“Vision Zero”: there’s a big hole in the plan to eliminate Portland traffic deaths

“Vision Zero” is a traffic safety project that aims for the goal of zero traffic fatalities. It’s been adopted by cities worldwide – and now includes Portland, Oregon.

It’s a wide-ranging plan, with heavy emphasis on public education and prioritization of safety.

Vision Zero Safety Pledge

  • I will behave safely and courteously at all times on public streets, respecting and empathizing with other people’s need to get where they’re going and to get there safely.
  • I acknowledge that traveling on public streets can be risky, and I resolve to be alert to the surroundings.
  • I also recognize the role of the roadways, paths, and sidewalks as public space in the community, not only a means for travel, and resolve to share the road with all users, whether they are traveling to a destination or enjoying the street appropriately as public space.
  • I will be a good example, and I want my neighbors to slow down, say hi, and join me in spreading the word.

These are all great safety steps. But there’s an obvious way to eliminate most of Portland’s traffic deaths – and it’s barely mentioned.

Reduce the Speed Limit.

Portland’s High Crash Corridors make up only 3% of the roads (based on centerline miles).

This 3% of roads are where 51% of pedestrian deaths and 36% of all traffic fatalities are happening.

DLG_Portland_Car_Crash_Map

50% of Portland traffic fatalities are happening on these streets.

Portland’s City Commissioners are well aware of the factor of speed in fatal crashes. Commissioner Steve Novick pointed out that pedestrians survive nearly 95% of car crashes with a vehicle traveling 20 mph. Compare that to pedestrian crashes with a vehicle that is traveling 40 mph: pedestrians survive less than 20% of crashes. 

Vehicle fatalities are not wholly preventable as long as humans are behind the wheel. But statistically, lower speed = lower risk of serious injury or death.

Yet, there is almost no political will to try to lower speed limits – a historically unpopular position.

While Portland’s high crash corridors are addressed in the Vision Zero plan, the focus is “identifying HCCs helps the City target limited resources for improved safety.”

A possible “vehicle speed study” is barely mentioned.

“Vision Zero” has at its core a noble, important goal. Even attempting to reach it in ten years could save a lot of people from debilitating injuries and untimely deaths.

If “zero traffic deaths” is truly the city’s goal, then it’s time to honestly evaluate lowering – and enforcing – speed limits on Portland’s deadliest streets.

Is a driver responsible when a “sudden medical emergency” causes a car crash?

Recently, a driver who reportedly experienced a “sudden medical emergency” jumped the curb and hit 2 people on the sidewalk of the Burnside Bridge in Portland. One of the pedestrians was fatally injured.

In May, a Vancouver man died after suffering from a medical emergency and crashing on I-205.

In April, a 61-year-old semi-truck driver who “may have suffered a medical emergency”, veered off the road and caused a rollover crash.

Last year, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of an 11-year-old Aloha girl who was hit and killed by a Toyota when a diabetic driver blacked out behind the wheel.

A medical emergency behind the wheel

It’s statistically rare. An NHTSA study estimated only 1.3% of motor vehicle crashes are caused by a driver’s medical emergency. Even though it’s rare, it seems it is in the news all the time.

This is called a  “sudden medical emergency defense.” A driver of an automobile causes a crash and blames it on a medical event. Then, the insurance company claims they don’t have to pay damages, because their driver isn’t responsible for the accident.

Damore_Law_Statistics_Fatal_car_crash_behaviors

Although it’s a common defense, a very small percentage of crashes are caused by medical emergencies. Of those, many are predictable, preventable medical episodes.

Negligent driver and medical conditions

The law sets a standard for reasonable behavior: what would the average careful, practical person do in the same circumstances?

A person can be considered “negligent” – and responsible for the damages in a personal injury lawsuit – if their actions don’t meet that standard.

