KENNETH J. ALLEN LAW GROUP - INJURY ATTORNEYS

Illinois and Indiana Personal Injury Lawyers and Attorneys Trial and Civil Litigation Law Firm.

Accident & Injury Law

Call 24/7 877-GO WITH KEN (877.469.4845)

Passion. Commitment. Excellence.

Those three words best describe the driving forces behind Kenneth J. Allen Law Group. Our firm is devoted exclusively to the practice of Accident and Injury Law, and exclusively to the people - not corporations - seriously hurt or killed in incidents as varied as on-the-job accidents, semi-truck crashes, injuries from a defective product, or loss of life because of a doctor's medical malpractice.

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.

phone (219)465-6292 fax (219)477-5181
1109 Glendale Boulevard Valparaiso, IN 46383

Monday-Friday: 8:00 am - 5:00 pm

Saturday-Sunday: closed

Contact_button_single
Website_button_single
Map_button_single

Congress Nixed Raising 30 Year Old Insurance Limits for Truckers

posted by kjalaw on Jul 9th, 2014 at 9:06 am

The trucking industry, like other big commercial enterprises, has to carry insurance on its employees in case they hurt other people while they are working on the job. When big rig truck drivers are in crashes, that trucking company’s insurance policy comes into play to cover the damages and harmed caused in the semi truck crash.

However, there is a huge problem with the truck driver’s insurance coverage in these big rig wrecks. The insurance policy limits — how much the trucking companies had to buy as a minimum coverage in their insurance policy — has not been changed under federal law for THIRTY YEARS.

The minimum coverage limits for commercial motor vehicles right now is $750,000 for general freight carriers.

Think about that — and consider what things cost back in the mid-1980s. Think about the cost of gasoline, cars, tires, food, clothing, medical care, your insurance coverage for your car. Those have all risen, right?

So why hasn’t the trucking insurance coverage changed in all these years? Good question.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Report

FMCSA completed a report earlier this year and sent it over to Congress providing detailed analysis on why the trucker’s insurance coverage should be legally required to be higher. We provided details about that FMCSA report in an earlier post and you can read the details in “The Cost of Commercial Truck Accidents: FMCSA Pushes for Commercial Carriers to Take Greater Financial Responsibility for Big Rig, Semi Truck Crashes.”

Congress Votes Against Raising Liability Insurance Coverage Requirements for Truck Drivers

Unfortunately, the House of Representatives voted for HR Bill 4745 as part of 2015 funding and HR4745 blocked the federal agency, FMCSA, from taking action to increase the minimum insurance limits for both commercial trucking companies as well as bus companies like Greyhound and other bus operators.

What This Means to The Truck Crash Victim

By keeping the current minimum insurance limits for the commercial trucking and bus industries, accident victims and their families are facing medical expenses that in no way correlate to the 30-year old insurance coverage limits that remain in place.

Medical costs for doctors, hospitals, drugs, therapists, ambulance calls, long term care, rehabilitation, medical equipment, etc., are nowhere near their mid-1980s prices. This means that the truck driver’s insurance coverage may not be enough to cover the accident’s aftermath especially in catastrophic crashes involving wrongful death of bus passengers or traffic victims in semi tractor trailor big rig crashes.

The Trucking Alliance, for instance, has found that the current $750,000 limit is not enough to cover 42% of commercial truck crashes.

What Happens Now?

Right now, if the trucking company does not have sufficient insurance coverage, then it becomes responsible for providing financially out of its own resources (and victims must hope that the trucking company has sufficient assets to cover their long-term damage needs).

Collection of a judgment can be another huge fight after the courtroom battle over liability for the wreck has been won.

In Congress, there are continuing efforts underway to pass legislation that does allow for increasing the limits here. For instance, the American Association of Justice has supported an effort by one Congressman to increase the limits to $4.422 Million which reflects the present day medical costs in the same proportion that the $750,000 reflected when it was first established.

Eventually, this wrong will be righted.

 

.

APRIL IS NATIONAL DISTRACTED DRIVING AWARENESS MONTH: VIOLENT VIDEOS SHOCKING (BUT WILL THEY SAVE LIVES?)

posted by kjalaw on Apr 13th, 2014 at 3:36 am

This month is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month — and for the first time ever, the federal government is spearheading a big, national, month-long publicity campaign to boost public awareness about the dangers of distractions while driving. This year’s campaign is being wrapped around the catch-phrase U Drive. U Text. U Pay,” and it will run simultaneously with law enforcement campaigns around the country against using a phone while driving.

Millions of dollars ($8.5 million) are being spent this month for this big media campaign which is being touted as supporting the “… the first-ever national distracted driving high-visibility enforcement (HVE) crackdown,” running from April 10 to April 15 this year.

As part of this year’s campaign, several videos are being released to promote greater awareness of the dangers of car crashes and traffic deaths from distractions while driving on U.S. roads. Some are finding these videos surprisingly violent — but the intent behind them isn’t to shock so much as it is to break through to teens and others who may not understand how serious it is to text or talk while driving a car. (One of these videos can be viewed below.)

DISTRACTED DRIVING STATISTICS

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has compiled research that includes the following scary facts:

  • Ten percent of fatal crashes, 18 percent of injury crashes, and 16 percent of all motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2012 were reported as distraction-affected crashes.
  • In 2012, there were 3,328 people killed and an estimated additional 421,000 injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.
  • Ten percent of all drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crashes. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted.
  • In 2012, there were 540 non-occupants killed in distraction-affected crashes.

To prevent distracted driving, motorists are urged by NHTSA to:

  • Turn off electronic devices and put them out of reach before starting to drive.
  • Be good role models for young drivers and set a good example. Talk with your teens about responsible driving.
  • Speak up when you are a passenger and your driver uses an electronic device while driving. Offer to make the call for the driver, so his or her full attention stays on the driving task.
  • Always wear your seat belt. Seat belts are the best defense against other unsafe drivers.

VIOLENT VIDEO FROM APRIL 2014 U DRIVE. U TEXT. U PAY. CAMPAIGN BY NHTSA

 

_______________________________

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured or killed in a traffic accident where distracted driving was a factor, then please accept our sincerest condolences — from our perspective as plaintiffs’ accident lawyers (and staff), we understand how life-altering these events can be not only for the injury victim but also for all those family and friends who suffer, as well, in the aftermath of a tragic accident that could have been so easily prevented.

 

.

Babies Are Being Seriously Injured in Car Seats Used Outside the Car According to New Ohio Study

posted by kjalaw on Jul 12th, 2010 at 11:04 am

Babies Are Being Seriously Injured in Car Seats Used Outside the Car According to New Ohio Study

July 8th, 2010 by admin

Nine thousand (9000) babies are seen in emergency rooms every year in this country because they are injured in car seat-injuries outside the car, according to a new study published today in Pediatrics.

That’s right: infants are being taken to ERs for injuries they’ve sustained in car seats – but not in a car.

The study was conducted by the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, using national emergency room records of babies under 1 year in age spanning the time period 2003-2007.
The good news is that fatalities were low in the statistics. Most of these ER visits did not result in the infant’s death.

However, injuries to the baby’s head or to the baby’s neck (or both) were very common. Injuries to the head and neck can result in life-altering permanent injury to any child, but particularly an infant under the age of one year.

The babies fall from car seats placed on tables, etc.

Usually, these accidents occur when babies are cradled in a car seat and the car seat is then placed somewhere – on a table, for example, or in a shopping cart. The car seats topple over, and within them, the trapped infant falls and sustains injury.

Or, the tiny infant is conveniently kept within the car seat, but not securely strapped in place. The baby squirms and slips out of the seat entirely, falling to the surface below (table, counter, floor).

Lesson to be learned: don’t trust the car seat to keep your baby safe.

.

Over 2,000,000 cribs recalled -- dropdown sides hurt babies

posted by kjalaw on Jul 12th, 2010 at 11:03 am

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has issued a voluntary recall of over two million cribs that are dangerous for children, and the seven manufacturers involved are offering consumers with free repair kits for the crib’s drop-down sides.

The crib makers are Evenflo, Delta Enterprises Corp., Child Craft, Jardine Enterprises, LaJobi, Million Dollar Baby and Simmons Juvenile Products Inc.

According to the CPSC over sixteen (16) infants have been reported trapped in the gap created by their crib’s movable side. The agency is still gathering information about other infants that may have been harmed by these cribs.

What happens? Apparently, the drop-down side, while convenient for parents, can detach from these types of cribs, creating a space where the baby’s head can become trapped and injured.

Cribs Manufactured in 2000 – 2009 Are Recalled: Site Provides Identification Info

Consumers can visit www.cribsafety.org for a list of product identification numbers, etc. provided by the seven participating manufacturers. Meanwhile, the crib makers are still in the process of preparing and shipping the free repair kits. Both the CPSC and the manufacturers warn that these cribs should not be repaired independently at home – the free crib maker kits should be used to fix the defective cribs.

Want to learn more? The CPSC’s online Crib Information Center has detailed information on Crib Safety and Recalls.

.

Consumers getting more than just a full stomach

posted by kjalaw on Jul 2nd, 2010 at 1:03 pm

During your next visit to the local supermarket, do not be surprised if you are unable to purchase all the items on your list. Just recently the Department of Agriculture announced the recall of Campbell Soup Company’s SpaghettiOs with Meatballs and ConAgra’s Marie Callender Cheesy Chicken and Rice frozen meals.

Although there have not yet been any reported illnesses resulting from the undercooked SpaghettiO’s, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that as many as 29 people in 14 different states have suffered salmonella poisoning as a result of consuming the Marie Callender product.

