May 6, 2018

May Brings a Focus on Motorcycle Safety

May is Motorcycle Safety Month and PennDOT is encouraging riders to register for a free motorcycle safety course through the Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program. There are programs for new motorcycle riders, as well as returning and experienced riders. Spring can be one of the best times for motorcyclists, but sadly it can also be one of the most dangerous. As a personal injury firm, the attorneys at Distasio Kowalski have seen the damages of motorcycle crashes firsthand. We’ve just come off a cold snowy winter in NEPA and the weather has finally warmed up. Motorcycle riders can’t wait to get out on the open road and feel the wind in their face. It’s important to keep safety top of mind when riding. Motorcyclists are much more likely than passenger car occupants to die or become injured in a serious crash. The NHTSA reported that in 2016, we saw the largest number of motorcyclist fatalities since 2008. The number took a 5.1 percent jump to 5,286 fatalities.

PA motorcycle helmet laws

Motorcyclists who ride without helmets run a significantly greater risk of death or permanent injury. The U.S. General Accounting Office found that helmeted riders have a 73% lower fatality rate than unhelmeted riders and an 85% reduced incidence of severe and critical injuries. Motorcycle helmet laws vary from state to state. Currently only 18 states and the District of Columbia have universal helmet laws. PA Law requires that any person who operates or rides a motorcycle (including an autocycle) must wear protective headgear unless he or she is over 21 years of age and has either two years of riding experience or has completed a motorcycle safety course approved by PennDOT or the Motorcycle Safety foundation.

Ten dangers to watch for when riding a motorcycle

  1. Potholes – We live in northeast Pennsylvania, so we all know the dangers of potholes. Ever experience that horrible bump when you’re

    motorbike accident

    driving down a Wilkes-Barre road and your vehicle hits what seems like a large crater? Imagine if you’re riding a motorcycle what that impact can feel like and the real danger it can pose. Potholes seem to be everywhere right now, on city streets, in rural areas and on our highways, including I80, I81 and the PA turnpike.

  2. Gravel & Road Debris – Small rocks, leftover leaves, branches and twigs and any other road debris can cause a serious motorcycle accident. Debris on the road is something you definitely need to be on the lookout for. Even the smallest amount of gravel can cause a cycle to skid and crash when traveling at a high rate of speed.
  3. Unsafe Lane Changes – When the driver of a passenger vehicle or a motorcycle fail to check carefully before changing lanes, especially their blind spot, it can lead to a dangerous motorcycle collision. This is another common cause of crashes.
  4. Car Doors Opening – The opening of car doors into the path of an oncoming motorcyclist is a leading cause of motorcycle accidents in cities. As the driver of a passenger vehicle, you need to be extremely careful when opening your car door on a busy street. A motorcyclist also needs to be on the lookout for opening doors.
  5. Sudden Stops – Tailgating can result in a rear end motorcycle collision that can result in serious injury to a motorcyclist.
  6. Distracted Drivers – Distraction on the part of other drivers can pose a danger to a motorcyclist who lacks the protection of a car and is very vulnerable in the event of an accident. Consult with a motorcycle accident lawyer at Distasio Kowalski if you’ve been injured by a distracted driver.
  7. Motorcycle Defects – Just like vehicles that we see recalled every day, motorcycles can be defective as well. They can have a dangerous design or a defect in manufacturing that may lead to a crash.
  8. Impaired Driving – Alcohol use plays a huge factor in motorcycle accidents. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, 25% of motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes in 2016 were alcohol impaired. That’s higher than the drivers of any other vehicles involved in fatal accidents.
  9. Dangerous Driving – This can include speeding weaving in and out of traffic, making unsafe turns, lane splitting and driving too closely to the vehicle in front of you. Lane splitting occurs when a motorcycle drives between two lanes of stopped or slow moving traffic. It’s a common cause of collisions and a dangerous practice for motorcyclists. Oftentimes motorcycle accidents are caused by another vehicle turning left in front of the motorcycle. The driver of the other vehicle may be distracted or just misjudged the speed of the motorcycle. All drivers need to pay attention on to their surroundings.
  10. Lack of Proper Riding Gear – Most noteworthy, statistics show that motorcycle helmets do save lives. Many riders opt not to wear them, and it can mean very dangerous injuries in the event of a motorcycle crash. In addition to a helmet, motorcyclists should also wear protective face and eyewear, boots, gloves and a jacket.

