Console & Hollawell Blog

Ford Vehicle Sees Recalls in the Double Digits

By Richard Console on August 28, 2014 - Comments off

It seems one 2013 Ford vehicle just can’t escape its bad luck – pun intended. Despite being on the road for just a couple of years, the relatively new 2013 Ford Escape SUV has been recalled 11 times as of mid-August 2014 – and that means plenty of frustration for its owners.

Ford recallThe 2013 Ford Escape is considered a compact crossover SUV. A recall announced in August 2014 was the vehicle’s 11th so far. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Recalling Recent History

The 2013 Ford Escape has had numerous problems. (Granted, it’s hard to say which would be worse, 11 failings to fix the same problem or 11 unique problems.) Among those issues are air bags that didn’t deploy on time, doors that flew open while the car was in motion, and the potential for oil to leak inside the engine and start a fire, according to Consumerist. Now the newest issue, announced in mid-August, is one that affects close to 160,000 vehicles – both Escape models and Focus ST models – in North America, Reuters reported. A faulty wiring harness could affect the power going to your engine. Although no crashes have been reported as of yet, the wiring problem poses a serious safety hazard.

How to Handle a Recall

Without question, recalls are frustrating. If you happen to drive a 2013 Ford Escape or another vehicle that’s been the subject of recalls, you need to know what to do next. First, don’t panic. A safety recall is something to take seriously, but don’t let yourself get so worried that it distracts you from driving safely or using caution in your other activities. Remember that just because you own a certain make and model doesn’t necessarily mean that your car is one of the recalled vehicles. Often, recalls involve only cars manufactured at a specific place or during a certain set of dates. If you don’t get a recall notice about your vehicle from the manufacturer or dealer, you can take matters into your own hands and check SaferCar.gov to see if your car is among the recalled vehicles. Make sure you have your vehicle identification number (VIN).

On the other hand, if your car is subject to a safety recall, don’t dismiss it. Doing so could cost you your life or the lives of the people you love. Contact your local dealership to find out when it will have the parts necessary for the repairs, and make your appointment as soon as possible. Remember, you don’t have to pay for the safety defect to be fixed, so there really is no good reason to wait.

For the sake of those drivers getting fed up with multiple recalls, let’s hope the 11th time is the charm for the 2013 Ford Escape. In a year overshadowed by large-scale recalls from seemingly every major automaker, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised to find the same models in need of repairs more than once. Hopefully the massive numbers of recalls are a step in the right direction – a step toward making cars properly and catching potential safety defects before they ever make it out onto the road.

 

Parents’ Roles in Teens Texting and Driving

By Richard Console on August 27, 2014 - Comments off

Pop quiz for parents: When your teenagers are talking on cell phones or texting while driving, who are they talking to?

Question MarkPhoto Credit: Corbis Images.

You’d probably guess that friends rank pretty high on the list. You might make the same assumption about boyfriends or girlfriends. What might surprise you is more than half of teen’s phone calls behind the wheel involve you – parents. And that’s not all.

We’re all quick to blame the younger generation for bad driving behaviors, but new studies are showing that parents may be – unintentionally – playing a role in their teens’ use of cell phones behind the wheel.

The dangers of texting and drivingYou hope your teen knows better than to text behind the wheel – but what if the person he or she is sending a message to is you? Photo Credit: Corbis Images.

Quantifying Parents’ Role in Teen Distraction

Let’s look at the numbers. A shocking 53 percent of teenaged multitaskers who admitted to talking on a cell phone while driving were on the phone with their mothers or fathers, Today reported. Then – perhaps even more troubling, given the level of distraction – there’s the problem of texting while driving. Among all drivers aged 18 – remember, that’s all drivers this age, not only the ones that confessed to texting and driving – 18 percent admitted to texting mom and dad behind the wheel. That’s nearly one-fifth of the entire age group.

Are you texting back?

