Archive for March, 2014

The United States Supreme Court Upholds Whistleblower Protections

Monday, March 31st, 2014

In the case that was heard before the U.S. Supreme Court (Lawson v. FMR, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 12-3),  the arguments made by FMR, LLC, the parent company of Fidelity Investments (Fidelity), that whistleblower protections should not extend to contractors working for the company, were ultimately rejected.  This case affirms the position that under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, whistleblower protection extends beyond direct employees.  In a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that whistleblower protections apply to the subcontractors who do business with the publicly traded companies covered by the terms of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, including law firms, accounting firms, investment advisers, and other companies.

At issue in this case was the whistleblower protection provision in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which was passed in 2002 as a means of reforming financial transactions.  The Act created a set of standards for management and public accounting firms, as well as publically traded company boards.  Attorneys arguing against the broad interpretation of the whistleblower protection provision stated that the ruling would expand the application of the protection from 5,000 companies to more than a million businesses, including small businesses.

This case arose out of the termination of the contract of a senior director of finance and another individual after they reported some improprieties with cost-accounting. Fidelity Investments has mutual funds that are public companies required to file reports with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).  However, the management of the funds is carried out through private companies that are under contract.  The whistleblowers in this case, Jackie Lawson and Jonathan Zang, worked for Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC. They brought a whistleblower retaliation case against Fidelity after they were terminated, allegedly as the result of reporting improper company practices.  Due to the fact that Fidelity uses a contractor model to operate its funds, there are no direct employees.  The dissenting judges stated that the decision was too broad, leading to the possibility of lawsuits brought by low-level employees who were terminated for other reasons after viewing a trivial offense.  These federal retaliation claims could be brought against small businesses, leading to many cases that would not have been brought otherwise.

The Supreme Court’s decision in this case was based on the fact that the Sarbanes-Oxley Act granted whistleblower protection to “any officer, employee, contractor, subcontractor, or agent.”  The Court ruled that it was not possible for Congress to have passed an act that did not offer protection to someone like Jackie Hosang Lawson and Jonathan Zang, the Fidelity contractor employees who brought the retaliation claim.  In writing the opinion for the Court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg addressed the arguments that there would be a lot more retaliation claims by stating that there was little evidence that the floodgates would open.

When a person brings a retaliation claim against a former employer stating that the employment was terminated or the employee was demoted based, at least in part, on retaliation for reporting a financial impropriety.  The employee only needs to satisfy the “preponderance of the evidence” standard while the employer must show that the employee was terminated or demoted for legitimate reasons by clear and convincing evidence.  Under the interpretation of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the financial impropriety might be based on mail fraud or wire fraud.  Critics of the ruling claim that this imbalance will lead to inequity.

Whistleblower protections are necessary to provide a means of redress for employees who were terminated after reporting a problem within the business.  Although it is never easy to go through a lawsuit, the skilled and compassionate whistleblower and qui tam attorneys at Barrett Law PLLC will work with you to enforce your rights and hold the company accountable for your wrongful termination.  To discuss what happened to you, call us at (800) 707-9577.  Our attorneys only get paid if we succeed on your claim.

Dangerous Intersections Lead to Devastating Crashes in Mississippi

Saturday, March 29th, 2014

An intersection is the point where two or more roads meet, converge, or cross each other.  These locations are particularly dangerous because traffic from many different directions is coming into a central point.  These intersections may be marked with yield or stop signs or there may be traffic lights.  In many locations, there is very limited signage that indicates that there are important reasons to drive carefully and pay attention.  Depending on  the intersection, as many as six roads may converge.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 40% of all traffic crashes across the country happen in an intersection.  In addition, 21% of fatal crashes happen at this dangerous place where roadways converge.

There was a fatal intersection crash in Fayette, Mississippi a few weeks ago.  A 21-year-old driver failed to yield at the intersection of Sunny Side Drive and Highway 61.  The young woman crossed into the path of a Ford F-150 traveling north  on Highway 61.  Her vehicle was impacted in a broadside collision.  The driver was pronounced dead at the scene.  The driver of the pick-up who hit her, an 18-year-old, had minor injuries, but declined medical attention at the scene.

