November 2012 Archives

November 30, 2012

Defective Product Risks for Children this Holiday Season

On November 20, 2012, Action News 5 in Memphis published an article called Survey finds dangerous toys on store shelves. The article discusses the release of the 27th annual survey performed by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group -- dubbed the "Trouble in Toyland" survey.

Parents reading this article and other warnings over the holiday season have cause for concern. Potentially dangerous toys are everywhere on shelves in stores throughout the United States, and the holiday season is a time when many of these toys are bought as gifts and make their way into our homes. Kids are especially vulnerable to being seriously injured as a result of a defective toy or other child's product. 1121740_christmas_gifts_2.jpg

To help parents keep their children safe from dangerous toys this holiday season, our injury attorneys in Knoxville urge parents to learn all they can about toy recalls and to keep up-to-date about any new recalls that occur. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) page on Recalls and Product Safety News is a good starting point for parents. Parents should also consider the information below to help protect their kids from dangerous toys.

Toy Dangers and Risks Over the Holiday Season

Although there are strict toy safety standards in place, a number of potential problems may exist in toys purchased for kids over the holidays. According to the Memphis Action News 5 summary of the Trouble in Toyland survey, some of the risks presented by toys on the shelves this year include:

  • Toys with magnets that could easily be swallowed.
  • Toys with small parts that could be swallowed, which are lacking in adequate choke hazard warnings to ensure the toys aren't purchased for kids under three.
  • Toys that violate safety regulations.

These are just some of the potential problems identified by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, whose full report can be found here. The hazards were identified by researchers who spent several months visiting stores throughout the United States and checking for potentially dangerous products.

Toy Recalls on the Decline, Injuries on the Rise

Although risky toys were found by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Memphis Action News 5 reported that lead and other toxins were not as much of a concern in toys this year as a result of a tougher product safety law passed in 2008. The new law imposed stricter limits on the amount of lead and other chemicals that could be present in children's toys.

A November 2010 report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) also indicated that tougher safety laws had started to reduce the number of fatalities associated with toys as well as the number of toys recalled each year. According to CPSC's report, the number of recalls dropped from 172 in 2008 to 50 in 2009 to 44 in 2010. The number of deaths caused by toys was also lower, with 12 kids under age 15 dying in 2009 as compared with 24 toy-related deaths for kids in the same age group in 2007 and 2008.

CPSC did indicate that the number of injuries was increasing, however, even as deaths and recalls dropped. This increase did not necessarily mean toys were more dangerous though, as CPSC indicated that many of the visits to the ER were for mild injuries such as cuts and were not specifically caused by the toy but instead were associated with the toy.

Cutting the Risk of Injury For Your Kids
While CPSC indicated in 2010 that things were looking up for toy safety, the fact is that there is still risk. As such, parents should be vigilant about monitoring the toys that children receive, checking to see if any of those toys have been recalled, and supervising play when any new or potentially dangerous toys are being used.

These steps can be helpful in cutting the risk of injury, but ultimately the best and only way to keep children safe from defective toys is for manufacturers to be held accountable. Manufacturers are in the best position to ensure a toy is safe, and they are held to a high standard of accountability under the law. In fact, injured victims who are harmed by a toy, or the family members of victims, can file a civil lawsuit against the manufacturer to recover damages. If you can show that the toy was used as the manufacturer directed and intended and if the toy caused injury, then the toy manufacturer, distributor or seller can all be held liable.

Continue reading "Defective Product Risks for Children this Holiday Season" »

November 23, 2012

Holiday Shopping & Knoxville Premises Liability Claims

It seems as though the holiday shopping season gets crazier with each passing year. Bigger sales. Bigger discounts. Bigger crowds.

premises liability lawyers in Knoxville frequently see cases stemming from injuries sustained during the holiday shopping season. Whether it's traffic accidents, injuries at home or accidents that occur in shopping malls, restaurants or on business property, the holidays can be a dangerous time. 1198678_hide_and_seek.jpg

Tennessee premises liability claims may include:

-Elevator and escalator accidents

-Crowd injuries

-Slip and fall accidents

-Dog bites

-Parking lot injuries

-Sidewalk or stairwell accidents

-Theater injuries

-Assault/negligent security

-Evacuation injuries

-Merchandise falling from shelves

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports more than $52 billion was spent during last year's holiday shopping season. And, as retailers continue to try to outdo each other, serious and even fatal injuries have been reported.

For the past several years, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration has issued a bulletin warning employers of the risks.

Business owners incur a special obligation for the safety of employees and customers when promoting outrageous bargains that are likely to draw intense public interest. In such cases, barricades, rope lines and other crowd-control measures should be implemented. Emergency plans should be in place and security guards may even need to be hired.

