Distracted driving accidents may be reduced by fines

Monday, February 6th, 2017

Earlier this week we discussed a police crackdown on drunk driving through the use of saturation patrols and checkpoints. This is an effective way of preventing drunk driving car accidents and keeping dangerous drivers off of  roads.

The effectiveness of drunk driving crackdown measures has inspired traffic safety experts focused on the problem of texting and driving. Early anti-texting and driving campaigns were failures despite high publicity. A recent federal study has found that adopting a model of saturation patrols and checkpoints has a tangible impact on the number of distracted drivers using cell phones.

Examiners analyzed the impact of high profile enforcement efforts at test sites in New York and Connecticut. Over 9,500 citations were issued to drivers talking or texting on cell phones during four enforcement times last year. Surveys and cell phone use indicators showed that texting while driving declined by a third at the New York test site and that texting while driving decreased approximately three-quarters at the Connecticut. The Connecticut site also showed a 57 percent decrease in hand-held phone use.

“These findings show that strong laws, combined with highly visible police enforcement, can significantly reduce dangerous texting and cell phone use behind the wheel,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said.

“The success of these pilot programs clearly shows that combining strong laws with strong enforcement can bring about a sea change in public attitudes and behavior,” said David L. Strickland, the administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which spearheaded the program and led public safe driving education efforts. The NHTSA survey sought to determine whether drivers were educated about their state laws restricting texting while driving behind the wheel.

Ending wrong site surgery medical malpractice incidents

Monday, January 9th, 2017

In 2004, The Joint Commission, an organization tasked with the accreditation of U.S. hospitals, instituted new policies designed to prevent wrong-site surgery. These operating room errors are considered highly preventable if appropriate care is taken, and the rules aimed to ensure that it was.

Wrong-site surgery is a form of medical malpractice in which a surgical operation is performed on the wrong patient or the wrong part of the body. For example, hurried doctors might accidentally perform a heart transplant on a patient that doesn’t need one, or amputate the wrong hand. This is estimated to happen 40 times nationwide during an average week.

The rules were intended to prevent these mix ups by ensuring that operating room staff was aware of small details that could create big problems. Double checking of certain aspects of the procedure, such as the patient’s name and the proper orientation of X-rays and other imagery, became mandatory. Surgery sites were required to be marked on the patient’s body and staff were forced to take a minute to double check all other important details before beginning any operation.

In spite of the seemingly preventable nature of these incidents, they have been difficult to eliminate, even with the 2004 regulations. Hospitals and medical staff alike operate under intense time pressures. Mistakes are often made when doctors and their staff feel that they do not have time to double check every step of a procedure, as other patients are waiting for treatment and procedures must be completed in a timely manner in order to make room for them.

Researchers continue to investigate the causes of these incidents, and hope that by enforcing even stricter regulations and introducing more accountability for surgeons, headway can be made. The ultimate goal is to prevent wrong-site surgeries from happening to anyone treated in the U.S., eliminating the problem nationwide and avoid the need for portland personal injury lawsuits in the medical space.

Personal injury lawsuits after a worksite accident

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

Generally a worker does not have to establish the fault of an employer to obtain  workers’ compensation benefits after a workplace accident resulting in injury. Construction and manufacturing employees are often at the greatest risk for suffering severe personal injuries from workplace accidents. While these employees often have little trouble obtaining workers’ compensation benefits, there are many times when a non-employer is responsible for the physical pain and suffering of the employee.

Personal injury lawsuits cannot typically be filed against worker’s employer or coworkers after a serious workplace accident. However when someone other than the employer is responsible for the worker’s injury, a worker can file a personal injury lawsuit in Michigan against these individuals or entities.

For example, there is a recent case of an employee who was injured after a piece of PVC piping exploded at a manufacturing plant. The piping was improperly used to carry compressed air, which is something that inspectors from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited as an obvious safety risk.

The manufacturer of the piping may be liable for the personal injuries arising out of the explosion if the manufacturer or a contractor told the manufacturing plant that the piping could handle compressed air. Also, if the employee worked for a contractor of the manufacturing plant then a lawsuit may be possible against the building owner or the non-employer entity which runs the manufacturing plant.

It is unknown whether the employee’s hearing loss and trauma from the explosion will result in a third-party claim, but similar accidents may produce viable third-party claims in the future.

Speeding semi-trailer tips over near Pike Creek

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

The driver of a speeding semi-trailer was cited for driving at an unsafe speed Wednesday morning after his truck overturned as he turned from eastbound Paper Mill Road onto northbound Highway 7. The rig was loaded with about 40,000 pounds of food when it toppled onto its side.

There are several ways that trucking accidents are different than car accidents. The greater size of semi-trucks means that damages and injuries from truck accidents can be greatly larger than damages from a typical car accident.

Truck accidents also carry a great possibility of severe injury and may implicate federal trucking safety regulations. Trucking companies and the corporations for whom they work often carry multimillion-dollar liability insurance policies which can compensate motorists and pedestrians who are injured by the neglect of a semi-truck operator.

Attorneys for victims injured in trucking accidents will seek to establish liability not only against the truck driver, but also against the truck owner, maintenance contractor, or any of the many parties with ownership and contractual relationships with the truck or its freight.

