March 2015 Archives

Motorcyclists and Drivers: Share The Road This Spring!

Drivers and motorcyclists, share the road when you are out driving! An article by Lancaster Online made a few very good points about the increasing number of motorcyclists on the road as the spring weather emerges.  The author of the article stated that there are many potential road hazards that increase as the streets expose their winter wear and tear, which can affect both motorcycle and car drivers.  Drivers should be aware of the following concerns while out on Pennsylvania's roads and highways this spring:
  • Look out for potholes, loose gravel, and leftover salt and black ice as we transition into spring! If the weather is hovering around freezing, the roads may be especially dangerous.
  • When driving a car, be extra vigilant and look twice to avoid hitting motorcyclists who are out sharing the road.  Remember, most motorcyclists have not ridden all winter and may still be acclimating to riding their bikes again. 
  • Be especially careful when switching lanes around a motorcyclist, as it can be easy to misjudge speed and distance. 
  • Motorcyclists: wear helmets, even if it is not required by Pennsylvania state law!
  • Motorcycle riders should also stagger bikes instead of riding side-by-side to avoid accidents and/or injury. 
Motor vehicle accidents, such as car, truck, or motorcycle accidents, increase during the warmer months as more people begin to travel to spend time with family and friends. For motorcyclists, wearing a helmet is a common safety procedure that this law office feels should be followed at all times to protect yourself. However, we recognize that, at this time, mandatory helmet laws for those over 21 are not yet in effect. We also strongly feel that motorcyclists, cars, and bicyclists should share the road in a responsible and respectful manner. If you are a motorcyclist who has been wrongfully injured in a motor vehicle accident and may suffer from a spinal cord, brain, or other serious injury, please contact our law office, located in Altoona, PA, for a consultation at no cost to you.

Child Pedestrian Accidents Increase In The Spring

According to a new study, posted by MedicalXpress.com and originally presented at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), it was reported that most child pedestrian injuries occur during the spring months, specifically during the later part of the day.  These injuries also tended to happen more when the children were either unsupervised or near a school or a bus stop. Data taken from 2012 nationwide reports show that over 500 pedestrian children and young adults were killed by cars during that year, and another 22,000 were injured.  Most of the deaths tended to occur in more urban areas.   
Although the current study from the AAOS was based on findings from a Philadelphia hospital's emergency department reports, it is not unreasonable to generalize this data on a larger scale.  For this reason, parents may want to take these extra precautions for their children as the weather starts to get nicer:
  • Teach your child situational awareness, such as staying on sidewalks, looking before crossing a street, and taking care when grabbing anything they may have dropped on the road.
  • Pay special attention to higher-risk areas for car/pedestrian accidents, such as by a school and near area bus stops.  
  • Supervise your children after school hours when they are playing outside.  
  • If you child is participating in an activity that takes place on a street, such as biking, rollerskating, riding a scooter, or skateboarding, make sure they wear proper protective gear.  Also make sure the child knows how to safely stop and move out of the way of oncoming traffic. 
Unfortunately, pedestrian and bicycle accidents are not as uncommon as you might think, especially in the warmer months when children and their families are spending much more time outside. The warm weather and longer days also lead to an increase in reckless and distracted driving, which can result in many more motor vehicle accidents.  Accidents such as these are frightening, unexpected, and potentially life-changing.  The consequences of such accidents can be both severely emotionally and physically damaging. If you or a family member has been injured as a result of a pedestrian or bicycle accident and would like a free consultation with Attorney Stoehr, please contact our law office. 

Workzone Safety Awareness Week

This week, Department of Transportation organizations across the country kicked off National Work Zone Awareness Week.  This is an annual event to encourage safety for both workers and travelers through our country's highway work zones.  This campaign is especially important at this time of year, when so many highways are undergoing spring and summer maintenance to repair the damage left by the harsh winter weather.  This year, the theme of National Work Zone Awareness Week is "Expected The Unexpected".  This theme was used 15 years ago, and is focused on showing drivers why it is so critical to be alert, cautious, and attentive while driving through road construction.  

Mobile DUI Memorial Hits State College

Last month, residents of State College, as well as PennState students, got to view the "DUI Victims Moving Memorial" parked along College Avenue.  This memorial is a mobile vehicle that lists the names of thousands of victims of drunk driving.  Many feel that, by listing victims' actual names instead of just numbers, the effect is much more real and unsettling.  State College police said that they hope the mobile memorial served as a reminder to dissuade drunk drivers from potentially operating a motor vehicle. According to the article by WJAC, the local police state that, arguably, the most dangerous drivers are the ones who have been casually drinking and don't realize how intoxicated they are. 

