Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

buzzed-driving“What’s the buzz, tell me what’s a-happening, what’s the buzz, tell me what’s a-happening . . . .” Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 70’s rock musical Jesus Christ Superstar posed the question. And I have the answer:

“The buzz” is achieved by drinking alcohol to a BAC level of 0.01 to 0.07 percent, less than the 0.08 BAC of drunk driving. And “what’s a-happening” is that lots of folks are going to be doing it between now and New Year’s Day and getting behind the wheel. They’re going to think – mistakenly – that because they are only buzzed, rather than drunk, they’re unlikely to cause an accident.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, however, have found that even “minimally buzzed” drivers are more often to blame for fatal car crashes than sober drivers. After analyzing statistics from the nationwide Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), they concluded: “There appears to be no safe combination of drinking and driving . . . .” There is no sudden transition from sober (blameless) to drunk (dangerous). Rather, the progression is even and linear from a BAC of 0.01 to BAC 0.24. Even a small amount of alcohol can cause a fatal crash.

Thus, the campaign to reduce highway deaths has expanded to include, in effect, DWB as well as DWI. Take the online campaign of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in partnership with AdCouncil. Readers are urged to take the following pledge:

  • I’m going to be smart;
  • I won’t drive while buzzed.
  • Even just one too many drinks can impair my driving and lead to devastating consequences. It’s just not worth it. Buzzed driving is drunk driving, so I’m going to make sure I make responsible choices that don’t endanger myself and others.

So far, more than 18,000 people have pledged not to drive while buzzed. But that’s just a drop in the mug, so to speak, considering the millions of people on the roads during the holiday season.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2 to 3 times more people die in alcohol-related wrecks from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day than at other times of the year. Forty percent of traffic fatalities during the holidays involve a driver who is alcohol-impaired, compared to 31 percent for the rest of the year.

From November 26 to November 30 this year, seven people were killed in traffic accidents in our state, according to the South Carolina Department of Public Safety. Within the next two weeks, two more high-fatality holidays will occur and it’s likely that the statistics this year will follow the usual pattern. It’s such a shame: the late-year holidays should be times of joy and celebration, not occasions that will forever after be linked to many families’ last memories of their loved ones.

If you or your loved ones are harmed by a negligent driver – whether it’s someone with a BAC over the legal limit or a party-goer who “just” has a buzz on – call the Louthian Law Firm. With more than eight decades of combined legal expertise, we’ll be glad to set up a free initial consultation so we can review the details of your accident and give you seasoned advice after the holiday season’s happenings.

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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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.

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.

If you’re like most parents nowadays, you’re looking every year for something to make your child’s birthday party special. Pin the Tail on the Donkey gave way long ago to more adventurous activities, things like the increasingly popular bounce house, set up in your own backyard by one of thousands of party rental companies. Kids think they’re loads of fun, and parents assume they’re safe . . . that is, until an accident happens and a child is injured or killed. You should be aware that injuries on inflatable amusement structures are not uncommon.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that more than 4,000 emergency room visits a year in the United States are linked to inflatables. Bounce houses (also known as moonbounces) cause the vast majority of injuries, but they’re not the only inflatable amusement attractions. Slides, obstacle courses, climbing walls and interactive (such as boxing or jousting) inflatables also feature in the accident statistics.

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Columbia Zip line Accident

Is a zip line ride on your bucket list? Are you planning to include an aerial adventure in your summer vacation plans, maybe on one of the lines in Myrtle Beach or crossing the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina? Spend a little time inquiring about the company’s safety and inspection policies. The Redwoods Group Foundation provides risk analysis and insurance for camps, community centers and playgrounds. They encourage scrutiny of zip lines from the standpoint of design, installation, maintenance and supervision.

“They are spreading like fast-food hamburger joints.” That’s what Mike Teske told the Los Angeles Times, and he wasn’t talking about nail salons. Teske is the technical director for a zip line company, and he also heads a panel drafting national safety standards for zip lines. Zip lines are the latest commercial adventure craze, offering thrills to at least 18 million people each year, according to the Association for Challenge Course Technology (ACCT).

