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.

 

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.

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.

Greenberg & Bederman News

Greenberg & Bederman In The News

Jason Fernandez, the plaintiff lawyer on behalf of Greenberg & Bederman, has reported that The Court of Appeals in Maryland has granted cert in the case of Warr V Dogfish Ale House. Ordinarily this case would be heard by The Court of Special Appeals, an intermediary court, but because cert has been granted, The Court of Special Appeals will be bypassed and the case will be heard by the highest court in Maryland, The Court of Appeals. This case is clearly on the fast track to be heard, and arguments could begin as soon as 2013.

What is the case of Warr V Dogfish about?

There are no laws establishing liability for bars and restaurants that over-serve their customers in Maryland, even if the bar is located in the middle of a parking lot with no public transportation in sight. This means that whatever happens after their customers leave the premises is of no importance to them whatsoever. This is why you have happy hours that last four hours, or “dollar shooter” nights, or any of the other countless promotions that are designed to get people to drink more. There are no consequences for the owners.

We believe that this is wrong, and it is why we are currently representing the family of Jazimen Warr in Maryland’s courts. We believe that her case is the clearest example of why Maryland needs so-called “dram shop laws.” It is our hope that this case will begin the process of establishing dram shop laws in Maryland, as it is in place in other states.

In the southern corner of a lot in Gaithersburg is a business called Dogfish Head Alehouse. As you can guess by the name, this is an establishment that serves beer, wine and liquor in addition to food. A man named Michael Eaton went to the Dogfish Head Alehouse. By the end of the night, he had consumed 17 beers and three shots of hard liquor. In other words, he was extremely drunk.

There was absolutely no way on earth that the bartenders who provided him with all of that alcohol can claim that they didn’t know that Mr. Eaton was drunk. They work in a bar. They know what even three drinks can do, much less 17 beers and three shots of liquor. They were also perfectly aware of the local geography. Mr. Eaton couldn’t have left the place and gotten on the subway. He couldn’t have stepped out onto the street corner to hail a cab. His only options were to call a cab himself (which he didn’t do,) call a friend for a ride (which he didn’t do,) or to walk home.

 

He didn’t do any of those things. He walked out to his car, which was in the middle of the parking lot, and drove home. And the bartenders who served him 17 beers and 3 shots over the course of an evening simply let him.

The consequences of this inaction by Dogfish Head Alehouse were tragic. Mr. Eaton slammed into an SUV carrying Jazimen Warr and her family while they were both traveling down I-270. Ms. Warr did not survive, and Mr. Eaton is currently serving 8 years in prison.

So what punishment did the establishment receive? The bar that provided Mr. Eaton with enough alcohol to put him well over the legal limit for alcohol consumption and then sent him out to the parking lot? Well, nothing much really happened to them.

As car accident injury lawyers in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia, we have seen more than our share of people getting hurt in easily preventable car accidents, and unfortunately, alcohol was a factor in some of them. While dram shop laws won’t stop drinking and driving, they would certainly make it harder to accomplish. If bars realize that there could be financial consequences for the reckless behavior of their customers, they might take a few minutes and call that patron a cab, or not serve him that fourth drink. And as a result, we might see fewer cases like Jazimen Warr’s death in Maryland. It wouldn’t be perfect, but it would certainly be better than this.

 

Greenberg and Bederman is a car accident injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to anyone in Maryland, Virginia or Washington, D.C. who has been hurt due to the recklessness of another driver. If you or a loved one has been in a car accident, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free accident case evaluation.

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.

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.

$500,000 Cap Hurts PA Student

 

One of the major reasons that people give for putting caps (or limits to the amount of compensation that injury victims can receive) is that they want to avoid “outrageous judgments.” We’re sure that you’ve heard the mythology by now.

“If it weren’t for caps, all a guy would have to do is pretend to stub his toe, and then he can sue someone for a billion dollars.”

“Caps keep people from bankrupting businesses over nothing.”

“Remember the McDonalds Coffee Lady? Thanks to caps, we won’t have to worry about scam artists like her anymore!”

The premise here is that anyone who files any kind of lawsuit has to be running some sort of racket. As personal injury attorneys, we know this premise to be utter nonsense. We represent people in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC who have been seriously hurt due to the negligence of somebody else. No injury victim has ever come to us and been excited about the prospect of going to court.

There are different types of caps in different states across the country, and as far as we are concerned, all of them are unnecessary. They don’t help anyone except insurance companies (who need no help at all,) and in some cases they actually price people out of the courtroom.