  • If the driver didn’t treat a medical condition, or ignored warning signs of a health crisis – dizziness, lightheadedness, shooting pains – that driver is probably negligent. Even if the medical emergency that caused the crash (like blacking out due to low blood sugar) wasn’t intentional, it was likely preventable.
  • If the driver is very suddenly incapacitated by a medical emergency – a heart attack or stroke – and if there was no history, and no warning, it is possible that he or she may not be found negligent. Lawyers who work for insurance companies use this as a defense; but it is just a strategy to avoid paying on insurance claims.

There are serious risks associated with driving a car for people who have certain medical conditions. An epileptic may have a seizure, a diabetic may have a sudden drop in blood sugar: these events can be predictable, and often are preventable.

Drivers have a duty to assess their health before getting behind the wheel of a car, and potentially endangering other people. Don’t let them deny responsibility for their own actions. When the defense is raised of a sudden medical emergency, thorough investigation should be done by police and/or medical doctors.

 

Recalled cars for sale in Oregon

Vehicle recall: when a car model has a safety-related defect, or doesn’t meet the minimum safety standards, the carmaker (or sometimes, the government) issues a recall to alert the vehicles’ owners.

When the defect is found, car companies have 60 days to notify owners. The carmaker’s dealerships are supposed to repair the problem, usually for free.

Right now, about 20% of cars and trucks in the U.S. have been recalled for safety and design problems. In Oregon alone, about 500,000 vehicles have open – unrepaired – recalls.

Recalls: a big problem for used-car buyers

 A car dealership can’t legally sell you a new car with an open safety recall. The defective part(s) on the vehicle has to be repaired before you can buy it.

But there is no law to stop a car dealership—or anyone else —from selling you a used car with an open recall.

 Most consumers don’t know that a car dealership is not required to fix any recalled parts on a used car before you can buy it.

The dealership may not even know if there are any safety defects on the car you want to buy. They don’t have to check for recalls.

And if they do know of an open recall, they don’t have to tell car buyers.

KGW_Investigates_Used_car_dealers_Oregon_Recalls

This KGW investigation shows dangerous recalled cars for sale in Portland.

Some dealerships do check all of their pre-owned vehicles for recalls, and certify that any repairs have been completed. Many don’t. That is unlikely to change any time soon, because it’s a big problem for national used-car dealerships chains like Carmax. They likely have millions of recalled cars and trucks on lots across the country.

Not all recalls affect a vehicle’s safety or drivability. Some may even sound like very minor problems. But ignoring a defective part can result in a much more serious problem throughout the life of that vehicle.

Before buying a used car in Oregon, get VIN and check safercar.govBefore you buy a used car from a car dealer or a private seller, check for recalls.

This also applies to rental cars. Click here to find out more.

Lawsuit filed for car crash death caused by dangerous tire

As reported by the Associated Press (AP), attorneys Tom D’Amore and Douglas Oh-Keith of D’Amore Law Group filed a lawsuit on behalf of a young woman who died in a car crash caused by a dangerous, defective tire.

Ivon Carina Barajas-Orozco, her husband Heriberto, and their three-year-old son wanted to visit Heriberto’s grandfather in Chicago. He was sick with cancer, and wanted to meet his young great-grandson.

Several members of the extended family drove to Chicago; Heriberto, Ivon and their son rode along. As they headed home to Oregon on an Iowa highway, the tread on the Ford Expedition’s right rear tire separated from the rim.

The tire instantly deflated. The truck veered off the side of the road and into the median, where it rolled.

IMG_02061

Heriberto, Ivon and their three-year-old son.

Ivon was fatally injured, and died at the crash scene. She was seven months pregnant.

Tires that are safely designed, and within the tread life, do not separate. This tire was unreasonably dangerous: it should not have been sold.

This week, D’Amore Law Group filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of Ivon’s family.

“Wrongful death” is the legal way of saying that someone died because of the bad actions of another person or company. In this case, a 21-year-old woman and her unborn child were killed because of a dangerous product. The lawsuit names as defendants the tire manufacturer and the car dealer where the truck and tires were purchased 2 weeks prior to the fatal tire failure.