Having the Distracted Driving Talk

There are ways to prevent the problem of texting and driving, or talking and driving. If you want to know where your teen is – which is understandable – you and your child could work out a system where the young driver sends you a text message before putting the car in motion. Or you could reach an understanding that if you ever call or text your teen while he or she’s behind the wheel, he or she knows not to respond and you know to wait patiently for a response until it’s safe for your teen to call or text you back.

Then there’s the option of putting your phone to work on the problem, too. Smartphone apps that let you track whether your teen is texting behind the wheel are an option, but I prefer the ones that disable the phone temporarily while driving. This way, there’s no temptation to answer a call or text – from mom and dad or anyone else – while driving, because all alerts and notifications are silenced. Alternatively, some phones have a special “driving mode” that will read out information like who’s calling or sending a text message. This way, the young driver doesn’t have to fumble for the phone to see if the call or message is important, and he or she can wait until there’s a safe place to pull over before responding.

Another way to encourage your teen not to drive distracted is by setting the right example. Unfortunately, it’s not only kids who are looking at the phone when they should be looking at the road. Simply saying, “I’m a more experienced driver” doesn’t cut it. Experience doesn’t matter if you’re driving the length of a football field blind – and that’s essentially what you’re doing every time you look at the phone for even a few seconds. Putting an end to distracted driving is everyone’s responsibility – and I say that not only as a car accident lawyer who’s seen too many tragedies, but also as a parent myself.

 

Ask the Attorney: Injured Passengers Can Sue Drivers without Ruining Friendships

By Richard Console on August 26, 2014 - Comments off

New Jersey and Pennsylvania personal injury attorney Richard P. Console, Jr.Asker: I was a passenger in my friend’s car when I was hurt in an accident. Is it somehow dishonest to sue my friend? Will I be a bad friend if I try? Will this harm my friend in any way?

Attorney: Just because you weren’t driving the vehicle doesn’t mean that your injuries are any less severe or the damages you have suffered are any less worthy of compensation. But your passenger status may mean you don’t know where to go from here or who to seek compensation from – and how getting the money you deserve could affect the driver.

It’s no surprise that passengers are often friends of their drivers. Friends go places together. They pick each other up or drop each other off. But sometimes during joy rides or errands, they have the misfortune of being part of a collision – and while that can change everything, it shouldn’t have to end a friendship.

Understanding the Claims Process

In a typical accident, the person who is not at fault will seek compensation from the negligent party, the one that caused the accident. This may or may not mean a lawsuit. A personal injury attorney will submit a claim to the at-fault party’s insurance company on behalf of the injured victim. Sometimes the lawyer and the insurance adjuster can reach a settlement before a lawsuit is ever even filed. If a lawsuit is necessary, the driver is personally named in the suit, but his or her insurance company has a legal obligation to defend him or her and cover the settlement, arbitration award, or jury verdict up to the individual’s policy limits.

Figuring Out Fault

A car accident is virtually never the fault of the passengers. Assuming you didn’t forcibly cover the driver’s eyes while the car was in motion, the accident simply isn’t your fault. But is it the other driver’s fault? Your friend’s fault? A combination?

When a passenger pursues a claim, it’s possible that both drivers involved will be named as defendants to make sure that the victim isn’t missing out on the compensation he or she is entitled to pursue. Sometimes only the other driver’s insurance company ends up paying anything. Other times, the friend is found negligent. If the claim can be settled early on in the process, it’s possible that the passenger will never have to actually sue his or her friend at all. Still other times, the passenger can seek compensation from any uninsured/underinsured motorist’s (UM/UIM) coverage on the friend’s policy even if the other driver was at fault.

Suing a Friend

You have the legal right to sue a friend, but it can be hard to feel comfortable doing so. You don’t want to harm your friend or lose your friendship, but not suing may not be an option if your injuries are severe.

