October Is Fire Safety Awareness Month: 8 Key Tips to Protect Your Family

As chills spread across D.C., Maryland and Virginia, homeowners across the region are lighting up their chimneys for the first time this season and mulling hot apple cider. Unfortunately, these “first fires of the season” have the potential to spark danger. Debris and other residue caught in unused chimneys can clog up flues, create back drafts, and, under certain unlucky circumstances, cause house fires. October is Fire Safety Awareness Month; to that end, we wanted to share 8 critical tips to protect you, your family, and the community at large:

  •  Teach children good fire safety habits. Protect young children from getting access to matches, candles, stove burners and other source of combustion;
  • Inspect your chimney on a regular basis. Get this work done before you use the chimney for the first time in the fall/winter season;
  • Pay attention to “near accidents.” Potential fires or accidents that you managed to catch and stop in nick of time can teach you a tremendous amount about how to protect your home or business. Often these events presage real disasters;
  • Take advantage of free inspections. You can get a free inspection and also obtain free smoke detectors during October. Contact your local fire department in Washington D.C., Montgomery Country, Prince George’s County, Fairfax, Alexandria, and Falls Church for details about fire department inspection schedules;
  • Check your detectors. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors can save your life. Make sure these devices are working properly and that they have fresh batteries;
  • Set up your emergency evacuation kit. Include water, medicines, food rations, warm clothing, a list of phone numbers, and cash you might need in an emergency;
  • Double-check your insurance. Make sure that your homeowner’s insurance coverage is up-to-date;
  • Protect your property. Report any suspicious activity, such as potential arson or vandalism in your neighborhood, to authorities.

If somebody you love suffered an injury in a fire, or you got hurt and you believe that someone's negligence, carelessness or wrongdoing somehow contributed, call the personal injury lawyers at Regan Zambri & Long for a confidential, free consultation.

Here's more insight into how to fireproof (and otherwise protect) your home and family during Halloween: CPSC Reminds Parents How to Prevent Halloween Costume and Decoration-Related Injuries


 

 

National Teen Driver Safety Week: "Parents Are the Key"

Posted by: Salvatore J. Zambri, founding member and partner

Picture of Salvatore J. Zambri

Driver inexperience contributes to about 3,000 lost teen lives each year. As a matter of fact, the number #1 threat to a teen's safety is driving or riding in a car with a teen driver.

However, according to NHTSA, a recent survey showed that only 25% of parents have had a serious talk with their teen driver about the key components of driving. NHTSA has produced a Fact Sheet for Teen Driver Safety Week entitled "5 to Drive," rules that address the worst dangers for teen drivers:

  • Alcohol
  • Texting
  • Seat Belts
  • Speeding
  • Extra Passengers

As part of National Teen Driver Safety Week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), developed a website devoted to "Parents Are the Key to Safe Teen Drivers" campaign, which includes a number of resources for parents, pediatricians and communities to keep teen drivers safe on the road. Listed below are some of the useful discussion and educational topics included in the CDC website.

  • Parental Involvement in Teen's Driving
    • Eight Danger Zones
    • Parent-Teen Driving Agreement
    • Graduated Driver Licensing
    • Shared What You've Learned
  • Key Steps for Pediatricians and Safe Teen Driving
    • Educate to Reduce Risk
    • Encourage Use of a Parent-Teen Driving Agreement
    • Remind Parents to Lead by Example
    • Spread the Word
    • Include Information about Safe Teen Driving on Clinic Website
  • Tools for Partners and Communities to Collaborate on Teen Driving Safety
    • Share Campaign Materials
    • Plan and Promote Events to Raise Awareness
    • Integrate CDC Content with Websites
    • Use Media Relations for Promotion

Teens need to learn how to drive. But, even more important, teens need to learn how to drive safely. Parents are the biggest influence on whether their teens learn to drive carefully. The CDC website Parents Are the Key provides useful tools for assisting parents in delivering that message. I routinely give presentations to local schools on the issue of distracted driving, a growing concern among drivers of all ages, but especially teen drivers. Please be careful on the road, and don’t hesitate to contact me if you would like to learn more about my presentations concerning distracted driving. You can call me at (202) 822-1899 or email me at szambri@reganfirm.com.

