Friday, 30 April 2010

Motorcycle Helmet Manufacturer Ordered to Cease Production Because of Safety Issues

If there's one piece of advice that a California brain injury lawyer would give a rider to increase his chances of getting home safe, it would be to wear a motorcycle helmet.

Wearing a helmet dramatically reduces a person's chances of suffering a moderate or serious traumatic brain injury. A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last year revealed that wearing a helmet also reduced a person's chances of being hospitalized after a motorcycle accident. This month, a study by the Highway Data Loss Institute found that motorcyclists in those states that have mandatory helmet laws are less likely to file an injury claim after an accident.

None of this is news to California brain injury attorneys. However, any lawyer or motorcycle safety experts would stress the importance of wearing an approved, well-designed, well manufactured, strong helmet.

A Florida-based motorcycle helmet company has been ordered to stop manufacturing helmets because of safety risks. The company, Advanced Carbon Composites has been ordered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, never to produce motorcycle helmets again. That dramatic step comes because of the company's failure to initiate recalls properly.

According to the New York Times, in 2005, the company notified the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that its EXT 001 helmet did not meet federal safety standards, including those for puncture resistance. It announced a recall, and agreed to modify the interior of the helmet. The newly designed helmet was called the EXT 002. However, the modified helmet also did not meet federal safety standards. In 2007, the company initiated another modification project, redesigning the EXT 002 helmets, and renaming the new models, EXT 003. These new helmets also did not meet standards set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Finally, the agency was forced to take civil enforcement action against Advanced Carbon Composites. That has led to a consent order, according to which the company will refund the price of the helmets. It will not, under any circumstances, undertake repairs or modification of the defective helmets. The company has also been $10,000 in penalties. As a final step, the company has been ordered to cease the design, production and sales of helmets altogether.

Obviously, wearing a defective helmet can be as useless as wearing no helmet at all.

Monday, 26 April 2010

New CDC Guidelines for Treatment of Brain Injury

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week released new guidelines for the management of head injuries. In order to make it easy for patients, doctors as well as caregivers, the CDC has divided its resources into handy sheets for both doctors and patients. Head injuries often occur in automobile, bicycle and motorcycle accidents, or as a result of serious falls. Workers may be struck by falling objects in the workplace, causing a head injury serious enough to necessitate hospitalization.

The CDC has published a Patient Wallet Card and a Patient Discharge Instruction Sheet. These contain instructions for patients who have been treated and discharged from the hospital after a head injury. These resources can also help California brain injury lawyers determine the impact of a head injury on a person’s health.

Often, a head injury can result in post-discharge complications, which could signify a possible brain injury. Symptoms of these complications may include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, severe headaches, seizures or convulsions.

The Patient Discharge Instruction Sheet advises that patients, who suffer from these symptoms after being discharged from the hospital, consult their healthcare provider immediately. If you have trouble falling asleep, have been sleeping more or lesser than usual, have been feeing anxious or irritable after a head injury, it might not warrant a visit to the emergency room. According to the CDC, these are common side effects of a head injury, and unless these become persistent or increase in severity, can be safely ignored. Most of the time, these side effects disappear on their own.

The fact sheet also advises patients to avoid another head injury in the future by wearing helmets while biking and paying sports. Patients must take care to prevent slip and fall accidents by installing better lighting at home, installing grab bars and non-slick carpeting. Wear seatbelts while in a car, and restrain small children who have suffered a concussion, in a child safety seat. Suffering another head injury before you’ve recovered from the first one can result in a concussion, or an even more serious brain injury.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Choking Deaths in Children Far More Frequent Than We Know

It’s rare that a child has to be admitted to the hospital because of choking on a foreign object, but these episodes of choking result in death more often than we know.

That's from a new study into choking deaths in children. The study was conducted by pediatricians at the Children's National Medical Center at the George Washington Medical Center in Washington DC. Researchers found that one in every 30 children hospitalized for choking, dies.

