BRENTWOOD, CA – A two-vehicle traffic accident that occurred on Sunday night in Brentwood left five people injured. A 12-year-old girl who had lost consciousness was transported by air for treatment at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland.
Battalion Chief Craig Auzenne of East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD) said that the girl had not been wearing her seatbelt when the cars collided. In addition to losing consciousness in the accident, she suffered facial trauma. Her current medical condition has not been released.
The others injured in the accident were two men and two women. They were taken to John Muir Medical Center’s trauma unit in Walnut Creek for treatment of relatively minor injuries.
The crash happened on Sand Creek Road at 6:30 p.m. just outside the entrance of the Streets of Brentwood Shopping Center. Brentwood police who responded to the call had little to go on regarding what caused the accident since many of the people involved didn’t speak English. The investigation is ongoing with the help of a translator.
The two vehicles that collided at the intersection were a silver Nissan Sentra and a silver Toyota Corolla. There were two occupants in the Nissan and five in the Toyota. One of the cars had been going east on Sand Creek Road after exiting State Route 4. It has yet to be determined what direction the other vehicle had been travelling.
According to Auzenne, this accident is considered a tier 1 mass casualty incident. Six medical units as well as engines from the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District and ECCFPD were sent to the scene, along with the CALSTAR rescue helicopter, which landed and took off from the Sprouts parking lot.
At O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley we have 50 years of litigation and trial experience. We have the expertise and a proven track record of success. If you or a loved one has been the victim of motor vehicle negligence and would like to speak with a Bay Area auto accident attorney, please contact us. We are here to answer your questions and discuss how to protect your legal rights.
EL SOBRANTE, CA – A school bus filled with special needs children was involved in a collision with two other vehicles on a road in El Sobrante on Tuesday, causing injuries to 15 people, with two of them reportedly in critical condition, according to authorities.
The bus driver, who is currently pregnant, and seven kids were among the 15 injured in the traffic accident, although the fire department initially said that no children were hurt. A school bus, Volkswagen car and Chevy pickup truck were all involved in the collision officials from the California Highway Patrol said.
The collision at Lois Lane and San Pablo Dam Road was called in at 8:11 a.m. According to Contra Costa Fire, a medic vac. helicopter and four ambulances were immediately sent to the scene.
Slick slippery roads from recent rainy weather may have contributed to the collision, according to authorities.
“The driver of the Volkswagen slowed down for some unknown reason, causing the driver of the Chevy pickup to veer off trying to avoid the VW, but colliding with it anyway,” according to CHP Officer Hannah Walcott.
Once the Chevy hit the Volkswagen, the driver of the Chevy pickup lost control and crashed into the school bus, head on.
A gentleman living near San Pablo Dam Road witnessed the crash just as it occurred since he happened to be driving by.
He told a reporter for KPIX 5, “I was on my way to Starbucks when I suddenly heard a loud crash right behind me. I looked back and saw that the bus and two other vehicles had collided. I immediately stopped, got out of my car and ran to the bus to offer aid. The bus driver, who appeared pregnant, was in a state of panic. I did everything I could to help and could tell that it was extremely traumatic for everyone on the scene,” he said.
The two individuals in critical condition are someone who was in the Chevy pickup truck and someone in the VW, which was crushed. Both were transported to Walnut Creek’s John Muir Medical Center, according to Fire Inspector Steve Aubert.
According to Steve Aubert of the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District, the bus driver and seven children were transported to a local hospital with apparent minor injuries, but they all required a medical evaluation. Aubert said the school bus was transporting children who attend a special education school located in Contra Costa County.
Also transported to a hospital were one adult and two children that had been in another vehicle. Early information reported by the CHP suggested that there was oil on the road after the crash, but that it had been contained.
The investigation is ongoing as to what actually led to the collision.
If you have been seriously injured due to someone else's negligence, contact an experienced personal injury attorney at the law offices of O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley today. We provide free consultations in order to evaluate your case and discuss the legal options available to you.
Roads in the Bay Area are becoming more dangerous, not just for drivers trying to navigate the crowded highways, but for pedestrians and cyclists, as well who are increasingly getting killed making their way through city streets.
