Head / Brain & Spine Injuries

Takata airbag recall makes history

The latest number is ~34 million vehicles that are now included in the Takata airbag recall. This means 1 out of every 5 cars likely has a dangerous airbag or some other defective part (see below). Our Seattle auto product liability lawyers have handled many product liability cases–including with defective airbags. With this latest recall, the landscape of auto product recalls shifts dramatically. While the GM faulty ignition switch recall made history earlier this year at roughly 2.6 million recalls issued, the Takata recall reaches across company lines and includes 11 different auto makers. While the number of stories relating to the defective airbags is not large (under 10, compared to the 100+ deaths for the GM recall), any one who rides in a car or truck should not rest easy.

Apparently, many of you were alarmed enough today. There were droves (no pun intended) of concerned car owners who tried to visit NHTSA website for information, but the site has crashed a number of times today. Remember that the database is still not entirely updated on the NHTSA site, as it will take a few days. When you are ready to check it out, remember to jot down your VIN number.

If you or a family member was injured or killed due to a defective airbag, please contact us at Counsel@Stritmatter.com or 206.448.1777.  Seattle law firm, Stritmatter Kessler Whelan, is investigating cases involving defective Takata airbags.

See below for a large chunk of the car makers and models that are included in the recall:

Toyota: 778,177 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2002 – 2004 Lexus SC
2003 – 2004 Toyota Corolla
2003 – 2004 Toyota Corolla Matrix
2002 – 2004 Toyota Sequoia
2003 – 2004 Toyota Tundra
2003 – 2004 Pontiac Vibe

Honda: 2,803,214 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2001 – 2007 Honda Accord (4 cyl)
2001 – 2002 Honda Accord (6 cyl)
2001 – 2005 Honda Civic
2002 – 2006 Honda CR-V
2003 – 2011 Honda Element
2002 – 2004 Honda Odyssey
2003 – 2007 Honda Pilot
2006 – Honda Ridgeline
2003 – 2006 Acura MDX
2002 – 2003 Acura TL/CL

Nissan: 437,712 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2001 – 2003 Nissan Maxima
2001 – 2003 Nissan Pathfinder
2002 – 2003 Nissan Sentra
2001 – 2003 Infiniti I30/I35
2002 – 2003 Infiniti QX4
2003 – Infiniti FX

Mazda: 18,050 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2003 – 2004 Mazda6
2004 – Mazda RX-8

BMW: 573,935 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2000 – 2005 3 Series Sedan
2000 – 2006 3 Series Coupe
2000 – 2005 3 Series Sports Wagon
2000 – 2006 3 Series Convertible
2001 – 2006 M3 Coupe
2001 – 2006 M3 Convertible

General Motors: 133,221 total number potentially affected vehicles
2002 – 2003 Buick LeSabre
2002 – 2003 Buick Rendezvous
2002 – 2003 Cadillac DeVille
2002 – 2003 Chevrolet Trailblazer
2002 – 2003 Chevrolet Impala
2002 – 2003 Chevrolet Monte Carlo
2002 – 2003 Chevrolet Venture
2002 – 2003 GMC Envoy
2002 – 2003 GMC Envoy XL
2002 – 2003 Oldsmobile Aurora
2002 – 2003 Oldsmobile Bravada
2002 – 2003 Oldsmobile Silhouette
2002 – 2003 Pontiac Bonneville
2002 – 2003 Pontiac Montana

NOTE: Video clip of interview is from PBS.org.

A wealth of brain research in Seattle– hopefully brings us closer to addressing brain diseases.


Some of firm’s most heartbreaking cases are those that involve Brain Injury. Because of my father’s recent brain surgery, this topic strikes close to home. So, when I read today’s Seattle Times article First database of brain-cell types released by Allen Institute about the groundbreaking research in our own town, I just had to share. As our firm sees with brain injury cases, there is still so much for us to learn.

At the Allen Brian Institute, the first of its kind database of neurons is now available for widespread use. Neurons are the building blocks to our nervous system. They come in different shapes and sizes with corresponding functions. So, take my father, who recently had a craniotomy that affected his motor neurons. These send information away from the central nervous system to muscles or glands. For obvious reasons, his recovery is focused on his motor skills as well as planning skills. The Allen Brain Institute (ABI) database categorizes over 240 types of neurons, standardizing their location, electrical activity and shape.