 

Lately we have been reading about examples of how monstrously unfair these caps can be. We recently wrote about how caps in Indiana left victims of the State Fair stage collapse scrambling over an incredibly inadequate amount of money. There has been a similar verdict in Pennsylvania, and this one was so bad that even the judge was crying out against it.

In 2007, a 17 year old girl named Ashley Zauflik was involved in an accident. A school bus jumped the curb outside of Pennsbury High School and hit a group of students leaving school. Ms. Zauflik was the most critically injured among them. She had to have her left leg amputated.

The driver of the bus was found to be at fault, but ultimately the financial responsibility of the accident was to be borne by the school district. Ms. Zauflik went to court and the jury returned a verdict in her favor, which was a judgment of $14 million.

But just like in Indiana, Pennsylvania has a cap on the amount of damages that a municipality or school district can pay, and Pennsylvania’s is even more draconian than Indiana’s.

For losing her leg due to the negligence of a public employee, Ashley Zauflik will receive $500,000.

The judge in this case had absolutely no choice in the matter, and the feelings of the jury didn’t matter one way or the other. The cap on municipal liability in Pennsylvania is $500,000.

To the credit of the judge, he found the cap to be incredibly unfair, and he said so:

“There is no dispute that the circumstances of this case create an unfair and unjust result…reevaluation of the constitutionality of the statutory cap on damages … is necessary.”

Bear in mind that this girl lost a leg. Her life was changed in a drastic way. And she wasn’t behaving foolishly. She wasn’t walking on the rail of a highway overpass or anything reckless. She simply walked out of school.

She had to relearn how to do practically everything, and there are thousands of things that she can’t do anymore. She needed physical therapy and training, and she’s still in pain a great deal of the time.

For a little bit of perspective, $500,000 is about 7.6% of the cost of a UH-72 Eurocopter, of which the Pennsylvania National Guard has dozens.

If you multiply $500,000 by 6056, you will get $3.028 billion, which is how much Pennsylvania made selling lottery tickets for fiscal year 2009-10.

If you multiply $500,000 by 1090.3167, you will get $545,158,367, which is how much Pennsylvania collected in fares on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in fiscal year 2004-05.

If you multiply $500,000 by 21.864502, you will get $10,923,251, which is how much Pennsylvania made from operating turnpike plaza rest areas in fiscal year 2004-2005.

If you multiply $500,000 by 5.32, you will get $2,661,000, which is how much Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development gave away in “Keystone Innovation Starter Kit Grants” in 2007, which coincidentally is the same year Ashley Zauflik had her leg amputated.

Sorry about that, Ashley. Here’s $500,000.

Greenberg & Bederman practices in Maryland, DC, and Virignia.  Here's a little infomation about caps in our practice areas.

In D.C. there are no caps.  In Virginia, the only caps are in malpractice cases.  It is an overall cap of $2.0M for all types of damages, economic and non-economic.  The cap will increase by $50,000 on July 1.

Maryland caps non-economic damages only, but in all personal injury cases.  The current cap for most personal injury cases  is $755,000 and will go to $770K on October 1.  For medical malpractice cases, the cap is currently $710,000 and will go to $725,000 as of January 1, 2013. The wrongful death cap is calculated differently.  If there is more than one beneficiary, the cap is 1.5 times the current cap except in medical malpractice cases, where it is 1.25 times the current cap.

Greenberg and Bederman is a personal injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to injury victims in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC. If you or a loved one has been injured due to the negligence of someone else, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free consultation today.

 

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.

  

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,

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.

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.

Metro Settlements

 

We all remember June 22, 2009 here in Washington, D.C. That was the day that our subway system’s antiquated sensor system finally gave out completely, causing one train to collide into the back of another on the Red Line. Eight people died and dozens were injured, many of them severely.

This wasn’t a freak occurrence. The National Traffic Safety Board had been delivering scathing reports on the safety of the Metro transit system for years, but since the NTSB can only offer “recommendations” that don’t carry the weight of the law, Metro simply kicked the can down the road and let the system continue to deteriorate.

As you can imagine, there were quite a lot of lawsuits filed. A freak occurrence is one thing, but this was a case of negligence that had been quite literally documented for years. There was no way of getting around the fact that WMATA let this happen.

We represent some of the victims of this tragedy, and we are honored that they placed their trust in us. It’s no secret that many of the settlements have already been reached, but there are still a few cases that are pressing on and moving to trial.

 

We were concerned to read in The Washington Post that some of the victims’ families that settled felt that their settlement was too low. The mother of one victim was quoted in the article as saying It was lower than I expected… No money in the world could bring back my daughter. Her kids deserve to live a better life like their mother was trying to give them.”