A recent report from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), the regional agency for transportation planning, reveal that the number of deadly crashes involving cars, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians on Bay Area roads increased 43% from 2010 – 2016.
MTC researcher David Vautin said, “There are definitely more people living in the Bay Area and using the roads, which may be responsible for a portion of the increase. Plus, more drivers are coming in from further away, on long boring commutes.”
The increase in the area’s population and the longer distances commuters are driving still cannot account for the increase in the number of people being killed on Bay Area roads and highways during those years, according to Vautin. In 2010 there were 318 fatal crashes, which rose to 455 in 2016. In five out of those six years, the fatalities increased and this was after declines during the previous four years. However, 2016 wasn’t the year with the most because there were 509 deadly crashes in 2003, which was the high point in the 16 years that the study spanned.
Some traffic experts think there are more “distracted drivers,” with people using their cell phones to make calls, send text messages or check Facebook while driving, he explained. While others blame the decrease in life-saving technology after the widespread adoption of anti-lock brakes, shatterproof windshields and seat belts. New breakthroughs have not been implemented to the same extent.
But, at the end of the day, the real problem is basic human error, according to Stephanie Mak, an MTC data analyst. In analyzing reports of fatal collisions that occurred between 2010 and 2016, she discovered three major culprits: excessive speed, unsafe turns and driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Mak concluded that it was “unsafe behavior on the part of drivers” that caused the majority of fatal crashes, nothing more, nothing less.
This situation is not exclusive to the Bay Area. Across California and the nation at large, fatal collisions have been on the increase ever since the recession, according to spokesman Chris Cochran of the California Office of Traffic Safety. He said that deadly traffic collisions rose 33% in California between 2010 and 2016, adding that this wasn’t totally unexpected.
What usually happens is that in an economic down turn, fewer people are on the roads traveling or commuting for recreation or work. Once the economy improves, people start hitting the roads more often.
“We’re basically returning to pre-recession figures,” he said. “However, there is a real danger that we could move beyond that.”
Cochran went on to say that recent technological developments, like interactive dashboards in cars can be very distracting. But other automatic innovations, such as “driver-assist” technology in the form of alarms that sound when you are about to collide with another vehicle or when you swerve out of your lane, can certainly help, he added.
However, these highly advanced features are not prevalent in most vehicles. Driverless cars, which are being touted as the no-collision option, are many years away from being adopted by the masses.
Until that time comes, Mak has been conferring with other officials working in regional transportation planning agencies as well as her colleagues at the state to determine what they are doing to lower the numbers of fatal crashes. She’s trying to figure out what could specifically be done better in the Bay Area. In the end, it could be more effective enforcement for impaired drivers and those who speed, she said. Or, possibly more campaigns and outreach to better educate motorists.
There are some cities in which residents and business owners are speaking up about their desire for safer streets, wanting their streets designed to be safer. San Jose, Fremont and San Francisco have decided to join the “Vision Zero” traffic safety movement, which is promoting an effort to redesign city roads and highways in ways that will eliminate deadly collisions.
The roads that have already been redesigned seem to be making a difference, according to Cathy DeLuca, executive director of the pedestrian advocacy group, Walk SF. In 2014, the city of San Francisco enacted Vision Zero as a policy. As a result, the number of deadly crashes in 2016 went down, according to preliminary data. DeLuca remarked that figures for 2017 look promising, with approximately 33% fewer deaths having occurred on roads so far this year.
Ginger Jui, spokeswoman for Bike East Bay, a nonprofit group advocating for cyclists, said that there are more cyclists than ever navigating the roads in Alameda and Contra Costa counties and this could be the reason for the increase in fatal crashes. However, she commented that the addition of protected bike lanes and adjustments to city streets designed to slow down speeding vehicles are definitely working to save lives.
She said, “Whenever you can reduce speeding, it benefits everyone on the road.”
The auto accident lawyers at O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley are very experienced in this area of the law and highly respected in the legal community. We provide our legal expertise to people throughout Northern California from our offices in Sacramento, San Francisco and Contra Costa County. Please reach out to us if you or a family member has been in an auto accident caused by the carelessness or negligence of another. We will gladly offer you our legal advice and expertise.
A crash involving four vehicles occurred Tuesday night in Brentwood caused critical injuries to three individuals.
