Google and the court room

With the invention of the Internet andhand held access through cell phones and PDAs, jurors are taking itupon themselves to investigate court cases on their own. Jurors areunder strict instruction to solely consider evidence presented in thecourtroom. Circuit Judge John C. Themelis of Baltimore, Marylandrecounts that a fellow judge declared a mistrial in a case where ajuror used the Internet to research a defendant’s criminal record. Local attorneys have heard stories that jurors have Googled their firm information through iPhones and other hand held devices.

When selected for a jury of any civilor criminal jury trial, the judge reads a set of instructions andclearly states, ‘Do not research or investigate the case on yourown. You must base your decision only on the evidence presented inthis courtroom.’ The burden of decision upon a juror is a heavyone. It seems only natural for them to want a complete picture ofthe case including background on the plaintiff, defendant, andattorneys. Google is a common search engine that allows the publicto type in a person’s name and access pages of public criminalrecords and a person’s background information.

A recent poll by a trial consultantfound that a huge majority of jurors follow the rulescompletely. However, is human curiosity too strong when access isright at their finger tips? Courts are beginning to seriouslyconsider the implications of personal research in the jury system. It’s possible that court decisions may be overturned because of jurymisconduct. So, is the Internet compromising the jury system? For more information please contact our law firm.

 

Value of life
07/22/2008 05:48:03 PM

What is your life worth? According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), researchers concluded that the “”””value of a statistical life”””” in America is $6.9 million, which is approximately $1 million less than 5 years ago. Five years ago the average American life was worth $7.8 million. How is this possible? Is this decline the result of the recession?

Will this statistic effect the average American in any way? It might. When policy makers evaluate regulations they take costs and benefits into account, just like the average person. “”””The less a life is worth to the government, the less the need for regulation.”””” For example, a hypothetical regulation that costs $18 billion to enforce but will prevent 2,500 deaths is up for debate. At $7.8 million per person (the old figure), the lifesaving benefits outweigh the costs. But at $6.9 million per person, the rule costs more than the lives it saves, so it may not be adopted. (AP, www.foxnews.com, 7/11/08)

So how does the EPA calculate a person’s worth? Is it by their impact on society? The number of people they help? The number of people who depend on them? No, economists analyze payroll statistics and opinion polls to determine how much risk a person is willing to take for a price. The verdict Americans are willing to take higher risks for a lower price. But the EPA encourages people not to think of this as a price tag on life. Is everything in America losing value? The American dollar isn’t doing well in the International market and the stock market, the housing market, and now the American life, according to the EPA, are declining in value.

This hot topic is being debated by government agencies, officials, and businesses around the country. Do the costs of making changes to automobiles, inventing new medical technology, and protecting our environment outweigh the value of life? Why don’t we consider life priceless?

 

Construction Accident Victim is Carnegie Hero
07/15/2008 05:48:56 PM

Craig Gouker was posthumously honored with the Carnegie Medal for his heroism. Gouker was a construction supervisor for a site in Owings Mills, MD. On August 16, 2006, a construction employee descended into an underground vault to retrieve a tool, lost consciousness, and fell to the bottom of the 24-foot vault. Gouker immediately dialed 911 and then attempted to rescue his co-worker. Gouker succumbed to the oxygen-deficient atmosphere, lost consciousness, and fell. Emergency personnel were unable to resuscitate Gouker and his co-worker. (Boeckel, www.eveningsun.com, 7/5/08)

Last Friday, a Texas construction worker died after the 450-pound metal beam he’d been welding collapsed on him. The man was hit on the right side of his head and shoulder. The paramedics were called but the worker was pronounced dead on the scene. (Quinn & Woods, www.wacotrib.com, 7/12/08)

As seen above, a construction accident can have fatal consequences. But not all construction accidents result in death. Permanent disability is very common when working with heavy machinery, tools, and building materials. The most common accidents include: falls, scaffolding accidents, trip and fall, falling objects, collapsing structures, explosions, cave-ins, faulty roof, and electrical wiring accidents. Construction accidents may be categorized as negligence and/or premises liability. Liability may fall onto the owners, contractors, and equipment manufacturers. For more information please review our Premises Liability Page  and contact one of our attorneys.

 

Safety on the Roadways
06/28/2008 05:50:25 PM

Even with rising gas prices, commuters and vacationers choose to drive to their destinations. Choose Safety For Life, an automobile safety program from the Maryland State Highway Administration, reports that “”””Every day there are 276 crashes, 161 injuries, and 1 death”””” caused by an auto accident in the state of Maryland. When you get behind the wheel, are you paying full attention to the other drivers and the road? Or are you on your cell phone? If you are traveling through Washington, DC you must use a hands-free cell phone while driving. Are you daydreaming? Could you be changing the radio and taking your eyes off the road? Or do you have aggressive driving habits?

Last week, at least, two accidents occurred on Route 50 shutting down the road for several hours. One ended in a fatality. A four car pile-up on the Bay Bridge required two Medivac helicopters to transport an adult and a child to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. This accident shut down the eastbound bridge on Wednesday, June 18. On Saturday, June 21, a 54-year-old Washington, DC man was pronounced dead on the scene after a head-on collision in the westbound lanes near Bowie, MD.

