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April 2013 Archives

Robert Clifford on Faulty Stryker Hip Replacement Devices

Hip replacement surgery is a very serious decision.  Generally after suffering from arthritic hips or other joint problems that can be very painful, thousands of people feel their only alternative is surgery to make them better. After carefully choosing a doctor who will perform the surgery, the patient is in the hospital, maybe for days, and then faces months of physical therapy, all in the hopes of a pain-free life that will allow them once again to do the things they once did pain-free.  In thousands of case, though, the do not get better and, in fact, they get worse. After trying to figure out what went wrong, in many instances it comes down to a faulty hip device that was implanted in them.  Stryker Orthopedics manufactured several hip replacement devices, including the Stryker Rejuvenate and the ABG II modular hip devices, that have been recalled on July 6, 2012, for their faulty design that leads to severe and sometimes crippling pain.  For many, more surgeries are required in an attempt to correct the problem.  These revision surgeries to remove and replace the defective Rejuvenate and ABG II devices can be very dangerous. Doctors have found that the metal-on-metal devices constantly rub against one another that causes shards of the metal to crack or flake off, releasing dangerous metal into the bloodstream of the patient and causing premature failure of the device while wearing away surrounding tissue and even bone death.  All of this while the patient is forced to endure extreme pain. Lawsuits have been filed against the manufacturer for its failure to warn of these problems while Stryker instead was calling them safe.  Approximately 20,000 devices have been recalled from 2009-2012 until Stryker acknowledged its awareness of the problems. Robert A. Clifford, senior partner at Clifford Law Offices in Chicago, represents a number of people who have been victim to these faulty hip devices.  In a two-minute video, he explains the problems and what a patient can do who seeks justice for the wrong. As Mr. Clifford explains, if you think you have been harmed by one of these, or other hip replacement devices, call Clifford Law Offices to find out your rights.  312-899-9090 or click here to fill out a form and someone will contact you.

Boeing 787 Dreamliner: A Timeline of Events

Ever since the battery fires aboard the Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft earlier this year, it appeared as though the Dreamliner was anything but a dream. After months of investigations, testing and modifications, Boeing and its luxury 787 Dreamliner jets appear to be finally ready for a second chance. Here's a rundown of events from fires to flights:

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) About Trucking Accidents By Shannon McNulty, Clifford Law Offices -- Part III, Rules Governing Truck Drivers

Question: Do the same rules of the road apply for trucks that apply to buses? Shannon: For the most part, they do as they apply to the drivers of passenger vehicles.  However, you know, more than anything that is important for the drivers of all commercial vehicles to really understand and appreciate the significance of the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Regulations. Question: What information can be obtained from a truck's black box? Shannon: When you say the black box, it's a term of art that's used, but they do have devices within trucks which show the last several seconds.  They are not enough, but they do provide certain information.  Usually, you can get speed, brakes -- the main things -- the speed of the truck and if the brakes were applied.   We had a case at Clifford Law Offices where a driver had said he had slowed down before the occurrence, and it really wasn't true because we got the last 10-15 seconds before the crash took place.  Usually they are not activated unless they're in an accident.  There have been advances lately where some truck companies are monitoring via satellite each of their trucks and they can get that information.  There is more and more information you can get these days on truck accidents that wasn't present 10 years ago. Question: If I'm injured in an accident involving a truck, who would be sued Shannon? Shannon: There would be a variety of entities or individuals that would be potentially sued.  The driver, but most often it's the owner and operator of the tractor, the owner and operator of the trailer, not necessarily the same person or entity.  It could be an entity that retained the driver to transport goods or services on his or her behalf.  So there is a variety of individuals and entities and again, the sooner you retain counsel, the sooner you can become educated on who may be responsible for any negligence that caused the crash. Question: Are commercial vehicles ever inspected for safety hazards while they are on the road in Illinois? Shannon: Yes.  The drivers themselves are required to perform inspections initially every 50 miles, then every 150 miles, and as well in Illinois and many other states, the state police have the obligation to inspect the vehicles at weigh stations, and in other instances where police officers are required to pull the vehicle over. Shannon McNulty of the Clifford Law Offices speaks about the many areas of transportation liability law involving trucks, railroads, tractor trailers, motorcycles and helicopters.  She comes to Clifford Law Offices with a wealth of professional experience, including having worked for 10 years with the administration of the Chicago Police Department.  Shannon is a part of the legal team that handles cases involving the roll-overs of a number of sport utility vehicles, known as SUVs that have resulted in the death or serious injuries of their occupants, and she also has been involved in the trial and small plane crash cases in the Chicagoland area.  

