Console & Hollawell Blog

The Invincibility Myth: Distracted Drivers Don’t Let Facts Influence Behavior

By Richard Console on July 24, 2014 - Comments off

They say knowledge is power, but a disturbing new safety study proves that knowing an action is dangerous apparently doesn’t stop drivers from doing it anyway. A Harris poll published late last month found that of the thousands of drivers surveyed, large percentages clearly recognized the risks of driving while distracted or intoxicated – and then admitted to engaging in those same hazardous behaviors.

It’s alarming that so many people are acting so irresponsibly on the road, putting others’ lives in dangers, but it’s perhaps even more distressing to think that no amount of education or awareness seems to actually influence drivers’ behavior. What good does it do to spread a message through public safety announcements or awareness events if the audience listens and understands the information, but simply doesn’t care?

Distracted driving signSigns educate drivers, but a sign alone can’t force drivers to change their behavior or their mindsets. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

What the Survey Says

This survey that should be interesting to, well, anyone who ever drives or rides in a car. First, there’s surprising information about drivers’ perceptions of risks. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Drinking and driving: 94 percent of responders think it’s dangerous to drive after consuming three (or more) drinks, while 68 percent think consuming even one or two drinks before driving is dangerous.
  • Cell phone use: 94 percent of responders think it is dangerous to send a text message while driving, and 91 percent think just reading a text message while driving is dangerous. Additionally, 69 percent of drivers surveyed thought having conversations with a hand-held phone while driving is a risk, and 36 percent felt the same way about hands-free phones. About 49 percent of respondents thought it was also dangerous to read texts while stopped at a red traffic light.

I guess we could consider it a positive thing that so many drivers at least recognize the risks. In terms of education alone, it means that safety campaigns have at least succeeded in hammering the message home.

Yet it’s hard not to let the disappointing rates of drivers’ behaviors drag down any positive spin you could put on this news.

  • Drinking and driving: About 37 percent – more than one-third – of respondents admitted to driving after drinking too much and 30 percent said they would drive even after having a few drinks as long as they were only going a short distance.
  • Cell phone use: 74 percent of drivers admit that they have ever used a cell phone to talk while driving, and 21 percent admit to doing so frequently. When it comes to texting, 45 percent of responders have ever read text messages and 15 percent make a habit out of it, while 37 percent of drivers have ever sent a message while driving and 14 percent do so frequently. About 36 percent of survey participants had looked something up on a smartphone or tablet while driving, and 12 percent do so on a regular basis. Another 13 percent have used a phone or tablet to watch a video while behind the wheel, and 24 percent have spent time posting on social media while driving.
  • Other: About 27 percent of respondents stated they had engaged in “personal grooming” while on the road. Not all distractions are high-tech, either. Another 19 percent have read a book, newspaper, or magazine while driving.

These percentages are more along the lines of what I would expect from people who didn’t know that the activities they were engaging in are dangerous.

Why Drivers Don’t Care Even When They Understand Risks

The assumption that people weren’t fully aware of just how dangerous distracted driving behavior can be is what started campaigns, public safety announcements, and days of observation. Now everyone should know the risks, but it seems that this knowledge hasn’t made us any safer.

While the study identified people in the age group of 18- to 36-years-old as the most common transgressors with regards to texting, social media use, and other distracted driving behaviors, other age groups were still solidly represented. Maybe that mistaken sense of invincibility that tends to characterize young drivers doesn’t end at any magical cutoff age. Maybe every driver just believes that even though bad things can happen, those bad things won’t happen to them. If so, this means that reducing distracted driving just got a whole lot harder. It means conquering drivers’ deeply-held (though flawed) beliefs that they are indestructible. Unfortunately, signs, billboards, and thirty-second commercials might not be enough when we’re asking drivers to admit that the danger is personal.

What do you think? Tell us your thoughts!

