Archive for May, 2016

More Errors That Can Derail Your Mississippi Auto Collision Claim

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

 

This is the second installment of our two-part blog highlighting common missteps made by injury victims following a car accident. If you have specific questions, we invite you to contact Barrett Law to learn about your rights.

Mistake No. 4 Signing a Release Immediately Following an Accident: There are certain types of accidents where the question of liability is reasonably clear. When the prospect of prevailing on the issue of fault is not promising, insurers look for ways to mitigate the amount they pay in a settlement or judgment. A common approach is to make a settlement offer immediately following the accident for far less than the value of the claim. However, the insurance company also will expect you to sign a release waiving any and all claims, which includes those that you do not even know exist. No documents from the insurance company should be signed until they have been reviewed by an experienced Mississippi car accident lawyer, so you can learn about your rights and legal options.

Mistake No. 5 Consenting to Provide a Recorded Statement to the Insurance Company

Recorded statements are not designed to facilitate settlement of your claim although the adjuster for the other driver’s insurance company might tell you that this is the case. The purpose is to preserve a record of you saying things that undermine your claim. The answers you give to questions might be used to shift blame for the accident to you or to establish that your loss is not as substantial as you are claiming.

Mistake No. 6 Agreeing to Settle for Policy Limits

While it might seem reasonable to settle with the adjuster for policy limits, this offer will come with strings. The adjuster will insist that you sign a release that waives all claims. Policy limits can be extremely inadequate, especially if the other driver only carries the minimum coverage that is required under Mississippi law. It is important not to waive your rights without legal advice because you might have the right to recover more against an excess liability carrier, other defendants, or underinsured motorist coverage.

Mistake 7 Failing to Seek Out the Best Mississippi Personal Injury Attorney: Although some people attempt to handle their own personal injury claim, complex legal standards, evidentiary requirements, and procedural hurdles make the civil litigation system virtually impossible to navigate without an experienced lawyer. The cost of pursuing a claim can easily be tens of thousands of dollars or more, so most people cannot afford the war chest necessary to take on large insurance companies in court. The best approach is to work with an experienced personal injury attorney with a track record of obtaining large judgements and/or settlements in similar types of cases.

Mistake 8 Ignoring the Possibility of Punitive Damages: When a court awards punitive damages, this compensation can be the largest portion of your recovery. Car accident claims need to be sufficiently investigated to determine if punitive damages are appropriate. Examples of situations where punitive damages might be awarded include accidents caused by an alcohol impaired driver, or a vehicle manufacturer that covers up evidence that its vehicle is unsafe.

If you have been injured in a motor vehicle collision or the surrounding areas, our Mississippi Personal Injury Lawyers have successfully represented many car crash victims in obtaining compensation for their injuries. At Barrett Law, we are here to help. Contact our firm today at 800-707-9577 to schedule your free consultation, so we can answer any questions you may have regarding filing your claim.

 

Reports of Spread of Deadly Bacteria by Contaminated Scopes Not Provided Promptly

Sunday, May 29th, 2016

When manufacturers of pharmaceuticals and medical devices receive reports of adverse events or side effects, the makers of these medical products have an obligation to report this information to the Federal Drug Administration (FDA).  The FDA investigates such reports and aggregates data to determine if regulatory action is needed, such as issuing a safety notice, requiring warnings on labels, or mandating a product recall.

This system only works effectively to protect the public when companies that manufacture medical devices and drugs comply with their obligation to disclose such information.  An article published in USA Today indicates that reports of contaminated medical scopes linked to the spread of a potentially fatal superbug were not provided to the FDA until months after the incidents and not at all in some cases.

Federal law requires manufacturers of medical devices to file reports within thirty days of discovering their product might pose risks to the public.  According to USA Today, the transmission of a drug-resistant bacteria via duodenoscopes to patients in eight separate hospitals between 2012 and 2014 were not reported until months after the outbreaks occurred.  There were even incidents that were never reported according to the article.