Let me ease your conscience, and maybe your friend’s worries, too. There is nothing unethical about you pursuing a claim against someone you care about, and doing so doesn’t make you a “bad friend.” It just makes you a person who needs compensation for the very real damages you have suffered. Depending on the situation (if you’re going through UM/UIM coverage, for example), you may not even be accusing your friend of causing the accident. Even if your friend was at fault, you’re not saying that he or she is a bad person because of the mistake.

Further, even though your friend is personally named in the lawsuit, it’s not like you’re literally taking money from his or her wallet or bank account. Your friend has auto insurance for a reason, to protect their family from the financial repercussions of an accident. In the instance of a covered event, the insurance company has a duty to pay claims up to the agreed-upon coverage limits. Law firms like ours never go after individuals, so you don’t have to worry. The worst that will happen to your friend is the possibility of insurance rates increasing – and that could happen whether or not you pursue a claim if the collision was considered a chargeable accident or if your friend got a ticket for a traffic violation.

Just because it’s called a personal injury claim doesn’t mean that suing a driver who is your friend is a personal attack. In fact, we often hear this question from the opposite point of view – that of the driver, concerned about making sure his or her friend is able to get the compensation they need, asking, “Should my friend sue me?” Friends don’t want each other to make the choice between living with chronic pain and drowning in medical bills just to afford treatment. They don’t want to see someone they care about choose between preserving their friendship and putting food on the table for their family. Sometimes suing a friend and collecting compensation from that friend’s insurance company is the only way to get the compensation you deserve after an accident.

 

As Lipitor Lawsuits Multiply, It’s Not Too Late to Get Help

By Richard Console on August 25, 2014 - Comments off

If taking Lipitor hurt you more than it helped, you’re obviously not alone – and the swell of lawsuits against pharmaceutical manufacturer Pfizer proves it. This isn’t the first time I’ve written about Lipitor, but with the number of lawsuits over the Lipitor- diabetes link nearing 1,000 as of earlier this month, I thought it was worth another mention. Many victims of dangerous medications don’t realize that the prescription drug they took could have caused the serious medical condition they subsequently developed. This means there could be far more affected Lipitor patients out there, unaware that they are leaving money on the table even as they begin their own costly battles against diabetes.

Lipitor lawsuitsApproximately 29,000,000 patients across the nation have been prescribed Lipitor to decrease cholesterol, but the widely used drug could have serious negative health effects for some patients. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The Progression of Lipitor Lawsuits

When most of us think about medications’ side effects, we tend to imagine inconvenient and temporary conditions like nausea and drowsiness – not the development a chronic disease that could shorten patients’ lifespans by a full decade. Yet that’s exactly what can happen when Lipitor patients, particularly to women past the age of menopause, develop diabetes from taking the cholesterol-fighting drug.

The trouble for Pfizer started in 2012, when the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first announced what they called a “small increased risk” in developing diabetes, MSN reported. Yet until about five months ago, just 56 patients had filed lawsuits against the makers of Lipitor. One factor that may have contributed to the massive upswing of lawsuits in recent months is a decision by a federal judicial panel to try all of the lawsuits in one federal courtroom, MSN reported. The first trial is set to begin in July 2015. Pfizer has denied liability at this time.

“Side Effects” Sounds Like an Understatement

By now, we’re all aware that virtually every drug has side effects. Lipitor, the best-selling prescription medication in history, is no different. Yet it’s not okay for a drug to expose patients to numerous and potentially deadly complications like those that accompany type two diabetes just because that medication happens to rake in more than $10,000,000,000 per year. In the case of all drugs, the expected benefits must outweigh the risks – but in women, and particularly the postmenopausal women involved in these legal actions, that may not happen. Plaintiffs’ lawyers have argued that women actually see fewer benefits from taking drugs like Lipitor than men do, and they face greater risks of developing diabetes, Reuters reported.

If you, too, took Lipitor and were subsequently diagnosed with type two diabetes, don’t assume it’s too late for you to get what you deserve. A thousand patients are fighting back. So can you.

