Friday, May 8, 2009
If I’m in an accident, should I stop?
Yes! You must stop. Regardless of whether the accident involves a pedestrian, a parked car, someone's property, or a moving vehicle, you are required by law to stop. If you leave the scene of an accident, you can be charged with "hit and run" even if the accident is not your fault. If you hit a parked car, you are required to attempt to find the driver. If you cannot, the law states you may drive away only after you leave behind your name, address and an explanation of the accident. After, you must notify the police either by telephone or in person.
How can I get help?
As soon as you can get to a telephone, call 911. Explain the situation and advise them of your location. Be sure to mention if you need an ambulance or a fire engine. If you do not have a cell phone, try to flag down a passing vehicle, and ask them to get help. If you are in a dark location, such as a country road, and cannot get through on a cell phone, it is recommended, to drive to the nearest safe location (i.e., a gas station, a house with their lights on, etc.) and call the police.
At the accident scene, what information should I get?
Obtain as much of the following information as possible and write down:
· The other driver's name, address, date of birth, and telephone number.
· Their driver's license number and expiration date.
· Their insurance company.
· The other car's make, year, model, license plate number and expiration date, and vehicle identification number (“VIN”).
· If the driver is not the owner, you will need to get the owner’s name, address, telephone number and insurance company.
· The names, addresses, and telephone numbers of any passengers in the other car.
· The name, address and telephone number of any witnesses to the accident. If they are unwilling to stay, ask them what they saw and write it down.
· If there was someone at the scene that will not give you his or her name, just write down his or her license plate number. The police officer can trace the owner's name and address.
· Make a simple diagram of the accident. Please note if there were any skid marks on the road.
· If you have a camera with you, take pictures of the scene. The camera on your cell phone will do.
· Take notes on the road and weather conditions. If the accident happened after dark, were the streetlights on?
· Estimate how fast you were going, as well as the other driver. Be sure to note the exact time and place the accident happened.
However, if your medical expenses turn out to be more than a small amount of money or if you try to receive payment for your lost income, the adjuster's true nature starts to be revealed. Calls don't get returned, bills don't get paid, etc. If you are lucky enough to get through to the adjuster, you will likely experience hedging and vague responses to your questions. One part of an adjuster's training is to intentionally stall and delay a case if it becomes apparent that you are seeking more than the low-ball settlement amount they've been authorized to give you. They do this because (1) as long as the insurance company is holding on to your money, their collecting interest on it, not you, and (2) delays result in evidence being permanently lost. The loss of evidence almost always works to the insurance companies advantage. You can be sure that during the months that follow an accident, the adjuster is diligently gathering evidence that will help the insurance company and hurt your case--they, of course, never tell you that.
One of the ways that insurance adjusters find evidence that will harm your case is by requesting that you sign a broad medical release. Recently, an insurance company used a medical release to obtain access to one of our client's mental health records--information that had absolutely nothing to do with the case. The insurer then tried to use the information it obtained about our client's depression to suggest that the pain she experienced was "all in her head." As soon as we took over the case, we immediately revoked the authorization, but unfortunately the harm was already done by that point.
For all of these reasons, it is critical that you speak to an attorney as soon as possible after an accident, before waiving any of your rights or making errors that can harm your case.
Property owners have a responsibility to keep their property free of hazards. There are many factors which our legal team will investigate in analyzing your case.
Slip and Fall on Ice or Snow: Property owners have an obligation to make sure their property, including parking lots and sidewalks, are maintained and that all snow and ice is removed to avoid possible safety hazards. Property owners are allowed a "reasonable" amount of time to remove the snow and ice. For example, if you fall on a snowy sidewalk in the middle of a snowstorm, the property owner may not be held liable since the storm was in progress. If conditions on the property cause an unnatural build up of ice or snow, the property owner may be liable for your slip and fall accident. For example:
- If ice accumulated on the roof, then melts and drips off because of a clogged drain, then refreezes on the ground; or
- If the parking lot causes melting ice to form puddles, and then refreezes into ice patches.
In addition, if a property owner provides snow or ice removal, they must stay on top of it and provide regular maintenance.
Slip and Fall on Stairs: As slip and fall attorneys, we have many accident cases, which have occurred as a result of defective or broken stairs. Property owners have the responsibility to make sure all steps have the same rise and depth, with visible edges. Also, stairs must be kept free of debris or other obstacles, which could cause an accident. A property owner is also responsible for making sure all stairwells are well lit, with sturdy handrails on both sides. We all have a responsibility to be careful and watch where we are going, however, a property owner needs to show reasonable care.