 

2014’s Ignition Switch Woes Continue as Chrysler Recalls Nearly 800,000 SUVs

By Richard Console on July 23, 2014 - Comments off

We’ve heard a lot about faulty ignition switches this year, but it turns that General Motors (GM) isn’t the only car manufacturer having problems with them. Chrysler announced Tuesday that it, too, was recalling cars with ignition switch problems. The ignition switch may seem like such a small part of the vehicle, but as previous 2014 recalls have illustrated, defects in this auto part can have serious consequences.

Chrysler safety recallThe new Chrysler recall involves model year 2006 and 2007 Jeep Commanders and model year 2005 (pictured) through 2007 Grand Cherokees. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The Chrysler Recall’s Details

The recall involves nearly 800,000 Jeep SUVs, TIME reported. In recalled models, a problem with the ignition switch could shut off the engine and disconnect power to the steering wheel, brakes, and air bags. The ignition switch is vulnerable enough that if a driver’s knee hits the key, it could jostle the switch into the off position, much like the keys and ignitions involved in the GM Camaro recall announced in June. So far, this defect has been linked to just one accident and no injuries, according to NBC News.

Looking on (and Beyond) the Bright Side

I’m grateful that, at least as of now, it seems that no one has gotten hurt because of this manufacturing mistake. But I also know that the situation could have been worse. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to imagine how truly dangerous a problem like this can be. At least 13 people lost their lives in the dozens of accidents linked to GM’s ignition switches that were plagued by similar problems. It could have been just a matter of time before more accidents happened or simply a stroke of good luck that more people didn’t get hurt in collisions involving these cars.

What You Can Do to Stay Safe

With car recalls abounding and ignition switches a top concern of 2014 safety recalls, you might be wondering what you can do to stay safe. First of all, you can find out if your car was included in this or any other recall by visiting SafeCar.gov. If you drive one of the recalled vehicles, make an appointment to get the problem repaired as soon as possible. Dealerships should fix the safety issue for free, so it’s not costing you anything. In the meantime, remove all additional keys, key chains, key fobs, and remotes from your ignition key and adjust your seat so that your knees can’t accidentally come into contact with the key in the ignition switch.

If you were hurt in an accident and the circumstances resemble this or any other safety recall, you may have legal rights to pursue compensation for your injuries. You owe it to yourself to find out if an automaker’s defective part was behind the collision that changed your life, and to hold the manufacturer accountable if so.

 

Armed Thieves on the Loose Could Put Atlantic City Casino-Goers at Risk

By Richard Console on July 22, 2014 - Comments off

Early this morning, two masked and armed men stole $181,000 from Caesar’s casino – and they were still on the loose as late as this afternoon, according to MSN News. As long as these alleged robbers remain at large, their presence could put employees and tourists in danger.

Atlantic CityThe robbery of Caesar’s casino comes at a difficult time for Atlantic City, where one casino closed in January and three more have announced possible closures in the coming months. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Around 6 a.m., the robbers used a gun to steal two cash boxes containing the money, escaping in a getaway car within 20 minutes, according to The Press of Atlantic City. As of this writing, the suspects have still not been caught, and little information has been released about the incident. What is known is that the State Police Casino Gaming Bureau is currently investigating the robbery – indicating that it took place in the casino itself, not the hotel area of Caesar’s, according to CBS News.

The apparent lack of an arrest thus far led ABC News to state that the suspects “got away with” the robbery. But for everyone else in the shore town to gamble, eat, shop, or otherwise “do AC,” the fact that these potentially dangerous suspects are on the loose could be bad news. Do these individuals present a danger to local police? What about casino employees? Or visitors in the area for a good time? What can casino security staff do to protect the people in and around the resorts?

If you’re in the Atlantic City area today, use extreme caution. This may sound like something out of a movie, but the dangers could be very real.

 

Ask the Attorney: Insurance Adjusters Aren’t Friends and Fair Settlements Are Relative

By Richard Console on July 22, 2014 - Comments off

New Jersey and Pennsylvania personal injury attorney Richard P. Console, Jr.

