Why Are More Buses Not Revamping To Include Seat Belts?

Posted in Negligence, Vehicle Accidents at 3:33 pm by kevin

Over the past several decades, seat belt laws have expanded to cover all 50 states. Although it is left to each state to determine the specific laws, in general, if you are riding in the car with a child then they need to be restrained unless they are over the age of 16. The reason is that car accidents remain one of the biggest causes of childhood deaths and injuries in America.

There is no argument that seat belts save lives, so instilling laws for parents to do the right thing just makes sense. However, when it comes to other forms of transportation, like school buses, not many states have mandates about what type of restraints they must have or how children must be transported. In Texas, after several school bus accidents with huge consequences, lawmakers are considering making it mandatory to wear a seatbelt when you get on the big yellow bus to go to school.

It would only make sense that your child should be as protected in someone else’s vehicle as they should be in your car, so the lack of seat belts on many school buses – not just across Texas but across the United States – simply doesn’t make any sense.

A Texas law that was established over ten years ago stating that school buses must be equipped with shoulder seat belts has barely caught on. In fact, only a minority of the buses are up to the law a decade later. After a fatal bus crash in 2006, Ashley and Alicia’s Law was enacted, mandating that every new bus purchased by a school have the three-point seat belt.

With the help of a bus accident lawyer, a woman who lost her daughter to a school bus accident in September of 2015 is just one victim lobbying to not only enforce the rule for buses to have seat belts, but to make sure that they use them. Sheanine Chatman lost her daughter when the child’s bus went over the overpass and plunged 21 feet onto the road below.

Chatman was one of two children who was killed. Two others sustained severe injuries. The biggest contributor to the deaths and severity of injuries is that none of the children were wearing seat belts, according to investigators who were at the scene. Advocates have been pushing for seat belt use on school and transportation buses since the law was passed, but it seems like their pleas are falling on deaf ears. With no real enforcement or consequences for not following the rules, there isn’t much incentive to take the extra initiative to ensure that children are following the rules.

Sylvia Garcia, a Democratic state senator, has presented a bill that would require each child to have a three-point seat belt on every school bus that operates in the state. A three-point belt has not just the lap belt, which does very little to secure a child when in a crash, but also has a shoulder belt – the same shoulder belt that is required in any other moving vehicle.

Garcia insists that everyone who gets behind the wheel with their child understands the gravity of what being safe in a car entails for their kid, but then they say goodbye at the bus doors and have no proof that their children are being taken care of safely.

Texas is one of the “click it or ticket” states and puts a large portion of their transportation budget into seat belt campaigns and enforcement at the private motorist level. However, they need to do a better job on buses, where there can be up to 100 children being transported at one time.

Even when it is most critical that kids be restrained, no one seems to be putting much effort into enforcement. Although over $10 million was earmarked to purchase new school buses that comply with the law, nearly 99% of the schools across Texas have not done so.

Many educators maintain that it might be because the money allocated only relates to purchasing new school buses, instead of just retrofitting school buses that are fairly new and can last for decades. According to experts, it only costs about $8,000-10,000 to retrofit an old bus, but since the state doesn’t include that in their allocation, school districts simply don’t have the money in the budget to comply.

To date, an average of six children a year die in school bus crashes. That is six too many. A new push needs to be focused on converting old buses and enforcing seat belt laws, so that another Chatman accident never happens again. It is now in the hands of the Texas government to figure out the best way to gain compliance, but they must do so.



How Social Media Prank Allowed Courts To Take Custody Of Children

Posted in Child Abuse at 3:25 pm by kevin

“Thirteen Reasons Why,” a controversial show being viewed by preteens and teens across America, is causing great concern for educators, children and parents alike. As a show that is based on the thirteen reasons that a girl – the narrator and star of the show – eventually ends up taking her own life, it is very troubling to child psychologists around the nation. There is nothing new about bullying, but the vicious nature of the social media torture endured by the teens is convincingly real and is giving adults a glimpse into the ugliness of the pranks, bullying and torture that can happen on the Internet.

