Douglas V. Stoehr, Attorney at Law
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What Is Tort Reform and Why Should I Care?

Tort reform has been a hot topic in the legal world, especially in recent months.  For those who are unfamiliar, tort reform is a process that involves placing a limit on the dollar amount that a person who files a civil lawsuit can recover.  This affects personal injury claims very often, like in lawsuits for car accidents. When a person files a civil suit, they have the opportunity to collect both economic damages, like lost wages, as well as compensatory damages, like pain and suffering.  Additionally, there are also cases in which you can pursue punitive damages, which are supposed to act as a deterrent for the defendant to not act in the same negligent manner again.  Tort reform places a limit specifically on all non-economic damages, and is governed by state-specific laws.  

Many people argue against capping damages via tort reform. Most personal injury lawyers feel that tort reform is outdated, unrealistic, and unfair to their clients.  In general, people who want to abolish or greatly reduce the influence of tort reform note that damage caps are often unfair to the victim.  This is especially true in the case of long-term or permanent injuries, where pain and suffering will last decades or a lifetime.  Additionally, many naysayers of tort reform make the argument that tort reform violates our rights as laid out in the Constitution.  It is the duty of a jury to hear each case, make a decision, and come up with a reasonable damage award.  Tort caps reduce the power of the jurors to the extent that it may be inappropriate.   Tort reform also reduces the accountability of some people for their inappropriate or negligent actions. For example, a company that sells defective car products should be totally responsible for the full damage they cause if one of their parts causes a significant and deadly accident, regardless of an arbitrary damage cap.

Attorney Doug Stoehr is a personal injury lawyer who takes cases for people in central and western Pennsylvania who have been seriously injured due to the fault or negligence of others.  For more information on his Altoona, PA law firm, please call his office at 814-946-4100. 

Flash-Freezing Is Causing Major Driving Problems This Winter

In these harsh winter weather conditions, many car drivers across our state of Pennsylvania, as well as the country, are dealing with less than desirable road conditions.  According to news source Syracuse.com, the phenomenon of "flash-freezing" is causing major problems on both roads and sidewalks across the East Coast this winter. 
 
Flash-freezing occurs when rain freezes instantly on smooth surfaces, such as pavement, and creates extremely icy and unsafe conditions.  Flash-freezing is especially dangerous because it can happen in patches on the road, not entire areas, so it can occur where people least expect it.  One such flash-freezing occurrence recently resulted in a 30+ car pile-up on I-76 and additional accidents on I-476 in our home state of Pennsylvania.  One person who was interviewed for the Syracuse article stated that, even though she was going 10 miles an hour on the stretch of I-76 affected by the freezing, she felt that she had little control over her car. 
 
If you have been the victim of a winter driving accident, you may be entitled to compensation for medical bills and potential pain and suffering.  This may include cases where other drivers failed to follow common winter driving safety procedures, such as leaving enough room between cars or failing to remove the ice and snow from their vehicles, which caused an accident.   Attorney Doug Stoehr takes cases for clients who have sustained injuries due to the fault or negligence of another. For more information on his Altoona, PA area practice, please visit his website at http://www.stoehrlaw.com or call his firm at 814-946-4100.

Ice Fishing, Snowmobiling are Potentially Hazardous Activities in PA

It is incredibly important to stay safe and out of danger when walking, driving, and participating in outdoor activities during the winter.  This warning takes even greater meaning if you participate in common recreational activities in our area such as skiing, snowmobiling, snowboarding, and ice fishing.  Unfortunately, there has been a recent ice fishing accident in western Pennsylvania that has brought another cautionary tale to life.  According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's report on the accident, a 56-year-old man died recently when he fell through the ice on Keystone Lake.  The victim had been drilling a series of holes in the ice on the lake when he accidentally fell through.  Other fishermen in the area grew alarmed when they saw his holes, drill, and gear, but not the man himself.  Emergency services arrived and found the victim dead at the scene. 

