December 5, 2017

The road to ensure driverless vehicles are safe

37, 461 people were killed in crashes on U.S. roads in 2016. Because most crashes are caused by human error, many see driverless vehicles as a solution to reduce crashes. Automakers and others are rushing to market with vehicles that have autonomous driving capability. Are they doing enough to ensure driverless vehicles are safe? Distasio Kowalski is an injury law firm that focuses on protecting the victims of car accidents and truck crashes. As such, we are hopeful that when properly tested and regulated, driverless vehicles will help to reduce injuries and fatalities as the result of auto accidents. The key is adequate testing and regulation to ensure safety.

Harvard Business Review published a research and computer model conducted by Accenture and the Stevens Institute of Technology. The study indicated that “as many as 23 million fully autonomous vehicles will be traveling U.S. highways by 2035.” Both Tesla and GM introduced new vehicles with self-drive capabilities recently. Tesla rolled out a fully electric semi truck with autopilot drive capabilities. The semi can apparently go 500 miles between charges while hauling 80,000 pounds. It’s equipped with automated braking, lane keeping, and lane departure warnings. General Motors also just unveiled its new driverless cars. It seems like a race to see which automakers can bring driverless vehicles to the market first. In addition to automakers, Google, Apple and Uber are testing driverless technology as well.

Google’s driverless vehicle safety report

Google recently submitted the first-ever safety report to regulators regarding Waymo, its self-driving car company. The company has done extensive research and testing and hopes to better educate the public regarding driverless vehicle technology. Statistics quoted to support the introduction of this technology, include: 94% of crashes in the U.S. involve human error and $594 billion in harm from loss of life and injury each year. Waymo’s self-driving system is designed to operate without any human driver. When the hardware and software is implemented, it will perform all driving function.

The report includes an overview of the pre-built maps, sensors and software that surround this technology. The safety process began with identifying potential hazardous scenarios and what could be done to reduce risk.

Google addressed five areas of safety for driverless vehicles:

  1. Behavior Safety – how are driving decision made.
  2. Functional Safety – vehicles must operate safely at all times, even if there is a system fault or failure.
  3. Crash Safety – vehicles must protect the passengers inside in the event of a car crash. These vehicles must meet safety standards.
  4. Operational Safety – consumers must have a safe experience inside a driverless vehicle.
  5. Non-Collision Safety – Physical safety for the range of people who may interact with the vehicle.

Are driverless vehicles safe?

While Google’s report was an overview of everything they are doing to ensure safety, the question remains, are these autonomous vehicles safe? AAA released a study on public perception of driverless vehicles earlier this year. AAA found that although majority of U.S. drivers seek autonomous technology in their next vehicle, they continue to fear the fully self-driving car. Most noteworthy, three quarters of U.S. drivers reported feeling afraid to drive in a self driving car and only 10 percent said they’d feel safer sharing the road with driverless cars. This public feeling about driverless vehicle technology and safety will be a major hurdle to overcome in the widespread introduction of these cars and trucks.

Personal injury safety concerns of driverless vehicles

  • First of all, an education of the driver would be required. Although the vehicle is driving itself once the computer takes over, a driver must still be educated in safe operation.
  • Because driverless vehicles would be coming from many different companies, they must somehow be connected to work together and share the road together for optimum safety. This will not be an easy task.
  • A self-driving vehicle does not guarantee safety. In the event of a car accident, who would be liable? This needs to be addressed.
  • How will self driving cars and trucks operate in various weather conditions? Would snow and rain affect the sensors and impact vehicle safety.
  • Furthermore, how will road hazards impact driving? If a roadblock or construction zone goes up suddenly. If dangers exist on a road such as potholes, debris or other dangers.
  • The danger of other outside influences. What happens if there is a power outage and a stop light is not working properly?
  • The threat of the vehicle computer being hacked. This can pose a real danger to those inside the vehicle and also around it.

Autonomous vehicles are on the way to a road near you and the car accident lawyers at Distasio Kowalski hope that safety is a top priority as these vehicles are introduced. In conclusion, public safety must be a primary focus of federal legislators as they introduce laws regarding driverless cars and driverless trucks.