Tragedy in Texas: Fertilizer Plant Explosion

More details are being released regarding the tragic explosion in Texas following the explosion of a fertilizer plant near Waco.  Authorities are now revealing that as many as 45 people have been killed and more than 200 injured. Several media reports have said that authorities told them "with heavy hearts" that the bodies of 12 people were pulled from the area of the plant explosion.  It was not confirmed if the people were first responders who would have likely been part of the volunteer fire department in the community.   The blast was so great that it leveled blocks surrounding it. The Los Angeles Times reported that, according to documents filed with the state, West Fertilize Co. was storing some 270 tons of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive chemical compound, at the facility along with 100,000 pounds of liquid ammonia, although it's not known how much might have been there earlier this week.  "Pentagon explosives experts say that a detonation involving 270 tons of ammonium nitrate would be larger than almost any non-nuclear weapon possessed by the U.S.," according to LA Times investigative reporter Bill Dedman.    To read the entire story in the LA Times, visit here. Dramatic cell phone video of a blaze at the West Fertilizer Co. plant captured by a family that aired on Fox News shows a subsequent blast that threw them from their seats in the car and a young boy begging his father to leave the area and that he was unable to hear anything. To view that video, visit here. The tragedy will likely affect everyone in the small, close-knit town of West of just 2,800 people.  Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott told the media at a press conference that "the devastation is immense."

Update on Texas Fertilizer Plant Explosion

"Like a war zone."  That's how Texas County Sheriff Parnell McNamara described the scene to reporters near Waco, Texas, following last night's explosion at a fertilizer plant that has left as many as 15 dead and 160 injured, according to numerous media reports. Texas Governor Rick Perry has declared McLennan County, Texas, a disaster area and is asking the federal government for help.   Dozens of homes and business as well as a nursing home have been destroyed from the massive explosion that rocked the area with what is reported to be the force of a 2.1 earthquake. The blast is reported to have leveled a five to six block radius around the West Fertilizer Co. plant in the small farming town of West, Texas.  The plant  is said to house two huge highly pressurized tanks of anhydrous ammonia.   The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has sent a large team of investigators, along with the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, according to media reports.

Tragic Fertilizer Plant Explosion in Texas - Entire Area Helping in the Emergency

The shoulders of this country have had to withstand yet another deadly tragedy.  Last night people learned of an explosion that rocked the area near Waco, Texas.  A blast so strong that people thought it was an earthquake. We come to learn that a massive fertilizer plant explosion has left several people killed and dozens injured as rescue workers sift through the burning rubble to find survivors.     Fox News has listed emergency information for those affected: please click here to see all of the resources that have been activated to help those in need.  Know that our prayers are with you as we witness the devastation.

FAQ's on Trucking Accidents, Part II -- What Should I Know If I Become Involving In An Accident With a Truck? by Shannon McNulty of Clifford Law Offices