General Information on Slip and Fall Injuries: There are several types of slip and fall accidents including slippery surface falls, stairway accidents, fall from a terrace or balcony, parking ramp falls, sidewalk falls and bathtub and shower falls, to name a few. A property owner has an obligation to keep their property in a safe condition for those invited onto the property. If it can be proven that a property owner was negligent and knew or should have known about the dangerous or defective condition that caused a slip and fall, you may be compensated for your injuries.
What Is Reasonable?
Did the property owner use their common sense? Was there something the property owner "should have known" was dangerous? Did the property owner use reasonable care to keep the property safe? A judge and jury will certainly take the answers to these questions into consideration.
If the property owner is careful in their efforts to keep the property safe and clean, they most likely have shown "reasonable" care. Here are some initial questions you can ask yourself to help determine if a property or business owner may be liable for your injuries:
Did you trip over a broken, or uneven area of carpet or floor or did you slip on a wet area? If so, was the dangerous condition in place long enough so the owner "should have known" about it? Has any accident happened there before?
Is there a schedule in place for regular maintenance and cleaning or repairing of the premises? If so, what proof does the owner have of this regular maintenance?
If you tripped over or slipped on an object someone placed or left on the ground, was there a good reason for the object to be there? If there was a good reason for the object to be there, but that reason no longer existed, could the object have been removed or covered or otherwise made safe?
Was there a safer place the object could have been located?
Could a barrier have been created to warn people of a potential danger?
Did poor or broken lighting contribute to the accident?
If the answer to one or more of these questions was in your favor, you may have a claim for compensation. Please remember, however, you need to think about whether your actions contributed to your accident.
Should I Gather Evidence?
When possible, we recommend the following:
Photos. Take photographs of the scene of the accident, your clothing and shoes and any bruising, cuts, scrapes or required stitches or casts to document your injury.
Witnesses. If someone witnesses your fall, try to get their name, address and telephone number.
Accident Report. If you suffer injuries in a store, whether a department store or grocery store, make sure you file an accident report. You can do this by asking for the manager. They will then document your version of the accident. This will prove to be valuable in representing you for your injuries. Unless you are unable, make sure you obtain a copy of the accident report before you leave.
Evidence. We recommend you save the item that caused your fall. For example, if you slipped on a piece of fruit or a vegetable, place the item in a plastic bag and freeze it. You may also want to safeguard the shoes you were wearing at the time of the fall. These can be placed in a plastic bag and taped shut to preserve any mater stuck to your shoe.
If you are unable to take photographs or obtain any statements, an attorney at our firm will obtain as much information as possible. However, please keep in mind, obtaining information hours, days, weeks or even months after an accident scene has been cleaned up or your injuries have healed is much more difficult. Although your medical records will document your injuries, photographs and statements will prove valuable before a jury.
There are signs to look for that may indicate nursing home neglect:
- Unexplained accidents or injuries,
- Extreme changes in your loved one’s condition in a short period of time,
- Signs of dehydration or malnutrition,
- Bed sores,
- Unclean conditions,
- Daily living needs not met,
- Slip and fall accidents,
- Death, and
- Any other signs of physical or mental suffering.
Medical Malpractice Types
Birth Injuries: One of the most tragic events a new parent can face is being told their child has suffered a birth injury. This news becomes even more traumatic when the parents learn their child’s injury could have been prevented. A birth injury can occur at many different times throughout the birthing process. Birth injuries can vary from being very minor to catastrophic and can even result in death. Some birth injuries may not be diagnosed for months or years after birth. Parents are often left with the belief that their child’s injury was genetic, when in fact many of these birth defects could have been prevented. Most parents have no way of knowing what happened to their child and many do not know where to begin to search for answers. We are here to help. Two common types of birth injury are Cerebral Palsy and Erbs Palsy.
Emergency Room Negligence: Although emergency rooms ("ER’s") are the most stressful environment in the healthcare field, there are still rules and procedures and a standard of care the staff is required to follow. If a doctor or other hospital employee is careless, did not have the proper skills or just simply ignored the rules and procedures, the hospital may be held responsible for a patient’s injuries. It is sad, but true that errors in hospital emergency rooms are a common occurrence. How quickly a medical provider responds to someone’s injury is tremendously important. Understaffed hospitals or badly equipped emergency rooms can lead to fatal mistakes. An ER is not expected to completely treat a patient. The ER is required to make a proper diagnosis and then refer the patient to an appropriate expert. When there is a misdiagnosis, the hospital may be help liable for your injuries.
Nursing Home Negligence: Health care providers in nursing home facilities have a professional responsibility to prevent the injury and suffering of their patients. Nursing home abuse can occur when a patient does not receive the care necessary for a good quality of life. It is often difficult for a loved one to express when they have been physically or emotionally abused. Many feel they will be putting a burden on the family member, so too often, they choose to deal with the abuse.
