Centra Bus Hits Pedestrian in Clarksburg

Clarksburg WV:  On August 29th, a pedestrian was hit by a bus as he attempted to cross the intersection of Main St. and 6th at about 4:15 p.m.  Clarksburg Fire and Police Departments and Harrison County EMS responded to the scene.

The man was taken to Northview Fire Station and then flown to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown by HealthNet when he was found bleeding and unresponsive at the scene of this accident.Pedestrian killed in Clarksburg by Centra Bus

This is the third tragic pedestrian accident in this region within a week.  Both drivers and pedestrians need to take extra care to ensure you are never the cause, or the victim, of one of these horrible accidents.

Clarksburg WV Pedestrian Accident Lawyers

Every year in communities throughout West Virginia, hundreds of innocent adults and children are injured or killed while walking on a sidewalk or pedestrian crossing, or riding their bikes legally on our streets. When a car or truck hits a pedestrian, there is usually no question about who is going to suffer.

Going up against an insurance company to fight for full and fair money damages for your injuries or financial losses is no easy task. Insurance companies often devote substantial financial resources trying to beat you down and frustrate you until you accept their low settlement offer.

The  Robinette Legal Group puts you on an even playing field.  Jeff Robinette is a former insurance defense lawyer who understands the strategies and tactics insurance companies use to limit their liability.

Our firm has experience representing clients in all types of pedestrian and bicycle accident injury and wrongful death claims, including:

  • Intersection and crosswalk injuries
  • Parking lot injuries
  • Hit and run and uninsured motorist accidents

Contact our offices in Morgantown to schedule a free consultation about your pedestrian or bicycle accident injury claim. We represent clients injured in communities throughout West Virginia.

If you have questions about your claim, call 304-594-1800 or 304-216-6695 today.  We would be glad to take your call.

We are glad to provide free books and information for WV accident victims: Collision Care: West Virginia Auto Collision Guide, and Righting the Wrong, West Virginia Serious Injury Guide:  304-594-1800.

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Sanitation Worker Killed by Tree Limb

In May 2013, a sanitation worker collecting trash in an alley in Moundsville, West Virginia, was killed when a broken limb fell from a tree and struck him in the head as he was collecting trash.

The limb was apparently damaged in a recent storm; it is unclear whether the truck struck the branch.  The worker suffered a massive head injury and was transported to hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

This was called a “freak” accident, but legally, could there have been any premises liability for this fatal injury?

How Healthy are Your Trees?  Danger Signs:

tree fall in parkBroken branches (called “widow makers” by arborists)

Weak branch unions

Old wounds

Ooze or fungus indicating decay

Sharp bends

Excessive pruning

Cracks

Cavity indicating advanced decay

As a home and property owner, you have a legal duty to keep your family and neighbors safe from tree hazards as much as it depends on you.  This list is not all-inclusive, so if you have any doubt about the soundness of the trees on your property, hire a specialist to inspect and evaluate safety issues.

How to Identify Tree Risks on your Property

Tree owners are not expected to have the expertise of a certified arborist in evaluating tree risk, but there are common defects and situations for which a tree owner may be held responsible as a “reasonable person” in the eyes of the law.

A hazard tree is one that has both a defect that may cause it to break apart or blow over prematurely and a target that could be damaged if the tree were to fail. A tree that has dead branches overhanging a sidewalk or street is a hazard because the dead branches may break off, striking a car or pedestrian. Without a potential target, a tree cannot be considered hazardous. Targets include houses, cars, outdoor decks, and, of course, people.

We recommend that private tree owners should inspect their trees twice annually: when the leaves are on the tree (spring and summer) and, for deciduous species, when the leaves are off the trees (late fall and winter).

Tree owners should also inspect their trees after severe wind events and storms. This is important because strong winds frequently cause tree damage such as broken branches, and cracks in the trunk.

Checking trees immediately following storms will help reduce the risk of defects becoming more severe and subsequently causing personal injury or property damage

Traditional Standard for Tree Owner Liability

The liability United States tree owners face from hazardous trees on their private properties has and continues to undergo a transformation.

The traditional common law legal test focused upon whether a tree owner had acted to create a hazardous condition on the property. When a tree owner did not act to create a hazardous condition on his or her property, the law did not hold the tree owner responsible for tree accidents. Essentially the law would not impose liability for the tree owner’s failure to act to remedy a natural hazard.

Only in cases where the tree owner had in some way acted to create or increase the risk of harm would liability attach to the tree owner. For example, removing a portion of a stand of trees, thus leaving the remainder susceptible to wind throw could be an example where a human act created a potentially dangerous tree situation.

Modern Trend for Dangerous Tree Litigation

Legal liability for private tree owners by structurally deficient trees or tree limbs has been undergoing a legal evolution over the last four decades.

The modern trend is towards a test that imposes greater responsibility and greater uncertainty on tree owners and arborists.

Abandoning the natural/artificial distinction, the modern test, adopted in half the U.S. jurisdictions, imposes general principles of negligence on tree owners.

Courts in each of the “modern” U.S. jurisdictions, however, have ruled in falling tree and tree-related cases that tree owners owe a duty to both passersby and other property owners to prevent harm to them from potentially dangerous objects on their properties.

The direction in which the trend appears to be proceeding raises the stakes for tree owners. Whereas immunity from legal liability may have previously existed, such liability can now more easily result from a tree owner’s actions or failure to act. The responsibilities of individual tree owners, particularly in urban areas, have increased in many states, and nothing suggests that the trend will abate.

Since the U.S. legal trend is clearly toward greater liability for hazardous trees, this warrants paying closer attention to the condition of one’s trees more than ever before.

