Articles Tagged with safety

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Blackwell Law FirmDistracted driving is a huge problem on Alabama highways — much worse than reported. In a prior post, I discussed a study that analyzed distractions due solely to cell phones. That study, limited just to cell phone distraction, revealed distracted driving causes far more crashes than reported by government data. Of course, cell phones are not the only distraction causing crashes on our highways. Drivers face numerous other distractions. We discuss these distractions on our law firm website and in many of our blog posts.

How can we reduce distracted driving injuries? Outside the courtroom, our firm is committed to advocating for highway safety. Safety advocates have largely focused on three areas to combat distracted driving — education, law enforcement and technology.  When it comes to technology, you would expect car manufacturers to lead the charge for safety. Do they? Not always. General Motors (GM) is actually introducing an App called Marketplace that creates more risks of distracted driving crashes. A number of safety advocates share my concern with GM’s actions.

What is GM doing? GM has created a touchscreen App that will be included in new car models and will allow drivers to shop while driving. Here is what USA Today reported about the new touchscreen App:

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Blackwell Law Firm - HuntsvilleWhat are the most common risks of personal injury for workers? Each year, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) reveals its data on the top 10 workplace safety violations. OSHA lists the most commonly cited violations for the year.

Because I frequently represent workers hurt on large industrial or construction worksites, I study the annual reports. Two issues are clear to me:

  1. The same safety hazards typically dominate the list every single year.
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Commercial Truck InjuryTruck driver health is a significant safety issue on Alabama highways. Federal regulations require commercial truck drivers to obtain a medical certification regarding their health. Recent events lead to the question — Are some trucker medical certifications bogus?

Last year, I wrote an article discussing truck driver health and its impact on highway safety. That article is titled “Are Truck Driver Health Issues Causing Accidents?” According to National Institute of Health (NIH) statistics, truck drivers suffer rates of obesity, diabetes, hypertension and sleep apnea at rates far higher than the general public. When left untreated, these conditions can create huge risks of highway accidents. With proper medical examinations and certifications, many unhealthy and unsafe drivers have the opportunity to get the medical care they need. This protects all of us from needless personal injury on the highway. And, it protects drivers by giving them the opportunity to restore their own health.

Last year, Federal authorities arrested an Atlanta-area medical examiner for issuing fake medical certifications. That examiner actually operated out of a truck stop. According to Department of Transportation (DOT) investigators, that examiner was issuing over 350 truck driver medical certifications a month. The DOT estimated more than 6,000 drivers from 48 states were impacted by these certifications. After reading the articles about that Atlanta-area medical examiner, I wrote a post asking “Are Medical Examiners Certifying Unsafe Truck Drivers?” In that post, I suggested discussion topics to improve the credibility of the certification process. These suggestions included:

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Commercial Truck On HighwayIn 2015, large commercial trucks were involved in more than 400,000 police-reported crashes on our nation’s roads and highways. Over 4,000 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal crashes. Many other crashes caused serious and permanent personal injuries. Truck safety is an important issue for all drivers. Truck safety is a frequent topic of discussion on this blog. In past posts, I’ve discussed trucking topics such as the medical certification process for truckers, trucker health issues, current highway safety regulations and the danger of distracted driving among commercial drivers.

In the last two decades, our cars and trucks have become much safer. Available designs and technologies have improved vehicle safety for everyone. When it comes to commercial trucking, several available technologies could promise to increase safety significantly. What are a few of those available safety technologies?

Lane Departure Warning Systems

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Blackwell Law Firm - Helping Accident Victims
Elderly driving is a sensitive topic. It is a very sensitive topic for many families dealing with elderly relatives. We all value our independence and freedom. Driving is a key part of living independently. Yet, the topic has been on my mind lately. I have been preparing two car accident cases for trial involving serious crashes caused by elderly drivers. In one, the elderly driver crashed into five separate cars on a highway in Huntsville. She should have stopped driving long before the car crash.

I understand the difficulty in talking to our elderly loved ones about their driving. How do you tell your parents or grandparents it may be time to consider driving alternatives (or giving up their keys completely)? I’ve had those conversations with several elderly relatives. Many of my elderly relatives live in and around Decatur, Alabama. One by one, we have had the conversations necessary to prevent them from hurting themselves or someone else on our roads.