The FDA is currently conducting an ongoing investigation into the spread of the CRE bacteria via the medical devices.  The bacteria is extremely dangerous because it is resistant to virtually all types of antibiotics.  CRE also has an alarmingly high fatality rate of forty percent.  The FDA is investigating the potential for the fatal bacteria to get trapped in the scope’s crevices.  The agency has indicated that contamination and cross-infection between patients can occur even when cleaning and disinfection of the scopes have occurred.

William Maisal, deputy director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, indicated, “We are aware that there are reported duodenoscope associated infections that have occurred for which we have not received MDRs [Medical Device Reports], and we are looking into whether some of those reports should have been submitted.”

A recent congressional investigation also indicates that the scope of the problem is far more extensive than federal regulators previously suspected.  According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, approximately 350 patients at 41 medical facilities in the U.S. and worldwide have been exposed or infected by tainted gastrointestinal scopes from Jan. 1, 2010 to Oct. 31, 2015.  While the actual list sent to Congress by the FDA listed 404 patients and 44 facilities, the agency indicates that the list was assumed to include some duplicates.  A prior report estimated the number of victims as 250 and the number of affected clinics and hospitals at 25.

In the wake of the scandal, new legislation has been proposed in Congress referred to as the Device Act.  This new law would require companies to disclose to the FDA when safety warnings are issued in other countries concerning the cleaning or design of medical devices.  The mandatory disclosure would be required even if the device manufacturer was not required to seek government approval for the change.  A companion bill also is expected to be filed that imposes requirements that the cleaning instructions for medical devices be scientifically validated to ensure they are effective.

If you have been injured by a defective product, including a medical device in Jacksonville or the surrounding areas of Mississippi, our Mississippi Personal Injury Lawyers are committed to seeking the maximum compensation for victims of unsafe products.  At Barrett Law, we are here to help.  Contact our firm today at 800-707-9577 to schedule your free consultation, so we can answer any questions you may have regarding filing your claim.

Rhinos and Other ATVs Can Be Extremely Dangerous

Friday, May 20th, 2016

ATV’s are used for both farm work and recreation throughout Mississippi. Unfortunately, ATVs, including the Yamaha Rhino, come with a significant risk of serious injury and even death. There have been a number of serious Rhino and ATV accidents reported recently by media sources that have involved serious injuries and even death. These vehicles lack the structural protection and safety equipment that is standard on other motor vehicles. This lack of protection combined with the tendency of these vehicles to rollover makes their anticipated use on rough terrain particularly hazardous. ATVs have a high center of gravity and narrow wheelbase making it easy for them to tip when used on uneven terrain. Our experienced Rhino and ATV accident attorneys at Barrett Law represent those who suffer serious injury or wrongful death caused by these dangerous vehicles.

An ATV accident also can occur on residential streets because the vehicles do not handle particularly well. Further, the lack of protection means that when struck by a motor vehicle on a residential street the possibility of catastrophic injuries or fatalities is extremely high.

Hundreds of people die in ATV accidents each year, including more than 100 children. The numbers continue to rise as these off-road vehicles grow in popularity. Despite the tendency of ATVs to cause catastrophic and life threatening injuries, the use of safety equipment like a helmet, chest plate, and boots can help reduce the risk. Because head injuries constitute the leading cause of fatalities in ATV collisions, the decision to wear a helmet can significantly improve the survivability of a dangerous ATC crash.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) provides these ATV safety tips for ATV users:

  • Riders should take a hands-on safety course.
  • Drivers and passengers (if any) should always wear protective gear.
  • Most ATVs are designed for only one, so you should not load on an additional passengers unless the vehicle is built for multiple riders.
  • If you are under 16 years old, you should only ride a child-sized ATV.
  • Riders should avoid streets and highways when piloting ATVs.
  • Operators should never drive an ATV under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Driving safe when on an ATV is important, but sometimes you can do everything right and still be involved in a serious ATV or Rhino accident. The defective design, manufacture, or assembly of these vehicles cause many ATV and Rhino accidents. Other Rhino and ATV accidents result in injury to passengers from negligent Rhino operators or from motorists in other vehicles. If you have suffered serious injury or a loved one has suffered wrongful death in an SUV or Rhino accident, our experienced Mississippi personal injury attorneys will evaluate your situation and advise you regarding your rights to financial compensation. Our experienced team zealously pursues the best possible outcome when handling serious injury cases.

