Metrolink Train Derails In Oxnard After Colliding With Truck On Tracks

Today a Southern California commuter train slammed into a truck and derailed in a rural area near Oxnard on Tuesday, hospitalizing approximately 30 people, including four in critical condition. (USA Today). “The extent of injuries ranged from significant head trauma and extremity trauma to neck and back injuries and trauma that you’d generally get from being thrown around,” said Steve Caroll, of Ventura County Emergency Medical Services. “We did transport a total of 28 patients, and we have 23 on scene who were not transported who did not complain of any significant injuries.”

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Uninsured / Underinsured Motorist Coverage

In today’s economic climate, more drivers are either going without automobile insurance or only purchasing the minimum amount required by law, which is $15,000 liability insurance. That is why it’s important to check your uninsured (UM) and underinsured (UIM) motorist coverage in your automobile policy.

UM covers you, the insured members of your household and your passengers, for bodily/personal injuries, damages or death caused by hit-and-run drivers or at-fault drivers who are uninsured. UM coverage will cover your medical expenses and other damages, up to the limit on your policy.

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LAWSUIT DEADLINES – STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS

A statute of limitations is the deadline for filing a lawsuit. Most lawsuits MUST be filed within a limited amount of time. Once the statute of limitations on a potential case has expired, you do not have a valid legal claim any longer.

The period of time during which you can file a lawsuit depends on the type of legal claim. Here are the statutes of limitations for some common legal matters:

  • Personal injury: Two years from the injury.
  • Medical malpractice: Three years from the date of the injury but shortened to one year from the date of reasonable suspicion when you knew or should have known.
  • Breach of a written contract: Four years from the date the contract was broken.
  • Breach of an oral contract: Two years from the date the contract was broken.
  • Property damage: Three years from the date the damage occurred.
  • Claims against government agencies: You must file a claim with the agency within 6 months of the incident. If the claim is denied, you can then file your lawsuit in court and the regular statute of limitations applies.

Determining the statute of limitations on a claim is not easy. If you have any doubts about how to calculate the time you have, you should talk to an attorney.

Is Your House Safe or an “Accident” Waiting to Happen?

We always refer to incidents as “accidents” when, in actuality, most “accidents” are anything but. With a little care, they could have been prevented. So, what are you doing to make sure your house isn’t an accident waiting to happen?

You ask, “What can you do?” Well, first, you have to know what areas can become problems, and therefore, it might first be a good idea to sit down with your family and make a list. Not only is this good for safety, but it’s also a good way to educate your children, if you have them, and a good time for simple, old fashioned communication – something we seriously lack in this age of technology.

What should the list entail? I would suggest the following areas to discuss and inspect. By all means, this is not an exhaustive list, and feel free to add to it.

Smoke Detectors – Make sure they are operating properly. If they are battery operated, test them and make sure the batteries are replaced regularly. Hard-wired detectors are typically better than battery, but you have to make sure you have a backup in the event the power goes out.

Fire Extinguishers – This is one of the simplest and most cost-effective measures you can take. The extinguishers need to be easily accessible, and you should learn how to operate them before the need arises. I have actually had the occasion to use one in our house when the wire to the propane tank on our grill caught fire. That was a disaster averted. Additionally, you might want to think about stove top extinguishers. These could prevent serious injuries in the event of a stove or oven fire.

Electrical Outlets – We rarely check on these, but in old houses, these can be the cause of major fires. They need to be properly grounded, and if you have any questions, have a licensed electrician come in and evaluate your home. Also, make sure they are not overloaded. In addition, check the wires in your house to all your lamps, appliances, and other electrical items to make sure they are not frayed and fire hazards. You might even consider asking the local fireman to provide you with an inspection.

Light bulbs – They have different watts for a reason. Make sure you have the proper bulbs in your various lamps and lights.

Fire Place – If you have a fireplace and enjoy having fires in your home during winter, make sure you have it inspected and checked out each year. Various chemicals and materials can collect in the flues and chimneys and cause fires, so you want to keep them clean.

Vents/Heaters – If you have ever looked at the tops of your water heaters or the backs of a dryer, you will notice that they begin collecting dust and lent. With gas heaters, fire hazards can be present, and you should clean these regularly to prevent the danger.

Gas Leaks – Another potential problem can arise with these heaters – gas leaks. This can not only lead to fire hazards but also to carbon monoxide poisoning. If you ever smell gas, make sure you have the gas company come out IMMEDIATELY for an inspection. Gas is never anything to play around with.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors – With the above said, it is also a good idea to have carbon monoxide detectors in your home. There has been some controversy over the effectiveness of these detectors, but if you do your research, you can find the best ones for your home. At the very least, it is another level of safety. Make sure you test them regularly, especially if they are battery operated, and just as with smoke detectors, have a backup for them if they are hard wired.

