Arizona Crash Shows Dangers of Distracted Driving

Even though RingsmuthWuori throughout the years have handled cases throughout Michigan, we have also handled cases in many states, from Colorado, to North Carolina, Illinois, Indiana, Florida, and most recently Phoenix, Arizona.   A vibrant and healthy woman was going to work in Phoenix. While turning on a green light, another car driving about 50 mph ran a red light and crashed into her:

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The client lost consciousness and the forces of the crash caused the seat belt to impact her body such that she had internal injuries. She didn’t know what had happened and the driver who hit her said that she had the green light and that the car she hit was turning on a red light.

We were contacted in Michigan to see if we could help even though we were located in Michigan. We encouraged her to make sure she saw and followed up with her doctors to make sure all of her injuries were addressed and so that she could get the appropriate care and treatment to try to heal, recover, and get back to what she loved doing (she did Zumba daily, was in incredible shape, worked as a nursing assistant full-toile, and was married to a very supportive husband). We agreed to help investigate and pursue any legal claims that we determined she had.

As a result of our investigation and contacting witnesses and reports, we were able to show that other independent witnesses saw what really happened and who ran the red light and violated one of the main safety rules that protect all of us on the roads–no matter where we drive throughout this country. You have to pay attention at all times and don’t get distracted by cell phones, texts, eating, and so on. Millions of crashes occur every year in the U.S. because of distracted driving. The U.S. Department of Transportation reminds us all why community safety rules have to be enforced and protected by us all—police, judges, and juries—when looking at a text in a car while driving your car may have travelled the length of a football field. That is only at about 55mph. Many highways have speed limits at 70 mph and normal traffic drives at speeds above 70 mph–you would cover more than a football field in those 4-5 seconds, including time to perceive and react.

She did not suffer any broken bones and her internal injuries needed some initial surgical intervention but overall she was very fortunate for what could have been a deadly result or catastrophic injuries.

Over the course of about a year, our client and her husband worked hard to go through the necessary medical treatments and therapies to get back as much as she could. Her treating doctor believed that she was at about 90 to 95% of her recovery because she worked so hard at it but that she would still have some ongoing difficulties. She is back to Zumba and can now look for new employment.  

Our representation in Arizona resulted in a $640,000.00 settlement. Our client wanted to express her thanks to our entire team, and we wanted to celebrate all of their hard work to get back as much as they could from this preventable crash, so they were in Michigan over the holidays and stopped by to see us all:

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“Another satisfied customer with your amazing and talented team. Thank you very much from the bottom of our hearts.”

 

Our client also wanted us to emphasize again–don’t be a safety rule violator. Drive safe at all times. Protect everyone in your community and prevent crashes from happening in the future. She experienced first hand how your life can be upended in a flash–and she was fortunate to have been able to recovery very well over the course of a year compared to many, many others.


Traffic Safety for Community Upheld in Trailer Runaway Case

The Publication, verdictsearch.com, recently published a significant traffic safety case. Tom Wuori of RINGSMUTHWUORI PLLC was contacted to represent a family from Northern Michigan involving a crash and injuries from a trailer runaway case in the Upper Peninsula.  Statistically,  thousands and thousands of runaway trailers cause significant injury and death on our public highways. In this case,  the responding  police reported the crash as being just an “accident.” The driver of the truck with the attached work trailer said that it just happened and maybe it was a defective hitch. However, following significant investigation into responding 911 callers and identifying other witnesses with knowledge of how the load on the trailer was loaded, a different story emerged.  We presented a significant and what we believed was truthful evidence from independent witnesses who established that the known and accepted community safety rules that protect us all were violated. Among those known safety rules are (1) all drivers must use safe and properly equipped trailers; (2) all drivers must use safety chains (and that are well-maintained and not old, rusted, and bent); (3) all drivers must have and use safety equipment such as lights and brakes; (4) all loads must be loaded safely and secured so that the trailer does not sway and swing; and (5) all drivers must drive slow enough to keep the trailer safe and if not stop and pull over.  What we presented was strong evidence that (1) the trailer that ultimately became unsecured and went travelling down US 2 until it crashed into our client’s truck was old, improperly equipped, and unsafe; (2) the lights weren’t hooked up, the safety chains were not hooked up or were so old and bent as to become useless, (3) contrary to what the driver said, the load was not secured with safety straps and was loaded so that the trailer was prone to swing and sway, and (4) the trailer, according to the witnesses who called 911, was in fact swinging and swaying significantly and they saw it well down the road and commented that “that guy is going to lose that trailer.” The trailer missed them when it did unhitch down the road but struck our client, who was significantly injured. 

