Contact us today to schedule a free initial confidential consultation: (302) 777-1000

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.

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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.

See No Evil – Hear No Evil – Speak No Evil at the Metropolitan Transit Authority

If an organization was involved in a major accident in which several people were killed, you would hope it would learn from its mistakes and take responsibility for its actions.  If the organization is the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and the accident is the train derailment in the Bronx that killed four and injured more than 70 two weeks ago, it’s not clear the organization is heading in that direction.

Metro North Mass Transit Accident

According to an article in the New York Times, the MTA’s board had their first public meeting since the accident, on December 16. Safety issues came up, as they have in the past year.  According to the Times,

The meeting on Monday was held as the Federal Railroad Administration was to begin a sweeping review of Metro-North’s operations and “safety culture,” the first such inquiry into a passenger railroad in the federal agency’s history. The derailment has capped what was already a difficult year for the railroad. Other troubles have included a train collision on the New Haven line in May; the death of a track foreman, who was struck in West Haven, Conn., less than two weeks later after a trainee rail controller opened a section of track without proper clearance; and the derailment of a freight train on the Hudson line in July.

Despite these repeated safety problems, some of which ended up killing people, The Times reports board members largely praised the transportation authority’s leaders, including the chairman, Thomas F. Prendergast, and Metro-North’s president, Howard R. Permut, even while they questioned the railroad’s safety record. “He didn’t cause this accident,” one board member, Charles G. Moerdler, was quoted as saying of Mr. Permut.

“You see very clearly, firsthand, the impact of the incident on people’s lives,” Pendergast was quoted,  recalling the sight of victims being removed from the Bronx crash scene. He said he was involved in “soul-searching,” trying to determine, “What could you do to prevent a recurrence from happening?”

That’s an important question to ask.  Maybe one thing that could be done is to hold leaders accountable if their organization repeatedly makes mistakes that cost lives. Without accountability, there’s little incentive to change.

In situations like this, if an organization won’t take responsibility for itself, it’s often legal claims by accident victims that result in facts coming to light and organizations being held accountable financially by the courts for their negligence and the harm they inflicted. Time will tell how this will play out for the MTA.

Contact the Law Office of Michael J. Hood, LLC

If you or a loved one have suffered serious injuries in a mass transit accident, contact our office online or call our office at (302) 777-1000. There is no charge or obligation for your first visit. 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.

The Law Office of Michael J. Hood represents accident & injury victims throughout Delaware and Pennsylvania including individuals in New Castle County, Kent County and Sussex County in Delaware. Also Delaware county, Chester county and Philadelphia county in PA.

Dietary Supplement Dangers

Dietary supplements may offer the prospect of a healthier, stronger, more youthful you, but the reality may just be the opposite.  A supplement may do you more harm than good.

Federal regulation of dietary supplements is far more lax than pharmaceuticals.  While drug makers must show the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) a new drug is safe and effective for its intended use before it can be approved for sale, a dietary supplement maker doesn’t have to show anything to anyone.

Under federal law, dietary supplements need not be registered with the FDA.  It’s up to the manufacturers to make sure the product is safe and that labels are truthful and not misleading.  Manufacturers are also entrusted to submit to the FDA any adverse event reports they receive.

The FDA and Dietary Supplements

With this hands off approach to regulation, the general public has become guinea pigs for dietary supplements.  An example is the Healthy Life Chemistry By Purity First B-50, marketed as a vitamin B dietary supplement. One thing the FDA can do is take action against any unsafe dietary supplement product after it reaches the market. Last July it warned consumers not to use these supplements because of 29 reports of adverse reactions.

After laboratory analysis of the supplement, the FDA also found a nasty surprise for consumers: two potentially harmful anabolic steroids (one a controlled substance), not listed as ingredients, were part of the supplement.  According to the FDA, anabolic steroid use may cause acute liver injury. Some of the incidents reported to the FDA resulted in hospitalization, but there were no reports of death or acute liver failure.

The FDA states anabolic steroid use may cause other serious long-term consequences, including adverse effects on blood lipid levels, increased risk of heart attack and stroke, masculinization of women, shrinkage of the testicles, breast enlargement, infertility in males and short stature in children.

The FDA asked the product’s manufacturer, Mira Health Products Ltd. in Farmingdale, New York, to recall the product and warn consumers of potential health effects.  It refused.

Without any further action by the FDA, it’s up to the legal system to hold Mira accountable.  Earlier this month a product consumer in New York filed a lawsuit against Mira in state court alleging negligence and recklessness, failure to warn consumers and defective design.

