Colonial Parking Faces Lawsuit for Serious Injury

Petula Dvorak is a columnist for the Washington Post, but not the sort of columnist that grabs national headlines or gets invited to cable talk shows. She covers Washington, DC, the place where regular people work and live, and not Washington, DC, the political center of the universe.

Mostly, it’s locals who read and appreciate her columns, and we certainly count ourselves among that number. Today she had a great article that illustrates what an injury case actually is, and what punitive damages are actually supposed to be. Normally we get the cartoonish characterizations and negative portrayals in the media, so it’s nice to see a positive and accurate reflection of the sort of work that we do.

The case in question involves what is called “premises liability.” When someone opens up a store or place of business, it involves a little more than simply throwing open the doors. The business is obligated to make sure that its customers don’t get hurt. This means simple things like keeping the floor dry, or letting them know when the floor is wet. It also means making sure that any stairwells are adequately lit, and that anything that could fall on someone is adequately secured.

In this particular case that Ms. Dvorak was covering, the business in question was a parking lot in a hospital. A six year old fell into an open airshaft and plummeted two stories onto concrete. Miraculously, he’s still alive.

He had to undergo surgery to fix his wrists and scalp, and not surprisingly, he still suffers from nightmares four years later.

 

The mother of the boy who fell is suing both the hospital and the company that runs the parking garage, and they are doing so for one very good reason, which is this: What on earth was an air shaft doing uncovered in the parking lot of a hospital that serves children? Because Children’s Hospital was where this happened.

According to Ms. Dvorak’s article, the attorneys for the plaintiff are suing for $57 million, and that does seem like a pretty high number if all you are thinking about is that the boy survived. But there is more to it than that.

Colonial Parking is a huge and profitable business, and they have parking lots all over Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC. They also operate and maintain lots that don’t specifically belong to them. They are a company that failed to perform one of their primary responsibilities, which is to maintain a safe and secure place for people to park their cars at Children’s Hospital.

The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs cited Colonial for that open air vent the day the accident happened. Here’s how it was put in Ms. Dvorak’s article:

“Grilles are old, rusted and lack the structural strength to act as sufficient safeguards to provide fall protection for the four (4) level parking garage exhaust shafts,” the engineer’s report said.

Children’s spokeswoman Paula Darte said they “began a thorough investigation within minutes of this incident being reported.”

“It was not clear why a vent cover to the air shaft in the parking garage was off,” Darte said. “The entire parking garage was assessed, and no other vent covers were found to be missing. Nonetheless, our team reinforced all vent covers as a precautionary measure.”

So how did Colonial miss this? It wasn’t exactly an air vent hidden behind something.

A parking lot attendant was put on the stand, and was asked about an inspection form that had his name all over it. He claims that his bosses at Colonial came up to him after the accident and asked him to sign it. The inspection form was backdated to make it seem like inspections were happening all the time. To his credit, the attendant refused to sign it. To their shame, Colonial signed it anyway.

So, why is this lawsuit for $57 million? Colonial Parking is a business. Businesses can do lots of positive and wonderful things for the community and the economy, and sometimes they can do the exact opposite. You can’t really make a business feel bad, or shame it. It’s a thing, an entity. The only thing that matters to a business is whether it made money or whether it didn’t. So costing them money is the only way that you can punish them.

That $57 million is to make a statement, which is that you can’t just not pay attention to the premises and surroundings of your business, and you certainly can’t lie about it and pretend that you did in the event that somebody gets hurt. This is what Colonial Parking allegedly did.

Punitive damages don’t exist to simply make the plaintiff rich. They exist to send a message that actions matter and have consequences. And no matter what happens with this trial, we can guarantee you that Colonial Parking should never slack on their inspections again. And we hope that every other business that reads about this case won’t slack on inspections either. If so there won’t be pointless accidents due to negligence.

Greenberg and Bederman is an injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to those who have been injured due to no fault of their own, and that includes those who have been injured due to the negligence of business or property owners. If you or a loved one in Maryland, Virginia, or Washington, DC has been injured and it wasn’t your fault, contact Greenberg and Bederman for a free legal consultation today.

The Sequester Cuts Will Hurt

 

There are lots of regions and cities in the area that are known for the way their citizens earn a living. Some states and counties have mines, some have plants, some have factories, some have ranches and farms.

Even if these industries go away, these jobs still remain part of the local identity. They even name professional sports teams after them. The Green Bay Packers, The Houston Oilers, The Hartford Whalers, The Edmonton Oilers, and the Milwaukee Brewers were all named to reflect a source of employment and regional pride to those areas.

Here in the Washington, DC area, the source of employment is the government. A huge percentage of the population either works directly for the government, is working for a company that is working for the government, or is working to influence the government on behalf of one cause or another. This can be a bit of a bone of contention for people who don’t live in the area or understand how the system works. As far as they are concerned, “government worker” equals “lazy, overpaid, ineffective and unnecessary.”

Right now, our government finds itself in dire financial straits. There are multiple reasons for this, and each side of the political spectrum likes to point the finger at causes that they don’t like and conveniently avoid the causes that they do. People on the right side of the political spectrum will blame it all on so-called “entitlements” like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and government benefits in general. People on the left side of the political spectrum like to blame it on heavy defense spending, the cost of fighting two wars over ten years, and the financial sectors misadventures in the housing market in 2007 and 2008.

 

Last year, we hit what is called “the Debt Ceiling,” which is exactly what it sounds like. It is the predetermined limit of the amount of money that we as a nation allow ourselves to borrow. There is some debate over whether the President has the authority to simply override the limit and raise it himself, but at any rate, he chose not to. He chose to get permission to raise the debt ceiling through Congress.

In order to get permission to raise the debt ceiling, Congress and President Obama promised to find a way to cut $1.5 trillion from the debt over 10 years by a certain date. The Republican majority in the House of Representatives would ideally have liked to have seen this done by not raising taxes and to have the debt reduction achieved solely through cuts in entitlements and social programs, while President Obama and the Democratic Party would have liked to have seen this done by a combination of revenue increases (taxes) combined with spending cuts.

As an incentive to coming to an agreement (which they have historically not been able to do on much of anything,) they put together a series of enormous cuts worth around $500 billion that would take place only if they weren’t able to reach an agreement. These cuts were designed to be equally painful to both sides. These cuts are what are known as “The Sequester Package.”

Since the Republican Party does not want to see cuts to defense spending, and the Democratic Party does not want to see cuts to government services, it was assumed that they would reach an agreement on how to reduce the budget within the Sequestration deadline. Unfortunately, they didn’t, and at around 9 in the evening on March 1st, President Obama was forced to put these cuts into effect.

So what does this mean for us here in the Washington, D.C. area? Quite a bit, actually. The sequester will affect us in two ways. The first is in defense spending. The D.C. area is the home of the Pentagon, multiple Army, Naval, Marine and Air Force bases, and countless contractors doing work for the military. Systems, weapons development, logistics, anything you can think of, there is a private company doing work for the military on a contract basis. These cuts will certainly affect a lot of these programs, so we expect that there will be quite a few people put out of work.

It will also affect those who work for the actual government as employees. What has been happening as of late is that many employees in many agencies have received furlough notices, which means that they will be forced to take a certain amount of days off during the week or month. These days will be unpaid.

As personal injury attorneys in the Washington, D.C. area, many of our clients are federal workers. We have clients who are car accident victims, or victims of medical malpractice, or victims of defective prescription drugs, or victims of negligence, and some of them work at Labor, or Interior, or Defense, or the Social Security Administration, or Agriculture, or any number of other departments, agencies or sub agencies. We fully expect to receive a lot of lowball settlement offers from the insurance companies that are involved in our legal cases over the next few months. They’ll know if our clients work for agencies that are affected, and will probably try to work that to their advantage.

We would advise you to be patient. If these cuts really start to hurt, we expect that the government will act. There is already talk of ways for government agencies to get around furloughs, or minimize them, and the various public employees unions are hard at work on this. Not to mention that all of the politicians will come under pressure if things get really difficult. So as tough as it might be in the short term, be patient, and if you receive a lowball settlement offer from an insurer, we would advise against it. Hang in there.

Greenberg and Bederman is a personal injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to those who have been injured in an accident due to no fault of their own. If you or a loved one has been hurt in an accident in Virginia, Maryland or Washington, DC, contact Greenberg & Bederman today.

Recall On Wheelchairs That Catch On Fire

 

When you think of “manufacturing errors,” what springs to mind for a lot of people is a product that is cheaply made, or one that wears out easily. They think of the difference between, say, a toilet brush that you buy at Home Depot and one that you buy at the Dollar Store.

That isn’t a manufacturing “error” as much as it is “poor manufacturing.” In order to save money, manufacturers use inferior ingredients, or use a modeling plan that doesn’t work as well. But really, if it’s a toilet brush that’s on sale for 50 cents, who’s going to complain about that if it breaks after a month or so?

When we say “manufacturing errors,” we mean errors that can be dangerous to the people who bought that faulty product in good faith. There have been lots of unfortunate examples of those types of mistakes.

A lot of them happen in cars. Just of the top of our head, we can think of a few. There were the cruise control switches in certain Ford models that caused vehicle fires. There were the floor mats in Toyotas that caused the accelerator pedal to remain stuck. There were also problems with the Firestone tires that were on Ford Explorers, which had a tendency to blow out when the car was traveling at high rates of speed.  

Equally prevalent (and equally unfortunate) are manufacturing errors in toys and products for infants. Several models of high chairs, cribs, car safety seats and strollers have all had to be recalled because they posed dangers to the babies that used them, and a popular children’s toy like the E-Z Bake Oven had a recall after flaws in one particular model led to children being burned.

Hopefully that illustrates the difference between “cheap” and “errors.” One can be considered an inconvenience, while the other can very much be considered a danger to those who bought the product.

 

As an example, there is nothing cheap about a motorized wheelchair. The prices range from between $1,600 to $11,000, and there are a few models that cost a great deal more than that. Another thing to consider is that while you might not need an E-Z Bake Oven, those who need wheelchairs really need them. Making, marketing and selling a faulty or dangerous wheelchair is on par with making, marketing and selling a faulty or dangerous baby crib in terms of being important for safety.

And believe it or not, people are making, marketing and selling faulty wheelchairs. And we don’t mean things like wheels getting stuck or short battery life (each of which would be bad enough.) We mean electrical fires.

Can you imagine anything worse happening to a person confined to a wheelchair than for that wheelchair to catch on fire? It’s not like the person in the chair can stand up and move away from the danger.

In April of 2000, a company called Invacare began recalling a great deal of their motorized wheelchairs after more than a few people who used their products were either burned or ended up dying. What is incredibly tragic about these fires is that they could have been prevented had the chairs been equipped with fuses and circuits that cost a little under $1.

Even after this recall, motorized wheelchair fires are still happening, which means that some companies either haven’t updated their technology, or have been putting out outdated and faulty models.

We aren’t electrical engineers, but if we were building electric wheelchairs, we would have two questions:

1: Will this wheelchair catch on fire?

2: Is there any conceivable way that at any point in the future that this wheelchair will catch on fire?

If the answer to either of these questions is “yes,” then we wouldn’t put out the wheelchair. We’d like to think that any responsible company on earth would do the same, but apparently we are wrong.

Greenberg and Bederman is currently offering legal assistance to anyone in Washington, D.C., Virginia or Maryland who has been injured due to electrical fires in motorized wheelchairs. If you or a loved one has been injured because of a faulty electrical system in a motorized wheelchair, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free consultation.

Fannie Mae And Freddie Mac Owe Montgomery County

 

When is a government agency not a government agency?

Montgomery County, Maryland and mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac both have different ideas on the matter, and these differing ideas are currently being resolved by way of a class action lawsuit.

 Whenever a mortgage is transferred in Montgomery County, (in other words, whenever a house is bought, or whenever a deed or title is filed with a county record office,) there is a fee that is paid to the County. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had a tendency to claim that they were exempt from such taxes, because they believed themselves to be government agencies, which meant that they were exempt from those fees.

This is something that will ultimately be decided by the courts, but it is our opinion that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are not government agencies. In the first place, while Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were both created by the government, they are known as “government sponsored enterprises” (GSE’s.)

Fannie Mae went about forty years without receiving any government assistance, financial or otherwise, and why would they have needed any? Both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac presided over a significant portion of all the mortgages that were taken out during the biggest expansion of middle class prosperity the world has ever seen.

This changed in 2008, when both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac took just as much of a beating as all the other non-GSE mortgage companies thanks to the housing market collapse. Both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac owned or guaranteed about half of the $12 trillion worth of mortgages in the United States, and when the bill for all of the sub-prime mortgages finally came due in late 2007, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac needed to be bailed out.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac fell under the conservatorship of the United States Government, specifically the Federal Housing Finance Agency. But again, does this make them “government agencies?”

Again, we believe not. For a brief period of time, the biggest shareholder that General Motors had was the U.S. Government. While that meant that GM was technically the “property” of the U.S. Government, it didn’t make General Motors the Department of the federal government.

And while we are on the subject of shareholders, it should be mentioned that you can go online and purchase stock in Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Your shares can raise and lower in value, just like they can with General Motors stock. You cannot go online and buy shares of the IRS, Department of Defense, or the Secret Service.

 

Government agencies are not allowed to contribute to political campaigns. That would be considered a serious conflict of interest. Yet Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have a long and proud history of donating money to the campaigns of many politicians, and their current stewardship by the government has done nothing to prevent them from continuing to do so.

So what does this have to do with you?

Believe it or not, this has an effect on you if you live in Montgomery County, even if you aren’t a homeowner.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s avoidance of transfer fees means that Montgomery County had to go without tax revenue while still performing the service that it normally received tax revenue for. It means that Montgomery County was essentially working for free. Tax revenue that could have been spent on road improvements, better schools, new teachers or new police officers, or any number of crucial needs went unfunded. In other words, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were taking from you.

And what if you happened to buy a house or condo in Montgomery County with a Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage? Were you charged for a transfer fee, and did Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac then sidestep those fees on the grounds that they were a “government agency?” What happened to that money? Was it given back to you? We suspect that it wasn’t.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac cannot have it both ways. They already enjoyed a lot of perks and privileges as a GSE. They were given preferential rates for mortgages, and they were given these rates for the admittedly noble purpose of making it easier for Americans to own homes. But they also profited off of these rates, and, while the market was good, they profited off of the values of their shares. You can’t claim to be a “government agency” when times aren’t as good in order to sidestep taxes, particularly after you experience almost four decades of free-market prosperity.

Greenberg & Bederman is a personal injury law firm located in downtown SIlver Spring, Maryland, one mile from the Washington DC line. We are currently working for Montgomery County to force Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to pay its fair share of transfer taxes.  We also handle personal injury including car accidents, medical malpractice, and denial of your social security disability benefits. To speak to one of our lawyers for free, please click on free consultation or call us at 1800-800-1144.

AAJ and Greenberg & Bederman On Dram Shop Laws

 

We at Greenberg and Bederman are currently representing the family of Jazimen Warr in a case that we believe could have important repercussions for the state of Maryland. It’s a case that needed to be heard, and it addresses a state of affairs in Maryland that we believe to be profoundly unfair.

In 2008, a man named Michael Eaton sat in the Dogfish Head Alehouse in Gaithersburg, Maryland and began to drink. That isn’t a particularly remarkable occurrence. Millions of people all over the country enter bars, pubs, and restaurants on a daily basis and do the exact same thing. But Mr. Eaton sat at this same place and drank for a considerable amount of time, and drank a considerable amount of alcohol.

We don’t stand in judgment of the drinking habits of others. But a lot of bars have a tendency to cut people off after they have had too much to drink. For some reason, the staff at Dogfish Head failed to do anything of the sort. Mr. Eaton finished 17 beers and a few shots of liquor, paid his check, and got up to leave.

Apparently, nobody at Dogfish Head asked Mr. Eaton if he was okay to drive. Nobody offered to call him a cab. Nobody made any move to do anything except take the money that Mr. Eaton was willing to pay for a staggering amount of alcohol.

And why would they? Maryland is one of the few remaining states in the Union that doesn’t have dram shop laws.

Dram shop laws are laws that make alcohol establishments responsible for the conduct of their patrons. Too much alcohol affects the drinker’s emotions, their reflexes, their ability to walk, talk and think. Drunk people have a tendency to do stupid and reckless things when they drink to excess, and dram shop laws hold those who distribute alcohol liable for the actions of their customers.

 

If a bartender or liquor store owner realizes that he could be held responsible for the actions of someone who drinks too much under their roof, he distributes the alcohol in a more responsible manner. He cuts people off if they’ve had too much. He insists on calling them a cab. He gets proactive about the safety of his customers and the safety of those around them.

The staff at the Dogfish Head Alehouse didn’t have to worry about any of that.

Mr. Eaton got in his car, started the engine, and drove out on to the highway, where he caused an accident that killed 10-year-old Jazimeen Warr and injured three members of her family.

We took this case, knowing full well that the lack of dram shop laws in Maryland would prevent us from filing suit against the owners of Dogfish Head Alehouse. Our intention was to make it clear that the lack of dram shop laws in this state has real consequences for innocent people.

As the case has made its way through the court system, we have had some successes and some setbacks, but each setback has been coupled with encouragement both from the legal system and our colleagues in the legal profession. 

We are pleased to announce that Greenberg and Bederman has partnered with the American Association for Justice’s Center for Constitutional Litigation to help with the Warr case, which is currently under appeal in the Maryland courts. Our goal is to reverse the two state precedents, both of which prevent the Warr family from receiving justice, and also absolve bars, restaurants and liquor store owners from any real responsibility as purveyors of alcohol. It is our hope that we can win the case for the Warr family, and also enact real and substantive change in Maryland.

Greenberg and Bederman is a personal injury and car accident law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to those who have been injured due to no fault of their own, and that includes those who have been injured by drunk drivers. If you or a loved one in Maryland, Virginia or Washington, DC has been injured in an accident, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free consultation today.

 

FDA Recall on Welbutrin XL

 

As we’ve mentioned quite a few times, we think that there are two major problems with the pharmaceutical industry. The first is that pharmaceutical companies often put pills with dangerous side effects out on the market, and the second is that the Food and Drug Administration can be incredibly ineffectual as a regulatory agency.

It seems like every year there is a new batch of injuries and casualties from a dangerous drug that was put out on the market, and it can take months or even years for the FDA to do anything about it. Potentially lethal medications like Vioxx and Phen Phen lingered on the market for months while the FDA dithered, and some almost equally dangerous pills like Yaz, Yasmin or Ocella are still commercially available for sale.

Pharmaceutical companies wear rose-colored glasses. We don’t think that they are actually setting out to injure people, but if they see negative side effects with their products, they will bend over backwards to convince themselves or others that these side effects are flukes and rarities and not anything to be overly concerned. If the profits of that particular pill are high, then the lenses on those rose-colored glasses get even bigger.

But the Food and Drug Administration should be looking at everything with completely clear eyes. They should be relying on numbers and data and testing, and at no point should they just take it for granted that a pharmaceutical company is doing the right thing.

Unfortunately, this is exactly what the FDA recently did, and they did it with one of the most popular anti-depressants on the market.

Welbutrin XL is incredibly popular, not just as an anti-depressant but also as an assist to quit smoking. Since most people like the idea of saving money, they end up getting the generic version, which is called Bupropion.

 

People think that generic versions of medications are exactly the same thing, and to a certain extent, they are. Your grocery store probably sells its own version of Oreo cookies which are called something else, and they might look the same and taste the same as Oreo’s, but they are not the same. That might seem to be an oversimplification, but generic pills work the same way. They are supposed to do the same thing as the original brand, but they aren’t the same thing.

For about six years, the Food and Drug Administration has allowed bupropion that absolutely didn’t work to be sold on the market. The reason that they allowed it to be on the market was because they didn’t test it to see if it worked. They got the paperwork from the company that was making the generic version and just assumed that since the original drug was fine, then everything would be ok with the generic version.

Bear in mind that this pill is supposed to help people who are suffering from depression or mental illness, and thousands of people all over the country were given treatment for this that didn’t treat them at all.

Finally, after six years and thousands of complaints, the Food and Drug Administration got around to testing this drug that didn’t work and initiated a recall.

This is just another example of how our chief regulatory agency for medicine in this country is failing the American people. A lot of politicians make noise about how American business is crippled by regulation, and there are some instances where we can see their point, but we absolutely don’t see it that way when it comes to pharmaceuticals. Too many dangerous drugs have been put out on the market and too much time elapses between damage and action for us to view the FDA as anything but toothless.

Imagine that instead of an anti-depressant, a generic and ineffective version of a heart medication was put out on the market and allowed to be sold for six years? Maybe the FDA would have acted faster, but it isn’t comforting to us to think that the FDA needs a casualty list in order to start doing its job.

Greenberg and Bederman is a personal injury law firm located in the Washington, DC area. We are currently offering legal assistance to those who have been injured due to the effects of defective or dangerous pharmaceutical drugs. If you or a loved one has been injured due to a drug that has been recalled, or due to a drug that caused undisclosed side effects, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free consultation today.

Aging Doctors Can Be Dangerous

 

If you happen to watch a lot of sports, eventually you will notice that athletes who are in their early thirties or even in their late twenties are sometimes considered “past their prime” or even “washed up.” That description makes sense when you happen to be younger than the athletes being discussed, but once you reach that age, that description seems ridiculous. Nobody feels particularly old when they are in their late twenties or early thirties, but if you put that age in the context of professional athletics, then yes, late twenties and early thirties is “past their prime.” Being in your late twenties or early thirties certainly doesn’t put you past your prime if you are a CPA or a mechanic, but it really matters if you are a wide receiver in the NFL.

Getting older is inevitable. Sometimes that’s a positive thing, and sometimes it isn’t. As you get older you find yourself making smarter decisions, but you also find yourself with more aches, pains, strains and injuries. It should also be mentioned that quite often these smart decisions come from the benefit of experience rather than any physical improvements in your brain.

So let’s take it as a given that as time goes on, there are certain things that you simply are not able to do with the skill that you used to. Police officers have a mandatory retirement age, as do firefighters. FBI agents, airline pilots, bus drivers, train operators, and any number of other positions have an age limit. What all of these positions have in common is that they are jobs that involve matters of life and death. They require absolute attention to detail and sharp reflexes, which have a tendency to deteriorate as we age.

 

Another two important occupations that require a level of focus and skill are those of doctors and surgeons. These professions are both as equated with matters of life and death as that of any of the other professions we mentioned, but the difference is that there is no mandatory retirement age for them. Nor, as far as we can tell, is there any monitoring process to determine whether or not doctors or surgeons are maintaining the level of mental and physical acuity required to do their jobs. In other words, the Department of Motor Vehicles does a better job of monitoring the physical and mental capabilities of people who drive than hospitals, clinics, HMO’s, and state medical boards monitor the physical and mental capabilities of doctors and surgeons.

So what does this lack of oversight mean for the patients? A recent article in the Washington Post gives a few examples:

·         There is a vascular specialist in his 80’s who forgets that he has patients under his care and goes on vacation. One of the patients dies.

·         A surgeon with Alzheimer’s is permitted to assist on surgeries, mainly because nobody in his practice has the heart to tell him to retire.

·         One interviewee in the piece mentions that many patients of older surgeons get what is called “Fred Flintstone Care,” which means that the surgeon hasn’t kept up with the latest in trends and advances and gives you what worked back when he was in his prime, even if there are newer, more effective and simpler ways of doing the procedure. As the author puts it, “You get state-of-the-art care, provided that it’s 1976.”

It seems completely ridiculous that people who are no longer physically or mentally able to practice safely are allowed to remain in their positions, particularly when a slip up at any stage of a surgical procedure can mean the difference between life and death. Even young and healthy doctors are perfectly capable of wreaking havoc with their patients, either with a wrong diagnosis or a mistake in prescriptions. While we were comforted to read that some states, hospitals and medical organizations are taking steps to monitor the performance levels of doctors and surgeons as they age, we believe that there are too many that aren’t. If one patient dies or is further injured because of age-related reasons on the part of the doctor, then that is one too many.

Greenberg and Bederman is a medical malpractice injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to those who have been injured due to the actions of a doctor or surgeon. That includes surgical errors, wrong diagnosis cases, and the prescribing of the wrong medication. If you or a loved one has been injured in an instance of medical malpractice in DC, Virginia or Maryland, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free legal consultation.

Check The U.S. Public Interest Research Group For Safe Toys

 

We hate to put a damper on everyone’s holiday spirit, but it seems to us that the period between Thanksgiving and New Years Eve is getting more and more dangerous as time goes by.

The holiday season also sees a fairly large increase in the number of car accidents, injuries and traffic fatalities. AAA estimates that 42.5 million people will travel more than 50 miles from their homes over the holidays, which means the roads will be crowded. And with the NHTSA estimating that one-fifth of all traffic accidents are caused by distracted driving, and with the celebratory nature of the holidays adding alcohol to the already volatile mix, it’s no wonder that the number of traffic accidents spike during the holidays. And it isn’t just the roads that are dangerous. Danger is also in the shopping malls and the stores.

The craziness used to at least start the day after Thanksgiving, where people would rush the front doors of Wal-Marts and Targets all over the country. There have been some dire incidents where people have been trampled, injured, and even crushed to death on more than a few occasions. But in order to get a head start, Wal-Mart, Target and other stores have been throwing their doors open on Thanksgiving itself.

There is a lot that could be said about the idea of forcing low-wage workers with no real employee benefits to speak of being made to leave their families to deal with hordes of ravenous shoppers, but just describing that scenario is enough to illustrate everything that is wrong with it.

For those of you who chose not to run the gauntlet of screaming shoppers that happened over Thanksgiving weekend, there are still some things that you should be aware of even if you are buying things on line. This is particularly true if you have children.

 

Every year, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group releases a list of toys that are available for sale, and there are toys that should under no circumstances be sold to children. Most of them are available anywhere toys are sold, including Toys-R-Us, Wal-Mart and Target.

When the PIRG is on the lookout for dangerous toys, here is what they are generally looking for:

Lead: Believe it or not, this used to be used in practically everything. Paint, glass, and gasoline were just some of the everyday products that were loaded with the stuff. The problem is that when lead is ingested, the particles have a tendency to settle in the blood stream. Lead poisoning is a particularly ugly condition which can lead to death. And considering how often toddlers like to put things in their mouths, lead is the last thing you want in toys for children.

Phthalates: Simply put, phthalates are carcinogens. They are often found in plastics and vinyl due to their tendency to make plastics and vinyl more pliable. If you walk through the toy section of any store you will find that most of the toys are made of plastic. You should make every effort to determine whether or not these toys have phthalates in them.

Cadmium: If you have a daughter who happens to really like toy jewelry, then you should be looking out for cadmium. It’s often used to make plastic look shinier. It also has a tendency to severely weaken bones, which makes fractures and breaks a lot more likely to happen.

Small Parts: You should always keep an eye out for toys that have small, detachable parts. Again, we are worried about the tendency for toddlers to put things in their mouths. If they do with small, detachable parts, it’s easy for an infant or toddler to choke to death.

We would recommend taking a look at the PIRG report to get more information. And in the meantime, be sure to be as safe as possible over the holidays.

Greenberg and Bederman is a personal injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to those who have been injured due to no fault of their own. If you or a loved one in Virginia, Maryland or Washington, DC has been hurt in an accident, contact Greenberg and Bederman for a free consultation today.

Bayer's IUD Birth Control Dangers

 

We’ve made no secret of the fact that we think that Bayer’s birth control devices are not safe. The reason we feel this way is because they put out a birth control pill called Yaz that contained a new ingredient called drospirenone, which we believe led to a much higher risk of blood clots in women who took the pill. These clots caused all sorts of terrible complications, some of which were fatal. It should also be mentioned that Bayer grossly overstated what the pill was capable of, claiming in advertisements that it cured acne, caused women to lose weight and cured PMS.

The Food and Drug Administration actually made Bayer re-shoot multiple advertisements to clarify what the FDA thought were misleading statements, but by that time, the damage had already been done.

History seems to be repeating itself, unfortunately. Bayer’s Intrauterine Device (IUD) has been out on the market, and yet again, there are reports of health risks, and yet again, the FDA has sent out a warning on Bayer’s marketing practices.

According to the letter from the FDA to Bayer:

 

 “The Division of Drug Marketing, Advertising, and Communications (DDMAC) has reviewed a

script for a live consumer-directed program (program) entitled “Mirena Simple Style

Statements Program” (150-74-0002-09) for Mirena (levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine

system) (Mirena), submitted by Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals Inc. (Bayer) under cover

of Form FDA-2253. The program overstates the efficacy of Mirena, presents unsubstantiated

claims, minimizes the risks of using Mirena, and includes false or misleading presentations

regarding Mirena. Thus, the program misbrands the drug in violation of the Federal Food,

Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the Act), 21 U.S.C. 352(n), and FDA’s implementing regulations. 

See 21 CFR 202.1(e)(3)(i), (e)(5) & (e)(6)(i).” (Emphasis ours)

So, again, Bayer comes up with a birth control device that works, but also comes with a fairly substantial risk, and they attempt to market said risky birth control device with a marketing campaign that overstates what the device does while not addressing what the device could possibly do to those that use it.

The overstatement for the capabilities of the Mirena IUD involved an in-home marketing script that was meant to be delivered in living rooms rather than over the airwaves, and while the population reach might not have been as extensive as a big city media buy, the goals were essentially the same: Exaggerate the capabilities of a birth control product and not mention to any of the potential consumers that there were side effects that could be hazardous to their health.

We know enough about the history of IUDs to know that they aren’t exactly the safest of birth control devices, and we know enough about Bayer to know that their track record of patient injuries and misleading advertisements left many women injured; some seriously. We hope that we can have confidence that Bayer will review the safety of the IUD device and if there are problems that Bayer will be willing to step up and correct them.

Greenberg and Bederman is a personal injury law firm  located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to anyone in Maryland, Virginia or Washington, DC who has been injured due to the use of the Mirena IUD. We are also offering assistance to anyone who has been injured due to the use of any of Bayer’s birth control pills that contain the ingredient drospirenone (Yaz, Yasmin, Beyaz, or the generic version, Ocella).

If you or a loved one has been hurt due to an IUD or a birth control pill put out by the Bayer corporation, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free consultation.

Should Monster Energy Drink Be Banned?

 

Have you ever noticed that kids these days are a little more, um, “active” than they were when we were young?

That’s not to say that we were disinterested sloths when we were kids, but nowadays it all seems to be about skateboards and bikes and staying up all night.

One of the reasons that we believe this to be the case is the prevalence of so-called “energy drinks,” which aren’t exactly sodas, but aren’t exactly water either.

They seemed to appear overnight. First you had Red Bull, then you had Rock Star, and so on and so on, and all of a sudden these energy drinks were taking over multiple shelves in the cooler at the 7-11. So what exactly are these things?

Generally speaking, they are big buckets of caffeine. There can be other things in there, like ginseng or other herbal extracts, but for the most part its caffeine. For those of you who are thinking, “Well, so what? How dangerous is that?” we are talking about a huge amount of this stuff. A 12 oz. can of Coca-Cola has 35 mg. of caffeine, while one can of Monster energy drink contains 120 mg of caffeine. For those of you who think that your children get amped up and unmanageable over one can of Coke, drinking one Monster energy is the equivalent of drinking just under 3 cans of Coke.

We’re bringing up Monster energy drink for a few specific reasons. The first is that it is one of the more popular brands of energy drink, and they have done a lot to market themselves to a specific segment of the population, which would be teenagers and people in their twenties. They sponsor rock concerts, skateboarding, motocross and other “extreme sport” exhibitions, and professional skiers and snowboarders.

That’s all well and good. So does Coca-Cola and Pepsi. Coffee companies sponsor their share of events as well. But the major difference is that Monster has an enormous level of caffeine, and it is being marketed to people who are not known for their restraint.

 

So, in hindsight, it appears that what apparently happened to five people was inevitable:

The Food and Drug Administration said on Monday that it was investigating reports of five deaths that may be associated with Monster Beverage Corp's namesake energy drink, and the company's shares fell more than 14 percent.”

Currently, Monster is being sued by the family of a young woman with a heart condition who died after drinking two of their energy drinks over a 24 hour period. It is difficult to say whether or not the energy drink itself was the direct cause of all five of these deaths, but we have every confidence that the Food and Drug Administration will figure it out one way or the other.

But even if it turns out that the energy drink wasn’t entirely to blame, we think it is high time that these energy drinks started putting warning labels on their products, and we also think it is time that they stopped aggressively marketing their products to teens.

There is a major difference between the caffeine levels in Coke, Pepsi, and other drinks that are marketed towards young people, yet there isn’t much information about the caffeine levels anywhere on the product packaging. It’s mentioned, sure, but without the context of how much caffeine 120 mgs actually is, they have no idea how much caffeine they are actually putting into their bodies. Without that key bit of information, they might think that there is no difference between drinking two cokes and drinking two Monsters, when in fact there is a huge difference.

At any rate, if you have any children or teenagers, make sure that you do the smart thing and regulate their intake of Red Bull, Monster, Rock Star or any other energy drink, or at least make sure that you know how much caffeine is in the one that your child likes.

Greenberg and Bederman is a personal injury and wrongful death law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to people in Maryland, Virginia or Washington, DC who have been injured due to no fault of their own. If you or a loved one has been injured, contact Greenberg and Bederman for a free legal consultation today.

Understanding The Meningitis Outbreak

 

The last time we checked, 323 Americans have been infected with fungal meningitis, and 23 of those infected have died. In Maryland, 20 people have been sickened and one has died.

Meningitis is a pretty serious condition. It deteriorates the menges, which are the protective coverings of the brain and the spinal cord. If you remove them, your brain and spinal cord are susceptible to all sorts of infections.

In case anyone is wondering how this meningitis outbreak happened, it’s because there was a sterility problem in a compounding pharmacy in New England. Most people have no idea what a compounding pharmacy is, so please allow us to explain.

Most people are able to get their prescriptions filled at a CVS, Rite-Aid, Target or neighborhood pharmacy. But occasionally patients need prescriptions that aren’t readily available at your local drug store. They might need a special variation of a medicine, or they might have an allergy to an ingredient that is a standard part of a regular prescription. In other words, compounding pharmacies make tailor made prescriptions. You would think these would be safe, but this outbreak has shown they can be quite dangerous.

The outbreak of meningitis has been linked to a compounding pharmacy called the New England Compounding Center. The problematic prescription in question is a steroid used for lower back pain, which is a fairly common affliction here in America.

 

If you consider the fairly strict regulations that govern prescription drugs that go out into the public, you would think that they would apply to these compounding pharmacies, but apparently that is not the case. These pharmacies are all regulated by the states. For instance, in Maryland, compounding pharmacies are regulated by the Board of Pharmacy.

Considering that these pharmacies routinely send pharmaceuticals across state lines, you would think that compounding pharmacies would come under the supervisory jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration, you would be absolutely right. In a recent article in The Baltimore Sun, the International Academy of Compound Pharmacists released a statement:

"Existing law gives FDA and the states the authority to oversee all pharmacies including those that compound, as well as manufacturers…any pharmacy in the U.S can be inspected at any time by either the FDA or state authorities. Now we must make sure that happens. Compounding pharmacies do not fear inspections, they expect them."

What this means is that the FDA actually does inspect these pharmacies, but they apparently don’t very often. This is the sort of lax oversight that leads to lax production safeguards at the pharmacies. If the mindset is “Well, they might come, but they rarely do,” then ultimately employees or lab managers won’t worry too much about a cracked window or leaky pipes.

And these are only a few of the problems that can help make drugs incredibly dangerous. A recent report from Congress showed that there have been incidents in compounding pharmacies nationwide involving using ingredients that weren’t FDA approved, making drugs in unsanitary conditions, or even selling drugs without a prescription.

You should be able to walk into a pharmacy and not have to cross your fingers in the hopes that it will make you better and not worse. Just because compounding pharmacies aren’t making several million units of the same drug does not mean that there shouldn’t be any quality control.

If you or a loved one in Maryland has been made ill or suffered an injury due to a medication from a compounding pharmacy, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free consultation  today.

New Metro Cars Needed?

 

Metro let the public take a look at their new cars the other day, and we have to say that we are impressed. The cars have better seating arrangements, the logo has been updated, and we have to say we are a big fan of the idea of plastic seating rather than the cushioned versions that exist now. We can’t imagine that those cushions or the carpets on the floor of the current cars are easy to clean.

While we can’t fault WMATA for getting new cars, particularly since the cars that we have are old, we have to wonder if spending that sort of money on new cars is the best expenditure right now.

It seems counter-intuitive to say that the cars on a subway system are the least important part of it, but when it comes to DC transit, and when it comes to what’s wrong with the subway in DC, new subway cars are the least important right now.

You can have the nicest and safest car in the world, complete with airbags, anti-lock brakes, super accurate GPS’s and the best road-gripping tires in the world, but that won’t matter one bit if the road you drive it on is crumbling, loaded with potholes, and prone to collapse.

It also won’t matter if you have the safest car in the world if the steps leading to where you park your car are covered with ice, loaded with unknown sinkholes and could randomly cause you to break your ankle.

The tracks and sensor system that the cars need to run safely and efficiently are in a state of disrepair, and so are the escalators that lead to the station. As long as these safety issues aren’t addressed, it hardly matters if the cars come with better seating arrangements, or butlers for the passengers for that matter.

 

People who ride on Metro on a daily basis don’t need to be reminded about the problems with the escalators. Aside from the daily gamble on whether or not they will be operative at all, there have also been a series of major malfunctions with injuries on the escalators. One of them happened during the middle of a hugely successful rally when an escalator that was filled to capacity experienced a brake failure, which caused everyone to slide down in a pile-up at the bottom of the stairs. About a year later there were five injuries in the exact same station when a control panel came loose from the side of the escalator railing.

The issue with the sensors became abundantly clear in 2009 when there was a terrible accident on the Red Line which left nine people dead and dozens injured. The cause of the accident was an under-maintained and outdated sensor system that failed, which caused one train operator to believe that the tracks ahead of her were clear when they most certainly were not.

In terms of the sensors being replaced, it appears that there has been some movement towards an overhaul. But our tracks are still in bad shape. They have a tendency to expand in hot weather, which can make for a dangerous summer for D.C. commuters. And while a few new escalators have been installed, there are still breakdowns and escalators that don’t work on a daily basis all over the Metro system.

So again, while we certainly appreciate the new cars, we still lack confidence in the general infrastructure that these cars are supposed to use. The point of public transit is to get from one place to another as efficiently and as safely as possible. The current aging infrastructure of the WMATA system makes that a very difficult proposition.

Perhaps the first thing to do would be to install a brand new sensor system, as state of the art as possible. That is probably cheaper than getting the Silver Line built, but certainly less dangerous. Secondly, the escalators need to be replaced or there needs to be a staff that is dedicated to their maintenance. Until those problems are fixed, we think that flashy new cars can wait.

Greenberg and Bederman is apersonal injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to people in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, DC who have been injured due to no fault of their own. If you or a loved one has been injured and believe that you need legal advice, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free consultation today.

Do Doctors Cover Up Surgical Errors?

 

Your average person on the street knows very little about hospitals, which is both a good and bad thing. It’s good in the sense that we don’t live in a country where disease is rampant and hospitalizations are routine.  A person in America can go for decades without having to set foot in a hospital as a patient. What’s bad about this lack of knowledge is that it leaves many people with no idea how these places actually work. This puts most patients at a decided disadvantage when it comes to the quality of care that they receive.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal illustrates this quite well. Dr. Marty Makary describes his first day as a resident and in particular the other residents clandestinely referring to a surgeon as “Dr. Hodad.” When he asked his fellow residents what that meant, they said “Hodad” stood for “Hands of Death and Destruction.”

Upon looking into this surgeon’s record, Dr. Makary found that the name was quite accurate. To put it frankly, Dr. Hodad was an appalling surgeon. There were instances of needless complications and re-hospitalizations, and his methods as a surgeon were called “hasty and slipshod.”

You should bear in mind that this didn’t take place at a small, rural hospital. It took place at a teaching hospital affiliated with Harvard Medical School. So how was “Dr. Hodad” allowed to keep practicing?

 

He had two things going for him. The first was a winning bedside manner. If you don’t think that sort of thing works, go back over your life and try to remember if you ever bought a bad product from a particularly nice salesman. The answer is probably yes. What also kept Dr. Hodad in business was the unofficial code of silence that reigns supreme among doctors and surgeons at most hospitals.

Despite the fact that this surgeon wasn’t very good, no other doctors or surgeons were willing to mention it. Not to the state medical board and not to hospital administration. You would have to assume that if this surgeon’s nickname was “Hands of Death and Destruction” then it had to have been known that this guy wasn’t very good. But according to Dr. Makary, nobody rats anyone else out. It just isn’t done.

Among other disconcerting pieces of information provided in this article is Dr. Makary’s assertion that most hospitals have at least one “Dr. Hodad” on staff, which means that every hospital is essentially covering up for a negligent doctor while patients suffer needlessly, and possibly die.

Aside from that, here are some downright frightening things to take away from Dr. Makary’s perspectives:

·         Medical mistakes kill enough people every week to fill four jumbo jets.

·         Surgeons operate on the wrong body part 40 times a week.

·         About a quarter of all hospitalized patients will be harmed by a medical error.

·         If medical errors were considered a disease, they would be the sixth leading cause of death in America.

Bear in mind, the person telling us this is one of the most renowned medical professionals in the country. He isn’t some failed surgeon with an ax to grind. He realizes that patient welfare is a lot more important than preserving the reputations of those who don’t deserve the reputations that they have.

He also has some common sense ideas for fixing what is wrong with our medical system, among them open safety records, cameras in the operating room and a ban on so-called “gag orders,” which prevent patients who win medical malpractice settlements from speaking about their cases. Since Dr. Makary has already invented the “surgical checklist,” which has cut down drastically on surgical errors where they have been put into place, we trust his judgment.

After reading Dr. Makary’s piece, does anyone really think that we here at Greenberg and Bederman or any other medical malpractice law firm are out there filing “frivolous lawsuits?” That we are just dragging doctors names through the mud for fun and profit? That’s the narrative that most tort reformers out there are selling, and unfortunately they are selling it quite successfully. Dr. Makary has simply illuminated what we have known for decades. Our medical culture is one of tolerated mistakes and keeping quiet, yet people are suffering needlessly as a result.

Greenberg and Bederman is a medical malpractice injury law firm that practices in the greater Washington, DC area. If you or a loved one in Maryland, Virginia or Washington, DC has been injured due to a medical or surgical error, please contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free consultation.

Are Doctors Afraid of Lawsuits?

 

One of the major premises put forth by proponents of tort reform is that the reason medical costs are so high is because doctors are afraid of lawsuits. In order to avoid them, doctors look under every conceivable rock with every single patient and run more tests than they should.

The catchphrase that they came up for this sort of thing is “defensive medicine,” and it seems to be a very effective way of making it seem like doctors are afraid of their patients rather than afraid for their patients.

Medical costs are high, and some doctors do run a great deal of tests, but the reason for this might not be practical as much as it is profitable. One thing to consider is that the hospital will often find a way to get paid, regardless of whether or not the insurance company agrees to pay for the treatment. If an insurance company says no, your average hospital has no qualms about shifting the costs on to you. This is particularly galling when you consider that you aren’t in charge of choosing the treatment, so receiving an invoice for a test that was not explained to you ahead of time seems quite unfair.

When HMOs and managed care organizations are running shifting the burden of payments to us and running up the costs, it quite often has very little to do with fear of lawsuits. In the first place, medical costs in states where medical malpractice cases are limited are as high as they used to be. In Texas, the fear of lawsuits for medical malpractice cases has been greatly reduced, yet none of the supposed cost decreases have occurred.

 

An interesting article in the New York Times mentions a managed care organization that has figured out a way to maximize its profits through interesting methods. Well, not interesting in that one of the methods is a standard business practice, but considering that the method is providing fewer doctors and nurses while maintaining the same amount of patient care, that is something we found disconcerting.

According to the article, another method was to change the billing codes that they use for insurance companies, and almost overnight the number of patients who needed more care than less skyrocketed. A re-write of the rules allowed them to charge insurance companies more, which meant more money for everybody, except the insurers, who passed the costs on to policy holders.

A different article about this same managed care organization details how they made a great deal of money performing expensive but unnecessary cardiac procedures on thousands of patients. If profit-motive is more paramount to what the patient actually needs, then “fear of lawsuits” is probably only a secondary concern when it comes to unnecessary tests and procedures.

On that topic, the Institute of Medicine recently released a report detailing how the United States healthcare system wastes $750 billion a year, and at the top of the list in terms of money wasted is “unnecessary services,” which they estimate costs $210 billion a year. We don’t imagine that the HMO’s view those services as a waste, seeing as how they get paid for them.

It is interesting to note that in 2010, a report was released that claimed that medical malpractice lawsuits cost $55.6 billion a year, with $45.6 billion of that due to “defensive medicine.” We dispute even that number with the defensive medicine removed, but if the cost of medical malpractice were in fact $10 billion a year, that is significantly less than the costs of unnecessary treatment in the American healthcare system. And if caps have removed the need for defensive medicine (as so many tort reformers claim,) then what can be blamed for the high cost but good old fashioned profit motive?

As long as our healthcare system is based on business owners putting more money on their pockets at the expense of the little guy getting better, you can expect more cases of unnecessary treatment. That is the issue, and not medical malpractice lawsuits.

Greenberg and Bederman is a medical malpractice law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently helping those who have been hurt due to the negligence or incompetence of a doctor, surgeon or other medical professional.

If you or a loved one in Maryland, Virginia or Washington, DC has been hurt due to an instance of medical malpractice, contact Greenberg & Bederman for afree consultation today.

Insurance Is Just Business

 

Ok, look, here’s the thing. We live in a country that operates on the principles of capitalism. That doesn’t really make us different. There are a lot of other countries that do the same. But we put an extra emphasis on it. We hang a flag on it and our politicians preach about it, and for 99.9% of the time they are absolutely right to do so.

We like it when people do well. We love stories of people who come to this country and start a Laundromat and 20 years later they send their kids to Harvard. That is the absolute epitome of what America is all about.

There is one downside about our obsession with business, negotiations, and the free market. That downside is that there is an element of our society which thinks that we should apply it to everything. And we mean absolutely everything. Roads, schools, police, etc. As far as these folks are concerned, all of it should be running on a for-profit basis.

