Do Older Drivers Have More Accidents?

According to a recent study of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, drivers 70 years or older, who make up about 10% of the population, are less likely to be involved in auto accidents and less likely to be seriously injured or killed. It is anticipated that by 2050, the number of people in this age group will rise to 16 % of the population in the United States (over fifty percent higher than the most recent amount).

Some have opined this is because automobiles are safer than earlier makes and models. While there are increased numbers of baby boomers who are now seniors and, therefore, an increased number of this group driving on the streets and highways, they actually account for much lower rates of accidents and fatalities. Interestingly, the study revealed the greatest decline was in the group of drivers 80 years and older; this group had nearly a 50% larger decline than either middle age drivers or those between the age of 70 and 74.

Also and somewhat unexpected are statistics revealing those of retirement age are driving more than they did in the past, whether commuting to work (even if part time), shopping, vacation or visiting family and friends.  In the age group of 75 years and older, their annual average miles driven increased 50%. Some commentaries believe this portion of the population take better care of themselves, live a much more healthy life and are leading more productive lifestyles than the same age group 15 years ago.

Clearly, senior drivers are more comfortable driving than their predecessors, and they take extra precautions such as driving less during the rush hours during the day, in inclement weather &/or at night. Nonetheless, eye examinations are a must, and there are classes available that test reaction times (perhaps helpful for many drivers). The next time we see an older driver we should be reminded of and think about emulating their wisdom and good habits, and not focus on any negativity that might otherwise come to mind.

Former BP Engineer Convicted of Obstructing Justice

In New Orleans today, there was a jury verdict after the U.S. Department of Justice charged Kurt Mix, a former BP engineer, of deleting hundreds of text messages from his iPhone, thereby thwarting the investigation of the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Although none of the top executives of BP have been charged with crimes, this corporate entity acknowledged its responsibility earlier this year by pleading guilty to manslaughter charges for the deaths of 11 workers; and thereafter, BP agreed to pay $4 billion in penalties.

Mix was part of the team of experts involved in the efforts by BP to stop oil from gushing out of their blown-out well using a technique called “top kill.” He had access to internal data about how much oil was actually flowing from the blown-out well. It was reported that Mix received 10 individual BP notices that he was obligated to preserve all of his spill-related records. One of the texts messages was an exchange with his supervisor in which Mix estimated there were about 630,000 gallons of oil spilling per day; this amount was actually about three times greater than the estimate BP disclosed to the public at the time. By deleting text messages, the BP engineer was destroying inculpatory evidence, which would be critical proof that would tend to establish guilt of BP and its agents and employees.

 The sentencing hearing is set for March 26, 2014, and Mix faces up to 20 years in prison for this conviction.

Did San Diego Sheriffs Use Excessive Force When They Killed a Suicidal Suspect?

On December 2, 2013, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of CHELSEY HAYES V. COUNTY OF SAN DIEGO, Case #09-55644 , heard this civil rights Complaint brought under the Federal statute 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and California law wherein a minor daughter alleged violations of her 14th and 4th Amendment rights and her deceased father’s 4th Amendment rights when San Diego County Sheriff’s deputies acted negligently in shooting and killing her father who allegedly was suicidal and wielding a knife during a response to a domestic violence call.

 In the underlying case, the Court said there was no evidence the sheriff’s fired their guns for any other purpose than self-defense and, therefore affirmed the District Court’s Decision by declaring there was no violation of plaintiff’s rights under the 14th Amendment. On the other hand, the Court reversed the lower Court after it determined a jury could conclude the use of deadly force by the sheriffs was not objectively reasonable and that under California law supported a basis for a wrongful death claim.

A compelling argument was made on behalf of Hayes that the sheriffs could have avoided the incident by obtaining more information about the suspect or requesting a psychiatric emergency response team (“PERT”) when the first deputy responded to a domestic violence call at a neighbor’s house and learned there had been no physical altercation, and before the second deputy arrived and they both entered the home. At that point it became a matter of whether the officers used excessive force.

The above reported Decision can be found at the following link: http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2013/12/02/09-55644.pdf

 

Marine killed in fire during exercise at base

One Marine was killed and four were injured at Twentynine Palms during a training exercise. An Amphibious Assault Vehicle caught fire during the exercise.

The family may have a wrongful death claim if timely filed as the horrific injury may be a result of a product defect, or mechanical failure.  Choosing to immediately retain an attorney with experience in product liability cases can allow the investigators and forensic experts that would be employed by counsel to inspect the amphibious vehicle that caught on fire. Our attorneys use a team approach to evaluate and determine precisely and in what way the vehicle was dangerous, unsafe or defective. We both know and understand that no amount of money can replace a loved one or fully compensate for the loss of a human life; however,  we also know the family of the marine deserves the right to collect for this loss, and to send a message to the vehicle manufacturer to be accountable and so another such catastrophe does not occur now or in the future.

