Articles Tagged with safety

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Blackwell Law Firm - Alabama Personal Injury LawyersThis month’s TRIAL Magazine discusses a tragic eighteen wheeler crash. What happened in that crash? Around 1:30 am, a large commercial truck slammed into the rear of a pickup truck on a rural stretch of western Interstate. The crash killed a young mother and one of her children. Another child was left severely injured. The evidence at trial in that case revealed the commercial truck never slowed or took any evasive action before slamming into the pickup truck.

That case raised significant questions involving issues of independent contractors as drivers, control over drivers and company safety programs. If you need a lawyer in a trucking injury case, you should find one who understands these issues. Why were these issues in that case? The company (a worldwide distribution company) hired drivers it called “contractors” or “independent contractors.” Yet, the company did not treat these drivers as independent contractors. Instead, the company controlled every detail of driver operations down to the details of how to park the truck. As many lawyers know, it’s not what the company calls its people, but rather, the realities of control. While the company controlled all aspects of driver operations, it had NO driver safety training requirements or programs. That’s a classic case of profits over people. If you put drivers on the highway and control their actions for your profit, you should also exercise some safety responsibility for them.

We drive alongside big trucks everyday on our highways. Many trucking companies and truckers care deeply about safety. But, not all of them do. Next time you see a company name or logo on the side of a large truck, ask yourself:  Does that company have a REAL safety program to prevent needless injury?

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Blackwell Law Firm - Representing Injured Workers Across AlabamaProductivity versus safety. The two should work together. Yet, some companies value only immediate productivity. On many construction sites, immediate productivity trumps safety every single day. Who pays the price when safety is neglected? Workers and their families pay the ultimate price of serious injuries and deaths.

A survey of construction workers showed the majority believed safety took a back seat to immediate productivity. Yet, it should not. The majority of workers also believed their companies did the bare MINIMUM required amount for safety. That is, their companies met the minimum needed to avoid a citation but not the level needed to create a culture of safety. These working men and women understand first-hand the safety issues on construction sites.

Do some companies neglect real safety? Most serious injury and death cases I’ve investigated on construction sites happened because management failed to institute basic safety processes. This is why safety standards established by agencies like OSHA are so important. Without minimum standards, some companies would do nothing at all.

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safety-44441_1280-300x150Last year, a flash fire at an Alabama car dealership in Jasper killed one employee and severely injured several others. What caused that fire? Flammable chemicals being stored improperly. After the flash fire, OSHA inspected the dealership and issued several serious citations for improperly storing a flammable chemical in a dangerous location. Plus, OSHA cited the dealership for not even developing a hazard communication program for its dangerous chemicals.

For the families of these dealership employees, no penalty or punishment will ever restore their loved ones. Hopefully, OSHA’s action will spur other local companies to take needed safety steps.

Does your workplace handle chemicals safely? For me, the question is front and center. Why? I’ve spent several days this month in deposition over a Huntsville injury case involving the issue.

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Blackwell Law Firm - Huntsville Car Accident LawyersYou are driving down the road. It’s a beautiful day. Bam! Suddenly, another car crashes into you. Another driver ran a stop sign and caused the crash.

Clearly, you have a negligence claim against the other driver. He failed to follow the Rules of the Road. He ran a stop sign. Then, you learn more. You learn this other driver also uses illegal drugs. Illegal drug use. That’s powerful evidence. It’s powerful evidence if the judge allows it’s use at trial! That brings us to the key question:  Is the other driver’s drug use admissible at trial? Can you use this evidence to help your case?

The answer is, maybe. I know, that’s not the concrete answer you wanted. Evidentiary questions rarely have absolute answers. That’s why a good lawyer with real trial experience is so important to your case. You need an experienced trial lawyer who understands the evidence rules and how to apply them. You certainly will NOT get such a lawyer from the billboards and television advertisements showing smiling attorneys begging for cases.

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Blackwell Law Firm - Huntsville Personal Injury AttorneysIs the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) failing American workers? Are workplace safety standards actually decreasing? Are more workers suffering personal injury or death due to fewer inspections? These are important questions.

Recently, A Congressman wrote the Secretary of Labor to address his concerns with declining workplace safety. Here are a couple facts about the rising rates of serious injury that concerned the Congressman:

  • Over 5,000 people died from workplace injuries in 2016, a 7% increase from the prior year.
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Blackwell Law Firm - Huntsville Personal Injury LawyersLook at the drivers around you. Do you see many of them staring at their phones instead of the road? I do. I also talk daily with clients who suffered serious personal injuries in car crashes caused by these distracted drivers.

Distracted driving is a frequent topic for us. We have long-advocated an approach to the problem that involves safety laws, education and technology. All three approaches are needed. Safety laws help but they do not solve the problem by themselves. That’s our opinion.