"Crowd control and proper planning are critical to preventing injuries and deaths," said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. "OSHA urges retailers to adopt a crowd management plan during the holiday shopping season that includes a few simple guidelines."

Likewise, store owners, mall managers and property owners have an obligation to provide safe passage for customers and guests. Those who are injured may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and other damages.

The determining factor in a premises liability claim is whether a defendant enterprise was negligent in not properly managing the risk. Collection of damages is likely when an injury victim can prove a property owner knew, or should have known, about the presence of a dangerous condition. Business owners face a higher burden than private property owners, where a victim's ability to collect depends on their status as an "invitee," "licensee" or "trespasser."

Critical in such cases is contacting an experienced Knoxville premises liability attorney as soon as possible in the wake of an injury accident. Typically, property and business owners move quickly to make repairs once an injury accident has occurred. Documenting the location of your accident, talking to witnesses and determining the availability of surveillance footage or other evidence can have a dramatic impact on the outcome of your case.

As we reported recently on our Tennessee Injury Attorney Blog about fall accidents, comparative negligence law in Tennessee allows a victim to collect damages even if he or she was partially at fault.

Continue reading "Holiday Shopping & Knoxville Premises Liability Claims " »

November 16, 2012

NTSB's Safety Wish List & Risks for Knoxville Drivers

The National Transportation Safety Board has released it's Top 10 list of safety improvements -- and 2 of the top 3 are in your hands.

NBC News reports vehicle collision prevention, operator distraction and impaired driving round out the top three. 1251112_a_bridge_i_the_night.jpg

Our personal injury attorneys in Knoxville recently discussed autumn accident risks, including early darkness, aggressive driving and bad weather.

The truth of the matter is that darkness and the stress of the holidays amplify the risks associated with all sorts of poor driving decisions, and certainly driving under the influence of alcohol or driving distracted are chief among them.

NTSB's Most Wanted Safety Improvements

Collision-Avoidance Technology: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration should require vehicle manufacturers to include an array of available crash-avoidance technology on vehicles. While manufacturers continue to test vehicle-to-vehicle crash-avoidance systems, the industry has largely engaged in foot-dragging when it comes to mandated safety technology. Rear-view cameras, which could drastically reduce the risk of backover parking lot risks, are just one example. The industry has thus far successfully stalled an NHTSA initiative that would have required such technology be installed in all new cars beginning in 2014.

Operator Distraction: As we reported recently, Tennessee is one of two dozen states with a hybrid distracted driving law (underage drivers are prohibited from using cell phones while adults are only forbidden from text messaging). These types of laws continue to make enforcement difficult. Nationwide, the Governors Highway Safety Association reports 10 states have banned all hand-held cell phone use -- nearly 40 have banned text messaging. The NTSB continues to push for a ban on all non-essential cell-phone use by drivers, as well as those operating buses, vessels, trains and planes. The nation's lead transportation safety organization is also pushing for cell-phone companies to develop technologies that disable the devices when in the hands of someone operating a moving vehicle.

Driving Under the Influence: The NTSB is pushing for the development of technologies that can identify drivers under the influence of drugs, as well as additional in-car technologies like ignition interlock devices, which have been proven to reduce the risk of serious and fatal accidents involving intoxicated drivers. Tennessee drunk driving accidents were responsible for about one-third of the state's 1,031 traffic deaths in 2010.

The NTSB, which is responsible for investigating civilian aircraft accidents as well as significant accidents involving other modes of transportation, would also like to see improvements in airport runways, general aviation, intercity buses, the nation's aging transportation infrastructure, pipelines, train-control technology and fire prevention and suppression.

Certainly the cause of many traffic crashes are out of your control. But we can all improve our chances when it comes to arriving home safely. Remember the big three -- speed, distraction and intoxication -- which are responsible for the most number of serious and fatal accidents.

Be extra careful after dark and in bad weather. And allow yourself plenty of time to reach your destination safely.

Continue reading "NTSB's Safety Wish List & Risks for Knoxville Drivers" »

November 9, 2012

Tennessee Distracted Driving Law & Your Car Insurance Rates

Those busted for texting while driving could soon pay more for car insurance.

Our Knoxville personal injury lawyers understand distracted driving is responsible for a significant portion of traffic crashes. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates drivers using a hand-held cell phone are 4 times more likely to be involved in an accident; those texting behind the wheel face a 23-times greater risk of an injury crash.

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Tennessee's distracted driving law makes it a primary offense to text while driving -- meaning you can be pulled over and cited. Drivers under the age of 18 are banned from all hand-held cell phone use behind the wheel.

FOX Business reports insurance companies are moving quickly to use such citations as a reason to increase the cost of your car-insurance policy. The industry already uses a wide variety of moving violations to rate a driver's risk. A DUI conviction, for example, can double or even triple the cost of auto insurance. Under Tennessee's driver's license points system, drivers also accumulate points for various moving violations, which in turn can result in a premium increase.

