Articles Posted in Personal Injury

This is a question currently being debated in South Carolina courts in the case of Alberta Major v. City of Hartsville. Ms. Major was a student at Coker College in Hartsville, South Carolina in December of 2008. In walking on the city-owned sidewalk and adjacent grassy area on a street corner near campus, she stepped in a rut created by cars short-cutting the corner, injuring her ankle and incurring the cost of medical treatment and physical therapy. She sued the City for failure to maintain and repair the defect.

However, the Tort Claims Act provides that governmental entities are not liable for a loss arising out of a defective highway, road, street, causeway, bridge or other public way if they did not receive “actual or constructive notice” of the problem. The Circuit Court and the Court of Appeals granted summary judgment to the City of Hartsville, writing, in essence, that even if the City might have known that there was a general condition caused by vehicles cutting across the grassy corner, they did not have constructive notice of the particular depression, rut or hole that caused Major’s ankle injury.

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Columbia Hospital Injury

Bed rails are metal bars used on the sides of beds to keep sleeping people from rolling out onto the floor. They’re most often used by parents of small children or families and caregivers of the elderly. While they may help prevent a rude awakening, they can also inflict injuries and death when a person becomes entrapped or strangled by the device.

According to the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), there are about 2.5 million hospital and nursing home beds in use in the United States, many of which are equipped with bed rails, and hospital-type beds are also often used in residences where elderly patients receive home health care. Bed rails used in these situations are considered medical devices and are overseen by the FDA. The agency provides manufacturers of bed rails with guidance on the design of safe and effective hospital beds and bed rails and requires manufacturers to adhere to certain medical device regulations, such as the timely reporting to the FDA of problems associated with bedrails.

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deer-car-accidentWe usually expect an increased number of car accidents during certain seasons – winter and the summer vacation period being two – but we’re coming up on another season in which roads can be hazardous . . . deer season.

It’s a great feeling to be riding along country lanes and rural roads in the autumn, enjoying the cool air and colorful scenery. But about 45 percent of deer-vehicle collisions occur here during October and November. They also tend to happen most frequently near sunrise and sunset, because that’s when deer tend to be on the move.

Drivers in South Carolina have a 1 in 93 chance of striking a deer during a 12-month period, according to research by State Farm Insurance Company. In fact, we’re in the top ten states for deer collisions, coming in at #10; our neighboring states of North Carolina and Georgia are #12 and #21, respectively.

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grooveAs we’ve reminded you several times (see this blog, and this one, and this), distracted driving is a major problem on our roads, causing the deaths of an estimated 15 people every day. And yet, news reports and statistics show that people continue to use their cellphones to stay constantly in touch, even while they’re behind the wheel of their vehicle. Awareness is not the issue . . . behavior is the issue. Obviously, it’s going to take more than verbal warnings to end texting and driving, and one Colorado-based tech company is doing just that.

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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.