LEAVITT YAMANE & SOLDNER BLOG
March 6, 2013 @ 8:00 am — by admin
Several factors make Hawaii an ideal place for moped riders. Hawaii has some of the highest gasoline prices in the U.S., so mopeds offer a highly economical transportation alternative. Year-round mild weather is also ideal for moped riders. Because Hawaii has very few interstate highways, most of Hawaii’s roadways are accessible to mopeds. Mopeds are also an economical alternative for tourists, many of whom opt for a moped rental over renting a more expensive automobile. And with the high cost of parking in Honolulu in particular, mopeds are becoming increasingly attractive.
As moped sales have increased in recent years, so have the amount of injuries and fatalities reported.
However, the things which make mopeds a popular transportation alternative also make them far more dangerous than a conventional automobile. The fuel economy mopeds afford comes primarily from their diminutive size, which makes them vulnerable in a collision. Indeed, a moped and its rider will sustain far more damage in a collision with an automobile than the automobile.
A man in his 40’s was seriously injured on February 21, while riding on Moanalua Freeway. As recently as January 26, 2013, a teenage moped rider was killed in a collision with an automobile. A bill currently in the Hawaii senate requires riders under the age of 18 to wear a helmet to prevent traumatic brain injuries. Queen’s Medical Center reports that less than 40% of riders admitted were wearing a helmet at the time of the collision.
Some of the enjoyment of riding a moped comes from their “open-air” orientation. But that exposure means that the rider has virtually no protection in a collision other than what they are wearing. Even in a minor collision or fall, the rider is certain to come into contact with the road surface.
Many state highways are accessible to mopeds, which means that moped riders can ride at top speed over long distances. The chance of an accident at higher speeds is therefore increased, and the damage to the moped and the rider is increased.
Because of the increased risk of injury while riding a moped, riders should be careful to take every safety precaution. Certainly, the most important safety measure a moped rider can take is to wear a properly rated safety helmet. Riders should be aware of all laws and safety measures involved.
- Only those aged 15 and over are permitted to ride a moped.
- Only one rider per moped is permitted.
- Riders should wear protective clothing, including closed-toe shoes, long pants, and long sleeves.
- Riders should ALWAYS wear a helmet, and obey all traffic laws.
January 24, 2013 @ 7:15 pm — by admin
The popularity of personal watercrafts has exploded in recent years around the world, and Hawaii is certainly no exception. There are dozens of rental companies throughout the islands offering a variety of high-powered ocean sleds to eager enthusiasts, in an industry that has enjoyed the benefits of this increased popularity.
Recent high-profile accidents involving personal watercrafts, however, have increased concern about the potential dangers the machines pose to ocean-goers. In August of 2012, California resident Kristen Fonseca was involved in a high-speed watercraft collision at Keehi Lagoon and died soon after as a result of a traumatic brain injury. Tyson Dagley, the Australian tourist who was operating the watercraft that collided with Fonseca’s, was arrested and pleaded “no contest” to charges related to Fonseca’s death. He was sentenced to time served, fined $78,000, and released from custody to return to Australia.
A similar incident in Georgia in July, 2012, saw the stepson of pop superstar Usher and another child critically injured after being struck by a personal watercraft at a recreational site.
It is crucial for operators of such personal watercraft to be aware of safety measures to prevent such tragedies. Researchers at the University of Florida have found that inexperienced operators are responsible for 95% of all injuries related to personal watercraft injuries.
Below are some tips to Avoid Jet Ski Injuries:
- Always wear a properly rated personal flotation device and protective eyewear.
- Always wear a lanyard attached to a “kill switch” in the event of being separated from the watercraft.
- Wear a whistle around your neck in the event of the need to summon help.
- Children should always wear a protective helmet, and never operate a personal watercraft without adult supervision.
- Be aware of other watercrafts and vessels in the vicinity.
- Keep a safe distance from other vessels in the area.
- Never operate a personal watercraft after consuming alcohol.
- Personal watercrafts are, by law, a motorboat like any other, and are required to abide by the same maritime rules and regulations.
If you’ve been involved in an accident or personal injury through someone else’s negligence or carelessness, they can be held responsible and liable. Give us a call, or write to us. We can help.