October 28, 2017

Motor vehicle crash deaths on the rise

A motor vehicle crash kills someone every fifteen minutes. The U.S. Department of Transportation released 2016 crash fatality statistics earlier this month. 37,461 people were killed in traffic accidents. This was an increase of 5.6% over 2015 crash fatalities. Motorcyclist fatalities and pedestrian deaths accounted for more than a third of the increase. The 9% increase in pedestrian fatalities was the highest number since 1990. Motorcycle accident deaths rose by 5.1%. Another notable increase was an 8.6 % increase in large truck crash fatalities.

Passengers of cars and light trucks accounted for 36% of those killed in auto accidents. Together, they totaled 54% of the overall increase in fatalities. Pedestrians, bicyclists and other non-occupants account for 18% of the crash fatalities.

Risky behaviors behind the wheel cause crashes

The NHTSA reported that human choices are linked to 94% of serious crashes. This is evidenced in motor vehicle crash fatality increases in areas including speeding-related crash fatalities, drunk driving deaths and unbelted crash deaths. B up when driving is one of the safest choices both drivers and passengers can make. Seat belt use is the single most effective thing you can do to protect yourself in the event of a crash. Yet, more than 27 million people in the U.S. still don’t wear seat belts.

A National Security Council survey offered a look at risky driver behaviors.

  • 64% of those surveyed said they were comfortable speeding
  • 47% responded that they believe it is safe to text, either manually or by voice, while driving
  • 71 % believe they can have up to three drinks before they are not safe or too impaired to drive.

A deadly motor vehicle crash trend

Motor vehicle deaths increased from 2014 to 2015 and then again from 2015 to 2016. The last time there was increase in motor vehicle crash fatalities of this magnitude was more than 50 years ago from 1963 to 1965.

Motor vehicle crashes are killing our youth at an alarming rate. Auto crashes were the leading cause of death for age 10 and every age 16 through 23 in 2015.

Alcohol-related driving was responsible for 10,497 motor vehicle crash deaths or 28% of the total fatalities in 2017. An average of one alcohol-impaired driving fatality occurred every 50 minutes in 2016. Drivers age 25 to 34 years of age had the highest percentage (27%) of alcohol-impaired driving fatal crashes. Tragically, children accounted for 17% of those who died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes.

Injured in a crash? Speak to an accident attorney

If you’ve been injured or a family member killed in a car or truck accident, contact the Distasio Kowalski personal injury law firm. We may be able to help you seek compensation for your injuries. This can include lost wages, medical expenses and pain and suffering. Be sure to seek the legal advice of an auto accident lawyer before you settle with an insurance company. Call a Wilkes-Barre car accident lawyer today at 570-970-5400

 

 

 

 

September 22, 2017

Physicians Must Obtain Informed Consent Rules PA Supreme Court

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently ruled that physicians must obtain informed consent. A physician is personally responsible for obtaining informed consent from a patient prior to performing medical procedures. As a result, physicians cannot delegate this duty to other staff members, such as nurses or physician’s assistants.

Informed consent is defined as a formal agreement that a patient signs. The agreement gives permission for a medical procedure after having been told about the risks, benefits, etc. The goal of Informed consent is to be sure that the patient fully understands the procedure or treatment. And is also aware of the risks, benefits and other possible alternatives.

PA Malpractice Lawsuit – Physicians must obtain informed consent

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that physicians must obtain informed consent came as the result of Shinal v. Toms. This was a medical malpractice lawsuit filed against Geisinger Hospital in Danville. The case came about as the result of a brain surgery that went wrong. Consequently, the surgery resulted in serious injury to the patient. The patient suffered a stroke, brain injury and partial blindness. Most noteworthy according to the lawsuit, the physician’s assistant, not the operating physician, provided the patient with information about the procedure. It was also the assistant, and not the physician who obtained the patients signature on the consent form. Finally, the plaintiff claimed she was never informed of the risks of the surgery or alternative treatments.

The PA Supreme Court ruling outlined that the duty to obtain a patient’s informed consent is a non-delegable duty. The duty belongs solely to the physician conducting the surgery or treatment. “A physician cannot rely on staff to disclose sufficient information required to obtain a patient’s informed consent. Without direct dialogue and a two-way exchange between the physician and the patient, the physician cannot be confident that the patient comprehends the risks, benefits, likelihood of success and alternatives.”

