Just as there are apps to help decrease standard automobile accidents, there are also mandates going into effect in the trucking industry in an effort to reduce truck accidents. Electronic Logging Devices keep track of how long a trucker has been on the road to better ensure she or he doesn’t sit across the table from a truck accident attorney after falling asleep at the wheel. But are the devices effective?
The Aim of the Devices
In 2014, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration estimated that ELDs could prevent roughly 1,700 crashes, 500 injuries and 20 deaths a year. This is because the devices make it so truck drivers cannot drive more than 11 hours in the road without resting. As truck accident attorney I can tell you that driver fatigue is one of the leading causes of truck accidents.
Besides preventing accidents, logging devices can improve the trucking industry at large. Specifically, if truckers aren’t driving more than they should be, they’re less likely to burn themselves out. Fewer overworked truckers is likely to result in a lower employee turnover rate.
Are the Devices Reducing Salaries Along With Accidents?
For all the good they’re supposed to do, ELDs aren’t beloved by all truckers. One issue is the devices can actually make truckers drive a bit more recklessly than they normally would. This is because when drivers near their 11-hour limit and haven’t made it to their destination, some of them may speed up to get there faster.
There are still problems even when a truck driver hasn’t neared her or his destination when the 11-hour limit approaches. The issue is that not all truckers are able to find a safe place to park their vehicles when they reach their time limit.
If you were recently involved in an accident with a truck, it may have been due to reckless or fatigued driving. Either way, it’s best you reach out to a truck accident attorney to explore your rights.
O’Connor, Runckel and O’Malley LLP would like to announce our 2018 scholarship recipient, Tamar Anna Alexanian. Tamar received her bachelor's degree from Vanderbilt University in 2016 where she double majored in Women's & Gender Studies and English Literature. Upon graduation, she spent a year as an English Teaching Assistant with Fulbright Taiwan and the following year as an AmeriCorps member serving under-resourced communities in Chicago. In the fall, Tamar will be attending the University of Michigan Law School where she hopes to study international human rights.
We look forward to seeing Tamar succeed in her upcoming years at the University of Michigan Law School.
The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) announced that the number of pedestrians killed in the U.S. in 2017 was nearly 6,000. After two straight years of significant increases, the number of pedestrians being killed on our streets seems to be holding steady.
According to GHSA, this number is the highest it’s been in the last 25 years. Although the rise “seems to be holding,” the “ongoing problem of so many pedestrian fatalities raises concerns about the dangers facing pedestrians on our streets.”
This is even more concerning when you realize that the number of fatalities resulting from other types of traffic accidents is falling. GHSA mentioned that enhanced vehicle safety features make collisions safer for people inside vehicles – but these are not helpful to pedestrians.
There was a rise of 27% in pedestrian deaths from 2007 to 2016, but during this same time deaths from other types of traffic accidents fell by 14%, GHSA reports. The result is that pedestrian fatalities account for a higher proportion of overall traffic accident fatalities.
The GHSA report is derived from early data from state highway agencies. A total of 23 states plus Washington, D.C., showed a rise in pedestrian fatalities. During the same time period there was a decrease in 20 states while the balance remained more or less the same.
Five states – Arizona, California, Florida, New York and Texas – made up 43% of pedestrian deaths in the first six months of 2017. This is despite the fact that only 30% of the country’s population resides in those states.
Laurel Wamsley last year reported on NPR that a study was done by Smart Growth America revealing the most deadly cities in the U.S. for pedestrians. According to this study, eight cities out of the top 10 were in Florida. The study also revealed that the population most at risk is people of color, as she reported:
“People of color are disproportionately represented among the pedestrians being killed. Non-white individuals make up 34.9% of the U.S. population, whereas they comprise 46.1% of the country’s pedestrian fatalities.
“In some regions, this disparity is very pronounced. For example, Native Americans make up just 5% of the population of North Dakota, but this group accounts for almost 38% of pedestrian fatalities.”
The study also discovered that people with no health insurance, the poor and the elderly were more apt to reside in areas that are particularly deadly for pedestrians.
The most recent GHSA report does not categorize deaths by income, insurance or race. However, it does show that the elderly and children are “especially at risk.”
