Lorain woman survives train-car accident

By Arthur Elk

Did you know that every two hours, a person or vehicle is hit by a train somewhere in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there were about 2,000 vehicle-train crashes in 2011 causing 271 deaths and about 1,000 injuries.

This weekend, an Ohio woman was lucky enough to survive after the car she was driving on Oberlin Road in Amherst Township was struck by a train.

Miriam Matesic, 78, of Lorain was injured Sunday afternoon when her car was struck by a train at a Norfolk Southern railroad crossing. She was taken by medical helicopter to MetroHealth Hospital in Cleveland.

In my nearly four decades as an attorney, I have seen incidents where people disregard warning signs or gates and try to outrun an oncoming train, resulting in an accident. But there are also many cases where railroad crossings are improperly marked or warning lights do not function properly. Some crossings are poorly lit or even completely unlit. Railroad companies are responsible for making sure all their crossings are as safe as possible and all warning devices are functioning properly. When they don’t, they must be held accountable.

No matter the cause of the accident, train accidents can be deadly and have long-term consequences for victims and their families. At Elk & Elk, we have experienced train accident attorneys and we work with leading experts from around the world in railroad accident reconstruction.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a railroad accident, please contact us today. Call 1-800-ELK-OHIO or fill out our online form and find out how we can help you get the compensation you deserve.

 

 

Winter weather causes multiple accidents, closing I-90

By Arthur Elk

Whiteout conditions and icy roads caused more than 22 accidents Wednesday afternoon on a 20-mile stretch of I-90 in Northeast Ohio.

According to the Chardon post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, lanes in both directions were closed at State Route 44 in Concord Township. Hundreds of motorists were stranded for hours as emergency crews and law enforcement personnel worked to clear the road.

I watched the news and images from the scene were horrific. One car was trapped between two semis. A big rig ended up on top of a Volkswagen Bug. Dozens of vehicles were crushed and mangled from the collisions.

In spite of how bad the accident looked and the incredibly large number of vehicles involved, the Highway Patrol said there were no serious injuries.

All of these people were very lucky that they were able to walk away from and survive these accidents. As a personal injury attorney, I’ve seen the deadly results of motor vehicle accidents too many times. Lives lost, families devastated and futures cut short. Many accidents can be avoided if people simply planned ahead and used a little extra caution when behind the wheel.

It’s important to give yourself a little extra time when you are traveling on snow-covered roads. Don’t be in such a hurry to get somewhere that you have to drive faster than you should, and end up causing an accident. Always assume that the road that only looks wet might actually be ice-covered, too. And most importantly, keep your attention on the road, not on your cell phone or GPS.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, call us today at 1-800-ELK-OHIO or check out our website to find out how we can help you.

Arthur Elk: Stay safe on your snowmobile this winter

By Arthur Elk

Northeast Ohio was hit hard by snow this week. For many, that means the frustration of longer commutes, dangerous roads and shoveling snow. But for others, the piles of snow mean the opportunity to break out their snowboards or gas up their snowmobiles.

More than 2 million Americans enjoy snowmobiling every winter. It’s a fun, exciting pastime that riders of all ages can enjoy. However, the weight of the vehicle and the high-speed capability of the vehicle can be a dangerous combination, especially for new riders or riders who are impaired by alcohol. Snowmobile accidents result in more than 14,000 injuries and 200 deaths each year in the United States.

A 48-year-old Ashtabula County man died Tuesday evening after he crashed his snowmobile.  Authorities said the snowmobile ran off the right side of the road, striking a ditch and then a tree, where Steven Pawlowski, who troopers said was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash, was ejected from the vehicle. Police said they believe alcohol may have been a factor but the crash is still under investigation.

One of the greatest risk factors for having an accident on a snowmobile, as with every motor vehicle, is drinking alcohol. Drinking alcohol before operating any kind of motorized vehicle is never a smart choice. It slows your reflexes and affects your decision-making process. And when you are traveling at speeds up to 90 mph on a 600-pound snowmobile, every second counts.

