Guardrails: When a Safety Device Becomes Dangerous

September 19, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

They are supposed to be there for our safety. Guardrails can help prevent an out-of-control vehicle from careening over a cliff or other hazardous terrain and can also keep such vehicles away from opposing traffic. In these roles, they save lives. However, guardrail accidents can also be a serious danger and our Oakland highway crash attorney is closely following developing studies on balancing the role of guardrails as safety devices and the potential for guardrails to be roadside hazards.

FHA to Conduct Study Following Research Showing New Guardrail Design Raises Risk of Serious Injuries and Death
This week, ABC7 News reported that the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) is looking into the safety of guardrails after multiple reports of people losing limbs or dying in pain because a guardrail pierced their vehicle. The focal issue in the planned research study guardrail.jpgis whether the “guardrail heads,” the start/end piece of a rail, can absorb a head-on impact at up to 62mph in real life conditions. A team of public and private highway engineers as well as other subject-matter experts will conduct the FHA research.

The FHA inquiry follows a study at the University of Alabama Birmingham, sponsored by the state of Missouri and the non-profit Safety Institute, which found a re-designed version of a commonly used terminal created a greater risk of serious injury and death than the original style. Sean Kane, president of the Safety Institute board of directors and a consultant on pending lawsuits involving the terminals, voiced “real concern about leaving [the new terminals] on the highways.” A summary of the study on the Institute’s website says the redesign is 1.36 times more likely to cause serious injury and 2.86 more likely to cause fatalities than its predecessor, although it emphasizes a need for further inquiry.

Manufacturer Facing Personal Injury, Wrongful Death, and Government Contracts Fraud Lawsuits
Trinity Industries manufactures the re-designed terminals, called the ET-Plus. The company faces lawsuits by individuals who lost limbs in guardrail collisions and families of people killed in similar accidents. Trinity says the ET-Plus meets all safety standards. While the FHA agrees, it notes that even tested devices can lead to fatal crashes and emphasizes the need to examine real world performance. In the pending civil suits, victims suggest slight modifications to the original design, including reducing the size of one piece by an inch, turned the terminals into road hazards. Trinity denies the modifications had any impact on performance. ABC reporters say they found internal company emails stating the reduction saved it approximately $2 per terminal, but the company denies any profit motive in the re-design. A False Claims Act qui tam lawsuit has also been filed alleging Trinity defrauded the government by failing to provide notice of a manufacturing change.

A Firm with Experience & Knowledge to Help Guardrail Accident Victims
A cruel irony exists when a guardrail or other safety device endangers lives instead of saving them. We are closely following the pending litigation and the ongoing studies into the potential danger associated with the guardrail terminals.

Civil litigation can compensate injured parties and grieving families while also serving as a wake-up call to those who may risk public safety in order to maximize profits. In some cases, government-related entities may also be at fault and fully representing the injured would require an understanding of sovereign immunity principles and the procedural rules applicable to such claims. Attorney Brod has the breadth of knowledge and experience needed to serve as personal injury and/or wrongful death counsel following guardrail terminal crashes or other safety device related accidents. He can also assist whistleblowers in government fraud suits based on the same underlying facts. Call any of our offices to schedule a consultation with Attorney Brod, an experienced Northern California lawyer for guardrail accidents in Oakland, San Francisco, Santa Rosa, or neighboring areas.

See Related Blog Posts:
Fatal Single-Vehicle Crash Serves as a Reminder of the Threat of Dangerous Road Conditions
Dangerous Condition of Public Property- Tort Claims Against Government Entities

Photo by Andrew Bossi, Flickr

Public Event in Emeryville Time to Remember Lost Daughter, Raise Awareness Over Railroad Safety

September 18, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

Any time a parent has to be reminded of the loss of a child is an extraordinarily difficult and painful experience. But sometimes parents who have lost a child due to a tragic incident decide to revisit the issue out a sense of public service, in order that the children of other parents do not lose their lives in the same way. That is why San Francisco train accident attorney Gregory J. Brod salutes Dena Betti for stepping forward to speak publicly about the death of her daughter, Jenna, who died March 2 when she was struck by a freight train in Martinez.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Betti joined representatives from Caltrans and Amtrak for a public event at the Emeryville train depot in order to raise awareness about rail safety. Betti has been involved with educating the public about train safety since Jenna, 14, was struck and killed about one block away from her home by an eastbound train. Jenna and a friend were carving their initials in the wooden rail ties and jumped away from the tracks when they heard the freight train coming. However, Jenna returned to the tracks to try to recover her cellphone and was hit by the rear of the train and pulled under its wheels.

The tragic accident occurred in a stretch of rail between Martinez and San Jose that Caltrans officials have said is especially dangerous because both freight and passenger trains pass through the densely populated area 24 hours a day. The amount of rail traffic in this corridor is expected to increase as the economy steadily improves and especially as a greater share of the nation’s freight is transported by rail.