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DOT Reveals Powerful New Tools, Technologies and Ideas to Boost Car Seat Safety

If you're the parent of young children, and you spend a sizable amount of time every day strapping your children into their car seats (and getting them out of their car seats!), you may have already heard about the Department of Transportation’s educational campaign, Child Passenger Safety Week, which took place in mid-September.

During this safety week, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a slate of new technologies and tools, such as a Car Seat Finder tool, which can help parents register their car seats rapidly. Per the NHTSA’s official release “every 34 seconds, a child under the age of 13 is involved in a crash and more than a third of children killed in crashes were not in car seats or wearing seatbelts.”

The Car Seat Finder tool can help parents register their car seats and also stay up to speed on potential recall notifications. Notifications can help prevent injuries and assist parents whose children have been hurt in accidents. Here are some key safety tips from the NHTSA:

•    Use the NHTSA car seat finder tool to make sure that your children are in appropriate seats, based on their weight and age;
•    Make sure a certified child passenger safety technician inspects your car seats on a regular basis;
•    All children younger than 13 should be restrained in the backseat and wear safety restraints;
•    Be a good example and wear your safety belt at all times;
•    Avoid dangerous behaviors like talking on the cellphone while driving or driving while fatigued, angry or under the influence;
•    Read and follow the instructions for car seat installation and maintenance;
•    If you get an alert that a recall has been issued for your car seat, act right away and get it fixed. The manufacturer should fix the problem for free for you;
•    Make sure to take your kids with you every time you leave the car. Obviously, parents can often find themselves sleep deprived and distracted, but if you leave your children in a car, they can get seriously injured or killed from heat stroke or freezing;
•    Tighten the straps on cars seats, so that your children are not too loose in their seats, but don’t pull so tight that you hurt them or make them too uncomfortable.

If you suspect that a damaged or defective car seat played a role in a recent injury accident, our DC car accident law firm can provide a free consultation to help you figure out what you might be able to do to get compensation.
 

Curious to learn more about car safety for kids? Check out: Hot Car Deaths, the Law, and a New Way to Prevent Them

Prom and Homecoming Driving Safety Tips

Homecoming and prom seasons provide opportunities for parents to take some time to educate their children of the potential dangers of school dance nights. Take steps to protect yourself, your kids, and other people on the road. Here are three important driving tips. (Even more tips here, if you're curious):

1.    Set driving rules well before the dance.

Don’t wait until the night before the big dance to have the "safe driving talk" with your teenager. Make the safe driving conversation an ongoing conversation, and don’t be afraid to field tough questions about the process. Go over contingencies. What should your teen do if a friend drinks or does drugs and gets behind the wheel? Whom should she call and when? Go over these contingencies in an honest and safe way, so your teen can feel comfortable reaching out to you.

2.    Consider an “anytime you need a ride, no questions asked” option for your teenager.

A teenager who breaks the rules by drinking, doing drugs, or hanging out with dangerous kids may feel scared or embarrassed by the behavior and compound it by making panicked decisions. For instance, if your teenager knows you will yell at him for drinking, he may avoid calling you for a ride and get into a car with a drunk friend, instead. Many parents have established a “you get a ride any time, no questions asked” policy, so that their kids can get home safely.

Of course, if you do establish this policy, stick to it! Honor your teen's trust, but also protect him or her from dangers.

3.    Consider using a Limo or Taxi service.

Teenagers generally do not like to be shepherded to and from dances by their parents. You might want to take the pressure off of them and you by hiring a limo service or a taxi service on the night of the dance. Perhaps, for instance, you and several others parents can pool your resources to pay for cabs.

If your child was injured after prom or a homecoming dance, or if you need other assistance with a potential personal injury case, the effective and qualified Washington D.C. car accident attorneys here at Regan Zambri & Long would be happy to provide a free and confidential consultation.
 