This is not ConAgra’s first time in the news. Less than three years ago, the company was slapped with numerous lawsuits when its Peter Pan brand peanut butter waslinked to over 600 cases of salmonella poisoning. Kenneth J. Allen & Associates, P.C. represents Krystina Brugh of Lowell, Indiana in one of these cases. The 11year-old became infected with salmonella and eventually suffered kidney failure as a result of the contaminated peanut butter. Attorney Kenneth Allen said that the contamination resulted from inadequate inspection, questionable testing and unsanitary procedures.

The CDC warns that salmonella can be very severe and even deadly. Young children, the elderly, and individuals with weak immune systems tend to be more susceptible to the illness, which can last for as many as 7 days.

The CDC says that it has partnered with the United States Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration, as well as state and local health departments in tracking and identifying new cases and that it continues to investigate the outbreak. Given the recent outbreak, the CDC recommends to avoid the affected products and to contact your health care provider immediately should you consume the products and become ill.

.

Public awareness growing for dangerous head injuries in children. Good.

posted by kjalaw on Jul 2nd, 2010 at 1:02 pm

Recent news coverage appears to show a trend across the country in public awareness of kids being at risk for serious head trauma or traumatic brain injuries in the course of everyday play or during more structured sporting activities.

Which is great news from our perspective. It is a particularly tragic part of our practice to represent children whose lives have been permanently altered by head trauma and TBI, especially when these injuries happen as the kids are just playing around, having fun, or participating in school sports. The more that parents, caretakers, teachers, and coaches are educated about the risks of serious head injury to children, the safer all our kids can be.

Florida Reports of Child Head Injuries on the Rise

The Orlando Sentinel reports a 71% increase in the number of children visiting Florida hospital emergency rooms than in 2004. That’s a huge difference over a five year period.

Physicians there assume that the increase in kids being presented for treatment is growing awareness of how even the slightest impact to the head can have serious, and sometimes fatal, repercussions.

Ohio’s Preemptive Strike against High School Athletes’ Risk of Head Injury

In Ohio last month, according to the Springfield News-Sun, the Ohio High School Athletic Association decided to add new requirements in state-wide manuals used by coaches and other school officials in a campaign to prevent serious head injuries to student athletes.

Henceforth in Ohio,“[a]ny athlete who exhibits signs, symptoms or behaviors consistent with a concussion (such as loss of consciousness, headache, dizziness, confusion or balance problems) shall be immediately removed from the contest and shall not return to play until cleared with written authorization by an appropriate health care professional.”

Symptoms of Serious or Traumatic Brain Injury in Children – What to Look For:

If your child has suffered any type of injury to the head, then be alert for the following symptoms within the following 24 – 48 hours and seek immediate medical treatment if there is:

• Loss of consciousness (even for a minute or so)
• Child keeps crying, doesn’t stop
• Your attempts at comforting aren’t working
• Child complains of pain in head or neck
• Child is not walking right
• Twitching limbs or trouble breathing during sleep (nap or nighttime after head injury)
• Eye pupils aren’t the same size
• Breathing is labored, abnormal
• Blood or clear fluid coming from nose, ears, mouth, or eyes
• Stiff neck
• Vomiting
• Loss of bladder control
• Loss of bowel control
• Slurred speech
• Vision problems (complaints of blurred vision)
• Dizziness
• Nausea
• Difficulty thinking, confusion
• Feeling anxious
• Fatigued
• Headache
• Irritability
• Problem with balance (falling, leaning against walls for support).

.

FDA warns weight loss drugs Xenical™ and Alli™ can cause severe liver damage

posted by kjalaw on Jul 2nd, 2010 at 1:00 pm

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently warned the public that those taking the drug orlistat for weight loss, marketed under the names of Xenical™ and Alli™, are at risk for serious injury to their liver and severe liver damage.

Xenical™ is only available with a doctor’s prescription; however, Alli™ is sold over-the-counter without a prescription.

Alli is the Subject of Huge National Marketing Campaigns

Alli™ is heavily marketed in this country via both print and television advertising. Millions of dollars have been, are are being, spent to promote Alli™ as a great weight loss tool.

Wynonna Judd was recently named its product spokesperson, and a new campaign was implemented to avoid the reputation Alli™ was receiving for a notorious side-effect: loss of bowel control.

The FDA estimates that 40,000,000 people have taken orlistat as either Xenical™ orAlli™.

The Food and Drug Administration confirms 13 cases of severe liver injury, 12 occurring outside of the U.S. (the single U.S. case involved Alli™). One wonders how many more of those 40 million folk may also be suffering from damaged livers, as yet unreported by the FDA.

Signs of Possible Liver Damage

If you or a loved one is taking Xenical™ or Alli™, then you should watch for the symptoms of liver damage, i.e., itching, yellow eyes, yellow skin, dark urine, loss of appetite, and light-colored stools. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek medical attention for their health care provider.

.

Employers Not Phased by Increased OSHA Fines

posted by kjalaw on Jun 21st, 2010 at 8:21 am

On May 27, 2010, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued its second fine over $1 million within the last month. The South Dakota Wheat Growers Association of Aberdeen, South Dakota was fined $1.6 million for 23 willful violations after the December 2009 death of a worker at one of the company’s grain handling operations. The worker suffocated to death after being engulfed by grain in one of the facility’s storage bins.

Hilda L. Solis, Secretary of Labor, spoke about the Department’s investigation and stated that “The S.D Wheat Growers Association ignored long-established standards addressing safety in grain handling operations.” Solis also stated that “The company’s intentional disregard for its safety…led to an unnecessary loss of a life.”

The company’s utter disregard for the safety of its employees is even more troubling given the fact that just last year Tempel Grain Company, one state over in Haswell, Colorado, was fined more than $1.5 million for 22 similar OSHA violations.

This came after a 17-year old employee of Tempel suffocated to death in a bin after being engulfed by grain.

This inexcusable ignorance to OSHA citations and fines can also be seen closer to home. Just last year, the Indiana Occupational Health and Safety Administration issued fines totaling more than $400,000 to two Indiana Companies for repeated workplace safety violations. Steel Dynamics, based in Fort Wayne, was cited and fined $240,000 when one employee was injured and another was killed by nitrogen fumes released by a furnace.

Many of the violations were repeat violations, meaning that they company had already been cited for the violation and was aware of the dangerous condition that existed. Similarly, Noblesville based company King Systems Corp., which manufactures anesthesia and respiratory care products, was cited for repeat violations and fined for $191,000.

The violations resulted from the company’s ongoing failure to minimize employee exposure to harmful gases.

At first blush, one might assume that increased fines have lead to a safer working environment. However, this is not always the case. All too often, these repeat violations and increased fines provide little deterrent to employers primarily concerned with the bottom line: profits. Rather than addressing the safety hazards and unsafe conditions, employers wait until one of its employees is seriously injured or killed, before taking the proper corrective measures prescribed by OSHA. Unfortunately, the tragic incidents described above demonstrate this all too well.

.

Asleep at the Wheel: Another Truck Driver Too Tired to Drive In State Route 49 (Indiana 49) Fatal Crash

posted by kjalaw on Jun 4th, 2010 at 8:55 am

Just as the Memorial Day holiday weekend was about to begin, tragedy hit our community as Adele Nielsen of Grovertown was fatally injured in a semi truck crash on State Route 49 (Indiana 49). 

This week, we’ve learned that police investigators have already discovered that the truck driver admits to “dozing off” at the wheel, shortly before the horrific accident.

Adele Nielsen Truck Crash: What Happened Last Friday Morning

Facts will continue coming to light, of course.  However, from eyewitnesses and police investigators we already know that Adele Nielsen was alone a bit before noon on Friday morning, awaiting a red light to change at the intersection of State Route 49 (Indiana 49) and Vale Park Road.  She was driving a gold, four door sedan.

Rumbling down State Route 49, a big rig driven by Jeffery Mokol, 47, of Hebron, rammed into Nielsen’s vehicle from behind. The truck collision was so violent that the semi truck actually thrust the sedan 150 yards (450 feet) down the Indiana 49 roadway before coming to a stop atop the car itself. That’s longer than any NFL football field by about 100 feet.

HOS Regulations Designed to Prevent Truck Drivers Asleep at the Wheel

The danger of a driver at the wheel of a vehicle that can weigh between 50,000 and 80,000 lbs is well known to those in the industry. Federal and state regulations are filled with requirements designed to protect against drivers too tired to drive these huge and heavy machines on American roadways.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is aggressive in this area. We’ve posted about the newly-revised HOS Regulations, CSA 2010, which are being implemented state-by-state across the country. Under CSA 2010, fatigued truck drivers are addressed in two sections of the new regulations: FMCSR Parts 392 and 395.

Of particular note is the language of FMCSR 392.3 ([35 FR 7800, May 21, 1970, as amended at 60 FR, 38746, July 28, 1995]):

§392.3 Ill or fatigued operator. No driver shall operate a commercial motor vehicle, and a motor carrier shall not require or permit a driver to operate a commercial motor vehicle, while the driver’s ability or alertness is so impaired, or so likely to become impaired, through fatigue, illness, or any other cause, as to make it unsafe for him/her to begin or continue to operate the commercial motor vehicle. However, in a case of grave emergency where the hazard to occupants of the commercial motor vehicle or other users of the highway would be increased by compliance with this section, the driver may continue to operate the commercial motor vehicle to the nearest place at which that hazard is removed.

Notice how the regulations address not only the truck driver but the motor carrier, as well. In the Nielsen crash, the carrier involved is S & H Transportation, which is headquartered in Missouri.

According to FMCSA, S& H Transportation, Inc., 475 Pearl Drive, O’Fallon, MO, is an interstate motor carrier, and first obtained motor carrier operating authority in 1981. The company reports that it primarily transports general freight, meat, fresh produce, refrigerated goods, beverages, and paper. S&H operates 179 semi tractors and has 220 truck drivers. The company reported that it traveled 19,945,157 miles in 2008.