For a safe and enjoyable season, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources offers these tips:

  • Always keep your machine in top mechanical condition.
  • Always wear insulated boots and protective clothing including a helmet, gloves and eye protection.
  • Never ride alone.
  • Avoid, when possible, crossing frozen bodies of water.
  • Never operate in a single file when crossing frozen bodies of water.
  • Always be alert to avoid fences and low strung wires.
  • Never operate on a street or highway.
  • Always look for depressions in the snow.
  • Keep headlights and taillights on at all times.
  • When approaching an intersection, come to a complete stop, raise off the seat and look for traffic.
  • Always check the weather conditions before you depart.

So get out there and enjoy the snow while you can, and remember these tips. I hope you all have a safe and fun snowmobiling season.

Stryker reverses course on hip systems, recommends patients get checked

By Arthur Elk

More than six months after recalling two popular modular hip systems, Stryker is telling any patients with the hips in their bodies to visit their doctor and get tested.

In June 2012, the company issued a voluntary recall of its Rejuvenate and ABG II modular hip systems. The company made the move after patients began experiencing pain and swelling around the hip caused by metal corrosion and tissue destruction.

At the time, the company said that only patients who were experiencing symptoms needed to be checked by their doctors.

After many years of practicing law as a personal injury attorney, I have seen too many cases where companies have issued such statements and patients who were not experiencing symptoms at the time have gone on to experience serious, often fatal, complications. So I couldn’t believe when Stryker gave such questionable advice.

Now, the company has wisely reversed course and is urging all patients who have these recalled devices in their body to undergo blood testing. If the blood work up reveals elevated metals and tissue reaction, the company says the doctor should consider removing the device and replacing it with a non-modular device.

According to the company’s website, Stryker has now hired a company called Broadspire to administrate the claims process for future incurred medical expenses. We are glad to see the company plans to compensate patients for replacement of faulty hips to prevent continued injury to patients. But why did it take the company so long to give patients the correct advice? How many patients had to suffer unnecessarily because Stryker didn’t recommend all patients be checked at the time of the recall?

If you have one of the recalled devices in your body, please visit your doctor as soon as possible. They will be able to discuss your specific situation and help you decide whether you should remove the device.

At Elk & Elk, we have nearly five decades of experience helping victims of medical device recalls. If you have suffered pain and suffering because of the Stryker Rejuvenate or ABG II systems, please call us today at 1-800-ELK-OHIO or visit our website and find out how we can help you.

 

Arthur Elk: Energy drinks pose a real health risk

By Arthur Elk

energy-drinksIn the past four or five years, energy drinks have surged in popularity. I have watched as brand names like 5-Hour Energy, Red Bull and Monster have become part of our culture. The supercharged caffeinated drinks are especially popular among teens and young adults.

Unfortunately, the surge in popularity of these products has also seen an increase in emergency room visits associated with energy drinks. A recent survey of the nation’s hospitals was conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The survey found that from 2007 to 2011, the number of emergency room visits involving the beverages more than doubled from about 10,000 to more than 20,000. Most of those cases involved teens or young adults.

The report doesn’t specify which symptoms brought people to emergency rooms. But it calls energy drink consumption a “rising public health problem” that can cause insomnia, nervousness, headache, fast heartbeat and seizures.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is considering requiring these drink to include new health warnings on the labels. In November, the FDA reported that 5-Hour Energy had been linked to 13 deaths and Monster drinks had been tied to five deaths.

I understand that sometimes we all feel a little tired or need a boost of energy. But these energy drinks are a serious health concern, especially for young people, and are not the answer. Consuming such large quantities of caffeine can be very dangerous. New warning labels should be added to these products, but labels can be ignored. More education about the dangers of these products should be done to help prevent any more needless deaths.

If you are the parent of a teen or young adult, please make sure they know the truth about these drinks. Let them know they are not just another fun, safe drink like pop or coffee.