Design improvements may have made trains quieter, which is a blessing for the neighborhoods through which they lumber, but a less audibly noticeable train can sweep upon pedestrians or motorists in their cars more unsuspectingly. And even if a train engineer sees a pedestrian or a motor vehicle on the tracks, it takes one mile for a train moving at 55 mph to stop, making the pedestrian or motorist’s chances of escaping unscathed very slim.

Statistics show that deaths of pedestrians on railroad tracks have been on the rise in the United States. According to the Federal Railroad Administration, fatalities suffered by so-called “trespassers’ in the United States went from 187 in 2011, to 195 in 2013, to 262 to date in 2014. Those figures do not include trespassers, typically those in motor vehicles, who died while at a railroad/highway crossing. For that category, an additional 59 died in 2011, 54 in 2012, 70 in 2013 and 72 in 2014 with months left on the calendar.

Continue reading "Public Event in Emeryville Time to Remember Lost Daughter, Raise Awareness Over Railroad Safety" »

Playground Injuries: When It Is More than an Everyday Childhood Stumble

September 17, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

If asked to point to a scene that truly defines the word “joy,” we’d be hard-pressed to find a better image than that of children at play on a playground. On the playground, the kid next to you can become your best friend, at least for the duration of your visit. The sound of laughter fills the air. Sometimes, however, there’s a different sound – a child crying. Playground injuries, and we’re talking about injuries that require more than a small bandage, ice pack, and Mom’s magical kiss, can be a serious matter. Terrible injuries and even deaths can stem from faulty equipment, negligent supervision, improperly constructed play areas, and other legally actionable wrongs. When such injuries strike a child in Northern California, our Oakland playground injury attorney is ready to help.

IKEA Recalls Swings Due to Fall Hazard
The swing is one of the iconic pieces of playground equipment and companies have adapted swings for home use. One such swing is being removed from the market due to a fall hazard. ABC7 News reports that Ikea issued a recall for its Gungung swing. The swing was sold for $20 at Ikea stores across the U.S. and online. The swing, made for children ages 3 to 7, includes a green polyester fabric seat, suspension fittings and steel hooks and marketed for both indoor and outdoor use.

IKEA issued the recall after four reports of the swing’s suspension fittings breaking during use. One child suffered a fractured leg in a fall from the swing. There have been no reports of such incidents in the United States. Per the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the recall includes approximately 2,000 swings in the United States plus 300 in Canada. Those who purchased the swing can return it for a full refund.

Statistics on Serious Playground Injuries and Fatalities
swings.jpgWhile the IKEA swings were marketed for home use, swings are also a fixture on playgrounds. According to the Centers for Disease Control’s Fact Sheet on Playground Injuries, more than 200,000 children aged 14 and under are treated in emergency rooms in the United States each year for playground-related injuries. Most non-fatal injuries (70%) occur on public playgrounds including schools and daycares. Severe fractures, dislocations, amputations, internal injuries, and concussions account for 45% of playground injuries. Climbing equipment is responsible for the more injuries than any other equipment on public playgrounds while swings hold that dubious distinction for home playgrounds.

Tragically, some playground injuries are deadly. Between 1990 and 2000, 147 children under age 14 died due to playground injuries. The largest share, 56% or 82 children, died due to strangulation. Thirty-one children, 20% of the total, died due to falls. A majority of playground-equipment deaths (70%) happened on home playgrounds.

Liability for Serious Playground Accidents
When a child is injured, parents want answers. From a legal standpoint, liability can come in several forms. Products liability law holds manufacturers and sellers liable for faulty equipment. Premises liability principles may hold an owner or operator for dangerous conditions including hazardous playground construction choices. Negligent supervision may also apply. In some cases, it may be important to consider the issue of sovereign immunity and/or follow detailed processes for suits against government-related entities (i.e. public schools).

Some might say talking about lawsuits for playground injuries is being overly litigious, making a simple childhood accident into an undue legal issue. However, we’ve found those who pursue litigation do so for incidents well beyond an every-day child’s stumble. In accordance with our ethical duties, we only bring suit when we believe a legal wrong was done. Our clients are fighting for children who were wrongfully injured and may be facing lifelong ailments that come with lifelong costs. These suits provide money for the injured or grieving. Furthermore, they protect all children by holding people/entities accountable and forcing changes that will prevent future harm.

If your child was seriously hurt on a Northern California playground because a negligent or wrongful decision made the playground unduly dangerous, call our child injury law firm in San Francisco, Oakland, or Santa Rosa. We are here for you and for your child.

See Related Blog Posts:
Concussions and Other Head Injuries in Youth Soccer
Nalwa v. Cedar Fair – The California Supreme Court on Amusement Park Injuries

(Image by Alejandro Hernandez)

Wrong-Way Accidents, Catastrophic Consequences

September 16, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

Picture yourself driving along a highway, a high-speed roadway with a physical median, a route you know by heart. Traffic is light and you may have wearied of seeing yet another bumper sticker, more brake lights, but you are still unprepared for a different image -- Headlights. It is an image that would frighten even the most adept of drivers. Wrong-way drivers are a relatively rare sight, but wrong-way accidents are frequently catastrophic and often fatal. With specific experience dealing with catastrophic accidents, our Palo Alto car accident attorney is prepared to help innocent parties left injured or grieving by these terrifying crashes.

