South Carolina Injury & Accident Lawyers

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Columbia Teen Driver Accidents

As you may know, my son and I have a shared interest in rock music and playing the guitar. There’s even a little video about it on the Louthian Law website.

So I was especially interested when I read about a novel approach to educating teens about the dangers of distracted driving – a music video contest. It was highlighted in a publication by the Governors Highway Safety Association titled “Distracted & Dangerous: Helping States Keep Teens Focused on the Road.”

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Teenage Drivers Permit Columbia, SC

Would you allow your teenager to participate in an activity in which he or she has a one in 1,500 chance of dying? Those are the odds they face when behind the wheel of a car, according to one advocate for teen safety.

Tim Hollister of Hartford, Connecticut, is an environmental lawyer. As important as his vocation is, even more paramount is his mission to save others from experiencing the sorrow his family has faced since the 2006 wreck that killed his 17-year-old son Reid. Hollister parlayed his grief into action, serving on a Connecticut task force that crafted the state’s overhaul of its Graduated Drivers License law, transforming it into one of the strongest in the country. He spent years studying the whys and wherefores of teen driving, writing a blog called From Reid’s Dad and speaking around the country on the topic of teen driving safety. Just this week Tim Hollister was honored at the annual meeting of the Governors Highway Safety Association with the Peter K. O’Rourke Special Achievement Award for a notable achievement in the field of highway safety.

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A peculiar accident on an Eastern Kentucky school bus has left the bus attendant hospitalized in critical condition and transportation authorities conducting an investigation. With school children recently returning to class and the big yellow buses resuming their routes, it’s a good time for everyone – students, parents and school district employees alike – to review the rules for safe school bus transportation.

The accident occurred August 14, around 4:00 p.m. A school bus had picked up students at an elementary school and was en route to a middle school for more students. A clipboard stored under the dashboard fell onto the stairs at the front exit of the bus, prompting the bus monitor to leave her seat and step into the stairwell to retrieve the clipboard. The driver briefly took his eyes off the road to watch the attendant, but it was long enough to cause the bus to veer out of the lane. When the driver realized they were headed for some mailboxes, he jerked the bus to the left, causing the monitor to lose her balance and fall against the closed doors. The doors opened and the attendant fell on to the road and rolled into a ditch, unconscious. She was airlifted to a hospital and remains in critical condition.

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I was appalled to read an August 12 AP news report about asbestos production in India being hailed as a form of social welfare, a way to save lives and elevate the living standards of some of the world’s poorest people. India is already the world’s biggest importer of asbestos, which they say provides 300,000 jobs. Guess who the world’s biggest exporter is? Russia.

Are they completely overlooking the fact that asbestos has been linked to deadly diseases like lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis, sometimes developing 20 to 40 years after exposure? Or that dozens of countries — including Japan, Argentina and all European Union nations — have banned it entirely, and others, like the U.S., have severely curbed its use?

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If you’re young and single, you may think I’m talking about those little glasses of vodka or whiskey meant to be downed in one quick swallow. If you’re a parent of school-aged children, you know I’m talking about back-to-school vaccinations, which are not nearly so enticing.

Way back in 1905, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the authority of the states to enforce compulsory vaccination laws (Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11). Childhood immunizations protect children from diseases which can have serious complications:

Measles – About one out of 10 children with measles also gets an ear infection, and up to one out of 20 gets pneumonia. For every 1,000 children who get measles, one or two will die.

Mumps – This disease can cause acquired sensorineural hearing loss in children. More rare are cases of mumps-associated encephalitis, which can be fatal.

Diphtheria/tetanus/pertussis – Diphtheria was once a major cause of illness and death among children, fatal in up to half of cases, but is no longer a problem in the U.S. due to vaccines. Caused by bacteria entering through a cut in the skin, tetanus can cause muscle contractions and seizures, pneumonia and pulmonary embolisms, with a fatality rate of 10-20%. Pertussis (whooping cough) is highly contagious and can be fatal in infants. In 2012, there were 48,277 reported cases in the U.S.