Motorcycle accidents in Pennsylvania

A motorcycle accident in Pennsylvania can cause very serious and possibly fatal injuries. Traumatic brain injuries are not uncommon in motorcycle collisions, especially when a helmet is not worn. Other serious injuries can include head, neck and spinal cord injuries, paralysis, fractures, loss of limb, internal injuries and serious road rash. Be sure to always wear safety gear when riding, be visible to other motorists, be sure you are well trained on your bike and be on the alert for roadway dangers. In addition to the training courses available through the PA Motorcycle Training Program, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation also offers courses for riders and provides important motorcycle safety information and training.

If you have been in a motorcycle accident as a result of the negligence of another party, the motorcycle injury lawyers at Distasio Kowalski in Wilkes-Barre can help. Call 570-970-5400 or contact us online.

February 6, 2018

Understanding the difference between a birth injury and a birth defect

It’s usually one of the happiest times of a couple’s lives. Expectant parents anxiously preparing and awaiting the birth of a new baby. Tragically, excitement can quickly turn to heartbreak for parents when something goes wrong and an infant is born injured or suffering in some way. It’s an important time to be sure you understand the difference between a birth injury and a birth defect. While this is a confusing time for new parents, filled with a mix of emotions, it is important to determine the cause of your baby’s suffering. Knowing the difference between a birth injury and a birth defect can be very important in determining if there was any medical negligence involved in harm caused to your baby. If there was negligence or a medical error, you may be eligible for compensation for those injuries and for ongoing medical treatment for your newborn.

What is a birth injury?

Birth injuries usually happen during or immediately after the labor and delivery process. Injuries could possibly result from excessive force or trauma during delivery. Birth injury may also result from failure to monitor the baby for fetal distress or from other medical errors or substandard care during or after the birthing process. This can include misdiagnoses or failure to diagnose potential complications during pregnancy and delivery. It may also include delayed C-section and mistakes involving forceps, vacuum or other birthing tools, among other medical errors. Unlike birth defects, birth injuries are preventable in many cases, depending on the circumstances. Right Diagnosis from healthgrades reported that 7 out of every 1,000 children born in the United States are born with birth injuries each year.

Some examples of birth injuries include:

  • Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy or HIE
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Erb’s Palsy
  • Brain damage
  • Head trauma
  • Infection
  • Nerve damage
  • Paralysis
  • Fractures

What is a birth defect?

Birth defects occur as a baby is still developing in the mother’s womb. That’s a main difference between a birth injury and a birth defect. Birth defects are medical conditions or abnormalities that could occur as a result of a variety of causes. This can include certain genetics, infections, exposure to chemicals or drugs, or possibly unhealthy lifestyle choice. Birth defects can have serious and lasting effects on a child.

Examples of birth defects can include disorders such as brain damage, Down syndrome, spina bifida, congenital heart defect, cleft lip or palate, limb or cranial abnormalities, and metabolic disorders. The CDC estimates that birth defects affect one in every 33 babies. This is about 3 percent of all of the babies born in the United Sates each year.

What to do when your infant suffers a birth injury

Sadly, birth injuries are far too common and can mean life-long health consequences for your child. Distasio Kowalski personal injury attorneys see the tragic effects that medical errors have on the lives of families in our area. Bringing a child into the world should be a joyous event. It should not be marred by substandard medical care. Doctor’s and other healthcare providers have a “duty of care” to uphold when treating patients. If they fail to provide that established standard of care, they can be held liable for injuries that occur. It’s time to call an injury attorney.

Getting legal help for birth injuries

We hope this helps you to better understand the difference between a birth injury and a birth defect. If you suspect that your newborn may have been injured as the result of medical negligence or a medical error, you should consult with a medical malpractice attorney. Although you are emotional and overwhelmed when you are dealing with a seriously injured child, you owe it to yourself and your family to determine the cause of the injuries. You want to hold the responsible party accountable. You also want to ensure that the long-term medical and emotional needs of your child are met. An experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to assess your situation and help you explore your legal options.

Medical negligence can lead to birth injury or the death of a child. A birth injury can affect the quality of life of a child, as well as an entire family, resulting in a lifetime of medical treatment and financial hardship. It’s imperative that an experienced birth injury attorney determines if your child is suffering from a preventable birth injury or unavoidable birth defect.

Statute of limitations for birth injury cases in Pennsylvania

The statute of limitations is a time period in which you can legally file your birth injury claim. In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for a medical malpractice suit is two years. However, when the patient is a minor, the Minor’s Tolling Statute allows for added time if the patient is under the age of 18. The two-year time limit would begin to run on the child’s 18th birthday.