How does aging affect safe driving? The aging process can affect safe driving in many ways. Here are a few:

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truck-945364_1280-300x183The U.S. Department of Transportation is halting its effort to better diagnose and evaluate truckers suffering from dangerous sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is a major safety issue among commercial truck drivers as well as railroad workers. Here is the lead paragraph from a recent Bloomberg article discussing this sudden announcement:

The Trump administration is halting a year-old effort to seek better ways to diagnose truckers and railroad workers who have sleep apnea, a health condition linked to deadly accidents.

What is sleep apnea? Sleep apnea is a breathing-related sleep disorder. A person suffering sleep apnea will have interruptions in his or her breathing during sleep. How can sleep apnea affect driving? Truckers must be very alert while driving on our highways. By impacting sleep, the disorder can greatly affect daytime alertness, performance and fatigue. Our firm has seen the tragic results of these problems in past cases.

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Would speed limiting devices in commercial trucks save lives? Yes. We believe these devices would prevent many needless personal injuries and deaths on our highways. At our firm, we have helped many families hurt in commercial truck crashes. We have seen the tragic results of collisions involving huge commercial vehicles.

We believe speed limiting devices in commercial trucks are a good idea. Most trucking industry professionals also recognize the benefit of these devices. What do others think? A recent article in the Insurance Journal starts with the following:

Years of pleas from parents whose son was killed by a speeding tractor-trailer, buy-in from some truckers and the promise of fewer highway deaths convinced U.S. officials in September to propose requiring speed-limiting devices on all large rigs.

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photo by U.S. Air Force
Is the ban on texting and driving in Alabama effective? In a recent post, I discussed two shortcomings with Alabama’s current distracted driving law.

  • Our current law is limited in application. Our current law applies to portable devices removable from the car. And, it applies simply to texting or typing activities. As I discussed in my prior post, the use of electronic devices has expanded far beyond simple texting or typing activities. In our practice, we’ve seen accidents caused by drivers actually surfing the internet while driving. We even had one client hurt by a driver who was watching a movie on a portable device while operating a car. Our law should be written to encompass unreasonably dangerous distractions beyond the simple act of texting. I understand – we cannot anticipate every bad act. But, we can keep the law up to date with advances in how people use portable devices.
  • Our current law contains minimal penalties. What is the first-time offender penalty for a texting and driving citation? It’s $25. The penalty for texting and driving in Alabama provides almost no deterrent to drivers.
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Motorcycle Injury -- Blackwell Law Firm
A Huntsville lawyer recently reposted to LinkedIn an article by someone else titled 10 Common Motorcycle Accidents And How To Avoid Them. The attorney’s LinkedIn post simply contained the article with no additional insight.

The article is interesting. Yet, how many motorcycle riders are going to consult a network of business professionals like LinkedIn before going on a ride? Not many (if any). If people are looking for tips on how to operate their bikes on the highway, they may consult a motorcycle professional or motorcycle publication. If the person consults LinkedIn’s business network it is probably after an accident — for professional advice on handling the injury claims process.

At the Blackwell Law Firm, we have handled many motorcycle accident injury claims. Our law firm has a perspective that separates us from many other lawyers who advertise for personal injury claims. Our unique perspective helps us build these cases. What is our perspective that many other attorneys lack? We have real experience in the actual trial of motorcycle wreck cases. That gives us a unique perspective in a time when most lawyers who claim to handle personal injury work rarely, if ever, go to court for their clients. We have tried a number of these cases over the years (including this year) and have some thoughts based on our experience.

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Photo by E Max
The Claims Journal (an insurance industry periodical) recently published an interesting study. The California Workers’ Compensation Institute (CWCI) studied workers’ compensation claims involving spinal fusion surgery. According to the researchers most of these claims were initially reported as back strains.

The study is interesting. Yet, the results are not surprising. I have represented people in serious Alabama workers’ compensation and personal injury claims for over twenty years. In workers’ compensation claims, employers and their insurance carriers frequently under-report serious injuries. It’s not unusual for a workplace back injury to be under-reported as a mere strain even where the worker is experiencing symptoms classically associated with more serious spinal problems.

Employers and insurance companies initially under-report injuries in order to save their costs. Yet, the long-term impact on an injured worker can be tremendous. Here are three ways employers and their insurance companies under-report workplace injuries.