There are more disturbing facts that emerge from the study. According to the researchers, the number of choking deaths nationwide, has dropped. A large part of this is due to the fact that the Consumer Product Safety Commission is cracking down harder on toys, foodstuffs and other children's products that can pose a choking hazard. However in spite of these measures, there are an unacceptably high number of children every year choking on toys, foods and other objects. California personal injury attorneys will find one fact particularly disturbing- approximately 1/4th of all choking deaths involve products that meet federal safety standards.

The researchers analyzed data from the Kids Inpatient Database 2003, which contains information about child hospital admissions. Data was received from 3,438 hospitals across the country. Overall, 3 million discharges were studied, and the researchers found that approximately 2,800 admissions were linked to a child choking on a foreign object.
  • 60% of the children were boys.
  • 40% of hospital admissions involved choking on food.
  • The average age of the child was 2.5 years in the case of choking on food.
  • In the case of choking on nonfood objects, the average age was 4.3 years.
  • Approximately 55% of the patients were below two years of age.
  • Children spent an average of six days in the hospital.
  • On an average, a child underwent two procedures.
  • Bronchoscopies, esophagoscopies and tracheotomies were the most often performed procedures.
When it comes to choking risks and children, prevention is better than cure. Keep toys with removable parts away from small children, chop foods up into small tiny parts that can be swallowed easily by the child, and be vigilant at all times.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Addicted to Indoor Tanning - Spray Tan, a UV Safe Alternative

The journal Archives of Dermatology has just published a study detailing the "addiction" of college students to indoor tanning. Claiming it fits the addiction criteria set forth in the DSM-IV (including repeatedly doing something knowingly harmful), the authors also indicate students addicted to indoor tanning also have higher addictions to other practices, including marijuana.

This news coincides with recent developments regarding UV-Tanning Salons and additional taxes to be added across the United States as part of the health care bill. This 10% tax will be imposed on salons that offer tanning based on light exposure of 200 - 400 nm wavelengths to produce skin color changes.
The American Academy of Dermatology is in favor of the added tax, as according to the Academy, indoor tanning before the age of 35 is linked to a 75% increase in the risk the most deadly skin cancer, Melanoma.

An alternative for the nearly 30 million Americans that use the tanning beds each year is use of chemical agents to temporarily and safely darken the skin. These "spray tans" have been increasing in popularity, including services that offer mobile spray tans, where solutions are applied by a technician in the privacy of one's own home. These services often contrast the use of their natural & organic tanning solutions to the harmful effects of UV exposure.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Safe Kids USA, Automakers Join Hands to Prevent “Forgotten Child” Deaths

These are some of the most preventable and most shocking deaths in America. To most California child injury lawyers, it seems completely surreal that a parent or caregiver would leave a child in a car, in conditions that ultimately causes the child's death. Yet between 1998 and 2009, 445 children died after they were left unattended in vehicles that simply became too hot. The cause of death in all the fatalities was the same - heatstroke.

More than half of the fatalities were caused by adults who forgot that they had left the child in the vehicle. Thirty percent of the deaths involved children who were left unattended by an adult and managed to get into a vehicle, ultimately dying of a heatstroke.

This year, automobile manufacturers and children's health and safety organizations are coming together for a common cause - to ensure that 2010 is the year when not a single fatality is caused by a child left unattended in an unbearably hot vehicle. Safe Kids USA and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers have announced a partnership with more than 40 safety and health organizations around the country to increase awareness about the risks of leaving children unattended in a vehicle even for a few seconds.

Most parents or caregivers who do this are unaware that temperatures can rise quickly in the confines of a locked vehicle. Before long, a child could be in an environment with temperatures of up to 130°F. Small children and infants are at a special risk of heat stroke in a situation like this. These small bodies heat up more than five times faster than an adult's body does. Little children may not know how to open a window, or open the door to get themselves out of that situation.