Example of a Tree Liability Case

An example in the state of South Carolina was a lawsuit involving a decayed tree limb which fell onto an adjoining property owner’s land, striking and destroying an occupied automobile and injuring its occupant.

The tree owner argued that the law did not impose any duty of inspection on a tree whose limbs happened to overhang an adjoining business property.  The court did not agree, determining that while that may have been the prior rule, the modern rule requires the exercise of reasonable care to prevent dangerous trees from causing such injuries.

Negligence in Tree Management

To recover for injuries or damages caused by a falling tree or portion of a tree, an injured party must demonstrate that:

a tree owner had some duty to prevent the harm,

  • the tree owner breached that duty,
  • the breach was the cause of the injured party’s harm.

Since the modern trend is to establish in law a duty on the part of the tree owner to identify and repair or eliminate dangerous or hazardous conditions on the property, the modern threshold test is merely, was the dangerous object under the control or supervision of the tree owner?

But how does a court assess whether the tree in question was in fact hazardous or dangerous, and additionally, whether the tree owner’s legal duty to eliminate the hazard was triggered?

The legal principle at work essentially states that if a tree owner is actually aware, or should have been aware, of a defect or risk posed by a tree, remedial action is warranted, even required.  A tree owner must act as a reasonable person would have acted in the same circumstances.

West Virginia Premises Liability Attorneys

If you have suffered as a result of a fallen tree, broken limbs, or injured by any other premises hazard, we are here to help.  If you have any questions or are not sure if you have a case, call Jeff Robinette of the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC today and get the answers and help you need.  Call today:  304-594-1800 or 24 hour line:  304-216-6695.

Sources:

http://wvmetronews.com/2013/05/18/moundsville-sanitation-worker-killed-in-freak-accident/

Hazard tree liability in the United States: Uncertain risks for owners and professionals, by Michael J. Mortimer and Brian Kane, 2004:  http://www.summit-tree.com/pubs/Hazard%20Tree%20Liability.pdf‎

 

 

A Jail Cell at the End of the Tunnel?

coal minerInvestigation into Upper Big Branch sends Powerful Message to Mine Industry

It’s beginning to look like the canaries have come home to roost. Last week, the federal investigation of the Upper Big Branch mine disaster continued to take another step up the corporate ladder of the former Massey Energy Co. This time, the former president of the subsidiary that operated that mine pleaded guilty to two federal mine safety charges. David Hughart admitted to illegally warning miners and their bosses about surprise federal inspections for more than a decade, up until only weeks before the fatal blast that claimed the lives of 29 miners. He also said that he and other corporate officials, superintendents and foremen, conspired to violate mine health and safety laws was corporate practice.  Hughart  faces up to six years and a $350,000 fine when he’s sentenced June 25.

Furthermore, he squarely pointed the finger at Massey’s former chief executive officer, Don Blankenship, for ordering this practice. Since this investigation was launched in the months following the April 2010 tragedy it has netted three convictions: The mine’s former security chief, its superintendent; and now its president. And in the two former cases, the punishments handed down have been some of the stiffest ever in mine safety cases, including long jail terms. Prosecutors also negotiated a $210 million agreement with the company that bought Massey, Alpha Resources. That spares the company from criminal prosecution, but leaves individuals subject to it.

Though this investigation is already one for the records in West Virginia, if it goes after a former mining CEO, it will be a rare day, indeed. But even if it does, we are not going to rejoice. Because at the end of the day, nothing is going to bring back those 29 coal miners, most of whom died from the concussion — some more than a mile away — of a massive explosion underground.

However, it’s clear that this investigation’s real achievement will be the very powerful message it has sent, and not only to the mining industry. If you still need to read between the lines, we’ll spell it out for you: If you conspire to knowingly violate safety and health laws in any workplace and risk the lives of employees, you might be going to jail. There are probably few, if any workplaces, despite best practices and efforts, that are not subject to citations for some violation or another. However, when anyone not only condones and allows unsafe practices, but actually makes them company policy, they should face criminal charges. As a rule, we trust almost all mine operators do strive to ensure their employees’ health and safety — consequences or no consequences. But for those who would grossly violate mine safety and health laws, a steel cage may await them.

The families of coal mine disaster victims and survivors have legal rights in West Virginia, but you don’t have to fight for them alone.  Speak to an experienced Coal Mine Explosion Lawyer or Wrongful Death attorney today who can help you understand and protect your rights — Call 304-594-1800 or 304-216-6695 today.  We would be glad to answer your questions.

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Source:  Editorial from The Dominion Post, Morgantown, WV: 3/06/2013 http://ee.dominionpost.com

Natural Gas Well Worker killed in Explosion in WV

WV gas well explosionA worker was killed in West Virginia in an explosion at an EQT natural gas well pad near Flemington in Taylor County on February 15, 2013.

The victim of this worksite accident was an employee of Central Environmental Services, a contracting company working for EQT. He was working alone at the time of his death.

The development of the Marcellus Shale oil and gas drilling in West Virginia provides many jobs, especially near Morgantown and Fairmont, WV.  Just as our coal miners have always faced hazardous conditions, the hard working men and women employed by the natural gas industry are now facing similar dangers.

Central Environmental Services CEO released a statement on the death of their employee.  The employee was at a customer’s well-pad near Flemington in Taylor County, W.Va, preparing to perform normal work-related tasks when an explosion occurred, killing the employee and causing some damage to the area where he was working.”  Company officials said the employee was on the work site and near two of the tanks when the explosion took place.

