February 15, 2010

Toyota Recalls May Trigger Car Insurance Refunds In NC

Toyota update.jpgAs I suggested in an earlier post about the Toyota recall, if you own one of the recalled models, you should not wait for the gas pedal to start sticking before having the problem fixed. Millions of Toyota owners are making dealership appointments to have the gas pedal problem fixed, and many owners are considering whether they are due a refund on their car insurance.

National Public Radio recently aired a piece about the potential effect of the massive recall on insurance companies. During the radio news program, NPR spoke to the manager of the NC Rate Bureau. The Rate Bureau is responsible for setting the rates that insurance companies can charge for car insurance. Ray Evans (the general manager of the North Carolina Rate Bureau) suggests that you contact his office if your insurance rates increased after being in an accident or receiving a ticket that you believe was caused by a sticking accelerator pedal.

Making such an appeal to the Rate Bureau could result in a substantial refund from your insurance company. If such an appeal is successful, then your insurance company would look to Toyota to cover the loss of revenue.

You may contact the North Carolina Rate Bureau at (919) 783-9790.

February 7, 2010

Sylva, NC Good Samaritans Killed By Negligent Truck Driver

truck crashes in snow.JPGA Sylva, North Carolina man and his son were killed by a negligent truck driver on Friday while trying to help a stranded motorist in Virginia.

Early Friday morning, around 12:30a.m., a passenger car spun out on a snow slick Interestate 81 near mile marker 58 in Wythe County, Virginia. The car came to rest in the left hand lane of the two northbound lanes. William Edward Smith Sr., 54, of Sylva, N.C., pulled his Dodge Caravan over onto the right hand shoulder and stopped so that his son could render aid to the stranded driver. As William Edward Smith, Jr., 25, of Mooresburg, Tenn. began making his way toward the stranded vehicle, a tractor-trailer driver lost control of his big rig and started jackknifing toward the minivan. The tractor trailer crashed into the minivan and then ran over the younger Mr. Smith. Both father and son were killed.

At the time of the crash, it was snowing quite hard and the road was white. The truck driver caused the collision because he violated several Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. These safety rules require truck drivers to exercise extreme caution when hazardous conditions, such as those caused by snow, ice, sleet, fog, mist, rain, dust, or smoke, adversely affect visibility or traction. If the roads become dangerous, the rules require the truck driver to stop driving. If the truck driver had followed the rules, then these two courageous men would still be alive.

Virginia State Police Trooper H.D. Mooney has not completed his investigation of this crash. Charges against the truck driver are pending.

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January 31, 2010

Toyota Recalls

Toyota logo.jpgThe world's largest automaker, Toyota, has announced the largest vehicle recall in history, recalling an estimated 2.3 million vehicles. The following Toyota vehicles have been recalled:

* 2005-2010 Avalon
* 2009-2010 RAV4
* 2007-2010 Camry
* 2008-2010 Sequoia
* 2009-2010 Corolla
* 2005-2010 Tacoma
* 2008-2010 Highlander
* 2007-2010 Tundra
* 2009-2010 Matrix
* 2009-2010 VENZA
* 2004-2009 Prius

The sudden acceleration sticking problem is responsible for at least 16 deaths and more than 200 injuries. Several wrongful death actions have been settled by Toyota and several more are still pending.

Toyota announced the recall only after ABC News told the Jananese automaker that it planned to air an expose on Toyota's sudden acceleration hazards. If you own one of the vehicles on the list, then you should watch for any problems with the accelerator feeling like it's not working as smoothly as is should. Toyota claims the problem is a "wear" issue, and that it does not happen overnight.

At the first sign of a sticking problem, Toyota says you should contact a local dealership and schedule the repair. But, if you are like me and do not believe that Toyota has your best interest at heart, then you should schedule the repair next week. Call Toyota's customer service hot line at 800-331-4331.

January 17, 2010

Johnson & Johnson Issues Giant Recall In North Carolina

Thumbnail image for Johnson & Johnson Bldg.jpgOn Friday, January 15, 2010, Johnson & Johnson, the multi-national conglomerate, issued a huge recall of several of its most popular over the counter medications, including Tylenol, Motrin and St. Joseph's Aspirin. The popular products have a strange moldy smell and have caused more than 75 people to become ill after taking the medicines. The symptoms range from nausea and vomiting to severe abdominal pain. Several people have sought medical attention after getting sick.

Johnson & Johnson apparently knew of the suspect drugs several months ago, but failed to promptly and thoroughly investigate the complaints. The moldy smell allegedly originates with a chemical used in treating the wooden pallets on which the products are shipped. Johnson & Johnson has not publicly disclosed the name of the chemical.

