Archives for : February2011

Dangerous Cribs Cause Injuries And Death For Infants And Toddlers

A 19-year study released in February found that more than 9,500 infants and toddlers are injured by cribs, bassinets and playpens each year. It’s likely that this number is actually quite higher because the study only evaluated the number of children treated for crib injuries in the emergency room, not children who go to their pediatrician or other urgent care doctors.

Based on the study’s results, approximately 113 infants are killed by cribs each year. That amounts to 1.2 percent of all children who are injured in crib accidents. Another 4 percent are seriously injured and require hospitalization.

There are many reasons that infants and toddlers are prone to crib injuries. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has recalled many defective cribs that have directly caused serious and fatal suffocation. Last year the CPSC banned drop-side cribs, a dangerous crib with sides that slide down, causing many children to be caught between the side and the crib bottom.

Since 2007, more than 11 million cribs have been recalled as a result of safety deficiencies. If a defective or dangerous crib causes a child’s injury, there may be recourse against the crib manufacturer for the harm caused in a product liability suit.

Children are also likely to be injured in falls from the crib. The study reports that two out of every three injuries is caused by a fall from the crib. Unsupervised toddlers are likely to attempt to climb out of the crib without help and they may fall out. Injuries related to a crib fall include broken bones, head injuries and spine injuries.

As a result of the high number of crib injuries and fatalities, there is a push to force manufacturers to alter the design of cribs all together. New mandatory crib standards implemented by the CPSC last December will help to improve the safety of cribs but more needs to be done to prevent these serious and preventable crib injuries.

Source: USA Today (online) “Nearly 10,000 Infants Hurt Each Year in Crib Accidents,” Liz Szabo, 2/16/2011

Toyota Pays $10 Million To Settle Tragic Unintended Acceleration Case

Toyota Motor Corporation agreed to pay $10 million to the family of a California state trooper and his three relatives to settle a wrongful-death lawsuit against the company. The crash was one of the first widely-publicized accidents involving sticking floor mats and unintended acceleration with the vehicles, prompting a series of recalls.

Tragic Unintended Acceleration Accident

California Highway Patrol Officer Mark Saylor was driving a Lexus ES 350 sedan loaned to him by Bob Barker Lexus when the car suddenly and uncontrollably accelerated. According to the lawsuit, Saylor was off-duty on a family outing with his wife, their 13-year-old daughter and his brother-in-law when the car unexpectedly accelerated and sped out of control. Saylor applied the brakes but nothing could stop the car.

The car reached 120 mph before hitting another vehicle, smashing through a fence, hitting a berm and flying through the air. It rolled several times and burst into flames on a field in San Diego County. Saylor’s brother-in-law, Christopher Lastrella, called 911 from the back seat and told the operator that the accelerator was stuck and the brakes were not working.

San Diego County Sheriff’s investigators concluded that the crash was likely caused by a floor mat improperly used in the vehicle. An all-weather rubber floor mat designed for an SUV was placed in the sedan by Bob Barker Lexus, which had loaned the car to Saylor. The accident report also stated that other possible sources of unintended acceleration, such as mechanical or electrical problems, could not be investigated because of the vehicle’s extensive damage.

Lawsuits Prompt Policy Change

The crash captured the attention of the media as well as the federal government, and it lead to the recall of over 6.5 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles. The San Diego wrongful-death lawsuit was part of a series of wrongful-death and product-liability lawsuits filed against Toyota Motor Corporation and its subsidiaries, prompting policy change within the company on its response to potential defects.

Producers are required to design and manufacture their products to be safe. In general, if someone dies as a result of another person’s negligence or a company’s defective product, the victim’s family members may sue the at-fault party in a wrongful-death lawsuit. Product-liability issues arise in a wrongful-death lawsuit if it is alleged that the victim died because of some defect in a product, such as cars that accelerate uncontrollably.

If a loved one has been hurt or killed while using a potentially-defective product, promptly contact an attorney experienced in product liability and wrongful death cases to discuss your legal options.

SourceToyota Settles Suit Over California Crash for $10 Million

Tragic Accident Triggers Change In California Motorcycle Licensing

Friends of a Fair Oaks teen killed in a tragic motorcycle accident have brought about change in California’s motorcycle-licensing law. The law helps ensure that teenage motorcyclists have the knowledge and skill to ride safely.

Young Motorcyclist Killed

Eighteen-year-old Jarrad Cole was fatally injured in a motorcycle crash near his home in Fair Oaks, California. He had passed the written exam for a California motorcycle learner’s permit, and he and his father, who was an experienced motorcycle rider, together bought a motorcycle for Jarrad.