January 11, 2013 @ 5:49 am — by admin
Traumatic brain injuries have become a topic of major concern in athletics on a national level, from professional sports like the National Football League, down through amateur sports organizations such as the NCAA, and high school associations and little leagues throughout the United States.
Measures are being undertaken to protect players from brain injuries. The most common type of brain injury is a concussion, and the NFL has instituted a variety of policies designed to minimize the risk of these injuries. Special protection has been given to players on the field, and players who intentionally go after an exposed player’s head face severe penalties, ejection, and possibly suspension.
The Hawaii Department of Education created a program in 2011 to educate parents, coaches, and athletic trainers about the dangers of concussions, and to provide care to injured students.
The Centers for Disease Control found in a 2009 study the number of emergency room visits for traumatic brain injuries among adolescents under the age of 19 rose from 153,375 in 2001 to 248,418 in 2009. This alarming rise in the incidence of these types of injuries in young people prompted the Hawaii legislature to introduce House Bill 2273 in 2012, which would require the Hawaii Department of Education and the Hawaii High School Athletic Association to create a concussion education program for students and student athletes.
Symptoms of a concussion and recovery vary in individuals, so seeking immediate medical treatment for a concussion is crucial for a successful recovery. Concussions can be particularly problematic because symptoms may not be immediately apparent, sometimes takes several days or weeks to manifest.
A recent incident involving a traumatic brain injury in high school athletics saw Damien Memorial High School quarterback Alan Mohika sustain an injury that was not immediately apparent. After celebrating a touchdown and returning to the sidelines, Mohika soon lost consciousness and stopped breathing. Health officials on the scene performed CPR and Mohika was rushed to an emergency room and faced a long and difficult recovery.
In September of 2012, two University of Hawaii football players were carried from the field at Brigham Young University after suffering concussions in the first half of play. House Bill 2733 seeks to prevent such injuries and to ensure that proper medical steps are taken to limit the extent and effects of concussions.
December 23, 2012 @ 12:49 am — by admin
During the holiday season in Hawaii, a simple fact of life, in addition to increased traffic practically everywhere, motorists face an increased risk of being involved in a Driving Under the Influence incident, whether as a driver or as a victim.
The Honolulu Police Department has made it abundantly clear in recent years that over major holidays, Christmas and New Year chief among them, they will increase patrols and sobriety checkpoints to stop drunk drivers in their tracks. Over the 2012 Labor Day weekend, for instance, HPD made a total of 34 DUI arrests. In 2011, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Toyota Hawaii recognized several HPD officers for their outstanding efforts to reduce drunk driving on Oahu and impressive DUI arrest counts.
A recent measure has been implemented to require DUI offenders to install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles, which disable the vehicle when the device detects alcohol in the driver’s blood.
A look at traffic fatality statistics in Hawaii provides insight into the grave concern among law enforcement and community groups such as MADD regarding drunk driving. In 2009, 48% of traffic fatalities in Hawaii were related to drunk driving, the highest rate in the United States.
In addition to stepped up enforcement, Hawaii has also increased penalties for offenders. First-time offenders face jail time, fines, and license suspension. The penalties increase for subsequent offenses. A Highly Intoxicated Driver, with a Blood Alcohol Content of .15% or higher, faces even steeper penalties, including a mandatory license suspension of six months, hefty fines, and jail time. The legal limit is .08% in Hawaii.
Several lives have been lost to DUI fatalities on Oahu in 2012. A man responsible for the death of an infant and critical injuries to the family while driving under the influence was recently sentenced to 20 years in prison as a repeat offender.
The most effective way to avoid a DUI incident or arrest is, of course, to refrain entirely from drinking and driving. But even then, no one is safe when a drunk driver is behind the wheel.
Here are some tips to keeping safe, and to keeping the holiday season joyous:
- When attending events that serve alcohol, always arrange for a designated driver.
- If you’ve had enough to drink, and are worried about driving, call a cab or a family member or friend to pick you up. The cost of a parking ticket or getting towed is minimal compared to the potential aftermath of a drunk driving incident.
- If you’ve not been drinking alcohol, look out for those that may be intoxicated and offer them a safe ride home. The life you save could be your own.
We here at Leavitt, Yamane & Soldner wish everyone a safe and joyous holiday season, and good health and cheer in 2013!
