NHTSA Requires “Quiet Car” Safety Standards to Protect Pedestrians

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently announced the implementation of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 141. This rule provides that all newly manufactured hybrid and electric light-duty vehicles, which tend to be much quieter than internal combustion vehicles, must have a sound requirement in order to help protect pedestrians primarily, but also cyclists. These vehicles include passenger vehicles, light trucks, vans. More specifically, this new federal requirement is designed to protect pedestrians who are blind or have low vision, by allowing them to detect the presence, direction, location, and operation of these vehicles, at least while they are traveling at relatively low speeds. NHTSA estimates this new mandate will help prevent about 2,400 pedestrian injuries each year.

The requirement applies only to vehicles with four wheels and a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less when they are traveling at speeds of 19 miles per hour or traveling in reverse. At higher speeds, the requirement does not apply because the vehicle would make other sounds that are sufficient to provide notice of pedestrians, such as tire and wind noise. The required sound must be recognizable as that of an operating motor vehicle. There are also requirements for the volume of the sound.

The NHTSA sound requirement sets a deadline of September 1, 2019, although at least half of the newly manufactured vehicles must meet the requirement at least one year before the final deadline. The measure is part of the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act passed by Congress. The National Federation of the Blind has expressed its support in favor of the measure.

We are the Wisconsin traffic accident lawyers to whom you always can turn if your loved one suffers fatal injuries due to a traffic accident, whether as a pedestrian, driver, or passenger. No matter how complex or difficult the situation may be, the Madison injury attorneys of Boller & Vaughan are here to advocate on behalf of your loved one and hold negligent drivers responsible for any injury or death that has occurred.

Four People Killed in Wrong-Way I-94 Crash

Madison residents all have probably heard about the tragic I-94 wrong way crash that occurred nearby in recent months that resulted in the death of four individuals. When a 32-year-old Waunakee man was driving his SUV erratically on east-bound I-94 encountered officers of the Wisconsin State Patrol, he narrowly missed hitting one officer head-on, abruptly turned around, and began driving against traffic, colliding with two other vehicles. The man suffered life-threatening injuries in the crash; he was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash. Three passengers in another car were pronounced dead at the scene, with that driver sustaining life-threatening injuries, as well. These four individuals were accountants at a Milwaukee CPA firm; all four were wearing their seatbelts at the time of the crash. The driver of the other car, a 23-year-old man from Northbrook, Illinois, also was pronounced dead at the scene. Authorities suspect that alcohol was a factor in the crash.

This fatal crash is illustrative of not only the dangers of driving while intoxicated, but also of the number of lives that can be taken by the sudden actions of a single vehicle. One state trooper described the vehicles involved in the collision as virtually unrecognizable as vehicles, given the impact of the crash. Due to the nature of the crash, it is no surprise that four of the six vehicle occupants were killed, with the other two occupants suffering life-threatening injuries. Moreover, while several of the crash victims were wearing seatbelts, they still were fatally injured. While safety features on vehicles can definitely help prevent against serious injuries when collisions occur, they are not foolproof, particularly against drunk drivers.

As this post illustrates, motor vehicle crashes, particularly on interstate highways, can be deadly. When a driver acts negligently in driving while intoxicated and driving the wrong way on a busy interstate highway, you may have a legal valid claim for damages for those injured in the crash. Likewise, the surviving family members of the deceased may be eligible to bring wrongful death actions against the clearly negligent driver. Boller & Vaughan are Wisconsin motor vehicle accident lawyers who dedicate their practice to protecting the interests of car crash victims and their families. Call our office today to set up your free consultation and learn what options are available to you.

Safe Winter Driving Tips

As winter is definitely upon us, we all should take the time to review safe winter driving tips from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT). As the WisDOT “Zero in Wisconsin” initiative reminds us, driving safely in ice and snow is another way that we can reach the goal of zero deaths on Wisconsin roadways. Here are some basic safety tips that you should remember as you hit the roads this winter:

  • Clear snow and ice from your car windows and lights before you start driving.
  • Pay attention, especially to slippery bridge decks.
  • Leave plenty of room for vehicles stopping in front of you, as well as maintenance vehicles and plows.
  • Be aware of impending weather systems and know what to expect when you are driving.
  • Use your brakes carefully, taking care to avoid pumping anti-lock brakes.
  • Drive more slowly and look farther ahead in traffic than you normally would.
  • Do not use your cruise control when driving in wintry conditions.

