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As the only multi-state law firm in Valparaiso Indiana, Merrillville Indiana, Indianapolis Indiana, Northwest Indiana, Chicagoland, Joliet Illinois, Tinley Park Illinois, Chicago Illinois accepting serious injury and wrongful death cases, exclusively, Kenneth J. Allen Law Group is experienced and knowledgeable in the details and procedures that can make or break a case.

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Chicago Conference Warns of Generators and Carbon Monoxide Deaths in Winter: a Real Danger for Illinois and Indiana

posted by kjalaw on Dec 28th, 2013 at 1:54 pm

The weather forecast for Indiana and Illinois this Christmas holiday week is much nicer than the big winter storm that brought so much snow and ice just a few weeks ago, and it’s expected that we won’t see another big winter storm till late next week. Which means that people in our area may not be needing those popular portable gas generators now, or not as much. However, many throughout Indiana and Illinois are going to be depending on those portable gas generators for heating their bedrooms soon enough.

In fact, these things are so popular that there was a big Safety Event in Chicago recently focusing upon the dangers of these portable gas generators and how to prevent people in Indiana and Illinois from dying because of using these heaters.

Chicago Conference on the Dangers of Portable Generators and CO Poisoning in Illinois and Indiana

The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) held a conference called “Warm Up to Life Safety” in Chicago, dedicated to fighting against carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from heaters by increasing knowledge and awareness here in our area. It was held on December 19, and as NEMA pointed out in its own blog post on the event, a clear example of how prevalent this problem is for this part of the country, the same morning as the conference there were 12 people in an Illinois apartment building a mere 15 minutes from the conference site that narrowly missed fatal poisoning from a carbon monoxide leak in their apartment building, as one person had the knowledge to recognize the symptoms of CO poisoning (nausea, dizziness) and called 911 for help.

Among those who spoke at the Chicago conference was the Chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, where he announced a new CPRC report that portable generators have been found in federal studies to be related to over 85% of the non-fire carbon monoxide deaths associated with engine-driven tools. Portable generators run on fuel; the exhaust from these fuel-burning engines contains invisible and toxic carbon monoxide fumes. Often, people turn to these fuel-based heating sources when there are power outages.

Lots of people use these generators in their homes, where their families live – eat, sleep, watch TV. The CPRC study found that 74% of the generator/CO deaths happened in someone’s home. The CPRC warns that these fuel-burning generators should never be used inside a home, even if there is ventilation, because the danger of CO fumes being inhaled by people in the house is too great.

The CPRC is working with the companies that make portable generators to make them safer by changing how the products are constructed. Federal regulations require that there be warnings placed on these generators to let people know the risks involved in using them.

Better to Avoid Tragedy from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning than to File Claim Based Upon Product Liability or Wrongful Death

However, regardless of whether you have a new generator or an older model, labels or not,any fuel-burning engine used to heat a home risks the people inside with fatal carbon monoxide poisoning. Faulty alarms may be the basis of a lawsuit, and CO leaks from the apartment next door may be the subject matter of a wrongful death claim, but the hope is that these tragedies can be avoided.

Make sure you have a Carbon Monoxide Alarm in your home or apartment or condo, and that these alarms are working. And if you or a member of your family is experiencing these symptoms of CO poisoning, then call for help and exit the dwelling — better safe than sorry, and people can fall victim to carbon monoxide fumes within minutes.

From the Centers for Disease Control, here are the most common symptoms of CO poisoning:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Death
  • People who are sleeping or intoxicated can die from CO poisoning before ever experiencing symptoms.

carbon monoxide, CO poisoning





posted by kjalaw on Jun 22nd, 2013 at 8:18 am

The Centers for Disease Control announced last week that 104 employers in 8 counties across the country are participating in a federal program described by the CDC as “…a new initiative aimed at reducing chronic disease and building a healthier, more productive U.S. workforce. The initiative primarily focuses on small and mid-sized employers.”

national wellness campaign participating counties

It’s called The National Healthy Worksite Program.

Details can be found online, and those interested can also find additional resources including a periodic CDC newsletter.

One of these eight counties that is involved in this national campaign is Marion County, Indiana. (The others are Buchanan County, Mo.; Harris County, Texas; Kern County, Calif.; Philadelphia County, Pa.; Pierce County, Wash.; Shelby County, Tenn.; and Somerset County, Maine.)

Why these counties?

The Indianapolis area, along with these other communities (like Philadelphia and Houston’s Harris County), have been targeted to participate in this national program because these communities statistically have shown that their populations are suffering from higher instances of chronic disease than other areas of the country as well as having a statistical likelihood that more people there are involved in what is considered to be high “health risk behaviors” (e.g. smoking).

The companies in the National Program are all involved on a volunteer basis, and the applying employers were selected by the CDC for a number of reasons, including getting a good selection of industries represented in the nationwide campaign.

So, what’s involved here and what does this mean for our community?

For every company in the local area that is part of the National Wellness Program, the federal government will provide help and expert guidance on the creation and implementation of a company program that supports workers and employees in their efforts to eat better, to move more, and to stop smoking.  Educational materials, training, and mentor programs are part of what is being offered here.  Meanwhile, the CDC explains what the government will be doing as part of the Wellness Program:

On?going evaluation of the worksite health promotion programs will track changes in employee knowledge, behavior and productivity, as well as changes in employer health and safety culture. Evaluation efforts will also capture best practices for implementing core workplace health programs, and document unique challenges experienced by employers and strategies to overcome them.

“Employers can increase productivity, cut health care costs and reduce the burden of heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes and other health problems in their workforce by making it easier for employees to be physically active, eat healthy foods, and not smoke,” said CDC Director, Tom Frieden, M.D. M.P.H. “Our National Healthy Worksite Program is providing valuable tools to help employers create effective workplace wellness programs that will benefit employees and their families, their community, and the nation as a whole.”

Indianapolis (Marion County) Involved in National Healthy Worksite Program

In Marion County, there are thirteen (13) employers that are involved in this effort, with a combined total of 2,095 Indiana employees that will be participating in a variety of wellness campaigns.

From the CDC’s National Healthy Worksite webpage, here are the companies in the Indianapolis area (Marion County, Indiana) that are participating in this national program:

  1. ILab LLC, Indianapolis, small, services
  2. One Click Ventures, Greenwood, small, retail
  3. (formerly Bostech Corp), Indianapolis, small, services
  4. The Broadbent Company, Inc., Indianapolis, small, finance, insurance & real estate
  5. H.J. Umbaugh & Associates CPA LLP, Indianapolis, small, finance, insurance & real estate
  6. Med Shield, Inc., Indianapolis, small, finance, insurance & real estate
  7. Ciproms Inc., Indianapolis, mid-size, finance, insurance & real estate
  8. TKO Graphics, Indianapolis, mid-size, manufacturing
  9. Bosma Industries for the Blind Inc. (Bosma Enterprises), Indianapolis, mid-size, manufacturing
  10. Day Nursery Association, Indianapolis, mid-size, services
  11. Buchanan Inc., Indianapolis, mid-size, services
  12. CICOA Aging & In-Home Solutions, Indianapolis, mid-size, services
  13. Indiana State Department of Health, Indianapolis, large, public administration.

Injuries and illness resulting from working on the job are often the basis for serious personal injury claims, some forming the basis of a workers’ compensation claim and some becoming the basis of a civil personal injury lawsuits based on state or federal law.  Efforts made by companies to protect their workers from harm and injury, including these wellness campaigns, are welcome news to workers and those who represent injured workers and their loved ones who have to deal with the aftermath of being severely hurt while working on the job.




posted by kjalaw on Mar 19th, 2013 at 7:44 am

Skecher Shape Up shoes and Skecher Tone-Up shoes look different than other walking shoes, tennis shoes, work-out shoes, or running shoes: they have a thick, rocker bottom that the manufacturer promoted to be helpful in getting fit — you could “shape up while you walk.”  Problem is — lots of people are getting hurt while wearing these shoes.They are suffering from serious personal injuries that bring with them things like pain, suffering, lost work, etc. and the marketing promises are without support.

“Skechers’ unfounded claims went beyond stronger and more toned muscles. The company even made claims about weight loss and cardiovascular health,” said David Vladeck, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The FTC’s message, for Skechers and other national advertisers, is to shape up your substantiation or tone down your claims.”

Maybe you saw some of their advertising — remember any of these?  Skechers advertisements challenged by the FTC include:

  • A Shape-ups ad telling consumers to “Shape Up While You Walk,” and “Get in Shape without Setting Foot in a Gym,” and claiming that the shoes are designed to promote weight loss and tone muscles. The FTC alleges that Skechers made unsupported claims that Shape-ups would provide more weight loss, and more muscle toning and strengthening than regular fitness shoes.
  • Shape-ups ads with an endorsement from a chiropractor named Dr. Steven Gautreau, who recommended the product based on the results of an “independent” clinical study he conducted that tested the shoes’ benefits compared to those provided by regular fitness shoes. The FTC alleges that this study did not produce the results claimed in the ad, that Skechers failed to disclose that Dr. Gautreau is married to a Skechers marketing executive, and that Skechers paid Dr. Gautreau to conduct the study.
  • Shape-ups ads featuring celebrities including Kim Kardashian and Brooke Burke. Airing during the 2011 Super Bowl, the Kardashian ad showed her dumping her personal trainer for a pair of Shape-ups. The Burke ad told consumers that the newest way to burn calories and tone and strengthen muscles was to tie their Shape-ups shoe laces.
  • An ad that claims consumers who wear Resistance Runner shoes will increase “muscle activation” by up to 85 percent for posture-related muscles, 71 percent for one of the muscles in the buttocks, and 68 percent for calf muscles, compared to wearing regular running shoes. The FTC alleges that in citing the study that claimed to back this up, Skechers cherry-picked results and failed to substantiate its ad claims.

FTC Settlement in May 2012

Last year, the Federal Trade Commission announced that the manufacturer, Skechers USA, had entered into a settlement agreement with the FTC and would be forking over $40 million in settlement of federal charges that Skechers USA, Inc. deceived consumersby making claims in its marketing and advertising that these shoes would help people lose weight, and strengthen and tone their buttocks, legs and abdominal muscles.  The company had no factual support for these claims.

Did you buy Skechers toning shoes? You may be eligible for a refund. Go to or click this image.

The FTC settlement covered not only Skechers Shape Ups but also its Resistance Runner, Toners, and Tone-ups shoes, and as a result of the FTC action, people who had purchased these unsafe shoes could get a refund for their purchase.

These Injuries Are Serious

People have suffered fractures to their feet, wrists, hips, and ankles.  Some people have experienced fractures to their necks and backs from wearing these shoes.  Tendons have been damaged.  Ligaments have been injured.

People who bought shoes to try and be responsible about their health have ended up with bodily injury.  That in addition to other personal injury kinds of damage: pain and suffering; quality of life being impacted; people losing work; things like that.  As anyone who has suffered a serious neck, back, or leg injury knows — your entire life is changed when you suffer an injury like this.

Lawsuits Being Filed Across the Country

Across the country, civil lawsuits are being filed by people who wore these shoes and suffered serious injury as a result. These are personal injury cases based on product liability laws as well as lawsuits based upon deceptive practices of the manufacturer in marketing these shoes as something healthy and helpful in getting fit when the company had no support for those claims.

If you or a loved one have been injured and suffered damages from injuries sustained while wearing a pair of these Skechers shoes, then it’s important to investigate whether or not you have a case against the manufacturer for legal damages based upon state product liability law or deceptive practices.




posted by kjalaw on Mar 18th, 2013 at 10:36 am

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued a big, big warning to doctors, hospitals, clinics, nursing homes — all health care providers — about something that is very scary:  a new strain of germs that don’t respond to antibiotics.  People are dying after being exposed to this drug-resistant bacteria and there’s no drug that can stop this.Which means that there’s a big duty on these health care providers to protect us all from this dangerous bacteria, officially known as carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE.

Super-bug CRE is spreading through health care facilities like wildfire.  It’s already been found in 42 states, especially in the northeastern part of the country.  Investigation into the Chicago area Intensive Care Units (ICUs) last year already found that 3% of these ICU patients had been infected with CRE and that there was a shockingly high 30% infected in long-term care facilities (e.g. nursing homes).

It is the duty of health care providers to provide protection from disease, especially to those patients in their care. Hospitals, nursing homes, doctors’ clinics, and more have been officially warned by the CDC of the CRE SuperBug and measures should already be in place to protect you and your loved ones from this potentially fatal bacterial infection.

CRE kills. Be aware of the need to protect against exposure to it.

Read here the warning that has been sent out to doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, and more from the federal agency.  From the CDC to Health Care Professionals on March 5, 2013:

CDC: Action needed now to halt spread of deadly bacteria

Data show more inpatients suffering infections from bacteria resistant to all or nearly all antibiotics A family of bacteria has become increasingly resistant to last-resort ntibiotics during the past decade, and more hospitalized patients are getting lethal infections that, in some cases, are impossible to cure. The findings, published today in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Vital Signs ( report, are a call to action for the entire health care community to work urgently – individually, regionally and nationally – to protect patients. During just the first half of 2012, almost 200 hospitals and long-term acute care facilities treated at least one patient infected with these bacteria. The bacteria, Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE ( ), kill up to half of patients who get bloodstream infections from them. In addition to spreading among patients, often on the hands of health care personnel, CRE bacteria can transfer their resistance to other bacteria within their family. This type of spread can create additional life-threatening infections for patients in hospitals and potentially for otherwise healthy people. Currently, almost all CRE infections occur in people receiving significant medical care in hospitals, long-term acute care facilities, or nursing homes.

“CRE are nightmare bacteria. Our strongest antibiotics don’t work and patients are left with potentially untreatable infections,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “Doctors, hospital leaders, and public health, must work together now to implement CDC’s “detect and protect” strategy and stop these infections from spreading.”

Enterobacteriaceae are a family of more than 70 bacteria including Klebsiella pneumoniae and E. coli that normally live in the digestive system. Over time, some of these bacteria have become resistant to a group of antibiotics known as carbapenems, often referred to as last-resort antibiotics.  During the last decade, CDC has tracked one type of CRE from a single health care facility to health care facilities in at least 42 states.  In some medical facilities, these bacteria already pose a routine challenge to health care professionals.

The Vital Signs report describes that although CRE bacteria are not yet common nationally, the percentage of Enterobacteriaceae that are CRE increased by fourfold in the past decade.  One type of CRE, a resistant form of Klebsiella pneumoniae, has shown a sevenfold increase in the last decade.  In the U.S., northeastern states report the most cases of CRE.

According to the report, during the first half of 2012, four percent of hospitals treated a patient with a CRE infection.  About 18 percent of long-term acute care facilities treated a patient with a CRE infection during that time.

In 2012, CDC released a concise, practical CRE prevention toolkit with in-depth recommendations for hospitals, long-term acute care facilities, nursing homes and health departments. Key recommendations include:

  • enforcing use of infection control precautions (standard and contact precautions)
  • grouping patients with CRE together
  • dedicating staff, rooms and equipment to the care of patients with CRE, whenever possible
  • having facilities alert each other when patients with CRE transfer back and forth
  • asking patients whether they have recently received care somewhere else (including another country)
  • using antibiotics wisely

In addition, CDC recommends screening patients in certain scenarios to determine if they are carrying CRE.  Because of the way CRE can be carried by patients from one health care setting to another, facilities are encouraged to work together regionally to implement CRE prevention programs.

These core prevention measures are critical and can significantly reduce the problem today and for the future.  In addition, continued investment into research and technology, such as a testing approach called Advanced Molecular Detection (AMD), is critical to further prevent and more quickly identify CRE.

In some parts of the world, CRE appear to be more common, and evidence shows they can be controlled.  Israel recently employed a coordinated effort in its 27 hospitals and dropped CRE rates by more than 70 percent. Several facilities and states in the U.S. have also seen similar reductions.