Palo Alto Wrong-Way Crash Leaves One Dead, One Seriously Injured
wrongway.jpgLast Thursday, as detailed by the Contra County Times, a Palo Alto wrong-way crash claimed one life and left another person facing major injuries. At 12:52 A.M. on September 11, police received reports of a wrong-way driver heading north in the southbound lanes of Highway 280 by El Monte Road. Less than ten minutes later, the driver collided with another vehicle near Page Mill Road. Twenty-three year old Brian Devoto of Santa Clara died in the crash and an unnamed female driver suffered serious injuries. As of Friday morning, police were still working to determine which of the drivers was the wrong-way traveler and also looking at whether alcohol or drugs played a factor in the deadly incident.

NTSB Looks to Understand Rare but Deadly Wrong Way Crashes
In December 2012, the National Transportation Safety Board released a Highway Special Investigative Report titled Wrong-Way Driving. The study defined wrong-way driving relatively narrowly, focusing only on incidents that occurred on high-speed divided highways or ramps for such controlled-access roadways. The NTSB found wrong-way crashes were relatively infrequent, accounting for about 3% of the accidents on those roads. However, given that they tended to be head-on events, wrong-way collisions tended to be more serious and more often fatal than other forms of highway accidents.

Reviewing national statistics for 2004 through 1009, the NTSB found an annual average of about 260 fatal wrong-way crashes that claimed about 360 lives per year. The agency uncovered 1,556 wrong-way drivers across the time frame and found 60% or 936 of the drivers showed indications of alcohol use. In contrast, only 126 or 6.5% of the other drivers in the collisions (i.e. the “right-way drivers” involved in wrong-way accidents) showed indications of alcohol use. Additionally, the study found most of the wrong-way drivers fell between ages 20 and 50, although drivers over 70 were over-represented (i.e. there was a higher percentage of older drivers in the wrong-way set than in the right-way set).

Representing You When You Need Us Most
We understand how critical it is to recover compensation when an injury has major life-long consequences, compensation that covers future costs as well as those already incurred. We also understand the sensitivity of both major injury cases and wrongful death claims. When you engage our firm, you are getting top-notch legal representation delivered with the utmost respect for you and your loved ones. Wrong-way crashes are relatively rare, but almost always leave behind tragic results. If a wrong-way driver has forever altered your life and that of your family, call our Northern California catastrophic injury law firm at our Oakland, San Francisco, or Santa Rosa offices. We are here to help you as you learn to move forward from tragedy.

See Related Blog Posts:
Utility Pole Collisions
San Francisco Burn Injury Attorney Comments on San Bruno Fire

(Image by Jacobo Tarrío)

Health Care Fraud Targets Back Pain Care

September 15, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

Readers of this blog know that health care fraud steals billions from federal and state governments each year. The financial impact ultimately reaches all taxpaying Americans and anyone who uses our health care system, whether or not they use government programs. Our San Francisco health care fraud attorney knows that health care fraud, including medical device fraud, also has a very real impact on the wellbeing and personal medical care of some individual patients. As one of the most common ailments, back-related care is one area threatened by the perpetrators of these wrongs.

Back Pain: Suffering and Spending
Earlier this year, Time Magazine reported that lower back pain is the top cause of job disability around the globe. Additionally, Americans spend more than $50 billion annually on low back pain, despite the fact that it remains difficult to treat. While the news magazine suggests one in ten people suffer low back pain, other sources say eight in ten Americans will experience back pain at some point (see Medline Plus).

spine.jpgSuit Targets Kickbacks and Fraud by Medical Device Manufacturer
To those who commit health care fraud, it seems, this lucrative area of medical treatment is all-too-tempting. Last month, the Sacramento Bee painted the disturbing image of a salesman promising spinal surgeons they could send their kids to college using the money they might make in merely a month as part of an illegal kickback scheme. The scene was not fiction, but rather a secretly recorded meeting involving a medical device company.

According to a recently filed lawsuit, companies tied to Reliance Medical Systems made improper payments to doctors (i.e. kickbacks) for using the company’s medical devices in their spine surgeries. In one example, a doctor allegedly made a $5,000 investment in a Reliance distributorship and received over $20,000 in the first month alone. During the subsequent nine months, the doctor received nearly $265,000 while using Reliance products in his spinal fusion surgeries. Per the federal complaint, some of these surgeries, major back operations, were medically unnecessary and/or excessive. Ultimately, Medicare (and, in turn, taxpayers) paid for the implants. At least one doctor is also facing malpractice charges on conduct related to the spinal surgeries (see Ventura County Star).