California Dental Board questioned after patient death

Team 10 investigated the California Dental Board and found that the board does not disclose important information to patients.

One California dentist had a patient die, but more than a month later, no information about the incident was provided by the board.

According to medical reports, the patient was in cardiac arrest when the paramedics arrived. They apparently found two pieces of surgical gauze in his airway and up to six different sedatives in his system. They took all measures possible to save his life, but were unable.

The dentist removed someone’s wisdom teeth the next day.

 

Sacramento caregiver arrested in death of 88-year-old

Commentary by Sam Spital, Criminal Defense, Personal Injury, Professional & Occupational Licensing Attorney:

“On February 13, 2013, the Modesto Bee newspaper and electronic edition published an article in which Silvia Cata, the 52 year old owner of a long-term nursing care facility, Super Home Care, in Sacramento, was arrested for multiple criminal charges, including involuntary manslaughter and felony elder abuse against Georgia Holzmeister, an 88 year old patient who was suffering from Dementia that died as a result of reckless disregard of the basic duties in caring for patients. It was revealed that the victim suffered from blackened, Stage IV pressure sores on her buttocks causing sepsis, which is a life-threatening condition that occurs when any part of one’s body develops a toxic and severe response to bacteria or other germs. These are more commonly called pressure sores that form when patients are allowed to lie in one position for extended periods of time or simply not given the proper attention that requires their body to be frequently rotated while confined to bed.

It is an elementary principal of nursing care that patients should not be permitted to lie in bed for any extended length of time without being taken out of bed, taken to the bathroom, use walkers or wheelchairs if not ambulatory,  and of course receive regular care and attention. Unfortunately, some long term care facilities operate on a very low budget due to the nominal reimbursement from Medicare and Medi-Cal; yet, this is inexcusable and the Administrators and nursing personnel have an ethical, moral and legal responsibility to place the patient above the financial remuneration they may receive. If it is not possible to make a profit and do the right thing for their patients, the facility should close its operations. In this case, the California Department of Social Services (DSS) ordered an involuntary closure pursuant to an interim suspension order according to the article.

A Deputy Attorney General will be prosecuting the case for the California Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud, and the defendant faces up to 12 years in state prison. The author of the article did not provide any details or information regarding the number and licensure of employees of the facility, the census of the facility in question, prior employment or business history of the defendant nor indicate whether contact was made with defense lawyers that handle such cases. It appears this is the first manslaughter criminal case in California that has been filed against an owner of a nursing facility. The case has been reported in countless print and electronic media due to the gravity of the situation.

The following link: http://www.cdph.ca.gov/certlic/occupations/Documents/NursingHomeAdministratorAct.pdf provides a detailed outline and summary of the Nursing Home Administrator Act and the rules and regulations that govern Administrators. No Nursing Home Administrator license or Certified Nurse Assistant license could be found by my law firm in searching the online data for Sylvia Cata, the defendant in this criminal case.  A search of the BRN and BVNPT websites also failed to show an LVN or RN license issued to Ms. Cata.

Family members will likely file a wrongful death lawsuit against the long term care facility as well as the owner, and any of the employees and personnel who were negligent and caused the deadly injuries in the case at hand. This may also include the attending physician, nurses, and anyone that may have billed Medi-Cal and Medicare (such as a physical therapist, podiatrist, occupational therapist, etc. if any of these health care providers were in attendance on one or more days in the period of time leading up to the death of Ms. Holzmeister).

Defense counsel will need to perform a thorough and exhaustive investigation including conferring with the employees of the facility; patients and family members; pharmacists and doctors; utilize forensic experts to develop a defense; and in launching an offense seek to establish compelling mitigating facts and circumstances.”

–Sam Spital

 

EIGHT KILLED IN TOUR BUS CRASH VEHICLE CARRYING GROUP FROM TIJUANA OVERTURNS ON WAY BACK FROM BIG BEAR LAKE (Sam Spital)

Commentary by Sam Spital, San Diego Personal Injury Lawyer:

“The UT San Diego electronic edition on February 4, 2013 reported at least eight individuals were killed and nearly 40 others sustained minor to life threatening injuries as a result of a crash by a tour bus and two other vehicles as the bus was returning on a two lane highway from Big Bear Lake in the mountains of San Bernardino County in Southern California, about 80 miles east of Los Angeles. The bus driver claimed he was having brake problems as it came down the mountain, struck the rear end of an automobile and then flipped over and crashed into a truck that was pulling a trailer.

The reporter did not provide any further details as to the victims, drivers, and/or information in particular relating to the service history of the bus. It is likely there will be wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits filed by family members as well as those injured as a result of this horrific accident. An investigation may establish a legal basis to file claims against the governmental agency responsible for the roadway on the grounds it was unsafe, there were possibly inadequate warning signs posted and/or sufficient and proper brake check areas off the road for truckers to safely check the operation of their air brake systems and/or halt a truck or vehicle that might lose control or have brake problems.”

