Vehicle Safety: New Legislation May Make Cars Safer

vehicle safetyIn light of the recent Toyota automobile recalls, a new legislation proposal released Thursday by The Energy and Commerce Committee is focusing on auto safety. Committee chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif) released the draft, which could ultimately form the basis of legislation that will strengthen vehicle safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The New Jersey and Philadelphia trial lawyer strongly support this legislation. Fortunately, Lawmakers vowed to address auto safety after Toyota recalled over 8 million vehicles for varying reasons, including accelerating, braking, and power steering.

What Changes Will be Made?

The proposed legislation includes a few drastic changes to auto safety laws currently in place. Perhaps the biggest change would be the installation of Event Data Recorders in all new cars and trucks. Event Data Recorders are more commonly known as “black boxes,” and they make it easier to reconstruct events leading up to crashes. This black box data is another innovation that has been urged by New Jersey and Philadelphia trial lawyers.
Also included is the elimination of a cap on civil penalties that automakers face. Additionally, legislation would allow the NHTSA to immediately recall any automobile, upon finding “imminent hazard of death or serious injury.” The responsibility to recall currently falls on the shoulders of the automakers themselves, which is why it’s no surprise it took Toyota so long to officially make them.

The plan creates a $3 “vehicle user fee” to help fund the NHTSA, an entity that safety groups say is severely underfunded and ill-equipped to investigate serious safety issues. This group ensures that the existing engineering and technology that is available to automakers is actually used by automakers to make our cars safer. The fee would eventually increase to $9 in the programs third year. The plan intends to require a U.S. auto executive to verify information submitted to the NHTSA in response to an investigation. Any executive caught submitting false information could be fined as high as $250 million.
Finally, the new legislation aims to require new safety standards related to brake override systems, the prevention of pedals getting stuck in floor mats, and vehicle electronics. Waxman’s committee is expected to hold a hearing next week, and congress will consider the legislation later this year.

Have You Been Injured in a Car Accident?

Auto safety is a matter of grave importance, and legislation to help increase that safety is surely welcome. Unfortunately, no such legislation exist and car manufacturers do not have the incentive to make cars safer. As a result, everday people get unnecessarily hurt because of vehicle crashes due to defective vehicles. If you or a loved one has suffered injury or loss due to a defective vehicle or negligent driver, it is imperative that you seek legal advice. The team at Mininno Law Firm is here to help you.
Contact us to fill out a free case evaluation form, or call us for a free consultation: (856) 833-0600 in New Jersey or (215) 567-2380 in Philadelphia.

Medical Malpractice Payments at an All Time Low

Amidst all the talk of so called tort reform and “frivolous lawsuits” comes a study by the Public Citizen, a non profit organization based in Washington D.C. that represents consumer interests through lobbying, litigation, research, and public education. The study illustrates the decline in medical malpractice payments since 1999.
In 2008, the number of malpractice payments was the lowest it’s been since the formation of the federal government’s National Practitioner Data Bank, which has tracked medical malpractice payments since 1990. 2008 was the third consecutive year that medical malpractice payments sunk to an all time low.

Unfortunately, the decline in payments has nothing to do with a reduction in medical errors and everything to do with the increase in the number of victims not being compensated. This also means that there are fewer incentives for doctors and nurses to reduce errors. According to a 1999 study done by the Institute of Medicine entitled “To Err is Human,” an estimated 44,000 to 98,000 hospital patients are killed every year due to avoidable medical mistakes.
Yet fewer than 15,000 malpractice payments were made in 1999. Those numbers DO NOT include the number of patients who suffered serious, non-fatal injuries. The large gap between the victims and the compensated has likely grown larger since 1999, as there is no evidence that any meaningful improvements to medical safety have been made.

In a series of graphs and charts, the Public Citizen thoroughly demonstrates the fall in malpractice payments in the last decade. In five years, there was a loss of 3,336 medical malpractice payments made on behalf of physicians. That means that while the number of victimized patients was rising, the number of those patients being compensated was falling. Studies since the 1970’s show that medical errors greatly outnumber lawsuits.
Perhaps the kind of reform that would greatly reduce the legal liability of our health care system is not the kind of reform that’s needed. It seems that medical errors are shockingly prevalent. Problems should be fixed at their source. Eliminating medical errors, rather than reforming our tort system, should be a goal of priority.

