Illinois Plaintiff's Lawyer Personal Injury Blog- Legal News and Insights from Champaign Urbana Attorneys Koester & Bradley, LLP

The Vital Importance of Tires for Driving Safety

6/18/2019

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Tires are expensive for a reason.  Tires represent the most important connection that your car make--to the road.  Proper tire maintenance can save lives, while poor tires can cause serious injury. --Ryan Bradley, Partner, Koester & Bradley LLP

 

Koester & Bradley Tells You All You Need to Know About Burning Rubber

At Koester & Bradley our auto accident lawsuit team as well as our trucking accident litigators constantly see the carnage that can result from poor tire maintenance and worn out tires.  It is understandable that Illinois drivers are reluctant to think about tires.  A good set of tires can cost between $400 and $1,000.  However when you realize that the tires on your vehicle are the sole connection that your car makes with the road, the cost seems more reasonable.  

Are your Tires Worn Out?  

It is estimated that over 33,000 crashes occur each year as a result of tire degradation.  Tire degradation is caused by (1) time, (2) ambient and operating temperatures, (3) flex fatigue, (4) partial pressure of oxygen in a tire and (5) constructing and compounding characteristics.  Although recent tire degradation has received a great deal of recent press, it is not a new problem but one that is been studied vigorously since the 1980s.  In fact, M. Pottinger wrote an article, “The Effect of Tire Aging on Force and Moment Properties of Radial Tires, in 1981 where he notes that “the physical properties of rubber such as modulus elongation, loss factors, etc. undergo significant changes over extended periods of time due to ozone, temperature, oxidation, humidity and other environmental factors.”  Similarly, M.A. Jacobson addressed the aging effect tires in his 1982 article, “Accident Avoidance-How Age Deterioration Can Affect Car Safety”.  He notes that the tread and sidewall rubber crack and harden due to age and exposure to sunlight, ozone, high temperatures and oxygen.  A 1986 article, “The Aging of Tires – Influence on the Damage Frequency” by F. Nowakowski discussed a study of 146 tread separation failures and concluded that a correlation existed between tire age and tire failures.  Nowakowski’s study advised that tires older than 6 years should be removed regardless of tread depth.  A June 1988 press release from Goodyear Commercial Tire Management informed the pubic that stored tires age and can be rendered unusable just as tires left in the elements. 

NHTSA & TIRE AGING TESTS

As a response to the Firestone tire failures, Congress asked The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the Fall of 2000 to develop a “tire aging test” in order to evaluate the risk of failure during the life of a tire.  The current regulation in 2000 only evaluated the life span and risk of new tires; tires that were already in use or were in storage were not regulated.  On November 1, 2000, the Transportation Recall, Enhancement, Accountability, and Documentation (“TREAD”) Act was enacted which mandated that the NHTSA revise and update the safety standards for light-truck and passenger cars.  The NHTSA reviewed the effectiveness of the current 2000 tire standards and then developed the NHTSA Tire Aging Test Development Project in 2002. 

The NHTSA Tire Aging Test Development Project set out to prove two goals:  (1) to understand service-related tire degradation over time and (2) to develop an accelerated, laboratory-based tire test which simulates real world tire aging and then allows the remaining structural durability of these test tires to be evaluated.  The NHTSA expected that the highest level of tire degradation would take place in warmer climates and thus, Phoenix was the location chosen for the collection of on-vehicle tires.  The NHTSA determined that changes in tire properties were due to two mechanisms:  (1) thermo-oxidative aging and (2) cyclic fatigue during tire deformation.  Thermo-oxidative aging occurs when the heat and reaction to oxygen causes the rubber compound and material interfaces of the tire to degrade.  Cyclic fatigue leads to cracks and separations of the tire tread. 

The NHTSA developed three methods of accelerated, laboratory-based tire testing to determine structural durability of aged tires.  The first two methods (Michelin’s Long-Term Durability Endurance Test and Continental’s Passenger Endurance Test) were combined to determine tire aging and durability.  Michelin’s test required the tires to be inflated to a mixture of 50% oxygen and 50% nitrogen and then run on a 1.707m roadwheel for up to 500 hours.  Continental’s test required the test tires to be run on the 1.707m roadwheel under proprietary conditions for up to 240 hours.  A test based on research by Ford was used for the third method which required that the test tire be inflated to a mixture of 50% oxygen and 50% nitrogen and then heated in an oven for a period of time in order to speed up the chemical reactions and test the material property changes.  The heated tire was then later run on a road wheel in order to study structural durability changes. 

