June 2009 Archives

June 29, 2009

Florida Train Accidents and Injuries

The recent tragic train accident in Washington, D.C., has brought the spotlight once again on the railroad industry and the safety of this mode of transportation. The multi-train accident that killed nine passengers and injured approximately 80 people has once again raised questions of aging equipment and insufficient safety technology. These concerns are not isolated to the nation's capital, but rather concerns and criticisms have reverberated throughout the states, including Florida.

Florida residents are not immune from train accidents and injuries. In 2008, one man died and another was injured after their truck became stuck on the railroad tracks and they were struck by an Amtrak train in Seminole County, Florida. In 2007, two train accidents occurred within a few miles of one another just days apart. The first accident occurred in Lakeland, Florida, after the driver crossed the railway barrier and the car was struck by an Amtrak train killing the four occupants of the car. The second occurred in Plant City, Florida, when a passenger train collided with a container truck killing the driver. In 2002, four people were killed and 142 injured after an auto train derailed in Crescent City, Florida, after encountering a heat-induced buckle in the track.

These accidents are just a sampling of the numerous railway accidents in Florida each year. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics, there were 342 rail accidents or incidents with 38 fatalities and 185 injuries in Florida attributed to freight trains, Amtrak trains, and other commuter trains in 2006. That same year, there were 118 incidents or accidents including 10 fatalities and 34 injuries at highway rail crossings.

In order to reduce the number of train accidents in Florida and throughout the nation, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has recommended updating outdated trains that lack appropriate safety features and crush zones. Organizations such as Operation Lifesaver stress educational programs that emphasize the importance of track safety and avoidance amongst pedestrians and automobile drivers. The Federal Railroad Administration touts safety devices such as positive train control (PTC) that helps prevent train-to-train collisions and overspeed derailments, electronically controlled pneumatic brakes for freight trains, and a national inspection plan to oversee the nation's railway system.

Unfortunately, many of these recommendations are often ignored by rail carriers.  In order to prevent future train accidents and reduce train accident injuries and deaths, it is important for rail carriers to heed the safety warnings of various agencies and implement the suggested safety features and technological updates.

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June 23, 2009

Lighthouse Point, Florida Crane Accident Kills Coconut Creek Man

Despite the recent economic downturn, cranes can be seen dotting the South Florida horizon, especially in the downtown areas of Broward, Palm Beach, and Miami-Dade County.  This equipment has undoubtedly helped our society build higher and faster than at any other time in history.  However, this equipment also poses a real danger of construction site accidents and injuries due to crane failure and improper operation.  This danger of injury or death is present in various types of crane systems including mobile, truck and rail mounted cranes and overhead cranes.

Just recently, a Coconut Creek man was pinned beneath a crane after it collapsed while performing maintenance on a seawall.  The man was pulled from the twisted wreckage by his co-workers, but later died from his crane collapse injuries at North Broward Medical Center.  The accident is currently being investigated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). 

According to the Sun-Sentinel, there have been 26 such crane accidents in the South Florida area since 1990.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 72 crane-related fatal occupational injuries in 2006 and an average of 78 crane-related fatalities from 2003-2005.  Florida had the second highest fatal occupational crane injuries in the nation with 27 deaths from 2003 to 2006.

When crane accidents cause injury or death from either the crane collapsing or objects falling from the crane, it is often a labor intensive process to determine liability.  Many times, a party other than the employer of the operator is responsible or at least partially responsible for the injuries caused by a crane accident--whether it be the manufacturer of the crane that failed to properly design, manufacture or warn against dangers of the crane, the owner of the crane that failed to properly maintain or inspect the crane, or any number of potentially liable parties.  Because so many various scenarios can occur on construction sites with crane accidents, if you have been injured in a crane accident, it is important to contact an attorney that is experienced in handling construction and crane accidents to ensure your rights are protected throughout the process.

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June 15, 2009

Florida Car Accidents Caused by More than Bad Driving

Injuries from auto accidents in Broward County, Miami-Dade County, and Palm Beach County have been well documented on this site and can also be found strewn across the headlines on a daily basis. However, car accident injuries are not always caused by careless or reckless drivers running stoplights, failing to check their mirrors, or any of the numerous other negligent acts seen upon South Florida roads all too often. Rather, South Florida residents also need to be aware of a danger posed by vehicles that is often created before the car or truck hits the road; that is, the danger of unsecured or improperly secured loads and equipment and the projectiles they become on South Florida highways.

It is not uncommon to see debris upon the roadways--everything from couch pillows to scrap metal. Much of the larger debris is the result of improperly secured loads on flat-bed tractor-trailers or pickup trucks. Other debris littered upon our roads is from vehicle equipment lost from vehicles while driving, garbage tossed from cars, and other illegal dumping. This debris is so dangerous because it can smash through windows, cause the driver to take emergency evasive maneuvers, and flatten tires or cause other vehicular damages. The accidents caused by flying debris and roadway debris are often more severe because drivers are often unable to anticipate the debris in time to safely avoid it.