At Elk & Elk, we are very concerned about dangerous products and want everyone to be aware when a new safety issue arises. To find out more about us, visit our website.

New laws tackle social media password issue

By Arthur Elk

Last year, we started hearing about a new privacy concern for employees and even job seekers. News stories were popping up everywhere about bosses and interviewers asking for social media passwords so they could see what people were posting online.

At that time, it was obvious that existing laws in most states didn’t cover this issue. Unfortunately, it always takes time for the law to catch up with technology, and this was another case of that happening.

In 2013, five states have new laws going into effect that will make it illegal for employers to demand social networking passwords or non-public online account information from their employees or job applicants.

California and Illinois had laws go into effect on Jan. 1 and Maryland, New Jersey and Delaware have new laws taking effect later this year. Michigan enacted a similar ban last year, making a total of six states with a ban.

Other states are also considering similar Facebook password laws that will protect an employee’s or potential employee’s personal information.

I am glad to see state legislatures taking action to protect workers’ privacy. No employer should be able to force them to give up their personal, private information.

Tip: Make sure that your social media privacy settings are at the level you want them. If you don’t have them set properly, anyone may be able to see things that you only intended for your family and friends to see. And then no law will help you.

What do you think about these laws? Should employers be able to ask an employee or job applicant for their social media passwords? Please let us know by commenting on this post.

Judge sentences drunk driver to view accident victims

By Arthur Elk

Drunk driving is a tragic problem in our country. Thousands of people lose their lives senselessly each year because of the wrong choices others make to get behind the wheel after drinking.

As a personal injury attorney, I’ve seen the sad consequences of drunk driving too many times. Often, the drunk drivers are repeat offenders. If you’re like me, you’ve heard too many stories on the news about drivers being convicted of drunk driving for the 10th, 15th or even the 20th time.

That’s why I was very interested to hear about the unique sentence a Northeast Ohio judge imposed on a first-time drunk driving offender earlier this week.

Painesville Municipal Court Judge Mike Cicconetti is known for handing down some interesting sentences.  In  2005, Cicconetti sentenced 26-year-old Michelle Murray to spend a night out in the cold for abandoning 33 kittens in the dead of winter, nine of which died.

In Cicconetti’s court on Tuesday, first time OVI offender Jonathan Tarase, 27, was sentenced to 65 days in jail, with 60 of the days suspended, probation for six months, a $600 fine and no driving privileges for 15 days. But there was another twist. Tarase will have to view the bodies of two car accident victims at a local hospital ER or coroner’s office. Cicconetti wants to make sure that Tarase learns the lesson that drunken driving kills.

I think it’s great to see a judge thinking of creative new ways to fight the deadly problem of drunk driving. If just this one offender can learn a lesson and never drive drunk again, the experiment will be a success. Hopefully other judges will continue to come up with other new ways to try to keep drunk drivers off the road.

Please stay safe. Don’t drink and drive.

 

Which type of vehicle is best for winter weather?

Last month, our poll question asked what kind of vehicle do you drive: front wheel drive, rear wheel drive, four wheel drive or all wheel drive? Fifty percent of respondents said their vehicles are four wheel drive. Another 25 percent said front wheel and 25 percent said rear wheel.

Each type of vehicle has its upside and its downside. It’s up to you to decide what kind of driving you do most and figure out which kind of vehicle will best meet your driving needs.

Here is a quick look at the different types of drivetrains:

Rear wheel drive

The main advantage rear wheel drive cars offer is better balance and better handling. While a front wheel drive car has most of the weight of the engine and transaxle over the front wheels, a rear wheel drive car spreads the weight of its drivetrain more evenly front-to-rear. This is why most sports cars are rear wheel drive. However, one big negative is that rear wheel drive cars are very weak in poor weather conditions such as rain or snow. A rear wheel drive car is more prone to loss of traction on slick roads. But if you are lucky enough to live somewhere with very mild winters, you probably won’t mind driving a rear wheel drive vehicle.