–Sam Spital

FAMILY OF SEAU SUES NFL OVER HIS BRAIN INJURIES – Wrongful-death suit says star suffered trauma while playing (Sam Spital)

Commentary by Sam Spital, San Diego Personal Injury Attorney:

“In the UT San Diego digital edition on January 24, 2013 it was reported the family of Junior Seau, a former Chargers Football player filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the National Football League and Ridddell, Inc. the manufacturer of official helmets for the NFL since 1989. The Superior Court lawsuit alleges the NFL knew for decades of the harmful effects of heat injuries on a player’s brain, and further the league ‘actively concealed these facts from the players and the public.’ In the lawsuit, the family also claimed negligence in the ‘design, testing, assembly, manufacture, marketing and engineering’ of the official NFL helmets.

On May 2, 2012, Junior Seau, a 43 year old Chargers linebacker, died of a self-inflicted gunshot. The article revealed Seau’s family and friends reported in the 29 months before his death, Seau suffered from multiple medical and psychological problems, naming alcoholism, gambling, sex addiction, depression, anxiety, insomnia and business failures that put him close to filing bankruptcy. After the family donated his brain to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), chronic traumatic encephalopathy and also known as boxer’s dementia (CTE) was discovered. This is a progressive and degenerative disease that most often is diagnosed after an autopsy in individuals with a history of multiple concussions.

The reporter interviewed attorneys for the NFL, but they issued a statement as is most often appropriate by saying they would respond ‘through the court’ system and not though the news media. It is likely they will argue, however, that Seau was never diagnosed with a concussion during his career as a football player and the plaintiffs cannot establish causation (a causal link between playing football and the alleged injuries sustained). While devastating injuries and deaths have soared, there may also be questions raised by the defense as to whether the players assumed the risk and/or signed a release of liability prior to engaging in this as in most other sports.

On the other hand, the plaintiffs may respond by arguing warnings were inadequate at best, and any waiver of claims were no more than adhesion contracts (take it or leave it since the players did not have the power to negotiate the terms).  At this time, there currently are about 4000 claimants in a class-action lawsuit filed against both the NFL and Riddell. In addition, during the last approximate seven (7) years, CTE has been found present in nearly every case in which an autopsy has been performed on former football players. These are heart wrenching cases, and we can only speculate as to whether it is possible to make football a safer sport.”

–Sam Spital

Woman Pursued Evidence in Brother’s Murder – Nearly 2 years to the day after the tragic crash, CHP arrested a man in the hit-and-run death (Sam Spital)

Commentary by Sam Spital, San Diego Criminal Law and Murder Defense Lawyer:

“On January 16, 2013, NBC San Diego contained an article in which a murder suspect was arrested about two years to the day after a hit and run death. When law enforcement could not identify the person responsible, the sister of Frank Yarborough, the victim in this homicide case, initiated her own investigation and through a series of steps located the individual that now has been arrested for felony hit and run. The article revealed that Dixon Russell Dixon, the driver of a Ralph’s semi-truck trailer, made a u-turn and ran over the motorcycle driven by Yarborough.

Interestingly, Dixon was actually interviewed by CHP investigators as he was eating inside his truck that was parked close to the scene of the crime. It is claimed that he said he was “in Del Taco getting lunch” so the officers did not pursue him any further. The loyalty, love and devotion of a sister clearly helped law enforcement obtain additional information in order to help determine who to arrest even after two years doing their own cold case investigation. Because it is not known what evidence ultimately led to arresting Dixon, we should presume his innocence until proven otherwise in court.”

–Sam Spital

 

PAPARAZZO KILLED TRACKING BIEBER CAR – Accident brings into sharp focus danger that celebrity photographers often face (Sam Spital)

“The UT San Diego reported on January 3, 2013, the death of a 29 year old photographer who was tracking a Ferrari sports car he believed was being driven by celebrity Justin Bieber when he was struck by another vehicle as he was crossing the street in Los Angeles. According to the article, a CHP Officer who had stopped the driver of the Ferrari, who was a friend of Bieber, for speeding tried to warn the Paparazzo since there were no crossings or side-walks at the particular location to put on notice anyone that a pedestrian might try to dart across the street.

While the 69 year old woman who was driving the vehicle that killed the photographer might not have been cited by the officer for driving at an unsafe speed, there may be sufficient facts, such as the time of the day and lighting, to serve as a basis for liability under the circumstances. Often a skilled personal injury lawyer can establish a particular road was unsafe and bring a claim against the municipality or governmental agency responsible for the condition and maintenance. In addition, a wrongful death case can also be made against a driver who is deemed negligent because she was not driving safely given the facts and circumstances and/or the driver lacked sufficient peripheral and/or night vision. An example of the visual elements would be a driver who is not sufficiently competent and/or is unable or simply fails to react to a hazard coming from the driver’s far left or far right, such as the instant case in which the Paparazzo was darting from one side of the street to the other.”

–Sam Spital