“We have seen in outbreak after outbreak that when facilities and regions follow CDC’s prevention guidelines, CRE can be controlled and even stopped,” said Michael Bell, M.D., acting director of CDC’s Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion. “As trusted health care providers, it is our responsibility to prevent further spread of these deadly bacteria.”

Vital Signs is a CDC report that appears on the first Tuesday of the month as part of the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, or MMWR. The report provides the latest data and information on key health indicators. These are cancer prevention, obesity, tobacco use, motor vehicle passenger safety, prescription drug overdose, HIV/AIDS, alcohol use, health care–associated infections, cardiovascular health, teen pregnancy, food safety and viral hepatitis.

CDC works 24/7 saving lives, protecting people from health threats, and saving money to have a more secure nation.  Whether these threats are chronic or acute, manmade or natural, human error or deliberate attack, global or domestic, CDC is the U.S. health protection agency.




posted by kjalaw on Mar 13th, 2013 at 6:03 pm

The trucking industry is still fighting hard against increased federal safety regulations, in particular the nation-wide implementation of CSA (Compliance Safety Accountability system). This month, one of the big controversies stems from how truck crashes – those big rig semi accidents that all too often involve several deaths on our roadways – are tallied with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Compliance, Safety, Accountability -

The American Trucking Association is asking FMCSA to delve into its numbers and split things up, so that the causes of the truck accidents are categorized.  The ATA wants the federal agency to cull through semi tractor trailer accident reports, and separate the big rig crashes that show (in their words, “where it was plainly evident”) that the trucking company was not at fault for the crash.

In their request, the American Trucking Association pointed to three accidents where:

  1. the driver of a stolen car drove over a median;
  2. a drunk driver rear-ended a gasoline tanker truck; and
  3. the pursuit of a stolen vehicle ended in a crash involving a semi truck.

From the ATA:

“Just last month, police gave chase to a driver of a stolen car who crossed a grassy median and struck a truck head-on,” said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves. “It is clearly inappropriate for FMCSA to use these types of crashes to prioritize trucking companies for future government intervention, especially when responsibility for the crash is so obvious.  Including these types of crashes in the calculation of carriers’ CSA scores, paints an inappropriate picture for shippers and others that these companies are somehow unsafe,” he said.

Probable Cause Isn’t That Easy To Determine

Noted in the ATA press release was the report of a crash reconstructionist who testified before the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee of FMCSA and explained that it is not that easy to figure out the cause of a commercial truck accident; according to the crash reconstructionist, FMCSA could not determine fault in many instances based solely on information from police accident reports.

While it is understandable that trucking companies do not want accidents for which their trucks and their drivers are not legally responsible to be included in federal statistics kept on trucking accidents, it is also valid for the FMCSA to be concerned over the determination of cause in a trucking accident.

The cause of an accident, particularly a huge traffic accident involving a large big rig, semi, or tractor trailer truck, can be a very complicated study involving scientific and forensic experts in a variety of fields.   Often, those at the scene of the crash are simply unable to decide what the cause – or causes – of the accident are, because they don’t have the education, training, or time needed to fully analyze the situation.

For example, skid marks.  Mathematical analysis of all skid marks at the scene must be done and thereafter evaluated.  Things to be considered here include the amount of force (friction) on the tires of the truck as well as all other vehicles involved in the crash.

Coupled with that are considerations of the road conditions at the time – not only the type of road (asphalt, dirt, etc.) but any hazards that existed at the time (debris, trash, ice, snow, etc.).  Weights of the vehicles must be determined, not only of the fully-loaded cargo rig, but the other vehicles in the crash.

Additionally, there will analysis of what the drivers were doing at the time, as well as what else was going on at the scene.  At first glance, for example, a truck being rear-ended may look to be an easy call: the driver who crashed into the back of the truck is at fault.  However, more analysis may reveal things like road hazards like ice that contributed to the crash; maybe the truck’s brake lights malfunctioned or were covered by mud; perhaps the car was slammed into the rig by a third vehicle.

Probable cause of an accident is a major fact issue in many trucking accidents. FMCSA is taking its time in addressing the cause issues brought up by ATA for a reason.




posted by kjalaw on Mar 11th, 2013 at 1:38 pm

This week, around the country, private and public programs are educating people about various ways that consumers are getting scammed today as part of National Consumer Protection Week. Each year, more and more plaintiffs’ attorneys along with law enforcement agencies and consumer rights groups witness the constantly innovative ways that innocent people are victimized and harmed in all sorts of scams.

“Consumer complaints help our office identify, investigate and sometime prosecute businesses that rip off or scam Indiana residents,” Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said. “The annual top 10 consumer complaint list aims to help educate consumers and guide our consumer protection efforts to cut down on scams and industry problems.”

Consumer crimes can form the basis of personal injury lawsuits if the evildoer can be located along with his or her stash of cash or funds to reimburse the victim for the sums that have been taken from the consumer.  Additionally, these are often criminal acts as defined by state and federal law, which allows law enforcement to arrest and charge the scammer with a crime.

From the Indiana Attorney General today:

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s office received more used car sales and service complaints in 2012 than in any other category…. Zoeller today released the annual top 10 consumer complaint categories and consumer tips on how Hoosiers can protect themselves from being ripped off…. Here are the top 10 consumer complaints filed with the Indiana Attorney General’s Office in 2012 and tips on how to avoid being victimized:

1. Used auto sales and service

Before purchasing a car make sure to research local dealers and check with the Indiana Attorney General’s office or Better Business Bureau for complaints. Once you find a vehicle, have the car inspected by an independent mechanic. Take your time to read and understand the entire written purchase agreement before signing. Be sure that the terms of any warranty that come with the car are spelled out in your contract. If you need repairs done on your vehicle, research auto repair shops and request an estimate for parts and labor in writing before any work is done. Before taking your car home, make sure all work completed is described to you and all guarantees are in writing. Also, ask the service representative to show you any major new parts that were installed or replaced.

2. Internet scams and sales

Research the online business you plan to purchase from and confirm their physical address and phone number in case you need to contact them. Consider using an online payment service, such as PayPal, or your credit card, which protects your transaction under the Fair Credit Billing Act. Save any transaction or confirmation numbers from Internet purchases and make a note of the time and contents of the order. If you receive an unsolicited e-mail, never respond to requests for personal or financial information and don’t click on any links.

3. Debt collection

If you receive a debt collection notice, make sure you determine whether you are being contacted for legitimate nonpayment by a lawful creditor. It’s important to know your rights and how to recognize abusive collection practices. Keep track of phone conversations and other interactions. File a complaint with the Attorney General’s office if you suspect the agency is not legitimate, if you are being harassed or if the collector refuses to supply verification of the debt.

4. Lending and mortgage related

The tough economy paired with already struggling homeowners has meant big business for scammers who aim to prey on their victims’ desperation to stay in their homes. Illegitimate foreclosure consultants will promise to reduce your monthly mortgage payment or take other steps to save your home – all for an upfront fee. Unfortunately, homeowners find out too late that no work was done and calls to the company go unanswered. If you are facing foreclosure, seek free assistance from a legitimate nonprofit like the Indiana Foreclosure Prevention Network at

5. Home repairs and construction

Door-to-door salesman offering home improvement services – especially after damaging storms – may pressure homeowners into making quick decisions. Do your research on the contractor and compare bids with other local and reputable companies. Indiana law requires home improvement contracts exceeding $150 to be in writing. Never pay for the entire project before the work begins and do not pay more than one third of the total cost as a down payment. Remaining payments should be tied to completion of specified amounts of work.

6. Telemarketing calls

Indiana’s Do Not Call law protects registered numbers from receiving legitimate telemarketing calls. Unfortunately, illegitimate businesses and scammers skirt the law by not purchasing the list and trying to deceive consumers with phony sales pitches. That’s why if you are on the Do Not Call list and receive a sales call or text message you can count on it being a scam. Those on the state’s list can file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office at

7. Identity theft

Staying alert and being able to spot the signs of identity theft can help you thwart identity thieves. Monitoring your financial statements regularly and checking your credit report at least once a year can help you detect errors, accounts you never opened, and/or bills sent to the wrong address – all signs that someone else is using and ruining, your name and credit. To learn more about protecting yourself or recovering from ID theft visit

8. Retail stores

Carefully check the store’s refund policy before making a purchase to know whether you can expect a cash refund, in-store credit or an exchange. Layaway plans, while often helpful, can contain hidden fees or refund restrictions. That’s why it is important to get a copy of the layaway policy in writing before you start making payments.

9. Landlord or tenant related
Tenants have certain rights under Indiana law and it’s important to understand them before entering into any lease. Make sure you thoroughly read and understand your lease to determine your obligations as well as the landlord’s responsibilities.

10. Wireless phone providers

Before contracting with a wireless service provider make sure you research the company, network and plan. Compare several different providers to determine what plan fits your needs and budget. In addition to your plan’s costs, make sure you consider other charges like activation fees, insurance and overages.




posted by kjalaw on Mar 10th, 2013 at 10:46 am

Shocking news today as there have been three separate school bus crashes in Indianapolis, however only one of the three bus crashes resulted in anyone being hurt. All three school buses were operated by the Indianpolis Public Schools and all three happened within two hours of each other this morning.

Police reports are that four kids were taken to a local hospital after being involved in an Indianapolis school bus crash that happened around eight o’clock this morning.    They were the only passengers on the school bus that was headed for a local elementary school when the school bus was rear-ended by a car.

No one was injured in the other two school bus accidents, where luckily one bus from Pike Township only carried two children as passengers at the time that it crashed into a car (7:20am). That car caught fire after the crash; however, no one was hospitalized after this accident. No details as yet on the third IPS bus crash which was the last crash of the day (8:40 am).

Safety Issues for School Buses

School buses and other buses that carry children (e.g., camp buses, church buses, etc.) should carry insurance to cover any injuries that may occur in a school bus crash.  In fact,less than a year ago Governor Quinn of Illinois signed into law additional protections for kids that clarify the requirements for liability insurance coverage of buses that carry children in that state.

There is good reason for this:  there are times when school bus accidents are much more serious than the three that happened this morning.  It is almost one year to the day that another school bus crash resulted in the death of Donasty Smith, 5, when the Lighthouse Charter School bus she rode crashed into a pillar last March 12. Her parents later sued for her wrongful death, bringing into question the safety of school buses in this area.

Only six states require seat belts for school buses: California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, and Texas.  Other states rely upon a concept approved by the federal agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), referred to as “compartmentalization” which suggests that the size of the school bus together with how the seats are fitted into the bus itself act to provide adequate safety for children without the need for seat belts.

It is true that the percentages of deaths caused by school bus crashes are low.  However, whenever news arrives that kids have been hurt in a bus crash those overall national statistics go out the window.  Kids deserve to be safe and school districts must be responsible for making sure that children are safe by providing the safest vehicle possible as well as skilled and reputable drivers.

Image:  School bus, public domain, Wikimedia Commons.




posted by kjalaw on Mar 4th, 2013 at 9:56 am

Yesterday, a jury returned to a New Jersey courtroom and returned their verdict of $3,350,000 against Johnson & Johnson, and for a South Dakota plaintiff named Linda Gross, in the first of almost 2000 vaginal mesh product injury cases filed by women all across the country suffering from conditions like pelvic organ collapse against Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary company, Ethicon.   Ms. Gross has had to endure 18 surgeries to try and fix what has happened to her because of this defective product.

There are also other vaginal mesh cases that are on file, against other manufacturers of vaginal mesh products, that may be impacted by the decision of this one jury of twelve people this week.  Additionally, the New Jersey case isn’t over: this morning, a hearing began on how much money will be assessed against Johnson & Johnson and Ethicon in punitive damages.

Johnson & Johnson is facing allegations that its promotional materials for its vaginal mesh product, an implant placed into the body, did not give her doctor enough information about the risks and dangers of this product and as a result, these plaintiffs have suffered serious harm.  And this is something that Johnson & Johnson has deem a serious enough danger to its own bottom line that it has notified its stockholders of these pending lawsuits in its latest Annual Report to its shareholders.

In its Annual Report,  filed February 22, 2013, Johnson & Johnson reports that 42 state attorneys general, led by the California Attorney General, are investigating allegations into its vaginal mesh implants as well as its surgical mesh and right now, the company and its subsidiaries have agreed in writing with these states to toll the statute of limitations (or filing deadline) on the state’s potential lawsuits while these investigation continue.

What is Pelvic Organ Prolapse and Who Needs Vaginal Mesh Surgery?

Women suffer from pelvic organ prolapse, or POP, when one of their internal organs – most often, the bladder – to fall or prolapse from its natural position because abdominal muscles have stretched and have been weakened due to things like giving birth.  Sometimes, more than one organ is involved, or falls.

Women experiencing POP will have a variety of symptoms and there are treatment options to be tried before surgery is considered.  Symptoms include:

  • Feeling pressure from pelvic organs pressing against the sides of your vagina.
  • Feeling very full in your lower belly.
  • Feeling as if something is falling out of your vagina or feeling something in your vagina when you wipe after using the bathroom.
  • Feeling a pull or stretch in your groin area or pain in your lower back.
  • Releasing urine without meaning to (incontinence), or needing to urinate a lot.
  • Having pain during sex.
  • Having problems with your bladder or bowels, such as constipation or problems emptying your bladder.

FDA Information for Those Who Have or Are Considering Vaginal Mesh Surgery ( Pelvic Organ Prolapse or POP Surgery)

The FDA has been monitoring these vaginal mesh products and on its website, the following information is provided to women suffering from pelvic organ prolapse or needing transvaginal repair. Here, from the Food and Drug Administration website:

Women who have mesh surgery may be at risk for needing additional surgery due to mesh-related complications. In a small number of patients, repeat surgery may not resolve complications.  Ask your surgeon about all POP treatment options, including surgical repair with or without mesh and non-surgical options, and understand why your surgeon may be recommending treatment of POP with mesh.

If you are considering surgery with the use of surgical mesh to repair your POP, ask your surgeon these questions BEFORE you agree to the procedure:

  • Are you planning to use mesh in my surgery?
  • Why do you think I am a good candidate for surgical mesh?
  • Why is surgical mesh being chosen for my repair?
  • What are the alternatives to transvaginal surgical mesh repair for POP, including non-surgical options?
  • What are the pros and cons of using surgical mesh in my particular case? How likely is it that my repair could be successfully performed without using surgical mesh?
  • Will my partner be able to feel the surgical mesh during sexual intercourse? What if the surgical mesh erodes through my vaginal wall?
  • If surgical mesh is to be used, how often have you implanted this particular product? What results have your other patients had with this product?
  • What can I expect to feel after surgery and for how long?
  • Which specific side effects should I report to you after the surgery?
  • If I develop a complication, will you treat it or will I be referred to a specialist experienced with surgical mesh complications?
  • What if the mesh surgery doesn’t correct my problem?
  • If I develop a complication, will you treat it or will I be referred to a specialist experienced with surgical mesh complications?
  • If I have a complication related to the surgical mesh, how likely is it that the surgical mesh could be removed and what could be the consequences?
  • If a surgical mesh is to be used, is there patient information that comes with the product, and can I have a copy?

If you have surgery with mesh to repair your POP, you should:

  • Continue with your annual and other routine check-ups and follow-up care. There is no need to take additional action if you are satisfied with your surgery and are not having complications or symptoms.
  • Notify your health care provider if you have complications or symptoms, including persistent vaginal bleeding or discharge, pelvic or groin pain or pain with sex, that last after your follow-up appointment.
  • Let your health care provider know you have surgical mesh, especially if you plan to have another surgery or other medical procedures.
  • Talk to your health care provider about any questions you may have.




posted by kjalaw on Mar 2nd, 2013 at 7:17 pm

For 11 years in a row, the number of people dying from drug overdoses in the United States keeps getting higher, according to a report published this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) by Christopher M. Jones, Pharm.D.; Karin A. Mack, Ph.D.; and Leonard J. Paulozzi, M.D. entitled, “Pharmaceutical Overdose Deaths, United States, 2010.”