New tires were then compared to the tires that had been aged in the laboratory setting.  The NHTSA reported that over 95% of tire failures in its complaint database involved wire-coat skim compound, the tire tread and belt area, and the wire-coat wedge compound between the steel belts in the tire tread.  These areas were studied in the most detail and it was found that increases occurred in the hardness, modulus, cross-link density and oxygen content.  The ultimate elongation, peel adhesion and flex property also decreased over time. 

The NHTSA then analyzed what variables had the biggest effect on the change in these properties.  Data was then collected comparing the changes in properties to those tires taken from service in Phoenix to those tires used in the laboratory-based testing.  The changes in the properties of the tire were higher in those tires used in the laboratory-based testing.  The longest roadwheel test times showed the same level of change in property as the same tires used in Phoenix with a real world use of 1 to 3 years.  A tire of 3 to 6 years of service in Phoenix had the same change in properties that a tire oven-aged had at the highest level.  It was also found that hardness of type E, H and L tires increased during oven-aging and decreased during real world service in Phoenix or roadwheel testing in a lab setting. 

Structural integrity was also tested based upon a method involving the oven-aging of tires and a stepped-up load test.  Tires aged 3 weeks at 70°C had longer running times before failure than did tires aged at 60°C.  C and L tires aged at 60°C at 8 weeks had no decrease in roadwheel time, despite the fact that L tires had the greatest loss in physical properties during aging tests.  B and D tires had failure times below 100% load only at aging times of 8 weeks at 65°C.  These same model tires had a predicted failure rate below 100% after 5 or more years of service in Phoenix.  E tires used for 3 to 4 years of service in Phoenix or oven-aged for 8 weeks at 65°C produced failures below 100% of the maximum rated load for the tires.  H tires used for 2 to 3 years of service in Phoenix or oven-aged from 6 to 8 weeks between 60°C and 70°C resulted in failure below 100% of the maximum rated load for the tires. 

TIRES:  HOW OLD IS TOO OLD?

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) studied several aged tire-related crashes in 2014.  They found that aged tires are often used well beyond safe service lives.  For example, in the February 15, 2014 Centerville, Louisiana crash between a school bus and a SUV, it was determined that the SUV’s driver lost control of the car after the right rear tire’s tread separated.  It was determined that the SUV’s tire was approximately 12.5 years old.  The crash resulted in the death of 4 people and injuries to 34 others.  The NTSB also determined that recalled tires tend to remain in service several months after a recall is issued.  For example, a 15-passenger church van rolled over on February 21, 2014 in Lake City, Florida resulting in two deaths and severe injuries to several minor children.  It was determined that the crash was likely caused by a left-rear tire failure.  The NTSB investigation determined that that the tire had been recalled for a known safety defect approximately one and half years before the crash but had continued to remain in service. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimated that tire aging may have contributed to 23% of tire-related crashes.  Despite their years of research, the NHTSA has not defined what is an “appropriate” tire age but merely refers to vehicle and tiremaker recommendations.  “The British Rubber Manufacturers Association (BRMA) recommended in June 2001 that tires over six years of age should not be put into service and that all tires should be replaced ten years from the date of their manufacture.  However, the BRMA notes that even an inspection by a tire expert may not reveal the full extent of tire deterioration.”  Ford noted in its 2006 MY owner’s manuals that “tires degrade over time, even when they are not being used on the road.  It is recommended that tires generally be replaced when they are six years or older.”  Chrysler’s 2006 Owner’s manuals contained a similar warning noting that “tires and spare tires older than six years could result in sudden tire failure resulting in loss of control that could lead to serious injury or death.”  Tire Rack notes on its website that they believe street tires have a useful life in service of between six to ten years.  It is no wonder why the general public may be confused as to when tires should be replaced. 

TIRE RECALLS

The NTSB discovered that between 2009 and 2013, only 44% of recalled tires were actually removed from service and that only 20% of affected tires are returned to the manufacturer.  Under the current recall system, tire identification numbers (TINs) are compared against TINs listed on recall notices.  The problem here is that TINs are difficult to locate without the use of a professional vehicle lift because the number is listed on the inside of the tire’s mounted sidewall.  Cross-referencing a TIN with an individual recall bulletin is also extremely difficult as no recall database searchable by TIN is in currently in existence.  Unfortunately, this forces the consumer to rely on service shops and dealers to inform them of recalls.  The NTSB has recommended the following improvements:  (1) the printing of TINs on both sides of the tires, (2) requiring manufacturers to create TIN searchable recall databases on their websites, (3) requiring mandatory registration of all tires at the point of sale and (3) using radio frequency identification (RFID) chips and laser scan codes to transmit recall information.  Congress recently passed “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act” (FAST Act) which implemented NTSB’s proposed improvements #2 and #3.  However, the FAST Act does not require computerized registration or NTSB’s proposed improvement #4 which would help ensure effective communication to consumers. 