Our Condolences to the Family and Friends of Adele Nielsen

Funeral services were earlier this week for Adele Nielsen. However, the Times of NW Indiana online obituary for Adele Nielsen is still active for those who would like to leave a message of condolence. Messages of comfort and support can also be left at the website guest book for Rannells Funeral Home.

.

Allen fights insurer for injured police officer

posted by kjalaw on Jun 4th, 2010 at 8:54 am

May 27, 2010 by Teresa Auch Schultz

An insurance company is suing to avoid paying a claim to a Crown Point police officer injured when he was hit by a speeding car two years ago.

Standard Mutual Insurance Company said in a lawsuit it filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court in Hammond that it shouldn’t have to pay a $100,000 claim to John Allendorf Jr. because he already received a worker’s compensation payment.

Allendorf, then a sergeant, was working on Dec. 5, 2008, when Schererville police started to follow a car driven by Timmy Todd Zieman on suspicion of a domestic dispute. Allendorf heard that Zieman’s car was headed toward him on 93rd Avenue and he drove on the sidewalk to get out of the way, but Zieman’s car drove at him. The crash caused a femur fracture, several broken ribs and internal injuries. During court hearings, police officials said there were no skid marks, showing the car did not brake before hitting Allendorf.

Allendorf has not been able to return to active duty because of the extent of his injuries.

Zieman, who earlier this year was found not guilty by reason of insanity, had a suspended license when the accident happened, and so his insurance company, Founders Insurance Company wouldn’t pay a claim filed by Allendorf for bodily injury, according to the Standard Mutual lawsuit.

Allendorf then filed a claim with Standard Mutual for getting hit by an uninsured motorist. However, Standard says that their policy says because Allendorf was driving a Crown Point police car, his main insurer was Crown Point, which paid him $176,000 in workers compensation. That amount is more than the $100,000 Standard would pay him, according to the lawsuit, so the company is free of its obligation.

Kenneth J. Allen, who is representing Allendorf, said the move was just another example of how insurance companies try to delay paying claims as long as they can.

“It’s a pity these insurance companies don’t stand up and take responsibility,” Allen said.

He said that if an insurance company can delay paying on a claim for five to seven years, they often have already made that money back in profits. Allen also called out the state, saying it needed a stronger insurance commission to force the insurance companies to fulfill their obligations.

Allen said his client is also fighting Zieman’s insurance and is still trying to get that company to pay the claim. If Founders does, then Allendorf would pay back the Crown Point worker’s compensation claim, which Allen called “a small amount” considering Allendorf’s injuries.

.

What is Highway Hypnosis?

posted by kjalaw on Jun 4th, 2010 at 8:54 am

Highway Hypnosis is a dangerous and real driving hazard that occurs when someone has been driving a vehicle along a long stretch of roadway for an extended period of time. One state agency has described Highway Hypnosis as being caused by “the sameness of road and traffic.”  The driver becomes unaware and unable to respond due to a semi-hypnotic mental state brought about by the monotony of a long drive.

Sometimes, victims fall asleep at the wheel.  Sometimes, victims of Highway Hypnosis seem to be awake behind the wheel, but they’re not fully functional: they’ve zoned out, and aren’t alert or aware of what is going on around them.

Highway Hypnosis isn’t new.  Back in 1957, engineers designed the Indiana Toll Road with curves every two miles or so, in an effort to combat the problem.  Still, as long as drivers (including truckers) spend long stretches of time behind the wheel on America’s highways, highway hypnosis will be a problem.

Suggestions to avoid Highway Hypnosis include:

  • don’t eat a big meal before starting out on a long drive;
  • stop every couple of hours to stretch your legs;
  • don’t drive during the hours that you’re normally sleeping;
  • talk to your passengers; and
  • open the window, get fresh air circulating through the car.

And before you think that Highway Hypnosis sounds silly – or that it’s something that just doesn’t happen all that often, think again.

It happens much more often than people realize: in fact, within 24 hours of these words being written, a teenager crashed his SUV into the back of an 18-wheeler in San Antonio, Texas — witnesses said he made no effort to stop.  The boy’s lower body was wedged underneath the SUV’s dashboard, impaling him on the brake pedal.  Police at the scene have already labelled the boy another victim of Highway Hypnosis.

Be careful out there.

.

Congress Learns That Exponent, Toyota’s Independent Expert, Really Hired Gun of its Defense Lawyers

posted by kjalaw on May 21st, 2010 at 9:04 am

Today’s hearings before Congress on the Toyota sudden acceleration problem got a jolt when James Lentz, Toyota’s U.S. sales chief, testified that the “independent” investigation really wasn’t so independent after all.

“Independent” Expert Reporting to Toyota’s Defense Team

While Toyota wasn’t directly involved with Exponent, the company responsible for the independent investigation into the acceleration problems, its defense counsel was. Seems that the engineering investigators were reporting to Toyota’s lawyers.

Lentz told Congress “[t]hat changed last week.” Now, Exponent is supposed to be reporting its findings to Steve St. Angelo, Toyota’s top quality officer for North America.

According to USA Today, Exponent was hired in December 2009, and has already profited $3,300,000.00 on its Toyota work.

Exponent Doesn’t Have Extensive Testing Documentation

Along with this news flash, it’s becoming more apparent to the Committee members that Exponent didn’t do the extensive testing that Toyota was telling everyone had been done regarding the sudden acceleration issue.

The Wall Street Journal quotes Rep. Henry Waxman (D- Calif.) today: “Toyota has repeatedly told the public that it has conducted extensive testing of its vehicles for electronic defects,” Mr. Waxman said. “We can find no basis for these assertions.”

Together with Committee Chairman Bart Stupak, Rep. Waxman said today that there’s no evidence that Exponent study was as thorough as one would assume it would be:  Exponent documentation is scant.

“Exponent has no written work plan for this project, no written time line, and no written specifications for the experiments it has run or plans to run,” Mr. Waxman said (as reported in the WSJ).

Hired Gun 101

The Congressmen appear to be shocked by all this. Those in the know aren’t surprised.  Exponent is a known hired gun for the automotive industry.

Nice to see that Congress – and the American public – are getting a chance to see how the powerful insurance defense teams operate out here.

.

Congress working on major Auto Safety Bill – More power to NHTSA

posted by kjalaw on May 20th, 2010 at 8:23 am

Legislation is being built right now in Congress that will have a major impact on recalls and roadway safety in the coming years. Both the House and Senate are working on bills that many say are a reaction to the Congressional hearings dealing with the Toyota recalls.

In sum, the measures look to increase the power of the federal government – through the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) – to immediately recall any vehicle on American roads the agency deemed to be unsafe.

Safety features are also being proposed, such as the “black boxes” long requested by car safety advocates and fought against by those concerned about privacy issues connected with the black box data.

This is the first time in ten years that Congress has worked on laws dealing with national auto safety. Let’s see what happens.

.

Bad Brakes Pull 282 Big Rigs Off Pennsylvania Roads – In One Day

posted by kjalaw on May 14th, 2010 at 7:59 am

Imagine 282 Semi Trucks parked end to end — that ribbon of big rigs would stretch a long, long, LONG way down the side of any road. If each truck averages 75 feet in length, then that’s FOUR MILES of trucks we’re talking about here.

Four Miles of Truck Stopped in Pennsylvania This Week

This week, that’s exactly the number of big rigs that Pennsylvania law enforcement authorities took off the roads when they decided to check air brakes of commercial trucks as they were moving down the Pennsylvania roadways. There were 282 trucks driving along with bad brakes.

Imagine how dangerous this is – those heavy vehicles with faulty brakes moving a high speeds. And, it’s a common problem: pro truck drivers know that brakes out of adjustment are the most common reason that big rig drivers get cited.

Operation Air Brake

Operation Air Brake is the brainchild of CVSA (Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance), and different states are participating by doing state-wide air brake checks at different times. Pennsylvania did its part. Wisconsin, for example, will be inspecting semi trucks on its roads during the week of May 5th.

It would be nice to assume that Pennsylvania is an anomaly, but the reality is that most big trucks haul loads across several state lines. Which means that there are a lot of trucks on the Indiana and Illinois roads right now that are dangerous because of bad brakes.

282 trucks probably isn’t a fluke — it’s probably a pretty good clue to the reality of the roads in America today.

.

Vehicle-to-Vehicle Auto-Communication: Life-Saver or Big Brother?

posted by kjalaw on May 14th, 2010 at 7:57 am

The U.S. Department of Transportation is very excited about a new technology that is already being tested on commercial trucks and other vehicles riding on America’s roadways: V2V communication.

Built by a team of U.S. DOT researchers and a private research group headed up by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI), the techno-scientists and engineers have built and are currently field testing what they are calling an “integrated vehicle-based safety system.”

An Integrated Vehicle Based Safety System: V2V

IN V2V, the technology currently in place for OnStar and other similar services is being used to allow a vehicle on the road — say a big rig — to automatically notify other vehicles on the road when it’s about to change lanes, change speed, avoid something on the road, etc.  It’s not clear whether or not the drivers have input here, or whether or not they give permission for this communication exchange or even have knowledge that it’s happening.

What the V2V System Does - Right Now

Currently, the V2V technology is limited to providing forward collision warning (FCW), lane departure warning (LDW), lane change warning (LCW), and curve speed warning (CSW) functions. The system warns the driver of these dangers, enabling the driver to avoid an accident – in theory.

No word as yet on when (not if, but when – the technology is there) the system will be expanded to do things that take control from the driver: automatic breaking, for example, or automatically slowing the vehicle down – or even stopping it. OnStar can do this now, and does, when the vehicle is being driven without permission.

Optimistic Projections – V2V Will Stop 48%

USDOT studies are pointing to studies claiming that implementing V2V technology on the roadways will decrease accidents by 48%. That’s cutting the amount of trucking accidents and other motor vehicle accidents in half.