Polio – Polio is a crippling and potentially fatal infectious disease which has no cure. It spreads from person to person invading the brain and spinal cord and causing paralysis.

These are just some of the common childhood diseases for which vaccines have been developed and for which children must be immunized before attending school or a daycare facility. South Carolina’s immunization program is under the direction of the Department of Health and Environmental Control, and you can see the entire schedule of required vaccines for the 2014-15 school year.

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UFO Dangers

When we think injuries suffered in a motor vehicle accident, we generally think of those caused by the impact from an outside force – another car or truck, or a tree or highway sign. We’re not surprised that some injuries are a result of a hard blow with a portion of the vehicle itself – the steering wheel, windshield, or even airbags. But what frequently causes injury to occupants of a wrecked vehicle are flying objects. They’re not exactly “unidentified” flying objects, because we all know what they are – cell phones, purses, laptops, groceries, golf clubs – anything that is loose in the passenger compartment. We’ll call them “unsecured flying objects.”

The Physics of a Car Crash

A car crash may be thought of as having two phases: a first is the collision between the vehicle and other objects; then there is a second collision between the occupants and the vehicle itself or other objects inside the vehicle. It’s a double whammy.

When a vehicle suddenly decelerates, the force of gravity causes unsecured objects inside the vehicle to continue moving. The force with which an unrestrained object hits something in a crash is dependent on numerous factors, including its speed and mass. In calculating crash forces, a force of 20 times the weight of the object is frequently used because it typifies the forces which are present in a moderate crash. Loose things inside the vehicle become projectiles that can cause serious injuries or death.

Here are some scenarios to consider:

You’re on your way to the airport. Your suitcase weighing 44 pounds (well under the limit for checked baggage) is lying in the back of the van. You’re not even on the highway yet, traveling a moderate speed when a truck runs a red light and causes a collision. You’re wearing your seat belt and the airbags deploy, preventing serious injury. But that suitcase becomes a UFO that packs a punch of 880 pounds, and you’re probably not going to make that flight or any other one. This is why airlines insist that you stow your carry-on in the overhead compartment.

A 2011 European study conducted by Goodyear Dunlop found that, in the event of a car accident occurring at 32 miles per hour, an 18 pound dog can strike front seat passengers with a weight of up to 882 pounds. They also reported that a glass bottle, laptop or toy kept in the back of the car will hit the front passenger with up to 50 times its own bodyweight in a collision at 50 mph.

Australia’s National Roads and Motorists Association claims that if you brake suddenly while traveling at 31 mph, groceries in the back seat will hit you with the same force as if they had fallen from a two-story building.

Identifying a UFO

It really doesn’t take much imagination to come up with a list of objects typically carried loose in a car, van, SUV or truck. Next time you’re on a routine errand or outing, just take a look around your vehicle and see if you’re toting any of these things without giving a thought to their potential to cause injury in the event of a crash: cellphones, purses, briefcases, computers, tablets, GPS devices, pets, tool boxes, suitcases, sports equipment, books, storage bins, backpacks, umbrellas, toys, strollers, groceries, CDs or DVDs, video games, trash, musical instruments, weapons . . . the list goes on and on.

And one of the most dangerous types of UFOs is people who are not wearing a seat belt. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that if you are in a car crash, your chance of dying increases by as much as 25 percent when another person in the same car is not strapped in.

Serious Injuries/Fatalities from UFOs

In an ongoing study, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia determined that of 12,513 children injured by something inside the vehicle, over 3,000 collided with loose objects, other passengers or both.

In October of 2010, a mother and her two-year-old had driven only a block from their home when another car, going straight in a left-turn lane, hit them at 45 mph. She was able to get out and go to her screaming son, whose scalp had been peeled back by the soft-spout sippy cup he had with him. His skull was fractured in three places, requiring more than 200 internal and 200 external stitches. The main muscle in his forehead was severed and not able to be repaired, so he will never have movement of his forehead muscles.

