Washington DC Injury Attorney Blog

Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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Distracted driving is defined as driving while engaged in activity that has the potential to distract the driver from the task of driving such as texting or talking on a cell phone, applying make-up, eating, etc.

As the dangers of distracted driving became more and more clear, states began to fund awareness campaigns such as online videos of real-life tragedies from distracted driving and add laws to make it easier for police officers to pull drivers over issue tickets.

Use of handheld devices, while driving, is prohibited in 14 states and the District of Columbia and is considered a primary enforcement law. As for texting while driving, 46 states and D.C. ban text messaging for all drivers. All but 5 states have primary enforcement on their texting ban.

All of these laws and new restrictions have been put in effect because distracted driving has been responsible for too many accidents, injuries and deaths across the United States. It is ultimately the drivers’ responsibility and drivers need to be aware of their surroundings and driving conditions before getting behind the wheel. Driving is a privileged and drivers need to remember that and take responsibility for their actions. Safety should come first.

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So far in 2015, there have been 5 Amtrak Train derailments. For the past two years there has been an increase in hazardous materials releases and therefore; fires have doubled in the past two years. According to projections by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting, train derailments will double in the next year. Therefore; the Federal Department of Transportation has released new rules to regulate tank cars that carry crude, ethanol, and other flammable liquids.

Derailments are usually caused by equipment failures. Broken, settled, spread, shifted or overturned rails account for about 50 percent of the equipment related derailments.

Human and environmental factors can also contribute to train accidents. Some of the human factors that contribute to train accident are things like poor train handling, incorrectly set track switches, unsecured cars on a hill, shifted loads, vandalism, and obstructions on the track. Floods, avalanches, rock slides and high winds are some of the environmental factors.

Therefore; if you or a loved one is a victim of train derailments, please contact our office, so we can better inform you and assist you of your rights and help you seek the needed medical treatment for your injuries.

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According to the Department of Transportation, the largest car and truck recall in U.S. history has been made by Takata, a Japanese auto-parts manufacturer, for deadly and defective airbags. The complaint is that the airbags explode and shoot shrapnel when inflating. This defect has been linked to six deaths and hundreds of injuries worldwide.

The most recent and largest recall will affect 34 million vehicles in the United States. The previous recall made affected almost 17 million vehicles in the United States. It also encompasses all of the older generation of phase-stabilized ammonium nitrate driver inflators manufactured by Takata.

Takata published a statement that they are committed to “restoring the trust of automakers and the driving public”.

The 34 million vehicles in the US affect means that one in seven U.S. cars have just been recalled. The vehicles more highly affected are those in humid climates with lots of moisture in the air.

In order to figure out if your vehicle is included or part of this most recent recall there are a few steps that one can take:

Step 1: Get your vehicles Identification number (VIN). This number is 17-digits long and can be found on the driver’s side of your dashboard.

Step 2: Visit the following website; www.vinrcl.safecar.gov/vin/. Once there type in your vehicles identification number and you will find out if your vehicle is included in this massive recall.

If your vehicle has been recalled, contact your local dealership to schedule your replacement appointment. The appointment and its repairs/replacements are free of charge. You should also ask your dealer or carmaker for a free loaner/rental vehicle while your car is in the shop.

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During the winter months plenty of businesses are left with parking lots that are packed with snow and ice. If a person falls, is the business responsible or liable for someone falling in their parking lot?

In the state of Maryland and Virginia there are doctrines of contributory negligence. This means that if the condition is open and obvious, than the person will probably not be able to recover because they are knowingly putting themselves in harms’ way.

Only when the area where you slipped/tripped/fell in is part of the property owners premise, and he/she failed to take the appropriate precautions to correct a problem that led to the accident would a person be able to recover for damages.

Some common examples of these conditions and the rules regarding a property owner’s duties are as follows:

– Ice or Snow outside a Building: the law does not require a property owner to remove ice or snow that accumulates outside his/her establishment as the result of weather. However, if conditions on the property cause an unnatural accumulation of ice or snow, the property owner may be liable for a slip and fall accident. For example: when ice accumulates on the rood, then melts and drips off because of clogged drains and then refreezes on the ground or when the slopping surface of a parking lot causes ice to melt and form puddles and to refreeze into black ice patches.