December 13, 2012 @ 12:00 pm — by admin
HONOLULU – Year-round sunshine, mild weather, and an outdoor activities lifestyle in Hawaii have seen the popularity of inflatable “bounce houses” skyrocket in recent years. This trend has occurred throughout the United States, generating increased revenue for small business and countless hours of fun for youngsters.
Unfortunately, that increased popularity has seen the incidence of childhood injuries related to inflatable bounce houses also increase dramatically. A recent study conducted at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio has found that the number of such injuries has increased 15-fold since 1995.
The inflatable structures function in much the same way as trampolines, which for a long time have help the spotlight for recreational child injury awareness. The recent study, however, has changed that and now inflatable bounce houses are being looked at more carefully to develop injury prevention awareness in the families that use them.
An average of 31 children are hospitalized each day in the U.S. due to injuries sustained in bounce houses. The most common injuries are fractures, followed by strains, sprains and concussions. Concussions are most often caused by children colliding while playing.
And while falling in or out of the bounce house are the most common types of injuries, improper deployment and/or supervision can also lead to injury. A 2007 incident in Maili, HI saw two young children endangered when the structure in which they were playing was picked up by high winds and tossed 50 yards offshore. Neither child was seriously injured, but it did cause some to call for regulation of deployment of the structure. At the time of the incident, there were up to 70 inflatable ride operators on Oahu.
To keep children safe while playing in inflatable rides, it is important to follow a few important tips:
- Be sure that the inflatable ride is properly anchored to the ground in the event of high winds.
- Inflatable mats should extend well beyond the opening of the ride, to provide cushion for any child that bounced out of the ride.
- The ride should be supervised by a responsible adult at all times.
- Do not overcrowd the ride. Higher numbers of children playing increase the chances for an injury.
- Operators should try to keep the size of the children playing fairly uniform, to keep larger kids from crashing into smaller ones.
Inflatable bounce rides can provide hours of fun, but as with all children’s recreation structures, proper safety measures should always be taken.
November 21, 2012 @ 5:01 pm — by admin
The day after Thanksgiving has become known as “Black Friday.” The name comes from the fact that many retailers count on this day to put them into profit for the year, or “into the black.” In Hawaii, as well as all over the United States, shopping malls will see thousands throng their stores and restaurants hunting for sales events targeting Christmas shoppers. Popular Hawaii locations such as Ala Moana Center, Windward Mall and outlet centers in central Oahu will see their busiest days of the year.
The dramatically increased vehicle and human traffic at shopping malls, while a boon for retailers, poses dangers for shoppers and their children that should not be overlooked. Last year, many injuries were reported around the country, as eager shoppers scuffled over dwindling supplies of popular items. In 2011, shoppers at several locations of a popular national retailer around the U.S. were arrested, and/or pepper-sprayed for unruly, and even criminal behavior while trying to snatch up once a year holiday bargains.
Those seeking such bargains can keep safe on Black Friday by following a few simple, common-sense tips. While searching for parking at a busy shopping mall, for instance, drivers should keep both hands on the steering wheel at all times and mind pedestrians who may be distracted with heavy bundles, large carts, or wailing children. Always check for pedestrians before leaving a parking stall, and expect that a small child may be in your path but out of sight. Drive slowly, and expect that another driver will likely do something foolish.
While shopping, be sure to stay calm and avoid the mad rush of humanity that often accompanies the opening of popular retailers. In 2008, a Los Angeles retail worker was trampled to death by a crush of crazed shoppers when the store opened at midnight on Black Friday.
For those shopping with children, it is important to keep them close and know where they are at all times. Being lost in a crowd is terrifying for a young child, and can happen easily in a closely-packed crowd of thousands. Be sure to wear covered shoes, and keep laces tied at all times. Escalators and the feet of others can cause tripping or falling hazards easily, and increased traffic on Black Friday makes that danger even greater.
To avoid theft, keep a vehicle locked at all times, and never leave items unattended. Police statistics indicate that incidents of theft spike at shopping malls during the holidays.
We here at Leavitt, Yamane & Soldner wish everyone a safe and happy Holiday Season this and every year. Safe holidays are happy holidays.