The victims were each transported by helicopter for treatment at local trauma centers. There were three others involved in the crash that required no hospitalization.
The collision was called in at 6:45 p.m. and happened on Marsh Creek Rd. near Walnut Blvd. Officer Charles Vonhofen, spokesperson for the California Highway Patrol (CHP), said the apparent cause of the accident was inattentive driving.
According to Vonhofen, preliminary reports are that a black Cadillac Escalade truck was going east on Marsh Creek Rd. and apparently the driver didn’t notice traffic ahead coming to a stop. The Cadillac Escalade slammed into a grey Volkswagen, causing the VW to then plow into a silver Toyota, which then crashed into a silver Cadillac CTS.
The impact of the 4-car crash caused severe damage to the VW and Toyota. The drivers of those two cars were critically injured and extricated by firefighters. The Cadillac CTS had minor damage and the Escalade was damaged on the front end only. The vehicle that the third critically injured individual was riding in was not immediately reported.
The victims were initially transported by ambulance to John Muir Medical Center located on Balfour Rd., which has a landing pad for helicopters. From there, two of the critically injured were flown to John Muir Medical Center’s trauma center in Walnut Creek. The third critically injured patient was flown by helicopter to Kaiser Medical Center in Vacaville.
The accident investigation is ongoing, but according to the CHP, alcohol apparently was not a factor.
The attorneys at O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley specialize in auto accidents. They are a well- established law firm and highly respected in the legal community. If you or a family member has been involved in a motor vehicle accident involving negligence and want to consult with a Bay Area attorney specializing in auto accidents, please contact us. We will answer your questions, advise you of your legal rights and how best to protect them.
(Source: East Bay Times)
Published on behalf of O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley LLP
MARTINEZ, CA – A man was arrested for the fatal hit and run crash that occurred on I-80 last Saturday and has been charged with 4 counts of murder, said county prosecutors.
Fred Lowe, 47 of Sacramento also faces felony charges for hit and run and drunk driving, as well as a number of additional charges that could increase his sentence. Court records show that Lowe was previously convicted for DUI and has a prior strike involving a conviction for robbery in Solano County.
Lowe was put under arrest after his car allegedly collided with a blue Mercedes, forcing it to crash into a white Nissan driving eastbound not far from the San Pablo Dam Road off ramp at approximately 8:10 p.m. on Saturday. The driver of the Nissan apparently lost control, going over the center divider and directly into westbound lanes before overturning.
Four passengers riding in the Nissan were killed in the accident, all related to the driver Jared Horn, a sophomore at UC Berkeley and the pitcher for the university’s baseball team. Horn and his family members had just attended a father-son basketball competition. The victims were pronounced dead at the scene and identified as Daryl Horn, 50, Jared’s father; his brother Joe Horn, 14, his uncle Troy Biddle, 52: and his 13 year old cousin, Baden Biddle.
Jared Horn received serious injuries in the crash and was hospitalized before returning home on Sunday, according to law enforcement. He was the only one who survived in his car.
Lowe immediately sped from the scene, but Sheriff’s Deputies from Contra Costa spotted his vehicle and arrested him shortly thereafter. Originally, he was put under arrest for vehicular manslaughter, however prosecutor Derek Butts said Lowe’s history of drunk driving, plus “the way he was driving before the crash, the details of the accident, his fleeing the scene without stopping, and the level of alcohol in the defendant’s system,” justified the murder charges.
Butts explained, “His actions before, during and after the crash displayed such a high level of recklessness that it shows implied malice, which is the mental state needed to justify charges of second-degree murder.”
Murder charges, while uncommon in cases of a fatal car accidents, are not unheard of. In 1983, the California Supreme Court set the standard for filing murder charges in a DUI crash. The ruling was in a 1979 homicide case involving a defendant who was driving drunk on city streets at double the speed limit, running a red light and crashing into a car at the next intersection, killing two people.
For prosecutors to prove murder, they must convince the jury that the defendant should have realized his drunk driving and recklessness could potentially kill someone.
According to Contra Costa authorities, this was one of the deadliest car crashes in the county’s history, however exact statistics weren’t readily available. Contra County’s most deadly crash occurred in 1976. That’s when a Yuba City school bus overturned while exiting a freeway in Martinez. The bus was filled with honor students, and 28 were killed along with one adult.