In July of 2000, the Miller family of California thought buckling up would keep them safe in their Dodge Durango. But an oncoming small pickup truck decided to pass traffic and hit them head on. Mom and Dad were injured from the impact. Their one-year-old son was protected by his car seat but suffered a skull fracture when their cell phone flew through the air and hit him, landing the child in intensive care for ten days.

In July 1996, a mother in Sulphur Springs, Texas, loaded her 1994 Dodge minivan with her two young children in the second seat. On the floor in the back were nearly 300 pounds of boxed books. When the mother lost control of the vehicle, the minivan went nose-first into a dry creek bed. The crash propelled the books into the steel legs of the second-row seat with thousands of pounds of force, obliterating the seat legs. One child was flung headfirst into the rear of the front seat, killing her.

UFO Injuries on the Rise

We spend a lot of time in our vehicles. American drivers log an average of 13,476 miles per year, or 37 miles a day, so our vehicles have become family rooms on wheels. And the design of the vehicles we own probably contributes to the problem of injury by UFO. Increasingly we’re buying SUVs, minivans and station wagons—all lacking standard cargo trunks – where everything goes into one open compartment.

A July 16, 2014, article in Automotive News reports that for the first time SUV and crossover sales have exceeded those of sedans. SUVs and crossovers combined accounted for 36.5 percent of the U.S. light-vehicle market so far this year, compared with the sedan segment’s 35.4 percent share.

This means it’s increasingly important for consumers to be aware of and address the problem of UFOs in their vehicles.

Protecting your Family from UFO Dangers

There are a number of possible solutions for the problem of safely carrying things in the car. Utilize all secured storage spaces, such as your glove box or front armrest and center console compartments, and use seat-back and door pockets. Get a cargo barrier that’s been crash tested and will bolt into the frame of your auto. Use safety features such as grocery-bag hooks, compartments and tie-down anchors. Place larger, heavier items against the back seats to prevent them from building momentum if they are thrust forward in a crash.

Leave at home objects you don’t need for your trip. This includes booster seats if the kids aren’t riding with you. (Alternatively, you can securely fasten down the empty booster.)

Most importantly, make sure every person (and pet) in the car is securely strapped in.

The Louthian Law Firm

From our office in Columbia, we’ve been helping injured South Carolinians since 1959, way before the advent of cellphones and SUVs. We’re family-owned and family-focused, here to help your family in the event of a car crash injury or fatality. Call us at 1-888-440-3211.

SC Remington Recall

Whether you’re a deer hunter looking forward to this autumn’s harvest or someone who enjoys indoor target shooting, if you own a Remington rifle you’ll want to check out whether it is included in the recent recall.

On April 11, the Remington Arms Company issued a voluntary nationwide recall of their Model 700 and Model Seven rifles equipped with the X-Mark Pro trigger that was manufactured between May 2006 and April 9, 2014. Their website gives detailed instructions for determining whether your gun is one of those recalled because it can accidentally discharge.

If you have one of the recalled Remington rifles, you’re certainly not alone. The Model 700 bolt-action rifles have been popular because of their accuracy and “smooth trigger,” with more than 5 million of them sold since 1962. The X-Mark Pro trigger on the recalled rifles can discharge when small amounts of rust, debris, or even a small jolt can cause the trigger connector to become misaligned. In some cases, rifles have discharged as the safety was moved to the off position to unload the gun or when the bolt was opened, closed or even just touched.

More than 75 lawsuits have been filed alleging the Model 700 is susceptible to firing without the trigger being pulled. At least two dozen deaths and more than 100 injuries have been linked to accidental discharges involving the 700’s trigger mechanism.

Earlier this month, a class action lawsuit filed in federal court in Missouri was settled, at least preliminarily. The parties must file a formal settlement agreement by October 30, which will be submitted to the judge for approval. In that case, a man alleged his rifle had fired accidentally three times, twice when the safety was released and once when the bolt was opened.