Maryland and Washington, D.C. promote safe driving through several public education programs including: Choose Safety For Life , Click It Or Ticket, Smooth Operator. Just because an accident occurs does not mean that there is another party that is liable for damages. Go to our home pagefor more information. If you are injured in any type of accident either as an operator, passenger, pedestrian, bystander, or as a permissive user of property, you should have competent representation by an accident lawyer experienced in handling these claims. Call one of our experienced vehicle accident attorneys today.

Dangerous Dogs
06/18/2008 05:51:00 PM

Last week, a Kansas man was awarded $7.25 million in damages after being injured by a group of pit bulls in 2006. The plaintiff was mowing a vacant lot he owned when the dogs escaped from a nearby property and mauled him. As a result of the attack, he was hospitalized, lived on a feeding tube for a month, and nearly died. The judge ruled “”””the attack caused permanent disfiguring and disabling injuries including complex facial lacerations, extensive lacerations to his upper and lower extremities, and multisystem organ failure.”””” The plaintiff’s medical bills totaled more than $500,000 and the loss of direct and future income is estimated at more than $1 million. (Hoffman, www.kansascity.com, 6/10/08)

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) reports that each year, 800,000 Americans seek medical attention for dog bites and half of those injuries are children. Approximately half of those injured require emergency treatment and about a dozen die of dog bite-related injuries. The United States Postal Service announced that, “”””Last year, more than 3,000 city and rural carriers were attacked by dogs across the United States.””””

It is important to know how to protect yourself. Don’t run past a dog. If you feel threatened, don’t scream, avoid eye contact, remain motionless, and back away slowly after the dog leaves. Never approach a strange dog. Always ask an owner if it’s alright to pet their dog. Let a dog see and sniff you before you pet him. Place something between you and the dog if you think a dog is about to attack you. (USPS, http://www.usps.com/communications/newsroom/2008/pr08_055.htm, 5/15/08)

If you or a family member has been attacked or bitten by a dog, you may have a claim against the dog owner. Contact one of our experienced dog bite attorneys today about your specific situation.

Important resources include: 

 

Swimming Pool Accidents
06/11/2008 05:52:17 PM

Sweltering summer heat drives more and more families to swimming pools. Whether it’s a personally owned, private swim club, or public community pool, safety should be the first priority. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states, “”In 2005, there were 3,582 fatal unintentional drownings in the United States and more than one in four fatal drowning victims are children 14 and younger.  On Monday, June 2, 2008 two parents of Pasadena, MD awoke to find their 20-month old toddler had drowned in the family’s swimming pool overnight. Lt. Jeffrey Silverman of the county police said, “”It was just a tragic accident.”” (Harris, www.washingtonpost.com, 6/3/08)

In 2007, a Maryland family was awarded $4 million in damages by a jury for the drowning of their 5-year-old son at a country club pool. The jury found the pool management company was negligent for failing to staff the pool properly and for failing to adequately train lifeguards.  To honor their son, the parents have set up a foundation to promote consistency in safety standards and requirements at public pools. (www.onlinelawyersource.com, 9/28/2007)
Tragic pool accidents like these can be easily prevented.

Lack of barriers and supervision is the first major risk factor to prevention of water-related injuries. Installation of pool fencing which completely separates the pool from other home areas should be at least 4 feet high. Self-latching gates that open outward with latches out of a child’s reach would limit accessibility to children. It is also possible to install automatic locks and alarms so you are aware if someone enters the pool area. The CDC found that, Most young children who drowned in pools were last seen in the home, had been out of sight less than five minutes, and were in the care of one or both parents at the time. Remove floats, balls, and other toys from the pool and surrounding area immediately after use. The presence of these toys may encourage children to enter the pool area and potentially fall in. (www.cdc.gov)

 No matter where you are swimming, always designate an adult to swim with the children or watch them. This adult should not be consuming alcohol or be involved in other distracting activities. Additionally, learning CPR is a valuable skill in water safety. Contact the American Red Cross in your area for available classes on CPR training.

For additional information, review our website on swimming pool accidents – https://www.foranlaw.com/swimming-pool-accidents.html or contact us today.””

 

Public Transportation Accidents on the Rise?
06/05/2008 05:54:09 PM

As more people turn to public transportation because of rising gasoline prices, public transportation systems are feeling the strain. On Tuesday, June 3rd, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) reported a record 812,812 riders on Metrorail. Metro reports that ridership has catapulted over 800,000 on 5 other weekdays this year as well! And as more riders turn to the rails and buses the public transportation systems are feeling their age. (www.wmata.com, 6/4/08)

In the last couple weeks, Chicago has seen two commuter train derailments. The famous Chicago Transit Authority is facing repairs in the amount of $10 billion dollars over the next five years to bring the system up to better repair, not necessarily good repair, announced Steven Schlickman, director of the Regional Transportation Authority, which oversees the city’s mass transit network, said at the time. There are many reasons for derailments including operator error. As in the case of the Chicago accidents, the operator said he inadvertently passed a red signal, and when he realized his mistake, he stopped the train and then moved in the opposite direction, causing the train to derail. (Babwin, www.washingtonpost.com, 6/4/08)