This is one of the key points of any wrongful death suit, particularly one where a parent dies and leaves children behind. You have to understand that there is a severe ripple effect that occurs whenever children are orphaned. Immediately their lives and the lives of the immediate family are changed in ways that are incredibly difficult to handle. We aren’t sure about the financial situation of the mother of the victim in this case, but we know that she now has a lot more financial responsibilities to deal with than she did before the accident. We would hope that Metro (or at least Metro’s insurance company) would recognize that and would compensate them accordingly.

We have a hard time understanding why Metro is being tight-fisted in its settlement offers, considering the wreckage that crash made out of so many people’s lives. If they want to use an excuse of financial hardship, we simply aren’t buying it. About one day after the article in the Post was published, there was another article in the Examiner about what WMATA is willing to spend money on, even as the Post tells you what they are unwilling to spend money on:

WASHINGTON - A newspaper report says Metro is paying more than $51 million to consultants to help better run the transit agency.

The Washington Examiner, citing data obtained through a public records request, says Metro is spending $51.9 million on current consulting contracts with 18 different companies.

Metro spokesman Dan Stessel says the figure represents about 2 percent of the agency's budget for fiscal year 2012.

It baffles the mind to consider that WMATA is willing to spend almost $52 million on consultants who are, according to the article, “…analyzing fare cards, escalators and crafting requests for other outside contractors…” We understand the need to spend on escalators, but fare card analysis and contractors to help find other contractors seems extraordinarily wasteful. And when you consider that this $52 million only represents 2% of WMATA’s budget, it is insulting to the victims of the Red Line crash that they are being low-balled in settlement offers.

It is further insulting that with $52 million being 2% of their annual budget, much-needed repairs and improvements in infrastructure were put off for so long. Sensors were left to rot, rails were left cracked, escalators were left to collapse, and ultimately, dozens of people were left to be injured and eight people were left to die.

There is no doubt about what happened here. This accident happened as the result of negligence. And low-ball offers to the victims of this accident are being offered from the top of a pile of money.

Greenberg and Bederman is a personal injury law firm located in Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to anyone who has been injured due to circumstances that were beyond their control, and that includes injuries caused on public transit systems. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free consultation today.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

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.

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?

The Tort System: It Stops Being “Broken” When It Starts Being You

For those of you are unaware of what tort reform means, it is a political movement whose proponents believe that our current judicial system is too easy for regular people to use. That probably isn’t the way that they would put it, but that’s essentially the centerpiece of the argument. They want caps on the sorts of damages that citizens can receive. They want restrictions on the sorts of lawsuits that people can file. They want severe restrictions on punitive damages. They want to do business in America without the crushing, stagnating, profit killing responsibilities of accountability towards the people who buy their products or use their services.

It isn’t very hard to put yourself in their shoes. The majority of the people involved in the tort reform movement have direct ties to insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and product manufacturers. They often think of things in terms of profitability, and they probably view lawsuits as a problem that is to be solved, like improving efficiency or finding a cheaper supplier for parts. If you see everything in terms of a balance sheet, it’s hard to see actual human beings who have suffered real damages from the results of your business. Instead you think about the money you could be making if it weren’t for the insurance premiums and attorneys fees.

 

But every so often, even staunch advocates of tort reform find themselves in instances where they need the aid of the courts, and that makes them rethink their whole outlook, especially when they discover that the tort restrictions that they supported have prevented them from receiving fair compensation for their damages. Former senator Trent Lott (R-MS) serves as a perfect example of this.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, thousands of people in Louisiana and Mississippi found themselves with their homes ruined by the devastation of a category three storm. Katrina lasted almost a week, and at its peak the wind speed was moving at 175 miles an hour. The preliminary damage estimates in terms of property was $100 billion.

Among those who found themselves with lost property was Senator Lott. He owned a beach house in Mississippi that was deemed a total loss as a result of the hurricane. Like thousands of people all over the Gulf Coast, he filed a damage claim with State Farm. And, like thousands of people all over the Gulf Coast, he had his claim promptly and utterly rejected by State Farm.

It’s important to note that prior to this rejection, Senator Lott was one of the biggest advocates of tort reform in the Senate. Here are just a few of his quotes and press releases on the subject.