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Women & Disability in SC

“Man may work from sun to sun, but woman’s work is never done.” You’ve probably heard this before . . . maybe from the mouth of your mother or wife. For personal injury lawyers, this is more than an adage. It becomes a real factor in quantifying the value of women’s unpaid work when computing damages for loss of income due to disability in South Carolina or wrongful death.

In a civil action alleging injury due to someone’s negligence – a car accident caused by a drunk driver, for example – a plaintiff may seek compensation for loss of income and loss of future income caused by a reduced ability to work. In a wrongful death action, survivors may seek damages for the financial support lost by the victim’s death. The intent of the law is to allow survivors to attain the same standard of living that they would have enjoyed if the accident or death had not occurred.

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Prison Injuries in South CarolinaI recently read an article in The Atlantic about a January 2014 ruling made by Judge J. Michael Baxley in Richland County state court. I’m including a link to that article here because I want you to have access to the judge’s opinion and other documents relating to the subject of South Carolina’s deplorable prison conditions, and The Atlantic author provides those for you.

Judge Baxley came down hard on the state’s corrections department, legislators, medical community, and even the legal community, writing that this class action brought on behalf of 3,500 mentally ill inmates was “the most troubling” case he had seen in 14 years on the bench. He found that these vulnerable members of the inmate population were treated with systematic and pervasive abuse, neglect and injury. Some poor souls were kept in solitary confinement for more than 2,000 consecutive days. The description of the filthy conditions of their cells is sickening. They were subjected to unnecessary and excessive use of physical force, sprayed with chemicals, and chained or otherwise restrained in torturous positions for hours at a time. Not surprisingly, numerous deaths and suicides are detailed in the judge’s opinion.

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back-pain-injectionsOn April 23, 2014, the FDA issued a Drug Safety Communication about corticosteroids administered through epidural injection.  Commonly used for back and neck pain, the injections may cause permanent blindness, stroke, paralysis, and death, according to the FDA’s warning.  Other serious adverse events have included spinal cord infarction, seizures, nerve injury, and brain edema.  The reactions may occur within minutes or up to 48 hours after the epidural corticosteroid injection.

The drugs’ labels will now have to carry a warning that these serious consequences can follow when the steroid is administered by spinal injection.  Injectable corticosteroids include methylprednisolone, hydrocortisone, triamcinolone, betamethasone, and dexamethasone.

The FDA never approved corticosteroids for injection into the epidural space of the spine.  For decades, however, doctors have been using them in this “off-label” fashion for treatment of chronic pain.  They are, in fact, a common form of pain intervention.  In 2011, nearly 9 million Americans received epidural steroid injections.

It was only a couple of years ago that corticosteroids were in the news after 64 people died of meningitis from contaminated supplies produced by the New England Compounding Center.  The current warning is completely unrelated to that outbreak, however.  Two other factors have prompted the FDA’s concern and latest announcement:  (1) Steroid injections via the transforaminal approach bring a needle within millimeters of critical arteries feeding the spinal cord; and (2) Particulate steroids are slow to dissolve and may create blockages that trigger strokes if accidentally injected into arteries.

The Safe Use Initiative is a program of the FDA which solicits input from medical practitioners about the use of various medications.  In 2012, they convened a group of experts from anesthesiology, orthopedics, neurology/stroke neuro-radiology, pain medicine, and physical medicine and rehabilitation to create guidelines for best practices for steroid injections administered close to the spinal arteries.  They continue to investigate the issue, and the FDA may take further actions in the future.

For the many Americans who suffer with back and neck pain, the FDA urges a discussion with healthcare professionals about alternative treatments.  A patient who has received an epidural steroid injection (ESI) should seek emergency medical attention immediately if they experience vision changes, tingling in the arms or legs, sudden weakness or numbness, dizziness, severe headache or seizures.

People who suffer from back and neck pain and are considering epidural steroid injections for pain management should seek out a highly qualified, experienced doctor who has superior training in the technique, and injections should be given in the appropriate setting, such as an ambulatory surgery center or hospital.  A 2013 investigative report on states:

[T]oday, general practitioners, physician assistants – even some dentists and chiropractors – have started offering ESIs. Some doctors spend just one weekend learning the delicate procedure at training centers that teach cosmetic injections like Botox and fillers, but also teach doctors how to poke around people’s spines. One weekend training center advertises epidural steroid injections as “lucrative specialty options” that “create dramatic earnings for your practice.”