Other suits have been filed by plaintiffs who experienced an actual injury or death due to the faulty trigger mechanism. A Texas jury awarded $17 million to a man who lost his foot when the rifle accidentally discharged. A settlement ended a tragic Montana case filed after a nine-year-old boy was killed when his mother’s Remington 700 went off as she was unloading it.

We were all shocked when it came to light that GM had long been aware of the faulty ignition switches that caused the loss of many lives and that the company had chosen not to make design improvements because they wanted to protect their bottom line. Guess what? Remington did the same thing.

Investigative reports, as well as documents filed in Remington lawsuits, show that the manufacturer knew back in 1948 that the trigger’s design could result in a misalignment and accidental discharge, yet they rejected the proposed design change because of the cost, said to be pennies per gun.

Not only that, Remington considered a nationwide recall of the 700 series in 1979 and again in 1994 but instead decided to offer to retrofit existing rifles — for a $20 fee.

For purposes of this discussion, it doesn’t matter what side of the gun control issue you come down on. The question is not who should be allowed to have guns or where. The point is that gun manufacturers who deliberately put a defective weapon on the market should be held accountable for the deaths and injuries those weapons cause. Some say they should also have to compensate owners of the recalled rifles for the loss in resale value, similar to the damages sought by owners of Chevy Cobalts.

If you own a Remington rifle, please take the time to determine whether it is subject to the recent recall. The South Carolina gun accident lawyers at the Louthian Law Firm can advise you of your rights if you or your loved one has been injured by a negligent gun manufacturer or gun user. Call us in Columbia at 888-440-3211 for a free consultation.

SC Tattoo Lawsuits

Statistics from the Pew Research Center compiled from a December 2013 poll show that 14% of all Americans (45 million) have at least one tattoo; 36% of adults age 18-25 have at least one tattoo; and 40% of adults 26-40 have at least one. Tats aren’t just for rebels or seamen any more. No longer is sporting a colorful tattoo a sign that one is a risk taker. And yet, there are definitely risks involved in getting inked. We’re not talking about the risk that you might someday regret having that romance indelibly memorialized on your bicep – we’re talking about the risk of serious infection, bloodborne diseases and allergic reactions.

Contaminated Ink

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), contaminated inks have caused serious infections in a number of states. Of particular concern is a bacterial organism called non-tuberculous Mycobacteria (NTM), which can cause infections of skin, joints, lungs, and other organs, as well as eye problems. These infections can be difficult to diagnose and can require treatment lasting six months or longer with a combination of antibiotics. Severe abscesses can require extensive and multiple surgical debridements.

In June of this year, two San Diego residents were diagnosed with NTM infections caused by contaminated tattoo inks; both required medical treatment. Previous clusters of outbreaks have been reported in New York, Iowa, Washington and Colorado. The 14 infections in New York were caused by a prediluted gray ink that was contaminated by the use of non-sterile water by the manufacturer. After the FDA’s investigation of the illnesses in New York and the other states, two ink manufacturers voluntarily recalled inks implicated in the outbreaks.

Ink can also be contaminated when the tattoo artist does not use adequate precautions during the tattooing process. Tap, bottled, filtered and distilled water are not sufficiently sterile to dilute ink, wash the skin or rinse the needle between colors. In addition, the use of tattoo inks past their expiration date subjects customers to the risk of infection.

Bloodborne Diseases

If the equipment used to create the tattoo is contaminated with infected blood, it can spread various bloodborne diseases — including hepatitis B and C (which may lead to life-long liver damage and subsequent liver cancer), HIV, tetanus and tuberculosis. Obviously, the consequences of these diseases are seriously and deadly.

Untrained, Unlicensed “Scratchers”

Almost all states regulate tattoo parlors. To become licensed under South Carolina law, a tattoo artist must be 21 and “must possess a certificate of successful completion, on an annual basis, of a course in bloodborne pathology and tattoo infection control as approved by the (Department of Health and Environmental Control), a current American Red Cross First Aid Certification and Adult Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) Certification obtained either from the American Red Cross or the American Heart Association.” The state also regulates the location of tattoo parlors and the age limits of customers.