There are signs to look for that may indicate nursing home neglect:
Unexplained accidents or injuries,
Extreme changes in your loved one’s condition in a short period of time,
Signs of dehydration or malnutrition,
Daily living needs not met,
Slip and fall accidents,
Any other signs of physical or mental suffering.
Laws now exist to protect patients from nursing home neglect and abuse.
Prescription Errors: The use of prescription drugs is very common and the number of people taking multiple prescription drugs is staggering. Doctors and pharmacists have a great responsibility to their patients to ensure an error does not happen. Medical professionals must understand the chemical effects of each drug they prescribe as well as the possible side effects when taken with other prescribed and over-the-counter drugs. We all have a responsibility to be forthcoming with any and all over-the-counter medication we may be taking, even if you find it embarrassing. If you are taking a diet pill, please advise your doctor so he is aware and it is placed in your chart. Diet medication may interact with other prescription medication and the outcome could be deadly.
Anesthesia Mistakes: Anesthesia mistakes are most often thought of as occurring in an operating room, however they can occur during labor and delivery, in pre-op and recovery rooms, during dental procedures, and during numerous out-patient procedures in clinics and doctor’s offices.
Anesthesia malpractice may not be limited to anesthesiologists alone. Many medical providers administer sedatives and anesthetics. Dental offices and cosmetic surgery clinics account for many medical malpractice claims, due to improperly trained staff administering the anesthesia. One way to reduce the risk to the patient is to make sure there has been proper specialty training and certification by the doctor administering the anesthesia. It is acceptable to ask for their credentials. Make sure the person administering the anesthesia has experience performing this procedure.
Pulmonary Embolism: Studies have shown that one of the leading causes of preventable deaths during hospitalization is due to a pulmonary embolism. A pulmonary embolism is a blood clot that becomes lodged in the blood vessels of the lungs. In most cases, a blood clot starts in the large veins of the leg. When the clot becomes dislodged, it travels up into the lungs and either entirely or partially blocks an artery. The symptoms of a pulmonary embolism are very clear. They range from shortness of breath to sharp chest pain, rapid pulse, intense sweating, anxiety and more. Death and brain damage can occur sometimes within 30 minutes of symptoms. It is critical to recognize the signs of a pulmonary embolism and treat it immediately. Medical providers are trained professionals and there are many stages at which a pulmonary embolism should be recognized. When the symptoms of the condition are misunderstand or minimized by medical staff as stress or a less serious condition, the delay can be deadly.
Strokes & Heart Attack: Strokes and heart attacks are the leading cause of death in the United States. With the number of cardiovascular diseases consuming our country, medical providers have an obligation to watch for and monitor warning signs. High blood pressure, smoking, poor nutrition, obesity, high cholesterol, and diabetes are all warning signs and there are many drugs and treatments now available to prevent or slow the disease's progression. When a medical provider fails to consider all possibilities, provides services below professional standards of care, or makes an error in procedure or treatment, negligence may have occurred.
What is a Stroke? - A stroke occurs when there is an interruption of the blood flow to the brain. The lack of oxygen due to this interruption causes brain tissue to die, which causes that part of the brain to be unable to function. Strokes can be caused by either a blood clot plugging a blood vessel in the brain, or by bleeding in the brain. A stroke can result in partial paralysis, memory loss and/or dementia.
Symptoms of a Stroke - The symptoms of a stroke can vary depending on the extent of damage to the brain and which part of the brain is affected, but in general the symptoms include:
- severe headache
- numbness in the face or extremities
- slurring or loss of speech
- rapid heart beat or hypertension
- loss of balance
- paralysis on one side
In addition, a patient may experience a warning sign called a transient ischemic attack (or TIA) before an actual stroke. A TIA, or mini-strokes is caused by blood supply to the brain being cut off for a short time, without causing any permanent damage. It is the health care professional’s job to recognize the symptoms of a TIA and develop a treatment plan to try to prevent a full-scale stroke.
Aneurysms – An aneurysm is the bulging of a blood vessel in the brain. Although they may burst without warning, malpractice may occur if a doctor does not heed the warning sign of a blinding headache in an at-risk patient, or does not perform corrective surgery properly.
Brain Damage and Traumatic Brain Injuries: Brain damage or traumatic brain injuries can be caused by medical mistakes made by doctors, hospitals, nurses or other medical providers. The majority of traumatic brain injuries are caused during childbirth, either by a delay in performing a necessary c-section, complications with a vaginal birth, or an error causing a traumatic delivery. It is unfortunate, but true, that a brain injury can occur even with the best possible medical care. In many cases, there is nothing that should have or could have been done to prevent a brain injury. There are other circumstances, however, in which a brain injury could have been avoided or at least made less severe if appropriate measures had been taken. These mistakes are considered medical malpractice.