The man was attempting to transfer briny wastewater from a tank into a truck. What sparked the explosion is unclear and will be the focus of the state’s investigation, already under way.

Drillers inject massive volumes of water, sand and chemicals to hydraulically fracture, or frack, the rock in which gas deposits are trapped. The gas then flows up for collection, as does the brine. The DEP says some of the chemicals in the brine could be flammable.

The executive director of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association said EQT is calling the fatality an “industrial accident,” not an explosion, and he’s never heard of brine exploding.

“To the best of my knowledge, brine is not flammable,” he said. Accidents involving brine are typically spills, he said, “so that, I don’t understand.  Brine is 99.5 percent water and sand, and drillers typically do not add potentially flammable chemicals. What flows back up from a well is mostly salty water, and any chemicals are diluted.  Contrary to what some people like to say,” he said, “we don’t use diesel fuel or any of those kinds of additives that would be flammable.”

But a spokesman of the West Virginia Surface Owners’ Rights Organization said the fracking fluid often contains volatile organic compounds, “so brine tanks can have vapors of these that are surely explosive.  Many people who live near well pads are worried about those compounds being vented into the atmosphere and harming air quality.”

West Virginia Workplace Accidents

West Virginia workers have a long-standing tradition of working hard in spite of dangerous and exhausting conditions. Just as our coal miners have always faced the potential of industrial tragedies, oil and gas drilling workers are also experiencing similar tragedies resulting in serious permanent and fatal injuries. Injuries common to the oil and gas industry include severed fingers, broken bones, foot injuries, burns, toxic chemical exposure, disfigurement, and traumatic brain injuries.

Risk factors for oil and gas workers may include: explosion, work place injuries, truck accidents, serious and catastrophic injuries, exposure to hazardous chemicals, industrial accidents involving heavy tools and complex equipment, contaminated air and water, hazardous driving conditions, fires, burns, malfunctioning equipment, and safety violations. Driving to and from the drilling site has become a major risk factor: one-third of all serious accidents and fatalities linked to fracking occur from trucking accidents.

Another recent example of the danger associated with gas and oil drilling occurred in an August 17, 2012 accident when a newly developed gas well exploded in Harrison County, WV, sending three workers to the hospital with severe injuries.

If you or your loved one has been injured due to negligence or willful violation of safety regulations in the workplace, it is important to act quickly to protect your claim. Mr. Robinette at the Robinette Legal Group has handled hundreds of cases involving serious injury and wrongful death and can provide the insight you need right now. Call Jeff Robinette today for a free evaluation of your case at 304-594-1800 or after hours, 304-216-6695.

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Source:  Associated Press, Vickie Smith, on Monday, 18 February 2013, http://pipeline.post-gazette.com/news/archives/25054-worker-killed-in-blast-at-w-va-gas-well-pad

New Hope for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Patients

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)Traumatic brain injury (TBI) has been designated as the signature injury of the recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and as a result many injured soldiers and their families suffer in silence. In response to the need, the US military is now funding new research and has established multiple centers for those soldiers with traumatic brain injuries to receive effective therapies to rebuild and reroute their neurological pathways in the hope returning to work and building a better future.

Though most of the traumatic brain injury cases we handle are the result of vehicle and work accidents, hazardous military duty and sports activities also often lead to traumatic brain injuries (TBI).  Injury to the brain is usually the first injury to occur, and the last to be diagnosed.  Thanks to new funding by the US military and the NFL, more hope, treatments, and tests are available to help heal the wounds.

Symptoms of TBI involve a wide range of symptoms including vomiting, persistent headaches, sensitivity to light, memory loss, mood disorders, inability to focus, slow reaction time, dizziness, depression, blurred vision, and loss of balance.

On the leading edge of TBI research are studies concerning the use of Omega-3 fatty acids and new cognitive therapies designed to reroute and stimulate neurological pathways where healthy parts of the brain can compensate by learning to handle new functions.  Rest augmented by a battery of mental exercises involving memory drills, math, and hand-eye coordination can help a brain accomplish neuroplasticity, a term which means that the brain repairs, regenerates, and reconnects.

Source:  http://www.worldmag.com/2012/12/broken_brains/page1

NFL Supports Brain Health Research

In January of 2013, the results of the examination of the brain of the former NFL player, Junior Seau, were published indicating that Seau’s brain was found to be clearly damaged by the repeated blows inherent to football.  Prior to his death by suicide, he had been diagnosed with degenerative brain disease.   Results of an NIH study of Seau’s brain revealed abnormalities consistent with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a severe problem experienced by dozens of top football players.

The NFL may be facing thousands of lawsuits right now from former players who say that they were not protected or informed enough about the result of concussion.  In response, The NFL, both directly and in partnership with the NIH, Centers for Disease Control and other leading organizations, is supporting a wide range of independent medical and scientific research that will both address CTE and promote the long-term health and safety of athletes at all levels.

Read More  http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/nfl/news/20130110/junior-seau-brain-disease-cte.ap/#ixzz2Hb6czY43

PET Scans and Chemical Markers Can Identify Progression of Brain Diseases in Athletes

More and more, researchers have speculated a connection between sports-related concussions and mild traumatic brain injuries with the development of degenerative brain diseases later in life – most notably chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and even Alzheimer’s disease.

Previously, the only way to confirm a connection between repetitive brain injury and these debilitating brain conditions was through an autopsy.

But now, there may be a new way to identify or track the progression of these brain diseases while a current or former athlete is still alive.