Perhaps even more disturbing is the real-life drama of the Martins, who have lost custody of their children for “pranking” them online. No one is laughing at the cruel nature of what they did or the damage that they inflicted on their children. Videos uploaded by DaddyOFive’s YouTube Channel are hard to watch even for a mature audience, much less the population that typically tunes in.

In one of the videos, the parents scream at a young boy named Cody for spilling ink on the carpet – not just scream but totally berate him. Mind you, he didn’t spill anything at all. It was just a prank. Funny, huh? In another “episode” the dad encourages his son to slap his eleven-year-old sister Emma, which the boy does hard enough to make her cry. After seeing the alarming video online, the estranged mother of both children filed for an emergency hearing to regain custody of the two children.

Rose Hall announced that she now has full custody of her two children, who were the object of what is tantamount to child abuse – all to make an audience laugh. She sent a video out on YouTube of her lawyer insisting that the children were back home and adjusting happily to their new surroundings. As of Hall’s announcement, her son Cody and daughter Emma will remain in Child Protective Services until the details can be sorted out.

The Martin family had five children in their custody; two of them are the biological children of Rose Hall from a previous relationship she had with Mike Martin, the infamous YouTube prankster. Not only has the DaddyOFive Channel gone viral; so too has the saga regarding the entire custody battle. It appears that no one can get enough of watching the horrible things that people subject their kids to in the name of fun for strangers on the Internet.

The Martins started the channel to make money. Through clicks on their page, they were generating income by pranking their kids in cruel and not funny ways. Although the Martins have denied the allegations of profiteering, there is evidence that they aren’t being truthful. Nearly a week after the video went viral, the Martins released a statement of apology on their channel. After hiring a crisis-management and public relations firm, they announced that everyone in the family is in the process of seeking counseling.

The Martins have admitted that they made terrible parenting mistakes, which goes against their original claims that the children’s reactions were faked. Throughout the video series, Hall followed the page and commented that she was against the treatment that her children were being subjected to. When it became too much, she went to law enforcement in the jurisdiction where the films were being shot to try to get some help.

Hall has been trying with fervor to get her children back. After an interview regarding the mistreatment of her children, she started a GoFundMe campaign to help her with legal fees to fight for custody. When the child custody attorney who finally agreed to take her case first saw the videos, he didn’t hesitate to step in and help out.

Hall hopes that with some counseling and a little concern and care, the children will recover. She regained custody of Cody and Emma last week and is looking forward to finding a new normal. They no longer want to be in the spotlight, so the YouTube video days are over for the Hall kids. After suing for abuse in court, she has won full custody and wants to put the entire incident and her relationship with the Martins behind her.




Could Helmet Laws For Motor Vehicles Be A Thing Of The Past In Nebraska?

Posted in Vehicle Accidents at 10:48 am by kevin

In the land of the free, there are actually very few freedoms that Americans are afforded. When it comes to the rules of the road, under the guise of public protection people have very limited control over their behaviors. Things like mandatory seatbelt laws and helmet laws for motorcyclists have been debated for decades, especially between motor vehicle accident attorney Queens that deal with similar cases far too often. Finally having its day in court, the Lowe’s motorcycle helmet bill is still being debated.

The Nebraska state senator assembly is in a debate about repealing the law requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets, and whether that should be up to the individual. After decades of attempting to rid the state of the bill, its opponents might actually be successful. Although attempts have been unsuccessful for nearly two decades, the tide might be turning in favor of those who don’t want to wear helmets.

With the election of new members of the Senate comprising about one-third of those voting, this might be the year for big changes. Due to the term limits imposed during 2016, getting some new blood might actually help opponents against wearing helmets, get what they want – a repeal of the law. The law would also make it unlawful for anyone under the age of 6 years old to ride on a motorcycle as a passenger.