But these aren’t deaths caused by illegal drugs like crystal methamphetamine or cocaine: people are dying from drugs that are dispensed by pharmacies or clinics or hospitals and prescribed by doctors.  Drugs overseen by health care professionals are the ones that are killing more and more people in America today.

The Biggest Problem:  Pain Pills

The big three prescription drugs that are killing people appear to be the pain medications oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone. (Methadone is widely known as a treatment for those addicted to heroin, however it is also a powerful and popular pain reliever.)   These pain medications were involved in about 75% of the pharmaceutical overdose deaths in 2010.

Another Growing Problem: Anti-Anxiety Drugs and Anti-Depressants

Additionally, lots of serious (and dangerous) prescription drugs are being given to people who are undergoing treatment for mental illness.  Benzodiazepines (anti-anxiety drugs) were involved in nearly 30% of these reported deaths; antidepressants in 18%, and antipsychotic drugs in 6%.

“Patients with mental health or substance use disorders are at increased risk for nonmedical use and overdose from prescription painkillers as well as being prescribed high doses of these drugs,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “Appropriate screening, identification, and clinical management by health care providers are essential parts of both behavioral health and chronic pain management.”

Common names for benzodiazepines – do you or a loved one take one of these?

Doral -generic name: quazepam
Onfi – generic name: clobazam
Niravam – generic name: alprazolam
Prosom – generic name: estazolam
Alprazolam Intensol – generic name: alprazolam
Dalmane -generic name: flurazepam
Diazepam Intensol – generic name: diazepam
Versed – generic name: midazolam
Xanax XR – generic name: alprazolam
Serax – generic name: oxazepam
Xanax – generic name: alprazolam
Klonopin – generic name: clonazepam
Valium – generic name: diazepam
Halcion – generic name: triazolam
Klonopin Wafer – generic name: clonazepam
Librium – chlordiazepoxide
Ativan – generic name: lorazepam
Tranxene – generic name: clorazepate
Restoril – generic name: temazepam
Diastat – generic name: diazepam
Tranxene T-Tab – generic name: clorazepate
Lorazepam Intensol – generic name: lorazepam
Tranxene SD – generic name: clorazepate
Diastat AcuDial – generic name: diazepam
Diastat Pediatric – generic name: diazepam
Paxipam – generic name: halazepam
Valrelease – generic name: diazepam

Common names for antidepressants – do you or a loved one take one of these?

Abilify (ariprazole) – used in combination with antidepressants
Adapin (doxepin)
Anafranil (clomipramine)
Aplenzin (bupropion)
Asendin (amoxapine)
Aventyl HCI (nortriptyline)
Celexa (citalopram)
Cymbalta (duloxetine)
Desyrel (trazodone)
Effexor XR (venlafaxine)
Emsam (selegiline)
Etrafon (perphenazine and amitriptyline)
Elavil (amitriptyline)
Endep (amitriptyline)
Lexapro (escitalopram)
Limbitrol (amitriptyline and chlordiazepoxide)
Marplan (isocarboxazid)
Nardil (phenelzine)
Norpramin (desipramine)
Oleptro (trazodone)
Pamelor (nortriptyline)
Parnate (tranylcypromine)
Paxil (paroxetine)
Pexeva (paroxetine)
Prozac (fluoxetine)
Pristiq (desvenlafaxine)
Remeron (mirtazapine)
Sarafem (fluoxetine)
Seroquel XR (quetiapine) — used in combination with antidepressants
Serzone (nefazodone)
Sinequan (doxepin)
Surmontil (trimipramine)
Symbyax (fluoxetine and olanzapine)
Tofranil (imipramine)
Triavil (perphenazine and amitriptyline)
Viibryd (vilazodone)
Vivactil (protriptyline)
Wellbutrin (bupropion)
Zoloft (sertraline)
Zyprexa (olanzapine) — used in combination with antidepressants


From the Center for Disease Control:

1.  38,329 people died from a drug overdose in the United States in 2010, up from 37,004 deaths in 2009.

2.  There has been a  steady rise in overdose deaths seen over the past 11 years, starting with 16,849 deaths in 1999.

3.  Overdose deaths involving opioid analgesics have shown a similar increase. Starting with 4,030 deaths in 1999, the number of deaths increased to 15,597 in 2009 and 16,651 in 2010.

4.  In 2010, nearly 60 percent of the drug overdose deaths (22,134) involved pharmaceutical drugs.

5.  Opioid analgesics, such as oxycodonehydrocodone, andmethadone, were involved in about 3 of every 4 pharmaceutical overdose deaths (16,651), confirming the predominant role opioid analgesics play in drug overdose deaths.




posted by kjalaw on Feb 24th, 2013 at 8:39 am

Drug manufacturers in the United States are the cause of many personal injuries and wrongful deaths, and it’s not news: consider the past 2004 headlines dealing witharthritis drug Vioxx, for example.  Big Pharma is known to market drugs and pharmaceuticals that hurt people.

However, there’s another twist to drugs prescribed for people to heal them, help them get better, or deal with symptoms like stopping pain.  Patients can be taking drugs that they trust to help them, which are twisted in some way.  Like the drugs that came from the Massachusetts compounding lab that dispensed bad pain medication resulting in a national meningitis outbreak.

In 2011, the nation was shocked by new studies that revealed prescription drug deaths exceed the number of deaths due to traffic fatalities in this country.  This is a growing problem that is far from being solved.

In fact, the prescription drug crisis is now extremely serious.  This month, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies introduced a new report on the latest twist to the drug death epidemic we are facing entitled, ” Countering the Problem of Falsified and Substandard Drugs.”

In the new report, backed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Institute of Medicine explains that these fake and sub-par medications either don’t help the patient because they’re too weak or inept to do any good, or they are unsafe in some way.  The Massachusetts compounding lab event is used as an example of this problem, where the Institute tallies that the pain medication that was sold by the Massachusetts pharmacy ended up killing 44 people from September 2012 to January 2013.

While many of these false drugs and substandard medications are being sold in other countries (Asia has a huge problem with them right now), there are those that warn of buying drugs across any national line.  Canadian prescriptions or pet medications bought online may be cheaper, but the product may be powerless to help or downright dangerous.

If you think that you may have been hurt by a medication, then it’s the responsible thing to check out your hunch.  Don’t be intimidated by fancy packaging, the company name (famous makers can still be bad actors), or a visit to the doctor.  Save the packaging, save the medication, but trust your intuition and get medical care if you think that you or a loved one has been hurt, seriously injured, or tragically killed by a prescription medication.  While a lawyer will be needed to evaluate your legal claim, making sure of your personal health and the safety of your family with a trusted physician must come first.


From the FDA:

FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg’s Statement on the Institute of Medicine’s Report “Countering the Problem of Falsified and Substandard Drugs”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration commends the Institute of Medicine (IOM) for its thorough discussion and recommendations outlined in its report, “Countering the Problem of Falsified and Substandard Drugsdisclaimer icon.” The report identifies causes and public health consequences of substandard and falsified drugs and recommends a range of strategies to address the problem and to promote global dialogue and action.

The IOM report spotlights a critical global public health issue. Falsified and substandard medicines adversely affect the lives of millions around the world, and the issue must be elevated to the highest levels of international discourse.

In order to meet the challenges of today’s global marketplace, the FDA is transforming from a predominantly domestically focused agency to one that is fully prepared to help ensure product safety and quality within a globalized world. In this context, many of the IOM recommendations support actions and efforts already underway at the FDA, including advancing technology, strengthening global regulatory capacity, strengthening surveillance, developing science-based standards and engaging in global dialogue.

The FDA engages in numerous efforts to combat substandard, falsely-labeled and counterfeit medical products globally. These include overseas presence in 12 countries in seven regions; active engagement with the World Health Organization’s new Member State Mechanism; and participation in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Regulatory Harmonization Steering Committee (RHSC) roadmap aimed at improving global medical product quality and supply chain integrity. In 2011, the FDA added to these efforts by commissioning the IOM to undertake the study released today.

The FDA recognizes that all countries need to work together to ensure safe medicinal products for their citizens due to the increasing complexity of the global economy. The FDA remains committed to engaging with multiple stakeholder groups to advance global solutions and minimize exposure of consumers to unsafe products.




posted by kjalaw on Feb 19th, 2013 at 5:32 am

Motorcoaches are buses – the big buses that people take to get from one place to another. You recognize their names: Greyhound, Trailways. They’re also regional motorcoach bus companies: shuttles and local or regional motorcoach companies (go here for the list of those operating in Indiana, for example).

FMCSA oversees the safety of 4,000+ motorcoach companies (buses) in the United States, which combined together have 700,000,000+ passengers take trips on their buses annually.  It’s a nice, economical method of transportation and many people enjoy bus travel today.  It’s considered safe, dependable travel.

However, when these big monster vehicles crash, there can be lots of people seriously injured or wrongfully killed in the bus accident.   Motorcoach bus crashes are very dangerous.

Which is why today, the U.S. Department of  Transportation and its Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced an immediate, targeted safety “crackdown” where the federal agency will be sending out specially trained investigative teams to check out these bus motorcoach companies.  It’s going to happen fast, too: the federal crackdown will start now and it’s first investigation phase continue for the next two months.

Law enforcement officers at both the state and local levels are being asked by FMCSA to focus on buses now, too: to check for things like bus motorcoach drivers driving over the speed limit, or changing lanes in a dangerous manner.  FMCSA is asking traffic cops to watch buses for things like distracting driving too:  bus drivers using a cell phone or texting are being targeted here.

“Our fundamental goal is to ensure the safety of passengers on our roadways and save lives,” said Secretary LaHood. “We’ve seen the tragic consequences when motorcoach companies cut corners and do not make safety a top priority. With this goal at the top of our priorities, we can continue to raise the safety bar for the entire industry.”

What are the bus dangers that the federal motorcoach investigators will be investigating?

After getting special training, these FMCSA inspectors are going to be looking into things like:

  • bus operating schedules
  • motorcoach equipment storage
  • bus driver qualifications.

Why the big crackdown?  According to the FMCSA release today, the two big bus crashes in Oregon and California in recent months has resulted in lots of regulatory concern over how safe – or unsafe – it is to ride a bus on American roadways today.

“Motorcoach safety is at the center of this agency’s radar,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. “While motorcoach travel is among the safest forms of roadway transportation today, it can and must be safer. The traveling public deserves no less.”




posted by kjalaw on Feb 16th, 2013 at 7:21 pm

Big rigs, 18 wheelers, tractor trailers, semis: whatever you call those big commercial trucks that share the roads with family cars, motorcycles, and SUVs, they are likely to be involved in traffic accidents that include serious injuries or deaths because of their size, their weight, and their volume (and sometimes, their speed).  It’s true for the roadways here in Indiana, Illinois, and our surrounding communities as well as across the country.  And it’s true for other parts of the world, as well, since these big trucks are used all around the globe to move products and cargo from place to place.

Which is why the new study from Volvo Trucks’ Accident Research Team regarding safety and road accidents in Europe is important for Americans to consider when dealing with the dangers of commercial trucks sharing the roads with other traffic.

According to the Volvo Trucks’ European Accident Research and Safety Report 2013 (read it here), nine out of ten accidents (that’s right:  9 out of 10 accidents) involving trucks happened because of the human factor.  From the Report (page 6):

The two most common human factor related factors that contribute to heavy truck accidents are failure to look properly and failure to judge another person’s path or speed. When the vehicle contributes to the accident, the most common cause is limited visibility due to blind spots.

Volvo Trucks’ Accident Research Team bases its findings not only on Volvo’s own investigations and research but from compiling data collected from various reputable sources in the various 27 countries that make up the European Union.  According to Volvo’s finding, these big rig crashes are due to human drivers in either the truck or the other vehicle(s) in the accident, and speed isn’t gauged correctly by a driver or there’s an instance of distracted driving.  Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol did not seem to be a problem in the European study of trucking accidents.

After Nevada Crash, New Regulations Proposed for U.S. Truckers by NTSB to FMCSA

Meanwhile, on our side of the pond, the federal government is working out more regulations of truckers after the June 2011 tragedy where a commercial truck collided with a train in Reno, Nevada.    The National Transportation Safety Board has just issued 19 new safety regulations as a result of its investigation of this single accident, and if these proposals become law then trucking companies will have a lot more to do in checking out who is driving their trucks.  Here’s what the NTSB wants to see happen:

  • Create a mechanism to gather and record commercial driving-related employment history information about all drivers who have a commercial driver’s license, and make this information available to all prospective motor carrier employers.
  • Using that mechanism to require motor carriers to conduct and document investigations into the employment records of prospective drivers for the 10 years that precede the application date.
  • Require motor carriers to retrieve records from the Commercial Driver’s License Information System and the National Driver Register for all driver applicants so that they can obtain a complete driving and license history of prospective drivers.
  • Inform commercial vehicle inspectors of (1) the importance of taking pushrod stroke measurements within the specified pressure range, (2) the relationship between pushrod stroke and specific air pressure, and (3) the consequence of taking measurements outside of this range.

Read the NTSB’s Accident Report regarding the Nevada Truck – Train Collision here.According to the Report, delayed braking of the truck was a contributing factor to the crash:

Commercial driver fatigue and distraction: Despite visual cues provided by the active grade crossing directly in front of him, the truck driver did not begin skidding and depositing tire marks on the roadway until it was too late to avoid a collision with the passing train.




posted by kjalaw on Feb 13th, 2013 at 8:08 am

The news is still coming in today about a tragic traffic accident that happened early this morning on the Bishop Ford Freeway in Dalton, Illinois: a beautiful young woman somehow fell out of a moving SUV and after hitting the pavement was run over by both a semi truck and a car.  So far, it’s known that Jennifer Mitchell died at the scene of this horrific accident and that the driver of the SUV is being questioned by law enforcement, after leaving the scene and being treated at a hospital.

Our condolences to the Loved Ones of Jennifer Mitchell. Of course, the first thing is for condolences to be shared and sent out to the family and friends of this lovely young woman.  We all share in the shock and sadness of what happened this morning and hope that Jennifer Mitchell’s loved ones are finding some comfort in sharing their grief today.

Complications of an Accident Injury Investigation.  The second thing is to consider and wonder what exactly happened here.  While the news stories are still scant on details, this fatality does serve to demonstrate how complicated traffic crash cases can be — over the years, we have seen how true mysteries can exist in an accident case that takes professional investigators with all their technological tools to figure out exactly what has occurred.

While many people want to know what happened here, it will take the input of many professionals:  hospital lab staff, doctors, EMTs, police officers, police investigators, Troopers, experts in accident scene reconstruction, witnesses to the accident, etc.  Accident investigations can be extremely complex.

The truth of this tragedy will not become clear as soon as anyone would like.  Was there a road hazard?  Was there distracted driving?  Was there a failure in the vehicle itself?  (Did the seat belt fail?  Did the brakes?  Did the steering?)  What about the lighting?  What about the drivers of all the vehicles involved here?  What was the weather like then?

Jennifer Mitchell and her family deserve to have the truth of what has happened to cause her untimely death come to light.  Hopefully, this will happen soon.  However, we must all be aware that finding the facts and organizing them into the true and complete story of what happened before dawn this morning will take time — and it’s the right thing to do, to take that time, in order to determine the full truth and bring justice to this young woman.




posted by kjalaw on Feb 10th, 2013 at 3:38 pm

Studies have shown that one of the most dangerous jobs to have in the United States today is a job where you’re dedicated to helping others who are hurt and suffering from accidents and injuries:  according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 20% of all occupational illnesses and injuries happening to American workers that were serious enough that they had to miss work happened to these five jobs:

  • laborers;
  • nursing aides and orderlies and attendants;
  • janitors and cleaners;
  • heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers; and
  • police officers and sheriff’s patrol officers.

