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Common Causes of Swimming Pool Accidents

The Most Frequent Causes of Swimming Pool Accidents

Everybody likes to go for a swim on a hot day. Unfortunately, a casual swim can too often lead to serious or catastrophic injury. Statistics show that, every day, an average of 9 people drown in swimming pool accidents in the United States. In fact, accidental drowning is the leading cause of death among children under the age of four. This blog looks at the most common causes of swimming pool accidents.

Failure to Provide Proper Supervision

Without a doubt, the single most frequent cause of swimming pool accidents is lack of supervision, particularly in private homes. Too often, parents will allow young children access to a backyard pool without monitoring their activity. But the risk also applies to teens and adults. Many serious injuries and deaths among teens and adults in pools involve people swimming alone. Studies show that it can take less than five minutes for a person to drown in a swimming pool.

Failure to Erect or Maintain Appropriate Fencing or Other Barriers

A swimming pool is typically referred to as an “attractive nuisance” under the law, something that draws the attention of young children, but can be deadly. Most states have laws requiring barriers to access to a swimming pool, but many property owners either fail to erect barriers, or let them fall into disrepair.

Dangerous or Defective Equipment at a Pool

Broken diving boards or ladders have been the cause of many pool accidents. In addition, there can be problems with drains or other water filtration devices that can trap swimmers under water. Broken tiles around a pool can lead to injury as well.

Electricity in Proximity to the Pool

A frequent cause of injury (including death) around a pool, one that is not often considered, is exposure to electrical current. Swimmers may bring stereos or other electrical devices too close to a pool. Unfortunately, water is a great conductor of electricity.

Contact Our Office

To arrange a free initial consultation, contact us online or call our office at (302) 777-1000. Evening and weekend meetings can be arranged upon request. We will come to your home or the hospital, if necessary.

Medical Malpractice and Birth Injuries

Injuries to a newborn during birth can have devastating, life long effects. The improper use of forceps or suction errors, the failure to monitor for fetal distress, or hypoxia (lack of oxygen) or oxygen-related injuries can lead to brain damage that will never recover.  This can lead to permanent cognitive and physical impairments.

Parents not only suffer the emotional impact of knowing their child was injured by a medical professional they trusted, but they also may need to spend far more time, energy, effort and money (possibly for the rest of the child’s life) to care for the child than if the child was born healthy. We help parents in these difficult situations seek compensation.

Medical Malpractice During Childbirth

Birth-related medical malpractice occurs when a doctor, hospital, or other medical staff acts negligently (by an act or omission by a health care provider, which falls below the accepted standard of care in the medical community) and causes an injury to the child.

Some examples of medical malpractice that can cause birth-related injuries include:

  • Failing to anticipate birth complications with a larger baby, or in cases involving maternal health complications,
  • Failure to respond appropriately to bleeding,
  • Failing to observe or respond to umbilical cord entrapment, which can cut off oxygen to the newborn,
  • Failure to respond to fetal distress (including irregularities in the fetal heartbeat) which can be a sign of injuries,
  • Delay in ordering cesarean section (c-section) when medically necessary,
  • Misuse of forceps or a vacuum extractor during delivery, which can cause head injuries and brain damage, and
  • Inappropriate administration of Pitocin, a synthesized hormone used to induce or augment (speed up) labor.

Early Indications Trouble may Occur During Childbirth

Injuries to a baby are more likely to happen during a difficult delivery. Warning signs of a difficult delivery include:

  • The baby’s size. Injuries are more likely if a baby is large (more than eight pounds, thirteen ounces) or born prematurely (before 37 weeks),
  • Cephalopelvic disproportion (the size and shape of the mother’s pelvis is not adequate for the child to be born by vaginal delivery),
  • Prolonged labor, and
  • The baby’s position (a “breech birth”) where the child’s buttocks or legs present first.

If the newborn is injured, the parents can bring legal action acting as guardians for the infant. They can ask for general and special damages (such as mental and physical pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, expected future medical expenses) and may name the hospital and health care professionals they believe are responsible as defendants.

Contact Our Office

If you believe your child suffered from a birth injury, contact us for a free initial consultation. To schedule a meeting to discuss your potential medical malpractice claim, contact us online or call our office at (302) 777-1000. Our office is open Monday through Friday, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., but we will meet with you evenings or weekends upon request. We will travel to your home or the hospital if necessary.

