appalachia


The rolling mountain hills and winding highways through the Appalachian region pose a greater risk to motorists than in other parts of the country. Even though the area provides residence to less than 10 percent of the population, the traffic fatality rate is 45 percent higher than in other areas throughout the country. A recent study conducted by the West Virginia University School of Public Health has assessed the accident fatality rates throughout the Appalachian region, which is comprised of 13 states, including North Carolina.

Before packing up your family and driving through the Appalachian mountains, you might want to consider the potential risks of traffic accidents. Between 2008 and 2010, there were 15.8 traffic deaths per 100,000 people. This rate is significantly higher than the average 10.9 fatalities per 100,000 people living in other parts of the United States. The researchers analyzed traffic fatalities involving passenger-vehicle motor vehicles, motorcycles, and ATV's. The fatality rates were higher for motorists, but lower for pedestrians and bicyclists in Appalachia, compared to non-Appalachian parts of the states. Our Charlotte personal injury attorneys are dedicated to helping the victims of highway accidents recover compensation after an injury or fatality.

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According to researchers, the elevated traffic fatality rate can be attributed to several factors. Statistically, people who live in rural areas have a higher rate of accidents. There are approximately 25 million people in the Appalachian region with a high proportion of rural residents. Researchers also suggest that the accidents could be caused by road issues and the mountainous terrain. Analysts are also considering the possibility that fatalities could be higher in the Appalachian region because of the difficulties medical teams have in reaching accident victims.

Appalachian highways are also used by semi-trucks that can pose a risk to other passengers on the road. Tractor-trailers carrying large loads and traveling at high speeds through the mountains will have a more difficult time slowing down and can cause serious accidents and highway fatalities. Many truck accidents are also caused by fatigued drivers who will pass through the Appalachian highways at night or when they haven't had proper rest. In the event of a trucking accident, victims should act quickly to preserve trucking company records. Driver logs and black box evidence could indicate that a driver was in violation of state or federal trucking regulations.

Highways through the Appalachian mountains may also be in disrepair or be too narrow to accommodate two lanes of traffic. In some cases involving road disrepair, a public entity or contractor may be held liable. In the event of an accident an investigation can determine the cause of the collision and identify any individuals or entities that are responsible. Investigations at the outset are also critical to preserve evidence on behalf of victims and their families. Police reports, witness statements, photographs, surveillance, and other evidence can be critical to proving that an individual or entity was responsible for an accident.

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May 27, 2013

$6 Million Awarded After NC Intersection Accident


Two North Carolina families succeeded in bringing lawsuits against a Charlotte development company that failed to properly install a traffic light at an intersection. As a result of this failure, a fatal accident caused three deaths. According to the Claims Journal, the fatal collision occurred when two cars, racing through the intersection, collided with another vehicle.

In any accident case, it is important to consider all relevant circumstances, including the parties involved, maintenance or road issues, and automobile defects. These circumstances could lead to additional claims and liability for other individuals and entities other than the drivers.

Personal injury claims are available to victims and their families in the event of an accident or wrongful death caused by recklessness, negligence, or intent. In this case, the families were successful in proving that the fatal accident was caused by the development company's negligence. Our Charlotte accident attorneys are experienced with similar claims and in aggressively pursuing compensation for our clients.

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Personal injury claims will usually initiate with legal action on behalf of the victims to collect a settlement. When an insurance company or defendant fails to meet these demands and to satisfy the financial recovery for a victim or their family, an attorney will file a lawsuit to successfully collect those damages. Financial compensation can often be significantly higher when a case is taken to court rather than settled between the parties.

In this case a unanimous jury reached a verdict after four days of deliberations. The jury found that the failure of the company to install the promised traffic light at the intersection on N.C. 49 played a role in the April 4, 2009 crash. Though monetary compensation cannot repair damage that has been done, it can help victims recover from past losses and regain security to move forward after such a significant loss.

Similar claims require an intensive investigation, often involving accident reconstructionists, witnesses, police reports, surveillance cameras, contracts, and other documentation. When involved in an accident, victims and their loved ones should involve an independent advocate and investigator to preserve necessary evidence to prove a negligence claim.

Victims who have suffered from a personal injury often do not realize the full value of their claim. It is important not to settle with an insurance company immediately after an accident because you could be settling for far less than your claim is worth. Insurance companies as well as defendants may offer settlements significantly lower than the value of your claim. This will also prevent you from bringing a claim in the future.

In addition to the claim brought against the development company, there were criminal charges brought against the other parties involved. The accident occurred because two additional parties were street racing at the time of the accident. One of those parties entered into a plea bargain for three counts of manslaughter. The other driver was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2011. Of the three victims who died in the crash, one was a professor at Winthrop University.

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May 25, 2013

North Carolina Traffic Safety - Cell Phones a Bigger Risk than Thought?


As more Americans become dependent on handheld devices, including cell-phones, Smartphones, and iPads, it is not surprising that the rate of accidents involving distracted drivers is on the rise. Many drivers will take a quick peak at their text messages, quickly open their email inbox, or even try to draft a short response while on the road. Unfortunately, even glancing away from the road for a few seconds has proven to be deadly for drivers as well as other motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians.

Our Charlotte motor vehicle accident lawyers are experienced with investigating accidents and helping victims and their families recover compensation for their losses. Determining the cause of the accident at the outset can ensure that you are able to fully collect the financial recovery you deserve, especially when another driver is negligence. This evidence suggests that it can be difficult to identify those accidents that are, in fact, caused by cell phone use.
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According to recent findings from the National Safety Council, it appears that the number of crashes caused by the use of cellphones has gone under reported. Researchers assessed the number of cell phone related accidents and found that it is extremely difficult to track the number of accidents caused by the use of cell phones. Primarily, this is because of the significant number of challenges in collecting and reporting reliable crash data.

The report gathered information from crashes between 2009 and 2011, finding that of the fatal crashes pointing to evidence that a driver was using a cell phone, only 52% were coded as being caused by the use of a cell phone. Researchers believe that the number of crashes involving cell phones is under reported. Analysts from the National Safety Council believe that the difficulty in reporting may be caused by lack of consistency in creating reports.

In many accident cases, officers will simply ask whether a driver has been using a cell phone, without investigating. This gives drivers the opportunity to evade responsibility and punishment for distracted driving. Even when drivers admitted to using a cell phone prior to an accident that caused a fatal crash, this information was not properly coded by the Federal government reporting systems. Due to these discrepancies, there are a number of accident cases involving cell phones that are unreported. In some cases, drivers who are using their cell phone, checking Facebook, or surfing the internet could die in the accident without a witness to report the use of cell phone.

According to the National Safety Council, the public should be aware of the number of under reported cases and the high risk of cell phone accidents. The report also indicates that the dangers of distracted driving and cell phone use could be greater than previously believed. Inaccuracies in these reports could negatively impact funding decisions, media attention, and legislation, failing to protect citizens from the dangers of cell phone use.

If you or someone you love was involved in a car accident, it is important to consult independent counsel as soon as possible. An experienced accident attorney can investigate your case, preserve necessary evidence, and identify all responsible individuals or entities.

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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.

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.

Continue reading "Child Injuries From Chemicals to Rise in Summer" »

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.
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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.

Continue reading "North Carolina Traffic Safety: Uncovering Distraction Not Unusual in Accident Investigations " »

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.
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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.

Continue reading "North Carolina Bicycle Accidents a May Focus" »