Van Blois Law Firm Specialists in Catastrophic Personal Injury

Oakland Personal Injury Law Blog

The Silent Killer in Your Home

A University of California Berkeley graduate watched the Super Bowl on television in his Oakland apartment with his roommate and his girlfriend. During the day and evening they experienced headaches and nausea. The roommate and his girlfriend left. When they returned the next day, they found their friend in bed with his eyes half open, and unresponsive. He was diagnosed with anoxic encephalopathy due to carbon monoxide poisoning. He remains in a persistent vegetative state.

A married couple were recently found dead along with their two cats in a Berkeley, California fourplex. The cause of death was carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide is a gas produced by incomplete combustion. It is colorless, tasteless and odorless to human senses. The density of carbon monoxide is less than that of air and it distributes rapidly within spaces such as apartments. At lower levels, symptoms include headache, malaise, fatigue, slowed mentation, confusion and other neurologic sequelae. When levels become sufficient, unconsciousness and death will occur. 

Catastrophic Falls From Construction Scaffolds

When a construction worker falls from a scaffold, the accident is usually catastrophic. The injuries are life-changing and many times are fatal. The Department of Labor has estimated that 65 percent of the construction industry perform their work using scaffolds.

Most construction projects require a scaffolding contractor to erect and dismantle scaffolding. A scaffolding contractor must be specially licensed. The scaffolding contractor usually contracts with a general contractor to design the scaffolding and drawings or plans are prepared for the type of scaffolding. The erection and dismantling of scaffold must be performed under the supervision and direction of a "qualified" person under Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations, known as CAL-OSHA. 

Drunk Drivers Made to Pay High Jury Verdicts

"California juries are fed up with drunk drivers," says Oakland trial lawyer Lew Van Blois. If you drink and drive and cause an accident with injuries, you will not only be forced to pay huge compensatory damages to innocent victims, you may also be socked with punitive damages that will require you to make payments the rest of your life. Punitive damages are not dischargeable in bankruptcy. Drunk drivers who cause serious injuries usually are sent to prison.

"Third parties who promote or encourage excessive drinking will be required to pay for the damages a drunk driver causes," states attorney Van Blois. A Santa Rosa, California winery agreed to pay $3 million to settle a lawsuit brought by a man who was permanently disabled in an alcohol-related car crash. The passenger who suffered a serious brain injury sued the winery for serving beer to a 19-year-old driver at a wedding reception hosted by the winery. 7-11 later sold beer to the 19-year-old driver and paid an additional $500,000 to settle the case. The driver of the car was convicted of driving under the influence causing bodily injury and was sentenced to jail. 

Unsafe Truck Driving in Winter Weather

Every winter, many people are severely injured or killed by commercial semi-truck drivers who violate the law by driving in adverse weather conditions. It takes longer to stop and is more difficult to turn without skidding when the road is slippery. If the road is very slippery, truck drivers should not drive their trucks at all. Many big rig truck drivers do not slow down during bad weather. Most catastrophic bad weather truck accidents could have been avoided if truck drivers would have followed the law.

The law regarding commercial trucking in bad weather is in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, Section 392.14:

Extreme caution in the operation of a commercial motor vehicle shall be exercised when hazardous conditions, such as those caused by snow, ice, sleet, fog, mist, rain, dust, or smoke, adversely affect visibility or traction. Speed shall be reduced when such conditions exist. If conditions become sufficiently dangerous, the operation of the commercial vehicle shall be discontinued and shall not be resumed until the commercial motor vehicle can be safely operated.

6 considerations regarding spinal cord injuries

Car accidents, sports accidents and a host of other incidents can lead to spinal cord injuries. These injuries impact every aspect of the victim's life. In many cases, these injuries continue to impact the victim for years to come. Victims of spinal cord injuries and their family members might want to remember these six points.

Fatal Pedestrian Accidents are Increasing

Pedestrian deaths are increasing nationally and are surging in San Francisco. Nationally, pedestrian deaths increased ten percent in 2015. San Francisco is California's most dangerous City for pedestrians. Fifty percent of all traffic deaths in San Francisco are pedestrian accidents. One out of every four trauma cases at San Francisco General Hospital involves a pedestrian hit by a vehicle.

Speeding is the leading cause of pedestrian accidents and increases the severity of any collision. At 20 mph, nine out of ten people hit by a vehicle will survive (ten percent will be killed). At 30 mph, four out of ten pedestrians will be killed and at 40 mph, 80 percent of the pedestrians will suffer fatal injuries.

The faster the car is traveling, the longer the driver's reaction time and the increased braking distance makes it less likely to stop or swerve to avoid a collision. At 20 mph the braking distance is under 100 feet but at 40 mph the braking distance is almost 300 feet. Further, at speeds over 20 mph the drivers peripheral vision decreases and prevents drivers from seeing people who may be stepping off a curb into a crosswalk. 

Truck Platooning Can Be Unsafe

Truck platooning is an aerodynamic approach to cut fuel consumption by reducing wind resistance. Two big-rig trucks speed down the freeway only 30-50 feet apart leaving no real gap between them with the lead truck in control. The reduction in aerodynamic drag of two-truck platoons provide significant fuel savings. Proponents of truck platooning allege it allows the second truck to react more quickly and accurately when the lead truck must respond to an obstacle ahead.

Several European Countries are attempting to lead the way in what they call smart truck driving. In Germany, Mercedes is testing three big rig trucks platooning in what is termed Daimler's Highway Pilot Connect System. The trucks are controlled by the lead vehicle through wireless communication. If the lead truck's collision avoidance system activates its brakes the following trucks will do the same.

In Mountain View, California, Peloton Technology is an early leader in this field. They make hardware and software that allows the trailing truck's brakes and acceleration to automatically synchronize with the one in front. 

An attorney can help if a drunk driver hit you

Alcohol is called a social lubricant. It's common at parties and other social events. Most people are responsible when consuming alcohol. Sadly, far too many people make the illegal and dangerous decision to operate their vehicle after they've consumed alcohol. These individuals are not only putting themselves at risk, they are endangering everyone else on the road.

Drunk driving is highly correlated with serious, even fatal, car accidents. If you have recently been in an accident caused by a drunk driver, working with an attorney is critical to protecting yourself, your family, and your financial future.

Asleep At The Wheel

TRUCK DRIVER fatigue is a factor in one-third of all truck crashes, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). A survey of long-haul truck drivers reported that 66 percent of drivers acknowledged experiencing fatigue on at least half of their trips. Thirteen percent of drivers reported actually falling asleep at the wheel.

The most common cause of fatigue is lack of sleep. There are additional factors which affect driver fatigue including greater daytime sleepiness, difficult schedules, more hours of work, time of day, driving experience and the presence of a sleep disorder.

A sleep deprived truck driver has increased reaction time, reduced attention and is prone to errors that can be deadly. Long-distance truck drivers on overnight or early morning routes are more susceptible to the effects of sleep deprivation than during daylight hours because their natural sleep patterns are disrupted. Studies have shown that severe impairment of alertness usually occurs between midnight and 6 AM. One night of sleep loss can impair thinking and decision making.

Kids, car crashes and growth plate fractures

The scary thing about an accident involving your child isn't the actual accident itself, despite what you might think. It's the possibility that the so-called minor injuries that your child sustained could be covering up something much more serious.

Kids are hardy people. They heal easily, bounce back from illnesses and injuries, and are quickly ready to get back out and play. However, growth plate fractures need to be recognized and addressed. Let's look at what a growth plate is and how you can protect your child's health.

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