Always, Always Wear Your Seatbelt

March 29th, 2010
Seatbelt

Seatbelts Save Lives!

WHAS 11 recently reported on a fatal traffic accident in the Louisville area, suffered after a driver struck a tree.  The woman driver was not wearing a seatbelt and was pronounced dead at the scene.  Police were investigating whether or not speed and alcohol played a part.  You can read the article and watch the report, here.

Although the woman was driving an older model Volvo without airbags, there is nothing to suggest that the accident would have been fatal had she been wearing her seatbelt.  According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), lap-shoulder belt systems reduce the risk of fatality and serious injury by 50 percent when used by drivers and front-seat passengers.

What happens when you are involved in a car or truck accident and you are not wearing a seatbelt?  Not only are you at a higher risk of serious injury and death, but you may be found entirely or partially at fault for your injuries.  In Kentucky, this finding of fault on your behalf may eliminate or reduce the compensation you get from the driver, who caused the accident injuring you in the first place.  For instance, if your failure to wear a seatbelt is determined to have increased your injuries by 50%, then your recovery will be reduced by 50% as well.

Despite their perceived inconvenience, the time it takes to put on a seatbelt far outweighs the cost in injury and death occurring without them.  While wearing a seatbelt doesn’t guarantee that you won’t suffer serious injury or death in an accident, it clearly reduces the chance that occurs.  For your sake and the sake of your loved ones, always, always wear your seatbelt.

If you were involved in an accident that wasn’t your fault and you weren’t wearing a seatbelt you may need the services of a qualified Kentucky accident attorney.  He can evaluate the significance of such a failure on your claim and advise you of the options you might have.  Do not take the insurance company’s word that because you weren’t wearing a seatbelt you aren’t entitled to any recovery.

11 Killed in Tragic Accident Near Munfordville, Kentucky

March 26th, 2010

Tragic highway accident kills 11 in Kentucky. Courier Journal reports on tractor-trailer which crossed the center line hitting a van head-on. You can read the entire facts here. Our thoughts and prayers are with the loved ones of those in such a tragic accident.

UPDATE:

The Courier Journal article has been updated with more facts regarding the accident and victims, including the names of those involved. You can access the new article by clicking the link above.

Toyota Casts Doubt on Runaway Prius Claim

March 16th, 2010

2008 Toyota Prius

Toyota Motor Company dismissed the story of a Prius owner who previously reported that his car sped out of control on the California freeway.  I previously posted about the driver’s claim that his Prius sped out of control when he tried to pass another vehicle on the freeway.  He drove for about 30 miles before a CHP officer was able to assist him in stopping the vehicle.

Toyota claims that a review of the car, including the onboard computer, failed to identify a malfunction.  They also claim that the information gathered would appear to contradict the owner’s claims of how the accident happened. Toyota has maintained throughout that electronics are not to blame for sudden acceleration claims by Toyota owners.

You can read the entire article here.

Driver Claims 2008 Toyota Prius Went Wild on Freeway

March 9th, 2010

2008 Toyota Prius

The Today Show’s Matt Laurer reports on a driver’s claim that his 2008 Prius went wild on the California freeway prompting a frantic 911 call.  The Toyota Prius was not one of those recently recalled by Toyota, although some Prius models have been.  Watch the responding police officer and the frantic driver talk about his efforts to hit the brakes to slow the car, without success.

Click this link to watch the video of the Today Show report.

Class Action Lawsuits Could Cost Toyota Billions

March 9th, 2010

More Trouble for Toyota

MSN reports on an AP article documenting the recent spate of lawsuits against the automaker by consumers who claim their vehicles have decreased in value since the massive recall ordered last fall.  At least 89 class action  lawsuits have been filed around the country.  Experts believe such lawsuits could ultimately cost Toyota 3+ Billion, yes billion, dollars.  This does not include those lawsuits claiming personal injury or death from defects.

