In this IssueSeptember 2009

  • Why Is Placing Your Case At Issue Such A Big Deal?

The short answer is because it tells the Judge we are ready to go to trial. A lawsuit begins when we file a Complaint in Civil Action in your behalf. The other side then has 30 days to admit or deny each paragraph of our Complaint. Next, you are sent “Interrogatories” – which are written questions for you to answer with our help. Then, your Deposition is taken. A Deposition is a question and answer session taken before a Court Reporter by their attorney, with me at your side, in which you are asked questions about the accident and your injuries.

The last step in getting your case to trial is when we “Place Your Case At Issue.” This is the legal act of notifying the Court that your case is ready to be heard by a jury. Cases that are Placed At Issue usually come up for trial about four months after we Place The Case At Issue. During that critical time, we are talking to and negotiating with the insurance adjuster for the person who caused your injury, to attempt to try and get the best offer ($) we can for you. Most cases are settled during this period.

If we cannot resolve your case by a fair settlement, your case is then heard and decided upon by a jury. But the key to all this is Placing Your Case At Issue because that is often when the insurance company begins to take your claim seriously, since they know a trial is just around the corner.

I Really Mean It when I say you can call me at any time during the whole process to discuss your claim.

  • FREE LEGAL ADVICE — Stay off of Facebook, My Space, Twitter, etc.

If you are making a claim for injuries sustained in an accident, it is virtually guaranteed that the insurance company for the wrongdoer is going to Google your name, and go on Facebook, My Space, Twitter or any other source to find out information about you. Then they are going to use that information to try and torpedo your case. Remember that any information you put on these social sites is fair game for the other side. I know of cases where injured people had a very good claim worth a lot of money until the insurance company found some dirt on Facebook and used it against the person at trial. Injured Victims, please trust me on this one – never put out personal information for public reading on one of these sites, if you making a claim for money damages!!!

  • ATVs — Accidents Waiting to Happen?

Since they were introduced in the early 1970’s, ATVs (all terrain vehicles) have become increasingly popular. With this popularity comes an increasing number of accidents and injuries. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, approximately 136,000 injuries and 700 deaths occur each year. Children under the age of 16 account for over one-third of all ATV-related injuries. Between 1983 and 2005, over 2,175 children died from ATV-related accidents.

Design Problems

The reason ATVs are so dangerous has a lot to do with their design. There is no frame protecting the operator in the event of an accident. ATVs ride on large, low-pressure tires that can have difficulty gripping the rough terrain over which they travel. They are stopped by hand-operated brakes, which can lack sufficient power and can cause ATVs to overturn as they stop.

ATVs have relatively large engines for their size and weight, which means they can travel as fast as 70 mph, often across broken, uneven terrain. Although ATVs are not designed for passengers, it is possible (even easy) for people to jump on – people who will be injured if there is a crash. Earlier models of the three-wheeled ATVs were less stable than the current four-wheeled versions, but even the four-wheeled models can be top-heavy and prone to serious rollover accidents. Even on roads and flat surfaces, ATVs can be unstable.

Consent Decree

As a result of safety concerns expressed by the federal government, ATV manufacturers entered into a “consent decree” in 1988. In this decree, they agreed to halt production of three-wheeled ATVs, to provide safety training for new owners, to place warning labels on their products, and to make recommendations about what size of ATV is appropriate for different age groups. The consent decree expired in 1998, leaving persons injured in ATVs to fend for themselves. We believe only lawsuits prevent the makers of the ATVs from putting profits ($) ahead of safety. IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW HAS BEEN INJURED OR KILLED WHILE RIDING AN ATV, CONTACT US SO THAT WE CAN HELP PROTECT YOUR LEGAL RIGHTS.

Rising Injury and Death Rates

Despite these improvements, the number of injuries and deaths per year attributable to ATV accidents continues to rise. This is because ATVs continue to become more popular, and more people ride them. However, another reason for the increase in injuries and deaths is that ATV makers are building more powerful ATVs and marketing them to younger and younger children.

The latest marketing gimmick is the so-called “transitional” ATV, one that is sized between the smaller ATVs intended for children, and a full-sized adult ATV. ATVs are more appropriate for the 14 to 15 year old age group, but critics note that bigger ATVs with bigger engines undercut the messages conveyed by safety training and other warnings, increasing the likelihood of injuries.

In addition to making more powerful ATVs, ATV makers have fought any attempt to impose regulations on ATV ownership or use (such as age limits and mandatory helmet laws). With the expiration of the 1988 consent decree, it will take either new laws passed by Congress or new action by federal agencies (such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission) to force ATV manufacturers to pay more attention to safety. Neither of these outcomes appears likely to happen.

Sad to say, the only kind of regulation available to many is the “private” regulation that comes with lawsuits. Enough successful suits may convince ATV manufacturers that the cost of not planning for safety is just too high.

Children and ATVs

Children are involved in over 45,000 ATV accidents every year. Amazingly, 95% of children between the ages of 12 and 15 who are injured on ATVs (and 65% of younger children) are injured or killed while riding a full-size ATV intended for an adult. These full-size machines are dangerous for children because they are too big and powerful for kids to control.

Alarmed by the number of injuries and deaths suffered by child ATV riders and passengers, neurologists who conducted a study of ATV accidents involving children issued a call for a number of common – sense guidelines, including banning children younger than 16 from riding ATVs and requiring all ATV riders to wear a helmet. Such common – sense would reduce the profits of ATV manufacturers, who oppose any such regulation and continue to market ever more powerful ATVs to children.

Regulations or not, if parents allow their children to ride ATVs, they should insist that their children safely ride ATVs of an appropriate size while wearing a helmet. This is not a cure-all but should help reduce what is becoming an epidemic of ATV-related injuries.