Some industries take this more seriously than others, and one that does is the insurance business. You are probably pretty sure how it works, but if you are like most people, you don’t have the real story on what insurance is. You are probably thinking that if you get hurt or sick or injured or something bad happens to your property and you happen to have an insurance policy, then no problem, because that’s what the insurance is for. Those guys just come swooping in and cut a check and the problem is solved, right?

This is when that “free market” stuff kicks in. More often than not, the moment you find yourself needing your insurance to work is not the moment that they cut a check. That is actually the moment when they initiate an investigation. On you. To make sure that you aren’t pulling a fast one.

 

In the event that they determine that you aren’t pulling a fast one, that is when they decide not to simply cut you a check for your medical bills, property damage, etc., but rather to begin a business negotiation. For all of the commercials telling you about how they are good neighbors, or how they are on your side, insurance companies are on the side of their quarterly reports and not much else. It is their job to actually pay out as little as possible for the injuries that you received.

They do this by way of dragging out the process as long as they possibly can. After all, you are the one with the potential crippling debt and not them. They don’t have to pay collection agencies or worry about being evicted. You do. So after a few months, when your financial situation starts looking pretty dire, that lowball offer that you received from Progressive or Allstate or State Farm or Farmers starts to look pretty appealing, even though it’s significantly less than your actual damages. This is the “business” part of things we were telling you about. And the problem is, most of us are laboring under the delusion that there is nothing we can do about it when insurance companies lowball you or arbitrarily deny your claim, but there are actually quite a few things you can do.

The first thing would be to file a report with your state department of insurance. Virginia has one, DC has one, and Maryland has one. If you feel that you have been legitimately wronged by an insurance company, the state agency is obligated to hear you out. If they think that you have been wronged, they will investigate your claim and could possibly even overturn their decision.

Your second option is to get in touch with an attorney. Believe it or not, in a lot of cases that works out equally well. A lot of insurance companies are assuming that you will just roll over and take what they give you, but often simply receiving a call from an attorney can help them come to their senses. They will do a cost-benefit analysis and determine whether or not the expenses of going to court would be worth not paying you what you deserve, and in more than a few cases the numbers come down on your side. But if they don’t, having an experienced attorney on your side is absolutely crucial.

Greenberg and Bederman has been helpinginjury victims in the DC area with their legal issues for almost thirty years, and that includes dealing with insurance companies. They always have lawyers, and you should to.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident due to no fault of your own, contact Greenberg & Bederman for afree consultation.

Bumpo Baby Seat Recall

 

Products get recalled all the time. Most of the time it isn’t a big deal. The reasons for a product recall are often more about quality control than anything else. Sometimes something goes wrong in the manufacturing process, and sometimes bad materials are used, or sometimes there is a design flaw, but for the most part, a lot of recalls are fairly harmless.

Sometimes a switch will come off in your hand shortly after you bought the product. Sometimes a sole will come off of your new shoe because the manufacturer used a new supplier. In cases like these, it’s rare for someone to get hurt.

But sometimes, there are recalls that happen because of legitimate and provable danger, and in that case, the recall is a big deal. It’s also a particularly big deal if the product had been out on the market for a significant length of time, and the manufacturer was aware of the dangers and didn’t do anything to get the product off the market.

Recently the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) ordered a recall of a brand of baby seat that has been sold in the United States for nine years. The seat was made and marketed by a company called Bumpo, which sold the chair through retailers like Sears, Target, Wal-Mart, Babies-R-Us and USA Babies. In other words, this chair was sold everywhere, to everyone.

A baby seat’s main function is to keep babies securely in the chair, and at first glance, you would think that this chair served that purpose. The seat appears to be able to keep an infant in it. It has a restraint system that goes around both of the infants legs.

 

But the problem is that it turns out to be relatively easy for a baby sitting in that seat to maneuver out of the chair, which wouldn’t necessarily be a problem if these chairs were made to be left on the floor. But they aren’t. They are made to be placed on top of elevated surfaces like high chairs.

According to the CPSC, this is actually the second recall of the Bumpo baby seat. The first one took place in 2007, but instead of actually fixing the problem, they simply put warning labels on the product that said that you shouldn’t put the seat on elevated surfaces with the child in it.

This seems somewhat contrary to the function of a baby seat. What would be the point of having a baby seat that you only left on the floor?

Obviously, the first recall didn’t help much. Since then, the CPSC has found 50 incidents of babies falling out of the seat and hurting themselves, with 19 of these incidents causing skull fractures, plus there were 34 instances of babies falling out of the chair with 2 of those incidents causing skull fractures.

We can’t help but wonder how it was that the CPSC or Bumpo thought that warning labels would fix the problem. The new recall is an actual attempt to fix the problem rather than simply warn people that a problem exists. Owners of these seats are urged to not use it until they receive and install a simple repair kit, which will supposedly fix the issue. But again, why wasn’t this sorted out back in 2007? The product had been on sale for four years before that. And why did they wait five years before actually fixing the problem? Was the reason was economics?

Obviously, if you have one of these seats, we would urge you to follow the advice of the CSPC and wait until you have a repair kit. But we suspect for some of you, both the warning labels and the repair kits were too little and too late.

If you have an infant who suffered an injury due to a fall from one of these chairs, you may be eligible for financial compensation. Greenberg and Bederman is currently offering legal assistance to anyone in Washington, DC, Maryland or Virginia that had a child injured due to these defective baby seats. Please contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free legal consultation today.

Pedestrians And Cell Phone Dangers

 

We have written quite a bit over the past few years about the dangers of texting while driving, and we think we have been justified in doing so. The act of operating a car while sending a text, checking your e-mail or seeing what people are saying about Kim Kardashian on Twitter has resulted in thousands of deaths and injuries, to drivers, passengers and pedestrians.

Upon further consideration, we feel that we have been a bit remiss in covering one aspect of the dangers of being distracted by technology, and that aspect is that just as people drive while being glued to their iPhones, Droids and Blackberry’s, people walk with equivalent distractions.

The consequences appear to be just as severe; three recent articles in The Washington Post describe the need for both drivers and pedestrians to pay less attention to the technology and pay more attention to where they are going.

One article mentions the latest numbers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which provide the number of traffic fatalities in 2010. The numbers from Washington, D.C. show that of the 24 fatalities that occurred in the District, 13 were pedestrians, which means that 54 percent of the fatalities were people who were on their feet instead of behind the wheel. It further mentions that Maryland’s pedestrian fatality rate was at 20.5 percent, and Virginia’s was at 9.9 percent.

Maryland and Virginia’s low numbers make relative sense, particularly because there is a lot less downtown cities to walk in Maryland in Montgomery and Prince Georges counties, and there is a lot less urban areas in Northern Virginia than D.C. But we would make an educated guess that a lot of the pedestrian deaths in Virginia took place in Alexandria, Arlington or Fairfax, and a lot of the pedestrian deaths in Maryland took place in Bethesda and Silver Spring, where it is a bit more urban.

 

D.C. is very much the urban area, and for that matter is very much a connected urban area. If you want to make your average DMV resident uncomfortable, deny him or her access to a smartphone. Many of us are constantly on call. We get e-mails, texts and information that need to be dealt with ASAP, so as a result, a good percentage of DC people are constantly checking their phones. It isn’t much of a surprise that we have a high percentage of pedestrian fatalities.

The Washington Post ran an editorial on this alarming trend the very next day, and they made some very important points:

“Although these officials and organizations are right to propose texting and cellphone bans for drivers, such bans are clearly not enough. The officials should also consider measures that would require pedestrians to pay more attention to their surroundings. If distracted driving is an issue worth addressing, so is distracted walking.”

We absolutely agree. How many times have you been walking down Eye Street only to have to maneuver your way around another pedestrian who had his eyes locked on his phone and not what was in front of him? If you ride the Metro to work you probably witness at least one or two bumps or collisions a day.

Finally, a post in The Post’s “Crime Scene” blog ran a story yesterday afternoon, which we think might serve to illustrate the importance of both drivers and pedestrians to keep aware of their surroundings and not their phones:

“A vehicle struck five pedestrians near the intersection of North Capitol Street and New York Avenue at approximately 11:40 a.m. Thursday, officials said.

Four people were transported to Washington Hospital Center, and one is in serious condition, according to a D.C. Fire Department spokesman. The fifth pedestrian had minor injuries and was not taken to the hospital.

The scene is under investigation.”

There are a lot of arguments against legislation regarding pedestrians and cell phone use, and they usually fall under the “Nanny State” category. In other words, most people don’t want the government involved in every single aspect of their lives, particularly when it comes to things that might or might not be bad for you.

But we would argue that there is a big difference between meddling in the amount of soda that you can buy and trying to prevent you from wandering into traffic because you were busy instagramming a picture of what you had for lunch. But in the absence of any such legislation, the only thing we can encourage you to do is to please leave your phones alone while walking or driving.

Greenberg and Bederman is a car and pedestrian accident law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to those who have been hurt due to the negligence of others. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, contact Greenberg & Bederman for afree legal consultation today.

Maryland Needs Dram Shop Laws

 

As much as people complain about Congress, they do on occasion get things done. On July 1st, they passed the annual funding for transportation, otherwise known as “the Highway Bill.”

Congress pretty much always passes this. For one thing, it pays for maintenance on highways and bridges, which the United States desperately needs. Easy access to transportation is crucial to the economy. But Congress also likes it because there are plenty of opportunities to get federal money to their districts, often for purposes that have very little to do with roads.

There are a lot of names for this kind of thing. “Pork Barrel Spending” is one. “Earmarks” are another. Nobody is really immune to it. Even the staunchest of rugged, individualist red-state conservatives who simply want the government out of their lives usually have one or two requests for money in the highway bill.

Earmarks get a bad rap, sometimes justifiably so. We’ve heard about Representatives securing funding for airports for utterly rural districts, or getting millions to reprint the maps and repaint all the signs because of the re-naming multiple things after Ronald Reagan, but there are often perfectly legitimate reasons for securing highway bill money. Let’s say a bridge in your district is in dire need of repair, and the state simply doesn’t have the funds. Or let’s say the buses in a city or town in your district are falling apart and you need a few new ones. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with trying to get federal money to help offset the costs. After all, it’s your money to begin with.

One example of positive earmarks that were in this particular version of the highway bill was financial incentives to the states to combat drunk driving. This isn’t necessarily the same thing as direct money for doing so, but since it amounts to re-imbursement and then some when states become more proactive about fighting driving under the influence, it might as well be. We need our roads to be safe, not dangerous.

 

In addition to the financial incentives, there is also actual funding for concrete prevention and enforcement measures. There is funding for interlocks for those who have been convicted of drunk driving. There is also money for research on less intrusive ways to determine sobriety levels.

Speaking as attorneys who help those who have been injured in car accidents due to no fault of their own, we very much approve of more enforcement and prevention for drunk driving. We have lost count of the number of clients of ours in Virginia, Maryland or Washington, DC who have been injured due to the actions of someone who thought it would be perfectly ok to get drunk and get behind the wheel of a car.

This increased funding and the incentives are very much welcome, but we would like to see the states take even more action, particularly in Maryland, and particularly in the area of what are called dram shop laws.

For those of you who don’t know, dram shop laws are laws that set liability standards for establishments that sell alcohol. As of now, Maryland doesn’t have any.

What this means is that if someone walks into a bar and drinks a staggering amount of liquor, and then openly walks outside and gets into his car, and then injures or kills someone, the establishment that had no problems getting him drunk and letting him leave bears no legal responsibility. Besides being dangerous, this is unfair to the little guy.

One particular example of this was the case of Jazemin Warr. Ms. Waar was killed by a man who sat in a Gaithersburg bar for hours and had over twenty units of alcohol. The staff at this establishment did nothing to stop him from drinking that much, although they knew he was dangerous. They didn’t call him a cab. They didn’t even offer. They just let him walk out the door and get into his car, and Jazemin Warr is dead as a result.

We represent Jazemin Waar’s family, and we are pleased to report that we have made some progress in the matter. A Maryland judge acknowledged that there was at least the appearance of liability despite the lack of specific dram shop laws, so our case is currently ongoing.

One argument against dram shop laws is that such things reek of Big Brother, or government intrusion into the liberties of Americans. We don’t believe so. You are free to march into a liquor store and buy whatever you want. You are free to sit on your couch and drink yourself insensible. You are free to go to a bar and drink as much as the man who killed Jazemin Warr.

What you are not free to do is recklessly endanger the lives of others. The man who killed Jazemin Warr certainly did, and we also believe that the establishment that sold him the liquor with no real concern for the consequences did as well.

Greenberg and Bederman is a car accident injury firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to those who have been injured in car accidents due to no fault of their own, and that includes those who have been injured by people driving under the influence of alcohol. If you or a loved one in Maryland, Virginia or Washington, DC has been hurt in an accident, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free consultation today.

Hip Replacement Recall Metal On Metal

 

It is starting to become apparent that metal-on-metal hip replacements aren’t working out too well. DuPuy hip replacements had some recall issues due to metal shards and shavings grinding off into the body cavity of those who had them installed, and now it seems that a company called Stryker has initiated a recall of their hip replacements due to the same problem.

We’ve been offering legal assistance to those who have suffered from injuries due to defective hip replacements for quite some time now. One of the reasons that we felt compelled to get involved was because while the idea of a defective medical product was bad enough, it seems that DuPuy (and its parent company, Johnson & Johnson,) were still marketing their defective hip replacement even after they knew that there were problems with it.

It’s one thing to sell a lamp that shorts out, or even Band-Aids that don’t stick very well. Initiating a recall wouldn’t be a very big deal. People would simply return their products for either a working replacement or a refund. It happens all the time.

 

But a recall of a hip replacement is another matter entirely, especially if the replacement has already been implanted. It involves going to the hospital undergoing the same excruciatingly painful surgery that you went through the first time.

The problem with the Stryker hip replacement is essentially the same as the problem as the DuPuy hip replacement. Most hip replacements replicate the ball and socket structure with metal on plastic or some another type of synthetic material, but DuPuy and Stryker both use metal on metal. The problem is that after a while, with the repetitive motion of the movement of the hip, the metal ball and metal socket start to grind together, which causes tiny pieces of metal filings to drop down into the flesh of the leg. Walking, sleeping, and essentially being alive becomes painful.

This wasn’t a freak occurrence, either. DuPuy’s hip replacement failure rate was around 1 in 8. One out of every eight patients with these hip replacements had to go in and have hip replacement surgery. Again. Now it appears that some of Stryker’s customers will have to do the same.

As we said earlier, the problem is the same metal-on-metal, shrapnel causing motion that DuPuy had, even though the part is different. The ball and socket mechanism with Stryker appears to be metal on ceramic, but the recall involves what is called a modular neck stem, which is metal-on-metal. We aren’t sure if Stryker made any inquiries as to the integrity of their product once the DuPuy recall happened. Maybe they did, and maybe they determined that there wasn’t anything to worry about. If that’s the case, they determined wrong. Since the beginning of 2012, there have been 45 incidents of filings floating into the body cavity with people wearing Stryker implants. And ultimately, it doesn’t matter one whit to the person who has to get this replacement recalled if it’s the modular neck stem or the ball and socket. It’s not as if a technician can come to your house and remove it.

We believe that anyone who has to go through the pain and inconvenience of having a defective product removed from their body should not have to pay one shiny penny of the costs for the procedure. We also think that anyone who has to have this defective hip replacement replaced should be compensated for their time spent recovering from the surgery, for the loss of any income they might have earned had the hip replacement worked as it was supposed to. We also think they should be compensated for having to go through that painful procedure a second time, and we are willing to represent anyone in the Washington, DC area who had to have a defective hip replacement removed.

Greenberg and Bederman is an injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to those who have been forced to have a defective, metal on metal hip replacement removed. If you or a loved one in Maryland, Virginia or Washington, DC has experienced this problem with a Stryker hip implant, contact Greenberg & Bederman today for a free consultation.

Re-Branding Tort Reform

 

Have any of you ever heard of a company called Worldcom?

It’s a fairly enormous communications company. They used to go by the name MCI. But between 2000 and 2003 they insisted that everyone call them “Worldcom.”

One of the reasons for the shift in the name was because their former brand name, MCI, was completely tarnished by an accounting scandal that drained their coffers. The name “MCI” was considered unsalvageable, so they simply changed it, hoped nobody noticed, and carried on. They recovered pretty well. Right now they are doing business as “Verizon.”

Something as simple as a name change can make all the difference as to whether something fails or succeeds. Sometimes you can even change the definition of a word to suit your purposes, continue using the word in various other contexts, and eventually people will come to accept your definition of the word without even thinking about it.

Conservatives in America are positively amazing at this. Consider the word “freedom.” Conservative politicians love to hang the word “freedom” on almost every policy that they are pushing for, regardless of whether it has anything to do with freedom or not. They have successfully changed the definition of the word “freedom” to “things that we like,” and nobody has really noticed. So when conservative activists say things like “We are against health care reform because we are for freedom,” they aren’t lying. They’ve just changed the definition of the word.

 

An estate tax is now a “death tax.” The Affordable Care Act is “Obamacare.” Tax breaks for the very wealthy are called “liberty.” Legislation put out by democrats is “tyranny,” “power grabs,” or “constitutional over-reach.” A foreign policy decision by a Democrat is called “appeasement,” or “apologizing for America.” They brand things better than Madison Avenue.

Most of these catchphrases or re-brands are thought up by a guy named Frank Luntz. He uses focus groups with voters and runs new names for things by them to see what works and what doesn’t. He sends out daily memos to conservative politicians and think tanks to discover how to refer to things, and they pretty much follow his lead. Witness how the wealthy are universally referred to as “job creators” by any Republican in the vicinity of a microphone.

His latest branding masterpiece is to refer to “tort reform” as “lawsuit abuse reform.” His rationale for doing so is that “Most people think ‘torts’ are French pastry desserts.” That’s pretty clever, but really what he is doing is giving something odious a misleading name.

Referring to “tort reform” as “lawsuit abuse reform” gives people the idea that there are people out there who can’t go out to get the newspaper without getting hit with a lawsuit. That life is just one big parade of trips to the courthouse and trips to the bank to pay your legal fees. That anyone, anywhere, at any time can successfully sue you for no apparent reason and win millions of dollars.

We know this to be nonsense, and we are the people who actually file lawsuits in court. We don’t file lawsuits that are frivolous or pointless, because that would be a waste of money, our time and the courts time. Frivolous cases almost always get thrown out, and besides, the courtroom is not the place to settle petty grudges. It is a place where citizens who have suffered financial losses or have had something taken from them can get a chance to be made whole.

Just as an aside, how many times have you been sued today? Ten times? No? How about five, then. No? Have you ever been sued? Has anyone you know been sued? Well then, why the need for placing increasingly harsh restrictions on those who can file a lawsuit and for how much? Because that is what this is about, whether you call it “tort reform,” “lawsuit abuse reform,” or the “liberty, freedom, apple pie and more liberty initiative.”

You don’t get sued very much, if at all, if ever. Large corporations do, and they don’t get sued because people enjoy suing them. They get sued because sometimes, they get things wrong. They put out a product that turns out to be dangerous, or they mislead investors, or they do something that ultimately hurts people or costs money. We aren’t saying that all corporations do this. But it happens often enough. Doctors and hospitals get things wrong, too. It’s inevitable. The difference is that their mistakes can cost people their lives.

“Tort reform” or “lawsuit abuse reform” puts huge restrictions on what you can sue for, and how much in damages you can collect. It prices lower income Americans out of the courtroom, and makes it easier for corporations to be more reckless, and for doctors and surgeons to be more careless. So if they want to call it “lawsuit abuse reform,” we’ll start calling it “corporate immunity reform.”

That’s the goal of tort reform legislation, after all. Corporations want the right to do whatever they want, whenever they want, however they want. Hospitals and doctors want the right to not be held accountable for their mistakes, even if those “mistakes” are due to negligence. Corporate immunity reform would allow them to get off scot free, to not even feel their mistakes, and to not be forced to compensate those whom they hurt.

Corporations and politicians aren’t the only ones who can rebrand a bad idea.

Greenberg and Bederman is a personal injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to those in Maryland, Virginia or Washington, DC who have been injured due to no fault of their own. If you or a loved one has been hurt in an accident, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free consultation.

Traumatic Brain Injury Is Serious

 

We recently did a piece about how slipping and falling is something that most people consider funny, even though it’s anything but. A person falling down is one of the most prevalent forms of injuries and deaths that happen in America, and there isn’t anything funny about that.

We would like to amend that list of things that aren’t actually funny to include people getting hit on the head. Again, this is something that has slipped its way into the sense of humor of the American people. We’ve all seen the cartoons where somebody takes one on the head, and then you get the cartoonish “bonk” sound, and then maybe the occasional trio of cartoon birds circling the head while he sits there cross-eyed with his tongue hanging out.

It isn’t just that we think it’s funny. Sometimes we think it’s cool when people get hit on the head. Think of all the hockey fights we watch, or all the really hard hits that happen during any particular NFL game. Any fan of hockey or football reading this will admit to taking out the TiVo remote, rewinding and re-watching all sorts of sporting events involving people taking blows to the head. Boxing and Ultimate Fighting fans are the same way.

We would like to give you a few names in the hopes that it will make you rethink how funny and cool blows to the head can be, to illustrate how dangerous this practice actually is.

 

Rick Rypien, professional hockey player, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Derek Boogard, professional hockey player, dead of an accidental overdose of alcohol and pills.

Wade Belak, professional hockey player, suicide by hanging.

All three of these men were in the league as “enforcers,” which are people who do not have the job of scoring. They have the job of protecting the people who do score, and that protection often comes in the form of getting into fights.

We aren’t talking minor scuffles, either. We mean brutal affairs where each man grabs hold of the other while they repeatedly punch each other in the face.

A few other names for your consideration:

Junior Seau, professional football player, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Terry Long, professional football player, dead of self-poisoning.

Andre Waters, professional football player, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Dave Duerson, professional football player, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Ray Easterling, professional football player, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

These men had all suffered multiple concussions over the course of their careers. Dave Duerson shot himself in the chest with the request that his brain be analyzed for damage, and while Junior Seau left no such request, the fact that he shot himself in the chest as well is somewhat telling.

One of the more common dangerous side effects of traumatic brain injuries (TBI’s) is depression, and as you can see from the way that 7 out of the 8 men ended their lives, depression can quite easily lead to suicidal thoughts. Although Derek Boogard died of an accidental overdose, his brain showed all the signs of TBI, and it was quite likely that he would have ended up suffering from dementia, senility, depression, or any one of the dozens of debilitating symptoms that come with serious brain injuries.

While all eight of these men had suffered multiple concussions and serious hits to the head over the course of their careers, brain injuries do not have to happen again and again for a victim to feel the effects. All it takes is one TBI, and that person’s life can change forever.

We’ve seen this happen in our capacity as injury lawyers in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC. More than a few of our clients have taken serious blows to the head due to car accidents or slipping and falling, and depression is certainly one of the problems that they have had to deal with. Also on the list are symptoms like an inability to concentrate or a loss of cognitive ability, each of which makes it difficult for them to get a job, or to even continue the work that they had after they were injured.

There isn’t anything funny about a traumatic brain injury, whether it happens on the playing field or on a street corner. We have seen too many lives changed drastically and irrevocably due to TBI’s, and many people have seen the lives of their loved ones end.

Greenberg and Bederman is an injury law firm  located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to those who have been injured in accidents due to no fault of their own, and that includes those who have suffered from traumatic brain injuries. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free consultation today. 

Slip and Fall Prank

 

There is a long tradition of school pranks in this country, both in college and in high school. Sometimes they are crude affairs involving water balloons or paint, and sometimes they are ingenious.

Take MIT, for instance. The main feature on campus is called The Great Dome. It’s 140 feet high and is impossible to miss. It has also been the main target for pranks for decades. Consider the following:

·         In 1994, MIT students managed to get a replica of a patrol car from the Cambridge, Massachusetts Police Department up there, complete with flashing lights.

·         In Halloween of that same year, they turned the dome into a Jack-O-Lantern.

·         In May of 1999, students turned the dome into a giant replica of R2-D2.

·         In 2009, students turned the top of the dome into a big piece of sheet music, which was apparently the opening bar to Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.”

These pranks don’t really seem to signify anything other than that the students at MIT enjoy being very clever. But aside from the people who climb the dome and somehow manage to get all of these devices and props up there, nobody is ever really put in any danger.

 

That’s what the point of a prank is. It’s supposed to be silly, and sometimes it’s supposed to embarrass someone, but nobody is supposed to get hurt.

A recent story in The Washington Post details a prank that was put into place by a few high school seniors, and there was nothing safe or funny about it. In fact, those students are lucky nobody got seriously hurt.

From what we can tell, the prank was initially supposed to involve shaving cream and water balloons, but then someone got the not-very-bright idea of spreading baby oil on floors and on stairway landings.

We’ve been conditioned by decades of slapstick humor to think that people falling is hilarious rather than dangerous. But the truth of the matter is that slipping and falling is one of the most common causes of injuries and deaths in America. Spreading baby oil on hallways and over stairwells was an incredibly reckless and dangerous thing to do. Fortunately, the oil was discovered and removed before anyone got hurt, but can you imagine what could have happened if someone actually slipped and fell down the stairs?

The students were caught, and the so-called “mastermind” behind this prank was punished with not being able to participate in his school’s graduation ceremony. He might consider that unfair, but if anyone had been hurt due to that prank, he could have been facing jail time and lawsuits. The school system might have faced one or several as well.

Not too long ago, a comedian named Larry Miller stepped outside of a bar to take a phone call. While waking back into the bar, he slipped and fell and landed practically on his head. Mr. Miller has a series of popular live shows that he puts on, as well as a popular weekly podcast, and he hasn’t been able to do any of those things since his accident, which took place on April 4th. He’s still recovering. This was simply a freak accident, but Mr. Miller was seriously injured, and there wasn’t anything funny about it. There wouldn’t have been anything accidental about students, teachers and staff slipping and falling down flights of stairs.

Falls are not funny. 82% of fall victims age 65 and older end up dying from it. 8,000 kids a day end up in the hospital because of falls. They cause serious injuries and even deaths. Feel free to all the pranks you want, but if it involves people falling, don’t do it.

Greenberg & Bederman is a personal injury law firm in Silver Spring Maryland.  We are currently offering legal assistance to those who have been injured due to no fault of their own, including a slip and fall. If you or a loved one in Virginia, Maryland or Washington, DC has been hurt in an accident, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free consultation.

Dangerous Steel Grill Brushes

 

We’re pretty sure almost everyone had a barbecue over Memorial Day weekend. It’s a proud tradition in America. The weather was perfect for it, too. It was between 80 and 90 degrees for Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

As injury lawyers in the Washington, DC area, we keep a pretty close eye on topics in the news regarding safety and injuries, and believe it or not, the subject of barbecue injuries has been coming up a lot lately. It might seem like a strange thing to be worried about, but people get hurt while barbecuing all the time.

The atmosphere is pretty ripe for accidents if you think about it. You are in a backyard, the environment is relaxed and casual, and more often than not people are drinking beer or other types of alcohol. It’s easy to forget that there is anything to worry about at all. But do remember that you are dealing with either open fire or propane that is bottled under pressure. You are in the process of turning raw meat into cooked meat, and you have to come into contact with a surface that is almost the exact same temperature as fire in order to do it.

A lot of injuries happen because people grill in the wrong place. Setting up a charcoal grill on the balcony of an apartment is the absolute wrong place to do it, but people do so all the time. Some injuries happen because people get a little impatient and use gasoline to light the coals instead of lighter fluid. Sometimes they use lighter fluid but don’t cap the bottle and keep it away from the grill. Sometimes they don’t properly attach the propane tank to the grill and it leaks.

All of these examples have documented injuries to back them up. They aren’t crazy mishaps. They happen a lot.

 

Recently we came across an account of a barbecue-related accident that didn’t have anything to do with fire, and we thought we would pass on the information to you.

Over the course of 18 months, six patients were admitted to Rhode Island Hospital, and all of them had similar symptoms. They were suffering from either painful swallowing in the mouth and throat, or severe abdominal pain. Aside from the similar symptoms, they had all ingested grilled meat during the previous 24 hours.

So was this an infection? Was it underdone or spoiled meat? No. The doctors questioned the patients, various friends and family members and determined that just prior to being used, all of the grills in question were scrubbed clean with wire barbecue brushes. What was meant to be hygienic actually turned dangerous.

Many commercial grill brushes are made of steel wire. In the case of these six patients, they ingested single strands of wire that came loose on the grill surface and became embedded in the meat as it cooked.

The injuries were serious. Three of the patients had wires removed from their necks through surgery, two of them had wires puncture their small intestines, and the sixth patient actually had the wire puncture his liver.

Bear in mind that this was six people over 18 months at the same hospital. We haven’t come across any other reports from any other hospitals, so we aren’t sure if this is a nationwide problem, or if the brushes that hurt these people were defective and localized to Rhode Island, but both the frequency of the injuries and the gruesome nature of them was enough to get our attention.

We would urge you to do your research on grill brushes, and to avoid ones that use metal wires. There are plenty of plastic models available. But it is possible to clean a grill without using a brush at all. Next time you want to clean your grill, use an onion.

Don’t laugh, this works. You take a large onion and cut it in half. Then you light the coals and wait for the grill to get hot. Put the half of the onion in your long handled tongs and just scrub it back and forth over the grill. It does a fairly amazing job getting rid of all the black crust that is left over from the last barbecue.

Another method is to use aluminum foil. Take a big sheet of it, ball it up tightly, put it in your tongs and scrub back and forth. If foil ends up on the grill, it will be easy to spot, and even if people accidentally ingest a tiny bit the odds of them suffering any injuries from it are infinitesimal.

By all means, enjoy your summer and barbecue as much as you want, but exercise precautions and be safe. Nothing ruins a summer more than an extended stay in the hospital.

Greenberg and Bederman is a personal injury law firm in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to those who have been injured due to products that were faulty, defective or dangerous. If you or a loved one in Maryland, Virginia or Washington, DC has been injured due to the negligence of someone else, contact Greenberg  Bederman for afree consultation today.

FTC Fines Skechers Toning Shoes

 

Do you know about the fine that the Federal Trade Commission levied on the shoe company Skechers? The fine was about $40 million. Most of that will go to customer refunds, which is how it should be.

In case anyone was wondering about what all the fuss was about, the issue basically comes down to this: Can a company advertise saying that its product can do things that it actually can’t in real life?

Just like the Yaz birth control ads put out by Bayer that were misleading and marketed with an advertising push that claimed that the pills could prevent and cure acne, get rid of PMS and actually help you lose weight, Skechers claims were not accurate.  On some occasions, the birth control pills did something similar to those claims, but not always. They helped reduce some forms of acne in some patients, and it helped reduce the symptoms of a condition called Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder in some patients, and some patients who took it lost weight. But they did not cure acne and PMS and cause every patient to lose weight, which was a problem for Bayer because their advertisements essentially claimed that they did. Worse, Yaz birth control pills were much more likely to cause dangerous and permanent injury and/or death.

 

Bayer was fined by the FDA and forced to re-do their advertising, which mentioned absolutely nothing about the additional and very serious health risks caused by these pills. We’re handling cases for people who have been injured by Yaz right now.

Your product might actually be completely miraculous, and it might be able to do amazing things for your customers, but if you make a claim in an advertisement that it can do something it can’t, or if you claim that what it does for a few members of a test group is going to happen to everyone, you are going to get into trouble with one government agency or another.

Skechers did not even attempt to make their claims about their products secondary. They came right out and told you that if you used their products, you would lose more weight and develop more muscle tone.

You must have seen the advertisements. There was the one with Kim Kardashian that aired during the Super Bowl, in which she claims that she is getting rid of her personal trainer. She then goes on to claim that all she needs to be fit is a pair of Skecher shoes. Then there is the one with Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana, where he claims that one particular brand of Skecher shoes improved his strength and posture. It also makes the claim that you never have to go to the gym again and you can still be in great shape.

It might very well be possible that Kim Kardashian fired her personal trainer, and it might be very well true that Joe Montana has improved his posture and strength over the years. But the idea that Skecher shoes are completely responsible for these improvements is, well, sketchy at best.

The FTC investigated the data from the tests that Skechers toning shoes provided to determine whether there was any validity to the shoe companies claims of increased strength, better posture and weight loss, and what they found were lots and lots of holes in the story.

Skechers used four studies as proof that their advertising claims were valid.  One major problem with two of them was they were administered by a chiropractor named Dr. Steven Gautreau, who happens to be married to a woman that is a senior vice-president of marketing at Skechers. That is a classic case of a conflict of interest.  A scientific study is not only supposed to be neutral, it is also supposed to appear neutral, and having your husband run one for your company’s advertising department does not fall into line with those principles.

But even if that conflict of interest was not there, many things were wrong with the actual studies themselves. The first study didn’t have a control group, which is something to compare with the group being tested. If the test was to be done in a scientifically valid way, there would have been a group of people wearing Skechers while doing assigned tasks, and there would have been a group of people wearing, say, Nikes or Reeboks doing the same thing. Then they would have compared the data. This is basic science, and Skechers didn’t bother with it.

In another study with a control group they simply fudged the numbers to reach the result that they wanted instead of revealing the results that they had. And this particular study was where they got the notion that wearing Skechers would make your rear end more attractive, but they based that claim on one person’s muscular activity over one day of testing. This is not accurate or scientific testing.

The end result of this (for most consumers, anyway) is that the FTC ordered Skechers to refund money to its customers. If you bought one of the pairs of shoes in question and want to get a refund, you can go to the FTC refund site, which we have linked here.

There is one more thing to consider. Many people may think that this FTC payout settles the matter, but we don’t believe it does. Skechers sold hundreds of thousands of pairs of these shoes, and they made misleading claims about what they could do, and they made absolutely no distinction about who should be wearing these shoes. One element of this case that you aren’t hearing about is the thousands  of  people, particularly elderly people, who got seriously injured due to wearing these dangerous toning shoes.

Older Americans have suffered stress fractures in their knees and hips, more serious fractures, torn ACLs, MCLs, and Achilles tendons while wearing these toning shoes. Many older Americans are being injured from simply falling down while wearing the Skechers, and it is most likely that it is the toning shoes that is causing these injuries and these falls.

These shoes are formed in a way that forces you to use muscles that you aren’t used to, and they place more stress on areas that are not used to them. And it’s also easier to lose your balance. So while the FTC refund is no doubt a good thing, the real story is that of the people who were seriously injured while using these toning shoes, without understanding that they can actually be dangerous.

Greenberg and Bederman is currently offering legal assistance to those who have been injured due to the use of toning shoes, whether they were made by Sketchers or anyone else. If you or a loved one in Maryland, Virginia or Washington, DC has been injured or hospitalized due to the use of these shoes, please contact Greenberg & Bederman today for a free consultation.

  

Understanding The New Pit Bull Law In Maryland

 

About two weeks ago we wrote a story on Maryland’s new law regarding pit bull bites, and some folks have been a little confused by the judge’s ruling on the matter. In the interest of clarifying what this new law means, we thought we would try to expand our explanation a bit.

The ruling in question happened in a case called Tracy v Solesky. The case involved a pit bull owner who had failed to properly secure the animal. The dog escaped and mauled a child. The child’s parents sued for damages. Since the owner of the pit bull was a tenant, the family of the victim sued the landlord on the grounds that he allowed the tenant to have the dangerous dog in the first place.

Here is the ruling of the judge, and this is absolutely verbatim:

“…When an attack involves pit bulls, it is no longer necessary to prove that

the particular pit bull or pit bulls are dangerous.”

 

So, what does this mean? It means that the victim of a pit bull bite doesn’t have to prove much in a court of law other than the fact that he or she got attacked and that the attacker was a pit bull. That pit bulls are dangerous is already established. Therefore, the owner of the pit bull (or the landlord or property owner that allows a pit bull to live on the premises) should know that the risk of a pit bull seriously injuring someone is substantially greater than if the dog concerned were a springer spaniel or a Scottish terrier.

If the dog bite did involve a Scottish terrier, a few things would have to be established in order to prove negligence. The first thing to establish would be prior history. Has the dog attacked people before? Then you have to establish that the owner knew that the dog had attacked people before and didn’t do a very good job of keeping the dog from attacking again.

You have to do this with collies, golden retrievers, Chihuahuas, spaniels, poodles, St. Bernard’s and every other dog you can think of, but in Maryland, you don’t have to do that with pit bulls.

The reasoning of the judge indicates that he believes that the danger that pit bulls  pose is a well enough known fact, so you can’t use the excuse that “you didn’t know” that the dog could have bitten someone.

Here is a parallel to consider: All cars can be dangerous, but owning and driving a car is not illegal. A car can’t hurt anyone if it is sitting in your driveway. But cars certainly have the potential to be dangerous. Consider someone who drinks and drives. Everybody knows by now that drunk driving is dangerous and irresponsible. It causes tens of thousands of accidents every year, quite a few of which are fatal. Nobody caught drinking and driving can make the argument that “they didn’t know” that such an obviously reckless act could result in somebody getting hurt. Nor can they make the argument that they “didn’t mean to hurt anyone.” That they didn’t mean to is irrelevant and that they didn’t know is impossible.  Drinking and driving is negligent behavior.

Similarly, owning a pit bull is not illegal in Maryland. There are probably thousands of people who own pit bulls that have never hurt a fly. But that doesn’t mean that you can behave irresponsibly with the pit bull. You can leave it in an unsecured pen or let it roam around the neighborhood. You also can’t make the argument that you didn’t know it was dangerous, particularly in Maryland. Thanks to Tracy v Solesky, the fact that pit bulls are dangerous is not only a foregone conclusion, but it’s also a point of law. It doesn’t matter if you “didn’t know” that the pit bull could bite somebody, and it doesn’t matter if you “didn’t mean” for it to hurt someone.

So whoever owns the pit bull that attacked a 10 year old Anne Arundel County boy while he was at lacrosse practice does not have the law on his or her side. The dog was running loose, just like the dogs that attacked those three boys in Northeast DC a few weeks ago. And since there aren’t packs of wild pit bulls roaming around Maryland, you have to assume it belongs to somebody who wasn’t taking the necessary precautions to keep the dog secure. This led to a child getting attacked. In Maryland, that’s considered negligence.

Greenberg and Bederman is a personal injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to people who have been hurt due to no fault of their own, and that includes people who have been bitten by pit bulls or other dogs. If you or a loved one in Maryland, Virginia or Washington, DC has been injured in an accident, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free consultation today.

Lawyers Who Solicit Injury Clients

 

One of the more popular slanders against personal injury attorneys is the term “ambulance chaser.” It means exactly what you think it does. It gives the impression that we wait around by the police scanner for news of an accident and then rush to the scene so we can offer the victims our services. It also gives the impression that we encourage lawsuits when there don't need to be any.

We don’t do that for a lot of reasons, and the primary reason is that this sort of behavior is against the law. It’s illegal in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC, which are the three places we have our practices. Movies and television shows like to portray lawyers as mavericks who break the rules, and while it makes for good entertainment, it would make for a terrible legal practice in real life. If an attorney violated codes of conduct anywhere but on a Hollywood set, he wouldn’t be an attorney for very long. But even if it weren’t illegal, it is an absolutely distasteful and unethical way to run a law firm.

 

As far as we are concerned, being an “ambulance chaser” is one of the worst things that a plaintiff’s attorney can be, and we are keenly sensitive of being accused of it. And we get equally angry when we hear of other law firms engaging in that sort of thing because it unfairly smears the vast majority of personal injury lawyers in the DC area who behave correctly and ethically.

One of the more common practices among the less scrupulous personal injury attorneys is to use what are called “runners” or “scouts.” They aren’t actually employed by the law firm on paper, which is useful in that it offers deniability. They usually operate on a commission basis. Sometimes they get a flat rate for every case that they bring in, and sometimes if the case is big enough they are offered a small percentage of the settlement or judgment if the case is successful. Sometimes they are offered a choice between the two.

These “scouts” usually have a friend or two at the hospital who let them know if anything that looks like a good case comes in, and sometimes they are able to get a home address of the victim. If they aren’t able to do that they simply wait ten days and obtain the official accident report, which doesn’t cost much. They usually approach the victim at home as he or she is recuperating. Sometimes they say inaccurate things like “I’m working with the police,” which makes them seem official. Before too long, they offer the accident victim a business card of the law firm they are scouting for, and if all goes as planned, the law firm gets a new client and the scout gets a commission. So these firms don’t actually sit around and listen to the police scanners, but they know a lot of people who do. These firms don’t actually “chase ambulances,” but they know a lot of people who do. These firms don’t actually solicit individuals, but they know a lot of people (totally unconnected, of course) who will.

This is a profoundly unethical way to do business as a law firm.

At Greenberg and Bederman, we get our clients through advertising, references and reputation. This means that many of our clients are friends and relatives of people who we have helped before. This shouldn’t surprise anyone as we have been helping injury victims in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC since 1985. We have spent decades building an outstanding legal and personal reputation here, and we have no desire to ruin it by breaking the law in order to get clients.  

If you have been injured in an accident that wasn’t your fault, choosing your attorney is one of the most important decisions that you can make. Any attorney who either offers you a guarantee of a legal victory is not someone who you want representing your case in a courtroom. Despite what some politicians might say, injury lawsuits don’t happen because somebody sees a chance to get rich. They happen because somebody has been badly hurt and an insurance company is thinking in terms of what’s cost-effective rather than thinking about what is fair. The right attorney can be the difference between getting enough money to provide for your medical and financial needs and having less than you need to be made whole, or getting nothing at all. You should always do your homework on which attorney is right for you, but an absolute solid rule is this: If the lawyer personally introduces himself and offers his services to you out of the blue, you should think twice. 

Any legal case is serious business. Witnesses can face fines or jail time if they say something on the stand that isn’t true. Attorneys can face fines, disbarment and jail time if they behave inappropriately in (and sometimes outside of) in a courtroom. It doesn’t matter if the case is a murder trial or a squabble over the size of a hedge between two houses. The courtroom is meant to be a serious place, and if an attorney isn’t ready to be serious and follow the rules, he or she shouldn’t be there. And he definitely shouldn’t be chasing you.

Greenberg and Bederman is a personal injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to those who have been injured due to the negligence of others. If you or a loved one has been hurt due to no fault of your own, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free consultation today,

Teenagers Behind The Wheel

 

Turning 16 is a pretty big deal in the United States of America. You aren’t old enough to vote, buy a drink or join the armed forces, but you are old enough to drive a car. Most 16 year olds we have met would add “Finally!” to the last part of that sentence.

A driver’s license and access to a car mean a lot of things to a teenager. The most important thing is freedom. Prior to having a driver’s license, the places you could go were limited. You could go as far as you could walk, or as far as public transportation would take you. Or you would have to ask your parents for a ride. Now that you have a car, you can go anywhere.

Your friends can go anywhere, too. Those of your friends without driver’s licenses are probably just as excited as you are. Your car can carry passengers. It’s supposed to be one in the passenger seat and two in the back seats, but you would be surprised how many people you can cram in there if you really try. You can fit even more if it’s a mini-van or an SUV.

You can do all the things that your parents never let you do when you are in the car with them. You can turn up the music as loud as you want. You can joke around with your friends. You can even break the speed limit now and again.

 

We’d like to tell you that no teenagers actually think like this, but we can’t. Teenage drivers are notoriously dangerous, and have been ever since there have been cars. There are a lot of reasons for this. Some of them have to do with experience, in that teenage drivers simply haven’t been driving for that long, and some of the reasons have to do with brain chemistry and brain development. A 2008 study from the National Institute for Mental Health claims that teenage brains are naturally predisposed towards estrangement from their families, thrill seeking and risk taking, which are all behaviors that are at their peak right about the time we decide to give them drivers licenses.

And as we mentioned before, you don’t see a lot of 16 year olds driving by themselves. Teenagers don’t all turn 16 on the same day, so the kid who turns 16 and gets his driver’s license first usually becomes pretty popular. After all, he gets to go where ever he wants, and everybody else wants to as well.

These are all reasons why when you read about teenagers involved in car accidents, it never seems to be just one. It’s always two or three or however many were able to fit in the car. In fact, there was an article in The Washington Post which mentions this very tragic phenomenon.

The article cites an American Automobile Association study, which correlated crash fatality data from all over the United States, and it paid specific attention to car accident fatalities involving teenagers.

This study has actually placed a number on the risk involved in teenage drivers with other teenage passengers in the car. We already know that teenagers are four times more likely to have a fatal crash than an adult driver, but this study shows us that if there is one teenage passenger with one teenage driver, the risk of a fatal accident goes up by as much as half. If there are two teenage passengers with a teenage driver, the risk of a fatal accident doubles. And if there are three teenage passengers with a teenage driver, the risk quadruples.

The story also cites quite a few tragic local examples. Four dead teens in Montgomery County, three in Anne Arundel, two in Prince William County, another five in Montgomery County.

It should also be mentioned that teenagers think nothing of multi-tasking these days. They text and instant message while doing their homework. They use Skype and other videoconference software while watching TV. It’s possible that they don’t see much of a difference between multi-tasking at home and doing so behind the wheel of a car.

We aren’t really sure how to combat this particular problem. There are already laws on the books against texting and driving, but there is no law against teenagers being in a car together. The best advice we can offer is to monitor as best you can how often your teenager drives and who he or she drives with. Set a curfew and have them stick to it. And simply encourage them to be careful. Here in America, we’ve given them the keys to the car before they are psychologically ready for them.

Greenberg and Bederman is a car accident injury  law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to those who have been injured in car accidents in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC. If you or a loved one has been hurt due to no fault of their own, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free consultation today.

New Pit Bull Ruling Hurts Dogs Owners

 

A few days ago, those of us in the Washington, D.C. area saw something pretty terrifying on the news. A grainy black and white security camera caught an unprovoked dog attack on three children in Northeast D.C.

The dogs were pit bulls, and as of the writing of this article they still haven’t been accounted for. That’s particularly troubling, especially if you consider the viciousness of the attack. Make no mistake about it; these two pit bulls were out for blood.  Two children were forced on to the top of a car for safety, and the dogs were making a move on to the hood when an incredibly brave neighbor came out and distracted them.