For the first time, researchers from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) have utilized positron emission tomography (PET) scans and a newly developed chemical marker called FDDNP to do brain imaging tests on five retired NFL players. The new imaging technique ultimately revealed the buildup of the abnormal tau protein, which has been associated with repetitive head trauma, as well as the onset of Alzheimer’s.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/01/22/new-scanning-technique-reveals-proof-brain-damage-in-living-retired-nfl-players/#ixzz2IorY31kK

New Research Indicates Omega-3 May be Part of the Answer

Brain Health Education and Research Institute was founded by Dr. Michael Lewis in 2011 to pursue educational and research endeavors to further knowledge of natural and nutritional ways to improve brain health. The initial focus of the Institute is educating providers and the public on the use of omega-3 fatty acids for the prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation of the brain prior to or following injury such as traumatic brain injury or concussion. With Dr. Lewis’ 30-plus years of military experience, a special emphasis is working towards improving the care and outcomes of our military personnel and veterans who have experienced psychological or physical trauma to the brain.

Dr. Lewis is a pioneer in the use of omega-3 for concussion and TBI – a simple, yet profound concept. Everyone is different, but his theory is if the basic building blocks of the brain aren’t present, the brain is going to have a more difficult and longer time putting the pieces back together. Here is something essential to know:

According to Dr. Lewis, there is no cure for concussion and TBI.  All medical providers can do is optimize the conditions to help the brain do the healing. That is what using omega-3’s will do. It provides a tool, the basic building block, for the brain’s healing.

Source:  http://www.brainhealtheducation.org/resources/advances-in-tbi-management/

Omega-3 Aids Brain Recovery of Randal McCloy, Survivor of the Sago Mine Disaster

 

Neurosurgeon Dr. Julian Bailes is often at the cutting edge of the latest treatments for people with brain injuries. Former NFL players and other notable people with brain injuries—including Randal McCloy Jr., the sole surviving miner in the 2006 Sago Mine disaster in West Virginia—have received his care.  Dr. Oz talks with Dr. Bailes about how he used omega-3 fatty acids, a common nutritional supplement, to aid in Randal’s brain recovery.

On January 2, 2006, the nation was captivated by efforts to rescue 13 men who were trapped in the Sago coal mine explosion. While news sources initially reported that all 13 men were alive, tragically it was only Randal who survived. After more than 40 hours of exposure to carbon monoxide, Randal was entrusted into the care of many doctors, including Dr. Bailes. “He’s had a massive heart attack from the carbon monoxide exposure, he was in kidney failure, liver failure, he was dehydrated, he was hypothermic and he was in the deepest of coma,” he says. “We didn’t have anything promising.”

Soon though, Dr. Bailes says he and the other doctors were confident they could save Randal’s life, but it was uncertain if his brain would recover from its extensive injuries. Randal was given three hypobaric oxygen treatments, but Dr. Bailes says there was no drug available that could help repair his damaged brain. “Since there was no drug to do it … why don’t we give him what his brain was made from in the first place, when he was an embryo in his mother’s womb?” Dr. Bailes says. That substance was omega-3 fatty acids. “Omega-3 fatty acids—EPA and DHA—[are] what people commonly would call fish oil, but we gave him a super variety in extremely high doses, up to 19 grams a day that we delivered to him in a liquid form through his tube that was in his stomach,” he says.

As Randal’s brain functions started to improve, Dr. Bailes recorded his findings and now says people suffering from minor to severe brain injuries can benefit greatly from omega-3s. “Consider this as a nutritional supplement, if you will, for their recovery, which I think has very profound effects on the brain,” he says. While Randal was the first known person with brain injuries to be treated with omega-3s, Dr. Bailes says he won’t likely be the last. And, Dr. Bailes says everyone can benefit from the supplement—in fact, he says he takes 800 milligrams of algae-based DHA a day.

Randal McCloy has gone on to live a normal life in a small town in West Virginia, and has become the father of two children since the Sago coal mine disaster.

Source:  http://www.oprah.com/health/Amazing-Omega-3s#ixzz1qQPdLsKe

US Army Funds Three-year study of Omega-3’s Effect on Brain Health

Research published last year by Brain Health Education and Research Institute’s Michael Lewis, MD, in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry reported that active duty military with lower blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids were 62% more likely to have committed suicide compared to those with higher levels.  In October, 2012, the military announced they are funding a three-year study to do just that. In cooperation with the NIH, researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina led by Bernadette Marriott, PhD, a professor in the Clinical Neuroscience Division of the Institute of Psychiatry, will test whether omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oils can relieve the anxieties and quiet the suicidal thoughts plaguing many combat veterans.

“The potential good versus the potential extraordinarily low risk and low cost make this a type of intervention that can be – if findings are warranted – rolled out extremely fast and on a large scale,” said Dr. Ron Acierno, a co-investigator on the project at USC. “Omega-3s are among the primary fatty acids in the brain… They’re responsible for neural generation and neural repair – for new neurons to be made and for broken ones to be fixed.”According to Dr. Hibbeln, “Research conducted in our lab [at the NIH] during the last 20 years points to a fundamental role for omega-3 fatty acids in protecting against major depression, substance abuse and other problems. Here we hope to be successful in understanding if omega-3 may play a role in reducing risk of severe suicidal behaviors among U.S. military veterans.”

Source:  http://www.brainhealtheducation.org/category/all-articles/

New Tests for Brain Injuries

If research by the Army and Cleveland Clinic is successful, then diagnosis for brain injury could include an inexpensive blood test. Medical researchers are developing a test that will determine the presence of a protein that is released into the bloodstream after a person suffers a brain injury.