Stuart Delery, chief of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, explains that “improper payments to physicians can alter a physician’s judgment about patients’ true health care needs and drive up the costs for everyone.” The scheme diverted millions in taxpayer monies via improper Medicare claims. Two doctors initiated the False Claims Act suit via the Act’s qui tam provisions. Although the government chose to intervene, the private whistleblowers could still receive a significant reward if the charges lead to a recovery of government funds via a settlement or a verdict.

2012 Settlement by Bone Growth Stimulator Manufacturer
This is far from the only medical device fraud suit involving back pain treatments. A Justice Department press release in 2012 reported that Orthofix Inc., a manufacturer of bone growth stimulator devices used in back fusion surgeries, agreed to pay more than $34 million to settle False Claims Act charges. The whistleblower-filed suit and related claims charged that Orthofix: 1) Improperly waived patient co-payments and misstated resulting costs, leading to overpayments from government health programs; 2) Paid kickbacks to induce doctors and medical staff to use their products; 3) Contributed to falsified medical necessity certifications; and 4) Failed to tell patients about product rental options. The private whistleblower who brought the suit was slated to receive $9.2 million of the monies he helped recover. The company also agreed to sign a corporate integrity agreement that put in place processes to avoid and detect future fraudulent conduct. One government official declared, “Criminals intent on placing profits from federal health programs over and above compliance should expect to tangle with authorities.”

Working With Whistleblowers to End Health Care Fraud
While health care fraud is an economic crime, the schemes often put the well-being of individual patients at risk. Perpetrators steal from taxpayers and knowingly profit at the expense of people’s health and well-being. These frauds thrive on silence. We believe people are often silent in the face of health care fraud not because they don’t want to report it, but because they are unsure of how to proceed or worried about retribution. As a Northern California whistleblowers’ law firm, we help private citizens become part of the fight against health care fraud. Call to learn more.

See Related Blog Posts:
Hardly a Victim-less Crime: The Victims of Health Care Fraud
Tainted Decisions: Kickbacks Leave Providers Focused on Money, Not Patient Care
Putting Money Over Medicine: Health Care Fraud, Kickbacks and Patient Recruiters

(Image by Sue Clark)

SFFD Fine Against Property Owner Points to Example of When Seemingly Minor Infraction Can Lead to Major Disaster

September 12, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

In the scheme of things, a fine or a single building code violation leveled against a landlord may not seem to be mean much to the layman, and there are plenty of responsible property owners who will properly attend to remediating the cause of the fine or violation. However, as San Francisco landlord-tenant law attorney Gregory J. Brod would point out, sometimes even a seemingly minor infraction can be the basis for a major incident.

That was the case, it turns out, with respect to at least one property in San Francisco recently. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Francisco Fire Department issued two citations to a company that owns a Civic Center property in which the sprinkler system was improperly removed. The Build Group, Inc., of San Francisco was fined $1,000 for removing or disabling sprinklers at the former Renoir Hotel, which was consumed in a big fire August 4 that injured seven construction workers.

Build Group has been managing a $30 million renovation of the closed Renoir Hotel, which is slated to become a “high-end boutique hotel with 135 rooms,” two restaurants, a conference center and a rooftop bar, according to the company’s website. Construction work at the seven-story, 83,300-square-foot building has included seismic upgrades as well as remodeling.

The fire occurred when a spark, ember or flame from a welding torch spread from the second-floor crawl space and throughout the building at 45 McAllister St, according to SFFD spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge.

The SFFD issued Build Group a second $1,000 citation for removing the sprinkler system at another one of its construction sites, this one at 218 Buchanan St. Talmadge said that the company was instructed to leave the sprinkler systems at both of it sites intact.

Build Group, however, is appealing the citations because it believes it was following SFFD instructions and that it “never received a directive instructing the company to not remove fire sprinklers.”

One thing that is quite clear it that the SFFD believes that bringing the fire under control at the former Renoir Hotel would have been a much easier task had the sprinklers been in place, according to Talmadge. And since that is what sprinkler systems are designed for, the Fire Department’s assessment is not an unreasonable one.

Municipalities have building codes, fire regulations and other safety-related ordinances for a very valid reason: to help safeguard the lives and protect from harm the people who live or work in and visit their city. A seemingly minor infraction can, if not adequately addressed by a landlord, lead to unnecessary injuries or even deaths. In addition, a violation of the so-called implied warranty of habitability, a fundamental concept of landlord-tenant law that, under California law, mandates that every tenant has the right to a habitable unit, can be the basis for a tenant pursuing legal action against the landlord.

Continue reading "SFFD Fine Against Property Owner Points to Example of When Seemingly Minor Infraction Can Lead to Major Disaster" »

Intracranial Hematomas: Looking at a Dangerous Brain Injury

September 12, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

In yesterday’s blog entry, we discussed the tragic death of a woman injured in the Napa earthquake. While that post looked at the cause of that injury, a television toppling over during the quake, this blog entry takes a closer look at the injury itself, a subdural hematoma. Intracranial hematomas are a type of brain injury that can be fatal or can have lifelong consequences. They often result from a blow to the head, such as might occur in a traffic accident, a serious slip and fall, or even an assault. As a Northern California brain injury lawyer, Attorney Greg Brod represents clients who have faced these difficult injuries and families who have lost loved ones to this sometimes quiet killer.

