DC Metro Area Personal Injury Law Blog

Making the Most of Parks and Recreation Month

Posted in Child Safety, Consumer Safety, Premises Liability

July is National Parks and Recreation Month, and that means it’s the ideal time to head out and enjoy all Mother Nature has to offer – and where better than your local parks? Established in 1985, this year marks the 30th anniversary of the special celebration of parks of all sizes. Before you head out to your local park, take a moment to review some safety tips and some facts about playground injuries courtesy of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

Nearly half of all playground injuries are serious and include fractures, head injuries, strangulation (mostly from improper use of equipment), dislocated joints and amputations.

Nearly 150 children die every year as a result of playground-related injuries.

Climbing equipment like “jungle gyms” causes more accidents than any other type of public playground equipment.

Prevent injuries by making sure the surface under playground equipment is soft, free of debris or hidden objects like pipes or concrete footings, and well-maintained.

Make sure children – and adults – wear safety equipment for activities like skateboarding or skating.

Teach children the proper way to use each piece of playground equipment.

• Carry – and use – plenty of sunscreen.

Consider using insect repellent to keep mosquitoes and other biting pests at bay.

• If your park includes a lake, never swim alone, supervise your kids and consider taking swimming lessons before you or your child dives in.

Know when to seek medical treatment. Broken bones or swollen joints may seem like obvious reasons for a trip to the emergency room, but even seemingly minor issues like a mild bump to the head can lead to serious and even life-threatening consequences.

Parks are always more fun when enjoyed with someone else. Make your park celebration a family event so you can provide supervision and watch out for obstacles that can cause injury in addition to joining in the fun and games.

Contact our D.C. personal injury attorneys for a free consultation about your options after a park related accident.

Pick up games at the park harbor their own secret hazards as well, as we discuss in this article: Basketball: Not as Safe as it Seems.

6 Surprising Swimming Pool Dangers

Posted in Child Safety, Premises Liability

Each day in the U.S., about 10 people die as a result of drowning, the fifth leading cause of unintentional injury-related death in the U.S. The problem is biggest among the very young, but people of all ages can become unintentional drowning victims, especially if they aren’t aware of the risks.

To better help people understand the risks of drowning, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released these surprising statistics:

Males are much more likely to be drowning victims than women. In fact, almost 80 percent of drowning victims, or four out of five, are men or boys, according to data from the CDC.

Preschoolers ages one to four years of age have the highest rates of drowning, and most drowning accidents occur in home swimming pools. In 2009, almost a third of deaths from unintentional injury of children in this age group were caused by drowning.

About 20 percent of all drowning victims are under the age of 14. For each child who dies as a result of drowning, another five children receive emergency care for drowning-related injuries.

More than half of all non-fatal drowning injuries require hospitalization or institutional care, compared to only six percent for all types of unintentional injury.

The risks of a non-fatal drowning accident can be severe and lifelong, and they can include paralysis, brain damage and permanent loss of basic functioning (a vegetative state).

Drowning rates are higher among blacks compared to whites. In fact, black children from five to 14 years of age are three times as likely to die from drowning as white children of the same ages overall, and nearly six times as likely to drown in a swimming pool.

Knowing the risks is just one part of the equation; make sure you and your loved ones practice safe swimming practices to reduce the risks of drowning, and never swim alone.

Call our Washington D.C. personal injury attorneys for insight into your possible case.

To learn more about another scary and preventable summer danger, read this article: Hot Car Deaths, the Law, and a New Way to Prevent Them.

Independence Day Weekend Driving Dangers Linger After the Holiday

Posted in Automobile Accidents

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Independence Day weekend is one of the deadliest times of the year for DUI driving and for auto accidents in general. Hopefully, you kept yourself and family safe during Independence Day weekend. However, even though America’s 239th birthday has come and gone, road related dangers remain. Here are some tips to keep fresh in your mind as you drive this summer:

1. Avoid consuming alcohol or drugs when getting behind the wheel.

This should go without saying. When you party or drink, select a designated driver, take a cab or hire an Uber. Don’t take unnecessary risks. For instance, let’s say that you only have two cans of beer before hoping into your vehicle, and your blood alcohol concentration is “just” 0.05%. You would technically be under the legal limit, so you wouldn’t be arrested for DUI (probably!). But you might still be more prone towards getting into an accident than if you would if you drove sober. Given the diverse number of DUI drivers on the road, you want to do everything possible to stack up the safety odds in your favor.

