A little over a month ago, we were dismayed to hear of a fatal elevator accident in Istanbul. Ten construction workers lost their lives when an elevator plummeted to the ground from the 32nd floor of the building they were working on. Investigators later found at least three indications of negligence that likely contributed to the men’s deaths.
This month, yet another elevator accident occurred on a different construction site in Istanbul. The four men in the elevator were not killed, but all four were seriously injured. The police inspected both the elevator and the building after the crash, but there’s no news yet on whether this accident was caused by negligence.
We’re so glad that the accident was not fatal; when improperly maintained or operated, elevators can be incredibly dangerous. We hope all the men injured in the elevator will make a full recovery and that this will be the last elevator accident on a construction site in Istanbul.
-Andy Cash, Alwyn Fredericks, Dave Krugler
Halloween is a great holiday. The families at Cash, Krugler & Fredericks are looking forward to it. The air is crisp, neighborhoods are full to the brim with excited, costumed children. An enthusiastic “Trick-or-Treat” from first timers is enough to make even the scariest ghoul crack a smile. But in the midst of sugar-filled exuberance, we can’t forget safety.
Last year, the fun of Halloween ended abruptly and calamitously for one family in DeKalb County. Dressed as a princess, five-year old Autumn Mack was struck by a car while trick-or-treating with her mother. She sustained serious injuries and died at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston that Halloween night.
“The little girl was across the street with her mom,” said one witness. “The other little girls told her to come across the street, and her mom told her to wait, but she was just excited, I guess. She really didn’t hear her.”
Children are twice as likely to be struck by a car and killed on Halloween than on any other day of the year. If you have a trick-or-treater at home, here are a few safety procedures to remember this year.
- Children under 12 should be supervised while trick-or-treating, so don a witch or wizard’s hat and walk the neighborhood with them! If your kids are old enough (and mature enough) to head out on their own this Halloween, make sure they know to stay in a group. Make sure your children know they’re to stay in known, well-lit areas.
- Pass out glowsticks or flashlights to help your kids see and be seen.
- Make sure your child’s costume fits so they’re not in danger of tripping.
- Most importantly: everyone’s costume should incorporate reflective material. Add reflective tape or stickers to costumes and bags. Pick light colors for costumes when possible. Masks can obstruct vision, so opt for fingerpaint instead.
Have a safe, fun and Happy Halloween, everyone!
School Bus Safety Week winds up today, an annual event that celebrates the benefits of school buses and highlights what everyone in the community can do to make school buses safer.
The buses are bigger and heavier than other vehicles and sit higher off the ground than most of what they’d collide with. School buses are designed to withstand all but the most serious crashes. On the ride to and from school, school buses are seven times safer than the family car or truck.
School buses are, in fact, the safest motorized transportation on the road. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, 30,000 Americans are killed in car accidents every year. Six school-age children die as passengers on school buses.
Half of all American school children ride the bus to school every day. All told, school buses travel four billion miles each year. Even with the stellar record of school buses, there is more we can and should do to improve safety. School Bus Safety Week reaches out to parents, teachers, drivers, students, and motorists. School bus safety is, in part, the responsibility of the community.
Students are parents should be aware of the “Five Step Rule” when disembarking from the school bus. It’s simple: take five giant steps away from the bus once you’ve stepped out. More children are injured outside of the school bus, where they can’t be seen, than inside the moving bus. Everyone should remember that walking behind a running school bus is unadvisable. Always cross well in front of the bus!
Parents should also teach children to never, ever, try to pick up anything that has rolled under the bus. The same height that keeps kids safe while riding the bus makes it dangerous outside of the bus.
Students should have a safe place to wait for the bus, away from the street. The driver will activate colored, flashing lights and the swing-out stop signs to alert other motorists of the stop. As a fellow driver, make sure you stop when you see the stop signs. You can be ticketed for not stopping; more importantly, children are making their way on and off the bus.
School buses are a safe, economical and environmentally friendly way for children to get to school, so we must all work to ensure that our nation’s children get to school safely.