The neighbor was a man named Andre Hawthorne, who works as an usher at National’s Park. He ran out, essentially sacrificed his arm to one of the dogs and then stabbed it with a knife. When the other pit bull took Mr. Hawthorne down, his stepson came out and hit them with a baseball bat, which caused the dogs to flee. Mr. Hawthorne is currently receiving treatment for rabies as a precaution.

Both Mr. Hawthorne and his stepson are heroes. If they had not had acted, it is very likely that those two children would have been killed.

 

There isn’t a breed of dog on the planet that isn’t capable of hurting a human being in some capacity. Even little dogs like Chihuahua’s or toy poodles have powerful jaws and sharp teeth. But pit bull terriers belong in a separate category. They are the great white sharks of the dog kingdom.

In 1999, the Center for Disease Control released a study compiling the number of dog attack fatalities that happened in the United States over 20 years. Pit bull terriers had the most by a wide margin, with 66 fatalities between 1979 and 1998.

You can make the argument that not all pit bull terriers are going to attack you, and you would be right. But you absolutely can’t make the argument that pit bulls aren’t dangerous. They absolutely are. Statistics show that out of all the breeds of dogs, the one that is the most likely to attack and do damage for whatever reason are pit bull terriers.

The state of Maryland recently agreed. In a case called Tracey v. Solesky, a judge recently ruled that the victim in this case did not have to prove that the dog was known by the owner to be dangerous, mainly because proving that a pit bull is dangerous is the equivalent of having to prove that the sky is blue or that there is a law of gravity. The proof is completely self-evident.

This is a key difference between how dog bite cases work with other dogs and how they work with pit bulls in Maryland. Let’s say you get bitten by a golden retriever. The only way you can prove negligence by the owner in this case is if the dog has a history of biting people. If the dog has bitten before, that means the owner already knows that the dog can be dangerous and has not taken adequate measures to secure the dog. But if this is the first time that the dog has ever bitten anyone, then negligence on the part of the owner can’t be established.

Pit bulls are now treated as special cases thanks to the Solesky decision. The premise is that anyone who owns a pit bull knows that they are dangerous to begin with, and no establishment of prior aggression on the part of the dog is needed. If you own a pit bull, you should be well aware of how they can act and the damage they can do, and if you have not provided for proper security, then you are liable for any damage that your dog does to the general public, whether it’s the first time it has happened or not.

Owning a dog comes with responsibilities. There is the obvious feeding, walking and caring for the animal, and there is also making sure that your animal is safe to take out in public, and if it isn’t then it should be properly secured at all times. With a pit bull, that need for security is absolutely crucial. If you aren’t prepared to accept the responsibility of owning a dangerous dog, then you shouldn’t have one at all.

Greenberg and Bederman is an injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to those who have been injured due to negligence, and that includes those who have been mauled, bitten or injured by dogs. If you or a loved one in Maryland, Virginia or Washington, D.C. has been injured by a dog, contact Greenberg & Bederman today for a free consultation.

Alec and Tort Reform

 

Awhile ago, we did a piece on a group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (or ALEC for short.) Basically, ALEC functions as a clearing house between elected officials (who are not charged very much for membership) and corporations (who are charged a great deal.)

If these folks just sat around and played ping pong, this wouldn’t be much of a story. But what does happen at ALEC is that corporations essentially hand over legislation that they have written themselves to willing local, state and federal representatives. That includes state delegates and state senators, as well as actual congressmen. It’s a scenario where an elected representative doesn’t even have to do anything at all except show up, pick up some pre-packaged bit of legislation and then file it in his or her respective state house or on Capitol Hill.

The legislation is inevitably something that makes things easier for corporations and more difficult for you. It is usually where “tort reform” legislation comes from, or where “mandatory arbitration” legislation is born. Both of these types of legislation have been turned into law in multiple states, and as a result it is becoming more and more difficult for you to sue your doctor if you get injured. If you feel that you have been wronged by an employer or a wireless carrier, you have no legal recourse other than the one that they set up, which is often a mandatory arbitrator chosen by the employer or wireless company ahead of time.

 

ALEC has been in the news a great deal lately, and not in a favorable way. What caused this sudden interest was the incident involving Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman.

There isn’t much to say about that tragedy that hasn’t already been said, but what is important is that people who were outraged over this incident took a look at Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law and began to wonder where it came from. This led them to the American Legislative Exchange Council.

To be sure, ALEC has never really advertised what it is that they do, but they haven’t exactly been a secret organization. They are open about what they do, but not who they are doing it with. They are more along the lines of a group that only certain people know about, and that’s exactly the way that they like it. Willing politicians can meet up with eager corporations or groups and have ready-made legislation to put into play. Why clutter the process up with plain old regular people?

But now, everybody knows what ALEC is and knows what they do. They don’t like the “Stand Your Ground” law, and they like the idea of their representatives taking marching orders from large corporations even less. So what we have seen over the past few days is an exodus of high profile members of ALEC almost solely due to public pressure.

Nobody wants to be associated with a group whose sole objective is not to protect the free market, but rather to use our democratic system to protect the profits of its members with the help of complicit government officials. And they do so completely in the dark. Membership lists are confidential, and so is model legislation. In fact, by the time the average person knows anything about ALEC’s “model legislation,” it’s usually already a state law.

“Caps” on non-economic and punitive damages (which essentially price the non-wealthy out of the courtroom) came out of ALEC. Same with the so-called “good Samaritan” laws that make it impossible for you to sue emergency room physicians, even if they demonstrate perfectly abhorrent instances of incompetence. Most of these laws that keep you out of the courtroom and help the insurance companies stay rich were written by insurance company lawyers and given to state legislators as “model legislation.”

We want to stress that there is nothing technically wrong about this. There is nothing on the books requiring state legislators or congressmen to write their own legislation. But we think this sudden show of daylight on ALEC and the subsequent bailing out of Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Intuit and other organizations from ALEC’s ranks brings up an important point. Just because something is legal doesn’t mean that it’s right. Many of these corporations are perfectly fine with writing their own legislation, right up to the point where people find out about it. If that level of embarrassment doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about the sorts of things that ALEC does, we don’t know what will.

Greenberg and Bederman is a Washington, D.C. based personal injury law firm. We are currently offering legal assistance to anyone who has been injured due to no fault of their own. This includes car accidents, medical malpractice, public transit injuries and injuries due to faulty or dangerous products. If you or a loved one in D.C, Virginia or Maryland has been injured due to no fault of your own, contact Greenberg and Bederman for a free legal consultation today.

Indiana Victims Get Additional $6 Million

 

From WXIN, Fox 59, Indianapolis:

More money is on the way for the victims of the Indiana State Fair stage collapse.  

Governor Mitch Daniels authorized an additional $6 million for victims Wednesday.  The money will be split among the estates of the seven people killed and the dozens injured.”

Well, that’s good, isn’t it? The fact that the state was able to discover more money in the budget for people who were either terribly injured or for the families of those who were killed is positive, right?

Well, yes and no.

To be sure, the folks who are recovering from this utter disaster probably need all the money that they can get. But considering that the initial amount of money that they can receive was already limited, and since the pool of victims was so wide, that additional $6 million probably won’t amount to much.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with this particular disaster, it happened on August 13, 2011 at the Indiana State Fair. High-velocity winds caused an enormous stage to collapse between acts at a musical concert. Seven people were killed and 43 were injured, many of them severely.

It was a terrible tragedy, and it happened on the state of Indiana’s watch. There will no doubt be all sorts of finger pointing involving the people who set up the stage and the people who decided to keep the show going, but ultimately the responsibility lies with the state of Indiana. And that is exactly the problem.

 

We would like to think of states as being benevolent entities that do their best to look after their citizens, but in recent years state governments have taken their cues from profit minded private groups like corporations. The bottom line has become something that needs to be minded, no matter what the costs to the well being of the general public. So just as private corporations have lobbied for caps on damages in the event that they are found liable for injuries to the public, states have done the same.

Indiana has a $5 million cap on damages that arise from a single event. Bear in mind that this isn’t $5 million per person. This is $5 million per event. So for the sake of argument, let’s say that a public power line falls on a public swimming pool because the power line has not been properly maintained. All of the theoretical victims of that event (and their families) would only be entitled to a maximum of $5 million. If there were forty people in that pool, then each one of those people, whether they survived or not, would only receive $125,000. And that’s under optimal legal conditions.

For those who survived this theoretical electrocution, $125,000 might cover their time in the emergency room, but then again, it might not. For the family members of those who died, $125,000 might be a poor equivalent for the life of their loved one, particularly if that person was the primary earner in the household.

If we use this formula of $5,000,000 and apply it to the 50 casualties involved in the stage collapse, each victim gets $100,000. That’s even less than the swimming pool scenario. If you add the $6 million that the state “found,” then each person would theoretically get $220,000. But the divvying up doesn’t actually work like that. They have to take all sorts of things into consideration to determine which victim gets how much. Was anyone injured in a permanent way? As in crippled? Were any of the people who died primary money earners, or were they simply “dependents?” 

This is the sort of cruel and heartless arithmetic that has to be done in Indiana thanks to damage caps. It doesn’t matter if the divvying up process will leave everyone involved with funds that are completely inadequate to their needs. It doesn’t matter that Indiana was negligent and responsible. The cap is $5 million, and that’s that. After all, we don’t want anyone “gaming the system,” now do we?

Greenberg and Bederman is a Washington, D.C.personal injury law firm. We are current offering legal assistance to those who have been injured in an accident that occurred due to no fault of their own. If you or a loved one has been injured in Maryland, Virginia or Washington, D.C, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free consultation.

Watching For Frivolous Lawsuits

 

Like a lot of plaintiff’s attorneys, we keep a pretty watchful eye on the news. One particular method that we use is Google Alerts, which automatically sends us news that feature stories about topics that affect us and our current and future clients.

This means that we get a lot of stories about “tort reform,” which is what large corporations call the legal limiting of access to the courts of everyone except large corporations. That might sound like we are exaggerating, but we really aren’t. These new regulations that states are putting into practice are done under the guise of limiting “runaway lawsuits,” and to some extent they do, but they do so mainly by preventing almost anyone from receiving anything in a courtroom other than a symbolic victory. Symbolic victories are great when you have absolutely no financial worries in your life, but there aren’t very many of us who are in that position.

In many states, the only people who are winning lawsuits are people who are already wealthy in the first place. Thanks to “caps” on damages, anyone in these states who happens to be a low-income or even a middle-class individual simply won’t be able to afford the cost of seeing their case through the courts.

Through our Google Alert system of gathering news, we recently came across a story from KGO in San Francisco with a quote that we found particularly aggravating. The regional director of Citizens of Lawsuit Abuse spent a few column inches calling basically any lawsuit not filed by a corporation “outsized,” but then went on to say the following:

 

“… It doesn't take a runaway jury verdict to force a small business to close. A $10,000 verdict can be just as damaging to a small business as a multimillion-dollar verdict is to a large corporation."

We have noticed that lately there has been a tendency to mythologize anyone who owns a business as a saintly and blameless individual. The current adoring name for them is “job creators,” as if they were fragile and benevolent beings who descended from the sky. They are all like Johnny Appleseed, wandering around the country with a big bag of money and providing generous employment to everyone, and to even hint that they might be doing anything wrong is simply blasphemous.

This is the exact mindset that comes blazing out of that quote in the KGO story. How could we allow a business to suffer a verdict of even $10,000? They create jobs! This plague of lawsuits must be stopped!

It’s a ridiculous sentiment. The fact that you own a business does not give you automatic immunity if your business does something that hurts people. The fact that you are a doctor does not absolve you from responsibility for your mistakes. The fact that your corporation provides thousands of jobs does not mean that you are automatically blameless when dangerous products come rolling off of your assembly lines. But in case you haven’t picked up on it yet, tort reformers are all doing their best to make sure that immunity and absolution for the rich trump justice for those who are not.

By limiting the amount of money that plaintiffs can receive (we don’t say “win,” because that implies it’s a stroke of fortune rather than a legitimate request for restitution,) they are essentially pricing them out of the courtroom. Your average low income or middle-class person can’t afford to pay the three or four figure hourly wage for a law firm. Instead, they contact us or attorneys like us, who work on a contingency basis. What this means is that we offer to represent them and take on the costs of the trial (and there are costs, sometimes substantial ones) in exchange for a percentage of the judgment. If the case is unsuccessful we don’t get anything, which is only fair considering that our client won’t either.

If the amount that the plaintiff can receive is less than it costs to take the case to court, the only people who would represent them are charitable organizations, and as much as we would like to be one, we aren’t. We can’t afford to be. Corporations, however, can afford to keep law firms on retainer.

We encourage you to think about what it means for you when politicians and tort reform organizations give starry-eyed and reverential speeches about protecting job creators and frivolous lawsuits. None of these new regulations benefit you in the slightest. In fact, they actually harm you. Remember that when it’s time to go to the polls in November.

Greenberg and Bederman is a Maryland personal injury law firm. We are currently offering legal assistance to those who have been injured due to no fault of their own. If you or a loved one in Virginia, Maryland or Washington, D.C. has been injured in an accident, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free consultation today.

Metro Brake Denials

 

There are plenty of instances where people engage in a practice that psychologists call “denial.” We all know what it is, and we are willing to bet that most of you have engaged in it at one time or another. Some common colloquialisms for the practice are “playing ostrich” or “putting your head in the sand.”

It’s the sort of thing that happens a lot with individual people. Someone will not pay a bill and hope that the credit card company won’t notice, or someone will drink five beers and think “Nothing bad will happen to me” as he gets behind the wheel of the car.

As we mentioned, it’s a common enough occurrence, but it’s the sort of thing that we see in people. We almost never see it in organizations or companies. The idea that an entire organization would pretend that something dreadful isn’t happening on their watch is a difficult thing to believe.

Yet it seems that’s what the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority has been doing for about 6 years. And we aren’t talking about a minor bit of denial involving paperwork. We mean there was system-wide denial going on about the brakes on the Metro subways.

 

From the Washington Post:

Metro has known for six years that some of its rail cars have brake parts that fail sooner than expected, transit officials said Thursday.

The failure was found in some of the agency’s newest rail cars in 2006. Most of the defective parts have been replaced, but 184 cars with similar parts are in service, according to Metro. The transit authority plans to begin replacing the parts — known as “brake disc hubs” — in the summer.

There are 184 cars with potentially failing brakes still in service on our subway system. Would it be too much to ask for them to tell us which ones? Maybe if we had the car numbers we could choose whether or not to get on the train. Or maybe it would be better if they got those cars off the tracks and replaced the faulty brakes entirely.

We are having a very difficult time understanding this. WMATA is not a fly by night carnival. It is the public transportation agency of a major metropolitan city. How could they possibly let 184 cars with admittedly faulty brakes roll on the tracks for 6 years and do nothing about it? And more to the point, how could they do so even after a catastrophic accident that left nine people dead and many more badly injured?

The Red Line Crash happened in 2009, and while that crash involved a faulty sensor system, you would think that WMATA would do a thorough overhaul of everything. That hasn’t happened. In fact, it’s been a litany of things going completely wrong.

Escalators have collapsed, spilling commuters down to the bottom of the L’Enfant Plaza station, and causing commuters to actually fall through and get their feet stuck. The security presence has gotten worse and worse, with passengers getting robbed and beaten with barely a mention from the WMATA police. And now we find that a serious percentage of the cars have failing brakes, and have had them for about six years.

There needs to be a sea-change in culture and attitude at WMATA. If the public depends of the subway and our bus system, then they should at the very least expect it to be safe. Right now it isn’t. It’s defective in many ways.

While we are certainly glad that some of the escalators are being replaced, and that the sensors are being upgraded, we can’t pretend that failing brakes are nothing to worry about. Those need to be placed on the priority list before someone else gets hurt.

Greenberg and Bederman is an injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to people who have been injured due to no fault of their own, and that includes those who have been hurt on Metro or any other public transit system in the Washington, D.C. area.

If you or a loved one in Maryland, Virginia or Washington, D.C. has been hurt in an accident that wasn’t your fault, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free consultation today.

Watch Out For Bike Riders

We have noticed over the past decade or so that many parts of the Washington, D.C. area are reinventing themselves in very interesting ways. While the 70s, 80s and 90s all seemed to be about getting bigger and wider (shopping malls, gated communities, suburbs further and further away from the city itself,) the trend over the past few years has been to consolidate and to go smaller.

Neighborhoods like Silver Spring, Tacoma Park and Bethesda in Maryland and Clarendon, Courthouse, Shirlington and Penrose in Virginia have been attempting to make things more pedestrian friendly. The idea is to keep everything you need within walking distance. The bottom floor of an apartment building in these neighborhoods usually has a full sized grocery store on the first floor. There are restaurants, shops, dry cleaners and all the usual amenities within a five minute walk or less.

What is also interesting is that public services in these neighborhoods have really stepped up with public transportation options. Many of them are in close proximity to a Metro station, buses make regular stops, and some of them are even considering building a streetcar service.

One really interesting innovation has been the Capital Bikeshare program, which is based only in D.C, Arlington and Alexandria. It’s a great idea. You pop in a debit card, unlock the bike, adjust your seat and away you go. When you are done, you simply return it to the station where you got it or return it to another station. It’s quick, easy and convenient, and a bike can be a great way to get around.

 

We view all of this as a good thing. The whole concept might be hard to initially grasp, especially since so many of us grew up in areas and eras where people drove everywhere, whether it was an hour commute to work or a two minute drive to the store. But with gas prices going nowhere but up, driving constantly no longer makes economic sense for most of us. Besides, knowing D.C. traffic, who wouldn’t want to take a few cars off the road?

So while things are heading in an interesting direction, the unfortunate reality is that we haven’t gotten to the next phase yet. We are in the middle, which means that we are still working out the kinks in the system.

For instance, the idea of bikes becoming as commonplace as cars is a great idea, but in the meantime bikes are outnumbered by cars in every conceivable category (numbers, size and weight), and the majority of the car drivers are positively clueless about how they are supposed to act when they are around bikes. We think that will change over time, but for now, bike riders would be well advised to be aware of their surroundings.

A sad example of this happened a few days ago. A bicyclist was riding a Capital Bikeshare bike on 11th and U Street NW when a truck sideswiped him. The rider was dragged for 30 feet and was very badly injured.

The photos are pretty gruesome, as you would imagine any photos would be if they show what happens to a twenty pound bike when it is hit by a multi-ton truck.

We aren’t sure what exactly happened, but we can take a guess. We would bet that the truck driver did a lane change without taking a long enough look at the side view mirror and went into the next lane. Or maybe the bike was right in that blind spot. But the end result is that someone got hurt pretty bad.

A lot of people lack the basic knowledge of how they are supposed to act with bicyclists, and when we say “people” we mean “Americans.” We aren’t just keeping our criticism to the D.C. area. The United States has been a car based culture for about 90 years. Bikes simply aren’t in our DNA just yet.

People on bikes have the same rights on our roads as people in cars. It’s that simple. You can’t blow by them on a two lane street and you can’t demand that they get on the sidewalk. If you do any of those things and you end up hurting a bicyclist, you are every bit as liable for his injuries as you would be if you hit another driver or a pedestrian.

The weather is getting warmer, and more and more bicyclists will be out on the roads in D.C, Maryland and Virginia. Please treat them with respect.

Greenberg and Bederman is a personal injury law firm in Silver Spring, Maryland, and we are currently offering legal assistance to bicyclists and pedestrians who have been injured due to no fault of their own. Bicyclists and pedestrians have rights, too. If you or a loved one in Maryland, Virginia or Washington, D.C. has been hurt due to the negligence or recklessness of someone else, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free consultation.

Yaz Lawsuits Beginning to Settle

 

For about four years now we have been very active in the Washington, D.C. area in offering legal assistance to women who have been injured due to the use of Bayer’s line of birth control pills. We are not the only attorneys who have been taking this course of action. Injury law firms all over the country have been working very hard to spread the word about the dangers of Yaz, Yasmin and Ocella to women everywhere.

These dangers are very real. The key difference between Bayer’s products and most of the other birth control pills out there is one specific ingredient called drospirenone. This is a synthetic variation of progestin, which along with estrogen is what makes birth control pills work. The problem with drospirenone is that it has been shown to elevate the potassium levels in the blood streams of the women who take these pills.

Since most of us aren’t doctors or nutritionists, we have a tendency to view things like potassium levels as a positive thing. You often see potassium listed as a healthy ingredient in a lot of foods and multivitamins. But the positive aspects change considerably when we are talking about potassium in the average person’s bloodstream.

What this chemical shift in your blood can sometimes do is cause clots to form. Clots are a good thing to have if you happen to be bleeding. But when they form when you don’t happen to be bleeding, that can be a serious health hazard.

 

In the case of Yaz, Yasmin and Ocella, blood clots generally form in the bigger veins that are in the legs. In some cases, these clots break into smaller pieces, which travel through the bloodstream, where eventually the bits of the clot get to a vessel that they aren’t going to be able to fit through.

If this happens in the lungs, the victim will suffer a pulmonary embolism. If it happens in the heart, the victim will suffer a heart attack. If it happens in the brain, the victim will suffer a stroke.

There is a risk of this sort of thing happening for most birth control pills. No attorney working for women who have been injured due to Yaz, Yasmin or Ocella is claiming anything different. The reason for the lawsuits is that attorneys across the nation were getting reports about the significantly higher numbers of women taking Yaz, Yasmin and Ocella who were getting hurt over and above the women who were taking the older forms of birth control pills.

There were  a series of studies that came out that claimed that the risk of blood clotting with pills with drospirenone as an active ingredient was increased a great deal higher. The British Medical Journaland the Canadian Medical Association Journal both came out with studies showing that there was a dramatic increase in clotting risk when women were using Yaz, Yasmin or Ocella.

The fact that Bayer neglected to warn its customers about the heightened risk was bad enough, but what made it even worse was that they launched an expensive and flashy advertising campaign that exaggerated the positive benefits of taking these pills. It was advertised as a pill that could cure PMS and acne when it could not do neither of those things. It was also advertised as a pill that you could take without worrying about weight gain, which wasn’t necessarily true.

Greenberg and Bederman (as well as dozens of other law firms around the country) came to the conclusion that Bayer had put out a dangerous product that did not deliver on its promises, and was also responsible for strokes, heart attacks, pulmonary embolisms, gall bladder disease and even death among women who were otherwise perfectly healthy. We set to work both publicizing the dangers of the product while simultaneously offering legal assistance to women who had been hospitalized due to the use of these pills. Other law firms nationwide have done the same.

The cases have been winding their way through the system, and we are pleased to announce that there have been some positive developments in other parts of the country. A law firm in Los Angeles has announced that 70 of their Yaz-injury clients have reached a settlement with the Bayer Corporation. The amount of the settlement was undisclosed (as settlements often are,) but we can’t imagine that given the seriousness of the charge and the immense amount of evidence against these pills that the settlement offer was less than generous.

This is good news for these 70 women, but it is also good news for women all over the country who have been injured due to Bayer’s negligent actions. While success in one courtroom does not guarantee success in another, it’s hard to view these current results as anything but positive. We hope to have even better news in the future for our clients.

Greenberg and Bederman is a personal injury law  firm in the Washington, D.C. area. We are currently offering legal assistance to women in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. who have been injured due to the use of Yaz, Yasmin or Ocella birth control pills. If you or a loved one has been injured due to the use of these pills, contact Greenberg & Bederman today for a free yaz consultation.

Value 360 Insurance Software

 

Has technology made our lives better? The answer to that question is, as it is with so many others, “It Depends.”

There are pluses and minuses to many of the technological advances that have taken place over the past twenty years of so. Texting is an incredibly quick way of communicating, but it turns out that many of us have very little of importance to say to one another. There is also the strange phenomenon of people ignoring a crowded room to send texts, not to mention the unfortunate side effect of texting while driving, which often leads to fatal car accidents.

The availability of information is amazing as well. If you want to find out the population of the Netherlands, or the lyrics to your favorite song, or the capital of New Zealand, or any fact that you need at all, you can simply go to Google and have the information that you need in seconds. That’s the plus. The minus is that sometimes the information isn’t always accurate.

Try going to Google and typing in “Barack Obama” and “birth certificate.” This will lead you down a rabbit hole that seemingly has no end. Despite the fact that everyone knows that the President was born in Hawaii, despite the fact that he has made his birth certificate available for scrutiny, it is easy to get the wrong information out there on the internet.

While the speed in which you can access information is impressive, the accuracy levels are less so. Information is only worth something if it is accurate, and since there is nobody checking everything that is put on the internet, you have to be selective about where you get your information.

Technology isn’t perfect, and usually what makes it imperfect are the human beings that make and use it. For instance, if someone makes a calculator that causes every bit of addition or subtraction to come up with a rigged answer, that isn’t the calculators fault. It’s just doing what it was designed to do.

 

So we can’t really be mad at insurance company software. It was designed to minimize settlement offers and maximize profits. However, we can get mad at the insurance companies that use it.

Awhile back, we mentioned that there was software called “Colossus” that a lot of insurance companies were using, and still are to the best of our knowledge. It basically averages out the costs of an injury and then provides the insurance agent with an appropriate offer of a settlement. For instance, if a driver gets hit by another car and breaks his leg, the insurance agent would type in “Broken Leg” and get the average cost of fixing a broken leg in that area. Then he would offer the injury victim that amount. We know that sounds perfectly reasonable, but there are a lot of things wrong with this. In the first place, each injury is different and affects different people in different ways. There is no way to “average” the costs of any injury. Secondly, where are they getting these numbers? Since they won’t let anybody look at the workings of the software due to “trade secrecy concerns,” we have no idea if these are accurate averages, or averages with 30% shaved off, or just random numbers.

A similar incident is happening now. An insurance company in Florida has been using software called Value360, which according to a lawsuit being filed, has caused the value of homes to double. That might sound great, except these houses aren’t being valued for sale. They are being valued for insurance purposes, sometimes by as much as twice as what the home is actually worth. This is causing the insurance rates to skyrocket.

To give you an equivalent, let’s say you drive a 2001 Honda Accord with 140,000 miles on it. What Value360 is allegedly doing is saying that car is worth as much as a 2011 Honda Accord with 70,000 miles on it. All of a sudden, your car is worth more on paper, even though it clearly is not in real life. This allows the insurance company to charge you twice as much on your premium. So transfer this practice over to home ownership, and you have a sense of exactly how much of a sudden financial burden homeowners all over Florida are facing right now.

As we said earlier, if these allegations are true, we can’t blame the software. It’s simply filling its function. But if the people using the software are using it to purposely over-value homes, that’s practically stealing. We will be keeping an eye on this case as it progresses.

Greenberg and Bederman is a personal injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal consultation to those who have been injured due to the actions of others. If you or a loved one in Virginia, Maryland or Washington, D.C. has been hurt in an accident, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free personal injury case evaluation.

Fake Lawsuits To Promote Message. Who Benefits?

 

Have you ever been on the receiving end of one of those chain e-mails? We aren’t talking about spam, but e-mails that have been forwarded to you by people that you know. Many of them contain jokes, but more often than not they contain political information. Usually the subject heading says something like “You won’t believe this,” or “The REAL costs of (whatever.)”

There was an article in the Washington Postabout chain e-mails which held that most of them consist of pie-in-the-sky facts and figures and have no real basis in reality. The article also states that the majority of them don’t just come from a random delusional paranoid, but are actually created by political operatives who support a cause or candidate. They are constructed with deliberate misinformation and are made to give you the idea that you are receiving “privileged” information, which is the sort of information that “they” (whoever “they” may be) don’t want you to know.

 

We weren’t particularly surprised by this article. One of the most popular chain e-mails is one involving so-called frivolous lawsuits. It’s called “The Stella Awards,” and it’s been around for about twelve years. Despite its age we are still getting it forwarded to us at least three times a year.

Here is what it says:

This is what’s wrong with America.

Kathleen Robertson of Austin, Texas, was awarded $780,000 by a jury after breaking her ankle tripping over a toddler who was running amuck inside a furniture store. The owners of the store were understandably surprised at the verdict, considering the misbehaving tyke was Ms. Robertson's son.

Carl Truman, 19, of Los Angeles won $74,000 and medical expenses when his neighbor ran his hand over with a Honda Accord. Mr. Truman apparently didn't notice someone was at the wheel of the car whose hubcap he was trying to steal.

Terrence Dickson of Bristol, Penn., was exiting a house he finished robbing by way of the garage. He was not able to get the garage door to go up because the automatic door opener was malfunctioning. He couldn't re-enter the house because the door connecting the house and garage locked when he pulled it shut. The family was on vacation, so Mr. Dickson found himself locked in the garage for eight days. He subsisted on a case of Pepsi he found, and a large bag of dry dog food. Dickson sued the homeowner's insurance claiming the situation caused him undue mental anguish. The jury agreed to the tune of half a million dollars and change.

Jerry Williams of Little Rock, Arkansas, was awarded $14,500 and medical expenses after being bitten on the buttocks by his next door neighbor's beagle. The beagle was on a chain in its owner's fenced-in yard, as was Mr. Williams. The award was less than sought after because the jury felt the dog may have been provoked by Mr. Williams who, at the time, was shooting it repeatedly with a pellet gun.

A Philadelphia restaurant was ordered to pay Amber Carson of Lancaster, Pennsylvania $113,500 after she slipped on a spilled soft drink and broke her coccyx. The beverage was on the floor because Ms. Carson threw it at her boyfriend 30 seconds earlier during an argument.

Kara Walton of Claymont, Delaware, successfully sued the owner of a nightclub in a neighboring city when she fell from the bathroom window to the floor and knocked out her two front teeth. This occurred while Ms. Walton was trying to sneak through the window in the ladies room to avoid paying the $3.50 cover charge. She was awarded $12,000 and dental expenses.

These are all terrible cases of injustice, aren’t they? It’s enough to make you immediately support whichever legal restrictions on the Seventh Amendment are put in front of you. This is exactly what the e-mail is designed to do.

It is effective.  It evokes outrage in the reader, and it is utterly and completely false.

We don’t mean that these cases are exaggerations, or that the numbers were stilted one way or another. We mean that not one of these cases actually happened. They are fictions.

It wouldn’t occur to most people to search a legal database for proof of these cases, and even if it did occur to them, they probably wouldn’t know where to begin. So for a great many people out there, this completely fraudulent e-mail stands as concrete evidence that our legal system is out of control.

What compounds this insult to the truth is the fact that these so-called “Stella” awards are named after Stella Leibeck, who was equally slandered as a filer of “frivolous lawsuits” after she burned herself quite badly from near-boiling McDonald’s coffee.

To be sure, there are cases where people who are essentially victims of their own bad behavior of folly file lawsuits, but in 99,999 out of 100,000 instances, these cases are thrown out before they get anywhere. So not only are these cases fiction, but even if they weren’t fiction, the awards would never be given to the plaintiff’s. These would never even be put before a jury, and we would be amazed if there were any attorney who actually agreed to argue these cases.

The next time you see a story of someone filing a lawsuit over completely foolish reasons and then winning a ridiculous amount of money, remember the “Stella Awards” e-mail, and think about who would benefit from a greatly diminished 7th Amendment. It most certainly wouldn’t be you.

Greenberg and Bederman is a personal injury law firm located in Maryland. If you or a loved one has been hurt in an accident in Virginia, D.C. or Maryland, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free legal consultation today.

Air Bags and Table Saws

 

There is a strange phenomenon that happens quite often in this country. Whenever a new device or technology is made available that could potentially reduce deaths and/or injuries, the people responsible for implementing that technology do everything possible to try to get out of it.

A good example of that would be airbags. These devices come standard in most of the cars that are for sale today, and having them in cars has saved countless lives. It should have been a no-brainer to put them in cars, especially considering that airbag technology existed as far back as 1970.

But Ford fought the implementations of airbags bitterly, and went so far as to meet with President Richard Nixon to demand that any new regulations requiring airbags would be delayed. Even General Motors, who practically invented airbags in cars, decided to delay mandatory airbag installation.

When they presented their anti-airbag arguments to the public, Ford’s line of argument was that, according to their research, the public didn’t want airbags in their cars, and who were they to “force” such things on their customers?

 

The anti-safety argument always seems to drift into that area. They turn it into a matter of “freedom” and “liberty” when in fact it is simply a matter of economics. Perhaps what really was happening is that Ford didn’t want to implement airbag technology because General Motors held the patents on most of the airbag technology. Ford and Chrysler would have had to pay General Motors for every airbag that they put in its cars. And after all the delays generated by Ford and Chrysler, GM projected that the money they would have made from patent royalties would not have been as extensive as they thought, so they decided that airbags would be a bad idea. So one of the major reasons that airbags didn’t become standard until 1989 was because that was when most of the patents on airbags had either already expired or were about to expire.

Again, it seems as though there was no “freedom,” “liberty” or “personal choice” at play here. It appears that it was all about money. It usually is. And recently, we have seen another example of the bottom line being more important than safety. We find this one particularly interesting, mainly because this is the first time we have ever seen the manufacturers being completely honest about its motives.

Everybody knows what a table saw is, right? They are fast and sharp and effective and completely and utterly dangerous. Every year they cause hundreds of serious injuries on construction sites. These injuries include deep lacerations, finger amputations, the entire ghastly lot. And this is one of the few circumstances that we can think of where the reason for the vast majority of these injuries is inattention on the part of the people who use them. All the training in the world will not keep them safe if they take their mind off what they are doing, even for an instant.

So if the entire table saw industry was presented with a device that would make it impossible for people to cut themselves on the blade, they would jump at the chance to install it, right?

Of course not. That would cost them money.

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has extended the public comment period for developing a table saw safety rule by 60 days.

CPSC commissioners voted 4-0 to accept comments through Feb. 10, 2012. The original comment deadline was Dec. 12.

One of the reasons that the CPSC has extended comments is due to intense lobbying by the Power Tool Institute, which is the lobbying group of Black and Decker, Snap On, and all the other companies who make power tools. What they are against is that the CPSC has voted in favor of making a new piece of safety technology mandatory. And as far as safety technology for table saws go, this one is the Holy Grail.

The SawStop is a brand of saw that has something called “flesh-detecting technology.” It is based on the fact that while wood does not conduct electricity, flesh does. The blade is given a very small electrical charge and is fitted with a sensor. If it detects that it is cutting into anything that conducts electricity, it stops instantaneously. You could put your hand against the moving blade of the SawStop and get nothing more than a scratch.

The inventor of the SawStop has made it so that the ten table saw amputations that happen every day will not happen anymore. He has saved countless fingers and countless trips to the emergency room. He should be given parades, but predictably he is being given nothing but scorn.

The problem is money, as it always is. None of the other table saw makers have that patent, and just like airbags, they will have to pay a royalty to the inventor of the SawStop if that technology becomes standard in table saws. This will eat into its bottom line. If these manufacturers are able, they will most likely drag the fight out until the patent expires, at which point they may accept the new standards.

To the credit of the PTI, they are at least being honest about their reasons for opposing the SawStop mandate:

"Now is the time for table saw users to make their voices heard on a proposed government-mandated rule that could impose a specific patented technology on consumers and industry, creating a monopoly and raising prices for consumers. PTI is urging CPSC not to advance the rule and instead work with the industry to offer a suite of solutions that make sense for the entire range of products."

Translation: This will cost us money. They definitely get credit for that, and also for not putting the words “freedom” or “liberty” in the press release.

The point of all of this is that manufacturers don’t fight safety improvements because of “liberty and freedom,” or because of a desire for “small government.” They do it because they like money and want more of it, even if the end result is many mangled hands a year.

Greenberg and Bederman is an accident law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We have been providing legal assistance to injury victims all over the Washington, D.C. area for 30 years, and that includes people who have been injured in car accidents and construction accidents. If you or a loved one has been hurt on the highway or on the job site in Maryland, Virginia or Washington, D.C, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free consultation today.

Depuy Hip Implant Recall

 

 Everything breaks down eventually. Anyone who owns a car or a bike or a refrigerator or a television or a home can personally testify to this universal truth. This also applies to the human body. There isn’t one person living on the planet that has never gotten sick or injured themselves.

Nowadays, we are much more fortunate than we were a few decades ago. Technological advancements have given us the chance to replace many body parts that are either broken or are in the process of breaking down. There are cochlear implants for the hearing impaired, there are prosthetic limbs for people who have lost theirs, and there are artificial valves and pacemakers that keep a heart beating. If you consider what the alternatives used to be, we have many reasons to be thankful that we are living in 2011 and not 1911.

While these advancements are certainly good things, none of us can pretend that these new parts are perfect. For one thing, a victim of an IED is probably glad that he is able to walk on his own again, but we suspect that he would rather have not lost his leg at all. And another aspect is that the principle that “everything breaks down eventually” still very much applies to these new replacement parts. But the problem we are having with a particular brand of hip replacements is not that they are breaking down due to the normal wear and tear, but because they were defective.

 

The hip replacement in question is made by a company called DuPuy, which is a subsidiary of Johnson and Johnson. A study determined that the ASH hip implant had a failure rate of 13% after five years. That means that about 1 in 8 of the patients who had a hip replacement can expect something to go wrong with their hip replacement at some point in the future.

For those of you who do not have an artificial hip, you should be aware that it is a long and often quite painful procedure. Anyone who has gone through the process probably doesn’t want to go through it again. But because this DuPuy ASH hip implant is defective, people who have the implant in them when it goes wrong will have no other choice but to go through the surgery again. Surgeons will have to go in, remove the defective hip implant and replace it with one that isn’t defective.

While all of this is bad enough, DuPuy’s handling of the situation (and by extension, Johnson and Johnson’s handling of it) left much to be desired. We would go so far as to make the claim that their delay towards taking action has made circumstances even worse.

According to an article in the New York Times, DuPuy kept marketing and selling the ASH hip implant, even after they were made aware that there was a higher than normal failure rate. Rather than call a halt to distribution until they could be sure about the safety of their products, it was business as usual.

One of the major consequences of this defective hip implant is that the defect causes the ball part to rub improperly against the cup if the two parts are not properly joined together. This causes metal debris (shrapnel, essentially) to separate from the implant. These metal shards are then free to travel around the body cavity of the person with the implant. When the muscles are exposed to this debris, the tissue can become inflamed and the muscles can be damaged. The only way around this is, as we said earlier, to re-do the surgery, which means re-opening the leg, taking out the implant, replacing the implant, and closing the leg.

It is our belief that anyone who has been forced to go through this process a second time should not have to pay for it. They shouldn’t have to open their wallets for one second in the hospital, or to the insurance company. They shouldn’t even have to pay the deductible. Anyone who has a defective hip implant is completely absolved from any financial expenditure whatsoever as far as we are concerned.

We also believe that anyone who has suffered from a defective hip implant should be compensated for their time, and most specifically, their pain and their suffering. Going through a hip replacement twice due to the negligence of someone else is not something that you should just forget about and let go.

Greenberg and Bederman is a personal injury law firm in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to those in the Washington, D.C. area who have been injured due to DuPuy’s ASH hip implant. If you or a loved one has been adversely affected by this defective hip replacement, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free consultation today.

 

Report Card on States With Caps On Damages

 

One of the more popular arguments among those who wish to either severely curtail or entirely eliminate the rights of patients is that if the states make it difficult for injured patients to sue doctors who make mistakes, then ultimately the quality of care will go up. This argument is made with particular fire when it comes to emergency medicine.

We can certainly understand how emergency medicine became the focal point. Emergency rooms are where serious cases are brought in, and the environment is usually chaotic. It can be difficult for emergency room physicians to make the right decision every time. But it is our contention that all medicine can be stressful and chaotic, and the fact that a medical professional is working in an emergency room or facility does not absolve this person of any responsibility when they make preventable errors.

Yet in Texas, emergency room workers are given immunity in all but name when it comes to liability for any mistakes that they might make. In order for someone who has been injured due to an emergency room mistake to be able to claim any damages in court, it must be proven that the emergency room worker meant to harm the patient. Since the odds are slim to none that any emergency room worker would admit to doing so, victims of emergency room medical malpractice in Texas now have no real recourse for malpractice injuries.

So if the argument that “less liability = more and better care” holds up, then Texas should be a prime example of high quality emergency care, right? For that matter, any state that has caps on damages and restrictions on how patients can sue doctors should have better emergency care facilities than states which have no restrictions, right?

 

Believe it or not, it seems that the truth is the exact opposite of that claim. We are getting this information from a study that was published in 2006 by the American College of Emergency Physicians. While we realize that the study is five years old, what makes this study important is that it gives grades in two categories. The first would be quality and availability of care, and the second is what is called “liability environment.” “Liability environment” means the extent to which emergency room physicians are legally liable for damages. If there are caps and other restrictions in place in that particular state, the state is more likely to get an A or a B. If there are few or no restrictions, the state is likely to get a D or an F.

So here are some interesting results from the two-category grading system used by ACEP:

                                            Access to Care                          Liability Environment

District of Columbia                    A+                                                     F

Pennsylvania                               A                                                        F

Massachusetts                             A                                                        D

Maine                                          A                                                        D

Rhode Island                               A                                                        F

Ohio                                            A-                                                       D

Connecticut                                 A-                                                       F

As you can see, all of these states have a liability grade of either D or F. As far as the ACEP is concerned, these states are terrible places to practice medicine. There are either no caps on damages or the caps are on the higher end of the spectrum. There are no so-called “good Samaritan laws” or any other form of immunity for emergency room workers. Yet when you look over at the Access to Care categories, where you would expect to see equivalent bad grades, all you can see are a row of A’s. This means that there are plenty of emergency room workers, low waiting times and a high quality of care received. This goes directly against the standard argument of tort-reformers and insurance companies. There has been no exodus of emergency room physicians due to their fear of being sued.

So what do you think happens if you take a look at the other end of the spectrum? What is the quality of care like when the doctors (and insurance companies) are protected by caps and immunities?

                                            Access to Care                          Liability Environment

Texas                                          D+                                                    A+

California                                   C                                                       A+

Montana                                    C+                                                      A

Nevada                                       D+                                                     A

South Carolina                           C                                                       B+

Georgia                                      D+                                                     B

Colorado                                    C+                                                     B-

Again, we see the exact opposite of what tort reformers and insurance companies expect you to see. No fear of lawsuits, but no real spike in the amount of doctors or the quality of medical care.

Since we very much doubt that any of the tort reformers will give any sort of explanation for these findings, we would like to venture one. Medical malpractice lawsuits do not exist simply to make people money. They exist to help people who have been injured by the mistakes of doctors receive some sort of compensation. They also exist to help keep doctors on top of their game. If there are no consequences for bad medicine, bad medicine will thrive. Look at the doctors in Texas. They have no fear of being sued, so why bother going that extra mile? Why bother double checking? Why bother taking a second to make sure that the diagnosis is correct? What’s the worst that could happen?

Nothing will happen to the doctors, so the patients are on their own.

Greenberg and Bederman is a Maryland-based Medical Malpractice law firm. Our main office in Silver Spring allows us to serve the entire Washington, D.C. area, as well as Baltimore, Maryland. If you or a loved one in Washington, D.C, Virginia or Maryland has been injured due to the actions of a doctor, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free legal consultation today.

Cup of Noodles Soup Dangerous

 

Skin burns are probably one of the most painful of injuries. Everything about it, from the actual injury to the healing to the recuperation, brings with it severe pain. Many burns heal, but they don’t really “heal.” The scar tissue lasts for a very long time.

The burn specialists at University of Southern California Hospital are quite familiar with them. It’s what they do on a daily basis. They know how to treat them, how to keep them clean, and, most importantly, they know how they are caused. And in a recent program on NPR, they made it perfectly clear what is causing at least two or three severe burn cases a week in their hospital. It isn’t gasoline, or cigarettes, or kids playing with matches. What causes two to three severe burn cases a week at this hospital is lunch. Specifically, it’s those little Styrofoam cups of instant soup where you pour in boiling water and then wait for a few minutes.

Cups of Noodles (and all of the other equivalents on the market) are absolutely dangerous. For one thing, they trap heat longer due to the Styrofoam, and the noodles are also very effective conductors of heat. In other words, you can expect an instant soup cup to remain hot for much longer than say, a cup of tea or coffee.

 

 

 

Another danger is the design. The safest container for a cup of boiling water and noodles would be one where the base is wider than the lid of the container. Failing that, you would at least want a container where the base and the lid are equal with one another, like a coffee cup. Instead, these containers are built with the top significantly wider than the base. They are quite literally “top-heavy,” and that is absolutely the worst way for a container of boiling water to be built, particularly if the directions advise you to pour boiling water all the way up to the rim.

The results of this flawed and dangerous design are very predictable. As the doctor mentioned in the NPR story, they get at least two three cases of serious burns a week that stem directly from these cups. That’s over 100 burn victims just in that hospital from one specific product. We are sure that there are similar numbers in other burn units all over America.

With soup burns happening with such frequency, we simply cannot imagine that Nissin (the company that manufactures Cup Noodles) is unaware of the problem.  That leads us to believe that Nissin is simply engaging in some arithmetic. The formula probably goes like this: How much would it cost to settle with every person burned by our product who sues us? How much would it cost to redesign our container, and then implement the new manufacturing process for that container? We have to imagine that it’s simply cheaper for them to write checks to burn victims.

We’ve seen this sort of thing before. It was definitely seen in the Stella Liebeck case, in which a woman suffered severe burns from a cup of McDonald’s coffee. It turned out that McDonald’s had been serving coffee that was significantly hotter than any other chain of restaurants, and had also been settling with victims of their too-hot coffee for years. The general public didn’t really learn about this aspect of the case. Instead, all they hear about was “the lady who spilled coffee on herself and won $1,000,000.” Ms. Liebeck was hampered by a gag order and couldn’t respond.  Her case was used as an example of our so-called “broken court system,” and was used to push through laws that effectively curtailed the Seventh Amendment rights of all of us.

It would be a complete shame if Nissin attempted the tactic of ridiculing the victims here as the McDonald’s corporation did to Ms. Liebeck. Since this story broke out, we think they (or any tort reform organization) would be unable to paint hundreds of burn victims as “money-hungry.”

Instead, Nissin should view this as an opportunity. They are in the national spotlight for all the wrong reasons, and they have a chance to commit to making new and safer containers. If they did that, we would certainly buy them. The soup is pretty good, after all. If Nissin took this chance to show the world that they value the safety of their customers more than the robustness of the profit margins, they would be setting the best possible example. Now is their chance. We hope they take it.