The argument is similar to those for seatbelts. When you get behind the wheel of either a motorcycle or a car, you are aware of the risks. It should be your right to have the freedom to decide for yourself what you want to do. Since an accident where you aren’t wearing a helmet may only affect you, the decision should be in your hands. Wearing a helmet doesn’t prevent accidents; therefore, the choice to wear one shouldn’t be guided by the state.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as many as forty percent of all motorcyclists who were killed in fatal crashes in 2015 didn’t have a helmet on. Statistics clearly show that not wearing a helmet on a motorcycle exponentially increases your chances of dying.

Proponents insist that Nebraska should avoid making the same mistake as Louisiana. Louisiana repealed the helmet law in 1999, but reinstated it due to the significant and severe increase in brain injuries and deaths. Those who want to maintain the helmet laws insist that it is a public health issue. Brain injuries cost the state millions, and those who sustain injuries are less likely to have motorcycle insurance, which costs everyone.

They also insist that there are times when wearing a helmet can impede a motorcyclist’s ability to see traffic and may actually lead to motorcycle accidents. Even if wearing a helmet reduces chronic brain injuries, the accidents might never happen to begin with if the motorcyclist wasn’t inhibited by the bulkiness and blind spots that some can experience while wearing a helmet.

Those who want to repeal the helmet law are bringing up issues like an increase in tourism.  They believe that being helmet-free will increase tourist revenue for the state. Currently, many who attend the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally located in South Dakota intentionally avoid Nebraska so that they don’t have to put a helmet on and “ruin the ride.” The additional money made in tourism, however, will most likely not pay for the increase in motorcycle accidents and their consequences on society and the state’s budget.

With a whole new Senate, conditions are ripe for change in Nebraska, but change doesn’t always come in the form of something good. Although wearing a helmet can be less of a hassle, there is no doubt that helmets can save motorcyclists from death and serious brain injuries. Whether or not freedom will reign in Nebraska remains to be seen.

A “nanny” state might save some people from themselves, but that isn’t what America was founded on. Fortunately, America was created as a society where people have free choice, even if those choices aren’t good ones. When someone decides not to wear a helmet, that doesn’t increase the likelihood that they will get into an accident. It may only increase the likelihood that they won’t die or sustain a more severe brain injury than if they didn’t wear one. Either way it should be their decision to choose.


What Type Of Insurance Do You Need For Your Dog Breed?

Posted in Dog Bite Injury, Negligence at 10:33 am by kevin

There is no debating the fact that dog breeds all have their own set of personality traits. With breeds selected for specific reasons, whether you have a purebred or a mutt, your dog might be someone who loves you – but that doesn’t always mean that they love everyone.

There are some dog breeds that were created to be man’s best friend, like the Labrador retriever, and they have very little risk of biting someone. Then there are other breeds, like huskies and pit bulls, who are known to be a bit more aggressive, territorial and protective.

You can’t really blame a dog when they bite someone if they were protecting the house, but that doesn’t mean that you might not be liable to pay for the dog bite. There are specific things that you need to do to limit your liability for dog bites. Not only could a bite end up costing you a whole lot, but you might lose your beloved dog if you aren’t careful. Each state has specific dog bite laws in place; knowing your state’s law can help you to avoid disaster.

According to recent studies, more than one-third of all homeowners’ claims made are related to dog bites. That costs the insurance industry more than $570 million a year. The average cost of a dog-bite claim is somewhere around $37,000 dollars, and it continues to increase every year. In fact, the amount awarded by insurance companies has risen over 90% in just the past 15 years.

Although not many homeowners give it much thought, prevention is the best way to ensure that you aren’t left with a costly lawsuit that jeopardizes your home and your dog. More than 60% of all dog-bite incidents happen on the owner’s premises, and in over 70% of those cases, the victim is either a family member or family friend.