– Not Enough Outdoor Lighting: Inadequate lighting may cause a person to fall in parking lots, or to trip over a curbing, or fall on a step or stairs from a parking lot to a store that is not well lit. Also, holes, cracks and uneven surfaces can cause a person to slip and fall in poorly lit areas. It is the duty of the property owner to maintain the proper lighting, if not, they can be held liable for a person’s injury.

– Parking Lots: The proper maintenance of parking lots falls on the owner of the parking facility. They must be kept in a manner such that it is reasonably safe for people to use it. This means that all cracks and holes must be filled and patched over properly. In addition, differences in height from one section of the lot to another should be gradual in nature, rather than abrupt to prevent a slip and fall accident from occurring.

– Sidewalks: If a sidewalk is used in an excessive manner by customers entering and exiting a business, then the property owner will be responsible when a dangerous condition exists on his/her private walkway. In general sidewalks are considered public property and are to be maintained by the city or town, but in cases where the sidewalk is used exclusively by customers of a business, then it is the business owners’ responsibility to maintain it properly and if an accident occurs they can be held liable.

Therefore; if you or your loved one is involved in a slip and fall accident, please contact our office, so we can review and examine your possible claim properly, and, hold the responsible party liable for your injuries, and, obtain a proper settlement for your damages.

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Over 254,000 “Tough Treadz” plastic toy trucks have been recalled by Family Dollar stores. The specific model being recalled is the one with a plastic case that holds six die-cast metal toy cars in assorted colors. These toy cars can have sharp edges that pose a laceration hazard. The “Tough Treadz” toy trucks were sold at Family Dollar stores all across the United States for about five dollars from September through December 2014.

Consumers who purchased the “Tough Treadz” toy trucks can return the product to any Family Dollar store for a full refund.

Any and all consumers who would like to reach Family Dollar can do so by calling them at (800)547-0359 from 8:30am to 5pm Monday through Friday.

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In October 2014, a Swedish research team published a medical journal “Pathopsysiology”. The study resulted in a heightening concern for the increase of brain cancer by longtime users of mobile phones and wireless phones.

The study was conducted using two control trials. One included patients from 1997 to 2003 and the second included patients from 2007 to 2009. Almost 1500 Patients with malignant brain tumors were used along with 3530 controls.

The research indicated that people who use mobile phones for over 25 years are three times more likely to develop Glioma, a deadly brain cancer, compared to those who use these electronic devices less than a year.

The risk for developing brain cancer increased, by 30 percent, from the exposure to cell phone radiation. The risk appears to start low, but it increases over time. The risk of Glioma brain cancer increased significantly for every 100 hours of mobile phone use and per year of latency. The largest risk of Glioma seemed to be in the temporal lobe of the brain. The participants of the study who began using mobile phones at a younger age, and those before the age of 20, seemed to be at a higher risk for Glioma than all other age group participants.

The World Health Organization (WHO), announced in 2011, that it would reclassify radiofrequency electromagnetic fields emitted by wireless phones as a possible carcinogen. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) also announced, early this year, that the will reassess the potential effects of radiation exposure from cell phones and mobile devices, as well. The FCC plans to look at the radiation exposure and determine how much is emitted by the devices and how those emissions affect humans, specifically, the human brain.

In the meantime, it is recommended that users of these devices try and reduce their risk of cancer by using headsets, speakerphones, holding the phone away from the body and text as often as possible.

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Every summer children are left alone in hot cars. Over 600 U.S. children have died, as a result of being left alone in hot cars, since 1990. These deaths can be preventable because they happen when kids are left unattended in a hot car. At times, it’s because the driver forgot the child was in the vehicle or when children get into unlocked cars without any adult knowing it happened. It is tragic and preventable and the danger comes within minutes of being in hot closed quarters.