Intersection accidents often involve broadside, also known as side impact, collisions where one vehicle impacts another along the side of the vehicle.  Although recent car models are equipped with side impact airbags, many older models are not.  The problem with this type of accident is that there is very little protection for the driver and passengers in the construction of the door frame.  This leads to wide-ranging traumatic injuries.  In addition, after the initial impact, the vehicle may be propelled into other vehicles or stationary objects bordering the roadway.

The NHTSA has studied the types of behaviors that often lead to intersection accidents, including:

  • While traveling through intersections, drivers may cause a crash by failing to pay attention to traffic signals, stop signs, and yields;
  • Drivers may misjudge the actions or anticipated behavior of other drivers;
  • Drivers who are making a left hand turn at an intersection with a traffic light or stop sign may turn in front of another vehicle because they do not accurately understand the speed of oncoming drivers or do not see them because of obstructed views in the intersection;
  • Distracted driving has a disproportionate effect on  24 years of age or younger;
  • Medical impairment or fatigue leads to many accidents for drivers between the ages of 25 to 54 years of age;
  • Drivers between the age of 25 and 54 are involved in accidents that result from aggressive driving, illegal actions, and distracted driving;
  • Drivers aged 55 years or older are involved in accidents caused by a failure to observe other vehicles entering the intersection or a failure to estimate the speed of other drivers converging on the intersection;
  • Female drivers are more likely to be distracted by things occurring within the vehicle, such as the cell phone, children, or even animals, or making mistakes about what other drivers are going to do as they approach the intersection; and
  • Male drivers are more likely to violate traffic laws in the intersection, drive aggressively, or fail to respond to the circumstances presented by the intersection.

Intersections pose a very unique and potentially dangerous set of circumstances where driver negligence can lead to life-altering crashes.  The most basic of mistakes can be critical.  It is important to have the right personal injury attorneys in order to get the damages award that victims deserve.

Many accidents that occur in an intersection involve serious injuries that require a long recovery period.  The experienced and hardworking attorneys at Barrett Law PLLC will fight to represent your interests and protect your legal rights in order to get you the compensation that you need to recover from the harm that you suffered.  We will evaluate your case during an initial consultation.  To schedule a first meeting, please call us at (800) 707-9577.  Our attorneys only receive a payment when we recover on your claims.

Securities Exchange Commission Enters into Whistleblower Case against Siemens

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

There was a whistleblower retaliatory termination action filed against Siemens A.G.by Meng-Lin Liu, who was a Division Compliance Officer for Siemens China, which is a subsidiary of Siemens A.G.  Liu alleged that Siemens China was engaged in a kickback scheme to sell medical imaging equipment to public hospitals in China and North Korea through intermediaries who would send a portion of the proceeds to the officials who granted the contracts to Siemens China.  Liu made a number of attempts to change the company policies and reported the possibility of corruption to a number of different people within the company.  Over a period of time, Siemens China stripped responsibilities from Liu and eventually informed him that he should not report to work for the remainder of his employment contract and that the contract would not be renewed.

Liu brought a whistleblower retaliation action against Siemens A.G. under the provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act and its anti-retaliation provisions as related to reports of wrongdoing pursuant to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and other regulations under the umbrella of the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC).  Siemens argued that the whistleblower protections did not apply because Liu only reported the problems internally while an employee of Siemens China.  Liu only went to the SEC after he was terminated.  For a variety of reasons, including the fact that the whistleblower protections at issue did not extend to extraterritorial retaliation terminations, the complaint was dismissed with prejudice.  However, the court did not rule on the question of whether the Dodd-Frank protections extended to whistleblowers who reported company improprieties internally, but did not go to the SEC with the reports of wrongdoing.  The case is now back in the courts.

The SEC has been indicating for some time that it was going to begin to take action against companies that retaliated against employees who reported improprieties internally, but did not pursue an external report.  In the Siemens case, the SEC filed an amicus brief, known as a “friend of the court” filing, in which the SEC asserted that its interpretation of the provision in Dodd-Frank that protected against retaliation extended the protection to employees who only followed internal reporting protocols.

Although the SEC has been giving warnings that it intended to wade into this battle for some time, the filing of the amicus brief outlining its position on the application of the Dodd-Frank whistleblower protections to internal whistleblowers.  This position may provide additional security for employees who are considering reporting company wrongdoing.