Some breeds are more dangerous than others, but dogs are often a family member to most people, and it can be difficult for dog owners to see potential threat. No matter how well-trained dogs are, there are times when certain breeds’ instincts just take over. Some people think that certain dogs just get a bad “rap,” but the truth is that there are five breeds of dogs that are responsible for over 280 deaths in the past four decades.

The five top most dangerous dogs to own (regarding property liability) are:

  • Pit bulls
  • Rottweilers
  • German shepherds
  • Huskies
  • Malamutes

Although they are not solely responsible for all the dog bites that end in fatalities, the highest likelihood of bites are from pit bulls, Rottweilers, German shepherds, and huskies.

Each state has different dog-bite liability laws. There are specific types of dog owner liability clauses.

Strict liability for dog bites: In strict liability states, the dog owner is held strictly liable for any property damage or injury that is caused by their dog, even if the dog was provoked. There are, however, instances where if the dog was being provoked, the owner is no longer held liable.

One-bite rule: Currently there are sixteen states that don’t have any dog-bite statutes and have no consequences for an owner’s whose dog bit or injured someone. If it is the first time the dog has bitten someone, then often the injured person has no recourse. Unless the animal has demonstrated prior evidence of being vicious or dangerous to people, then the owner is presumed to be not liable. However, if the dog bites someone again then the liability is automatically on the owner.

Negligence laws: Some states use the clause of a person being unreasonably careless in training and controlling a dog. The child dog bite attorney must prove that the dog owner didn’t reasonably control their dog, thus there was an injury and the injury was directly related to the dog owner not taking reasonable care to ensure the safety of the injured person.

If you own a dog, you might think they are wonderful, and they might very well be. That doesn’t mean, however, that they won’t bite someone if they feel threatened. To make sure that you are covered if your dog bites someone, it is important to read through your homeowner’s policy to see if you need any special or additional coverage. Being safe is always better than being sorry. If you aren’t insured, you could stand to lose a lot more than just your best friend.


Could Truck Platooning Be The Road To Safer And More Economical Roadways?

Posted in Products Liability at 10:21 am by kevin

What is truck platooning? It is a driver-assisted technology that uses trucks to control the speed and the braking of all the other trucks on the road. A platoon is when trucks travel in groups and stick together, and a new technology is set to be tested to see if it is a good thing for the roadways, or if it’s a road to disaster. As states are collectively considering platooning, some legislatures are concerned whether it is a good idea or a really bad one.

At the National Governors’ Association meeting this past winter, several governors expressed concerns about platooning technology and the consequences that it could have on roadways. Self-driving technologies are concerning many in the transportation world overall, but when the additional burden of trucks weighing several tons is thrown into the equation, it would make sense that many are nervous about the potential.

Statistics indicate that currently 1.6 million large trucks are being driven on American roadways. That is a whole lot of jobs that are being manned. If self-driving technology is employed, there is the potential that as many as 1.6 million jobs will be eliminated in one fell swoop. The hardships that will be created could lead to economic consequences of significant proportions.

It isn’t just about the safety of self-driving autonomous trucks; it’s also about the plan that is in place to find the former drivers, a new career and meaningful work. If not planned ahead, that is a huge number of unemployed individuals who will be flooding the already-stagnant workforce without the skills to do much else.

Those who support the new platooning technology insist that it is an excellent thing for the environment. Not only will it increase energy efficiency, it will cut down on greenhouse gases that are entering the atmosphere. They also believe that the new way to transport materials will help to decrease traffic and highway congestion.

There are many logistics that need to be worked out before autonomous trucks are even a real thing. Many believe that it isn’t even possible, while some ponder how a large trail of trucks will be a viable option on many roadways around the US. Also, if trucks begin to platoon, how can they still offer front-door delivery? If they have to stick together, that doesn’t seem to be a realistic practice. In spite of the concerns, many states are pushing to test the new technology just to see where it takes the trucking industry.