Several multimillion-dollar jury verdicts have attempted to compensate men and women who sought treatment for their pain and wound up with life-long disabilities after being given corticosteroids by spinal injection.  In 2010, a Florida woman and her husband won a $36 million malpractice verdict when she was partially paralyzed by a botched steroid injection for back pain.  A Texas man is nearly blind and in a wheelchair after his treatment; he settled for a confidential sum.  A Texas teacher suffered permanent nerve injury and has difficulty with balance, pain and numbness in her legs and feet; her case is still pending in court.

If you or someone you love has been harmed by a medical practitioner who administered or prescribed a drug in an off-label use, call the South Carolina medical malpractice lawyers at the Louthian Law Firm at 888-440-3211.  When life goes wrong, we fight for what is right.


Motorcoaches are a popular way to travel. The Greyhound slogan was “Leave the driving to us,” and many thousands of people do leave the driving to Greyhound and other motorcoach operators every year. In 2010, U.S. motorcoach companies provided nearly 700 million passenger trips, second only to the airlines. Bus transportation is generally safe, but when an accident does happen, there are likely to be multiple victims.

Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that between 2000 and 2009, there were 87 fatal crashes of motorcoaches, resulting in 209 fatalities.

On April 10, 2014, a fiery collision between a FedEx big rig and a motorcoach carrying California high school students left 10 people dead. The accident is still under investigation, and federal authorities are again considering what measures can be taken to improve the safety of bus passengers. It was only a few months ago that NHTSA issued a rule mandating that all motorcoaches made after 2016 be equipped with three-point shoulder-lap safety belts. The Silverado Stages vehicle in the Orland, California, crash was brand new, and it had seat belts, even though it was not required to. You have to wonder how many of the high school students had actually buckled up.

The first motorcoach accident investigated by the NTSB occurred in 1968, when a charter coach overturned and burned near Baker, California. Nineteen of the 30 passengers aboard were killed. Even way back then, the NTSB found that “one of the primary causes of passenger injury and fatalities in motorcoach accidents is that the passengers are thrown out of their seats or ejected when a bus sustains a front, side, or rear impact or rolls over,” and they advocated passenger restraint systems.

On February 14, 2003, a crash near Hewitt, Texas, killed 5 and injured 9, and the NTSB found that the fatalities were a result of occupants’ being ejected from their seats.

Two high-profile motorcoach accidents in 2008 —one in Sherman, Texas, and the other near Mexican Hat, Utah— resulted in numerous passenger fatalities and serious injuries. At that time it was noted that “even when the motorcoach remains relatively intact during an accident, passengers lacking a protective seating environment can be thrown from their seating area and killed or injured.”

In passing the final rule requiring safety belts in motorcoaches after 2016, NHTSA took what some consider to be just the first step toward passenger safety. They did not require that older buses be retrofit with seatbelts, nor did they take measures to help ensure that passengers avail themselves of the safety equipment when it is available. In light of the fact that innocent people are still dying in motorcoach accidents, even when safety belts have been installed, it would seem that an additional step could provide additional protection – i.e., reminder systems like what we are accustomed to in our personal vehicles and on airplanes.

A news report following the California crash quoted a former NTSB chairman as saying, “Unfortunately, motorcoach safety has historically been an orphan at NHTSA. This is the transportation that carries primarily older people, students and low-income people. It hasn’t been a priority (for regulators).”

Wow. No wonder it took an act of Congress (the Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act of 2012) to put safer buses on the road, resulting in the NHTSA rule re seat belts. Sounds like NHTSA needs to improve upon its own rule and also find a way to make passengers take advantage of the improvements the carriers have to pay for. And they haven’t even addressed the other topics Congress told them to look at, like ease of evacuation, fire suppression, smoke suppression and improved fire extinguishers, all factors which could have been at play in the California crash.

If you or a family member is injured in a motorcoach accident, call the South Carolina personal injury lawyers at the Louthian Law Firm – 888-440-3211. We believe you deserve more than a chance – you deserve a voice.