Three blog posts written for Thomson Reuters client, Logan Thompson.
1. IS IT WRONG TO PURSUE A PERSONAL INJURY CLAIM?
As surely as God loves Tennessee football, people will talk about personal injury attorneys. You may hear things like, “Ambulance chasers” or “I bet the lawyers were waiting at the emergency room for the ambulance to unload.” Maybe even, “The hardest thing that lawyer did was getting the fella in the full body cast to sign the contract.” You get the idea.
But is pursuing a personal injury claim wrong? Many will point to the McDonald’s coffee lawsuit as the classic example of a frivolous lawsuit—and why they don’t like personal injury claims. However, a little digging shows another side to the story. Stella Liebeck was a grandmother from Albuquerque, New Mexico. She was upfront about it being her fault for spilling the coffee. There are a few things most people don’t know:
- The coffee was heated to 190 degrees.
- She spent eight days in the hospital with third-degree burns to her thighs, groin, genitalia and buttocks. (Third-degree burns go through the dermis and affect deeper tissues. They result in white or blackened, charred skin that may be numb.) She had to endure multiple skin grafts to treat these burns.
- McDonald’s had received 700 complaints previously about their hot coffee policy.
- Stella asked for $20,000 to cover her medical expense. McDonald’s offered her $800 instead.
- The jury thought she deserved much more and added $2.7 million in punitive damages. She settled for around $600,000.
- McDonald’s changed the way they heated their coffee after the suit.
After the accident
After traumatic events such as car wrecks and truck accidents, motorcycle and bicycle accidents, defective consumer and industrial products cases, slip-and-fall accidents and premises liability, construction accidents and other work-related injuries, most people do not know what to do to next. Personal injury attorneys help their clients obtain financial compensation for lost income, medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other losses and damages.
What a personal injury attorney does for you
In many occasions, the insurance company will dispute the claim and look to reduce the compensation or deny it altogether. Your personal injury attorney will act as your advocate and help you fight the large insurance company and their team of lawyers. Your attorney will:
- Help you through the maze. Your attorney will help you navigate your way through the complexities of insurance companies and claims, police reports, medical bills and treatments.
- Build your case. Your attorney will gather evidence, examine the police report and evidence, study the relevant law, interview witnesses and discuss the case with you.
- Negotiate. Many cases are settled out of court. Your attorney will make sure you are compensated fairly.
- Represent you at trial. Your attorney will present your case, challenge the insurance company’s evidence and fight for you.
What does it cost?
Personal injury attorneys do not typically receive any compensation unless the injured party is successful in obtaining compensation.
With the help of an experienced personal injury attorney, you can pursue compensation for your injuries and move on with your life again—and there’s nothing wrong with that.
2. THE IMPACT OF FOOTBALL CONCUSSIONS
We do love our football here in Tennessee. There are plays that children remember as adults, and adults carry with them the rest of their lives. Who can forget the Music City Miracle? It was the stuff of legend. 16 seconds left, down by a single point. A last-ditch kickoff return, Lorenzo Neal hands the ball to Frank Wycheck, who threw a lateral pass across the field to Kevin Dyson. Dyson sprinted down the sideline for the improbable touchdown to win the game.
With moments like that, it’s no wonder that kids want to play football. But is that going to change? A recent New York Times article shed light on the impact of a decade of medical research into football concussions, congressional hearings and the class-action lawsuit against the NFL. We are beginning to see cases involving players of every age and every level of play.
Pop Warner class-action lawsuit
A lawsuit against the Pop Warner football program filed in California was given the green light to proceed last week. Originally filed by a pair of mothers whose sons played football, they posthumously learned their sons had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease linked to the head trauma found in football. The mothers took issue with being told that wearing helmets would keep their children safe.
NCAA’s avalanche of lawsuits
A recent story reported that over 100 class-action lawsuits had been filed against university athletic programs. These cases have been consolidated in the Northern Illinois District federal court with four cases selected as being representative of the class-action. A separate lawsuit against the NCAA over concussion protocols was settled. The lawsuit dealt with medical monitoring and not personal injury.
Studies show early effects
Boston University studied athletes that began playing football before the age of 12. They found these players had more cognitive and behavioral problems later in their lives than those who began playing football after 12. Wake Forest researchers found that boys between the ages of 8 and 13, after just one season of tackle football, had diminished brain functions.
Change is coming
Programs around the country are making modifications to the game and practices to make the sport safer. Some of the changes include:
- Eliminating tackling during practices
- Having players start in a two-point stance to reduce the risk of head hits
- Banning kickoffs
- Suggesting only flag football through sixth grade and limited tackle in seventh and eighth grades
The long-term effects of head trauma and football hits are being studied. The issue that many people involved in the lawsuits have is that programs either should have known of the risks and shared them with parents and participants or that these programs actively concealed the dangers. An experienced personal injury attorney can investigate each case, consult with medical professionals and help determine if negligence was a factor.
3. THE TRAGIC STORY OF THE MANSFIELD BAR
Have you ever noticed the horizontal bar underneath the rear of semi-trucks on I-75? The steel bar hanging underneath a semi-truck trailer is designed to stop a vehicle from wedging underneath in a crash. There’s a story about this underride bar and why it’s often referred to as the Mansfield Bar.
Jayne Mansfield was a 1950’s blonde bombshell that took Hollywood by storm. But before she had a chance to make it big, she was killed in a car accident. It was June of 1967, and Mansfield was traveling with a male friend, her driver and three of her children near Biloxi when a dense fog from a mosquito spray drifted over the highway. Nobody in her 1966 Buick Electra ever saw the slow-moving semi in front of them. Her car rammed into the tractor-trailer and went completely under the trailer, instantly killing all the adults in the front seat, including Mansfield. Miraculously, the children all survived.
New safety standards enacted
Soon after the horrific accident, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposed new standards for underride prevention guards. This requirement wasn’t fully implemented until 1998 when rear guards—known as Mansfield Bars—were mandated. Back then, the NHTSA estimated between 200 and 300 fatalities from underride accidents each year in the U.S. The guards are required on the back of all trucks, but not the sides, however.
Side underride crashes kill 200 a year
It has been called one of the most devastating vehicle accidents: a car slams into the side of a tractor-trailer and slides underneath. The top of the car can be completely sheared off and all the vehicle’s safety features will not protect the front seat occupants—who are often decapitated. In June of 2016, a self-driving Tesla made the news when it crashed into a tractor-trailer. The Tesla went partially under the side of the trailer, and the bottom of the rig struck the car’s windshield killing the vehicle’s occupant.
A new bill from Congress
Now, members of Congress have proposed a bill requiring side and front guards for trucks to prevent cars from sliding underneath. The National Transportation Safety Board has recommended these guards after concluding they would reduce deaths and injuries on U.S. highways. Europe uses the side guards on their trucks.
Pushback from the trucking industry
The industry’s lobbying arm, the Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association, has opposed the side guards for years. They cite the added cost, added weight and technical challenges.
The bill will go to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee for consideration. The NHTSA also has the power to issue side guard regulations, or Congress can order the department to act—based on the committee’s recommendation.
When you or your family are injured in a car or truck accident through the negligence or carelessness of others, an experienced personal injury attorney can help. Your attorney can pursue compensation to help you cover medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, allowing you to move on with your life again.