Brain Injury Leads to First Reported Death Tied to Napa Quake
As detailed by the San Francisco Chronicle, Laurie Anne Thompson has become the first reported person to die as a result of injuries incurred in last month’s 6.0 magnitude earthquake. At home when the quake struck, Thompson was hit in the head by a television that fell from its stand. Although she was briefly knocked unconscious, Thompson refused to seek treatment immediately, saying she only had a dull headache. The next day, however, family members noticed she had become disoriented and seemed to be speaking slowly. They persuaded her to go to the doctor, but she wanted to shower first. Thompson then collapsed and suffered a seizure.

Doctors diagnosed Thompson with a subdural hematoma and began draining blood and fluid from her brain. Although she made progress for seven days, Thompson’s health later declined and she died on Friday September 5 at a Napa hospital. According to the coroner, she died due to an intracranial hemorrhage suffered in the quake.

brain.jpgUnderstanding Intracranial Hematomas: Definition and Symptoms
Subdural hematomas and epidural hematomas are both forms of intracranial hematomas. In a series of pages on this serious condition, The Mayo Clinic explains that intracranial hematomas occur after a blood vessel ruptures and the resulting collection of blood builds, compressing the brain tissue. They often occur when fluid around the brain is unable to absorb the force from a quick stop or a sudden blow to the head, causing the brain to collide forcefully with the skull and become bruised.

Intracranial hematomas are potentially deadly and timely treatment is key, a medical reality complicated by the fact that a patient may seem fine immediately (“the lucid interval”) following the injury. Symptoms, which can start immediately or can take weeks to develop, include: Worsening headache; Dizziness; Sleepiness; Vomiting; Loss of consciousness; Confusion; Uneven pupils; and Slurred speech. Without treatment, this can progress to include seizures and unconsciousness. Often someone who knows the patient can see signs of a change that the patient themselves misses. Generally, one should seek treatment following a blow to the head if you have any of the above symptoms or you lose consciousness. Surgery is needed for a large portion of hematomas and can include a localized drain or a craniotomy which involves opening the skull to remove larger amounts of blood.

Understanding Intracranial Hematomas: Outcomes
Death is a very real possibility, especially when a hematoma goes undiagnosed. Some may recall the story of Natasha Richardson, an actress who suffered a head injury while skiing. As ABC reported, the 45 year-old initially declined treatment but was later taken to a hospital where she eventually died due to an epidural hematoma. For those who have surgery and survive, seizures are a significant threat. Anticonvulsants may be needed for up to a year and some patients need longer-term anticonvulsant therapy. Other long-term consequences following hematoma surgery includes: Memory and attention problems; Anxiety; Headaches; Sleep issues. Occupational and/or physical therapy may be needed for neurological defects.

Early Treatment, Effective Representation
The first thing we hope you take from this post is this – Head injuries are serious and, whether the injured person is you or someone you care about, insisting on prompt treatment is crucial, especially if the injured person shows signs of an intracranial hematoma. Another thing to remember -- If you or someone you love suffered a blow to the head due to someone else’s negligence or wrongful acts and you suffer an intracranial hematoma, you need a good lawyer on your team who will fight to hold the responsible parties liable and help you recover money damages. You deserve a lawyer who understands the complex issues surrounding brain injuries. Attorney Greg Brod has the knowledge and experience to handle your civil law claim. Call our brain injury lawyer in Santa Rosa, Oakland, or San Francisco to learn how our legal team can help you and your family.

See Related Blog Posts:
Looking at Traumatic Brain Injuries as Jury Rules in Dodgers’ Beating Case
Concussions & Youth Sports

(Image by Sue Clark)

San Mateo Collision Is Example of Perils for Pedestrians That Go Beyond Crosswalks

September 11, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

As we have seen on these pages numerous times, the act of being a pedestrian is not an easy one, at least not on American streets. But as San Francisco pedestrian accident attorney Gregory J. Brod would point out, there are multiple perils that can prove dangerous for a pedestrian that go beyond our city streets and crosswalks. Indeed, as we saw on Wednesday morning in San Mateo in one of the more bizarre incidents, pedestrians can even run the risk of getting hurt when they are on the sidewalk.

The incident in question occurred at about 10:30 a.m. when, according to the San Jose Mercury News, a group of five teachers and 15 students from Hillsdale High School were walking on the 300 block of West Hillsdale Boulevard in San Mateo on a school field trip and one student teacher and three special needs teenage boys, ages 15, 16 and 18, were struck by a car that inexplicably veered onto the sidewalk.

The student teacher, a 28-year-old woman, suffered head trauma and broken bones. The three teenage students suffered minor injuries, including abrasions and lacerations. The four were about one block from their school when a car driving west on west Hillsdale by a 53-year-old man suddenly turned onto the sidewalk, striking the quartet.

