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

In a previous post, I wrote about the Barrick v. Holy Spirit decision and its impact upon discovery of communications between attorneys and experts. To summarize, the superior court reached an 8-1 en banc decision holding that communications between a lawyer and an expert witness were not discoverable. After an appeal, the Supreme Court reached a 3-3 split decision on this issue, meaning that the superior court decision was still the law in Pennsylvania.

Now, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has officially approved an amendment to Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 4003.5 serving to prohibit discovery of all attorney-expert communications and draft reports. The amended language reads as follows:

(4) A party may not discover the communications between another party’s attorney and any expert who is to be identified pursuant to subdivision (a)(1)(A) or from whom discovery is permitted under subdivision (a)(3) regardless of the form of the communications, except in circumstances that would warrant the disclosure of privileged communications under Pennsylvania law. This provision protects from discovery draft expert reports and any communications between another party’s attorney and experts relating to such drafts.

It is interesting to note that the Court took the added step of specifically protecting draft expert reports from discovery in addition to communications. This amendment should serve to eliminate any remaining ambiguity in this area of the law and will ensure that attorneys can freely communicate with their experts regarding their trial strategy and the contents of expert reports without concern that these communications will be turned over to opposing counsel.

If you have infants car seats, please be aware. Graco has recently recalled 1.9 infant car seats because buckles get clogged with food and drinks making it difficult to remove children.  Some parents reported having to cut the harness to get their children out.  The recall comes after a  5 month dispute between Graco and the National Highway Commission. In that dispute, Graco argued that in an emergency the seat could be removed rather than using the buckle  Graco was reluctant to recall the recent the infant seats because earlier this year it recalled 4. 2 toddler seats that also had harness buckle problems. Obviously Graco was unsuccessful as the recall was the largest in U.S. History.

As parents, it is important to check your seats, and check them often. Please be aware and keep your children safe. If you or a loved one are injured by any product, please contact Stark & Stark today.

As an attorney who has been born and raised in a union family, I always have concerns over what is going on with unions. While I represent any and all people who have been injured or killed in car accident, industrial accident, medical malpractice, motorcycle accidents, work accidents or by defective products, I take a special interest when it comes to union families.

Recently I came across a study of unions in America. Union membership has been declining for decades.  In the last year however the percentage of American Workers in unions basically remained unchanged.  Some of the states that remain union strong however are:

 Top 5 states with  the strongest unions are:

1.         New York is the strongest with  24. 3 percent of worker  being union

2          Alaska 23.1 percent of workers are union

3.         Hawii- 22.1 percent of workers are union

4.         Washington- 18.9 percent of workers are union

5.         Rhode Island- 16.9 percent of workers are union

The 5 states with the weakest unions are:

1.  North Carolina is the weakest with 3.0 percent of workers being union

2. Arkansas- 3.5 percent of workers are union

3. Mississippi- 3.6 percent of workers are union

4.  South Carolina- 3.7 percent of workers are union

5.  Utah-  3.9 percent of workers are union

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

I am currently covered by Medicare.  Can I keep my Medicare coverage even though marketplace plans are available, or do I need to select a plan through the marketplace?

You can keep your Medicare and you do not need to make any changes to your coverage because of Obamacare. You may have heard about the new requirement that all adults need to have health insurance coverage (known as the “individual mandate”) or have to pay a penalty if they go without health insurance, but your Medicare coverage satisfies this requirement. So if you have Medicare, this penalty won’t apply to you.

If you have Medicare, you should keep it. In fact, companies that sell marketplace plans are prohibited from selling these plans to you if they know you are covered by Medicare. If you do drop Medicare, and choose to re-enroll months or years later, you may face a penalty for late enrollment.

Will Medicare Advantage plans, Medicare Part D drug plans, or Medigap policies be sold through the workplace?

No. Medicare Advantage plans (such as Medicare HMOs and PPOs), Medicare Part D prescription drug plans, and Medigap policies will not be sold through the new marketplace. They will be available as they are today. You can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan or a Medicare Part D plan on the Medicare website (www.Medicare.gov) or by signing up directly with the company that offers the plan. To learn more about your coverage options under Medicare, including the Medicare Advantage plans, Part D drug plans, and Medigap supplemental policies available in your area, and how to enroll, you can go to the Medicare Plan Finder on www.Medicare.gov or call 1-800-MEDICARE.

My husband and I are retired.  He just turned 65 and is now covered by medicare, but I am g62 and don’t have health insurance.  Can I enroll in Medicare as his spouse?

No. Medicare doesn’t offer spouse or dependent coverage. Each person must qualify in her or her own right. You do not qualify yet because you are younger than age 65. If you do not have health insurance now, you can consider signing up for health insurance coverage through a marketplace plan. If your household income is less than 400% of the federal poverty level, you may qualify for premium tax credits to reduce your cost of a marketplace policy. If your household income is at or below 138% of poverty (about $15,900 for an individual), you might be eligible for Medicaid under the new eligibility rules if you live in a state that is expanding its Medicaid program.

I am 66 years old and still work.  I have health insurance coverage through my employer.  I am planning on working a few more years and would like to keep the coverage that my employer offers.  How does the marketplace affect me?

It doesn’t. You can keep your employer-sponsored health insurance coverage as long as that is an option for you. Since you are already eligible for Medicare because you are over age 65, you should sign up for Medicare now so that when you stop working, or if you lose your employer coverage before then you are already enrolled in Medicare. Once you decide when you want to stop working, you should contact the Social Security Administration so that you don’t have a gap in coverage between your employer’s plan and Medicare.

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.

In 2013, Pennsylvania had the fewest traffic fatalities since record-keeping in the Commonwealth began in 1928.  The number of traffic related deaths dropped to 1, 208 from 1,310 in 2012.  There were declines in the number of fatalities among those not wearing seat belts, deaths caused by speeding, deaths in single vehicle crashes, and DUI related deaths.  

Unfortunately, despite the overall decrease in traffic fatalities, there were some categories of traffic fatalities that saw increases last year. Categories that saw increases were fatalities caused by distracted driving, head-on collisions or sideswipes, and deaths involving drivers age 75 or older.  

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.