The consumers allege that Toyota knew about safety problems but hid those problems from consumers who purchased their cars.  They site to recent decisions by such companies as Kelly Blue Book to reduce the resale value on recalled vehicles by 3.5 percent.  While this is not much, with an estimated 6 million recall victims, a certified class getting just $500 per member could reach into the billions.

Toyota of course denies that a vehicle will depreciate much if repaired quickly at no cost, which they offer.  However, the issue still remains over whether or not Toyota has identified the problem of sudden acceleration.  Toyota continues to deny that electronic computer controls are to blame, but car owners continue to complain of sudden acceleration after the vehicles have been repaired.  You can read the entire article, here.

Veil of Secrecy Surrounds Toyota Black Boxes

March 4th, 2010
More Trouble for Toyota

More Trouble for Toyota

The AP reported on Toyota’s efforts to block access to black box information that could explain crashes blamed on sudden unintended acceleration.  The AP investigation found that Toyota was inconsistent and even contradictory in revealing what the black boxes record.  According to the report; “Toyota’s “black box” information is emerging as a critical legal issue amid the recall of 8 million vehicles by the world’s largest automaker. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration said this week that 52 people have died in crashes linked to accelerator problems, triggering an avalanche of lawsuits.”

You can read the entire article recapping the AP’s investigation here.

I previously posted on Toyota’s problems back in mid-February.  At that time, I posted that more information was likely to come to light before Toyota’s problems faded from public view.  Looks like I was correct.  Toyota’s public image has certainly taken a hit.  Not only should we question Toyota’s reputation as an automaker who makes better more dependable cars, but perhaps more importantly, its reputation as an automaker that makes safer ones as well.

I’ll make another prediction.  Before this issue is over, embarrassing evidence will come to light showing that Toyota has known about the problem of sudden acceleration for years, but that it has tried to hide the problem from regulator’s and customers for some time.  Stop back by for results on my prediction in the weeks to come.

Courier Journal Article Highlights Winters & Yonker Case

February 28th, 2010
Kentucky Lawyers Defendants in Lawsuit

Kentucky Lawyers Defendants in Lawsuit

The Courier Journal has written an article on the lawsuit recently filed by a former client against Winters & Yonker.  The article looks in depth at the claim made by Sharon Langford.  The article focuses on the relationship between the law firm and the medical providers who treated Ms. Langford and the potential conflicts of interest that arise.  You can read the entire article here.

Lawmaker Alleges Toyota Withheld Evidence in Lawsuits

February 27th, 2010
More Trouble for Toyota

More Trouble for Toyota

Things have not been going well for Toyota and it looks like things just got much worse.  The AP has reported that House oversight committee chairman Edolphus Townes accused Toyota of “deliberately withholding key vehicle design and testing evidence in lawsuits filed by Toyota drivers injured in crashes.”  Towns wrote that Toyota chose to enter hefty settlements with plaintiffs to avoid disclosing the database, which the lawmaker said was referred to as the “Books of Knowledge.”

Toyota said in a statement that it is confident it acted appropriately in product liability lawsuits and it looks forward to addressing Towns’ concerns. The automaker said it is not uncommon for companies to object to demands for documents made in lawsuits. “Consistent with that philosophy, we take appropriate steps to maintain the confidentiality of competitive business information and trade secrets,” the statement said.

You can read the entire article here.

If true, the article discloses another example of corporate business choosing profits over people.  These allegations along with those by the NHTSB that Toyota did not disclose problems to regulators continues to create a portrait of a company that hid significant safety problems with its vehicles at the expense of gaining market share and becoming the number 1 automaker in the world.  Toyota’s path to number 1 is littered with the bodies of people who bought their cars.  Next time you hear someone talk about frivolous lawsuits and tort reform, you might want to mention Toyota.