The outcome of this court case can have serious repercussions on the development of internal policies.  If the court were to decide that Siemens’ assertions are correct, it could signal a new company policy where the company would be motivated to terminate an employee who reported improprieties as quickly as possible before he had a chance to go to the SEC and report the problems.

When an employee discovers that the company for which he works has done something wrong, he has a difficult decision to make.  If he reports the problem, he incurs the risk of losing his job.  Whistleblower protections are intended to ensure that an employee can do the right thing while being assured that he will not lose his livelihood.  If you are facing a retaliation termination, the knowledgeable and committed whistleblower and qui tam attorneys at Barrett Law PLLC will work with you to develop an effective legal strategy.  We will sit down with you during a free initial evaluation.  To schedule an appointment, please call us at (800) 707-9577.  We only receive a fee if we succeed in getting you a payment on your claim.

BP Settlement to Pay Medical Claims

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014

People who have suffered harm as a result of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill may have reason to celebrate.  Specifically, they are one step closer to receiving compensation for the negative health consequences that the oil spill had on many people who lived or worked along the Gulf Coast after the April 20, 2010 blowout and spill.  After the appeals court in New Orleans dismissed BP’s attempt to modify the terms of its settlement agreement, the payment of claims can now move forward.  A large part of the $9.2 billion payment in this settlement is intended to cover the medical costs of these impacted by the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

People have suffered from many different medical conditions as the result of the oil that poured into the Gulf Coast, including respiratory issues, skin rashes, and neurological problems.  The settlement is intended to compensate people for these consequences of the spill.  In addition, there are funds to cover medical exams for Gulf Coast residents for the next 21 years.  Further, BP has committed to fund a program geared towards making medical care more accessible for residents who live along the coast.  This will be paid for through a $105 million grant.  Although there are still many issues that need to be resolved, this is at least a start towards recovery.

In order to recover as part of this settlement, individuals must submit their claims by February 11, 2015.  There are additional requirements to be part of this group of claimants, including the fact that the person must have lived a half-mile or less from the water in beachfront areas or within one mile of the water in wetlands along the panhandle area of Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, or Florida during some part of 2010 after the spill.  Individuals who suffered negative health consequences as a result of participating in the oil clean-up also may recover as part of this settlement.  Depending upon the class into which the individual falls, the payment will vary.  Those people who worked to clean-up the oil spill are entitled to the largest payment, ranging up to a maximum of $60,700.  Residents who qualify may expect to receive between $900 and $36,950.  There are additional funds available based upon individual medical treatment costs.

In order to participate in the class settlement, the individual must relinquish all other claims against BP arising out of the Deepwater Horizon blowout and oil spill, with the exception that a person can bring additional claims if a medical condition develops after the settlement that can be attributed to the spill.  Claims like these are going to be difficult to prove.  Individuals still have the option of bringing claims against the owner of the Deepwater Horizon, Transocean, as well as Halliburton, which was a subcontractor involved with operations on the rig.

Although there have been a number of settlements, there still are a number of actions relating to the harm that the spill did to local and state governments, businesses, and other classes impacted by the spill and its aftermath.

As the four-year anniversary of the largest accidental offshore oil spill in history approaches, many people still wait for the relief  that BP promised in the aftermath of the environmental disaster.  Although the property damage was devastating, the medical conditions from which people suffered as a result of the spill also have wreaked havoc on the lives of those who lived in the Gulf Coast area.  At Barrett Law PLLC, our attorneys have the knowledge and experience to get victims of the BP oil spill the compensation that they deserve.  To schedule a free initial consultation, please call us at (800) 707-9577.  As part of our commitment to our clients, we only get paid if we successfully recover on your behalf.

Mississippi House Rejects Texting Ban

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

As the 2014 session drew to its close, the Mississippi House killed a ban on texting-while-driving.  The argument set forth by Representative Bill Denny of the Mississippi House, who made the procedural motion that shelved the bill, justifying this decision was that texting is no more dangerous than any other distraction while driving.  Those who were pushing for the bill were upset  by the decision to kill the bill because it was a compromise that had started the fines at a low level and classified the offense for texting-while-driving as a civil rather than a criminal one.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), Mississippi is one of seven states that allow all drivers to text behind the wheel.  Several states have banned texting for novice drivers while 39 states and the District of Columbia have banned texting for all drivers.  When a person is texting and driving, sending a text takes a person’s attention off the road for approximately five seconds for even the briefest of texts.  During that time, a vehicle will travel the length of a football field when traveling at 55 miles per hour.  That is a significant distance where the driver is not aware of what is happening on the roadway in front of the car.  This is one of the reasons why there are more than one million accidents each year where a cell phone was involved.