 

Front wheel drive

One big advantage of a front wheel drive vehicle is economy. It is cheaper to design and build a front wheel drive car because there are fewer parts and the drivetrain is easier and cheaper to install. Front wheel drive also helps cut down the car’s weight by eliminating the separate transmission and axle assemblies used in a rear wheel drive car. This, in turn helps the car get better gas mileage. This is why front wheel drive is most commonly found in economy-type and lower-cost cars. Also, front wheel drive vehicles handle better than rear wheel drive vehicles in poor weather conditions because the front wheels pull the car instead of the rear wheels pushing it. And, the weight of the engine/transaxle sits on top of the (front) drive wheels, which further helps the car get a grip. The downside is that front wheel drive cars are front-heavy, which isn’t optimal for handling. In addition, the wheels that drive the car also must steer the car, which can be another negative factor when it comes to handling.

 

Four wheel drive

This system is typically found in pick-up trucks and truck-based SUVs. Most 4WD systems work “part-time” — engine power goes only to the rear wheels until the driver (or, in the case of automatic systems, the onboard computer) engages the front axles. Typically, the power split front-to-rear is not adjustable. When in four wheel drive mode, the front wheels get 50 percent of the engine’s output and the rear wheels get the other 50 percent in a fixed-ratio split. Four wheel drive systems are great for dealing with very heavy snow on unplowed roads and for off-road driving on muddy, uneven terrain. One downside to four wheel drive systems is the extra weight they add to your vehicle, which decreases your gas mileage

 

All wheel drive

This is a system in which engine power can be sent to all four wheels — or even to individual wheels — as necessary to maintain traction. All wheel drive provides excellent all-year/all-weather grip on snow-covered roads in winter and improves handling on dry (or wet) paved roads in summer. One advantage all wheel drive systems have over four wheel drive systems is they do not require any driver involvement; power is automatically routed to the wheels with the most traction. And they can send as much as 90 percent of the engine’s power to the front (or rear) wheels, as the traction situation dictates. The downside to all wheel drive is that it can add to the purchase cost of a vehicle.

The bottom line is that no matter which type of vehicle you drive, you still have to be cautious when driving in bad weather conditions, whether it be snow-covered roads or rain-dampened roads. In fact, if you drive an all wheel drive or four wheel drive vehicle which handles better in the snow, you may be prone to drive faster than you should, because even though these vehicles handle the road better, they don’t necessarily help you stop or turn any better in slick conditions.

Always drive appropriately for the weather. On snow-covered roads, make slow, cautious changes in direction and brake smoothly to maintain traction. Leave plenty of room between you and other vehicles, keep your eyes on the road and drive defensively. Avoid sudden or abrupt changes or movements.

Six people killed on Ohio’s roads during New Year’s holiday

By Arthur Elk

Every year, the New Year’s holiday is one of the deadliest times of year on our country’s roads. The mix of wintry weather in much of the country and impaired drivers can make a very dangerous combination.

The Ohio Highway Patrol reports that six people were killed on Ohio’s roadways during the New Year’s holiday reporting period, which was Monday, Dec. 31, 2012, and Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013. Last year, 14 people were killed in Ohio during the four-day New Year’s holiday reporting period.

In 2012, the number of people killed on Ohio roads increased compared with 2011’s record low, even as troopers from the State Highway Patrol made thousands more stops for drug violations, impaired driving and other problems. The patrol reported at least 1,056 deaths in 962 fatal crashes during the past year, up from 1,015 deaths in 2011, which was the lowest total since record-keeping began in 1936.

The patrol has set the goal of lowering the number of traffic fatalities below 1,000 this year. To reach that goal, the patrol plans to continue its focus on impaired driving and high-visibility enforcement efforts, such as checkpoints targeting impaired drivers and “All-Out” days that send all its officers on patrol for a day.

