Truck underride guards often fail

A report issued last March by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says that underride guards on the backs of large trucks frequently fail to prevent a passenger vehicle from sliding under a truck during a collision.

“Hitting the back of a large truck is a game changer,” IIHS President Adrian Lund wrote in the report. “You might be riding in a vehicle that earns top marks in frontal crash tests, but if the truck’s underride guard fails—or isn’t there at all—your chances of walking away from even a relatively low-speed crash aren’t good.”

The organization performed six crash tests involving three rear guards that complied with U.S. safety regulations and were attached to parked semi-trailers. In three of the tests, the car slid under the truck enough that the dummy’s head was hit, indicating that decapitation would likely occur in a rear-world crash.

The strongest guard prevented underride when the car struck the truck’s rear head-on and at a slight angle. In every other test in which the car struck the truck at an angle, all of the guards allowed underride.

During the life of a truck, the guards beccome damaged over time. Trucking companies refuse to replace the guards because stronger systems would create a slight increase in weight, which would raise the companies’ fuel costs.

In its rulemaking and research priority plan released last month, NHTSA acknowledged that truck underride is the third largest cause of fatalities in frontal collisions and said it “will assess research data and decide on the next steps” by 2012.

Mental Health Disparity Act

A federal appeals court has ruled in a case that could offer benefits for those being treated for mental illness. While the case involves a Northern California woman being treated for anorexia at a residential treatment center, the issue is whether or not her insurance company, which specifically excludes treatment at residential centers, must pay for her care, which was medically necessary.

The state’s mental health parity act provides that insurers must provide the same coverage for a mental illness that they would for a physical illness says a three-judge panel on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

For decades mental health advocates have thought insurance companies to get equal treatment for mental disorders or brain illnesses that were covered under insurance policies. In 2008 Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act expanded the rules to include substance abuse treatment and barred employers who include mental health services in their insurance plans from covering them at a lower level than other medical conditions. As a result, an estimated 140 million Americans no longer face higher deductibles, steeper co-payments or other restrictions when they seek mental health and substance abuse treatment services.

Defense Base Act

United State Workers who are injured while working in Iran, Iraq, Afganistan and other places outside the United States may be covered under the Defense Base Act. (DBA)
1. Who is covered under the DBA?

All workers employed to perform work on any contracts with any U.S. government agency, including construction and service contracts and contracts approved and funded by the U.S. under the Foreign Assistance Act, if the contract is performed outside of the United States;

All employees engaged in such employment, regardless of nationality, including U.S. citizens and residents, host country nationals (local hires), and third country nationals (individuals hired from another country to work in the host country), are covered under the Act;

All workers employed by all levels of contract, including sub-contracts and subordinate contracts, are covered under the Act. A contractor that fails to ensure that the employees of its sub-contractor have appropriate coverage may be responsible for its sub-contractors’ employees.

If you need help getting compensation for injuries recieved while working oversees, contact Michael E. Seelie today.

After a Car Accident- What to do?

Whether you have been injured in a car collision, a slip and fall accident, as the result of equipment failure, by a doctor’s negligence or in any other way, you must during the very earliest stages take great care in everything you say and do.

As you are sorting out your options on whether or not to hire an attorney, the one thing to remember is do not sign any papers from an insurance company and do not give a recorded statement until you have either consulted an attorney or are sure that you will not need one. It is a sad thing when I get calls from people who have lingering injuries but have signed away their rights in a hurry to recieve some compensation for their claims.

Never again will your memory of the key events be as fresh as they are on the date of injury. So keep a journal and take pictures. It will be very helpful to your case to keep notes, photos, or other evidence that will trigger your memory.

Car Accidents and Uninsured or Underinsured Drivers

Underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage protects drivers when the other driver either doesn’t have enough auto insurance or none at all. These are important coverages to have. according to Michael Seelie, a board certified trial attorney in Jacksonville Florida who specializes in auto accident cases.
“I have had to tell people, that have had severe injuries, that there was no coverage for their injuries. You can buy bodily injury insurance which will cover you if you hurt somebody else, but what happens to you if the person who hits you doesn’t have any bodily injury insurance and is fairly poor and can’t pay a judgment? Especially if you think you can’t afford it, don’t opt out of uninsured and underinsured insurance.