The National Safety Council has just released its annual injury and fatality report, titled Injury Facts, which states that the use of cell phones caused 26% of all the car accidents in the country.  This is a slight increase from the numbers released in 2013.  Of the 26% of cell phone-related car accidents, only 5% of those involved a situation where the driver was texting while driving.  Those who oppose bans on texting while driving will view this data as justification for the decision.  However, it is believed that these is a significant under-reporting of texting and cell phone usage by a large number of researchers.

In contrast to the reports that suggest texting and driving is no more of a danger than any other distraction, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that that texting is particularly dangerous because it covers all three types of distraction, which are:

  • Visual – removing your eyes from the road;
  • Manual – removing your hands from the steering wheel; and
  • Cognitive – focusing on something other than driving.

The CDC reports that distracted driving involving cell phone use is much higher in the United States than in other countries.  In fact, 31% of American drivers between the ages of 18 to 64 admitted to reading or sending text messages or reviewing an e-mail while driving.  Although Portugal did  reach similar levels, other European nations were less than half that rate.

According to the analysis done by the CDC, young drivers under 20 years old are at a greater risk of getting into an accident while texting and have the highest rate of distracted driving fatalities.  In addition, a young passenger who gets in the car with someone who is texting and driving is almost twice as likely to get in the car with someone who has been drinking than another high school-aged person who does not text and drive, demonstrating a link between the risky behaviors.

Regardless of the dangers of texting and driving, do not be surprised when the person traveling at high rates of speed in the next lane of the highway takes the time to update their profile page – the legislature says that is perfectly okay.

When you or loved ones are injured in a distracted driving accident, there may be a long and difficult recovery ahead of you.  The knowledgeable and dedicated auto accident attorneys at Barrett Law PLLC are determined to get you the compensation that you deserve because you were injured when someone did not think the world should wait for news about a haircut or plans for the weekend.  We will work to hold the person accountable for his or her negligent actions.  To set up an initial consultation, call us at (800) 707-9577.  We will only be paid if we recover damages for you.

Truck Driver Fatigue a Danger for Other Drivers in Mississippi

Friday, March 14th, 2014

Long-haul truck drivers may travel thousands of miles in a relatively short period of time to pick-up, transport, deliver, and return on a commercial truck run.  Although there are mandated rest periods, these are spent in the back of a cab, often surrounding by traffic or truck stop noises.  In addition to the cramped quarters and less than optimal sleeping conditions, worries about delays or deadlines wreak havoc on sleep cycles.  All of these things may mean that the only thing keeping that driver awake is a large cup of coffee or chemical stimulant.  This leads to many different problems for other drivers.

When a truck driver is sleep-deprived or fatigued, he may experience a number of different consequences that put other drivers at risk, including:

  • Slower reaction times – in order to hit the brakes hard enough to slow or stop a semi-truck, a driver must process the danger cognitively and physically move his foot from the gas to the brake.  When there are any delays in the process, it could result in a serious accident.
  • Increased risk of confusion – a person who is sleep-deprived does not process information in the same manner as an alert, well-rested individual.
  • Dangerous decisions – when a person is fatigued, he may justify using illegal drugs as a means of staying awake while driving.  In addition, a truck driver may rely on alcohol to try to get more sleep, leading to a driver suffering from a hangover or still under the influence of alcohol when he gets back behind the wheel.
  • Aggressive or reckless driving – a driver who has not gotten sufficient sleep may be more irritable and prone to more dangerous driving behaviors.

Studies have shown that the impact that fatigue has on a driver might be as significant as a driver being impaired from the use of drugs or alcohol.  The federal government has recognized the problem that fatigue poses for commercial truck drivers, so the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enacted hours-of-service (HOS) regulation in order to combat some of the negative consequences of this condition.  These rules impose strict time limits on how many hours a truck driver can drive within a twenty-four hour period, requiring ten straight hours of rest time, with eight of that spent in the sleeper compartment of the cab.  In addition, a driver is limited in how many hours he can drive in a seven or eight-day work week.

