Friday, July 24, 2015

Will Crash Avoidance Technology Reduce Truck Accidents?




Commercial truck accidents are a serious safety issue on the highways in Florida and across the United States. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports1 that, in 2013 alone, accidents involving large trucks led to the death of nearly 4,000 individuals and caused injured to approximately 95,000 more. Furthermore, the large majority of truck accident victims are not the truck drivers but are instead occupants of other motor vehicles, bicyclists, or pedestrians. In order to protect other motorists on the highway, many safety advocacy groups have been seeking new ways to improve commercial truck safety in the U.S.

New technology may increase safety of motorists
In recent months, advocacy groups Road Safe America, the Center for Auto Safety, and the Truck Safety Coalition have all gone before NHTSA and the U.S. Department of Transportation2 to request that the agency mandate that every new commercial vehicle be equipped with systems intended to prevent crashes before they occur. The technology is called the forward collision avoidance and mitigation braking (F-CAM) system.

The F-CAM is specifically meant to prevent a truck from colliding into the rear-end of a smaller passenger vehicle. The system includes both sensors and radars that can detect when a truck is drawing too near another car in front of the truck. A warning goes off to alert the driver that a forward collision is imminent, giving the driver the chance to brake. If the driver still fails to brake for some reason, a collision mitigation braking system will apply the truck's brakes on its own to avoid a crash or at least slow the truck down so that a crash is not as severe as it may have been.

Some trucks already have F-CAM systems in place, however, there is no federal mandate requiring the installation of this technology in all new trucks. In fact, estimates show that only about three percent o f commercial vehicles have such a system in place. However, research indicates that the current version of the F-CAM has the potential to prevent an estimated 2,500 crashes on an annual basis. Additionally, as companies develop more advanced and refined technology, more than 6,000 forward collisions may be avoided per year.

Override accidents can be fatal
Forward truck collisions can be especially dangerous as they often result in override accidents. An override accident occurs when the front end of a truck actually drives onto a smaller vehicle in front of it. These accidents can happen due to both the weight of the truck and the proportion of the clearance under the front of the truck to the back of a small car. As you can imagine, when an 80,000 pound truck drives onto the back of a car, devastating injuries may occur. Often, a truck may even go all the way through the rear window of a car into the back seat, where children are most often located in a vehicle.

Over the next couple of decades, the maximum tonnage of commercial trucks is expected to increase significantly. This means that override accidents can become even more dangerous and the need for F-CAM technology may become even greater to avoid serious injury. Until all trucks are required to have these systems, however, it is imperative that all commercial truck drivers avoid negligent behaviors that may lead to forward collisions. Such behaviors include distracted driving, tailgating, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, fatigued driving, among other. Any driver who engages in such behavior and causes serious or fatal injuries should be held fully liable for all losses suffered by accident victims.

Find out how our qualified Clearwater truck accident attorneys can help you
At the Dolman Law Group in Clearwater, Florida, our team of highly skilled truck accident lawyers are committed to helping injured victims receive full compensation from any negligent truck drivers or trucking companies. We have experience facing off against large trucking corporations and have the resources necessary to successfully pursue and prove your legal claims. Our consultations are always free and we can advise you of your legal rights and options. Call today at 727-451-6900 to learn how we can help you.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33756
727-451-6900


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Monday, July 13, 2015

A Further Victory for Victims of Medical Malpractice: Appellate Court Finds Statutory Cap on Personal Injury Claims Unconstitutional




Last year we posted an article outlining the significant impact the Florida Supreme Court’s decision in Estate of McCall v. United States, would have on plaintiffs in wrongful death medical malpractice cases. In McCall, the Court determined that the caps on noneconomic (often referred to as “pain and suffering”) awards in wrongful death cases imposed by section 766.118, Florida Statutes (2005), violated the equal protection clause of the Florida Constitution. 134 So. 3d. Now, in North Broward Hospital District d/b/a Broward General Medical Center, et. al v. Kalitan, the Fourth District Court of Appeal has found the caps in section 766.118 in personal injury cases to be similarly unconstitutional.

The Current Statutory Caps in Medical Malpractice Cases
Section 766.118, Florida Statutes, limits the amount of damages a claimant may be entitled to in a medical malpractice action. Specifically, the legislative cap limits damages to $500,000.00 per claimant or up to $1 million in certain circumstances. In McCall, the Court reviewed the constitutionality of Florida’s cap on noneconomic damages for medical malpractice wrongful death claims and concluded that the caps “irrationally impact[] circumstances which have multiple claimants/survivors differently and far less favorably than circumstances in which there is a single claimant/survivor.” Id. at 901. As the Court noted in McCall, “the greater the number of survivors and the more devastating their losses are, the less likely they are to be fully compensated for those losses.” Id. at 902. In analyzing the legislative scheme against the backdrop of the Equal Protection Clause, the Court ultimately held that the cap on wrongful death noneconomic damages “does not pass constitutional muster.” While this was a huge victory for those injured by the negligence of medical providers and the plaintiff’s bar as a whole, the McCall decision left open the question of whether the statutory cap in personal injury cases are also unconstitutional. In a case of first impression, the Fourth District Court of Appeal answered the question in the affirmative and correctly stated that “to conclude otherwise would be disingenuous.”