Injuries Caused by Inadequate Lighting or Warnings

In Delaware and Pennsylvania, the owner of commercial or residential property has certain duties with respect to persons who are invited onto the property. These duties include adequately lighting a property and providing reasonable warnings to visitors of any known risks of injury.  This is an issue that falls under premises liability, an area where we help clients obtain compensation for their injuries.

Common Sense Rule for Owners

The owner or occupier of property has a legal duty to anyone who enters the property  (a tenant, a shopper, a personal or business visitor) not to subject that person to an unreasonable risk of injury because of the design, construction or condition of the property. The owner has this duty because the owner controls the premises, not the visitor.

For instance, if it’s a commercial property where shoppers come at night and an outdoor surface is slippery and unlit, if that person slips and is injured as a result, that property owner should be held responsible.  It’s the owner, not the visitor, in control of the placement and maintenance of the lighting.

Sufficient Lighting and Warning of Dangers

Another issue with proper lighting is that without it, there may be a foreseeable increased risk of crime to visitors.  If someone visiting the property under poorly lit conditions the owner is aware of becomes a crime victim, the property owner may face liability.

If there is construction or repairs going on at a property and visitors are not warned or (even better) physically prevented from entering an area that’s potentially hazardous, and a visitor is injured, the owner of the premises might also be held responsible.

For commercial property, whether the owner or the business leasing space in the property is legally responsible for an accident depends on a number of things, including the location of the accident (common area or within the business’ space) and the language of the lease or contract between the owner and business. If you are injured at a place of business, you should notify it of the accident and any injuries you’re aware of.

Common Sense Rule for Visitors

It’s not all about the owner and occupier.  If the person is injured while acting in an unexpected, unauthorized, or dangerously careless way, the property owner or occupier may not be responsible for the injury.  If at a commercial property there are stairs where it’s posted “Skateboarding not allowed” and while skateboarding down the staircase handrail, the person is injured, the property owner may not be liable.

Contact Our Office

At the office of Michael J. Hood, LLC, we have provided comprehensive counsel to personal injury victims in Delaware and Pennsylvania for more than three decades. We know the impact a personal injury can have on your life, and we understand how important it can be to get straight answers to all your questions. We will take all the time necessary to learn about your accident, as well as what you need to move forward, so that we can set realistic expectations about your likelihood of success. We will carefully assess the strengths and weaknesses of your case so that you can make practical decisions about how you want to proceed.

We offer the knowledge, skill, experience and resources to help you pursue full and fair compensation for all your losses, including lost wages and income, medical expenses, loss of companionship, and physical pain and suffering. For a free initial consultation, contact us online or call our office at (302) 777-1000.

Death Benefits for Workers Compensation

Worker’s compensation benefits are meant to provide benefits to employees injured during the course of their employment.  That injury could be caused by an accident or an occupational disease. That injury could also result in the death of the employee, which may entitle the employee’s survivors to benefits. We have handled many workers compensation cases over the years, including those where workers’ lives have been lost.

It’s not just accidents killing workers

If someone thinks of a work related situation that results in the death of an employee, a truck or construction accident, something sudden and traumatic, may come to mind.  But it’s not just accidents that could kill an employee. It may be a long lasting but ultimately fatal occupational disease that ends an employee’s life.

If you have an occupational disease, contact our office to discuss the situation.  You don’t want to wait for it to kill you and have your survivors file for benefits.  You may be entitled to benefits now, and it may be easier to prove your illness is work related while you are still alive.

Employee or non-employee, that can be the question

The injured worker must be an “employee,” meaning the individual’s work must be under the direction and control of the employer. Independent contractors are not covered. In many instances an individual’s status as an employee or independent contractor is disputed.

Employers often have workers sign an acknowledgement or contract stating they are independent contractors to try to avoid responsibility for workers’ compensation coverage and other employment related costs and regulations. Such written acknowledgements will not defeat a claim for benefits if the employer exercised direction and control over the work performed by the deceased individual.