Safe Kids USA and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers is encouraging people to:

  1. Never leave children unattended in a vehicle, not even for a few minutes.
  2. Discard the notion that opening the window a crack will keep the car ventilated, and the children safe. Cracking windows does little to cool down the internal temperatures in the vehicle.
  3. Call 911 if you notice a child has been left unattended in a vehicle.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

CHP Report Blames Driver Fatigue for Monterey County Bus Accident

The California Highway Patrol has presented its final report into the bus accident in Soledad, Monterey County last year that killed five people, including four French tourists. There are no surprises for California bus accident lawyers in the report, which essentially blames driver fatigue as the main factor responsible for the crash.

The accident which occurred in April 2009 involved a tourist charter bus carrying mostly French passengers. The driver of the bus failed to negotiate a curve correctly On Highway 101, and the bus spun around and into a guardrail. The bus was carrying 34 French tourists and a Canadian tour guide.

The California Highway Patrol's report rules out alcohol and drug use, mechanical malfunctioning of the bus and highway conditions as possible factors in the accident. Some of the passengers on the bus had noticed that the driver seemed tired and drowsy during the journey. They however didn't express these concerns to the tour guide. The California Highway Patrol Report also found minor errors in the driver’s logbooks.

A preliminary investigation after the accident found that the driver John Egnew had been involved in a pedestrian accident in Las Vegas in 2005. He had been driving a bus that struck and seriously injured a 71-year-old woman crossing the street.

Bus driver fatigue is an often undetected factor in accidents in California. Long work hours, irregular shifts, and unhealthy lifestyles contribute to a pervasive problem of fatigue that is now only now being looked at carefully by the federal administration. A fatigued driver may be much more likely to make driving errors, or fall asleep at the wheel. Any of these can contribute to a serious accident that can result in injuries and fatalities.

One of the most ignored contributing factors in driver fatigue is sleep apnea. This is a condition in which a person may suffer from frequently interrupted breathing during sleep.

These episodes of wakefulness may last for a few seconds. An individual with a severe case of sleep apnea may just find himself waking up dozens of times during a single night. The result is drowsiness and tiredness the next day. Truck and bus drivers who are required to sit in one place for long are likely to suffer from obesity, which is one of the main contributing factors for sleep apnea.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Inevitable Underwater Propertites - Bank's Role in the Current Housing Situtaion -

The Los Angeles Times has reported that executives of Washington Mutual Bank (failure of the bank is now under investigation) knowingly created a "time bomb" by making sub-prime loans, then packaging them into securities and selling them off. Even in loans containing fraudulent activity, such as misstated income, the bank still funded the loans and sold the loans to investors without disclosing the fraud.

One factor mentioned in the article is the compensation system for loan officers and processors - pay and bonuses based on how many mortgages written. It appears that it  quantity vs. quality - quantity won out and then was sold out, wihtout disclosing the quality.

One can see how this practice has led to problems in today's real estate market. Early in this decade,  the desire to purchase real estate was high,  a person could essentially write their own purchase ticket (stated income loan application), and bidding wars were common place. Without thinking of long term repercussions, people purchased properties as speculators, assuming that bidding high, without the long term abililty to pay, would be smart, as property values would only increase. The banks went along, happy to write loan after loan, only to pass on the risk.

Ask the prices got too high, loan practices tightened, and personal incomes dropped - the bottom fell out. Left standing are millions of people who are "underwater" in homes, owing more than the current value of their homes.  This obviously compounds the problem - does someone willing sell their home at  loss when their income is down already?

 See dealing with underwater properties, an article written by a Dennis Shea, a Santa Barbara Attorney with over 25 years of experience for detailed information about home prices, foreclosures, and bankruptcy. 

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Cockpit Transcripts Show Pilots in Aborted West Virginia Takeoff Discussing Sports Cars

The National Transportation Safety Board has released transcripts of a conversation between two pilots of a plane involved in an aborted takeoff at West Virginia airport in January. The transcripts only confirm to California plane crash lawyers their concerns about the sense of complacency that seems to be permeating cockpits.

