When a loved one is in an automobile accident that results in a serious injury or even death, it is not uncommon for a family to hire a law firm to represent their interests.  Medical bills, lost wages, the inability to pay for basic things in life because of a loss of income, pain, rehabilitation, loss of life or loss of the enjoyment of life – these are all things that no one is truly able to understand until they have to go through it.  If a serious injury or death is caused by the bad driving or bad decisions of another driver, that person needs to be held accountable for the harm they caused.

Unfortunately, most people driving the roads are not adequately insured to cover a serious injury or death claim.  In Alabama, the minimum insurance limits that are required by law for a driver is $25,000.  If a person with minimum limits seriously injures or kills your loved one, $25,000 is all that is available from the opposing driver’s insurance, which is a drop in the bucket for a serious injury or loss of a loved one.  Many people carry their own underinsured motorist coverage that can also pay, but it is extremely rare for these policies to provide adequate coverage for a serious injury or loss of life.

While most people assume the insurance of the opposing driver and your own insurance is the only possible source of recovery, there are always others avenues that need to be explored by a lawyer in a serious injury or fatal car accident.  One of the main areas our firm researches when helping a family with a serious injury or loss of life is defects in the vehicles themselves.  An issue with steering or a defective tire that blew out may have cause the other car to lose control.  There may have been a defective part on one of the cars that could have prevented the accident from happening in the first place.

Most electronic devices are powered by lithium ion batteries.  This includes cell phones, portable music players, GPS devices, notebook computers and many others.  Lithium ion batteries have long run times, are small and produce a relatively greater amount of energy than other batteries.  However, they do pose certain risks.

The lithium ion cell has a carbon anode (positive) and a metal oxide cathode (negative).  Lithium molecules leave the carbon anode and lose a negatively charged electron leaving behind a lithium ion.  These ions flow through an organic solvent between the anode and the cathode.  This produces electricity.  If the battery is overcharged or produces too much current, or if there are impurities in the cell as a result of sloppy manufacturing procedures, this can result in a short circuit which leads to something called “thermal runaway.”  This is a rise in heat and pressure which is impossible to stop and can cause fires or even an explosion.  Thermal runaway can produce temperatures of over one thousand degrees Fahrenheit.

Needless to say these fires and explosions can cause serious personal injury.  Fortunately, the types of failures that lead to these incidents are extremely rare.  However, electronic devices that have lithium ion battery components have been the subject of many safety recalls and product safety warnings.  Many laptop computers were recalled in 2006; the FAA has recommended restricting their cargo carriage on flights and the International Civil Aviation Organization has banned the shipment of these batteries as cargo on passenger flights.  Recently Samsung issued a massive recall of its Galaxy Note 7 smartphone because of the risk of these batteries exploding.

Now that football season is here, we should be mindful that the highest priority of the game should be the safety and well-being of the athletes.  Unfortunately,  this has not always been the case.

On August 28, 2011, Derek Sheely died as a result of second-impact syndrome. This syndrome occurs when the brain swells rapidly after a person suffers a second concussion before symptoms from an earlier concussion have subsided.  On August 22, 2013, the family of Derek Sheely filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the NCAA, Kranos, George L. Heider, Inc., two Frostburg State University coaches, and a Frostburg State athletic trainer, asserting that Derek’s death was a preventable tragedy.

Last month, the Parties announced that a settlement was reached. The settlement provides that the Defendants will pay $1,200,000.00 to The Derek Sheely Foundation. In addition to the this payment, the Parties agreed to the following terms that are aimed at increasing awareness and research about concussions.

Our firm handles personal injury cases from around the country.  Many of them involve commercial motor vehicles.  Understanding the basics of commercial vehicle operations and regulations is imperative to litigating and successfully representing our clients.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration was formed in 2000 with the goal of reducing crashes, injuries and fatalities involving large trucks and buses.  It regulates and enforces a variety of rules that apply to large trucks and buses.  When there is a crash, injury or fatality involving a large truck or bus, it’s important to understand commercial trucking basics and these regulations in order to pursue the claim.

Motor carrier safety regulations are designed to protect the public from the risks associated with the operation of commercial motor vehicles. Among other things, motor carrier safety regulations ensure that a commercial motor vehicle is safely maintained and operated, prevent confusion about which party bears ultimate financial responsibility in the event of an accident, and ensure that injured parties are compensated.

photo_38132_20150520There is a common perception that lawsuits involving car accidents are about which driver was at fault in an accident involving two or more vehicles.  Often such disputes arise, or maybe it is clear who the at-fault driver is, but the insurance company for the at-fault driver is not treating the injured person fairly.  Thus, people hire attorneys who pursue the case for them

What is often overlooked in this common perception about automobile accident lawsuits is that many accidents that involve terrible injuries or even death may not involve the fault of a driver at all, or may involve only a single vehicle.  Our firm regularly is called upon to investigate and pursue automobile accidents that involve much more than deciding who was at fault in an accident.  Here are a few examples of potential claims that often go unnoticed by families of accident victims.