New Jersey and Pennsylvania personal injury attorney Richard P. Console, Jr.Asker: Do I have to accept what the insurance company offers me for an injury claim? If I accept a settlement offer that doesn’t cover all of my damages, do I give up my right to pursue compensation for the remaining damages? How do I know if the offer is a fair amount?

Attorney: Choosing to accept or reject a settlement offer is always a gamble. If you accept an offer that you’re not happy with, you could be leaving money on the table. Holding out for a better offer could backfire and ultimately result in a lower payout if, for example, you take the case to trial and lose.

The uncertainty is why it’s so important to make the most informed decisions possible. The more you know about the personal injury claims process, the law, case value, liens, legal precedents, investigating claims, negotiating, and the likelihood of succeeding at a trial, the better you are equipped to make the right decision. The best thing a claimant can do to make their claim a success is to hire an experienced lawyer to guide them through the complicated process.

You Don’t ‘Have to’ Accept Any Offer You Don’t Want to

Insurance adjusters may throw around commands and jargon, but they’re not the authority figures they may pretend to be. They can’t “make” you accept an offer – but they bank on you not knowing that.

That’s why insurance adjusters make statements like “this is our best offer” and the seemingly threatening “if you won’t accept this offer, we’ll have to go to arbitration.” Insurance companies want to manipulate you into accepting the lowest amount of money. Once you do, you sign away any opportunity to try to get more of the money you deserve.

The Insurance Company Is Not Your Friend

When you begin seeking compensation for your damages, the biggest mistake you can make is to approach the insurance company as your ally. No matter what the insurance adjuster says to reassure you that the company has your best interests – a fast and fair settlement – at heart, the facts say otherwise. Every penny of your settlement comes out of the insurance company’s bottom line. It’s absolutely the goal of the insurance company to minimize payouts on claims, no matter how much you need the money. Claimants who believe that the insurance adjuster is a friend and not an opponent can easily be taken advantage of and lose out on getting the money they deserve.

You do need someone on your side, but you should only trust someone whose goals align with yours. The insurance company doesn’t want you to get the most money you possibly can, but a lawyer does. Personal injury lawyers get paid a percentage of what they recover for clients. The more money your attorney gets for you, the more he or she will personally make. The incentive is to do the best possible job for you, no matter what.

Deciding What’s Fair

Without knowing the details of your claim, no lawyer can tell you whether a settlement is “fair” – and without knowledge and experience, you don’t have the resources to make an informed decision, either. Personal injury claims are incredibly complex. Throwing out an arbitrary number without knowing all the facts would be unhelpful and potentially misleading.

To understand what a fair offer would be and make sure you get what you deserve, consult a car accident lawyer in Marlton. Our office and many others always offer free consultations. If you already have an offer from the insurance company, we can tell you whether we think we can get you a better settlement – and if not, we’ll tell you so honestly. We don’t want to waste your time or ours pursuing an unrealistic settlement, and we certainly don’t want to you miss out on whatever compensation you can get.

 

Merchantville Doctor’s Suspension Shows Painkiller Epidemic Is Close to Home

By Richard Console on July 16, 2014 - Comments off

For some, the news that a Merchantville family doctor had his license suspended in relation to his painkiller prescribing practices last week might be a shock. For me, it’s a sad reminder of not only how abundant the problem of overprescription is, but also how close the prescription painkiller crisis is to the communities where we live, work, and raise our families.

In my law practice, I’ve seen firsthand what can happen to chronic pain patients and their families if doctors are too heavy-handed when prescribing powerful painkillers. Patients can become addicted. Their lives can be tragically cut short. I don’t want this happening to anyone, anywhere, but I certainly don’t want it happening right in our backyards.