2. Minimize ALL distractions, including chatting on the cell phone while you’re driving (even on a hands-free headset), driving while fatigued or angry, or driving while distracted by anything inside or outside of the car, including your own thoughts.

Give yourself a safety edge by being as mindful and alert as possible. Sometimes, just a millisecond of reaction time is the difference between a nasty crash and a near miss.

3. Reduce your time on the road as much as possible.

In general, the more time you spend behind the wheel, driving to and from destinations, the more your risk of a crash goes up. It’s simple statistics. The more miles you log, the more likely you are to get hurt or hurt someone else.

4. Hang out with a crowd that also has safe driving habits.

If you are partying with friends from college who like to “live life on the edge,” you may be subconsciously peer pressured by them to adopt dangerous habits, such as driving too fast, changing lanes a lot on the highway, and so forth. Don’t underestimate the power of this social pressure; try to hang out with people who share your safety values.

Our Washington D.C. auto accident attorneys would be happy to provide a free and thorough consultation about your recent accident and possible case. Call or email use today to explore your strategic options.

To explore this topic in greater detail, please check out this article: Quantifying the Dangers of Distracted Driving.

Fireworks Accident Prevention Tips

Posted in Burn Injury, Child Safety, Consumer Safety

Just because Independence Day — one of the most exciting and thrilling days of the year – is over does not mean that families and teens are no longer at risk of fireworks-related hazards and injuries. In fact, according to the National Fire Protection Association, “In 2011, fireworks caused an estimated 17,800 reported fires, including 1,200 total structure fires, 400 vehicle fires, and 16,300 outside and other fires. These fires resulted in an estimated 40 civilian injuries and $32 million in direct property damage.”

So what can you do to protect yourself, your children, your neighbors, and your pets from burns and other fireworks related damage?

1. Keep pets – particularly dogs – away from fireworks displays. Dogs can get incredibly spooked out by fireworks blasts, which can lead to unintended consequences, such as dogs biting neighborhood children and dogs running into traffic and causing auto accidents.

2. Keep young children away from fireworks and fireworks displays. Young kids and explosive, vibrantly colored fireworks are, to excuse the pun, a combustible mix. Fireworks use should always be supervised and conducted in strict accordance with both the law and with manufacturer instructions.

3. Take proper first-aid and fire prevention precautions. If you and some neighbors want to put together a neighborhood fireworks display, obtain proper permits, and make sure that everything you do is up to code. You should also have first-aid supplies nearby as well as fire safety systems in place, in case a rocket lands in a wood pile or something along those lines.

4. Avoid using off brand, old, warped or broken fireworks or firework supplies. Check to make sure that no recalls have been issued for your fireworks. In the best case scenario, a dud firework will not go off at all. In the worst case scenario, the firework could be defective in a way that creates fire and burn hazards that you might not be prepared to handle.

5. Avoid mixing drugs and alcohol and fireworks. Even if you have the proper set up and structure to handle a neighborhood fireworks display, the addition of alcohol or drugs could lead to dangerous unintended consequences. Just like you might elect a sober person to be your designated driver when you go out partying; so, too, might you elect someone to be a sober fireworks monitor for the evening.

6. Clean up your fireworks display in the surrounding area. Prevent old, unexplored fireworks from getting in the hands of children or polluting the area.

Please get in touch with our Washington D.C. personal injury attorneys today to explore how you can obtain fair compensation and justice in your potential case.

Here are some more critical safety insights for summer: 2015 Summer Driving Season: Time for Click It or Ticket Campaign.

Repercussions of the Volvo Safety Test Debacle

Posted in Automobile Accidents

Despite the hype over automated safety features on today’s automobiles, the recent debacle over a demonstration of Volvo’s automatic stopping feature shows just how far the industry still has to go in reaching its goals: During this particular test, a dealer attempted to show off the safety feature by heading directly into a group of people, two of whom were struck when the vehicle failed to stop. Understandably, this very dangerous glitch went “viral” and prompted a national, frenzied conversation over social media about automated auto safety features in general.