While these tips might seem obvious, they bear repeating, especially through the first few winter storms of the season. Although those of you born in the Wisconsin and other parts of Midwest might be well-accustomed to driving in winter conditions, you should avoid being overconfident in your driving skills, or in driving a 4×4 vehicle. You can’t always see icy patches on roadways, and it only takes small amount of ice to cause a vehicle to swerve or spin out of control. Plus, 4×4 vehicles may actually take longer to stop than regular vehicles, and lose traction just as quickly.

No matter the season, when a vehicle accident occurs as a result of a driver’s negligence, and causes injury to a passenger, driver of another vehicle, or even a pedestrian, the injured individual may have a claim for damages under Wisconsin law. However, there are strict time limits on personal injury claims in the state of Wisconsin, and you can lose your right to compensation if you do not consult an experienced lawyer in time. Don’t delay in contacting the Madison personal injury attorneys of Boller & Vaughan, and set up your free consultation today.

Fighting Financial Exploitation, Protecting Retirement Savings

A recent Huffington Post article details the plight of Americans over the age of 50, many of whom have been the victims of financial exploitation at one point or another. Even the late Mickey Rooney acknowledged his own experience with financial abuse before a Special Senate Committee on Aging. The reality is that an estimated one out of every two older Americans has been financially exploited, or knows someone who has been a victim of financial abuse. The average loss from each incident of financial exploitation is more than $120,000.

As the population of retired and aging Americans continues to grow, older citizens have increasingly turned to their own financial institutions for help. Studies show that four out of every five older Americans want their banks to help prevent financial exploitation of seniors. Since this demographic holds approximately two-thirds of all assets held by banks and other financial institutions, they have responded to this steadily increasing problem.  In fact, financial abuse is a problem for financial institutions, too. Bank losses exceed $1 billion in deposits each year as the direct result of financial exploitation of older Americans.

In response, AARP and the financial industry have joined forces to create the BankSafe Initiative, which is designed to protect seniors from financial exploitation and keep their retirement savings safe. Some financial institutions already have taken relatively simple steps to help protect their aging clients. For instance, Wells Fargo Advisors implemented a client emergency form, which allows financial advisors to contact a third party if they suspect an individual has developed dementia or difficulties handling their finances on their own. Likewise, the Oregon Banking Association, in conjunction with other local organizations, developed a training kit for bank employees to help them spot potential financial exploitation of seniors. Since implementing the training kit, bank reports of abuse have increased exponentially.

At Boller & Vaughan, we have investigated countless allegations of elder abuse, no matter what type of circumstances they entail. Allow us to look into the facts and circumstances surrounding your case, discuss your options, and help you determine the most appropriate course of action for you and your family. Contact the Wisconsin nursing home abuse attorneys of Boller & Vaughan, and learn how we can help.

Rule Barring Pre-Arbitration Clauses in Nursing Home Contracts Put on Hold by Judge

We previously reported on the new rule that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) was poised to implement regarding a common clause in nursing home contracts that makes lawsuits against nursing homes more difficult. The federal mandate prohibited nursing homes that entered into contracts with residents that contain a binding arbitration clause from receiving any federal funds. CMS enacted this rule to provide further protections for nursing home residents in terms of their ability to go to court for relief if injured as a result of the negligent or otherwise harmful actions of a nursing home or its staff. In other words, CMS sought to ease the process of abused or neglected nursing home residents getting justice from nursing homes.

In response to the new CMS rule, several nursing home groups, including the American Health Care Association, filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi, arguing that not only was the rule unnecessary, but that CMS exceeded its statutory authority in enacting the rule. According to the nursing home groups, all nursing homes do not require an arbitration clause of their residents; rather, they allow the resident to opt out of the provision if they so choose. Although Judge Michael P. Mills acknowledged the sound public policy underlying the CMS rule, he nonetheless issued an order blocking the rule from going into effect, agreeing with the nursing home groups that CMS had no statutory authority to issue the rule. Mills also indicated that, as a result, Congress should consider enacting a federal law banning pre-dispute arbitration clauses in nursing home contracts. It is estimated that as many as 50% of nursing homes require contracts with pre-dispute arbitration clauses.

The nursing home abuse lawyers of Boller & Vaughan pride themselves on advocating on behalf of clients who have been injured in some way, no matter what type of incident may have led to their injuries. We can seek compensation for you through the legal claim process, while you and your family can concentrate on healing, recovering from any trauma that you might have experienced, and moving on with your life. Don’t hesitate to call our office today and learn how we can help.