Just recently, a large metal gate flew off of a trailer and smashed in to the windshield of a car traveling in Dania Beach, Florida. According to reports, the driver of car survived the accident with only minor scratches to his head and arms. Luckily, the driver's eyes were protected from the flying glass by they sunglasses he was wearing at the time. The driver of the truck pulling the trailer was cited for failing to properly secure his load.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety recognized the danger of road debris and the resultant auto accidents and injuries and developed a report on the causes and results of such debris. The Foundation estimated that there were 25,217 crashes in the United States directly related to road debris. Of those crashes, 8,012 involved injury to the occupants and 76 were fatal.

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June 9, 2009

Florida Company Sued in Trucking Accident that Killed Two

A Clearwater, Florida, man and his truck driving company, Stan Trucking, Inc., are being sued for negligence after he allegedly struck and killed two honeymooners in Las Vegas.  According to reports, the couple was stranded on the side of the road after their vehicle either ran out of gas or suffered a flat tire when they were struck by the driver and then again by another semi-truck driver that is also being sued.  Both drivers failed to stop after hitting the couple and later claimed they believed they had run over a pothole or bump in the road.  The family of the female victim is suing both drivers for failing to maintain safe distances, failing to pay proper attention, failing to stay in the proper lane, and driving too fast for the conditions at the time which they are alleged to have caused the trucking driving accident injuries and deaths.  The family is also suing the employer of  the second driver for negligent hiring, negligent training, and negligent supervision.

This unfortunate accident is indicative of the devastating effect of truck driving accidents and injuries.  According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), 4,860 traffic accidents involved large trucks, including various configurations of tractors and trailers, in Florida in 2007.  These tractor-trailer accidents resulted in 321 fatalities and thousands of injuries.  Adding an additional layer of danger to these truck accidents, 137 accidents involved a truck carrying hazardous materials.

These trucking accidents can cause so much damage to property and inflict such serious injury because the speed and size of the trucks.  Many of these trucks weigh over 26,000 pounds and travel at incredible speeds.  The difference in the size and mass of the semi-truck compared to that of a human body or passenger vehicle makes it obvious why these vehicles cause such damage when they strike pedestrians and cars.

As in the case above, the truck driver is not always the sole party responsible for injuries and deaths caused by truck accidents.  Often times, the truck driving company also has a responsibility to ensure that their drivers are qualified, properly trained and supervised, and have a driving record that indicates they are safe drivers.  Failure to properly screen truck drivers prior to hiring or failure to review their current drivers' records may make trucking companies responsible for the injuries caused by their drivers even when those drivers are independent contractors.

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June 7, 2009

Reducing Your Insurance Rates While Maintaining Quality Insurance

 

The cost to insure your vehicles is "all over the place". Buyers should definitely shop around in order to get the least expensive rates. BUT HOLD ON: Saving a few insurance dollars but going from a good insurance carrier to one that's bad, doesn't make good sense. You have to weigh the price savings against the quality of the service AND payments that you'll get if you make a claim with your insurance carrier, or a claim is made against you or a family member.

The first factor to consider is the quality of the company. We maintain a rating of all major insurance carriers on our website, grading them from A to F, with an "A" meaning the company pays liability claims and uninsured motorist claims extremely reasonably, and attempts to avoid litigation (court), if at all possible. The "F" company will 'chince you to death'. With a lower rated company, you're much more likely to end up in a courtroom, or at least in litigation, than an "A" rated company.

You should simply get the best company in light of the rates that are charged.

Company rates may vary based upon large numbers of factors, such as discounts for drivers over certain ages, surcharges for drivers under certain ages, etc.

What kind of deductible that you can afford will also affect your insurance premiums. You should always take the highest deductible that you can afford to take, understanding that if you are in an accident, you possibly will have to come out of pocket for that deductible.

At minimum, always purchase uninsured motorist coverage equal to your bodily injury liability coverage. In addition, try to purchase stacking coverage if you have more than one resident relative vehicle in your household, as stacking coverage will, for example, double your coverage if you have two resident relative vehicles in your household.

Medical payments coverage is probably a coverage that you can do without if you and your family members have major medical health insurance coverage. Alternatively, if you have an HMO, you may want to consider purchasing additional medical payments coverage.

Other coverages such as rental, towing, storage, etc. are so infrequently used, and not mandatory, that you can avoid purchasing them.

An excellent article recently written that you should review before purchasing or renewing your insurance is called: "Your 5-minute guide to car insurance".

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June 2, 2009

Treadmill Accidents Pose Risk of Serious Injury, Death

Mike Tyson's 4-year-old daughter, Exodus, died on Tuesday, May 26, 2009, after succumbing to injuries she sustained when her head was caught in a cord hanging from a treadmill.  According to reports, this tragic treadmill accident occurred when the cord tightened around the child's head after she fell while playing on or around the machine.  The child was rushed to the hospital where she was treated, placed on life-support, and later passed away.

This tragic accident highlights the danger treadmills pose--especially to the very young.  The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that some 6,481 exercise equipment-related accidents involving children under 5-years-old occurred in 2008.  Treadmills and other exercise equipment do not only pose a risk of strangulation, but also can cause burns, lacerations, and deformity to the body from coming in contact with moving parts.

In order to help prevent these tragic exercise equipment accidents, ConsumerReports.org recommends that children be supervised at all times while treadmills and other exercise equipment is in use in the home.  Treadmills and other equipment that is not in use should be unplugged and locked away if possible or surrounded by a safety gate.  Finally, safety clips should be removed from the equipment to eliminate the strangulation hazard they pose and to prevent the equipment from running.

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