 

September Date Set in Badiali Supreme Court Case

By Richard Console on August 21, 2014 - Comments off

How far would an insurer go to deny its own policyholder the money he deserves? So far that the company would spend twice the amount it owes just to prove a point. That’s what auto insurance carrier New Jersey Manufacturers (NJM) did to Augustine Badiali. Don’t worry, though – we’re on our way to the Supreme Court to make sure this policyholder can finally get what he truly deserves and hold the insurance company responsible for its behavior. NJM’s bad faith actions won’t keep us from fighting for our client.

Gavel Lying in a CourtroomIn less than a month, we’re taking our client’s case to the highest court in the state – the New Jersey Supreme Court. Photo Credit: Corbis Images.

A Car Accident Claim Gone Wrong

It all started with a 2006 car accident in Maple Shade, New Jersey. In the accident, our client sustained serious injuries, like numerous herniated discs in his spine and worsening of degenerative spinal diseases. The driver who rear-ended Mr. Badiali didn’t have insurance. Fortunately, other parties did – including Mr. Badiali, who had made the wise decision to purchase uninsured motorist (UM) coverage.

In the course of recovering compensation on our client’s behalf, we took the case to arbitration, where an impartial arbitrator decided that NJM should pay $14,574 in compensation to its policyholder. The arbitrator also decided that an additional defendant in the case should pay approximately $15,000, making the total award over $29,000.

New Jersey state laws specify that arbitration awards of less than $15,000 are legally binding. Since NJM was responsible for less than $15,000, the company should have just paid up the money it owed. Instead, NJM tried to argue that it shouldn’t have to pay at all because the total arbitration award was more than $15,000, even though it was responsible for about $14,000. Further, NJM spent about $30,000 in legal costs defending this argument.

For an insurance company like NJM, which brings in millions of dollars in revenue each year, that $14,000 would have barely made an impact on the company’s bottom line – as evidenced by NJM’s willingness to shell out twice that amount of money to attempt to prove a point. For an accident victim with medical expenses or lost income, that $14,000 can make a difference between being able to afford a surgery and having to halt the journey to recovery. That money could determine whether a family can stay afloat financially in the face of lost income, or whether it will become unable to pay the bills. Insurers know this. They’re aware that people purchase insurance to protect themselves – and forcing their own policyholders through long, drawn-out litigation to get the money they deserve (and have already paid for in premiums) just isn’t fair.

Taking the Case to a Higher Court

It was obvious to us that NJM’s stance on this issue was wrong. We took the case all the way to the New Jersey Appellate Court, which officially ruled in 2011 what we had been saying all along: that an insurer (like NJM) can’t put a plaintiff through unnecessary, prolonged litigation after arbitration if it is responsible for paying less than $15,000, no matter what the total award is. We saw this as a clear victory for consumers and insurance policyholders across New Jersey. The ruling establishes case law, a legal precedent that can help future accident victims receive their arbitration awards without going through the lengthy litigation process that Mr. Badiali was forced to endure.

However big a win this was for consumers, it didn’t change the fact that our client in this particular case had to wait years to finally get the money he deserved. During those years, he personally faced significant expenses and understandable aggravation. To hold NJM responsible for their bad faith behavior, consumer fraud, and breach of contract, we filed a complaint on Mr. Badiali’s behalf with the state Supreme Court, which agreed in March 2013 to hear the case. The court date is set for September 9, 2014. We’re looking forward to the opportunity to finally get our client the justice he deserves from the insurer that turned its back on him.