This database is the first important step of the ABI’s 10 year plan to learn about the connection between these neurons and perception, decision making, and action. This type of information is critical to get at the root of dysfunctional brain processes that we see with autistic, Parkinsonian, or Alzheimer patients.

By amassing this valuable information in a dynamic and revolutionary database, brain scientists, neurologists, and biomedical scientists will have a richer arsenal to understand how to tackle different brain diseases, such as glioblastoma multiforme,  This is an aggressive and deadly type of brain cancer. The majority of people diagnosed with the disease survive little more than a year and there are few treatments.

“Identifying neuronal cell types is essential to unraveling the mystery of how the brain processes information and gives rise to perception, memory and consciousness,” says Christof Koch, Ph.D., President and Chief Scientific Officer of the Allen Institute for Brain Science. “This is the first resource of its kind to bring together multiple types of data—shape, position in the brain and electrical activity—in a single searchable database anywhere on the planet.”

 

 

How can we learn from Seattle bike accidents?

26 yr old cyclist was hit by a Metro bus during AM commute last Monday. (Photo: SDOT)

26 yr old cyclist was hit by a Metro bus during AM commute last Monday. (Photo: SDOT)

How can we learn from another Seattle bike accident? The one that occurred earlier this month resulted in life threatening injuries to a 26 year old cyclist, when a Metro trolley bus hit him.

Investigators are still looking into the details of the cause. However, anyone who knows the area–Rainier Ave S and South Jackson, can probably guess what likely occurred. Cyclists familiar with that stretch of road know that there are streetcar tracks. These tracks can wreak havoc with cyclists who want to cross over or ride alongside them. (Again, the exact details of the May 4, 2015 accident are still under investigation.)

Here’s a suggestion: How about some warning signs to both bus drivers and cyclists? There were reportedly some close calls before this horrendous accident. How about painting that part of the road to alert cyclists?

At our firm, well known bike injury attorney Keith L. Kessler has presented on some of the cyclist hazards of road design (Here is one of his more recent presentations Bicycle Litigation Strategy – Roadway Safety Cases).  Recall the Gendler case (one of the largest recent settlements against the State): Our firm represented injured cyclist, Mickey Gendler, whose bike tire got caught on a seam on the Montlake Bridge. Note that the State had known about this hazard to bicyclists for years before this tragic accident. One would hope that these types of accidents would serve as red flags to road designers/engineers who know if cyclists will frequent a route that is shared with cars and street cars/trolleys. If we truly want to live up to being one of the most bike friendly cities in the country, let’s walk the walk.

NOTE: This blog post was originally published in SKWBikeLaw blog.

 

Pedestrians and cyclists: Staying visible when sun goes down

Increase your safety by wearing high visibility reflective gear.

Increase your safety by wearing high visibility reflective gear.

Some of our firm’s most tragic cases result from nighttime accidents. Once the sun goes down, a lawful pedestrian or bicyclist might not realize how invisible they are to a drunk or inattentive driver. Cars kill more than 5,000 pedestrians, bicyclists, and joggers each year. The lion’s share of those accidents occur after the sun sets. But those who enjoy an evening stroll, run or bike ride need to know that not all reflective gear are equal.

Consumer Reports tested several types of reflective gear: jackets, bike shirts, and an inexpensive safety vest. A Betabrand shirt with reflective thread was marketed as easy to spot. However, in a recent Consumer Reports test, the shirt wasn’t visible from 300 feet. This is the distance for a car to stop in time, if the driver is traveling at 60 miles per hour.

To stay safe in the night, one needs to wear gear that is highly visible in the front as well as the back. The more reflective, the better. While the $180 Gore Phantom Windstopper soft-shell jacket is easy to see coming and going, it didn’t outperform the Uline safety vest, with its big, bright strips. The Uline option is much less expensive, about $15 at uline.com.

To increase your visibility, consider donning a reflective ankle band or wristband. According to Consumer Reports, these are highly visible from 300 feet. When you’re moving your legs and arms up and down, it’s hard to miss you from a distance.

Finally, don’t pooh-pooh some of the lowest cost options like iron-on reflective tape. Iron on this tape onto your own and your kids’ backpacks, hoodies, and caps to gain a little more peace of mind. Taking these extra steps, while staying clear of the road whenever possible, can only help prevent a needless tragedy.