We can assess whether an employment relationship existed, enabling the injured individual to collect workers’ compensation benefits. Depending on the circumstances, if the company denies the deceased was an employee, a better option may be filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the company.  Though the plaintiff would need to show the company at fault (unlike workers compensation, which is a no-fault system), far greater damages may be available in court.

Workers Compensation Death Benefits

The workers compensation law provides for the payment of weekly compensation benefits and a burial expense allowance of $3,000.00 in Pennsylvania, $3,500 in Delaware. The benefits, a percentage of the weekly wage, are payable to the employee’s dependents, including a spouse and dependent children.  Benefits are payable to eligible children until age 18, unless they are dependent because of a disability, in which case compensation shall continue during the child’s disability. Benefits to a child can continue to be paid until age 23 if the child is enrolled as a full-time student in an accredited educational institution in Pennsylvania, until age 25 in Delaware.

The loss of parent or spouse due to an accident or illness can be traumatic and we provide personal, caring service to make a very difficult time a little bit easier. We have more than 31 years of experience working with families who have lost loved ones and we work hard to get them the compensation they deserve.

Contact Attorney Michael J. Hood

To arrange a free initial consultation to discuss a possible Pennsylvania or Delaware workers compensation claim, contact us online or call our office at (302) 777-1000. Evening and weekend meetings can be arranged upon request. We will come to your home or the hospital, if necessary.

Public Buildings for ALL Members of the Public

Many of our clients have physical disabilities that limit their mobility.  Because of federal law, handicap access to public buildings is much improved, though not perfect.

A Federal Civil Rights Law for the Disabled

The federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits the exclusion of people with disabilities from everyday activities, such as buying an item at the store, watching a movie in a theater, enjoying a meal at a local restaurant, exercising at the local health club or having the car serviced at a local garage. The law requires most business and public facilities (regardless of size) to provide reasonable accommodation and physical access for all customers, clients and members of the public, even those with disabilities.

To meet the goals of the ADA, the law established requirements for private businesses of all sizes. The first of which went into effect in 1992. Because many smaller businesses cannot afford to make major renovations to their businesses to provide accessibility to the disabled, the ADA’s requirements for facilities built before 1993 that are less strict than for ones built after early 1993 or modified after early 1992.

Facilities, first occupied or constructed on or after January 26, 1993, must meet or exceed the minimum requirements of the ADA Standards for Accessible Design. Alterations to facilities, spaces or elements (including renovations) on or after January 26, 1992, also must comply with the Standards. Renovations or modifications fall under the law when they affect the usability of the element or space (such as installing a new display counter or moving walls in a sales area). Simple maintenance is not considered an alteration by the ADA.

Courts Need to be Accessible Too

A Supreme Court of the United States case in 2004 illustrates the issues the disabled encounter in getting access to public buildings.  The case involved, ironically enough, access to courthouses.  The court ruled the ADA applied to state buildings, including courthouses, and that six Tennessee residents had their rights denied because the buildings were inaccessible.

One plaintiff was George Lane, who was unable to walk after a 1997 car accident in which he was accused of driving on the wrong side of the road and was charged with reckless driving. He appeared at a Pol County courthouse that had no elevator and was forced to drag himself up two flights of stairs to attend a hearing. He refused to do so for a second hearing and was arrested for failing to appear, even though he had told the judge beforehand of his situation.

Beverly Jones, another plaintiff, was a certified court reporter who used a wheelchair due to paralysis caused by a broken back she suffered in a 1984 car crash. She found it extremely difficult to get into a number of courthouses and had to be carried into buildings without wheelchair access. She eventually sued the state for $250,000, saying her livelihood was threatened by the lack of wheelchair access.

Contact Us

In the “Jim Crow” era, African Americans were denied equal access to public buildings and federal laws put an end to that. The ADA is intended so the physically disabled have equal rights of access to public buildings too. If you have any questions to disability access laws, contact our office.

Vehicle Fires and Explosions

These incidents may be more common than you think.  From 2008 to 2010, an estimated 194,000 highway vehicle fires occurred in the United States each year resulting in an annual average of approximately 300 deaths, 1,250 injuries and $1.1 billion in property loss. These highway vehicle fires accounted for 14 percent of fires responded to by fire departments across the nation. This according to the U.S. Fire Administration. If you have been injured in such a fire or explosion, we can help you obtain compensation for your injuries.