CONCLUSION

We know that tires will continue to degrade with (1) time, (2) ambient and operating temperatures, (3) flex fatigue, (4) partial pressure of oxygen in a tire and (5) constructing and compounding characteristics.  We know that tires will continue to be put into service if they appear serviceable.  Finally, we know that aged tire-related crashes will continue to occur until policies and practices are created and implemented by the government.

By: Ryan Bradley, Koester & Bradley, LLP

Semi Trucks Are Annoying--Don't Let Them Hurt You Too

6/12/2019

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The number of semi truck and tractor trailer accidents throughout Illinois are on the rise.  Drivers are constantly tired, and spurred on by trucking companies unconcerned with safety.  Still, there are ways to stay safe on the road. --Ryan Bradley

 

How to share the road with Trucks

With 10 gears, 500 horsepower, hauling 80,000 pounds and an average cruising speed of 65-70 miles per hour, today's commercial vehicles were built with the long-haul in mind. But if you've ever gotten stuck behind an 18-wheeler in the city, you are all too aware of how slow and clumsy these big rigs can be off the highway.  In Central Illinois in particular the prevalence of semi trucks is even higher with Illinois Interstate 57, 74, and 72 all intersecting along with smaller roads frequently used by semis.  The Champaign trucking accident team at Koester & Bradley has studied the causes of trucking accidents for decades and has come up with the following tips Illinois drivers can use to protect themselves from the destructive power of semi trucks and big rigs.

Getting Up To Speed

Never pass or maneuver around a commercial vehicle - truck or bus - illegally, even if it means taking a few more minutes on your commute. Although you may think you can zip around and in front of that trucker, keep in mind that most passenger car/tractor trailer accidents are much more than fender benders.

Safe in the Zone

Most professional truck and bus drivers try to leave a safe distance between themselves and the vehicle in front of them. This cushion of space is known as the "safety zone".  Yet, the safety zone is often invaded by risky drivers trying to better their position on the road.

Never zoom around a truck or bus only to pull directly in front of them. Stay out of the safety zone! As a rule when you pass a commercial truck or bus, allow 50 feet (five car lengths) between you and the big guy before merging back in front of him.  If you enter the zone in front of a big rig and need to apply your brakes, the 18-wheeler on your tail may not be able to stop in time.

Is He Making a Pass?  Remember, trucks are bigger than you are.

When you make the decision to pass, always be sure you can complete your pass quickly.  As you're approaching a big rig from the rear, anticipate what your passing speed needs to be and be sure you can get by without getting stuck behind another passing vehicle - you might be in one of the truck's blind spots.  Better to wait to start your pass after the one ahead of you has completed its maneuver and is clear of the safety zone.

Peek-A-Boo

If you can't see a truck's mirrors, you're in the truck's blind spot and the trucker can't see you.  Keep this in mind as you select your road position behind or alongside a truck or bus.  Always make sure you can be seen.  When passing, keep in mind that the truck driver has a big blind spot to his left just behind his cab. If you get caught in that blind spot the truck might start a passing maneuver of its own and squeeze you off the road or into oncoming traffic, or worse yet, collide with you.

Truck Accidents Will Still Happen

Koester & Bradley dedicates a significant amount of our practice to helping drivers injured in semi-truck accidents.  Remember, trucks have one goal in mind, deliver the load as quickly as possible and pick up another load.  That is how trucking companies make money--and they make lots of it.  Trucking companies almost always have large insurance policies as well.  This means that if you or a loved one are injured in a trucking accident, you should absolutely call a local Champaign and Illinois trucking accident lawyer so that you are paid the compensation that you deserve.

By: Ryan Bradley, Koester & Bradley, LLP

Does FDA Clearance Mean a Medical Device is Safe? No!

4/23/2019

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The process by which the FDA approves of drugs and medical devices has recently come under fire.  At Koester & Bradley, we have seen these problems first-hand. --Ryan Bradley

 

If a medical device or a drug is "cleared" by the FDA, is the device or drug safe?  Surprisingly, the answer is No.

With the premiere of the Netflix Documentary, "The Bleeding Edge," Illinois residents and those across the United States are finally becoming aware of a startling fact that Illinois defective product attorneys at Koester & Bradley have been monitoring for over a decade.  Namely, that FDA approval does not make a medical device safe.

Pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers are in business to make money.  Many companies put profits over safety in order to keep shareholders happy.  This attitude has dramatic and catastrophic impact on residents of Illinois who are victims of bad medical devices.  Although the FDA and other regulatory entities have to approve these goods, defective products still reach the market.  This is because drug and medical device companies do not always disclose all of the potential risks of the products they sell.