See the full AP story: Husband of Oregon woman killed in crash files lawsuit

Please contact Tom D’Amore of D’Amore Law Group with questions: 503-222-6333, or @damorelaw.com

Other wrongful death lawsuits in the news:

Death on the job: lawsuit filed for Oregon worker forced to use bucket in truck as toilet

3 lessons from a real pedestrian accident

Laura Bliss was walking through a crosswalk when she was struck by a car making a left turn.

A writer and editor, Bliss wrote a first-person account of what she learned from this experience. The full story is here, but what stands out in her account are the mistakes she made after that crash.

Here are three lessons Bliss says she learned from her pedestrian accident (and why it is good advice).

1. Call the police

When I was hit, I didn’t call the police, thinking a) I was OK, which was mostly true, and b) I could always file an accident report after I’d calmed down…”

Bliss didn’t file a police report after her pedestrian accident. Neither she nor the driver of the vehicle called 9-1-1, nor did any of the witnesses.

This left her with no official record of the incident.

Being hit by a car is shocking and traumatic. An accident victim may not be capable of making a sound judgment about whether or not a police report or investigation is needed.

If you are involved in a pedestrian collision, even if you are only a witness, assume you should call the police. Then, stay at the scene of the crash and give a full statement.

2. See a doctor

Even though my loved ones advised me to see a doctor that same morning, I didn’t… It would have been better to go immediately, for a lot of reasons…

Laura Bliss describes how upset she was after the crash, and how a trip to the emergency room sounded like an additional trauma.

People often underestimate their own injuries. After a sudden, traumatic event —like a car crash—your adrenaline kicks in. This is a physiological “fight-or-flight” response to danger, and it’s your brain’s way of protecting your body.

It’s often hours before that adrenaline wears off, and the injured person is in terrible pain.

Bliss was lucky that she didn’t have permanent injuries, but a lot of pedestrians or cyclists who get hit by cars are not so lucky.

If a car hits you, assume you should see a doctor as soon as possible.

Even if you think you’re only bumped and bruised, you will get faster care if you get checked out immediately after a crash, instead of the next day.

3. Talk to a lawyer

I wrote a letter on my own, asking for my medical expenses covered, plus some money for the psychological distress I’d experienced. The insurance company ended up cutting me a small check, a couple hundred bucks over my doctor’s bill…”

She says she spoke with a few Washington D.C. area pedestrian collision attorneys, but in the end, Bliss took on the insurance company alone—and regretted it.

Assume you should take a free consultation with an injury lawyer before talking to the insurance company.

This is the reason that most injury lawyers work on contingency fee. “Contingency fee” means that you don’t pay for legal services up front. Instead, your lawyer is paid a percentage of your settlement or trial verdict.

This means a good attorney is not going to take on your collision claim unless he or she believes there is a good chance of a successful resolution for you.

There is very little risk in hiring a lawyer to help you, but there is a huge risk in trying to handle your own pedestrian injury claim. The driver of the car will have insurance company agents and lawyers. As a pedestrian, you’re on your own – and you’re not likely to be successful without some help.

Why your car insurance rates are going up

Rate hikes and the “loyalty discount” myth

Allstate quietly announced that auto insurance rates are going up, starting in June 2015. The company claims the price hike is due to an increase in car accidents and resulting accident claims.

In other words, people paying for a service – insurance – are punished when they actually use it.

Meanwhile, Allstate Corp. reported a net income of $2.85 billion dollars in 2014, and a 13% increase in profits for first-quarter 2015.

GEICO, which holds about 10% of the car insurance market, will also reportedly be raising rates this summer.

When insurance prices rise, some consumers are forced to reduce coverage to pay for (legally required) car insurance.

Reducing your insurance bill often means “opting out” of provisions like UM/UIM coverage. Opting out is almost always a bad idea. It may save a few dollars a month, but the minimum insurance policies will rarely cover all your costs from an injury accident.

The rate increase could also hurt anyone who has to make a claim for a car crash in 2015. Even if there are no serious injuries, and minimal property damage, making a claim for just one accident will cost you.