Overprescription of pain medicationsPrescription painkillers like opioids are controlled substances for a reason. Writing prescriptions irresponsibly puts patients in danger. Photo Credit: Corbis Images.

The Medical Board’s Investigation and Accusations

The announcement that the license of Dr. Adam C. Gilliss had been suspended first caught headlines late last week. Despite being described as an “award-winning teacher” at the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine (also nearby, in Stratford), Dr. Gilliss “allegedly put patients at risk of addiction” in his own medical practice, the Courier Post reported.

Dr. Gilliss has held his license since 1993, but state officials’ investigation concluded that the physician “would present clear and imminent danger to public health, safety and welfare” if he continued to practice medicine. So the state Board of Medical Examiners suspended his license temporarily. Dr. Gilliss will have the opportunity to defend himself during a hearing which will determine whether or not he will face further disciplinary action.

Apparently, the physician’s conduct in regards to prescribing painkillers to seven of his patients is what initiated the investigation and led to the doctor losing his license. The list of alleged offences is pretty appalling:

  • He reportedly kept “minimal and/or illegible” patient records, some of which reportedly neglected to state even such necessary information as why the patient was taking painkillers to begin with.
  • Doctors know – or should know – that prescription painkillers can be highly addictive and very dangerous. Yet Dr. Gilliss is accused of prescribing them without documenting patients’ diagnoses, performing physical examinations, or even taking vital signs – all of the things that we patients expect doctors to do, even if they aren’t dispensing prescriptions for potentially deadly drugs.
  • Patients of Dr. Gilliss reportedly spent months or even years taking pain pills, often without any documented plan to reduce dosages over time or to prevent patients from becoming physically dependent on the medications.
  • On average, family doctors across New Jersey write painkiller prescriptions for just 14 percent of their patients annually. But Dr. Gilliss prescribed these drugs to an alarming 54 percent – more than half – of his patients, according to The Star-Ledger.

At the close of the investigation, the Board of Medical Examiners found that the doctor’s behavior constituted “gross negligence and professional or occupational misconduct,” the Courier Post reported. Further, Dr. Gilliss allegedly knew that he had a reputation as an “easy mark” from which patients could get the controlled substances, but that he did nothing to change this reputation or his prescribing practices, according to The Star-Ledger.

Overprescription Matters

When most people think of medical malpractice, they probably think of botched procedures or of surgical instruments mistakenly left inside patients’ bodies. Overprescribing dangerous painkillers, too, is a form of medical malpractice. Each year, patients become addicted, lose their quality of life, and die because they were taking prescription painkillers under a doctor’s care but something went wrong. The dose was too high, or follow-up examinations were rushed or neglected or simply not thorough enough. None of the news reports I’ve come across have mentioned whether or not any patients of Dr. Gilliss actually suffered irreparable harm from overdosing on the medications, but the fact that the medical board is worried about public safety is a sign of how serious the situation is. If Dr. Gilliss is indeed guilty of the accusations against him, then the loss of his license could be what’s needed to prevent the loss of patients’ lives.

As a painkiller overdose lawyer, I hope that this investigation and disciplinary action reinforces to other doctors, in any specialty or geographical location, the importance of their responsibilities to patients when they feel they need to prescribe potentially addictive painkillers. As a member of the South Jersey community, I especially hope this news heightens local awareness of the seriousness of recklessly prescribing painkillers. Merchantville is literally just a matter of minutes from where I work, from the place my family calls home. If irresponsible painkiller prescribing practices can happen here, they can happen anywhere.

 

Ask the Attorney: PIP Is Behind Medical Deductibles and Copays after NJ Car Accidents

By Richard Console on July 15, 2014 - Comments off

New Jersey and Pennsylvania personal injury attorney Richard P. Console, Jr.

New Jersey and Pennsylvania personal injury attorney Richard P. Console, Jr.Asker: In New Jersey, do I have to pay medical bills for an accident that wasn’t my fault? If I go through my insurance, I have to pay the $2,500 deductible before they pay for anything. I didn’t even know when signing up for this policy that there was a medical deductible. I don’t feel like I should be paying for an accident I didn’t cause.