Sounds almost too good to be true, doesn’t it?

There’s something about having technology that is able to control traffic streams that gives one pause. And that’s what is being developed here.

Perhaps if more money and time were being placed into driver education and training, roadway maintenance, etc., this technology wouldn’t be engendering such excitement.

.

Porter County couple awarded $3.7 million for UP Mall ladder fall

posted by kjalaw on May 11th, 2010 at 9:30 am

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — A federal jury has awarded a northern Indiana man and his wife $3.7 million for a brain injury the man suffered when he fell from a ladder at a shopping mall.

The jury in South Bend ruled in favor of the Porter County couple and against mall owner Simon Property Management and its maintenance company, Varsity Contractors.

Forty-six-year-old Richard Proctor and 42-year-old Sonia Proctor sued after Richard Proctor fell from a ladder at University Park Mall in Mishawaka in January 2007.

Proctor suffered a skull fracture, brain trauma and other injuries when he fell 19 feet from a roof hatch ladder while servicing heating/air conditioning equipment on the mall's roof.

Attorney Kenneth J. Allen says the ladder had failed to meet safety codes.

.

Toll Road Big Rig Crash Serves As Warning to Us All

posted by kjalaw on May 6th, 2010 at 7:12 am

Over on the Toll Road in LaPorte County, two semi trucks crashed into each other last Friday night. It’s being reported that a tire blew on a FedEx big rig, causing the truck driver to lose control and slam into a flat-bed semi truck. The FedEx semi then jackknived, blocking westbound traffic on the Toll Road bridge. Then, to make matters worse, the FedEx big rig burst into flames.

The westbound lanes were blocked by the truck itself, and the eastbound traffic was held up by all the FedEx debris scattered all over it. (So if you haven’t received that package from Amazon.com maybe this is why.) Both truck drivers were seriously injured. The Northern Indiana Public Service Company is checking for damage to the power lines.

Fortunately, no one was hurt other than these two truck drivers. This time, we’re not reading about families in passenger cars or minivans being killed in car-truck collisions. (Remember that horror from last month, where the family going to a wedding on I65 was killed in a truck crash?)

However, reading this story did cause discussion, and once again talk turned to how the trucking companies – and their insurance carriers – are always ready for a wreck.

Trucking Companies are Ready for a Wreck

“Trucking companies are experienced in dealing with accidents involving their tractor-trailers and drivers, which immediately puts the driver of a private auto at a disadvantage,” explains Bryan L. Bradley, senior partner here at Kenneth J. Allen & Associates.

Bradley is one of the two attorneys who handle all of the law firm’s trucking and tractor-trailer rig crashes. “Trucking companies start preparing their defense immediately following the crash. Their emergency response teams consisting of lawyers, accident reconstruction experts, and investigators are on-call twenty-four hours a day so that they can be on
the scene within minutes or hours of a tractor-trailer crash.”

Forewarned is Forearmed: Be Prepared to Defend Yourself and Your Loved Ones Immediately if There’s a Crash

“Victims of truck accidents should be aware it is vitally important to contact an attorney experienced in handling truck accidents as quickly as possible — for numerous reasons — if they want the best possible chance of recovering damages for all of the harms suffered in the crash,” Bradley said.

Lessons to be Learned

Talk around the water cooler for personal injury attorneys can be rather serious to some — but today, the Toll Road crash was somewhat of a blessing to be discussed. Things could have been so much worse, given the time and location of this crash.

Helping victims of serious injury is a difficult job, year after year — and knowing the antics of insurance adjusters and trucking company investigators doesn’t help if the injury victims aren’t aware of them, too.

So, from the morning discussion of the FedEx truck crash on Friday comes this warning — if you’re in a wreck involving a commercial truck, know that the defense started work almost at the moment of impact.

.

Wind Alone Can Cause Big Rig Wrecks – Semi Trucks Are Literally Flattened Onto the Roadways

posted by kjalaw on May 6th, 2010 at 7:11 am

Wind Alone Can Cause Big Rig Wrecks – Semi Trucks Are Literally Flattened Onto the Roadways

April 29th, 2010 by admin

Our part of the country knows about high wind – after all, Chicago is famous as being the “Windy City.

What lots of drivers on the road might not realize is how much truck drivers are wary of wind speeds, especially if they’re hauling an empty freight carrier. Just one more reason that truckers need to have lots of training before they hit the public roadways.

Why? Because a high wind can pick up that big rig and throw it to the ground. Just like this:

.

Truck Driver Shortage In Our Future, Which Means Rookies on the Road

posted by kjalaw on May 6th, 2010 at 7:08 am

Truck Driver Shortage In Our Future, Which Means Rookies on the Road

April 26th, 2010 by admin

Truck drivers are predicted to be in short supply soon — which is supposed to be a sign of a recovering economy.

The source of this reported prediction is freight transportation research consultancy firm FTR Associates, whose analyst Noel Perry spoke at an trucking industry forum earlier this month and forecasted a shortage of truck drivers in both 2010 and 2011. In fact, he’s seeing a shortage of commercial truck drivers of around half a million next year (2011).

Baby Boomers are Retiring, It’s Not Just Growing Market Demand

The idea that the economy is bouncing back is great news for us all. However, delving into the big rig truck driver shortage also reveals that the retirement of Baby Boomer truck drivers is a contributing factor here, not just increased market demand for transporting goods. Maybe these numbers aren’t predicting such a big bounce-back for the economy.

Rookies on the Road Might Not Be Good News

And, the idea of 500,000+ rookie drivers on the road in the next 18 months isn’t all that great, either. Newbie truck drivers make more mistakes. Makes sense, right?

Added to that is the reality that all too often, truck drivers are not given adequate training — and that’s in the best of times. With the pinch-penny budgets of today’s trucking companies, you gotta wonder how much training those new rookie truck drivers are going to get.

Maybe this isn’t the best bit of trucking news after all ….

.

Younger Workers More Likely to Be Injured or Killed On the Job Says CDC In New Report

posted by kjalaw on Apr 23rd, 2010 at 11:46 am

Workers between 15 and 24 years old are TWICE as likely to be seriously injured on the job in this country, reports the Center for Disease Control in a new study, released this week.  And, lots of them are dying from on the job injuries, as well.

The Most Dangerous Jobs for Young Workers

According to the CDC, young workers are at the biggest risk of on the job work injury or death if they are working within the services industry (32%), doing construction work (28%), working wholesale and retail trade jobs (10%), or doing agriculture work (10%). They faced the highest risk of dying when working in in mining (36.5 per 100,000 FTE), agriculture (21.3 per 100,000 FTE), and construction (10.9 per 100,000 FTE).

Employers Told by Feds — Do More to Protect Young Workers

The federal agency warns employers that they need to take heed to this study, and do more to protect these young workers.

Specifically, the Report states:

The primary responsibility for workplace safety lies with employers (8). Thus, reductions in younger worker injuries and deaths will require employers to make changes in work environments and workplace practices….

Employers should assess injury hazards in their workplaces, take steps to remove or reduce the injury potential, and ensure their workers have the requisite training and personal protective equipment to perform their jobs safely. Employers should be aided by health and safety practitioners, as well as others, in providing better guidance and tools to improve young worker safety.

Reality Check: Will Employers Comply With the CDC Report?

What that warning to employers means to most companies today is allotting more money towards workplace safety.  Entering into the second quarter of 2010, does anyone really expect employers — especially in the most dangerous injuries — to revamp their budgets to protect their youngest employees?

Companies are looking for ways to cut costs, not add to them.  So, while this report is helpful and it would be wise to take heed of its warning, odds are high that nothing much is going to happen here. And young workers will continue to be seriously injured — and die — when on the job, just doing their work.

Bottom line?  Perhaps the best use of this report will be as an injured plaintiff’s exhibit in a personal injury trial.

The CDC Report is online and available for viewing as part of its April 23, 2010, edition of the CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

.

Allen tops attorney list again

posted by kjalaw on Apr 20th, 2010 at 8:27 am

LAWYER LEADS STATE IN MILLION-DOLLAR VERDICTS

Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

VALPARAISO | Northwest Indiana injury attorney Kenneth J. Allen tops the list of attorneys in the state who have won million-dollar verdicts for their clients, according to the recently released 2009 Indiana Jury Verdict Reporter.

Kenneth J. Allen & Associates was the only law firm in Indiana with more than one multimillion-dollar jury verdict in 2009. The firm had two -- $5.22 million for a woman who suffered traumatic brain injury when here car was crushed by a tractor trailer that had encroached on her lane, and $5 million for the family of a boy who choked to death on a piece of corn dog in a school cafeteria.

There were only eight other million-dollar verdicts in the state during 2009.

According to the Verdict Reporter, Allen also tops the list for the decade with almost $150 million in judgments between 2000 and 2009. Allen had 14 verdicts of at least $1 million during the decade. The plaintiff attorneys with the next greatest number during the decade are David Conover (of Allen's office) and David Holub, of Hammond, with three. Holub's last one was in 2004.

In 2008, Allen won one of the largest jury verdicts ever in Indiana when a Lake County jury awarded $48 million to a Porter County steelworker who fell from a ladder and suffered spinal injuries that left him a paraplegic.

Allen believes the Verdict Reporter contains information that consumers need to know. Not only does the report show which attorneys are successful in obtaining jury verdicts, but those who are successful also get insurance companies to pay substantially more in settlements because they don't want to risk an even larger jury verdict.

Perhaps most important, Allen said, is that the verdicts encourage safety.

"Large jury verdicts are important for public safety," he said.

"By setting a high cost for careless behavior, substantial verdicts encourage companies to act safely and prevent harm. If it becomes cheaper for businesses to act negligently and pay whatever verdicts result rather than incur the expense needed for safety and preventative measures, then all of us are in danger."

.