The cockpit transcripts show the two pilots discussing their favorite convertibles – yes, convertibles - just seconds before they discovered that the flaps of the jets were not positioned properly. One of the pilots frantically tried to reposition the flaps as the plane taxied down the runway, on a mountaintop airport. However, the takeoff had to be aborted, and the plane came to a stop just 100 feet from a steep cliff side.

What would have happened if the pilot had not been able to stop the plane in time doesn’t even bear thinking about. It seems very clear to California plane crash attorneys that a major plane crash was averted, and also that it only came this close because the attention of two pilots was focused elsewhere. We wouldn't even be blogging about this if the pilot had taken care to position the flaps properly before takeoff. Apparently, there are other things more important in life than the safety of your passengers, like your dream sports car.

Fortunately, the runway at the Yeager Airport in Charleston where the incident occurred, had recently installed new concrete material designed to arrest runaway planes. This is a relatively new feature that is increasingly being used at airports around the country. Currently 30 airports across the United States have the lightweight concrete material installed, and four others will have the material installed on their runways this year. Obviously, the specially designed runway has a lot to do with the West Virginia pilot being able to control the plane just seconds away from what could have been a sure disaster.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Sex Abuse Widespread at Swim Clubs

A 15-year-old swimmer from California is opening up about the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her coach. That comes just a few weeks after an Olympic gold medalist swimmer alleged that girls at swim clubs across the United States are constantly at risk from sexual abuse, and that authorities have done very little to contain a recognized problem. These are not facts that sexual abuse lawyers are unaware of, but hopefully, the focus on this very real problem will increase awareness about the sex abuse risks to these girls.

The 15-year-old girl was abused at least 150 times, most of the time at the high school pool, and several times in the coach Andrew King’s car, as they traveled to swim tournaments out of town. Like many sexual predators, King didn't bargain on his victim’s bravery. The teen swimmer is now at the core of a sexual abuse lawsuit against King that chronicles several girls. These allegations of abuse go back to the 1980s when King was coaching in the East Bay as well as Washington, where he coached girls before he came to San Jose. Since then, King has pleaded no contest, and had been sentenced to 40 years in prison.

In March, former Olympic swimming gold medalist Deena Deardurff Schmidt, ripped the fa├žade of ignorance off USA Swimming, when she went public with her allegations of molestation. According to Schmidt, she was molested several times by her coach across a period of four years. Schmidt took her complaints to the authorities at USA Swimming, but no action was taken against the coach. Far from taking any action, authorities actually allowed him to train other girls, and –the final insult to all his victims- was actually inducted into the International Swimming Hall Of Fame.

Any sexual abuse attorney will tell you. What makes these cases so difficult to take forward is that so few victims are given the support and encouragement they need to come forward and tell their stories without shame or humiliation. Schmidt however has been frank about wanting to give a face to a widespread problem in the sport. According to her, the culture in swimming encourages the ignorance of sexual relationships between coaches and the young girls under their care.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Novartis Pregnancy Discrimination Class-Action Trial Begins

Novartis is on trial on allegations of discrimination filed by female employees against the company. The class-action lawsuit trial began on Wednesday in New York City, and seeks damages exceeding $200 million on behalf of more than 5,600 female employees at the pharmaceutical giant.

According to the class-action lawsuit, Novartis discriminated against female employees, especially those who got pregnant. Female employees at the company could expect to receive an average of $105 less per month than their male counterparts. Class-action lawyers representing the Novartis employees say that the company has a long-standing policy of discriminating against women, and that they will prove this in court. According to the attorneys, the plaintiffs have “overwhelming evidence” to show that Novartis discriminated against women who became pregnant, and went on maternity leave. The lawsuit was filed in 2004.

The lawsuit includes not only details of discriminating attitudes towards women, but also some shocking remarks allegedly made by Novartis management, towards female employees. One female employee who got pregnant was advised by a company manager to get an abortion. Another female Novartis employee claims that a manager told her to her face, that he didn't particularly like hiring women because in his own words, “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a flex time and then comes the baby carriage.” Yet another says she was told by her manager that she was not eligible for a pay raise because she was on maternity leave, and therefore, was not in the field. Novartis continues to deny all the charges.