Many trial lawyers see many accidents involving drunk and/or distracted driving.  Since, by nature, these accidents are preventable, the fact that they occur at all is particularly aggravating.  It also extremely emotional, painful, and psychologically damaging for friends and family of the victims as well.  Attorney Doug Stoehr is an Altoona based personal injury lawyer who takes claims for many clients who have been injured in automobile accidents.  He also takes cases for victims of distracted driving accidents in Altoona, Blair County, and the seven surrounding counties in Pennsylvania. For more information on his central Pennsylvania practice, please call his office at 814-946-4100 or visit his website at http://www.stoehrlaw.com.

Sidewalk Fall Case Goes To PA Superior Court

he Legal Intelligencer, a law-related news website, recently covered a court case relating to premises liability and slip-and-fall, specifically for winter sidewalk damage as we transition into spring.  According to the article, there was a recent lawsuit in Pennsylvania involving a shifting and cracking sidewalk due to the harsh winter weather.  A grandmother and her granddaughter were walking on a sidewalk outside of a shopping center when they tripped and fell on a disjointed section of sidewalk.  The family sued the owners of the shopping center, but the court ruled in favor of the shopping center owner due to trivial, or "de minimis", damage of the sidewalk.  The trial court felt like the owners took care to maintain the sidewalk in a reasonably safe condition
The family then appealed to the state Superior Court with additional details.  The Superior Court consequently issued a lengthy determination, which included the recommendation of the case to be re-tried in trial court, but also agreed that owners are generally not responsible for trivial defects in the sidewalks.  The writer of the article also noted the following observation, stating that "In a lengthy opinion, the Superior Court clarified that accidents sometimes do happen, and that property owners are not required to keep their properties perfectly level. With that being said, as spring comes this week, property owners in our region should inspect the damage caused to their properties by this harsh winter and make whatever property repairs necessary in order to avoid litigation."
However, this case is not always the result of a slip-and-fall accident.  Many owners often do NOT maintain their property, including sidewalks, in a reasonably safe manner.  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 call his firm at 814-946-4100.

Family Settles in ATV Accident For Over $4M

Recently, a family won over $4M in a lawsuit involving an ATV accident that resulted in the leg amputation of a young boy.  According to the story, which was published online by SalemNews.net, a friend of the family took the boy on an ATV ride on a Yamaha Rhino when the vehicle flipped on its side and the boy's leg was trapped underneath.  This particular ATV did not have doors, so the boy's legs were not protected by any doors or windows on the vehicle.  As a result, the boy's leg was crushed and had to be amputated.  The boy's family sued the driver of the vehicle and was awarded over $4M in damages.  The family also sued Yamaha Motor Corporation USA and settled for an undisclosed amount.  
Off-road vehicles, such as snowmobiles and ATVs, are potentially dangerous vehicles for many of our state's youth.   Most fatal all-terrain vehicle accidents occur when excessive speed and/or alcohol consumption play a role.  Night driving is also a particular hazard, and some reports estimate that most fatal accidents occur between the hours of 8PM and 3AM.  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.  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. 

ATV Crash Near Pittsburgh, One Teen Dead

Unfortunately, reports of another ATV-related accident have surfaced in Petrolia, PA.  According to a Lancaster-area news source, a teenager was recently driving an ATV that caused a crash, and another teenage passenger who was on board during the ride died.  The driver could now potentially face charges, along with another participant who moved the all-terrain vehicle from the site of the crash.  The accident occurred in a rural area about 40 miles north of Pittsburgh, PA.  
Police who have been investigating the accident believed that alcohol may have played a factor in the crash, since the driver abandoned the scene.  Additionally, the ATV was totaled, and a friend who was following the driver and his friend in a truck helped the driver remove the ATV from the scene.  At this time, our thoughts are with the family and friends of the victim and everyone else who was involved in the accident.  
ATVs, dirt bikes, and other off-road vehicles (such as snowmobiles) are a leading cause of serious injury among Pennsylvanians, especially among our state's youth.   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 Blair county area practice, please visit his website at http://www.stoehrlaw.com or call his law firm at 814-946-4100.