Child Proofing – Make sure you put protection on hard corners of furniture, cover electrical outlets, and put locks on cabinets containing poisonous chemicals. It doesn’t take long for your child to get into trouble, so be prepared. Also, put gates on stairways so they don’t fall down a flight of stairs. A simple gate and locks can avoid trips to the ER.

Heavy Appliances and Furniture – this goes along with child proofing, but make sure your heavy appliances and furniture are not in a place where they can fall over and injure a child, or anyone for that matter. Typically, these types of incidents occur with televisions and shelving.

Stairs – Make sure you keep stairs clear of various items. I am constantly removing my children’s things from the stairways. I can just picture the incident in my mind – step on a golf ball and break my neck, or worse, one of my children doing the same. This is easily avoidable. Also, make sure you check the banister/handrails to ensure they are secure.

Outside Lighting – Make sure the outside of your home has adequate lighting. If bulbs go out, replace them. The last thing you want is family members or visitors tripping and injuring themselves as a result of inadequate lighting.

Outside Maintenance – Walk around your house once or twice a year to make sure there are no dangerous areas. Not only is it good for safety, but it keeps your house maintained for value.

Dead Trees – If you know there is a dead tree on your property, have it removed. Don’t wait for a storm to come by or the wind to blow it over. You don’t want it to damage your neighbor’s home or property or fall and injure someone.

Fences/Dogs – If you own a dog, make sure you abide by all local regulations. It’s a good idea to either have a fence or electrical fence. This is especially true if your dog has a history of aggression or if it is considered a dangerous breed: pit bulls, rottweilers, German shepherds, huskies, Alaskan malamutes, Doberman pinschers, chow chows, presa canarios, boxers, and dalmations are considered the top ten most dangerous breeds based on a study done analyzing the AVMA, CDC, and Humane Society. More importantly, however, is the owner of the dog. Most problem dogs are the ones who are not properly trained.

Evacuation – Have an evacuation plan in the event of a fire or other emergency. Go over it with your family and practice. Make sure children know what to do and where to meet in the event you get separated.

These are just some of the things to think about with respect to home safety. Do some of your own investigation. There are many resources on the internet these days. Don’t leave accidents and injuries to chance. Prevent them by being proactive and not reactive.

-Our colleagues at The Safety Report, Jon Lewis, attorney at Lewis, Feldman & Lehane, LLC

How to Buy a Safe Vehicle: Part 2

In frontal and side impact tests, dummies are measured according to the forces to it’s head, neck, chest and femurs. It is important to compare these crash test scores to get a better understanding of how strong your vehicle is in the event of an accident, including seat belts, air bags and head injury criteria (HIC) for frontal crash protection. The governement established that any HIC score above 1000 is unacceptable in a crash speed up to 30 mph. Howvver, HIC scores are typically shown below 700 (the lower the better). Chest scores that are measured in frontal crashes cannot reach a score over 60g’s. In side impacts, chest scores are measured in a criteria of 85 TTI (d). Fairly safe vehicles give chest scores of about 40g’s and 65 TTI (d).

A “star” rating is often used by the NHTSA and the IIHS, which more stars mean a safer vehicle. For more information on these safety ratings, visit www.safercar.gov/Safety+Ratings.

Since rollovers account for 25% of all fatal accidents, it is important to research the strength of your vehicle’s roof. You can visit http://www.iihs.org/iihs/ratings/ratings-info/roof-strength-test for more information on the strength to weight ratios.

We are at our greatest opportunity to buy a safe vehicle with all of the top-line safety features. Please do your research before deciding to buy a car, and do not let the dealer rush you into buying one without going over all the necessary features. Also, if you have enough money to get a rear view camera, get one!

How to Buy a Safe Vehicle: Part 1

If it’s time to buy yourself a new car, it is important to make sure the vehicle you buy is safe for yourself, spouse or child. This will be split up into two separate blogs, since it is the most important safety decision you will make for the coming years.

Safety research has shown that accidents happen when drivers are unable to safely control the vehicles they are in. They lose control from a steering or braking standpoint. By controlling these measures, it will most definitely minimize potential tragedies and accidents.