One in Three Residents Abused at Nursing Homes

ABC News reported on the results of a study by members of the Special Investigations Division of the House Government Reform Committee concerning nursing home abuse that was published earlier this year. This study found that 30% of the nursing homes in the United States, or over 5,200 nursing homes, received citations for almost 9,000 incidents of abuse during a two-year period. The most commonly reported incidents involved untreated bedsores, inadequate medical care, malnutrition and dehydration, accidents that could have been prevented, and insufficient hygiene. About 1,600 of these cases resulted in actual harm to residents or placed them in immediate jeopardy of death or serious injury. Some of the incidents of abuse stemmed from staff members, whereas other incidents involved abuse by other residents.

Meanwhile, the number of reported incidents of nursing home abuse has continued to rise. The nursing home industry blames these figures on a lack of qualified workers and limited reimbursement of costs received through the federal government’s Medicaid and Medicare programs. There also is some question as to whether the level of care and supervision is higher at not-for-profit nursing homes, as opposed to for-profit homes, thus resulting in fewer reports or incidents of abuse. This may be due to a larger number of community volunteers, higher rates of federal funding, or the fact that they are smaller facilities with more individualized care available for residents, or a combination of all of the above.

If you or a loved one is seriously injured as a result of abuse or neglect by nursing home staff, or your family has suffered the loss of a loved one as a result of the action or inaction of nursing home staff, you may be entitled to compensation. This inquiry involves determining which party or entity was at fault for the accident, acted negligently, or otherwise caused the incident that led to your injuries or your loved one’s death. At Boller & Vaughan, our Madison nursing home lawyers can help you with these determinations, and support you through any personal injury or wrongful death claims that you may have.

Substance Abuse in Nursing Home Residents

With the prevalence of substance abuse increasing across almost all demographics, it is no surprise that the issue of substance abuse has arisen with respect to nursing home residents. While it may seem far-fetched to imagine nursing home patients being addicted to prescription medication or even illegal drugs, the reality is that substance abuse is a potential problem for these individuals, just as much as it is for other groups of people.

For one thing, not all nursing home residents are elderly; about 15% of residents nationwide are under the age of 65. With residents spanning a wider age range, it is not so surprising that substance abuse has risen among residents. Since residents may be of drastically different ages, it becomes more difficult for nursing homes to adequately staff, supervise, and meet all of their residents’ individual needs. Plus, nursing homes tend to gravitate toward the needs and desires of elderly residents, which may leave other younger residents out altogether. Feeling left out, when combined with possible mental and/or physical illness, can result in a higher risk of substance abuse among some nursing home residents.

Other characteristics that nursing home residents may possess also may make them more susceptible to substance abuse. Many, if not most, nursing home residents are vulnerable and subject to both emotional and physical stressors. A large number of residents also regularly take medication that has the potential for abuse and dangerous effects if not properly prescribed, dosed correctly, and carefully monitored. These characteristics in nursing home residents create a much higher risk of substance abuse.

The nursing home abuse and neglect lawyers of Bonner & Vaughan are experienced in ensuring that nursing homes and other long-term care facilities live up to reasonable standards in prescribing, administering, and monitoring the medication given to their patients. When a nursing facility fails to do so, and injury to a resident occurs, the nursing facility may be liable for those injuries. We know how to investigate your case, assess your situation and determine whether you or your loved one has any potential claims against nursing home staff or the nursing home itself. Contact Boller & Vaughan today and learn how we can help you through this difficult situation.

Coumadin Errors in Nursing Homes

Coumadin, and its generic counterpart, warfarin, are common medications taken by older individuals, particularly if they are receiving long-term care. As many as one out of every six nursing home residents take Coumadin or warfarin, so nursing home staff must carefully monitor those patients in order to ensure that they receive the correct doses of the drug. Incorrect doses of this drug can have serious consequences, including severe bleeding and blood clots. As a result, improper or insufficient monitoring of nursing home residents taking this and other potentially dangerous drugs can cause serious injuries or even death to those residents.

In recent years, injuries and deaths that are directly related to Coumadin mismanagement have been on the rise. Even worse, studies indicate that there may be hundreds or even thousands more deaths linked to the neglect of long-term care patients by the staff who are charged with caring for them. In fact, this problem has become so prevalent that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a directive in 2015 to state health inspectors to look for these problems in nursing homes. CMS is the federal agency that is responsible for overseeing nursing homes throughout the United States. This CMS directive was based in large part on a 2015 Washington Post article about the adverse effects of Coumadin on patients in nursing homes whose staff fails to properly administer the drug or monitor patients who take it. That report found that at least 165 nursing home patients had died or were hospitalized as a result of errors in Coumadin administration.