"The Democrats seem to think that the answer is a lawsuit. Sue everybody."
- Sen. Trent Lott, 7/20/01

"I'm among many Mississippi citizens who believe tort reform is needed."
- Sen. Trent Lott, 5/8/02

"You know, obviously we should [enact tort reform]...Someday it will happen, and the sooner the better."
- Sen. Trent Lott, 1/24/01

"Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi today credited the agenda of tax cuts, deregulation and tort reform initiatives passed by the Congress and signed into law by President Bush with the overall upturn in the national economy."
- Sen. Trent Lott press release, 12/2/05

"If their answer to everything is more lawsuits, then yes, that's a problem, because I certainly don't support that."
- Sen. Trent Lott, 8/2/02

"It's sue, sue, sue... That's not the answer."
- Sen. Trent Lott, 8/4/01

But once Senator Lott got a taste of how the very industry that he backed through speeches, votes on the Senate floor and legislation actually operates, he didn’t much like it. So he filed a lawsuit against State Farm, in which he hoped to force the insurance company to pay for his damages.

A more recent and even more high profile defection from the tort reform movement occurred on June 6, 2006, when Judge Robert Bork fell and injured himself while getting ready to deliver a speech at the Yale Club in New York City. According to the Wall Street Journal:

“Bork was at the Yale Club last June to speak at an event sponsored by The New Criterion, a monthly review of the arts and intellectual life. According to the suit filed in federal court in Manhattan, the club failed to provide steps and a handrail to climb onto the dais. Bork fell backward as he was attempting to climb the dais, striking his leg on the stage and his head on a heat register, the suit says.”

The physical damages involved a massive bruise to his leg that, according to the complaint, required surgery and months of physical therapy to heal properly. Judge Bork believed that the Yale Club was negligent in that it didn’t provide a suitable railing or staircase on the way up to the speaking dais, thus directly contributing to his injuries.

Prior to his accident, Judge Bork was very much for tort reform. In fact, one of his more famous quotes on the subject compared the United States civil justice system to piracy on the high seas:

“Courts are now meccas for every conceivable unanswered grievance or perceived injury. Juries dispense lottery-like windfalls, attracting and rewarding imaginative claims and far-fetched legal theories. Today's merchant enters the marketplace with trepidation - anticipating from the civil justice system the treatment that his ancestors experienced with the Barbary pirates.”

This quote was from 1995, but it basically encapsulates Judge Bork’s entire judicial career. He held the tort system in very low regard, and actually lost his chance to be a Supreme Court Justice in part due to his extreme views on tort law and punitive damages. Yet there he was in 2006, filing not only a lawsuit to cover his damages but also seeking punitive damages in his complaint.

In the space of three years, two major proponents of tort reform have learned a very valuable lesson, which is that perhaps our tort system isn’t nearly as “broken” as it seems to be. The initial reaction would be to call Senator Lott and Judge Bork hypocrites, but we actually view it as an example of how ideology doesn’t always line up perfectly with reality. They believed something, and real life proved their beliefs wrong. They believed that our court system was broken right up until the point where they discovered that they would need it.

To learn more about personal injury in Maryland, please read our maryland personal injury page.  To learn more about our personal injury lawyers, please read about Jason Fernandez, Andrew Bederman, or Roger Greenberg, or view our personal injury videos on Youtube.

When Do I Need A Personal Injury Lawyer?

 

When Do I need A  Personal Injury Lawyer?

In the aftermath of an accident, it can be sometimes be difficult to know if you need a lawyer. Many accidents fall squarely in the “no harm, no foul” category, in that the damage to the property or persons of those involved is negligible. For instance, if the accident is a fender bender car accident with minimal property damage, you should be able to handle your damages through the insurance companies. Or if you slip and fall in a restaurant but don’t injure anything but your pride, there is no need to contact an attorney at all.

But the stakes change when the accident involves medical treatment. This is when the liability involves more money, and insurance companies often take steps to make sure that they pay out as little as possible.

There is often a drastic difference between what an injury victim should receive and what an insurance company is willing to pay. Having an attorney to represent your interests can be the difference between receiving fair treatment and not even receiving enough to cover your damages. What follows are some situations where you should contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible.

 

Serious Car Accidents:Any accident that involves a complete loss of your car and/or a stay in the hospital should not be handled without legal counsel. When medical treatment is involved, insurance companies will often try to deny liability outright or offer an artificially low settlement in order to minimize the payout. Handling a car accident injury claim without an injury lawyer is practically a guarantee that your needs will not be realistically met.