People who do tattoos without being properly trained and licensed are known as “scratchers.” An unlicensed 20-year-old scratcher was arrested in Columbia on July 8 after two juveniles became ill from ink work done in the man’s apartment. Bryce Napoleon Fashaw was charged with two counts of unlawful tattooing. He faces a $2,500 fine and/or one year in prison for each count. Details of the victims’ illnesses are not known.

Bad Tattoo? What to Do.

If you or someone in your family is proudly sporting some new body art, you should be closely monitoring the inked area for signs of infection: redness, heat, swelling or pus around the tattoo. NTM infections are easy to misdiagnose, with symptoms that appear much like an allergic reaction (red papules, or solid, raised spots on the skin that often appear soon after a new tattoo), so don’t take chances – see a physician.

There are many potential causes of tattoo-related health problems, and a number of possible sources of compensation to help pay for the medical expenses and pain and suffering endured by the victim. At The Louthian Law Firm, we can help you hold the responsible parties – the ink and equipment manufacturers, the careless practitioners, the disreputable business owners – accountable for your loss. Call 1-888-440-3211.

Shopping for a used car or truck? You probably assume that the dealer will have fixed any recalled parts and that it’s safe to drive off the lot. If that’s what you think, you’re probably wrong.

Already in 2014, 39.85 million vehicles have been recalled. How many of those do you think are sitting on used-car lots? And the dealer is not required to fix a recall defect on a used car before selling it. In fact, they don’t even have to tell you about the outstanding recall. Federal law prohibits auto dealers from selling new cars that are under a safety recall, but there is no similar law to protect used car buyers.

This is why nearly a dozen consumer safety groups have filed a petition with the Federal Trade Commission urging the FTC to investigate and take enforcement action against CarMax, the used-car superstore chain. The groups allege that CarMax uses deceptive advertising and sales practices when it characterizes its used vehicles as “CarMax Quality Certified” and assures consumers that each used vehicle has passed a rigorous inspection. Rosemary Shahan, President of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety (CARS), said, “CarMax is playing recalled used car roulette with its customers’ lives.”

CarMax has responded to the petition by stating that it “carefully advises its customers to register their vehicles with its manufacturer as soon as they purchase the vehicle so they can be apprised of any future recalls.” As to existing recalls, CarMax pointed out that “manufacturers do not permit independent auto dealers like CarMax to repair recalls.” What they failed to acknowledge is that CarMax can have recalled cars repaired free of charge by authorized franchised car dealers . . . and then sell them. A NHTSA rule will take effect August 14 requiring all auto manufacturers who produce more than 25,000 vehicles a year to provide free, publicly accessible, VIN-searchable safety recall data on their own Websites, updated at least every seven days. Thus, CarMax and every other used-car dealer will find it even easier to check the safety recall status of their vehicles.

Here is what happened to Clarence and Angela Davidson, a California couple who bought a used 2010 Dodge Ram from the CarMax store in Irvine, CA, just two months ago. A short time after the purchase, the Davidsons contacted Chrysler because they wanted to add a feature to the truck. That’s when they were told that the truck had a serious safety defect and was under a federal safety recall. Chrysler had made the recall in 2013 because the rear axle pinion nut could come loose, causing a crash without warning. The Davidsons tried to return the truck to CarMax, but they were told that basically they were out of luck and they were responsible for getting it repaired. The couple then took the truck to a Chrysler dealership to have the safety recall repairs performed. A few days later, on May 30, when the Davidsons were riding in the Mojave Desert with their 12-year-old daughter in the back seat of the cab, the truck fell apart and caught on fire. Clarence pulled the girl out of the back seat just seconds before the entire truck exploded into flames, starting a fire that burned several acres and closing the highway for about four hours. We don’t know yet whether the accident was caused by a part under recall, but we do know that CarMax sold these folks a vehicle that was unsafe.

