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  1. Nonprofit Focused on Transportation Safety Schedules Annual Check

    Tractor Trailer

    The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) has announced that this year’s Operation Safe Driver will occur from October 16-22, 2016. Last year, law enforcement agencies conducted almost 20,000 roadside inspections during the Operation week focused on transportation safety. Driving in excess of the speed limit was the main reason that warnings and citations were issued to commercial vehicle drivers. Other reasons that drivers were cited were for failure to wear a seatbelt, failure to obey a traffic control device, and for using a handheld phone. All together, 4,062 citations were issued, as were 3,929 warnings.

    These safety inspections, aimed at reducing injuries and deaths caused by commercial vehicles, are warranted in the protection of drivers and their passengers on Missouri roadways. The Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP) reports crash data annually, and in its most recent report (2014), they indicated that 109 people were killed in commercial vehicle crashes, along with 3,185 people who were injured. Its definition of commercial vehicles includes “trucks having a gross vehicle weight of 10,001 pounds or more, cargo vans, vans with less than nine occupants, limousines having 9 to 15 occupant capacity, buses having occupant capacities of 16 or more, and vehicles displaying hazardous materials placards.” These efforts, along with other inspections, can help to make highways in St. Louis and throughout Missouri safer.

     

     

     

     

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  2. Winter Conditions Require More Cautious Driving

    According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, two people were killed in a crash on an icy Missouri highway when one driver lost control of his vehicle and slid into the path of the second victim’s vehicle.  The accident happened on the morning of December 29, 2015.  As drivers in Missouri and Illinois know, winter conditions require more cautious driving.  Personal injury lawyers in the St. Louis area see far too many accidents each year that could have been avoided with just a few small precautions.

    The Missouri Department of Transportation has several recommendations for people travelling in the area when the weather conditions are less than ideal.  For example, they recommend checking road conditions, either with MoDOT’s website or their toll-free number (888-275-6636), prior to going out.  They also have the following suggestions for staying safe on Missouri and Illinois roadways this winter:

    • Conduct a pre-trip inspection of your car, looking closely at the tires, brakes, wiper blades, and wiper fluid levels.
    • Equip your vehicle with items such as a first-aid kit; blankets; non-perishable food and bottled water; a shovel; and sand to use as traction under wheels.
    • Try to avoid travel until roads have been cleared, if at all possible.
    • Watch closely for other drivers who may be struggling with road conditions.  Be sure to give all other drivers extra space.
    • Keep mirrors, windows, and lights clean, and make sure your lights are on.

    Smart drivers will avoid using cruise control on any slick surface (ice, snow, sand).  According to the experts, when driving in snow, you should accelerate and decelerate slowly; applying gas gradually is the best way to regain traction and avoid skids.  Keep these tips in mind while travelling through the St. Louis area this winter may help you to avoid collisions that can result in serious injury or death.

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  3. Pedestrian Struck by a Van in St. Louis

    On December 4, 2015, KMOV News reported about a pedestrian struck by a van in St. Louis around 8:30 p.m. that day.  that a female pedestrian was struck by a van near the intersection of Arsenal Ave. and Jefferson Ave. in the Benton Park area of St. Louis.   So far, few details have been released other than that the woman was taken to a local hospital in critical, unstable condition.  Firefighters at the scene reported that the victim suffered a serious head injury.

    According to the CDC, a pedestrian related vehicle crash results in a pedestrian death once every 2 hours.  Car crashes result in a pedestrian injury once every 7 minutes.   The CDC reports that in 2012, more than one in every five children between the ages of 5 and 15 who were killed in traffic crashes were pedestrians. The CDC recommends that pedestrians take certain precautions to avoid being the victim of a pedestrian/automobile accident.

    Unfortunately, many Missouri drivers do not respect the rights of pedestrians on the roadways.  Many St. Louis residents, such as this pedestrian struck by a van in St. Louis, are injured or killed every year because of negligent drivers.  Drivers owe pedestrians a duty of care to watch out for them, even when pedestrians are not in a crosswalk.  Because of the size and weight of a vehicle, even a low-speed impact of a car hitting a pedestrian can result in traumatic injuries or death.  The Missouri Department of Transportation has published a summary of traffic rules and laws involving pedestrians.  You can access that information by clicking here.  For more information regarding Missouri pedestrian accidents or pedestrian rights, please visit my web page on pedestrian accidents.