November 12, 2012 @ 10:50 pm — by admin
We’ve all seen them, cars with a cute dog riding down the road in their owner’s lap, the happy creature’s tongue wagging and its face in the wind, seemingly smiling and enjoying the ride. Unfortunately, many of those dogs’ owners are unaware of the dangers of driving with an unrestrained pet in their vehicle, and oblivious to Hawaii’s law that explicitly prohibits drivers from keeping pets in their lap.
Hawaii is one of only a handful of states that has legislation in place that prohibits driving with a pet in your lap. In Arizona, Connecticut, and Maine, distracted driving laws, the kind that prohibit the use of cell phones while driving, can be used to charge drivers with pets in their laps. In New Jersey, SPCA officials can stop drivers they believe are improperly transporting an animal and issue fines of up to $1000.
According to the Honolulu statute, drivers with a dog in their lap can receive a $97 fine, and drivers with an unrestrained animal in their vehicle can receive a $57 fine. In Honolulu, driving with an unrestrained pet in the bed of a truck is also illegal.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, dogs do not have to be confined to a carrier while being transported. There are a variety of pet restraint products, such as harnesses and tethers, available to pet owners that can keep pets and their owners safe while still allowing the animal to enjoy the ride.
And while pets and their owner often enjoy a drive together, an unrestrained pet can cause dangerous distractions with a lick to the face, or getting between a drivers feet, severely limiting control of the vehicle.
A survey by Nationwide Mutual Insurance has found that eight percent of drivers admitted to driving with a pet in their lap. And while doing so poses the threat of distraction for the driver (and possibly for other drivers), an unrestrained pet in a vehicle becomes a dangerous projectile in the event of a motor vehicle collision. Bark Buckle UP, a non-profit pet advocacy group, says that in a 35 mile per hour accident, an unrestrained 60-pound dog would carry the force of a 2,700 pound object.
Hawaii drivers should treat their animals as humans while driving, and make sure their pet is properly secured.
October 24, 2012 @ 9:00 am — by admin
Halloween is a time for children. It’s a celebration that allows them to use their imaginations, exercise their creativity, and express themselves with their costumes. Halloween is also a time for parents to be vigilant about the safety of their children, due to a number of risk factors associated with the celebration.
In Hawaii, dark falls earlier in late October, meaning that trick or treaters are likely to be making their rounds at night. This presents pedestrian safety concerns over the significantly reduced visibility of pedestrians. In 2011, the UPI reported that twice as many children are killed in pedestrian accidents than on any other day of the year.
Most child safety experts agree that children under 12 should not be allowed to cross the street without adult supervision. Parents of older trick or treaters who go out without supervision should be sure their children travel with a group along a predetermined route. All costumes should fit properly, as loose clothing can cause tripping and other injuries. Masks can obscure vision, so parents should consider using makeup as part of the costume.
Trick or treaters should carry glow sticks or flashlights to increase their own visibility while walking, and to increase their visibility to drivers on the road and other pedestrians. Parents should also decorate costumes and candy bags with reflective tape.
When purchasing costumes for their children, parents should be sure to verify that the costume is clearly labeled as fire resistant.
Parents should also use a pumpkin carving kit to create the Jack-o-lantern, because they are less sharp than common household knives. Children should never be given a knife to do the carving. Instead, they can help with the design of the pumpkin and help remove the seeds and pulp, and help prepare the seeds for roasting.
At home, parents can keep trick or treaters safe by removing pets from the porch area, remove loose objects that create a tripping hazard such as garden hoses and furniture, and make sure all outdoor lighting is working properly.
When children are out making rounds, a few simple tips can help keep them safe. Always keep to familiar well-lit streets. A parent or responsible adult should accompany small children at all times. Children should only approach homes with a porch light on or Jack-o-lantern in front. Older trick or treaters should carry a mobile phone for fast communication if a problem occurs.
The American Association of Pediatrics offers additional Halloween safety tips on their website, http://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/news-features-and-safety-tips/Pages/Halloween-Safety-Tips.aspx.
As a personal injury law firm based in Hawaii we sincerely hope all families have a safe Halloween.