In our blog “Young Children Sustain the Majority of Elevator Injuries” we wrote about the sad case of 10-year-old Jordan Nelson. The young boy suffered catastrophic injuries in a rental home elevator in Myrtle Beach last Thanksgiving during a family reunion. He is now a quadriplegic and has massive brain damage.
Cash, Krugler & Fredericks represents the Nelson family and we had a victory in our case when the state of South Carolina ruled that the home was multi-family and therefore should have been inspected. As a two-level home, it had been classified as a duplex; however, the opposing side was insisting it was a single-family residence and not subject to inspection.
Dana Fowle of Fox5 has produced an award-winning series on the dangers of residential elevators and produced a new one today, SC Issues Violations in Beach Rental Elevator Case. Partner Andy Cash appears in the video to discuss the letter issued by the South Carolina Department of Labor Licensing and Regulation that read that the home contains two completely separate dwelling units.
“It means that this elevator should have never been in this home. It didn’t meet code,” said Andy in the video.
The letter is a positive step towards getting the family the settlement it deserves, and will need for the lifelong care required for Jordan Nelson.
Highlighting again the potential danger of elevators, a 53-year-old man in Sofia, Bulgaria died in an elevator accident this month.
When the residential elevator the victim was riding stopped between floors, the man attempted to open the doors. During the attempt, the man fell out of the elevator and down the shaft to his death. Another passenger in the elevator escaped unscathed.
Sadly, the man’s death follows two more elevator accidents in Sofia. A woman died in a elevator crash in August. In June, another woman was injured in an elevator crash. She was riding with her grandchild, who was luckily uninjured.
Elevators are complex machines and they may get stuck from time to time. Though it can be unsettling, there’s no reason to panic. If you’re stuck in an elevator, here are a few simple rules to follow.
1. Take a deep breath and try to remain calm. Do not try to open the doors. You could fall down the shaft or get crushed when the elevator starts moving again. Begin pressing the elevators buttons one by one. The elevator may have gotten mixed signals. Pressing the buttons may clear up the crossed wires and get the elevator moving again.
2. If pressing the buttons fails, look for the call button or handset if you are in a commercial building. Every elevator is the United States is equipped with this system. The emergency system is usually red and should be easy to spot. Pressing the button will connect you with the building’s security or maintenance staff. They’ll come to your aid and should get you out in a reasonable amount of time.
3. If the emergency system fails and you have cell service, use your phone to call 911. Emergency services will come and release you. Stay calm, as it may take up to 30 minutes for someone to get you out.
Don’t forget that elevators, while commonplace, are still intricate, heavy machinery.
For more information, view this video from the “What Happens If …” series from “The Today Show.”
Over the weekend, my family and I participated in the Atlanta JDRF One Walk. I’ve shared in an earlier blog post that both my sons have Type 1 diabetes, often referred to as juvenile diabetes. The One Walk is something my family has participated in, and fundraised for, for years. We’ll keep walking together until there’s a cure.
It’s tough to be the only kid at school with diabetes. You’re the only one pricking your finger regularly to check your blood sugar and taking insulin with every meal. Children have to explain their condition to peers and teachers. Seemingly small things, like not being able to eat at the same time or eat the same food as everyone else, set you apart. Low and high blood sugars make it hard to function and concentrate and often require a lot of time in the clinic to resolve, which means a lot of missed class time. High blood sugars cause headaches and stomachaches that can take hours to go away.
Children with diabetes aren’t handicapped, but they do have a health condition that requires daily, and often hourly, attention. Feeling different can be isolating, especially for kids.
The One Walk is an incredible day. Our boys and children just like them get to do something meaningful and remember that they’re not alone. Each year, my family is inspired by the outpouring of support for JDRF. The love and compassion of the community at large for our community – that of the children and families affected by Type 1 diabetes – is an incredible gift and inspires us to do as much as we can to raise money for a cure.
Due to the generosity of so many, our family walk team raised over $50,000 and was the biggest walk team in the state of Georgia this year. We are very grateful for the incredible support of our family and the One Walk this year and are looking forward to next year’s walk!