Recalls of Cars, Trucks, SUVs Happening So Fast: How You Can Keep Up

posted by kjalaw on Apr 20th, 2010 at 8:24 am

Last month, there was more on the growing (huge) Toyota scare.

Now, we’re hearing about Lexus problems.

In February, there were Honda recalls.

In January, there were GM recalls of Pontiacs as well as the Chevy Cobalt.

How to keep up with all these recalls — are there any safe vehicles on the road these days?

Well, no one can predict the future here but one good source of information is thedatabase maintained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).  Updated frequently, and available for free online, this resource gives you information regarding:

Motor Vehicle Recalls

Child Safety Seat Recalls

Motor Vehicle Equipment Recalls

Tire Recalls

School Bus Recalls

It also gives you Monthly Recall Reports and lets you subscribe to monthly updates by email.

Remember, a Recall Does NOT remove the danger; it only warns of it.

A recall database is not giving you and your family protection in advance, but at least this NHTSA compilation is giving some warning of dangers that are out there — because a recall doesn’t mean that a faulty, unsafe product isn’t still being used in the marketplace.

As you and your loved ones drive the roadways of Illinois and Indiana today, odds are very, very high that you will share the road with many vehicles that have recalls attached to them or their components (tires, etc.).

 

.

2010 ATV Deaths On The Rise In Indiana? Jared Douglas & Abigail Hamilton Killed 1st Two Weekends In April

posted by kjalaw on Apr 20th, 2010 at 8:23 am

If you just check out the Indiana website on All-Terrain Vehicles, they don’t seem so scary: according to the site’s statistics, 179 people died over a 26 year time span. That doesn’t seem very high, considering that ATVs ramble over rough terrain in wilderness areas.

Except the site itself admits that data collection for 2006-2008 is incomplete….

And that as spring arrives in our area, news reports reveal that two people have already died in ATV accidents, within 14 days of each other in April 2010.

Jared Douglas,12, Dies in ATV Wreck on 1st Saturday in April

On April 3, 2010, twelve-year-old Jared Douglas died when an ATV he was riding apparently flipped on him in a ravine at the Haspin Acres Off-Road and Motocross Park in Laurel. He was on a camping trip with his family, and had taken the ATV to go and collect firewood for the family campfire. Indiana Conservation Officers and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department are investigating.

Abigail Hamilton, 23, Dies the Next Saturday From ATV Accident

On April 10, 2010, Abigail Jo Ann Hamilton, 23 years old, was killed when the ATV she was riding as Joshua Croy was driving hit a log as they drove into a swampy area. Witnesses saw the ATV fly up into the air, flipping at least once.

Muncie resident Abigail Hamilton died while riding an ATV on private property located near Indiana 120, just south of Orland. She was thrown from the ATV when it hit a log and pronounced dead shortly afterward, at the hospital.

What are the Real Numbers for ATV Fatalities in Indiana?

The weather is warming, and Spring is inviting all of us to get outside with our families and enjoy the changing of the seasons.  Just like Jason and Abigail, we’ll be with loved ones having fun in the outdoors.

Families with ATVs will be allowing their teens to ride All Terrain Vehicles, thinking that it’s safe enough — they are driving on roadways, they aren’t driving at excessive speeds, they aren’t driving in traffic.

But we have to wonder — if you read the newspaper, then can you believe the government statistics (especially when they even admit that their numbers are not complete)?

How dangerous are these All-Terrain Vehicles for your family?

Personal injury attorneys can be challenged by family members as being party-poopers, all doom and gloom and spoiling everyone’s good time.  That isn’t always wrong, we can get pretty caught up in our work where we deal with serious injuries, wrongful death, and tragedy.

Still, two ATV deaths on the first two Saturdays in April gives us pause.

If you or your family plan on riding around on an All Terrain Vehicle, please be careful.  These things are dangerous, and people going out for weekend fun are dying from them.

.

97,000 lbs – The New Big Rig Weight Limit? Congress May Up Semi Truck Max Weight

posted by kjalaw on Apr 20th, 2010 at 8:21 am

Right now, there is a bill floating through Congress that will allow big rigs on the nation’s roadways to weigh 97,000 pounds, fully loaded.  That’s almost 100,000 pounds driving next to your car, your family’s minivan, your mother’s sedan. Think about that.

It’s just been recently that Illinois felt comfortable enough with raising truck weights up to 80,000 from 73,280 pounds.  Remember, the average sedan still weighs around 3500 lbs. — there’s no legislation about increasing weights of cars or SUVs out there.

It’s not news to anyone that commercial truck accidents involving other vehicles – cars, vans, SUVs, motorcycles – usually mean that people die in them. There are many contributing factors, but just the big difference in WEIGHT is a major reason for big rig crashes being so deadly.

This bill was stalled in the House of Representatives last year (March 2009), but H.R. 1799 has been given new life and its proponents are purportedly attaching it to another bill, which should allow H.R. 1799 to pass the House.  Meanwhile, over in the U.S. Senate, Idaho Senator Mike Crapo is ready to take the ball and run this legislation through the Senate, and he was reported to be expecting to start his drive right after the Easter holiday.

To watch the Congressional efforts to allow semi trucks weigh to top out at 90,000 pounds, just monitor the webpage that tracks the legislation.

This may mean that trucking companies can save money by throwing more cargo onto existing trucks (and not buy new ones), but this isn’t good news for those of us who are driving the roadways next to these monsters. Not good news at all.

.

April19- 23 is National Work Zone Awareness Week

posted by kjalaw on Apr 20th, 2010 at 8:19 am

For the 11th straight year, three federal agencies will sponsor National Work Zone Awareness Week.

Why should we care?

Well, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation, there are around 7000motor vehicle accidents in work zones each year throughout the state, with 2100 people injured and 29 deaths (2 being workers, most work zone fatalities are non-workers).Indiana’s Dept. of Transportation has compiled similar, scary statistics.

Sponsors are Three Federal Agencies

Through the coordinated efforts of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), theAmerican Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), and theAmerican Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA), various activities will be undertaken to draw attention to the need for everyone being safe and aware of safety issues in all sorts of work zones.

Theme is “Work Zones Need Your Undivided Attention”

The theme for 2010 National Work Zone Awareness Week is “Work Zones Need Your Undivided Attention.” All sorts of events are scheduled around the country during April 19-23, 2010, promoting this theme. One of the biggest will be the federal agency kickoff at Battery Park in NYC, and there are already several activities scheduled throughout the states of Illinois and Indiana throughout the Week.

.

New Study Shows Fewer Drunk Drivers on the Road – But It’s Missing the Point

posted by kjalaw on Apr 8th, 2010 at 10:12 am

The February issue of Status Report brought good news: a NHTSA study shows a big drop in the number of people driving drunk on the weekends, but drunk drivers are still a major cause of fatal motor vehicle accidents in the U.S. (”Drinking Continues to Decline Among Weekend Drivers,” Status Report, Vol. 45, No. 1, Feb. 6, 2010).

There’s a caveat or two about the study: today, people may be less likely to participate in a roadside study than they were when the research began back in the early 1970s. So, part of the drop in numbers may mean that lots of people that are driving with a buzz after a Friday happy hour aren’t talking about it now. And, the focus of the research results is totally about alcoholic beverages.

Impaired Drivers Are Doing More Than Drinking Alcohol

This is a key issue. Many drivers who are driving impaired may not be drinking alcohol. They may be taking pills or drinking liquid enhancers (or both) to stay on the road longer. Driving impairment that causes fatal crashes isn’t just about beer, wine, or mixed drinks.

A 1991 study by Monash University found that 25% of truck drivers took pills to stay awake on the job. There are other studies.

What are these Stay Awake Pills?

Heck, these pill manufacturers actually market to truck drivers: check out the online advertisement for “Stay Awake Pills” from T&M Distributing: they’re offering their “… legendary “Buy Two Get One Free” special, which means “stay awake pills” can be purchased at approximately a 75% savings over the major brands of alertness aids.” Clicking on their site today, you can buy 100 of their “357 Magnum Tablet” for $9.95.

They’re basically selling caffeine in tablet form.

Of course, other pills are out there to keep people from falling asleep: students across the country are taking Adderall and Ritalin to pull “all-nighters” — Adderal being one of newer versions of amphetamine.  Other forms of amphetamine (”speed”) on the market today include Dexadrine and Vyvance. Crystal Meth is an illegal form of speed, cheap and readily available (street names include “go fast,” and “crank”).

Was the School Bus Driver Impaired by Wake-Up Pills?

But the real story lies in the lives of people out there on the roads. Like last week’s testimony in Canada, where a school bus driver took the stand in a case resulting from an October 2007 school bus crash, killing a 9-year-old girl. On the stand, she admitted to taking pills to stay awake, but denied taking a pep pill that morning. Evidence, however, already shows a package of “wake-up” pills was on the bus, discovered by Crime Scene Investigators after the fatal accident occurred.

What Does the NHTSA Study Really Tell Us?

So, getting back to the NHTSA study: its number sure sound good at first glance. However, reading closely you find that they sent out people to ask drivers on the roads about what they had been drinking, and they did it on Friday and Saturday nights, and on Friday during the day, as it led into the weekend. Times when they thought most people are out there, imbibing alcohol.

The report admits people may not have told them the truth (for privacy reasons, fear of liability or litigation, what have you), but the truth is that the real issue is driver IMPAIRMENT not just drivers who drink alcohol.

Impairment – that is the real issue.

.

Driver Fatigue: NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman Speaks

posted by kjalaw on Apr 2nd, 2010 at 8:18 am

While no one should be assuming that the horrific crash last weekend on I-65 was caused by big rig driver fatigue, that discussion does bring to mind the signs of driver fatigue — and how a semi truck driver may have signs that it’s time to pull off the road (besides the HOS requirements).