According to San Mateo police, the driver was driving through the neighborhood west on Hillsdale Boulevard when he failed to follow a curve on the roadway, ended up on the sidewalk, and hit the teacher and trio of students as well as a lightpole. Police said that the motorist followed an erratic course not to miss a roadway hazard, and the crash does not appear to have been an intentional act.

The crash is still under investigation and police do not yet know what caused the motorist to take an errant course. Both the driver and the pedestrians were taken to area hospitals. The driver remained in police custody, but he has not yet been arrested on any specific charges. Police have also not indicated whether they believed that drugs or alcohol were a factor in the collision.

There are some sobering statistics on the perils that pedestrians face on the streets and sidewalks in the United States, including these from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

  • There were 4,280 pedestrians who died in traffic crashes in 2010, a 4 percent increase from the total reported in 2009.
  • In 2011, an estimated 69,000 pedestrians were injured on streets and sidewalks; 11,000 of those were children age 14 or younger, and males accounted for 65 percent of that total.
  • In 2009, 16 percent of all traffic fatalities in the United States were suffered by people 65 or older.

Continue reading "San Mateo Collision Is Example of Perils for Pedestrians That Go Beyond Crosswalks" »

The Dangerous Mix of Earthquakes and a Negligent Lack of Preparation

September 11, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

Living in California, we all know that earthquakes are a threat. Still, nothing can truly prepare you for feeling the ground shake beneath you, especially to the degree it moved during the history-making 6.0 quake that hit Northern California on August 24, 2014. Given our region’s propensity towards earthquakes, it is important to take steps in advance to help avoid earthquake injuries or death. If you or a loved one is hurt or a close relative is killed because another person/entity negligently failed to prepare for an earthquake, our Napa earthquake attorney may be able to help you hold those responsible liable and recover money damages in civil court.

Woman Hit By Television Becomes First Fatality of Napa Earthquake
On Friday September 5, a woman became the first reported death linked to the recent earthquake. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that 65 year-old Laurie Anne Thompson was asleep on a recliner in her home when the quake hit. A television toppled off a stand, hitting Thompson in the head. Although she was knocked unconscious, she did not seek treatment immediately. The following day, family members noticed a sudden decrease in cognitive ability and later, while preparing to go to the doctor, Thompson collapsed and seized. Doctors diagnosed a subdural hematoma and began treatment using a tube to drain blood and fluid from the brain. After Thompson improved for seven days and the tube was removed, she began to decline and eventually passed away. The coroner listed intracranial hemorrhage as the cause of death.

Preparing for Earthquakes
Ready, a national public service advertising campaign focused on helping Americans prepare for natural and man-made disasters, provides a webpage dedicated to earthquake preparedness. A number of tips in the section on advance preparation focus on securing items to prevent incidents such as the accident that killed Laurie Anne Thompson. This includes attaching quake.jpg
shelves to walls and securing hanging items (i.e. mirrors, framed art) to walls. They also caution against placing heavy hanging objects over beds or sitting areas. Items placed on shelves should be secured to the shelves, with heavy items placed low when feasible, to prevent them from becoming projectiles in a quake. Furniture items like bookcases and large appliances should be anchored or secured with straps that limit motion. Similarly, flexible straps should be used to keep large electronics in place. Storing objects in cabinets that latch (and using the latches!) is also a useful step to prevent earthquake injury.

Of course, preparation goes beyond securing items. General maintenance is an important step in preventing earthquake injuries and deaths. Keeping wiring and gas connections in good working order helps prevent fire. Flexible pipe fittings can prevent gas leaks. Checking for structural problems is also an important safety step. Earthquake preparation also includes locating safe spots in the rooms you frequent, holding earthquake drills, and building an emergency kit.

Negligent Preparation, Injury, and Liability
As Ben Franklin wisely wrote, “An ounce of preparation is worth a pound of cure.” In some cases, failing to actively prepare for known threats amounts to negligence. As discussed in a prior post, an appeals court recently held a store liable for the deaths of two women who were crushed by bricks and plaster as they tried to escape a store following a quake. The court upheld a jury verdict holding the building owners negligent for not properly retrofitting the structure. This is important precedent. If an individual or company, particularly a property owner, fails to take reasonable precautions and this leads to injury or death, a civil claim for damages may exist. Call our Northern California natural disaster attorney if you or someone you love was hurt due to the dangerous mix of a natural disaster (ex. earthquake, flood, thunderstorm, etc.) and a negligent lack of preparation.

See Related Blog Posts:
Earthquakes, Insurance, and Liability
Lightning Strikes and California Injury Law

Representing the Victims of Motorized Scooter Accidents in Northern California

September 10, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

Modern day travel involves more than just cars. On a given day, a stretch of roadway might see travelers on bicycles, motorcycles, trucks, roller skates, and their own two feet. Motorized scooters are another form of travel and, like many other travelers, operators are vulnerable to reckless drivers. When a driver puts a rider at undue risk and harms the more vulnerable traveler, our Oakland scooter accident lawyer can help recover monetary compensation for the injured party. Motor scooter accidents are a real danger and the mix of prevention and representation are key to reducing the threat.