Currently, the Motor Vehicle Safety Act prohibits new car dealers from selling recalled vehicles without first fixing the safety defects, but it does not hold used-car dealers to the same standard. In a June 24 letter to the FTC, Sen. Charles E. Schumer said if the FTC does not act to prevent used car dealers from selling defective vehicles, he will take legislative action to address this issue.

As the Senator said, “used cars with a safety recall shouldn’t roll one inch off the lot.”

If you’re shopping for a used car or truck, check the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) of any used vehicle you are considering BEFORE you agree to anything. Look on the manufacturer’s website or call a local dealer and provide them with the VIN. They can give you recall information that could save your life.

If a defective vehicle has caused an injury or death in your family, call the South Carolina personal injury lawyers at the Louthian Law Firm – 1-888-440-3211. We’ve been securing justice for hardworking people and families since 1959, and we don’t believe any merchant should play Russian Roulette with your loved ones’ lives.

Columbia’s newspaper, The State, has reported that seven – and maybe more – people suffered serious infections after they were treated at University Specialty Clinics for orthopedic problems. University Specialty Clinics is staffed by doctors from the University of South Carolina School of Medicine in Columbia and has nearly 200 doctors in 35 specialties.

Although the infected patients were treated in 2012 or 2013, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control has stonewalled, refusing to release information about the problem.

The problem was mycobacteria, some forms of which cause tuberculosis and leprosy. But the particular form in question at the University Specialty Clinics is mycobacterium abscessus, in a group of environmental mycobacteria found in water, soil, and dust. It can also contaminate medications and products such as medical devices and syringes. According to the National Institutes of Health, the prevalence of nontuberculous mycobacteria has increased, and so it is no surprise that we are hearing increasingly about instances of infections acquired in a healthcare setting.

How did the USC infections occur? The State tells us that one woman’s infection developed after she had a cortisone shot for a knee problem. It was so severe that she wound up being hospitalized 10 times and having seven surgeries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people “who receive injections without appropriate skin disinfection may be at risk for infection by M. abscessus.” As this victim’s experience illustrates, the mycobacterium abscessus organism is resistant to commonly used antibiotics. For patients with pre-existing respiratory conditions, a mycobacterial infection can lead to chronic lung diseases.

Some mycobacterium abscessus infections have been associated with the use of alternative therapies. In the mid ‘90s, an injectable product claiming to contain adrenal cortex extract (ACE) infected 87 people because one distributor’s medication had been contaminated when manufactured under non-sterile conditions in a Florida lab. Some patients required drainage of the infected site, surgical excision and plastic surgery.

A study done after the ACE outbreak reported mycobacterium infections resulting from cardiac surgery, cosmetic surgery, podiatric procedures, invasive procedures to improve hearing, and dialysis. It also cited a large outbreak in Colombia (not Columbia) when 350 patients were infected by injections of lidocaine from multi-dose vials. A cluster of infections also occurred in a Texas clinic when nurses giving allergy shots did not properly prepare the skin before injection.

Patients who develop any of the following symptoms after receiving an injection should see their doctor immediately:

  • Site of injection becomes red, warm, and tender to the touch
  • Tissue is swollen and/or painful
  • Area develops boils or pus-filled blisters
  • Patient has fever, chills, muscle aches, and a general feeling of illness.

To make a definite diagnosis, the doctor must take a sample of the discharge or biopsy the infected area and send it to a lab for analysis.

Because many bacterial abscesses occur as a result of improper procedures in healthcare settings, a patient who has been the victim of a medical provider’s negligence may wish to file a lawsuit to recover damages which can help pay for the pain they suffer and lengthy treatment they may require. As Columbia medical malpractice lawyers, we at The Louthian Law Firm know where to start and how to proceed in order to arrive at a just conclusion for patients who were harmed by those they trusted to help them become well. Call us at 1-888-440-3211.