According to the complaint, the plaintiff, Manya DuHuffmann, suffered skin rashes, fatigue, severe muscle cramping, unusual hair growth and hair loss, deepening of her voice and increased blood lipid levels and liver enzyme levels. Even now, after discontinuing use, she is still allegedly experiencing pain, disability, emotional distress and economic loss.

This is an instance where if federal law and a federal agency can’t or won’t prevent harm to a consumer, a personal injury attorney can seek damages for his client and hopefully bring about positive change. Perhaps a verdict for the plaintiff may lead to changes in the product or stop its sales entirely.

Contact the Law Office of Michael J. Hood, LLC

If you or a loved one may have suffered serious side effects due to a dietary supplement, (302) 777-1000. There is no charge or obligation for your first visit. 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.

The Law Office of Michael J. Hood represents accident & injury victims throughout Delaware and Pennsylvania including individuals in New Castle County, Kent County and Sussex County in Delaware. Also Delaware county, Chester county and Philadelphia county in PA.

Common Causes of an Escalator – Elevator Injury

Seeking Compensation after an Elevator or Escalator Injury

Elevators and escalators have revolutionized the modern world, allowing consumers, businesses and residents easy access to high rise living, shopping and work. Though strict regulations govern the operation of elevators and escalators, statistics show that every year approximately 30 people are killed and more than 15,000 suffer injuries in elevator and escalator accidents. If you have been a victim of an elevator or escalator accident, there are a number of avenues you can pursue to obtain full and fair compensation for all your losses.

Negligent Design or Manufacture

Elevators and escalators involve thousands of working parts. When the designer or manufacturer of any part of an elevator or escalator fails to take reasonable care, the malfunction of a single part can have devastating consequences.

Failure to Inspect and Maintain an Elevator or Escalator

According to a study by the Center for Construction Research and Training, many of the deaths and serious injuries sustained in elevator and escalator accidents could have been avoided if timely inspection and maintenance requirements had been followed. Researchers cited numerous conditions that can arise because of failure to inspect or maintain an elevator or escalator, including:

  • Unsafe wearing of cables, brackets, or other fixtures that secure an elevator or escalator
  • Wiring or electrical problems that may cause elevator doors to open between floors or when an elevator car is not present, or that may lead to sudden starts or stops
  • Sudden changes in the speed or direction of an elevator or escalator
  • Damage to clothing guards on an escalator

Failure to Provide Adequate Protection during Construction or Repair

The CCRT study found that nearly half of the deaths in elevator accidents occurred while an elevator was either under construction or repair. In most instances, proper safeguards were not employed, or owners/workers failed to provide adequate notice of the dangers involved.

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.

Seeking Compensation After a Hit and Run Accident

When You Are Hurt in an Accident with an Uninsured or Underinsured Driver

When you have been in an automobile accident, one of your first steps is typically to contact the insurance provider for the other driver. But what if you don’t know who the other driver was? What if you sustained injuries in a hit and run accident? Are you without recourse to seek compensation for your losses? The answer is most often no.

In Delaware, as in all states, automobile insurance carriers customarily offer what is known as uninsured or underinsured motorists coverage. It is typically optional and, in most instances, will appear as a rider on your policy. If you have this type of coverage, you can seek reimbursement directly from your own insurance company, should you be in an accident with a driver who carries no insurance or not enough insurance to cover your losses. You can also use this provision to seek coverage when you cannot identify who caused your injuries.

You may or may not be able to find it if you review your policy after an accident. In addition, your insurance company may not be too helpful in assisting you with an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim. An experienced lawyer can review your policy and identify quickly whether you are entitled to this coverage.
You may also want to investigate whether there are other parties who may be potentially liable, parties who have the resources to cover your losses. For example, road conditions may have contributed to your accident, or there may have been a traffic light out. There may have been problems with your car, stemming either from design or manufacturing errors, or faulty work by a mechanic.

At the law office of Michael J. Hood, LLC, we will use our three decades of experience to help you get full and fair compensation for all your losses, including wages and income, medical bills, physical pain and suffering and loss of companionship. We handle all types of serious and catastrophic loss, including brain or spinal cord injury, broken bones, paralysis, burns, permanent scarring or disfigurement, and amputation or loss of limb. We also take wrongful death claims.

Contact Attorney Michael J. Hood

For a private meeting, contact us online or call our office at (302) 777-1000. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request. We will come to your home or the hospital, if necessary. There is no cost for your first consultation.