There are many resources for trailer hauling on the internet and from public agencies, including police, auto clubs, and trailer or hitch manufacturers.  This case did not involve a defective hitch but when the trailer driver blamed them, they had to hire an attorney to respond to those claims and they joined with us in showing what really happened.  Community safety is important and only when jurors choose to enforce safety rules in these types of cases can we help obtain safety in the future.  Otherwise, if jurors give passes to rule violators, what happened in the past will continue to happen in the future.  The citizen juror can be the highest office in the land, and one of the most important, when these types of safety cases have to be filed and heard by a jury.

 

Verdict/Settlement


CELEBRATE AND PARTICIPATE IN NATIONAL FIRE PREVENTION WEEK (OCTOBER 4-10, 2015)

A National Fire Protection Group will be spearheading and participating, along with many other organizations and fire departments, in National Fire Prevention Week.  http://www.nfpa.org/press-room/news-releases/2015/nfpa-announces-the-theme-for-fire-prevention-week

 Each year, there are too many injuries and deaths from fire. Many of these fires and injuries are preventable. There can be many sources of these fires, including mechanical or structural issues, to electrical wiring defects, to the improper use and storage of flammable liquids, to human carelessness (with matches, cigarettes,  fuel sources, heaters, fireplaces, and so on).  There are many excellent resources available from your local fire department to on-line fire prevention checklists that will guide you through the safety assessments you should make each year to make sure you and your family and friends are safe from fire. The fall is an excellent time to not just turn your clocks back to daylight savings but to install and check your batteries in your smoke detectors and other detectors.  There are many new and inexpensive products that detect (with much longer life) not only smoke but also leaking gas and also carbon monoxide dangers.  Work to educate the entire family, including children, about the many dangers that can be created with the careless use and storage of flammables, with fireplaces, and not following safety instructions and not performing needed home maintenance.   

 Many of the matters RingsmuthWuori have handled over the years involve significant burn injuries and deaths—all of which were preventable. Safety rules exist to protect us all—if they are violated, the consequences for all are significant.  Below are just a few of the areas in which fires have caused major injuries and the preventable cause of those fires: 

 

Result of propane leak and explosion.  Result of propane leak and explosion. 

     

      Close-up view of house explosion and fire depicted in the photograph to the left.

Close-up view of house explosion and fire depicted in the

photograph to left.

  The above photographs show a massive propane explosion because of an unsafe propane system, causing deaths. Company managers violated safety rules regarding maintenance, inspection, and how to turn on and off the propane system. Consequently, there was a propane leak and soon thereafter, unbeknownst to the family, the leaking propane in the basement became ignited most likely by the furnace flame and erupted. Propane, like regularly gasoline, is heavier than air and will stay low to the ground and its vapors will migrate and ignite from many types of ignition sources in a home. Moreover, most people do not know that you can have a gas leak outside your home and the ground/gravel can leach out the added odorant (the rotten egg smell) and the odorless gas still be drawn into a house through piping/crash and become ignited.  Hence, the need for reliable gas detectors as well as smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.  

Below are some photographs of an explosion in a different state, in which there were multiple violations by a gas company and a landlord with respect to an entire propane system.  The tenant was just moving in and the entire house blew up—again because critical but known safety rules were violated.  Propane should never have been introduced into the system. There was an uncapped gas line in the house unbeknownst to the tenant and gas escaped through this gas line, causing a significant explosion. Based upon our experience, it was clear just looking at the propane tank and connection that it was an unsafe system. Further inspection into the debris field showed multiple more violations.