Law Regarding a Patient’s Informed Consent

The PA Supreme Court decision that physicians must obtain informed consent is limited to the procedures mentioned in Section 504 of the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Act. The act specifically states: A physician owes a duty to a patient to obtain Informed Consent of the patient or the patient’s authorized representative prior to the conducting the following procedures:

  1. Surgery, including the related administration of anesthesia;
  2. Administering radiation or chemotherapy;
  3. Administering a blood transfusion and all blood products;
  4. Inserting a surgical device or appliance; and
  5. Administering an experimental medication, using an experimental device or using an approved medication or device in an experimental manner.

Your Rights as a Patient

Physicians must obtain informed consent. It is the right of every patient who needs to undergo a medical procedure, surgery or other medical treatment, to expect to be receive the information necessary about the treatment to make an informed decision. This information should include your diagnosis and the proposed treatment plan. Furthermore, it should also include any and all risks involved with the procedure or treatment, benefits of the treatment and also alternatives to the recommended course of treatment. Finally, a patient should be asked to sign an informed Consent Form only after being informed of all of these risks, benefits and alternatives, and it is clear that the patient understands all of the information.

If a patient is not fully informed of the risks involved with a medical procedure or treatment, and a serious injury occurs as the result of the treatment, the patient may have grounds for a medical malpractice suit. Certain situations may arise where informed consent is not required, such as in the event of an emergency. This may occur when a patient is unconscious and enters the emergency room with the life threatening injury.

Medical Malpractice Injuries

Have a question about the informed consent law, call us for more information. If you have been injured as a result of a medical error and would like to speak to an attorney, contact us today. If you have suffered due to the negligence of a healthcare provider, we can help. Call the medical malpractice attorneys at Distasio Kowaslski in Wilkes-Barre today at 570-970-5400.

 

August 16, 2017

Daniel Distasio Named to Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum

The Million Dollar Advocates Forum recently announced that attorney Daniel J. Distasio of the Wilkes-Barre personal injury firm Distasio & Kowalski, LLC has been certified as a member of the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum.

Distasio is presently a life member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. This is one of the most prestigious groups of trial lawyers in the country. The Forum is limited to attorneys who have won million and multi-million dollar verdicts, awards and settlements on behalf of clients. Less than 1% of U.S. lawyers are members of the forum, which acknowledges excellence in advocacy. It also provides members with a national network of experienced colleagues for information exchange in major cases.

Daniel J. Distasio

Distasio earned his Juris Doctorate from the Dickinson School of Law. He focuses on cases involving auto & truck accidents, medical malpractice, personal injury and product liability.

For more information on Daniel J. Distasio or Distasio & Kowalski LLC, please call 570-970-5400.

July 26, 2017

Peter Biscontini named to Top 40 Under 40 Pennsylvania Civil Plaintiff Trial Lawyers

Peter J. Biscontini, Esquire, an attorney with the Wilkes-Barre personal injury firm of Distasio & Kowalski, LLC has been selected by National Trial Lawyers for inclusion into its Top 40 under 40 Civil Plaintiff Trial Lawyers in Pennsylvania.

This honor is given to only a select group of lawyers for their superior skills and qualifications in the field. Membership in this exclusive organization is by invitation only, and is limited to attorneys in each state or region age 40 or younger who have demonstrated excellence and have achieved outstanding results in their careers in either civil plaintiff or criminal defense law.

With the selection of Peter J. Biscontini by The National Trial Lawyers: Top 40 Under 40, Mr. Biscontini has shown that he exemplifies superior qualifications, leadership skills and trial results. The Top 40 Under 40 is a comprehensive list of the most outstanding trial lawyers chosen to represent their state or region. The selection process for this elite honor is based on a multi-phase process, which includes peer nominations combined with third party research.

Distasio & Kowalski LLC, located in downtown Wilkes-Barre, specializes in Auto/Truck Accidents, Workers’ Compensation, Medical Malpractice, Product Liability, and Personal Injury/Wrongful Death. For more information on Distasio & Kowalski LLC, please call 570-970-5400.