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  4. Your Rights While Working in Missouri

    What to Do If You’ve Been Injured at Work in Missouri

    If you are injured at work, Missouri law requires that you provide written notice to your employer within 30 days of the date of injury.  For occupational disease cases and repetitive trauma injury, written notice should be provided within 30 days of the diagnosis of your condition.  Your written notice should include the date, time, and place of where the injury occurred; the nature of the injury; and your name and address.  The website for the Missouri Division of Workers’ Compensation contains an online form that can be used to report an injury to your employer. The failure to provide the required notice to your employer regarding your work injury may jeopardize your rights to receive benefits under Missouri’s Workers’ Compensation law.  However, the failure to provide notice to your employer will not always prevent you from pursuing a claim or receiving benefits if you can show that your employer was not prejudiced by the failure to receive notice.  It is important to note that providing notice to your employer is NOT the same as filing a Claim for Compensation.  The failure to file a Claim for Compensation with the Missouri Division of Workers’ Compensation within the time required by law will forever bar a claim.

    What Injuries Are covered Under the Missouri Workers’ Compensation Law?

    For an injury to be covered under Missouri’s statute, the injury must arise out of and in the course of one’s employment.  Further, the work accident must be the “prevailing factor,” or primary factor, in causing both the resulting medical condition and disability.  The Missouri Workers’ Compensation statute covers occupational diseases as well.  For an assessment of your claim, you should consider consulting a Missouri attorney in the St. Louis area who is experienced in workers’ compensation cases. He or she can discuss with you your rights while working in Missouri.

    Can I Be Fired for Getting Hurt on the Job?

    The Missouri Workers’ Compensation statute (Sec. 287.780 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri) provides that, “No employer or agent shall discharge or in any way discriminate against any employee for exercising any of his rights under this chapter. Any employee who has been discharged or discriminated against shall have a civil action for damages against his employer.”

    Though you cannot be fired for filing a workers’ compensation claim, that does not mean you are completely protected. For example, you may still be terminated from your job for misconduct on the job, just as you could at any time, regardless of injury status. The statute also is not an absolute guarantee of continued employment. If, for example, you are physically unable to perform your job duties after your medical treatment has been completed, you may be terminated from employment for that reason.

    If you have suffered a workplace injury, a Missouri workers’ compensation lawyer may be able to help you get fair, just compensation for your claim, including necessary treatment and payment for time off work.

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  5. Drunk Drivers Endanger Missouri Travelers

    The holidays soon will be upon us, bringing with them cheer, goodwill, and festive gatherings across Missouri and Illinois.  Many of those gatherings will involve alcohol and, unfortunately, will be followed by car accidents with drunk drivers that could have been avoided.  That is why the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety has initiated its December Impaired Driving Enforcement Campaign, which begins on December 18, 2015.  The campaign’s purpose is to remind drivers in Missouri to make responsible choices while celebrating with alcohol.  Drivers should know that law enforcement activity will increase between December 18 – January 3, and that includes sobriety checkpoints.  As stated by the Campaign, if you’re planning a special celebration for the holidays, think first about a safe and sober ride home.

    Holiday safety advertising in restaurants and bars across Missouri will serve as reminders of the importance of choosing a completely sober ride such as a taxi.  Both Illinois and Missouri have laws that allow establishments such as bars and restaurants to be held liable in some drunk driving accident cases if the establishment served the drunk driver the alcohol.  These laws, called dram shop laws, can help the victims or the families of the drunk driving victims obtain fair and just compensation for the negligent acts of such establishments.  Making such a claim can be difficult, though, and often requires the assistance of an experienced accident lawyer.