Speeding citations are 1-8 points depending on how far over the limit a driver was traveling; reckless driving is six points; driving with a canceled license or fleeing a law enforcement officer will result in 8 points. Anyone accumulating 12 or more points faces a suspended license, in addition to whatever penalties may be assessed upon conviction for the underlying charge.

The state's distracted-driving law, which passed earlier this year, makes distracted driving a non-moving violation for which no points are assigned. However, that doesn't mean your insurance company will not raise your rates.

When it comes to texting drivers, the insurance industry is pushing hard for tougher sanctions. However, enforcement challenges continue to exist in states like Tennessee, where a hybrid law permits some drivers to continue to use cell phones. Frequently, the officer cannot determine whether a motorist is texting or dialing a phone. A motorist's age is also difficult to determine when an officer is faced with whether to stop a suspected minor for a cell-phone violation.

The Governors Highway Safety Association reports Tennessee is one of about two dozen states that have such mixed laws on the books; 10 states now ban all drivers from using a hand-held cell phone. In an effort aimed at developing effective enforcement measures, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced last month it would spend $550,000 to fund two pilot-enforcement programs in Connecticut and Massachusetts.

"These two new demonstration programs will help identify real-world protocols and practices to better detect if a person is texting while driving," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland.

Education campaigns and high-visibility enforcement campaigns will be conducted for 24 months and the results will be shared with states facing similar enforcement challenges.

The bottom line is cell phone use while driving is dangerous -- particularly if a driver is text messaging. If you can't stop reaching for your phone, the insurance industry will have you reaching for your wallet.

Continue reading "Tennessee Distracted Driving Law & Your Car Insurance Rates " »

November 4, 2012

Holidays a Dangerous time for Fall Accidents in Tennessee

Holidays are a dangerous time for slip and fall accidents and other premises liability cases in Tennessee.

Beginning with the leaf-peepers and other tourists in October and November, Knoxville personal injury attorneys understand a host of factors contribute to the increased risk of fall accidents. 1094356_escalator.jpg

While Tennessee is not exposed to the brutal winters endured by our northern neighbors, snow and ice accumulation can also increase the risk of a fall accident. And every few years, we experienced significant snowfall and accumulation, according to the National Weather Service. In fact, more than a foot of snow fell in 2011.

The holidays are upon us. Just three weeks until Thanksgiving and the hectic six-week, year-end holiday season that follows. Businesses have an obligation to provide customers and invited guests with safe passage.

Tennessee law permits those who suffer a fall injury due to a negligent condition on business or private property to collect compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, lost earnings, disability benefits and other damages.

Premises Liability Claims in Tennessee

-Wet or slippery floors

-Broken handrails

-Dark or dangerous stairwells

-Elevator and Escalator accidents

-Dog bite/animal attacks

-Dangerous parking lots

-Merchandise falling from shelves

-Assault

-Negligent security

-Evacuation injuries

The Tennessee Supreme Court has abolished the doctrine of contributory negligence, which might otherwise prevent a claim by a plaintiff who is partially at fault. McIntyre v. Balentine, 833 S.W.2d 52 (Tenn. 1992). However, the state has instead adopted a form of comparative negligence, or comparative fault, which may limit or even eliminate your ability to collect damages. Under state law, a plaintiff may only collect damages if the defendant's negligence is greater than their own.

It's common for property or business owners to quickly repair a dangerous condition in the wake of an accident. So it's important you contact an experienced personal injury attorney in Knoxville as soon as possible after an injury accident has occurred. Conducting a thorough investigation in the immediate aftermath of an incident can help prove your case.

Knoxville Nursing Home Falls

Knoxville nursing home neglect attorneys would also encourage you to pay special attention to the conditions of local nursing homes and assisted-living facilities during holiday visits. This is prime time for these facilities, so if you see unsanitary conditions, lack of staffing or other warning signs, you can bet conditions are typically even worse for residents at other times of the year.

While it's true our most fragile older adults often reside in these homes because of their need for increased care and supervision, it's also true that short staffing, high turnover and inadequate training frequently result in resident neglect.

Fall accidents are epidemic in nursing homes. The National Institutes of Health reports the average 100-bed nursing home reports 200 falls a year. Many more falls go unreported.

These falls kill about 1,800 residents a year. Even outside nursing homes, older residents are most at risk. About 1.5 million senior citizens suffer a fall accident each year -- that number is expected to double to 3 million by 2030. Broken bones, broken hips, broken hands, and traumatic brain injury commonly result.

In fact, fall accidents are the leading cause of fatal injury accidents among those over the age of 65. And those who recover physically may suffer from the reduced mobility that often comes with a fear of falling.

Continue reading "Holidays a Dangerous time for Fall Accidents in Tennessee " »