Greenberg and Bederman is a personal injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to anyone in the Washington, D.C. area who has been injured due to no fault of their own, and that includes people who have been injured due to faulty products. If you or a loved one in Maryland, Virginia or Washington, D.C. has been hurt in an accident, contact Greenberg & Bederman for afree consultation today.

 

$5M Won't Cover Indianna Collapsed Stage Fair Injuries

 

Even though we live in a media environment where many events are forgotten almost immediately after they occur, we think it will be a long time before anyone forgets the disaster that happened at the Indiana State Fair.

Thousands of people turned up to see a band called Sugarland, who are quite popular. Before the show even started, wind gusts began to develop. The stage, which was not properly anchored, collapsed onto the first few rows of spectators. Forty-five people were injured, and seven were killed.

Not surprisingly, many of the victims and loved ones of the deceased began to contact attorneys about legal representation. It would be hard to imagine why they wouldn’t do so. This tragedy occurred on the site of the Indiana State Fair, which means the state was ultimately responsible for making sure that everything was secure and safe. As you can see from the video evidence, everything most certainly was not secure and safe.

With Indiana being quite a long way away from Maryland or D.C, we don’t have all the facts in front of us. But upon giving the case a passing glance, it seems that a reasonable argument could be made for a wrongful death claim for the seven victims who died, with negligence claims being made for all the injury victims. And from what we read in the papers, it appears that almost everyone involved in the accident is involved in a legal claim against the state of Indiana. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that it will do them much good.

 

Indiana is one of those states with “caps” in place on the amount of damages that a plaintiff can receive in a case. And in the event that someone wants to sue Indiana, the limit that they can get is $5 million. That seems like a lot, except we don’t mean $5 million per person. We mean $5 million per incident.

With seven people dead and forty-five people injured (many of them seriously,) a hard ceiling of $5 million will not be enough to cover the medical bills of the survivors, or to compensate the families of those who died. If you don’t count the seven deaths and consider just the forty-five injured, divvying up $5 million would give each injury victim around $111,111, but that’s assuming that the state will be willing to go all the way up to the limit of $5 million. And if you only count the seven deaths and not the forty-five injured, the family of each victim would get around $714,000, again assuming that the state will allow the maximum payment to be made. Or perhaps they will figure it out some other way. Maybe the people who survived but are injured will get a little bit of money, and maybe they will give more of the share to the families of the people who died, or maybe they should do it vice versa.

Do you see the sickening sort of arithmetic that has to take place once there are damage caps in place? Rather than allowing each case to be determined on its merits and centered on the needs of the victims or their loved ones, Indiana has forced all of these victims of negligence to scratch and scrape for inadequate funds. The severely injured will be left with overwhelming medical bills and will probably have to turn to Indiana for aid anyway, or they will have to apply for Social Security Disability payments or Medicaid.

To us, this appears to be the same old story. Everyone in a state is sold on the idea that there is a plague of frivolous lawsuits, they agree to caps on what plaintiffs can be awarded, and then due to an accident, negligence or simply any unforeseen event, they find out the hard way what these caps really mean. People in Indiana are learning this lesson now, and unfortunately so are the victims of the State Fair stage collapse.

Greenberg and Bederman is a personal injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to victims of car accidents, medical malpractice, negligence or defective prescription drugs. If you or a loved one in Maryland, Washington, D.C. or Virginia has been injured in an accident, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free consultation today.

Hot Coffee Documentary Teaches About Consumer Rights

 

Have you ever wondered why it is that so many people are so eager to embrace limitations on their own Constitutional rights?

We don’t think it is because Americans are unintelligent, or because they enjoy having things taken away from them, or because they enjoy being ripped off. We think it’s because they have been systematically misinformed for so long that they have developed a worldview that is completely backwards. Up is down. Black is white. North is south. Hot is cold.

Whenever you see news coverage about the Constitution, you mostly read about cases involving the First Amendment (say, a case on flag burning or a case about corporate campaign donations), or the Second Amendment (assault weapons regulations or handgun bans.) But for some reason the rest of the Amendments of the Constitution never really come up. And one particular amendment that has been steadily eroded over the years is the Seventh Amendment.

 

Here is the text:

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

What this means is that if you feel that you have been wronged or injured due to the actions of someone else, you have the right to have your case heard in court. This is an important facet of our society. In the first place, it prevents us from deteriorating into the law of the jungle, and secondly, it keeps people from ripping you off, taking advantage of you or hurting people with no consequences whatsoever.

Many large corporations find the Seventh Amendment decidedly inconvenient, at least when it comes to people suing them. They are big fans of the Seventh Amendment as long as they are on the “plaintiff” side of the lawsuit. So many corporations have found all sorts of interesting ways to get past the hassle of the rights of Americans. For instance, one of them happens to be what is called “the mandatory arbitration clause.”

This usually exists in the fine print of contracts, and we can almost guarantee you that you have signed one without even knowing it. Many cell phone companies have them in the small print of your service contract. What this means is that even in the event of a cell phone-related catastrophe that causes serious injury that is undeniably the fault of the cell phone company, you have signed away your Seventh Amendment rights without knowing it, and therefore cannot file a lawsuit against the company. Instead you get a hearing in front of an “arbitrator,” which is someone who makes a decision that has the full weight of the law behind it. The problem is that the arbitrator is hired by the cell phone company. There is nothing impartial about this process.

Many employers also have mandatory arbitration clauses in their employee contracts. So, again, no matter what happens, you cannot sue. You have to go through mandatory arbitration, with someone who is hired by your employer making the final decision. One particularly notorious example of this was Jamie Leigh Jones, an employee of Kellogg Brown and Root who claimed that she suffered a particularly awful case of sexual assault when she was employed in Iraq. There was some doubt as to whether rape occurred or not, but thanks to KBR’s mandatory arbitration clause, it took her three years to get her day in court, which she had to fight for every step of the way.

On top of mandatory arbitration, other methods have been used to circumvent the Seventh Amendment rights of Americans. One in particular is called “caps” on damages, which place a limit on the amount of non-economic damages that a plaintiff can win in court. Tort reform advocates would argue that they aren’t preventing Americans from going to court, but rather simply placing a limit on how much they can win. But since it often costs more to try a case in court than a plaintiff could win with many of these damage caps in place, it often amounts to the same thing.

So how did we agree to all of this? Effective public relations are certainly a big part of it. And perhaps the biggest tool that corporations use is yet another circumvention of a constitutional amendment. In this case it is the First Amendment.

There are occasions where corporations simply get caught red-handed, and in order to minimize the damage they agree to a settlement. What this means is that there isn’t a judgment involved. The defendant agrees to pay a certain amount of money to the plaintiff, and the matter is considered dropped. But quite often, these settlements come with strings attached, and the most common string that is used is called a gag order.

Gag orders prevent you from speaking publically about the terms or the amount of your settlement. And quite often, they only go one way. So while you would be unable to speak about the lawsuit or what caused you to sue in the first place, nothing prevents them from saying whatever they want.

You may have noticed that in the annual list of “frivolous lawsuits” that many tort reform organizations go into great detail about how ridiculous certain court cases are. These examples are picked up by the media, talk radio hosts, newspaper editorials and magazines, and everyone reads them and thinks it’s a crying shame, and as a result they don’t think twice about agreeing to more and more restrictions on their Seventh Amendment rights. But if you look carefully at these “frivolous” cases, you never hear from the plaintiff. You only hear one side of the story. The defendant can make things up, or the defendant can leave out crucial information and the defendant can minimize the extent of the injuries or harm done, and the plaintiff will not be able to correct the record at all, because if he or she does, they will lose the settlement.

So please, the next time you take a look at one of those “examples of ridiculous lawsuits,” please consider the source, or rather consider the source that you aren’t hearing. It might alter your thinking quite a bit.

Greenberg and Bederman is an injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to anyone who has been injured due to the actions of someone else. This includes victims of car accidents, medical malpractice or injuries due to defective drugs or products. Please call or email ourpersonal injury lawyers for an evulation of your case.If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free consultation.

Metro Accidents Concerning

 

There are times when you see a piece of information that you simply can’t believe. You read it but simply can’t process it. You sort of stop and say, “Wait, what?”

We had that experience the other day when we read an article in The Examiner. We have always known that the transit system in the Washington, D.C. area leaves much to be desired. We have always known that there are real problems with the tracks on the subways and the escalators in the subway stations. But we had no idea that the bus system was as badly run as it appears to be.

Our “Wait, what?” moment happened when we saw the number of crashes (or “incidents” as WMATA calls them) that have occurred this year. According to the Examiner article, the number of “incidents” that have occurred during the first eight months of the year is 1,649.

Take a moment to process that. You’re probably having a “Wait, what?” moment of your own. This means that municipal buses that WMATA operates in Washington, D.C, Maryland and Virginia, are involved in an average of about 6.8 crashes a day. Not 6.8 crashes a month, but 6.8 crashes a day.

 

This means that if you ride a Metro bus to and from work every day, you have a two out of seven chance of being involved in an “incident.” Those odds are terrible for any sort of transportation, much less a public bus service. To be fair, most of these “incidents” are either fender benders or situations where the bus hits a curb or other object that isn’t a person or a car. About 3% of these accidents end up causing injuries, while the rest mainly cause inconvenience and damages to properties both public and private. But one thing that concerns us is that Metro itself says that their drivers could have prevented about 41% of these accidents. Is this a statement on a lack of training for bus drivers? Or is it perhaps a reflection on the relative inexperience of so many of Metro’s bus operators? About 28% of Metro’s bus drivers have been on the job for less than five years.

We aren’t laboring under the delusion that Metro should have a completely spotless record when it comes to car accidents or car crashes in the D.C. area. But 6.8 crashes a day seems like the sort of number you would get for transit in Guadalajara or rural China.

The main point of public transit is to allow those who don’t own their own cars to get from one point or another, but another point is for this to occur in as safe a manner as possible. You shouldn’t be putting your safety at risk when you get on the bus or the subway, yet it seems that is what everybody who rides the bus in D.C, Maryland or northern Virginia is doing.

If you consider that the infrastructure of our subway system is also in particularly dire straits, then we are having a hard time recommending the use of our transit system at all. Let’s consider the following scenario: Say you have to commute from Arlington, Virginia to Bethesda, Maryland every day. Every morning you take the 7A bus from North Fairlington to the Pentagon. That puts you at risk of what Metro calls “an incident.” If you manage to get to the Pentagon, then you would take the escalator that might be working or might not be working down to the platform, where you would wait for the Yellow Line train. The Yellow Line train will move along at a high rate of speed on a track where the sensors are in dire need of replacement and the tracks are prone to catch on fire. You will take the Yellow Line to Gallery Place, and then transfer to the Red Line, again using escalators that might be running or might not be, and are also prone to the occasional brake failure and collapse. You would follow the Red Line all the way to Bethesda, where you would exit the station via the longest escalator in the western hemisphere, which is presumably held to the same standards of maintenance and care as the rest of the escalators in the Metro subway system.

Now that you have that information, doesn’t the daily commute seem a lot less mundane? The problem is that the daily commute is supposed to be mundane. It isn’t supposed to be a scenario where you are white-knuckling it from one end to the other. It should be up to everyone who utilizes our public transportation system to remind the people who operate and maintain it of that fact. Please contact WMATA and urge them to tighten up the standards for the bus drivers, repair the escalators and upgrade the sensors on the tracks.

If you or a loved one has been hurt in a transit accident on the Metro, Metro buses or any other bus system in Northern Virginia, Maryland or D.C, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free consultation today.

Understanding Insurance Adjuster Methods

 

Have you ever stopped to think about how car insurance really works? We’re sure that you have given some thought to how you think it works, but in this case there is quite a bit of difference between perception and reality.

When you consider your insurance policy, you probably think that in the event that you get into an accident, your insurance company will simply cover the costs of your repairs, or your medical bills if you need them. That’s what you’re paying those premiums for, right? But actually, for the majority of insurance companies, an accident is viewed as a starting point for negotiations. Or traps.

The people who the insurance companies hire to handle your claim are called “adjusters,” and they are called that for a reason. While their public job descriptions say flowery things like “providing thorough and conscientious service for your customers,” the actual job description is “making it so the insurance company pays as little as possible, or better yet, doesn’t have to pay anything at all.”

 

Insurance giants like Allstate, State Farm or GEICO didn’t get to be insurance giants by signing a lot of big checks. When you get into a car accident, the first question they ask isn’t “How can we help?” but rather “How can we get out of paying for this?” And they are very good at getting out of it. Harry Houdini had nothing on your average insurance company.

MSN recently published an article about some of the more notorious insurance adjuster tricks of the trade, and you would be well advised to learn them. Knowing how they work might be the difference between getting reimbursed for your damages and getting stuck with the bill entirely.

One of the more common insurance tactics is offering you a check as soon as possible. And when we say as soon as possible, we mean as soon as possible. Some insurers have adjusters on the scene before the wrecks are even carted away, and in some cases they even show up at the hospital if you have to go there. You might be thinking that the adjuster is using his amazing damage appraisal skills to do an instant financial calculation, and to a certain extent, that’s exactly what he’s doing. The rub here is that when he offers you that check, it may be for significantly less than what the damage will cost. And when you accept that check, you essentially absolve them of any further financial responsibility. You will be footing the bill for the difference between what the insurance company paid you and the actual cost of the car accident.

That’s the obvious trick. Some of the others are a lot more subtle, and most of the time it involves just sitting back and letting you talk.

If you just got into a car accident, your nerves are probably shot. Your adrenaline has kicked in. You might not always mean what you say, or even know what you are saying, for that matter. So if you say something like “I’m so sorry!” or “That was stupid of me!” or anything that can be misconstrued as you having anything at all to do with the causing of the accident, you are giving the other driver’s insurance company an out. Your best bet is to make sure that everyone is ok, and then don’t say anything.

The aversion that insurance companies have towards paying for damage claims is nothing compared to their loathing for paying for medical bills, and people who have been injured in an auto accident often aren’t immediately aware of their injuries until hours or even days later. Just because you feel ok after an accident doesn’t mean you are ok. If your injury manifests itself after you have already told the adjuster that you are fine, you will have a very difficult time getting the insurance company to cover your medical costs. If the adjuster asks if you are injured, the smart thing to do is say “I don’t know yet.”

Bear in mind that we aren’t encouraging anyone to be obstinate or unhelpful after a car accident. But you should know that insurance adjusters have a very specific job to do, and that job involves minimizing their financial responsibilities. If you get into a car accident, you should always keep that in mind. Keep what you say to the bare minimum, and don’t sign anything until you have a clearer understanding of the real costs of your accident, or have retained a lawyer.

Greenberg and Bederman is a Maryland car accident law firm located in Silver Spring, but we can help car accident victims in Virginia and Washington, D.C. as well. If you or a loved one has been injured in an auto accident anywhere in Maryland, Virginia or the District, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free consultation.

Understanding Damages In Personal Injury Law

 

Contrary to what many corporations, insurance companies and tort reform groups would like you to believe, people do not file injury lawsuits for recreational purposes. Nor do they file them because they want to “get rich.” Injury lawsuits are filed because injury victims have lost something that is valuable to them.

This is the premise of practically any lawsuit, injury or otherwise. Corporation A will routinely file a lawsuit against Corporation B because they believe that the actions of Corporation B cost them money. This happens all the time. In fact, if you look at your average court docket, you will see that most of the lawsuits involve contract disputes rather than tort or injury cases.

While many contract disputes center around the loss of money, injury cases center around the loss of other things. They involve the loss of mobility, the loss of the ability to work or the loss of a loved one. And unfortunately, since many of these losses don’t have strict price tags on them, many states have decided to do that for us in the form of “caps” on certain types of damages.

What this means is that in many states, there are limits to the amount that you can be compensated, no matter how grievous the damage to yourself, your loved ones or your property.

What follows is a breakdown of the types of damages that can be claimed in a personal injury case, as well as notations on which types are “capped” in some states.

 

Broadly speaking, there are two categories of damages that an injury victim can receive in the event that his or her case is successful. The first category is compensatory damages, while the other is punitive damages. Compensatory damages are meant to both restore your finances after the expenses of your injury and to provide you with monetary compensation for non-material losses. We’ll get more specific in a moment. Punitive damages are meant as a financial penalty against the person, persons, group or corporation that was responsible for the injury. Punitive damages are somewhat rare.

Getting more specific, here are the sorts of damages that fall under the compensatory column, but please bear in mind that just because you could win some or all of these damages doesn’t mean that you will win all of these damages, or that you will even win at all. There are absolutely no guarantees in a courtroom.

Monetary: These are for the obvious costs to you due to your injury. It means medical expenses (including any future care or rehabilitation that you might need,) as well as any costs that might occur due to your getting accustomed to a disability. Learning to live with any disability costs money, whether it’s training and rehabilitation or completely altering the way you live. For instance, someone newly confined to a wheelchair shouldn’t have to bear the costs of making his home wheelchair accessible if someone else was responsible for his injury.

You should also be able to recover your lost wages. That doesn’t only mean the money you lost when you weren’t at work. It could also mean the amount of money that you would have earned at that job had you not been injured. You should also be able to recover the value of any damaged or destroyed property.

If this was a particularly bad accident, you should also be able to recover the funeral costs of burying your loved ones.

Non-Monetary: These are the sort of damages for which there was no material loss. In other words, these damages aren’t paying for any money that you might have lost or any costs that you had to bear due to your injury. These damages are meant to compensate you for any pain that you went through, either physical or emotional.

These damages are commonly known as “Pain and Suffering,” which is supposed to compensate you for exactly that. In the event that the suit is being filed by widows or widowers rather than victims (in other words, if the incident involved death rather than injury), either the husband or wife could receive what are called “Loss of Consortium” damages. “Loss of Consortium” is basically compensation for the loss of companionship, affection, or any of the immeasurable emotional losses that occur when someone loses a spouse.

An important thing to remember about the non-monetary damages is that they are the sort that fall under “caps” in many states. For instance, Texas has a limit of $250,000 in non-monetary damages that can be awarded in medical malpractice cases. For a list of which states carry caps on non-economic damages, please follow this link.

A case illustrating how an individual is harmed through damage caps is that of Mrs. Connie Spears. According to the NY Times, Mrs. Spears suffered as a result of a medical malpractice in the state of Texas. She went to the emergency room with pain in her legs. Pain she’s felt before. They sent her home. Now she is in a wheelchair as a double leg amputee due to a misdiagnosis at the emergency room. “For Mrs. Spears, the double amputee, the double amputee, the frustration- and the humiliation- is daily. She used to cook, clean and care for her elderly mother, but now she needs help to go to the bathroom, to shower, to get around. “I’m dead weight”, Mrs. Spears said. “And the more I peive things together, the more angry I get.” Due to the damage caps in Texas, Mrs. Spears cannot find a lawyer to help her.

We would like to re-iterate that should you decide to move forward with a personal injury case, there is no guarantee about receiving any of these forms of compensation, nor of winning your case. However, the lawyers at Greenberg and Bederman have been fighting for the legal protections of the injured in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. for over twenty-five years now, and we will fight for our clients. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free consultation.

Dupont and Punitive Damages

 

Somewhere in your house or apartment is something that was made by the DuPont chemical company. In fact, something on your desk was probably made by DuPont. Probably even something on your computer. Normally when you think of chemicals the first thing that pops into your head is big barrels of solvents or paint thinner. But DuPont does plastics, they do materials, they do fabrics and just about anything that you can name. DuPont doesn’t necessarily sell products as much as they sell what the products are made of.

It’s hard to believe that they are only the third largest chemical corporation in the world, considering how commonplace their products are. Nylon, Kevlar, the first synthetic rubber, Polyester and Teflon are all household names that were invented by DuPont. They are an absolute giant of not just American industry, but worldwide industry.

Being a titan of world industry does not come with zero responsibilities, however. It should be remembered that DuPont is a chemical company, and not a free range organic poultry concern. Chemicals can be dangerous in almost every step of the manufacturing process. Citizens of a town called Spelter in West Virginia found that out the hard way. DuPont ran a zinc smelter nearby which produced both slab zinc and zinc dust, and by 1971 there was a toxic waste pile that stood about 100 feet tall. The idea that this pile could exist without sickening nearby residents is unfathomable.

 

The citizens of Spelter filed a class action lawsuit against DuPont, and after a series of losses and appeals on behalf of DuPont, the citizens actually won. In a settlement deal, DuPont offered to pay $70 million in damages and pay a further $80 million to establish a 30 year medical monitoring service for citizens who live around the smelting plant site. That might seem like a lot, but if you consider that in the original verdict that was subsequently appealed by DuPont, they were ordered to pay $380 million in punitive damages. And even after the West Virginia Supreme Court dropped that number to $196 million in punitive damages, there were still the healthcare costs for the victims to worry about.

So by settling, DuPont got off a lot lighter than they should have. While the health care costs were nothing to sneeze at, the punitive damages were what DuPont was worried about. And it seems like DuPont is always worried about punitive damages. They are members of the Chamber of Commerce, who support capping punitive damages. They are members of the New Jersey Lawsuit Reform Alliance, who also support capping punitive damages. As far as all of these groups are concerned, punitive damages (in other words, damages that are levied against a defendant to specifically hurt them financially as a reminder that laws and regulations are to be followed) are the bane of the existence of everyone who does business in America.

Except when they aren’t.

Sept. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Kolon Industries Inc. lost a $919.9 million jury verdict to DuPont Co. over the theft of trade secrets about the manufacture of Kevlar, an anti-ballistic fiber used in police and military gear.

Jurors in federal court in Richmond, Virginia, deliberated about 10 hours over two days before finding Gyeonggi, South Korea-based Kolon and its U.S. unit wrongfully obtained DuPont’s proprietary information about Kevlar by hiring some of the company’s former engineers and marketers. The award yesterday is the third-largest jury verdict this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

If anyone is interested in the math, DuPont received $769 million more in punitive damages for trade secret violation than they paid out in punitive damages for poisoning an entire town for thirty years. This should give you an idea as to how the judicial system slants when it comes to the rights of corporations to earn a profit vs. the right of citizens to compensation for injury.

If it weren’t for the fact that it isn’t very funny, we would barely be able to suppress a laugh whenever one of these tort reform organizations talks about how “flawed” the justice system is. We currently live is a system where corporations wage hundred-million dollar lawsuits over dolls and bullet proof vests, and where corporations can feel no compunction about receive punitive damages themselves over trade secrets while howling bloody murder over having to pay significantly less for causing provable physical harm to people. This is a system where the legal protections are given to malpractice insurance companies rather than the victim of the medical malpractice. This is a system where the “People in Theory” (i.e. the corporations) are given all the advantages, and the actual, real, living people are left to struggle against “caps” and “limits” which effectively keep them from going to court at all. If you happen to be a corporation, there is nothing “flawed” or “broken” about this system. It’s perfect. It isn’t so great for the rest of us.

Greenberg and Bederman is apersonal injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal help to anyone in Virginia, Maryland or Washington, D.C. who has been injured or made ill due to the actions of a manufacturer or industrial corporation. This includes toxic waste exposure, lead exposure, or contaminated drinking water. If you or a loved one has been injured due to industrial pollution, contact Greenberg & Bedean for a free consultation.

Insurance Companies Don't Pay In Hurricane

 

Hurricane Irene did quite a bit of damage to the east coast last week. The usual states got hit pretty hard (Florida, the Carolinas), but Irene was unique in that it kept a consistent level of strength and traveled a lot farther north than most hurricanes normally do. When was the last time any of you ever heard the words “Hurricane damage” and “Vermont” in the same sentence? Vermont, New Jersey and Connecticut were all hit pretty hard, and even New York got hit with about $1 billion in damage. The Northeast is not used to that sort of thing.

Another thing the Northeast is not used to is how insurance companies behave in the aftermath of a hurricane. While insurance companies may cover wind damage, many simply do not offer flood insurance. The only entity that offers any kind of emergency coverage in the event of flooding is the United States government. This wouldn’t really be a problem if it weren’t for the fact that a hurricane is a combination of wind and water. If there is a situation where there is any sort of doubt as to whether damage was caused by either wind or water, the insurance company will most likely place all of the blame on water to avoid a claim. The insurance companies will not investigate themselves; they will not send anyone around to take a gander, and they will not look at pictures. They will simply say “not our problem.”

 

We saw a huge demonstration of that during Hurricane Katrina. Before that storm even made landfall, insurance companies were preparing press releases offering their condolences for “The Gulf Coast Flood,” which let everyone know how they were going to respond before there was any damage at all. They essentially offered a blanket denial of every claim in Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi, and practically the entire Southeastern United States. They were even denying damage claims in areas that were not even remotely close to standing bodies of water. Their motto was “It was a flood. Prove it wasn’t.” And when it wasn’t possible for insurers to claim that it was a flood that did the damage, they used the argument that it was a “storm surge,” which, to the best of our understanding, is not like wind because its origin point is a water-based hurricane. So, if it was wind that tore your roof off, they would be happy to replace it, but because the wind came from a hurricane, that renders your claim invalid.

This strategy brought hundreds of people to court, including a pro-tort reform U.S. Senator. Many of those cases involving Katrina and denied claims are still pending to this day. There is a chance that insurance companies in Vermont, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut might behave in a more even handed and fair manner after Hurricane Irene, but we doubt it.

We don’t expect insurance companies to pay for things that they aren’t responsible for. If a house has seven feet of water in the basement after days and days of steady rain, the damage may not be the insurance company’s responsibility. But if the wind from a hurricane causes a tree to fall on a house, thus destroying it, you can hardly expect anyone to believe that a “water based storm surge” is the culprit. 

We hate to be cynical about insurance companies, but we didn’t just pull this mindset out of thin air. As injury attorneys in the Washington, D.C. area, a great many of our cases involve going to court against insurance companies. It has been our experience and the experience of our clients in D.C, Maryland and Northern Virginia that they don’t have a “good neighbor,” they aren’t in “good hands” and nobody is “on their side” except us. The initial reaction of your average insurance claims adjuster isn’t “how can we help,” but rather “how can we get out of this?”

Who knows? Maybe we’ll be wrong. Maybe the insurers will give damage claims their due consideration and will treat each one individually. If they did that, maybe they would put us out of business. 

We hope there won’t be blanket denials that are delivered sight unseen.

Greeberg and Bederman is a personal injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. As part of our injury law practice, we often help deal with insurance disputes. If you or a loved one has been injured due to no fault of your own and is experiencing resistance from any insurance companies, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free consultation.

School Is Now Open Watch For Accidents

 

Washington D.C. is the sort of town where everyone has to be at work in the morning. You can see the evidence of that every morning on 395, 495, 66 or Route 50. You can see the evidence of that at every Metro bus stop or every crowded Metro station.

Weekday mornings are usually very crowded. But during the summer months, they get less crowded, mainly because a huge part of the morning rush isn’t necessary between mid-June and early September. We are referring to your children, and getting them to school.

As it is officially the day after Labor Day, many of you might have noticed that the streets were a little more crowded on your way to work. According to the NHTSA, the number of cars on the road between 7:15 and 8:15 AM increases 30% during the school year, and 25% of morning traffic is parents driving their kids to school. Today is the first day of school for most of the students in the area, so there will be kids walking to school, riding their bikes to school, waiting on corners for school buses, or getting dropped off by their parents. (No doubt, some of the older students are demanding that they get dropped off a block or two away from school so as not to be embarrassed in front of their friends.)

 

Many of you have probably become accustomed to the quicker morning commute, particularly when you are getting out of your neighborhoods and moving towards the highways. We would urge you drive with a little more caution on your way to work.

This means continuing to obey the standard rules of the road, but it also means a few other things that you don’t necessarily have to deal with during the summer months.

School Bus Rules: While you don’t necessarily have to stop when a commuter bus pulls over to pick up or drop off passengers, you absolutely have to when you are behind a school bus. That’s the reason that big stop sign comes out of the side of the bus when it stops. You also have to stop even if your car is on the other side of the street. Failure to do so will earn you a hefty fine. But the point is that kids are crossing the street to get on or off the bus, and the last thing they need is hurried and impatient commuters driving around the bus at thirty miles an hour.

Crosswalks: A lot of school districts have crossing guards to direct the flow of traffic at intersections near schools, but not all of them do. For those of you who are unaware of this rule, pedestrians always have the right of way at crosswalks. With school now in session, there are bound to be more pedestrians using crosswalks, so please exercise caution.

Speed Limits: You should always obey the speed limit wherever you happen to be, but the speed limit drops dramatically when you get near schools. Bear in mind, kids don’t always exercise the most amount of common sense, so children darting into the street without looking are not unheard of in front of schools. Make sure you drive slowly and carefully when you are in the vicinity of schools.

Common Sense: Washington, D.C. is a very busy town, with lots of people doing very important work. Many of us are juggling multiple projects, and many of us are in a rush to get to work, or to the next meeting. But no matter where you need to be, or what you need to get done, or who you need to talk to, none of that will matter if you get into an accident or hit a pedestrian. Being alert, turning off your cell phone, following the speed limit and never texting while driving should be the rules you follow the entire year around, but during the school year they take on a special sort of urgency. Out of every 100,000 traffic injuries, around 40 of them are school age pedestrians between the ages of 5 to 15. That might sound like a small percentage, but try telling that to the parents of one of those 40 kids who got hit by a car on the way to school. You should always drive carefully, but you should redouble your efforts at this time of year.

Greenberg and Bederman is a personal injury law firm in the Washington, D.C. area. We are offering legal assistance to pedestrians who have been hit by cars in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. If you or a loved one has been hit by a car in the Washington, D.C. area, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free consultation.

It Is Not Greedy To Be Injured and Seek Money

 

There is this idea among many Americans that everyone should just “walk it off” when something bad happens to them. As in, “You got injured, accidents happen, move on.” They believe that utilizing the court system in cases like this is primarily a sign of greed rather than a sense of restitution.  We’ve noticed that this mindset primarily exists in either those who have never been on the receiving end of an unfortunate event, or those who are directly responsible for an unfortunate event. However, once the tables are turned, that mindset changes dramatically. Some of the most ardent supporters of tort reform are usually the first ones at the courthouse when things aren’t going their way.

It is difficult to “walk it off” when, as a result of the actions of someone else, you can’t walk anymore. We consider that an injury. Tort reformers consider that “bad luck.”

 

People who get severely injured and experience a severe decrease in the quality of their lives are certainly unlucky, but as far as we’re concerned, they are only unlucky if the injury was the result of a random occurrence, or as insurance companies call it, an “Act of God.” If somebody gets severely injured due to the negligence of someone else, then that person is not “unlucky.” That person is a victim.

Here is an example:

Everybody knows Martha Stewart, right? Whether you like her or not, you know who she is. You’ve probably bought or cooked something that she designed or dreamed up without even realizing it. She is not just a person. She is a brand name. She has lent her name to everything from sweaters to pots and pans to dishes to furniture.

The furniture is where the injuries come in. Ms. Stewart’s company designed, built and marketed a line of patio furniture. The problem was with a certain brand of deckchair. The chair was built in such a way that the legs slip forward when you sit down, which means that if you happen to have your fingers underneath the chair, your fingers could very easily get sliced off by the hinges.

This isn’t conjecture on our part. This has actually happened to people. For at least one case, three people either lost or badly damaged the tips of their fingers, and this happened because they bought a specific type of deck chair. It wasn’t a power saw, or a belt sander, or a set of sharp steak knives, or a product where you can assume that there is some risk of injury. It was a deck chair, which shouldn’t be a dangerous product by any stretch of the imagination.

If you buy a belt sander, and you slip while using it and mangle your hand, that’s “bad luck.” If you buy a set of extra sharp knives and you cut your fingertips off while dicing an onion, that’s “bad luck.” If you buy a chair and use it exactly as you are supposed to, but end up losing the tips off of your fingers, that isn’t “bad luck.” That’s negligence.

To Ms. Stewart’s immense credit, she thought so too. Her company ended up settling with three injury victims for an undisclosed amount. But there are many corporations, insurers and tort-reform organizations who feel differently. Their advice for the three people who mangled their hands would be to walk it off. Let it go. Move on with your life. Sorry you lost three fingers, but hey, accidents happen, right?

We don’t buy that premise. If you get injured due to no fault of your own, and if the fault can be squarely placed on the actions of someone else, why is it considered “weak” or “greedy” to expect financial compensation for your medical bills? Or for money to make up for the pay that you lost when you had to recuperate in the hospital? Or to simply make up for the fact that you don’t have finger tips anymore? How is that an unreasonable set of expectations?

Do not let anyone tell you that seeking compensation for your injuries is the wrong thing to do. Nobody asks to get hit by a drunk driver, or to get injured due to medical malpractice. Nobody asks to be hospitalized because of a dangerous prescription drug or a faulty product. The day that medical treatment is free and the banks start adopting a “don’t worry about it” policy regarding your mortgage, then maybe we can start telling you to “walk it off.” But until then, we recommend contacting a lawyer.

Greenberg and Bederman is a Washington, D.C. injury law firm. We are currently offering legal counsel to those who have been injured due to no fault of their own. If you or a loved one has been hurt in a car or truck accident, or if you have been injured due to medical malpractice, contact Greenberg and Bederman for a free legal consultation today.

 

 

New Texas Medical Malpractice Laws

 

For the sake of argument, let’s say that you are employed in a place where there are absolutely no consequences for doing a bad job. Let’s say that it doesn’t matter how bad you screw up. It doesn’t matter if you get everything wrong; it doesn’t matter if you deliver terrible customer service and it doesn’t matter if you show up three hours late every day or don’t show up at all. It doesn’t matter if you are incompetent. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what you are doing. Nothing that you do or don’t do will cause you to get fired. You won’t even get reprimanded. Would those parameters affect how you did your job? Many of you would probably say that you would do your best, just out of principle. But could you say the same for all of your co-workers?

If this hypothetical place of employment was a restaurant, or an accounting firm, or even a law firm, the performance issue would most assuredly be solved by what are called “market forces.” In other words, if your business delivers a bad product, no matter what it is, then people will simply stop patronizing your business and take their dollars elsewhere. But what if your business happens to be a hospital? What if the line of business is helping the sick, injured or wounded? And what if all the businesses in the area were run under the same “no consequences” guidelines? What if there was no “elsewhere” to take your dollars to?

 

Believe it or not, this is what’s happening in Texas right now.

Depending on your perspective, Texas is either a “great” or “terrifying” place in which to receive medical care. If you happen to be a doctor or insurance company, it’s great. If you happen to be a patient, it most certainly is not the best. Under the guise of “tort reform,” people in Texas who seek emergency room treatment have essentially no legal recourse if the doctor treating them makes an error. The fine print of the 2003 tort reform law in Texas states that unless an emergency room physician acted with “willful and wanton negligence,” no victim of emergency room malpractice is eligible for civil damages at all. This means that it has to be proven that an emergency room physician meant to make a mistake, which is about the biggest legal oxymoron we have ever seen. On top of that, the main thrust of the 2003 tort reform capped non-economic damages at $250,000 for medical liability, which might seem like a lot, but is actually about what it costs to get a medical malpractice case through the court system in the event that a malpractice insurance company wants to settle. (They very rarely do.) So what you have in Texas is a system where people who have been clearly injured due to medical negligence are unable to bring their cases to court, either because they were injured in the emergency room and are therefore ineligible for civil damages, or because the restrictions on compensation make it financially impossible for plaintiff’s attorneys to take the case.

This has made life great for insurance companies in Texas. It has also made life great for doctors, who have had their chances of being brought to court dramatically reduced, even if they have committed medical malpractice. By limiting the options of what victims of medical malpractice can do after they have been hurt, doctors are free to practice their profession without the fear of being sued, and malpractice insurance companies are free to insure doctors without the fear of having to pay malpractice claims.

So now that Texas has essentially no consequences for medical professionals who make mistakes, guess what happens? The standard of care drops, for starters. And doctors, nurses and administrators start taking advantage of the legal protections in new and clever ways.

From the Associated Press:

The federal government said after an inspection at Parkland Memorial Hospital found conditions that were a "serious threat" to patient safety, the public hospital will not be able to participate in the Medicare program without coming up with correction plans.

Among the reasons for this potential removal of Medicare money are violations of infection prevention protocol, as well as a practice of moving the majority of patients to the emergency room to be screened, regardless of whether their condition required urgent care or not. The reason for that is probably to cover all the bases in the event that someone screws up. Remember, emergency room equals no liability. So if you check into a hospital in Texas with a manageable and minor ailment, don’t be surprised if they make you go down to the emergency room first.

So what do the patients in Texas get out of all of these protections for doctors and insurance companies? Not much. Rather than focusing on actual instances of malpractice, Texas decided to focus on restricting or removing the legal options of people after they have been hurt, which will do nothing to lower the rate of medical malpractice, wrong diagnoses, surgical errors, prescription errors or hospital infections. If anything, it would allow doctors, surgeons and nurses to practice with less care and concern, mainly because the consequences for negligent or sloppy medical care have been removed.

The next study that needs to be performed is to learn whether the cap on medical damages has resulted in lower medical malpractice premiums for Texas doctors and healthcare providers.

This is something to keep in mind in the event that any legislators in Virginia or Maryland point to Texas as an example of the “good” that tort reform can do.

Greenberg and Bederman is a medical malpractice injury firm located in the Washington, D.C. area. We are currently offering legal assistance to those who have been injured due to surgical errors, wrong diagnoses, hospital infections or other preventable forms of medical malpractice. If you or a loved one in Maryland, Virginia or D.C. has been injured due to the negligence of a doctor or medical professional, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free consultation today. 

No Speedy Trial For Injury Victims

 

The Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution often causes a bit of confusion, particularly among those who are involved in civil lawsuits. A lot of our injury clients have to wait for quite some time before they get within sight of a courtroom, and every now and then somebody asks about “the right to a speedy trial.”

While it’s true that the Sixth Amendment does cover the right to a “speedy trial,” it only makes that promise to those involved in criminal cases. If you are accused of robbing a bank, arson, purse snatching, murder, or any other crime, then yes, you do have a right to a speedy trial. One of the reasons that this was written into the Constitution was because back in the 18th century, the British authorities thought nothing of locking up undesirables for long periods of time. People would be put in prison for months or even years, and no actual trial would ever happen. This was a way to keep people locked up without having to actually sentence them.  

This happened often enough that our founding fathers decided to actively address it in our founding document:

 

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

This is a good thing to have if you happen to find yourself accused of a crime, but for those of you who are pursuing a civil remedy to a personal injury or a breach of a contract, there is no real time line for your case to get to court. You will get there eventually. But quite often, it benefits the defense to drag out the process as long as possible.

Here is an example: We have been discussing the serious health problems that have occurred with women who have been using Bayer’s line of birth control pills for about two years now. The issues with Yaz, Yasmin and Ocella have been going on for a lot longer than two years. It has been pretty well established that otherwise healthy women have been hospitalized with pulmonary embolisms, deep vein thrombosis, strokes, heart attacks and gall bladder disease, and the one major thing these women had in common was that they were taking Bayer’s line of birth control pills, each of which contain a synthetic variation of progestin called drospirenone. This ingredient can cause an increase in potassium levels in the bloodstream, which leads to a more active clotting mechanism. Clots form in the bloodstream, and then they start to travel, which leads to blockages in the bloodstream. This is where the pulmonary embolisms, strokes and heart attacks come from. The contention of the majority of these lawsuits is that Bayer failed to adequately research the effects that this new ingredient would have on the women who used their birth control pills.

As we said before, we have been discussing this for over two years now. In fact, we have a few clients who have been injured due to what we believe are these defective yaz birth control pills, and thousands of other women all over the country have filed suit for identical reasons. A few of these cases have finally been scheduled for October of next year:

 “The first trial dates for any Yaz lawsuits, Yasmin lawsuit or Ocella lawsuit pending in New Jersey state court will begin in the fall of 2012, with at least two cases to be selected as test cases out of hundreds of claims pending in the state.”

If this were a criminal case, the delay wouldn’t nearly be this long.

In many respects, defendants in injury cases use this delay to their advantage. The longer it takes for an injury victim to get to court, the more likely it is that this person will either accept a settlement that is much less than they can deserve, or will give up the case entirely.

For instance, let’s say you get hit by a car and have to spend six weeks in the hospital. During these six weeks, you aren’t working. You have no source of income. This does not matter one bit to the utilities, the bank that holds your mortgage, and the credit card companies. They expect to get paid. The insurance company of the driver that hit you has no such financial worries. Ultimately, they have you at a disadvantage, and many insurance companies will offer you much less than you will need to support yourself. If you refuse that offer, they have all the time in the world. They can request delays in the court proceedings, and often do. In the meantime, your financial situation gets more precarious with each passing day. All of a sudden, that initial lowball settlement offer starts to look pretty good.

One of the major problems with the Sixth Amendment is that it does nothing to address the delay that injury victims have to face to get their cases heard. While having an experienced attorney to help you navigate the legal process in your injury claim ensures your rights are protected, there is unfortunately, no such thing as a “speedy trial” for injury victims.

Greenberg and Bederman is a personal injury law firm located in the Washington, D.C. area. We are currently offering legal assistance to those who have been injured due to no fault of their own, and that includes car accidents, medical malpractice, defective drugs, and pedestrian or bicycle accidents. If you or a loved one has been injured due to someone else, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free consultation.

Crosswalk Pedestrians

 

When was the last time you took a driving test? Many of you would probably answer that question by saying something like “I take a driving test every day just getting to work.” While we are sure that’s true, we mean the sort of driving test where you have to sit down and answer a series of written questions about traffic signs, appropriate driving behavior, etc.

Most of you probably haven’t taken one since the day you passed your initial driving test. In Virginia, you only have to re-take the written exam if you’ve let your driver’s license expire for more than a year. In Maryland you only have to take it on your initial test.

The reason we’re wondering when the last time anyone took a written driver’s test is because recently, it seems that quite a few people have forgotten one of the basic rules of the road, which is this:

YOU ALWAYS STOP FOR PEDESTRIANS AND BICYCLISTS AT CROSSWALKS WITHOUT TRAFFIC SIGNALS.

Not some of the time. Not every now and again. ALWAYS.

 

Here’s the law about crosswalks in Virginia:

§ 46.2-924. Drivers to stop for pedestrians; installation of certain signs; penalty.

A. The driver of any vehicle on a highway shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian crossing such highway:

1. At any clearly marked crosswalk, whether at mid-block or at the end of any block;

2. At any regular pedestrian crossing included in the prolongation of the lateral boundary lines of the adjacent sidewalk at the end of a block;

3. At any intersection when the driver is approaching on a highway or street where the legal maximum speed does not exceed 35 miles per hour.

Here’s the law about crosswalks in Maryland:

§ 21-502. Pedestrians' right-of-way in crosswalks.

(2) The driver of a vehicle shall come to a stop when a pedestrian crossing the roadway in a crosswalk is: 

(i) On the half of the roadway on which the vehicle is traveling; or 

(ii) Approaching from an adjacent lane on the other half of the roadway. 

It’s a pretty simple premise. If you are driving down the road and you see a pedestrian or bicyclist in the crosswalk, you stop and let him continue. You don’t floor it in the hopes that you can make it past him before he gets to your lane. You don’t swerve into the oncoming lane to get past him. You stop and let him continue.

On July 25th, there was a three car accident on the George Washington Parkway. A driver stopped at an intersection to allow a bicyclist to cross at the intersection, which is exactly what a driver is supposed to do. The bicyclist was about to cross when he saw a pickup truck approach without changing its rate of speed. The pickup truck then slammed into the back of the car of the driver who was obeying the law. Two people were injured, and fortunately the bicyclist was not one of them.

There are a great many crosswalks on the GW Parkway that don’t have any signals on them. A lot of people assume that they can just breeze past them without giving any consideration towards joggers, pedestrians or bicyclists. This misconception is not being helped by what the National Park Police have been doing lately.

A man named Andrew Beaujon, who is a reporter at TBD, was crossing the GW Parkway on August 2nd. A driver slowed down to let him cross, and for his troubles this driver was pulled over by a NPP officer and reprimanded. The officer’s argument was that the driver might have caused an accident similar to the one that happened on July 25th. This is probably the first time in our memories that we have ever heard of someone being reprimanded for obeying the law.

Is there something we have missed? Did pedestrians and bicyclists become second class citizens all of a sudden? Is preventing car accidents more important than preventing pedestrian and bicycle accidents? We were under the impression that all three are something that should be prevented.

One particular way that this could be handled would be to place either stoplights, stop signs, or at the very least a flashing orange light at the multiple unmarked pedestrian crossings on the GW Parkway. Surely something can be done to facilitate this, but in the meantime, National Park Police should not reprimand drivers for obeying the law, and drivers should continue to stop for crossing pedestrians and bicyclists.

Greenberg and Bederman is a Washington D.C. area personal injury law firm. Located in Silver Spring, Maryland, we are currently offering legal assistance to those who have been injured in car accidents, bicycle accidents and pedestrian accidents. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident due to no fault of your own, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free consultation.

 

 

A Lawyer Cannot Guarantee A Win

 

There is no such thing as a “guaranteed win” in a court case. This is a principle that all aspiring lawyers should have drilled into their brains the instant they set foot in law school. We can’t think of a better example of this premise than the Casey Anthony case.

This case was simply impossible to avoid, unless you happened to live in a place where there was no television, radio, internet or newspapers of any kind. However, for those of you who lacked the time or the inclination to delve deeply into the facts of the case, here is a brief summary.

The last time anyone saw 2 year old Caylee Anthony alive was on June 16, 2008. She was in the company of her mother, Casey Anthony. Ms. Anthony’s parents repeatedly asked to see the child over the next 31 days, but were told by Ms. Anthony that since she was busy with a work assignment, it would be impossible to see her. She also mentioned that Caylee was occasionally under the care of a nanny.

On July 13, 2008, Mr. and Mrs. Anthony received a certified letter which stated that their daughter’s car had been impounded. This was news to the Anthony’s, as they had assumed that the car was with their daughter and granddaughter. When Mr. Anthony picked up the car at the impound yard, they discovered an odor coming from the trunk of the car. They opened the trunk and found a bag of garbage, but no human remains. It was at this point where Ms. Anthony claimed that Caylee had been abducted by the nanny. This later turned out to be a lie, along with a whole host of other statements made by Ms. Anthony. Investigators also found other suspicious elements of Ms. Anthony’s story, such as her behavior during the month that her child was supposed to be missing. There are a great many pictures of her enjoying the company of friends and attending parties, which is hardly the behavior expected of a woman with a missing child.