It’s been easy to drum up support for so called tort reform by blaming our health care woes on medical malpractice cases and “junk lawsuits,” but the numbers tell a very different story. In 2006, medical malpractice payments accounted for between .18 and .58 percent of all health care costs. 2006 is the most recent year with all of the necessary information available to make these comparisons.

Medical malpractice is a very serious issue, and something that is affecting patients everyday. Most doctors are wonderful and care tremendously for their patients. They are careful and follow well established rules of the medical profession to prevent errors.
However, a very small minority are not so caring and do not follow the rules. It is the mission of a trial attorney to represent those victimized by medical malpractice and earn them the compensation they deserve.

The trial attorneys at Mininno Law Firm want to help you get the compensation you deserve. If you or a loved one have recently suffered due to medical malpractice, you must act quickly! A two year statute of limitations can prevent you from being able to hold liable those who have harmed you.
Contact the Mininno Law Firm or call us at (856) 833-0600 in New Jersey, or (215) 567-2380 in Philadelphia.

Don't be Fooled, Pressure Ulcers are Preventable

The National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel is an entity that serves as the authoritative voice for improved patient outcomes in pressure ulcer prevention and treatment through public policy, education, and research. On March 3rd of this year, the panel released notice that their recent consensus conference, held at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland, determined that there are indeed unavoidable pressure ulcers.
The panel was comprised of 24 specialists in medicine, geriatrics, surgery, specialty nursing, physical therapy, and also included dieticians. The panelists concluded that there were two instances in which the development of a pressure ulcer could not be avoided.

1. Refusal of the patient to participate in his or her own pressure ulcer prevention.
2. Certain clinical conditions such as hemodynamic instability (abnormal blood movement) or skin failure.

We at the Mininno Law Firm see these findings certainly as reasons that pressure ulcers do form, but in no way reasons that their formation is unavoidable. From the beginning of treatment, a vital key to pressure ulcer prevention is assessment. Doctors and caretakers must assess the condition and needs of a patient. Following assessment, the next vital step is planning. If it is determined that a patient suffers from hemodynamic instability, they are therefore more susceptible to pressure ulcers, and additional plans must be made to actively prevent those pressure ulcers from forming.
If a patient refuses to be moved or turned, a doctor or caretaker must then implement additional skin protection strategies. The higher the risk, the more attentive their care must be. A patient that refuses to be turned could also be placed on a special pressure distributing mattress that helps prevent bed sores and pressure ulcers.

Pressure ulcers are a dire affliction that must be promptly treated as they could quickly cause other serious complications to a patient’s health. If you or a loved one is suffering or has suffered from the formation of a bedsore or pressure ulcer, do not hesitate to call for help. The trial lawyers at Mininno Law Office are here to provide the help and representation you’ll need to be compensated.
Contact us or call us at (856) 833-0600 in New Jersey or (215) 567-2380 in Philadelphia.

Trial Lawyers have Made for Safer Vehicles

Recently, so called Tort Reform has been a major topic of discussion. Tort Reform has a very large following of pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, HMO’s, and defective food and beverage companies. These billion dollar corporations spend their profits on lobbyist and marketing campaigns in order to convince us all that most lawsuits brought to court are “frivolous,” and that payouts are “outlandish.”
This so called Tort Reform aims to restrict lawful recoveries for victims of things like medical malpractice, nursing home abuse, or defective product injuries. It also aims to make it harder to hold accountable companies that cause harm to consumers.

But if it wasn’t for trial lawyers and their litigation of these “frivolous” cases, the vehicles that we drive would not be what they are today. Cars today are loaded with countless safety features that, before litigation, did not exist. Below are 11 features of your vehicle that were improved after a court deemed it mandatory.

1. Gas Tanks – Manufacturers, like GM and Ford, designed vehicles with defective gas tank placement. The placement caused fires and explosions, even in the most minor collisions. Due to litigation, gas tanks are now universally located within rigid frames.

2. Door Handles – Ford’s own engineers cited that their paddle style door handles accidently opened in collisions. Ford continued to cover up the problem, until finally a court held them accountable and forced them to fix the issue.