Attorney: I’m sorry to hear about your injuries and financial struggles. You’re not alone in feeling that the system is unfair. In New Jersey, no-fault laws require that auto insurance policies include a portion of coverage called “personal injury protection” or PIP. Insurance policies are so confusing that you, like most policyholders, may not fully understand your coverage, your responsibilities, or your legal rights.

Your Responsibilities

You don’t have to pay the medical bills in their entirety, but yes, you have to pay deductibles and copayments toward your medical bills even though the accident wasn’t your fault.

The deductible and copays are part of your policy. It’s not surprising, though disturbing, that you didn’t know you would be on the hook for paying this steep deductible. If you told the insurance agent or online quote generator that you wanted lower premium payments, they gave you a policy with a high deductible and probably never explained what that deductible meant. Unfortunately, not understanding the policy doesn’t excuse you from having to pay the deductible. After you hit your deductible, your insurance company covers 80 percent of the medical expenses up to your coverage limit, leaving you with the remaining 20 percent balance up to your out-of-pocket maximum.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter to the insurance company that you didn’t cause the accident or that the situation is unfair. They’re not giving up a couple thousand dollars just because it’s unfair to you – but that doesn’t mean you can’t do something about the situation.

Your Options as a Claimant

You’re absolutely right that it’s unfair to have to pay thousands of dollars when your only mistake was being in the wrong place at the wrong time. That’s precisely why it’s important fight for the compensation you deserve. You should talk to an accident lawyer in NJ as soon as possible, because your damages could be serious enough that you will need a substantial amount of compensation. That $2,500 deductible is an immediate problem, but you may soon find that it’s not the only challenge you’re facing.

PIP covers your medical bills, but your insurer leaves you on the hook for a good deal of your medical expenses, which can be particularly stressful on top of everything else you’re going through. When you hire a lawyer, you won’t have to worry about immediate costs like medical bills. You can focus on what’s most important: getting better.

 

Warning: Don’t Drink from Your NutriBullet 900 Blender

By Richard Console on July 10, 2014 - Comments off

If you’re using the NutriBullet 900 blender to turn your foods into “superfoods,” you could be getting more than nutrition – and more than you bargained for. Consumer Reports found that the blades cracked in two of the devices tested during the publication’s durability test, Today reported. If you’re drinking out of the container, these pieces of sharp metal blades can be a real safety hazard.

NutriBullet

The blender is designed so users can drink from the container – but if the blades crack, you could find yourself ingesting metal shards along with that smoothie. Photo Credit: Flickr.

Predicting What’s Next for NutriBullet

So far, neither the makers of the NutriBullet nor the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has announced a recall – yet. If history is any indication, though, recalls are a possibility. Consumer Reports encountered a similar problem with a past test of another blender, the Calphalon XL 9-speed, and the discovery ultimately led to a recall.

Even in the absence of a recall, Consumer Reports is making its standpoint clear by labeling the item a “Don’t Buy: Safety Risk.” The publication goes a step further, urging people who have already bought the device to “stop using it.” There are no reports of injuries linked to the blenders so far, but this warning could still be too late for the consumers who have already been injured by the product but who didn’t know who to report the incident to or even whether they have any legal rights at all.

Consumer Safety is the Manufacturer’s Responsibility

Product manufacturers have a duty to make products that don’t harm users, and consumers have the right to expect that the devices they purchase will be free of dangerous defects like defective and fragile blades. You shouldn’t have to worry that your blender – when used correctly – could break without warning and cut your mouth as you try to drink from the container. It’s one thing if you cut yourself while trying to reach inside an assembled and powered-on blender, and another thing entirely when you get hurt while using the device according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Drinking out of a container shouldn’t be dangerous.