The ultimate in automated car technology, of course, is Google’s self-driving car, which is still in its prototype stages. Although engineers have logged well over three-quarters of a million miles, their self-driving vehicles still have a long way to go, a fact that even Google’s developers admit. According to Chris Urmson, lead developer for Google’s car, the technology still has plenty of kinks that need to be worked out. An article in MIT Technology Review highlighted a few of them:

  • Detailed maps are required of the entire route – even driveways and parking garages – in order for the car to operate properly. On a national scale, that would mean continual updates to millions of miles of roadways as well as individual and privately-owned features.
  • Self-driving cars haven’t been proven in snow and heavy rains. These conditions pose a real problem with visibility, which is obviously necessary for the car to navigate.
  • Although Google’s car can detect different traffic light colors, it can be blinded when the sun is too near the light.
  • Construction zones have been proving particularly difficult for Google cars to navigate.
  • So far, the car cannot detect potholes or uncovered manholes. As a result, it simply plows over them. It also has difficulty differentiating among types of road obstacles, and it will veer around any object – even a small piece of crumpled paper.

Still, Urmson says he’s shooting for a ready-for-prime-time target of five years – when his 11-year-old son will reach driving age in California.

Our Washington D.C. auto accident attorneys would be happy to provide a free and thorough consultation about your recent accident and possible case. Call or email use today to explore your strategic options.

When does a defective car part become an issue? Explore this discussion here: “Does a Vehicle Recall Mean Emergency? Sometimes, But Not Always.”

June is National Physical Safety Month

Posted in Burn Injury, Child Safety, Consumer Safety

The National Safety Council (NSC) exists for one purpose only: To promote health and safety among all residents of the U.S., at work, at home and on the road. Every June, the NSC asks Americans to celebrate a month of safety, raising awareness of some common yet preventable dangers that can pose risks to health and life. In honor of National Safety Month, here are five quick tips to help you stay safe this summer:

  • Beat the heat and avoid heat-related illness by avoiding prolonged periods in the sun and taking plenty of water breaks. Check out these tips from the Mayo Clinic on how to avoid heat stroke.
  • NEVER leave children or pets in an unattended vehicle – even with the windows “cracked,” temperatures can soar to deadly levels in a few minutes.
  • Be smart about the sun. Use plenty of sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 and reapply it throughout the day. Don’t forget your ears, the back or your neck and your feet. Wear a hat with a wide brim and protect your eyes with UV-rated sunglasses.
  • Stay safe on the 4th. Fireworks – even seemingly harmless ones like sparklers – can injure kids and pets. Plus, pets frightened by the noise and sound of fireworks are much more likely to run away or become injured on the 4th of July holiday. Practice safety when handling fireworks or attending displays, and leave your pets indoors with the TV on to mask the noise.
  • Don’t rely solely on lifeguards to keep an eye on your kids at pools or at the beach. Enroll your kids in swimming lessons when they reach age three.

Want more tips? The NSC website has plenty of free resources; all you have to do is register.

Here’s a more detailed exploration of Independence Day safety tips: A July 4th Fireworks Safety Reminder.

 

Eight Ways to Ensure a Safer Graduation Party

Posted in Automobile Accidents, Child Safety

Your teen is about to graduate: Congratulations! That’s a big achievement – for both of you. If your teen plans on celebrating the event with friends, you might be concerned about his or her safety, especially if partying is likely to occur. Setting some ground rules before the big event can ensure that your teen understands your expectations and abides by them. Here are a few quick tips to help him or her stay safe:

If your child is celebrating elsewhere, make seat belts the rule when driving or riding in a car – even in the back seat. Most states have seat belt laws, but make sure your child knows you expect him or her to wear them, no matter what kind of peer pressure is applied.

Ask your children about their plans. It sounds a bit OCD, but make sure you have their basic itinerary, and make sure they know there will be consequences if they deviate from it.

Talk about alcohol and drug use ahead of time. About 5.4 million teens engage in binge drinking, and many die as a result of it. The NIH has a list of talking points here.

Let your child know you’ll be waiting up and that you’ll be ready to offer pick up – without judgment – if he or she ever feels unsafe.

Be sure your teen’s phone is charged and that he or she has some money to call a cab or an Uber if need be.

Make sure your teen knows to stay with friends and to avoid engaging in obviously dangerous activities. Express your fears and need for his or her safety in an authentic way.

Consider creating a contract to set the rules in writing, and let your teen know you’re serious about your rules and expectations. You can find a sample contract here, but there are plenty of others on the web.