The Washington Metrorail has been scrutinized lately because Metro operators are opening the train doors before all the cars reach the station. From January to April, at least 13 incidents were reported in which eight-car trains were not stopped properly, officials said This type of mistake has not resulted in any injuries to date, but is very dangerous for Metro riders. Not every accident with a public tranporation carrier like Metro is actionable but if you are injured or have questions about your specific situation contact one of our attorneys today. (Sun, www.washingtonpost.com, 5/29/08)

 

Red light Cameras and Whiplash
05/29/2008 05:54:57 PM

Red-light Cameras and Whiplash
Red-light cameras can be found at many busy intersections across the U.S. However, Federal Highway Administration research has found that while cameras can reduce red light violations and broadside crashes, they can also increase less serious rear-end accidents caused by people making sudden stops to avoid tickets (Connell, LA Times, 5/19/08). Research of Toronto’s red-light cameras showed a 26 % drop in T-bone crashes, while rear-end accidents increased 10 %. Throughout the province, T-bone crashes dropped 25 % while rear-enders increased nearly 50 % (Moloney, The Toronto Star, 3/18/08)!

Minimal damage rear-end or even single car, no crash scenarios can cause whiplash and neck pain. Whiplash can effect your life for days, months, or possibly years. Medical professionals have discovered that severe brainstem injuries can occur during these traumatic events but may go undetected. If you’ve been in a car accident and suffer from changes in attention span, concentration, emotion, and difficulty sleeping consider being evaluated by your medical practitioner. Doctors may do MRI, PET Scan, or Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response tests to rule out severe damage.

In July of 2007, The New York Times reported that fifty-four light model trucks failed to protect the occupants against neck injuries. ”Any given day, you’re more likely to need a good head restraint to protect you from a neck injury than you are an air bag to protect you in a head-on crash,” said David S. Zuby, senior vice president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Vehicle Research Center (Bunkley, www.nytimes.com, 7/3/07). Automobile manufacturers argue that supportive head and neck rests are not appealing to consumers. However, an increase in rear-end accidents, like those seen with red-light cameras, means a need for more neck support in our automobiles. Which is more important to you comfort or safety?”

 

Medication Errors
05/19/2008 05:55:26 PM

Hollywood’s Dennis Quaid recently spoke to Congress regarding drug overdoses and patient’s rights. He advocates for the patient’s right to sue pharmaceutical companies. Heparin, a commonly administered blood thinner, has been placed on the hot seat because the packaging for different dosages is very similar. In some cases, infants have been given 1,000 times the recommended dosage! In 2006, three Indianapolis infants died because of this mistake. Each year, 7,000 people die in the U.S. Because of medication errors. (Yost, www.newsday.com, 5/14/08)

A Tucson family was awarded $6 million recently because their mother died of a morphine overdose. Upon hospitalization, she was prescribed one dosage of morphine. Then several days later the dosage was increased replacing the prior dosage. However, when she was transferred to a nursing home, both prescriptions were given to her twice a day causing her to die from acute morphine intoxication. (Flick, www.tucsoncitizen.com, 5/14/08)

Accidental overdoses and drug interactions can cause health complications or death. Inform your doctor and pharmacist of all medications, prescription and over-the-counter, you are taking to insure your personal safety. Always ask questions if you are concerned about anything relating to your prescriptions and treatment. Read all of the information provided with your prescription and all warning labels. And finally, constantly check your prescription refills to verify you have received the correct dosage and pill.

Medical Malpractice and Your Advocate
05/14/2008 05:56:07 PM

100,000 American patients die each year because of medical errors! Medical errors don’t always result in death. Medical malpractice affects the patient and their family and can result in various physical and mental obstacles. It is important to know that doctors and medical staff are fallible. Mistakes occur because of incorrect prescription dosages, medical personnel’s action or inaction and, in some cases, their failure to respond.

An infant, born in 2001, of Charlottesville, VA suffers from cerebral palsy and brain damage because of physician’s negligence at his birth. During labor and delivery, doctors at University of Virginia Medical Center failed to respond to the infant’s condition which caused him to asphyxiate. The infants’s parents were relieved last week when a settlement allotted them $1.35 million dollars. While this seems like an astounding amount of money, the infant’s long term care will cost approximately $9 million! However, the state of Virginia caps all medical malpractice awards at $1.6 million. This coming summer that cap will increase to $2 million. (McKelway, inRich.com, 5/1/2008)

One way to combat being a medical malpractice casualty is to have a patient advocate with you when entering the hospital for routine or emergency situations. Patient advocates can be family members, friends, or even hired consultants.

 An advocate should monitor the medications, review the treatment plan, know the detailed medical history, alert overworked nurses when vital signs go bad, battle for timely attention in a jammed ER, coordinate care as nurses and doctors change shifts, and look out for the comfort, hygiene and mobility (McClain, Arizona Daily Star, 4/27/2008).”””” While you can’t predict an emergency, it is important to arm your patient advocate with your personal vital information, medical history, prescription list, and health concerns so they might speak on your behalf if necessary.