Our experienced products liability attorneys based in Champaign Illinois investigate claims related to defective drugs such as Uloric, Pradaxa, Xarelto, and Actos, and defective devices such as vaginal mesh, IVC Filters, knee implants, metal hips and other devices.

Koester & Bradley, LLP has decades of experience representing patients who have been harmed by defective medical devices and dangerous drugs.  We have represented injured victims in Illinois and across the country.  


Consumers should be educated about the risks associated with defective drugs and medical devices.   An educated consumer, whether in Central Illinois or another state must do their research before filling a new prescription or agree to have a medical device implanted.  Medical care providers are ready to help.  Ask your doctor about the risks including side effects and history of recalls and poor performance.  If you or a loved one has been injured by a defective device or drug, contact your doctor and Koester & Bradley, LLP.

Again, it is important to understand that a drug or medical device that has received approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not necessarily mean it is safe for all uses for all people or that it is not defectively designed or manufactured.  Drug companies are often known for marketing drugs for uses for which they were not originally approved.  Medical device manufacturers know all of the loop holes in the federal approval process that can be used to bring a dangerous device to market faster.  This is known as the 510(k) process.

At Koester & Bradley, LLP we have a team of attorneys, located at home in Champaign-Urbana Illinois, dedicated to holding the medical device and drug industry accountable.  We are constantly staying appraised with up-to-date information about dangerous products and continually update our online resources.  If you or a loved one has been injured from a defective medical device or drug, call Koester & Bradley, LLP or submit a claim-- we have the experience to help.

By: Ryan Bradley and Tom Koester, Partners, Koester & Bradley, LLP

Winter Time Premises Liability (How to deal with winter time slip and fall cases)

3/06/2019

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Winter time in Illinois is certainly the high point for slip and fall and premises liability cases.  Follow these tips to keep yourself safe.

 

It's early march in Illinois and we know one thing for sure--winter is not over yet.  As Central Illinois and the Chicago Illinois area alike experience nearly 100 degree temperature fluxuations, ice and bitter cold are here for at least a few months.  Residential home and business owners should take care to prevent weather-related accidents and injuries. Accidents happen, but often weather-related accidents can be avoided by careful observation of your property and surrounding area.

What types of injuries happen during winter time in Illinois? 

  • Broken Bones
  • Muscle Strains 
  • Sprains
  • Fractures
  • Concussion


Sidewalks and Entryways 
Many homeowners are unaware that they are responsible for clearing the sidewalk adjacent to their home. While the your local government is often charged with clearing roads, typically, it will be the homeowners obligation to clear and salt the sidewalk. If you live in an apartment building, it will be the building owner's obligation to clear the areas of ingress and egress.


Business owners should take care to clear and salt outside entryways. Moreover, customers often carry water, snow and icy on their shoes and clothes that end up on the entryway floor. The business owner should take care to monitor the entrance area and make sure it is routinely cleaned and mopped to avoid slip and falls. Customers should also be alerted to the possible danger with a caution sign. 


Awnings and Covered Areas
Another area that poses risk to passersby is awnings and other covered areas. In cold temperatures, icicles hang from buildings. As temperatures rise, falling icicles may result in injury. Larger icicles falling from 30 feet or higher may result in serious injury or even death but even small icicles can cause harm. If your home or business has a covered area or awnings, you should take particular care to safely remove icicles. Individuals should take care to observe their surroundings while passing by buildings to prevent injury due to falling icicles.


Hopefully you can avoid injury as winter winds down. However, if you are injured because a home or business owner negligently failed to clear ice, snow, or icicles, from their premises, please contact us for a free consultation.  

By: Tom Koester, Partner, Koester & Bradley, LLP

Defenses to Mortgage Fraud in Illinois

2/26/2019

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One take away from the recent financial crisis is that BOTH borrowers and lenders are capable of fraud--which can put us all at risk.

 

Mortgage fraud in Illinois and across the country covers a wide range of crimes, all pertaining to funding for a home. While an individual may falsify information to get a mortgage that they otherwise might not be able to afford, professionals also can be guilty of mortgage fraud. Real estate professionals can flip houses and work with appraisers to increase their own profits. Mortgage professionals can give loans out, knowing that the people shouldn't be approved for a loan.

Because the crimes are so different, there are many defenses that come into play with mortgage fraud. Here are some common defenses that you and your lawyer may want to consider for your case.