Boller & Vaughan knows elder abuse and neglect law and has the experience to help you through any type of elder abuse or neglect claim. No matter what type of nursing home facility abuse or neglect is at issue in your case, we can help. All too often, residents and their families are reluctant to demand justice for situations that occurred in the resident’s care. In this situation, you can count on your Madison elderly neglect attorneys to guide you through every step of the personal injury claims process.

Lawsuits Against CBRFs Based on Negligence

Community-based residential facilities (CBRFs) provide a residence for many individuals who do not need nursing care above an intermediate level, and who need only three hours per week of nursing care. By residing in a CBRF, individuals can maintain a fair amount of independence and remain in their communities, while still receiving the type and amount of nursing care that they need. Although not as heavily regulated as nursing homes, those individuals or companies that operate CBRFs still have the duty to maintain the safety of their residents under Wisconsin state law.

Due to the nature of these facilities, it is fair to say that residents are not closely monitored. However, what happens when the CBRF operators become aware that a resident’s physical or mental state deteriorates to the point that a limited amount of nursing home is no longer sufficient? At what point does the CBRF become liable if it becomes aware that a resident poses a threat or danger to other residents? These are situations in which a CBRF is potentially liable for negligent behavior that leads to injuries being suffered by a resident.

If a CBRF is found liable for a resident’s injuries, the measure of damages is quite different from that in a regular personal injury action. Damages are largely limited to past and future medical bills, past and future pain and suffering, and punitive damages, in appropriate cases. There is no measure of lost wages or loss of future income, since long-term care residents are obviously unable to work, and their life expectancies are limited. Furthermore, in a wrongful death case, funeral and burial expenses may be recoverable as damages.

CBRFs offer an alternative to individuals who do not need to be confined to a nursing home, in that they do not need an extensive amount of regular or skilled nursing care. At Boller & Vaughan, we are here to stand up for the rights of all CBRF residents who have suffered substantial injuries while under the care of those are supposed to prevent such injuries from occurring. Contact us today at (608) 268-0268, set up an appointment with one of our Wisconsin CBRF abuse attorneys, and discover how we can help.

Can You Sue a Nursing Home for Wrongful Death Under Wisconsin Law?

All too often, nursing home residents fall victim to wrongful death, both at the hands of nursing home staff members and other residents. When a wrongful death occurs at a nursing home, the individual’s family members inevitably want answers to the questions surrounding their loved one’s death. What’s more, the surviving family is likely to want to hold the nursing home responsible for the tragedy that occurred on their watch.

If negligence led to the death of your loved one, certain surviving family members of the deceased may be able to bring a wrongful death claim against the nursing home, depending on the situation. For instance, if your loved one died due to abuse by a staff member whom the nursing home failed to properly screen for a criminal history or closely monitor, even after complaints were made, the nursing home might be civilly liable for damages resulting from the resident’s death. Likewise, if a nursing home is well aware that one of its residents is violent, and fails to take the steps necessary to prevent that resident from harming a fellow resident, then the nursing home also may be liable for wrongful death.

Up until recently, there was a major barrier to holding nursing homes responsible for their negligence in allowing the death of a resident to occur. Arbitration clauses are quite common in nursing home contracts, and they often serve to limit public scrutiny of nursing home negligence by relegating the parties to pursue any relief only in binding arbitration. Recently, federal law banned the use of arbitration clauses in nursing home contracts; however, pursuant to a pending lawsuit, a federal judge now has put the new law on hold until the lawsuit is resolved. As a result, it remains to be seen whether arbitration clauses in nursing home contracts will continue to tie the hands of families whose loved ones have died in a wrongful manner while in nursing homes.

The Wisconsin elder abuse lawyers of Boller & Vaughan have handled countless claims on behalf of nursing home residents who have suffered serious injuries and even death due to the negligent behavior of nursing home staff and facilities. When a serious injury or death of a loved one occurs, we know just how devastating it can be, and how you powerless you feel as a result. Allow your family to begin the healing process from this traumatic event by holding the wrongdoers responsible for your loved one’s injuries. Contact our office today and set up a free consultation with one of our experienced nursing home abuse attorneys.

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