The Food and Drug Administration is also lobbing accusations that Johnson & Johnson should have notified them as soon as they suspected a problem. In a prior post about another drug making giant, Eli Lily, I explained how the FDA obtained billions as a result of the drug maker's violations of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. Similar allegations by the FDA are considered likely in this case as a result of Johnson & Johnson's reckless disregard for the public's safety.

In a separate announcement, the Justice Department is alleging that the pharmaceutical giant has paid millions and millions of dollars in kickbacks to Omnicare Inc. to boost drug sales to patients in nursing homes. Federal prosecutors contend that Omnicare purchases of Johnson & Johnson medicines tripled during this under-handed scheme to more than $280 million. Such conduct will likely cost Johnson & Johnson tens of millions, as it should. Conduct by corporations that intentionally harms the public should continue to be subject these corporate wrongdoers to massive fines, criminal prosecution, and punitive damages.

January 13, 2010

Tractor-Trailer Crash in Pilot Mountain Injures Driver

clark02_large.jpgA Kentucky truck driver crashed his tractor-trailer in the early morning hours on North Carolina Highway 52 South in the town of Pilot Mountain, just north of Winston-Salem. The truck was hauling bundles of tobacco to a cigarette manufacturing plant in Winston-Salem.

A spokesman for the North Carolina Highway Patrol said that the driver of the truck apparently ran off the road around 2 a.m., causing the truck to overturn. The truck driver, Jeff Board of Sanford, KY, was not wearing his seatbelt and was partially ejected from the tractor. EMS transported Mr. Board to Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. His treating doctors said that he was now in stable condition. They do not know when he will be released.

Single vehicle crashes like this one, involving tractor-trailers in the middle of the night, are often the result of the driver falling asleep at the wheel. Truck drivers are required by federal law to keep a detailed log of the time they spend driving, resting, and being on duty but not driving. The federal rules also limit the number of hours that drivers can work. At Davis Law Group, we often discover that the truck driver in a truck crash case was driving more hours than the law allows. Truck driver fatigue often leads to deadly consequences for innocent North Carolina citizens. More than 750 people are killed each year from truck driver fatigue, and more than 20,000 are seriously injured. Thankfully, this driver will live to drive again, and no other vehicles were involved.

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January 11, 2010

Tractor Trailers Still Off Tracking In Western North Carolina

truck off tracking1.jpgA young mother and her child were recently driving west on US Highway 74 from Lake Lure to Asheville to visit relatives for the holidays. As the young women rounded a sharp curve about half-way into her trip, she encountered a tractor-trailer headed in the opposite direction. US Highway 74 is a restricted road, and it is illegal for tractor-trailers to travel it.

While the tractor was completely in its lane, the wheels of the trailer were more than half way across her lane. She braked immediately, and because of her low speed for the curve, she stopped in an instant, but it was not soon enough. The trailer tires rolled right over the front of her small compact car. This phenomena is commonly known as "off-tracking," and it happens on a regular basis in Western North Carolina.

The tractor-trailer did not slow down, nor did it stop, and it was gone before the young driver really knew what had happened. Fortunately, there was an eyewitness behind her, who turned around and followed the dangerous trucker until he was apprehended by the State Highway Patrol in Lake Lure. The trucker denied any knowledge that he'd run over the small car, but his companion in the truck told a different story. The trucker was charged with hit and run, operating a commercial motor vehicle on a restricted road, as well as other charges.

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December 31, 2009

Safe Products for North Carolina Children in 2010

Danny Keysar.jpgOn this New Year's Eve, Danny Keysar would have turned 13 years old. Danny was killed in 1998 in a dangerous and defective portable crib. Danny's death prompted his parents to found KID - an advocacy group dedicated to alerting parents about unsafe children's products.

There has been tremendous change in the last few years in the area of children's product safety. With some new laws, some honoring Danny by name, and a new active administration at CPSC, our children are already safer today, but more must be done. Some children are still sleeping in cribs that have been recalled, some kids are still riding in child safety seats that have been taken off the market because they are unsafe, and some children are still playing with toys that have been recalled because of poisonous lead paint levels.

Join with us to honor not only Danny, but the children in your life with a safer tomorrow.

Make a donation to KID in a child's name.

Check the children's products in your home for recalls and urge others -- grandparents, caregivers, neighbors and family -- to do the same. There were 7 Million cribs recalled in the last 2 years. Sign up for email alerts from CPSC and KID.