Are rollovers more common for SUVs than for other vehicles?

Rollovers are much more common for SUVs and pickups than for cars, and more common for SUVs than for pickups. In 2009, 56 percent of SUV occupants killed in crashes were in vehicles that rolled over. In comparison, 47 percent of deaths in pickups and 25 percent of deaths in cars were in rollovers.
Pickups and SUVs tend to be involved in rollovers more frequently than cars largely due to the physical differences of these vehicles. Light trucks are taller than cars and have greater ground clearance, causing their mass to be distributed higher off the road relative to the width of the vehicle. Additional passengers and cargo can increase the center of gravity even more. Other things being equal, a vehicle with a higher center of gravity is more prone to roll over than a lower riding vehicle.
Driver behavior may contribute to the increased rollover involvement rate of SUVs and pickups. Pickups and SUVs are more likely than cars to be driven on rural roads, where rollovers occur more frequently. Lower belt use among pickup occupants means they are more likely to be seriously or fatally injured when rollovers occur.
Knowing these statistics, car manufacturers can design vehicles that protect the occupants in a rollover collision. Good seatbelts, safe roofs, airbags are all designed to work together. If you have questions about how your vehicle performed in a car accident, contact us.

Why We Need the Civil Justice System

America’s civil justice system gives people have a fair chance to receive justice through the legal system when they are injured by the negligence or misconduct of others – even when it means taking on the most powerful corporations.

This is more important now than ever because the drug and oil industries, big insurance companies and other large corporations dominate our political process – and thus, people cannot depend on the political system to hold corporations accountable. When corporations and their CEOs act irresponsibly by delaying or refusing to pay fair and just insurance claims, producing unsafe products, polluting our environment or swindling their employees and shareholders, the last resort for Americans to hold them accountable is in our courts.

Because of the civil justice system, our cars are safer, environment is cleaner, and medicine is safer.

AAJ Response to AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion SCOTUS Decision

Washington, DC —The following is a statement from American Association for Justice (AAJ) President Gibson Vance on today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling in AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion:

“The Supreme Court has allowed major corporations to grant themselves immunity when they cheat consumers or employees. This decision leaves Americans with practically no recourse to challenge corporate wrongdoing and gives corporations a blueprint to draft forced arbitration clauses to avoid accountability for a wide range of unfair or illegal practices.

“This is a death blow to Americans’ chances for justice when faced with forced arbitration clauses. This devastating decision has the potential to result in virtually no consumer or employee cases involving small claims being heard anywhere. Corporations will now be allowed to get away with sweeping wrongdoing, particularly where the damages would be too small to justify pursuing individual claims.

“Many states have deemed provisions banning class actions unconscionable. This decision preempts state law and further highlights the need for a legislative fix that would end the use of forced arbitration. It is imperative that Congress pass the Arbitration Fairness Act to protect consumers and employees from these abusive practices.”

The Center for Constitutional Litigation filed an amicus brief on behalf of AAJ, which can be found here. If you would like to speak to an AAJ spokesperson further about the implications of this decision, please let me know

How our cars got safer

By Gibson Vance
April 16, 2011

Traffic deaths in the United States have dropped to their lowest level since 1949, according to a report released this month by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Remarkably, this drop occurred even as Americans drove 21 billion more miles in 2010 than they had the previous year.

The drop in fatalities is due in large part to the fact that cars are getting safer. Since the introduction of the Ford Pinto nearly four decades ago — a car synonymous with danger, destruction and executives putting profits ahead of consumer safety — amazing advancements have been made in auto safety. The technology is better, regulations are stronger and buyers have more information. Not surprisingly, consumers are drawn to cars with the latest safety features.

Yet these factors alone do not tell the whole story. History shows that litigation and the civil justice system have served as the most consistent and powerful forces in heightening safety standards, revealing previously concealed defects and regulatory weaknesses and deterring manufacturers from cutting corners on safety for the goal of greater profits.