In order to prevent these deaths, children should never be left alone in a hot car, even if the windows are down. No matter how brief it may be for, it should not be done, for the safety of the child. Vehicles can become like greenhouses and temperatures can rise rapidly in a very short period of time. Besides the temperature, children are at a higher rise for heat-related illnesses and injury than adults because their bodies make more heat relative to their size and their abilities to cool through sweating are not as developed as an adult.

For example, on a summer day, the temperature outside can be 70 degrees, but the temperature inside a car can increase by 30 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit within an hour, and 70% of this increase occurs in the first 30 minutes, according to Christopher Haines, DO, director of pediatric emergency medicine at St. Christopher’s Hospital in Philadelphia. It is at these high temperatures that heat strokes can occur. The body can experience a heat stroke when temperatures pass 104 degrees Fahrenheit. The high temperatures overwhelm the brain’s temperature control, causing dizziness, disorientation, agitation, confusion, sluggishness, seizure, loss of consciousness and death.

It is also recommended that parents and caregivers not let children play inside unattended vehicles. One is to make sure that car’s doors and trunk are locked at all times, and also, keep the car keys out of reach of children. All these tips may help prevent children from getting accidentally locked in vehicles and save their lives.

One must do everything possible to keep children safe. It is these preventive methods that will help lower the chances of children dying from being left alone inside hot vehicles.

Therefore; if you see a child alone in a hot vehicle, call 911 immediately and do whatever possible to get the child out of the vehicle.

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What is Personal Injury Law: It is a legal term or an injury to the body, mind or emotions. It covers physical injuries, mental injuries and death that result from the negligence or intentional misconduct of another person, group of individuals, or entity. The most common types of personal injury claims are automobile traffic accidents, accidents in the workplace, slip & fall or tripping accidents, assault claims, accidents in the home and defective products. Also, included in the personal injury realm are medical and dental accidents, which can lead to medical negligence claims.

Depending on how bad the injury to the person is and the level of intent or negligence of the responsible party, the injured person may be entitled to monetary compensation from the at fault party through a settlement or a judgment.

Most personal injury attorneys represent their clients on a contingency basis or a contingency fee retainer agreement. This means that the attorney’s fee is a percentage of the plaintiff’s (injured party) eventual monetary compensation, payable to the attorney, once the case is resolved and settled, with no payment necessary if the case is unsuccessful. Also, when in this type of contract with a personal injury attorney, the attorney will pay all upfront costs and fees, which can include costs for obtaining medical records, copies, postage, faxes, correspondence, and obtaining police reports. These upfront costs and fees are reimbursed back to the attorney once the case settles and is separate then the attorney’s fee for representation.

Damages: Damages are categorized as either special and/or general. Special costs are measured and itemized to include medical expenses, loss of earnings, property damage and other out-of-pockets expenses. General costs are less measurable such as pain and suffering, loss of consortium and emotional distress. Personal injury claims include and consider both special and general damages when a claim is submitted to an at fault party.

The amount of compensation for special and general damages in a personal injury claim depends on the severity of the injury, the amount of treatment received and whether or not an injury is permanent in nature. The worse the injury is, the greater the compensation.

Time Limitations: In the United States, each state has different Statutes of Limitations – laws that determine how much time you have to file a legal claim. Different types of injuries have different statutes of limitations. In Maryland and the District of Columbia the Personal Injury Statute of Limitations to file a claim is 3 years from the date of accident and in Virginia it is 2 years from the date of accident.

Personal Injury Claim Settlements are not taxable. Therefore; any monies awarded on a personal injury claim you do not have to claim on your taxes. The official statement from the IRS states:

“If you receive a settlement for personal physical injuries or physical sickness and did not take an itemized deduction for medical expenses related to the injury or sickness in prior years, the full amount is non-taxable. Do not include the settlement proceeds in your income.”

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Legislators in the state of Maryland are trying to create a brand new fund for children and families with health problems that may have been caused by medical mistakes during child birth and labor. They propose to call this new fund the Birth Injury Fund. If and when this new fund is implemented, it would limit the ability of families to pursue medical malpractice lawsuits against medical providers, institutions, etc., and it would serve as a form of tort reform.