 

Investigators found the skeletal remains of Caylee within a short walk from the Anthony family home. The child had duct tape over the remains of her mouth. A search of Ms. Anthony’s computer found that she was entering phrases like “chloroform recipe” and “shovel” and “home weapons” into a search engine at around the same time that Caylee had initially disappeared. All of this, combined with the lying about seemingly everything and the strange behavior, was certainly enough for the authorities to take her into custody.

But as the whole country saw just a few weeks ago, it wasn’t enough to convict her in a court of law. Ms. Anthony was found not guilty on all counts of murder. The only counts she was found guilty on were the charges of lying to the police.

Predictably, the reaction by the public was one of pure outrage. There was anger directed at the jury for not drawing the obvious conclusion, and there was (and still is) an enormous level of fury directed towards Ms. Anthony. If you were watching some of the more apoplectic commentators on cable television, you would think that the jury was a parcel of simpletons unable to see the nose in front of their collective faces.

We don’t see it that way. It is our opinion that the jurors acted entirely appropriately, and while they might not have come to the conclusion that would have pleased the general public, they came to the only decision that they could have based on the evidence that was presented to them. And while there was a great deal circumstantial evidence in this case, there wasn’t one shred of it that could say with certainty that Casey Anthony was responsible for the death of her daughter.

The coroner couldn’t say exactly what caused her death. There was no DNA from Ms. Anthony anywhere on the remains of Caylee. We will say that there was plenty of evidence that made Ms. Anthony look extremely suspicious, but there wasn’t any that could have said that she was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

If Ms. Anthony is in fact guilty of murder, the burden of proof lies with the police, the forensics team, and the prosecution team. It is the job of the police to gather the evidence and come up with a plausible theory as to what happened. It is the job of the forensics team to examine the evidence to back up that plausible theory and turn it into something that can be proven. And it is the job of the prosecution to relate that proof to a jury and convince them that the person on trial is in fact guilty of the charges. The prosecution team failed to do that.

If there is anything to be learned from this, it is that the skills and judgment of the attorneys very much matter in any sort of court case. It doesn’t matter if it is a contract case, an injury case or a criminal case. The prosecution team from Orange County, Florida handling the Casey Anthony case moved forward with evidence that was circumstantial, trusting that the jury would be able to “read between the lines.” But that is not what juries are supposed to do, particularly when the prosecution is planning on calling for the death penalty.

There is no such thing as a “guaranteed win” in the courtroom. Any number of factors could cause the case to go against you. The attorneys prosecuting this case knew that, the attorneys defending Ms. Anthony knew that, and now, the general public knows it all too well.

Greenberg and Bederman is a personal injury law firm located in the Washington, D.C. area. We are currently offering legal assistance to people who have been injured due to no fault of their own. Our attorneys can help you if you have been injured in a car accident, truck accident or pedestrian accident. We can also help those who have been injured due to medical malpractice. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free consultation today. 

 

Foggy Bottom Metro Station Less Dangerous

 

All of a sudden, people at Foggy Bottom Metro station are in considerably less danger than they were three weeks ago. All of a sudden, riders can simply get on a moving escalator rather than trudge up the stairs in almost 100 degree heat. All of a sudden, nobody has to worry about escalators collapsing, causing harm to Metro’s riders.

And all they had to do was get rid of the old, malfunctioning escalators that were beyond servicing, and put in new ones.

From the July 11th edition of The Washington Post:

“For the first time in more than a decade, Metro has a new escalator that isn’t in a new station. The pristine escalator unveiled during Monday morning’s rush hour at the Foggy Bottom station is part of a $6 million project to replace three at the entrance, install a staircase and build a canopy to cover it all.”

The escalators at Foggy Bottom were in particular need of repair, especially since one escalator at that station suffered a partial collapse back in February. It is a miracle that no one was seriously hurt.

 

We were hoping the next replacement will be at L’Enfant Plaza, where what is about the worst case scenario for an escalator failure actually did happen on Halloween of 2010. Right after Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s Rally to Restore Sanity (which was one of the biggest crowds the National Mall has seen in years,) the brakes on the escalator that leads down into the station failed, causing a pile up of humanity at the mouth of the station. Four people were seriously hurt. You can see the video here.

The next new escalators scheduled for installation are three at Foggy Bottom, three at DuPont Circle and three at the Pentagon. The rest will be going into what WMATA is calling “a major rehab.”

While we completely understand replacing the escalators at the South exit of DuPont (a collapse there would be a monumental disaster,) we are having a hard time understanding why the escalators at L’Enfant aren’t being considered a priority. If there is a total brake failure on an escalator, it would seem that replacing the entire escalator would be a priority. Plus, L’Enfant Plaza is a very high traffic Metro station, at least as equally high traffic as Foggy Bottom. But at this point, we have given up trying to figure out Metro. We just cross our fingers and hope for the best. And replacing some escalators is a good start.

However, we are worried about how this escalator refurbishment will take place. According to the article in The Washington Post, all of the escalators in the Metro system were made by seven different companies, four of whom are currently out of business. And the quote from Deputy General Manager Dave Kubicek makes us somewhat nervous:

“Vendors couldn’t service what was in there. No matter what we did, we weren’t going to be able to service them to the level of expectations.”

Further disturbing bits of information appear shortly below that particular quote:

“Metro used to contract out its service and maintenance of escalators and elevators but brought these back in house in spring 2010. If parts can’t be found on the market, Metro makes them or takes ones from elevators no longer in service.”

So basically, it appears as if in the interest of saving money, Metro brought the escalator maintenance in house, despite not having people with the skills to do the work or the resources to get new parts. They then resorted to cannibalization of no longer existing escalators and elevators, which makes about as much sense as saying, “Hey, why don’t we use the plug from this leak and move it over to the new leak? What could possibly go wrong?”

A great deal can go wrong, apparently. This is the sort of thing that you would expect from a subway system in a third world country, but not Washington, D.C. We urge WMATA to get moving on fixing or replacing all of these escalators before somebody gets hurt.

Greenberg and Bederman is a personal injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance for those who have been injured due to no fault of their own, and that includes injuries due to falls. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free consultation today.

Are Lawsuits A Concern For Small Businesses?

 

How important are lawsuits in the grand scheme of things?

It depends on who you ask and when you ask them.

If you ask someone who has been injured due to the negligence of someone else, they would probably tell you that their particular lawsuit was quite important. If you asked one huge corporation that was suing another huge corporation, they would probably both consider that lawsuit to be important. Based on our experience, most people consider lawsuits the same way that they consider Congress. That is to say that just as they hate Congress but like their particular Congressman, they generally are against lawsuits right up to the point where they need to file one.

However, there are quite a few well funded organizations that seem to be convinced that lawsuits are incredibly important. They are convinced that lawsuits are nothing short of a plague of locusts on the economy and on American society in general. The American Tort Reform Association, the Chamber of Commerce, and all manner of other advocacy groups have done their best to further the premise that every single person, business, corporation and public entity in the United States is being crushed under and avalanche of litigation. They further claim that the chief victims of these lawsuits are “small businesses.”

We have a lot of problems with these assertions. In the first place, someone who is on the receiving end of a lawsuit is, legally speaking, the exact opposite of a victim. In fact, in any tort case, it is the contention of the plaintiff that he or she has been victimized. To put it in perspective, consider Union Carbide. When their chemical plant leaked deadly poisonous gas in Bhopal, India and killed just fewer than 4,000 people, would it be fair to say that Union Carbide was a “victim of lawsuits” when the survivors went to the courts? Or, on a smaller scale, if a doctor makes an easily preventable mistake that damages a patient permanently, would you say that the doctor was the “victim” in the scenario if the patient files a lawsuit? If a delivery driver is allowed to go on his route after his supervisor catches him drinking, and that driver hurts someone, is the business supervisor a “victim?” What about the person who got hurt by the driver?

 

We’re pretty sure that the ATRA and the Chamber of Commerce have plenty of lawyers themselves, and we are willing to bet that they understand the definitions of “plaintiff” and “defendant.” The reassignment of the word “victim” is a clever juxtaposition of roles in a legal case, and if it gets hammered into the heads of the general public long enough, they will probably start to believe it.

We also have a problem with the idea that lawsuits are epidemic. They simply do not occur very often.  According to the Center for Justice and Democracy, only about ten percent of injury victims file a compensation claim, and only two percent of those that file a compensation claim go on to file a lawsuit. The National Center for State Courts states that tort lawsuits have declined 21 percent over a ten year period in 30 states, and they further mention that contract lawsuits (corporations suing corporations) have increased 25 percent in 13 states over that same period of time. Oddly enough, you never hear from tort reformers and the Chamber of Commerce complaining about the explosion in contract lawsuits. It appears those sorts of lawsuits are just fine and dandy.

What about the contention that lawsuits are the bane of the small businessman’s existence? The Chamber of Commerce claims to be the official spokesmen for businesses everywhere, both small and not so small. As far as the Chamber is concerned, every small business out there is terrified of lawsuits. But a recent poll suggests that they maybe they should ask the small businessmen themselves; mainly because it seems that fear of lawsuits is pretty far down on the list.

The National Federation of Independent Businesses surveyed a large group of small business owners in order to get an overall sense of their worries and concerns. The various problems faced by small businesses were ranked in order of concern, and to be sure, fear of lawsuits was on the list. However, it was listed at number 65 out of 75, with 36.7 percent of respondents claiming that it “was not a problem.” Above the “fear of lawsuits” was listed such concerns as “traffic,” “delinquent accounts,” “getting information on government assistance programs” and, “cost of health insurance,” which was solidly in first place.

Small businesses seem to be the watchword of the day over at the Chamber, along with “job-killing,” which is the term they hang in front of anything that they don’t like. As they push forward with more and more legislation on state and national levels, the rationale is that “caps” on damages and restrictions on who can go to court will “help small businesses”, but if the small businesses aren’t particularly worried about lawsuits, who benefits the most from these caps?

We suspect it would be the “non-small businesses.” Large corporations, chemical manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies, who interact with a much wider percentage of the populace, and therefore have more of a tendency to do more damage if they are negligent. If anything, these caps and restrictions could actually help prevent small businesses from receiving fair compensation if they are forced to go to court against a large corporation, to say nothing of the restrictions they already place on individual citizens.

Greenberg and Bederman is a personal injury law firm located in the Washington, D.C. area. We offer experienced and dedicated legal counsel to those who have been hurt due to no fault of their own. If you have suffered from a medical malpractice, been injured in a car accident, suffered an adverse effect from a pharmaceutical drug or medical device, or been hurt due to the negligence of someone else, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free consultation.

DC Metro Escalator Problems

 

Sometimes, a dead horse actually should be beaten.

We have lost count of the number of times we have mentioned our concerns about the D.C. Metro system. It seems as though we’re always hearing disturbing news about something with metro. If it isn’t fires on tracks, it’s outdated and faulty sensor equipment. If it isn’t a transit police force that is either overstretched or totally uninterested, it’s a poor review from the NTSB.

And in terms of the escalators and elevators in all the stations, we have done everything short of hiring a skywriter to bring attention to the fact that they are in poor condition, badly maintained and dangerous to the general public.

Many of you reading this may think that we are referring to the danger of escalators collapsing (which they have already done,) and while we have certainly mentioned that, we are also very much concerned with the fact that they break down on a regular basis. For those of you who have never ridden the Metro in D.C, or for those of you who do not live in the D.C. area, you might be thinking that an escalator that is suddenly converted to a staircase is not that big of a deal. But you should bear in mind that the D.C. subway is not at all like the subway in New York.

The New York subway system is pretty shallow. You only have to walk about twenty feet underground, which is about the height of the average staircase in an office building. The New York subway doesn’t have escalators because it simply doesn’t need them. The D.C. subway system is a different matter entirely.

 

The District of Columbia subway system was built on what was essentially a swamp. It is not exactly the firmest of ground. While they were building the Washington Monument back in the 19th century, the structure started to sink and tilt until they extended the foundation to around 37 feet. If they had kept the original foundation, the Monument would look like the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

It is for this reason that the subway tracks are much deeper here than in New York. There are places in Washington and Maryland where the tracks would have been unsupportable if they weren’t positioned deep underground. So when people have to walk up the escalator at DuPont Circle, they have to walk up 319 steps, which span 188 feet. And Bethesda is known for having the longest escalator in the entire western hemisphere, which spans 475 feet. To put that into context, it’s actually longer than the staircase that leads to the interior of the Great Pyramid in Egypt. And while none of the other stations have escalators that are longer than Bethesda’s, many of them are still pretty long.

Now, how many of you would like to climb up broken escalators like that, particularly when the temperature is 100 degrees outside? If any of you rode the Metro on June 1st, you probably had to walk, whether you wanted to or not.

From the June 1st edition of the Washington Examiner:

“One out of every five Metro escalators was out of service Wednesday, leaving riders hiking up and down what should have been moving staircases as temperatures soared into the mid-90s…As of 9:40 a.m., 126 of the agency's 588 escalators were out of commission. But that number wasn't an anomaly. On Monday, it was 113 at one point. Last Wednesday it hit 110.”

You should remember that public transportation is for everyone, not just young, fit people who can make a trip up a staircase like that with no problems. It is also for the elderly, and for people with injuries, and for travelers and shoppers who are encumbered with luggage and groceries. Forcing them to trudge up and down lengthy flights of stairs due to negligence of the system goes directly against the spirit of what a public service is supposed to be about.

Greenberg and Bederman is a personal injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal help to people who have been injured due to no fault of their own, and that includes people who have been injured due to the negligence of public transit officials and employees. If you or a loved one in Maryland, Virginia or Washington, D.C. has been injured due to no fault of your own, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free personal injury case evaluation.

Cell Phone Dangers

 

The internet is currently very much buzzing with a story about cell phone use. More specifically, the story seems to be about a suspected link between heavy cell phone use and cancer.

According to a panel of experts who reported to the World Health Organization, there is a suspected increased risk for giloma, a quite malignant form of brain cancer.

The end result was the World Health Organization put cell phone use in the same category as gasoline exhaust and DDT, a pesticide known to have some health risks. Also mentioned in the report is a specific risk to children, mainly due to the fact that their skulls are thinner and provide less of a buffer between the radiation emitted from the cell phones and the brain. This bit of news might make you want to rethink purchasing your ten year old a new iPhone.

So what are we to make of all this? Are we all carrying the equivalent of miniature Chernobyl’s in our pockets and purses? Is this asbestos all over again? Is it serious radiation, or is it the sort that you get from microwave ovens? Should we compare talking on the phone to lying in a tanning bed for an hour a week?

 

It’s hard to say for sure. But considering that about 2/3rds of the population uses a cell phone on a regular basis, and has done so for almost a generation now, surely we would have all noticed if these things were particularly toxic and dangerous to our health. In fact, there was a recent study from the University of Manchester which states that while there was in fact an increase in brain cancer as cell phone use has gone up, the increase over that particular period of time was about .6 cases per 100,000 people per year.

That’s notable, to be sure, but it doesn’t seem to be an epidemic. Too much of anything can be bad for you. Consider the case of the woman who died after drinking too much water. Or for that matter, consider the spokesperson for Heart Attack Grill, who did in fact die of a heart attack. Overindulgence in water, alcohol or a fatty food is, in all probability, a much faster way to harm yourself than cell phone use.

Don’t get us wrong. We will certainly keep an eye on the dangers of cell phone use as it develops. But, the radiation dangers of cell phones are pretty far down the list in terms of ways that they can hurt people. While radiation and cancer are certainly nothing to scoff at, the danger of getting hit by a half ton vehicle moving at thirty miles an hour is certainly more immediate. And considering how many people in America think nothing of sending a text message on their phone while driving, that particular danger is much more real than getting a tumor from cell phone use.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 5,474 people were killed in 2009 due to distracted driving. By the standards of DOT, distracted driving can occur in three ways. There is visual distraction, which is what happens when you take your eyes off the road. There is manual distraction, which is what happens when you take one or more hands off the wheel. And there is cognitive distraction, which is what happens when you let your attention wander. Texting while driving is one of the rare forms of distracted driving that manages to hit visual, manual and cognitive distraction all at the same time. And anyone who has a teenager or a child in his or her twenties knows perfectly well how much texting is going on. If the 5,474 people who got killed because of distracted driving doesn’t show the dangers of texting while driving, then maybe the half a million who got injured might make it a little more clear.

So while we aren’t completely discounting the idea that cell phones might cause cancer, we are thinking that the real threat to the health and safety of others is not necessarily the phones, but rather those who use them irresponsibly. Whatever message or piece of information that you need to send, we are sure that it can wait until you either get to your destination or at least can pull over to the side of the road. Please don’t text and drive.

Greenberg and Bederman is a car accident injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to people in Virginia, Maryland and D.C. who have been injured due to the actions of other drivers. This includes people who have been hurt due to someone texting while driving. If you or a loved one in the Washington, D.C. area has been injured due to a distracted driver, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free consultation.

Frivolous Lawsuits in Texas

 

From the Office of Texas Governor Rick Perry:

Gov. Rick Perry ceremonially signed House Bill 274, which brings important lawsuit reforms to Texas courts, including implementing a loser pays system for frivolous lawsuits in the state. The governor designated this issue as an emergency item for this legislative session. Gov. Perry was joined by Rep. Brandon Creighton and Sen. Joan Huffman for the signing ceremony.

"HB 274 provides defendants and judges with a variety of tools that will cut down on frivolous claims in Texas," Gov. Perry said. "This important legislation will help make Texas that much more attractive to employers seeking to expand or relocate from countries all over the world by allowing them to spend less time in court and more time creating jobs."

It is very possible to “create jobs” without gutting the legal protection of the average citizen, but apparently our friends in Texas don’t see it that way. “Loser pays” is not about “frivolous lawsuits.” It’s about lawsuits in general.

 

For instance, let’s say you are a public school teacher and get severely injured due to the actions of an enormous corporation. Would you like to run the risk of paying the law firm that this corporation hires to defend itself in the event that you end up losing your case? Aside from the fact that there is no such thing as a “slam dunk” lawsuit, corporations often drag cases out in order to make lowball settlement offers more appealing. Do you have any idea how much that would cost? Probably a lot more than it would cost to make you whole after your injury.

It is already difficult enough for people in Texas to access the courts in the first place. Tort reform laws for medical malpractice have essentially made it impossible for low income individuals to enter the courtroom. With strict damage limits on non-economic damages, malpractice lawyers (most of whom operate on a contingency fee basis) can’t afford to bring these cases to court. After court costs, hiring expert witnesses, and the general labor of bringing a case to trial, most attorneys would end up losing money on the case. And a cap on non-economic damages might not bother you if you happen to play first base for the Washington Nationals, but if you are like the vast majority of the rest of us, non-economic damages are a crucial part of an injury case. Plus, if you happen to get injured due to the actions of emergency room personnel, the only way they can be found guilty in Texas is if they admit that they meant to hurt you. And who in their right minds would do that?

So now that doctors (and their insurance companies) are squared away and protected in ways that don’t extend to their patients, Governor Perry has decided to make sure that the rest of the folks who need the least protection get the most of it. The code word is “small businesses,” which is actually just short hand for “large businesses.” Basically, it doesn’t matter how much damage they do. There are now a series of safety nets in Texas that allows businesses to do whatever they want, regardless of the consequences. I mean, what are you going to do if you get hurt? Sue them? Are you sure you want to do that? What if you lose? And if you win? You might be able to maybe keep your house with the winnings. But it will be back to business as usual for them.

It’s worth mentioning that in the press release, there is plenty of talk of judges and defendants, and how this new legislation will make everything easier for them. But there is not one mention of the rights of plaintiffs, injury victims or victims of medical malpractice. Mentioning injury victims wouldn’t be very popular with this bill.

Greenberg and Bederman is a personal injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to victims of medical malpractice in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. If you or a loved one has been a victim of a surgical error, wrong diagnosis, prescription error or any other form of medical malpractice, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free consultation. 

Hot Coffee

 

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. If that’s the case, a movie must be worth considerably more words than a thousand. With that in mind, we are very much looking forward to the release of a film that is being shown at Sundance Film Festival.

The name of this film is Hot Coffee.Its intention is to challenge your preconceptions about lawsuits. The title of the film is based on a case that unfortunately became the clarion call for insurance companies and tort reform groups all over the country, and has since been used as an “example” of a “frivolous lawsuit.” In fact, neither this case nor that verdict was either “frivolous” or “excessive,” but tort reformers have never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

Even if you have never come within a hundred miles of a courtroom, you have almost certainly heard of the McDonald’s Coffee case. Here are the facts of the case: An 81 year old woman named Stella Liebeck bought a cup of coffee through the drive through window at a McDonalds.  She was a passenger in the car. Her grandson pulled the car over so Ms. Liebeck could add coffee and creamer. When she pulled the lid off, she accidentally spilled the coffee in her lap.

That doesn’t sound like the end of the world, does it? Most of us have spilled coffee on ourselves at one time or another. In fact, I spilled coffee on myself just this morning. And while it was moderately painful, and while I will most certainly have to use Clorox Color Safe Bleach on my pants, the experience didn’t exactly cause too much of a crimp in my day.

 

But there are two major differences between my experience with the coffee and Ms. Liebeck’s. In the first place, Ms. Liebeck accidentally spilled the entire cup into her lap. Secondly, Ms. Liebeck’s coffee was about 40 to 50 degrees hotter than the coffee that comes out of my coffee maker at home. It’s the difference between “hot” and “third degree burns.” Ms. Liebeck spent about eight days in the hospital, and her burns required skin grafts and painful recuperation. 

When you ask the tort reform people about this case, this is where they usually say “…and this woman sued McDonald’s for $1 million, and she won!”  But actually, that isn’t what happened at all.

Mrs. Liebeck asked for $20,000, mainly because she underwent painful skin grafts. McDonald’s refused her claim. If McDonalds had simply paid $20,000, they could have avoided the whole thing. Instead, they offered her around $600, which doesn’t seem like a lot for that much time in the hospital. So the case was essentially forced to move on to trial.

During the discovery portion of this trial, Ms. Liebeck’s attorneys discovered that between 1982 and 1992, more than 700 people had filed claims against McDonald’s because they had been burned by the coffee there. Ms. Liebeck’s claim was hardly an isolated incident. Upon further investigation, Ms. Liebeck’s attorneys determined that the coffee at McDonalds was kept heated between 180 and 190 degrees. Denny’s didn’t do that. Waffle House didn’t do that. Nor did Burger King, Krispy Kreme, Wendy’s, or any other major restaurant chain. In fact, McDonalds had specially built heaters that kept the coffee at that temperature.

180 degree liquid can cause a full thickness skin burn in around 2 seconds. So essentially, Mrs. Liebeck was only one out of 700 people who had been injured by coffee that was kept dangerous due to a companywide policy. McDonald’s couldn’t claim that Mrs. Liebeck’s claim was unheard of or ridiculous, not with over 700 similar claims in their history.

The jury awarded Mrs. Liebeck $180,000 for her ordeal and stay in the hospital. The so called “million dollar verdict” was initially $2.7 million in punitive damages, which was later knocked down to $480,000. The punitive damages did not exist to make Mrs. Liebeck rich, but rather, as the term indicates, to punish McDonald’s for knowingly having a dangerous corporate policy in place. As a result of this verdict, McDonald’s has since lowered the temperature of its coffee, and nobody has been severely burned since.

We don’t find anything “frivolous” about third degree burns or eight days in the hospital. Nor do we find anything “frivolous” about a company that knowingly serves products in a dangerous manner. But for some reason, tort reformers everywhere latched on to this case and turned what Mrs. Liebeck went through into a joke, or portrayed it as a money grabbing con game.

From what we understand of it, Hot Coffee not only tells Mrs. Liebeck’s side of the story, but also delves into a few other notable cases where Americans have actually lost their right to a court hearing, thanks mainly to fake outrage and tort reform legislation that was ginned up after Mrs. Liebeck’s verdict came in. We would urge everyone to see this film once it is released nationwide.

Greenberg and Bederman is a personal injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to people in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. who have been injured due to no fault of their own. We help people who have been injured in car accidents, pedestrian accidents, and people who have been injured due to medical malpractice. If you or a loved one has been injured due to no fault of your own, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free consultation.

Slapp Frivolous Lawsuits

 

When you look into tort reform rhetoric, you often see the same phrases and terms being used over and over again. “Frivolous lawsuits” is one. “Junk lawsuits” is another. “Lawsuit abuse,” “abusing the system,” “abusing the Constitution,” and so on and so on.

When you look at the people who are accused of doing these things, you generally see one or two people. One person accuses a doctor of medical malpractice, or one person accuses an insurance company of dealing in bad faith, or one person accuses a supermarket of not clearly marking a wet floor.

It is fairly amazing to us how these corporations that are often worth billions of dollars howl like a toddler with a scraped knee over lawsuits that would barely even show up in their ledgers at the end of the fiscal quarter. But apparently every penny counts, even when a lawsuit is completely justified and deserved. So the insurers and the corporations fund tort reform groups who call these lawsuits “unfair,” or an “abuse,” and they demand protections for themselves that won’t apply to regular private citizens, and often they get them. They get “caps” on damages that limit the amount of money that they would have to pay out. They get unrealistic standards of proof of negligence. They get loopholes and asterisks and all manner of legal bulletproofing that will eventually lead to corporate invulnerability if it is allowed to continue. We don’t know about you, but living in a country where corporations are considered above the law fills us with a great deal of apprehension.

We also notice that there is an immense double standard when it comes to how the court system is used. Corporations who decry frivolous lawsuits against them have no qualms about jamming the court dockets with cases over the meanings of clauses and verbs in contracts. Corporations who found tort reform organizations while engaging in multiple lawsuits. Do as I say and not as I do.

 

One particularly glaring example of this sort of thing is called a SLAPP suit. SLAPP stands for Strategic Lawsuit against Public Participation. A more understandable way of putting it would be to call it a “bury the defendant in legal costs to get him to shut up” lawsuit. As a small scale example, let’s say that a college student gets his car towed, even though he had the right to park his car where he did. This student then has to pay around $120 bucks to get a car back that should not have been towed. He then goes home and starts a Facebook page entitled “This Towing Company is Terrible.” Soon, the Facebook page has 800 people who like it, and the college student finds himself on the receiving end of a $750,000 lawsuit from the towing company.

The fact that the college student has every legal right to post or write or say whatever he wants thanks to the First Amendment means that this case should not have been filed in the first place. Nor is it likely that the college student has $750,000. If this lawsuit were to be successfully taken to its conclusion, the towing company is not likely to receive anything from the college student except ramen noodles and half of a twelve pack of Milwaukee’s Best. But that is not the point of the lawsuit. Court cases cost money, particularly if you are the one being sued. The towing company has the money to hire an attorney to prosecute the case. The college student most certainly does not have the money to hire a defense lawyer.  So he would have two options: beg for a settlement or go broke fighting the case that he would eventually win.

If that sounds like an unlikely scenario, bear in mind that all of this has actually happened to a student in Michigan, as reported in The New York Times. Justin Kurtz is staring down bankruptcy because he dared to speak out against a company that towed his car.

And it isn’t just towing companies that have engaged in these lawsuits. Property developers have filed them against citizens groups.Fast food chains have filed them against environmental activists.Religions have filed SLAPP’s against people who criticize them. Titans of industry. Big Business. In other words, the exact same groups and organizations that howl and moan and legislate against “lawsuit abuse” have no real qualms about actually engaging in lawsuit abuse. What else would you call filing a case that you know you can’t win?

When you go to the American Tort Reform Association website and type “SLAPP “into the search engine, you get no results, which we find strange considering that this organization purports to be against lawsuit abuse. Maybe they have a different definition of the word “abuse.” Maybe “abuse” means “when non-wealthy individuals dare to use the court system.” Maybe “abuse” means “any legal action where we aren’t the plaintiffs.” Regardless of which glossary the tort reformers are working from, we can certainly tell a double standard when we see it.

Greenberg and Bederman is a personal injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently helping residents of Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. who have been injured in car accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents and cases of medical malpractice, as well as any instance where someone was injured due to the actions of someone else. If you or a loved one has been injured due to no fault of your own, contact Greenberg & Bederman today for a free legal consultation.

Jackpot Settlement

 

What would you do if you got a check in the mail for $1 million?

We don’t mean one of those Nigerian Prince scams or one of those fake checks that turns out to be nothing more than a solicitation for one charity or another. We mean a real, genuine, and honest to goodness check worth $1 million.

Let us further suppose that there was some fine print with the check, which stated that if you cashed in that $1 million, you would be contractually obligated to seek no other form of income for the rest of your life. All of a sudden, cashing that check doesn’t seem like such a good idea, does it?

$1 million is certainly a lot of money, but if that’s about all the money you are going to get for the rest of your life, it isn’t very much at all. For many people who have been severely injured in states where there are so-called “caps” on non-economic damages, this scenario is not hypothetical at all. If a person is severely injured and needs constant care, a $1 million settlement likely won’t cover the costs for that. This problem is compounded if the injury victim happens to be young.

The Knoxville News-Sentinel recently had an article about just such an injury victim. A woman named Shauna Heath suffered a severe spinal injury when she was only 16 years old, and has since been unable to walk or feed herself. She is now in her mid-thirties. Her injury was caused by a defective seat belt, and she received a multi-million dollar settlement from the company that manufactured the car. But despite that settlement, she still is unable to afford to hire a full time nurse. When you have an injury that requires full time care, even multi-million dollar settlements have a tendency to dwindle fast.

There is the initial treatment, which is certainly expensive enough. Then there is the ongoing care and medication, and there are certainly going to be plenty of things that insurance companies will refuse to pay for. Even people who suffer from minor injuries or illnesses will have to deal with claim denial. And in the case of Ms. Heath, who received the injury in her teens and can still expect to live for quite some time, the constant needs of her condition will completely eclipse the settlement that she received, if they haven’t done so already.

 

The overall premise of the article in the News-Sentinel is that even though Ms. Heath received a multi-million dollar settlement, she is still struggling to make ends meet. Tort reform organizations like to refer to multi-million dollar settlements like Ms. Heath’s as “jackpot justice” or “winning the lawsuit lottery,” but from our perspective (and certainly Ms. Heath’s,) it doesn’t seem like she could consider herself a “winner” of much of anything. What she received for her injuries was enough to cover some of her medical issues, but certainly not all of them, and this will last only as long as the money from the settlement does. There are no mansions, sports cars or trips to Bermuda in the equation here.

Also mentioned in the article is a piece of legislation that passed the State Judiciary Committee in Tennessee last week:

“Last week the House Judiciary Committee approved a bill proposed by Gov. Bill Haslam that would cap damages at $1 million in cases involving serious spinal cord injuries, severe burns or the death of a parent of minor children.”

If Ms. Heath is barely able to keep her head above water after a multi-million dollar settlement, how do you think those who have suffered severe spinal cord injuries are going to do on $1 million or less? You can also consider that many settlements don’t come all at once. They come in payments often spread out over ten or twenty years. If it’s a million dollars spread out over twenty years, that’s $50,000 a year before taxes, and significantly less after. This would be manageable if you happen to be a healthy person, but what if you happen to be confined to a wheelchair and are in a more or less constant precarious state of health? How does your financial picture look now?

For that matter, how do you think things are going for injury victims who live in states where the damage cap is $250,000? How do you think those “justice jackpot winners” are able to pay for their needed care with $250,000? We would guess that they aren’t doing so well.

On the other side of the coin, all of those insurance companies that benefit from damage caps are doing quite well. So what we are seeing put into place all over the country is help for those who don’t need it and punishment for those who do need it. To us, that makes absolutely no sense at all.

Greenberg and Bederman is apersonal injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to people who have been injured due to no fault of their own. This includes people who have been injured in car accidents, injuries due to medical malpractice or surgical errors, pedestrian and bicycle accidents and injuries on public transit. If you or a loved one has been injured due to the negligence of others, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free legal consultation today.

 

Tylenol and Liver Damage

 

Every now and then, a product becomes so ubiquitous in our culture that the name of the name of the product becomes the name for any and all variations of that product. For instance, people don’t ask for cola. They ask for Coke. People don’t ask for a tissue. They ask for Kleenex. People don’t use copiers as much as they Xerox something.

As far as we know, there are dozens of brands of acetaminophen analgesics on the market. But when someone has a headache, they don’t ask for acetaminophen analgesics. They ask for Tylenol. This particular over the counter remedy has not only established itself as a pain reliever, but also as part of the American lexicon.

With its place in the American medicine cabinet firmly established, it came as quite a surprise to us when the Food and Drug Administration released a report saying that Tylenol use can cause liver damage. But apparently this is indeed the case. The report claims that acetaminophen use “…was the leading cause of acute liver failure in the United States, with 48% of acetaminophen-related cases (131 of 275) associated with accidental overdose.”

 

The report also claims that of the 1600 cases of acute liver failure each year, and acetaminophen is the leading reason. Also mentioned in the report are 56,000 emergency room visits, 26,000 hospitalizations, and 458 deaths over a ten year period. This is quite a number for something that costs about 10 cents a pill.

There are two elements of this problem, one of which is based on the ingredients. When it is taken, a small percentage of acetaminophen is converted into a metabolite, which in this case is toxic. In small doses, this is something the liver can manage. This is actually what the liver is for. Alcohol is a metabolite as well.

The problems start to happen when the metabolites build up faster than the liver can handle them. This is similar to the problems that occur with chronic drinkers. If a person has the occasional beer, it’s not a problem, but if he drinks a significant amount over the years, one of the more common medical ailments is liver failure. Likewise, if a person habitually takes more than the recommended dose of Tylenol or any other acetaminophen based pill, liver failure could easily be the result.

This brings us to the second element of the problem, which has been a lack of information on the part of Johnson and Johnson, which is the company that makes Tylenol. Most of us have a bottle of Tylenol in our medicine cabinets. If you take a look at it, you will most certainly see a warning label. But you have to look hard to find it. The website has more information, which reads as follows:

“Overdose warning: Taking more than the recommended dose (overdose) may cause liver damage. In case of overdose, get medical help or contact a Poison Control Center right away. (1-800-222-1222). Quick medical attention is critical for adults as well as for children even if you do not notice any signs or symptoms.”

This is sound advice, but it seems a bit misleading. When most of us think of the word “overdose,” particularly when it comes to pills, we think of someone taking about twenty or thirty of them on purpose. You don’t necessarily have to have that printed on the warning label. We think what needs to be on there is a warning about chronic overuse.

Everybody knows somebody who always seems to have a headache, or knows someone who has a bad back, or a mild case of arthritis. They always have a jumbo size bottle of Tylenol in their desks, purses or glove compartments. These are the folks who take three or four Tylenols every four hours or so, and we believe they could use some straight shooting from Johnson and Johnson or any other company that makes acetaminophen based pain relievers. We hope to provide it to them now, because we seriously doubt Johnson and Johnson will.

If you are a person who suffers from chronic mild pain, please stick to recommended dosages when you take Tylenol. Don’t take more than what is printed on the label. While there is a definite risk to overdosing, there is also serious danger in taking even a little bit more than you are supposed to over a long period of time. There has been enough evidence over the years that taking acetaminophen in this manner is dangerous. All the FDA did was mention what Johnson and Johnson should have been warning people about all along.

 

Greenberg and Bederman is a personal injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to those who have suffered from liver damage due to the use of Tylenol or other acetaminophen-based medications. We believe that Johnson and Johnson deliberately understated the danger that their product can cause, and we believe that they also failed to adequately warn the public about the consequences of taking this medication in the wrong way. If you or a loved one has been injured or hospitalized due to the use of Tylenol or any other medicine based on acetaminophen, contact Greenberg & Bederman today for a free legal consultation. 

 

DC Metro Trains Should Be Safe

 

Since the federal government shutdown was narrowly avoided, thousands of D.C. residents (ourselves included) have been scouring the news to see if any of the budget cuts that were enacted would directly affect them. That might seems self serving, but considering that this whole area very much runs on federal dollars, it’s only natural for the people in this area to take a look at what we will have to do without.

One particular area of the budget that was thankfully left alone was federal funding of our Metro system. If the federal portion of the budget had disappeared, that would have been $150 million that would have been taken away from the annual operations of WMATA. That also would have placed an additional $150 million ($50 million from Virginia, $50 million from Maryland and $50 million from the District) at risk, mainly because Maryland, Virginia and D.C. would only have put that money towards Metro if the $150 million in federal funds was there. So in one fell swoop, Metro would have had to do without $300 million, which we believe is the same thing as saying Metro would have ceased operating.

 

It also would have gutted WMATA’s ability to make the changes and upgrades that the National Transportation Safety Board has been recommending for years, particularly so after the Red Line crash in 2009 that killed nine people and injured seventy six. It would have been fairly galling to have one element of the federal government recommend much needed improvements and then remove our ability to pay for them.

The DC Metro system needs new subway cars, and it absolutely needs to revamp the sensors that were the primary mechanical cause of the fatal train crash. It also needs to revamp the culture. The NTSB report also mentioned that there were multiple human factors involved in the crash, all of them stemming from an unfortunate institution-wide notion that passing the buck is how things get accomplished.

These are only two of Metro’s immediate needs. There are certainly other things that WMATA could put some of that $300 million towards. The first would be the escalators, and the second would be security.

There has been one high profile escalator failure at a Metro station in the past year. By “high profile,” we mean failures that result in people getting hurt. This failure happened at L’Enfant Plaza, on the same day as an enormous rally at the National Mall. Miraculously, only four people were hurt, which seems amazing when you watch the video. There was also an incident at Foggy Bottom where the last four steps on one of the escalators suddenly dropped through the bottom of the stair case, leaving a big hole that a woman fell in to. Again, fortunately, she was able to get pulled out before she got hurt. And just last month, there was another failure at DuPont Circle, where the escalator suddenly stopped, which caused people to fall. In case you didn’t know, the escalators at DuPont Circle’s north entrance are 188 feet long. While it is fortunate that nobody was seriously hurt, it would seem to be only a matter of time before there is a serious injury.

The obvious malfunctions are bad, but there are also the problems with keeping these escalators running in general. At any given time, multiple escalators aren’t working, which causes people to have to walk up and down the stairs. Would you like to walk up 188 feet, particularly during the summer months? And, how does this affect the disabled? The escalators don’t work for multiple reasons, chief among them being that WMATA does not have an adequately trained maintenance staff. This is another area where some of that $300 million could be used.

With regards to security, there have been multiple instances of violent crime taking place on our subway system. We aren’t talking about on occasional mugging. We mean multiple instances of random and severe beatings of innocent passengers. The police presence on the trains and in the stations has been severely lacking, and there have been extremely disturbing accounts of Metro personnel not even lifting a finger to help people who are being attacked right before their eyes.

We believe that operating costs will take up a fairly substantial amount of this money, but surely somebody over at Metro is aware of the multiple safety problems that exist on our subway system. These aren’t the sort of problems that you can simply ignore, because at this rate, it’s simply a matter of time before we have another serious crash, or an escalator breakdown that results in a death, or a crime that escalates into a murder. The safety of our public transportation system should be a priority.

Greenberg and Bederman is apersonal injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to those who have been injured on our public transit system due to no fault of their own. This includes escalator malfunctions, injuries due to sudden starts and stops, and instances of neglect by the WMATA Police. If you or a loved one in Virginia, Maryland or Washington, D.C. has been injured on the Metro, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free legal consultation.

DC Metro Beatings

 

This is from the WMATA website:

The Mission of the Metro Transit Police Department is to provide protection for Metro patrons, personnel, transit facilities, and revenue.

So is this:

The MTPD has an authorized strength of 420 sworn police officers, 106 security special police, and 24 civilian personnel. Officers provide a variety of law enforcement and public safety services on the Metrorail and Metrobus systems in the Washington Metropolitan Area.

MTPD police officers have jurisdiction and arrest powers throughout the 1,500 square mile Transit Zone that includes Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia for crimes that occur in or against Transit Authority facilities. It is the only tri-jurisdictional police agency in the country and serves a population of 3.2 million.

That sounds pretty impressive. When you consider that there are 86 Metro stations, having 420 officers plus 106 security special police ought to be enough to have at least some police presence at each station. But apparently there wasn’t anyone around on February 28th at the Suitland Metro station. It seems a mob of masked teenagers was in the midst of beating another teenager outside the station. No police seemed to be on hand.

When a concerned citizen pulled out his cell phone to call the police, the mob then ran at him and gave him an extensive beating. At the end of it, two of his teeth were knocked out, he had two stitches outside his mouth and six inside, and his eye was swollen shut. Again, no police anywhere.

 

To add insult to extensive injury, the victim walked back in to the station and asked to use the phone to call the police and an ambulance. Station personnel would not let him use the phone, and instead gave him 50 cents to use the payphone. Your taxpayer dollars, hard at work.

Sad to say, this is not the only recent instance of violence on Metro premises. Back in August, a fight turned into a 70 person mini-riot at Gallery Place-Chinatown. In January, a 47 year old man was beaten severely by a group of teens, some of whom recorded the video, which was then placed on the internet. Suspects still have yet to be arrested. Plus there was the brawl between two teens that happened on the Orange line, with other teens encouraging the fight. Again, no arrests. No police presence.

There has also been an increase in the number of robberies and thefts that have taken place at stations and on the trains themselves. On December 23rd, a group of young men stormed an Orange line train and robbed several passengers, delivering a few beatings along the way. A teenager was robbed at gunpoint and then stabbed on a Blue Line train in mid February. And the number of people who have had their iPod’s or other electronic devices stolen while on the Metro has spiked by about 40%.

We aren’t naïve enough to think that crime doesn’t exist. Nor are we naïve enough to think that the Metro Police can be everywhere at once. But the thing that we are noticing about many of these reports is not only the lack of police presence, but also the apparent indifference of other Metro personnel. We hear stories about employees who won’t even let victims of beating use the phone, or station attendants who watch beatings take place and do nothing to intervene, or calls on emergency phone boxes that aren’t answered. It’s getting to the point where a quasi-vigilante group like the Guardian Angels is starting to up its presence on Metro, because it appears that they have no faith in the official authorities’ ability to protect passengers.

If you combine this climate of fear with the antiquated sensor system and very real threat of crashes, as well as the crumbling infrastructure of the stations and escalators that have a tendency to suddenly stop working, the DC Metro system resembles not an urban transit system, but rather a large and elaborate game of Russian Roulette. It isn’t necessarily about getting from point A to point B anymore. Now it’s about taking your chances.

Greenberg and Bederman is a personal injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to people who have been injured due to negligence on transit systems in the Washington, D.C. area. If you or a loved one in Maryland, Virginia or Washington, D.C. has been injured on the Metro or on any of the local transit systems due to no fault of your own, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free legal consultation today.

DC Metro Beatings

 

This is from the WMATA website:

The Mission of the Metro Transit Police Department is to provide protection for Metro patrons, personnel, transit facilities, and revenue.

So is this:

The MTPD has an authorized strength of 420 sworn police officers, 106 security special police, and 24 civilian personnel. Officers provide a variety of law enforcement and public safety services on the Metrorail and Metrobus systems in the Washington Metropolitan Area.

MTPD police officers have jurisdiction and arrest powers throughout the 1,500 square mile Transit Zone that includes Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia for crimes that occur in or against Transit Authority facilities. It is the only tri-jurisdictional police agency in the country and serves a population of 3.2 million.

That sounds pretty impressive. When you consider that there are 86 Metro stations, having 420 officers plus 106 security special police ought to be enough to have at least some police presence at each station. But apparently there wasn’t anyone around on February 28th at the Suitland Metro station. It seems a mob of masked teenagers was in the midst of beating another teenager outside the station. No police seemed to be on hand.

When a concerned citizen pulled out his cell phone to call the police, the mob then ran at him and gave him an extensive beating. At the end of it, two of his teeth were knocked out, he had two stitches outside his mouth and six inside, and his eye was swollen shut. Again, no police anywhere.

 

To add insult to extensive injury, the victim walked back in to the station and asked to use the phone to call the police and an ambulance. Station personnel would not let him use the phone, and instead gave him 50 cents to use the payphone. Your taxpayer dollars, hard at work.

Sad to say, this is not the only recent instance of violence on Metro premises. Back in August, a fight turned into a 70 person mini-riot at Gallery Place-Chinatown. In January, a 47 year old man was beaten severely by a group of teens, some of whom recorded the video, which was then placed on the internet. Suspects still have yet to be arrested. Plus there was the brawl between two teens that happened on the Orange line, with other teens encouraging the fight. Again, no arrests. No police presence.

There has also been an increase in the number of robberies and thefts that have taken place at stations and on the trains themselves. On December 23rd, a group of young men stormed an Orange line train and robbed several passengers, delivering a few beatings along the way. A teenager was robbed at gunpoint and then stabbed on a Blue Line train in mid February. And the number of people who have had their iPod’s or other electronic devices stolen while on the Metro has spiked by about 40%.

We aren’t naïve enough to think that crime doesn’t exist. Nor are we naïve enough to think that the Metro Police can be everywhere at once. But the thing that we are noticing about many of these reports is not only the lack of police presence, but also the apparent indifference of other Metro personnel. We hear stories about employees who won’t even let victims of beating use the phone, or station attendants who watch beatings take place and do nothing to intervene, or calls on emergency phone boxes that aren’t answered. It’s getting to the point where a quasi-vigilante group like the Guardian Angels is starting to up its presence on Metro, because it appears that they have no faith in the official authorities’ ability to protect passengers.

If you combine this climate of fear with the antiquated sensor system and very real threat of crashes, as well as the crumbling infrastructure of the stations and escalators that have a tendency to suddenly stop working, the DC Metro system resembles not an urban transit system, but rather a large and elaborate game of Russian Roulette. It isn’t necessarily about getting from point A to point B anymore. Now it’s about taking your chances.

Greenberg and Bederman is a personal injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to people who have been injured due to negligence on transit systems in the Washington, D.C. area. If you or a loved one in Maryland, Virginia or Washington, D.C. has been injured on the Metro or on any of the local transit systems due to no fault of your own, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free legal consultation today.