If you have been injured while riding an all-terrain vehicle, our Mississippi ATV Accident Lawyers are committed to seeking the maximum compensation for victims of dangerous vehicles. At Barrett Law, we are here to help. Contact our firm today at 800-707-9577 to schedule your free consultation, so we can answer any questions you may have regarding filing your claim.

 

Can a Mississippi Worker Sue an Employer for an On-The-Job Injury?

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

Our Mississippi worker’s compensation attorney often hear from people who suffer a workplace injury and wonder about their right to file a personal injury lawsuit against their employer. Although the general rule is that an employee cannot file a lawsuit against an employer for work-related injuries, this does not mean that injured workers are without effective options to obtain compensation for their job-related injuries. While the Mississippi worker’s compensation system will constitute the sole remedy of an injured worker against his or her employer in most situations, employees can obtain justice and full compensation for their workplace injuries by pursuing worker’s compensation benefit from an employer and a third-party lawsuit.

Although injured workers are rarely happy to hear they cannot sue their employer for a workplace injury caused by the employer’s negligence, most Mississippi employer must carry worker’s compensation insurance (unless they self-insure). While worker’s compensation will constitute the sole remedy for an employee against an employer in most situations, there are advantages for the employee in using this system. One important benefit of a worker’s compensation claim is that an employee can get virtually all medical care and treatment handled without out-of-pocket expenses. The employer and insurance carrier cannot ask the employee to pay his own medical bills or to use private health insurance. In fact, the employee should not even receive a bill from the medical provider when a worker’s compensation claim is pending.

An additional benefit of pursuing a claim is that an employee is not forced to incur the delay and potential expense of litigation to obtain worker’s compensation benefits. Since the Mississippi worker’s compensation system is a “no fault”: system, an employee only needs to establish that he or she experienced an injury or occupational illness while engaged in conduct for the benefit of an employer. A personal injury lawsuit can take months or even years to be resolved, so an employee might not have medical expenses covered or receive wage replacement in a timely manner if litigation was required to receive benefits. However, the worker’s compensation system permits the employee to receive necessary and appropriate medical care and compensation for wage loss promptly without any requirement that the employer be shown to have “negligently” caused the injuries.

While the worker’s compensation system offers the benefits of speed and efficiency without the hassle of litigation, the types and amount of compensation received generally will be less than might be recovered in a personal injury lawsuit. Benefits include medical care, partial wage replacement, and compensation for long-term disability. However, claimants cannot receive monetary awards for losses like pain and suffering, emotional distress, impaired enjoyment of life, loss of consortium, punitive damages, or certain other types of damages.

This deficiency in the recovery available through worker’s compensation can be overcome by pursuing a third-party lawsuit against a negligent party other than the claimant’s employer. A personal injury claim against another party opens up access to the full range of damages available in a personal injury lawsuit. Generally, the fault of the third-party for causing the injury (at least in part) will have to be established to prevail in a third-party lawsuit. However, strict liability might be appropriate if defective machinery or tools caused your injury.

If you have been injured in a workplace accident or developed an occupational illness, our Mississippi Personal Injury Lawyers are committed to seeking the maximum compensation for victims of workplace injuries. At Barrett Law, we are here to help. Contact our firm today at 800-707-9577 to schedule your free consultation, so we can answer any questions you may have regarding filing your claim.

 

 

 

Mississippi Qui Tam Attorneys Discuss Complication in Determining Statute of Limitation for Whistleblower’s Termination

Sunday, May 15th, 2016

This blog previously has addressed protections for whistleblowers who are terminated for pursuing a qui tam claim or otherwise disclosing wrongdoing by their employer. However, many people do not understand the complex legal and procedural challenges to pursuing a qui tam action or a wrongful termination lawsuit related to disclosing employer false billings and/or schemes to defraud federal and state governments of public funds. Although some people attempt to navigate the whistleblower process without legal representation, there are procedural and timing deadlines that must be satisfied to avoid derailing your claim or forfeiting employee whistleblower protections.