The question remains as to why pedestrian deaths have increased so much since 2014. Last year, when the GHSA report revealed an 11% increase over the previous year in pedestrian deaths, David Schaper of NPR took a close look at some of the possible causes:
“GHSA spokesperson Maureen Vogel said that there was ‘a perfect storm’ when a number of factors came together to spur the increase: There were more cars on the road due to a better economy and lower gas prices. People were just driving more, ‘but that doesn’t explain the whole story, so something else must be going on.’
“One possible explanation can be seen during downtown Chicago’s rush hour traffic if you look at all the drivers inching their way through traffic and the dozens of pedestrians crossing the street in the intersections. You can clearly see that many of the drivers and the pedestrians as well looking down at their cell phones.
“ We are totally distracted," said Melody Geraci, who is the deputy executive director of a Chicago group called, the Active Transportation Alliance, that advocates for improved public transportation, walking and cycling. ‘Speeding and not yielding are the top two causes of pedestrian deaths, but the third cause is distractions, which are usually by mobile devices."
“There is a lot of documentation attesting to the fact that drivers distracted by their mobile devices cause traffic accidents. But, there is an increase in pedestrians being distracted too, causing them to be totally unaware of all the traffic whirling around them.”
Other factors would be speeding vehicles and alcohol – not just drunk drivers, but drunk pedestrians too. The GHSA most recent report said that 33% of pedestrian deaths involved a pedestrian who had a blood alcohol count over the legal limit for driving. Yet, there are no laws against walking down the street while drunk, but obviously this is a very dangerous practice, which can kill you.
Another factor was time of day with 75% of pedestrian deaths occurring at night in the dark. In 72% of the cases, the deceased was jay walking, or crossing in the middle of the street without being in the intersection.
This latest report also indicates that marijuana use may also be a factor:
“From 2012 to 2016 there were seven states plus Washington DC, that voted to legalized the recreational use of marijuana. These states were Alaska, Colorado, Massachusetts, Maine, Nevada, Washington and Oregon. These states reported a 16.4% rise in pedestrian deaths in the first half of 2017 vs. the first half of 2016. Interestingly, all other states had a collective 5.8% decrease in pedestrian deaths.”
However, GHSA cannot assert a “definitive association” or “direct correlation” in explaining those particular states’ much higher rates of pedestrian fatalities.
If you have a loved one that was killed in a pedestrian accident that was caused by someone else, you may be entitled to seek compensation. You need to know your legal rights and how to protect them and an experienced pedestrian accident attorney can help. The law offices of O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley has handled hundreds of clients in similar situations. Call today and speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer who will treat you with the respect and concern you deserve during this very difficult time.
Published on behalf of O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley LLP
The information contained in this article is not meant to serve as a medical diagnosis or advice, especially when it comes to treatment. If you have questions about a medical condition it is important for you to see your physician or another qualified health professional. Do not ignore the advice of a medical professional or delay seeking treatment because of what you’ve read in this article or somewhere else online.
The media has been giving concussions a lot of attention lately since the NFL has been forced to acknowledge the burgeoning evidence that concussions can cause victims lasting damage. Medical research has very clearly shown that concussions, especially when suffered repeatedly, cause long-term brain damage that includes memory problems, difficulty focusing and other cognitive impairments.
Diagnosing a Concussion
If you’ve received a head injury your physician will go over your medical history, assess your symptoms, and give you a neurological examination. You could very well be suffering from a concussion and not show any signs or symptoms until hours or even days after being injured.
Your doctor will most likely perform or provide a referral for the following tests:
Your doctor will first ask you some very detailed questions about how you were injured before performing a neurological examination or assessment. He or she will check your:
Strength and sensation
There are a number of tests your doctor will likely give you to evaluate your cognitive (thinking) abilities. These would include your:
Ability to recall facts and information
Ability to focus and concentrate
Brain Imaging Tests
If you are suffering from seizures, debilitating headaches, constant vomiting or have worsening symptoms, you may need brain imaging. These tests should be able to determine how severe your injury is and whether you have swelling and/or bleeding inside your skull.
