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Distracted Driving More Prevalent Than Ever- There is Help

The danger continues, but devices are helping avoid this danger.  More and more each year we hear about the horrific accidents which occur as a result of operators of passenger cars and commercial vehicles being distracted by use of cell phones, even the use of phones for texting while driving.  Although Smart phones have begun to incorporate software which can be put into “safe driving mode” and disallows an operator of a vehicle to text while driving.  These phones sense the motion, companies are working to provide products that will eliminate any ability to have drivers’ texting while the car is moving.   One company in particular out of Roanoke County, VA, a high tech start-up company known as Origo, launched a product in 2013 with the sole intent of preventing drivers, whether they be of passenger vehicles or commercial trucks, from picking up the phones to email or text.   The product known as Origo Safety is a design which creates an ignition interlock system which prevents texting while driving.  This device prevents a vehicle from starting unless a driver’s cell phone is placed in a dock which is mounted in the interior of the car.   Vehicle operators can then only use the phones via Bluetooth while driving and cannot perform any manual tasks on their phone.  

Over the past many years use of cell phones while driving has been estimated to be the cause of 28% of motor vehicle accidents in this country involve operators of vehicles using cell phones and texting.   (National Safety Council 2011).                 

School Sports and Concussions

As a mom that has two boys involved in baseball, football and motor cross, I am always concerned about safety and particularly concussions.  I have seen many cases in my law practice where children sustain concussions and the sports organization allows them to continue playing.  In some cases, the coaches have not been trained to even recognize a concussion.

Recently, a student was successful in alleging a 14th Amendment claim, alleging a school created a danger in having a policy and custom which allowed students to continue playing or practicing without being medically released to do so.  In that matter, a student was hit by a teammate while playing football. The student told the coaches he felt numb and disoriented. Others accounted that he was acting erratic and confused.  The coaches allowed him to continue to practice even while during practice he was experiencing “dry heaves”.  The student filed a law suit alleging the school had a policy and custom of failing to recognize and treat head injuries.

If you have a child that has experienced a head injury, even when they do not lose consciousness, you should be aware of a possible brain injury. If  the organization that your child is involved in does not train its coaches in the recognition head injuries or allows your child to continue engaging in an activity after a head injury, please contact Stark & Stark to discuss your options. 


Study Reveals Hospital Patients No Safer Now Than 15 Years Ago

Medical errors which occur in U.S. hospitals remain one of the most poignant issues that receive little attention according to the Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging.  Approximately 15 years ago there was a study reported by the Institute of Medicine which drew attention to the issues that needed improvement in hospitals and focus on preventable medical errors.  

Ashish K. Jha, M.D., MDH is a practicing General Internist and is a Professor of Health Policy at the Harvard School of Public Health and is a newly elected member of the Institute of Medicine.  He recently testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging and stated that if the question is “are patients clearly safer in U.S. hospitals today than they were 15 years ago?”,  “the unfortunate answer is no”. Dr. Jha focuses his research on improving quality and reducing costs. The Subcommittee Chairman, Senator Bernie Sanders convened the panel in order to raise awareness to the fact that premature deaths associated with “preventable harm”, to hospital patients total approximately 400,000 per year, more than four times higher than what was reported in 1999.   Senator Sanders even at one point called the current system and hospitals “dysfunctional, profit oriented and not patient centered”. He further has advocated a need for Federal Legislation through the Health System to stress fundamental system redesigns and make safety a part of the “culture of the institution”.   Dr. Jha even said “until we get, to the point where the CEO of the  hospital is lying awake at night worrying about patients safety, I don’t think we’re going to move the needle”.  

If you or a loved one has been injured, contact Stark & Stark today for a free consultation.   