Question: What should I do if I become involved in an accident with a commercial vehicle truck? Shannon: I think the first thing you need to do as in any accident is to stay calm and determine if you need medical help or if anyone else involved in the accident requires medical attention.  In that instance, you want to call 911.  Once you determine if there is any medical needs, you want to allow the police to do their job.  You want to make sure the police have been called and allow them to do their job.  You don't want to get out of your vehicle and engage in discussions or disputes with who did what or who caused what.  You don't want to start picking up materials or debris from the roadway.  You want to leave that in place and let the police take care of that first.  After you have spoken to the police, you want to make sure you get the information of all of the other drivers that have been involved in the accident.  You want to get a name; you want to make certain that you have their insurance information.  You want to have a contact number for them.  And you want to make certain that you have the name and contact information for the police officer that has arrived at the scene to assist in documenting the crash.  On your own, if you are able to determine if you are not requiring medical attention, you want to write down the license plate number and the department of transportation number that will be on the side of the tractor.  Often, the tractor will have one license plate and the trailer may have another license plate.  You want to write down that information as well.  And so, similar to what we were describing, the type of information you need when you call the police to report a hazard, you'll want to obtain that same information if you are involved in an accident. Question: Is that transportation number an IC number on the side of the vehicle?  Sometimes you will see IC and then a number next to it? Shannon: That's true.  That is it. Question: What are some common causes of accidents involving trucks? Shannon: I think we see the same causes in accidents as we do with passenger vehicles.  As I mentioned, driver fatigue plays a big part in these commercial vehicles getting involved in accidents because they are often under pressure to make a delivery within a certain amount of time.  There are distractions, you know, Illinois has the most cell phone restrictions, other distractions can come into play for the drivers of those commercial vehicles.  And sometimes we see mechanical failures on the truck.  There is just something that has not been maintained, whether knowingly or by surprise, and the mechanical failure can cause the truck to become involved in a collision.  And again, important to what I mentioned earlier with the CDL, there are instances where the driver just lacks the actual ability to operate a commercial vehicle under certain driving conditions that trucks to encounter, such as mountains or icy road conditions.  Again, that can cause the accident. Question: What is an under-ride accident? Shannon: An under-ride accident is a situation where the height of the commercial vehicle allows for a passenger car to go under the trailer and the structural components of a passenger vehicle are tested and regulated for many things, including frontal collisions.  However, passenger vehicle are not designed or tested to absorb the impact rather of passing under a commercial vehicle.  And so it's very important in the design of commercial vehicles to take into consideration the ability of a passenger vehicle to pass under it and to take steps to prevent that occurrence from being allowed to happen. Question: What if I'm asked to give a recorded statement?  Should I do that? Shannon:  You really should not give a recorded statement until you have spoken with a lawyer, and just because you speak with a lawyer, doesn't mean you are going to proceed with litigation.  Often your insurance company, your own insurance company, will require you to give a recorded statement.  But frequently, the truck driver or the other driver's insurance company will call you or contact you to ask for a recorded statement.  And before you do that, you really want to make certain that you understand the facts and circumstances of the accident and usually talking with a lawyer will help you in that regard so that you are at least educated before you go ahead giving that recorded statement. Question: Is it important to actually know your right as a victim before you do something like that? Shannon: It sure is. So, it's important though to know your rights.  It's important that you consult with counsel before you start giving recorded statements.  And ultimately, you are going have to cooperate with your own insurance company.   If they have retained counsel, then is a prudent idea to do the same so that you know what you are doing when you are speaking with them.   First and foremost, your safety and the safety of the people that you are with is the utmost important.  But after that, you find out in these occurrences, that sometimes when witnesses come and assist you, they are gone by the time the police get there.  So it's not a bad idea to get names, numbers of people that are around you.  And they may not ultimately be interviewed by the police, but you will just remember that person that came and told you what that truck did.  If it results in litigation, your attorney may be able to track down all of the witnesses. Question: If I'm injured in an accident involving a truck, who would be sued? Shannon: There would be a variety of entities or individuals that would be potentially sued.  The driver, but most often it's the owner an operator of the tractor, the owner and tractor of the trailer, not necessarily the same person or entity.  It could be an entity that retained the driver to transport goods or services on his or her behalf.  So there is a variety of individuals and entities and again, the sooner you retain counsel, the sooner you can become educated on who may be responsible for any negligence that caused the crash. Question: What is an accident reconstruction and how is it used in a crash investigation? Shannon: An accident reconstruction as the name implies is just that.  It's a reconstruction of what occurred at the time of the crash and its an application of physics and science and engineering principles to a crash scene which relies on evidence either in terms of witness statements, driver statements, as well as physical evidence at the scene such as skid marks, there might be ruts in the roadway, gouges in the roadway, all of those things, an exploded tire, all of those aspects of physical evidence allow a certified crash reconstructionist to provide a basis to say what happened at the time of the crash or what most likely occurred at the time of the crash. Shannon McNulty of Clifford Law Offices handles cases about the many areas of transportation liability law involving trucks, railroads, tractor trailers, motorcycles and helicopters.

Frequently Asked Questions on Trucking Accidents by Shannon McNulty of Clifford Law Offices - Part I