Researchers are currently testing their findings by analyzing the blood of college football, hockey, and soccer players to even diagnose concussions.  Current methods of diagnosing brain injury involve the use of a CT scanner. These scans are expensive and may also fail to detect slight bleeding and other signs of a brain injury.

The military has also ordered nearly 50,000 sensor helmets with the ability to measure severity of blows to the head and to detect for possible concussions.  The NFL is partnering with the military to place similar sensors in the helmets of professional football players.

Research indicates that the potential for serious lifelong traumatic brain injury is increased greatly if a subsequent head injury occurs a short time after a concussion, so a quick and inexpensive means of determining mild brain injuries could be a lifesaver for military personnel, workers, children, and sports participants.

Source:  http://www.worldmag.com/2012/12/broken_brains

Jeff Robinette, Experienced Brain Injury Litigation Attorney

As a lawyer who has helped victims of TBI navigate and receive substantial settlements from insurance companies, my great hope for these injury victims is that they would be able move forward with their lives and receive the best care and treatment available.  Kudos to those who are at the forefront of this helpful new research designed to overcome TBI and help those people function in a manner close to that of their pre-injury selves.

Submitted by the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC, West Virginia Injury Lawyers. Free books for WV accident victims — Call us today: 304-216-6695 or 304-594-1800 for your free copy of Righting the Wrong: WV Serious Injury Guide; Collision Care: WV Auto Injury Guide; or Beside Still Waters: WV Fatal Injury Guide for Families. We are glad to answer your questions.

 

 

Seven Things that Really Irk People with Disabilities

wheelchairs on beachI recently read that since the start of the wars with Iraq and Afghanistan, over 17,ooo American soldiers have been catastrophically wounded, and the military has treated 1,559 amputee soldiers, many who are double amputees.  With advances in better protected vehicles, body armor and improved medical care, more soldiers who would have been killed in the past are now wounded amputees.   There are more people now than at any other time in history who are working to overcome the limitations imposed by disabilities. (World Magazine, “Walking Wounded,” by Edward Lee Pitts, 11/17/2012.)

As a former soldier and now as an attorney, along with the spinal cord injury lawyer in Ontario, who helps people navigate through the insurance claims process  after having sustained catastrophic injuries from vehicle or workplace accidents, I am particularly interested in and well aware of the impact such injuries have on an injured person’s future and family.  As families and friends prepare for holiday gatherings, here are some tips for putting others at ease.

The following are some courtesy tips provided by the United Spinal Association:

  • Put the person first:  say “person with a disability” rather than “disabled person;” say “wheelchair user” rather than “wheelchair bound” or “confined to a wheelchair.”  The wheelchair enables the person to get around and participate in society.
  • Always speak directly to the person with the disability, not just to their companion or aide.  Respect their privacy and do not make their disability the topic of conversation.
  • Avoid outdated terms like “handicapped” or “crippled.”  Also avoid euphemistic jargon like “differently abled.”
  • Ask before you help:  just because someone has a disability, don’t assume they need help.  Adults with disabilities want to be treated as independent people.  Only offer assistance if the person seems to need it.
  • Avoid touching a person’s wheelchair – even if t’s from bestmotorizedwheelchair.com, or scooter, or cane.  It is considered part of their personal space.
  • Never lean over a person in a wheelchair to shake someone else’s hand.
  • Never, ever, use a person in a wheelchair to hold people’s coats or set your drink on their desktop.  (Surprisingly enough, some people do these things.)

No matter how a person’s catastrophic injury occurred, sensitivity and respect is crucial in our interactions with people with disabilities, just as it is with everyone else we encounter.

Submitted by the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC, West Virginia Workplace Injury/Wrongful Death Lawyers. Free books — Call us today: 304-216-6695 or 304-594-1800 for your free copy of Righting the Wrong: WV Serious Injury Guide; Collision Care: WV Auto Injury Guide; or Beside Still Waters: WV Fatal Injury Guide for Families.

Related Article:  Rules of the Road for Motorized Wheelchairs

 

Former Massey Energy Official Faces up to Six Years in Prison for UBB Coal Mine Explosion

Massey Energy Valued Profits over People:  Massey official admits that if Massey had consistently followed the safety laws, coal production would have been decreased.

According to WV MetroNews, a former Massey Energy coal company official has agreed to plead guilty to federal charges stemming from safety violations at mines he operated.

The charges against David C. Hughart, the former President of Massey’s Green Valley Resource Group, are a result of the ongoing investigation into the 2010 explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine that killed 29 miners.

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin says Hughart will plead guilty to a felony count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and a misdemeanor charge of conspiracy. He faces up to six years in prison.  Hughart is the fourth Massey official so far to be criminally charged in connection with the UBB investigation.  According to federal documents, Hughart operated Massey Energy subsidiary mines in Nicholas County that routinely violated health and safety laws “because of a belief that consistently following those laws would decrease coal production.”

Additionally, Hughart was responsible for illegal advance warnings at his mines when federal Mine Safety and Health Administration inspectors arrived. According to the federal document charging Hughart, “If these routine mine health and safety violations were detected by MSHA, the resulting citations and orders could result in coal production being stopped.”

Goodwin says it was a case of putting production ahead of safety.

“He wasn’t acting alone,” Goodwin said on Wednesday’s MetroNews Talkline. “The very nature of the conspiracy is that he acted in concert with other individuals, not just at Green Valley, but at other coal operations in Massey Energy.”

Federal investigators have been probing Massey operations since the April 2010 disaster at UBB. An MSHA investigation released last year found that flagrant safety violations contributed to a massive coal dust explosion that killed the miners.