Electronic Stability Control (ESC) uses sensors in the car (wheel speed, steering wheel, yaw sensors, etc) to determine which direction the driver wants to go and compares it with the direction the car is headed. If the sensors detect that the driver is going in a direction that the driver is not telling it to go, it can apply breaks on individual wheels to put the car back in control. ESC can safely recover from skids that the human driver cannot.

ESC is an important safety feature because it helps drivers from losing control in a panic swerve or while driving on slippery roads. Studies have shown that ESC has reduced single-vehicle crashes by 34% for cars and 59% for SUVs. Furthermore, it reduces the risk of fatal single-vehicle crashes by 56% and fatal multiple-vehicle crashes by 32%.

It is important to conduct some preliminary research on some vehicles you are looking to buy. Websites maintained by the IIHS and NHTSA provide various comparisons on vehicles and their frontal and side impact tests. They also have published test scores concerning “roof strength to weight ratio” of assorted vehicles. These safety features and test scores are VERY IMPORTANT to the overall safety of your vehicle.

In Part 2 of this topic, we will go over the comparative value of these test scores. Stay tuned!

Buying the Right Ski Equipment

By now, you’ve probably learned how to ski, but do you know which ski equipment is safest to use? It is very important to take the time to choose equipment that is safe and comfortable for you. There are many variables you must consider before buying your ski equipment, such as:

  • Gender
  • Height
  • Weight
  • Skill level
  • Expected terrain
  • Snow conditions

Boots

Whether you are skiing or snowboarding, your movements will be governed by your ankles and feet, and so it is important to start with boots before you buy skis. Buy comfortable boots that will be compatible with your skill level; your boot stiffness will increase with skill level. Make sure your bindings pair correctly with your skis or board.

Poles

Select your poles by turning them upside down and holding them by their baskets. The angle of your elbows should be at 90 degrees. If they are more than 90 degrees, try shorter poles, and if they are less than 90 degrees, try longer poles.

Helmet and Goggles

Make sure your helmet fits snugly but comfortably on your head with a comfortable chin strap. Your goggles should fit tightly with the front rim of your helmet. If there is a gap, your goggles will fog and it will impair your vision on the slopes.

Now you’re ready to safely hit the slopes

Choosing the Right Lawyer: Fees and Payment Options

When you consult with your lawyer, ask to see what fees and charges you will be responsible for. The California State Bar requires every lawyer to explain all of their fees, whether it is before or within a reasonable amount of time after he/she starts to represent you. Be sure you understand all of the fees and costs that may incur on your case.

There are a few different types of payment arrangements you can make with your lawyer. Berglund & Johnson operates on a contingency fee (“no recovery, no fee”) basis. This means that our clients can have their legal needs met without paying for an attorney’s time on an hourly basis. Berglund & Johnson will collect their fee as a portion of the settlement and, in most cases, costs incurred in pursuing the case will be paid out of the settlement upon conclusion of the case. If there is no recovery, there are no fees.

You can also pay a flat fee for your lawyer’s services. Many lawyers charge a flat fee for simple, straightforward cases, such as bankruptcy filings or uncontested divorce matters. Make sure you understand all that is included in the flat fee.

Some lawyers charge an hourly rate for the time worked on your case. Hourly rates will vary according to your lawyer’s expertise and experience. Although more experienced lawyers will most likely charge a higher rate, they may complete your case more quickly. Ask for a written estimate on the number of hours that will likely be required to complete your case.

A retainer fee is when you are asked to pay a fee up front. The lawyer can then use this deposit as a down payment for expenses and fees during the case. Be sure to review “your account” in order to see how your money is being used.

If you aren’t satisfied with the way your lawyer has worked on your case, you have the right to fire him or her at any time. As said in Choosing the Right Lawyer: Part 1, if you have already retained a lawyer for a Personal Injury case and are dissatisfied with its progress, Berglund & Johnson will take care of you and respond to your concerns. If you choose to change attorneys and retain Berglund & Johnson, you will not incur any additional attorney fees. Your prior attorney will be compensated for the work he/she has done out of the Berglund & Johnson standard contingency fees. In other words, it will not cost you any more in attorney fees to change lawyers and retain Berglund & Johnson.

How an Accident Affects An Injured Vitcim Emotionally

Not only can a car accident affect you physically and financially, but there can be serious psychological effects, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), that can impact your life. Being in a car accident can leave you with the following emotional damages:

  • Panic Attacks
  • Nightmares
  • Flashbacks
  • Increased stress level
  • Loss of self esteem
  • Fear of driving

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Preventing Burns at Home

The topic of burns in the home is little discussed. However, if you ask any emergency room doctor, you will know how serious & prevalent scalding injuries are. It is important to protect yourself and your family with safeguards that will help reduce the likelihood of suffering a serious burn injury.