Jail records show that Lowe’s bail was set at $1.15 million bond, but once he’s arraigned it could be raised. In the meantime, he’s still in jail.
Jail records show that Lowe’s bail was set at $1.15 million bond, but once he’s arraigned it could be raised. In the meantime, he’s still in jail.
Ff you have lost a loved one in an accident caused by another, you may be eligible to seek a remedy and payment. Protect your rights, contact an experienced wrongful death lawyer. When you call the law offices of O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley, you will be talking with an attorney who has spoken with hundreds of people in your similar circumstance. You will be treated with the respect and sympathy you need during your time of heartbreak and anguish.
Published on behalf of O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley LLP
Motorcycles can be a useful and enjoyable means of transportation but, they can also be incredibly dangerous. The facts discussed in this article are based on data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), which is part of the Unites States Department of Transportation.
In 2015 the number of motorcyclists killed in crashes in the U.S. totaled 4,693. This number had been on the decline since the early ‘80s, but started increasing again in 1998 and this increase lasted through 2008. Of all the fatalities that occurred in motor vehicle accidents, 13% were among motorcyclists. This figure was more than twice the number that occurred in 1997.
Among those motorcyclists killed in 2015, figures show that 27% were operating their motorcycle without a valid license. This surpassed the percentage of unlicensed drivers of passenger vehicles who were killed in traffic accidents in 2015, which was 15%.
Of the motorcyclists killed in 2015, 41% were involved in single-vehicle collisions, while 59% of these fatalities resulted from multiple-vehicle collisions. These percentages have remained pretty much the same since the ‘80s.
Age & Gender
Beginning in the early ‘80s the percentage of motorcyclists killed who were 50 years of age and older, started to rise, going from 3% of all rider fatalities in 1982 to 13% in 1997, and increasing to 35% in 2015. Whereas, 30% of the motorcyclists killed in 2015 had not yet reached their 30th birthday, compared to 80% in 1975.
Of all the motorcyclists who were killed in 2015, a whopping 91% were males.
Of the female motorcyclists killed in 2015, 61% were passengers and these deaths accounted for 95% of the passengers killed that year. The overwhelming majority of male motorcyclists killed in 2015 were drivers.
Use of Helmets
Of the motorcycle drivers killed in 2015, 61% were wearing a helmet. For passengers killed while riding on motorcycles, 47% were wearing a helmet.
In states with laws in 2015 that mandated helmet use for all riders, 92% of those killed were wearing a helmet, whereas only 27% were wearing a helmet in states without laws requiring helmet use for all riders. In states with laws only requiring helmet use for some riders, 41% of motorcyclists killed were wearing a helmet.
Type of Motorcycle & Engine Size
The sizes of the engines on the motorcycles of drivers who were killed in collisions have substantially increased. In 2015, 31% of the motorcycle drivers who were killed were driving a motorcycle with an engine of more than 1,400 cc in size. In 2000, the comparable figure was just 9% and in 1990, less than 1%.
Among the motorcycle drivers killed in 2015, a whopping 88% were driving touring bikes that had engines of more than 1,400 cc in size, whereas just about all supersport bikes were equipped with engines that were 1,000 cc in size or smaller.
Among the motorcycle drivers killed in 2015, 85% of those riding a standard or cruiser motorcycle were 30 or more in age, as were 96% of those driving touring bikes. Whereas, 57% of those killed driving off-road bikes and 61% of those killed driving super sport bikes in 2015 had not yet reached their 30th birthday.
Among those killed in 2015 driving supersport motorcycles, helmet use was 77%, which was the highest. Approximately 50% of drivers killed on touring motorcycles, standard motorcycles or cruisers were wearing helmets
When & Where They Were Killed
In 2015 the majority of motorcyclist deaths (60%) happened during the months of May through September.
Fatalities were at their highest in July and at their very lowest in February.
In 2015 nearly half (49%) of deaths on motorcycles happened on weekends, and they were more apt to occur in the evening hours after 6:00 PM, compared to during the week.