Former UBB Mine Superintendent Gary May and the former head of security at the mine, Hughie Elbert Stover, have both been convicted of charges stemming from the disaster. A former UBB worker, Thomas Harrah, has also plead guilty to lying about being a foreman when he acted as one at UBB.

A judge has denied a motion to delay the sentencing of Gary May, a former superintendent of the Upper Big Branch (UBB) mine, so the January 17th sentencing will go on as planned.  U.S. District Judge Irene Berger denied prosecutors’ request for a postponement, saying they’d failed to “state good cause.” Gary May pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in March.

May’s sentencing is set for Jan. 17, 2013 in Beckley. He’s cooperating with federal authorities in the ongoing criminal investigation of the 2010 explosion at the former Massey Energy mine where 29 men died in an explosion.

Additionally, Alpha Natural Resources, which bought out Massey after the disaster, has reached a $209 million dollar settlement in the case.

The UBB mine, located in Raleigh County, is permanently closed.

Coal Mine Injury and Wrongful Death Attorney

West Virginia coal miners are among the hardest working professionals in America. Despite strong MSHA regulations, coal mining continues to be one of the most dangerous occupations in the world. Every year, miners are injured or killed because the coal operators continue to circumvent or violate safety laws for the protection of the miners.

The UBB disaster illustrates the continued need for integrity in safety compliance and inspections to prevent the untimely deaths of people who are simply trying to earn a living.  Unscrupulous companies that seek maximum profits by ignoring safety concerns must be held accountable.

Attorney Jeff Robinette has litigated complex work-related injury and death cases caused by work place hazards. Our law firm has significant experience in litigating complex coal mine cases – like the Sago Mine explosion – where serious injuries and deaths occurred.  

Submitted by the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC, West Virginia Workplace Injury/Wrongful Death Lawyers. Call us today: 304-216-6695 or 304-594-1800 for your free copy of Righting the Wrong: WV Serious Injury Guide.

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Source:  WAJR/WV MetroNews:  http://www.wvmetronews.com/index.cfm?func=displayfullstory&storyid=56579&type=

More than 120 Killed in Bangladesh Garment Factory Fire

Today, November 27th, 2012, has been designated a national day of mourning in Bangladesh.   On November 25, 2012 fire swept through the Tazreen Fashion factory, a garment factory on the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital, killing more than 120 people in the country’s worst-ever factory fire.  The fire at the nine-story factory started on the ground floor late on Saturday and spread, trapping hundreds of workers.   Interior stairways were made impassable by the flames rising from the first floor where the blaze began.  The cause of this fire that started on the ground floor is not yet known.  The building had no fire escapes.

Over 600 of the factory’s 1,500 employees were reported to have been in the factory working overtime when the blaze began.  Most of the workers killed were women, including at least nine who jumped to their death from windows.  Some workers died of smoke inhalation and many were burned beyond recognition, while many more were taken to the hospital for severe burns and toxic exposure.   The Tazreen factory has been reported to have sales of over $35,000,000 per year.  The entry-level wage for a garment worker is about $37 per month.  

Thousands of people are in the streets this week protesting working conditions at Bangladeshi factories which are notoriously poor, with little enforcement of safety laws, and with overcrowding and locked fire doors common.   In 2006 a similar fire in Bangladesh killed 84 garment workers who could not escape through blocked fire exits.  Over 300 factory workers have died in Bangladesh in the past six year resulting from unsafe working conditions.

More than 300 factories near the capital shut for almost a week earlier this year as workers demanded higher wages and better working conditions.   Bangladesh, with over 4,500 garment factories, is the second largest exporter of clothing after China, manufacturing clothing for stores like Wal-Mart, J.C. Penny, and Khols.  After the blaze was extinguished, charred clothing with labels from Faded Glory, Wal-Mart’s brand of clothing was found in the remains.

According to the New York Times,  Bangladesh’s garment industry has also attracted rising international and domestic criticism over a poor fire safety record, low wages and policies that restrict labor organizing inside factories. The Clean Clothes Campaign, a European group that opposes sweatshops, said that more than 500 Bangladeshi laborers had died in factory fires since 2006. In 2010, 29 workers died from a fire inside a Bangladeshi factory making clothing for Tommy Hilfiger.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory:

Thanks to decades of reform and creation of workplace safety laws,  the United States, generally speaking, is one hundred years ahead of countries like Bangladesh concerning workplace accidents and safety.  This disaster is nearly a reenactment of one of the United States’ most horrific workplace disasters.  On March 25, 1911 in New York City, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire became the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of New York City.  Young women, most in their teens, were found dead by locked doors within the factory. 

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory doors had been locked from the outside to keep the workers in and union organizers out.  At least 146 garment workers died in this fire, some burned so badly that they were unrecognizable.

Some workers had died from smoke inhalation; many died from being crushed by other frantic workers trying to escape.   Others jumped from 9th and 10th story floors of the building to escape the flames and were instantly killed upon impact; some even impaled on a nearby iron fence that bordered the street by the building before they hit the ground.  

In November of 1910, just months before this disaster, 20,000 young women had organized a general strike, protesting in the streets to condemn the unsafe working conditions in the dimly lit fire traps in which they had found employment.  The union eventually ran out of money, and the thinly clad garment workers who were not even able to afford coats were forced to return to work in order to provide for their daily existence.

A Factory Investigating Commission was created by the New York State Legislature to “investigate factory conditions in NYC and other cities and to report remedial measures of legislation to prevent hazard or loss of life among employees through fire, unsanitary conditions, and occupational diseases.”  The investigators found more than 200 New York factories were found to have conditions similar to those leading to the Triangle Shirtwaist fire.  Today, these conditions still exist in China, Bangladesh, India, and other countries where workers’ rights to safety have been ignored in favor of maximum profits for the companies.