Vehicle design and crashworthiness

Electronic cigarettes seem to have become very popular. It is commonly believed that E cigarettes are safer from a health perspective than regular cigarettes. However, there are some serious risks. An electronic cigarette has three basic components: 1) a cartridge that stores the liquid nicotine, 2) an atomizer which heats the liquid nicotine and 3) a battery. The battery is the source of the explosion risk.

Electronic cigarettes use lithium ion batteries. These are very powerful. They are also very common and can be found in any number of electronic devices such as cell phones, cameras and lap tops. The difference with electronic cigarettes is the proximity of the lithium ion battery to the atomizer which is a heating source. Lithium ion batteries are sensitive to extreme temperatures and have been known for some time to have a risk of explosion if they get too hot.

A lithium ion battery explosion is a very significant and destructive event. This is a very hot explosion that can cause significant burn injuries. Sometimes referred to as a thermal runaway, it can cause and has caused serious injury and in rare cases even death.

There are two court systems in every state.  One is a federal court system and one is operated by the state.  Each system has jurisdictional issues and cases are filed in one system or the other depending on the type of case it is.

Federal courts are considered courts of limited jurisdiction.  That’s because Congress and the Constitution set forth what cases can be heard in federal courts. The United States Constitution (Article III, Section 2) sets forth the jurisdiction of the federal courts.

Some cases start in State court but then get removed to federal court.  Removal is automatic and the plaintiff has to seek remand within 30 days of removal or lose his or her right to do so.  Courts have federal removal jurisdiction only over cases that could have originated pursuant to the Court’s federal subject matter jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. §1441(a). The Courts’ subject matter jurisdiction is limited to those involving a federal question or where diversity of citizenship exists. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1332.

Many people are familiar with claims arising from injuries due to slip and fall accidents.  However, “slip and falls” are only one of many categories of “premises liability” cases.  “Premises liability” refers to the legal concept that governs cases involving injuries that occur on the premises of another due to an unsafe or defective condition on the property of another.

As in most personal injury cases, premises liability cases are based in negligence.  In order to prevail on a premises claim, the injured person must show that the property owner or manager failed to use reasonable care in connection with the property.

Premises cases include a wide range of factual circumstances.  They include:

Every year, approximately 36 million people are injured and 34,000 people are killed by using everyday consumer products.  This includes everything from falls off ladders to appliances that malfunction and catch fire.  These are staggering numbers.  While many of the injuries and deaths are the result of someone misusing a product, many also result from dangers built into the products themselves that could be prevented.

There is a concept in design engineering called the safety hierarchy.  It is also called the hazard control hierarchy.  It is supposed to govern decisions about how products are made, tested, and redesigned before they come to market and are used by the public.  It is a set of checks to eliminate or drastically reduce the number of injuries and deaths associated with using a product.  If a danger is found in a product, the hierarchy goes like this:  1. Design out the danger, 2. Guard against the danger, 3. Warn against the danger.  Unfortunately, the hierarchy is not always followed.

Design out the danger

On March 31, 2016 a teenage motorist was killed in Texas when a Takata airbag malfunctioned in her 2002 Honda Civic.  This model vehicle had previously been recalled because of a safety defect in the Takata airbag but this car did not have the recall fix performed.  A recall is issued when a vehicle manufacturer determines that a vehicle or some equipment associated with that vehicle fails to meet minimum safety standards.  A recall may also be instituted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

If your vehicle has been recalled, you may be contacted by mail or telephone by the manufacturer.  Recalls can target the vehicle, equipment, components, car seats or tires.  A safety recall should take place when the manufacturer or NHTSA thinks that one of these items poses a risk to motor vehicle safety or may exist in vehicles of the same design.  Manufacturers are required to notify or attempt to notify owners of a recall.  If you hear about a recall but have not been notified you can contact the manufacturer or the dealership to get more information.  You can also go to the website https://vincl.safercar.gov;/vin/ to look up recalls by your vehicle identification number (VIN).  To find out what your VIN is you can either look on your bill of sale or look on the lower left of the windshield.  There you will see a plate containing the seventeen digits VIN.

It is estimated that about twenty five percent of all United States vehicle that are subject to a recall are never fixed.  Fifty-one million vehicles were recalled in this Country last year.   Car manufacturers and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers have now asked major United States Insurance Companies to remind car owners of recalls when they review their policies.