The Causes of Vehicle Fires

Vehicle fires can have many causes.  There may not be a single cause, but a number of factors contributing to the fire or explosion, including,

  • Fuel system leaks: If the fuel sprays or drips onto a hot part or encounters a spark, it can burn,
  • Electrical system: Failures may cause sparks that ignite spilled or leaked fuel, oil or coolant,
  • Fluid leaks: Fluid (fuel, oil, coolant, brake fluid) leaking into hot parts could ignite,
  • Overheated engine: The pressure and heat from an overheated engine could cause fluids to leak, hit overheated engine parts and burn,
  • Overheated catalytic converter: This part of the exhaust system is under the passenger compartment and helps control pollutants.  If it’s clogged or overheated it can heat up to 2000 degrees.  That kind of heat can burn nearby insulation and the car’s interior,
  • Hybrid and electric vehicle batteries: If they are punctured by a piece of road debris or in an accident, they can burn,
  • Car crash: Though modern crumple zones have made cars much safer, if the gas tank is ruptured or the fuel lines broken and gas is sprayed on hot engine parts, a fire can result,
  • Poor maintenance: If the car owner isn’t getting the car maintained properly or often enough, or the mechanic doing the job makes mistakes, it could create the fluid leaks and electrical problems causing a fire, and
  • Design flaws: The car may be designed in a way that makes it easier for gas tanks to rupture in an accident, for fluids to leak or electrical systems to short and spark.

If severe enough, a burn can be life threatening, cause extensive scarring and life long disability.  The burn and its treatment may be incredibly painful.

When we represent clients in these cases, we thoroughly investigate the cause of the fire or explosion to determine who is the responsible party.  Though the immediate cause of a vehicle fire could be a collision, a design flaw or negligent car maintenance may also be contributing factors.  If there is more than one party to blame, all the parties may be named as defendants in a legal action.

Contact Attorney Michael J. Hood

If you or a loved one has been injured in a vehicle fire or explosion, for a free initial consultation, contact us online or call our office at (302) 777-1000.

Boating Accidents

Boating is a recreational activity and for too many, the consequences of not operating a boat safely can be deadly.  Boats are not toys. Frequently those on board are distracted by the fun they’re having, not in life vests and drinking alcohol.  Fun, not safety, is too often the name of the game. We represent boating accident victims and we have seen the toll they can take.

One boating accident in July in New York on the Hudson River demonstrates boating’s lethal potential. It left two people dead and the man driving the boat is facing charges of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.

Night Time Boat Trip Turns Fatal

Jojo K. John and those in his 21 foot boat were probably in a good mood.  After all, two of the passengers in the boat, Lindsey Stewart and Brian Bond, were getting married two weeks later.  Also in the boat was the best man, Mark Lennon, along with two others. Only two people in the boat were wearing life jackets.

The boat left Piermont, New York, to cross the river to Tarrytown, late on Friday, July 26.  On the river, between those two points is the aging Tappan Zee Bridge.  Pilings were in the process of being built so a second bridge can be constructed to relieve bridge traffic.

At about 10:40 pm, with John at the helm, the boat smashed into a construction barge under the bridge. Stewart and Lennon were killed. Bond suffered a fractured eye socket, was thrown from the boat and swam to shore. Everyone on the boat was either injured or killed.

John is charged with 18 counts in a criminal indictment unsealed in November.  It cites a toxicology report indicating he had a blood alcohol level of 0.15, nearly twice the legal limit. Thomas P. Zugibe, the Rockland County district attorney, said in the indictment that there was also evidence of cocaine in Mr. John’s system. John “is accused of taking the helm of his boat while under the influence of alcohol, being unable to maintain situational awareness and striking a construction barge,” the indictment said.

Boat Driver Denies Responsibility

John’s lawyer states he will dispute the toxicology findings in future criminal proceedings.  He puts the blame on poorly lit barges that the boat struck. The morning after the accident, Piedmont Fire Department Assistant Chief Daniel Goswick said in a news conference the barges were lit with anchor lights, but they were difficult to see the previous night.