What’s going on? According to the Centers for Disease Control (a part of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health), those who work in the health care industry are faced with unique conditions and situations which contribute to their risk for injury and illness.  From the CDC:

Workers in the Healthcare and Social Assistance (HCSA) sector are potentially exposed to a wide range of health and safety hazards including infectious, chemical, and physical agents; sprains and strains associated with lifting and repetitive tasks; workplace stress, workplace violence; and risks associated with changing organization of work. Although it is possible to prevent or reduce worker exposure to these hazards, workers in the HCSA sector are experiencing higher rates of illness and injury as compared to all private industry.

The Department of Labor for the State of Indiana Responds to Dangers of Working in the Indiana Health Care Industry With New Worker Protections

Today, the Indiana Department of Labor announced that after considering the dangers that Hoosiers working in various parts of the health care industry in Indiana are facing each work day, that the State of Indiana will be instituting a new State-Wide Initiative to Reduce the High Rate of Worker Injury and Illness in the Indiana Health Care Industry.

“All Hoosier workers deserve the safest working environment possible,”said Indiana Department of Labor Commissioner Sean M. Keefer. “The Indiana Department of Labor is reaching out to healthcare industry employers and employees and encouraging them to take a proactive role in making employee safety and health a top priority.”

According to the DOL, here’s what Indiana health care workers are facing:

  1. Musculoskeletal disorders – Sprains, strains and tears most commonly affecting the back, neck and shoulder. These injuries are usually caused by improper patient handling\lifting and repetitive stress.
  2. Slip, trip and fall hazards – Most often attributed to patient handling issues and during facility cleaning and maintenance.
  3. Workplace violence – Defined as threats of violence or physical violence against an employee by a patient, visitor or another employee
  4. Exposure to blood borne pathogens and other potentially infectious materials– Accidental needle sticks and cuts by medical instruments. Also, exposure to human blood and waste products
  5. Exposure to drug resistant diseases – Hospitals and extended care facilities have higher rates of exposure to MRSA and other multi-drug resistant infections.
  6. Exposure to Tuberculosis (TB) – Tuberculosis is significantly more common in nursing homes and extended care facilities. Workers in those environments are much more likely to contract the disease.
  7. Chemical and material safety issue – Exposure to strong disinfectants and cleaners.

Starting today, the state government is working to make it safer to work in health care environments and undoubtedly, new state standards will result.  However, these actions will come from the executive and legislative areas of government — and for many companies that operate for a profit (as many health care facilities do these days), the sad reality is that safer work environments for many health care workers will happen through the judicial branch, where their bottom line profits are directly impacted by slip and fallclaims; personal injury claims; workers’ compensation suits and the like.




posted by kjalaw on Feb 7th, 2013 at 1:58 am

In a new report, the first of its kind from the Centers for Disease Control since 1999, theCDC has announced the results of their research into food poisoning in the United States, and there results are shocking:

1 in 6 people in the United States are going to get sick from the food they eat; and each year 128,000 become so ill from food poisoning that they have to be admitted to the hospital. Sadly, 3000 of these victims die each year – just because they ate something that was toxic to humans, and shouldn’t have been made available to them.

That’s 48 million people every year who get sick from food poisoning.

The CDC has also gone one step further: its also provided information on what kinds of foods are poisoning the most people. Fish, you think?  Well, fish is in the top risks: however, produce, eggs, and meats harm more people each year in this country than seafood.

This new report should serve as a warning to those who are in the business of profiting from the sale of food or food products to the public, as well as those that serve food to their clients, customers, patients, or students.  Schools, restaurants, hospitals, nursing homes, dorm cafeterias, hotel buffets, and more need to take care to meet their duty to clean produce and monitor their foodstuffs to make sure that people are not harmed by eating food that these organizations serve to them.

Click here to read the full CDC report:




posted by kjalaw on Feb 5th, 2013 at 3:49 am

Truck drivers, take note:  even if you move your big rig or semi or tractor trailer through a state that allows recreational marijuana (Colorado, Washington) or medical marijuana, the federal authorities are not going to budge one iota on maintaining safety protocols regarding the use of drugs or alcohol while driving commercial trucks.

Seventeen states have passed legislation that approves the use of medicinal marijuanain some measure:

1996 – California
1998 – Alaska, Oregon, Washington
1999 – Maine
2000 – Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada
2004 – Montana
2006 – Rhode Island
2007 – New Mexico, Vermont
2008 – Michigan
2010 – Arizona, New Jersey
2011 – Delaware, Washington DC
2012 – Connecticut, Massachusetts

Truck Drivers Tempted to Use Cannibis Should Be Warned:  Federal Law Still Imposes Same Safety Standards on Their Driving on the Job on Interstate Roadways.

While Indiana and Illinois do not authorize the use of marijuana for any reason, it is also true that these two states are a trade-traffic hub for interstate trucks moving cargo from coast to coast.  Every day, people in our communities share roadways with truckers driving big rigs, semis, and 18-wheelers that are merely moving through our states as they zip from place to place, moving product.  Some of these truck routes will, of course, include moving through the states that have authorized marijuana.

For truck drivers that take advantage of the opportunity to access marijuana in these states, be warned.  The federal government isn’t budging here. (And neither has Indiana or Illinois legislatures or courts on the duty of care required by those moving on roads within their state lines.)

In an official Department of Transportation Notice, Jim Swart as Director of the Office of the Secretary of Transportation announced the following:

Recently, some states passed initiatives to permit use of marijuana for so-called “recreational” purposes. We have had several inquiries about whether these state initiatives will have an impact upon the Department of Transportation’s longstanding regulation about the use of marijuana by safety sensitive transportation employees – pilots, school bus drivers, truck drivers, train engineers, subway operators, aircraft maintenance personnel, transit fire-armed security personnel, ship captains, and pipeline emergency response personnel, among others.

We want to make it perfectly clear that the state initiatives will have no bearing on the Department of Transportation’s regulated drug testing program. The Department of Transportation’s Drug and Alcohol Testing Regulation – 49 CFR Part 40 – does not authorize the use of Schedule I drugs, including marijuana, for any reason.

Therefore, Medical Review Officers (MROs) will not verify a drug test as negative based upon learning that the employee used “recreational marijuana” when states have passed “recreational marijuana” initiatives. We also firmly reiterate that an MRO will not verify a drug test negative based upon information
that a physician recommended that the employee use “medical marijuana” when states have passed “medical marijuana” initiatives. It is important to note that marijuana remains a drug listed in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.

It remains unacceptable for any safety-sensitive employee subject to drug testing under the Department of Transportation’s drug testing regulations to use marijuana.




posted by kjalaw on Feb 3rd, 2013 at 8:25 am

Last week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced its tally of recalls in 2012 and it is shocking to think that in one year alone almost 18,000,000 vehicles driving on American roads along with the equipment for those vehicles as well as things like car safety seats for children were so flawed and unsafe that they were dangerous enough to warrant a product recall.

These are recalls dealing solely with the expertise of NHTSA in vehicle safety. This huge number of product recalls does not include things like drugs, food items, toys, furniture, clothing, or other products outside of the NHTSA purview.

According to the NHTSA report, consumers taking the time to report a complaint was a big help to the agency. In 2012, NHTSA received 41,912 complaints about car safety issues. However, the number of consumer complaints to NHTSA has gone down in the past few years: compare last year with the total complaints of 2011 (49,417) and the much higher number (65,765) in 2010.

To file a concern about possible danger of a car-related product (car, tire, seats, etc.) you can:

For more information, go here for the NHTSA 2012 recall report and go here for the NHTSA report of 2012 Recalls by Manufacturers.

Note: Reporting a complaint about a dangerous product helps the federal government learn of dangers to the public and move to get unsafe products out of the stream of commerce.  This is not the same as filing an individual claim for damages sustained by a product; for that, you need to pursue individual avenues like filing insurance claims, making police reports, and suing in state or federal court based upon product liability and personal injury laws.




posted by kjalaw on Jan 29th, 2013 at 8:25 am

Medical records contain extremely personal information – anything from weight and age, to chronic medical conditions that some might find embarrassing if widely known (for example, minor skin rashes) to serious health issues that might impact someone’s ability to find and keep a job, or to be accepted in various social situations where stigmas regarding certain medical conditions or illnesses still exist.  There are many, many good reasons for an individual’s medical records to be protected as private information.

Correspondingly, from a personal injury advocate’s point of view, the sanctity and security of medical records need the utmost protection because it is only through the veracity of these health care records that justice can be determined in many situations: not only in the determination of long term health care needs in assessing damages claims and settlement amounts in injury cases (especially those involving TBIs, spinal cord injuries, and other debilitating conditions) but also in the investigation of proximate cause of injuries in situations involving doctor error, medical malpractice, drug injuries, and other medical harms.


HIPAA Protects Patient Privacy

One protection provided to medical records and their confidentiality has been the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).   Under HIPAA, federal law protects the confidentiality of a patient’s personal health information as it has been recorded by various health care providers (hospitals, doctors, clinics, labs, etc.) and the law also gives patients specific rights to access that health information.  As written, HIPPA allows disclosure of your personal health information when it is needed to assist in your current medical care needs as well as other important uses (like investigating whether or not improper treatment was provided).

Now, the federal government has acted to create another rule to protect privacy in patient files:  the Department of Health and Human Services has announced a new rule to work under the umbrella of HIPPA:  the “final omnibus rule.”

“Much has changed in health care since HIPAA was enacted over fifteen years ago,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “The new rule will help protect patient privacy and safeguard patients’ health information in an ever expanding digital age.”

According to the HHS Release announcing the new rule, these changes will patch holes discovered in the past, especially revelations of patient health information that have come through “business associates” of health care providers and health insurance claims processing companies.

Additionally, patients are now going to be able to request and receive electronic versions of their medical records (i.e., get them by email from their doctor, etc.).

“This final omnibus rule marks the most sweeping changes to the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules since they were first implemented,” said HHS Office for Civil Rights Director Leon Rodriguez. “These changes not only greatly enhance a patient’s privacy rights and protections, but also strengthen the ability of my office to vigorously enforce the HIPAA privacy and security protections, regardless of whether the information is being held by a health plan, a health care provider, or one of their business associates.”

You can read the new rule online.




posted by kjalaw on Jan 22nd, 2013 at 3:13 pm

Energy drinks are extremely popular these days and different energy drink products are marketed to target different segments of the population:  some of the energy drinks are popular with kids and teens; some are popular with workers and adults who generally need an energy boost in the afternoons; others are promoted to athletes and those participating in sports.

Some of the more successful energy drinks on sale today include RedBull; Monster; NOS; RockStar; and AMP. Energy shots like 5-Hour Energy are also of concern, but energy “shots” are considered as a separate product (and different concern for studies) than the energy drink beverages sold in containers similar to soft drinks.

No matter the name of the energy drink, or the targeted customer, these energy drinks may be very dangerous to drink and it’s no surprise that back in November we posted about the Food and Drug Administration beginning a federal study into the safety of energy drinks being sold in the United States today.

Once again, there are products on the store shelves we all shop in our daily lives that may contain products for sale that are dangerous for us — or our loved ones.  There arenews reports that this product, the energy drink, may be so dangerous that people are dying after using it.

What is an “Energy Drink” product?

The dangers of energy drinks aren’t being considered regarding the common morning cup o’joe or the afternoon mug of green tea.  Both coffee and tea do contain caffiene and are traditional drinks used to pep up but they aren’t the target of growing concern over “energy drinks.”  The focus here is on a new type of popular product that is marketing for its “energizing” effects and which contains ingredients purported to give energy when digested.

For example, most energy drinks do have caffeine in them but in much higher amounts that traditional coffee or tea.  Depending upon the product, there may be additions of sugar; ginseng; guarana; taurine; and other stimulants.

New Study:  Big Jump in ER Visits From Energy Drinks

According to this newly released study from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, from 2007 to 2011, there was an estimated jump in Emergency Room visits of 10,000 to 20,000 due to energy drinks in this country.  Most of the ER treatment for energy drink consumption was given to young people:  kids in their teenage years or young adults not long out of their teens.  The federal report is considering energy drinks a “rising public health problem,” after surveying around 230 hospitals around the country.

Congress Calling for Action: Filing Claims Depends Upon Injury Victims and Their Families

Today, three members of Congress sent letters to several major energy drink manufacturers asking for information regarding their product. This may be the first step in Congressional investigation into the dangers of energy drinks, which would be an independent investigation from that of the Executive Branch’s ongoing FDA study.

Meanwhile, dangerous products do get sold in the American marketplace because profit is valued over safety, and products liability law is often the tool used to stop this wrongdoing. For those who have been injured by an energy drink, or who have a loved one who has been hurt by drinking an energy drink, there may be claims available to bring justice to you under state or federal law in the courtroom now.  Studies like this serve not only as a warning to the public but as support for these kinds of claims for justice.




posted by kjalaw on Jan 18th, 2013 at 9:29 am

This part of the country is getting lot of rain right now: in fact, lots of Indiana is getting flooded right now.  Over 3.5 inches of rain hit Indianapolis over this past weekend, for example, with traffic having to deal with street closures and cars getting flooded by rapidly rising water. As temperatures drop this week, that rainfall was predicted to turn into snow by the beginning of the workweek. Wet, cold winter weather: something that Indiana and Illinois folk know all too well and still we see serious accidents and sadly, tragic deaths, every winter season.

Weathercasters are warning those who live on the White River that they may see water rising up to 2 feet over the next few days.  Snow is expected this week, as well. Creeks and rivers all around the Indianapolis area are expected to flood and jump their banks; local residents are being warned to this possibility and through out the area, law enforcement officials are posting rising water warnings and barricading roads where flood waters may endanger drivers.

Local drivers are known for disregarding road warnings of flood waters and road barricades to block traffic through flood waters, despite state and county regulations against drivers going through the roadway and ignoring the warnings or barricades.   For many, they drive safely on — no fine, no ticket, and no damage to their vehicle or harm to them or their passengers.

Government Duty to Warn of Dangerous Water on Roadways: Turn Around, Don’t Drown

However, the risk of driving through even a seemingly low amount of water on a road can be dangerous and people die every year from getting caught in flood waters.   It is the official’s duty to warn of high water and set up those roadside barricades; however, it is also important for the driver to respect the barricade even if the water doesn’t seem to be that high, or if it doesn’t seem to be moving.   Families may have the opportunity to file wrongful death actions for failure to post the proper warnings of water dangers on the roads after a loved one has perished in a flooding accident, but these plaintiffs would much prefer to have that loved one alive instead.

Even Standing Water on a Road Can Cause a Traffic Death in Flood Conditions

Standing water that seems innocent enough on a roadway can still have enough power to push that car into deeper water with tragic consequences.  The government warning of “turn around, don’t drown” is a wise one.

For example, there are already news stories of a young Ball State University student who has tragically perished after his vehicle was swept away in rising flood waters on State Road 26. According to news reports, the boy drove his car through standing water on the road and the water moved the vehicle across the lanes and into a ditch, where the force of the floodwaters turned the car over, rolling it so that the passenger compartment was upside-down and water filled the car’s interior. Despite rescue efforts, the car was submerged for over 12 minutes in the killing, icy cold flood waters.

