Gabriel Mejia, Esq.: April 2009 Archives

April 24, 2009

Danger of Injury to South Florida Bus Riders

Florida residents are no strangers to bus accident injuries whether they occur on interstate motor coaches, school buses, or city buses.  Just yesterday, a Broward Sheriff's Office deputy collided with a school bus transporting children from West Glades Middle School in Parkland.  The deputy and two children were taken to the hospital for evaluation according to reports.  This accident and numerous other bus accidents throughout South Florida underscore the necessity for improved safety features and stronger regulation in the bus industry.

Glaringly absent from almost all buses are seat belts.  Although seat belts have been standard mandatory equipment in automobiles for years, they are still not required safety equipment in all buses.  Seat belts help prevent injury by performing two functions of crashworthiness: restraint of the occupants and prevention of ejection.  Despite their large size, bus collisions and rollovers transfer a great deal of energy to the passengers causing them to be ejected from the passenger compartment or slammed against interior surfaces.  The implementation of seat belts on buses would help prevent injuries by restraining the rider within their seat, but critics say such implementation would increase bus weight and not be cost-effective.

A less obvious danger, however, lies in the roofs above the riders' heads.  In order to increase passenger comfort, bus windows are being made larger and larger.  These large windows contribute to decreasing the integrity of the roof and the survival space.  When these large windows are not made of ejection-resistant glazed glass, the passenger compartment is compromised and passengers are more susceptible to being ejected through a larger area.

These short-comings can all be correct by readily available technology.  However, preventable bus accident injuries will continue to occur unless strict regulations are in place and enforced.  There is proposed legislation to help correct some of these shortcomings such as the Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Acts of 2009 which seeks to improve passenger protections and increase driver training and credentialing.

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April 20, 2009

Florida Residents Begin Chinese Drywall Lawsuits

Florida personal injury attorneys and residents are striking back against the manufacturers of Chinese drywall that is alleged to emit sulfur gases and other fumes by filing lawsuits in federal court.  The popular South Florida developer Lennar has also been recently named as a party in connection with the Chinese drywall litigation.  Lennar, with numerous developments throughout Broward, Dade, and Palm Beach counties, says that it has established a reserve fund to pay for replacement of the defective drywall as well as other home components damaged by the fumes emitted by the drywall such as air conditioning systems.

An estimated 35,000 homes in Florida have been exposed to defective Chinese drywall.  The Florida Department of Health (DOH) has begun air quality testing to determine if the sulfuric gases emitted from the drywall make people sick.  The DOH created an investigation criteria for Florida home owners whose houses were built after 2003 (two or more items must be present):
  • Sulfuric smell or unusual odor within home
  • Confirmation that drywall was made in China
  • Black sooty coating on uninsulated copper pipe indicative of errosion
  • Failure of A/C evaporator coil
  • Expert confirmation of premature copper corrosion
South Florida houses built prior to 2004 may still meet the investigative criteria if three or more of the above listed criteria are present.

Although no direct link between any medical condition and Chinese drywall has been confirmed, many experts claim that sulfur-based gases may aggravate existing sinus issues and cause other respiratory problems.  Many South Florida residents have complained of jewelry and electrical wiring turning black and metals corroding.  South Florida personal injury attorneys are working to obtain compensation for the damage done by this potentially toxic and dangerous building product.

West Palm Beach City Hall recently played host to Rep. Robert Wexler (D) of Boca Raton and Senator Bill Nelson (D) who addressed the concerns of South Florida residents potentially exposed to the sulfur gases.  Sen. Nelson called for the resignation of the acting chief of the U.S. Consumer Product & Safety Commission and said too little was being done to stem the tide of potential injuries and damages from defective Chinese drywall.

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April 10, 2009

Family of Boy Killed on Amusement Park Ride Receives $1.25 Million

The family of a Connecticut boy fatally injured on an amusement park ride in New York received a $1.25 million settlement from the county which owned the park.  The boy died after leaving his seat and eventually drowning after he received a blow to the head.  The amusement park was admittedly understaffed at the time of the young boys death according to reports.

The coming of spring and summer brings patrons of amusement and water parks out in droves seeking to free themselves of the winter doldrums or cool themselves from the scorching summer sun.  In areas like Florida, the warm, pleasant climate brings people from far and wide to the parks in Orlando and to the water parks, fairs, amusement parks, and carnivals of Palm Beach, Broward and Dade counties.  Because of the large number of people that visit amusement parks throughout the country on a yearly basis, it is important that the rides be properly inspected and maintained, the grounds be properly kept in a safe condition, and security be in place to protect and respond to all situations in order to avoid amusement park ride injuries and deaths.

The National Safety Council (NSC) estimated that 1,783 injuries occurred in 2005 at 398 fixed site amusement parks.  The NSC, in its report prepared for the International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions, estimated that approximately 4 deaths occur every year at these parks.  However, others say the actual number of injuries and deaths at amusement parks is higher and call for stricter regulation of the rides and facilities.

It is imperative that the owners of amusement parks, fairs, water parks, and the like maintain their equipment to the highest safety standards.  It is extremely difficult for patrons of the parks to determine how safe a ride is when those rides are being advertised specifically for their enjoyment.  It is also almost impossible for these park-goers to determine if a ride or attraction is in disrepair and the potential harm the ride may cause them.  People that are injured in amusement park accidents should contact an attorney to ensure that their rights are protected to the fullest extent.

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