These reports helped modernize labor laws, making New York State “one of the most progressive states in terms of labor reform.” New laws mandated better building access and egress, fire proofing, availability of fire extinguishers, installation of alarm systems, automatic sprinklers, better eating and toilet facilities for workers, and limited the number of hours that women and children could work.  Eventually, organizations such as OSHA and AFL-CIO were created to represent American workers; much of that representation concerns their safety.  

Workplace Personal Injury Lawyers’ Role in Enforcement of Workplace Safety Law

Workplace personal injury and wrongful death lawyers are dedicated to ensuring that business owners maintain OSHA’s high standards for workplace safety, and ensure that if they do attempt to skirt compliance, they suffer great punitive damages.  Unfortunately, the fear of reprisal is sometimes the only motivator for companies to maintain safety standards for their employees.

It has taken over two centuries of legal progress for this to happen.   Consider the untold number of injury victims from recent prior decades who received no compensation for their injuries because laws favored business and industry and practically ignored workers safety.  

Modern-day companies including coal mines and gas drilling sites even now at times have the same tendencies as their predecessors — to take advantage of their work force.  Like their predecessors, our modern-day companies don’t want to fairly compensate the people they injure or the families of the people they kill.   Just like in earlier times of corporate abuse, little to no compensation will be offered to injury victims who must nurse their own injuries with inadequate financial support.

Lawmakers normally respond to public sentiment; this is how our representative system of government works.   When enough interested citizens and injury victims voice support for better laws, it is up to the lawmakers to respond.   In recent decades there has been steady public support for better laws for injury victims.   But, corporations and insurance companies don’t want more restrictive safety requirements — that means more liability exposure.

In response, lawmakers have had to choose between helping the corporations make more money and helping injury victims get recoveries from wrongdoers.  Lawmakers thus far have not completely caved in to the desires of the corporations and insurance companies, because a majority of people have voiced their outrage over corporate greed and their role in causing an increase in incidents involving serious injuries and deaths.   Even so, it takes a constant flow of information to lawmakers about injury victims’ plights, and that’s where trial lawyers and their associations are effective in protecting your rights. 

Submitted by the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC, West Virginia Workplace Injury/Wrongful Death Lawyers.  Call us today:  304-216-6695 or 304-594-1800 for your free copy of Righting the Wrong:  WV Serious Injury Guide.

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Marijuana Legalized in the States of Washington and Colorado

Washington and Colorado voters made their states the first in the nation to legalize recreational pot use on November 6, 2012 even though use is a violation of federal law.  The measure sets up a system of state-licensed marijuana growers, processors and retail stores, where adults over 21 can buy up to an ounce. It also establishes a standard blood test limit for driving under the influence.  Home growing has also become legal in Colorado, but not Washington.  The state of Oregon also voted on the issue in 2012 and legalization with unrestricted cultivation received 47% of the vote.  The issue is expected to be voted on again in 2016 in Oregon, as well as in California and Maine. 

Though it currently remains illegal to sell non-medical marijuana in the state — recreational pot shops won’t be able to get licenses to open for about another year — the law allows people to give marijuana to one another without compensation.
 
The Governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper, is on the record opposing his state’s amendment which seeks to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol.  “Colorado is known for many great things –- marijuana should not be one of them,” Hickenlooper said in a statement. “Amendment 64 has the potential to increase the number of children using drugs and would detract from efforts to make Colorado the healthiest state in the nation. It sends the wrong message to kids that drugs are OK.”
 

Supporters of the new law argue that legalizing marijuana could help bring in hundreds of millions of dollars a year in pot taxes, reduce small-time pot-related arrests and give supporters a chance to show whether decriminalization is a viable strategy in the war on drugs.

House Bill 2230, the West Virginia Compassionate Medical Marijuana Bill includes this clause concerning the medical use of marijuana:  “States are not required to enforce federal law or prosecute people for engaging in activities prohibited by federal law. Therefore, compliance with this article does not put the State of West Virginia in violation of federal law.”  But, be aware: just because state laws have changed, that doesn’t necessarily mean if you are caught in possession of marijuana in a state which has legalized recreational use you won’t go to jail — because federal law still trumps state law. “Several states with legal medical marijuana have received letters from their respective United States Attorneys offices explaining that marijuana is a Schedule I substance and that the federal government considers growing, distribution, or possession of marijuana to be a federal crime regardless of the state laws. These letters have caused some states to delay or alter implementation of their medical marijuana programs.” 

As a law firm which has helped many people  who are suffering permanently life-altering injures from auto collisions, we have grave concerns about the effect of the legalization of the recreational use of pot on the safety of all drivers.  While alcohol is the predominant substance in fatal crashes, marijuana is the second most frequently found substance in crash-involved drivers, according to a NHTSA study. Alcohol and marijuana are also frequently found together, which results in a dramatic decrease in driving performance and spike in impairment levels.

Another area of strong concern is child safety.  West Virginia leads the nation in accidental prescription pain medicine overdoses.  Although medical professionals seem to agree that it is almost impossible for an adult to overdose on cannabis, the health risks for a young child are very serious.  For more information about the need for tamper-proof packaging for West Virginia’s proposed medical use marijuana, see our post:  https://wvaccidentlawyer.org/2013/04/08/medical-marijuana-in-wv-child-safety-packaging/.

Trends and Current Marijuana News

April 2013:  They are smelling something green on the West Coast, and it’s not necessarily cannabis —  entrepreneurs are smelling money as they position themselves to  be the first to invest in, develop, and market the cultivation, distribution, software tracking, vending machines and vaporizers for legal pot.     