When my partners and I opened the doors of Cash, Krugler & Fredericks, we knew we didn’t want to be a volume firm. We chose to keep our caseload small and do our utmost to represent the clients that truly needed our services.
Walking this path, we’ve met clients facing loss we couldn’t have imagined, in the midst of putting the pieces of their lives back together after shocking, unexpected events. We consider it an honor to represent the clients we do. It is our privilege to fight for them and our hope that in doing so we can prevent further tragedy.
All three of us were deeply saddened by the circumstances that led Alexis Goines and her four children to our door. One year ago, the Goines family nearly lost their lives in their rented home. On a peaceful night in October, Alexis watched over Kaniya, Zaylien, Zavien and Destiny as they brushed their teeth, put on pajamas and headed off to sleep.
All the children were asleep in their own bedrooms except for Destiny, the youngest child, who fell asleep in her mother’s room when Alexis turned out the lights, ready for bed herself. Suddenly, a massive explosion rocked the house.
The blast was followed by a fireball that ripped through the home, setting it afire. Panicked and desperate to get her children, Alexis grabbed the still sleeping Destiny and frantically ran through the house to save her other children.
A neighbor heard the blast that blew part of the Goines’ roof off and ran to help them. The neighbor helped Zavien escape the flames engulfing the home, then directed Alexis, Destiny in tow, out of the house while Zaylien and Kaniya found their way to safety. The family stood and watched as their home burned.
Their attention was redirected when Destiny began to scream. Injured in the fire, Destiny’s skin was peeling from her small body. When ambulances arrived, they rushed Alexis, Destiny, Kaniya and Zalien to the Augusta Burn Center.
What caused the explosion that destroyed the Goines home and changed their lives forever? The day of the blast, Alexis alerted the property manager that the water heater wasn’t working. The property manager, with approval from the homeowner, set out to replace the water heater. A handyman, who was not a licensed plumber, came by in the afternoon and installed a new gas water heater.
As the handyman worked, he noticed two gas valves. He claims he turned both off while working. When he was done, he turned both gas valves back on. But while one gas valve led to the water heater, the other led to an uncapped gas line that had previously serviced a stove. Gas flowed into a vent, rising into the attic. In the night, a spark ignited the gas and caused the explosion and fire.
The superfluous gas line should have been capped. As the Goines family can attest, leaving it uncapped was irresponsible and incredibly dangerous. It was the kind of danger that should have been uncovered in any home inspection.
The Goines leased their home through the Department of Housing and Urban Development Section Eight program. The Housing Authority of Columbus was responsible for carrying out the program in Columbus, Georgia. Yet the danger was missed time and again, unbeknownst to the Goines.
My partners and I are working on behalf of the Goines family. In June 2014, the family’s medical bills alone amounted to close to $3,000,000.
Whether you own or rent a home, regular inspections are essential. When hiring an inspector, be thorough. Here are a few guidelines for finding an inspector you can trust.
● Conduct an interview. Ask them if they are members of a professional inspection organization.
● Ask about their experience. Whether your home is very old or quite new, find an inspector who knows about homes like yours.
● Ask how long their inspections take. A good home inspection takes about three or four hours, longer for a larger, older or fixer-upper home. Anyone that promises to be out “in an hour or two” isn’t doing their job thoroughly.
● Ask if you can attend the inspection. Your inspector should not have a problem with this. A great inspector will take time to explain everything they’re looking for to you while they go along.
● Make sure they plan to inspect every last inch of your home. Basements and attics aren’t afterthoughts in a home inspection.
-Andy Cash, Alwyn Fredericks, Dave Krugler
Unlike the vast majority of physical wounds, traumatic brain injury is invisible. But as we have seen through our work representing people with brain injury, the effects of TBI can be just as damaging and challenging to learn to live with. TBI plagues our servicemen and women, affecting thousands of retired and active duty soldiers.
Traumatic brain injury is the signature injury of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The effect the injury had on returning soldiers increased the visibility of TBI in both the military and in civilian life.