Allstate Insurance Company

You’re in good hands…if you’re an Allstate shareholder who never has to make an accident claim.

 

Are you a loyal customer with no accident claims? Your insurance cost could still go up – or you could already be paying more.

How insurance company loyalty could cost you

Your insurance rate is determined by your risk factors. The insurance company uses your age, address, driving history and other things to calculate how likely you are to make a claim on your insurance.

Some insurance companies are also calculating how likely you are to switch to another company.

If you are likely to stay loyal to your insurance company, your rate goes up.

That’s called “price optimization.” It means that two people with the same risk factors – same age, location, driving record– would pay different prices for the same policy.

A long-time policyholder could pay more than a new customer for the exact same policy.

This is classic unfair discrimination and is illegal in every state.”

Consumer Federation of America (CFA) Director of Insurance, J. Robert Hunter

Price optimization is complicated, and it’s very hard to tell if insurance companies are using it. According to NPR, State Farm and Progressive representatives state they do not use price optimization. In December 2014, Nationwide admitted to using this tactic. And Allstate claimed to use price optimization in a federal report.

This illegal practice could affect 60% of auto insurance policyholders. The other 40% are considered likely to switch carriers or at least comparison-shop in any given year.

While your carrier should notify you if your insurance rate goes up, it would be very hard to find out if price optimization affected your policy. Consumer groups recommend comparison-shopping before renewing an automobile insurance policy.

 

Death on the job: lawsuit filed for Oregon worker forced to use bucket in truck as toilet

As reported by the Oregonian, attorneys Tom D’Amore and Nick Kahl of D’Amore Law Group have filed lawsuit on behalf of a worker who died from carbon monoxide poisoning on a job site.  

Andrew Lane was only 22 years old when he died.

He was one of nine employees of an Oregon company that provides roof and gutter-cleaning services. On May 13, 2014, workers were sent to a jobsite with no access to toilet facilities.

The workers, including Andrew, who suffered from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, had been instructed to use a bucket as a toilet.

The bucket was kept in the back of the work truck. It was near the gas-powered power washer, which was bolted to the floor — and releasing carbon monoxide.

Image 027 (00113810xD67F0)

The truck that Andrew Lane was found dead on May 13, 2014.

A toxic amount of carbon monoxide filled that space in less than a minute.

Andrew’s coworkers found him dead in the back of the truck.

His employer was fined $840 for OSHA safety violations, including exposure to fumes from that gas-powered pressure washer, and failure to provide proper toilet facilities.

See the full story, and download a copy of the complaint here: Death of worker told to use bucket as toilet spurs $4 million lawsuit

Please contact Tom D’Amore of D’Amore Law Group with questions: 503-222-6333, or @damorelaw.com

Dermatologist who sexually molested patients is still practicing in New Jersey

Dr. Gangaram Ragi is a dermatologist in Teaneck, NJ. He’s been accused of sexual molestation by more than a dozen female patients, with charges dating back over a decade.

State Medical Board Investigation

After receiving patient complaints of excessive inappropriate touching during examinations, the State Medical Board investigated Dr. Ragi.

They determined that the accusations were “strikingly similar” and concluded that Ragi “sexually groped nine female patients.”

In their detailed report, the board said Raji’s acts were:

…among the very worse that can be committed by a physician – sexual groping, manhandling – all in the guise of a medical exam.”

Eventually, the board permanently banned Ragi from treating female patients. They ordered him to complete a course in “boundary violations” and pay over $30,000 in fines and legal costs.

No trial for sexual assault charges

A sexual assault is very serious, particularly for a physician acting in the course of duty. The county prosecutor, acting on the same information as the State Medical Board, filed criminal charges.

Ragi was indicted three times on separate charges related to criminal sexual assault. Apparently, indictments were dropped for unknown reasons. And instead of going to trial, Ragi was diverted to a Pretrial Intervention Program.

Twice.