FBI Drunk Driving Leads To Fatal Auto Accident in MD

 

Law enforcement officers are supposed to be held to a higher standard than the rest of us. There are a few very good reasons for this. The first is that they are supposed to be the people who enforce the laws of our cities, counties and states. The second is that they are the only people in the country who have the right to take our freedom away from us. Administrative assistants can’t serve a warrant for your arrest. Restaurant employees can’t search you for drugs or weapons. Doctors and nurses can’t lead you away in handcuffs. The only people who can do any of those things are police or federal agents. If the police and agents are in charge of enforcing the law, then should also strictly adhere to the law. The obvious premise is that law enforcement officers are not supposed to break the law. It goes without saying that the rest of us aren’t supposed to either, but if those who are supposed to enforce the laws feel no compunction about violating those laws, it means that some laws don’t apply to some citizens, which renders the whole concept of law essentially meaningless.

 

One branch of law enforcement that is held to a particularly high standard is the FBI, which basically functions as our national investigative police force. They investigate bank robberies, terrorism, financial fraud, forgeries, kidnapping, or any crime that occurs over multiple states. It takes a lot more than standard police training to be able to join.

We were recently very shocked to learn about the following incident, particularly because it involves an FBI agent breaking the very law that he is supposed to uphold and enforce:

WASHINGTON - Law enforcement officials have identified the FBI agent suspected in a fatal drunk driving car crash in Brandywine, Md. Monday night as 37-year-old Adrian Norbell Johnson. The FBI says the agent has worked for the bureau for six years…Law enforcement sources tell FOX 5 Johnson's blood alcohol level shortly after the deadly crash was .25, three times the legal limit in Maryland. Prince George's County Police say that amount of alcohol in a driver's system is extremely dangerous.

Speaking as attorneys who help victims of drunk drivers, we can tell you  that a .25 blood alcohol level goes beyond “extremely dangerous” and veers right into “extremely reckless.” He would have had to consume at least 10 drinks in order to get to that level of drunkenness, and considering that the job of most law enforcement officers is to prevent people from drinking and driving, he must have known that drinking that much and then getting behind the wheel was both illegal and completely negligent. But he did it anyway.

If Agent Johnson had been pulled over by another police officer or got arrested at a sobriety checkpoint, this might have just been an unfortunate and embarrassing incident for the FBI. Instead it turned out to be an accident where one person died and another was left in critical care in the hospital. So this incident has turned out to be both a tragedy and an embarrassment, especially considering that Agent Johnson was meant to join the security detail for the Attorney General.

Drunk driving is a serious problem in this country, particularly in the Washington, D.C. area. There were 243 DUI fatalities in Virginia last year, 10 in the District, and 162 in Maryland. And the DUI accidents where people were injured numbers in the thousands. The cost of these accidents ranges in the tens of millions. Drinking and driving is a detriment to the safety of our society, and it is one that could be easily avoided if everyone simply exercised some basic responsibility.

There is a big difference between a run of the mill car accident and an accident that is caused by drunk driving. An accident can happen to anyone. But drunk driving is negligent behavior that is often the primary cause of an auto accident. You can’t blame a driver if a deer runs out in front of his car, but you can blame a driver if he drinks ten vodka tonics, and then attempts to drive home. Agent Johnson should have certainly known this, and why he decided to risk driving home after drinking that much is beyond us.

Greenberg and Bederman is a personal injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently helping people who have been injured in car accidents due to the negligence of drunk drivers. We can help anyone in Maryland, Virginia or Washington, D.C. If you or a loved one has been injured in a drunk driving car accident, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free accident legal consultation.

Why DC Metro Escalators Are Breaking

 

It’s not like we need any more examples as to how dangerous the escalator systems are on DC’s subways. Everyone knows that they are malfunctioning, poorly maintained and prone to sudden stoppages.

But regardless of whether we need another example or not, they seem to keep coming, which means that nothing is being done to fix the problems. This is not good.

On October 30, 2010, an escalator malfunctioned at L’Enfant Plaza. The brakes on this particular staircase failed, and a group of people were rushed down the stairs at a high rate of speed. When they reached the bottom there was essentially a pile up of bodies, in which four people were hurt. This brake failure happened the weekend of the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert rally. The entire subway system was packed with people. There was not one subway station in the entire system that was not loaded to capacity. It was a miracle that more people were not hurt.

The latest escalator failure took place at Foggy Bottom, which is the Metro stop used by students at George Washington University. The malfunction this time wasn’t a brake failure, which is dangerous enough. This time around four of the steps at the bottom of the escalator gave way and fell into the escalator machinery down below. This happened on the escalator that was the only functioning way out of the station.

 

According to the Washington Post:

For the Rev. Nathan J. A. Humphrey, the ordeal began when he stepped onto the base plate of the only functioning escalator at the exit to the station, only to be lifted into the air.

"There was a gigantic noise of grinding, clashing and clanging . . . and a gaping hole coming up," said Humphrey, vicar at St. Paul's Parish in Northwest Washington.

He looked up and saw a woman ahead of him falling backward.

"I remember thinking for one terrible second: She will be pulled underneath by these falling steps,'' Humphrey said. But the escalator jerked to a stop, Humphrey leapt onto stable ground and the woman landed on the steps behind her. Humphrey and another man pulled her to safety.

"She was really lucky; she will have only bruises," Humphrey said.

Lucky, indeed. For those who don’t know what the working machinery of an escalator looks like, please follow this embedded link. It is a series of chains, wheels, gears and sprockets that could easily crush a limb or end a life.

Memo to WMATA: We’re running out of miracles. That is two incidents where nobody was killed, but it was simply a coin toss that made it that way. The pile-up at the bottom of the escalator at L’Enfant Plaza could have just as easily ended up with a broken neck, or somebody getting smothered to death. The collapse of the stairs at Foggy Bottom could have easily resulted in that woman losing her life in an incredibly agonizing fashion. 

How these escalators have fallen into such a state of disrepair is a story that is literally decades long. The condensed version is that since 1991, Metro has been responsible for maintaining and repairing the escalators themselves. Prior to that date, escalator services were provided by either Westinghouse (which is the company that made and installed the escalators,) or Schindler (which is the company that eventually purchased Westinghouse.) The problem appears to have been that WMATA was attempting to create an escalator maintenance division from scratch. The results speak for themselves. Plus, if you combine the fact that they were doing it on the cheap (paying less for workers, meaning less experienced workers were the only ones available to do the job,) it isn’t that much of a surprise that the escalators are in disrepair. You can also factor in the standard WMATA budget woes, which only look to increase since Congress has made attempts to cut off federal funding. And b y “federal funding,” we don’t mean some of it, or a budget cut, but quite literally the entire $150 million in federal funds that was supposed to go to WMATA for repairs, maintenance and upkeep.

Maybe there are other avenues of revenue that WMATA should be exploring, especially since the current Congress seems to have a dire allergy to anything with the word “public” in it. Maybe full train car advertising? Maybe newsstands should be able to operate in the stations they way they do in New York? Maybe a flat rate ride instead of a per destination charge, which would get more people on the subway and possibly increase revenue?

The repairs need to happen. The escalators need to be fixed. The money needs to come from somewhere. But the current situation is untenable. Is only a matter of time before “escalator malfunction injuries” become “escalator malfunction deaths.”

Greenberg and Bederman is a personal injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to anyone who has been injured due to no fault of their own while on the premises of a Metro facility or mode of public transportation. If you or a loved one in Virginia, Maryland or Washington, D.C. has been injured due to negligence on the part of a WMATA driver, technician or security guard, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free accident legal consultation.

Washington DC Bicyclists Need Same Care as Auto Drivers

The D.C. area is doing the best it can to present itself as a bicycle friendly city. In some respects, it is. There are plenty of bike paths in the District, Maryland and Virginia, and this year the District and parts of Virginia began its Capital Bikeshare program, which essentially allows you to rent a bike for low costs. There are a lot of positive reasons for encouraging bicycle use in the D.C. area. Anyone who has spent any time in traffic here knows that there is nothing wrong with getting a few cars off the road.

But despite its appearances to the contrary, the District is certainly not a bicycle friendly area. The number of bicycle related fatalities in Washington, D.C. (bicyclists who were struck and killed by cars or trucks) reached 10 in 2010, which is 4 more than 2009. That might not seem like a lot in an area with the population of the D.C. area, but bicycle crashes where there are injuries averages around 350 per year.

 

What is puzzling to us about the fatality cases is that there seems to be a lack of interest on the part of the police to charge the drivers for the accidents. Out of the ten fatalities, only one driver was charged, and  he was drunk and tried to flee the scene. Nobody was charged when Constance Holden was hit by a military truck on her way home. Nobody was charged when David Williams was hit from behind by two cars, one of which fled the scene. Nobody was charged when 9 year old Rebecca Johns was hit and killed as she tried to cross a road in Franconia.

We aren’t sure why this is.  If you ride a bicycle in D.C, Maryland or Virginia are you expected to just take your chances? Are motorcycle riders treated the same way? What about pedestrians? Can you expect to receive no justice from the law when you are not in a car?

One example of this occurred very recently in Arlington on Clarendon Boulevard, which is incidentally one of the streets where there was a fatality in 2010. A bicyclist was travelling down the street when a car owner opened the car door. The bicyclist was “doored,” as the cyclists call it. This is when you collide with a suddenly opened door and then are essentially catapulted over it onto the street.

The police arrived at the scene and questioned both the car owner and the bicyclist. The cyclist claimed that he wasn’t really hurt, so the police sent them both on their way. The problem here is that the cyclist actually was hurt, but didn’t discover this until later.

This is a common occurrence. We have served many clients over the years that didn’t learn about the extent of the damage done to them until much later. Brain injuries often work that way, as does spinal damage or deep bruises. The effects aren’t immediately felt.

Later, when the cyclist realized that he was injured and would need medical care, he contacted the police and found that the officer at the scene had not filed a report. So there was no way for the cyclist to get any insurance information from the man who opened the car door.

Although there is somewhat of a happy ending here (Arlington PD have followed up personally with the bicyclist,)  the end result could be that the victim here might have to go out of pocket for medical expenses, which could be considerable. If you couple that with the fact that he would have to pay for injuries he sustained due to the negligence of someone else, you have to wonder why it was that the police didn’t file a report.

Bicyclists have as much right to our streets as cars and motorcycles do, and if they are struck by motorists, they need to receive the same care as a motorcycle or auto accident victim requires. Your responsibilites don’t disappear when you climb on to a bike, and neither should the responsibility of motorists or the police.

Greenberg and Bederman is a personal injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to bicyclists and pedestrians who have been injured due to the actions of motorists. If you or a loved one in Virginia, Maryland or Washington, D.C. has been injured in a bicycle accident, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free legal consultation.

Obama Missed The Mark On Medical Malpractice Caps

 

Believe it or not, not everyone in the Washington, D.C. area is involved with politics. When this area is portrayed in the movies or on television, it seems like everyone has a security clearance, or that everyone works diligently for one government agency or another. Characters in D.C. based-dramas are all aides to a Senator, or they work at the Pentagon, or they wear suits and attend top secret meetings, or they wheel and deal in the backrooms of fancy restaurants.

For those of us who actually live here, we know that portrayal to be false. Most of us don’t work for the government. Most of us aren’t “operatives,” political or otherwise. On any given day, there might be legislation in the House or Senate that causes a big stir among those who actually work on Capitol Hill, but the rest of us who don’t work there rarely notice such things.

Much of the work that goes on at the Federal level involves minutia. We don’t mean that in a condescending manner. We are sure that it is necessary minutia that needs to be addressed. But if legislation passes that changes the regulation width of the Styrofoam tray in which ground beef is packaged, that hardly has an effect on the day to day life of Washingtonians, or the rest of the citizens of the country for that matter. The rest of us are worried about raising our kids, doing our jobs and paying the mortgage.

 

It is a rare day indeed where natives of this city can point to a recommendation by a committee or a piece of legislation and say with great certainty that they will immediately feel the effects of it if it becomes a reality. But recently, we heard something in President Obama’s State of the Union that caused us a great deal of concern. As injury lawyers, we have seen firsthand how “caps” on medical malpractice damages have benefited insurance companies, but have left the actual victims of surgical errors and medical negligence with far less than they should have received in compensation for their injuries.

Here is the actual line in the speech, as reported in the Los Angeles Times:

"I'm willing to look at other ideas to bring down costs," besides repeal of his health care bill, Obama said, including "medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits."

We have a real problem with the term “frivolous lawsuits,” particularly when it is coupled with “medical malpractice reform.” In the first place, it advances the fiction that anyone who brings legal action against a doctor or other medical professional is “faking it,” or is looking to be rewarded for nothing. This is absolutely not the case. Victims of medical malpractice are people who have placed their health and trust in the hands of doctors, surgeons, nurses, pharmacists and other medical professionals, and have had that trust violated. And we aren’t talking about mere inconveniences. When we say “medical malpractice,” we mean severe and often life-threatening injuries. We mean limbs that have been mistakenly amputated. We mean patients who have been given the wrong blood type. We mean pharmacists who have misread the prescription. We mean doctors who gave a rushed and thoroughly disinterested diagnosis that resulted in real harm being done to the patient. The idea that the people who get seriously hurt due to instances like this are engaged in frivolity of any kind is disingenuous and insulting.

The solution that almost always accompanies talk of medical malpractice reform comes in the form of “caps” on non-economic damages. This means that an arbitrary and unrealistic ceiling is placed on the amount of money that victims of medical malpractice can receive for pain and suffering. In other words, there is a strict limit on the amount of compensation that they can receive for anything about the injury that did not directly cost them money.

While this might seem reasonable, consider what the end effects of these caps have done to the rights of victims. In Texas, for example, cases involving birth injuries or instances where the baby died due to the mistakes of doctors have virtually disappeared. They have not disappeared because mistakes by the doctors have suddenly stopped. They have disappeared because since infants aren’t money-makers, the only real compensation that a grieving family can receive is around $200,000. With this being the limit to the compensation, it becomes very easy for malpractice insurance companies to price plaintiffs out of the courtroom. All they have to do is file for delays and hire more expert witnesses than the plaintiff can afford to match, and all of a sudden the whole court case would end up costing more than the victims could possibly win in damages. When victims and their attorneys are facing this economic reality, often the cases are never even filed.

These caps do not benefit anyone except the people who need it least. Medical malpractice insurance is a multi-billion dollar business, and profits are soaring. We have no idea why President Obama seems to think that protecting these astronomical profits is more important than protecting the rights of medical malpractice injury victims. Perhaps it is a concession of some sort. But if these caps become a built-in part of Obama’s health care reform, “tough luck” will be the only advice available for most malpractice victims.

Greenberg and Bederman is a medical malpractice law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to those in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. who have been injured due to instances of medical malpractice. This includes surgical errors, wrong diagnosis, pharmaceutical errors, and unnecessary delay of treatment. If you or a loved one has been injured due to the actions of a doctor, surgeon or other medical professional, contact Greenberg and Bederman for a free legal consultation today.

Darvon Darvocet and Death

 

Much has been made lately of the Food and Drug Administration’s authority on the marketing and sale of pharmaceutical drugs. These powers were expanded dramatically in 2007, but were only recently put into practice with the withdrawal of a certain type of painkillers from American shelves. In other words, the FDA had been granted broad new regulatory powers, but only put them into practice this year. In the interim, several dangerous drugs were allowed to stay on the market, despite being banned in other countries and despite being broadly suspected of being harmful to the patients who used them. This makes us wonder what the FDA was waiting for.

The first drug that the FDA actually did something about was a painkiller called Darvon, and its generic equivalent Darvocet. It wasn’t exactly new information that something was wrong with it. This painkiller has been on the market since 1957. Its main ingredient is an opioid called propoxyphene, which is meant to handle light to moderate pain. So while it certainly isn’t nearly as addictive as OxyContin or Vicodin, the dangers with propoxyphene-based drugs lie elsewhere.

The main problem is that propoxyphene appears to cause damage to the heart. There have been several studies that lead to that conclusion. In fact, the FDA had already recalled the drug twice since 1978. Both recalls were essentially negated when the FDA failed to find anything conclusive. The regulatory agencies of the United Kingdom and the European Union had no such difficulties in seeing the problem, and banned Darvon and Darvocet in 2005 and 2009, respectively. The FDA only got around to banning Darvocet and Darvon in November of 2010.

 

While the FDA dithered and failed to use its new powers, literally millions of people were still being prescribed propoxyphene based drugs. This makes the case of Kira Nicole Gilbert particularly tragic. Ms. Gilbert was a 22 year old Cincinnati-area woman who injured her knee while working at an orphanage in April of 2009. Her doctor prescribed her Darvocet for the pain. Eight days later she was found dead in her apartment. The autopsy ruled that cause of death was acute cardiac failure combined with pulmonary edema, which is a medical term for a buildup of fluid in the lungs. Ms. Gilbert was the picture of perfect health prior to her knee injury, and while the pharmaceutical company would be hard pressed to find some other cause for her death, we imagine that won’t stop them from trying.

Ms. Gilbert’s death happened long after the Food and Drug Administration suspected that there was something wrong with propoxyphene, and long after the FDA had the power to move faster to remove dangerous drugs from the shelves of American pharmacies and hospitals. Such behavior is practically expected of pharmaceutical companies, who will go to very great lengths to keep their products on the shelves regardless of the dangers to the people who use them. But regulatory agencies are meant to protect the general public from harm. In the case of Darvon and Darvocet, the FDA acted too late.

When the FDA finally removed these drugs from the shelves, they concluded that Darvon, Darvocet and other propoxyphene-based drugs can cause significant changes in the electrical activity of the heart, even when it is used in small therapeutic doses. This alteration of electrical activity can cause heart palpitations, irregular heartbeats and episodes of cardiac arrest.

Greenberg and Bederman is currently offering legal assistance to people in Maryland, Virginia or Washington, D.C. who have been injured and hospitalized due to the use of painkillers containing propoxyphene. We are also offering help to the families of people who have lost their lives due to the use of Darvon and Darvocet. If you or a loved one has suffered from a heart attack, heart palpitations, pulmonary edema or other health complications after taking Darvon or Darvocet, contact Greenberg and Bederman for a free drug injury legal consultation.

Preventable Medical Mistakes Cause Malpractice

 

If you listen to the folks who favor tort reform, it would seem that there is no such thing as medical malpractice in this country. The premise that is thrown into the public discourse again and again is that our legal and medical system is completely under siege from trivial and unnecessary lawsuits. The idea is that every time something goes either mildly or very wrong during the course of a medical procedure, then that doctor is immediately subject to a financially crippling lawsuit, which causes the malpractice insurance rates to go up, which then causes doctors everywhere to quit practicing medicine.

The main players in this supposed disaster is, of course, trial lawyers. If it weren’t for trial lawyers, so the argument goes, everyone would see reason instead of dollar signs after something bad happens at a hospital or doctors office.

This is a very convenient scenario to have out in the public, but we can tell you that this is not even remotely close to how things really work. Greenberg and Bederman does not take on the malpractice case of every single person who has had something unfortunate happen in a hospital, or any medical facility. A number of things can go wrong during a course of treatment, but having something go wrong is not necessarily malpractice. Only when a doctor or other healthcare provider deviates from the standard of care, can there be an investigation into possible medical malpractice.

The truth of the matter is this: Sometimes, doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses or pharmacists make mistakes. Sometimes they make easily preventable mistakes. And sadly, sometimes these easily preventable mistakes cost people their lives.

 

A recent study in the Netherlands backs this up:

In the current study, the researchers identified the main reasons for errors in 294 successful claims related to surgeries from 2004 to 2005. They then compared those to the items on a comprehensive surgical checklist called SURPASS, which is now used in several hospitals in the Netherlands.

It should be mentioned that this checklist is not an immensely complicated document. It includes simple things like making sure that the procedure is scheduled correctly, and that all of the needed instruments are available, or even marking which side of the patients body is going to be operated on. It’s not unlike the pre-flight checklist that a pilot and co-pilot go through before they take off.

When the researchers compared the successful medical malpractice cases to the items on the checklist, they found that 29% of the malpractice cases were directly related to something that was left off of the checklist. It wasn’t a daring surgical procedure that went wrong. It wasn’t a random action of the body that was blamed on the doctor. It was an easily preventable mistake that could have been prevented if someone had taken the time to make sure that the procedure was properly set up. It was a lack of communication among the hospital staff. It was misread handwriting. It was a scalpel that wasn’t available.

Since patients can’t be expected to handle these things themselves, the responsibility for all of this lands directly on the hospital staff. If a patient or the family of a patient comes to us and explains that their loved one was killed or injured because of a breach of the standard of care, and this was something easily preventable, it’s hardly “abuse of the system” if we try to hold the people responsible accountable.

According to the article, only 25% of American hospitals use any kind of pre-op checklist at all. And while we absolutely dispute that the rate of medical malpractice cases in America is somehow overblown or unsustainable, we have to wonder what the results would be if more hospitals made some sort of pre-op checklist a mandatory part of their practices. After all, medical malpractice cases aren’t filed for fun. They don’t fall out of the sky. They happen because of preventable mistakes, and it appears that by using these checklists, doctors and surgeons all over the country could lower the amount of those preventable mistakes by a considerable margin.

Greenberg and Bederman is a medical malpractice injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to those who have been injured by a doctor, surgeon or other medical professional. If you or a loved one in Washington, D.C, Virginia or Maryland (including Baltimore) has been injured due to medical malpractice or surgical errors, contact Greenberg and Bederman for a free legal consultation today.

Insurance Options

 

Washington Post, 1/5/11-A man has died in an area hospital several days after he was in a Christmas Eve car crash that also killed his father, Loudoun officials said.

Timothy D. Doane, 49, of Harpers Ferry, W. Va., died Tuesday. His father, David Doane, 76, of Tennessee also was killed in the three-car crash. A third man is in critical condition at an area hospital, authorities said.

The accident happened at 3:30 p.m. at Route 9 just west of Creamer Lane.

George Radston, 58, of Ashburn was driving eastbound in a Pontiac when he lost control on a curve, crossed over the roadway centerline and struck a 2010 Toyota Prius with the Doanes inside.

After striking the Toyota, the Pontiac continued to roll, ejecting Radston. He remains in critical condition. The Pontiac also struck a 2003 Volkswagen Jetta, and the 22-year-old driver and her passenger sustained minor injuries.

This is about as bad a scenario as you can get. It appears that the man driving the Pontiac simply lost control. It doesn’t say whether or not he was speeding or driving recklessly, or if he was driving while intoxicated. Sometimes, things just happen. Roads get icy or slippery or tires can lose traction. Not every accident is a cut and dried case of negligence or irresponsibility.

Those situations are the difficult ones to handle. If there isn’t a mistake or a miscue, or if nobody was texting while driving or playing with the radio, what do you do? How is this handled?

 

Generally speaking, the answer is that your insurance company and the insurance company of the other driver get together and hammer it out. In many cases, the solution ends up being that your insurance company handles your damages and the other driver’s insurance company handles their driver’s damages. This usually isn’t a problem if it’s a no fault accident with no injuries, but things get tricky if people get hurt.

Each state has minimum levels of insurance for drivers. This basically means that there is a minimum amount of coverage that you can have before you are allowed to drive. In Maryland, the minimum is $20,000 worth of coverage for one person injured in the car, with a $40,000 total for all passengers injured. In Virginia, its $25,000 for one person injured, with a $50,000 total for all passengers injured. In Washington, D.C, the minimum is the same as Maryland’s. That might seem to be a perfectly reasonable amount, but you should remember that $20,000 is not a lot of money when it comes to emergency room treatment. You should also remember that in Virginia, the “minimum” is actually just the insurance level. Virginia is one of the few states in the Union where you can simply pay a fee every year to the Department of Motor Vehicles and drive with no insurance whatsoever.

So what do you do? What happens if the accident is just one of those things, but the insurance doesn’t cover all of your physical damages? What happens if the car accident is in Virginia and the driver simply doesn’t have insurance? It has been our experience that insurance companies are profoundly hesitant to even get close to the maximum of what they are supposed to spend, and they often delay and deny payment in the hopes that their claimant will simply give up.

The smartest thing that you can do is contact an attorney for legal advice before it even gets to this point. Insurance companies are quite good at making it seem as if you have no options, when in fact you have several. An experienced attorney can help you determine the best course of action for you, and can also help you avoid the standard tricks of the trade of the insurance companies.

Greenberg and Bederman is a personal injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to people who have been injured in car accidents in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. We also help people who have been hurt in motorcycle or trucking accidents, as well as bicycle and pedestrian accidents. If you or a loved one has been injured in Maryland, Virginia, or Washington, D.C, contact car accident injury lawyers Greenberg and Bederman for a free legal consultation today.

Medical Malpractice Database Errors

Most reasonable people would not make an important decision without having all the facts. It’s one of the reasons simply getting a job is so difficult these days. Potential employers don’t just want to know your work history. They also want to know your criminal record, and in some cases they want to know your credit score. That might seem like an unnecessary intrusion, but if you happen to be applying for a job as an accountant, your perspective employers might want to know if you are thousands of dollars in debt. Or, if you happen to be applying for a job as a day care worker, the people who run the place would want to know if you happen to have a criminal history of child abuse.

If you were buying a car, you would want to know if the company making it has a history of putting out defective products. If you were entrusting a financial advisor, you would want to know if he had a history of fraud or shady dealings. If you are investing your time or money into something, or if you are entrusting your safety or your children’s safety with someone, having as much information as you can about this person is not just important; it is crucial.

 

As or right now, people in Connecticut are not able to make informed decisions about their health care; specifically because the state’s online medical database is omitting medical malpractice information:

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The Connecticut Public Health Department's online doctor database frequently omits information about past malpractice payments, making it difficult for patients to make informed decisions.

The Hartford Courant reports Monday that there are more than 100 doctors on the site whose malpractice cases are missing. That's about one out of every six who have made payments in recent years for harming or killing patients who appear to have clean records.

If you happen to live in Connecticut, and you happen to be choosing a doctor or a surgeon, wouldn’t you want to know if this person has made a certain number of mistakes? Particularly if the number of doctors who have made serious or life-ending mistakes is one out of every six doctors? Those are about the same odds that you get with Russian roulette.

To be sure, you shouldn’t make the assumption that if your doctor has one malpractice payout in a twenty year career that he is a bad doctor. In fact, if a doctor had that kind of record we would be the first in line to make an appointment with him. But if a doctor has a seriously spotty record, with multiple lawsuits and multiple mistakes and multiple unnecessary patient deaths, wouldn’t you want to know that before you selected him to do the surgery? Wouldn’t you find that to be a crucial piece of information? We certainly would.

We aren’t sure why this information is being left off the new website. When they made the initial switch to the new website, they estimated that the profiles would be complete and updated (meaning that the medical malpractice information would be posted) by April of 2010, but then that date switched to June, then August, then October, and they finally just gave up giving an estimated date. We would hope that at some point in the near future they would update the site with all of the relevant information, because in the meantime, there are some doctors on the list who are having their professional histories whitewashed quite thoroughly.

For instance, there is one surgeon in Connecticut who failed to control bleeding in a patient who was known to have difficulties with blood clotting. There was also one doctor who had lost or settled four medical malpractice suits in the past seven years. Not to mention a doctor who was hit with a $36 million verdict due to a botched Caesarian section birth which led to the child having cerebral palsy.

Again, we think these are the sort of things that patients should know about before selecting a doctor. It’s a pity that Connecticut doesn’t feel the same way.

Greenberg and Bederman is a medical malpractice injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland, and we offer legal assistance to victims of medical malpractice in Washington, D.C, Virginia and Maryland. We have helped victims of surgical errors, wrong diagnosis, prescription errors, hospital infections and injuries due to unnecessary delay of treatment.  If you or a loved one has been injured due to the negligence of a doctor, surgeon or other medical professional, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free legal consultation today.

Dram Shop Laws Are Needed in Maryland

 

There is usually a great deal of talk from both sides of the political spectrum about a phenomenon called “judicial activism.” This phenomenon is also called “legislating from the bench.” It’s usually spoken about with derision.

Essentially, what this means is when a state or federal court makes a ruling that either negates or enhances existing laws. It also applies when a court rules in such a way that the ruling has consequences that affect many more people than those involved in the case before the court. Whether this is considered a good thing or a bad thing generally depends on who you ask and when you ask them. Democrats and liberals, for instance, would argue that the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling (which allows unlimited and anonymous spending on political advertisements from anyone who wants to spend the money) was judicial activism, primarily because most of them vehemently oppose unlimited money in politics. On the other side of the coin, many conservatives and Republicans would argue that a case like Griswold v Connecticut was judicial activism, because the ruling turned what was supposed to be a case on the legality of birth control into a broader ruling on the right to privacy. We hope this doesn’t sound too cynical, but it seems to us that in many cases, “judicial activism” is political shorthand for “judges that did not rule the way we wanted them to.”

 

The general argument would seem to be “Wait a minute, how is it that this ruling is now a law? Aren’t the legislatures supposed to create law? I didn’t vote for this. Nobody I voted for had anything to do with creating or passing this law.”

But sometimes, this is exactly the point of having a judicial system. As the saying goes, “What is right is not always popular, and what is popular is not always right.” State legislatures or even the federal government can pass and have passed laws that don’t always line up with the Constitution. For example, let’s say that Baltimore passes a city ordinance that states that everyone who attends a Ravens game has to wear the color purple or face a fifty dollar fine. This might be a particularly popular law in Baltimore, but there is no conceivable way that any court in the land would allow that ruling to remain in place. Our judicial system acts as a check to make sure that legislatures do not overstep their bounds, and sometimes that pleases Americans and sometimes that makes them angry, but at the end of the day we believe that a strong Judiciary is an absolute necessity for a functioning democracy.

We are bringing this up not to give you a civics lesson, but because the concept of “activist judges” and “judicial activism” has been on our minds lately. We are currently addressing a case that we hope will establish laws in Maryland that currently do not exist in our state, even though similar laws are established on the books of many other states in America. These are called “Dram Shop Laws.”

In a nutshell, dram shop laws exist to make sure that alcohol is sold in a responsible manner. It is no secret that people can do reckless and stupid things when they are drunk. They get into fistfights, they pass out in public, and they often drink and drive. While you can’t prevent people from consuming alcohol (nor would we want to,) you can hold businesses that sell alcohol accountable if they are selling alcohol to people who are already visibly intoxicated. Many states do just that. If it can be proven that a bar not only allowed but also encouraged a patron to become drunk, and that patron drives off and causes a serious car accident, that bar can be held liable for the damages. These laws aren’t on the books in Maryland, but we think they should be.

We are currently representing a family that lost a granddaughter due to a drunk driver. While this is a sadly common occurrence, what makes this case relatively unique is that the driver got visibly drunk at one bar over the course of an evening. One establishment served him beer after beer and shot after shot and simply let him leave.

As we mentioned, Maryland has no real dram shop laws on the books. There is nothing in Maryland’s legal code that could hold this bar even possibly responsible. We took this case because we believe that we can change that. We believe that a state court can and should rule that the victims of the irresponsibility of a business can hold that business accountable. It isn’t a law that would be made up out of whole cloth. There are examples of these laws on the books in several other states. And since there isn’t any sign of legislation about this issue moving forward in the Maryland state legislature, we believe that the only realistic avenue that is available to us is through the court system.  

We have no doubt that there are some who would call this “judicial activism,” or “legislating from the bench” or “judicial overreach,” most likely the alcohol and restaurant lobbies. But we believe that there is nothing overreaching about establishing protections for victims and liability for businesses when equivalent laws already exist in other states. All Maryland would be doing is catching up to the other states who have taken a more responsible view as to how establishments could conduct themselves.

Greenberg and Bederman is apersonal injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to those who have been injured due to the negligent and irresponsible actions of drunk drivers. We can help injury victims in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free legal consultation today.

Christmas Accidents

 

It is has officially been the Holiday season for about three weeks now, and we here at Greenberg and Bederman would like to extend our warmest wishes to you and yours. It is certainly nice to spend a few days of the year focusing on family and friends rather than all of the other concerns that seem to take up so much of everyone’s time. This is particularly true in the Washington, D.C. area, where work seems to take precedence over everything.

But while we encourage everyone to relax and enjoy themselves over the holidays, we would also urge everyone to exercise a modicum of caution. We’ve been reading a few statistics and reports, and we have come to the conclusion that the holiday season can be dangerous.

Accidents happen or are caused all the year around, but there seems to be a strange category of Holiday related injuries that happen every year. From falls to drunk driving to burns in fires to specifically bizarre occurrences, the spike in visits to the emergency room or worse appears to be fairly constant year after year. We thought it would be useful to share some of these statistics with you so that you might take a few simple precautions.

What follows is some information about Holiday injuries.

 

Falls: Christmas lights are a proud tradition in America, and some people take great pride in having the biggest and flashiest displays in their neighborhoods. Usually this means a lot of climbing ladders and hanging around on the roof, which can certainly lead to falls. In fact, a three year report from the CDC claimed that “…The majority of falls were from ladders (e.g., while hanging holiday lights), followed by roofs (e.g., while mounting an artificial Christmas tree on the roof).” There were also plenty of indoor falls, as the report mentions that many falls come from “…furniture (e.g., while standing on a table decorating a Christmas tree, standing on a chair hanging holiday decorations, or standing on a step stool when hanging a tree topper), stairs, and porches. Other falls were caused by tripping over or slipping on holiday-related objects (e.g., tree skirts or ornaments).” The most severe injuries seem to come from falls off of ladders, which were responsible for 51% of all fractures. So the obvious lesson to take from that is to be as careful as you possibly can while hanging or taking down your Christmas lights.

Drinking and Driving: The Holiday season brings with it holiday parties, which inevitably brings irresponsible behavior. A report from the U.S. Department of Transportation claimed that between 2001 and 2005, an average of 45 people died from drunken driving related causes during the holiday season.  And according to MADD, alcohol is involved in 52% of collisions on Christmas Eve and 57% of collisions on New Years. The tough part about this information is that while you may not drink and drive, others might have no compunction about doing so. So saying “be careful” can only get us so far.

Others: This is a batch of statistics from England, and although you might think that these don’t apply, you should keep in mind that these are not “British accidents.” All of those that are listed are just as capable of happening to us here in the States.

·          3 Brits die each year testing if a 9v battery works on their tongue.

·          31 Brits have died since 1996 by watering their Christmas tree while the Christmas lights were plugged in.

·          142 Brits were injured in 1999 by not removing all the pins from new shirts 58 Brits are injured each year by using sharp knives instead of screwdrivers.

·         19 Brits have died in the last 3 years believing that Christmas decorations were chocolate.

·          British Hospitals reported 4 broken arms last year after cracker pulling accidents.

·         101 people since 1999 have had broken parts of plastic toys pulled out of the soles of their feet.

·          18 Brits had serious burns in 2000 trying on a new jumper with a lit
cigarette in their mouth.

·         A massive 543 Brits were admitted to hospital in the last two years after opening bottles of beer with their teeth.

So yes, Christmas is “the most wonderful time of the year,” but it’s also more dangerous than other times. People are in a celebratory mood, they are euphoric, they are busy eating and cooking and decorating and drinking. So by all means, enjoy the Holiday season, but please do so responsibly, and exercise precaution when necessary.

Greenberg and Bederman is a Washington, D.C. area personal injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We offer legal assistance to those who have been injured in car accidents, pedestrian or bicycle accidents, and those who have been injured due to medical malpractice. If you or a loved one has been injured due to no fault of your own, contact Greenberg and Bederman for a free legal consultation today.

Should A Bar Be Held Responsible For Drunk Patrons?

We aren’t big believers in the idea that accidents simply “happen.” To be sure, there are certainly instances that can be called “acts of God.” If a gust of wind blows a moving car over, you can’t say that anyone is at fault there. Or if somebody gets struck by lightning out of the clear blue sky, there would be no conceivable way to lay the blame on anyone. Sometimes, things just happen.

But as injury lawyers in Washington, D.C, it has been our experience that most accidents are “caused.” Somebody makes a poor decision, or somebody neglects to perform an expected task, or somebody acts without thinking about the consequences, and the end result is that someone gets hurt or worse. You can’t really call an instance of negligence by a doctor “an accident.” Nor can you call it “an accident” when a driver hits a pedestrian in the crosswalk because he was texting while driving.

Another thing that isn’t an accident is continuing to serve a patron alcohol after he has already had enough to be visibly intoxicated.  It’s hard to make the argument that you didn’t know that there would be potential harmful effects if you served a patron close to twenty drinks over the course of an evening and then didn’t even bother to try to call him a cab.

In many states, there are laws in place that hold establishments that serve alcohol liable for any damage that might be caused if their patrons get drunk and behave irresponsibly. These are called Dram Shop Laws. There are limits to these laws, of course. For instance, if a man walks into a bar after drinking heavily elsewhere and only orders one drink, and that man shows no visible signs of being drunk, it could be argued that there was no way for the bartender to know what the customer had been doing before entering the establishment. Bartenders have many talents and capabilities, but telepathy is not one of them.

However, In the case of Michael Eaton, telepathy was not needed.  On August 21, 2008, Mr. Eaton came into Dogfish Head Alehouse in Gaithersburg at around 4 in the afternoon.  He opened a bar tab, and in the course of six hours he ordered 14 Coronas and 2 shots that are called “Lemon Drops.”  Lemon Drops are essentially about an ounce and a half of vodka.  It could be argued that Mr. Eaton didn’t drink all of the alcohol that he ordered.  But even if he bought half of those drinks for other people his tally up to that point would have been 8 drinks.

After closing that first bar tab, he opened another, this time purchasing 3 more Coronas and a shot of tequila. Then he paid that off and left.

At no point did anyone at the bar cut him off.  At no point did anyone say “I think you’ve had enough.” It’s a safe assumption that the only thing that was said to Mr. Eaton by the employees at Dogfish Ale House was “Would you like another round?” or “Here’s your check.” They can’t make the argument that they didn’t know he was drunk. They were also responsible for getting him that way.

This is an important point. Because after Mr. Eaton left the bar, he got into his car and proceeded to drive down I-270 at around 90 miles an hour.  It was there that he slammed into a car carrying Jazimen Warr, a ten year old girl. Jazimen Warr did not survive the experience.

Mr. Eaton is now serving a term in prison for vehicular manslaughter, which is what he deserves.  But the underlying question is this: How much responsibility does Dogfish Head Alehouse have in the death of Ms. Warr? Mr. Eaton sat in that establishment for four hours and consumed enough alcohol to where there could have been no question as to his state. Establishments that sell alcohol should have a duty to do so in a responsible manner. So where does this leave Dogfish Head Ale House? Are they liable?

We believe they are. Unfortunately, Maryland believes that they are not.

Maryland is one of the few states in America that has no laws establishing liability for bar and restaurant owners for the actions of their customers, even if the amount of alcohol they consume is a direct cause for anything that happens later.  Considering what the Warr family lost, and considering how easy it would have been for the people at Dogfish Head Ale House to prevent what happened, we believe dram shop laws should be put into place. This is a position that we have held for quite some time, and it is one of the reasons that we are representing the Warr family.

Greenberg and Bederman is a personal injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to anyone in the Maryland, D.C. and Virginia areas who has been injured due to no fault of their own. If you or a loved one in the D.C. area has been injured due to a drunk driver, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free legal consultation today.

Get The Lead Out of DC Water

When you consider how casually we used to use lead, it seems to be a miracle that more people weren’t killed. We used to use lead based paint. We used to put lead in our gasoline. There used to be toys made of lead. We can even remember a toy kit that was sold with lead and a miniature soldering gun that actually worked. Lead used to be used in the glass making process. Lead used to be part of practically everything we used.

In hindsight, we probably should have picked a better substance to work with, because lead is actually quite dangerous. The problem is that when you are surrounded by it, it is quite easy to ingest into your body. Lead is one of the softer metals, and it can very easily turn into dust. Particles can break away from larger pieces. And these particles can easily find their way into your food or water. And the results can be disastrous.

Lead interferes with body processes and is toxic to most of the organs in your body. And since it’s a heavy metal, once it is in your bloodstream it has a tendency to stay there. Lead can accumulate in your system over time, and the more you ingest into your body, the worse the effects can get. Heavy exposure to lead can cause severe impairment to mental development in children. At its most extreme levels, lead poisoning can kill you.

 

Since we know how dangerous lead can be, we found this article in The Washington Post quite disturbing:

The water in almost 15,000 D.C. homes that received repairs during a massive effort to remove lead pipes may still be contaminated by dangerous levels of the metal, according to a report released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If those residences are home to small children, pregnant women or anyone with a compromised immune system, the water should be tested, said George Hawkins, general manager of D.C. Water.

The CDC concluded that homeowners who had pipes only partially replaced may have made the problem worse. The center also confirmed that children living in the District were exposed to an increased risk of lead poisoning from 2000 to 2006 as an inadvertent result of efforts to disinfect the water supply that caused lead pipes to corrode and leach into the water that flowed through them.

We also found D.C.’s reaction to this report from the CDC to be somewhat alarming:

George S. Hawkins, director of D.C. Water, said the report merely confirms previous findings that partial lead replacements, which the authority suspended in 2009, may have lead to short-time spikes in lead levels in those homes.But Hawkins said ongoing monitoring indicates the "vast majority" of the 13,000 homes where partial lead line replacements took place have nothing to worry about.

Even minor exposure to lead can cause painful and severe symptoms, so we aren’t too convinced that spiking lead levels somehow don’t cause a threat.

While we realize that D.C. isn’t exactly awash with money right now, these lead water pipes represent a serious health risk to tens of thousands of its residents. It needs to be addressed, and quickly.

Greenberg and Bederman is a personal injury law firm based in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to residents in Virginia, Maryland or Washington, D.C. who have suffered health problems as the result of exposure to pollutants or toxic materials, such as groundwater contamination. If you or a loved one has been injured due to lead or groundwater poisoning, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free contamination legal consultation today.

Is Agent Orange Affecting Fort Detrick Water Pollution Problem?

The war in Vietnam seems occurred a long time ago. But for those who actually participated, we are willing to bet that they don’t view it as ancient history. There are still Vietnam veterans in America who have had difficulty coping with their experiences. Exposure to the extreme dangers of combat is not something that can be easily shrugged off. American soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are proving that premise to still be true.

But the Vietnam War was different for a few reasons. Many veterans of that conflict brought back injuries that were neither psychological, nor were they of the sort that are consistent with combat. Many soldiers suffered from a disproportionately high rate of throat cancer, lung cancer, liver cancer, prostate cancer and soft tissue sarcoma. Many of them found that their wives were suffering from miscarriages, or that their children were being born with birth defects.

To be sure, these things can and do happen to many people, regardless of whether they served in Vietnam or not, but it is worth noting that among Vietnam veterans who took part in a military effort named “Operation Ranch Hand,” the numbers of cancer and birth defects is incredibly high.

Operation Ranch Hand was the name given to a military program in which chemical herbicides and defoliants were sprayed over the jungles of Vietnam. The purpose of spraying these chemicals was to remove the habitat, cover and support system of the Viet Cong, and to force them into the cities, where the Vietnamese population was generally less supportive of the guerilla forces or North Vietnam in general. Between 1962 and 1971, over 20 million gallons of herbicides were sprayed over the jungles in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

 

While the chemicals involved certainly did their job, they also wreaked havoc on the rural civilian population of Vietnam. Tens of thousands of civilians died early of cancer, and tens of thousands of children were born seriously deformed. And among the helicopter pilots, vehicle loaders and Special Forces units who handled the herbicide, the rate of cancer and birth defects skyrocketed.

There were two sorts of chemicals that were used to defoliate the jungles of Southeast Asia. One was called Agent Blue, but the chemical that was deemed the most effective and therefore saw the most use was called Agent Orange.

The Vietnam War was close to 40 years ago, and Southeast Asia is practically on the other side of the world, but if you think that the use of Agent Orange by the United States is not something that you should be concerned with, you should think again. Particularly if you live in the Baltimore-Washington area.

Frederick News-Post, 11/18/10: The Army sprayed about 17 pounds of a main Agent Orange ingredient on sections of Fort Detrick between 1944 and 1968, an official announced at a meeting Wednesday night. Randal Curtis, program manager for the St. Louis district of the Army Corps of Engineers, presented the preliminary Archives Search Report to the Fort Detrick Restoration Advisory Board. The findings were based on technical reports, standard operating procedures, lab notes, maps and photos uncovered in archive and records locations around the country. Curtis' office was tasked with sifting through these documents for any information on 2,4,5-T, one of two main ingredients in Agent Orange.

According to the preliminary report, Fort Detrick was the headquarters of the Chemical Warfare Service's special projects division during and after World War II, making it a hub for offensive and defensive biological research and development. 2, 4, 5-T was tested at Fort Detrick in three main time periods: 1944-1951, 1953 and 1961-1963.

As you can probably infer from that story, Agent Orange was not the only chemical that was tested on the grounds of Fort Detrick. But Agent Orange was sprayed into the ground, and the harmful effects of this chemical is well documented. And if you consider that Fort Detrick is currently the site of Army medical research, and that it used to be the headquarters of the Army biological and chemical weapons program, you can well imagine that the health of the surrounding residents is probably considerably worse than those who do not live near there.

The EPA has designated Fort Detrick a Superfund Cleanup Site, which means that in terms of the level of toxic waste and the potential harm that this place can do to the environment and the health of people around the area, its cleanup is an absolute priority. But that is small consolation to those who have already gotten sick, or worse. Frederick County is currently determining whether or not the surrounding area will officially be designated a cancer cluster, but even if they determine that it is not, it is impossible to imagine that sixty years of chemical and biological weapons testing and medical waste dumping had no effect on the groundwater or air quality for nearby residents.

Greenberg and Bederman is currently offering legal help for residents around Fort Detrick, Maryland who have suffered from unexplained illnesses, including birth defects, throat cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer or other serious diseases. We believe that the groundwater and air around Fort Detrick has been responsible for a high level of diseases and illnesses, and it is our hope that we can secure compensation for the victims. If you or a loved one has been affected by the pollution near Fort Detrick, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free legal consultation

Were WMATA Negligent in Escalator Maintenance?

 

One of the crucial elements of proving a negligence case is being able to show that the defendants had prior knowledge of the potential dangers of a product, service or place, but did nothing to warn people or fix the problem.

