With the summer right around the corner, many people will be  flocking to the ocean, lakes and rivers. Here are five tips for boaters to help keep our waterways safe.

  1. Do not approach any military, cruise line or commercial shipping vessels. The Naval Vessel Protection Zone requires boaters not to approach within 100 yards and to slow minimum speed within 500 yards of any Naval Vessel.
  2. Observe and avoid all security zones and commercial port operations areas.
  3. Do not stop or anchor beneath bridges or overpasses.
  4. Report suspicious activities to marina security, local authorities and/or the Coast Guard.
  5. Do not drink alcohol and operate a boat.

Following these tips and adopting safe boating practices reduce demands on marina security, local authorities and/or the Coast Guard allowing them to focus on security and emergencies. If by any chance, you are in an unsafe situation, please make any and all attempts to keep yourself and the others around you safe. Injuries in waterways can be very serious, it is important that you follow all directions to protect yourself and others.

23 Pa. C.S.A. § 4308.1 amended the Domestic Relations Code by permitting the Department of Welfare to intercept overdue child support from lump sum monetary awards or settlements paid by insurers and worker’s compensation.  This law makes overdue child support a lien by operation of law against the net proceeds of any monetary award exceeding $5,000.00.  There is reduction to account for attorney’s fees and proportionate share of cost.

The law broadly defines “monetary awards” and applies with equal force to ANY civil claim asserted in and resolved in Pennsylvania, ANY settlement obtained before a lawsuit and ANY settlement of a lawsuit resulting from any claim for bodily injury, death or paid as an award under worker’s compensation or occupational disease. The law requires the attorney handling the claim to provide a statement including client’s name, address, date of birth, social security number and the amount of support owed or a statement that no support is owed.  This information is then used by either the attorney or insurance company to search through the Child Support Section of the DPW Website.

As a practical matter, I ask for this information in the initial interview and explain that overdue support must be paid back.  In the few situations where I have a client who has overdue support, I will compare the amount found with the client’s understanding of the amount.  If there is a dispute as the amount and it is before settlement, I will instruct my client to resolve the dispute otherwise I will pay the amount listed on the website.  If there is a dispute, this law requires the WHOLE amount to be placed in escrow with the Pennsylvania State Collection and Disbursement Unit (PASCDU) until the dispute is resolved.

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

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.

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

The warm weather is here and there is an increase in the number of motorcycles on the roads.  Below are ten motorcycle safety tips to keep you save this summer:

  1. Make eye contact with drivers.  Don’t assume the other drivers see you.
  2. Watch “vehicle behavior” as you approach.  Oftentimes, vehicles misjudge speed and distance.
  3. Watch for “left-turn” intersections.  Left turns into the path of a motorcycle are the most frequent accident.  Be extra careful when you see a vehicle in the left turn lane.
  4. Watch when turning left from a highway. 
  5. Watch for hazardous road conditions such as wet roads, fluid spills, sand, gravel and potholes (especially after this winter).
  6. Slow down around curves.
  7. Always wear a helmet.
  8. Always wear riding gear designed for motorcycle riders.
  9. Always protect your eyes and face with a full face helmet or built in face shield.
  10. Wear bright, reflective clothing in order to be clearly seen by others.

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

Caveat Emptor is Latin for “Let the Buyer Beware” and consumers should be careful when selecting a dental professional to perform dental implants. 

Despite the advancement in dental care, millions of Americans still suffer tooth loss- mostly due to tooth decay, gum disease or traumatic injury.  For many years, the only treatment options available to people with missing teeth were bridges and dentures.  Recently, dental implants are available and the recommended option for many.  Dental Implants are replacement tooth roots.  Dental implants provide a strong foundation for permanent or removable replacement teeth that are made to match natural teeth.

Unfortunately, dental implants are very expensive ranging from $4,000.00 to $7,000.00 per tooth and are not covered by dental insurance.  As such, there are many dental professionals who are looking to perform this procedure. 

Before deciding on a dental professional to perform dental implants, I recommend you find out the following:

·       What training has this person received? 

·       Was the training in dental school? If so, when did they attend?

·       Did the person receive specialized training specific to dental implants?

·       Who provided the training?

·       How many dental implants has the person performed in the past year?

·       Has this person lectured or written on the topic of dental impants? 

·       Does this person regularly attend lectures and seminars regarding dental implants?

·       What percentage of the dental practice are dental implants?

·       Do they have any references?

I have received many legal consultations over the year from consumers who had dental implants that failed.  Most times, the failure of the dental implants is NOT due to the negligence of a dental professional.  In fact, failure of dental implants can occur without any negligence.  However, consumers should be aware that there are dental professionals who perform this procedure that are clearly not qualified.