In 2015 nearly half (48%) of deaths on motorcycles happened on major roads, but not freeways and interstate highways. There were more deaths (49%) that occurred in urban areas than happened in rural areas (41%).
Elevated Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)
Among those killed driving a motorcycle in 2015, 28% were found to have a BAC at or over 0.08%. This figure rose to 42% among those in single-vehicle collisions.
Among motorcycle drivers in 2015 who lost their life at night from 9:00 PM to 6:00 AM, 49% were found to have had BACs of 0.08% or higher.
All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs)
ATV riders are being killed on public roads at a rate nine times more than in 1982, which was when they were first identified in FARS. The percentage of ATV riders 40 years of age and older who were killed rose from 9% in 1982 to as much as 43% in 2015. The percentage of ATV riders killed who were younger than 20 went from 54% in 1982 down to 19% by 2015.
In 2015, 80% of those killed riding ATVs were wearing helmets.
Among those killed riding ATVs in 2015, 75% lost their lives in crashes where no other vehicle was involved, whereas 48% of occupants killed in passenger vehicles were in crashes that involved no other vehicle(s).
In 2015, of the ATV riders who died in single-vehicle crashes, in 62% of these accidents, the ATV rolled over in the crash. This percentage was similar to fatal accidents involving large trucks and SUVs, but higher than for deaths in similar accidents involving cars, which was 44%.
The deaths of ATV riders on public roadways during 2015 peaked in July, with 56% of the deaths occurring during the months of May-September that year.
Of the ATV riders who lost their lives on public roadways in 2015, 73% were driving on rural roads and 63% of those fatal accidents occurred on minor roads. In 2015, half of those killed driving ATVs on public roadways were found to have BACs at or over the legal limit of 0.08%. ATV drivers who were 40-49 years of age when they were killed made up 63% of that group.
Motorcycle accident cases are extremely complex, which means you need a highly experienced lawyer with in-depth knowledge in this specific area of the law to handle your case. If a loved one had been killed on a motorcycle due to another's negligence, please contact us. The attorneys at O'Connor, Runckel & O’Malley have a proven track record of prevailing in such cases, both in court and in negotiating maximum settlements. With more than 50 years of trial experience, we are more than willing to take anyone to trial to fight for our client if they have been wrongfully injured or killed.
Published on behalf of O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley LLP
A three-car collision on Vasco Road that occurred Monday afternoon resulted in severe injuries to two drivers who had to be airlifted to a local trauma center for their injuries.
The 3:09 p.m. crash happened about one mile south of where Walnut Boulevard intersects with Vasco Road in Brentwood.
The California Highway Patrol (CHP) is continuing its investigation, but at this point there are very few details about the cause of the accident. What is apparent is that a black Toyota Corolla broadsided a silver Audi A4. A helicopter flew the Audi’s driver to John Muir Medical Center’s trauma center in Walnut Creek with “massive trauma” as described by Craig Auzenne, Battalion Chief of East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD).
The Toyota’s driver was up and walking right after the collision, but soon after he began suffering from his injuries. People assisting at the scene immediately after the accident loaded him into a passerby’s truck bed. When paramedics and firefighters arrived they initially treated him there before a CHP helicopter transported him to John Muir Medical Center. He suffered a broken wrist, chest pains, shortness of breath and it’s possible he had other injuries.
The third vehicle involved in the accident was a gray Nissan Versa and paramedics at the scene treated and released that driver, whose car had front-end damage. Authorities are unsure as to what caused that damage.
The only occupants of the three vehicles involved were the drivers.
After the accident, Vasco Road remained closed between Camino Diablo and Walnut Boulevard while the victims were being rescued and treated and the two helicopters occupied the roadway.
Aside from the helicopters, Engines 52 and 59 of ECCFPD rushed to the scene, along with two AMR rescue ambulances, two battalion chiefs and a number of CHP officers. It took nearly 90 minutes to work the accident scene.
If you or a family member has been the victim of a traffic accident involving negligence and would like the advice of a reputable Bay Area attorney specializing in car accidents, please contact us. We can answer all your questions, advise you of your legal rights and how best to protect them. O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley has 50 years of experience in personal injury litigation and trials. We have the kind of expertise and track record of success that can help you prevail in this situation.