While the statute of limitations might seem like a straightforward issue, whistleblowers can face challenges in determining the date by which a lawsuit must be filed when an employer retaliates. In Community Care Center of Aberdeen v. Barrentine, 160 So.3d 216 (2015), the Supreme Court of Mississippi considered whether a wrongful termination claim based on retribution for reporting abuse in a nursing home was subject to the statute of limitations for breach of contract or tort actions.

The plaintiff was the employee of a nursing home who filed a wrongful termination lawsuit more than a year after her discharge, which occurred shortly following her report to the state of suspected abuse of a patient. The nursing home sought to have the case dismissed based on the contention that the legal claim was barred by the one-year statute of limitations for breach of a written employment contract. The plaintiff contended that the appropriate statute of limitations was the three-year period applicable to torts based on the public policy exception.

In analyzing these competing statute of limitation arguments, the state’s highest court initially observed that the state recognized a narrow exception to the employment at will doctrine. Generally, this doctrine permits an employer to fire an employee for any reason or no reason at all. The Supreme Court of Mississippi noted that in a previous decision it ruled that “an employee shall not be barred by the common law rule of employment at will from bringing an action in tort for damages against an employer when the basis for the termination is a refusal by the employee to participate in illegal conduct.” (McArn v. Allied Bruce-Terminix Co., Inc., 626 So.2d 603 (Miss. 1993). In McArn, the employee alleged he was terminated for reporting to the Department of Agriculture that customers’ properties were not being treated properly with extermination chemicals. (Citations Omitted).

The Supreme Court of Mississippi considered the conflicting decisions from other states while acknowledging the issue had not been previously determined by Mississippi’s highest court. The court found two competing approaches in its prior decisions regarding the appropriate statute of limitations on employment-related claims. Decisions where the dispute concerned issues related to “traditional employer-employee situations,” such as non-payment of a benefit granted under the employment agreement, the one year statute of limitations was applied. However, the court observed that tort claims for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy, such as retaliation against a whistleblower, have no relationship to the terms of the employment agreement. Therefore, the court reasoned that wrongful termination under these circumstances amounts to “an independent tort action” unconnected to the traditional employment agreement.

Based on this analysis, the employer’s motion for summary judgment was denied. This permitted the employee who disclosed illegal conduct by the nursing home that resulted in harm to the public to be protected from retribution from his or her employer. When you are considering a qui tam action to disclose wrongdoing by your employer, our Mississippi qui tam lawyers recognize that you will be concerned about your job and your employer’s ability to punish you for disclosing misconduct.

Because our law firm represents whistleblowers in actions under a range of statutes based on false, fraudulent, and illegal conduct committed against the federal government and the State of Mississippi, we can effectively represent clients in pursuing whistleblower actions and advise them regarding their right to protection from retaliation. If you have evidence of illegal activity or fraud by your employer, you are invited to contact the experienced Qui Tam Attorneys at Barrett Law to learn how we can help. Our Mississippi Whistleblower Lawyers have been representing conscientious employees throughout Mississippi for over 75 years. We offer personalized legal representation and zealous advocacy. We provide a free initial case evaluation so call us today at 662-834-2376. No Recovery No Fee!

 

 

Study Indicates Rise of New Forms of Distracted Driving: Selfies & Social Media Activity

Saturday, May 14th, 2016

While distracted driving has always been a significant cause of car accidents that result in serious injury, cell phones have magnified the danger because so many people own mobile phones that perform an expanding array of “apps”. Although the majority of drivers are aware that texting on a cell phone is one of the most dangerous forms of distracted driving, people continue to discover new risky practices that endanger those with whom they share the roadways. A study conducted by AT&T reveals that cell phone distractions go far beyond texting and driving.