Accidents with Trucks or other Commercial Vehicles:Tractor trailers and other commercial vehicles are on the road for no other reason than to make money, and as a result the laws regarding commercial insurance coverage are different. A commercial vehicle might have multiple policies, with the driver having one policy and the freight company having another. What often happens in the event of a commercial vehicle accident is a game of “pass the buck,” where one insurer will claim that the other insurer is more liable than the other and vice versa. Commercial insurance companies are also notorious for being closed mouthed and difficult during investigations. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you sort out the liability issues, determine who was at fault, and help you receive fair compensation for your injuries and property damage. And considering the harm that a truck or tractor trailer can do, it is a safe bet that there will be both serious injuries and major property damage. The stakes are too high in a situation like that to go it alone.

Medical Malpractice: Doctors make mistakes all the time, but not all medical mistakes are necessarily a medical malpractice. If a medical provider deviates from the standard of care, and causes harm to the patient, with damages, there may be a negligence claim against the medical provider. Even if the doctors are upfront about the mistake and the insurance company offers you a settlement, there could be elements of that settlement that are inadequate. An experienced personal injury attorney should be able to tell fairly quickly whether or not your settlement offer is a decent one.

Falls:On the surface, slipping and falling might seem to be more comical that damaging, but the reality is that falls are a major cause of serious injuries and deaths. Because slipping and falling can be embarrassing, even people who are severely injured are sometimes hesitant to consult with an attorney. But businesses, hotels and rental properties are required to maintain safe premises for customers, guests and tenants. Unmarked wet floors, poorly lit staircases or cracked flooring are only some of the examples as to how negligent maintenance by an owner or manager has resulted in serious injury. A fall might be embarrassing, but if you were seriously injured due to circumstances that were not your fault, you have every right to seek compensation for your damages. An injury attorney can conduct an investigation and help determine whether or not your injury happened due to negligence.

Despite the sunny advertising about being a “good neighbor,” the average insurance adjuster is not in the business of writing big checks. In fact, most insurance adjusters, whether they work for auto insurance, commercial vehicle insurance, medical malpractice insurance or property insurance, are actually financially rewarded for paying out less in claims. It is therefore in their best interest to pay you as little as possible. To that end, they routinely offer artificially low settlements, and engage in manipulative tactics to get you to accept them. A good rule of thumb for dealing with insurance adjusters is that if there is any element of your injury that goes beyond the concrete arithmetic in front of you, then any settlement that is offered to you should be thoroughly scrutinized by a personal injury attorney. For instance, if the injury was particularly painful, then that pain and suffering should be compensated. If you are unable to return to work because of your injury, then you should be compensated for your lost income. If you will have to go through rehabilitation to recover from your injuries, the rehabilitation costs should be covered.

If your adjuster offers excuses for not providing for these costs in the settlement, or if it seems that he is trying to steer the blame for the accident over to you, or if he says things like “We don’t want to make mountains out of molehills,” you can be absolutely sure that this means you aren’t being treated fairly.

Any experienced personal injury attorney should be able to take a look at your settlement offer and determine whether or not it is adequate to cover your damages, both present and future damages. If insurance companies would simply be forthcoming and generous from the beginning, we injury lawyers may go out of business. An experienced injury lawyer can judge what any settlement is lacking and the  best way to proceed.

In any accident requiring medical treatment, it is simply better to be safe than sorry. Consulting an injury attorney after a serious accident can keep you from becoming victimized a second time. You shouldn’t find out that your settlement is inadequate after you’ve already signed it.

Greenberg and Bederman is a personal injury law firm based in Silver Spring, Maryland. Our attorneys have provided legal counsel for the injured of Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. since 1985. We have helped secure high settlements and judgments for those who have been injured due to car accidents, medical malpractice, or other types of personal injury. If you or a loved one in the greater Washington, D.C. area has been injured in an accident, contact Greenberg and Bederman for a free legal consultation today.

To learn more about personal injury law, please read our personal injury page on our website.  To learn more about our personal injury lawyers, please see our personal injury videos on Youtube.

Personal Injury- Can Juries be Impartial?

Can Juries Be Impartial?

 

In our modern age of techno gizmos and internet mass accessibility, can juries remain impartial? If you have ever served on a jury, you know that before the proceedings begin, the judge instructs the jurors prohibiting them from conducting any outside research while they serve on the panel. Juries are also prohibited from divulging any substantive information concerning the progress of its deliberations. The reason behind this prohibition is to let the legal system follow its course; to let the advocates convince the juries, and not to have the juries influenced by prejudice, or other preconceived notions that could adversely affect the outcome of the trial.