The Facts of Kalitan
In Kalitan, the plaintiff, Susan Kalitan, went to North Broward Hospital to undergo an outpatient surgery to treat her carpal tunnel syndrome. The procedure required her to be placed under general anesthesia. While attempting to incubate her, one of the tubes perforated Ms. Kalitan’s esophagus. As a result, she had to undergo emergency life-saving surgery and was placed in a drug-induced coma. Ms. Kalitan was also required to undergo additional surgeries and intensive physical therapy. Consequently, she suffered from serious mental disorders and constant pain throughout the upper half of her body. Accordingly, a medical malpractice lawsuit against the hospital and doctors who negligently administered the incubation tube was subsequently filed and eventually went to a jury trial. The jury ultimately awarded the plaintiff $4,718,011 in total damages—$2 million for past pain and suffering and $2 million for future pain and suffering. After the trial, the court limited the noneconomic damage award by the caps provided under section 766.118. The Plaintiff appealed.

The Court’s Analysis & Conclusion
The Fourth District Court of Appeal analyzed the McCall decision and reiterated that the Legislator’s intent on enacting the statutory caps was to address the so-called “medical malpractice crisis” in Florida. If, as the McCall Court stated, no such crisis currently exists, then neither does the “legitimate state objective” to which caps could “rationally and reasonably relate.” The court determined that the caps violated the equal protection clause because the caps allowed those injured claimants who suffered damages less than the caps to obtain full compensation for their injuries but left those victims who have suffered damages exceeding the caps left without full and just compensation.

The court further correctly found that it made no difference whether the caps applied to multiple claimants in a wrongful death medical malpractice action or to a single claimant in a personal injury malpractice case. As the court stated, “so long as the caps discriminate between classes of medical malpractice victims, as they do in the personal injury context (where the claimants with little noneconomic damages can be awarded all of their damages, in contrast to those claimants whose noneconomic damages are deemed to exceed the level to which the caps apply) they are rendered unconstitutional by McCall, notwithstanding the Legislature’s intentions.”

Impact

This decision correctly determined that the legislative caps imposed by section 766.118 were founded based on a legislative intent regarding an alleged medical malpractice crisis that is now baseless. The result further upholds the rights of those who suffer harm and endure life-altering injuries at the hands of negligent medical providers by allowing those individuals to finally obtain fair and just compensation. Until the Florida Supreme Court holds otherwise or a conflict among the lower courts exists, the Kalitan court’s decision is binding law. Negligent medical providers will no longer be allowed to shield themselves from bearing responsibility for the true extent of the damages they cause. For more information on medical malpractice and personal injury claims, contact the attorneys at Dolman Law Group, 727-451-6900.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765
727-451-6900

Does Your Vehicle Have Defective Airbags?





While the majority of car accidents are caused by driver error, collisions can also occur if a part of the vehicle malfunctions. If certain auto parts fail, a driver can easily lose control and crash into other cars or objects. When you think of important auto parts malfunctioning, you may first think of brakes, axles, tires, steering systems, and other major functions of a vehicles. However, one part of a car that has the potential to be deadly is the air bag.

Air bags are installed in every car and truck with the intention of providing protection and preventing injury in the event of a collision. Though this device is meant for protection, it can also result in injuries to both drivers and passengers. Air bags deploy and inflate at a high velocity, which can often cause injuries including burns on the arms, fractured bones in the face, and more. While these relatively minor injuries can result from a perfectly functioning air bag, substantially more serious injuries can occur if an airbag malfunctions.

If you believe that you have suffered serious injury or lost a loved one due to defective air bag, you are likely entitled to significant compensation by the air bag manufacturer. You should not delay in calling a Clearwater, Florida products liability attorney at the Dolman Law Group as soon as possible.

Common ways air bags can be defective
Air bags can be defective and cause injury in many ways. Some of these ways include the following:

·       Deploying with too much velocity
·       Deploying at random times while a driver is operating the vehicle but there is no collision
·       Exploding upon deployment and causing metal fragments or other pieces to fly into the vehicle towards occupants
·       Failure to deploy upon collision causing the occupants to suffer serious injuries

As you can imagine, all of the above can cause serious collisions and injuries. If an air bag randomly and unexpectedly deploys, it can block a driver's view of the road and an accident is almost inevitable. Additionally, air bags that do not deploy correctly cause result in serious or even fatal injuries to a motorists face, head, and more.

Airbag recalls
In recent months, air bag manufacturer Takata has recalled an estimated 34 million vehicles1 due to defective inflators that cause the air bags to explode and send metal shards toward drivers and passengers. This defect has resulted in several deaths and hundreds of serious injuries. Though the company allegedly knew about the possible defect for years, it failed to issue a proper recall until early 2015 when it was facing sanctions by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA).2

The Takata recall represents one of the largest scale auto recalls in the history of the United States automobile industry. Many different auto makes and models have been included in the recall and every driver should check the online recall site3 to see if their car needs to have the air bag replaced. However, because of the sheer number of cars with reportedly defective air bags, it may take a long time before the issue is fixed.

In the mean time, if you have suffered injury due to an exploding Takata air bag, you should consult with an attorney who is familiar with the case.

Call our experienced Clearwater auto accident lawyers for help today
If you believe a defective air bag has caused your accident and injuries, your first call should be to the Dolman Law Group in Clearwater, Florida. The air bag litigation involves many different injured victims and such cases may be complicated, so you always want to make sure you have an attorney handling your claim you understands how to navigate the legal waters of class action litigation involving products liability. You only have a limited amount of time to file a claim in Florida, however, so you should not put off consulting with one of our attorneys. The sooner you call, the sooner we can begin working to help you recover for your financial losses, so please call today at 727-451-6900 for help.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33756
727-451-6900


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