While no text message or telephone call is worth causing an auto accident, drivers are finding even less important reasons to endanger the safety of vehicle occupants, motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. The AT&T study found the following disturbing results in terms of the prevalence of frivolous uses of cell phones while driving:

  • 27 percent of drivers between the ages of 16 and 65 use cell phone for Facebook
  • 14 percent of drivers use cell phones for Twitter
  • 30 percent of motorists admitted using their cell phone to tweet “all the time”
  • 28 percent surf the web
  • Over 10 percent use Snapchat and Instagram
  • 17 percent use their cell phone to take selfies
  • Over 10 percent video chat with Skype or other apps

AT&T conducted the study to promote awareness regarding the risk of using portable electronic devices while driving. Despite past public awareness campaigns, more than 62 percent of drivers continue to report that they keep their cell phone within reach when driving. Further, 22 percent of drivers admit using their cell phone for social networking while operating a motor vehicle.

The vast majority of the public condemns drinking and driving as unacceptable because of the toll drunk drivers exact in terms of accident-related injuries and fatalities. However, the growth in new types of cell phone use while driving suggests that people might still have a more tolerant view of distracted driving.

This more accepting attitude is alarming given that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that texting while driving is six times more dangerous than alcohol impaired driving. Motorists engage in multi-tasking behavior while driving approximately half the time they spend behind the wheel. This failure of motorists to focus all of their attention on their driving leads to a million accidents, including 16 percent of fatal accidents annually.

When a distracted driver who is using a cell phone rear-ends a vehicle stopped for traffic, drifts into an adjacent lane, or otherwise causes a collision, the distracted driver can be liable for causing injury to others involved in the collision. Victims of distracted drivers should seek legal advice promptly following a collision because distracted driving can be difficult to prove. Although texting on a cell phone can be proven by obtaining cell phone records from a phone carrier, some cell phone activity can be more difficult to establish. Selfies, social media posts, and similar activities may create evidence that can be obtained by an experienced Mississippi personal injury attorney.

If you have been injured in a traffic accident in Jacksonville or the surrounding areas of Mississippi, our Mississippi Auto Accident Lawyers have successfully represented many victims of distracted drivers in obtaining compensation for their injuries. At Barrett Law, we are here to help. Contact our firm today at 800-707-9577 to schedule your free consultation, so we can answer any questions you may have regarding filing your claim.

 

 

 

Common Mistakes People Make After Suffering Injury in an Auto Accident

Thursday, May 12th, 2016

When you are experiencing intense pain and the emotional distress associated with a car accident, your judgment can be understandably impaired. Motorists who drive while impaired by an intoxicating substance or while texting on a cell phone can be held financially responsible if they cause crashes that result in injury to vehicle occupants, bicyclists, or pedestrians. Since liability is not automatic even if the other driver is intoxicated, the actions an injury victim takes following a motor vehicle crash can have a profound impact on an individual’s financial recovery.

The Mississippi car accident lawyers at Barrett Law have made it their goal to tenaciously pursue the fullest financial recovery for victims of negligent drivers for decades. Because we see how avoiding certain mistakes is essential to maximizing recovery in a car accident claim, we invite you to review this two-part blog highlighting common mistakes that injury victims make after a collision.

Mistake No. 1 Failing to Exchange Insurance Information: Drivers who do not immediately notice injuries sometimes fail to exchange information with the other driver because neither vehicle is damaged in the crash. The decision to forgo obtaining driver’s license, insurance, and contact information from the other driver can have devastating consequences if you subsequently experience injury symptoms. The assumption that a lack of damage to the vehicles means you were not seriously injured is absolutely false. The bumpers of motor vehicles are designed to withstand the force of a collision, but the human body can be injured by far less energy.

Mistake No. 2 Permitting the Other Driver’s Insurance Adjuster to Visit You in Person: Even if the insurance adjuster for the at-fault driver seems amicable, a face-to-face meeting without legal representation is an extremely bad idea. The job of the insurance adjuster is to minimize the liability of his or her employer. The adjuster can use this meeting to observe your behavior for examples of conduct that might be considered inconsistent with your reported injuries. The adjuster also will note inconsistent statements or admissions that might be used by the insurer to justify denying your claim.