A new study by a California company, Zendrive, supports our belief that safety laws alone cannot solve the problem of distracted driving. You can read about the recent Zendrive study at the website for the Claims Journal an insurance industry periodical. You can also read about the study in a recent Bloomberg article. Each separate article provides interesting insights into the study. According to reports, Zendrive monitored several million drivers. Before I discuss some of the actual results, the Claims Journal article notes Zendrive “is likely discounting the danger” since it only records phone use when the device is actually moving around inside a car. In other words, if your phone is mounted to the dash, your use may not have been recorded. What are a couple of the interesting facts reported by the Claims Journal and Bloomberg articles? Here are a couple:

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Blackwell Law Firm - Huntsville Personal Injury LawyersWhat is Alabama’s Move Over Law? The law began as a protection for police helping or citing motorists along the highway. We have all seen a police officer on the roadside doing his or her job. The officer must stand just feet from cars traveling at high speeds. It is a very dangerous position. Many police officers have been injured or killed over the years by passing motorists. If you ask any law enforcement officer, they will admit this is one of the scariest parts of their job.

Eventually, our original Blue Light Law was amended to include other workers who must also perform their jobs on the side of our highways. These include paramedics, firefighters, wrecker drivers, utility workers, sanitation employees. All of these individuals work at significant personal risk.

At our office, we have seen the tragic results of drivers who refuse to slow or move for emergency personnel. Several years ago, we represented the family of a young paramedic struck and killed by a passing driver. This paramedic was helping a hurt motorist on the shoulder of the Interstate. Despite flashing lights from two patrol cars and the ambulance, a reckless driver sped down the icy highway without slowing or moving to the far lane. The driver lost control. He struck the paramedic, killing her.

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Blackwell Law Firm - Helping Truck Accident VictimsYou have been driving a dark stretch of rural Interstate or highway in Alabama at night. You have car trouble and must slow or stop. Suddenly, you are struck from behind by a large commercial truck.

It’s not a farfetched scenario. Some people must drive at night for work. Others choose to take long trips at night when our roads are less congested. If you have driven at night on the Interstate in Alabama, you will also see many large eighteen wheeler trucks. On poorly lit stretches of rural highways, it is absolutely essential that all drivers can see. And, all drivers must see far enough ahead to stop safely when necessary.

This is the exact scenario of some recent clients. A family was traveling through Alabama on the Interstate. While on a rural stretch of the roadway, they blew a tire and their SUV flipped. None of them suffered injuries (at this point). As they were trying to exit the overturned SUV, a large eighteen wheeler struck them. This rural stretch of Interstate was largely flat but unlit. The commercial trucker took no evasive action until just before the impact. He tried to swerve only at the last moment before the crash. He did not see the SUV or people in his path until too late. Why did the trucker not see the objects right in front of his truck until it was too late? After investigating the scene and vehicles, our experts concluded the trucker was driving too fast. He was overdriving his headlights. He did not see the distressed family in time to avoid a tragic crash. That crash left a family without a wife and mother.

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roundabout-39394_1280-300x300It’s been almost 30 years since I was a Freshman at the University of South Alabama (USA). Driving on campus meant regularly using the large roundabout that connected my dorm to the academic buildings. For most students at USA (back then), this was the first roundabout ever seen. The design was largely unknown in Alabama. Since then, the concept has grown in use due to traffic and safety issues.

Now, I regularly drive the roundabout in downtown Huntsville near the civic center. Yet, you still see some drivers hesitate as they approach — uncertain as to a road design unfamiliar to them. After watching an uncertain driver at that roundabout yesterday, I decided to write this post.

Roundabouts are a frequent safety feature of roads in Europe. In the United States, they are less common. But, the number of roundabouts is increasing. Are roundabouts a safer alternative that reduces serious roadway injuries? Highway experts say, YES. While the focus of my blog is personal injury and safety, highway experts say roundabouts provide several important benefits.

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2543453615_9e9b04de1b_z-300x225We share our roads and highways with large commercial trucks on a daily basis. These large commercial trucks have rear guards to protect passenger cars. If you rear-end an eighteen-wheeler, you are protected from going under the back of the truck. Why do large trucks not also have side guards? That’s a question safety advocates have long asked.

Commercial trucks can have a very high ground clearance. I’m sure you’ve been in the lane next to a large eighteen-wheeler. If you are in a small passenger car, you may even look over and think that your entire vehicle could go under the truck. That is the danger. In a side impact, a passenger car can slide under the body of the truck. That causes the truck body to crash through the car windows and into the passengers. A simple collision can become deadly. These under-ride crashes can cause horrible head and upper body injuries, including decapitation. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimated almost 300 car passengers were killed in side-impact collisions with a semi-truck in 2016.

We need to remember — Deadly side impacts are not limited to passenger cars. In urban areas, commercial trucks frequently share our roads with pedestrians and bicyclists. A Department of Transportation study also revealed a substantial number of death in side crashes involving both pedestrians and bicyclists.