 

Despite the judge’s warnings, there is an implicit understanding that juries are not completely impartial, and that life experiences cannot be neutralized regardless of what we hear in the courtroom. In order to minimize these effects, the legal system provides for voir dire, the process by which prospective jurors are questioned about their backgrounds and potential biases before being chosen to sit on a jury. For instance, if during the voir dire process, the defendant’s attorney in a personal injury case discovers that a juror has recently lost a close family member in a car accident, it is likely that that juror will not be selected to serve on the jury, because he is expected to have a strong bias against the defendant. 

Suppose the juror has no preconceived notions about either the claim or the parties to the case, yet once he or she leaves the courtroom at the end of each day, the juror is surrounded by people or the media offering opinions and information on the matter that is being adjudicated. Once the juror leaves the courthouse, he is not supposed to communicate with others about the case, nor acquire or attempt to find any extraneous information.  But, with free access to internet sources such as Google,Yahoo, Twitter and Facebook, many jurors cannot withstand the temptation to dig deeper, to get more information, or to share the experience with their friends. Some jurors post updates on cases while the cases are still ongoing. As recently as last week, a juror in a big federal drug trial in Florida admitted to the judge that he had been doing research on the case on the Internet, despite the judge’s instructions. After 8 weeks of trial, the judge had no choice but to declare a mistrial, because it turned out that many of the other jurors were doing the same thing. 

Jurors are not supposed to see the evidence that was excluded by the judge or have access to prejudicial information, but what’s to stop them from doing so. Although judges have long since revised their jury instructions to include warnings about using internet sources, some jurors just don’t follow them. 

Jurors have always been on their honor not to look up the facts of the case. The difference now is that, with Facebook and Twitter, it’s easier to find out when a juror has broken the rule. Cell phones and BlackBerrys are here to stay so we need to develop new mechanisms to ensure that jurors do not access them, before justice is decided by the vote of “twitterers”.

To learn more about personal injury law please read our personal injury law page.  To learn more about our personal injury trial lawyer, please read about Jason Fernandez, or watch Jason's personal injury video, or contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free case review.

Personal Injury - Bad Faith

Bad Faith and Insurance

On the surface, an insurance policy seems like a straightforward proposition. You pay an insurer a certain amount of money every month in case something bad happens, and if something bad does occur, the insurer is supposed to provide the funds necessary to see you through it.

But as many injury victims have found out, it’s hardly ever that simple.

Insurance companies seem to live in a parallel universe where a contract is more of a suggestion rather than a binding legal agreement. Many insurers routinely offer settlements that are worth much less than what would be necessary to cover the damages. And if these initial offers are refused, they have the time and money to simply wait out the injury victim. They don’t return calls and ignore e-mails, secure in the knowledge that at some point the injury victim will start to need any bit of money that they can get.

This might seem like something that a fly-by-night insurance company would do, but in fact these are standard procedures used by some of the biggest insurers in the country.

For instance, Allstate has recently been exposed as using the “wait it out” method of dealing with those who file claims:

 

“First, the company evaluates claims with a computer program designed to reduce payouts by as much as 20 percent of what the company once paid for the same injuries.

Second, Allstate pushes policyholders to accept quick settlements without the help of lawyers. Policyholders who try to fight for more money face Allstate attorneys coached to refuse to negotiate and to drag out litigation.

The approach often forces car accident victims to take what Allstate offers right away or spend years in court while their bills go unpaid -- a strategy Allstate spelled out in guidelines for claims adjusters that ‘forces the claimant and attorney to think about the obstacles they must overcome’ ..."

Some insurers aren’t even that clever. In some cases they will simply deny the claim, often referring to fine print in the contract, and sometimes not even offering an explanation at all.

A perfect example of a high profile claim denial would be State Farm’s blanket refusal to help any of their policyholders in the wake of Hurricane Katrina:

“Thousands of families who lost everything to Katrina's fury last August are now facing a second disaster: their insurers won't pay them a dime. The homeowners say they were led to believe they'd be covered when they signed up for their policies. The companies insist they're off the hook because of exclusionary clauses that distinguish between damage caused by wind (covered) and water (not covered). The courts will decide who's right: hundreds of homeowners have sued their insurers, among them U.S. Sen. Trent Lott, who lost a house in Pascagoula, Miss., and Congressman Gene Taylor, whose home in Bay St. Louis was destroyed.

While it's hardly unusual for homeowners and insurers to find themselves at loggerheads after a disaster, the wind vs. water debate has been especially rancorous. Earlier this month, 669 plaintiffs sued State Farm for allegedly denying their claims without properly investigating the cause of the damage to their homes. And last year, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood launched a suit against five big insurers--State Farm, Allstate, Nationwide, United Services Automobile Association and Mississippi Farm Bureau Insurance--for allegedly tricking Katrina victims into signing forms stating that their homes sustained flood damage, which isn't covered. ‘The robber barons of our time,’ Hood calls the insurers.”