The test that’s normally used to evaluate the brain immediately after being injured is called a cranial computerized tomography (CT) scan. A CT scan takes a series of cross-sectional X-ray images of the injured skull and brain.
Another test called a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is often used to pin point any changes that may have occurred in the brain and/or to diagnose problems that can happen after suffering a concussion. To get such detailed images of the brain an MRI employs radio waves combined with powerful magnets.
After suffering a concussion you should either be hospitalized overnight or observed at home very closely for 24 hours straight with your doctor’s permission.
Someone needs to be constantly checking on you for 24 hours straight to determine whether you’re stable or if your symptoms might be getting worse.
During this time, your caregiver should wake you up on a regular basis to ensure that you are able to wake up normally.
If you have a concussion, your recovery will move along more quickly if you can simply rest, both physically and mentally.
In order to do this you will need to avoid any kind of physical activity that exacerbates your symptoms. This would include activities that require you to physically exert yourself, like playing sports or doing anything involving vigorous movements. Avoid these types of activities until they no longer cause you any symptoms.
In terms of mental activities, avoid anything that requires you to exert yourself mentally, trying to concentrate or think things through. You should avoid schoolwork, using a computer, reading, watching TV, texting and/or playing video games if you notice your symptoms acting up or getting worse due to this mental activity.
If you’re a student your doctor will likely want you to shorten your school days and workloads. If you are employed your doctor will want you to work shorter days and take frequent breaks throughout the day while recovering from your concussion.
Once your symptoms start improving, you can add more mental activities, such as taking on more schoolwork or projects at work. You can also gradually increase the number of hours each day that you spend at school or work.
Before resuming any physical activity you will want to consult with your doctor. It may be that he or she will allow you to do some very light physical activity once your symptoms totally subside. These would be things like gentle jogging or exercising on a stationary bike for short periods of time. As long as these activities do not trigger or make your symptoms worse, they should be okay.
In time, after you are no longer experiencing any symptoms of a concussion, you can consult with your doctor as to what precautions you would need to take in order to stay safe playing sports. If you start playing sports too soon after suffering a concussion you increase your risk of another concussion and a serious and perhaps deadly brain injury.
For headaches, you can take an over-the-counter pain reliever like acetaminophen, the most common being Tylenol, but there are other brands as well. If you take aspirin or ibuprofen, which would be Motrin IB, Advil and others, you risk an increase in bleeding.
Getting Ready for Your Doctor’s Appointment
It is vital that a medical doctor examine anyone with a head injury of any kind, even if it doesn’t seem like an emergency.
If it’s your child who has suffered a head injury, get on the phone right a way to call his or her pediatrician. The doctor may ask you to bring your child in immediately, depending on the seriousness of your child’s symptoms.
How to prepare for the doctor’s appointment:
What to Do
Find out if there are any instructions you need to follow or restrictions prior to seeing the doctor. In the meantime, avoid any physical or mental activities that exacerbate your symptoms. Do not participate in any physical activities including sports. Avoid as much as possible any stressful, prolonged or difficult mental activities.
While making your doctor’s appointment, find out what you or your child can do to assist in the recovery and avoid reinjury. Athletes should not resume playing their sport until they have undergone a medical evaluation.
Make a list of all signs and symptoms that you or your child has been suffering. This should include when each symptom started and how severe each one is.
List any other medical issues that you or your child is receiving treatment for. Include any previous head injuries. List all prescriptions and over-the-counter medications as well as vitamins, minerals and any other supplement you or your child takes.
Bring someone along with you to the doctor’s. Since you have a head injury it may be difficult for you to take in all the medical information and advice. If you bring someone along they may remember things that you may end up forgetting.
Questions For Your Doctor
If you think you might have a concussion, you will want to ask the following questions:
What exactly is a concussion?
What tests will I need to have?
Do I have a concussion?
What approach to treatment do you think is best?
When do you think my symptoms will begin subsiding?
Am I now more at risk of having another concussion?
What is my risk for having long-term effects or complications?
When do you think it would be safe for me to start exercising again?
When do you think it would be safe for me to play sports again?
Would it be safe now for me to go back to school or return to work?
Is it safe now for me to drive or run heavy equipment of any sort?