Question: What is a commercial vehicle? Shannon: It's essentially any vehicle that engaged in commerce that's an easy way to remember it.  When we speak of commerce, we think of the transportation of goods or live stock, the transportation of people. Question: Are there any special rules or regulations that govern commercial vehicles? Shannon: Actually the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Regulations (FMCSR) as well as the state's regulations will govern the operation of commercial vehicles.  In the state of Illinois, in addition to the FMCSR, would be the Illinois State Police and Department of Transportation that assist in the enforcement of those regulations. Question: Are drivers of commercial vehicles required to have a special license? Shannon: They are.  Drivers of commercial vehicles are required to have a CDL.  And that is a drivers license that allows them to operate commercial vehicles.  And it's significant for the drivers to have the CDL because it allows for a proper evaluation of the driver's ability to operate those vehicles. Question: Are truck drivers and commercial vehicle operators required to carry insurance? Shannon: They are, much like drivers of passenger vehicles such as ourselves.  The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations require $750,000.00 minimum in insurance.  And the state of Illinois has a requirement of has a requirement of minimum of $1 million. Question: Insurance is very important to the commercial drivers as well because there is a strict rule, strict laws, on drinking and driving when it comes to commercial drivers as well, isn't there? Shannon: That's absolutely correct.  Again, those rules are enforced by the Illinois State Police as well as many other law enforcement agencies throughout all of our states, but also the federal government is very strict of the enforcement of its regulations. Question: Is there a time limit for how long the driver of a commercial vehicle can spend on the road? Shannon: There are.  And there are many exceptions and variations on the time limits, but essentially the general rule is no more than 11 cumulative hours of driving after the driver has had 10 consecutive hours off.  And that essentially translates no more than 70 hours in an eight day work week.  T hose hours are documented in Driver Logs and so the driver must be diligent in maintaining his logs indicating hours of operation; meaning the hours he or she is driving as well as the hours they are at rest.  And the state police as well as many other municipal law enforcement agencies are again vigilant in checking those logs whenever you see, for instance a Weigh Station or sometimes a police officer may decide to stop a driver for any number of reasons and those logs should be on hand and those logs should be up to date through the hour. Question: Is that one of the reasons why along highways trucks are parked on the side of the roads, in the middle of nowhere, that this is the time they need to stop? Shannon: They do, they are going out of service so that they can comply with the federal regulations as well as the regulations of the state and that is exactly what you are seeing. Question: What is driver fatigue and how does driver fatigue cause collisions? Shannon: We find in cases involving driver fatigue that the logs aren't always accurate because they have to comply with them and they want to drive longer hours if they have to.  So what we try to do in those cases is to see things like gas receipts, meal receipts and put them at different times at specific locations at different times.  It may be in contradiction to their logs. The goal of the Motor Carrier Regulations is to prevent driver fatigue, which is great, but there are always people who are going to try to get around it.  So driver fatigue is a big cause of truck accidents.  You see trucks that leave the roadway because drivers doze off, just like any driver, but because of their sheer size and destructive nature, they have more consequences usually. Question: A lot of these logs are pretty much kept record by their merit system by them entering themselves.  Isn't that right? Shannon: That's true.  It is by the driver's honor; however, usually the driver is working on behalf of a company.  Either they are being dispatched on behalf of a company or a company had decided they need a particular good transported and they rely on this driver.  And so the obligation is on the companies as well to make sure that they don't have a driver simply creating logs that are not in fact accurate in reflecting their true hours of service.  As Kevin mentioned, we see incidents where that does unfortunately occur and it is especially important for the driver to follow those requirements because of degraded judgment, decreasing coordination, and as well, these drivers need to have the information and training and supervision by the companies they work for to make sure that they are adhering to the regulations with respect to being out of service versus in service. Question: Do you find the companies themselves, the bosses, saying to these drivers, you need to get here by a certain time; I don't care what it takes? Shannon:  There is always pressure in that industry to deliver "on time," but many carriers are very responsible.  There are many that cut corners and those people are the ones that need to be scrutinized by the government to make sure the drivers are following the regulations. Shannon McNulty of Clifford Law Offices speaks about the many areas of transportation liability law involving trucks, railroads, tractor trailers, motorcycles and helicopters. She comes to Clifford Law Offices with a wealth of professional experience, including having worked for 10 years with the administration of the Chicago Police Department. Shannon is a part of the legal team that handles cases involving the roll-overs of a number of sport utility vehicles, known as SUVs that have resulted in the death or serious injuries of their occupants, and she also has been involved in the trial and small plane crash cases in the Chicagoland area. Shannon gives back to the Chicago community, having worked in the Albany Park neighborhood on crime prevention efforts, which resulted her in being recognized for outstanding service by the UNITE Civic Organization.