These abhorrent and unfair practices fall quite neatly under the heading of what is called “bad faith insurance,” and quite often the best way past them is to acquire the services of an attorney. These insurers are banking on what you do not know about the law, and having a lawyer who knows how insurance companies work as well as what your rights are as an injury victim can put you back on equal ground.

By contacting Greenberg and Bederman, thousands of residents of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area were able to get past these abhorrent insurance company practices, and were also able to receive the compensation that they needed to get their lives back on track.

We have law offices in Silver Spring, Baltimore, Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia, and as long as insurance companies believe more in their profit margins than their obligations to policy holders, we’ll be here to help.

Contact Greenberg and Bederman for a free legal consultation today.

 To learn more about personal injury law, please read Greenberg & Bederman's personal injury page..

Beware of Contributory Negligence

WARNING!
Beware of Contributory Negligence

Auto accidents happen daily on our roads, and as the number of drivers increase, so do the odds of being involved in an accident. After getting past the initial shock of a car accident, the question becomes who is responsible for causing the accident, and who is liable for paying the damages. Expenses may be significant from medical bills, to lifetime care, to loss of income. Where will the funds to restore your life come from? It depends on who is at fault that determines who will pay for the damages caused by the accident.
If you live in the mid-Atlantic region, you are likely to encounter something called ‘contributory negligence.’ This is a 400-year-old English principle, adopted in many American jurisdictions in the 19th century. It was abolished in all but 5 states, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama and the District of Columbia. This concept transcends the simple ‘who is at fault’ factor, an inquiry is made into whether the injured party is partially to blame for the accident. Even if the negligent driver is 95% at fault, and you are 5% at fault, you may recover nothing under the doctrine of contributory negligence.

 

Most states follow a fairer system of ‘comparative negligence,’ which allows for reduced recovery, taking into account any negligence on the part of the injured party, and subtracting it from the final award. If you live in Maryland, D.C. or Virginia, you should be aware of the defense that contributory negligence may raise by the insurance company against those bringing a claim for personal injury. If the defendant is successful in raising this defense, the injured party is barred from any recovery. For example, if one did not exercise reasonable care, such as looking both ways before crossing the street and was subsequently hit by a car, they may not recover.
Many criticize this approach for its unfairness and inflexibility towards the plaintiffs. Despite the continuous lobbying efforts in an attempt to abolish the antiquated system, it remains in place due to support from insurance and business lobbyists. Insurance companies who want to take a chance in convincing a jury that the victim was partially at fault, instead of paying for injuries, may be willing to take a chance in litigating the case, because they may end up paying nothing. You should consider contacting an experienced personal injury attorney if you encounter reluctance on the part of the other driver’s insurer to compensate you for your injuries and/or damages. You should not communicate with the other driver’s insurance company without first contacting an attorney, as any statements made by you regarding your fault may serve as the basis for contributory negligence defense in court. Be wary when attempting to navigate the system on your own, as there are many avenues of harm that may bar you from recovering. Contributory negligence is one of them.
 

To learn more about personal injury issues, please see our website at G&B website and click on the personal injury tab.

How Much is My Personal Injury Case Worth?

How Much Is My Case Worth?

Of all the questions my clients ask me, there is one I dread more than others – “how much is my case worth?” For lawyers, the ethical restraints of our profession prevent us from answering that question. More often than not, the problem with the question is timing. No lawyer should attempt to settle a personal injury claim before the client finishes his/her medical care or reaches the point of maximum medical improvement. Once that point is reached, the lawyer can review the particular circumstances of the case and use his/her experience to approximate a fair value range for the client’s claim.
There are many factors that go into a case assessment. A few of the most common factors are the type of injuries suffered, the treatment those injuries required, the length of that treatment, and the cost of that treatment. Also included in the valuation of a case is any lost wages as a result of injuries or other “special” damages (i.e., expenses for the client that would not have been incurred if not for the accident). A lawyer must also consider whether the client suffered a permanent injury, any resulting disability, and the need for future medical care. In some cases involving lacerations and the like, scarring or disfigurement is also evaluated.
When looking at these many factors (and there are many more to consider), a lawyer uses his/her experience to estimate what a judge or jury may award the client seeking compensation. This then becomes the baseline for negotiating with the at-fault party’s insurance company.
Insurance companies also evaluate claims. The worst-kept secret of the insurance industry is that they use a massive computer database to assist in their evaluation of claims. The insurance companies collect data on all claims that are submitted. They track those claims locations, injuries, treatments, and ultimate dispositions (whether by settlement or verdict in court). They then use this information to approximate their opinion of the value of the claim. Of course, the number value that the insurance company assigns to a claim is frequently different from the lawyer’s opinion of a claim’s value. The difference of opinion is worked through during the negotiation phase. If a fair settlement is not obtained via negotiation, the case must be litigated.
Injured persons should keep in mind that insurance companies want to settle claims for as little as possible. In addition, it benefits the insurance company to delay paying claims for as long as possible – they stick the earmarked amount (the insurance company’s original guess as to the new claims value) in an interest-bearing account thereby minimizing their ultimate loss on the claim.
As always, it is important that injured people speak with an experienced attorney prior to settling a claim to make sure that a fair amount is being offered.