At Elk & Elk, we have seen the tragic consequences of drunk driving too many times. No matter what time of year it is, we all must make smart choices every time we get behind the wheel. If you know you are going to drink, designate a driver. Or if that is not an option, call a cab. Don’t let drinking and driving ruin your life or the lives of innocent victims and their families.

Ohio birth injury lawyers explain most serious types of injuries

Pregnancy and the birth of a child should be one of the happiest times in a parent’s life. But sometimes complications occur during birth and children are left with birth injuries such as cerebral palsy, bell palsy, brachial plexus injury or hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy.

While not all birth injuries are preventable, actions by the medical staff may have been negligent. Negligence could be a misdiagnosis or failure to follow proper medical procedures designed to minimize the risks involved in a diagnosed condition.

Three of the most serious types of birth injuries are cerebral palsy, brachial plexus injury and hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy. Here is some information about each type of injury and what causes them.

Cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy is one of the most serious health problems caused by birth injuries. An estimated 800,000 individuals in the U.S. have been diagnosed with cerebral palsy and worldwide there are an estimated 17 million cases.

The term cerebral palsy refers to any one of a number of neurological disorders appearing in infancy or early childhood that permanently affect a person’s movement and muscle coordination. Cerebral palsy does not worsen over time and, although it may affect muscle movements, it isn’t a problem of the muscles or nerves. Most children who have cerebral palsy have had it since birth, often due to a lack of oxygen to the brain (called hypoxia) or to the body (asphyxia), premature delivery, or birth trauma – sometimes because of medical malpractice and delivery mistakes during labor or child birth.

There are four different types of cerebral palsy:

  • Spastic cerebral palsy: Some muscles are tight, stiff and weak, making control of movement difficult.
  • Athetoid cerebral palsy: Control of muscles is disrupted by spontaneous and unwanted movements. Control of posture is also disrupted.
  • Ataxic cerebral palsy: Problems include difficulty with balance and speech and shaky movements of hands or feet.
  • Mixed cerebral palsy: a combination of all three.

Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy

Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy is caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain during birth. While this type of injury is rare, the consequences are serious, causing life-threatening and sometimes permanent brain damage.

Lack of oxygen frequently damages not only the brain, but other organs as well. Often these include heart damage with abnormal blood pressures or heart rhythms, liver damage with elevated liver enzymes, kidney damage with low urine output and abnormal kidney function, gastrointestinal problems with abnormal feeding, low or high tone with floppy or stiff muscles and/or impaired control of breathing often requiring ventilation.

In the United States, as many as 9,000 newborns are affected by HIE each year, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The mortality rate is 25 to 50 percent, and most deaths occur in the first week of life due to multiple organ failure or redirection of care (moving to a new unit or hospital). The condition is also a frequent cause of mental retardation, epilepsy, learning disabilities and cerebral palsy.

 

Brachial plexus injury

Brachial plexus injury is caused by birth trauma, usually the child’s shoulder becoming stuck on the mother’s pelvis. The resultant stretch from the forces of labor, operative delivery (vacuum or forceps) and obstetrical traction can lead to a stretch or tearing of a group of primary nerves, called the brachial plexus, which supply movement and feeling to the arm. Paralysis can be partial or complete and the damage to each nerve can range from bruising to tearing.

Some babies recover on their own; others may require specialist intervention. Pediatric neurosurgery or nerve grafting is often required for a tear. Lesions may heal over time and function may return in total or partially. Although many children less than 1 year old recover range of motion, individuals who have not yet healed after this point rarely gain full function in their arm. Early intervention with neurology, neurosurgery and orthopedics can maximize recovery through therapies, nerve grafting and tendon transfers.

If your child has suffered a birth injury, contact us today and see how we can help. The birth injury lawyers of Elk & Elk have the experience you need to get the results you deserve. Our dedicated attorneys and qualified medical professionals will help you determine the best course of action for your needs. You can either fill out the online consultation form or call us at 1-800-ELK-OHIO today and get the process started.