In 2013, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) expanded benefits to veterans with conditions caused or exacerbated by traumatic brain injuries. It was a move applauded by many veterans’ groups, and criticized by others for not expanding benefits more. Why?
The VA’s new regulations extend benefits only to those who can prove they suffered moderate and severe brain injury. (A 2008 study conducted by the Institute of Medicine found that evidence linking mild brain injury to the diseases we will list in a moment were “limited or suggestive.”)
If a veteran suffers unprovoked seizures, depression, hormone deficiency diseases related to the hypothalamus, Parkinsonism and certain dementias and can prove they suffered a service-related brain injury, their cases are (potentially) sped up and simplified.
Once a service member provides sufficient evidence of their brain injury, the VA will accept that any of the diseases listed above were caused by their brain injury. They are then entitled to additional compensation and health care.
TBI is linked in the public mind with IEDs and the harsh reality of war in the Middle East, but the majority of TBIs in the military occur during training accidents, playing sports and vehicle crashes at home. Eight of 10 TBIs in the military are considered mild – the IOM defines mild as involving a loss of consciousness or memory for less than 30 minutes.
The Department of Defense takes the high incidence of TBI seriously. Initially, the military turned to the civilian medical community to learn more, reaching out in particular to the neurologist and neurosurgeon advisors to professional sports teams. Today, the DOD is leading the way in research, in part by taking a “team approach” and encouraging specialists from different areas to collaborate with one another.
In 2012, President Obama signed an executive order mandating a National Research Action Plan (NRAP) with the goal of improving access to mental health services for veterans, current service members and military families. Thanks to the mandate set forth by the NRAP, the DOD and the Centers for Disease Control joined together to tackle mild traumatic brain injuries, what we usually call concussions.
Last month, the DOD announced that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is developing a wireless brain prosthesis to combat a common side effect of TBI, memory loss.
“These neuroprosthetics will be designed to bridge the gaps in the injured brain to help restore that memory function,” said Dr. Justin Sanchez, DARPA Restoring Active Memory Program manager. “Our vision is to develop neuroprosthetics for memory recovery in patients living with brain injury and dysfunction.” You can read more about the exciting research here.
Here on the Cash, Krugler & Fredericks blog, we’ve written about one partnership between the DOD and Abbott Laboratories. That multiyear partnership will hopefully create a portable blood test that can be used in the field to test for brain injury.
Definitive diagnostic tests would be a major boon to caring for people with suspected brain injuries. The symptoms of TBI are vague and unspecific, leaving people vulnerable to missed diagnosis. As we’ve discussed before on our blog, a second impact on the brain before it’s entirely healed from even a minor TBI can be deadly.
While the military is (rightly) focused on improving treatment and the lives of our soldiers, civilians also receive a benefit. We’re still learning a great deal about TBI, including how to diagnose a brain injury quickly and effectively and what the long-term effects are on our physical and mental health. The dedicated research, both theoretical and practical by the DOD, is improving care and advancing knowledge of TBI for civilians around the world.
-Andy Cash, Alwyn Fredericks, Dave Krugler
A home elevator can mean independence for permanently or temporarily disabled people and can prolong the number of years older adults are able to live in their homes. They can be useful for transporting large items in multi-story homes.
Home elevators, once an oddity, are increasingly popular, even trendy. The cost of the technology is falling, making them more affordable than ever, and Baby Boomers are aging. Elevators are appearing more and more in residential homes and rental homes for good reason. They’re useful and are often a necessity.
But there are risks associated with home elevators that every homeowner who has one, or everyone who rents a home with an elevator, should know about. There are precautions you should take to ensure their safety, particularly for children.
Our firm is intimately acquainted with the devastating consequences of elevator accidents. We’ve represented two families whose children sustained life-altering injuries in elevators.
As a toddler, Jacob Helvey was permanently and catastrophically brain damaged in an elevator in his home. Jordan Nelson also suffered permanent and catastrophic brain damage after an elevator accident in a rental home.
The families of these two boys once had healthy, vibrant and active sons. Today, both children require around the clock care from their parents. They’ll need that care for the rest of their lives.