Magnetic Toys Remain for Sale on Shelves as a Danger for Children

It was six years ago that the Chicago Tribune did an investigation of hazards from magnetic toys for children that helped touch off the government stiffening standards on the small pieces that can be swallowed by the unaware. At the time, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) held a public hearing in Chicago on consumer safety.  One of the clients of Clifford Law Offices, a mother from the far northern suburbs, Sharon Henry, explained at the hearing how she had innocently bought the toy, Magnetix, for her young son.  She always carefully monitored him playing with it, but as boys will be boys, he swallowed a couple of the pill-sized pieces and they began to attach together in his digestive track, perforating his bowel. Durbin, head of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Finance Services and General Government that oversees the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Rush, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection that has jurisdiction over how the CPSC operates, listened intently as the mother told the story of her anguish before television cameras on how she almost lost her son.  And she was not alone. The Tribune earlier had reported that at least  more than a dozen other children had done the same.  It is difficult for the magnetic toys to pass through a digestive track and, instead, when multiple magnets are swallowed, they can attract in the body, causing the intestine to twist and pinch, causing holes, blockages, infections, and even, at times, death, particularly if not discovered. Sharon Henry testified in 2007 explaining how doctors had caught the problem just in the nick of time to save her son's life.  She was told had she waited 24 hours, her son would have died, so she bravely stepped forward because she didn't want this to happen to another unsuspecting parent. Now, six years later, the Chicago Tribune again covered the issue in a front-page story ("Still a dangerous attraction," April 14, 2013), reporting how even adult toys, like Buckyballs that people may keep on their desks, have become a dangerous attraction for children.  The Tribune wrote, "Although no one keeps exact records on the problem, one medical group estimated from national surveillance data on injuries that ingesting magnets led to more than 16,000 emergency room visits by children under age 18 from 2002 to 2011." The story went on to report that last week (April 12, 2013) the CPS announced that six major retailers including Barnes & Noble, Bed Bath & Beyond and Brookstone, are voluntarily recalling Buckyballs and Buckycubes (the square version of the product) that were bought at their stores and offering various incentives for anyone who brings them in.  The CPSC estimates some three million sets have been sold in the U.S. since 2010. Click here to read more on the voluntary recall. Although many of the toys are no longer manufactured, they still are in people's homes.  And other high-powered magnets, like adult toys and jewelry, are around many people's homes.     The website of Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago talks about magnet safety and explains the symptoms to look for: "watch for suspect systems like nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, and/or pain, especially if you think magnets may be involved." Click here to read more on magnet safety. Robert A. Clifford, senior partner at Clifford Law Offices, wrote about toy safety nearly 20 years ago in a column for the Chicago Lawyers. Click here to read that column. Parents and government officials have to remain vigilant for our young children.  

Rob Komosa by Robert A. Clifford, Senior Partner, Clifford Law Offices

It is with great sadness that I heard about the death of Rob Komosa, a young man who died at the age of 30.  After 13 years, apparently even the breathing machines could no longer help his lungs handle the work.  He was one of my clients years ago, one of those people who makes an impact on you without even trying. I remember one of the first meetings with Rob was when he was in Northwestern Hospital's Rehabilitation Institute, a terribly tragic case that left Rob paralyzed from the neck down.  An ill-timed double hit by his own football teammates at a practice tackled him into an unpadded concrete post that was just five feet from the sideline at Rolling Meadows High School.  The pole was immediately moved further from the field. Seeing Rob was always uplifting as he never wanted you to feel sorry for him.  He came to accept his permanent state of paralysis, learning to maneuver his wheelchair through the magic of technology and blowing through a straw.  He even learned to "type" on a computer and it is sad to see his website still under construction.  A link to one of his favorite sites, the Chicago Bears, headings such as his "Hobbies and Interests," his "Charitable Causes," his "Future," all left unfinished. Over the years I followed Rob and how he touched others, trying to help fellow quadriplegics permanently hurt in athletic accidents.  I saw how he was able to dedicate time to this purpose in his life after my law firm secured for him a settlement from District 214.  The family was able to buy a handicapped-accessible home that Rob helped design and, for the first time since his paralysis, Rob's mom was able to sleep in a "real" bed, not on the sofa or floor beside him, so she could be close by when he needed care in the middle of the night.  Requiring round-the-clock attention, his dedicated mother also as grateful because she could then afford some of the machines that would help her with some of life's necessities - feeding, changing and dressing him.  Never wanting to assign those tasks to a stranger, his mother accepted the task of taking care of her son and found the joy in the moments they would have together, knowing that one day it may end. His mother never seemed to tire taking care of the young boy she and her husband brought to America, along with their daughter, for a better life. Rob's dad died years ago of a broken heart, unable to help his son like he had hoped when they came here from their native Poland.  Never did she dream such a life for her strapping six-foot-four-inch son, as she saw him wither before her eyes over the years, dreading that horrible fate of perhaps a parent burying her child one day. That sad day came in March, as a community will gather to remember the life of Rob Komosa, the week before Easter.  Oftentimes it was Rob's deep faith in God that got him through his darkest moments and helped him to find the joy in life itself. Ten years after the fateful incident, he spoke about how sometimes in his dreams he sees himself walking only to wake up and realize it was not meant to be.  "As soon as I wake up, I see that I'm in my room, that I'm still paralyzed, wishing that I could kind of go back to my dreams," he told a reporter, without even a hint of anger, just wistfulness.  Now Rob is able to walk tall knowing that his life made an impact, although much different than the one he surely envisioned, but one that touched so many people in so many ways.  There is a special place in heaven for souls like his.  May God rest his.

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