 Unfortunately, winter accidents, such as from ice fishing, skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling, are not as rare as some would like to think.  Most notably, snowmobile accidents account for a large amount of winter-related accidents and deaths. It is important to remember that snowmobile accidents affect not only the victim, but can drastically and permanently change the lives of the loved ones in their lives. Please use proper safety precautions when driving a snowmobile and/or participating in other winter activities to do your best to avoid accidents and injury.  

 Off-road vehicles, such as snowmobiles and ATVs, are potentially dangerous vehicles for many of our state's youth.  Improper ATV use is leading cause of serious injury among Pennsylvanians.   Attorney Doug Stoehr of Altoona, PA handles cases involving injury as a result of accidents involving off-road vehicles.  For more information about Attorney Doug Stoehr and his central Pennsylvania practice, please call his law firm at 814-946-4100. 

Speeding Driver Causes Pittsburgh-Area Crash

Unfortunately, there has been another serious accident in Western Pennsylvania on one of our major highways, Interstate 70.  According to a news report within the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's online website, three victims were killed in an accident this past Friday.  The report notes that the three victims, who were in the same car, were traveling at a high rate of speed when they collided with a tractor-trailer.  This, in turn, caused the tractor-trailer to go into another lane and hit an additional car.  The car that initially began the wreck hit the median between the barrier of oncoming traffic and subsequently caught fire.  
Many people who have traveled on Pennsylvania's state highways have most likely noticed the large amount of aggressive drivers.  Although many travelers are conscientious and considerate, many others are aggressive, speed, and frequently switch lanes without signaling.  As a result, Pennsylvania has a high number of car accidents, which can lead to serious injuries and fatalities for people in neighboring cars and trucks.  If you or a loved one has been in an accident due to the fault of an aggressive driver, it might be time to consult with an attorney.  Attorney Doug Stoehr represents clients in Blair and the surrounding counties in central and western Pennsylvania. For more information on his law firm, please visit his website at http://www.stoehrlaw.com or call his office at 814-946-4100.

Ice Storms Impact Pittsburgh-Area Roads

During this season of extreme weather and road conditions, there have many unfortunate accidents and fatalities in the area.  An online news article by the TribLive.com spoke about some of the recent weather-related accidents that have occurred in our area.  According to the article, a Western Pennsylvanian woman was killed while she was out walking her dogs during an ice storm.  A vehicle slid on the road and pinned her against an electrical box.  Similarly, another pedestrian passed away when another vehicle slid off an icy road in Armstrong County and ran over a man.   A local meteorologist was interview about the recent weather conditions, and noted that even less than a 10th of an inch of ice can make travel dangerous, especially when that ice is coating every surface as a solid layer.   
In Allegheny County alone, area dispatchers took over 3,500 calls in a six hour period during one day of our bad weather spell last week.  In the days following Christmas, when the weather conditions were markedly better, dispatchers took about 30 calls in that same time period.  Other area counties reported over 90 accidents on a single morning, with one county reporting 30 accidents alone before 7:00AM.  Notably, the city of Pittsburgh has been working hard to keep the roads safe and manageable during our winter weather, and has had over 30 trucks out as early as 4:00AM to treat the city's many roads and bridges.
Attorney Stoehr has taken cases for victims who have been hit on Pennsylvania roads during similar accidents as described above.  Car accidents are a very real danger when driving, no matter on the highway or on a secluded country road.  The physical and psychological damage caused by car accidents can be extensive and result in years of medical and professional care.  If you or a loved one has been injured in a car crash that was due the fault of another, Attorney Doug Stoehr would be willing to set up a free consultation to discuss a possible legal claim involving your accident.  Attorney Stoehr has experience litigating personal injury claims relating to car crashes, and if you would like to meet with him, please contact our law office at 814-946-4100.

PA Has Difficulty Funding Necessary Highway and Bridge Repairs

Apparently, Pennsylvania is having some issues on how to fund road repairs to many of the state's aging and increasingly unsafe highways and bridges.  As stated in an article by the TribLive.com, Pennsylvania congressmen are in agreement that repairing our area's roads and bridges are at the top of their to-do list, but they cannot agree on how the project should be funded.  Some officials believe that there should be a user fee to increase the highway trust fund, which is nearly unable to be used at this point due to low funds.  One way to replenish the fund would be to raise the federal gasoline tax, or toll other interstates, such as I-80.  Other officials, including our own area representatives, feel that this is not the right route at all.  Alternate options to repairing the roads could include a long-term highway bill, which would be funded through reallocating offshore corporate taxes, or through offshore oil drilling.  At this point, most of the funding has been passed through short-term solutions.   The two sides of this debate are currently going on with our state and country's officials, and we hope a reasonable solution can be found quickly and at minimum expense to our citizens.