 

I have been litigating nursing home negligence cases for approximately 16 years handling a wide variety of different types of claims.  Below is a list of the different types of claims:

 Pressure ulcers / decubitis ulcers / bedsores

 Falls resulting in fractures

 Dehydration / Malnutrition

 Physical Abuse

 Elopement (Alzheimer’s Patients)

 Contractures

 Chemical Restraints and Physical Restraints

 Medication Errors

The most common claim I have handled over the years is the “falls resulting in fractures.”  During my years, I have seen an increase in the number of falls.  I believe the increase is due to chronic understaffing.  When a resident is admitted to a nursing home, there are fall risk assessments and orders made based on fall risk.  For example, a resident may require a two people to assist when the resident has to use the bathroom or a resident may need a hoyer lift to get out of bed.  Unfortunately, there are nursing homes that are understaffed and consequently a nurse’s aide is trying to do the job which requires 2 people.  I have seen situations where the nurse’s aide dropped a resident or a resident rolled out of bed because orders were not followed. 

Generally, when a resident sustains a fracture, it could lead to death.  It is well known the link between hip fractures and death in the elderly. If you or a loved one has been injured while in a nursing home, please contact Stark & Stark today.

 

 

June is National Safety Month.  It is a great time to check your existing First-Aid Kit or to create a First-Aid Kit.  Generally, you should keep a First-Aid Kit in your home(s), car(s) or boat(s).  A First-Aid Kit is easy to make.  Here are the basic supplies needed:

·       Adhesive tape

·       Antibiotic ointment

·       Antiseptic or towelettes

·       Bandages and bandage strips in assorted sizes

·       Cotton balls and cotton tip swabs

·       Disposable latex free gloves

·       Duct tape

·       Gauze pads and roller gauze in various sizes

·       First-Aid Manual

·       Petroleum jelly or other lubricant

·       Soap or instant hand sanitizer

·       Sterile eye wash, such as saline solution

·       Thermometer

·       Triangular bandage

·       Turkey baster or other bulb suction device for flushing out wounds

Making a First-Aid Kit can help your family and friends respond effectively to common injuries and emergencies before medical professionals arrive.  Store these First-Aid Kits in easy to retrieve place but are out of the reach of children.  Remember- if the event is life-threatening-  call 9-1-1.  Always stay calm and follow with clear and concise communications.  

Accidents involving elevators are a rare occurrence.  According to ConsumerWatch.com, there are about 18 billion passenger trips on elevators.  Of these 18 billion passenger trips, there are about 27 deaths annually according to estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.   Injuries and deaths are so uncommon that there isn’t much written about them in medical literature.  In fact, people who service and maintain elevators are more likely to be injured.  A report from the Occupational Health and Safety supports this fact.  According to the report, the people who install and maintain elevators may become injured in a variety of ways, including, “falls, electrical shocks, muscle strains and other injuries related to lockout/tagout, confined spaces, scaffolds, cranes, rigging, hoisting and heavy equipment.”

Fortunately, the safety for passengers is much better. “Because of the intricate, redundant and regulated safety features built in to every elevator, catastrophes are rare outside of movies and TV,” according to the report. So-called rope elevators require only one woven steel cable, but they usually have four to eight cables just in case. In addition, elevators are equipped with “automatic braking systems” that are backed up by “electromagnetic brakes.” Finally, the report notes, “at the bottom of the shaft is a heavy-duty shock absorber system designed to save passengers if all else fails.” 

Although rare, elevator accidents occur.  Most elevator accidents involve serious injuries and in many cases death.  When investigating these cases, it is important to perform an inspection of the site immediately and obtain photographs and witness statements.   Also, it is imperative to obtain the safety records, the maintenance records and inspection records.  Generally, the focus of the investigation is the elevator maintenance company, the property management company and most importantly- the owner of the elevator. 

In Pennsylvania, it is widely recognized that “the duty of an owner of an elevator to its passengers is similar to that of a common carrier, which is to exercise the highest degree of care.”  McGowan v. Devonshire Hall Apartments, 420 A.2d 514, 519 (Pa. Super. 1980) (citations omitted, emphasis added).  In cases involving the alleged negligence of an elevator or escalator owner, Pennsylvania Courts have held that this high standard of care allows for an inference of negligence through application of the doctrine called res ipsa loquiturSee McGowan, 420 A.2d at 519-520; Gilbert v. Korvette’s, Inc., 299 A.2d 356 (Pa. Super. 1972).

Res Ipsa Loquitor is a Latin phrase meaning “the thing speaks for itself.”  Essentially, this doctrine means that negligence can be inferred from the very nature of the accident without any direct evidence of negligence.  Restatement (Second) Torts § 328 D (1964) sets forth the requirements for the application of res ipsa loquitor as follows:

  1. The event is of a kind which ordinarily does not occur in the absence of negligence;
  2. Other responsible causes, including the conduct of the plaintiff and third persons, are sufficiently eliminated by the evidence; and,
  3. The indicated negligence is within the scope of the defendant’s duty to the plaintiff.

“This doctrine has been applied to cases in which machinery has operated improperly because, although it may be clear that something went wrong, no specific proof or explanation for the accident is present and the question arises whether the defect was reasonably preventable or curable by the defendant.”  McGowan, 420 A.2d at 518.  “The jury’s finding of liability is drawn from the expectation that the condition or defect causing the accident was obvious enough or present for a sufficient length of time that it should have been detected by the use of ordinary care.  Id. (citing 2 F. Harper & F. James, The Law of Torts § 19.5 (1956).