 

Delays Equal Dollars for Automaker Hit with $17 Million Fine

By Richard Console on August 20, 2014 - Comments off

Just as numerous automakers have issued recalls in 2014, multiple manufacturers have now been fined for delaying recalls. Earlier this month, Hyundai became the latest car company to face fines from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for failures in properly and promptly recalling cars with safety defects.

car safety recallThe problem that led to the recall of tens of thousands of Hyundai Genesis cars, like the 2010 model above, stems from brake fluid that is unsuccessful at preventing corrosion of the vehicle’s brakes. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hyundai in Hot Water over October 2013 Recalls

In early August 2014, Hyundai agreed to pay a $17,350,000 fine from the NHTSA for its handling of a 2013 recall – and specifically, for its delay of that recall. The safety issue in question was a brake problem that had been linked to two injuries in six collisions as well as 87 complaints, according to Car and Driver. The problem plagued 43,500 Genesis cars with model years from 2009 through 2012. Hyundai reportedly knew about the problem as early as 2012 – as did General Motors (GM), which used the same defective parts but informed drivers of the possible danger during the 2012 year. Instead of acting, Hyundai waited until March 2013 – approximately a year later – to do anything. The automaker’s first course of action was to notify its own dealerships. It wasn’t until October, after the NHTSA began investigating, that the company finally issued a recall so that consumers would know about this safety hazard in their cars, Car and Driver reported.

Not Alone in Delays or Fines

If Hyundai’s story sounds familiar, that’s because you’ve already heard one like it this year. GM has recalled more than 29,000,000 cars since the start of 2014, but it’s not only the sheer size of the manufacturer’s recalls that upset people. It’s also the time it took the company to issue at least some of those recalls. Some of the 2,600,000 cars recalled for a specific and deadly problem with a defective ignition switch were more than a decade old. Yet GM chose to wait until this past February to finally issue a recall, despite evidence surfacing that the company knew about the potential danger as early as 2001 – before a number of the recalled cars were even built. Rather than fixing all existing cars and changing the ignition switch design immediately – a move that reportedly would have cost just a few dollars more per vehicle – GM allowed the defective cars to remain on the road all this time. For that, the NHTSA fined the company $35,000,000.

Back when the GM recall story was fresh, news about the delay in issuing a recall made me question what’s wrong with automakers’ priorities. It concerns me to see that more late recalls are emerging and that the NHTSA is finding more reasons to fine these companies. Yes, Hyundai didn’t wait for longer than a decade to acknowledge and fix the safety defect, but it did wait until October 2013 to recall the cars even though it learned of the danger in 2012. The automaker also took other actions to address the problem – which may have been a good step in and of itself, but shouldn’t have been done before issuing a recall or even clearly articulating the potential danger. I hope that seeing these car manufacturers fined millions of dollars will startle the auto industry as a whole into taking action on safety defects immediately instead of letting months or even years go by. A delay in fixing a dangerous flaw could mean that an innocent driver gets hurt.

 

Ask the Attorney: Deadlines for Your Claim Range from Two Years to a Matter of Days

By Richard Console on August 19, 2014 - Comments off

New Jersey and Pennsylvania personal injury attorney Richard P. Console, Jr.Asker: How long do I have to file a claim for injuries from a car accident or medical malpractice?

Attorney: I always say that after an accident, time isn’t on your side. There are time limits that restrict your legal rights to seek compensation for your injuries. These deadlines are called statutes of limitations, and they vary not only from state to state, but also depending on the type of claim, who the defendant is, and who the victim is.

As a General Rule…

In New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the general statute of limitations for filing a claim is two years from the date of the accident or incident. That goes for a wide variety of cases, from car accidents to dog bites and slip-and-falls to medical malpractice. Usually, you have two years to file a lawsuit – but there’s a very important “but” that you need to be aware of early on in your claim. Though two years is the typical deadline, there are exceptions that could sharply reduce the amount of time you have to pursue the complication you deserve. These exceptions can get very technical, which means that if you wait too long to consult an attorney, you may never find out that you don’t have the full two years until it’s too late.