Driver fatigue is one of the more difficult types of negligence to prove when there has been a serious accident between a commercial truck and another vehicle.  Often, it is necessary to reconstruct the accident and piece together the events of the days leading up to the accident.  A careful analysis of the driver’s log will be necessary, along with a review of receipts showing the locations of the rest stops that the driver should have taken.  Circumstantial evidence, such as weaving and swerving prior to the accident, braking distance, and driver behavior may be used to build a case for driver fatigue as the cause of the accident.  The tight schedule that the trucking company imposed on the driver also may be a factor in determining whether the trucking company shared in the liability for the damage done by the trucker.

A truck accident often leads to severe injuries for the victims who are impacted by the large commercial vehicle.  Long-term hospitalization, ongoing medical treatment, and lengthy rehabilitation mean that the economic consequences for the victim and his or her family are tremendous.  The emotional toll may be even worse.  The knowledgeable and compassionate personal injury attorneys Barrett Law PLLC are ready to ease some of your burdens by getting you the compensation that you deserve.  Call us at (800) 707-9577 to schedule an initial consultation.  We only receive a fee if we succeed in your legal action.

Medical Emergency that Caused the Truck Accident May be Driver Negligence

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

It is estimated that between three and five percent of traffic accidents are caused by medical emergencies.  These can be sudden and unexpected, such as when a healthy adult has a heart attack and loses control of the vehicle.  These crashes also can be caused by a medical condition that was known to the driver, who took the chance with his life and the lives of other people on the road that he would not suffer from an event that resulted in a serious accident.

In February 2014, a truck driver suffering from a medical condition caused a fatal accident in Mississippi.  A Louisiana truck driver experienced a medical event that resulted in him veering across Interstate 10 near D’Iberville and impacting another vehicle driven by a musician, according to a Fox 10 news story.  The collision killed the musician.  The truck driver apparently died as a result of the medical emergency rather than from the crash impact.  This accident could have been far worse because the truck driver was hauling hazardous materials, but these did not spill onto the roadway.  Although the nature of the medical condition was not disclosed, it is possible that this fatal accident could have been prevented if the truck driver had taken the appropriate actions in light of a known medical condition.

Many times, accidents involving large trucks are caused by driver negligence, faulty equipment, overloaded trailers, or dangerous road conditions.  Sudden medical emergencies are relatively rare.  However, when they happen in a tractor-trailer, they usually cause dangerous accidents.  If the driver was aware of the medical condition, he and the trucking company for which he worked could be liable for the harm that the accident caused.

In order for a truck driver to operate a tractor-trailer, he must get the appropriate training, obtain a commercial vehicle license, and then get any additional certifications necessary to drive specific types of vehicles.  The trucking company is required to conduct a thorough assessment of the driver’s skills and temperament and conduct a background check.  This review should reveal any known medical conditions that could compromise the driver’s ability to safely operate a large truck.  The driver has an obligation to reveal any known medical conditions that might impact operation of a commercial truck, but many times this is not done.

The shortage of qualified truck drivers who are working today means that there is great value in keeping a truck driver on the road and hauling goods for a trucking company.  This could lead to a trucking company realizing that there is a potential problem and having the driver visit a company-selected doctor who is more likely to give the driver a clean bill of health.  The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) require a specific level of truck driver fitness.  When drivers and the trucking companies attempt to circumvent these regulations, serious crashes may result.  It is estimated that more than half a million truck drivers on the road have a dangerous medical condition, whether known or unknown.  If a driver negligently ignores the risk that a known condition poses, he should be held accountable for the harm that he caused.

Although there are accidents that are caused by a sudden medical emergency that could not have been prevented, there are many other devastating crashes that never would have occurred but for the negligence of the truck driver and, possibly, the trucking company.  In situations like these, it is critical to have skilled and dedicated truck accident attorneys like Barrett Law PLLC.  We will investigate thoroughly the facts of the crash and determine whether there was evidence of knowledge about the medical condition or whether the driver should have known about the problem.  To discuss the circumstances of what happened to you or a loved one, call us at (800) 707-9577 to schedule an initial consultation. We do not receive a fee unless we recover compensation for you.