The freight of the speeding truck on Paper Mill Road had to be unloaded so that the rig could be righted. The truck driver was taken to Christiana Hospital and treated for minor injuries. There are no reports of significant damage to property other than the semi-truck.

A police officer said that the accident was caused when the truck’s load shifted as the truck turned into the intersection. The truck landed on its side on a ditch off of the east edge of Highway 7, The News Journal reports.

AHRQ in Hospitals

Monday, December 12th, 2016

We’re continuing our discussion of a new tool to measure medical errors in hospitals. The Global Trigger Tool provides a more thorough review of hospital records, unveiling in one study 90 percent more errors than traditional review methods. These measurement tools provide the basis for hospital quality ratings and programs sponsored by organizations like Oregon’s Patient Safety Commission.
The researchers say they developed the Global Trigger Tool in an effort to be more in sync with the times. The measurement tools recommended by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), for example, were developed for the old hospital care model. Patients no longer stay overnight for routine surgeries; rather, they’re taken care of in outpatient centers. As a result, only very ill people with complex or more serious medical issues are taking up hospital beds. These more complicated cases present more opportunities for errors in medication or procedures. Any quality data gathered would be skewed.
The study results bear this out to some degree. The most common errors were medication errors, surgical and nonsurgical procedure errors and common infections after Cincinnati car accidents.
Health professionals who are less enthusiastic about the Global Trigger Tool admit that these are, indeed, common errors. They also say that these errors are the least severe. Perhaps the tool finds more data but provides less useful information.
The point of a patient safety program is to improve health outcomes for patients. The Global Trigger Tool may identify a huge number of errors, but it doesn’t rank them in terms of patient consequences.
All safety advocates agree that the best reporting method would be direct, real-time observation. Voluntary reporting can certainly lead to under-reporting — that’s why government and private safety organizations audit hospital records. This new tool may provide too much data, while more traditional tools are able to rank results.
The Oregon Patient Safety Commission is working to ensure that the state’s health care system is the safest in the nation. The Global Trigger Tool adds another instrument to the orchestra.

Police Unhappy About Popular Traffic Information App

Saturday, December 10th, 2016

There has long been a complicated relationship between consumer technology and law enforcement. Traffic stops are a good example. When police officers are on traffic patrol, they often use radar guns or lasers to measure the speed of passing drivers. Those driving above the speed limit can be pulled over. Citizens trying to stay one step ahead sometimes use radar/laser detection systems to learn where officers may be stationed. In theory, they can get an early warning about police presence and slow down or change routes accordingly.

Social media and cellphone apps have taken citizen countermeasures a step further. Apps that warn drivers about the location of speed traps, DUI checkpoints, red-light cameras and other law enforcement actions have been controversial. And one of the most popular new apps called Waze  is stirring up even more controversy than usual.

Waze is an app that was purchased by Google in 2013. It combines GPS with social media in order to give users real-time information about traffic and road conditions. One piece of information users can share with other users is the location of police officers. The maps apparently do not differentiate between speed traps, DUI checkpoints and just general traffic patrol. Nonetheless, users can receive warning that police are in a given area.

Law enforcement agencies have publicly called on Google to remove this feature, arguing that it puts police officers in danger by giving away their location to those who intend to attack cops. By way of example, they cite the recent case in which two NYPD officers were shot and killed by a mentally unstable suspect.

Officer safety is a valid concern. But such attacks seem to be a very rare occurrence. Some have argued that law enforcement agencies are critical of the Waze app largely because it gives users a much-appreciated head up about areas where they could get pulled over. It could warn speeders to slow down, or convince drivers who have been drinking to choose a different route home than the one they are on.

So we find ourselves in another standoff between consumer technology and law enforcement. Police should have the tools and the authority necessary to keep the public safe. But shouldt the public also have access to tools that could protect them from Tacoma criminal charges and citations?

Note to Counselors Using This Book

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

This book is a revision of a prior publication which was addressed directly to debt counselors and debt lawyers. Although the book is now written to consumers directly, it is still very valuable to counselors. Most of your clients will need your help to exercise the basic rights and options discussed in this book. Although we have tried to write simply, many clients will need help to understand the discussion here. We have not shied away from discussing complicated issues when they are necessary to a complete understanding of rights and options.

Because you regularly see clients with financial problems, you will almost always have more expertise in addressing these problems than the particular individual who seeks your help. Although we encourage you to recommend this book to your clients, you can also use it to advise clients on specific issues. Your explanations and background as a counselor will frequently reinforce the discussion which this book provides.

We recognize that many of the strategies discussed in this book go beyond what you are accustomed to doing in the counseling process. Each counselor must make his or her own decision about how far to go in actively intervening in a clients’ debt problems. At a minimum, however, we ask that you make every effort to give financially stressed consumers their full range of choices by counseling them on the availability of options which go beyond the scope of what your organization would be able to do.

For example, if you work for an organization which helps consumers make payment agreements with their creditors, you should nevertheless explain that bankruptcy is an alternative to some payment agreements and cover the circumstances in which bankruptcy may make sense. Similarly, if you are accustomed to dealing with credit card issues, we ask that you be sure that you do not recommend a strategy for dealing with credit cards which undermines a consumer’s ability to deal with a mortgage, car or utility payment. Whenever possible, problems should be dealt with in the context of the consumer’s financial situation rather than in isolation.