Currently, many states have laws in place that require that trucks maintain a distance of at least 200 feet between them. Those laws would have to be repealed in order for the testing to begin, but that will affect truckers who aren’t platooning but transporting the traditional way. New bills are springing up, like HB1754, which would allow platooning vehicles to maintain a shorter distance of between 75 and 125 feet.

Supporters believe that the new truck-platooning technology is nothing short of adaptive cruise controls for trucks. The testing phase is not going to take the drivers from behind the wheel just yet. Any trucking company that would like to test the technology will have to register with the highway commission to gain approval and avoid a truck accident lawsuit and free for all.

The federal government is willing to help fund the technology to perfect it. Putting funds into testing and working through the kinks, Pennsylvania State University at State College has already received $3 million in federal funds to work out the bugs and make it a safe technology for roadways.

What concerns many governors is that the technology isn’t reliable enough to replace a human, who can make last-minute decisions and use reasoning before a major accident happens. The potential fallout of a platooning accident is astronomical and can cost not just money, but people’s lives.

Self-driving technology is something that intimidates the average driver; what about less having the prospect of being next to a self-driven platoon of trucks? Although it could be a much less expensive way to transport materials across state lines and a much more environmental practice, it could lead to exorbitant unemployment rates and safety concerns around the nation.


How A Change In New Mexico’s Malpractice Rights Might Have Been Determined By Texas Fears

Posted in Medical Malpractice at 10:20 am by kevin

A surgeon from Texas Tech University has been given a pass on a medical malpractice suit filed against him. The gastric bypass surgery performed on a New Mexico woman that ended in misery for the patient and a malpractice suit against the surgeon has been overturned – due to something other than the facts of the case itself. It has been reversed by the Court of Appeals because there is a fear that the underserved area of New Mexico might become even more so if Texas physicians are fearful of being sued.

The appeals court ruled that Montano’s suit will be dismissed without prejudice. The case is causing a stir in both Texas and New Mexico’s medical circles. Doctors from both states came in droves to express their concerns that if the case stands, it could lower the access of care to many New Mexico citizens who are already in need of help that isn’t readily available. Hospitals and doctors’ groups around the nation filed a brief to petition the court to overturn the judgment.

Kimberly Montano, the woman who initiated the lawsuit, insists that if she isn’t allowed to file a malpractice suit, she will not have any recourse to recover for her damages and pain and suffering related to her injuries. The main issue surrounding this case is that Montano had her gastric bypass surgery at a facility in Texas, but was a resident of New Mexico. She wanted to sue in New Mexico, however, because the malpractice laws in Texas are very different. In Texas, you aren’t able to sue any state employee, and the surgeon who performed the gastric bypass was a state employee.

Montano maintains that she had to have the surgery in Texas instead of New Mexico because her insurance would not cover it otherwise. She filed her malpractice suit in Albuquerque because that is where she lives. She alleges that she returned after the surgery to complain about severe abdominal pain. Dr. Freeza, the surgeon, told her that the discomfort was completely normal. However, the pain did not subside and she had to be seen at several different facilities as it began to increase.

Finally, Montano had to have another surgery to figure out what was causing the pain. At that time a different surgeon informed her that the initial surgery had been botched and her sutures were a tangled mess that had become infected. She not only suffered extensive pain, but her long-term prognosis and quality of life have been severely altered. She has a significant amount of medical bills, has lost considerable time from work, and she wanted to recover for her pain and suffering.

Freeza’s attorney argued that since Freeza was operating out of Texas and was a state employee, the Texas laws should apply. That would disallow Montano the ability to sue. A New Mexico district judge, however, ruled in favor of Montano, stating that the case should continue forward. It went to the Supreme Court, where it was determined that Montano should not be allowed to sue in New Mexico since the procedure was in Texas, and the Texas courts should have jurisdiction.