Mistake No. 3 Failing to Promptly Obtain Medical Attention: The emotional upheaval and shock associated with an auto accident can mask symptoms arising from car crash injuries. When injury victims procrastinate in obtaining medical care, a prognosis can worsen, or valuable medical evidence and records can be lost. The insurance company typically will point to the delay itself as evidence that a claimant did not suffer serious injury. A lapse in time between the accident and medical attention also can give rise to the argument that your injuries are attributable to a cause other than the crash.

If you have been injured in a motor vehicle collision or the surrounding areas, our Mississippi Car Accident Lawyers have successfully represented many car crash victims in obtaining compensation for their injuries. At Barrett Law, we are here to help. Contact our firm today at 800-707-9577 to schedule your free consultation, so we can answer any questions you may have regarding filing your claim.

 

What Every Driver Should Know about Semi-Truck “Black Boxes”

Monday, May 9th, 2016

If you are involved in a trucking accident, certain types of evidence will be critical to proving negligent conduct by the commercial carrier, trucking company, independent maintenance company, or other parties. The truck’s event data recorder (EDR) often constitutes one of the most critical sources of evidence in trucking accident lawsuits. These data recorders (also referred to as “black boxes”) are much like the black box on a commercial airline, so it can be used to determine events that occur immediately prior to a crash to facilitate analysis of the cause of a crash. Because the evidence obtained from an EDR typically has a significant impact on the outcome of a trucking accident claim, this blog answers common questions about this form of evidence in trucking cases.

What is a “black box”?

These devices record data from a motor vehicle prior to and/or during a collision. Law enforcement and regulatory investigators can download this information from the device’s memory to assist in interpreting the accident, evaluating the performance of safety equipment, and determining fault. Many EDRs record data transmitted by the engine control module regarding pre-crash speed, application of brakes, number of impacts, time between impacts, seat belt and air bag performance, speed immediately prior to impact, and throttle position.

Are EDRs mandatory for large trucks?

Vehicles with a weight rating higher than 8,500 pounds are exempt from regulations promulgated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regarding EDRs. However, many commercial carriers install both data recorders and video inside a semi-truck because the trucking company can use this equipment to improve fuel efficiency, monitor excessive speeds, identify improper routes, defend against lawsuits, and monitor other misuse of fleet vehicles.

There are even more advanced EDRs capable of recording more detailed information. The NHTSA mandates that these more sophisticated recorders store data on driver steering input, activation of electronic stability control (ESC) systems, occupant size, occupant position, and engagement of antilock brakes.

Even when data recorders are not installed, many heavy trucks are equipped with engine recorders. The information recorded by these devices is not nearly as extensive as that recorded by an EDR, but the information can still be critical to a semi-truck accident claim. This more limited information typically includes engine fault codes, hard braking, and the last time the vehicle engine was switched off or the vehicle stopped.

Can EDR data be used in civil or criminal litigation?

Information obtained from an EDR can be extremely helpful during both civil and criminal proceeding following a tractor-trailer collision. When our Mississippi trucking accident attorneys work with accident reconstruction experts, the data from a “black box” can be critical in confirming theories of liability, exposing misrepresentations about the truck’s location or hours of service, and furnishing evidence of liability not available through other sources. State law will dictate when the data can be introduced as evidence in a civil lawsuit.

Must the trucking company preserve data recorded by a large truck’s EDR?

EDRs typically have the ability to record for 30 days or some other period before the device will begin recording over existing data, but older units might have far less recording capacity. Once the recording capacity has been exhausted, the device will begin recording over stored data.

Further, some states have passed laws designating that the data is the property of the trucking company. This means that the trucking company might have the right to destroy the information in the wake of a collision unless legal steps are taken to prevent the commercial carrier from conveniently erasing the information.