            However our congress chooses to proceed, it goes without saying that Pennsylvania's roads and bridges need to be maintained in proper and safe conditions.  There have been many instances in our area where motor vehicle accidents have occurred as a result of poorly maintained or unsafe highway and bridge conditions.  If you or a loved one have been injured or killed as a result of unsafe highway conditions, you might want to consider consulting with an attorney.  Altoona, PA area lawyer Doug Stoehr takes cases for people who have been seriously injured a result of motor vehicle and tractor-trailer accidents on Pennsylvania's highways, roads, and bridges.  For more information on Attorney Stoehr's firm, please continue browsing his website or call his office for more details at 814-946-4100.

Two Victims Hit Outside Cars During I-80 Pileup

A sad article by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently highlighted a large and fatal multi-car accident in Interstate 80 near Clarion County.  Earlier this month, a huge snowstorm hit most of Pennsylvania and caused massive traffic accidents, delays, and pile-ups.  The one accident on Interstate 80 mentioned above involved eighteen vehicles, half of which were tractor-trailers.  At least two people died while leaving their vehicles to assist others involved in the wreck.  One of the men who died was looking for his children, who had been thrown out of their vehicle on impact.  The children were found safe later on.

In addition to the two fatalities, at least 30 other people were taken to area hospitals to address their injuries.  One hospital alone treated about 20 people involved in the accident. Many of the injured victims suffered bone fractures, head injuries, and neck injuries.  A large number of emergency vehicles were present from neighboring counties to assist at the accident scene, and local authorities even called in a bus to take people away from the wreckage.

 A state trooper who was interviewed as a part of the Post-Gazette's article urged caution when driving in winter weather conditions.  This is especially true when drivers encounter a mix of heavy wind and narrow bands of snow.  The trooper made sure to state that people should stay in their vehicle if involved in a crash under these conditions. 

 Attorney Stoehr has taken cases for victims who have been hit on the highway during similar accidents as described above.  Car accidents are a very real danger when driving, no matter on the highway or on a secluded country road.  The physical and psychological damage caused by car accidents can be extensive and result in years of medical and professional care.  If you or a loved one has been injured in a car crash that was the fault of another, Attorney Doug Stoehr would be willing to set up a free consultation to discuss a possible legal claim involving your accident.  Attorney Stoehr has experience litigating personal injury claims relating to car crashes, and if you would like to meet with him, please contact our law office.

Stay Safe While Walking In the Winter

Are you staying safe while venturing outside this winter?  Chances are, you've run into at least one instance in which your feet did not feel solid on the cold, icy winter ground.  According to a recent article by the Detroit News, you are not alone.  They gathered statistics from the Accident Fund Insurance, which is a Midwestern company that handles many workers' compensation claims.  They reported that compared to 2012-2013, the number of winter slip-and-fall claims doubled in 2013-2014.  For the Midwest, that means that about 33% of all workers' compensation claims were accounted for by slip-and-fall events.  In many states that receive significant snow in the winter months, such as our home state of Pennsylvania, the numbers are most likely very similar.  

The article also offered a few tips in dealing with winter weather, such as:

  • "Walking like a penguin", i.e. taking short steps using a wide base of support.  
  • Wear footwear that has both a good tread and is water resistant.  Attaching ice grips to your shoes may be a good idea as well.  To make your life easier, just keep a pair of nice shoes at your office to avoid having to carry them in every day.
  • When winter ice is melting, the logical next step tends to be the formation of black ice.  Be safe, even in areas that appear solid and dry. 
  • Be extra cautious in certain environments, such as parking lots and entrances to buildings (both exterior and interior). 
  • As much as possible, keep your hands free.  Use a tote bag with a shoulder strap or a backpack instead of carrying items in your hands. 