NHTSA Issues Safety Warning for Driving Vehicles in Winter Weather

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued its latest safety recommendations for driving this week, and they include:

  • Visit your mechanic for a periodic safety inspection and to address routine vehicle maintenance.
  • Have your vehicle checked thoroughly for fluid leaks and any other needed parts, repairs, or replacements.
  • Have your starting system battery checked for sufficient voltage. When the temperature drops, so does battery power. Be aware that it takes more cranking power to start your vehicle in cold weather. Also, be sure the connections are properly tightened and free of corrosion. If necessary, clean them with a solution of baking soda and water.
  • Make sure you have enough coolant in your vehicle and that it’s designed to withstand the winter temperatures you might experience in your area. A 50/50 mix of coolant to water is sufficient for most regions of the country. See your vehicle owner’s manual for specific recommendations.
  • If your engine cooling system hasn’t been flushed (draining the system and replacing the coolant) for several years, have it done now. Over time, the rust inhibitors in antifreeze break down and become ineffective. Coolant also needs to be refreshed periodically to remove dirt and rust particles that can clog the cooling system and cause it to fail.
  • Make sure your windshield wipers and defrosters are working properly. Refill the windshield washer reservoir as needed with high-quality, “no-freeze” washer fluid.
  • Before you drive, remove snow and ice from all of your vehicle’s windows and mirrors and keep them clean to maintain the best visibility. Also, be sure to clear snow and ice from your vehicle’s roof and hood to ensure good visibility for both you and following motorists.
  • Check tire pressure and make sure each tire is filled to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended inflation pressure, which is listed in your owner’s manual and on a placard located on the driver’s side doorjamb (called the “B-pillar”). If a vehicle does not have a B-pillar, then the placard is placed on the rear edge of the driver’s door. Tire pressure drops as the temperature drops. Properly inflated tires ensure optimum tire performance and optimum vehicle driving range.
  • Keep a tire pressure gauge in your vehicle at all times and check pressure when tires are “cold” – meaning they haven’t been driven on for at least three hours.
  • Check your tire tread depth and make sure you are using a tire appropriate for the winter driving conditions you may encounter. If the winter season means sleet, slush and snow-covered roads in your area or where you’re traveling to, consider replacing tires when they reach approximately 5/32? of remaining tread depth. If you regularly encounter severe winter driving conditions, you may consider a dedicated winter/snow tire for optimum traction.
  • Stock your vehicle with essentials in the event of an emergency including a snow shovel, broom, ice scraper, jumper cables, flashlight, warning devices (flares, reflective markers, etc.) and blankets for protection from the cold. A mobile phone, water, food, and any necessary medicines may prove useful if you become stranded.
  • If road conditions are hazardous, wait until road and weather conditions improve before venturing out in your vehicle.
  • If you do become stranded, don’t run your car for long periods with the windows up or in an enclosed space to avoid asphyxiation from carbon monoxide poisoning. If you must run your vehicle, clear the exhaust pipe of any snow and run it only sporadically – just long enough to stay warm.
  • Motorists are also reminded to make safety their number one priority when they drive by bringing in their vehicles for a free fix when it’s been recalled; never driving distracted or drunk; wearing seat belts and obeying state laws.




posted by kjalaw on Jan 16th, 2013 at 8:45 am

Sports are fun and playing sports can be wonderful for kids: they get a healthy workout, learn to appreciate physical fitness, and they learn other lessons like being a team player and how to lose a game without losing a balanced perspective on things (like you can still win the season).   No one is suggesting that kids should not play school sports.

However, with the news this week that it has been confirmed that NFL great Junior Seau suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a condition known to be caused by repeated brain traumas and concussions, more and more people are becoming concerned about kids and young adults who are playing contact sports, especially football.  Seau’s name is being added to a growing list of professional athletes who have suffered severe injuries and trauma as a result of playing sports, especially football.

Coupled with this trend are studies that show more and more young people are getting hurt while playing sports.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, there has been a jump of 60% over the past 10 years in the numbers of kids who are showing up in American Emergency Rooms for concussions and other types of brain injuries.  And, in a 2011 CDC study, it was found that “…[f]rom 2001 to 2009, the number of annual TBI-related ED visits increased significantly, from 153,375 to 248,418, with the highest rates among males aged 10–19 years.”

Accordingly, the National Institute of Medicine together with the National Research Council announced last Thursday that the federal government has begun a study into sports-related concussions in youth and included in their research will be considering the long-term results on kids who play sports as well as the effectiveness of protective sports equipment.

A web site has already been set up to track the study’s progress and anyone interested in being notified with updates can subscribe to an email feed at the NIM site. From the NIM, this study will:

… prepare a report on sports-related concussions in youth, from elementary school through young adulthood, including military personnel and their dependents.  The committee will review the available literature on concussions, in the context of developmental neurobiology, in terms of their causes, relationships to hits to the head or body during sports, effectiveness of protective devices and equipment, screening and diagnosis, treatment and management, and long-term consequences.

Specific topics of interest include:

-the acute, subacute, and chronic effects of single and repetitive concussive and non-concussive head impacts on the brain;
-risk factors for sports concussion, post-concussive syndrome, and chronic traumatic encephalopathy;
-the spectrum of cognitive, affective, and behavioral alterations that can occur during acute, subacute, and chronic posttraumatic phases;
-physical and biological triggers and thresholds for injury;
-the effectiveness of equipment and sports regulations for prevention of injury;
-hospital and non-hospital based diagnostic tools; and
-treatments for sports concussion.

Based on currently available evidence, the report will include findings on all of the above and provide recommendations to specific agencies and organizations (governmental and non-governmental) on factors to consider when determining the concussive status of a player.  The report will include a section focused on youth sport concussion in military dependents as well as concussion resulting from sports and physical training at Service academies and recruit training for military personnel between the ages of 18-21. Recommendations will be geared toward research funding agencies (NIH, CDC, AHRQ, MCHB, DoD), legislatures (Congress, state legislatures), state and school superintendents and athletic directors, athletic personnel (athletic directors, coaches, athletic trainers), military personnel (sports medicine providers, athletic trainers, Service academy trainers and directors), parents, and equipment manufacturers.  The report will also identify the need for further research to answer questions raised during the study process.

The project is sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Defense, Department of Education, Health Resources and Services Administration, National Athletic Trainers’ Association Research and Education Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and National Foundation for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC Foundation). Funding for the study was provided to the CDC Foundation by the National Football League. The project began on October 1, 2012. A consensus report will be issued at the end of the project.

Protecting Children in Sports:  The Duty of Parents, Schools, Coaches, Sporting Gear Manufacturers, and More:  Kids Should Be Safe to Have Fun

Again, no one is suggesting that children stop playing football, or soccer, or basketball, or that they be forbidden to ride bicycles or horses.  However, parents need to be aware of the risks of head injuries (especially TBIs) and concussions to young people and if their son or daughter is hurt at school, they need to know what the protections are under the law and to insure that duties were met by those responsible for the sporting activities.  Coaches need to make sure that gear is adequate and that it is used. Coaches and supervising adults also need to know the signs of concussion in children (head injuries and neck injuries can be slow to reveal themselves) and proper medical training and education should be provided to them.




posted by kjalaw on Jan 10th, 2013 at 10:28 am

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has begun the New Year with a major announcement:  the FDA has officially proposed new standards for food safety in this country, in response to foodborne illness outbreaks that have happened across the country in recent years.  It is shocking but true that in America each year, people are seriously injured or suffer a wrongful death from eating or drinking something they assumed was safe.

Unsafe food is a big problem in this country: stores selling products that can hurt or kill

For example, in September 2012 we documented about common foods like peanut butter; rice; spinach; and cheese being unsafe — things sold on your local grocery store shelf or presented at your local restaurant.   Just one month before that, we wrote about a congresswoman moving Congress to act on unsafe foods after 14 people got sick after eating ground beef bought at local stores which was contaminated with bacteria(salmonella).

According to the FDA, one in six Americans suffer from a foodborne illness every year. Of those, nearly 130,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die from their illness.

FDA responding with tougher food safety regulations

Accordingly, the FDA is proposing 2 new rules that will work with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).  Members of the public are invited to contact the FDA and comment on their take on the proposals.  Comments are open for the next 4 months (120 days).

“The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act is a common sense law that shifts the food safety focus from reactive to preventive,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “With the support of industry, consumer groups, and the bipartisan leadership in Congress, we are establishing a science-based, flexible system to better prevent foodborne illness and protect American families.”

The first rule requires makers of food sold in the U.S. to develop a formal plan for preventing their products from causing foodborne illness and fixing any food poisoning problems that might nevertheless happen.

The second rule will establish safety standards for how farms produce their crops and harvest them, i.e., targeting the safety of fruits and vegetables. Bigger farms would have to meet the new rule within a shorter time period than smaller farms.

If you are interesting in commenting on these proposed new rules, then visit  the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.



Our Northwest Indiana and Chicagoland personal injury law firm is here to help you.  Please feel free to contact our offices for a free, initial legal consultation if you or a loved one has been seriously injured or killed due to the actions of another.  Kenneth J. Allen & Associates is here for you!



posted by kjalaw on Jan 4th, 2013 at 9:06 am

This is National Radon Month, as designated by the Environmental Protection Agency, as the EPA works with agencies and others across the country to make people aware that radon gas is very dangerous - and may be lurking in homes where families are unaware of the danger they are facing from radon exposure.

Illinois and Indiana and their surrounding states are in the highest areas of radon danger(see the diagram below) and it is important that our communities become aware of the dangers of high radon gas levels and the need to have homes and offices and other environments tested for high radon levels.  Radon is a killer. In fact, radon ranks right up there with smoking tobacco and inhaling secondhand smoke as a cause of lung cancer in this country and around the world.

What is radon?

Radon is a gas.  Radon is invisible – it can exist in a home or apartment or schoolroom or condo without anyone being aware of its presence.  You can’t smell it, see it, or taste it.   Radon kills around 20,000 Americans each year as they breathe in radon over time, in the comfortable rooms of their homes, unaware of radon levels and toxic exposure.

Radon is a radioactive gas that is a byproduct of uranium breaking down in water, earth, or rock, that lies beneath a structure.  It seeps into the building because of a difference in air pressure between the earth beneath the structure and the air pressure inside the building.  It does not evaporate or disappear once it’s inside the structure, and silently sets there, to be inhaled by anyone inside.  Radon can sometimes come into homes from building materials, too (like granite and concrete) but they are rarely the primary source of radon poisoning.

How to Test for Radon

Testing for radon must be done to accurate determine if radon is present in a building.  Owners and landlords should test for radon levels, especially in high risk areas like those shown in red on the diagram below.  Tests can be purchased and done by individuals but most agree that independent contractors offer superior methods of radon testing.  For details on testing for radon as well as how to locate a radon testing contractor, please review and download the EPA publication on Radon Testing for Consumers.




posted by kjalaw on Jan 3rd, 2013 at 9:04 am

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is an organization dedicated to representing the interests of commercial truck drivers and other folk who drive for a living (professional drivers) and it has offices in every state in the United States as well as branches in Canada.  It’s a big group, men and women who own and operate big rigs and small truck fleets.   Part of OOIDA’s efforts are filing lawsuits in various state and federal courts, and the organization is zealous in its efforts to fight for its membership in courtrooms across the country. OOIDA’s history in litigation can be reviewed online in its Hot Cases listing.

So, it is not surprising that OOIDA has filed a petition for review with the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit regarding an action taken by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. What OOIDA has done is ask the federal appeals court to review the FMCSA HOS rule on fatigued driving (for more on the federal regulations on truck driver fatigue check out our earlier posts on HOS rules).

According to the OOIDA, the review has been requested after OOIDA’s president wrote the FMCSA Administrator twice, asking that FMSCA work to stop possible harm to truckers around the country if the CVSA’s criteria for fatigue is used by law enforcement to judge the truck driver’s ability to do their job.  OOIDA also wants the CVSA criteria to be rescinded by FMCSA and any driver fatigue violations from April 2012 forward be erased from the driver’s records in the Employment Screening files.

“The FMCSA and its predecessor agencies have repeatedly stated in various rulemaking proceedings that there is no adequate scientific or medical basis that would allow enforcement officers in the field to determine whether an individual driver is too fatigued to operate a vehicle safely,” OOIDA’s petition for review states. “Proposals to establish a performance based criteria for fatigue detection and regulation have always been rejected in favor of further study.”




posted by kjalaw on Jan 2nd, 2013 at 8:43 am



posted by kjalaw on Dec 29th, 2012 at 10:21 am

For those suffering from less than perfect vision, laser eye surgery sounds almost magical and LASIK or Lasik (Laser-Assisted in Situ Keratomileusis) refractive eye surgery has become very popular to correct things like myopia and astigmatism.   All that’s needed is a visit to the local ophthalmologist, where a laser is used on the human eye to modify the cornea and improve vision.

Lots of people love the result.  It’s a permanent change to their vision, for the better.  They can toss out those contact lenses permanently.

However, once again things that sound too good to be true usually are, and LASIK laser eye surgery isn’t without its problems and risks. Web.MD, for example, warns that:

  1. LASIK is a done deal:  the cornea is permanently changed in laser eye surgery and the doctor can’t change it back to how it was before.
  2. LASIK is not an easy procedure, it’s actually very complicated.  It’s important to have someone experienced in LASIK surgery here.
  3. Even experienced practitioners can make a mistake, and if the flap is cut in the cornea, there can be damage to vision that cannot be fixed.

Now, however, it seems that there are even more complications for those considering LASIK laser eye surgery.  It seems that there are some providers of this procedure that are not giving out full details on what can happen in laser corrective eye surgery so that their patients have all the information needed to make a fully informed decision on whether or not to proceed.

That means some people may suffer serious injury as a result of not being fully informed before undergoing the procedure.  That’s a serious situation and the FDA has taken action.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a public warning to 5 Eye Care Providers to stop misleading advertising and promotion of refractive lasers used in eye surgery procedures such as LASIK.

This week, the FDA formally issued a warning to eye care providers across the country that they were not doing enough to inform their clients (patients) of the dangers and risks and possible bad results of having LASIK laser eye surgery.

From the FDA Press Release:

The FDA found that the providers’ advertisements and promotional materials did not offer consumers adequate information about associated risks, as well as warnings and possible adverse events.

The five providers that received FDA Warning Letters are:

  • 20/20 Institute Indianapolis LASIK, of Indianapolis
  • Scott Hyver Visioncare Inc., of Daly City, Calif.
  • Rand Eye Institute, of Deerfield Beach, Fla.
  • Eye Center of Texas, of Bellaire, Texas
  • Woolfson Eye Institute, of Atlanta

“Advertising by many eye care professionals who perform laser vision correction surgery provides patients with the risk information that they need to make informed decisions,” said Steve Silverman, compliance director at FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “But providers whose advertising does not provide adequate risk information are finding out today that the FDA is serious about consumer protection.”

Vision correction surgery with refractive lasers is intended to reduce a person’s dependency on glasses or contact lenses. In refractive surgery, precise and controlled removal of corneal tissue by a special laser permanently reshapes the cornea (a part of the eye that helps focus light to create an image on the retina) and changes its focusing power. LASIK, which stands for Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis, is one type of vision correction surgery that uses refractive lasers to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism.

The most common risks of LASIK vision correction surgery with refractive lasers include:

  • dry eye syndrome, which can be severe;
  • the possible need for glasses or contact lenses after surgery;
  • visual symptoms including halos, glare, starbursts, and double vision, which can be debilitating; and
  • loss of vision.

The FDA may take further regulatory action, such as seizure, injunction and civil money penalties, against providers who do not correct their advertising and promotion to address concerns raised by the FDA.

The FDA issued letters in May 2009 and September 2011 to eye care professionals nationwide explaining the agency’s concerns about improper advertising and promotion of FDA-approved lasers. The FDA also issued letters in March 2012 to the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery and the American Academy of Ophthalmology, providing additional information about disclosing risk information in eye care professionals’ advertisements and promotional materials concerning FDA-approved lasers intended for LASIK.

The FDA website includes information on the risks and benefits of LASIK, and provides access to the labeling for FDA-approved lasers used in LASIK. The FDA encourages consumers considering LASIK to understand what might make them poor candidates for the procedure, the risks and limitations of the procedure and the particular laser that would be used to perform the procedure. The FDA also recommends that consumers consult an experienced eye care professional to know what to expect before, during, and after LASIK surgery.

The FDA reminds consumers that eye surgery such as LASIK is irreversible, that not all patients will achieve optimal results, and that some patients may need additional procedures.