I’m dealing with other medical conditions. Can they all be managed at once?
Do I need to see a specialist? Will my health insurance cover a specialist and if not, what would it cost? You may need to check with your insurance company for these answers.
Do you have any informational leaflets or brochures for me to take home? Are there any websites that you suggest for further information?
You may also have additional questions that occur to you during your appointment, so don’t be shy about asking all your questions.
The Doctor’s Questions for You
Be ready to answer the following questions from your doctor regarding the head injury and its symptoms:
Do you participate in any contact sports?
How did you injure your head?
What symptoms did you notice having right after being injured?
Do you recall exactly what occurred right before being injured? Right after?
Were you knocked unconscious from the injury?
Have you experienced any seizures?
Have you felt nauseous or been vomiting since you were injured?
Have you experienced any headaches? If so, when did they start?
Are you having any problems now with physical coordination?
How has your memory been since the injury? Any problems concentrating?
Are you experiencing any unusual sensitivity, problems with your hearing and/or vision?
Have you noticed any unusual mood swings, including agitation, anxiety or depression?
Are you feeling more fatigued since being injured?
Are you having difficulty getting to sleep, sleeping or waking up?
Has your sense of smell or taste changed in any way?
Have you been dizzy or experienced any vertigo?
Are there any other symptoms that you’ve noticed that you are worried about?
Is this your first head injury or have there been others in the past?
Taking Care of Yourself Until You See Your Doctor
The best thing you can do for now is to avoid doing anything that exacerbates your symptoms. This means you need to avoid participating in any physical activities, including sports, which will raise your heart rate. Taking long walks, jogging or doing anything physically strenuous, like lifting weights is out of the question.
Also, do not get involved in any mental activity that may exacerbate your symptoms, things that require a lot of concentration. For example, doing schoolwork, using the computer, playing video games, texting and/or watching TV.
If you’re suffering from headaches, you can take an over-the-counter pain reliever like acetaminophen, the most common one is Tylenol, but there are other brands. It is best to avoid taking aspirin or ibuprofen, which would be Motrin IB, Advil and others because these will put you at risk for an increase in bleeding.
If you or a loved one has suffered a concussion as the result of the negligence of another, contact O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley and we will provide you with a free consultation with an experienced concussion attorney. At O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley, we make sure you have the resources necessary for the evaluation and diagnosis of all types of head injuries, and we will help you recover your losses.
Weather conditions can have a huge impact on driver safety. It can affect driver visibility and control as well the vehicle’s maneuverability, stability, and traction. Rain, high winds and extreme temperatures affect roadway conditions, pavement friction and the flow of traffic, all of which can increase the risk of motor vehicle accidents. Weather conditions affect roadways, the flow of traffic and the operational decisions that follow.
In an average year there are more than 5,748,000 car crashes occurring on U.S. roadways. Statistics show that in approximately 1,259.000 (22%) of these accidents, weather played a role. Weather-related traffic collisions are defined as car crashes that happen in bad weather. It could be fog, rain, snow, sleet, heavy crosswinds, the wind blowing sand, debris or snow across the road, and/or slick/slushy pavement caused by rain, snow, or ice. As a result of these weather-related collisions, nearly 6,000 people lose their lives and more than 445,000 are injured every year.
The overwhelming majority of these accidents occur when it’s raining and on wet pavement: 46% occur when it’s raining and 73% occur on wet pavement. Other weather-related collisions happen during typical winter weather conditions: 3% happen in the fog, 13% happen on icy roadways, 14% happen on snowy/slushy roads and 17% happen during sleet or snow storms.
What Drivers Should Do to Stay Safe
Everyone’s driving is affected by extreme weather. Heavy fog, rain, snow, sleet, ice and dust will all diminish your visibility.
Of all the various weather conditions that driver’s face, fog is considered the most treacherous. If you find yourself driving in heavy fog, slow down and turn on your car’s low-beam lights. If the fog is so thick that you barely have any visibility, pull off the road to safety and wait until the fog lifts to resume driving.
When it first starts drizzling, raining or snowing, slow down because this is exactly when roads are the most slippery. When moisture in the air mixes with dust and oil on the road, it can get very slippery, causing reduced traction. Under these conditions you are at risk of losing control of your car.