According to Fortune Magazine, the CEO and co-founder of ArcView, a leading cannabis investment group, says:  “A geyser is going to go off, and the question is ‘Which company is going to be on top when it does?’  Business is driving this change.  Where there is money for government, money for investors, and money for entrepreneurs, there is a powerful incentive for change.”   Source:  Fortune Magazine, April 8, 2013:  “Yes We Cannabis” by Roger Parloff.

West Virginia debates Compassionate Medical Marijuana Act. http://www.statejournal.com/story/21829210/speakers-at-public-hearing-advocate-for-medical-marijuana-use-in-wv.

New study highlights the dangers of driving under the influence:  (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130301122256.htm)

January 2013:  Several bring-your-own pot clubs have now opened for business in Colorado.  The first legal pot dens popped up less than a month after Colorado’s governor signed into law a constitutional amendment allowing recreational pot use. Club 64, a club near Denver, gets its name from the number of the amendment.

Colorado’s marijuana amendment prohibits public consumption, and smoke-free laws also appear to ban indoor smokeouts. But Club 64 attorney Robert Corry said private pot dens are permissible because marijuana isn’t sold, nor is it food or drink.  The first marijuana club to open in Colorado has already been shut down. The club in a tiny southern Colorado town of Del Norte opened on Monday, but the lease was not to begin until Tuesday.  The landlord cancelled the pending lease of the club owner after all the publicity came out about the club’s opening.  The club owner stated that their business profit plan included customers from New Mexico who were planning to drive over the state line to participate. 

February 2013:  If a California company has its way, recreational marijuana users in Colorado and Washington state will one day be able to get their pot out of vending machines.

Such machines are already in use in some states where medical marijuana is legal, but now the maker’s founder says the Medbox company is working to adapt the machines to comply with new laws in Colorado and Washington, where adults can legally use marijuana for recreation.

Currently, the vending machines for medicine require a fingerprint scan to verify the identification of the patient, which is then linked to a prescription on file. 

Read more: Colorado’s first marijuana den shut down in landlord dispute – The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_22292647/colorados-first-marijuana-club-shut-down-landlord-dispute#ixzz2GwIGaGzL

http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/01/03/16327561-recreational-marijuana-users-could-get-pot-from-vending-machines-company-says?lite

http://www.policymic.com/articles/23326/marijuana-legalization-state-laws-matter-little-to-the-feds/347231

From the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC, Call today for free information for WV serious injury victims.  Order your copy of Righting the Wrong:  WV Serious Injury Guide today:  304-594-1800.  We have answers for your questions concerning your serious injury and insurance matters.

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Common Back and Spine Injuries After an Accident

Does your back hurt after a car or work accident in West Virginia (WV)?

If your spine has been injured, you know the pain can be excruciating, debilitating, and unending.  Back and spine injuries are some of the most common injuries that permanently alter our clients’ lives after a car wreck or workplace accident.   The insurance companies will attempt to minimize the amount of compensation you receive for your back injury, especially if you have a prior history of back pain that has been aggravated and made considerably worse by this traumatic event.  Our office frequently receives calls concerning spinal injuries, especially to the lower vertebrae, and the Robinette Legal Group has consistently obtained excellent results for our seriously injured clients.

Spinal cord injuries include:

  • Herniated discs: Fluid in the discs between any vertebrae ruptures, causing partial arm paralysis and pain
  • Fractured vertebrae: Can happen anywhere along the spinal column. Individual vertebrae break or disconnect, leading to possible paralysis below the fracture.
  • Cervical injuries: Injuries to the spine near the neck usually result in full or partial paralysis. A broken neck is a type of cervical injury.
  • Thoracic injuries: Mid-back area of the spine. Often results in paralysis or partial immobility of arms and legs.
  • Lumbar and sacral injuries: Lower spine injuries often result in mobility problems or paralysis of hips, as well as effects on the urinary tract and digestive tract.

A spinal cord injury doesn’t always mean paralysis. Many spine injuries suffered in accidents go undetected as hairline fractures on the vertebrae. There may be only minor symptoms, which may go away over time, leaving the victim to believe that no serious injury occurred.

In time, however, even a minor spinal cord injury can progress to a serious problem, requiring surgery and years of medical treatment. At their worst, a spinal cord injury can progress to paralysis and organ damage.

Get the Help You Need From Experienced Professionals

If you or a loved one has been in an accident and is noticing back pain or other nerve damage, make sure a medical specialist considers the possibility of a spinal cord injury. The West Virginia spinal cord injury lawyers of the Robinette Legal Group have extensive experience representing clients involved in spinal cord injury claims.

Jeff Robinette is a former insurance defense attorney who now exclusively represents plaintiffs injured by someone else’s negligence.  I use my courtroom experience and knowledge of the insurance litigation system to provide vigorous, effective representation for people who need to recover full and fair money damages for serious injuries that forever change our clients’ work and daily lives.

Free Books for WV Accident Victims:

Spinal cord injuries don’t go away on their own. If you have been injured, you may face a lifetime of medical treatment and financial loss. Our firm will fight hard to help you recover the full and fair money damages you are entitled to.

To learn more about what actions you should take — and must avoid — after an accident, order a FREE copy of our latest book Righting the Wrong:  West Virginia Serious Injury Guide.  You can obtain this book by contacting us through our website http://www.robinettelaw.com or by calling us at 304-594-1800 today.

We welcome your call and would be glad to answer your questions concerning your serious back or spinal injury.