Truck Accident Types
Delivery Truck Accidents: Delivery trucks, due to their size and shape, often have obstructed views. This limits their ability to see other drivers, resulting in accidents. Delivery truck drivers may also pull over in restricted areas or double-park on city streets with their flashers on, to deliver their goods. Unfortunately, this habit causes an obstacle course for traffic and may result in an accident. For the innocent pedestrian, this can prove deadly as the view from oncoming traffic is restricted and often a vehicle is unable to stop until it is too late. Delivery truck drivers have a duty to drive responsibly on the roads and to avoid dangerous and sometimes deadly collisions with other motorists.
18 Wheeler Accidents: 18 Wheeler Accidents have increased at an alarming rate each year. 18 Wheeler Accidents can result from unsafe driving, oversized loads and other unsafe practices that put other motorists as well as the truck operator in danger. There are three primary causes of 18 Wheeler Accidents: (1) Jack-Knife Accidents - A jack-knife truck accident can be catastrophic for all who come in contact with the truck, including the truck driver. A jack-knife is when a truck with a tractor goes into a skid and the trailer swings out and stops to form a 90 degree angle. Jackknifing usually occurs when the drive wheels lock while the front wheels and the trailer keep rolling forward. A jack-knife can cause multi-car pile-ups, which often result in many fatalities. (2) Unsecured Loads - When equipment or loads are not properly secured, they can shift or fall off the vehicle. This can cause an obstacle course of debris for other vehicles. When a truck driver changes lanes or turns the unsecured load, the inside of a trailer can shift and cause the vehicle to lose control. The driver, truck owner, and the manufacturer can all be held responsible for putting innocent people in harm's way. (3) Wheel Blow Outs - When the tire tread on a truck becomes old or is defective, a blow out can occur. A blow out can result in an immediate loss of control, such as when the back end of the truck begins to fishtail. When this occurs, the truck can flip or go airborne, causing a rollover. A blowout can also cause the truck to stop abruptly, which could result in a pile-up behind it.
Truck Rollovers: Truck rollovers have increased at an alarming rate on our highways. A truck's size and the way in which the weight is distributed inside, can contribute to unstable conditions. Passing cars often suffer the majority of the injuries and devastation during a truck roll over. Truck rollovers can at times be caused by driver negligence, but most often a truck rollover is the result of a design flaw, a defective tire or an improperly secured load. Tire tread separation, blowouts, or other tire defects can cause catastrophic injuries and even death. Sport Utility Vehicles ("SUVs") are very popular with families today, even with the high gas prices. Due to this increase in popularity, we have seen an increase in accidents. Of which, close to 63% of all deaths occur from a rollover. The majority of rollover crashes occur when a vehicle runs off the road and flies over a ditch or hits a curb. The major factor in rollover accidents is in the lack of stability of the vehicle itself. The National Highway Transportation Safety Association has developed rollover resistance ratings. They have reported that taller, narrower vehicles such as SUVs are more likely to roll once they leave the roadway.
How many people are injured or killed in motorcycle accidents? Astonishingly, nearly 2,000 motorcyclists die each year and approximately 50,000 are injured. Nearly 80% of all motorcycle accidents in the United States result in injury or death.
What it the main cause of death in these accidents? Head injuries are the main cause of death among motorcyclists. Unfortunately there is no barrier between your head and the ground, other than your helmet.
How can I protect myself as a motorcyclist? Ride defensively and be aware of your surroundings. Also, obey the laws and follow the speed limit. In addition to wearing a helmet, other safety gear, such as eye protection, gloves, appropriate footwear, leg guards and jackets can help reduce your risk of serious injury.
The seriousness of side impact collisions depends on several factors, including the speed and weight of the oncoming vehicle, and where that oncoming vehicle collides with yours. Fatalities due to side impact collisions can be reduced when a vehicle is equipped with side airbags. It is important to understand that children under the age of 12 should not ride in the front seat. The power with which an airbag deploys can cause death to a child, regardless of the severity of the impact.
There are heightened responsibilities when a driver observes a pedestrian who is a child. It is well known that children are more likely than adults to be distracted, particularly if they are walking with friends. The law requires that drivers exercise extra caution when traveling near children.
High-speed collisions played a role in approximately 30% of all fatal crashes in 2004 according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In high-speed collisions, a vehicle undergoes such force that its structure cannot possibly protect its passengers from serious injury. When you speed:
- The distance traveled after seeing an emergency and actually reacting to it increases.
- The distance needed to stop a vehicle is increased.
- The severity of a crash increases as the speed increases.
- An airbag and seatbelt are less effective when speeding is involved.
- For the innocent survivors of high-speed collisions, the physical and emotional recovery process can be horribly painful and unbelievably expensive.