For more information:

LASIK information for consumers

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.



Crash victim's families awarded $18.5 million

posted by kjalaw on Dec 27th, 2012 at 4:24 pm


By Bob Kasarda, (219) 548-4345


VALPARAISO | Two families were awarded $18.5 million after a trucking crash killed two Michigan men.

A device recovered from a semitrailer truck involved in a fatal crash on an icy stretch of Interstate 94 revealed the driver was using his cruise control at 65 mph and hit his brakes just one second before the collision, according to attorney Kenneth J. Allen.

He said the victims' families are hoping the case will bring attention to truck drivers who may be driving in icy conditions.

"If you are driving a semi-tractor trailer through Northwest Indiana in wintry conditions, you better not try to drive on cruise control because if you do and you hurt or kill someone, you will be held accountable," he said.

Allen argued the driver and trucking company were negligent in causing the Feb. 3, 2011, crash, which resulted in the deaths of Michigan residents Daniel Van Dyke and Richard Hannah.

"(Driver) Earnest Johnson disregarded about every safety rule in the book," Allen told jurors during the start of this week's civil trial targeting Johnson and Celadon Trucking Services of Indianapolis.

Van Dyke's family was awarded $7.5 million and Hannah's family, including his two children, was awarded $11 million.

Celadon has filed its own suit targeting Van Dyke as being responsible for the crash, Allen said. The suit seeks reimbursement for damages to the truck.

South Haven resident Greg Hills, injured in the wreck in a third vehicle, also is targeting Johnson and Celadon.

"His own actions deprived him of the opportunity to avoid this tragic accident," Hills' attorney, David Pera, said, referring to Johnson.

Using a flat-screen television and a simulation of the crash, Allen told jurors his clients were westbound on Interstate 94 just east of the Portage interchange when another vehicle, driven by Hills, lost control and stopped in the road. Allen said his clients stopped their car behind Hills, at which time Johnson crashed into them.

Attorney Jim Milstone, representing Johnson and Celadon, said Hills broke the law by stopping in the highway, which resulted in the crash.

He said Van Dyke pulled in front of the truck.

Johnson had nine years of trucking experience and was driving 100,000 miles a year, Milstone said. He was hauling 21 tons of crushed marble on the day of the crash.




posted by kjalaw on Dec 27th, 2012 at 12:23 am

Here in the midst of the 2012 Holiday Season, the Illinois Department of Public Health has joined with the Centers for Disease Control to spread the word about the dangers of food products and their risk of serious personal injury to partygoers and folk at family gatherings.   Consider this:  the CDC estimates that 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) will get sick this Holiday Season from something in their food with 128,000 needing to be hospitalized and shockingly, 3,000 people are estimated may die of foodborne disease.

“As a guest at holiday parties, there are a couple things you can watch out for to avoid foodborne illness.  Hot foods should be hot and cold foods cold. Bacteria will start to grow on food that should be served either cold or hot, that is sitting out for more than a couple hours at room temperature.  You should also be cautious when eating certain foods, such as raw oysters, egg drinks, soft-boiled eggs, steak tartare and rare or medium hamburger.  These foods can harbor bacteria that cause foodborne illness,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck.

What is illness or injury from food (foodborne illness or food poisoning)?

According to the CDC, food poisoning comes not only from food contaminated with bacteria or microbes, it’s also caused by poisonous chemicals or other bad things that find their way into the food that someone eats or drinks.  There are over 250 different illnesses that result from bad food that was eaten by the injury victim, resulting in illness or death from the inbibing of  bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins, or chemicals.

People (especially children, pregnant women, and the elderly) can become very ill from food poisoning and are the most vulnerable to serious injury or wrongful death from injecting food that is tainted in some way (i.e., food poisoning).

Holiday Party Food  PreparationTips From the Illinois Department of Public Health

  • Clean: Wash your hands with soap and warm water for twenty seconds before and after preparing food. Wash all utensils, dishes and countertops with hot soap and water. Rinse fresh produce with water.
  • Separate: Avoid cross-contamination by keeping raw meat and poultry, and their juices, separate from fruits, vegetables, and cooked foods. Never use a utensil on cooked foods that was previously used on uncooked foods, unless it’s washed first with soap and water.
  • Cook: Always use a food thermometer when cooking meat and poultry to make sure it’s cooked to a safe internal temperature.
  • Chill: Refrigerate leftovers within two hours. Set your refrigerator at or below 40°F and the freezer at 0°F.

What to do If You Suspect Bad Food or Food Poisoning

First things first, of course, are to get needed medical attention for the person or people who are ill.  After that, there comes the tasks of reporting and investigating and seeking justice for injuries sustained by foodborne illness and food poisoning.

If you have a problem with a food product, according to the USDA website, separate government agencies are responsible for protecting different segments of the food supply.

  • For Help with Meat, Poultry and Processed Egg Products: Call the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or report the complaint online.
  • For Help with Restaurant Food Problems: Call the Health Department in your city, county or state. View a complete listing of State Departments of Public Health.
  • For Help with Non-Meat Food Products (Cereals, Fish, Produce, Fruit Juice, Pastas, Cheeses, etc): For complaints about food products which do not contain meat or poultry — such as cereal — call or write to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Check your local phone book under U.S. Government, Health and Human Services, to find an FDA office in your area. The FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition can be reached at 1-888-723-3366.

And remember, save the container, the receipt, and all documentation related to the food in order to provide needed facts not only to the government agency investigating the food or drink item for dangers and potential recall, but for your own use in asserting a claim for damages against those responsible for the injuries sustained by you or a loved one.




posted by kjalaw on Dec 24th, 2012 at 7:44 am

Today, Toyota Motor Corporation announced that it will be paying the maximum allowable fine under federal law to the federal government in response to the investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and NHTSA’s assertion that Toyota did not report a safety defect to the federal government in a timely manner.

How much will Toyota pay in fines?

$17.35 million.  It’s the biggest one-time penalty payment for recall violations that the NHTSA has ever got.

“Safety is our highest priority,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “With today’s announcement, I expect Toyota to rigorously reinforce its commitment to adhering to United States safety regulations.”

What happened here?

Less than a year ago, NHTSA started looking into a problem with floor mat pedal entrapment in 2010 Lexus RX 350s in Vehicle Owner Questionnaires (VOQs) and Early Warning Reporting data. By the summer, Toyota had reported to NHTSA that the car maker was aware of 63 alleged incidents of possible floor mat pedal entrapment in Model Year 2010 Lexus RX 350s.

In June, Toyota recalled 154,036 Model Year 2010 Lexus RX 350 and Model Year 2010 RX 450h vehicles for floor mat pedal entrapment.

Read the complete agreement between Toyota and NHTSA here.

Read the Toyota Recall online here.

Own a Lexus?  Check your VIN number against the recall information here.




posted by kjalaw on Dec 16th, 2012 at 10:05 am

It’s time once again for the national, state, and local authorities to band together in a fight against serious injuries and wrongful deaths out on the holiday roadways that result from driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  This year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has named the campaign as “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.”

You may see some of the ads over the holiday on television or hear the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” messages on the radio.  The marketing campaign this year has “invisible” police officers who grab inebriated folk before they can drive away in their cars.  Working together with Mothers Against Drunk Drivers and state governors, NHTSA has spent millions of dollars trying to promote this message of “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over,” with tips like:

  • Plan ahead. If you will be drinking, do not drive. Designate a sober driver or arrange another safe way home.
  • If you are impaired, find another way home. Use a taxi, call a sober friend or family member, use public transportation or contact your local sober ride program.
  • Be responsible. If someone you know is drinking, do not let that person get behind the wheel. If you see an impaired driver on the road, contact law enforcement. Your actions may save someone’s life, and inaction could cost a life.

Meanwhile, the sad truth is that there will be drunk drivers on the holiday roads this December and tragedy will hit innocent families all because someone was drunk and driving a machine like a car or truck or van or motorcycle.  Police officers will police, organizations like MADD will warn and educate, but there will be fatalities.

In these situations, criminal laws will come into play forcing the drunk driver to give up his or her freedom as they are arrested and charged with violation of laws against driving drunk.  However, there will also be civil laws like personal injury laws and perhaps other laws like those that make a hotel or bar responsible for its patrons who get intoxicated on their premises and there may be laws that likewise make a host responsible for allowing their guest to leave a party to drive away while obviously drunk.

For example, Indiana statute § 7.1-5-10-15.5 states:

5. (a) As used in this section, “furnish” includes barter, deliver, sell, exchange, provide, or give away.
(b) A person who furnishes an alcoholic beverage to a person is not liable in a civil action for damages caused by the impairment or intoxication of the person who was furnished the alcoholic beverage unless:
(1) the person furnishing the alcoholic beverage had actual knowledge that the person to whom the alcoholic beverage was furnished was visibly intoxicated at the time the alcoholic beverage was furnished; and
(2) the intoxication of the person to whom the alcoholic beverage was furnished was a proximate cause of the death, injury, or damage alleged in the complaint.
(c) If a person who is at least twenty-one (21) years of age suffers injury or death proximately caused by the person’s voluntary intoxication, the:
(1) person;
(2) person’s dependents;
(3) person’s personal representative; or
(4) person’s heirs;
may not assert a claim for damages for personal injury or death against a person who furnished an alcoholic beverage that contributed to the person’s intoxication, unless subsections (b)(1) and (b)(2) apply.
As added by P.L.80-1986, SEC.1. Amended by P.L.76-1996, SEC.1.

Drunk drivers must be held responsible, however there may be applicable state laws that also extend a duty to those who are supplying that drink in certain situations.  That’s an important message to get out on this festive season as well.




posted by kjalaw on Nov 16th, 2012 at 2:16 am

Today, the investigation continues into what caused a massive explosion in a quiet Indianapolis community, resulting in two people dying and seven others injured as well as two homes being blown to bits and dozens of surrounding homes being seriously damaged. The latest reports are that natural gas lines and the home’s gas furnace are being targeted as the possible source of the tragedy.

Was there a gas leak? No one knows.  However, one of the homes that was demolished in the blast did have furnace problems shortly before the event.  The Shirley’s family home had their furnace break down and the weather forced them to a local hotel for the night; the furnace was repaired and the next thing that the Shirleys knew, their house was gone.

This was a severe explosion.  Reports are that people felt ripples from the blast as far as three miles away.  That’s a lot of natural gas to cause that big of a blast.  Experts are on the scene, still trying to figure out exactly what happened.

However, knowing that there was a recent furnace problem and repair should give a warning to anyone with a gas furnace in their home.

While many may consider the biggest threat of a natural gas furnace to be carbon monoxide poisoning, it is true that gas leaks from the furnace itself as well as from gas lines leading from the municipal source to the house can be very dangerous because they can leak gas without anyone being aware of the gas leak.

Natural Gas Smells Bad: What To Do If You Smell Rotten Eggs in Your Home

If you smell gas in your home, do not light a flame.  Do not operate any sort of electrical gadget – even your laptop or cell phone. Just leave.  Go outside immediately and call the gas company or the fire department.  If you can, turn off the gas at the meter.

Gas lines need to be inspected regularly by professionals. The Citizens Energy Group recommends the furnace be checked once a year. Gas lines in homes should be flexible.  Gas lines need to be properly installed.  Connectors are the metal hoses that connect the gas pipes to the gas appliances: these can be damaged in moving or bending and need to be carefully checked for leaking.  Gas lines that come into homes are usually underground; it is possible for leaks to begin under the earth and build there.

We don’t know what caused that horrific explosion in Indianapolis yet; however, we do know that gas furnaces are necessary dangers in our homes.  Make sure your furnace is checked, and make sure that the professional who is checking your gas appliance is qualified to do the work.  Only qualified plumbers, HVAC, or appliance repair companies should be working on gas furnaces.

Check their credentials.  Check how they warrant their work.  Check reviews from past customers.  And get your furnace checked in you haven’t had it inspected within the past 12 months.




posted by kjalaw on Mar 29th, 2012 at 8:32 am

This week, here in Indianapolis we are still in shock and sadness over the news story from March 12, 2012, where an Indianapolis school bus crashed into an overpass pillarkilling both the driver and a five year old child with a little boy leaving the scene in critical condition.

However, the national media coverage has fallen back in the news coverage of the Indianapolis school bus crash to yesterday’s tragic Florida school bus crash as a nine year boy died and five others left the scene in critical condition yesterday after the Florida bus driver turned the bus directly into the path of a semi big-rig truck that was carrying a load of sod.  Florida Highway Patrol officials have cleared the truck driver of wrongdoing.

Elsewhere yesterday, there was also a New Jersey school bus crash where a car slammed into a Vineyand school bus as the bus sat at an intersection.  Fortunately, no child died in this crash and another one in Ohio, where an Ohio school bus crash happened yesterday in a similar accident as a Honda Accord collided with the school bus, wedging itself under the bus’ gas tank.  Again, while some children (and the bus driver) were injured, no one died in the Ohio bus accident.

If you’re counting, that’s four school bus crashes making the national news in two weeks’ time – and that’s not all of them.  Surf for yourself, and you’ll read about school bus accidents happening all over this country.

Do School Buses Need More Safety Features for Kids?

Sure, school buses have to pass inspections and bus drivers have to have proper licenses.  However, is that enough?  Right now, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) takes the position that the interior of school buses provides a safe environment for children (and drivers) because they have special lights, they have reinforced sides, and they are painted bright colors. The federal agency also opines that school buses are the safest way to get kids to and from school.

What about seat belts?  The NHTSA gives the following answer to the question of why aren’t there seat belts on school buses as follows:

Seat belts have been required on passenger cars since 1968. Forty-nine States and the District of Columbia have enacted laws requiring the wearing of seat belts in passenger cars and light trucks. There is no question that seat belts play an important role in keeping occupants safe in theses vehicles, however school buses are different by design and use a different kind of safety restraint system that works extremely well.

Large school buses are heavier and distribute crash forces differently than do passenger cars and light trucks. Because of these differences, the crash forces experienced by occupants of buses are much less than that experienced by occupants of passenger cars, light trucks or vans. NHTSA decided that the best way to provide crash protection to passengers of large school buses is through a concept called “compartmentalization.” This requires that the interior of large buses provide occupant protection such that children are protected without the need to buckle-up. Through compartmentalization, occupant crash protection is provided by a protective envelope consisting of strong, closely-spaced seats that have energy-absorbing seat backs.

Small school buses (with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less) must be equipped with lap and/or lap/shoulder belts at all designated seating positions. Since the sizes and weights of small school buses are closer to those of passenger cars and trucks, seat belts in those vehicles are necessary to provide occupant protection.

School bus crash data show that compartmentalization has been effective at protecting school bus passengers. NHTSA’s 2002 Report to Congress[1] found that the addition of lap belts did not improve occupant protection for the severe frontal impacts that were studied for that report.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) have come to similar conclusions. The NTSB concluded in a 1987 study of school bus crashes that most fatalities and injuries occurred because the occupant seating positions were in direct line with the crash forces.[2 NTSB stated that seat belts would not have prevented most of the serious injuries and fatalities from occurring in school bus crashes. In 1989, the NAS completed a study of ways to improve school bus safety and concluded that the overall potential benefits of requiring seat belts on large school buses were insufficient to justify a Federal mandate for installation.[3] NAS also stated that the funds used to purchase and maintain seat belts might be better spent on other school bus safety programs and devices that could save more lives and reduce more injuries.

Not everyone agrees with this.  You may not.  And the American Academy of Pediatricsdoes not, either. There’s even a national organization that is pushing for better school bus safety, including the use of safety belts in school buses, the National Coalition for School Bus Safety.

Here’s the thing.  Maybe the real question isn’t whether school buses need to be safer but instead who is going to pay for the seat belts and other safety features.  Because right now, children are being injured and killed on school buses in this country and parents are being faced with not only this crisis and tragedy but the fight for justice in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.   For some, it may be seen as financially savvy to balance those injury claims against the cost of implementing statewide safety features.