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Unsupported gas lines, gas lines without shut-off valves and uncapped gas lines were the cause of the explosion and fire depicted in these photographs. The occupant of the home was blown out through the front window and landed in the yard. She received third-degree burns on much of her body.

 

The majority of fires are caused by safety rule violations and are preventable. The elderly are at significant risk for fire and the National Fire Protection Association has many helpful tips:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBkA6vN9yTo&feature=youtu.be

There are many resources to use and review with everyone in the family, young to old, to protect everyone from preventable fires. 

 

 

 


LEGIONNAIRES’ DISEASE CONTINUES TO BE A PUBLIC DANGER

Again in the news are more reports of the dangers of Legionnaires’ disease, a potentially life-threatening form of atypical pneumonia caused by bacteria from the genus Legionella. Most of the reported cases are from Legionella Pneumophia. The bacteria can develop in or from air conditioning units/cooling towers, water systems, hot tubs, and other areas suitable for the growth and spread (aerosolizing) of the harmful bacteria. Symptoms can occur within a short period of time and the typical incubation period is 2-10 days, possibly longer. The young and the elderly or immune-compromised public are most at risk.

http://www.cnn.com/2015/08/01/health/new-york-legionnaires-disease/

Typical symptoms include fevers, chills, cough, along with muscle aches, headaches, tiredness, loss of appetite, loss of coordination, and vomiting. Some confusion and impaired cognition or neurological symptoms can also exist. There are medical tests that can detect and diagnose Legionnaires’ disease and subsequent reporting and investigations become critical for public safety. Chicago was the course of a major outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease a few years ago – prompting the closure of and investigation into a hotel’s water systems.

http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/31/health/chicago-hotel-legionnaires-disease/

RINGSMUTHWUORI PLLC has handled Legionnaires’ cases with highly successful confidential settlements after litigation. Prompt awareness of and confirmation of Legionnaires is crucial so that health officials can confirm and remedy a dangerous environmental condition and for better treatment awareness. Only recently have new standards and codes been incorporated to help prevent the outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease. In our experience, the failures of building owners/maintenance and the lack of having qualified or trained personnel contributes to the creation of environments suitable for the creation, production, and spread of the harmful bacteria. For your safety,  we strongly encourage you to ask about what sanitation systems are in place before using public pools, hot tubs, or cooling towers.


UN/UNDERINSURED MOTORIST COVERAGE

 

If you are injured in a car crash, how do you get fair compensation from a negligent driver if they have no insurance? The sad answer is generally you do not. What if the negligent driver only has $20,000 of coverage and you or a family member has life changing injuries? $20,000 would be just a “drop in the bucket,” and certainly not enough to fairly compensate your family. In Michigan you only have to have a minimum of $20,000 of liability coverage. Most other states require more. Unfortunately we see this situation more and more. People let their car insurance expire, or even cancel it, but continue driving. While this is actually a crime, it happens all the time. The good news is that most car insurance companies offer “uninsured” or “underinsured” motorist coverage. This allows you to buy insurance in case someone with no or very little liability insurance hurts you in a car crash. You are actually able to protect you and your family, at least financially, from irresponsible drivers with no or little insurance.

RingsmuthWuori PLLC highly recommends that everyone purchase this insurance. You can choose from different dollar amounts of coverage, but we suggest at least $500,000 of coverage. This amount of coverage is not expensive, and should cost less than $30. All of us know the tragedy that happens when the safety rules are violated. These tragedies become worse when the unsafe driver has no (or little) insurance to compensate the victim’s family for their loss. While you cannot make other drivers follow the safety rules, you can protect your family from the financial losses they cause. Please look at your car insurance coverage and be sure you have enough “un/under” insurance coverage. If not, call your insurance agent or get online if that is the way you buy your insurance. While you may never need it, the cost is well worth it if you do.