Get the facts about local driving laws. Check out: Drivers Beware: Virginia and Maryland Enacted New Laws July 1

Puerto Rico Medical Device Manufacturer Faces Largest FDA Recall Ever

Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a recall of 233 medical devices in one of the largest one-day recall events in the agency’s history.

The recall, affecting products manufactured by Puerto Rico firm Customed, Inc., received a Class I designation, the organization’s most severe classification. While the vast majority of FDA recalls fall under the Class II category (indicating less deadly consequences), all the affected Customed devices had packaging flaws potentially leading to contamination and infection in patients.

To date, no patients have reported adverse effects from handling or using these items. However, with “several hundred thousand units” currently on the market, locating and eliminating the devices from medical facilities and homes has become a top priority for the FDA.

The Customed recall assumes the dubious distinction not only of being the FDA’s largest on record, but representing 9 times more affected products than its predecessor.

Hurt By a Recalled Product? Here’s What to Do


As the number of product recalls increases, it’s important to take proactive and reactive measures to ensure your and your family’s safety. Even those making an effort to stay apprised of recent recalls may suffer harm from a recently recalled product, or even from one not yet recalled. When this happens, consider taking action such as:

  • Obtaining medical care. Go immediately to an urgent-care or emergency facility to have a doctor evaluate and treat injuries. Be sure to tell the intake worker your injury may be related to a product.
  • Retain documentation. Take pictures of the injury, product, and any other pertinent details, and retain any paperwork related to medical or other expenses you might incur.
  • Contact a defective products attorney. As soon as possible after the injury, reach out to a D.C. personal injury lawyer with experience handling cases involving defective products. Whether the product involved has been recalled or not, you deserve to know whether you are entitled to compensation for your suffering.

Manufacturers have a responsibility to keep their customers safe. When a company breaks your trust, explore all your legal options.

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It's not just medical devices that cause problems. Food products do, too. Check out Chicken Nugget Recall Sheds Light on Food Safety

Labor Day Driving Safety Tips

As the beginning of school approaches, so does Labor Day. This holiday provides a much-needed three-day weekend for many professionals and allows families and friends to gather for one last summer celebration.

Although Labor Day is an enjoyable occasion for millions of Americans, the weekend also presents heightened risks to drivers. According to AAA, about 29.2 million people expect to drive over the holiday weekend; a 4.3% increase over last year’s 28 million.

Increased traffic, aggressive driving, and DUI driving all contribute to higher collision rates. The National Safety Council reports about 400 deaths related to car crashes each Labor Day. However, drivers can take measures to ensure their safety and that of others.

Whether traveling locally, to work, or across several states, follow these safety tips to avoid becoming a Labor Day statistic:

1.    Get adequate rest. The night before driving long distances, make sure each individual who will be driving gets at least 8 hours of sleep.

2.    Take frequent pit stops. Although it may be tempting to drive nonstop for several hours to reach your destination more quickly, resist the urge. Every few hours, pull over to allow everyone in the car to stretch their legs, eat a snack, and find a restroom.

3.    Care for your car. Conduct routine maintenance, such as oil changes and tire rotations, before embarking on a road trip. Ask your mechanic for an inspection to ensure other issues don’t result in costly and inconvenient breakdowns.

4.    Pack an emergency kit. If your car doesn’t yet contain jumper cables, a jack, a spare tire, flares, a first aid kit, food rations, and other emergency essentials, use Labor Day travel as an opportunity to supply it with these items.

5.    Practice defensive driving. Especially when driving in unfamiliar areas, remain aware of the behaviors of other drivers. Keep safe speeds and maintain safe following distances, avoid weaving or swerving vehicles, and have a passenger call the authorities if you witness unsafe conditions.

If a Labor Day car accident has caused injury to you or a loved one, reach out to a D.C. personal injury attorney to discuss your legal options.

Do NOT leave your child in a hot car. Find out more about this disturbing practice by reading: Recent Child Car Deaths Highlight Need for Heightened Awareness

Hot Car Deaths, the Law, and a New Way to Prevent Them

Posted by: Salvatore J. Zambri, founding member and partner

Picture of Salvatore J. Zambri

Over the years, we have posted multiple times about the dangers of leaving children in hot cars: 

Because this tragic situation has gathered more media attention, a number of states have enacted laws addressing leaving children in hot cars, and the NHTSA has initiated a campaign entitled "Where's Baby? Look Before You Lock."