 If you have slipped and fell on the property of another, you may be entitled to compensation for medical bills and potential pain and suffering.  This may include cases where sidewalks were improperly maintained due to the winter weather, such as failure to remove snow and ice.   Attorney Doug Stoehr takes cases for clients who have sustained slip-and-fall injuries due to the fault or negligence of another. For more information on his Altoona, PA area practice, please visit his website at http://www.stoehrlaw.com or call his firm at 814-946-4100.

Snowmobile Accidents On the East Coast

Recently, several snowmobile accidents have shown up in the news across states along the east coast.  One accident, which occurred in New Hampshire near Boston, Massachusetts, involved a father and son.  According to the news article from CBS Local in Boston, a father of three was out riding a snowmobile with his nine-year-old son when the throttle of his snowmobile got stuck.  The snowmobile hit a rock, and the father and son threw themselves off of the vehicle as it went airborne.  The son survived, but the father unfortunately did not.  The snowmobile landed in a nearby creek after flying over 70 feet into the air.  The son, whose only injury was a broken leg, was grateful to his father for saving his life by throwing him into a pile of powdery snow, which broke his fall.  

 

Another such accident occurred closer to home in Windsor Township, PA.  According to local news reports, an adult male was driving a snowmobile while intoxicated and hit a tree.  He did not survive the accident.  It is important and sobering to remember that snowmobile fatalities not only end the life of the victim, but they drastically and permanently damage the lives of the family and friends they leave behind. Please use proper safety precautions when driving or as a passenger on a snowmobile to do your best to avoid accidents and injury.  

 

Off-road vehicles, such as snowmobiles and ATVs, are potentially dangerous vehicles for many of our state's youth.  Improper ATV use is leading cause of serious injury among Pennsylvanians.   Attorney Doug Stoehr of Altoona, PA handles cases involving injury as a result of accidents involving off-road vehicles.  For more information about Attorney Doug Stoehr and his central Pennsylvania practice, please call his law firm at 814-946-4100. 

Snowmobile Accident Prevention!

A recent online article, which can be accessed by clicking this link, talks about The International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association's (ISMA) global campaign to raise awareness for snowmobile safety and training.  According to the publication, different countries' laws governing snowmobile operation are extremely variable, and there are generally fewer regulations for snowmobile operation than for other, similar vehicles like ATVs.

Most fatal snowmobile accidents occur when excessive speed and/or alcohol consumption play a role.  Not only does alcohol impair judgment and inhibit responses, it can also lead to hypothermia.  Night driving is also a particular hazard, and some reports estimate that most fatal accidents occur between the hours of 8PM and 3AM.  Interestingly, many snowmobile accidents also result in drowning.  When children are involved in fatal accidents, the majority of deaths tend to result head and spine injuries from impact against an object, such as a tree or wall.

The online article also offered several easy and practical snowmobile safety tips, several of which can be found below:

 

  • Wear warm, water repellant clothes with a windproof outer layer.  Don't forget gloves and goggles.
  • Tell others of your estimated time of arrival and let them know your route.
  • Always ride with someone else--don't travel alone.
  • Carry a first aid and safety kit.  A tool kit, flashlight, maps, and flares may be useful.
  • Be alert to potential avalanche concerns.  If you live in an avalanche-prone area, consider traveling with ice picks and poles to help you out in the case of an emergency.
  • If you go through the ice on your snowmobile, a special snowmobile suit may help you stay afloat for a short period of time.  Pull yourself onto the ice and roll away from the hole!  Keep your mittens/gloves on during this time, even though they are wet.

 

Off-road vehicles, such as snowmobiles and ATVs, are potentially dangerous vehicles for many of our state's youth.  Improper ATV use is leading cause of serious injury among Pennsylvanians.   Attorney Doug Stoehr of Altoona, PA handles cases involving injury as a result of accidents involving off-road vehicles.  For more information about Attorney Doug Stoehr and his central Pennsylvania practice, please call his law firm at 814-946-4100. 

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