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PITTSBURG, CA – A 46-year-old woman from Discovery Bay was tragically killed Wednesday on Highway 4 in eastern Contra Costa County while “driving in safe and lawful manner.” Another car plowed into hers, which then set off a wreck involving seven cars, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Theresa Frazer was pronounced dead at the scene, while four others, including a small child, were transported to the hospital. The collision occurred on westbound Hwy. 4 right after 8 a.m. not far from the Railroad Ave. and Harbor Rd. exits, reported CHP Officer Brandon Correia.
This accident occurred soon after another two-car collision in the immediate area that involved a Dodge sedan and a motorcyclist. No one was hurt in that accident, but it did worsen traffic on the crowded highway.
Seeing the traffic ahead, Frazier had slowed down to a stop in her Nissan Sentra, however the Chevy Tahoe SUV behind her did not and just crashed into her car, Correia said.
“Here this woman is doing exactly as she should,” he said. “She sees traffic, slows down and stops. The SUV for some reason doesn’t stop. Our investigation will seek to determine whether it was speeding. That is what we are focusing on. When a car gets plowed into from behind in that manner, it causes a huge impact.”
The SUV then went on to sideswipe a Dodge truck and crashed into an Audi sedan before it flipped over and slid into a couple of other vehicles on the highway. The occupants of the two last cars, a Chevy Trailblazer and a Toyota Highlander, were among the three treated at the scene and released. The Chevy Tahoe finally came to a stop when it slid into a Honda Civic.
A passenger riding in the Nissan Sentra did suffer major injuries, but they weren’t thought to be life threatening and he was transported to a local hospital, Correia said.
The man and woman who were in the SUV were also severely injured and transported by ambulance to a local hospital, Correia said. Fortunately, they are both expected to live.
Their son was also taken by ambulance to the hospital as a precautionary measure since he did not appear injured, Correia said. Initially, officials said that there were five people hospitalized.
The westbound lanes on Highway 4 in the vicinity of the crash were all closed except for the far left lane. This lasted nearly three hours and a Sig Alert was issued for major traffic. The CHP lifted the alert around 11:15 a.m. after the scene had been investigated and cleaned up.
Investigators have yet to figure out whether alcohol or drugs played a part in the collision, but they didn’t see any signs of them at the site, Correia said.
If you have lost a loved one in an accident caused by another, you may be eligible to seek a remedy and payment. Protect your rights, contact an experienced wrongful death lawyer. When you call the law offices of O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley, you will be talking with an attorney who has spoken with hundreds of people in your similar circumstance. You will be treated with the respect and sympathy you need during your time of heartbreak and anguish.
CASTRO VALLEY, CA – Interstate 580 finally opened after being blocked for almost 10 hours last Thursday due to two big rig collisions that killed one of the drivers. All westbound lanes near Castro Valley in Alameda County were finally reopened once authorities finished their accident investigation and cleanup of the scene.
The collision occurred near Eden Canyon Road and was called into the California Highway Patrol at 4:10 a.m. First, a black sedan and big rig collided, which left the big rig stopped in the middle of the highway. A second big rig then came along and struck the first big rig, according to Tyler Hahn, the CHP Officer on the scene.
Hahn said that the driver of the second big rig was tragically killed in the crash. The Alameda County coroner has identified the driver as Maclovio Lopez, 62 of Roseville, CA.
Highway personnel working the scene of the accident had to unload the entire haul of one of the big rigs, and this contributed to the lengthy traffic delays. Crews taking part in the cleanup at Eden Canyon Road on the westbound lanes of Interstate 580 consisted of Caltrans workers, Alameda County Fire plus a HAZMAT team.
At 4:24 a.m., shortly after the accident was first reported, a sig-alert was sent out since all lanes going westbound on Interstate 580 were blocked. It wasn’t until about 2:00 p.m., after the scene had finally been cleaned up, that the sig-alert could be cancelled.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of trucking or big rig accident and would like to speak with a truck accident attorney, please contact us. We are here to answer your questions and discuss how to protect your legal rights.
If your loved one has been physically, medically, psychologically, or financially abused, neglected, or exploited, by a nursing home, assisted care facility or in-home care provider, call O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley, a personal injury law firm, today for a free initial consultation and case evaluation with an elder abuse/nursing home negligence attorney.