Much Needed Changes with the MCMIS

In December, 2013 the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) proposed changes to allow all States to obtain results from adjudicated citations related to roadside inspection violation data collected in the MCMIS.   Much of this data is driven pursuant to the condition under the Code of Federal Regulations that States participate in the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP) and States must establish programs that insure accurate and timely motor carrier safety data are reported so that appropriate violation data is part of the FMCSA data systems.   A large part of the focus with regard to this new program was dismissed citations.  There was significant commentary that even though citations were dismissed does not always mean that the violations did not occur at the time of the inspection and therefore dismissed citations should not be the sole basis for removing violations from inspection reports in the database.  Under the new reporting program, if citations associated with the violation under the Federal Motor Carrier Regulations is dismissed without a fine or Court costs or there is a not guilty finding then that violation will be removed from the database.  However, if there is a conviction of a lesser charge there will be a notation that there was a resultant conviction of a different charge so critical convictions are not masked or hid through the reporting of the data.  This will help avoid critical convictions even if for lesser charges from failing to appear being masked through the MCMIS program.  These are convictions that should be part of the available data.                              

Ten Tips For BIicyclist to Keep Safe

With the summer officially underway and many people, adults and children, will be on the roads on bicycles.  Riding a bicycle is great exercise and help to the environment.  However, given the number of car on the road it is imperative to understand safe protocol while sharing the roads with cars.  Here are ten tips for bicyclists to keep safe on the roads.

1.     Always wear a helmet

2.     Always obey traffic lights and signs

3.     Always use hand signals before turning or stopping

4.     Ride in the road about 2 to 3 feet from the curb

5.     Ride in a straight line and do not weave

6.     Watch carefully for cars

7.     Maintain eye contact with other drivers before turning

8.     Ride in the same direction as the traffic flow

9.     Avoid road hazards such as potholes, wet areas, pooling of water, gravel, debris etc. 

10.   Avoid riding at night

Death of Kevin Ward, Jr. May Force NASCAR Safety Changes

NASCAR may issue an edict before tomorrow’s race at Michigan International Speedway that makes it mandatory for drivers to stay in their cars until safety personnel arrive. Tracks around the country have changed their rules after Kevin Ward Jr.'s death in a sprint car race.

Ward was sent into the wall when his car was bumped by Tony Stewart's in a dirt-track race on Saturday night in Canandaigua. Ward got out of the car and walked onto the track, where he was hit by Stewart.  Authorities are still investigating whether to file criminal charges against Stewart.

Brewerton Speedway and Fulton Speedway, New York dirt tracks under the same management, announced new rules that drivers would be required to stay in their cars during an accident.

"If a driver, for whatever reason, exits a car on the track during a caution period, the race will automatically be placed under a red flag and all cars will come to a complete stop," a news release on the tracks' website says. "A driver may exit a car if requested by a safety crew member or if safety warrants in cases such as a fire. Drivers that exit a car without permission, for whatever reason, are subject to fine and/or suspension at the discretion of track management."

CVS Potentially Liable for Tainted Eye Drops

Recently in New Jersey State Court, suit was filed alleging that CVS Pharmacy Redness Relief Drops were tainted or contaminated.  The plaintiff, Gregg Schweck put the drops in both eyes and immediately felt extreme pain, burning and detected a smell of bleach according to the Complaint which has been filed.   If in fact it is determined that these drops were tainted, CVS would be facing claims of liability under the theory of res ipsa loquitur which creates the presumption of negligence as a result of the nature of the injury i.e. the injury could not have occurred but for negligence.  

Although CVS has denied that the drops were tainted or contaminated, the suit proceeds on and to the extent there is no formal recall by CVS, customers beware should they experience any similar circumstances.  The CVS which is alleged to have been the seller of the contaminated eye drops is a store on River Road in Edgewater, NJ with the sale occurring in late March, 2014.  

Over the years, pharmacies such as CVS have been found to be liable for not only dispensing or selling contaminated products, but for dispensing wrong medication.    It is important to retain any remaining product should there be any experience of illness or injury from a product purchased from a pharmacy or pharmaceutical chain so that serial numbers, lot numbers and manufacturing dates can be utilized in the claims presentation process. If you or a loved one has been injured by a product, contact Stark & Stark today.           