October 10, 2012 @ 9:00 am — by admin
Product recalls are used by manufacturers to improve public safety when one or more of their products is deemed unsafe or hazardous. Historically in the United States, products ranging from automobiles to baby food have been recalled for safety reasons.
Ideally, hazardous products are discovered before any consumers are harmed, although sometimes it takes a series of mishaps that result in illness, injury or death. When a product is recalled, the manufacturer will generally issue a statement to the press containing the product’s name, and possibly serial numbers or UPC codes to help consumers identify the product or products that can potentially harm them.
Often, the batch of products recalled is very small, affecting just a fraction of consumers. Other times, manufacturing flaws can result in the recall of thousands of units, whether they are automobiles, furniture or any other product of the industrial base.
Hawaii residents may remember the June 2012 recall of pork products by Keoki’s Lau Lau, due to the risk of foodborne illness for consumers of the company’s kalua pork products. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service discovered the problem through routine testing, and consumers were alerted following a round of follow up testing. Information to help consumers identify the suspect products was released and disaster was averted. In this case, only a tiny fraction of consumers on the national level were affected, while that ratio was significantly higher in Hawaii.
Another food recall that was of particular concern to Hawaii officials was one involving JFC Furikake, manufactured by a Japanese company in Los Angeles. Because of the popularity of furikake in Hawaii for flavoring rice and other local favorites, the recall drew special attention here. In that case, the product was recalled because it contained undeclared ingredients that could potentially trigger allergies in unaware consumers.
Most recently in Hawaii, popular Red Vines Licorice was recalled due to the possibility of elevated levels of lead in the candy whips. The State Department of Health issued a notice of the recall on September 5. No cases of illness caused by the product have been reported in Hawaii.
September 29, 2012 @ 9:21 pm — by admin
There’s nothing like a good scare to send us all scurrying to our auto insurance policy to see what our coverage is. This month, those of us who have followed the story of Progressive Insurance and the Fisher family got one.
Matt Fisher took to his Tumblr and Twitter to call out Progressive for the fact that, in his words, his sister had paid the company premiums only to have it defend her killer in court after her death in an auto accident.
Indeed, Progressive tried to convince a jury that the crash was her fault. The company lost and ended up paying the Fishers’ claim plus a settlement, and Progressive also took it on the chin on national television.
In last week’s column, I gave Progressive an opportunity to explain what it was thinking when it lined up against Katie Fisher in court. But now the rest of us are left with a couple of uncomfortable questions.
Does it really make sense to pay more for maximum coverage? And what does it really mean to be underinsured anyway?
Some of this isn’t up to us, because most states require you to have at least some auto insurance. Still, it’s worth looking at a couple of areas where vulnerability can be particularly high: liability insurance (in case you hurt or kill someone else) and the uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage that was at stake in the Fisher case.
Then, we can see what our odds are of needing to make a claim and how comfortable we are making bets accordingly.
First, the facts. The approximately 210 million licensed drivers in the United States had an estimated 5,419,000 crashes that police took reports on in 2010, the most recent year that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has data. Those crashes killed 32,885 people and injured 2,239,000.
For every 100 million vehicle miles that people traveled, there were 75 injuries, including those to pedestrians, and there were 1,066 injuries for every 100,000 licensed drivers.
How costly were those injuries? When accidents happen and the disputes wind up in court, they don’t tend to generate enormous payouts. According to a service called Jury Verdict Research, the median jury award for liability cases in 2010 for vehicular accidents was just $19,806.
That said, outsize awards are common enough (topping out at just over $13 million that year) that the average award was $181,197. And according to ISO, an insurance risk information service, about 5 percent of bodily injury claims in 2010 were for more than $100,000 while about 2 percent reached $300,000.
The odds of running into people with no insurance at all to pay for your claims against them are probably higher than you think. The Insurance Research Council’s most recent estimate, from 2009, is that 13.8 percent of all United States drivers have no insurance at all. In Florida, it’s 23.5 percent, and in Michigan it’s 19.5 percent.
ISO estimates that about 20 percent of people who do have insurance purchase just the minimum liability coverage in case they hurt someone else. Their policies may pay out as little as $25,000 in many states. That’s why Kirby Francis remains glad six years later that his parents had $500,000 in underinsured motorist coverage back when someone crossed a highway line in Oregon and plowed into him head-on while he was driving home from college.