Jarrad’s father drove the motorcycle home and set up orange traffic cones for his son to practice driving in their cul-de-sac street. When the father went into their garage to get more cones, he heard the engine revving and then a thud. The father does not know precisely what happened, but Jarrad suffered a severed chest artery and succumbed to his injuries.

After the accident, Jarrad’s younger brother and a friend decided on a high school senior project with an ambitious goal: change the state’s motorcycle license law. The two sought assistance from then-Assemblyman Roger Niello and lobbyist Michael Hawkins to improve the state licensing requirements for motorcyclists; they were successful.

California’s New Motorcycle License Law

Before January 1, 2011, any person age 15.5 or older could obtain a California motorcycle license simply by passing a written exam. No special training or driving test was required.

Now, new riders under age 21 must attend a 15-hour motorcycle skills and safety class before getting a learner’s permit.

With a learner’s permit, teenage motorcyclists are allowed to ride on streets but not on freeways. They are also prohibited from riding at night or with passengers. After six months, teenage motorcyclists qualify for a motorcycle license, but drivers under age 18 are still prohibited from riding between 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. They also may not have passengers under age 20.

The new California motorcycle-licensing law takes important and long-overdue steps to prevent needless motorcycle-accident deaths and increase awareness of motorcycle safety.

Source: Back-Seat Driver: California Toughens Motorcycle License for Teens

“Telemedicine” Replacing House Calls

A trip to the doctor’s office can be a real challenge for many people. Those in rural areas may have to drive hours to see their physician. In the winter, road conditions can prevent both patients and doctors from being able to make their appointments. With that in mind, many medical professionals are engaging in the practice of telemedicine.

Telemedicine allows physicians to examine patients using the internet. Services such as Skype, FaceTime or other web video programs permit doctors to actually see patients that they are unable to meet with in person. Patients simply set up a time to meet with their doctor online, and have a quick appointment to discuss any issues they may be having.

Kaiser Permanente’s South Bay Medical Center in Harbor City, California, is already piloting this new form of a doctor’s appointment. The trial program seeks to address the growing demand for medical services, according to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors who approved the program.

Serious Patient Safety Concerns in the Practice of Telemedicine

While this is certainly convenient, the practice has raised some concerns. Doctors do not actually have physical contact with the patient at the time of the examination, and are unable to monitor the patient’s vital signs. Items that may need further testing could go undetected until the patient actually visits the doctor in person. Even for patients that a physician has had several opportunities to examine in the past, changes in condition may make these prior examinations ineffective when deciding a new treatment plan.

Also, the technology may not be able to completely guarantee that patients and doctors are on the same page. There may be some sort of unknown malfunction on either end which could cause critical information to be lost. A physician may ask a question which a patient does not hear or does not completely understand, yet he or she answers anyway. This could cause physicians to misdiagnosis the patient’s condition and might also lead tomedication errors.

The technology also might leave doctors at risk for claims that they violated their patient’s privacy if the program they use does not keep medical information secure. Patients need to be informed about the potential for this information to be discovered.

Telemedicine is becoming a more common and accepted method of seeing patients. The number of physicians practicing this way is continually increasing. Both patients and doctors need to be aware of the risks associated with this type of treatment.

Related Resource: Daily Breeze “Kaiser Tests New Version of Doctor’s House Calls

California Nursing Homes Required To Display Federal Quality Ratings

A state law in effect January 1, 2011, requires California nursing homes to publicly display their federal quality-of-care star ratings.

Nursing homes also must post information explaining the ratings and how to get information about the facilities’ state licensing records. Nursing homes that fail to post the information may be fined.

Federal Nursing Home Ratings

The federal ratings are issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. After investigation, nursing homes receive up to five stars representing the quality of care they provide. The quality-of-care determination is based on three areas of evaluation:

  • Health inspections and complaints
  • The number of staffing hours provided to nursing home residents
  • How well the staff cares for the residents

The top 10 percent of federally-rated nursing homes receive five stars, reflecting “much above average quality;” the bottom 20 percent receive one star, indicating “quality much below average.”

California Nursing Home Ratings

California is the first state to require nursing homes to post their ratings like restaurants display their letter grade for health and safety compliance.

Michael Antonovich, a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors said the law provides incentives for nursing home operators to establish and maintain high-quality care. In addition, it gives information that will assist families in making informed decisions about nursing-home care for their loved ones, he stated.

Also, the law exposes facilities where nursing home abuse has occurred and helps to avoid wrongful death in nursing homes by ensuring patients and their families are aware of the federal evaluations.

California has 1,235 federally-rated nursing homes, which is more than any other state. In the initial ratings, 195 California nursing homes received one star and 187 nursing homes received five stars.

SourceCalifornia Nursing Homes to Begin Posting Federal Star RatingsNursing Homes to Display Federal Ratings