Have a safe and happy 2010!

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December 27, 2009

Asheville Christmas Riding Toys Present Known Injury Hazard

With the last of the snow from the blizzard of 2009 slowly melting away, children will soon be wanting to get outside with some of their Christmas bounty. If your household is like mine, at least one of your kids got something from someone that they can ride.

Riding toys were always my favorites, whether it was a tricycle, bicycle, big wheel, scooter or skateboard, riding toys were always, and still are, GREAT fun! But that fun can come at a price, and the price can sometimes be a trip to the Emergency Room, especially if your child is not wearing a helmet.

The latest data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission indicates that riding toys, including non-motorized toys, are associated with more Emergency Room visits among all ages of children (67,700 or 26%) than any other catagory of toy. Non-motorized scooters accounted for over 51,000 (83%) of riding toy related injuries. Almost 50% of the Emergeny Room treated injuries were to the head and face area.

Preventing injuries to youngsters is not always possible, but as parents we can help minimize the risk of serious injury by requiring our kids to at least wear a helmet when on their riding toys. Bicycle helmets reduce the risk of serious head and brain injuries by almost 90%. Teach your kids that safety comes first. Please make them wear a helmet.

December 20, 2009

TVs & Furniture in Asheville Create Tip-Over Hazard for Children


Each year, more than 10 children, most under 5, are killed when a piece of heavy furniture tips over onto them. Several thousand more young children are seriously injured each year in the same way. Most of these injuries and deaths happen when a child climbs onto, runs into or pulls up onto a TV stand, bookcase, dresser or other unstable furniture. Sadly, most of these incidents are totally preventable.

For less than $10, parents can purchase an anchor system that secures the furniture to the floor or wall. This holiday season, if you have small children, take a few minutes and inspect all of the furniture in your house for being a tip-over hazard. If you identify a potential tip-over hazard, please take the time to correct it so that someone in your family doesn't become a statistic.

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December 8, 2009

Raleigh Bus Driver Causes Wreck with Firefighter - Was She Texting?

Bus wreck f-u.jpgThe North Carolina Highway Patrol has found the Wake County school bus driver at fault for causing the collision that critically injured a Raleigh firefighter last Friday. The bus driver has been suspended with pay pending the outcome of the investigation.

A Highway Patrol spokesman said that the bus driver, 52 year old Sheila Wimbush Hall, crossed the center line and side-swiped an oncoming station wagon on Ligon Mill Road near the intersection of Louisburg Road. The bus brushed off of the station wagon and continued into the oncoming lane and struck a pickup truck driven by off-duty Raleigh fireman Harry "Flip" Kissinger. After the collision, the bus landed on top of the pickup truck, pinning the driver inside. The Highway Patrol says that charges are pending.

As I reported in a previous post, Kissinger suffered a serious head injury in the wreck. He is stil in the intensive care unit at Wake Medical Center. He has undergone several medical procedures related to his brain injury, and he is still not out of the woods. The waiting room at WakeMed is packed with Kissinger's fireman colleagues and family members.

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December 7, 2009

Tired Trucker in High Point Spills a Ton of Milk

A Pennsylvania tanker truck driver fell asleep at the wheel of his 18 wheeler early Sunday morning and spilled a few thousand gallons of milk onto the side of Interstate 85 Business in High Point.


The crash closed down I-85 in both directions for several hours while commercial wrecker crews worked to clear the totalled tanker and the spilled milk.

TMilk Tanker 1.jpghe truck driver told investigators that he was hauling 6500 gallons of milk at the time of the rollover. No other vehicles were involved in the wreck, and no injuries were reported. While it is tempting to make light of this crash and ask where was the Keebler truck, the cause of this wreck (fatigued driving) is no laughing matter and is epidemic in the trucking industry.

To avoid being a victim of a tired trucker, never drive alongside of a large truck. If you must pass a tractor-trailer on the interstate, you should first make sure that you have room to move all the way past the truck before beginning your passing maneuvor, and you should steadily accellerate your vehicle as you move past the truck so that you do not get hidden in the trucker's blind spot.

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December 4, 2009

Raleigh Firefighter Critically Injured in Bus Crash

Bus wreck.jpgEarly Friday morning, a Wake County school bus ran into and over a pick-up truck driven by a veteran Raleigh firefighter. Another vehicle was involved in the wreck, and all three drivers were injured. Thankfully, no children were injured. The collision happened in North Raleigh on Ligon Mill Road near the intersection of Louisburg Road. The damage to fireman Lt. Harry P. ("Flip") Kissinger IV's truck was so severe that bystanders were unable to get him out.