Excess Work Hours Equals Greater Likelihood of Crash

The United States Department of Transportation through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulates the hours of services for drivers.  Specifically, the regulations states

(1) Driver may drive 11 hours after 10 hour off duty

(2) Driver may not drive beyond the 14th hour after coming on duty, following 10 hours off duty;  and

(3) Driver may not drive after 60/70 hours on-duty in 7/8 consecutive days. 

Driver may restart a 7/8 consecutive day period after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty.   The reason for these strict regulations is the greater number of hours worked the more likely a accident.  The association between excessive work hours and greater likelihood of crash involvement has been well-documented in a series of academic studies in the trucking industry.  Jones, I.S. and Stein, H.S. “Effect of Driver Hours-of-Service on Tractor-Trailer Crash Involvement (1987), Arlington, VA, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Frith, W.J. “A Case Control Study of Heavy Vehicle Drivers’ Working Time and Safety,” (1994), Proceedings 17th ARRB Conference, Part 5: pp. 17-30, Queensland, Australia. Maineway Services summarized some of the important studies in a report submitted to the Transportation Research Board in May 2005.  Maineway Services, Literature Review on Health and Fatigue Issues Associated with Commercial Vehicle Driver Hours of Service, submitted to Transportation Research Board, Project Number CTBSSP MC No. 11, May 27, 2005. 

This report noted: “Using a case control approach to examine the relative risk associated with long hours of driving, Jones and Stein (1987) found that tractor-trailer drivers who drove in excess of eight hours, who violated logbook regulations, and who were aged 30 and under had an increased risk of crash involvement.  In particular, the relative risk of crash involvement for drivers who reported a driving time in excess of eight hours was almost twice that for drivers who had driven fewer hours.  The Firth (1994) report cited above shows crash involved drivers to be 2.6 times more likely than non-crash involved drivers to have driven 8 or more hours.” 

If you or a loved one has been injured, contact Stark & Stark today.

Private Mortgage Foreclosures

In Pennsylvania, mortgages on real estate aren’t always held by banks or mortgage companies. Individuals who sell real estate sometimes “take back paper” from their buyers to, in effect, finance the purchase price. The “paper taken back” from the buyer frequently includes a mortgage on the real estate which is satisfied when the buyer pays back the purchase price of the real estate to the seller.

Like “institutional” mortgages, privately-held mortgages can go into default if mortgage payments are not made. The preferred remedy would be the same as any bank or mortgage company would have—foreclosure of the mortgage and sheriff’s sale of the real estate. However, while banks and mortgage companies may have counsel with whom they deal on a regular basis for their foreclosure work, individuals holding mortgages may find themselves not knowing how to proceed when payments stop coming.

At Stark & Stark, we assist both lenders and private mortgage holders with foreclosures in all counties of Pennsylvania. If you are a private mortgage holder with a mortgage in default, contact us for expert guidance through the foreclosure process.

Pre-Trip Inspection of Tractor Trailers- Required by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations

A pre-trip inspection by a driver of tractor trailer is required by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.  A pre-trip inspection should be done to ensure the tractor trail is operating safely and there are no problems with the tractor trailer.  Prior to operating the vehicle, a Driver Vehicle Inspection Report should be filled out and signed by the driver.  If there are defects, those defects need to be immediately addressed by a mechanic and mechanic is required to sign and verify the Inspection Report.

According to several experts, a pre-trip inspection of a tractor trailer can take as long as 1 to 2 hours and requires the driver to visually and physically inspect the engine compartment, cab and the trailer.  Below is a list of the areas that a driver should inspect prior to driving starting with the front of the vehicle:

·       Windshield Wipers

·       Engine Compartment

·       Front Suspension

·       Front brake

·       Cab Area

·       Fuel Tank Area

·       Coupling System

·       Front of Trailer

·       Rear Tractor Wheels

·       Suspension

·       Tractor Brakes

·       Rear of Tractor

·       Side of Trailer

·       Trailer Wheels

·       Suspension

·       Trailer Brakes

·       Rear of Trailer

·       Signal, Brake and Clearance Lights