This is very unusual, as these programs are for first-time non-violent defendants, not for serious crimes or multiple offenses.

This case has quietly flown under media radar for over a decade. The only reason it has reemerged now:  discovery in a recent corruption trial suggests that the doctor may have had some help in escaping criminal charges and keeping his medical license.

It’s a bizarre, complicated saga– see the full investigation here – but it is clear that someone has been protecting this doctor, instead of protecting his patients.

How many people are sexually assaulted in U.S. hospitals? No one knows.

Many more patients reported hospital sexual abuse in the United Kingdom in the last three years. Police data counted 1,600 attacks recorded: a 50% increase, and an alarming number.

Do you want to know how that compares to sexual abuses in U.S. hospitals?

Too bad—somehow, no one has counted the number of rapes and assaults in U.S. hospitals.

Unfortunately, that’s not because sexual abuse isn’t happening in medical facilities across the U.S.

Just recently…

  • A contract nurse was transferred from hospital to hospital, trailed by accusations of molestation and sexual abuse. The contractor didn’t fire him until he was finally caught and arrested.
  • A California nursing assistant has been accused of sexually assaulting brain injury patients. One of them reported an attack to hospital staff and was called “delusional”…even though a different patient had made a similar complaint the year before.
  • A hospital employee has confessed to sexually assaulting unconscious or semi-conscious patients. Police say there may be nearly 100 victims.

There are hundreds of isolated stories about rape and sexual abuse in medical facilities.

But we don’t know how often sexual assault occurs in hospitals, or how often it is reported. We don’t know who the perpetrators are, or what the repercussions are for victims.

Here are some disturbing commonalities in many of these cases.

1. Victims are in a vulnerable state.

Abuse and assault by people in positions of power is not an anomaly. Sexual abusers and rapists often seek victims who are vulnerable. That’s why hospitals and nursing homes must be vigilant in monitoring and reporting: patients can be ill, heavily medicated, confined.

2. Victims are often assumed to be lying or delusional. 

Sadly, this is often true for victims of sexual violence. But medical facilities have a duty to patient safety: therefore, you err on the side of the accused, rather than the accuser. Since there are seemingly no statistics about rape and assault in hospitals, there also is no evidence of false accusations.

3. There are people on staff who know or suspect the abuser. 

The medical profession has a reputation for a “code of silence”. Patients are often harmed by undocumented medical errors. Nurses cover for dangerous doctors. Administrators go to great lengths to protect hospital staff instead of protecting patients. All of this may contribute to covering up of sexual abuse occurring in hospitals, nursing homes and other medical facilities.

We can’t reduce and prevent sexual violence by ignoring it.

Read a real victim’s story of hospital sexual abuse here

If you know of statistics on sexual abuse in U.S. hospitals, please share with us @damorelaw

 

 

Jury gives justice to sex abuse victim – while hospital pretends it never happened

Anesthesiologist Fred Field, MD, sexually assaulted at least 12 women at Mid-Columbia Medical Center. His victims were drugged, unconscious or semi-conscious during the assaults.

It is likely Field sexually assaulted many other women—who may not know, or understand, what happened to them. Nationally, it is estimated that more than 60% of women who are sexually assaulted do not come forward out of shame or fear.

This is one victim’s story. To protect her privacy, she is identified here as “L”.

“L” was a surgical patient at Mid-Columbia Medical Center (MCMC), a hospital in The Dalles, Oregon. After her surgery, she had a severe spinal headache. She went back to the hospital for a procedure called a blood patch to alleviate her pain.

The anesthesiologist that participated in her surgery would also take part in the blood patch procedure. That anesthesiologist was Fred Field.

L was sedated, incapacitated and vulnerable. While she was under the influence of anesthesia, Field sexually abused her.

During the procedure, L started to come out of anesthesia while Field was sexually abusing her. Field realized she was becoming conscious, and quickly put her back under.

L remembered Field’s assault, but the affects of the anesthesia made her uncertain: she did not know if it was a terrible dream.