  • False identity. Since many people steal other people's information in order to buy or sell a home, your lawyer may fight that you didn't know what was going on. Your identity could have been stolen or you might have been framed so there is no way that you knew about any illegal happenings that took place using your identity.
  • If someone else gets convicted because they stole your identity, they may also be accused of theft, along with mortgage fraud.  
  • Property owner gave consent. Since most mortgage fraud cases are performed by professionals, you might be able to fight that the owner of the property gave their consent and you had good faith intent.
  • The property owner might be held accountable for mortgage fraud, instead of you.
  • Entrapment. Entrapment is another commonly used defense. Your lawyer must have evidence showing that you wouldn't have committed mortgage fraud, unless you were forced to do so.

If you are looking at a case of mortgage fraud, you need an experienced lawyer to fight for you and your rights. A good lawyer will help you go through your options and potential defenses so together you can decide the best way to proceed. If you don't have a lawyer on your side, you are leaving your fate in someone else's hands. This can be a big mistake.

We are dedicated to protecting your money and identity. Don't hesitate to  contact us for any questions that you may have about identity and mortgage fraud.

By: Tom Koester, Partner, Koester & Bradley, LLP

Snowball Fights Are Legal! At Least in Parts of Colorado

2/11/2019

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According to the New York Times, snowball fights are now officially legal again in Severance, CO. 

 

Snowball fights have been a childhood pastime for as long as winter and children have existed. Apparently the exception, at least for the past century, has been the town of Severance in Colorado. Its law against throwing snowballs was incorporated in the town charter sometime in the 1920s for reasons that are unknown to history, according to the New York Times. The law has never been enforced, and no one knew what the penalty was for tossing a snowball at someone.

However, whether the law was enforced or not did not sit well with a nine year-old third grader named Dane Best. During a class trip to the Severance City Hall, the mayor of the community of 6,000 mentioned that some laws, such as the ban on snowball fights, are on the books for no discernible reason. Dane, understanding that the law had made him and just about every child in the town technically a criminal, decided to do something about it.

In due course, Dane presented his case at a recent meeting of the Severance Town Board, accompanied by 20 letters of support from his classmates and teacher and a PowerPoint presentation. Dane made the case that the law was outdated and that young children needed an incentive to abandon their computer games and go play outside, The Town Board, duly impressed by the young man's incisive legal logic, unanimously voted to make snowball fights legal for the first time.

As an award for his successful fight against City Hall, Dane Best was presented with a plaque and a gift certificate to buy a snowball machine. He was also presented with a snowball that had been preserved in a freezer, which he duly tossed into the air in triumph.

And who would be the target of Dane's very first legal snowball? Why his little brother, of course.

If you’ve been the victim of a car accident, Medical Malpractice, or you were hit with a snow ball with a rock in the middle, you’re probably entitled to more compensation than you think. Make sure to contact a law firm that has your best interests in mind, so that you’ll get the highest compensation possible.

By: Ryan Bradley, Partner, Koester & Bradley, LLP

Accident Avoidance for Winter Driving in Illinois

1/17/2019

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Illinois receives a wide range of winter weather from snow to freezing rain, to sheets of ice.  How can you protect yourself in the event of an accident?  Follow these tips.
-Tom Koester, Partner, Koester & Bradley LLP

Illinois has some of the Most Severe Weather in the Midwest.  Here is How to Stay Safe on Winter Roads. 

 

Winter is here, and Illinois is seeing its share of snow, sleet, and ice. When driving in that type of weather, it’s crucial to be prepared. Here are some tips on safe driving and how to avoid auto accidents while driving in the snow.  You may have heard these before, but they bear repeating.  When we counsel clients about auto accidents that take place in the winter, and especially in inclement weather, we hear the same types of stories repeatedly.

  • Try not to use cruise control when driving on icy roads.  This may seem like common sense, but cruise control causes accidents across Illinois in the winter and insurance companies will try to use the fact to pay less on your injury claim.
  • Speed up and slow down slowly and with caution.  Keep your head up and give yourself plenty of time to react.
  • Double your normal following distance. Usually, it should be around four seconds. When the roads are slippery, increase it to around eight seconds.
  • When going up a hill, make sure to get the inertia going before you reach the hill. Don’t try to power up the hill right when you reach it. When you reach the top, slow down and go down the other side with caution.
  • Never drive when you’re fatigued.  You don't have to be tired to be fatigued and be a dangerous driver.  Unfortunately this is a major problem in the trucking industry where drivers routinely drive tired and are forced to do so by their companies.
  • Keep the temperature in your car comfortable, so that you’re able to concentrate.
  • Always keep your gas tank half full. In addition, keep a safety kit with warm clothing, food, and drink. You will have a place to stay if you get stranded.  ALso, make sure you have an ice scraper. 
  • Keep your local AAA or towing company's number in your contacts.
  • Never turn on the car until you make sure the exhaust pipe isn’t blocked by snow or mud. This can cause carbon monoxide to leak into the car.
  • Keep up with your local weather forecast. Avoid going on long trips if snowfall is predicted.