Often, consumers don’t know their rights. They’re not sure who to contact when a product they’ve purchased develops a dangerous defect. They may blame themselves when it’s really the manufacturer at fault. Some consumers may just assume that the individual product they purchased is faulty, a “lemon,” and not realize that the defect they have encounters is part of a larger problem. When consumers brush off a safety hazard as “not a big deal” or dismiss an incident that “could have been worse,” they are letting product manufacturers who neglect their responsibilities to consumers off the hook.

You do have legal rights when it comes to defective products, especially when they cause you injuries. You can hold the manufacturer accountable for the harm the product has done to you and your family. So if you got hurt because of a defective NutriBullet or other product, get legal help – you’ll need it. If you had a close call, take it seriously. Report the incident to the CPSC. Your actions just might stop someone else from getting hurt.

 

As Lipitor Lawsuits Move Forward, Patients Are Still at Risk

By Richard Console on July 10, 2014 - Comments off

More than two years after the United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA) first warned that Lipitor and other statin medications could increase patients’ risk of developing diabetes, class action lawsuits are steadily moving forward. So far, more than 3,000 lawsuits have been filed in federal courts and another 300 in state courts. With diabetes being linked to increased risks in suffering strokes, heart attacks, blindness, kidney failure, infections, Alzheimer’s disease, and other health problems, the damage that statin drugs can cause is clearly worth compensation. The patients harmed by this drug are likely to see a vast increase in the medical care they will need and the medical expenses they’ll incur as a result of this chronic condition.

Lipitor can increase patients' risk of developing diabetesThe complications of diabetes extend beyond the discomfort of testing blood sugar daily. The disease can reduce a person’s lifespan by up to 10 years. Photo Credit: Corbis Images.

The Statin Drug-Diabetes Link

As early as February 2012, the FDA included the risk of developing diabetes in a safety announcement. The FDA’s review of studies on statin drugs determined that patients’ diabetes risk increased by nine to 27 percent. Even for patients who don’t have other risk factors for developing diabetes, a double-digit increase in risk is pretty substantial. For the most vulnerable patient population, women who have already experienced menopause, this risk increase is far greater. Taking statin medications – including not just Lipitor, but also drugs like Zocor and Pravachol – increased diabetes risk among postmenopausal women by close to 50 percent, WebMD reported.

The link between statins and diabetes is an interesting one. Patients take statins to lower their cholesterol, in turn cutting their risk of heart disease and heart attacks. While Lipitor and similar medicines decrease the amount of cholesterol produced in the liver, they can also result in increased blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels – and it’s when blood sugar levels get too high that the condition is diagnosed as diabetes. However, many people who suffer from diabetes are also at risk for high cholesterol and heart disease. If you already had risk factors for both high cholesterol and diabetes, taking statin drugs may reduce your heart attack risk but increase your diabetes risk.

A Growing Concern

No patient wants to choose between a potentially fatal event like a heart attack and a chronic and debilitating condition like diabetes. Both conditions can irrevocably harm your overall health and shorten your lifespan considerably. Unfortunately, all drugs have side effects, and many patients who took Lipitor may not have realized the danger the medication was putting them in until it was too late.

With more patients taking statin drugs than ever, it’s likely, though unfortunate, that a larger quantity of people will begin seeing serious side effects and complications in the future. About 25,000,000 patients were already taking statin drugs in November 2013 when the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association changed their guidelines regarding what patients should take the medications. Under the revised guidelines, 72,000,000 patients would be eligible for treatment with these medicines.

For some patients, drugs like Lipitor certainly can protect hearts and save lives. However, these medications aren’t cure-alls, and they’re not without risks. If you’re taking or considering taking a drug like Lipitor, make sure you discuss the risks with your doctor, not just the potential benefits. And if you suffered diabetes or another pharmaceutical injury from taking Lipitor, make sure you get help. When dealing with chronic diseases or severe side effects, you’ll need all the compensation you deserve.