The problem is that it has left Montano and many like her no options to sue when they are the victim of malpractice, especially when they are being forced by their insurer to receive care in the adjacent state. Without any options, Montano did not want to have her surgery across state lines but was forced to. When it didn’t go as planned, she was left with no recourse for her pain and suffering or the health consequences of medical malpractice.

According to the ruling, it is in New Mexico’s best interest to not be allowed to file the malpractice suit. If people can file in New Mexican courts for malpractice perpetrated in Texas, then it may limit access options for a very underserved area and do everyone a disservice, leaving many without necessary medical care. The problem is that either way the court ruled, someone would have been underserved. If physicians are not sued for the mistakes that they make and are protected, then who is protecting the victim? It’s a sticky situation all the way around, but for now the ruling stands.


Could Sleeping Captain Have Taken Down The Spirit Of Baltimore Ship?

Posted in Negligence at 10:01 am by kevin

Last August, what started as a beautiful midnight cruise in Boston concluded with anything but a happy ending. There were 412 passengers on the Spirit of Baltimore who had their evening come to an abrupt end when the ship crashed into the Fells Point pier.

Although no one was killed, many passengers are suing for damages including pain and suffering due to the incident, which could cost the Spirit of Baltimore in excess of $1,000,000 if they are found liable.

Passenger Maurice Franklin insists that the sheer force with which the ship hit was enough for him to suffer injuries to his back, neck, and knees when he was hurled against a glass wall.

Franklin is not the only passenger to sustain injuries and pursue a cruise ship serious injuries lawsuits; several of the other people on the ship have claimed similar injuries and are likewise trying to recover their damages. The Coast Guard, which is in charge of the investigation, found that the captain had fallen asleep at the helm of the 100-plus-foot ship and gotten off course. That led to the ship hitting a floating pier within the Henderson’s Wharf Marina.

Felicia Morris, another of the ship’s passengers, testified that she was in a sheer panic, afraid that the boat was going to sink. Since she didn’t know how to swim, she was terrified when there were no lifejackets to be found, nor was there any staff ready and able to help.

Of the 412 people on board, 28 have filed suit with dollar amounts being anywhere from $5000 to over $1,000,000 against Spirit Cruises. According to maritime law, any company who is being sued by passengers is allowed to set a deadline for them to file suit, and the company may also limit the amount of money the suit will pay out, which is valued at the overall value of the vessel.

The US District Judge Ellen L. Hollander, has set the limit at $1.8 million dollars, and the deadline for filing was last month. On August 28, 412 passengers boarded the Spirit of Baltimore for a night of dining and dancing. As a midnight cruise, it was supposed to last from 12 until 3 AM. The ship was en route back to the dock at approximately 2:30, when it went off course.

The captain manning the vessel was immediately fired within 24 hours of the incident. The reason for his dismissal, according to the Spirit of Boston, was that his actions were completely unacceptable and negligent. Up until this incident, the Spirit of Boston had had an excellent track record with over 30 years in operation and no major accidents.

Investigators found that the captain of the ship had been working for three days prior to manning the cruise on his own boat, and he was already exhausted when he got behind the wheel. As per instructions, there was supposed to be a mate alongside the captain, but at 2:00, he was called away to deal with a drunk and disorderly passenger. It was at that time that the captain dozed off.

It wasn’t just passengers who were injured in the incident; the ship caused over $100,000 in damages to nearby recreational boats as well. The captain was not sure if it was the impact itself or the noise that woke him; he maintains that he quickly assessed the situation to find that there was a huge hole in the boat. To date, the captain has not been identified, and the defense attorneys for the Spirit of Boston have no comment on the incident.

When you board a cruise ship, the risks are as real as with any other type of moving vehicle. It’s putting your life in the hands of someone else behind the wheel; a midnight cruise might sound like a good idea, but only if the person manning the ship has enough sleep to maintain control. Clearly, the captain of the Spirit of Boston should have never taken 412 passengers out for a cruise that night in August. Luckily no one died in the incident, but that doesn’t mean that they couldn’t have.