Who is to blame for this accident has yet to be determined.  John is innocent of the criminal charges until proven guilty. He and those involved in the bridge construction may all carry responsibility for the accident, the injuries and deaths it caused. No matter who is at fault, this case shows boating and boating safety are not a game.

Contact Our Office

If you or a loved one have been injured in a boating accident, to arrange a free initial consultation, contact us online or call our office at (302) 777-1000. Evening and weekend meetings can be arranged upon request. We will come to your home or the hospital, if necessary.

Commercial Vehicle Negligence

The legal issues involved in any motor vehicle accident could be complex.  Accidents involving commercial vehicles could have many more potential issues, so you don’t want to represent yourself in these cases.  Hire a qualified personal injury attorney well aware of the issues.

It’s Not as Simple as Loading a Commercial Truck and Hitting the Road

You may think trucking something from point A to point B must be straightforward.  It’s not.

  • The trucking company obtains the necessary permits to operate the truck,
  • The company often does not own the tractor, trailer or equipment used to haul the goods,
  • Instead, it leases the equipment, tractors and trailers from the “owner/operator,”
  • The drivers are usually not employed by the trucking company.   It hires them as independent contractors from the owner/operator.

The owner/operator is given a “placard” by the trucking company, which includes the name of the trucking company and its permit numbers. It’s put on the door of the tractor, making it appear the truck is owned by the trucking company, who employs the driver.

Laws and Regulations Covering the Trucking Industry are Key to Accident Victims

Federal laws and regulations govern the trucking industry. They establish standards that trucking companies, owners and drivers must meet. They also often determine who is responsible for a trucking accident.

Under current federal law, any company owning a trucking permit is responsible for all accidents involving a truck that has its placard or name displayed on the vehicle. It doesn’t matter what the lease with the owner/operator states or whether the driver is an employee or independent contractor.

A certified truck inspector (normally a member of the state police) inspects any commercial truck and trailer involved in an accident before it is removed from the scene, pursuant to federal and state laws and regulations. This report details the condition of all of the important mechanical parts of the truck and trailer and we review these findings as part of the evidence of the case.

The “Black Box” comes to the highway

High technology is making it easier to determine the cause of truck accidents.  The trucking industry is now using devices similar to “black boxes” on airliners.  They record a variety of information, including the truck’s speed, its patterns of speed, when the driver used the brakes and how long the driver had been on the road. When I take a case involving a truck accident, we request this data be preserved. Otherwise, it might be erased as part of the regular routine of the company.

The most common causes of truck accidents are driver error prior to and during the trip, mechanical failures, weather conditions, road design and traffic signal failures. During a trial, an expert, after reviewing the evidence and possibly doing his or her own tests, will testify to inform the judge or jury what caused the accident.

Accidents involving commercial vehicles can often result in serious injuries and fatalities, because of the weight of the vehicles and the speed they’re traveling.  Over tired truck drivers, possibly under the influence of drugs, behind the wheel of over loaded vehicles, can be literally be an accident waiting to happen. If that accident happened to you or a loved one, contact our office, because we can help.

Contact Attorney Michael J. Hood

We offer a free initial consultation to every truck accident client. To set up a private meeting with an experienced Delaware personal injury attorney, contact us online or call our office at (302) 777-1000. Our office is open Monday through Friday, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., but we will meet with you evenings or weekends upon request. We will travel to your home or the hospital if necessary.

 

When Medicine Does More Harm Than Good

It’s been estimated that approximately 1.3 million people are injured annually in the United States following “medication errors,” according to an article on MedicineNet.com.

A Food and Drug Administration study evaluated reports of fatal medication errors from 1993 to 1998 and found that:

  • The most common error concerned administration of an improper dose of medication, accounting for 41% of fatal medication errors,
  • Giving the wrong drug and using the wrong route of administration each accounted for 16% of the errors, and
  • Nearly half of the fatal medication errors occurred in people over the age of 60. They may be at the greatest risk for medication errors because they often take multiple prescription medications.

Poor communication can result in medication errors

Major problems with medications can happen after a patient is discharged, according to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. It discusses a study of 851 patients hospitalized due to heart disease. Half met with a pharmacist on admission and at discharge to discuss their medications and their proper usage. Even despite this extra help, half of these patients had one or more medication errors at home during the first month (23% were serious, 2% were life-threatening). The study authors state many of the errors were preventable and the number of errors were about the same whether the pharmacist saw the patient or not.