 

Ask the Attorney: Accident Victims Can Get Help Even If They Can’t “Afford” a Lawyer

By Richard Console on July 8, 2014 - Comments off

New Jersey and Pennsylvania personal injury attorney Richard P. Console, Jr.

New Jersey and Pennsylvania personal injury attorney Richard P. Console, Jr.Asker: I was hurt in a car accident recently, but I can’t afford my own attorney at this stage. Why are lawyers so expensive? Do they always charge up front for fees? I want to sue, but can’t afford the fees right now.

Attorney: I’m sorry to hear about your accident. You’re not alone if you’re having financial problems resulting from it. Most of the clients my law firm helps have medical expenses and what we call ‘lost wages’ – money accident victims miss out on earning while they’re out of work because of their injuries.

As a matter of fact, there is a secret to being able to afford a lawyer – actually, there are two of them: the free consultation and the contingency fee. Believe it or not, taking advantage of these two options will allow you to hire a lawyer without paying so much as a dollar out-of-pocket. Let me explain.

The “Lawyers Are Expensive” Belief

It’s not really a misconception that “lawyers are expensive” – certainly some of them are. Lawyers in some disciplines of law charge upwards of $200 per hour, so it’s no surprise that your initial thought is that you can’t afford an attorney. Honestly, who could afford that kind of hourly rate, when faced with rising medical bills and lost income?

Not all lawyers are expensive.

Not all lawyers charge fees for every piece of advice they dispense or every hour they spend working on your case. Photo Credit: Corbis Images.

Contingency Basis

What a huge number of people don’t know is that personal injury lawyers operate differently than lawyers in many other disciplines. Instead of charging these steep hourly fees that can quickly rack up an excessive bill, personal injury attorneys in general work on what’s called a contingency basis. That means any personal injury attorney you meet with should only ever charge you after they have actually recovered money on your behalf. Even then, the fees you pay will only be a percentage of what the lawyer won for you, and it will come out of your settlement or verdict. You’ll never once have to open your wallet or reach into your bank account to come up with the money to pay your attorney.

Free Consultation

The idea of a free consultation flows naturally from this contingency fee arrangement. Lawyers want the opportunity to represent you, so they won’t charge you anything to hear out the details of your accident. If the case sounds promising and they think they can do a good job representing you – meaning both that you will come out of the process with the money you deserve for your injuries and the law firm will make the money it needs to succeed as a business – then they will take your case on. If not, at least you haven’t wasted any money of your own finding out, and you might even be able to get some free advice on what you can do in this situation.

Without a contingency fee arrangement, it would be very hard for accident victims to ever afford a lawyer. Because virtually every personal injury attorney works on contingency, it means that you have nothing to lose and a lot to gain.

 

Manic Monday: GM Announced More Recalls, Compensation Plans

By Richard Console on July 3, 2014 - Comments off

Car Key in Ignition

Monday was a busy day for General Motors (GM). Already this year, the car manufacturer has recalled 20,000,000 cars. Between the recalls and the investigations into why it took a decade for GM to act on its knowledge of a serious defect linked to at least 13 deaths, it seems the company has made news headlines at least once a week. Now GM has announced yet another recall, this time of more than 8,000,000 cars, along with the company’s plans to compensate the families of victims killed as a result of the automaker’s faulty ignition switches.

Car Key in IgnitionMany of the recent car recalls – and some injuries and deaths – involve parts as seemingly simple as keys and ignition switches. Photo Credit: Corbis Images.

Announcing another Recall

This latest recall extends to an additional 8,450,000 cars in North America, bringing the total number of cars recalled by GM this year to about 29,000,000, according to The Wall Street Journal. Again, we’re seeing calls recalled long after they’ve been on the road. Some of these newly recalled vehicles have model years as old as 1997, Forbes reported.