Children are at risk.  Be careful out there.




posted by kjalaw on Feb 15th, 2012 at 9:29 am

Kenneth J. Allen has taken claims for his clients to the federal courtroom in the Indiana State Fair tragedy, and in December, U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker approved Ken Allen’s arguments and certified all of the victims of the Indiana State Fair concert as a class that will unite in an argument that the Indiana state cap on the state’s liability at $5 million total goes against the U.S. Constitution and shouldn’t be allowed as a defense from the State of Indiana having to pay monetary damages to those harmed and killed in the Indiana State Fair Tragedy last year.

Right now, Indiana caps the State of Indiana at being liable for $700,000 per victim and having to pay in total of $5 million for all victims.  According to the Indiana law, once that $5 million is paid, that’s all that Indiana has to do.

This week, the State of Indiana Department of Labor issued its Safety Order on the Indiana State Fair.

In its report, the state safety agency cited Mid-America Sound Corp. with 3 major safety violations. According to the report, Mid-America Sound Corp. knew of its requirements and was indifferent to making sure that it met them.  The Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration has fined the company $63,000.

You can read the Indiana OSHA report online here.

You can follow the federal lawsuit challenging the Indiana liability cap as unconstitutional here (by subscription).

What Does This Mean?

As Kenneth J. Allen has explained to the Indianapolis Star, this Indiana OSHA Report may not carry much weight in the ultimate fight for justice here.  Not only does the Indiana agency report have a political ribbon running through it, Allen also points out that if it were not for bad calls being made by those at the top (i.e., not the construction workers eyed in the report) then there would have been no tragedy that day.   Kenneth J. Allen is doing his own investigation and as he explained to the media, it’s got more involved than this OSHA report.




posted by kjalaw on Aug 18th, 2011 at 7:24 am

The news in our area is filled with tragedy this week:  there is continuing national coverage (as well as YouTube videos) of the outdoor stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair last Saturday evening and there is local coverage of the tragic Natural Gas Pipeline Company of America plant explosion this morning in Hersher, Illinois.

At Work and At Play, Dangerous Conditions Result in Serious Injuries This Week

Latest reports have 5 workers hurt, with 2 workers seriously injured, in the blast that happened today while these folk were on the job in the NE Illinois gas works. All have been hospitalized and their current conditions are unknown.

News reports have five people dead as the result of the Indiana State Fair stage collapse with many of the crowd injured as a result of the 3-story stage falling to the ground, by some reports because of a sudden gust of wind. A doctor on the scene at the time of the tragedy gave his own personal account of the event, describing the stage as falling down “in slow motion” and that what he saw that day was “unbelievable.”

Meanwhile, USA Today is reporting that no state agency appears to have had responsibility for insuring that the Indiana State Fair facilities were safe for the people attending — it seems that not only did no agency take responsiblity for that duty,according to USA Today’s coverage, it may well be that no state agency had been given the legal duty to do so.

Legal Responsibility for Personal Injury Under State and Federal Law

Both federal law as well as state law protects workers on the job and people who attend popular events, like a concert during a state fair.  Workers’ compensation laws have been enacted in Indiana and Illinois to insure that workers hurt on the job are protected, and federal laws are also on the books to insure workplace safety.  The gas plant in Illinois will have state workers’ compensation claims filed by the injured victims to face was well as federal agency investigations into why that explosion occurred.   If tragedy hits and one of the blast victims dies, then wrongful death claims under Illinois law can be pursued.

However, traditionally workers have been better protected on the books that concertgoers, especially to a state event.  Governments are usually protected by something called governmental immunity under state and federal law, which means that state agencies cannot be sued for personal injury claims unless the state legislature allows it.  Additionally, there are defenses in the law for Acts of God,” where mysterious winds or other natural events that cannot be predicted nor controlled will bar holding any party legally responsible.

In the Indiana State Fair matter, things are sticky right now.  Were the high winds an Act of God?  Will sovereign immunity claims bar any wrongful death claims by the decedents’ loved ones or estates?  Will the manufacturers, the concert promoters, the contractors who assembled the stage itself be liable for damages?  It’s not clear today, but questions are being asked – not just by personal injury lawyers but by reporters at Time Magazine and Rolling Stone.




posted by kjalaw on Jul 22nd, 2011 at 3:47 pm

Meteorologists are explaining the extremely high temperatures hitting Indiana and Illinois this month as being the result of a “heat dome, which boils down to record-breaking heat of 100 degrees or more throughout much of our region, which is not prepared to deal with how hot this can really get.

Yesterday, parts of Chicago had a heat index of 112.  Today, Indianapolis is expected to reach a heat index of 120 degrees by mid-afternoon.

Heat index is the real number to monitor if you’re working outside:  the heat indexmeasures the humidity in the air as well as the actual temperature, and this is important to humans because the humidity impacts our physical ability to sweat and disperse heat.  The higher the heat index, the more vulnerable we are to heat stroke and other potentially fatal heat-related conditions.

Workers Are Warned to Be Careful of the Heat by Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis

The high temperatures can be deadly, although many disregard that reality and the seriousness of being in the heat for too long, especially while physically exerting the body through exercise or hard work.  Workers can die from doing their job in this weather, and that’s the reality that both employers and employees need to respect.

In fact, Hilda Solis has issued a formal warning about this “heat dome” situation in her role as Secretary of Labor for the United States.  Here is what Secretary Solis wants you and your employer to know:

“Four weeks into the summer, the nation continues to experience record heat. For outdoor workers, this means being at risk for heat-related illnesses, including heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Employers must take the precautions needed to protect outdoor workers:

  • Have a work site plan to prevent heat-related illnesses and make sure that medical services are available to respond to an emergency should one occur.
  • Provide plenty of water at the job site and remind workers to drink small amounts of water frequently – every 15 minutes.
  • Schedule rest breaks throughout the work shift and provide shaded or air conditioned rest areas near the work site.
  • Let new workers get used to the extreme heat, gradually increasing the work load over a week.
  • When possible, schedule heavy tasks for earlier in the day.

“Tell workers what to look for to spot the signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke in themselves and their co-workers, and make sure they know what to do in an emergency. OSHA has fact sheets and posters that illustrate the signs of heat-related illnesses, and the steps that you can take to prevent them at your work site.

“Remember: water, rest, shade – the three keys to preventing heat-related illnesses in this extreme heat.”



The Growing Toyota Problem – Some Of Its Cars Are Killing People

posted by kjalaw on Feb 4th, 2010 at 9:06 am

Yesterday, the New York Times ran an extensive, overview article covering the growing Toyota scandal regarding an unintended acceleration problem in some of its cars, “Toyota’s Slow Awakening to a Deadly Problem.”

It’s a good read, worth your time.

This Week, Congress Starts Asking Questions About Toyota

Now, Congress has become involved, investigating why Toyota has known about this problem since 2002, without resolution of the potentially fatal glitch in some of its models these 8 years later.   Two Congressional Committees are looking into Toyota’s sudden acceleration issue: the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee led by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) will be holding a hearing into the matter on February 25th; and this week, the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, headed by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) requested documentation on the issue from Toyota and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The last time that Congress got on the hunt like this was back in 2001, when all those Firestone tires were involved in the Ford Motor Company rollover tragedies.

What’s Going On Here?

Several vehicles made by Toyota, and sold either as Toyota models or Lexus models, have been subject to voluntary recalls by Toyota Motor Company (over 6,000,000 vehicles covered here) because of a problem with their sudden, involuntary acceleration of the car. Extremely popular cars like Camrys and Corollas are involved.

What happens? The car just starts speeding up, apparently, and Toyota has explained this dangerous event away as being a problem caused by the gas pedal sticking, or the pedal getting caught up in the carpeted floor mat.

February 1, 2010 – Toyota’s Latest Recall

Today, Toyota issued another recall. On its website, it’s announcing that drivers of the following cars should check with their dealer about a fix that will be done to their accelerator pedal (gas pedal). It impacts the following models:

  • certain 2009-2010 RAV4
  • certain 2009-2010 Corolla
  • 2009-2010 Matrix
  • 2005-2010 Avalon
  • certain 2007-2010 Camry
  • certain 2010 Highlander
  • 2007-2010 Tundra
  • 2008-2010 Sequoia

Does this solve the problem?  Apparently not.  The car described in yesterday’s New York Times article was a Lexus ES350 sedan.  Driven by an off-duty California Highway Patrolman, the driver along with his wife, daughter, and brother-in-law were killed last August 28th, and it will be interesting to learn what happened in that crash.


Mr. Allen sponsors Northwest Indiana Spinal Cord Injury Walk 2009

posted by kjalaw on Dec 11th, 2009 at 9:59 am

The Northwest Indiana Spinal Cord Injury Group and Unite 2 Fight Paralysis would like to extend a sincere thank you for your participation in the Spinal Cord Injury Walk/Roll/Ride 2008.

Your time and donations will go a long way in improving the lives of those with spinal cord injuries living in Northwest Indiana and helping those who fight diligently for a cure for paralysis. 

The Northwest Indiana Spinal Cord Injury Group: Our mission is to improve the quality of life for those with spinal cord injuries living in Northwest Indiana, through education, advocacy, peer support, and recreational outings. 

For more information email

or call 219-531-0055 

A few spinal cord injury facts...  

  • Every 41 minutes, another American sustains a spinal cord injury resulting in paralysis.  This translates to an estimated 11,000 new injuries annually.


  • The average age at injury is 38, with 56% of all injuries occurring between the ages of 16 and 35.  Young adults reaching the peak of their earnings potential


  • In addition to paralysis, secondary conditions resulting from a spinal cord injury include compromised respiratory, bowel, bladder function, as well as chronic urinary tract infections and pressure sores.


  • The estimated annual direct costs of care for Americans living with paralysis due to spinal cord injury are $15 billion.  One of the costliest conditions in our country.


  • Spinal cord injury knows no boundaries.  In a split second it could happen to you, a family member, friend, or neighbor.


(1) Spinal Cord Injury Information Center,

(2) Care Cure;


Donations delight Porter County residents

posted by kjalaw on Dec 11th, 2009 at 9:32 am

PORTAGE | Attorney Kenneth J. Allen and wife Nina were all smiles Friday morning as they handed bags of food to people at the Portage Food Pantry. The Allens distributed dinners to 100 families in Porter County. Bags for each family dinner will include a canned ham, potatoes, green beans, corn and a brownie mix. Dinners for 300 Lake County families will be distributed in mid-November.

"We all need to step up and do our part and especially in these economic times," said Allen. "We try to do something like this every year."

Leonard Carroll, director of the Portage Food Pantry was pleased with the donations.

"This donation is truly a blessing," Carroll said.

Earlier this year the Allens donated $20,000 to the United Way of Porter County for the Kinderprint child ID kit program, for children in Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties.

"My wife Nina and I are passionate about the need to help the less fortunate," Allen said. "Having worked in the trades and the mills while attending law school, I understand the desperate situation families often find themselves caught in, particularly when the economy is less than robust. There is no sadder situation than when parents are unable to feed their children. I hope this sends a message to our community that the need is here -- in Northwest Indiana -- and I hope others will step up so that no child or adult goes hungry."

Rosemary Arambula of Portage was one of the recipients of the donation.

"I've been here before, and this is the best pantry," she said. "It's nice to get extra food for the holidays."


Mr. Allen wins court order to protect Hidden Lake Bridge remains for testing

posted by kjalaw on Dec 11th, 2009 at 8:35 am

CROWN POINT | Lawyers for victims of the July 4 suspension footbridge collapse and the Ross Township trustee agreed to finalize a deal that would preserve the remains of the bridge for inspection by structural experts.

Valparaiso lawyer Kenneth J. Allen and other attorneys gathered Wednesday morning in Lake County Circuit Court for a brief preliminary hearing in a $5.5 million lawsuit against Ross Township and Township Trustee John Rooda, who oversees Hidden Lake Park, the site of a fireworks event that drew the crowd to the bridge that night.

The court had previously granted Allen a temporary restraining order to preserve evidence from the collapse scene. Lawyers said Wednesday they hope to have a final hearing on the matter July 29.

There were no fatalities when the bridge gave way at the close of the fireworks display, but more than 25 people who fell into the water were injured. It is estimated around 100 people were on the bridge when it collapsed. - By Bill Dolan, The Times


$5.5 million lawsuit filed in bridge collapse

posted by kjalaw on Jul 9th, 2009 at 11:18 am

MERRILLVILLE | A Gary woman injured in a Fourth of July bridge collapse at Hidden Lake Park filed a lawsuit Wednesday seeking more than $5 million in damages.

Treneice Campbell said she thought she was going to die when the wooden pedestrian bridge she was on collapsed after a fireworks display at the Merrillville park.

Campbell, 37, who was one of the most seriously injured victims of the collapse, reported suffering spinal and leg fractures. She filed the lawsuit along with her husband, Lawrence Campbell, 41, who also was on the bridge when it gave way.

The lawsuit, which targets Ross Township and Township Trustee John Rooda -- the entity and person responsible for the park and the fireworks event -- seeks $5 million for Treneice Campbell and $500,000 for her husband.

"We intend to hold those in charge fully accountable for the harm they've caused the Campbell family and the other victims," said Valparaiso personal injury attorney Kenneth J. Allen, who is representing the Campbells.

Allen also requested a temporary restraining order seeking to preserve evidence until the cases are resolved.

At a news conference Wednesday at Allen's office, Campbell -- sitting in a wheelchair -- recounted her moment of horror.

"I heard a snap and fell in the water," she said.

"It was just a very, very scary moment."

Another of Allen's clients at the news conference, Markieta Moore, 22, of Merrillville, said she suffered a back injury she fears will derail her plans to become a pilot.

Moore, who said she can't swim, was with her 5-year-old daughter, Maijah Brewer, when both fell into the water.

"Where's my daughter?" Moore recalled thinking before they were safely reunited.

Allen, who reported to be considering representing a dozen of the bridge collapse victims, said the incident never should have happened. He hopes the legal action, filed in Lake County, will prevent "this kind of predictable and preventable event from ever happening again."

Crown Point attorney Jewell Harris Jr. said he is representing bridge collapse victims Delvert and Sherry Cole, of Merrillville, and he expects to file a lawsuit by Friday. Sherry Cole suffered serious leg injuries, Harris said.

Allen, in the lawsuit he prepared, stated the township has an obligation to maintain Hidden Lake Park and its structures, to warn about dangers and to provide crowd control at events.

Allen said it is "inexcusable" that an estimated 100 fireworks spectators were allowed on a bridge known to be unsafe if used by more than 40 people, and that the users were not alerted to the potential danger. He said in the past, police officers would control the number of people exiting via the bridge. Rooda could not be reached Wednesday for comment about the lawsuit.

The bridge collapse happened about 10 p.m. Saturday. Authorities and witnesses said a large crowd was on the bridge when it fell and some occupants were jumping and bouncing on it.

About 50 of the people on the bridge tumbled into the water. About 25 of them were injured, and there were no fatalities.

The investigation into the cause of the bridge collapse continues, but authorities have focused their attention on a rusty I-beam.

Rooda, in an earlier interview, said construction of the bridge was completed in 1981, about two years before he became Ross Township trustee. He was told the span could handle about 40 people at one time.

Rooda said maintenance personnel inspected the bridge at least monthly, and no structural problems were noticed before the collapse. Rooda said he began preliminary discussions with an engineer Tuesday about building a new bridge but did not reach a decision. Allen pledged to donate $25,000 of any attorney fees he receives from the lawsuit to rebuild the bridge.

Allen said victims -- who suffered everything from "fright and terror to a broken back and leg" -- continue to contact him. He had not decided if the case will involve individual lawsuits or a class-action suit.