Research by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has found that 52% of 107 commercial truck accidents involving only that vehicle were caused by truck driver fatigue. The Department of Transportation reports that fatigue is a contributing factor in around a THIRD of all fatal motor vehicle accidents.

Earlier this month, Deborah Hersman, Chairman of the NTSB spoke to the National Sleep Foundation about this very issue. Her speech can be read in its entirety on the NTSB website.

One of the key points made during her speech is that there are no scientific tests available to know when a driver is too tired to drive a big rig, plane, or train — like there are for impairments due to drugs or drinking alcohol (breathilyzers, blood tests). Currently, setting up procedures to prevent fatigue (HOS) and depending upon self-testing remain the only tools against driver fatigue. Therefore, employers and drivers must continue to work hard to get fatigued drivers off the road.

Signs of Driver Fatique include:

  • driver keeps yawning
  • driver is day-dreaming
  • vehicle is wandering over the lane marker or stripe
  • driver’s having trouble keeping his eyes open
  • driver cannot remember driving along the last few miles of road.
.

On I-65, semi truck and church van crash kills 11

posted by kjalaw on Apr 1st, 2010 at 10:00 am

It’s Monday morning, and the news is still reaching many of us about the devastating I-65 big rig crash that killed 11 people — most of them, family members traveling from their home in Kentucky to a wedding in Iowa.

It was before sun-up last Friday: coming one way was the van, where its occupants were happily riding along the interstate in their Mennonite church’s van, where victim John Esh served as assistant pastor.  Coming the opposite way on I-65, a fully-loaded tractor-trailer truck with a single occupant, the driver.

The deadly accident happened right around 5:30 a.m. (CST).  The family had been on the road for only 15 minutes.  Those who lost their lives in that church van on Friday morning were:

  • John Esh, his wife Sadie, and their children Anna, Rose, Rachel and Leroy.
  • Leroy’s wife, Naomi, and Leroy and Naomi’s adopted son Jalen.
  • Rachel Esh’s fiance, Joel Gingrich, died with his future wife in the crash.
  • Esh Family friend, Ashley Kramer, was also killed.

The truck driver, who hailed from Alabama, died as well.  In fact, the only survivors of this horror are two young Esh children, aged 4 and 5. Both were in car seats.

Another big rig crash that is deadly

According to eyewitnesses, the tractor-trailer just crossed the median and entered oncoming traffic – crashing head-on into the van and causing the minivan to spin out of control.  The big rig then slammed into a cliff, and the minivan came to rest on I-65, where traffic was block by the wreckage until late Friday afternoon.

There were cable barriers on that stretch of road — where I-65 turns into a two-lane roadway, a span of highway known to be dangerous — but those cables snapped like paper ribbons when the tractor-trailer (loaded to capacity with auto parts) plowed through the barrier.  The cables were worthless in this accident.

What Caused This Tragedy?  It’s Too Soon to Know

Undoubtedly, federal and state investigations have already begun looking into the cause of this horrific big rig crash, which has essentially wiped out the John Esh family line. Finger-pointing has already begun on the deceased truck driver, and whether or not he just fell asleep at the wheel after being on the road too long (HOS regulations notwithstanding).

However, while grief and anger do fuel a desire for quick answers here, the truth of the matter is that this is known to be a dangerous stretch of road (others have died here in accidents, before this crash) and a great many variables exist in any trucking accident.

  • Did that auto parts load suddenly shift, throwing that heavy monster over the median with the driver terrified and powerless?
  • Did the brakes on that big rig fail?
  • Was there a hazard on the road — a spill, a hole, a log?

Only time will tell the true story of what happened early last Friday morning on that Kentucky stretch of I-65.  We need to wait and learn the facts, before justice can prevail.

In the meantime, our sincerest condolences to the family members and loved ones who are grieving their tremendous loss.  Even in our position as trucking accident plaintiffs’ attorneys, where we have been exposed to many a tragic big rig crash, we are shocked by this enormously heartwrenching, horrific event.

.

The danger of driving and cell phones - will Oprah make a difference?

posted by kjalaw on Apr 1st, 2010 at 9:58 am

According to the National Safety Counsel, the following is true:

1.  It’s not up for debate:  driving and using a cell phone is very dangerous. There’s just too many studies already done that establish this.  Though more and more studies are being done, we’ve already got 50+ research studies giving the same exact research result.

2.  It’s proven that drivers using a cell phone are 4 (four) times more likely to be in a crash.  That’s 400% higher risk of an accident, folks.  (See, 1997 New England Journal of Medicine study; 2005 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study).

3.  The risk is JUST AS HIGH when you’re using a hands-free cell phone as holding it in your hand.  It’s the distraction that is the key here.   The number one source for driver distraction in a crash today is … yes … cell phones (Virginia Tech study).

4.  Still, most of us do use our cellphone while driving: 81 percent of those asked said they talk on their phone while driving (Nationwide Insurance study).

At the beginning of this year, Illinois law went into effect that bans the use of cellphones (including texting) while driving a motor vehicle.   Also in January 2010, Transportation Secretary LaHood issued a national ban for commercial truck drivers to use cell phones while driving their big rigs, buses, etc.  Penalties (civil and criminal) are included in the federal mandate.

All this got some news coverage, but perhaps the biggest thing to hit our area:  Oprah.

In January 2010, Oprah devoted her attention to this danger – not only by having one of her TV shows educate viewers on the issue (it was re-run this week), but also by lending her name (and her time) to national efforts attempting to ban cellphone usage by drivers.

Can Oprah make the difference? Have you used your cellphone in the car while driving lately — to call or to text?  Seen someone on their cell while you were driving to work this morning?

Then you know the answer.

.

More and more accidents in the news this week - is there a reason for it?

posted by kjalaw on Apr 1st, 2010 at 9:56 am

Read the local news this morning, and it sounds like a warzone out there:

In Seymour, Indiana, a teenage boy was riding his bicycle home really early on Sunday morning, hauling his 17-year-old buddy with him on the bike – when they were hit by a pickup truck.  One was killed, the other teen sustained severe head injuries.

On Friday morning, Lake County prosecutors filed hit and run charges against a 35-year-old driver whose vehicle hit a construction worker who was busy on the job, filling in potholes at the intersection of I-80 and Ripley Street.  Open and closed containers of beer were found in the driver’s Mercury Cougar, and now he’s facing 2 felonies and around 15 years in jail.

Early Sunday morning, a 49-year-old Union Mills man decided to drive his car at speeds between 80 and 100 mph (according to the accident experts) for some unknown reason.  He had left family in LaPorte and was heading home.  The driver crashed, his car flipping and rolling from Indiana 39 into the LaPorte Municipal Airport, where it landed on the runway.  The driver was thrown from the vehicle during the crash, and his body was found almost 500 feet away.  He wasn’t drunk, and he wasn’t wearing a seat belt.

Just the day before, another driver crashed his car into the fence that borders the Lakeside Correctional Center over at the Indiana State Prison.  This 26-year-old driver is reported to have been driving his Chrysler Concorde over the speed limit, when he lost control of the car and crashed through the fence, slamming into a pine tree, and sliding down an embankment.

Saturday afternoon, there was a big pile-up over in Steuben County, with a number of cars involved, and lots of injuries.  In Toledo, a SUV flipped over. In Mount Vernon, a car careened down an embankment at the intersection of Indiana 69 and William Keck Bypass, injuring several people – including some kids.

There’s more.  But let’s stop here and consider what’s going on.  It’s not a fluke, there’s no rash of car accidents suddenly hitting the news reports.

The sad reality is that car accidents occur 24/7 in our local area.  Sometimes, people die.  Other times, people are seriously injured and lives are permanently changed — the lives of the victims, and their loved ones.

Read the stories that are linked here.  None of these people thought they would be in a crash.

  • The teenagers going home on Saturday night had plans for their lives, for this summer.
  • The construction worker filling potholes when he got hit by that car had loved ones who never thought he’d never come home when he left for work that morning.
  • The men who lost control of their cars and died in car crashes could be alive today, we can assume they thought they would be.

Personal injury lawyers that help clients with claims involving serious injury and death in motor vehicle accidents may know the statistics better than others do – it’s a part of the job to keep up to date with accident information – but the public should be aware of this stuff, too.

When you watch those car commercials, or take a date to the latest flashy road race movie, driving seems fun and fast and thrilling.  Don’t be fooled.

Driving a motor vehicle is a serious matter.  Don’t drink when you drive.  Don’t ignore safety measures.  Don’t speed or road race.  Your life, and the lives of others, really is at stake.

Be safe out there.

.

Lawyer pursues 'nose doctor' in civil lawsuit

posted by kjalaw on Mar 18th, 2010 at 9:23 am
March 18, 2010 BY TERESA AUCH SCHULTZ

A civil case against former Merrillville nose doctor Mark Weinberger would go forward in the next few months if a local attorney has his way.

Kenneth Allen, who is representing the family of one of Weinberger's former clients, deposed the ex-fugitive Wednesday morning at the U.S. District Court building in Hammond. Allen said that with the deposition, which can be used as evidence in the civil case filed in Lake County, the suit can move forward even if Weinberger chooses not to participate.

"We deserve a speedy trial at this junction," he said.

Phyllis Barnes went to Weinberger when she began having a sore throat. However, he didn't look at her throat and never diagnosed that she had throat cancer at the time, Allen says. She ended up dying from the cancer shortly before Weinberger fled the country in 2004. As other patients started filing malpractice suits and the federal government started to investigate him for insurance fraud, Weinberger fled. He ended up being charged with 22 counts of malpractice.

He remained free until December, when Italian authorities discovered him camping at the base of a mountain in northern Italy, near the border with Switzerland. He was extradited to the United States earlier this year and is being held in the Porter County Jail, where is he awaits his federal trial.