The other driver, who ended up dead in a canyon 200 feet below the road, had just $50,000 in coverage. By the time Mr. Francis punched his way out of his burning vehicle, with a lacerated spleen, a broken tibia, and his elbow in six pieces, he was in need of $130,000 in operations and other medical care, including radiation treatments for his arm that his health insurer wasn’t going to pay for. He also said that he received a $200,000 settlement for his troubles, beyond the reimbursement for medical costs that mostly went to his health insurance company.
So we begin with these basic facts, and then there are other people’s stories. But in the end, there’s just you and me, and if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll acknowledge the specific risk factors that leave us particularly vulnerable. We may drive drunk, tired, quickly, at night or with a mobile phone in one hand.
Perhaps there are children in the back who are distracting, maybe even an entire car pool full of ones whose parents would sue pretty quickly if they were injured on your watch. Or your children have just learned to drive. Or you’re starting to make the same mistakes behind the wheel that you did 60 years ago.
So what would it cost to lock in better coverage? The industry-supported Insurance Information Institute figures it costs about $200 extra annually per vehicle to take your liability limit from $50,000 to $1 million per accident. Gonzo drivers with sketchy records may pay more. Raising your uninsured and underinsured coverage by similar amounts could cost less than half that amount.
Taken together, that’s not an enormous amount on a percentage basis on top of what may be an annual insurance bill of $1,000 or more.
Still, many of us will tell ourselves all sorts of stories about why this isn’t necessary. For instance, we may figure that no one is going to come after us beyond whatever minimum amount our insurance policy will pay. But if you’re at fault and don’t have enough insurance, the job of plaintiff’s lawyers is to track down both the assets you have now and the ones you may accrue later. They may keep an eye out for any future windfall long after any judgment and then try to use it to satisfy whatever you still owe.
Or perhaps we think we’re suckers for buying more insurance, since those same lawyers will then inflate claims in order to extract money from both the insurance company and our assets.
But that’s not how it works in the real world, according to Michael Jaffe, president of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association. “There’s always a jury trial that is potentially out there,” Mr. Jaffe said. “So I’m not going to get 5X just because someone has an insurance policy instead of X. A person’s insurance policy is not going to change the legal value of the case.”
The trial lawyers’ association backed a bill, which recently passed the Legislature, that would automatically increase uninsured and underinsured coverage (and hit-and-run motorist insurance, which is included in those policies) when consumers elect to buy more liability coverage. Drivers can still choose to opt out of increased uninsured coverage, however.
Given the long odds of a bad wreck with a big claim, you could roll the dice on inexpensive insurance and simply declare bankruptcy if you hurt someone badly enough. Anyone suing you probably won’t be able to get at your retirement savings in a 401(k) or similar plan or an individual retirement account and, in some states, may not be able to extract your home equity either.
This is not a bulletproof strategy, however, according to Edward C. Boltz, a Durham, N.C., bankruptcy lawyer. He notes that if you’re driving while under the influence, any judgment will stick with you even if you do file for bankruptcy. An injured party may also be able to prevent you from discharging a judgment if they can persuade a jury that your error on the road was somehow willful or malicious.
So we begin this process with what we think is a rational look at the numbers. We assess our assets and consider what money we might earn, win or inherit in the future. And again, that money might be vulnerable long after any judgments against us, since judgments tend to live on long after any trial.
But what we’re really talking about here is risk tolerance — how we feel after all we take in all of the data about the long odds of losing everything. “Not to be overly dramatic, but in some sense, when you pull out of that garage, you’re putting that at risk,” said J. J. Montanaro, a financial planner with the insurance company USAA.
Yes, he works for an insurance company, albeit on a salary that does not include incentives based on what he sells. But it helps frame the overarching questions in the right way.
Is it worth saving $25 or so a month to leave yourself exposed to the highly unlikely worst case? Or would you sleep better at night knowing that you could cross that off your list of things to worry about, assuming your insurance company doesn’t fight you or your heirs in court as Progressive did with the Fisher family?
I’m with the sleep-better crowd. But the only wrong answer to the question results from not considering all of the facts when asking it in the first place.
*Ron Lieber. (2012, August 24) Retrieved from www.newyorktimes.com