Police Investigating a Fatal Sunnyvale Scooter Accident
A 50 year-old Los Altos man lost his life on Friday following a scooter crash detailed in the San Jose Mercury News. Brian David Lazara was hit by two cars while riding a motorized scooter in Sunnyvale. The crash occurred just before 9 A.M. at the intersection of Central Expressway and Mary Avenue. Emergency responders arrived to find Lazara injured and lying in the roadway. They performed CPR and took him to Stanford Hospital’s trauma center where personnel declared him dead. Both auto drivers are cooperating with the ongoing investigation.

Scooter Accidents: Statistics and Risk Factors
scooter.jpgScooter accidents are a growing danger, in part because people have turned to motorized scooters as one way to save on the rising costs of transportation. In 2005, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”) looked at the issue of scooter accidents (see summary page dated 2007 and the study report itself from 2005). They concluded that, from July 1, 2003 through June 30, 2004 10,015 emergency room visits were related to powered scooters. In two-thirds of the emergency room visits in the CPSC study, the injured party was 15 years old or younger.

In 2011, a group of researchers looked at what makes the difference between a minor scooter accident and a severe crash. Focusing on Florida as a case study and using the terms “moped” and “scooter” interchangeably, the Journal of Trauma article identified 5,660 moped accidents between 2002 and 2008. Eighteen percent of the crashes caused severe injury or death, with impairment due to alcohol or drugs doubling the risk of such serious outcomes. Speed and nighttime hours also increased the risk of a tragic outcome. Other risk factors associated with an increase in severe outcomes included unpaved roads, poor lighting, high speed limits, and roads with 4 or more traffic lanes. Notably, the CPSC study referenced previously found approximately 20% of the accidents in their study involved some problem with the scooter itself such as brake failure, loose wheels, or even a handle bar coming off.

Scooter Accident Attorney
We encourage all scooter riders to wear safety gear, including a helmet, and to pay close attention to their surroundings. Sometimes it is best to assume the worst; assume drivers do not see you, leaving room to let you can react to a potentially dangerous situation. Still, a careless driver leaves even the most careful scooter operator vulnerable to a serious injury or even death. If a negligent driver caused a power scooter accident that left you or a family member injured, our Northern California scooter accident law firm can help. Remember, the rules of comparative negligence mean you may be entitled to money damages even if your own actions contributed to the incident.

See Related Blog Posts:
Motorcycle Accidents: Statistics & A Reminder of the Real-World Rule of Comparative Negligence
San Francisco/San Jose Motorcycle Lawyer on Overcoming Bias

The Devastating Mix of Health Care Fraud and Nursing Home Abuse

September 8, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

In an ideal world, we would honor our elders, learning from their wisdom while taking care of them as age leads to physical and/or mental ailments. Sadly, our world is far from perfect. Many seniors find themselves on the receiving end of rude, disrespectful behavior. Worse still, elder abuse is far too common as people take advantage of those who are unable to protect themselves and incapable of reporting the mistreatment. Our team is committed to fighting all nursing home abuse cases in Northern California, especially when the circumstances also allow us to offer service as a San Francisco nursing home fraud law firm. When a care center improperly treats a patient and then seeks reimbursement from Medicare for these “services,” the same conduct amounts to nursing home fraud on the government and is a particularly lethal form of elder abuse. These cases victimize the target as an individual and as the member of the class of people who are hurt when money is taken from the government health care coffers.

Arba Litigation: The Defendants
nursing2.jpgMcKnight’s Long-Term Care News and McKnight’s Assisted Living News provide news updates to individuals in the senior care arenas. Recently, McKnight’s, along with Courthouse News Service, reported on two California nursing homes that are facing federal health care fraud charges tied to acts that endangered the lives and well-being of residents. The defendant in the Complaint, which was filed in late August, is Arba Group (“Arba”), a management company that oversees both Country Villa Watsonville East Nursing Center (now Watsonville Nursing Center) and Country Villa West Nursing & Rehabilitation Center (Watsonville Post-Acute Care Center). The locations are, respectively, an 87-bed and a 95-bed facility.

Arba Litigation: The Allegations
According to the False Claims Act allegations filed against Arba, between 2007 and 2012 the facilities routinely overmedicated residents, using antipsychotics and other medicines “for the convenience of management” rather than for the good of the patients. The Complaint includes the example of one man who entered the Country Villa West facility in 2009. The man was given Haldol and Risperdal, both antipsychotics, without doctor’s orders and without the consent of the patient or his family. In a two week timeframe, the patient was taken to an area hospital and treated for heart failure, sepsis, an infected pressure ulcer, and other ailments. According to the complaint, Arba violated the False Claims Act by billing Medicare and Medicaid for these and other “non-existent, grossly inadequate, materially substandard, and/or worthless services” throughout the five year period. Arba denies all charges.