Farm Bureaus Highlight Importance of ATV Safety

Many Farm Bureaus across the states are working hard this year to implement their Agricultural Safety Awareness Program. As a component of this initiative, last week was designated as Agricultural Safety Awareness Week, and had a theme relating to riding safely while using farm machinery.  One of the big pushes of the safety week was to raise awareness about all-terrain vehicle safety, especially the use of helmets.  

Does Tort Reform Really Work?

Many people are speaking up about the myriad problems associated with tort reform. Observer.com recently posted an opinion piece written in opposition to tort reform.  According the the piece, tort reform originally took off in the 1980's, when California started to impose a $250K cap on the amount that victims of negligence could claim. After that, over half of other states created similar guidelines using their own measures for capping damages.  This, in turn, reduced the amount of time that clients could bring forth a legal claim, and in some cases, reduced the money that lawyers could be paid for representing their clients.  
Many measures of the efficacy of tort reform look at the amount and type of treatment that patients receive in emergency rooms in states that either do or don't have tort reform laws.  According to various reports, tort reform restrictions do not appear to make a difference in the type of care and corresponding cost of care for each ER visit. From this data, researchers have inferred that removing the risk of a doctor getting sued does not appear to change their delivery of care.  Many researchers have also noted that tort reform also tends to slow progress in patient safety initiatives.  To read more from the original article and its research basis, please click this link
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.  
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. 

How Common Is Chronic Pain?

Chronic pain is often a blanket diagnosis used to explain pain that persists consistently over a period longer than 3-6 months.  However, chronic pain can result from many different disorders and injuries.  Unfortunately, many of these problems come from common accidents, such as motor vehicle accidents or slip and falls. 

Hazardous Waste in I-70 Truck Accident

A tractor-trailer accident in Donegal Township recently highlighted just how dangerous highway traveling can be.  According to the WTAE article, a large tractor-trailer was carrying hazardous cargo when it crashed and rolled down a hill after its driver lost control.  The crash, which occurred on Interstate 70, backed up traffic to a standstill near the West Virginia/Pennsylvania border for over an hour.  The accident overall caused hours of delays for I-70 drivers.  An eyewitness present at the scene reported to the news source that the driver was traveling in the lefthand lane when they suddenly made a turn into the right lane.  The turn resulted in a loss of control, in which the truck subsequently hit the guardrail, eliminating almost 40 sections of the rail, and went over a nearby embankment.  The driver was flown to nearby UMPC Presbyterian Hospital.  A hazmat team and cleaning crew arrived at the scene soon after the accident occurred. 
Tractor-trailers can be very dangerous on the Pennsylvania state highways and roads.  Often, these drivers are moving at dangerous speeds and may also be tired and not pay attention to the road.  If you or a loved one has been injured in a tractor-trailer accident, it may be time to consult with an attorney.  Attorney Doug Stoehr is a personal injury lawyer serving western and central Pennsylvania.  For more information on his firm, please call his office at 814-946-4100.

Be A Good Neighbor: Look Out For The Elderly In Your Life This Winter

Pay special attention to your elderly friends and neighbors during this cold weather! Reports from across the country have shown that elderly citizens are falling victim to injury and death as they are faced with the challenges of this incredibly cold and bitter winter. According to one news source, an elderly woman from the state of Indiana was found dead recently as a casualty of the winter weather.  She had walked outside, slipped and fallen outside of her home (near her car), and subsequently died from hypothermia.  To avoid such tragedies, the article recommended several things to do to protect the elderly friends and neighbors in your community:
  • Plan and encourage participation in inside, social activities.  The local YMCA or community center may have activities that will appeal to seniors in the area.
  • Keep a close eye out for signs of frostbite, which tend to affect older adults because they often have diminished circulation. 
  • Check in frequently, and see if elderly neighbors need help with things like shoveling, grocery shopping, and outside maintenance. 
  • If elderly adults have to go outside to do maintenance, encourage them to take frequent breaks to come inside, rest, and warm back up. 
As noted in last week's blog posts, seniors are also more susceptible to mood changes in relation to the seasons, especially when they are not fully mobile.  This is something to be aware of, especially when your elderly loved one may be residing in a nursing home or assisted living facility. You may want to check in with staff at these facilities to find out what programs and activities are being offered for their residents during the long stretch of winter.  
Attorney Doug Stoehr is a personal injury lawyer who takes nursing home abuse and neglect cases in the western and central Pennsylvania areas.  He takes cases in Blair and the seven surrounding counties, and his practice is based in Altoona, PA.  For more information on his firm, please call his office at 814-946-4100 or visit his website at http://www.stoehrlaw.com.
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