3. SUV Stability – SUV stability has always been an issue. Ford’s rollover rate, at one time, was twice that of any other SUV. After injury and death, litigation increased emphasis on the development of Electronic Stability Control.

4. Airbags – Airbags have been being designed since the 1950’s, but by 1988, only 2% of new cars were made with them. Eventually, courts made in mandatory to manufacturer all new vehicles with airbags.

5. Faulty “Park” – Ford and Chrysler both experienced issues with transmissions that slipped out of Park and caused cars to roll away. In Ford’s instance, it caused the death of a pregnant woman trying to save the life of her four year old daughter inside the rolling minivan. Ford fixed the error after being held liable twice in court. Chrysler continued to ignore the problem until litigation forced a recall of over 1 million affected vehicles.

6. Tires – Firestone and Goodyear tried to hide defective tire problems for years before courts finally held them accountable. Firestone tires were responsible for 271 deaths before they were finally recalled.

7. Side-impact Protection – a police officer was paralyzed after a low-speed side impact collision. The court found that the absence of side protection was a vehicle defect. Now all cars are equipped with side-impact protection.

8. Weak Seats – Seats were not made strong enough and were collapsing during collisions, killing rear passengers. It was litigation that forced manufacturers to begin installing stronger seats in all vehicles.

9. Seatbelts – Court cases did a lot in bringing to light the dangers of inferior seatbelts, or no seatbelts at all. For example, Chryslers Gen 3 seatbelt was installed in over 14 million cars and proven to unlatch in accidents. Litigation forced Chrysler to redesign both seats and seatbelts.

10. Power Windows – Power windows became more common, and so too did associated injury and death. Children were especially susceptible because of accidently hitting the rocker style switch that moved the window up or down. The inexpensive solution would have been to replace the rocker style with a lift up style. The solution was ignored to cut costs until litigation forced universal acceptance of the safer switch.

11. Roof Strength – The strength of car roofs was known to be in need of improvement, but only litigation actually made it happen.

Thanks to these cases being brought to court by trial lawyers, judges and juries were able to hold the right parties responsible for unnecessary injury and death, and also reverse the problems to prevent future loss. Trial Attorneys are essential to maintain a balance between consumers and manufacturers.

If you or a loved one feel you have been wronged by a medical malpractice, insurance company, or defective product manufacturer, you’ll need a trial attorney. The trial attorneys at Mininno Law Firm are here to help. Contact us or call (856) 833-0600 in New Jersey, or (215) 567-2380 in Philadelphia.

Are You Insured by the Worst Insurance Company in America?

A short time ago, we posted a blog about homeowners’ insurance, and things homeowners should know before filing a large claim. It got us to thinking. What else is wrong the insurance industry? Why are there so many bad faith insurers out there? Why do we have to feel so threatened by companies we pay to protect us? Why do you need a New Jersey trial lawyer to protect you against an insurance carrier?

In a report done by the American Association for Justice, the top ten worst insurance companies for consumers have been discovered. After lengthy research into court documents, reports filed by both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Securities Exchange Commission, country wide news accounts, and testimony from former agents and adjusters, the AAJ has provided a great deal of information that will ebb our faith in some of the nations leading insurance companies.

The List

10. Liberty Mutual
9. Torchmark
8. UnitedHealth
7. Farmers
6. WellPoint
5. Conseco
4. State Farm
3. AIG
2. Unum
1. Allstate

Reporting each discretion of each bad faith insurance company would take quite some time, so we’ll talk about the one company that stood out above the rest, Allstate Insurance Company. Perhaps it was their mission that set them off on the wrong course. According to CEO Thomas Wilson, “[their] obligation is to earn a return for [their] shareholders.” Said differently, “We put profits over the people we are supposed to insure.
Unfortunately, shareholders (mostly large financial institutions and hedge funds) and policyholders (the little guys) are not the same people, and while corporate shareholders may be earning profits , many times policyholders are being cheated. Publicly, Allstate’s slick advertising campaign claims their insured will be put you in “good hands.” Privately, agents are trained to employ “boxing gloves,” an aggressive litigation strategy that aims to deny claims at all costs.