Trek Bicycles has recalled almost 1 million bikes for safety issues,

Trek Bicycles is recalling nearly 1 million bikes in the US and almost 100,000 in Canada for a safety issue that resulted in one rider becoming paralyzed.

The Trek bike recall involves a “quick release” lever on the front wheel. The quick release lever is a problem in that it can interfere with the disk brakes, which would cause the wheel to stop turning or to separate from the bike frame, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Trek said it is aware of three incidents where the problem caused riders to be injured, including one that resulted in quadriplegia. The others involved facial and wrist injuries.

The Trek bikes are from model years 2000 to 2015 and were sold nationwide beginning in 1999. The bikes, made in Taiwan and China, were sold at prices between $480 to $1,650. Trek, a Wisconsin-based bike company, has offered to replace the quick release lever free of charge. It is also offering a $20 coupon good for bike accessories made by Bontrager.

“We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this has caused you,” Trek says in a notice announcing the recall. “We value you as a customer and want you to safely enjoy cycling on your Trek bicycle.”

520 Sign Falls, Wreaks Havoc with Accidents/Injuries

520 Bridge Sign Fell on Bus 3/16/2015,

520 Bridge Sign Fell on Bus 3/16/2015, (Photo credit: Sonny Behrends)

Not that I’m superstitious, but what happened on the 520 bridge yesterday has a bizarre, “Friday the 13th” quality to it.  According to The Seattle Times, a sign hit a bus near Lake Washington Boulevard on the west side of the bridge.  Eight people were taken to the hospital for “minor injuries.”

Washington State Patrol Trooper Chris Webb explained that a pipe [used to support a temporary work bridge] hit the bus, ricocheted off the top of the bus and hit the sign. That traffic sign then fell back on the bus, destroying the front of the bus.  Witnesses say that the bus driver was lying on the ground and drivers had stopped and jumped over the median to help others on the bus.

WSDOT is meeting with the prime contractor, Flatiron Construction, to learn how this happened. Hopefully, they will figure out a way that this will never happen again. Thank goodness that more serious injuries did not result from this.

I cannot help but be reminded of the Lacey Hicks case, when a light post that had rusted out from its base had crashed through Ms. Hicks’s car. Lacey had to get extracted from the car with “jaws of life.” After SKW was hired to represent Lacey, much needed improvements were finally made  with the remaining, dangerous light posts replaced.

Yesterday's 520 bridge accident reminds me of SKW's Lacey Hicks' case.

Yesterday’s 520 bridge accident reminds me of SKW’s Lacey Hicks’ case.

WSDOT spokesman Ian Sterling:“The [pipes] are not supposed to swing across a live lane of traffic. That was never supposed to happen,” he said. Flatiron, whose subcontractor was moving the pipes, will be held responsible for funding or building a new sign, he said.

The Seattle Times article mentions that contractors have delivered pipes this way several times before  with WSDOT consent. In the past, they have closed the right westbound lane of Highway 520, as traffic passed in the inside lane. Last night a routine one-lane closure was underway for the truck to park on the right side, while the crane mounted on the work bridge grasped the pipes.

These pipes are used to support a temporary work bridge in the lake near Foster Island, where Flatiron is constructing a $200 million highway segment — to carry three future westbound lanes.

 

Most Deadly List – Top 10 Most Dangerous Cars

Kia Rio and other mini or small cars are statistically less safe than most larger models according to the IIHSILDI (insurance institute).

Kia Rio and other mini or small cars are statistically less safe than most larger models according to the IIHSILDI (insurance institute).

With gas still relatively cheap for now more consumers are considering buying a new car as the auto industry experiences double digit growth not seen since 2002.

In fact, more are leaning towards compact SUVs (or “CUVs”) and larger cars.  Based on articles I’ve read, including the one on an insurance industry site, staying in the category of larger cars may also be a safer choice. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute, the top 10 vehicles with the most fatalities include mini cars such as the Chevy Aveo, the Nissan Versa, the Ford Focus, and the Honda Civic. Other larger cars that made the dubious distinction as one of the cars with the highest rates of deadly accidents include the Camaro coupe and the Silverado (both Chevrolets),

Compare the “Most Deadly Cars” list with the below and best of luck on your next car purchase. As SKW wrongful death/injury attorneys are typically only contacted when after a fatal or catastrophic car accident, we see first hand the difference a well designed car can make when someone is involved in a serious crash.