Thomas Wuori Included In 2015 THE BEST LAWYERS in AMERICA Listing

The Best Lawyers in America (https://www.bestlawyers.com) released its 2015 publication listing its identification of top lawyers in America.  Thomas J. Wuori was previously selected in prior editions of this publication.


Boating Collisions and Injuries

As we approach the spring and summer seasons, boating safety should become a topic for discussion among family members. Michigan, with its expansive coastlines among multiple Great Lakes, to say nothing of the numerous smaller lakes, rivers, and impoundment, has one of the more significant uses of recreational watercraft in the nation. Without fundamental attention to the required boating safety rules, dangerous accidents will occur. The boating statistics for the nation and Michigan can be accessed here: http://www.uscgboating.org/statistics/accident_statistics.php. While they show that safety training and enforcement of the safety rules is helping reduce some of the serious collisions and deaths, unsafe boating practices are still causing many serious injuries and death. These can range from boaters not paying attention to where and what they are doing, intoxicated operation of water craft, to reckless driving, among others. 

There are requirements for boating operations and there are safety courses leading to boating safety certificates: https://www.boat-ed.com/michigan/ The Official Michigan Boater Safety Handbook is important: https://www.boat-ed.com/michigan/handbook

Be aware of your surroundings and the skills and training of those with whom you are boating, including your children. Spotters are required for tubing and skiing and one of the common safety-rule violations is the driver’s failure to maintain a proper and safe lookout (at all times).  How many times have you seen the driver looking backwards and not forwards or driving too fast or recklessly? While there is the appearance of fun, there are many dangers and injuries each year throughout Michigan and the nation because of safety-rule violations.  

A conservation or DNR officer will also be looking for boat safety—including do you have the correct amount and type of life preservers, do you have a fire extinguisher, and whether or not there is alcohol on board the vessel. 

There are Federal Boating Safety Rules as well, and which are incorporated as part of Michigan’s safe boating rules. http://www.navcen.uscg.gov/?pageName=navRulesContent

 


MARCH is Head Injury Awareness Month

While head injuries can and do occur throughout each and every year, there are also times when outdoor activities increase so does the risk of head injuries.  These can range from bike riding to rollerblading and skateboarding to other sports.  Soccer, for example, was recently in the news because of a study of a young man who was an accomplished youth, high school, and college soccer player but who died at a young age.  His family had the head injury group studying the effects of football (and now other sports) on the brain (chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)). This particular player was estimated to have had thousands and thousands of sub-concussive blows from practices and games over his lifetime but these sub-concussive blows lead to significant findings of CTE in this young man.  Many parents are now having their children wear protective headgear specifically for soccer players (for head collision protection and headers) or restricting headers. 

There are many resources online and through local brain injury resource centers about head injuries and care and treatment.  For example, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has excellent references about concussions and head injury causes, care and treatment, and long-term effects:  http://www.cdc.gov/headsup/basics/concussion_whatis.html

 Concussions are serious injuries that are now being recognized for the serious and potentially long-term consequences they can cause.  Each person is different, but each person’s brain is important.  While the medical terminology categorizes brain injuries as mild, moderate, and severe, it is established in the medical field that a clinical diagnosis of a mild traumatic brain injury is a serious injury and is not to be misunderstood as non-serious.  Moreover, most mild traumatic brain injuries will not be revealed from diagnostic tests because those tests cannot always detect the microscopic harms that have occurred.  The CDC and many specialists recognize that MTBI can have serious and long-term impact on a person’s cognitive, physical and psychological function.  Many times the real effects are not known or appreciated until the person goes back to work, or as school demands increase (from 3rd grade to 8th grade science or math, for example). 

 There are estimates that a traumatic brain injury occurs once about every 16 seconds throughout the United States.  Many of these injuries are caused by people choosing to violate fundamental safety rules that govern our lives and protect everyone.  While not every head injury is preventable, many are.  And the resources for and awareness about head injuries continue to grow.