It’s not just cold winter weather, rain, sleet, ice and snow that can affect your driving, but high temperatures, heavy winds and glare from the sun can cause problems as well.
Bright sunlight and/or how light reflects on a streaked or dirty windshield will diminish visibility and this puts you at risk. Before starting your car you should remove dew, frost, or ice from not just your windshield, but all the windows as well.
It’s up to you to ensure that you are able to see clearly and be seen by other drivers. If you’re driving in rain or snow, stop regularly to wipe any mud or snow off all the windows, as well as the side mirrors, headlights and even the taillights. In an abundance of caution, even in daylight during perfectly clear weather, keep your headlights on so that other drivers can see you.
When it’s windy outside it can affect how well you can control the steering. Head winds can slow you down, whereas tail winds will push the car forward, increasing your speed.
Crosswinds can push the car sideways, causing it to swerve. This affects larger vehicles like vans, SUVs and trucks more. If you find yourself driving in a crosswind, slow down and steer very carefully. If heavy winds persist, pull over to safety until the winds die down.
The automobile accident attorneys at O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley are well known and respected throughout the legal community and among our clients. From our offices in Contra Contra Costa County, San Francisco and Sacramento, we serve clients throughout Northern California. Our experience and expertise are 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.
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.
Published on behalf of O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley LLP
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.
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.
Most of the highway deaths involving large truck collisions are of occupants in passenger vehicles. Occupants of smaller vehicles are extremely vulnerable because they must share the road with large trucks. Many trucks weigh 25-30 times as much as an average car and are much taller. The problem is that a smaller car following behind a huge truck risks an underride collision with the truck.
Factors in Big Rig Collisions
The length of time it takes a fully loaded tractor-trailer to brake is one factor contributing to big rig collisions. It can take them 20% - 40% farther that it takes an average car to stop, and even farther if the road is wet or the brakes haven’t been properly maintained.
Another factor is truck driver fatigue. Federal law stipulates that drivers operating large trucks can drive no more than 11 hours in one stretch and no more than 77 hours in a week’s time. However, surveys suggest that many drivers ignore the law and drive for longer periods of time, which causes them to become overly fatigued.
Where Collisions With Trucks Happen
A study on fatal collisions in 2015 that involved large trucks provided the following statistics:
53% occurred on major roads rather than on freeways and/or interstate highways
30% occurred on freeways and/or interstate highways
14% occurred on smaller, less traveled roads
Large Truck Collisions Compared to Passenger Vehicle Collisions
In 2015, over half of occupant deaths in large trucks occurred in collisions that caused their truck to roll over. This percentage was similar to the occupant fatalities in SUVs and pickup trucks that rolled over in crashes. Interestingly, those percentages were much higher than the 23% of occupant deaths that occurred in car rollovers.
Drunk Driving Has Subsided
Drivers of large trucks killed in fatal accidents almost never are found to have high levels of blood alcohol concentrations (BACs). Truck drivers are under very strict regulations by the government regarding drinking and driving. Only 3% of truck drivers killed in fatal collisions in 2015 showed a BAC level at or above 0.08%. That is far lower than the figure in 1982, which was 51%, so it is apparent that the trucking regulations in place now for drinking and driving are having the desired effect.
At O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley we have over 50 years of experience. We have the expertise and a proven track record of success in personal injury law. If you or a loved one has been the victim of trucking or big rig accident and would like to speak with an attorney, please contact us. We are here to answer your questions and discuss how to protect your legal rights.
O’Connor, Runckel and O’Malley LLP would like to announce our 2017 scholarship recipient, Jordyn Sequeira. Jordyn graduated Cum Laude from Arizona State University and is currently in her second year of law school at University of San Francisco. Throughout her first year of law school Jordyn exhibited a strong commitment to social justice, consistently volunteering through the USF’s ProBono Programs. Jordyn worked various clean slate clinics, where she provided free legal assistance to people who suffer from the collateral consequences of having criminal records. Over the summer she served as a legal intern in the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office. After she graduates she plans to continue to dedicate her time to battling social injustices.
We wish Jordyn continued success at UCSF School of Law.