An example of this can be made with something as simple as a wet floor in a supermarket. If an employee mops the floor in an area and doesn’t put out a sign or markers telling people that the floor is wet, and if a person slips and breaks his leg, that employee could be considered negligent. The employee knows wet floors are dangerous, and he knows there is a spot in the supermarket where the floor is wet. A customer would also know that a wet floor is dangerous and would avoid it if he could, but the problem is that he doesn’t know if the floor is wet or not because the employee didn’t visibly mark the spot. If the customer sees the signs yet trudges on regardless, and then falls and breaks his leg, it could be argued that the employee did everything reasonable to warn the customer of the dangers, so there would not be negligence there.

 

In a nutshell, that’s the difference between a run-of-the-mill accident and an accident caused by negligence. We think it’s an important distinction. While an accident can be an “act of God,” negligence accidents are “acts of man.”

On October 30, the escalator at the L’Enfant Plaza metro station suffered a system failure. According to the Washington Post, the escalator started speeding uncontrollably, which essentially flung all the riders to the ground at the bottom. The entire Metro system was extremely crowded due to the Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert rally that was taking place on the mall. Just under a million people were riding the trains that day. If anything positive can be taken out of this, it can be that it was a lucky thing that only four people were hurt. Can you imagine what could have happened if the main escalator at Bethesda metro station suddenly sped up? Or the escalator at DuPont Circle? On the most crowded day Metro has had since the Inauguration?

The escalators in the DC Metro systems are notorious for being broken. It is a rare day where a regular commuter can get to work without having to climb up one broken escalator or another. But there is a difference between an escalator not working and an escalator actively malfunctioning while passengers are on it. And what should be mentioned here is that the escalator malfunction at L’Enfant Plaza wasn’t a random occurrence, nor was it unexpected.

A report performed by an independent firm weeks ago concluded that the escalators are dangerous, unstable and in need of repair or replacement. Among some of the more relevant passages:

  • Major amounts of oil and lubricant on step treads and risers. Symptomatic of major leak at drive motor / reducer coupling.
  • Significant accumulation of metal shavings around hand rail newel areas from worn newel wheels.
  • Brake pads worn beyond usable life expectancy and out of adjustment allowing unit to freewheel to stop.
  • Numerous switches in safety circuits were dirty, out of adjustment, and ineffective.
  • Skirt panels were adjusted too tightly to the steps, creating metal shavings along the step roller tracks in the interior of the unit.
  • Hoist ropes severely rouged [corroded] and worn beyond acceptable life expectancy.
  • Sheet plastic being used to protect equipment from water intrusion. This is a critical life safety issue.

Metro authorities had this draft in their hands on September 30th, which was a full month before the accident happened. So how can they make the standard defense against negligence, which is “We simply didn’t know?” They can’t make the claim that the escalator malfunction was a surprise to them when an independent report commissioned by them on the state of their escalators specifically warned that an incident like the October 30th disaster was likely to happen. The argument could easily be made that WMATA was negligent in maintaining its escalators, and that they knew about the danger that these escalators posed to riders for a full month before the incident took place.

Greenberg and Bederman is a personal injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland, and we are currently offering legal assistance to injury victims all over the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore areas. If you have been injured due to reasons that were not your fault, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free legal consultation.

Defensive Medicine, Trial Lawyers, And Insurance Company Crisis

Much is made of so-called “defensive medicine” by the politicians and organizations who advocate for tort reform. If you are unfamiliar with the concept, “defensive medicine” is what happens when medical professionals operate more out of a fear of being sued rather than simply doing what is necessary for the patient. In other words, if you come in with a sore ankle, rather than simply asking questions, maybe ordering an x-ray and then diagnosing you with a sprained ankle, the doctor will put you up in a room for the night, order a full MRI of your ankle and call in a specialist in order to give your ankle a thorough examination. They don’t want to take the chance of missing anything so they won’t get sued later.

This would all be fine and dandy except for the fact that health care is incredibly expensive. And since somebody has to pay for all of these extra tests, that burden will fall on the insurance company. So, as the premise goes, health insurance companies end up getting billed for wildly expensive procedures, which forces them to drive up the costs for everybody, which then makes the insurance companies raise their rates, and all of this is based on trial lawyers waiting to sue at the drop of a hat.

 

There are many things that don’t make any sense at all about this argument. In the first place, it completely misrepresents the relationship between hospitals and insurance companies. If it were true that insurance companies were contractually and legally bound to pay for every single healthcare expenditure made on a patient’s behalf, then perhaps the tort reformers would have a point. But insurance companies most certainly are not contractually and legally bound to pay for everything. They have agreed to pay for what they deem to be “medically necessary”, and not that which they deem to be “medically unnecessary.”  And “medically unnecessary” can mean quite a few things. In fact, “medically unnecessary” can be and has been applied to almost every single pill, bandage, test and procedure that exists underneath the roof of any hospital in America.

Insurers have refused to pay for aspirin, bandages, calcium pills, ambulance rides, helicopter trips to the emergency room for patients at deaths door, broken limbs, lab tests, surgeries both major and minor, limb or finger reattachments, meals, or quite literally anything medical that you can imagine. And these decisions are almost never made by the reasoned decisions of uninterested and unbiased medical professionals. They are made by insurance claims adjusters using insurance company software to guide their decisions of what is and what is not medically necessary.

In short, insurance companies do not simply receive an invoice and then meekly write out a check. They say “no,” and leave it to either the hospital or the patient to convince them to say otherwise. If the patient or the hospital fails to do so, the hospital simply bills the patient. So the idea of hospitals overloading patients with unnecessary tests to either avoid the lawyers or just to get rich is not an accurate one. No insurance company that we have ever faced in court simply acquiesced to anything. So it is very doubtful that they would simply fork over money for an MRI given to a patient with a headache.

This is another example of insurance companies inventing a “crisis” in order to create new laws that will only benefit them, even as they claim that these new laws will benefit everyone else. The “crisis” of “preventive medicine” putting an undue burden on insurance companies does not exist. Nor did the “crisis” involving medical malpractice, in which doctors were supposedly being run out of business due to a sudden increase in lawsuits.

The invariable solution to all of these invented panics is always “caps,” or arbitrary, unfair and unrealistic limits on the amount of money that victims of injuries or medical malpractice can receive. These caps will not prevent doctors from running unnecessary tests and they won’t cause medical malpractice rates to drop or raise or lower the amount of malpractice cases that are filed, settled, won or lost every year, and they will ultimately do nothing except benefit medical malpractice insurance companies, which are the one part of this equation that doesn’t need the help.

Greenberg and Bederman is amedical malpractice injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We have helped malpractice victims in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. for 25 years. Our practice areas include surgical errors, missed or late diagnosis cases, prescription errors, birth injuries, and many other forms of medical malpractice. If you or a loved one has been injured due to what you believe to be medical malpractice, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free legal consultation.

Understanding Negligence With Metro Escalators Accident

One of the crucial elements of proving a negligence case is being able to show that the defendants had prior knowledge of the potential dangers of a product, service or place, but did nothing to warn people or fix the problem.

An example of this can be made with something as simple as a wet floor in a supermarket. If an employee mops the floor in an area and doesn’t put out a sign or markers telling people that the floor is wet, and if a person slips and breaks his leg, that supermarket could be considered negligent. The employee knows wet floors are dangerous, and he knows there is a spot in the supermarket where the floor is wet, so he has a duty as an employee to the supermarket to keep his job, and to the public for safety, to put up a hazardous sign.  A customer shopping in the supermarket knows that a wet floor is dangerous and would avoid it if he could, but if the customer doesn’t know if the floor is wet because the employee didn’t visibly mark the spot, there could be negligence on behalf of the employee and the supermarket. If the customer sees a warning sign yet trudges on regardless and then falls and breaks his leg, it could be argued that the employee did everything reasonable to warn the customer of the dangers, so there would not be negligence there.

 

In a nutshell, that’s the difference between a run-of-the-mill accident and an accident caused by negligence. We think it’s an important distinction. While an accident can be an “act of God,” negligence accidents are “acts of man.”

On October 30, the escalator at the L’Enfant Plaza metro station suffered a system failure. According to the Washington Post, the escalator started speeding uncontrollably, which essentially flung all the riders to the ground at the bottom. The entire Metro system was extremely crowded due to the Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert rally that was taking place on the mall. Just under a million people were riding the trains that day. If anything positive can be taken out of this, it can be that it was a lucky thing that only four people were hurt. Can you imagine what could have happened if the main escalator at Bethesda metro station suddenly sped up? Or the escalator at DuPont Circle? On the most crowded day Metro has had since the Inauguration?

The escalators in the DC Metro systems are notorious for being broken. It is a rare day where a regular commuter can get to work without having to climb up one broken escalator or another. But there is a difference between an escalator not working and an escalator actively malfunctioning while passengers are on it. And what should be mentioned here is that the escalator malfunction at L’Enfant Plaza wasn’t a random occurrence, nor was it unexpected.

A report performed by an independent firm weeks ago concluded that the escalators are dangerous, unstable and in need of repair or replacement. Among some of the more relevant passages:

  • Major amounts of oil and lubricant on step treads and risers. Symptomatic of major leak at drive motor / reducer coupling.
  • Significant accumulation of metal shavings around hand rail newel areas from worn newel wheels.
  • Brake pads worn beyond usable life expectancy and out of adjustment allowing unit to freewheel to stop.
  • Numerous switches in safety circuits were dirty, out of adjustment, and ineffective.
  • Skirt panels were adjusted too tightly to the steps, creating metal shavings along the step roller tracks in the interior of the unit.
  • Hoist ropes severely rouged [corroded] and worn beyond acceptable life expectancy.
  • Sheet plastic being used to protect equipment from water intrusion. This is a critical life safety issue.

Metro authorities had this draft in their hands on September 30th, which was a full month before the accident happened. So they can’t make the standard defense against negligence, which is “We simply didn’t know.” They can’t make the claim that the escalator malfunction was a surprise to them when an independent report commissioned by them on the state of their escalators specifically warned that an incident like the October 30th disaster was likely to happen. The argument could be made that WMATA was negligent in maintaining its escalators, and that they knew about the danger that these escalators posed to riders for a full month before the incident took place.

To understand a little about negligence law, please read our understanding negligence page.

Greenberg and Bederman is a personal injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland, and we are currently offering legal assistance to injury victims all over the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore areas. If you have been injured due to reasons that were not your fault, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free consultation.

Toyota's Latest Recall

There are two ways to look at Toyota’s latest recall. The first option is to scratch your head and wonder if the people in Tokyo are capable of designing anything correctly, considering the amount of missteps and recalls that took place throughout most of 2010.

The second option is to believe that maybe the higher ups at Toyota have learned their lesson, which is that the correct action in the event of a defect is an immediate recall combined with complete repairs of the problem.

This current recall involves 1.53 million cars, most of which involve problems with the master cylinder, which could leak and cause the brakes to lose power. If you can say anything about Toyota, you can say that their recalls don’t seem to be over minor issues. They always seem to involve the steering, or the accelerator pedal, or the brakes, or anything that seriously puts the lives of drivers, passengers and passersby in danger.

This new immediate action is surprising, mainly because for quite a few years this was not how things were done at Toyota. Nobody there seemed to be interested in really fixing the defects in the cars at all. They danced around the issue, negotiated a lesser recall with the NHTSA that saved them money but didn’t really fix the problem, and hid behind a wall of silence, denials, and claims of trade secrecy privileges even as their cars started to get into accidents and people started to get injured or killed.

One man in Minnesota even spent almost four years in prison after his Toyota slammed into another car, killing all three of its occupants. Toyota’s policies of denial and not allowing any attorneys to access company information or the on-board computers that all Toyotas have, effectively helped keep this man in prison.

According to the New York Times, this quick response is part of Toyota’s new “global safety initiative,” and while we certainly have no problem with that (or any problem with the speed and efficiency of this recall,) we do have a problem with the behavior that made this new efficiency and commitment to safety necessary. A commitment to driver safety should be the first priority of any auto company. Safety recalls should not be plea bargained, and crucial information should not be kept from the public.

We also have a problem with Toyota swearing up and down that all of these instances can be chalked up to “driver error,” when there are simply too many examples of this not being the case.

The recalled models are as follows:

2005-2006 Toyota Avalon

2004-2006 Toyota Highlander

2004-2006 Lexus RX330

2006 Lexus GS300

2006 Lexus IS250

2006 Lexus IS350

If you own any of these vehicles, and yours has been affected, you should expect notification via e-mail or postcard from the Toyota Corporation. It is very important that you take your car in for the necessary repairs.

Greenberg and Bederman is apersonal injury law firm based in Silver Spring, Maryland. For twenty five years we have helped injury victims all over the Washington and Baltimore areas, and that includes Northern Virginia. We are currently offering legal assistance to anyone who has been injured due to a malfunctioning Toyota or other defective vehicle. Dealing with any injury case is not something that you should face alone, particularly if the injury was caused by the actions of a large corporation. Let Greenberg & Bederman handlle your personal injury negotiation. Contact Greenberg and Bederman for a free legal consultation today.

New "Beyaz" Birth COntrol Pills?

If you have a product that is ultimately dangerous to the people who use it, wouldn’t you want to either fix what makes it dangerous or remove it from the market?

Most manufacturers do exactly that.  If a car is defective, automakers recall it and fix the problem. Or if a baby carriage has a flaw that puts children in danger, the carriages that have been purchased are recalled and those that are still on the shelves are removed.  The repairs and changes have to directly address the problem.

For instance, if I were selling a car which had a tendency to deploy the airbags every time it drove over a speed bump, the correct solution would be to fix the problem.  An incorrect solution would be to change the color, shape or name of the car while leaving the airbag problem in place.

The German pharmaceutical giant Bayer has essentially done just that.  A few weeks ago they announced a new birth control pill that is not really new at all. “Beyaz” is an oral contraceptive that contains vitamin b9 and folic acids, which apparently are good for pregnant women.  The idea is that once women decide to get pregnant and stop taking birth control pills, the vitamins and folic acids will actually make the process between being on birth control and not being on birth control easier for the woman and more conducive for a healthy pregnancy.

That’s all well and good, but we think that after suffering from a stroke, heart attack, pulmonary embolism or other blood clot related injuries, a healthy pregnancy is going to be last thing on the minds of the women who use Beyaz.

Beyaz is using the exact same ingredient as Bayer’s earlier birth control pills, which go by the name of Yaz and Yasmin.  This ingredient is called drospirenone, which is a synthetic variation of progestin. While Bayer made a very big (and sometimes misleading) deal about its apparent beneficial side effects, which included acne reduction, some weight loss and relief from the more troubling emotional effects of pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder, they failed to adequately mention that drospirenone had a tendency to raise potassium levels in the bloodstreams of the women who were using it.  This elevated potassium level can lead to deep vein thrombosis, which is the formation of large blood clots in the larger veins and arteries of the leg. These blood clots then break apart, and the pieces travel throughout the bloodstream, eventually causing blockages to the orderly flow of blood.

There have been thousands of cases of otherwise healthy women who have been hospitalized with strokes, heart attacks and pulmonary embolisms, and several women have died.  There have been thousands of lawsuits filed by women who took these pills in good faith and ended up hospitalized for their troubles. And the key to all of this misery was the drospirenone in the pills.  So now, even after all of the injuries and deaths and hospitalizations and lawsuits, Bayer has decided to give us another pill with the exact same ingredient, except this time it has extra vitamins.

While there have been hearings in front of the Food and Drug Administration regarding Yaz and Yasmin, the points of argument have been about misleading advertising rather than the obvious health risks to which women are being exposed.  But the FDA is surely aware of the number of hospitalizations, so it is beyond us as to why they would have allowed a “new” version of this pill on to the market.  And we are further puzzled as to why Bayer would continue to make, market and sell a pill that puts women at risk.

Greenberg and Bederman is a personal injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland.  We are currently offering legal assistance to women in the Washington, D.C. area who have been injured due to the use ofYaz, Yasmin, or Ocella. We have offices in Baltimore as well. We can help anyone in Maryland, Virginia, or Washington, D.C. If you or a loved one has been injured due to the use of Yaz, Yasmin, Ocella or Beyaz, contact Greenberg and Bederman for a free legal consultation today.

Washington Post Article Questions Numbers of DC Lawyers

 

There was an article in the Washington Post recently which goes into some detail about how “litigious” the culture is in the District of Columbia. The upshot of the article is that from 2007 to 2009, the D.C. government paid out $50 million in legal settlements. There is a quote from D.C’s Attorney General in this piece that misses the mark in spectacular fashion:

"There are more lawyers per capita in this city than any other city in the world…and what do lawyers like to do?"

The premise here is that the reason there are so many lawsuits is because there are so many lawyers. Not because D.C. is a crowded city with a dodgy safety record in terms of transit, pedestrian safety, crumbling infrastructure and a bureaucracy that is slow to respond. Not because people are getting hurt. It’s because the lawyers here in Washington DC have nothing better to do with their time.

The cases mentioned in this story disprove the argument pretty thoroughly. There is the tourist from Arizona who tripped on a poorly maintained sidewalk and had to undergo surgery for his shoulder. There is the mental patient who gouged his own eyes out after being left unsupervised after his doctor specifically warned the staff to have him monitored. There is the family of a prisoner who were not informed that this man had died of lung cancer and had already been cremated until four months after the fact. There is the couple who had two children killed by a DC Police cruiser that was in a pursuit. There was the bicyclist who got hit by a trash can that was haphazardly thrown from a sanitation truck. Not to mention a whole group of World Bank protestors who were detained and hogtied for hours without having access to food, water or the bathroom.

 

The writer of the Post article compares the settlement costs in D.C. to those of Montgomery County, which pays considerably less for lawsuit costs despite having a bigger population (and, it has to be assumed, more lawyers residing there.) The easy assumption would be that somehow lawsuits are easier to file in D.C, and as a result lawyers are flocking there to sue the city.

These lawsuits are not a reflection on the lawyers, or the victims that the lawyers represent. They are a reflection on how Washington, D.C. is maintained and administered. If a sidewalk is left in a state of disrepair for months at a time, are private citizens expected to fix it themselves? They would probably be fined if they tried. If someone injures himself as the result of those not responsible fixing the sidewalk, should he be expected to pay his own medical bills?

If a patient is neglected by the staff at a facility and is severely injured as a result, should he just shrug his shoulders and move on with his life?

If a family member dies while under the care of the state and the family is not told about it (or even given a body to bury) should they just write it off as “one of those things that happens?”

If someone is injured when a public worker is careless when performing his assigned tasks, should the injury victim shoulder the costs of that injury by himself?

If a group of people have their civil liberties violated by the police and are treated in ways that go directly against the United States Constitution, should they just forget about it?

Lawsuits aren’t filed for fun. They are filed because sometimes people get hurt due to actions that were careless and unnecessary. Sometimes bad things happen to people that are the fault of someone else. And when someone is injured, a simple apology won’t be enough. An apology from the sanitation worker who hit the bicyclist with the garbage can is all well and good, but it won’t pay the medical bills that the bicyclist faced. An apology from the orderlies and nurses who ignored the advice of the doctor doesn’t help pay for the mentally ill person who is now blind. So the question is this: Are all of these lawsuits happening because there are too many lawyers in D.C.?

Greenberg and Bederman is apersonal injury law firm located in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland, one mile from the Washington DC line. We offer legal assistance to people who have been injured due to car, truck and motorcycleaccidents, pedestrian and bicycle accidents, premises liability cases, cases of medical malpractice, and people who have been injured due to the use of defective pharmaceutical drugs. We can help anyone who has been injured in Maryland, Virginia or Washington, D.C. If you or a loved one has been injured due to no fault of your own,  contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free injury case legal consultation.

Children in Accidents On The Way To School

Children and teenagers all over the country have been back in school for about a month and a half now. It’s been about a month and a half of rising early, doing homework, getting school projects together, and re-connecting with friends and classmates.

It’s also been a month and a half of incidents like this:

CEDAR PARK, Texas (KXAN) - A boy struck early Thursday morning while on his bicycle ride to school is recovering Friday and expected to be released from the hospital.

The 12-year-old was sent to the hospital with serious injuries after a pickup struck him as he rode through the intersection of a crosswalk.

Gaithersburg, MD - A Gaithersburg Police vehicle struck a teenage pedestrian at the intersection of Quince Orchard and Darnestown Roads Monday afternoon.

A press release from the Gaithersburg Police Department reported that a marked police vehicle hit a 14-year-old male as he crossed the street outside of the crosswalk.

 

CHICO, CA - An 8-year-old boy crossing across to Citrus School was hit by a car this morning.

The student, Conrad Waters of Chico, was shaken with minor knee scrapes, according to E-R photographer Ty Barbour, who spoke to his mother, Sorrell Bobrink.

NEW CASTLE, Ind. -- An 11-year-old boy was killed and a 17-year-old boy was injured when they were struck by a teacher's car near an elementary school in Henry County early Thursday morning, police said.

The incident happened at about 7:15 a.m. near Westwood Elementary School on the west side of New Castle.

Louisville, KY - A Bullitt East High student was hit by a car early this morning while trying to cross Ky. 44, which runs in front of the school.

The student was walking at about 7 a.m. when he was struck by a small sports utility vehicle, said Mount Washington Police Officer Stephen Hill.

As summer drags on, those of us who work for a living can almost be fooled into thinking that we live in a child free zone. If you are up and on the road at 8:00 AM, in an office by 9:00 AM and at work until 5:00 PM, it is probable that you don’t see a lot of kids. They are at summer camp, or at the swimming pool, or sleeping late. But once September rolls around, it’s a different matter entirely. You are going to work at exactly the same time all of these kids are going to school, which means that kids are on the sidewalks at about the same time that you are on the roads.

And judging from so many of these incidents, they aren’t exactly adhering to safe pedestrian behavior. They forget about the crosswalk and cross in the middle of the street. They text while they walk (as if there wasn’t enough of a problem with texting and driving.) They are wearing iPods that are cranked up to full volume. The teen sense of invulnerability can be staggering at times.

This is why it is incredibly important for adult drivers to behave like adult drivers and to be aware of their surroundings on their morning commutes. Since children and teenagers are often not taking precautions, adult drivers have to take up the slack. This means slowing down at school crossings, keeping your eyes on the road, not texting and driving, and maintaining a responsible rate of speed.

Bear in mind, those five examples listed above are just a few of the documented incidents of students getting hit by cars on their way to school. There has been at least one case in almost every state of the Union, and it’s only mid-October.

Your average midsize car weighs around 3000 pounds. Your average school age student weighs considerably less. The damage that even a slow moving car can do to a child is immense. Please be careful during your morning commute.

Greenberg and Bederman is an accident law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We offer legal assistance to pedestrians who have been struck and injured by negligent drivers.  At Greenberg and Bederman, we do everything we can to help injured pedestrians get their lives back on track.

If you or a loved one has been injured in Virginia, Maryland or Washington, D.C, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free accident legal consultation.

Invisible Life Altering Wounds

The Washington Post recently published a story on the steady flow of American servicemen who find themselves at Bethesda Naval Hospital upon their return from Iraq or Afghanistan. These veterans are often suffering from the more visible wounds of combat but the focus of the article is on traumatic brain injuries and, as the headline accurately puts it, the “Invisible, Life-Altering Wounds” from which these soldiers are suffering.

In Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States is not fighting a traditional war. It isn’t one mass of troops lining up to fight another. It is instead a war of ambushes and booby traps. It isn’t bullets that our soldiers have to worry about as much as it is mines, tripwires and improvised explosive devices (IED’s.)

The shrapnel from these explosions is dangerous enough, but it should also be remembered that a blast is essentially compressed air that is traveling at 1600 feet per second. If that force can take out walls and humvees, it can certainly do a fair amount of damage to a human being. We see the more obvious casualties of these blasts in the missing limbs, but the Post article is focusing on the damage that is done internally rather than externally.

 

In this article, we meet a series of soldiers who have suffered from severe traumatic brain injuries, and these men serve as an example as to how complex both the human brain and injuries to the human brain can be:

“There's the Marine whose injury robbed him of the ability to understand speech even though he could still read, another who could no longer laugh, one who could see out of both eyes but only to the left, and one soldier who became dangerously impulsive and started spending thousands of dollars on junk he didn't need.”

Granted, these are the more severe traumatic brain injuries, but the article also mentions that even mild traumatic brain injuries can be enough to disqualify a soldier for service, and some mild TBI’s also require lifelong medical care.

We are certainly familiar with this. While there is certainly a difference in the way our clients receive their traumatic brain injuries (car accidents or slips and falls,) the end results are very much the same. Our clients find themselves unable to go back to their jobs, or find that they are unable to support themselves. Their relationships have suffered and their quality of life has plummeted. They find themselves suffering from mood swings or black depressions.

In other words, they go through the same things that these wounded veterans at Bethesda Naval Hospital are going through, but with one critical difference. Wounded veterans have the benefit of the United States government doing everything that they can to help them, while our clients are usually dealing with insurance companies that are doing everything they can to not help.

Our clients with traumatic brain injuries are often accused of faking it, or of exaggerating the difficulties that these injuries are causing them. In short, they are frustrated about receiving the funds that they will need for treatment, occupational therapy, job training, or even money to live on. This is why they come to see us.  It is our job to help our clients get past the denials and delays that insurers often use to avoid paying what they should.

If you simply accept what an insurance company offers you at the time of the accident, you most likely will be taken advantage of. Remember, the prime objective of any insurance company is to make money, which means that they will do everything they can to pay out as little as possible for injury claims and medical bills. Since brain injuries often have effects that last for decades or even throughout the lifetime of the victim, insurance companies do not want to be on the hook for those costs.

At Greenberg and Bederman, we have decades worth of experience in helping brain injury victims deal with insurance companies. We also have decades worth of experience in helping arbitrators, judges and juries understand the seriousness of brain injuries and how the effects of these injuries keep our clients from living normal lives. We take real pride in helping victims of traumatic brain injuries get the compensation that they need and deserve so that they can get their lives back on track. We can help anyone in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. If you or a loved one has suffered a traumatic brain injury due to the actions or negligence of someone else, contact Greenberg & Bedermanfor a free legal consultation.

Frivolous Lawsuits

A word on frivolous lawsuits: They exist.

Nobody in their right mind could claim that they don’t. Does everybody remember Roy Pearson, the D.C. judge who sued a dry cleaner for $54 million over a pair of lost pants? Or what about Jonathan Lee Riches? This inmate in Lexington, Kentucky who has filed over 3,800 lawsuits over the past few years. He has sued New England Patriots Coach Bill Bellichik, American Idol judge Simon Cowell (and his fiancé,) Somalian pirates, Plato, Bernie Madoff, and basically everyone who happens to garner any bit of media attention, no matter how big or small. The charges against this diverse group of defendants include “hurting my feelings” and “offending me.”

As you probably know by now, Judge Pearson’s lawsuit was not successful, and all of Mr. Riches’ suits get dismissed out of hand, as well they should have. Those suits are supremely ridiculous and a waste of time. But inevitably, these two folks serve as the poster children for tort reform groups. Their absurd (and ultimately unsuccessful) lawsuits are trotted out and given much more airtime and column inches than they deserve, mainly because corporate interests want you to believe that the vast majority of lawsuits belong in the same category as Mr. Riches or Judge Pearson’s. They are most assuredly not.

The wonderful thing about living in a democracy is that our court system is designed to give a fair hearing to everyone, and unfortunately that includes the assorted cranks, attention grabbers and time wasters. The law doesn’t say that only certain types of people can petition the court for redress of grievances, or certain types of cases.  The law says that we all can. We view this as a good thing. If you could outlaw certain types of lawsuits, where would you start? Lawsuits against businesses? Corporations? Individuals? Would you just do away with lawsuits altogether? It might seem like a good idea when you listen to the stories about Mr. Riches or Judge Pearson, but it will certainly not seem like one in the event that you have to use the court system.

Another thing that should be considered is that in almost all of these stupid lawsuits, you will find that only a miniscule amount of them are represented by legitimate attorneys. In the case of Mr. Riches, for example, not only does he represent himself, but his filings are all scrawled out by hand on a tablet of paper. And Judge Pearson’s suit was so outlandish that the only possible person who could have represented him was himself. There are no “greedy trial lawyers” involved in these cases, because they aren’t cases. They are jokes.

For those of you who don’t know, trial attorneys operate on a contingency basis. This means that they agree to act as the plaintiff’s legal representation not for an hourly rate, but rather for a percentage of whatever money is collected. And that means that if the plaintiff gets nothing, his or her attorneys get a percentage of nothing, which is still nothing. With that in mind, why would any attorney who bases his livelihood on winning cases take on a case that has no chance of being successful?

Personal injury attorneys don’t throw cases against the wall just to see what sticks. Attorneys who represent the injured for a living know this is a bad business model and a waste of time. Sometimes we wonder if the ultimate goal of tort reformers in not just restrictions on some lawsuits, but restrictions on all lawsuits in general. And the best way for them to do that is to paint with the broadest brush possible, and to focus on the handful of actual frivolous cases as if they were the rule and not the exception.

Greenberg and Bederman is a personal injury firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland, and we offer legal assistance to injury victims all over Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. We help those who have been seriously injured due to car accidents, medical malpractice and dangerous pharmaceutical drugs. If you or a loved one has been injured, contact Greenberg and Bederman for a free legal consultation today.

Chris Henry Had Prior Brain Injury?

 

12/17/2009 - CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chris Henry has died, one day after falling out of the back of a pickup truck in what authorities described as a domestic dispute with his fiancée.

There wasn’t much about the death of Chris Henry that made sense. According to reports, Henry wasn’t a mere passenger in the back of that truck. Apparently he ran alongside it and jumped in the bed of the truck while it was still moving. He then fell out and landed almost squarely on his head, which caused blunt force trauma to the brain, which killed him.

Henry had a reputation in the National Football League as somewhat of a wild child, with multiple arrests involving marijuana possession, driving under the influence, assault and criminal damage. Throughout his career, Mr. Henry displayed what can kindly be described as a serious lack of impulse control. He displayed a bad temper and poor judgment on multiple occasions.

So when he died in that accident, many people just wrote it off as the behavioral norm. He had been a little crazy his entire life, so why should his death have been any different? But a recent article in the Los Angeles Timesoffers what may be a reason for not only his actions at the time of his death, but also his actions during his very turbulent life:

 

Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chris Henry suffered from a chronic brain injury that may have influenced his mental state and behavior before he died last winter, West Virginia University researchers said Monday.

The doctors had done a microscopic tissue analysis of Henry's brain that showed he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is caused by repeated hits to the head. It is a disease that essentially causes the brain to deteriorate, and as it progresses there are multiple symptoms that can affect the victim. Among these are dementia, irrational and violent behavior, memory loss and a lack of impulse control. As a receiver in the National Football League, Chris Henry would have spent the majority of the years of his life playing football. There was probably no shortage of incidents where he received major blows to the head. So all of a sudden, it becomes clear that Mr. Henry wasn’t necessarily “wild” and “immature,” but was instead sick, and his accident becomes that much more of a tragedy. It also raises a very troubling question. Why didn’t it occur to anyone in the NFL, or the Cincinnati Bengals or in Mr. Henry’s immediate circle that his behavior wasn’t natural? Why didn’t anyone recommend that he see a neurologist, or at the very least a therapist?

The story of Chris Henry underscores two things: First, it emphasizes how brain injuries can drastically alter the behavior of the victim. Secondly, it emphasizes how brain injury victims can go for years without being properly diagnosed.

The human brain is the most complex organ in the body. Modern medicine and modern science is still trying to figure out all the ways in which it works, or how one part of the brain connects to another, or how they all balance out and work together. When a part of the brain is damaged even slightly, the repercussions for the victim in terms of movement, the senses or emotional stability can be enormous.

For instance, what happens if you are an elementary school teacher who all of a sudden loses her ability to control her temper? What happens if you are an air traffic controller who all of a sudden loses his ability to remember the order of things? How are you supposed to continue on in your career? How are you supposed to earn a living? How are you supposed to live a normal life?

For that matter, how are you supposed to even know if you have a brain injury? It obviously never occurred to Mr. Henry that he had one, even as he was getting arrested, flying into rages, or, tragically, jumping on to the back of a moving truck.

If you have been in any kind of accident where you received a blow to the head, no matter how minor it might have seemed, it is crucial that you tell your doctor. Something as simple as an x-ray could be the difference between a proper diagnosis and having your entire life fall into ruin because of an undiagnosed brain injury.

Greenberg and Bederman is an injury law firm based in Washington, D.C. Many of our clients are people who have suffered brain injuries in car accidents or due to falls. We understand the difficulties that traumatic brain injuries can cause people, and we also understand the difficulties in getting insurance companies to recognize those difficulties. Insurance companies have an unfortunate tendency to automatically assume that people who suffer from behavioral or other mental difficulties after an accident are just a number, the lowest number, they can try to pay out an injury claim on. We take pride in our ability to help our clients fight through the obstructionism of insurance companies and get the compensation that they deserve. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident and is suffering from the effects of a brain injury,  contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free brain injury legal consultation.

Virignia Drunk Driving Accident Sentenced - Barely

 

This story comes from WAVY down in Virginia Beach:

A 24-year-old woman who seriously injured two people in a drunk driving head-on collision in March 2009 was sentenced Wednesday to serve four years and six months in prison.

Lisa Marie Schettler, a Virginia Beach native, had a blood alcohol level of .44 that night in March. With that much alcohol in your system, you shouldn’t even be allowed to leave the house, much less get behind the wheel of a car. Yet that’s exactly what Ms. Schettler did. Her car drifted across the double yellow line on Bird Neck Road and slammed directly into the front of another car, which was occupied by Donald and Elaine Gay. According to the news report, all three of them were seriously injured.

Ms. Schettler is lucky that there were only injuries involved, and it’s hard to imagine that the Gay’s feel lucky at all, although they should count themselves lucky to be alive. What you had here was just about the purest form of vehicular negligence that exists. It’s dangerous enough to drink even a minor amount of alcohol and then get behind the wheel of a car; Ms. Schettler drank enough to the point where she shouldn’t have been able to see straight.

The news report doesn’t say anything about Ms. Schettler’s weight, but with a BAC of .44, we could make a fair guess that she had at least nine drinks, which is more than enough to impair someone’s ability to drive a car.

So as a result of this act of irresponsibility, two completely innocent people were badly injured. They went through painful and expensive medical treatment, they were unable to go to work and earn a living for themselves, and they had to go through a prolonged and painful recuperation process. And all they did to deserve this ordeal was to simply get in their car.

If you take the numbers available for drunk driving related accidents in Virginia as a whole, you actually get somewhat of an encouraging scenario. The earliest numbers available at the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles are from 1984, when the Old Dominion had a staggering 19,371 alcohol related vehicle accidents. This was 15.7% of all vehicle crashes. In other words, if you got into a car wreck in Virginia in 1984, there was just under a 16% chance that the other driver had been drinking.

Things have improved drastically over the following 26 years. In 2009, the total number of alcohol related crashes was 9,366, which is almost exactly 10,000 less alcohol related crashes in Virginia. We can take that to mean that raising awareness of the dangers of drunken driving and increasing the penalties for drunken driving have made a difference in Virginia. But sadly, the awareness in Virginia didn’t make enough a difference to stop Lisa Marie Schettler from getting behind the wheel of a car after nine drinks and a blood alcohol content of .44.

The definition of negligence is when one person or party does not live up to the reasonable expectations of keeping someone else from getting hurt. For instance, if you are in possession of a loaded gun, you would not fire it in public for no apparent reason. Similarly, if you have been drinking a large volume of alcohol, you would not get behind the wheel of a car. You can’t make the argument that you didn’t know that drinking and driving was illegal. You can’t make the argument that you didn’t plan on hurting anybody. A person who drinks and drives is a perfect example of someone engaging in negligent behavior.

As injury attorneys based in the Washington, D.C. area, Virginia is right in our back yard. In our twenty five years as an injury law firm, we have represented countless Virginians who were injured due to the negligence of another driver. So even though Virginia Beach is a few hours away from our offices in Silver Spring, the story of Ms. Schettler and Mr. and Mrs. Gay caught our attention.

We have dedicated a significant portion of our practice to helping car accident victims in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. get fair compensation when they get injured due to no fault of their own, and that includes people who have been injured due to drunk drivers. We help our clients get past the artificially low settlement offers and delaying tactics that insurance companies use to avoid paying injury victims what they deserve. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident in Virginia, Maryland or Washington, D.C. and you feel that you need legal counsel, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free accident injury consultation.

To learn more about auto accidents and auto injury, please read our auto accident page, or our injury page, or watch our accident videos on Youtube.

DC Metro Wants Wrongful Death Lawsuit Dismissed

 

It’s been exactly one year and one day since the Red Line Metro accident that killed nine people and injured seventy.  Due to faulty signaling systems and a host of other systematic safety failures, one red line train slammed into the back of another.

Like many Washingtonians, this accident hit particularly close to home for us. The offices of Greenberg and Bederman are right next to the Silver Spring Metro station on the red line, which many of us here ride into work every day.  It could have very easily been one of the people in our office who got injured or killed.

This accident was more than a personal tragedy for the families of the victims.  In fact, it could hardly be categorized an “accident.” The safety systems of the entire Metro subway system in the D.C. area were so neglected and out of date that any “accident” should have been called“inevitability.”

The National Transportation Safety Board initiated a study on how WMATA operates, and in their final report they determined that there were over 100 serious problems in our Metro system that have yet to be addressed, even as we are reaching the one year anniversary of the deadliest crash in the history of WMATA.

What makes matters even worse is that WMATA has decided to avoid culpability in this case by filing a motion to dismiss awrongful death andnegligence lawsuit filed by most of the victims’ families.  It’s as if they are pretending that these deaths and injuries were just some random, freak occurrence rather than the result of a system wide failure of technology and personnel.

According to Metro Spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein, this motion to dismiss the case was “partial” and “routine:”

“Even if granted, this would not deprive anyone of their day in court or their right to a jury trial. Neither of our motions separately or together seeks dismissal of the suit against Metro in its entirety."

Why bother to file a motion to dismiss at all? What about this lawsuit does WMATA find unfair or excessive? There are nine people who are no longer living because WMATA had not bothered to do proper maintenance on their outdated sensor system. There are sons and daughters, mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters who have lost someone due to utter negligence. Which “part” of that does WMATA not understand?

Judging by the progress that they have made in terms of making safety improvements, we suspect that there is a great deal that they don’t understand. They seem to be looking at this disaster not in terms of human life and human suffering, but rather in dollars and cents. It appears to be too expensive to make necessary safety improvements. It appears to be too expensive to compensate the families of the victims fairly. So put off the improvements and repairs. File those motions to dismiss. Just roll the dice and see if you can avoid responsibility altogether.

Call us crazy, but we’re pretty sure that’s not the attitude that a public transportation agency is supposed to take. We’re also pretty sure that anything that involves getting members of the public from one place to another should be as safe as humanly possible. Safety inspections and improvements should not be put off or deliberated. They should be done early and often. The consequences for not doing so became tragically evident exactly one year ago today.

Greenberg and Bederman is an injury law firm based in Washington, D.C. We are currently representing injury victims from the Red Line Metro crash, and are also offering legal help to anyone who has been injured while riding any form of public transportation in the D.C. area. If you or a loved one has been injured on a bus, streetcar or subway in Maryland, Virginia or D.C, contact Greenberg and Bederman for a free legal consultation today.

The Quiet Water Pollution Story

In the midst of all of the coverage of the BP oil spill, and in the wake of all of the coverage of Hurricane Katrina, it’s very probable that many of you have never heard of a town called Mossville, Louisiana.

This isn’t surprising. Hurricane Katrina was an unmitigated disaster which caused widespread flooding of New Orleans, as well as billions of dollars worth of property damage that the citizens of the Gulf Coast are still recovering from. The BP oil spill is an equally crippling disaster which has the potential to ruin the lives and livelihoods of thousands of fisherman and people who make their livings off of tourist dollars, which is a dubious proposition if the beaches are coated in dead marine life and hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil.

But while Mossville, Louisiana doesn’t have the same level of camera-ready and newsworthy coverage levels of the BP leak and Hurricane Katrina, it certainly deserves mention as one of the hardest hit areas in Louisiana. This is a town where oil spills and hurricanes are quite honestly the least of the residents’ problems. In Mossville, simply getting up in the morning is dangerous. Drinking water out of the tap is a risky proposition. Planting tomatoes or flowers in the garden could conceivably lead to hospitalization and eventual death. The everyday mundane processes that any other American goes through on a daily basis takes on a different and dangerous aspect for the citizens of Mossville, because Mossville, Louisiana is known as a “toxic town.”

This area in Southwestern Louisiana has the misfortune to be virtually surrounded by a string of 20 industrial facilities, with many of them routinely emitting extremely dangerous pollution into the air, water and soil. These pollutions are known as dioxins, and they have been known to cause cancer, damage to the reproductive system, and can be harmful to fetal development. There is absolutely no minimum level of dioxin that is safe for human beings to come into contact with.

This area is home to the following industrial plants and facilities, which have released the following amounts of pollutants into the air, water and soil:

 LOUISIANA PIGMENT CO. 3,122,196 lbs.

CITGO PETROLEUM CORP. 2,242,249 lbs.

FIRESTONE SYNTHETIC RUBBER 2,144,458 lbs.

PPG INDUSTRIES, INC. 546,705 lbs.

CONDEA-VISTA CO. (now GEORGIA GULF) 449,449 lbs.

ARCO CHEMICAL CORP. 228,885 lbs.

CONOCO LAKE CHARLES REFINERY 199,996 lbs.

WESTLAKE POLYMERS CORP. 182,981 lbs.

OCCIDENTAL CHEMICAL CORP. 153,788 lbs.

W.R. GRACE AND CO. 137,400 lbs.

OLIN CORP. 55,828 lbs.

CALCASIEU REFINING CO. 44,341 lbs.

MONTELL USA INC. 32,686 lbs.

CARBOLINE CO. 22,538 lbs.

BIOLAB INC. 17,494 lbs.

WESTLAKE PETROCHEMICALS CORP. 16,932 lbs.

WESTLAKE STYRENE CORP. 12,168 lbs.

RESIN SYS. INC. 9,070 lbs.

INDUSTRIAL PIPE AND PLASTICS 7,000 lbs.

CERTAINTEED CORP. 4,500 lbs.

There is practically no way that being surrounded by so much pollution from industrial and chemical facilities could not have an adverse effect on nearby residents. Health surveys in Mossville have shown epidemic levels of sickness, from respiratory problems to extremely elevated cancer rates to a very high level of young and untimely deaths. It would take a legendary amount of obtuseness to not be able to link the numbers of illnesses and deaths in Mossville to the surrounding chemical plants polluting the air, water and ground water, yet it has taken decades for the Environmental Protection Agency to finally declare this area as hazardous to the health of the residents.

It certainly wasn’t for lack of trying on the part of the residents of Mossville. They have been trying for a few decades to get someone in the government to realize that they are literally being polluted to death by the surrounding chemical plants. And while it is certainly a positive development that the EPA is taking action and is in the process of designating the area for a Superfund cleanup, we can’t help but think that this is too little, too late for the residents of this town who have already become sick or who have already died. In scrutinizing all of the reports, we can’t help but wonder a few things.

What level of responsibility is Citgo, Firestone, Arco et al. prepared to accept? Pollution doesn’t just pop out of nowhere, after all. Are the responsible parties making every effort to lower pollution levels? Are they at least admitting culpability and making every effort to make things right for the citizens of Mossville? Are they paying the medical bills of those who became ill? Are they offering restitution to the families of those who died of their illnesses?

Most likely the polluters will deny responsibility. All of these polluters are in a unique position in that they can point the finger of blame at all the other polluters. It’s the equivalent of finding a burning house that is surrounded by fifteen guys who all have lighters in their pockets and empty gasoline cans at their feet. They all may look like they started the fire, but it might take some extra work to actually prove which one (or ones) actually did it. This task is made all that much tougher when each arsonist is simply pointing at the guy on his right.

Greenberg and Bederman is a Washington, D.C. basedinjury law firm that is currently assisting those who have developed illnesses due to groundwater pollution. Americans have the right to live in areas that are free from the harmful effects of dioxins and other groundwater contaminants, and anyone who becomes ill as the result of irresponsible industrial practices should be fully compensated for medical bills, pain and suffering, and the loss of value of their homes and property. If you or a loved one has adversely affected by contaminated groundwater in Maryland, Washington, D.C. or Virginia, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free water contamination legal consultation.

BP Oil Spill Crushing Local Businesses

We’ve all seen the BP oil spill footage by now. We’ve seen the boats frantically trying to douse the flames that erupted on the Deepwater Horizon as it burst into flames, killing eleven oil workers. We saw a parade of British Petroleum executives claim that they had everything under control, when in fact they most certainly did not. We’ve seen so-called “top hats” and “junk shots” fail to stop the thousands of gallons of oil that is gushing uncontrollably into the Gulf Coast. We’ve seen the government take private enterprise at its word, if only to placate those in the same government who would howl bloody murder about communist takeovers of private enterprise, and then have those same people howl bloody murder about the government not doing enough. We have seen the results of the entirely too cozy relationship between the oil companies and the Minerals and Management Service. We have seen lax or non-existent oil rig inspections, “meetings” that were simply parties, and an institutional policy of “Do Whatever You Want” put into place. The “emergency measures” that BP had in place were simply cardboard cutouts that were outdated and unsuited to the monumental task. This catastrophic oil leak is the result of years of letting the oil companies do what they want, when they want and how they want, with barely any thought to the consequences.

 In all probability, an entire way of life down in the Gulf Coast is gone. People who run fishing and shrimp boats and the crews who man them will be out of work. People who offer tours into our now ruined marshlands will have to find another line of business. Restaurants all over the country that specialize in that wonderful regional seafood will have to either drastically alter their menus or go out of business. So will the wholesalers who deliver the seafood to them. Those who specialize in the tourist trade will be taking a beating, too. We can’t imagine that anyone would want to take their families to beaches that are covered in crude oil. So you can say goodbye to beachfront resorts in Alabama and Texas, as well as the smaller hotels and motels. Plus the rental home market is probably going to be nonexistent for the next few years.

The Federal Government recently secured a promise of $20 billion dollars from British Petroleum in order to help expedite the claims process for workers, business owners and property owners who will be adversely affected by the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. But if the spill continues (and there is no indication that it will stop any time soon,) $20 billion could be a mere fraction of what the overall damages could be. And we have a sneaking suspicion that getting fair value for your damaged property or ruined business will require a lot of paperwork and legal acumen. It is because of this that Greenberg and Bederman is currently offering legal assistance to people who live in the Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Virginia areas who have legitimate claims of damages down in the Gulf Coast.