They use a secret claims evaluation software called “Colossus” to make lowball offers to victimized customers looking to receive the help they’ve been paying for. Adjusters are trained in the “3 D’s,” to deny, delay, and defend. A common tactic is to employ a “sit and wait” strategy, which Allstate’s research knows increases likelihood that claimants will just give up. Adjusters say they were rewarded for keeping payments low, even if they had to lie to their clients to do so. Adjusters were even rewarded for such actions! For example, one former adjustor told the AAJ that he won a prize (i.e., a portable refrigerator) for wrongfully trying to deny fire claims by blaming arson.

Complaints to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners against Allstate amount to a number greater than almost all of its major competitors. After Hurricane Katrina, the Louisiana Department of Insurance received approximately 1,200 complaints against Allstate, almost double its competitor State Farm, and State Farm held a larger share of the market!

Maryland fined Allstate upwards of 18 million dollars after they raised premiums and changed coverage without alerting policy holders. In Texas, Allstate has to pay 70 million dollars to homeowners after overcharging for insurance. In Florida, Allstate is in trouble with regulators because they’ve dropped over 400,000 customers since 2004, and it appears to be because they are homeowners’-insurance-only customers. Florida law prohibits this practice.

So why work so hard to rip people off? To boost the bottom line of course!
Allstate profited $4.6 billion in 2007. It’s CEO, Thomas Wilson, made $10.7 million that year. His predecessor, Edward Libby, made $18.8 million, plus an additional $25.4 million in retirement benefits. The less they payout, the more they take in.

New Jersey Trial lawyers

New Jersey Trial lawyers are a necessity to you if you are being cheated by your insurance company. While bad faith insurance companies work ‘round the clock to limit your recoveries, New Jersey Trial lawyers work ‘round the clock to increase your recoveries.
If you are currently being low-balled by your insurance company for damages they should be covering, call the New Jersey Trial lawyers at Mininno Law Firm. They are here to help you receive the compensation you need and deserve. Contact us or call (856) 833-0600 in New Jersey, or (215) 567-2380 in Philadelphia.

Taishan Gypsum Victims awarded $2.6 Million – Money They May Never See

Previously, we posted a blog about foreign manufacturers who manufacture defective products without consequence; specifically, Chinese drywall manufacturer Taishan Gypsum. The company has exported an estimated 10 million pounds of drywall to the United States through ports in Florida and New York.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, nearly 3,000 complaints have been filed against the company, involving complications and property damage caused by the drywall. Tests have shown that the damage was caused by sulfur emissions from the gypsum board.

These emissions have caused significant amounts of property damage to homes built with the Chinese made material. Reported damage includes that of HVAC systems, smoke detectors, electrical wiring, and metal plumbing components. The emissions have been linked to metal corrosion. They cause a sulfurous odor that permeates the house, and may be the cause of eye, respiratory, and sinus problems.

This Thursday, April 8, 2010, U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon awarded 2.6 million dollars to 7 Virginia families whose homes will have to be virtually rebuilt due to the damage caused by the defective drywall. Judge Fallon’s summary judgment details the extensive amounts of gutting that will be required to remove traces and side effects of the dry wall. All drywall must be removed, and copper pipes, electrical wiring, appliances, cabinets, trim, molding, countertops, hardwood floors, and bathroom fixtures will need to be replaced.
Unfortunately, lawsuits were limited solely to property damages, and did not address the probable effects of sulfur emissions to the health of homeowners.

But homeowners are less concerned with recoveries only including property damage, and more concerned that the likelihood they will receive their compensation is almost non-existent. With no international laws or regulations in place legally holding Taishan Gypsum responsible for the defective drywall and the damages it caused, there is no way to ensure payment. Foreign manufacturers do not have to honor civil lawsuit decisions from the United States regarding their defective products.
Taishan Gypsum never responded to any one of the lawsuits filed against them, nor did they send anyone to represent them in the U.S. federal court. It is unclear to the plaintiffs what will happen with the money owed them. Plaintiff attorneys have proposed seizing Taishan Gypsum inventory on U.S. soil, and on ships in U.S. waters, but no decisions regarding any further action have been made.