If you’ve been the victim of a car accident, you’re probably entitled to more compensation than you think. Make sure to contact a law firm that has your best interests in mind, so that you’ll get the highest compensation possible.

By: Tom Koester, Partner, Koester & Bradley, LLP

Opioids: Are Doctors Liable?

1/15/2019

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In the United States, Opioids officially kill more Americans automobile accidents.  It is safe to say that Opioids have reached epidemic proportions.
-Ryan Bradley, Partner, Koester & Bradley LLP

Drug Manufacturers and Distributors share the Greatest Amount of Blame for the Opioid Epidemic

 

In the United States, opioid abuse runs rampant, and in truth large drug companies such as Purdue Pharma and distributors such as Cardinal shoulder the bulk of the blame.  Still, in certain circumstances, doctors have some responsibility as well.

Despite knowing that opioid pain relievers are addicting, the companies responsible for making and marketing the drugs continued to supply them liberally for years.  During this time, these companies told doctors that the powerful narcotics were not addictive.  Thus, many doctors were victims as well and this resulted in huge amounts of dependency.

However, the country is just starting to acknowledge our massive opioid problem and they are looking for someone to blame. If you have a loved one that got wrapped up in opioid addiction after being legitimately injured, can the doctor be held to blame?

It is a doctor's duty to take the best possible route of care for all their patients, and if they breach this duty, then it can be considered a medical malpractice case. There have been cases in other states where doctors, and more specifically their insurance companies, have had to pay millions of dollars in damages for the over-prescription of opioids. These cases often take a long time and a lot of evidence, investigation and money to fund.  Additionally, it is incredibly rare that only one doctor was prescribing opioids.  Most individuals who are seeking narcotics visit many doctors and even cross state lines to do so before turning to illicit drugs and heroin purchased on the street.  Most of the time the individual doctors are actually unaware for the amount of opioids that the addicted patient is actually taking.

In order to recover damages for a medical malpractice case of this nature, you would need to prove that the doctor prescribed a gross amount of opioids over a period of time and that the prescription kept being filled for longer than the injury needed. In cases where the doctors have been held responsible for opioid addiction, it was discovered that they fed the addiction for years without pursuing other, less addictive means of treatment.  These cases represent only a small portion of the problem as the federal government and local law enforcement has worked tirelessly to shut down so-called "pill mills."  THis means that most of the time the prescribing doctor has to rely on an accurate medical history from the compromised patient and other objective forms of determination such as drug testing.  This has put a great deal of strain on the system and made it very difficult for doctors, most of which are honest and diligent, to treat pain.

At Koester & Bradley, we believe that the manufacturers and distributors of opioids are truly the responsible parties in this epidemic.  This is why we are representing counties and municipalities in Illinois along with our co-counsel firms.  However, we are here to provide guidance to the families of opioid victims as well in every way we can.

Do you or a loved one need help?  If you believe that it was your doctor's fault that the addiction got so bad because they continued to wantonly prescribe you pills, then contact us today. We may be able to help you pursue a case of medical malpractice against your physician or provide some insight and closure about the issue.  If you are a member of a county board, or part of the law enforcement community in an Illinois County or municipality, also feel free to reach out and we will meet with you about the pending litigation. This can help you recover damages so you or your loved one can get the treatment that they need.

By: Ryan Bradley, Partner, Koester & Bradley, LLP

Proving Permanent Injuries in Your Illinois Accident Case

12/10/2018

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One of the keys to receiving fair compensation for your injuries in an Illinois auto accident or personal injury case is to prove that your injuries are permanent.
-Ryan Bradley, Partner, Koester & Bradley LLP

Many Injuries from Personal Injuries and Auto Accidents are Permanent--Learn How to Prove It

In Illinois like almost every other state, if you were hurt in an accident and if you can win your personal injury case, you will receive compensation for your injuries. However, if you had to endure very serious injuries, there may come a time where you reach what is referred to as the maximum medical improvement.  Typically, this determination is most often made in workers compensation situations, but it is relevant in automobile wrecks and trucking accidents as well. A determination of maximum medical improvement means that you will not heal anymore than you have already healed, and this determination usually comes from a doctor.

Does maximum medical improvement mean that I have no permanent injuries?

The answer is no.  For example, assume that you fractured your back in an automobile accident.  You undergo surgery and physical therapy.  Finally, after months of treatment your spine surgeon establishes that you have reached your maximum level of improvement.  This determination does not mean that you will not suffer the repercussions of you injury for the rest of your life, but only that you not get any better.