Our Thoughts as a Multi-Specialty Law Firm
The current complaint is focused on the health care fraud charges. Such charges are frequently the subject of qui tam actions, suits filed by private whistleblowers on the government’s behalf. Our firm is proud to work with whistleblowers on such matters. We partner with these brave private individuals to bring suit against companies and individuals who are defrauding our government and stealing from the already strained budgets of health care programs while ensuring the whistleblowers are protected from retaliation and receive due compensation for their role in prosecuting these claims.

Our firm also represents the victims of nursing home abuse. In this case, it seems apparent that the same underlying conduct would also have caused serious danger to the residents of Arba’s facilities. While claims on behalf of these patients would be filed separately from the fraud charges, having a law firm able to assist with both complaints is an efficient use of time and resources that helps ensure the success of both suits. Importantly, abuse claims typically must be filed within two years of the time the abuse was, or should have been, discovered (California Code Sec. 335.1), issues that may lead to some debate. A qui tam False Claims Act, in contrast, typically has a six year limitations period (31 U.S.C. Sec 3731(b)(1)).

Please call to discuss conduct involving either or both of these crimes with Attorney Brod, a San Francisco lawyer for senior’s health care rights. We may be a multi-specialty firm, but we also choose specialties that overlap in ways that benefit our clients.

See Related Blog Posts:
The National Council on Aging’s Top Ten Financial Elder Abuse Schemes
Health Care Fraud Alert – Scammers Mimic Health Care Exchange Sites

(Photo by Derrick Tyson)

Californians Will Legally Be Able to Take Dogs to Dinner in 2015

September 6, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

While it may come as a surprise to some, California currently bans dogs and other animals from all restaurants, inside or out. Of course, this ban has long been ignored by many restaurants and their patrons, and it is not uncommon to see dogs—both big and little—resting alongside their owners at many San Francisco area restaurants. However, as of January 1, 2015, California pooches will be legally allowed to visit outdoor areas if certain conditions are met.

Governor Brown Signs Law Allowing Dogs To Legally Be Present On Outdoor Patios

On August 21st, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1965, which gives restaurants the option to allow pet dogs in their outdoor seating areas under specified conditions unless a local ordinance determines otherwise.

AB 1965 does not mandate that restaurants allow dogs on their patios, but it makes the practice permissible as long as basic health standards and local ordinances are followed. Under the law as it exists until January 1st, restaurant owners who allow dogs on their patios can be subject to a citation or lawsuit.

Specifically, AB 1965 amends Section 114259.5(d) of the California Health and Safety Code to provide that pet dogs may be allowed in an outdoor dining area if all of the following conditions are satisfied:

1. the owner of the food facility elects or chooses to allow pet dogs in its outdoor dining area
2. a separate outdoor entrance is present where pet dogs can enter without going through the interior/main food establishment to reach the outdoor dining area
3. the pet dogs are not allowed on chairs, benches, seats, or other fixtures
4. the outdoor dining area is not used for food or drink preparation or storage of food preparation utensils. (However, wait staff may refill a beverage class in the outdoor dining area from a pitcher or other container.)
5. food and water provided to the pet dog may only be provided in single-use, disposable containers
6. food employees are prohibited from having direct contact with pet dogs while on duty. In the event a food employee has contact with a dog, he or she must wash his or her hands before returning to work.
7. the outdoor dining area must be kept clean and free from excrement or other bodily fluids, and sanitized as necessary.
8. The pet dog must be kept on a leash or confined in a carrier, and be under the control of the owner at all times.
9. The restaurant owner must ensure that local ordinances regarding sidewalks, public nuisance, and sanitation are followed.

Owners Are Liable For Bites And Other Misbehavior That Causes Injuries

As summarized by Assemblymember Mariko Yamada (D-Davis) who introduced the dining with doggies bill, under the new law, “it will soon be legal to take your beagle with you to dinner. With Governor Brown’s signature, restaurateurs in California will see more businesses catering to their customers and the canine companions they love. I wish everyone ‘bone-appetit.” (Her pun clearly intended.)

And while many people will be happy to know that their dogs can now legally join them on restaurant patios, it is important for dog owners to remember that they are liable for any injuries caused by their pooches’ misbehavior. This is because California law imposes strict liability on pet owners for the wrongdoings of their dogs. This means that owners are responsible if their dog bites a person or another dog on the patio. Owners can also be held liable if their dog knocks someone down or trips someone, and that person is injured as a result of the dog’s actions. Depending on the facts, people other than the dog’s owner also may be held responsible for the dog’s misbehavior.

San Francisco Legal Help For Dog Bite Injuries

Every year, about 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs and almost one in five of those (or about 885,000) require medical attention, including more than 27,000 who require reconstructive surgery.

If you have questions about a dog bite injury, call the San Francisco area personal injury lawyers at Brod Law Firm at (800) 427- 7020 or use our online contact form for immediate help with your legal problem.