Taishan Gypsum is just one of many cross-border liability cases that have not seen or will not see a resolution due to lack of international regulations. Defective product manufacturers in The United States are held liable for their defects, and so too should manufacturers out of the country. There is currently a motion to pass the Foreign Manufacturers’ Legal Accountability Act which would force foreign manufacturers, like Taishan Gypsum, to honor decisions made in US civil trials, and to be responsible for their defective products.

If you have suffered damage, injury, or loss due to a defective product in New Jersey, whether it be manufactured in the United States or overseas, the New Jersey defective product lawyers at Mininno Law Firm want to help you. Contact us or call (856) 833-0600 in New Jersey or (215) 567-2380 in Philadelphia.

What You Don’t Know About Homeowner’s Insurance

Homeowners Insurance is a necessity if you want to own a home. But when it’s time to call upon it, it’s a migraine headache. Everyday, homeowners file claims to their insurance companies, hoping that the premiums they’ve been paying will afford them the coverage they need. All too often, insurance companies employ bad faith insurance claim settlement tactics that will withhold or greatly reduce payments to policy holders. It seems that insurance companies are not hoping to help people as much as they are hoping to make a buck.

And it’s a shame that most will not find out about this until tragedy befalls their home, and it’s time to file that claim. Below are nine secrets of homeowner’s insurance companies that will help if you ever have to call upon yours. In some of these instances, an insurance claims attorney will be necessary to make sure you are not being “ripped off” by your insurance company, and that you are indeed being compensated appropriately.

1. A claim for a total loss can cost less than rebuilding a damaged house. Just like a car, why pay more to fix it when you could pay less to get it new?

2. If you have a mortgage, checks will be made out to both you and your mortgage bank. You’ll have to endorse the check and hand it over to your lien holder. The money sits in escrow (money limbo), until repairs are made. Typically, they’ll release the money to you in installments over the course of reconstruction. It’s a way for mortgage companies to protect their investments. You’ll have to front the money for repairs, and then be reimbursed.

3. Don’t sign a release on your home insurance claim. Insurance companies will try to have you have sign a release as quickly as possible to close the claim and relieve them of any future responsibilities to you regarding this particular claim. It would be a good idea to have an insurance claims attorney review the release, to make sure you are not being cheated. When dealing with insurance companies, you want someone on your side. The quicker they ask you to sign, the likelier it is you’re dealing with a bad faith insurer.

4. Don’t cash any checks marked “full and final settlement.” Endorsing and cashing this check is the same as signing a release. Again, it would be intelligent to have an insurance claims attorney review the payout. Very often, an insurance claims attorney can fight to get you more money!

5. Don’t let your insurance company replace your Pottery Barn stuff with Wal-Mart stuff. You want to keep good records of everything you own. Keeping receipts with your tax information is an excellent idea. When your insurance company tells you they’ll give you $25 for a $150 table, you want the receipt proving what you paid. You are entitled to payment for exactly what you owned, not something that looks like it. (Attempting to do this is also a sign of a bad faith insurer).

6. Condo owners need coverage! It’s a wide misbelief that the condo association’s insurance will cover property damage or liability, but that’s only true for common areas. If you want your space and your things insured, you will need your own policy.

7. If you are forced to leave your home, don’t sleep at a shelter. Meridian insurance company is required to cover your “additional living expenses.” Stay at a hotel! In many cases, you’ll have to front the money and be reimbursed later. But if this is something you are not monetarily capable of, an insurance claims attorney will fight to get you that money immediately.

8. After a widespread disaster, insurance companies will bring in out of state claims adjusters to assess damages. An adjuster from the southern United States will not be accustomed to local building costs in New York City. You have every right to have a public claims adjuster come out to assess your damages if you feel you are not being compensated rightly. An insurance claims attorney will help you if your insurance company is not willing to comply.

9. Many times, people will settle for less than the total cost of damages because of the length of time the process can take. Insurance companies know this! They will issue checks for actual cash value of your belongings rather than replacement costs. DO NOT SETTLE FOR LESS THAN WHAT YOUR PROPERTY IS WORTH! An insurance claims attorney will help you receive the money you are due.