Amid the record sweltering heat of this summer, national attention has increased on parents leaving their children alone in unbearably hot vehicles. According to a 2009 article in The Washington Post, 60 percent of these cases are ones borne of “negligence,” subjecting the wrong-doers to criminal charges. The ongoing re-occurrence of these cases has even led to individuals videotaping themselves engaging in the “hot car challenge” to demonstrate just how dangerous it is to leave a child there. As the Post noted in 2013, “43 children died from vehicle-induced heat stroke.” So far, in 2014, the number is at just under 20, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Almost all states in the United States have neglect laws that apply to these cases, and “19 states address it directly.” Prosecutors are granted discretion to determine whether there was malice or whether an accidental mistake occurred. The punishments for parents or guardians are varied, especially if the child survives, but some severe cases have recently earned media attention.

In the Atlanta, Georgia area, CNN has extensively covered a case, in which a father was charged this summer with felony murder after his son died in his car on June 18. In 2013, according to USA Today, an Arizona father left his son in a car for three hours – as he spent time at a bar – and the child’s resulting death led to convictions of manslaughter and child abuse for the father, who was sentenced to four years in prison. Obviously, this is a serious issue. 

New laws have been enacted providing guidance to bystanders if they see a child alone in a hot car. USA Today noted recently that in Tennessee, a new law “allows someone to break into a car to rescue a child if they believe the child is in imminent danger.” Meanwhile, at the federal level, there has been pressure applied to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to initiate federal research into technology to help parents remember not to leave kids in their cars. Foxx indicated recently he would embrace the NHTSA’s “Where’s Baby? Look Before You Lock” campaign.

Beyond state legislation and federal initiatives, individuals can take steps to prevent these incidents. “Parents and caregivers are the first line of defense against these needless tragedies,” Acting Traffic Safety Administrator David Friedman stresses, “but everyone in the community has a role to play.” Though there are commonly referenced methods to avoid leaving a child in a car, a new method a Florida newspaper highlighted may be the most effective to date. “If you are driving a child,” Melanie Payne of The Fort Meyers News-Press writes, “after you put them in a back seat…put your left shoe back there, too.” After all, it is unlikely an individual would forget his or her shoe before exiting a car.

If this method helps you remember not to leave a child in a hot car, use it or design a memory device of your own.  Please keep your children safe.

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6 Quick Tips for Back-to-School Safety

As fall approaches, students and their parents begin preparing for the new school year. Whether children feel excitement, dread, or nonchalance about going back to school, the season certainly presents a change of pace from the more relaxed days of summer.

Along with returning to school come a new set of safety risks for children of all ages. As families work to create new routines, keeping the health and well-being of children in mind helps mitigate the hazards posed by traffic, public spaces, other students, and other components of the educational experience.

Six ways parents can help their children stay healthy and secure during the next school year include:

1.    Bus safety. Students riding the bus should be aware of the proper entrance and exit methods, especially when crossing the street. Those waiting for the bus should always remain at least 6 feet from the curb.

2.    Walking or bicycling to school. Increased traffic means children on foot or bike must pay close attention to their surroundings. Remind students of the rules of the road, and practice the walk with those taking an unfamiliar route to a new school.

3.    Teen driving.
Licensed drivers are often eager to begin driving to school; however, parents should exercise judgment in providing this privilege. Invest in additional training before classes start if a teen showcases irresponsible driving behaviors.

4.    Ergonomic backpacks.
Heavy or poorly-designed backpacks often lead to back problems in children. Inspect children’s bags before they leave for school, and ensure they use both straps.

5.    Playground safety. Instruct children in safe playground practices. Talk to school administrators about hazardous or outdated playground structures.

6.    Bullying prevention.
Parents who discuss bullying with their children and address potential concerns with educators help eradicate this harmful practice.