Greenberg and Bederman is an injury law firm based in Silver Spring, Maryland. We have helped injury victims and people who have suffered real financial damages due to the negligence or incompetence of others. Over the next few months, we will be reaching out to victims all over the country to see if we can help them receive the sort of compensation that they both deserve and are entitled to. The explosion of the Deepwater Horizon and the subsequent oil blowout certainly qualifies as negligence and incompetence on the grandest scale imaginable.

If you or a loved one has suffered a serious financial loss due to the Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent oil leak, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free consultation.

Personal Injury Law

 

The premise behind personal injury law is a fairly simple one. If a person is badly injured due to no fault of his or her own, then that person should be compensated for any costs or losses. That includes initial medical costs, the costs of any rehabilitative therapy, the costs of any lost or damaged property, lost wages from an inability to work, and compensation for any pain and suffering that the victim went through.

This is not unreasonable. Would you like to live in the sort of country where someone who is badly injured due to no fault of their own is greeted with indifference? Could you imagine getting severely injured in a car accident that wasn’t your fault at all and having the whole thing ruin you financially? Imagine losing your job because you are too injured to work. Imagine losing your house because you are unable to make the mortgage payments. Imagine having your whole life drastically and irrevocably altered because somebody else wasn’t paying attention behind the wheel, and then imagine being told “Tough luck.”

Injury law exists in America because Americans are mindful of the fact that truly dreadful things can and do happen to innocent people. Someone could get hit by a drunk or distracted driver. A doctor can make a preventable mistake. A pharmaceutical company could market a drug with deadly side effects. Since all of these scenarios fall under the category of “preventable errors,” you can’t write them off as “acts of God,” or “just something that happened.”

 

 

As personal injury attorneys who serve the injured in the Washington, D.C. area, we can tell you from experience that accidents rarely “just happen.” In fact, we have found that most accidents are caused. And when people get severely hurt as the result of these caused accidents, the last thing anyone should be able to do is write them off as “just one of those things.”

Yet this is exactly the scenario that injury victims often face when they attempt to seek fair compensation for their injuries. They often have to deal with insurance companies who have no interest in treating injury victims fairly, but are instead concerned with paying out as little as possible. Car insurance companies often offer injury victims settlements that are far less than what would be needed to cover the medical costs and any lingering effects, and most of the time they don’t offer anything for pain and suffering. Medical malpractice insurance companies are notorious for not wanting to settle, but rather take the issue to court. And, quite often when they do settle, it is a paltry settlement offer.  Pharmaceutical companies have no qualms about not offering any compensation for injuries at all unless they are forced to by a court.

An injury victim who tries to deal directly with the insurance company is risking not having their individual situation monitored and protected by an injury lawyer. The insurance company has lawyers to protect their interests, so should an injury victim. Facing an insurance company on your own means you have to know all the legal angles, understand a myriad of laws that if you don’t understand could harm your injury case, leaving you potentially being treated un-fairly. Despite all of the advertising about being a good neighbor, the truth of the matter is that insurance companies are not in the business of sending out checks for the maximum value. They make money holding down costs and adding new members.

The law firm of Greenberg and Bederman has been protecting the rights of injury victims in the Washington, D.C. area since 1985, and all of our injury attorneys are dedicated to helping our clients get fair and realistic compensation for their injuries. We make it a point to address all of our clients injury needs when we deal with the insurance companies.

Our attorneys are currently offering legal counsel for the following areas:

Car Accidents:Our attorneys have decades of combined legal experience in helping victims of all types of car accidents, including accidents caused by drunk drivers, accidents due to reckless driving, rollover accidents, pedestrians who have been hit by cars, collisions, and accidents due to automotive malfunctions, and passengers in a car accident. 

Medical Malpractice:John Sellinger is known and respected throughout the country as a medical malpractice attorney who puts his clients’ interests first. In his thirty five years of legal experience, this former President of the Maryland Trial Lawyers Association has helped hundreds of victims of medical malpractice, including victims of wrong diagnosis, surgical errors, wrongful death, delay of treatment and birth trauma.

Pharmaceutical Liability: For all the good things that modern pharmaceuticals have done for humanity, it cannot be denied that there is a dark side to the pharmaceutical industry. There have been several instances over the past few years where heavily marketed and prescribed pills have resulted in serious injuries among patients who used them in good faith. The most recent example is Yaz, which is a line of birth control pills that has caused strokes, heart attacks and gall bladder disease among women who use it. Our attorneys are currently representing women who were injured and hospitalized due to the use of these birth control pills.

Social Security Disability Denial: It is not uncommon to be denied for Social Security Disability Benefits.  If you are disabled by either disease or injury, and your disability is expected to last at least a year, you may be entitled to Social Security Disability Disability or SSI. To learn more about Social Security Disability law, please read our Social Security Disability FAQ page.

Greenberg and Bederman is a personal injury law firm located one half block from the downtown metro in Silver Spring, Maryland, one mile from the Washington, DC line. We are perfectly situated to help injury victims all over the Washington/Baltimore metropolitan area. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free consultation.

Toyota Engineers On The Job?

 

Believe it or not, there used to be a time when Toyota had a reputation for manufacturing safe and reliable cars. That certainly seems like a long time ago, what with all of the crashes and deaths and injuries. But there was a time when people used to get into Toyota model cars without having to worry about dangerous floor mats, bad brakes, stuck accelerators and faulty steering.

To be sure, the crash ratings for these cars were mostly average. But in fairness, they were no better or no worse than many of the other cars that were out on the market. Toyotas in the 90s and in most of the first decade of the twentieth century were no better or worse than Hondas, Chevys, Chryslers or Nissans in terms of safety.

So while they weren’t exactly up to the high safety standards of say, Saab or Volvo, they were at least well within established safety requirements.

 

 

We aren’t sure what went wrong with Toyota. Every car manufacturer has safety recalls, some major and some minor, but we have never seen so many things go so drastically wrong on so many models from the same company at the same time. It wasn’t just that one model had problems with floor mats jamming the accelerator pedal in one model. Or it wasn’t that just one model had a few accelerator pedals stick in the down position. This was a systematic failure of multiple cars. It was as if the entire Toyota Corporation all took a vacation at the same time and missed some very important meetings.

It was a failure of the engineering developers to not notice that the accelerator pedal was sticking. It was a failure of the design team to not notice that the floor mats were causing the pedals in other models to stick. It was another failure of the engineering team to not notice that there was an inconsistency in braking and steering when the Prius shifted between the electric and gas motor.

It was a failure of the company to “negotiate” a lesser recall with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which might have saved Toyota millions in costs, but cost hundreds of people pain, money, time, and in some cases, their lives.

It was only a matter of time before all of these failures caught up with Toyota. There were too many bizarre and high profile accidents involving Toyota for the government to ignore. One recall came after another, and the Capitol Hill testimony of both crash victims and the President of Toyota itself did practically irreparable damage to the Toyota brand.

So you would think that after all of this, the Toyota Corporation has learned its lesson, right?

Apr 15, 2010: Toyota now says it will investigate its entire SUV lineup for safety problems uncovered by Consumer Reports earlier this week. 

The automaker announced Tuesday it would stop selling the 2010 Lexus GX 460 temporarily as it looks into handling problems that could make it unsafe.

Consumer Reports said the Lexus GX 460 slides around too much when drivers lift their foot off the gas pedal while negotiating around a tight curve. The vehicle can actually slide sideways, Consumer Reports says, which could result in the SUV hitting a curb or leaving the road.

Right on the heels of the worst year in Toyota’s history, yet another completely unsafe vehicle is put out on the market. It is a bad sign when the staff at Consumer Reports catches a potential major safety hazard before the engineering department at a major automobile manufacturer does. It appears that whatever overhauls that were promised by Toyota during the recalls and hearings on Capitol Hill have yet to take place.

Greenberg and Bederman is a Washington, D.C. area injury law firm that helps those who have been hurt due to no fault, or negligence,  of their own. The recent Toyota malfunctions have injured thousands of people all over the country, including people in Washington, Virginia and Maryland. If you or a loved one has been injured due to a Toyota that did not work as it should have, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free toyota injury legal consultation today.

To learn more about personal injury law, please read our personal injury lawyer page, or watch our personal injury lawyer videos.

 

Police Officers in PG County Lost Their Discipline

Being a police officer is a dangerous and difficult job. It involves long hours and often involves performing thankless but necessary tasks. To be sure, law enforcement officers often receive our  thanks, but almost never while in the process of performing their duties. This is because their duties involve apprehending people who break the law, and those who do so are not likely to be thrilled about being caught.  As an example, when was the last time you thanked a police officer for writing you a ticket? Have you ever heard of a burglar or car thief who thanked the officer who caught him for his hard work?

It is sobering to think about what your average police force has to deal with on a daily basis. They get verbally abused, they often have to break up fights, and they have to stop crimes in progress, both minor and major, often while putting themselves in harm’s way in order to do so. And, most importantly, they have to do all these things within the defined parameters of the law. The police are not free to apprehend criminals in any way they see fit. For instance, if they think someone is receiving stolen property, the police can’t just kick open that person’s front door and arrest him. They have to have cause to request a warrant for the search, and they have to have a judge agree to their reasons.

 

Police are also under strict procedural standards. A “Dirty Harry” shoots first and asks questions later type of police officer would not be on the force for very long, and would probably end up in prison. The use of physical force by the police is tightly regulated. They aren’t supposed to beat people up for no reason, they aren’t supposed to use a taser or pepper spray on people who are not resisting arrest, and they most certainly aren’t supposed to use their clubs to pummel someone who is simply standing on the sidewalk.

It should be mentioned that for every instance of police brutality that occurs, there are tens of thousands of instances where police maintain their composure and do their jobs with professionalism, patience and restraint. What happened recently in College Park, Maryland is certainly NOT an example of this high professional standard.

For those of us who live in the Washington, D.C. region, we are familiar with how rowdy things can get after a Maryland Terrapins basketball game. The students in the area seem to create quite a ruckus whenever the Terps win (or sometimes when they lose) an important game. In 2002, College Park erupted in a riot after Maryland won the NCAA Basketball Tournament. And it does seem that burning mattresses in the streets seems to be the preferred method of celebration of victory or protest of defeat. It is a pointless way to celebrate, but the Prince Georges County Police certainly can’t say that they were unaware that such a thing was possible.

The celebrations after a victory against Duke got out of hand, and the police were called in, and there were some arrests, but the video footage of this beating (and really, there is no other word for what occurred) shows that the police reacted in exactly the wrong way. Without any apparent physical provocation, two officers slammed a student against a wall, threw him to the ground, and clubbed him repeatedly over the head until he was unconscious.

Was the student drunk? He might have been, but that alone is no reason to have beaten him senseless. Was he threatening? That seems doubtful. Literally seconds before the beating he was dancing a goofy celebratory jig with a friend. It didn’t even look like he knew the police were there. In fact, it seems like he danced down the street, looked up and found himself feet away from a mounted police officer. It certainly didn’t look like he made any threatening gestures.

Did he perhaps say something threatening? It is impossible to tell. But even if he had, surely four Prince Georges County police officers could have arrested one student without delivering such a brutal beating. You can’t hear anything that was said over the noise of the crowd, but what is significant is that on the audio of the tape (which was shot from some distance away,) you can hear the sound of a nightstick repeatedly smacking this student’s head and body.

This was a complete breakdown of officer discipline. And to make matters worse, it appears that the officers responsible for the beating trumped up charges and claimed that the student “..struck mounted officers and their horses, causing minor injuries.” They further claimed that the reason that the student was injured was because he had been kicked by the horse. The video proves all of these statements by the arresting officers to be completely false.

This is the sort of behavior that you would expect from the police force in a country living under a dictatorship. A brutal and unnecessary beating followed by trumped up charges is not something that is supposed to happen in America, and it certainly isn’t supposed to happen in a suburb of Washington, D.C.

The student has obtained the services of an attorney, which is his right, and he is currently seeking financial damages against the Prince Georges County Police Department, which is something that he is completely justified in doing. He received an unnecessary and brutal beating, for which there was no warning or proper explanation given by the police. This is one of the most obvious cases of police brutality that we have ever seen.

Greenberg and Bederman is an injury law firm that helps people in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. who have been injured due to no fault ornegligence of their own. This includes those who have been unnecessarily injured while being arrested or while in custody of law enforcement. Being arrested by the police does not mean that you surrender your rights as an American citizen. There is no excuse for unwarranted force by law enforcement. If you or a loved one has sustained injuries from the police, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free consultation.

 

Is NHTSA Doing Enough To Help Toyota Accident Victims?

To say that Toyota has “let down” its customers understates the impact of their actions. If your pizza is delivered in over thirty minutes, you can say that the pizza place “let you down.” If a suit that you bought falls apart after only wearing it three times, then you can say that your tailor “let you down.” But if the accelerator of your Prius sticks and you end up barreling through a stop light, hit another car and are seriously injured or worse, saying “Toyota let me down” doesn’t really cover it.

From what has been uncovered so far, it appears that the Toyota Corporation has marketed and sold cars with multiple defects in acceleration, steering and braking systems, and it appears that they were aware or should have been aware of these defects and did nothing about it, causing multiple injuries and death. 

So what would be the appropriate response from the government and Toyota itself? First and foremost would be a propersafety recall, and not one that is merely financially convenient to the Toyota Corporation, but rather one that actually fixes the problems that make these cars dangerous. Toyota has done that, issuing recalls on practically every model that they have on the market.

Second would be full disclosure. Toyota should be more forthcoming with their crash data and reports than they currently are. Allowing this data to be independently analyzed would go a long way in not just determining the problems, but would also help Toyota avoid making these mistakes in the future. It is sometimes much harder to see your own errors, especially when there is a financial incentive to not see them.

Toyota should be responsible financially for the injuries and damages that they’ve caused. If someone has been killed or injured in a Toyota, someone has to pay the medical bills. For a large corporation like Toyota, the only way for them to actually feel the weight of what they have done is to make them responsible for the injuries and damages they’ve caused.   If a spouse who is counting on income suddenly is left alone due to an acceleration defect car accident, how will that spouse be able to survive financially? Is it fair to the surviving spouse to have to figure it out alone? Toyota should be held accountable for that loss of income. Doing so would not only give Toyota every reason to clean up its act, but it would also serve as an example to other automakers who are  manufacturing cars that are shown to be unsafe.

With that principle in mind, we feel that the fine of $16 million that the NHTSA recently levied against Toyota to be a good start in the right direction but falls quite short for the injured and killed, especially considering that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood issued a statement saying that the release of these defective automobiles was no accident:

“We now have proof that Toyota failed to live up to its legal obligations,” said LaHood on Monday. “Worse yet, they knowingly hid a dangerous defect for months from U.S. officials and did not take action to protect millions of drivers and their families.”

Even after the costs of issuing the recalls, Toyota still remains a wealthy corporation.  $16 million is not even a dent in their coffers. This is hardly the incentive needed to get them to improve its faulty vehicles, and compensate the injured or killed.

It appears that the only way to make this automotive giant accountable for its actions is for the victims to take their cases to the courts. If the NHTSA will not stand up and demand substantive penalties from Toyota, those who have been injured or have lost family members due to this act of negligence will have to do so themselves.

Greenberg and Bederman is a Washington, D.C. area personal injury law firm that is currently offering legal assistance to those who have been injured due to malfunctioning Toyotas. This includes drivers of faulty Toyotas, passengers who were riding in faulty Toyotas, drivers in other cars who were hit by faulty Toyotas, and cyclists, motorcyclists or pedestrians who were injured due to malfunctioning Toyotas. Our personal injury attorneys have decades of experience in both auto accidents and product liability, and accidents involving these malfunctioning Toyotas fall under both of those legal categories.

If you or a loved one has been injured due to an accident with a Toyota, contact Greenberg and Bederman for a free Toyota Accident legal consultation today.

NASA May Help Solve Toyota Accelerator Defect

If you need brainpower in the United States of America, you can’t do much better than the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Since it’s beginning in 1958, NASA has been responsible for any and all space exploration undertaken by the United States. That includes the first manned multiple orbit of the earth, the first manned flight around the moon, the first landing on the moon, the first satellite to leave our solar system, the first re-usable manned spacecraft, and any manner of advancements in satellite technology.

Anything involving spaceflight takes a mastery of multiple scientific disciplines. There has to be a mastery of chemistry (rocket fuel and lubricants, to name only a few applications,) physics (launching the spacecraft and keeping on a correct trajectory,) biology and environmental sciences (keeping the astronauts alive during the mission,) To give you an idea as to how impressive the minds are over at NASA, consider what had to be done for each of the Apollo lunar missions.

 

The vehicle that the astronauts were travelling in had to essentially break in half, and then one of the two sections had to do a 180 degree turn, and then gently thrust back towards the other section, where they re-attached. Bear in mind that this had to be done while they were travelling through the vacuum of space at thousands of miles an hour. Another stunning feat was the reattachment of the lunar module, which essentially launched itself from the surface of the moon (with two astronauts inside) and attached itself to the orbit module which was zooming along at thousands of feet above the surface. If you want a real life equivalent of how difficult that is, try hitting a bird flying overhead with a rock. If you also consider that these amazing things were done in the late sixties, which was practically the Stone Age in terms of computer technology, that gives you an idea as to how smart the NASA people are.

Any endeavor into outer space has to involve all manner of computers. All of the systems on any spacecraft are run by them, including steering, thrust, life support and navigation. Without the advent of computers, it would be impossible for us to imagine getting into space at all. If you consider that your average space craft is run by electronic systems that are often controlled from thousands (sometimes hundreds of thousands) of miles away, you would have to assume that NASA knows what it is doing when it comes to computers.

This is why we consider it a good thing that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has brought in scientists from NASA to investigate the recent alleged unintended acceleration incidents that have occurred in so many Toyota vehicles. The NASA scientists are specialists in computer controlled electronic systems, electromagnetic interference, software integrity and hardware. In other words, they are the folks who you can expect to get to the bottom of what has been going wrong.

It might seem a little drastic, bringing in space shuttle mechanics to examine the inner workings of a Toyota Tercel, but one of the reasons that they have to be drastic is that Toyota itself isn’t talking. They are fiercely protective of their design and data, and are equally tight lipped when it comes to allowing crash data to be studied. Part of this might be because they are genuinely concerned about somebody making off with proprietary software or design, but we suspect it also has something to do with Toyota not wanting to directly provide any evidence of culpability on their parts. In other words, they want to make it as difficult as possible for any victims of random accelerations, brake failures or steering problems to be fairly compensated for their injuries and damaged property.

Toyota has shown a willingness to put profits over driver safety before. In what was probably one of the darkest moments in government consumer protection history, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration allowed Toyota to “negotiate” a 2007 recall that was limited to defective floor mats rather than move forward with a more extensive recall that could have possibly saved quite a few lives. Internal documents from Toyota referred to this as a “win.”  

 

We aren’t sure what the outcome will be of this NASA investigation, but what we are sure of is that too many people have been injured or even killed due to defective Toyotas for this to be considered a random, freak occurrence. Based on the evidence that has been gathered and the incidents that have been reported, we believe that Toyota not only put out a defective product, but also were aware of these defects and the dangers that they posed to the general public.

Greenberg and Bederman is a Washington, D.C. based injury law firm that is currently offering legal assistance to those who have been hurt due to Toyota malfunctions. We can help anyone in Maryland, Virginia, or Washington, D.C.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a Toyota accident, contact Greenberg and Bederman for a free legal consultation today.

Avandia Does Study on Avandia

 

Studies Refuting Avandia Heart Attack Evidence Authored By Drug Company Scientists

When the FDA released a warning about the type 2 diabetes drug Avandia in April of 2009, the premise of the warning was quite clear:

“Safety data from controlled clinical trials have shown that there is a potentially significant increase in the risk of heart attack and heart-related deaths in patients taking Avandia.”

Although the FDA did not take any steps toward removing Avandia from the shelves of the nation’s pharmacies, the fact that it was willing to admit that there was something significant about the numbers of heart attack victims among Avandia users was an important step. Equally significant (although maddeningly time consuming) is the fact that they have sent the matter to an independent advisory board for further review. The FDA is planning on holding a public hearing on Avandia heart attack claims in July.

 

Avandia works by making the cells more sensitive and responsive to insulin, which reduces the body’s need for the stringent blood sugar monitoring that diabetic patients require. If it works like it is supposed to, it allows diabetes patients to live their lives without going through the constant testing and monitoring that takes up so much of their time. But you have to think that if people had to choose between less blood testing and a massive heart attack, they would be willing to accept the inconvenience of the testing.

As important as the FDA’s actions are, they didn’t exactly come as a surprise to anyone. A 2007 study in the New England Journal of Medicine had already suggested that users of Avandia had an increased risk (by as much as 43%) of heart failure as opposed to diabetics who were treating their condition with regular insulin. And the FDA has further issued a so-called “black box warning label” for the medication, which is a way for the FDA to let the general public know that there are some real concerns about the medication that patients are about to take.

GlaxoSmithKline, who designed, manufacture and market the drug, went into full damage control mode, which meant an onslaught of press releases, as well as “rejecting the conclusions” of the New England Journal of Medicine, the FDA, and anyone with any teeth who had anything negative to say about their type 2 diabetes drug. To give you an idea of GSK’s overall game plan (as well as give you an idea as to how nervous this drug was making people, all you have to do is look at the titles of the numerous press releases that they put out in the wake of all of these negative studies:

o    24 Feb 2010: GlaxoSmithKline responds to US Senate Committee on Finance report on Avandia

o    20 Feb 2010 - GSK rejects conclusions of Senate Committee on Finance Staff Report on Avandia

o    20 Feb 2010 - GSK rejects conclusions reported in The New York Times story on Avandia

o    6 February 2008 - GlaxoSmithKline responds to findings in ACCORD study

o    3 December 2007 - GSK response to Nature Medicine article on rosiglitazone and bone in mice

o    11 September 2007 - GlaxoSmithKline responds to JAMA articles

o    27 July 2007 - GlaxoSmithKline statement in diabetes care study thiazolidinediones and heart failure: a teleo-analysis

o    5 June 2007 - GSK response to New England Journal of Medicine editorials

o    21 May 2007 - GSK response to NEJM article

o    21 May 2007 - GSK response to US Senate Committee on Finance

In case you aren’t keeping count, that’s ten solid denials of studies and warnings by the official digest of the American Medical Association, The New England Journal of Medicine, The New York Times, and the Senate Finance Committee.

One thing that GSK seems particularly adept at is refuting any studies that portray Avandia in a negative light and creating a more positive outlook on the side effects of Avandia. As personal injury attorneys who represent product liability injuries, this is certainly something familiar with. Quite often, when we present one expert witness, the attorneys for the defendant will provide two or three expert witnesses claiming the opposite.

Over two hundred studies were sent to the FDA by GSK. These all contradicted any negative reports of Avandia, whether it was articles in medical journals, independent studies, or even editorials in newspapers. Rather than just accept that both the NEJM and the FDA had been buried in an avalanche of contradictory news, the British Medical Journal not only took a look at the data in these positive studies, but also at who was responsible for writing and researching them.

What the BMJ found out was that of these, a full 45% of these studies were done by people who had authors with serious financial conflicts of interest. This means that they were essentially on the payroll of either GSK or other competing pharmaceutical companies, either through research grants or consulting fees. There was more:

“Moreover, in an era of “seemingly ubiquitous” requirements for disclosure of financial interests in medical journals, only 53% of the articles reviewed included a competing interest statement, noted the authors from the Mayo Clinical in Rochester, US.”

“…Of these 90 articles, only 69 (77%) included a statement disclosing the conflict of interest in the article itself, while three of the 21 articles that did not disclose the relationship published a statement declaring no conflicts of interest.”

This is hardly unbiased research. If your next grant or paycheck depends on positive reviews, what are the odds that your reports will be, if not skewed in favor, at least carefully neutral?

This isn’t the first time such conflicts have been brought to light. In the wake of the Vioxx scandal, the New York Times discovered that the FDA’s independent advisory committee (which essentially makes or breaks controversial drugs) was populated with scientists and researchers who had similar conflicts of interest. This is profoundly interesting to us, especially if you take a look at the following press release from GSK:

July 30, 2007 — Philadelphia, PA

GlaxoSmithKline [NYSE: GSK] today welcomed the nearly unanimous recommendation of a US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) advisory committee to support Avandia’s (rosiglitazone maleate) continued availability to patients in the US. The company said it will continue to provide information to the FDA to assist in the Agency’s final decision-making.

Greenberg and Bederman is currently offering free legal consultations to people in the Washington, D.C. area who have been injured and/or hospitalized due to heart complications from taking Avandia.  For a free legal review of your Avandia bad drug injury, please fill out a free legal Avandia form, or call Andrew Bederman at (301) 589-2200 for a free legal consultation.

Fosamax Bone Injury

Washington, D.C. Attorneys Helping Victims of Broken Bones Due to Fosamax, Bisphosphenates

 

The human body has a natural tendency to decline with age. Sprains, aches and a lessening of mobility and agility happen to all of us. These symptoms are simply part of getting older.

One condition that often occurs in women as they get older is called osteoporosis, which causesthe thinning of bone tissue and loss of bone density over time. This means that bones are prone to fractures and breaks. It is a condition that makes life difficult for the victims, mainly because they have to begin to live their lives as if they were made of glass. Activities that were taken for granted have to be curtailed or stopped altogether because of the risk of bone injury.

The pharmaceutical giant Merck released and marketed a drug called Fosamax in order to help victims of this bone thinning condition, and several other pharmaceutical companies followed suit with similar drugs. Sonofi Aventis released and marketed a drug called Actonel and Roche released a drug called Boniva.

While there were minor differences in the chemical make up of each of these drugs, they were all marketed as “bisphospenates,” which, in a general sense, meant that they were drugs that were supposed to increase bone density.

Just as with many other drugs, things apparently did not go according to plan. Some of the first noticeable problems occurred when some people who were taking Fosamax began to suffer from what is known as “osteonecrosis of the jaw,” or “bone death.” This is as bad and as painful as it sounds. Most of the Fosamax users who suffered from bone death in the jaw had undergone dental surgery, which means that it is possible that Fosamax could strengthen the bones in the legs, arms, hips and ribs at the expense of the strength of the bones in the jaw.

Or maybe it’s simply bad for both. According to an article in USA Today, two recent studies have shown that women who take these bisphosphonates over a long period risk having the medications stop working, which means that the bones would be just as brittle as they were before the women started taking the pills in the first place. According to the study done by Columbia University:

"In the early treatment period, patients using bisphosphonates experienced improvements in all parameters, including decreased buckling ratio and increased cross-sectional area," Melvin Rosenwasser, an orthopaedic surgeon for Columbia University Medical Center, said in a statement. "However, after four years of use, these trends reversed, revealing an association between prolonged therapies and declining cortical bone structural integrity."

The problem here is that these pills are essentially made to be taken for long periods of time. Osteoporosis is the sort of condition that isn’t cured, but is managed. People who take these pills fully expect to take them for the rest of their lives. If the shelf life of effective treatment with this medication is only a few years, then the makers of these drugs have a responsibility to tell their customers that this is the case.

As of right now the Food and Drug Administration is currently running a safety review of Fosamax, Boniva and other bone building drugs in order to see if there is an increase of femur fractures among people who have been taking the drug over extended periods of time. But thousands of people who have been hurt as the result of using Fosamax for years have already filed lawsuits against Merck and other pharmaceutical companies.

A jury trial in New Jersey will be held on July 12, 2010, and this case is meant to be a “bell-weather trial,” for victims of Fosamax and other bisphosphonates all over the country. Greenberg and Bederman is a Washington, D.C. law firm that is currently offering legal assistance to people who have suffered from osteonecrosis of the jaw or other bone fractures due to the use of Fosamax, Boniva, Actonel, or any of the generic versions of these drugs.

Greenberg and Bederman have offices in Silver Spring, Maryland and Baltimore, and are capable of representing injury victims in the entire Washington-Baltimore metropolitan area. That includes Northern Virginia.

Our attorneys have decades of legal experience, and have helped thousands of injury victims in the D.C. area receive fair compensation for their injuries. If you or a loved one has been injured due to the use of Fosamax or any other bisphosphonate, contact Greenberg and Bederman for a free Fosamax legal consultation today.

To learn more about fosamax injury, please see our fosamax page on our website.

Yaz Birth Control Injury Differences

DC Area Yaz Birth Control Injury Law Firm Greenberg and Bederman is Currently Offering Legal Assistance

As many of you probably know, the Bayer Corporation is facing a series of yaz lawsuits in various American states due to problems that users of their line of birth control pills are experiencing. If you don't know about yaz health problems, please read our page on yaz history.The difference between Bayer’s pills and most other oral contraceptives on the market is that Bayer’s birth control pills (which are marketed under the names Yaz, Yasmin, and a generic version called Ocella) all contain a synthetic variation of progestin called drispirenone. While the use of drispirenone has been marketed by Bayer as having some beneficial peripheral effects such as prevention of minor acne or helping to alleviate the symptoms of pre menstrual dysphoric disorder, Bayer failed to mention in either it’s marketing campaign or the warning labels used on the medication that drispirenone raises the risk of deep vein thrombosis, or blood clots in the deep arteries and veins of the legs. These blood clots can then break apart, and the pieces can travel through the bloodstream, which can cause strokes, heart attacks and pulmonary embolisms. The use of drispirenone has also lead to a higher than normal rate of gall bladder disease.

These side effects of yaz are not merely theoretical. There have been hundreds of women who have been seriously injured and hospitalized all over the country due to clot-based injuries. Otherwise perfectly healthy women have suffered from strokes, heart attacks, pulmonary embolisms and gall bladder disease, and there have even been more than fifty deaths.

 

As a result of these injuries and deaths, over 1100 lawsuits have been filed nationwide, with many of them falling under Multi District Litigation, which is a way to place cases with similar backgrounds against the same defendant under the same ground rules. A few class action suits (in which one group of attorneys represents multiple plaintiffs under the heading of one case) have also been filed.

Bayer has, of course, vowed to fight any and all yaz lawsuits regarding their line of birth control pills, and we certainly believe them. With profits of Yaz, Yasmin and Ocella reaching $1.7 billion dollars in 2009, Bayer can afford to wage as many court battles as they see fit. Even with all the justified bad publicity, Yaz is still Bayer’s top selling product.

The Bayer Corporation has already given some clues as to what they expect their defense to be. They recently made an attempt to allow past birth control history of the plaintiff’s to be used as evidence, which was quite rightly denied. And based on public statements by Bayer, we are expecting them to center their defenses on the warning label that is currently in place on the products themselves.

Bayer will probably wear the current label as a shield against any liability, with the premise being “Look, we have a warning label on the box, and the doctors who prescribe it have their warnings as well. If you didn’t read it, we can hardly be expected to be blamed for that.”

There are a few things wrong with that premise. In the first place, the warnings weren’t mentioned very prominently in the enormous and splashy advertising campaign that Bayer used for Yaz. The focus on these ads was all about what Yaz could do for you besides keep you from getting pregnant. In the second place, while the warning on the doctor’s labels does admit that there is a risk of hyperlykemia (elevated potassium levels,) it fails to mention that drispirenone has a higher risk of causing hyperlykemia than any other progestin based oral contraceptive on the market. Since hyperlykemia is a possibility with most other pills, this warning label basically makes it seem as if Yaz, Yasmin and Ocella are no different than any other pill on the market when it comes to risk, and this is simply not true.

An equivalent here would be if a gun manufacturer was selling a pistol that has a higher tendency to fire accidentally than any other gun on the market, but since there is a slight chance that many guns on the market will fire accidentally, their particular gun is no different than the others.

When you study the injuries associated with yaz Bayer’s warning labels should produce a list of conditions that should discourage you from taking any of their drispirenone based pills:

Yaz should not be used in women who have the following:

·         Renal insufficiency

·         Hepatic dysfunction

·         Adrenal Insufficiency

·         Thrombophlebitis or thromboembolic disorders

·         A past history of deep-vein thrombophlebitis or thromboembolic disorders

·         Cerebral-vascular or coronary-artery disease (current or history)

·         Valvular heart disease with thrombogenic complications

·         Severe hypertension

·         Diabetes with vascular involvement

·         Headaches with focal neurological symptoms

·         Major surgery with prolonged immobilization

·         Known or suspected carcinoma of the breast

·         Carcinoma of the endometrium or other known or suspected estrogen-dependent neoplasia

·         Undiagnosed abnormal genital bleeding

·         Cholestatic jaundice of pregnancy or jaundice with prior Pill use

·         Known or suspected pregnancy

·         Liver tumor (benign or malignant) or active liver disease

·         Heavy smoking (≥ 15 cigarettes per day) and over age 35

·         Hypersensitivity to any component of this product

This is all well and good, but that doesn’t explain the hundreds of women who are suffering from none of these symptoms who are still being injured and hospitalized. And aside from that obvious red flag, these symptoms all more or less appear as disqualifications on the warnings for practically every other birth control pill out there. This again makes it appear that Bayer’s line of birth control pills are just the same as every other oral contraceptive, when they are in fact not, and that is one of the major reasons for all of these yaz lawsuits.

The “read the warning label” argument doesn’t carry any water unless that warning label clearly states that drispirenone increases your chances of hyperlykemia, which increase your chances of DVT, which increases your chances of heart attacks, strokes, pulmonary embolisms and gall bladder disease. The increased chances aren’t mentioned in a clear manner at all. Bayer did not say “Here is a birth control pill that can prevent acne and the symptoms of PMDD, but it increases the odds that you will suffer from blood clots. Take it at your own risk.” They simply said “Here is a standard, run of the mill birth control pill, except it can prevent acne and the symptoms of PMDD!”

Greenberg and Bederman is currently offering legal assistance for people in the Washington D.C. area who have been injured due to the use of Yaz, Yasmin or Ocella. Our attorneys are working diligently to help women in Virginia, Maryland and the District who have been hospitalized due to Bayer’s line of birth control pills. If you or a loved one has been injured in this manner, contact Greenberg and Bederman for a free yaz legal consultation today.

To learn more about yaz birth control, please read our yaz lawyers website page, or watch our yaz video on Youtube.

 

Yaz Birth Control Alternatives

As we have been reporting extensively over the past few months, Bayer’s line of birth control pills has been a source of major controversy over the past year or so. The pills (which are marketed under the names Yaz, Yasmin and Ocella) first came to the attention of the general public when the Food and Drug Administration ordered Bayer to remake an advertising campaign in October of 2008. The FDA’s problem with the campaign was that it overstated the supposed side benefits of Yaz (treatment for acne and depression,) while understating the increased dangers that the special ingredient posed towards the women who used the pill.

While the FDA was having problems with the advertising, the women who were actually using the products themselves were having serious problems of their own. The new ingredient that Bayer decided to use for these birth control pills is called drospirenone, which is a synthetic variation of progestin. Along with the supposed benefits of decreased acne and an easier time with premenstrual dysphoric disorder, this ingredient has also been shown to increase the odds of deep vein thrombosis (blood clots in the legs.) These blood clots have a tendency to break apart, and the pieces of the clots have a tendency to travel through the bloodstream. This can cause pulmonary embolisms, strokes and heart attacks among women who are otherwise healthy.

To be fair, there is a risk of deep vein thrombosis associated with most forms of oral contraceptives, but the problem with Bayer’s line of pills is that the drospirenone increases those odds pretty substantially. According to the British Medical Journal, there is a 6.3 fold increase of deep vein thrombosis among women who use birth control pills containing drospirenone. Bayer’s birth control pills are the only brands available that use drospirenone, so the BMJ’s study might as well just say “Yaz, Yasmin and Ocella.”

 

From here, it’s just a matter of arithmetic. A 6.3 fold increase might not seem like much, but if you consider the full on advertising blitz that Bayer put on in order to sell this drug, then it stands to reason that the number of women who take this drug without knowing about the additional risks will increase, which therefore increases the number of women who are suffering from adverse effects. And that’s been an obvious problem. Thousands of otherwise women all over the country are finding themselves hospitalized with strokes, heart attacks or pulmonary embolisms, and the only consistent factor among these women is that they have been taking Yaz, Yasmin or Ocella.

Considering the increased risk of health problems that drospirenone can bring with it, we would urge any woman considering taking an oral contraceptive to avoid Bayer’s line of birth control pills and to consider some of the many alternatives that are available on the market. While there is still a risk of blood clotting with most birth control pills that are based on hormone replacement, the risks are significantly lower with pills other than Yaz. In fact, some of the safest pills on the market are the so-called second generation pills that contain low doses of estrogen and variations on progesterone that are much safer than drospirenone.

Lybrel: This is a pill that contains a hormone called levonorgestrel, which has been shown in most studies to have the lowest risk of deep vein thrombosis (clots.)

Nordette: This is another low dose estrogen/levonorgestrel combination pill, and Nordette is in fact just one of the many brands that use this combination. And again, levonorgestrel has the lowest incident rate of deep vein thrombosis.

Seasonique: Another levonorgestrel pill, which comes with additional benefits in terms of regulation of menstruation.

The injury law firm of Greenberg and Bederman has taken an active role in the Washington, D.C. area in both warning women of the potential hazards of Bayer’s line of birth control pills and offering legal help for women who have already been injured because of them. We are currently representing women who have been hospitalized with pulmonary embolisms, strokes or heart attacks after using Yaz, Yasmin or Ocella. Thanks to recent actions by the federal courts, the process of getting your case through the legal system has been streamlined, which is making it that much easier for your case to be heard relatively quickly. Rulings have also been made that will safeguard your privacy throughout the process.

If you or a loved one in Baltimore, Maryland, Virginia or Washington, DC has been injured due to Yaz, Yasmin or Ocella, contact our yaz lawyer, Andy Bederman, for a free yaz legal consultation.

Birth Injury Lawyer

 

 Birth Injury Lawyer

A few years ago, former talk show host Ricki Lake released a surprisingly good and informative documentary called The Business of Being Born. The premise of the film was that pregnant women in the United States are put through what is essentially an assembly line process when it comes to giving birth. Profit driven hospitals give drugs that induce contractions and encourage women to get caesarean sections at the slightest provocation, and they do this simply because of the speed and convenience of it. What matters to these hospitals is not necessarily what is best for the health of the mother and the infant, but rather the amount of women they can get in and out as quickly as possible.

Ms. Lake brings up some very good points. If the birthing procedure is now riddled with chemically induced shortcuts and uses surgical delivery as an easy way out, it is not much of a surprise that the United States has the second worst newborn death rate in the developed world.

You can also consider that since the emphasis is placed on getting women in and out quickly rather than safely, the amount of birth injuries that take place in America shouldn’t come as much of a shock either. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, there are 6.68 birth trauma incidents per 1,000 live births. That includes injuries to the shoulders, chest, arms, lungs and head, any of which could seriously harm the development of the newborn child and could cause a permanent injury, such as erbs palsy, or brachial plexus.

 

There are several reasons for the occurrence of a birth injury, but one of the more common causes is a mistake in the delivery process by the attending physician. And considering that doctors are now working under the ethos that “time is money” instead of “patient safety first,” it isn’t much of a surprise that the numbers are so high.

What follows are two of the more serious injuries, and descriptions of the long lasting effects that they have on their victims.

Cerebral Palsy: CP is essentially a blanket term that covers a myriad of damages to the brain of a newborn child. These damages can result in impairment of movement, cognitive ability and physical abilities. What essentially happens is that the flow of blood to the brain is either slowed or impaired. While this could be bad enough for an adult, it can prove devastating to a newborn infant, especially considering how crucial steady brain function is to development. There are dozens of medical mistakes that can lead to neurological damage, including:

  • Leaving a child in the birth canal for too long of a period of time
  • Failure to detect an umbilical cord around the neck
  • Improper use of vacuum extraction or forceps

Shoulder Dystocia: This occurs when the shoulder of the infant is unable to pass below the pubic bone, essentially leaving it stuck in the birth canal. This is actually a very dangerous situation for both the mother and the infant, as prolonged time in the birth canal can lead to a deficiency of oxygen. Episodes of shoulder dystocia happen on a fairly regular basis, occurring in approximately 1% of vaginal births. Another major concern with shoulder dystocia is that the brachial plexus nerves can be damaged. These nerves are crucial to the ability of the arms and hands to move and feel. A serious case of shoulder dystocia can leave an infant with Erb’s Palsy, which means paralyzed arms and shoulders for the rest of his or her life.

There are certainly cases where victims of cerebral palsy or shoulder dystocia brachial plexus have suffered due to no real fault of the doctor, but if the doctor fails to adhere to the medical community under what is called the standard of care in the delivery of a baby, then that doctor may have perfomed negligence in the delivery. A failure to recognize umbilical cord placement, a delay in necessary treatment or ignoring inherent risks and dangers can and have contributed to serious and life long injuries to newborn infants.

At Greenberg and Bederman, we provide experienced and dedicated legal counsel for those who have been injured due to acts of medical malpractice, including negligence that resulted in a baby being born with cerebral palsy or erbs palsy. We have helped families all over Washington, D.C, Maryland and Virginia get the compensation they need to help care for their injured child for life. If you or someone you love has had a child born with a birth injury, contact Greenberg and Bederman for a free birth injury legal consultation today.

Is Getting Ripped Off Usual and Customary?

Is getting ripped off “Usual” and “Customary?”

For the health care consumers all over the country, that has apparently been the case.

Back in January, New York Attorney General Anthony Cuomo pulled the plug on Ingenix, owner and operator of the biggest health care billing software in America.

The reason Ingenix was targeted by Mr. Cuomo was because of its billing practices when policyholders used out of network services. The “out of network” option is offered as a service on many health care policies, for which policy holders usually pay extra. If through choice or circumstance you found yourself using the services of a health care provider who isn’t affiliated with your health plan, the “out of network” option is supposed to cover somewhere in the neighborhood of 80% of the cost while you pay the rest.

But it didn’t work like that in real life. If the insurance companies simply said “Ok, you have a bill for $1000, we’ll pay $800 and you’ll pay $200,” Ingenix wouldn’t have had a reason to exist at all. Instead, Ingenix used its software to apply a sort of alchemy to its billing practices, with the end result being that policyholders who were using out of network services were being forced to pay way more than they should have. The rub in the software came in what was called the “Usual and Customary” rate, with “Usual and Customary” meaning the “average” costs for a given service.

The problem is that with health care, there is no such thing as a “Usual and Customary” rate. Big insurance companies are able to negotiate lower costs for services because of the volume of care seekers that they bring to hospitals, clinics and doctors’ offices. Once you go out of network, you no longer have the weight of your insurance company’s negotiating skill behind you. So the costs for your treatment vary wildly from place to place. A sprained ankle in Tacoma, Washington might cost much more than the same injury in Yuma, Arizona. It depends on who owns the hospital, whether the facility is independent or whether an HMO runs the facility, or what their billing policies are. Health care is quite literally wide open. There is no “invisible hand of Adam Smith” keeping the price of services up or down.

So for the sake of argument, let’s say you are on vacation in rural Vermont and you break your leg. The non-negotiated, out-of-network costs might be a lot higher than the costs of the same injury at the hospital you would go to in Bethesda, Maryland, Arlington, Virginia or Washington, D.C. So if you paid extra on your policy every month for out of network costs, you would probably assume that your insurance policy would pick up 80% of whatever the hospital in Vermont is charging you. But instead, your insurance policy is picking up 80% of what Ingenix decides is “Usual and Customary.”

And that’s exactly what the problem was. Attorney General Cuomo discovered that Ingenix was skewing its “Usual and Customary” rates so that everything was reported as much cheaper than it was in real life, which lowered the amount that insurance companies were obligated to cover. So if the guy with the broken leg in Vermont is presented with an out of network bill for $4000, the insurance company can say “According to our calculations, the Usual and Customary rate for your injury is $2500, of which we will pay $2000.” This leaves you on the hook for $2000, as well as all the extra money you had been paying each month for the out of network coverage, which was evidently completely useless due to Ingenix.

It wasn’t only the policyholders who were getting stuck with huge medical bills. Most people don’t have the amount of cash on hand that it takes to pay for enormous medical expenses (this is why they had insurance, after all,) so the providers end up selling their debt to bill collectors for nickels on the dollar just so they can recoup some of their losses. So both the policy holder and the healthcare provider lose out, but guess who doesn’t? The insurance companies that use Ingenix software for their out of market billing. Which is to say almost all of them.

All of this is bad enough, but what makes the whole scenario even worse is that Ingenix was actually a wholly owned subsidiary of United Health Care, one of the biggest health care insurance providers in the United States. This is like a professional football team being allowed to bring its own referees to the Super Bowl. Who do you think is going to win out?

We would like to say that this case of price fixing was an isolated incident, but we can’t for two reasons. The first reason is that this rigged software was used by practically the entire American health insurance industry. How “isolated” could something be if the entire system is using the same flawed data? The second reason is that this is not the first episode of big insurance using skewed data in their software to maximize profits at the expense of their policyholders. Auto insurance companies are still to this day using a program called “Colossus,” which uses skewed data to “average out” the costs of physical injuries. Just like Ingenix, Colossus also leaves policyholders on the hook for thousands of dollars worth of medical costs that should have been paid by the insurer in the first place.

While it’s a good thing that Ingenix was essentially forced out of business by Mr. Cuomo, and it is good that users of Colossus are facing similar investigations, these changes have come a little too late for the hundreds of thousands of patients and medical professionals who have been ripped off as a result of these skewed computer programs. We think that the country would be better served if the states or federal government were more proactive about examining healthcare billing software. It’s good that we have firemen, but we have more of a need for Smokey the Bear.

The data that these companies use to determine pricing should be open to review, not kept as a trade secret. Nor should any companies that develop similar software have any financial ties to insurance companies. The fact that Ingenix was owned by one of the biggest health care companies in America is a massive conflict of interest, and one that cost Americans millions of dollars.

Greenberg & Bederman is a personal injury law firm located one half block from the SIlver Spring metro station.  We have been handling personal injury law since 1985.  To learn more about our personal injury lawyers, please read about Andrew Bederman, Roger Greenberg, or Jason Fernandez, or watch some of our personal injury videos on Youtube.

Personal Injury Tort - Is It Broken?