 There are free apps about head injuries and prevention, including the signs and symptoms of concussions to bike helmet and car safety. 

 Because of the rise of military actions and experience with explosions (IEDs), military members and their families, and military medical specialists, are well aware of the consequences of a traumatic brain injury.  Military members are also seeing an increase in awareness about TBIs and treatment, ranging from vision therapy to speech therapy and counseling needs:  http://www.peninsulawarrior.com/news/health/traumatic-brain-injury-awareness-month-highlights-resources/article_413999c0-b922-11e4-8057-5b2ac451e93d.html

 Choose to Be Safe and Aware. 


VACCINES AND NATIONAL VACCINE INJURY COMPENSATION PROGRAM

 

The Centers for Disease Control have continued to report on epidemic levels of flu throughout the country. 
 
There also has been recent news articles about the pros and cons of vaccines and their effectiveness and risks. 
 
About 80 percent of disease is transmitted through touch and routine, but proper hand-washing can be one of the simplest practices to follow. http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/cold-guide/cold-prevention-hand-washing  
 
In the event that someone does become ill and have a complication from a vaccine, there is a legal remedy that Congress created years ago called the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. It is a Fund that was established under the federal legislation and is funded by a small percentage/tax that allows for those injured by a vaccine to seek compensation for any such injury or death. It is a federal law claim where you can hire an attorney and seek to present your claims that you or a loved one was injured by the vaccine. The case/claim has to be filed in federal court and in the Federal Court of Claims, where your attorney will have to be admitted to practice. The cases are heard before a Special Master and evidence can be presented, along with attorney arguments, to establish the causation link between the vaccine and the injury. There are essentially three different types of claims that can be presented and require medical proofs (and which can include aggravation of a pre-existing condition by the vaccine). The court is based in Washington D.C., but it allows for video-conferencing (testimony and argument).
 
This legal remedy is not well-known but it’s existence will be beneficial for those small percentages of the population who do suffer health problems from a vaccine. There is a wide variety of research and discussion about vaccines (http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents/vaccine-decision/side-effects.html) but many people are unaware of a legal remedy because of a complication, which the government established as part of a comprehensive law to provide an adequate supply of vaccines, control costs, and provide a legal framework by which those injured by vaccines can seek assistance upon appropriate proof of causation.  

CARBON MONOXIDE DANGERS

As the winter season begins, inevitably the risk of carbon monoxide exposure and poisoning increases. Furnaces are turned on, heaters are used, and snowfall can pile up and cause airflow blockages that can lead to carbon monoxide dangers. Inside homes and businesses, carbon monoxide may occur because of a back-drafting heating appliance, stoves, heaters, a faulty chimney, a faulty or unmaintained furnace, or blocked air flow/vents, among many others. Carbon monoxide is odorless, colorless gas and can be deadly. It forms during the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels containing carbon. Exposure to carbon monoxide can inhibit the transport of oxygen to the blood and cause serious health problems and lead to death. Thus, the use of the carbon monoxide detectors is critical. The maintenance and checking of these detectors is equally important. 

Recently, the firm has resolved several cases involving carbon monoxide exposure at hotels in the swimming pool areas, causing damage to multiple people. 

Upon investigation in all of the cases were dangers and defects from, among other problems, a rusted vent pipe that caused carbon monoxide not to be vented outside properly and a blocked air intake and unmaintained heaters. Even in residential homes, fireplaces and attic fans can create back drafts and prevent the proper air exchange/venting of carbon monoxide into the home. 

Below are links to some government links addressing carbon monoxide dangers and safe practices to address carbon monoxide protection:

NFPA – Carbon Monoxide safety tips

Protect Your Family from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning 

Carbon Monoxide Safety Facts and Tips – How to prevent poisoning from a gas with no odor.

Safety Tips | Safe Kids Worldwide

Top 10 Tips on Carbon Monoxide Safety | Quantum Group Inc.

 


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