Over 25% of serious abuse cases occurring in nursing homes are not being reported to law enforcement. The Office of Inspector General, which is part of the U. S. Department of Health & Human Services, issued an alert about this last Monday.
Despite state and federal law demanding that serious nursing home incidents involving abuse must be reported to the police, many cases never were.
Governmental investigators are doing an extensive ongoing review of reports of abuse and neglect occurring in nursing homes but are issuing the alert now because immediate action is required due to the seriousness of the cases they’ve found so far.
The abuse cases are so severe that the victims were sent to the emergency room. The alert cited an example of a woman who was terribly bruised from a sexual assault that occurred in her nursing home room, yet this was not reported to law enforcement.
Federal law requires that such an assault be reported to law enforcement within two hours of the crime being discovered. But that wasn’t done according to Curtis Roy, the Department of Health & Human Services’ assistant regional inspector general.
“Instead, they cleaned the victim up and this actually destroyed crucial evidence that the police could have relied on while investigating this crime.”
The nursing home did tell the family that their loved one had been sexually assaulted the previous day. The family then went to police to file a report on the crime. Even after the crime had been reported, the nursing home attempted to conceal the crime, according to Roy.
“They actually contacted the police department trying to persuade them that no investigation was necessary and attempted to dissuade them from coming out to the nursing home to look into the incident,” said Roy.
Examining records pulled from 2015 and 2016, Roy and his investigative team discovered 134 incidents of residents in nursing homes being abused so severely that they needed to go to the emergency room. The overwhelming majority of these incidents were sexual assaults.
“There is absolutely no excuse for allowing someone to suffer this degree of torture, never ever,” says Roy.
The abuse cases occurred in 33 different states, with Illinois having the most incidents, which numbered 17. Investigators found that in 72% of the cases law enforcement did get a report within the required two hours. But, that leaves 28% unreported. Investigators made the decision to report every single one of these 134 cases of abuse to the police. Roy said, “We were so worried that we would rather over-report than risk the chance that a single case would remain unreported.”
The Inspector General’s alert says nursing home regulators, who are the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), must do a better job of tracking these abuse cases. They said that CMS should do exactly what Curtis Roy’s team did: look at Medicare claims submitted by residents of nursing homes and cross-reference their emergency room claims. This way the investigators could see whether a Medicare recipient had filed a claim for emergency room care during the same time they were filing a claim for nursing home care. If so, the investigators could look at the emergency room diagnosis and determine whether the patient appeared to be a crime victim, as would be the case if the diagnosis indicated a physical and/or sexual assault.
The alert emphasized that in 2011 federal law regarding the issue of nursing home abuse was strengthened. The law now requires that anyone who even suspects that a resident in a nursing home had been abused to the extent that it caused them to suffer serious bodily injury are required to report these suspicions to the police within no more than two hours. If they suspect a nursing home resident has been abused, but not to the extent of serious bodily injury, they have up to 24 hours to report the abuse to law enforcement.
Failure to make the required abuse report to law enforcement within the specified time period can result in fines being imposed of up to $300,000.
However, CMS never received specific instructions from the Secretary of Health & Human Services to exercise the authority to carry out the penalties and collect the fines. According to the alert, CMS only this year started to seek the authority to enforce the law. There was no one from CMS who would agree to be interviewed for this article.
Obviously, the 134 incidents of severe nursing home abuse discovered by the investigators represent just a tiny percentage of the 1.4 million currently residing in the country’s nursing homes. But, according to Curtis Roy, these cases are likely to be just the tip of the ice burg, since his investigators were only able to pinpoint abuse victims who were sent for emergency room care. “This is the absolute worst possible thing,” he said. “I don’t believe for a second that anyone could possibly think this is anywhere near being acceptable.”
“We must do a whole lot better,” says Roy, at “ridding our healthcare system of any form of abuse, no matter how minor.”
One fact that investigators were not able to find out is whether or not any of the nursing homes where incidents of abuse occurred were ever fined or penalized in some way for ignoring the law in not reporting these incidents and in some cases, trying to cover up the evidence. That information will likely be covered in the Inspector General’s complete report, which should be released next year.