What You Need to Know About Home Elevators
• Many residential elevators allow enough space for children to become trapped between the inner and outer doors, as Jacob Helvey was.
• Home elevators do not have to meet the same safety standards commercial elevators do. Many go for years without being inspected.
• Even if you shut off an elevator, it can still run. Most elevators have a battery lowering system.
Precautions You Can Take
If you buy or rent a home with an elevator, there are precautions you can take to ensure its safety.
• Never allow children to use any elevator unattended.
• If you own an elevator, ensure that there is not enough space for a child to fit between the inner and outer doors of the elevator. The code in the state of Georgia is five inches or less. (After Jacob’s accident, the Helveys designed and installed their own barrier.)
• Put a lock on the outer door that only adults can reach and undo. If you’re renting, ask the landlord or property management company to do the same.
• Make sure your elevator is regularly, thoroughly inspected at least once a year. If you’re renting, ask for proof that the elevator has been inspected recently.
For more Home Elevator Safety Tips, please review this list generated from the Emmy award winning series on Fox5 about the dangers of home elevators, brought to reporter Dana Fowle’s attention by Cash, Krugler & Fredericks.
Elevator accidents and injury are preventable. My partners and I will continue to work towards industry and regulatory changes. We’ve seen enough misfortune.
One man died and two others were injured in a home elevator accident last month. Richard Sandoz, a resident of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, died when the floor of the elevator in his home collapsed. It was the third elevator mishap in that county this year.
The elevator was meant for cargo use only, as many in that area of elevated homes on the coast are. People are riding in them anyway. Mr. Sandoz knew of the problem with the elevator and had tried to repair it himself.
Three people were in the elevator when the floor gave way and Mr. Sandoz hit his head on the concrete. Injuries from the fall killed him. The other men suffered minor injuries.
At the beginning of the year a couple in the same county was injured when their home elevator crashed. The woman lost part of her leg.
In the spring, an elevator contractor was injured while installing an elevator.
“This was an avoidable accident,” City Councilman Lonnie Falgout said in an article about Mr. Sandoz on a local website. “If we’d all just take the time to periodically check out elevators … this could have been prevented … They need to be inspected, at least twice a year. Please, check your elevators.”
We wrote about Side by Side Brain Injury Clubhouse, an organization our firm has supported in the past. The Clubhouse exists so people living with traumatic brain injury can come together in support and camaraderie. In addition to being a supportive environment for people living with the effects of TBI, the community helps members learn work skills and find jobs.
No two traumatic brain injuries are the same. People who’ve suffered a brain injury will experience diverse challenges. They may need to rely on family members to provide around-the-clock care, live independently or require assistance.
Even people who don’t require everyday help may have to deal with emotional changes. Moderate and severe TBI has been linked with changes in personality and depression. Emotional changes may alter their relationships with friends, spouses, partners and children, as well as change the way the injured individual lives his or her life.
We must provide support both for people living with the lifetime effects of traumatic brain injury and their communities. Support for family members begins immediately after an injury. If our loved one is in the hospital, confused and in pain, so are we.
Family members need the facts about TBI so they can start to understand a condition their loved one may live with for the rest of their lives. They also need practical advice about what changes may come and how they can help their family member with daily activities in the days, weeks, months or years to come.
Support networks are equally important for the injured and their community. Adjusting to new circumstances, especially changes in personality, requires a great deal of patience and understanding. Family members need to know what’s normal and what to expect.
Fatigue and decreased attention, both caused by brain injury, may be misinterpreted by family members as laziness. Since brain injury can affect behavior, family members need to learn fair and firm limits about behavior and have clear expectations of how an injured loved one can/should treat you. Brain injury is not an excuse for bad behavior.
Family members need help and support so they remember to care for themselves as well as their loved one. When someone we love is severely injured, we sometimes neglect our own needs. This is why professional help and support groups are so important. Talking with a professional or others in your situation can help family members process their own feelings.
It’s okay to be sad, angry or frustrated. TBI suddenly introduces major changes in your loved one, in your life and in family roles. You may find a support group where your loved one receives treatment or be able to get a referral from one of their providers.