For some, this point of maximum medical improvement comes when they are fully healed. Their compensation stops and they return back to work and normal activities. Unfortunately, for serious accidents, this moment of maximum medical improvement doesn't mean they are fully healed. If you will no longer improve in condition, you will then be considered to have permanent impairment. In some cases, this means that person will never regain full range of motion in their shoulders, or it can be even more serious like a person no longer regaining the use of a limb. If this is the case, a doctor will examine your impairment to see if it will be considered partial disability or full disability. This percentage of disability will affect how much you can receive for the impairment.

If you have reached maximum medical improvement, but still are not fully healed, having your injury labeled as permanent will mean you can continue to collect a certain amount of compensation for that impairment. However, you can't ask for this during your personal injury case. It is something that must be accessed after the healing is done. If you suspect you may have permanent impairment, this means you need to communicate that with your lawyer so the settlement has provisions to provide for permanent compensation just in case permanent impairment does manifest.  Koester & Bradley is an Illinois leader in receiving compensation for permanent injuries and building a case for such injuries.

If you have been hurt in an accident, you hope you won't have long-term injuries, but if you do, you want a settlement that can cover it. If you have been hurt and need help with your personal injury case, contact us today.

By: Ryan Bradley, Partner, Koester & Bradley, LLP

Hidden Dangers in Popular Do-It-Yourself Products

11/13/2018

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All across Illinois every weekend, thousands of unsuspecting home improvement enthusiasts unwittingly put themselves and their families at risk by using common solvents and products.
-Tom Koester, Partner, Koester & Bradley LLP

Methylene Chloride: When DIY Leads to RIP 

You are spending a Saturday afternoon finally stripping the paint off the bedroom floor.  Little do you know that the product you are using to strip those stubborn layers of old paint could kill you.  There lurking on the storeroom shelves are products containing a highly-toxic chemical known as methylene chloride, also called Dichloromethane (DCM).  Methylene chloride identified by its Chemical Abstract Number:  75-09-2 is a volatile, colorless liquid with a sweet-smelling odor.  If the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is advising its workers to avoid products containing methylene chloride, then why does the general public still have access to these products? 

USES OF METHYLENE CHLORIDE

Methylene chloride is a chlorinated solvent used in a variety of industries and applications.  It is primarily used in paint removers but also is used in aerosol formulations, in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals, as a degreasing agent, in metal cleaning, in electronics manufacturing and as an ethane foam blowing agent.  The Environmental Protection Agency states that paint and coating removal poses some of the highest exposures among the various uses of methylene chloride.

KNOWN HAZARDS OF METHYLENE CHLORIDE PER OSHA

  • Short-term airborne exposure without proper safety equipment can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, a “feeling of intoxication, and eye, nose and throat irritation
  • Prolonged skin contact without proper safety equipment may cause irritation and even chemical burns
  • Increased airborne exposure without proper safety equipment can cause suffocation, loss of consciousness, coma and sudden death.
  • Animal studies have shown that long-term exposure to methylene chloride may lead to liver and lung cancer, as well as tumors in the breast and salivary glands
  • May lead to early onset heart attacks and arrhythmias in workers with heart disease due to an increase in carbon monoxide.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) warns that if a worker smells methylene chloride, then he/she has already been overexposed because methylene chloride cannot be smelled until the level in the air is higher than OSHA’s permissible exposure limits (25 ppm (parts per million) in an 8-hour time-weighted average or 125 ppm in a period of 15 minutes (short-term exposure limit)). 

WARNING ON PRODUCTS CONTAINING METHYLENE CHLORIDE

Current warning on the product, Goof Off Semi-Paste Pro Stripper

WARNING:  Contains Methylene Chloride.  INHALATION OF VAPOR CAN KILL YOU.  DO NOT USE IN ENCLOSED AREAS such as basements, bathrooms or closets.  SYMPTOMS MAY NOT BE NOTICEABLE.  Avoid contact with eyes or skin, as severe irritation can occur.

DANGER!  POISON.  VAPOR EXTREMELY HARMFUL.  MAY BE FATAL IF USED IN ENCLOSED AND UNVENTILATED AREAS.  USE ONLY WITH ADEQUATE VENTILATION TO PREVENT BUILDUP OF VAPORS. MAY BE FATAL OR CAUSE BLINDNESS IF SWALLOWED.  EYE & SKIN IRRITANT.  Do not use in areas where vapors can accumulate and concentrate such as basements, bathrooms, bathtubs, closets or other small enclosed areas.  Whenever possible use outdoors in an open air area.  If using indoors open all windows and doors and maintain a cross ventilation of moving fresh air across the work area and across floor.  IF STRONG ODOR IS NOTICED OR YOU EXPERIENCE DIZZINESS, EYE-WATERING, OR HEADACHE – STOP! VENTILATION IS INADEQUATE.  LEAVE AREA IMMEDIATELY, AND GET FRESH AIR.  IF THE WORK AREA IS NOT WELL-VENTILATED, DO NOT USE THIS PRODUCT.  IF used properly, a respirator may offer additional protection.  Obtain professional advice before using.  Cannot be made non-poisonous. 