Most importantly, make sure your teen understands WHY you’re setting rules — because you care and want him or her to stay safe.

If someone you love suffered an injury or illness due to someone else’s inaction or wrongdoing, our Washington D.C. personal injury attorneys may be able to help you.

Here’s a good and relevant refresher article on a similar topic: 7 Rules for How to Draw Up a Contract with Your Teen for Prom.

Four Essential Travel Safety Tips for the Start of Summer

Posted in Automobile Accidents

For most American families, Memorial Day weekend is not just a time to reflect on the sacrifices made by our men and women in the Armed Forces but also a time to relax, light up the grill and celebrate the unofficial start of summer.

However, traveling on Memorial Day (and after the holiday) can be surprisingly scary. Even though the weekend is now in our rear-view mirror, you might find it helpful and eye-opening to review some critical statistics about the holiday and reflect on them as “summer driving season” is now upon us.

The National Coalition for Safer Roads released recently published a study that concluded that 3.7 Million Drivers Ran a Red Light in 2014, Majority of Which Occurred During Peak Summer Travel Periods. Here are some tips to help you and your family stay safe and avoid accidents:

  • Plan out your routes ahead of time.

There is nothing wrong with using a GPS system to get from point A to point B. However, a lack of familiarity with your road route can lead to distraction, bad driving decisions and confusion. Look at the map, and game out your route, but also acknowledge your own needs and potential driving weaknesses. For instance, rest every few hours during long trips. Build those rest periods into your trip, so you’re not tempted to push yourself behind your driving comfort zone.

  • Avoid driving distracted or while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or other substances could make you a less effective driver.

Our blog – and thousands of other sources – have documented the dangers associated with these behaviors. Just because the start of summer is a more relaxed time does not mean you should stop being vigilant and careful behind the wheel.

  • Be extra mindful of potentially dangerous drivers on the road.

Driving defensively is common sense backed up by good science. It’s particularly important to drive defensively when you know, statistically, that other dangerous drivers will be out there due to early summer travel. Consider increasing your following distance and being extra alert.

  • Minimize the use of cellphones while you drive – even handheld cellphones.

Many otherwise educated drivers think that it’s okay to chat on the cellphone, as long as you are using a hands free device. However, research out of both the University of Utah and Virginia Tech has found that the dangers of cellphone use don’t decrease when you use a hands free headset. The real problem appears to be the mental distraction caused by talking on the phone remotely to another person.

Practice safe and defensive driving for a safer holiday travel season.

Athletic Youth Concussions and Academic Performance: New Research

Posted in Child Safety

For the last several years, concussions and the overall effects they can have on a person’s health have dominated news headlines. As we have written in earlier posts, the issue is becoming more significant. With prominent athletes and doctors working to raise awareness, the public is more informed than ever before about the potential risks associated with concussions and traumatic brain injuries.

However, the effect of concussions in relation to youth and academic performance is a relatively new field of research, leaving many parents confused about how to approach youth athletics.

Parents have been stuck with questions that haven’t had clear answers:

“Will concussions negatively impact my child’s schoolwork?”

“How long do the effects last?”

“Can my child continue playing the sport?”

“Do concussions affect some children more than others?”

“What precautions should I be taking?”

A potentially game-changing new study recently published in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics aims to address many of these questions.

In a sample of 349 students (ages 5 to 18) who had suffered concussions, it was found that among symptomatic students whose parents had expressed concern over their academic performance, a statistically significant number reported a “higher levels of concern for the impact of concussion on school performance…and more school related problems” than their recovered peers. These effects were compounded in high school students, with this age group reporting “significantly more adverse academic effects than their younger counterparts.” Perhaps most importantly, it was found that “greater severity of post-concussion symptoms was associated with more school-related problems and worse academic effects, regardless of time since injury.”

This study used CDC approved criteria to measure both the severity of concussions and formulate testing procedures. Parental concern levels were measured using questionnaires over a four week period.  All of the findings in this report were stated with 95-99.99% confidence, well surpassing the threshold to dismiss sample error.

The findings of this study highlight the need for greater safeguards against concussions and more comprehensive educational programs. Most importantly, this study lays the groundwork for more extensive studies that have a larger sample size, and provides the source material for future research areas. While this study may be the first of many, it is clear that its results should have dramatic effects on youth athletics. Parents need to make carefully weighted decisions about what sports their children participate in, and schools need to re-evaluate their precautionary methods. School policies must include standards not only for diagnosis, but also for recovery planning, including timetables for safe re-introductions to the playing field.