Report: Kenneth J. Allen tops attorney list

posted by kjalaw on Mar 24th, 2009 at 11:49 am

| Sunday, March 22, 2009 |

Valparaiso attorney Kenneth J. Allen won the largest jury judgment in Indiana during 2008, according to the 2008 Indiana Jury Verdict Reporter.

The publication reported that Allen topped the list of Indiana attorneys because of the $48 million judgment a Lake County jury awarded to a Porter County steelworker that Allen represented. The steelworker fell from a ladder and suffered spinal injuries that left him a paraplegic.

Allen also tops the list of attorneys with almost $135 million in judgments since 2000. He won million-dollar verdicts in every year since 2003.

Allen said rules placed upon attorneys prevent him from advertising his successes. But he said it is valuable for consumers to know how often their attorney wins jury trials and, when they win, how much do they win. -- By Times Staff


Missing doctor found negligent in death

posted by kjalaw on Mar 4th, 2009 at 11:56 am
March 4, 2009

Indiana's tort reform system handling medical malpractice lawsuits protects negligent doctors and insurance companies, a local attorney said Tuesday.

Attorney Ken Allen and his client, Peggy Hood, have been fighting for compensation since they filed suit against a doctor in 2004 for negligence resulting in a woman's death.

Attorney Ken Allen and his client, Peggy Hood, have been fighting for compensation since they filed suit against a doctor in 2004 for negligence resulting in a woman's death.

But Dr. Mark Weinberger disappeared shortly after that and hasn't been found since.

On Friday, a panel of physicians unanimously found Weinberger guilty of negligence causing Phyllis Barnes' death. Barnes, who was Hood's sister, died in 2004.

The panel of three doctors were randomly selected through a process from the Indiana Department of Insurance.

Allen and Hood held a news conference Tuesday afternoon at his Valparaiso law office to denounce the state's tort reform laws.

"It's an unjust law and this case underscores that," Allen said.

The Barnes case is the first one to receive a judgment against Weinberger of the hundreds of lawsuits filed since he fled.

But even with the panel's verdict, the department of insurance can still defend Weinberger and delay the compensation under the state's current tort reform system, Allen said.

That would force the family to go through a jury trial before receiving the state-capped $1.25 million compensation.

Tort reform legislation in Indiana was enacted in the late 1980s and has gone through several modifications since.

The system extends the time for insurance companies to pay the claims as families incur higher legal costs, he said.

"It's a broken system," he said. "It's all a scheme to delay."

Barnes came to Weinberger's office with a sore throat in 2001. She had cancer of the larynx but Weinberger diagnosed the condition as a sinus problem and performed sinus surgery.

Illinois does not have similar system.

"The family would have been compensated by now (if the case happened in Illinois)," Allen said.

Barnes' 23-year-old daughter, living in California, would be the beneficiary of compensation, Hood said. The daughter was 16 years old when her mother died.

Although there have been sightings in Greece and France years ago, Weinberger, who's been featured on America's Most Wanted, has not been found since.

Weinberger, who ran his clinic in Merrillville, disappeared from numerous lawsuits and $5.7 million in debt.


Donation to the Boy Scouts of America benefits Scouting Program

posted by kjalaw on Feb 26th, 2009 at 12:32 pm

Attorney offers holiday feast for flood victims

posted by kjalaw on Dec 16th, 2008 at 10:13 am



$1,000 Donated to the Unite 2 Fight Paralysis & the Northwest Indiana Spinal Cord Injury Walk

posted by kjalaw on Oct 9th, 2008 at 9:52 am

Valparaiso - Mr. & Mrs. Allen donated $1,000 to the Unite 2 Fight Paralysis & the Northwest Indiana Spinal Cord Injury Walk.  The walk was held at the Porter County at the Old Fairgrounds Park on September 21st.  Hundreds attended the event.  It raised $11,000 for paralysis research, advocacy, and the Northwest Indiana Spinal Cord Injury Group.


Donation keeps children safe

posted by kjalaw on Sep 4th, 2008 at 5:23 am

| Saturday, August 30, 2008 |

VALPARAISO | Kindergartners at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School received a gift from local attorney Kenneth J. Allen on Friday morning.

Allen and his wife, Nina, donated money to United Way of Porter County so that all kindergartners in Lake, LaPorte and Porter counties would be equipped with child ID kits.

The goal is to equip parents with a record containing their child's DNA, fingerprints, photos so that they can provide this data immediately to the authorities in case a child turns up missing.

Melissa Castle-Kirincic, resource development director with United way of Porter County, handed out the kits to the children.

"From Ken and Nina's very generous gift to United Way, we've dispersed more than 18,000 child ID kits, thus far, to elementary schools throughout Lake, LaPorte and Porter counties," Castle-Kirincic said.

Allen spoke to the kindergartners in Elaina Spratley's class.

"You kids are all very special," Allen said. "It is important that you talk to mom and dad about safety, and it is important to know about strangers. Always stay by people you know."

Allen said credit for the donation goes to his wife.

"This was my wife's idea," Allen said. "We want kids to take these kits home and have a discussion with their parents about safety and strangers."


Infant Death Case Settled for $1.25 Million Malpractice Cap

posted by kjalaw on Jul 7th, 2008 at 12:46 pm

| Friday, July 04, 2008

CROWN POINT | Eighteen-month-old Christopher Bartzis' last words were "Uh oh, Mommy," said his father, Chris Bartzis.

When the beaming little boy died of meningitis April 17, 2002, his Hammond family shattered.

"He was the best baby I've ever seen in my life, and not just because he was mine," said Bartzis, now of Whiting. "He was the light in our home and in our family."

Chris and Karen Bartzis accepted a $1.25 million settlement last month from the Indiana Patient's Compensation Fund and Munster-based pediatrician Azra Sheriff in connection with their son's death. The now-divorced couple sued Sheriff in Lake County Superior Court after a medical malpractice panel found in 2006 that the doctor committed malpractice in caring for the toddler.

It is the second time a panel determined malpractice in Sheriff's care of a patient, the state compensation fund's online database shows.

Only 10 percent of complaints filed with the panel are found to involve malpractice, according to a Times review of data in the Indiana Patient's Compensation Fund 2007 annual report.

Although it found malpractice in the Bartzis' case, the medical panel determined Sheriff's conduct did not harm or cause the death of Christopher.

"Dr. Sheriff gave excellent care in this case," said the doctor's attorney, Sharon Stanzione. "We do not feel she did anything wrong. However, we were very concerned about the sympathy factor to a jury, given the death of a child from meningitis. It was in all the parties' best interests to have the matter resolved."

The Bartzises contend Sheriff caused their son's death by incorrectly diagnosing his meningitis as a stomach problem.

"Dr. Sheriff was not vigilant or in tune with (Christopher's) symptoms," said attorney Kenneth J. Allen, who represented the Bartzises. "She was not doing anything to alleviate them."

Christopher died of an "extremely rare" form of meningitis, Stanzione said.

Sheriff had vaccinated the child against the most common types of meningitis, Stanzione said, adding Sheriff has been a doctor more than 25 years and is board certified in pediatrics and neonatology.

Christopher's first symptoms showed up April 6, 2002, after a birthday party, court records say. The normally cheerful toddler was irritable, throwing up and screaming.

Karen Bartzis tried to take her son to Sheriff but didn't have enough money for the visit, Allen said. Instead, she brought him to an emergency room, where personnel sent him home.

Christopher continued to get worse, so Karen Bartzis brought him to Community Hospital in Munster, where he was put back under Sheriff's care.

He continued to decline. On April 12, 2002, Christopher had a seizure.

The family and Sheriff say they initiated Christopher's transfer to the University of Chicago Hospitals, where he was diagnosed a short time later with meningitis.

An antibiotic treatment and brain surgery failed to cure Christopher, and he died April 17, 2002.

The medical panel determined Sheriff's actions on the last day of Christopher's stay at the Munster hospital amounted to malpractice, claiming the doctor should have done a spinal tap and administered antibiotics earlier.

"It's the most devastating thing that's ever happened to me," Chris Bartzis said. "I've dealt with a lot of death in my life ... but he was so young."


Family of Gary teacher files lawsuit in fatal truck crash

posted by kjalaw on May 19th, 2008 at 10:10 am

May 17, 2008

The family of a Gary Roosevelt High School math teacher who was killed when a tractor-trailer rear-ended her van two weeks ago has filed a $50 million lawsuit against the trucking company

Kenneth J. Allen, a Valparaiso attorney who represents the family, filed the lawsuit against Schneider National Carrier Inc. of Gary and its driver, Justin R. Wallace of Pennsylvania.

Allen called the death "clearly avoidable" and a result of "negligence." He's filed a petition for a temporary restraining order to preserve crash evidence.

"We are trying to protect this family's right to know the truth," Allen said. "This was a tragedy for the family and the community."

According to documents filed in Lake Circuit Court on Friday, Wallace was driving a tractor-trailer with Schneider logos on May 4 west on U.S. 30 near County Road 300W in Columbia City, when he "violently struck" the Oldsmobile van driven by Gates. The van was stopped at a signal light in front of another vehicle.

Gates, 59, had been a Gary teacher for more than three decades and participated in the Amateur Athletic Union with Gary-area children.

Allen said he met with her husband, Samuel W. Gates, who was a passenger during the crash, and prepared the case.

"We intend to hold the responsible defendants fully accountable for the harm they caused," Allen said. "She was a gifted teacher who inspired her students to do better, and she will be missed."

The request for a restraining order forbids alteration of any truck equipment, including any onboard event recorder and electronic control module -- which may have data on the truck's speed, brake conditions, and hours of services.

Allen said he believes the crash was caused by Schneider cutting back on maintaining costly safety standards due to the high price of diesel gas.

"It's a trend we don't want to see continued," Allen said


Attorney: You're in bad hands with Allstate

posted by kjalaw on Apr 8th, 2008 at 12:11 pm

| Tuesday, April 08, 2008 |

Attorney Kenneth J. Allen -- who helped a Valparaiso man win a $20 million verdict against Allstate insurance company in 2006 -- said at the time that Allstate acts in bad faith by making policyholders choose between a poor settlement or a long, drawn out legal fight.

Allen said the company's "scheme" to divert money from policyholders to shareholders will be out in the open now that the company was forced into publicly releasing the "McKinsey Documents." The documents include 150,000 pages of records detailing the plan Allstate implemented in 1995 to increase profits by reducing claims payouts, Allen said.

Allen said a Florida appellate court upheld the suspension of Allstate's license in the state for refusing to provide the McKinsey Documents to Florida's insurance commissioner. Rather than lose its business in Florida, Allstate then released the documents, Allen said.

Allstate spokesman Mike Siemienas said the documents were not released due to the Florida decision, but rather for several reasons, including the need to address misunderstandings.

Siemienas said trial lawyers, who have a vested interest in painting Allstate in a negative light, do so by taking snippets of the documents out of context. He said Allstate settled millions of claims last year and earned high rates of policy renewal.

"We pay the appropriate amount in a timely manner," Siemienas said.

Allen, however, said insurers traditionally pay out 70 cents on the dollar for claims, but Allstate began paying 52 cents on the dollar to return millions to shareholders.

Allen said the client for whom he won $20 million, Ted K. Fields, suffered spinal injuries in a 1995 crash. After the insolvency of the insurer for the person who caused the crash, Allstate became responsible under the uninsured motorist coverage it sold Fields.

Fields suffered $7,000 in medical bills and $18,000 in lost wages, but Allen said Allstate forced Fields into a nearly 10-year battle. Allen said many people yield to Allstate's tactics, but Fields would not.

Allen said a doctor and psychiatrist testified during the two-week trial that the stress caused by Allstate's actions contributed to Fields' rise in blood pressure, which led to heart problems and a stroke.

"Allstate's misconduct in dragging out the Fields' claims followed the McKinsey plan to the letter," Allen said.

The $20 million awarded to Fields by a Lake County jury was appealed by Allstate, but Allen expects a decision on the appeal within 30 days.

Siemienas said there was a case against Allstate in Kentucky in which the McKinsey Documents were presented in context and the jury found in favor of Allstate. He said Allstate was justified in fighting the release of the 150,000 pages of documents because they contain trade secrets, and he said they also contain ideas never implemented.


A Gift of Safety

posted by kjalaw on Mar 10th, 2008 at 9:21 am

| Tuesday, December 25, 2007 |

VALPARAISO | For the past ten years, Northwest Indiana injury attorney Kenneth J. Allen and his wife, Nina, have given thousands of gifts to needy children during the Christmas holiday. Last year, for example, the Allens gave $50 to every child living in area shelters during the holidays, distributed by United Way partner agency shelters in the form of gift certificates which enabled parents or guardians to select suitable gifts for each child. In years past, the Allens have spent tens of thousands of dollars buying, and often wrapping, gifts for needy children.

"This year we decided to do something slightly different," said Nina Allen. "We wanted to make a gift of safety and security to the families with young children in all of Northwest Indiana."

Through a generous gift to the UNITED WAY, the Allens are funding the purchase of Child Identification kits for every Kindergarten-aged child in Lake, LaPorte and Porter Counties public and private schools. Each of the self-contained kits provide the tools and instructions for taking fingerprints, DNA samples, photos, and dental records of the children.

"These I.D. kits will provide vital information to law enforcement if a child should go lost or missing," injury attorney Allen said. "They should also provide a sense of security and safety to parents and serve as a gentle reminder to them to speak with their children about personal safety."

"In the end, it's ultimately about our kids and their safety," said Allen, who was the recipient of the Fifth Annual Child Safety Advocate Award "for outstanding dedication in forwarding the issues of child safety" awarded by the I.U. School of Medicine and the Indiana Safe Kids Coalition.

The Allens also plan a public awareness campaign on the importance of obtaining an I.D. kit beginning early next year.

"If only one lost or missing child is located because of these kits, or a child's abduction is prevented, our efforts will be richly rewarded," said the Allens.

--The NWI Times


$50 Million wrongful death suit against City

posted by kjalaw on Feb 15th, 2008 at 9:48 am

| Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A $50 million lawsuit was filed Monday against the city of Gary and its Police Department for failing to find two young men ejected from a car during a crash one month ago.

The young men -- Brandon Smith and Dominique Green, both 18 -- were found dead by family members hours after the crash. Personal injury attorney Kenneth J. Allen, who is representing Green's parents, alleges in the lawsuit Green was alive at the time police ignored pleas to search for the pair.

"There is no excuse for what the officers did not do at the scene of this crash," Allen said.

"It shocks the conscience and can't be tolerated."

Assistant Gary City Attorney Jerome Taylor declined comment on the lawsuit.

Allen plans to seek court permission to exhume Green's body to find evidence to contradict an earlier autopsy report from the Lake County coroner's office that says the young men died instantly.

Allen contends Green's body had extensive bruising and swelling, indicating he was alive after the crash.

Lake Superior Court Judge William Davis has issued an injunction preserving evidence in the case, like the 911 tape Allen said supports his clients' contention that police knew there were missing accident victims but did not search for them.

Allen and his clients, Willie Green Jr. and Jacquelyn Green, also dispute the Police Department's contention that the bodies were 95 to 120 feet from the crashed car. He said family members quickly found the teens just 15 feet from the crash site.

The single-vehicle crash occurred about 1:30 a.m. Sept. 15 in the 2700 block of Chase Street in Gary. The driver, 17-year-old Darius Moore, and a surviving passenger, both pleaded for police to find Smith and Green, Allen said.

The lawsuit, which names responding Gary police Officer Jeff Westerfield, the Police Department and the city, seeks $50 million. But Allen and his clients said the lawsuit is all about finding the truth and making sure the city changes its protocol so that this type of incident doesn't happen again.

Allen said it is "criminal" what happened to the victims, and he said the Gary Police Department showed disregard for human life. Green's mother said she knows her son was alive after the crash, and her son is not with her today because of police negligence.

"The closure (for the family) will come when the truth comes out," Allen said.

He said he has not talked to the Smith family about representing them.

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