For more information on personal injury case issues, please visit our website at personal injury issues. For more information on our personal injury lawyers, please click personal injury lawyers.

Statute of Limitations Law

Statute of Limitations Law

The law limits the amount of time during which a person can seek civil legal remedies. The amount of time given by law to bring a claim is determined by the relevant statute of limitations. If a person does not resolve a claim by settlement or file a lawsuit before the appropriate statutory date, then the claim is lost and barred forever. It does not matter whether the claimant has a good reason for not filing within the statutory period; the claim is lost.


In most jurisdictions, different types of lawsuits have different periods before the statute runs. For personal injury cases, the statute of limitations period starts at the time of actual injury (i.e., the date of accident). In Maryland and the District of Columbia, an injured person has three (3) years to settle or litigate a case before the statute prohibits recovery for the injured person. In the Commonwealth of Virginia, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is two (2) years.
Under certain circumstances, the statute of limitations does not begin to run at the date of injury. For example, a minor’s action for pain & suffering does not being until the child has reached the age of majority – 18 years old. Other commons exceptions include those declared mentally incompetent, insane, in active military service, and incarcerated. Once those conditions are no longer applicable (e.g., the person is no longer insane), then the time starts to run.


Actions against the government or a subset of the government have special timing requirements. Although the general statute of limitations do apply to cases where a person is injured by the fault of the government, there are additional requirements that the government be placed “on notice” of a person’s claim. Failure to place the government on notice within the appropriate time has the same effect as missing the statute of limitations – the claim is lost. The time period for notice can be anywhere from 180 days to 2 years, depending on the relevant governmental agency.
Because of the various timing implications involved in an accident, it is important that injured people consult a lawyer immediately. Attorneys can then investigate the potential claim in order to understand its nature and make sure that the injured person’s rights are preserved. Waiting until the end of the statute of limitations makes a lawyer’s job particularly difficult and can jeopardize the strength of the injured person’s claim.

To learn more about personal injury issues, please see the personal injury law information.  and click on the personal injury law tab.  To see information on our personal injury lawyer, please click personal injury lawyer.

Greenberg & Bederman is a personal injury lawfirm located in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland, one half block from the Metro Station, one mile from the Washington DC line.  We serve the injured in Maryland, Washington DC, and Virginia.

Slips on Ice

As I walked down the escalator at my neighborhood Metro station and sipped my morning green tea, I slipped on wet stairs and slid down the escalator about 10 feet.  Fortunately, other than my embarrassment, some spilled tea, and arriving late to work, I suffered only some minor bruises and aches.

When I got to the office, some of my co-workers asked if I had notified Metro and filled out an accident report. I did not. The reason -- I knew that Metro was not responsible for my particular accident. When walking in rain, snow, or any wet-conditions, it is my responsibility to be as careful as possible.

Every year, I receive phone calls from people seeking consultations and advice for accidents involving slips on snow and ice. The vast majority of these cases are rejected. It is extremely difficult to prove that some person is responsible for the results of weather. The District of Columbia has repeatedly upheld decisions favoring landlords and/or property managers when people slipped on ice on their property. Why? It's simply too difficult to prove that the person(s) is/are liable.

In order for liability to be demonstrated, a person must either know or should have known that a danger exists. Since ice and moisture can appear suddenly, the burden is on the plaintiff to show that the appropriate person was notified of the dangerous condition and failed to act reasonably within a reasonable period of time.

The best advice is simply to watch and be careful. I will definitely be wearing the snow boots I had from my mid-western winter days on my way to work tomorrow.

To learn more about premises liability or slips and falls, please see our website at premises liability.  To learn more about our personal injury lawyers, please click on personal injury lawyers maryland and read our firm bios on Andrew Bederman, Roger Greenberg, or Jason Fernandez.