Depending on the state, a restraining order might be necessary to ensure preservation of the data. Another option involves a trucking accident attorney sending a letter to the trucking company indicating that the information stored in the EDR is the subject of litigation, so it must be preserved. This form of correspondence, which is referred to as a “spoliation letter,” can expose the trucking company to sanctions from the court if the information is altered or lost. These sanctions might result in an attorney fee award or sanctions like an instruction to the jury that the lost information should be presumed to be favorable to the plaintiff.

While law firms representing injury victims must act promptly to preserve “black box” data, this issue can be complicated based on the jurisdiction where the case is being litigated. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and many states impose requirements for the preservation of electronic data.

How can an EDR be used in a trucking accident lawsuits to prove liability?

There is a multitude of ways that this evidence could be useful, but a few examples are provided below:

  • Contradicting distorted entries regarding hours of service in a driver’s logbook
  • Confirming witness testimony that the truck was speeding
  • Verifying that the truck driver did not apply the brakes prior to rear-ending another vehicle
  • Disputing the claim the tractor-trailer was at another location at the time of the collision
  • Exposing neglected maintenance and related failure of the brakes or other vehicle systems

If you have been injured in a tractor-trailer accident in Jacksonville or the surrounding areas, our Mississippi Trucking Accident Lawyers have successfully represented many victims of negligent commercial drivers and trucking companies in obtaining compensation for their injuries. At Barrett Law, we are here to help. Contact our firm today at 800-707-9577 to schedule your free consultation, so we can answer any questions you may have regarding filing your claim.

 

 

Progress in Medical Certification of Truck Drivers Making Roads Safer

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

Our trucking accident attorneys recognize the importance of ensuring that commercial truck drivers are medically fit to operate tractor-trailers, which can weigh as much as 25 times more than a passenger car. While federal law has long required medical certificates confirming that a truck driver is medically fit as a condition of keeping a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), this safety requirement offered limited comfort until recently because no significant standards were imposed for who could sign off on the driver’s fitness. However, changes in recent times by federal regulators to impose standards on who can certify a commercial driver as medically fit promise safer Mississippi roadways.

The benefits of this change in trucking safety regulations are worth revisiting because of the potential impact on roadway safety. Until the recent change, drivers could seek medical certification from virtually any individual within the medical field including a nurse practitioner or chiropractor. Further, there were no standards in terms of how the examination should be conducted nor what types of impairments or conditions would be found to disqualify a truck driver.

A 2008 congressional investigation revealed the even more troubling finding that a third of all medical certificates reviewed by law enforcement during vehicle stops could not be confirmed as authentic or accurate. The person who signed off on the inspection either did not exist or would not confirm ever conducting an examination. The process was so informal that there was nothing to prevent truck drivers from copying the name, contact information, and medical license number of a doctor off the web to falsify the form. Since the forms were rarely verified, truck drivers could engage in this form of fraud with little risk of being detected.

The danger posed by having a truck driver on the road who suffers from a serious medical condition can hardly be understated. Because of the average age of truck drivers and the amount of time they spend engaged in the sedentary activity of driving, there is a high prevalence of obesity-related health conditions in the trucking industry, such as sleep apnea and diabetes, which can render a truck driver unconscious. A University of Pennsylvania study found that 28 percent of truck drivers suffer from sleep apnea. The seriousness of the problem was revealed by the fact that the congressional investigation referenced above found that 560,000 truck drivers were receiving full medical disability benefits.

Prior to the changes, there was no electronic data base where the certificates could be reviewed, so law enforcement officers were required to rely on paper forms produced by the truck driver. The lack of a computerized system left law enforcement officers without a way to verify that the medical certification was valid. Even if an officer attempted to contact the doctor who signed the certificate, medical privacy laws prevented the medical professional from disclosing information about the driver’s medical condition without a signed waiver.

Fortunately, changes have targeted medically unfit truck drivers. In December 2008, a federal law was passed requiring all states to merge medical certificates and commercial driver’s licenses into a single electronic record for each driver, but states were given three years to comply with this requirement.