Neither Allen nor Peggy Hood, Barnes' sister, could talk about what happened at the deposition because of a gag order, but Hood said she was pleased with how it went.

"I just hope it goes to court soon, and it ends," she said. "It's taken it's toll."

Hood said that her sister had complained about Weinberger, saying that he was "blase" about her concerns and laughed her off. Hood ended up taking her sister every week to the University of Chicago for treatments.

"She went through a horrible, horrible ending," Hood said.

About 350 civil lawsuits have been filed against Weinberger, but Allen said he thinks Barnes' case should get top priority because of the seriousness of what happened. While some other patients also had their cancer go undiagnosed, no one else died, Allen said.

He said that he does not expect the federal case to keep the civil lawsuit from proceeding.

.

Advocates for safety deserve praise

posted by kjalaw on Mar 16th, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Originally posted March 16, 2010 at donaldasher.blogspot.com

Safety should always come first in the workplace.

But yet day in and day out we read or hear about workers being severely injured or killed while working.

Today was another unfortunate example of workplace dangers. This time it was on the Borman Expressway ( I-80/94 ) when a construction worker for Walsh Construction from Gary was hit and killed in a construction zone by a car at 1:30 in the morning.

The driver of the vehicle fled, and police are searching for him this morning.

Unfortunately most of us will forget about this in a day or so. We’ll feel sad for the victim’s family for a minute or two.

It won’t be long before we’ll read or hear about another worker killed in a tragic workplace accident. It could be a highway worker, such as this morning, or a steelworker, or a carpenter, or electrician, or just about anyone who has a job doing anything.

The only ones not at risk of workplace injury are people who are unemployed. Even office workers face some risk, albeit probably minimal.

And yet we also read or hear about jury verdicts to some poor soul who was somehow severely and permanently injured, or killed, in a workplace accident. Often these verdicts are in the millions of dollars. Often the public is outraged at the amounts of damages jury award to victims and/or their families. Unless of course it’s you, or your family member.

More often than not that perception spills over into negative perceptions of personal injury attorneys. They’re called ambulance chasers by some.

The connection people fail to make is that without personal injury attorneys, large penalties in the form of jury verdicts in the millions, companies would have no incentive to make a safer workplace.

For example, why should a company spend $5,000 or $10,000 for a railing around a catwalk? Sure, it would make it safer but they have a good safety record and no OSHA violations.

Boom! Next thing you know your husband, or father, or son just slipped and fell 30 feet and broken several bones. Or worse. Maybe paralyzed, or even killed.

What now?

One thing I’ve learned since my time working with Kenneth J. Allen is that a personal injury law practice is not about how much money can an attorney make, but rather incentivizing employers to routinely scrutinize its practices and equipment from a safety standpoint.

Without those PI attorneys out there to advocate for workers and safer workplaces, that poor soul who just fell 30 feet has little, if any recourse short of worker’s compensation.

So the next time you read or hear about a $10 million or $20 million injury verdict, think about the company that may have been negligent about workers’ safety, and not about that PI attorney, who rightfully should be commended not dissimilar to a physician who just saved the life of someone.

.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s Wife Seriously Injured in Big Rig Crash

posted by kjalaw on Mar 16th, 2010 at 1:52 pm

One good thing to come out of Senator Harry Reid’s wife being seriously injured in her crash with a tractor-trailer would be more public awareness of the dangers of driving alongside semis on the highway. However, with the power of the trucking industry these days, we’re not hopeful that this is going to occur.

Senator Reid’s Wife was Rear-ended on the Interstate by an 18-Wheeler

There’s apparently no controversy about what happened here: a tractor-trailer truck hauling rolls of plastic was rolling down I-95 in Viriginia when it rear-ended a minivan.

Inside that minivan were the wife and daughter of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.  Landra Reid, 69, suffered a broken neck in the crash, as well as a broken back and a broken nose.

Think about this: most of us have been driving along the freeway only to look in our rearview mirror and see one of those semis rushing down on us. It’s very scary.

However, thankfully, usually we don’t get rear-ended like the Senator’s wife did.

The latest, as of this morning ….

Mrs. Reid has been released from the hospital after having surgery and is not expect to suffer from any paralysis (which is not the usual result of these accidents from our experience, she’s been very lucky here).

Politico is reporting that the truck driver has been charged with reckless driving by the Virginia State Police.

.

$10 Million Judgement in Truck Accident

posted by kjalaw on Mar 12th, 2010 at 12:08 pm

MARKAM, Ill. --Bruce McIntosh 52, of Tinley Park, Ill. was awarded a $10 million judgment in Cook County Circuit Cook today against Rehmat Trucking Inc. from English Town, NJ and its driver for severe injuries he received when his car was broadsided by a Rehmat semi-tractor trailer. The accident occurred in the September, 2008 in Southern Illinois.

McIntosh was represented by Kenneth J. Allen & Associates in Valparaiso, Ind. Attorney Bryan L. Bradley, senior partner of the firm, said This award is recognition of the life-threatening and life-changing injuries Mr. McIntosh suffered due to the negligence of the truck driver and his company. After running a stop-sign, the truck hit Mr. McIntosh’s vehicle with such force the impact propelled the car completely off the road.”

McIntosh suffered several herniated discs in his back and neck and has had to undergo several surgeries to repair the major damage to his spine. To date he has had seven surgeries.

Judge Robert Clifford ordered the judgment today against the driver and the trucking company.

.

Today is My Anniversary with Law Firm

posted by kjalaw on Mar 11th, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Originally posted March 11, 2010 at donaldasher.blogspot.com

Today is my one-year anniversary with Kenneth J. Allen & Associates in Northwest Indiana and Chicago.

Having spent more than 40 years as a journalist/editor in the newspaper business, I was somewhat acquainted with the legal profession having served on the Illinois State Bar Association media law committee, and the Indiana Judicial Center media sub-committee of its Community Relations Committee.

I was also named by Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall Shepard to an advisory position of the state’s “Fire Brigade” charged with mediating potentially explosive disputes between the courts and the press.

And of course during my somewhat lengthy career I was involved in numerous First Amendment legal cases, and Freedom of Information issues and was chairman of the Illinois Associated Press Editors FOI committee.

That aside, now working with unquestionably Indiana’s premier injury attorney Kenneth J. Allen, I am getting the flavor of the driving force behind those words that KJAA firm uses: Passion, Commitment, Excellence.

Until I began working at Kenneth J. Allen & Associates, I didn’t realize the parallels between journalism and this law firm. Both subscribe to, and practice, those basic tenants with exuberance.

While this firm is quite selective in the cases it takes – only one in about 10 – once it says yes Mr. Allen and his firm’s talented attorneys tackle each case as a group, meeting twice each week to review, strategize and decide a course of action. Mr. Allen welcomes spirited debate during these early morning – very early – regular meetings.

I’ve had the honor of attending on more than one occasion to present information on particular cases. Watching six or seven attorneys kick around specifics on a case is very impressive.

Obviously, the model works. Anyone who doubts it only has to check out his website at kenallenlaw.com and review news clips, press conference videos, or other volumes of information about the firm.

So, not surprisingly I suppose, I feel right at home working on those fundamental issues that journalism and law have in common – righting wrongs. The ordinary man – or woman – sometimes needs an advocate to fight for justice. So the mission for the press, and KJAA is the same.

I am at home working for the best, just as I was as a journalist. Being second best just doesn’t cut it.

Maybe that should be Kenneth J. Allen & Associates new motto.

.

March is Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Awareness Month

posted by kjalaw on Mar 9th, 2010 at 10:00 am

Few things are more tragic that an innocent victim who has suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Even mild or moderate brain injuries can be life-altering, not only for the victim but for their loved ones as well.

Ken Allen Law Supports TBI Awareness

Personal injury attorneys who handle cases dealing with severe injury and death come into contact with TBI victim after victim over the years, and sometimes tend to forget that most folk aren’t that aware of the complexities and cruelty of even the most minor of brain injuries.

Which makes March very important — because March is National Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Month, and March 17, 2010 is Brain Injury Awareness Day.

Here are a Few Facts About Brain Injury:

1.  Approximately 1.5 million people suffer a traumatic brain injury every year in our country.

2.  Around 50,000 die from the injury to their brain every year; however, most (over 1,000,000) people are just seen in an ER and then sent home.

We don’t know how many folk suffer a mild brain injury and don’t go to the emergency room.  It’s scary to think about — because lack of immediate medical care can be permanently damaging.

3.  In the United States, most people suffer traumatic brain injury (TBI) in some kind of fall (around a third of all TBIs that are reported are from falls).

4.  Car crashes or other kinds of motor vehicle accidents are another leading cause of TBIs in our country.

5.  Children are at the highest risk for a traumatic brain injury.

6.  Most TBI victims do NOT have their long-term needs met.  These include help with memory loss; problem solving; managing their emotions; coping with stress; and anger management.

7.  TBI can cause epilepsy.

Please Learn About Brain Injuries – Especially If You’re a Parent

Brain injuries can seem inconsequential when they occur — but even a minor concussion is a brain injury, and can have a long term impact.

If your child falls on the playground, or gets slammed during a sporting event, don’t take any chances.  Have them checked out by a health care professional as soon as possible.

And, please remember to respect protective head gear.  Helmets, for example.  Kids may not want to wear their helmet, but as personal injury lawyers, we know all too well the aftermath of a child who’s failed to do so.

Traumatic Brain Awareness Month is March.  Please take a few moments and learn about TBI.

.

CHICAGO BOARD OF EDUCATION FINALLY PAYS STUDENT MADE QUADRIPLEGIC BY TRAMPOLINE ACCIDENT IN 1992

posted by kjalaw on Mar 5th, 2010 at 12:34 pm

Ryan Murray was an 8th grader at Bryn Mawr School (now the Bouchet Academy) back in 1992, when it became his turn to try a flip on the trampoline.  It was all part of a tumbling class put on there at Bryn Mawr by the Chicago Youth Centers organization.