    Drunk driving is a huge problem in the United States.  Drunk Drivers endanger Missouri Travelers.  As a personal injury attorney in the St. Louis area, I am deeply concerned about the fact that 30% of all traffic fatalities in Missouri involve drunk drivers.  The CDC has stated that nationwide, a person dies every 51 minutes from an accident involving a drunk driver.  For 2013, that meant over 10,000 people died in the United States because of accidents caused by drunk drivers.  Between 2003-2012, 3,314 people died in Missouri, and 3,866 in Illinois, because of such car wrecks. This holiday season do not become another Missouri or Illinois DWI /DUI car accident statistic.

     

     

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  6. Injuries in Auto Accidents When Car Seats Break

    On an October 28, 2015, segment of CBS News Investigates, individuals described the devastating effects on their lives that resulted from auto makers’ low standards for testing the strength of car seats to ensure they will not break during car accidents.  According to CBS, all the manufacturers have to do is put a brace across a seat, attach it to a winch, and pull – and they can pass the federal standard.  Car crash experts showed that even a banquet chair could pass the test, which does not bode well for Missouri drivers.  As a St. Louis personal injury attorney, this fact leaves me very concerned about the potential for harm to Missouri drivers and passengers in car crashes.

    Every day, an average of three children die in car accidents, and another 470 are injured.  Of those, 11% are sitting in the rear seats, which is the recommended location for children.  However, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) standards are so low for the strength of the seats in front of them that children in rear seats are at substantial risk of injury in motor vehicle collisions.

    The parents of a 16-month old child had their lives changed forever when their mini-van was rear-ended at 55 mph.  The child was sitting in the seat behind her father, whose seat broke after collapsing on impact and struck the child in the face, killing her.  Crash tests have demonstrated what can happen when a seat collapses.  The seat is launched backwards and slams into a child’s face.  Children are not the only individuals at risk for injury in these accidents.  Drivers’ heads crash into seat backs, sometimes resulting in injury, paralysis, or death.  For example, a 70 year old woman was paralyzed in 2011 when the seat of her vehicle broke after being hit from behind.  People harmed in automobile accidents like these may have claims against the auto makers for product liability.  If a loved one was killed, their family members may choose to bring a wrongful death suit against the manufacturer as well.

    Sadly, according to car crash experts, auto makers have been aware of the problem for decades.  What is more troublesome is that the NHTSA also has known for many years.  In fact, in 1992, the NHTSA, whose job is to look out for the safety of the public, warned of the danger of seat breakage and cited examples of “major or fatal injuries” when seat backs collapse.  Even after stating in 2000 that the NHTSA would be “looking into the seat back issue within a year,” the standard as of 2015 is the same as it was in the 1960s.  In fact, the NHTSA abandoned research into the issue 11 years ago despite the continued high risk of harm, personal injury or death to drivers and their passengers.

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  7. Avoiding Child Pedestrian Accidents this Halloween

    Children in St. Louis and surrounding areas get understandably excited on Halloween. The problem is that there also are many cars, trucks, and other motor vehicles on Missouri roadways on Halloween night. Pedestrian accidents are always bad, but when they are child pedestrian accidents, they are especially tragic. Missouri drivers always need to keep a watchful eye for tiny pedestrians and bicycle riders, but even more so on Halloween. As a St. Louis personal injury lawyer, I am always on the lookout for suggestions to make our roadways safer for young people. The Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety offered several tips for Missouri drivers:

    • Stay alert. Pedestrian and bicycle traffic is likely to increase in many neighborhoods and suburban areas.
    • Stop, look, and listen at intersections and anywhere there are parked cars – because the kids often are not doing so.
    • Make sure your own trick-or-treaters are wearing bright, reflective clothing that will be visible even in low light.

    Halloween is meant to be a purely fun holiday and the joy that young ones exhibit on a day where they can become any character they want and get sugary treats on top of it all is second to none. Keeping the aforementioned tips in mind will help protect against child pedestrian accidents and keep our young citizens safe on a night that should be fun-filled and worry-free.

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  8. Fatal Auto Accidents Increased by 14%

     

    As a personal injury attorney in Missouri, I pay close attention to the news and what trends are appearing. According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal (09/09/2015), the National Safety Council (NSC) has reported a high surge in fatal accidents across the U.S. in the first half of this year.  In fact, according to the NSC, the number of fatal auto accidents is expected to exceed 40,000 this year, which would be the first time that has happened since 2007.  Why the increase? Industry experts have pointed to a combination of factors, including low gas prices, adverse weather, and a financial upswing.  The economic recovery means that more people are driving to work and to stores, and also, Americans have more disposable income so we are traveling more.  In fact, according to the Federal Highway Administration, travel increased 3.5% to a record 1.54 trillion miles traveled through June 2015.