Methylene Chloride has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals.  Reports have associated repeated and prolonged over-exposure to solvents with neurological and other physiological damage.  The risk to your health depends on the level and duration of exposure.  Intentional misuse of this product by deliberating concentrating and inhaling vapors can be harmful or fatal.  Avoid breathing vapors or mist and contact with skin, eyes and clothing.  Do not swallow.

SAFETY DIRECTIONS:  USE OUTDOORS IN AN OPEN AREA.  It is dangerous to use this product indoors.  If you must use indoors, cross-ventilate work area by opening all windows and doors and circulating fresh air through the work area to reduce vapor accumulations.  Always wear chemical-splash goggles and chemical-resistant gloves when handling this product.  A dust mask does not provide protection against vapors.

OSHA SAFETY REQUIREMENTS FOR METHYLENE CHLORIDE

  • Gloves made of polyethylene vinyl alcohol(PVA)/ethylene vinyl alcohol (EVOH), or other laminate materials that are resistant to methylene chloride (required regardless of methylene chloride levels). LATEX, NITRATE, NEOPRENE AND POLYETHYLENE GLOVES DO NOT PROTECT AGAINST METHYLENE CHLORIDE.  BUTYL RUBBER GLOVES DO NOT MEET THE REQUIREMNET OF THE OSHA METHYLENE CHLORIDE STANDARD BECAUSE THEY DEGRADE IN LESS THAN 1 HOUR.
  • Outer gloves are also recommended to prevent cuts and tears to the inner methylene chloride-resistant gloves
  • Methylene chloride-resistant aprons, sleeves and boots or shoe covers
  • Chemical-resistant goggles or a face shield
  • OSHA requires workers to wear a full-face atmosphere-supplying respirator when engineering and work practice controls cannot decrease methylene chloride levels below OSHA’s permissible exposure limits.

THE EPA AND METHYLENE CHLORIDE

A 2015 study conducted by the Center for Public Integrity determined that methylene chloride exposure was responsible for approximately 56 deaths since 1980.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted its own risk assessment of methylene chloride in paint stripping uses in 2014 and had proposed to ban the consumer and commercial paint stripping uses in January 2017.  However, in June 2017, the EPA announced that it would not re-evaluate the paint stripping uses of methylene chloride.  An EPA News release of May 10, 2018 announced that: (1) The EPA intends to finalize the methylene chloride rulemaking; (2) The EPA is not re-evaluating the paint stripping uses of methylene chloride and is relying on its previous risk assessments and (3) The EPA is working to send the finalized rulemaking to the EPA’S Office of Management and Budget (OMB) shortly. 

Methylene chloride is one of 10 specific chemicals that the EPA  chose to evaluate for changes to the Toxic Substances Control Act of June 2016.  The new rules would require when a chemical poses an unreasonable risk that the EPA be required to take action within two years, with a possible extension of four years.  If the chemical is assessed as unreasonably dangerous, then phaseouts and bans of this chemical must occur within five years of that assessment. 

METHYLENE CHLORIDE BANS OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES

On May 6, 2009, the European Parliament passed Decision 455/2009/EC which banned the use of methylene chloride in paint strippers by private persons and commercial entities.  Industrial uses are the exceptions to the decision but all products must be labeled accordingly.

RETAILERS AND METHYLENE CHLORIDE

News media have reported that Walmart, Lowes, Home Depot, Sherwin-Williams, Menards, Ace and Truce Value will no longer sell paint strippers made with methylene chloride or N-methyle-2-pyrrolidone (NMP) in its United States, Canada, Mexico and Central America stores and will cease the selling of these products on its e-commerce sites as of February 2019.

By: Thomas Koester, Partner, Koester & Bradley, LLP

Illinois Plaintiffs Lawyer Personal Injury Blog by Koester & Bradley, LLP 

Legal News and safety tips with Illinois Impact from the Accident and Personal Injury Firm Koester & Bradley, LLP

Authors

Ryan R Bradley is a personal injury and litigation lawyer based in Champaign County Illinois focused on representing injured clients and businesses navigate the maze of litigation to financial recovery.  


Tom Koester is a personal injury attorney based in Champaign County in Central Illinois focused on representing the injured and victims of Medical Malpractice and Personal Injuries.