Arguably, the most significant change was implemented in May of 2014 when drivers were compelled to have their medical examination performed by a qualified health professional listed with the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners. The law imposed standards for training and testing of medical professionals seeking to qualify for the registry. The US DOT medical examination was also defined to include health conditions that affect driver safety-related to respiratory and muscular functions, vision, hearing, and cardiovascular disease. Because the prospect of an 80,000 pound tractor-trailer combination being driven by a medically compromised driver is a terrifying prospect, these changes are generally welcomed by the commercial trucking safety.

If you have been injured in a tractor-trailer accident in Jacksonville or the surrounding areas, our Mississippi Trucking Accident Lawyers have successfully represented many big-rig collision victims in obtaining compensation for their injuries. At Barrett Law, we are here to help. Contact our firm today at 800-707-9577 to schedule your free consultation, so we can answer any questions you may have regarding filing your claim.

 

 

FMCSA Sets Higher Standards for Random Drug Testing of Truck Drivers Than for Rail, Vessel and Aviation Segments of Economy

Sunday, May 1st, 2016

When vehicles weighing thousands of pounds and traveling at freeway speeds collide, the result can by permanent debilitating injuries and fatalities. The danger increases when one of the vehicles is an 80,000 pound fully loaded tractor-trailer. When the driver of the forty ton big-rig is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the potential danger posed to others on Mississippi roadways rises to alarming levels. Despite this frightening reality, commercial drivers often opt to use drugs to cope with pressures at home, boredom on the road, and fatigue behind the wheel. Although the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) continues to regulate the trucking industry by imposing screening procedures that target intoxicating substances, the threat to public safety caused by impaired truck drivers has not disappeared.

 

The magnitude of the problem is reflected by the continued priority that the federal government places on substance abuse testing of tractor-trailer operators. While federal safety regulators impose random drug testing on many people employed in the transportation industry, the level of testing by the FMCSA exceeds similar testing by the Federal Aviation Commission, Federal Railroad Administration, and other agencies under the auspices of the Department of Transportation (DOT).

 

The FMCSA found that random drug sampling in 2015 remained at the same 50 percent rate as the prior year. This level of testing requires trucking companies to perform one random drug test for every two drivers. If the trucking company employs 250 drivers, for example, the company will be required to administer 125 random drug tests. This fifty percent standard is double that set by the federal government for most other transportation agencies during the same period, which include the following: Federal Aviation Commission, Federal Transit Authority, United States Coast Guard, Federal Railroad Administration, and the Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

A worldwide study of the use of intoxicating substances by truck drivers that was published in the Occupation and Environmental Journal was noted by the FMCSA in comments to Reuters, “Safety is our number one priority and the FMCSA has strict requirements on pre-employment screening and random and post-accident drug and alcohol testing….”

The study also found that certain truck drivers were more likely to be prone to test positive for drugs or alcohol. Offending drivers were more typically young and inexperienced. Offending drivers were also prone to working nighttime shifts and navigating longer routes. The companies that employed these drivers also tended to be small to medium firms as opposed to large trucking companies. The authors of the study speculated that perhaps larger trucking companies can provide higher salaries and better working conditions. They also suggested that larger trucking companies might be less prone to demand longer driving times and short rest periods, which provide a motivation to use amphetamines, cocaine, marijuana, and other controlled substances that fight stress, fatigue, and boredom.

Despite federal regulations that mandate screening for intoxicating substances and random drug testing, commercial carriers that disobey these requirements continue to permit drug-impaired truck drivers to navigate our roadways. If you or your love one is injured by a drug-impaired truck driver, you may have a legal claim for damages against the negligent truck driver and/or the indifferent trucking company that fails to conduct required screening, to report infractions, and/or to implement appropriate disciplinary action.

If you have been injured in a commercial trucking accident in Jacksonville or the surrounding areas, our Mississippi Truck Accident Lawyers have successfully represented many victims of negligent truckers and commercial carriers in obtaining compensation for their injuries. At Barrett Law, we are here to help. Contact our firm today at 800-707-9577 to schedule your free consultation, so we can answer any questions you may have regarding filing your claim.