Important Exceptions

Some exceptions actually work in the favor of you, the victim. For example, if the victim was a minor, the two year deadline is extended. Instead of two years from the date of the accident, it becomes two years from the date the victim turned 18-years-old. Of course, if a victim is seriously hurt, parents can and should still seek an attorney’s help promptly. There’s no benefit to waiting until the last minute (or in this case, the minor’s 18th birthday) to act, especially when the victim needs further medical care.

In some medical malpractice cases, too, the exception helps patients. Suppose you didn’t know right away that the medical error had occurred. Many instances of medical malpractice are far more subtle than a surgeon operating on the wrong limb, but that doesn’t mean these mistakes are less harmful in the long run. Among patients whose malpractice claims stemmed from failures to diagnose cancer, for example, the error doesn’t become clear until after the cancer has finally been diagnosed – which could be years later. Fortunately, medical malpractice claims in New Jersey and Pennsylvania include the “discovery rule.” The two year time period is still in effect, but instead of the deadline for filing a claim expiring two years from the date the doctor made an error, the clock doesn’t start ticking until the date you knew (or should’ve known) that a doctor committed malpractice.

Some exceptions decrease the length of time you have to act. Who exactly is the defendant in your claim? Without having legal expertise yourself, the truth is that you may not be sure. Another driver could be at fault, but so could a municipality or county that neglected to maintain safe road conditions. Your slip-and-fall might have occurred on property owned and maintained by a government agency. If you have to pursue compensation from a government entity, rather than an individual or business, exceptions to the statute of limitations can drastically reduce the time you have to file a lawsuit. You may have to provide written notice of the claim or your intent to file a claim within six months in Pennsylvania, or just 90 days in New Jersey.

After an accident, it’s essential that you protect all of your legal rights, and that means making sure that you never miss a deadline that could cost you big-time. That’s why I always tell accident victims to at least take the time to call a lawyer for a consultation, even if they don’t think they can afford an attorney. You need more than general answers from Internet forums or websites – you need to know exactly which laws apply to your unique claim, as soon as possible.

 

SUVs Catch Fire, GM Issues another Recall

By Richard Console on August 18, 2014 - Comments off

Opening the window might just make your car even hotter if you drive one of the SUVs that are the subject of another recall from General Motors (GM). That’s because the power window switches in these vehicles are apparently fire risks. Strictly speaking, your finger doesn’t have to be on the power window switch for flames to erupt – in fact, the danger of the SUVs catching fire even while switched off and unattended is so serious that GM has urged drivers to park outdoors, just in case, CBS News reported.

So, that’s reassuring.

car safety recallCould your car spontaneously light your garage on fire? The risk prompted GM to warn drivers against parking affected SUVs indoors. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Repeat Recalls

The recalled cars include 2006 and 2007 models of the following vehicles:

  • Buick Rainer
  • Chevrolet TrailBlazer
  • GMC Envoy
  • Isuzu Ascender
  • Saab 97-X

Owners of these SUVs might be getting pretty frustrated right about now. That’s because this is the third recall of this group of approximately 189,000 vehicles across the continent, CBS reported. Unfortunately, these drivers might have to wait a while to finally get their cars fixed and their garage parking privileges restored. So far, GM is predicting that it could be October before the parts needed for the repairs will even be available.

You could call this one more unwanted safety recall headline for GM. This announcement came less than a week after another GM recall that affects 461,000 cars.

Another Recall over Miscellaneous Safety Flaws

One part involved in this additional recall should be familiar to, well, just about anyone. A faulty ignition switch in 202,115 of GM’s Saturn Vue SUVs with model years from 2002 to 2004 has been traced to an injury and two collisions so far, MSN News reported. The safety issue is similar to other GM ignition switch recalls, in which the ignition can accidentally shut off while the car is being operated, cutting the electrical power to the vehicle.

Newer cars are part of this recall, too. A brake fluid issue in Chevrolet Aveo vehicles with model years 2009 and 2010 as well as 2010 Pontiac G3 vehicles could mean that drivers need a longer distance to be able to stop their cars. Fortunately, this particular problem involves relatively few cars: just 1,968. No collisions have been reported, according to MSN.