New York Federal Court Judge Revives Hawker Beechcraft Corp. Whistleblower Case

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

A whistleblower case that was precluded by the ruling of a bankruptcy court judge has been given new life by a New York federal court judge.  In March 2012, Hawker Beechcraft filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.  When Hawker Beechcraft Corp. went through the bankruptcy process, it had a 2.3 billion dollar False Claims Act case pending against it.  The action was based upon allegations that the company had used defective parts in manufacturing planes that were subsequently sold to the U.S. government.

The bankruptcy judge ruled that the claims did not satisfy the stringent requirements for exemptions of some types of debts that prevented them from being written off in the reorganization plan.  However, the recent federal court ruling now gives the whistleblowers the chance to argue their case in bankruptcy court, even though a bankruptcy exit plan is in place, the company emerged from bankruptcy in 2013, and Hawker Beechcraft now has been sold to Textron Inc.

Two former employees of a subcontractor to Hawker Beechcraft, TECT Aerospace Inc., are going to be able to argue that they are entitled to recover on behalf of the government for defective plane parts in planes that were purchased by the U.S. government.  The False Claims Act provides private citizens with the right to bring actions based on wrongdoing done to the U.S. government.  In the matter of Hawker Beechcraft, the planes with defective parts were purchased by the U.S. Navy and Air Force, thereby involving fraudulent actions impacting government entities.  This case involves possible penalties up to 2.3 billion dollars.  When an action like this is brought, the private citizen who initiated the case gets a portion of the damages that ultimately are awarded.  This action proved to be very complicated because of the bankruptcy of Hawker Beechcraft.

After the Hawker Beechcraft bankruptcy was filed, the bankruptcy judge ruled that there was nothing about the False Claims Act action and the potential monetary award that justified it being exempt from the write off of debts in bankruptcy.  There are very few exceptions to this rule, which include student loans, child-support payments, and damages awards arising out of drunk driving injuries.  The bankruptcy judge determined that the claims did not fit within the narrow loophole.  The two claimants asserted that the dismissal of their whistleblower lawsuit was improper based on the fact that it was grounded in allegations of government contracting fraud.  A New York judge now has agreed with them and they will get a second chance at recovering for the fraudulent actions of Hawker Beechcraft.

The recent decision by Judge P. Kevin Castel grants whistleblowers the right to argue their claims in bankruptcy court.  However, it by no means guarantees them a recovery, merely gets them in the door.

Whistleblower laws are intended to encourage private citizens to hold companies accountable for wrongdoing while offering protection from retaliation.  However, there are times when the companies do retaliate against the employees for stepping up and doing the right thing.  If you have been terminated or demoted because you reported a problem, the experienced and hardworking attorneys at Barrett Law PLLC will develop a legal strategy based on the unique needs of your case.  To schedule a free initial consultation, call us at (800) 707-9577.  Our commitment to our clients means that we only get paid if we recover the compensation that you deserve.

GMC Recall Impacts More Than Three Millions Cars

Friday, March 7th, 2014

Over the past few months, the story of how General Motors Co. (GM) mishandled the recall of more than 1.6 million vehicles that were manufactures with a faulty ignition switch has slowly emerged.  An additional 1.5 million vehicles recently were recalled as a result of defects in the brake parts, airbag wiring harnesses, and other vehicle components.  The faulty ignition switch defect has been linked to thirteen deaths.  Recently, the chief executive at GM, Mary Barra, acknowledged that the company did not manage the situation properly.

In a videotaped message to employees, Ms. Barra stated that something went wrong with the recall process and “terrible things happened.”  As a result of what occurred, GM announced that it is changing its investigation protocols and recall procedures.  It is believed that increased scrutiny over vehicle problems led to the new recall of 1.5 million vehicles.

The initial recall relating to the ignition switch problems is getting intense scrutiny because the problem with these vehicles has been known for a long time.  The recall impacts mainly older model cars, including the 2005 through 2007 Chevy Cobalt and the 2003 through 2007 Saturn Ion.  The questions of what was known and when it was discovered has led to the civil and criminal investigations, congressional hearings, and lawsuits based on the injuries that occurred as a result of the faulty ignition switches and GM’s failure to respond in the proper manner.