It's an interesting lawsuit top California class action lawyers, because the company has been frequently mentioned in Working Mothers magazine as one of the top 100 best companies for working mothers in the nation. Novartis has good company on the list. Another company that is also mentioned as one of the best companies for working mothers in the country, Goldman Sachs, is also the subject of a pregnancy and gender discrimination lawsuit brought by a female employee.

Either these companies manage to cover their discriminatory practices exceedingly well, or Working Mothers needs to rethink the criteria for its list.

Monday, 5 April 2010

FAA Lifts Ban on Pilots on Antidepressants Operating Aircraft

For 70 years, American pilots have been banned from flying aircraft if they are on antidepressant medications. Unfortunately, the ban, it was found, only led to pilots keeping their psychological condition and antidepressant use under wraps, while continuing to fly.

They will not have to do that any longer. The Federal Aviation Administration this week lifted the ban on antidepressant use by pilots. According to the agency, there is research to show that newer medications come without the side effects that caused so much concern earlier, like drowsiness or fatigue. The agency consulted a medical panel of experts who determined that these new drugs don’t cause as many side effects, and even if side effects do occur, they subside over a period of time.

Besides, the ban on antidepressants, the agency found, was not very effective because it encouraged pilots to keep their condition a secret. The agency is hoping that by lifting the ban, pilots will be able to openly admit their use of antidepressant medications without fearing that they will lose their jobs.

The new policy will allow pilots who have taken any of these four antidepressants-Prozac, Zoloft LexaPro and Celexa - to be able to continue to fly as long as they have undergone successful treatment for at least a year without suffering any side effects. A panel of medical examiners and psychiatric experts will be in charge of monitoring the pilots

However, California plane crash lawyers have one problem with the lifting of this ban. It comes with pardon for those pilots who until now had lied about their anti-depressant use and continued to fly. California aviation accident lawyers are not alone in this criticism. Aviation safety experts and even former pilots say that allowing such amnesty to thousands of pilots who have been flying on antidepressant use without revealing it, only sends the message that the Federal Aviation Administration tolerates wrongdoing and even pardons it. It is tantamount to encouraging deceit and dishonesty, not two qualities that you want to see in a pilot in charge of your plane.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Motorcycle Safety Studies Have Intriguing, Not-so-Surprising Results

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has released a report titled “Riding Is Risky Fun” summarizing motorcycle crash avoidance systems. It has a few surprising findings about the role that motorcycle safety training has in preventing crashes, and some not-so-surprising results about the use of helmets in preventing motorcycle fatalities.

According to the report, the use of antilock brake systems in motorcycles can prevent the risk of an accident by more than 37%. The IIHS found that motorcycles that come with antilock brakes are less likely to flip over when the brakes are applied. Those numbers are impressive enough for California motorcycle accident lawyers to wonder if incorporating anti lock brake systems as part of motorcycle design, can help lower fatality rates.

The study also indicates that not surprisingly, motorcycle use in states that require riders to wear helmets while riding, have a lower risk of fatality compared to states that do not have such strong helmet laws. States like California that require motorcyclists to wear helmets, tend to see fewer insurance claims from motorcyclists, compared to states like Illinois that have no motorcycle helmet laws at all. That is not surprising to Los Angeles motorcycle accident lawyers who strongly support the use of approved helmets as a means of reducing the risk of serious or fatal traumatic brain injury after a crash.

The biggest surprise in the study came from a finding that motorcyclists in states like California that require motorcyclists under 21 years of age to undergo a training course before they begin riding, actually have a higher risk of being involved in an accident. That goes against what California injury lawyers and safety groups believe - that a strong foundation in the form of a training program, helps make for better motorcyclists, and prevents accidents.

According to the study however, safety programs end too soon with a full license being granted to a motorcyclist who is below 21 years, and lacks enough experience and skills. The study seems to suggest that ultimately, motorcycling experience counts for more than safety training.