Then there’s the seat belt problem haunting 48,059 model year 2013 cars. In Buick Encore and Cadillac ATS vehicles, the part of the seat belt called the “pre-tensioner” may not lock correctly in the front seats of these cars, making the seat belts less effective at protecting passengers in the event of a crash. Again, there are no known accidents involving this safety recall.

Steering defects, too, are on this list. In model year 2014 Spark hatch vehicles, bolts that attach control arms could become loose. Approximately 1,919 of these vehicles are involved across the United States.

Finally, some recalls involve even the newest of new cars. About 14,940 Chevrolet Impala cars – those with LT and LTZ trim – have a dashboard storage compartment that can open without warning in a rear-end crash. The vehicles that haven’t been sold yet will need to have the inertia latch that can cause this problem replaced before consumers can purchase them.

As the number of recalls keeps swelling this year, it becomes easy to see that recalls stem from virtually any part of the car. Some seem unlikely to hurt anyone, while others are highly dangerous. The sooner automakers fix these problems – in some cases, before the cars are even sold – the safer our roadways are.

 

Among the Safest? Fatal Car Crashes by State

By Richard Console on August 14, 2014 - Comments off

Though we don’t like to think about it, an accident can happen anytime we’re on the roadway. Each time we get behind the wheel, there’s a risk – hopefully one made smaller by factors like paying attention and driving defensively – that we could become another statistic in fatal crash reports. Across the nation, 33,561 people died in motor vehicle collisions in 2012, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Yet new research by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute shows that you can’t simply divide that total by 50 to find out how many deaths happened in your state. It turns out that the likelihood of being killed in a car crash varies widely between states. Some states are “lucky.” Others are not. No state is so lucky that the fatality rate drops to near zero.

Traffic fatalities by stateResearchers learned that states in the South and the Northern Plains regions had the most fatal accidents, but findings about our local regions might surprise you. Photo Credit: Corbis Images.

Where We Stand

The good news is that New Jersey ranks among the top 10 states with the least fatal car crashes, both in terms of the number of deaths per miles traveled and per population, MSN News reported. In fact, 2013 saw an “all-time low” rate of traffic fatalities in New Jersey, according to The Star-Ledger. But it’s not all good news. Approximately 542 people still lost their lives on NJ roads last year – and that’s too many.

Just across the bridge, our neighbors in Philly aren’t ranking quite so well. Based on fatal crashes by population, Pennsylvania fell squarely into the middle range of traffic fatalities. And when sorting by number of miles traveled, Pennsylvania saw a high death rate. In 2013, about 1,208 people died on Pennsylvania roadways, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. That’s more than double the number of people who lost their lives in New Jersey accidents. These deaths are needless, and the high statistics are unacceptable.

Are You Safer Driving in Philly or Outside the City?

Researchers didn’t analyze why some states had more fatal accidents than others, but they did make note of some possible influences, including:

  • Speed limits
  • Enforcement of traffic laws and policies, especially those involving alcohol
  • Road topography and visibility
  • Ratio of rural and urban areas

These factors may be more complicated than they appear. Urban areas have more traffic, so they may seem more dangerous, but they also tend to have lower speed limits and quicker access to emergency medical personnel. Even if a more crashes happen in these areas, they may be less serious due to the speed of the vehicles involved, and close proximity to hospitals can improve survival rates. On the other hand, rural areas with winding roads and high speed limits can be dangerous in a different way. The lack of traffic can lull drivers into a false sense of security. When a collision does occur, the higher speed can make the impact more devastating. If the site of the accident is so rural that it takes a long time for an ambulance to reach the scene and transport the victim to the hospital, the delay in getting urgently needed medical care could mean the difference between surviving and dying.