Once again, the ignition switch is to blame, at least for some of the problems. One official cause of the recall is described as “inadvertent ignition key rotation,” while others include a “possible electrical short in the driver’s door module” and “overload in the feed [that] may cause the underhood fusible link to melt due to electrical overload.” By including midsize cars like the Cadillac CTS (model years 2003 to 2014), the Chevrolet Malibu (years 1997 to 2005), and the Pontiac Grand Prix (years 2004 to 2008), the newest recall shows this isn’t just a small car problem. The flaws responsible for the recall have been linked to three deaths and eight injuries sustained in seven accidents, The Wall Street Journal reported. GM maintained that there “is no conclusive evidence that the defect condition caused those crashes,” according to CNN.

GM isn’t the only automaker plagued by recalls this year. In fact, more than 40,000,000 cars have been recalled across the United States in just the first half of the year, according to U.S. News & World Report. The manufacturer has, however, been the subject of investigations and an eight-figure fine for failing to address the deadly ignition switch problem despite knowing about the issue for more than a decade. It just so happened that GM made another high-profile announcement Monday: its plan for compensating families of victims who died as a result of the recalled parts.

A Million Dollars Doesn’t Stretch as Far as You’d Think

Also on Monday, Kenneth Feinberg – alternately referred to as GM’s compensation expert, consultant, compensation plan administrator and director of the compensation fund – elaborated the company’s policy going forward in regards to paying out personal injury and wrongful death claims related to the previous recalls. Attorneys for claimants have estimated the number of deaths associated with these defective cars to be closer to 100 than the 13 GM has so far acknowledged, but Feinberg simply said that he did not know the total number of victims, according to U.S. News & World Report. These figures don’t include victims who survived with injuries, which could number in the hundreds.

A few of the details highlighted in the announcement, as reported by National Public Radio (NPR), include:

  • There is no cap on the total cost of the payments GM will make to claimants.
  • GM will not have a role in deciding claimants’ eligibility and payout amounts, and it will have no power to appeal those decisions.
  • Claims won’t take into account driver negligence, but they also won’t compensate victims for property damage or emotional suffering.
  • Think you might have a claim? Act fast. As of right now, claims must be submitted between August 1 and December 31, 2014. Those few months can fly by quickly, and you could be out of luck when it comes to getting the money you deserve.

For families of victims who lost their lives as a result of the dangerous car defects, payouts will start at $1,000,000, The New York Times reported. While that may sound like a lot of money without context, it’s less than it seems. Consider that a 20-year-old victim with a full working life ahead of him or her – figure 45 years to retirement age – could have earned a million dollars over a lifetime just by making an annual salary of less than $23,000. For higher earning victims, a million dollar settlement doesn’t cover the income that they would have earned to support their families. That’s not including the expenses associated with a funeral and final arrangements, the potentially high costs of medical bills incurred while emergency personnel and medical professionals tried to save the victim’s life, or very real suffering of family members who no longer have the companionship and help of their loved one. Even without knowing the particulars of these cases, I wouldn’t be surprised if at least some of these claims result in payouts well above the million dollar starting point.

While NPR states that some payments for survivors would be expected to bring in just thousands of dollars, it’s certainly possible that those with the most serious and permanent injuries could ultimately get more than $1,000,000 in compensation, too. A surprising and startling bit of information you learn when working in personal injury law is that people who die in accidents often get less compensation – going to their estates or families, of course – than do seriously injured survivors of accidents. One reason is that people who are tragically killed don’t themselves have future medical needs to worry about.

One of the hardest things about personal injury and wrongful death cases is the question of how to put a dollar amount on something as priceless as a life or a person’s quality of life. The sad truth is that nothing can bring back the victims who died in accidents or the health of the irrevocably harmed survivors. What compensation can do is help family members through the difficult financial stresses caused by their loss – and, in cases like these, just knowing that the negligent company is being held accountable can sometimes help victims and loved ones find some peace.

 

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