The problem with the ignition switch is that the switch could turn off unexpectedly, cutting power to the vehicle while it is traveling at varying rates of speed.  It is possible that the switch turns off because the weight of the key fob and any additional items is enough to pull it out of the “on” position.  Although the corrected switches are supposed to be available for replacement this month, April 2014, GM has advised drivers of recalled vehicles to eliminate all extra items on the key.  Because the recall affects older vehicles, many of them no longer are on the road, so there are fewer people currently impacted by the recall.  However, GM has been investigating 31 serious accidents, including 13 incidents that resulted in front-seat deaths.

The more recent recall affects luxury sedans, full-size vans, and crossover utility vehicles.  Some of the defects could lead to the side airbags failing to deploy during an accident. The problems in the Cadillac XTS include the wiring in the brake booster pump, which can overheat, leading to melting plastic materials in the vehicle and the possibility of a fire in the vehicle engine compartment.  Two dealer-owned XTS sedans were reported to have vehicle fires in the engine compartment.  However, GM has reported that it does not have any reports about accidents related to the recalls for the newer model vehicles.  Although most of the recalled vehicles were sold in the United States, there were some sold in Canada and Mexico.

The ignition switch problems have led to the filing of at least one class action lawsuit is a federal court in Texas, with other lawsuits expected to follow.

When car manufacturers fail to take the appropriate actions in responding to defects in the vehicles when they learn about them, innocent people get hurt.  The experienced and dedicated auto accident attorneys at Barrett Law PLLC will work with you to develop the best possible legal strategy and get you the compensation that you deserve as a result of the harm that was done to you.  To schedule an initial case evaluation, call us at (800) 707-9577.  We only receive a fee if we succeed on your behalf.

Repetitive Stress Injuries and Workers’ Compensation Claims

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

Under Mississippi law, employers have to provide workers’ compensation coverage for any injuries that an employee sustained while on the job.  However, there are many times when the employer will try to thwart an employee’s legitimate claim by:

  • Denying that the employee was injured while performing employment-related duties;
  • Denying that the employee suffered from a serious injury; or
  • Denying that the employee is permanently or temporarily disabled.

Injuries that are caused by repetitive motions are particularly difficult to prove.  Many times, a person injured in this manner will need to bring a legal action in order to force the employer to honor the claim.

Repetitive motion injuries are referred to by a number of names, including repeated motion injuries (RMIs), cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs), or repetitive stress injuries (RSIs).  There are a number of different types of injury, including the commonly known carpal tunnel syndrome, which afflicts many office workers who do a lot of typing.  This injury usually affects the hands, wrist, and/or forearm of the sufferer.  However, there are many different types of injuries that may occur when a person performs the same motion over and over again.

Frequently, it is difficult to manage working conditions in order to completely prevent repetitive stress injuries, there are things that a person can do to minimize the long-lasting harm, such as:

  • When performing repetitive work, take regular breaks in order to give muscles and joints a chance to recover from the motions;
  • Perform regular stretching exercises during work in order to reduce muscle stress;
  • Pay attention to the early signs of injury so that he can rest and recover before it develops into a serious injury; and
  • Try redesigning the work space to reduce the impact of the repetitive motions.

When a person has a repetitive stress injury, there are a number of symptoms that might present, including:

  • Redness and swelling around the bone joint;
  • Sensitivity to touching or movement;
  • Pain emanating from the area where the injury has occurred, which might be sudden and sharp or sustained and dull;
  • Pain radiating from the point of injury to the rest of the limb, head, back, or abdomen; and
  • Numbness of the injury site or the area around the injury.

When a person develops a repetitive stress injury, he may be able to recover from it with some rest, pain medication, and rehabilitation.  However, there are many cases where the person will suffer a permanent disability as a result of the injury.  Although these types of injuries should be covered by workers’ compensation insurance, these are the types of claims that an employer or the insurance company will try to deny.

It is important to realize that a person suffering from a repetitive stress injury  needs to take the time to recover from the injury.  Often, an employer will try to pressure the employee into an early return, leading to more damage.  There are times when the employer wants a company-retained doctor to evaluate the extent of the injuries.  An independent medical evaluation is important if it is necessary to pursue a claim before the Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Commission.

As an employee, you have the right to have your medical claim covered by workers’ compensation insurance if you were injured at work. The skilled and dedicated workers’ compensation attorneys at Barrett Law PLLC will sit down with you to develop the best possible legal strategy to get you the coverage that you deserve.  To start the process with a free case evaluation, call us at (800) 707-9577.  We only receive a fee if we succeed in getting you a payment on your claim.