In the last few years, the number of diagnosed concussions in student athletes has skyrocketed. In a study published by The Ohio State University last year, results indicated that concussion rates of high school athletes more than doubled between 2005 and 2012. “Overall, the rate increased from .23 to .51 concussions per 1,000 athlete exposures. An athlete exposure is defined as one athlete participating in one competition or practice.”

Such a drastic increase reflects the added attention to concussions and concussion symptoms, but also to the effects and frequency of these injuries. Parents of young athletes need to be making informed decisions about their children and safety.

Joseph Rosenthal, one of the researchers from Ohio State’s medical center, emphasized the following:

“A lot of injured athletes don’t want to come out of games or stop practicing because they don’t want to lose their position. But they can have symptoms that can last for an extended time period that can affect day-to-day life, school and personal relationships – they can experience irritability, pain, difficulty concentrating and sleep problems. Furthermore, if they continue to play while symptomatic, they are at risk for a second impact that can lead to severe disability and death. If you have symptoms, you’ve got to rest your brain and prevent further injury in order to recover.”

Concussions are serious injuries. The effects of concussions are not limited to professional athletes. Only by having all the relevant information and taking appropriate safety precautions, can parents and athletes make informed decisions about youth athletics. For tips on how to protect your child, please read our previous discussion of concussions and youth sports.

Expanded Takata Airbag Recall Goes National – New Information

Posted in Automobile Accidents, Consumer Safety, Defective Products

Japanese airbag manufacturer Takata has announced that it would double the size of its initial airbag recall, expanding nationally to include 34 million vehicles. The reversal comes after more than ten years of denying any defects, and makes the scandal the largest vehicle recall in history. The move is the latest in the ongoing recall debacle that we have been following for many months.

As an unnamed industry source reported to the New York Times, “There’s no use or gain in fighting the regulators…one Takata management leader explained to me as to why Takata has undergone this shift” explaining that Takata, “via its lawyers, began contacting the U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in mid-April.”

Takata’s defective airbags have been linked to at least 6 deaths and hundreds of injuries around the world. The propellant used in the airbags is believed to react negatively with humidity, causing them to deploy unexpectedly. “The airbags can explode violently when they deploy, sending shrapnel flying into a car’s passenger compartment.” In recent statement, Takata stated that “older vehicles and those in areas with high humidity will get the highest priority” in the expanded recall.

In conjunction with the company’s announcement, auto safety officials in Washington described the recall as “the most complex consumer safety recall in US history,” warning that replacements could take years to complete.

With approximately one in seven US vehicles affected, regulators do not know exactly which makes and models of cars have been impacted. As noted by the New York Times, “The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said compiling a definitive list of which vehicles fall under the sweeping new recall would take several days. That is because Takata’s revelation requires 10 automakers to match their own records with Takata’s so the list can be drawn up and made public.”

So far it is clear that the defective airbags exist in vehicles manufactured by BMW, Chrysler, Daimler Trucks, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru and Toyota. Consumers are advised to visit NHTSA’s site to look up their vehicles on a list of affected cars, even if they haven’t yet received a recall notice in the mail.

A small but growing list of specific makes of cars has become available, with Honda announcing that “models including the Civic, Accord and CR-V dating to 2001” are included in the recall.Regulators warn that “that even when consumers learned they needed the fix, it could be months or even years before they could get one.” This is despite regulators insisting that targeted cars be given a replacement as soon as possible. Honda, the most heavily impacted car maker thus far, has begun reaching out to other manufacturers in an attempt to speed up the replacement process.

US legislators are working to speed of the investigation and recall as well, scheduling hearings on the recall, and vowing to provide consumers with answers.

Consumers who are concerned about their vehicles are advised to contact their local dealership, follow announcements by their manufacturers, and regularly check for updated information on the recall site created by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It is important to also note that the defects in Takata’s airbags go as far as 2001, and that almost all major car brands on US roadways are affected.

If you have been confused or concerned about this airbag issue, and you suspect that a defective auto part might have played a role in a recent accident or injury, please get in touch with the Washington D.C. auto accident lawyers here at Regan, Zambri & Long to set up a thorough and confidential consultation about your case.