Filing an insurance claim and collecting payment can be a lengthy, tiresome process. Typically, you should be ready for a fight. All too often, insurance companies employing bad faith insurance claim settlement practices are looking to pay out the least amount possible, regardless of what you need and deserve. That is why an insurance claims attorney is an excellent resource to have on your side.

If you are currently in a battle with your insurance company because of an accident that has befallen your home, the team at Mininno Law Firm wants to help you. Contact us or call at (856) 833-0600 in New Jersey or (215) 567-2380 in Philadelphia.

CPSC: Defective Products Recalled This March

Below is a list of defective products that the Consumer Product Safety Commission has recalled this March. Each product in the list is linked to its detail page on the CPSC website. There you can find model numbers, hazards, and injury reports.

Keep your families safe! Discontinue use of these defective products immediately. Contact the manufacturer to claim a refund, or to receive your improved replacement.

Children’s Product Recalls

Graco Harmony High Chair

Evenflo Top-of-Stair-Plus Wooden Baby Gates

Infantino Slingrider Baby Slings **CPSC additional warning regarding baby sling carriers

Peachtree Playthings – Scooby-Doo, Tweety, and Batman themed utensil sets

Dollar and discount store metal charm bracelets

Sportime – BigBox Hockey Sets

Botou Baite Bike Bell Co Ltd. – Bike Bells

Carolina Function Generator Kits

S&S Worldwide Inc. – Painted wooden beads

Clothing Recalls

Liberty Apparel Clothing Company Inc. – Jewel girls’ hooded sweatshirt

Byer California – Girls cargo Pocket Jackets

Brand Evolution – Locks All Over, All Over Skater, and Rock Mask Hoodies

LELE and Company, Inc. – Children’s hooded sweatshirts

Betty Blue Girls Hoodies

Kani Gold / Roadblock – Children’s hoodies

Sport Obermeyer, Inc. – Girls’ Ski Jackets

North Sportif – Boys’ Hooded Jackets and Reversible Vests

Ardica – Heated Jackets and Vests

Children’s Apparel Network – Young Hearts Girls Hooded Sweaters

Bubblegum USA – Girls hooded jackets

Ten West Apparel – Boys hooded jackets

Home Goods/Tools/Electronics Recalls

Brightway Extension Cords

Lennox  Superior Vent-Free Gas logs and Fireplaces

Simpson Dura-Vent Company – DuraTech Anchor Plates with Dampers and DuraChimney II Anchor Plates with Dampers

Niles ZR-6 MultiZone Audio Receivers

Tumi Mobile Power Packs

Dimplex remote control kits for electric fireplaces and stoves

“Innovations” and “At Home with Meijer” Roman Shades and Roll-Up Blinds

Lutron Shading Solutions Roman Shades

American Electric Lighting Outdoor Lighting Fixtures

Telebrands Therma Scarf

DayNa Decker Botanika brand Candles

Konrad and Loft Wooden Office Chairs

Gator Machete and Gator Machete Jr.

Ventus Ltd and Ventus Team Bicycle Aerobars

Fluke VoltAlert Voltage Detector

Hitachi Coil Nailers

If you or a loved one has suffered due to a complication arising from one of these defective, recalled products, a defective product lawyer will offer the help you need to receive the compensation you deserve.

Essay Contest – Win a $500 scholarship!

The Mininno Law Office has sponsored an essay contest this year for 20 area high schools.
The topic: “Why Plaintiff’s Trial Lawyers are Good for Society.” The winning entrant will receive a $500 scholarship courtesy of John Mininno, Esq.

We’ve received five intelligent, thought provoking, well-written essays. Now we need your help! Our judges are having trouble determining a winner. In order to assist them, we’d like you to tell us which essay is your favorite, and WHY! Perhaps one of our participants has an idea that you agree with? Perhaps one of our participants taught you something in their essay that you did not know?

Voting and commenting can continue until midnight April 30th. We appreciate your help, and to all of the participants, good luck!

Our entrants:

Scott Bass – West Deptford High School
Leyla Renee Wirtz – Bordentown Regional High School
Nia Holston – Timber Creek Regional High School
Jessica Dochney – Haddon Township High School
Albertine L. Shain – Bordentown Regional High School