I am glad these Plaintiff’s received hefty settlements, unfortunately, their silence contributed to Toyota’s ability to hide problems for a much longer time, presumably at the expense of other people injured or killed by their products.  I wouldn’t be surprised if more information comes to light showing that Toyota knew about the unintended acceleration problems with its vehicles but didn’t take any comprehensive action to warn its customers about it.  I do know that you can disclose information in lawsuits in a manner which protects the “confidentiality of competitive business information and trade secrets.”  Toyota’s decision to settle those cases instead of disclosing that information, speaks for itself.

Winters & Yonker, PSC Sued by Former Client

February 22nd, 2010
Kentucky Lawyers Defendants in Lawsuit

Kentucky Lawyers Defendants in Lawsuit

The former law firm Winters, Yonker & Rouselle, now known as Winters & Yonker, PSC and its principal attorneys, have been sued by a former client in Jefferson Circuit Court.  The law firm, along with 1st Physicians Rehabilitation, Inc. and its owner, are alleged to have had a relationship whereby the medical provider would refer clients to the law firm, who would then instruct the client to have all future medical treatment provided by facilities owned and operated by the medical provider who referred the client.

The Complaint alleges that neither the law firm nor the medical provider disclosed the true nature and extent of the relationship.  Furthermore, the client alleges that she was told by the law firm not to use her health insurance to pay for treatment.  The end result were medical liens held by the medical provider in higher amounts then the client otherwise would have paid had she used her health insurance.  When her settlement was reached, the client received less money then either the law firm or the medical provider, after payment of fees and expenses and medical liens.

The ultimate gripe by the client is that her lawyers and the medical providers were not acting in her best interest, but in their own interest to her detriment.  Of course, allegations in the Complaint give only the Plaintiff’’s side of the story.  You can read the entire Complaint, here.

While there is nothing unusual about medical providers and attorneys referring clients in need of their services to one or the other, the purpose of these referrals should be for the benefit of the client.   If these allegations are true, they go well beyond the acceptable bounds of referral practice.

If you’ve been injured in a car accident, truck accident, or motorcycle accident and need the services of an accident attorney or a medical provider who specializes in accident injuries, do not be afraid to ask your lawyer or doctor if they know someone who can help.  However, if you have questions about the treatment you are getting from your medical provider or the advice you are getting from your lawyer, you should ask your doctor or lawyer to address those concerns immediately.  Don’t wait until your case is settled to find out the impact those concerns might have on your case.

According to the Federal Government 34 “Deaths” Alleged in Toyotas Since 2000

February 15th, 2010
Toyota's Acceleration Problems Lead to Deaths

Toyota's Acceleration Problems Lead to Deaths

The Lexington Herald’s Kentucky.com reported on consumer data gathered by the federal government revealing 34 deaths linked to sudden acceleration in Toyotas since 2000.  Complaints related to acceleration in vehicles have surged in since Toyota’s recalls were announced.  According to the article:

The new complaints reflect the heightened awareness of the massive recalls among the public and underscore a flurry of lawsuits on behalf of drivers alleging deaths and injuries in Toyota crashes. Three congressional hearings are planned on the Toyota recalls.

In the past three weeks, consumers have told the government about nine crashes involving 13 alleged deaths between 2005 and 2010 due to accelerator problems, according to a NHTSA database. The latest reports are in addition to previous complaints from consumers that alleged 21 deaths from 2000 to the end of last year.

According to Toyota spokeswoman Martha Voss the company takes, “all customer reports seriously and will, of course, look into new claims.” According to Voss, Toyota was taking steps to improve quality control and investigate customer complaints more aggressively.

You can read the entire article here.

The data by the federal government suggests that Toyota knew or should have known of acceleration problems as far back as 2000, yet waited until recently to issue a massive recall of vehicles.  This has led the federal government to question Toyota’s commitment to safety and has shed light on its secretive corporate culture that encourages quiet design changes each model year over embarrassing public recalls.  While this corporate climate may have allowed Toyota to gain market share over the past decade, it has turned into a public relations nightmare with no sign of letting up any time soon.  More embarrassing information is likely to come to light before this issue fades.  Whether it will have a long term impact on Toyota’s reputation is yet to be seen.