When the firefighter's colleagues arrived on the scene, they quickly used the jaws of life to pry off the driver's side door of the truck. EMS workers then began working on the critically injured fireman. About 45 minutes later, EMS workers got Kissinger onto a backboard and transported him to the trauma center at Wake Med. The City of Raleigh reported in a "press statement" that Kissinger had suffered a significant head injury in the crash.

The North Carolina State Highway Patrol came to the scene but have not yet released the results of their investigation. In serious injury cases, where it is difficult to determine exactly how and why a collision occured, we recommend hiring an expert accident reconstructionist. Such experts are engineers and scientists who have special education, training and experience in the reconstruction of accidents. They start with the end result (the crash) and work backwards to determine such things as point of impact, pre-crash speeds, line of sight, and other factors that are critical to determining why a crash occurs and who is at fault.

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December 1, 2009

In North Carolina, Texting and Driving is Now Illegal

texting & driving.jpgMany of us have done it or have seen other drivers texting while driving. In North Carolina, as of December 1st, texting or reading emails while driving is now illegal and will get you a pricey ticket and points on your insurance.

The reason for the prohibition on texting and driving would seem obvious - if you are driving your eyes should be on the road in front of you, but there are many drivers on the road who think they can drive and text at the same time. State Troopers, in North Carolina and across the US, say the practice is unsafe and leads to many wrecks, serious injuries and sometimes even death.

Several national studies have found that texting and driving is very dangerous. A recent study at Virginia Tech found that drivers are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash when texting on their phones. A Car and Driver Magazine study found that texting while driving is more dangerous than driving while impaired.


http://www.wral.com/news/state/video/5399126/

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November 18, 2009

Dangerous Carcinogen (TCE) Migrating in Asheville

CTS Contamination.jpgTrichloroethylene (TCE) is a clear, non-flammable solvent with a sweet smell that is commonly used as an industrial solvent for cleaning electronic components. This chemical was widely used by CTS of Asheville at the Mills Gap Road facility in south Asheville until the plant closed in 1986. The company did not properly contain and/or dispose of the cancer causing chemical and now much of the drinkable ground water in the communities surrounding the facitily are dangerously polluted.

In 1999, one family that lived near the CTS site noticed a foul-smelling oily substance in the spring that supplied their drinking water. EPA testing of that water showed that it contained 21,000 parts per billion (ppb) of tri-chloroethylene. That level of contamination is 4,200 times the EPA allowable limit for drinking water. Two members of that family suffer from brain tumors they believe were caused by their exposure to TCE.

Recent water testing in the area indicates that the TCE contamination is increasing and spreading. One Mills Gap Road property owner's water had 21,000 ppb of TCE in 1999, but now her water has a TCE level of 35,000 ppb. From an enviromental standpoint, that is a huge increase.

The EPA has ordered CTS of Asheville to clean-up the site, but so far all they have done is install a TCE soil-vapor extracting device in the most contaminated section of the property. The residents of this area are justifiably concerned about their health and their property values, but the local government has done little to support them. As a result, some residents are considering taking legal action.

November 13, 2009

Eli Lily Pays $24 Million in Zyprexa Case

Capsules - Pills.jpgDrug giant Eli Lily has been caught red-handed in an off-label marketing scheme of the drug Zyprexa. The FDA has approved the drug for treatment of schizophrenia and certain types of bipolar disorder. Many states have sued the drug giant for marketing the drug to treat other mental health conditions such as depression, dementia, Alzheimer's and agitation. Marketing a drug to treat conditions it has not been approved for is illegal.

The Associated Press reports that Utah has entered into an agreement with Eli Lily to settle that state's claim. Eli Lily has agreed to pay Utah $24 Million. The Utah Attorney General stated that his office found that 1,769 patients over the age of 65 had been prescribed the drug but had never been diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

Last year, Eli Lily settled similar claims with more than 30 other states, including North Carolina, in a $62 Million settlement, but Utah and 13 other states refused to settle and filed separate lawsuits. In the last 60 days, South Carolina agreed to settle for $45 Million and Connecticut agreed to accept $25 Million for Zyprexa's illegal marketing.

Eli Lily settled with the US Department of Justice in January for $1.4 Billion. As part of that settlement, Eli Lily also agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges that it violated the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. In that case, the DOJ alleged that Lily had persuaded physicians to prescribe Zyprexa to children and elderly patients when they knew that the drug was not designed for these patient populations and that it can be harmful to these age groups.