LOWEST RATES OF DRIVER DEATHS
Fewer than 6 driver deaths per million registered vehicle years,
2011 and equivalent earlier models, 2009-12
Overall driver deaths per million/ea year Multiple-vehicle
crashes
Single-vehicle
crashes
Single-vehicle
rollovers
Audi A4 4WD luxury car midsize 0 0 0 0
Honda Odyssey minivan very large 0 0 0 0
Kia Sorento 2WD SUV midsize 0 0 0 0
Lexus RX 350 4WD luxury SUV midsize 0 0 0 0
Mercedes-Benz GL-Class 4WD luxury SUV large 0 0 0 0
Subaru Legacy 4WD 4-door car midsize 0 0 0 0
Toyota Highlander hybrid 4WD SUV midsize 0 0 0 0
Toyota Sequoia 4WD SUV large 0 0 0 0
Volvo XC90 4WD luxury SUV midsize 0 0 0 0
Honda Pilot 4WD SUV midsize 2 0 2 0
Mercedes-Benz M-Class 4WD luxury SUV midsize 3 3 0 0
Ford Crown Victoria 4-door car very large 4 4 0 0
GMC Yukon 4WD SUV large 4 0 4 0
Acura TL 2WD luxury car midsize 5 5 0 0
Chevrolet Equinox 2WD SUV midsize 5 3 2 0
Chevrolet Equinox 4WD SUV midsize 5 5 0 0
Ford Expedition 4WD SUV large 5 5 0 0
Ford Flex 2WD SUV midsize 5 0 5 0
Mazda CX-9 4WD SUV midsize 5 0 5 5
2WD: 2-wheel drive; 4WD: 4-wheel drive

Honda breaks history…hit with $70 million fine

Yesterday, Obama administration fined Honda $70 million for failure to report complaints re injuries/deaths & warranty issues.

Yesterday, Obama administration fined Honda $70 million for failure to report complaints re injuries/deaths & warranty issues.

“Holey moley!” That’s what I thought when I read that Honda got hit with a $70 million fine. The Obama administration imposed this history-making fine because the Japanese automaker failed to report to regulators roughly 1,700 complaints about its vehicles, claiming serious injuries and deaths. Moreover, the automaker apparently failed to report warranty claims. The complaints spanned an 11 year period, beginning in 2003.

This past November, Honda admitted that it didn’t report the aforementioned complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). When did its executives learn of these omissions? It was in 2011 — three years ago.

Because the company also failed to report customer satisfaction/warranty claims (same 11 year period), NHTSA doubled the $35 million fine. One was for the failure to report the death/injury complaints; the other $35 mil for its failure to report the warranty/customer satisfaction claims. Ouch.

In case you’re wondering, yes – some of the complaints related to the Takata air bags along with other defective parts.

Pillow talk over airbags: Shacking up in a hotel to talk Takata

Takata's refusal to expand national recall spurs on big legal fight w/US.

Takata’s refusal to expand national recall spurs on big legal fight w/US.

Takata, a Japanese airbag manufacturer, whose executives were questioned in House & Senate hearings a couple weeks ago, remains defiant in expanding any recall of its airbags. Its faulty airbags have been ruled as the cause of at least five deaths and about 50 injuries. However, Takata refused to comply with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s request to issue a national recall.

The Detroit News reports that NHTSA will bring Ford, FCA US and BMW to court if necessary, compelling the automakers to recall 5 million affected vehicles along with those already recalled.

The first act in bringing the named parties to trial is a formal demand letter issued to all concerned. Upon refusal, the NHTSA will file a suit against each party in U.S. District Court, a process that could last for months, if not years. NHTSA agency’s deputy administrator David Friedman explained in an interview, “This is a serious safety issue, and Takata needs to move forward. If Takata fights us all the way to the end, I want to be able to walk into a courtroom with as close to a slam dunk as I can get.”

In the meantime, Toyota, Honda, GM and seven other car makers recently met in a hotel conference room in a Detroit area airport hotel to address the risky airbags. As Takata has dug in its heels, the automakers are understandably concerned aboutthe industry wide issue that calls for a “coordinated, comprehensive testing program” to identify exactly what are the problems with the airbags. The automakers and NHTSA are conducting independent investigations.

Doesn’t look like this problem with dangerous Takata air bags is going to blow over for quite some time (pardon any unintended puns).

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