The risk of being killed in an accident, or even being hurt in an accident, varies between states and within states. The risk can change with the weather, road conditions, time of the day, day of the week, and any number of other factors, many of which are beyond your control. We all need to do whatever we can to minimize not only the risks – and when an accident does happen, we need to stand up for our legal rights, because our lives might never be the same.

 

Painful Mosquito-Transmitted Disease on the Rise in New Jersey

By Richard Console on August 13, 2014 - Comments off

How much do you know about chikungunya? If you’re like most people in the tri-state area, probably not much – at least, not yet. You may have never even heard of the virus before now. Earlier this summer, the painful illness appeared prominently throughout the Caribbean, but it’s suddenly showing up in a worrying number of patients much closer to home – including right here in South Jersey.

Mosquito virus - Chikungunya mapChikungunya has been known to develop in regions of Africa and Asia, and its name means “contorted or bent over with pain” in an African language, according to the South Jersey Times. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

New Jersey Exposure

The earliest known outbreaks of chikungunya happened in Africa, and then in parts of Asia. While the virus certainly sounds unpleasant, it would never directly affect most of us here in the United States or specifically in the Philadelphia and South Jersey regions – or so it seemed until recently.

In 2013, the virus first made an appearance in islands in the Caribbean. Summer of 2014 brought more than 600 cases in the United States. And this past July, reports surfaced that people were now testing positively for the virus in New Jersey and New York. New Jersey in particular has seen more than two dozen cases of chikungunya, according to WABC News – three of them right here in South Jersey. Two cases of chikungunya have been reported in Gloucester County. Another victim lives in Burlington County.

The proximity of this virus is frightening on a very personal level. I work in Marlton, right here in Burlington County. My law firm serves clients who live in Gloucester County. Many of our employees live in this area. So do our friends and relatives. None of us want our families, or ourselves, to be exposed to a disease so unpleasant that it’s literally named for the pain it causes. And because the virus is so unfamiliar, we may not even know what symptoms to look for or what to do if we suspect we have the illness.

Symptoms of Chikungunya

Though rarely fatal, chikungunya has a nasty reputation for being extraordinarily painful. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that symptoms typically present within three to seven days of virus transmission by mosquito bite and include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Joint pain and swelling
  • Muscle pain
  • Rash

The illness usually lasts for up to a week, but lingering symptoms can hang around for months in vulnerable populations, including infants, the elderly, and those with certain existing medical conditions.

Unfortunately, there is no true treatment for the excruciating disease. If a doctor diagnoses you with chikungunya after a blood test, you are likely to get only the same set of instructions that you would expect with a common cold. Rest. Drink fluids. Take over-the-counter pain and fever reducers. The good news is that if you get chikungunya once, you’re not likely to become infected again in the future – but during the painful illness, this probability may not be much consolation.

Protecting Your Family from Chikungunya

Let’s talk about prevention and what you can do to keep your family safe. Chikungunya is spread through the bites of Asian tiger mosquitos. As of this writing, officials in both New Jersey and New York believe that the cases of chikungunya did not originate here but were instead contracted during travel abroad, the Chicago Tribune reported. However, the West Nile virus has been positively identified among mosquito populations in many New Jersey counties this year, including Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Atlantic, Mercer, Bergen, Hunterdon, Hudson, Middlesex, Union, and Passaic Counties. It’s best to avoid mosquito exposure wherever possible to protect yourself from West Nile, chikungunya, and other viruses. That means use mosquito repellent in situations where you might encounter these insects – and that goes for any location, whether traveling hundreds of miles from home or just relaxing in your own backyard.

Naturally, we don’t want to think that an exotic virus with debilitating physical symptoms could spread to the areas where we live, work, and raise our families. We want to think we’re safe. But this may be an instance where we have the opportunity to stop further cases of chikungunya from ever developing at all. Preventing the spread of this disease starts with being prepared, including using mosquito repellant to stop potentially dangerous bug bites before they happen.

 

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