    In addition to increased time on the roads, other experts have cited their beliefs that distracted driving is possibly to blame for the higher death rate.  Between the technology that is built into modern car dashboards and the kind that fits neatly in our hands, American drivers have a plethora of options that are meant to entertain us.  However, we’re employing these options at the wrong times, and paying a high price for our inability to focus on the roads.  Despite the fact that most states have laws that ban all use of cell phones while driving, one in four car crashes involves cell phone use, according to the NSC.  Cell phones are not the only culprits; we also play on tablets and game systems and watch videos on devices, as do our passengers, which serves to distract us further.

    If you or a loved one have been injured in an auto accident, consult Attorney John M. Cichelero today for a free consultation.

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  9. Recent Missouri Workers’ Comp Ruling Helps Define Employee’s Rights to Medical Care

    As a Missouri workers’ compensation lawyer, I was particularly interested in a recent decision of the Missouri Court of Appeals that found that an injured Missouri worker does not need to prove that his or her work injury is the prevailing factor in the need for specific medical treatment.  The case is Tillotson v. St. Joseph’s Medical Center.

    In Tillotson, a worker injured her knee in a Missouri work accident.  The diagnosis was a torn meniscus.  The worker also had preexisting arthritis in the same knee.  Due to the overall condition of the worker’s knee, including her significant arthritic condition, her physicians recommended a total knee replacement.  The workers’ compensation insurance carrier refused to pay for a total knee replacement.  It was their position that the need for the replacement was due to her preexisiting arthritic condition.  Stated differently, their position was that the prevailing factor for the knee replacement was not the work injury.

    The Missouri Labor and Industrial Relations Commission agreed with the insurer’s position.  The Commission interpreted §287.140.1 of the Missouri Workers’ Compensation Act as requiring that the work injury be the prevailing factor in the need for a total knee replacement.  The Missouri Court of Appeals reversed this decision holding that § 287.140.1  sets forth that the legal standard for determining an employer’s obligation to provide medical care is whether the treatment is reasonably required to cure and relieve the effects of the injury.   The Court pointed out that there is no mention of the “prevailing factor” test in this Section of the statute.

    Under Tillotson, Missouri accident attorneys representing injured Missouri workers may be able to obtain more complete treatment to cure the effects of a work injury without having to establish that the work injury was the prevailing factor in causing the need for some specific treatment.

     

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  10. 8 Children Injured in Bus Accident in North St. Louis

    KMOV news reported last week that a school bus with 14 children on board was involved in a car accident in St. Louis, Missouri. Eight of the children suffered injuries. Six children were transported to St. Louis area hospitals for treatment. The extent of their injuries was described as minor.

    Car accidents involving school buses are common occurrences across the country. In general, the NTSB considers school buses safe. Advocates against seat belts on school buses argue, among other things, that school buses are “compartmentalized” for protection. This approach relies on seats that are padded and energy absorbing to protect the occupants who are “compartmentalized” between seats on the bus.

    However, many personal injury attorneys in Missouri would consider the lack of seat belts to be a problem. In March of this year, ABC News highlighted the debate taking place in many states over whether school buses should be equiped with seat belts. The article pointed out that only 6 states have passed legislation dealing with seat belts on school buses. The article mentions the irony in requiring that the school bus driver wear a seat belt while all of the children go seat belt free on the bus.

    Missouri does not require seat belts on school buses. It was, however, a Missouri school bus accident earlier this year on Interstate 44 that reignited the debate over whether seat belts should be required on school buses. In that accident, several students were injured and killed when their school bus was involved in a wreck with a tractor-trailer and pick-up truck.

    Most Missouri accident lawyers would welcome the enhanced safety that school bus seat belts would provide to students traveling within this state.

    Bus Accident Injures 8 Students in North St. Louis, kmov.com, November 17, 2010

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