Eligibility for the Maryland Birth Injury program would be restricted to children born in a Maryland hospital, whose injuries fir the definition of a birth-related neurological injury. Each case would be reviewed on an individual basis by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Maryland Board of Physicians. Each of these organizations would review the hospitals and doctors for indications of less than standard care and practices. An administrative law judge would make the final eligibility determination and there would also be an appeals process, if needed. Once the administrative law judge approves eligibility, the child and their parents could seek compensation and care from the program in less than 90 days.

The Birth Injury Fund would give a one-time monetary award of up to $100,000.00, plus lifetime medical care, lost earnings compensation for the years 18 to 65 and no cap on the health care benefits of the injured patient/person.

The purpose of this New Birth Injury fund program is to prevent birth injuries through improved medical care and not to provide negligent doctors and hospital with immunity from the consequences of their poor medical care and practices. The new program would also result in more infants obtaining compensation and the needed lifetime medical care sooner because their parents would not need to wait to win in a medical malpractice lawsuit/trial to get access to the fund. Acceptance in the program is based on the injury and not the outcome of a medical malpractice lawsuit.

The funding for the New Birth Injury Fund would come entirely from hospitals and doctors. John Hopkins Hospital and the University of Maryland Medical System have already shown their support for the bill.

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A jury in Culpeper County Circuit Court could not decide the outcome of a medical malpractice case brought on by Carol Nettles against the orthopedic surgeon Dr. Robert Rutkowski, which resulted in a hung jury, after 11 hours of deliberations. A hung jury means that the jury members cannot, by the required voting threshold, agree upon a verdict after an extended period of deliberations and is unable to change its votes. It is sometimes also called a deadlocked jury.

Ms. Carol Nettles, a 68 year old woman filed a $1 million medical malpractice lawsuit against Dr. Rutkowski for causing severe and permanent injury to her left collar bone, shoulder and arm as a result of surgery that Dr. Rutkowski performed on Ms. Nettles’ clavicle on October 26, 2011 at the Virginia Orthopaedic and Spine Center. Out of the $1 million. Ms. Carol had originally been examined by Dr. Rutkowski to help ease some of her carpal tunnel pains at which time he recommended surgery. Dr. Rutkowski performed an operation that involved attaching a six-inch metal plate to her clavicle to help stabilize the bone. Unfortunately, the bone was so weak that Dr. Rutkowski could not attach the metal plate using traditional materials. Dr. Rutkowski instead used sutures to secure the metal plate to Ms. Nettles’ clavicle instead of using traditional screws. It is believed that by using the sutures instead of the screws her clavicle suffered a permanent injury due to the sutures rough edges sawed through her clavicle. As a result of this permanent injury Ms. Nettles is unable to move her left arm and shoulder and has been left with a disfigured left collarbone and shoulder.

Dr. Rutkowski alleged to Ms. Nettles at a post-operative appointment that her injury was a result of her weak bone, when in fact it was because of the sutures he used, instead of the screws that he was suppose to have used to properly attach the metal plate to Ms. Nettles’ clavicle. Ms. Nettles continued to complain about the pain to Dr. Rutkowski on various visits post operation and it wasn’t until December 2011 that Dr. Rutkowski referred Ms. Nettles to a shoulder surgeon at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, Dr. Angelo Dacus, who removed all of the hardware implanted by Dr. Rutkowski, alleviating some of the pain and discomfort that Ms. Nettles was experiencing, but still left her with a permanent injury.

Ms. Nettles therefore; made the following claims/charges against Dr. Rutkowski in the suit filed in Culpeper County Circuit Court:

– Failing to refer Ms. Nettles to a more qualified physician;
– Failing to explain the risks of the surgery;
– Failing to foresee that sutures would saw through the bone instead of stabilizing it, and
– Performing a complicated surgery that was not worth the risk to the patient’s otherwise good health.

The jury was in the end unable to determine whether or not Dr. Rutkowski was completely responsible for Ms. Nettles permanent injury. The jury consisted of six people, three men and three women. During the deliberation process the jurors presented the court and the judge with five questions, all of which could not be answered because as Judge Susan Whitlock answered “The court cannot answer these questions because the evidence is in.”