For more information on your legal options in a birth injury case, contact the Wilkes-Barre personal injury lawyers at Distasio Kowalski toll free at 855-970-5400.

 

January 12, 2018

Distasio & Kowalski Named in America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators®

Daniel J. Distasio and Michael J. Kowalski, partners in Distasio Kowalski personal injury firm in Wilkes-Barre, have been named among the nation’s most esteemed and skilled litigators in high stakes legal matters. They were both among America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators® for 2017. Selection to America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators® is by invitation only. It is reserved to identify the nation’s most exceptional trial attorneys in high value, high stakes legal matters.

To be considered for selection, an attorney must have litigated (for either plaintiff or defendant) a matter (1) with at least $2,000,000 in alleged damages at stake or (2) with the fate of a business worth at least $2,000,000 at stake. These minimum qualifications are required for initial consideration. Thereafter, candidates are carefully screened through comprehensive Qualitative Comparative Analysis. This is based on a broad array of criteria, including the candidate’s professional experience, litigation experience, significant case results, representative high stakes matters, peer reputation and community impact in order to rank the candidates throughout the state.

Only the top 100 qualifying attorneys in each state will receive this honor and be selected for membership among America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators®. With these extremely high standards for selection to America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators®, less than one-half percent (0.5%) of active attorneys in the United States will receive this honor — truly the most exclusive and elite level of attorneys in the community.

Attorneys Distasio and Kowalski bring over 50 years of legal expertise to the clients they serve. Both earned their Juris Doctorate from the Dickinson School of Law. The firm focuses on personal injury law, including car and truck accidents, medical malpractice, product liability and workers’ compensation.

Visit our website to learn more about our practice areas or about Daniel J. Distasio and Michael J. Kowalski.

January 5, 2018

Five tips to stay safe in freezing temps

We’re in the midst of a deep freeze in the northeast, with wind chills below zero. These frigid temperatures can be dangerous for many reasons. Freezing temps can cause frostbite and hypothermia to those not properly protected from the weather. Icy driving conditions can wreak havoc on highways and cause auto accidents. Bursting pipes can cause damage to your home. As the temperature dips, carbon monoxide poisoning is also more common. Here are five tips to stay safe in freezing temps and better protect you and your family from the elements this winter.

  1. Dress warmly with layers

    Stay indoors during severe weather conditions if possible. If you do need to venture out, wear a hat, gloves and a scarf or mask to cover your face. Wear several layers to help insulate from the cold. Limit your time outside and be sure you stay warm and dry. Beware of slippery sidewalks and overexerting with too much shoveling. Your children may be drawn to the idea of playing in the snow, but keep them inside and warm.

  2. Protect your home

    Be sure your home is properly insulated and free of drafts. During extremely cold weather, pipes may freeze or burst. Keep your roof free of too much snow to prevent a potential collapse. Fires are quite common in the winter months, because of the use of fireplaces and methods of helping to heat your home. Never leave an open flame unattended and keep paper, trash and other flammable materials far from open flames.

  3. Beware of carbon monoxide

    Don’t run your generator inside your home. It should be outside and more than 20 feet away from windows and doors. This goes for any gas-powered engines. Never use a gas range or oven to heat your home. Don’t sleep in a room with an unvented gas or kerosene space heater. Never leave your vehicle running to warm up in your garage, even if the garage door is open. It’s best to install a carbon monoxide detector in your home to monitor the level of gas in the air. If you begin to feel nauseous or dizzy and suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, get to fresh air and get help immediately.

  4. Prepare your vehicle for freezing temps

    Drive only if it’s absolutely necessary when the weather is bad. Be sure your car had enough gas, antifreeze wiper fluid and other fluids. Be sure your tires are in good condition. Keep a shovel and materials for traction in your trunk in case you get stuck. Keep a blanket, water and first aid kit in your vehicle as well. Be sure your cell phone is charged in case you get stuck and need to call for help. Finally, if you do need to set out during a storm, clean the snow from your car before leaving. It can be a hazard to other drivers as it blows off. Drive slowly and safely.

  5. Protect your pets

    If it’s too cold outside for you, it’s too cold for your pets too. Keep them inside. Take them out for very brief period to exercise and to relieve themselves. Animals can suffer from hypothermia and frostbite just like humans.

We hope you will follow these five tips to stay safe in freezing temps. Finally, if you have elderly neighbors, check on them to see if they need any help and to make sure they are safe and warm. Something as simple as a phone call or a quick visit can save the life of someone who does not have adequate heat or shelter from the cold. The injury attorneys at Distasio Kowalski want everyone to stay safe this winter.

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.