What causes these problems? Patients may not take the time to understand the medications and their instructions, but health care providers also share the blame, according to one of the study authors, Dr. Jeffrey Schnipper,

  • patients are sent home with medication regimens that aren’t integrated with medications they were taking before they arrived;
  • medication instructions may not be clearly written;
  • inconsistent communication between the hospital staff and the patient’s primary care team may lead to dangerous drug interactions; and
  • physicians don’t check on a patient’s recovery often enough.

Patients can take steps to stay out of trouble

To help avoid medication errors, the Mayo Clinic suggests patients fully understand what medications they’re taking; when, how much and how often to take the medication; any limitations on food, drink or activities due to the medication and any side effects. Patients also need to tell their treating physicians

  • all the medications they’re taking, including over-the-counter products and supplements;
  • any medications that they’re allergic to or that have caused problems in the past;
  • any current chronic or serious health problems; and
  • if the patient is pregnant or trying to become pregnant.

Modern pharmaceuticals are capable of extending life and improving the quality of life, but only if the right medicine is given for the right condition, in the right dosage in the right way. That doesn’t always happen and some patients can be severely injured, or killed, as a result.

Contact Our Office

We help clients facing medical malpractice issues, including medication errors. If you or a loved one have been harmed because of a medication error, contact our office online or call us at (302) 777-1000. There is no charge for your first visit.

Surgical Surprises You Don’t Want

Surgery is serious business.  Every surgery carries an element of risk for some complications, but there are complications that are the result of negligence.  You trust your surgeon to do the best job he or she can do.  When surgery results in injuries due to medical malpractice, you can feel like that trust has been violated and you have to deal with new health problems, maybe more serious than the issues you originally sought to treat. If you find yourself in this situation, we can help.

A surgeon commits medical malpractice when his/her conduct falls below the accepted standard of care, compared to reasonably competent surgeons practicing the same area of surgery under similar circumstances, the patient is harmed as a result and suffers damages.

All medical errors, including surgical and anesthesia errors, affect 44,000 to 98,000 patients each year, according to a 1999 Institute of Medicine study. Patients having surgery in the U.S. experience mistakes that should never have happened about 80 times a week, based on a review of medical liability settlements and judgments from 1990 to 2010 collected in the National Practitioner Data Bank. The December 2012 issue of Surgery published the findings.

Surgical errors may include:

  • Wrong-site surgery,
  • Incorrect incisions,
  • Leaving equipment inside a patient,
  • Operating on the wrong patient,
  • Damaging nerves, blood vessels and organs,
  • Causing infections, and
  • Anesthesia errors.

Surgeons and the surgical team should follow protocols before, during and after surgery to reduce the risks of a mistake. Despite these steps, surgical negligence still occurs and can be a result of:

  • Insufficient planning: The surgical team should have the patient’s medical history, including reactions to medications, and evaluate the risks of surgery on the patient,
  • Poor communication:
  • The surgical team needs to be fully and accurately informed of what’s going on,
  • The patient’s identity and surgical site must be confirmed,
  • The surgeon needs to be aware of the relevant issues impacting the surgery, and
  • Surgical equipment must be accounted for after a procedure.
  • Fatigue or under the influence:  Surgeons or staff suffering from fatigue or under the influence of drugs or alcohol may make poor decisions which can lead to surgical errors. An estimated 15% of surgeons have alcohol abuse or dependency problems (compared to 9% of the general population) and these surgeons were 45% more likely to admit a major medical error in the previous three months, according to a study published in 2012,
  • Neglect: Using defective or unsterilized equipment can lead to infections, septic shock, and other life threatening conditions, and
  • Incompetence: Not everyone is cut out to be a surgeon.  Though a physician may be knowledgeable and skilled, that doesn’t mean being a surgeon is the right job for him or her.

Contact Our Office

If you or a loved one is the victim of surgical negligence, come to our office for a free initial consultation. To schedule a meeting to discuss your potential medical malpractice claim, contact us online or call our office at (302) 777-1000. Our office is open Monday through Friday, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., but we will meet with you evenings or weekends upon request. We will travel to your home or the hospital if necessary.