It was just another day at school for Ryan – and we have to assume that Ryan thought he was going to have fun that day, as he jumped up on the trampoline and began to bounce.  But then the accident happened, there on the trampoline while Ryan was doing his flip.

Ryan Murray was critically injured, and the lives of both Ryan and his family were permanently changed that day.  In 1992.

Now, EIGHTEEN years later, the defendants — Chicago Board of Education and the Chicago Youth Centers – have finally given up their legal fight to avoid responsibility for this boy, who remains paralyzed and is now 30 years old.

That’s right:  this courtroom battle over the financial responsibility for paralyzing a boy during tumbling class has gone on for almost two decades.  And now, just before their jury trial was set to begin, they’ve settled.

Ryan and his family have agreed to the settlement of $14,000,000.00.  And sure, the defense attorneys acknowledged to the media that the settlement was fueled by a fear of what the jury might decide should be paid.  The enormity of that potential jury verdict finally got these defendants to take responsibility.

Two things here.

First, congratulations to the Ryan Murray family for their hard-earned victory.

Second, a lesson to be learned:  in this day of public cries for tort reform, let’s remember this case.

Does anyone really think that Ryan Murray’s case would have settled now, after all these years of fighting, if those defendants didn’t have the threat of a unencumbered, no-limits jury award in their face?

.

Big Rig Crashes In the News – The Dangers of Semis On Our Roads

posted by kjalaw on Feb 22nd, 2010 at 8:14 am

News reports are covering two recent big accidents that closed highways in our area for a time — wrecks involving big rigs, crashes where people got seriously hurt.  Some were kids.

In Joliet Township on eastbound I-80, early in the morning of February 11th, a pick up truck ran into a guard rail.  One car accident, right?

Maybe.  Except two semis were traveling close by, and they both ended up crashing, too, along with another pick up truck. It took two hours to clear the roadway of the four vehicles, and get traffic moving smoothly again.

Then, over on the Dan Ryan Expressway this past weekend, a family minivan blew a tire and the driver lost control – according to news accounts, the Pontiac van spun around from its spot in the left hand lane and crashed into a nearby big rig, also traveling on the same high speed roadway.   Two children and one adult were thrown from the minivan, the forces were so great.

Now, no one in the media has suggested that the trucks were at fault here.  Nope, not at all.  All reports are that three semis were just cruising down the freeway.

In the first wreck, a pick up truck hit a guard rail.  In the second accident, a tire blew.

The question is: would these be such big, big accidents if semi trucks weren’t involved?  Probably NOT.  And that’s because it’s always very, very dangerous when machines weighing around 80,000 lbs. are driving along the same roads as sedans that weigh around 3500 lbs.  It’s a David and Goliath situation where David never wins.

There are many, many contributing factors to any serious big rig crash: weather conditions, road hazards, shifting loads, etc. and we aren’t given any details here.  We don’t know the whole story in either case.

But we do know this:  any time a semi collides with a family vehicle – be it pick up truck or minivan 0r regular old 4-car sedan – it’s usually very serious.

These monsters that drive on our roadways, rolling along next to our loved ones, should be taken a lot more seriously than they are.  By all of us.

.

Whistleblower Illinois Rail Employee Wins Against Railroads That Fired Him

posted by kjalaw on Feb 22nd, 2010 at 8:13 am

Last week, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued its order — and this time, the worker won.

This guy, who worked for the local railroads, came forward and filed formal allegations with OSHA, explaining that he was fired from his job because he reported his work-related injury. This guy was fired for doing what he was supposed to do, for himself and the future safety of others: when you are hurt while performing your work, then you report what happened.

OSHA explains in its order that the railroad powers that be did order an investigation into the cause of their employee’s injury. Then, they fired him. OSHA reviewed evidence provided to it and determined that not only did the worker do what he was supposed to do about reporting the on the job injury, he really and truly was hurt and it was NOT his fault.

Imagine that.

OSHA is ordering the Illinois Central Railroad Co. and the Chicago, Central & Pacific Railroad to pay this former railroad employee more than $80,000 in back wages, compensatory damages and attorney’s fees. They are also ordered to explain to ALL their workers that whistleblowing is a good thing, and that federal law protects those that come forward and blow the whistle on employers who fail to do the right thing.

We congratulate this railroad worker and his family – and we tip our hat in respect to someone with enough courage to stand up against all that pressure and report what happened, and fight against a wrongful termination.

It takes guts to be a whistleblower.  We know first hand that working for railroads is very, very dangerous, filled with hazards. Kudos to this worker for protecting himself, his family – and hopefully, making things a little bit safer for his fellow railroad workers!

.

Illinois Law Limiting Damages for Pain and Suffering In Doctor Negligence Cases Ruled Unconstitutional

posted by kjalaw on Feb 18th, 2010 at 9:23 am

The Illinois Supreme Court recently issued its decision that the medical malpractice law* passed by the Illinois Legislature trying to limit the amount of money awarded for pain, suffering, and other non-economic injuries, was unconstitutional.

Illinois Juries Hands No Longer Tied in Doctor Error Cases

On the books for 5 years, the Illinois medical malpractice cap had told juries that the most an injury victim could be provided in the jury’s award was $500,000.00 against doctors and $1,000,000 against hospitals for non-economic damages. For what?  Things like pain, suffering, stuff that results from a doctor’s error but doesn’t carry with it a documented receipt (like renting a hospital bed for home use).

The jury was free to award less, but the jury was not free to award more, no matter how much the jury felt a higher amount was justified and the right thing to do when a doctor’s error had grievously harmed someone.  If the jury tried to ignore these numbers, then the judge would be forced to limit their decision to the law’s arbitrary amounts anyway — regardless of what the jury had found.

Many state legislatures have been passing laws like this — laws that help doctors by blocking their monetary exposure when they are responsible for medical negligence.  According to a recent New York Times tally, 30 states have passed these kinds of laws, and 11 high courts have voided them as being unconstitutional while another 16 have been found constitutionally valid.

Juries Should Be Respected – The Illinois Supreme Court Result is Just

There’s lots of hoopla on how health care costs have skyrocketed because of big, bad medical malpractice verdicts – that’s been one of the key arguments to legislatures as those seeking med mal caps lobbied for passage of these laws.  However, as the Chicago Tribune reports, the Congressional Budget Office reported just last fall that a set of reforms which included capping non-economic damages in medical malpractice law suits, would lower the nation’s health care bill by only 0.5 percent.

0.5%?  That’s awfully close to zip.

Meanwhile, juries sit in courtrooms across this country and see the horrors that can result when doctors make mistakes.  And, doctors are only human – and humans aren’t perfect, they occasionally DO make mistakes.

When juries are asked to decide what is justice for someone like the plaintiff in the case that the Illinois Supreme Court reviewed in its decision last week, these men and women know better than anyone else what is the right thing to do.

Jury’s Justice in Frances Lebron’s Medical Malpractice Case

An Illinois jury will hear Frances Lebron fight for justice for herself and her infant daughter, after errors during the baby’s delivery resulted in cerebral palsy and other conditions.  Mrs. Lebron’s daughter will live the entirety of her life in a wheelchair because of the errors made during her delivery at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital in 2005.  Now, that Illinois jury can decide the just amount of money to be paid for pain, suffering, and other non-economic damages without their hands being tied.

How can this not be justice for that baby girl?

*Section 2–1706.5 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2–1706.5 (West 2008)), adopted as part of Public Act 94–677 (Act) (see Pub. Act 94–677, §330, effective August 25, 2005)

.

The Courage That’s Needed to Work in Steel Mills

posted by kjalaw on Feb 11th, 2010 at 8:40 am

For many who live in either Indiana and Illinois, either you work in the steel industry, or you know someone who does.  Steel is big business in our part of the country.

Most folk know that working steel is dangerous, but they may not realize how truly scary these jobs can be….

According to the United Steel Workers of America (USWA), a USWA worker is killed while doing his job every TEN DAYS in his country (see report, p.2). The union has been investigating these tragedies for over 20 years, and they’re still trying to find out why people die on the job, and what can be done to make life safer for steel workers.

What’s happening here?

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), steel workers face a variety of dangers as they do their jobs, the most common being:

  1. Hazard of falling down from considerable heights, while joining metal components of a building; and/or when the work is done while standing on a ladder or at an elevated surface;
  2. Being hit by falling objects (falls of heavy loads on the feet or on other parts of the body;
  3. Eye injury, as a result of flying metal splinters, while working with a chisel and hammer, or when doing sharpening, cutting or welding works;
  4. Back and spinal column injury caused by lifting and moving heavy loads;
  5. Exposure to very high noise levels; and
  6. Electrocution, as a result of touching live electric wires, or while working with portable power tools the isolation of which is defective.

You’d Think Job Safety Would Be Standard By Now, Right? You’d Be Wrong.

Historically, working in steel mills quickly separated the men from the boys — even in the 1800s, the steel industry was a place where lots of workers died on the job.

By the 21st century, you’d think that things would be pretty safe, that the conditions associated with death would be resolved.  Wrong.

In 2008, the number of deaths in steel mills was higher than it had been in years. Then, fingers were pointing to high demand for the product pushing workers to work hard and fast, which always invites accidents and injuries.  Today, fingers can point to the decline in steel demand and the pressure on companies to maximize their dollars, trying to stay out of the red.  The U.S. Steel industry is suffering along with the rest of the economy these days.

For the father, son, husband, brother (or mother, daughter, wife, sister) who enters a steel mill for a hard day’s work, they bring with them not only a commitment to a job well done, but a spine as hard as the product they’re making.

Working steel takes courage.  And steel workers deserve acknowledgment and respect for that fact.

.
send to mobile
share bizblog
bookmark

blog history

May

feeds