If your loved one has suffered a traumatic brain injury, remember that you are not alone. A community of support is available to you and ready to help you on this journey.
For our Georgia readers, we’ve included a list of resources to help you find and find a support group below. If you are not in Georgia, help is still available and can be found online.
-Andy Cash, Alwyn Fredericks, Dave Krugler
Picture a three-year-old boy balancing on a ledge just two-inches wide in an elevator shaft on the second floor of a residential building.
That’s the situation firefighters in Staten Island, NY, were faced with this past Wednesday evening. They had to carefully open an exterior door, using a hydraulic tool, hoping the child wouldn’t lose his balance and fall down the shaft. The incident was reported in this article, “3-year-old boy rescued from elevator shaft by firefighters on Staten Island.”
Fortunately, he was rescued and suffered only minor injuries.
It is not known how he got on that ledge. What we do know is that elevator was not safe and a child should never have had access to it.
We have dealt with so many cases of children suffering catastrophic injuries in elevators that we were glad to see this latest incident has a happy ending. Unfortunately, many do not.
When most of us hear the words “black box” we think about flights that ended in tragedy and a downed airplane. On an airplane, a black box is actually two separate components: a cockpit voice recorder and a flight data recorder. Unless the worst happens, the black box (which is actually bright orange) does nothing. Its only purpose is to help investigators piece together the final moments of a flight and understand what happened to cause the crash.
Black boxes aren’t only used in airplanes; the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration now requires car manufacturers to install black boxes in all new vehicles. It’s a move that’s been in the works for several years but only went into effect on September 1, 2014.
My partners and I represent clients whose lives have changed after injuries sustained in car accidents. We followed black box legislation with interest. We support the use of black boxes in cars and in September 2013, I wrote an opinion piece for the Atlanta Journal Constitution about black boxes.
Concerns about privacy have resurfaced in the collective American psyche. The revelations of large-scale data collection by the government and by corporations inspire distrust and make us wary of yet another method of data collection. My partners and I have strong concerns about privacy and the storing of data by private corporations and the government. But we don’t believe that black boxes in cars should be swept into such privacy concerns.
Black boxes (officially known as event data recorders, or EDRs) can track a variety of information, from when the driver hit the brakes or the gas, their speed and even if they were wearing their seatbelt. Who has access to that information? So far, only the owner of the vehicle. As of now, police, insurers and automakers can only retrieve the data from your black box with your consent or, potentially, a court order.
Drivers should note that black boxes in vehicles today do not continuously monitor your every move. Similar to their airplane counterparts, black boxes exist to help us understand what happened when an accident occurred.
The black box will store only 30 seconds of data after a recordable event. Surprising as it may sound, that 30 seconds is all you need to get a snapshot of the vehicle’s actions before a wreck. Your event data is not uploaded to some cloud-based Internet database. The data is stored only on your black box.
The data that is recorded on the black box is not easy or inexpensive to access. In other words, no common layman can steal your data. You can only get information using proprietary software, and then that information must be interpreted by an expert.
The real concern about “black boxes” in cars really isn’t about Event Data Recorders. Instead, the concern is that manufacturers or others may attempt to gain access to additional information, from what you are listening to on the radio to where you travel. There is also concern about maintaining the privacy of such information. While those are legitimate concerns that deserve thoughtful debate, it is important that Event Data Recorders, and the important job they play, don’t get swept away with those debates.
Our memories are faulty, but civil and criminal legal issues often depend on a single witness’s recollection of events. Car crashes happen in a flash. Someone’s livelihood or freedom may hinge on the memory of a bystander. Black boxes provide a dispassionate, irrefutable snapshot of the moments before an accident. The information they hold can change the course of a defendant’s life.
Finally, I want to mention the 30,000 Americans that die in car accidents every year. The black boxes are not noticeable, but the hope is that drivers will remember their presence. Will knowing that a record of our irresponsible driving practices will exist if an accident occurs inspire us to pay more attention to the road? If the presence of a black box makes us drive more carefully, thousands of lives may be saved every year.