She told a nurse what she remembered. But L was hesitant to accuse the doctor; she did not want to falsely accuse someone of a serious crime.

L wasn’t only a patient: she was also a nurse at MCMC. She was afraid of losing her job.

MCMC wasn’t just a hospital to her, but also a workplace and home-away-from-home. She trusted her colleagues and the doctors that worked at the hospital. And because of that trust, L told herself that what she remembered must not have happened.

L didn’t know that she wasn’t alone. Other patients had accused Field of assault, too.

Safe haven for a sex abuser

By the time of L’s assault, Field had been assaulting women under anesthesia at MCMC—and sexually harassing hospital staff—for at least three years.

There had been multiple patient and staff complaints of sexual abuse and harassment by Field.

You would think that the hospital would take such allegations very seriously. The primary concern of any hospital is patient safety.

You would think the hospital administration would do everything possible to protect their patients, their staff, and their reputation.

The hospital did nothing.

Instead of listening to women who reported sexual abuse, hospital administrators and staff told the patients they had been “hallucinating” because of the drugs.

Instead of contacting police to investigate serious felony sexual assaults, the hospital had only internal “investigations.” These investigations, done by Field’s colleagues and friends, did not seek truth, but exoneration.

Instead of protecting patients, the hospital protected a serial sex abuser.

Denying and Defending

Field’s abuses were not a secret in his four years at Mid-Columbia Medical Center.

D’Amore Law Group represented several women that MCMC allowed Field to sexually assault. We counted at least 20 people in hospital staff and administration who admitted to knowing or at least suspecting his behavior.

L was not the first victim to file a lawsuit. Several women have won verdicts against Field and MCMC. Several others have settled out of court.

MCMC refused to even attempt to settle L’s case, and spare her the pain and humiliation of a public trial.

The Dalles is a small, close-knit city of around 15,000 people in Wasco County, Oregon. Several of the victims live there.

In a public courtroom, in her hometown, L faced very personal attacks by MCMC and their lawyers. They asked degrading questions and tried to humiliate L and the other victims who came to trial to testify on her behalf.

In 2012, Field pleaded guilty to 11 counts of first-degree sexual abuse and 1 count of first-degree rape. He is serving a 23-year jail sentence.

Yet, they refused to admit that any sexual assault, of any woman, had actually occurred.

MCMC’s lawyers proceeded to defend the hospital administration’s inexcusable “investigations” and incredibly incompetent handling of victim complaints.

MCMC acknowledged ­that Field had pleaded guilty, and was convicted.

They defended the very actions that had exposed all of these women to a dangerous sexual predator.

It was a shameful display by the hospital and their attorneys.

Jury sends a message to the hospital

Last week, at the end of L’s month-long trial against MCMC, the Wasco County, Oregon, jury came to a decision.

The jury concluded that the hospital was negligent. The hospital’s behavior was so offensive, and the hospital administration had failed so badly, that jurors felt an additional punishment was warranted.

The jury found by “clear and convincing evidence” that the hospital acted with a reckless, outrageous, and conscious indifference to the health, safety and welfare of others.

The jurors awarded $800,000 in compensatory damages, and another $150,000 in punitive damages – basically, a fine meant to punish the hospital.

With this verdict, the jury sent a message to the hospital administration: you are responsible for patient safety, and the hospital administration has failed miserably in protecting patients.

Sex abusers often seek out victims where they are most vulnerable—in places like hospitals. It is the hospital’s job to safeguard against this abuse.

Yet, the hospital boldly asserted at trial that it has not changed its procedures. No one has been fired. No one has been punished.

This verdict was intended to send a message to MCMC.

We hope that it will cause the hospital’s Board of Directors to reevaluate the administration and their commitment to public safety.

Let’s hope MCMC gets the message.

 

 

L was represented at trial by Attorneys Tom D’Amore and Nick Kahl of D’Amore Law Group.

See news and articles about the sexual abuse lawsuit and trial.

Questions or inquiries: please contact the firm at 503-222-6333.

 

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