As children return to school, they deserve to learn in a safe and conducive environment. Should the negligence or abuse of another individual compromise your child’s health or wellbeing, a DC child safety attorney can help you take legal recourse.

What steps will you take to keep students safe as they return to school?

For further reading:

For kids who bike: tips for safer biking

For kids still on vacation

Recent Child Car Deaths Highlight Need for Heightened Awareness

Parents across the United States are becoming more aware of the dangers of leaving children locked in hot cars. A recent Georgia case, in which a 22-month-old child died after remaining locked in a car while his father worked all day, has led to widespread outrage and concern.

The father claims he forgot his son was in the car when he arrived at work. The temperature climbed to 92 degrees that day, bringing the car’s interior temperature to up to 140 degrees. When he returned to his vehicle at the end of the day, the child had died. Law enforcement officials continue to examine evidence from the vehicle and cell phone and other belongings. Search histories from his computer reveal an apparent interest in living “child-free” and in how hot a car’s interior must be to kill a child, suggesting the father will likely face charges for his potentially intentional acts.

Although the vast majority of parents have no intention of harming their children, busy lifestyles and unfamiliarity with the risks to their children may lead to behaviors that inadvertently compromise child safety. To raise awareness about the dangers of hot cars and help parents and caregivers keep their children out of harm’s reach, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has spearheaded a new campaign.

“Where’s Your Baby? Look Before You Lock” seeks to educate adults about the hazards of leaving children unattended in hot cars. Their internet and radio initiative provides tips such as:

•    Never leaving a child unattended in a vehicle

•    Checking the front and back of a car before locking it

•    Hiding car keys from children and keeping them from playing in cars

•    Arranging with daycare providers to call if a child never arrives

The rush to get to a destination on time – or the convenience of leaving a child in a car – is never worth the dangers to their life and health. If someone’s negligence has led to your child’s injury or death in a hot car, contact a DC personal injury attorney to seek justice for yourself and your child.

What precautions have you taken to keep your young children out of hot cars?

Related: "5 Tips to Keep Kids Safe on Vacation"

Chicken Nugget Recall Sheds Light on Food Safety

Earlier this month, Perdue issued a recall of over 15,000 pounds of frozen chicken nuggets after customers reported contaminated products.

The chicken nugget recall pertains to 8-ounce boxes of Applegate Naturals Chicken Nuggets, some of which allegedly contained small plastic particles. The company produced the nuggets on February 5, 2014, and they were marked to remain on shelves until the same date in 2015.

Although no consumers have reported illness or injury after ingesting the chicken nuggets, Perdue acted quickly to recall them from multiple retailers across the country. As of August 8, these products are no longer stocked in stores; however, they may still remain in individual homes.

In light of this recent recall, consumers may wonder what measures the FDA and food manufacturers take to keep unsafe foods off of store shelves, as well as what they can do to keep themselves and their families safe.

What to Do In Case of a Food Recall


A manufacturer may enact a food recall for a variety of reasons, usually due to evidence or reports it has received that a product that may cause illness in those who consume it. Contamination by a pathogen or allergen may be responsible. Or mislabeling can prompt a recall.

All types of foods can become contaminated, from fresh produce to frozen, processed foods. Consumers wishing to protect themselves from illness should regularly engage in safety measures such as:

•    Checking news and recall sites
. Watching and reading the news regularly exposes consumers to information about prominent food recalls. Foodsafety.gov also offers recall listings, phone alerts, and a widget to keep people apprised.

•    Throwing out or returning items in question. Read the recall information to find out whether you should discard a product or bring it back to the store for a refund.

•    Call the hotline.
Most manufacturers provide a hotline for questions or concerns regarding a recall.

Exposure to contaminated foods may seem inevitable, but paying close attention to and complying with recent recalls helps prevent illness.

If you or someone you know has become ill from eating contaminated food, a D.C. consumer safety attorney can help you hold the manufacturer accountable.

Curious to learn more about FDA standards? Check out: Doctor Contends 15 Dead in NECC Medication Contamination was Preventible and Predictable