Seventy-five percent of scalds and burns happen at home. It only takes one second of contact with water or liquid hotter than 155°F to get a third degree burn, just 15 seconds with water temperature of 133°F or higher. Third degree burns are very serious and require immediate medical attention. Third degree burns create full thickness destruction of the skin; therefore, skin grafts and months of rehabilitation are required. Burns damage the skin, which protects us against infection, and makes us more likely to gain serious infections that could be life threatening.

Children age 14 and younger are at risk for burns at home. Each year 24,000 children are treated in emergency rooms in the United States for burns not associated with fires. That means that one child is seriously enough burned to be taken to the emergency room every 22 minutes. Children do not fully understand their surrounds at these ages yet remain curious about everything around them. They have thinner skin, which gives them less protection against burns. Non-fire related burns are the leading cause of death for children 4 and younger.

Adults over the age of 65 are at great risk as well. Elderly person have weaker immune systems and preexisting medical conditions, which would add to the likelihood of going through more extensive treatment for burns. Their reflexes are slower, their eyesight is poorer, and most of their body systems are compromised, which gives them a diminished judgment. Most of their injuries occur at home and are associated with hot food or water.

While, most people think that the kitchen is the most dangerous place to get a burn, few would think that the bathroom or exposed radiators are just as dangerous. Most people associate the bathroom as a place of comfort and relaxation. However, it is second only to the kitchen as to where the most burns occur. Cases involving parents who unknowingly put their kids in extremely hot bath water without first checking the temperatures are common. The kids in turn get third degree burns over their entire bodies. This leads to medical care in the form of skin grafts and long-term rehabilitation. Other than burns, people could break bones or tear ligaments trying to get out of an extremely hot shower or bath.

These injuries can easily be prevented. Always check the bath and shower water before getting in. You must make sure that your water heater is not set higher than 120°F; this will greatly reduce the likelihood of being burned and spikes in water temperature while you are in the shower. If you rent, notify your landlord via written letter or e-mail if there is a problem with the water being too hot or the water becoming very hot because someone flushed a toilet. Therefore, if a burn does occur because the landlord failed to fix the water heater or pipes than you will be protected. Remind your landlord that the law requires him or her to make the appropriate corrections for a tenant’s safety.

In the winter, people turn the heat up and exposed radiators will become exceptionally hot. Since radiators are not hot all the time children cannot distinguish when they are hot or cold. Even adults could easily fall into them if distracted. Elderly people with preexisting medical problems might become incapacitated in some way (faint, loss of consciousness, etc.) and land on a heated radiator. This is very severe if they live alone, because by the time anyone finds them, they will have significant burns on their body. Therefore, putting a protective screen or barrier around exposed radiators ensures that no one will be burned accidently.

Scalding injuries in the kitchen pose even greater dangers than in the bathroom. Cooking temperatures are frequently close to boiling, which will cause third degree burns in less than a second. Most accidents in the kitchen involve hot liquids being spilled such as coffee or soup. It takes seconds to turn a delicious beef stew into a life changing burn. The dangers arise in two forms: the cooking process and the transporting of hot liquids. Kids, naturally, are going to gravitate to what their parents are doing. A parent must be constantly aware when the kids are in the kitchen and take the precautions to keep them safe. Therefore, using the back burners when possible and keeping the handles of pots faced in will ensure that you will not accidently spill. Also, never leave children alone in the kitchen when you are cooking, and if they are in the kitchen with you, make sure they cannot reach anything that could spill or is hot.

The most common type of injury that could lead to severe scalding & a house fire is boiling oil. While it might be your first instinct to through water on oil that catches fire, this is a bad idea. Instead, while you cook, keep a lid or flat cookie sheet within reach. Therefore, if flames appear you can suffocate them.

If in the unfortunate case that you do get burn, there are specific steps that you should take to reduce the effects. First, stop the burning process and then remove any clothing that is burned. If the clothing is attached to your skin, do not attempt to remove it. Once this is done, pour cool water over (not cold or hot) the burned area for 3-5 minutes or until the ambulance arrives. Then cover the area with a clean dressing (it could be gauze, bandage or a sheet). If you have burns to your face, neck, hands, feet or genital areas or if there are blisters and severe burned skin you must seek immediate medical attention. Remember do not apply any aloe or other ointments because it may cause infection. Also, remember not to break any blisters and wear loose fitting clothing while the burns are healing. If you have any doubt, seek medical care.

-Samuel Davis (The Safety Report)