March 9, 2012

Proposed Kentucky Legislation Regarding Lawsuits against Nursing Homes

On February 1, 2012, state Representative Melvin Henley introduced new legislation that would change the way nursing home abuse and neglect cases would be handled in Kentucky. The proposed legislation, House Bill 361, would require all complaints of abuse or neglect against any long-term care facility to be heard by a medical review panel before the case could proceed to trial.

The medical review panel would be comprised of one attorney and three doctors. The attorney would be agreed upon by the facility and the resident first; then the selected attorney would help them find the physicians. After hearing from both sides, the three physicians would each vote whether or not they thought the claim was valid. The parties could use this information to settle the claim, to drop the charges, or to move forward toward trial, with the medical review panel's opinion as potential evidence.

Proponents of the bill state that it does not prohibit nursing home residents from taking their cases to trial, nor does it limit the amount of damages that could be awarded. They also point to Indiana and Louisiana as states that have seen a drop in liability costs since they adopted the use of medical review panels. They view this as a result of frivolous lawsuits being stopped before they go to trial.

Those who oppose the bill, including AARP of Kentucky and the Kentucky Justice Association think the bill will be detrimental to those seeking justice. Residents or their families that have already been injured or suffered the loss of a loved one because of nursing home neglect or abuse would now have one more hoop to jump through before receiving any compensation they are owed. Those wanting to pursue legal action may have to pay a $100 fee for the medical review board, and adding this extra step will likely delay the final outcome of the case, causing additional emotional and financial stress. "The overall concept of increasing costs and delaying justice for people who are doing nothing wrong" is not appropriate, stated Maresa Fawns, the executive director of the Kentucky Justice Association. She also noted that some studies have shown that the medical review boards tend to vote in favor of the long-term care facilities over the victims.

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February 29, 2012

Family of Kentucky Nursing Home Neglect Victim Awarded $8 Million

A retired doctor was living in Treyton Oak Towers nursing home in Louisville, Kentucky. The resident allegedly suffered from osteoporosis and had a care plan in place regarding how he was to be moved. A care plan is often created by a hospital or physician when a nursing home or assisted living resident requires care that differs from the normal care given by the facility. In this case, the attorney for the resident alleged that his care plan called for two assistants to be used when moving him.

In September 2008, the victim's family claims he was moved by only one person without the use of a lift and that both of his legs were broken during the move. Because he had previously suffered a stroke, he was unable to tell anyone about the pain he was suffering. The lawsuit filed on his behalf stated that the nursing home attempted to cover up the situation and that his broken legs were not discovered until September 24, 2008. He was transferred to a hospital for the broken bones, and was later relocated to a different nursing home. He succumbed to his injuries on November 3, 2008.

While the attorneys for the nursing home tried to convince the jury how much the victim meant to them, and that he was never abused or neglected, the jury still found in favor of the victim, awarding his estate $8 million in damages. Of this total, $1 million was awarded because the nursing home violated Kentucky's nursing home statute. Numerous patient rights are covered by KRS 216.515, the statute that covers the rights of residents and the duties of the facility. The lawsuit in this case may have included the violation of one or more of the following sections:

Section 6 - "All residents shall be free from mental and physical abuse..."

Section 19 - "Every resident and the responsible party...has the right to be fully informed of the resident's medical condition..."

Section 22 - "The resident's responsible party or family member...shall be notified immediately of any accident, sudden illness, disease, unexplained absence, or anything unusual involving the resident."

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February 21, 2012

Kentucky Woman Dies after being given Wrong Prescription at Pharmacy

In November 2010, a woman went to the Walgreens on Stony Brook Drive in Jeffersontown, Kentucky to get her prescription filled. She had been suffering with high blood pressure among other things and needed hydralazine to treat it. Unfortunately, the pharmacist that took the prescription from her gave her hydroxine, an antihistamine, instead. Because of the error, the woman did not receive the proper treatment for her high blood pressure for two weeks. By the time the error was found, she had to be hospitalized and she died soon after.

The victim's family filed a wrongful death lawsuit on February 15, 2012 in Jefferson Circuit Court. The suit claims that the pharmacist on duty did not counsel the victim on the medication. If he had, he would have noticed the mistake and the proper medication could have been dispensed immediately. Both the pharmacist and Walgreen Corporation are named as defendants in the lawsuit. Compensatory and punitive damages are being requested in the claim.

A wrongful death lawsuit can be filed for numerous reasons. In this case, the victim was treated improperly because she was given the wrong medication, which is considered a type of medical malpractice. Fatal car accidents caused by drunk drivers, drivers under the influence of drugs, or other distracted drivers can result in a wrongful death lawsuit. A lawsuit of this kind can be filed if someone is killed by faulty products or equipment. A good example of this situation is the stage collapse at the Indianapolis, Indiana fairgrounds that killed several people. Deaths from nursing home negligence or abuse can also be cause for a wrongful death lawsuit.

Wrongful death lawsuits are filed by the estate of the victim, most often a family member. The statute of limitations in Kentucky, which is how long the estate has to file suit, is a bit confusing. After a victim has died, the family has up to two years to appoint a representative and to file a lawsuit. Once a representative has been named, a suit must be filed within one year. So if a representative is appointed two days after the victim's death, the estate has one year and two days after the death to file a claim because a representative has been appointed. If the estate waits 18 months to find a representative, there are only six months left in which to file a claim before the two-years-after-death deadline.

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February 16, 2012

Two Kentucky Car Accident Fatalities caused by Drunk Drivers

1083566_the_last_drop_.jpgOn Sunday, February 5, 2012, Robert Kempf was driving on I-71 near the Watterson Expressway in Louisville, Kentucky when a fatal accident occurred. Based on a preliminary investigation, this tragic car accident could have been avoided.

Robert Kempf and his friend had been watching the Super Bowl that Sunday, visiting with friends, drinking some alcohol. Later that night, Mr. Kempf got in his 1995 white Corvette with his friend. Once on I-71, he started speeding and lost control of the vehicle. Investigators are unsure if he ran off the road and rolled the car or if the car rolled over until it left the road. Either way, his 49-year-old passenger was killed when the car rolled onto its roof. How Mr. Kempf was able to walk away with minor injuries is a mystery.

What is not a mystery are the factors involved in this crash. First, Mr. Kempf was driving over the posted speed limit, which makes it more difficult to control a vehicle. Second, Mr. Kempf had been drinking prior to driving the vehicle. Being under the influence of drugs or alcohol seriously hinders a driver's ability to safely operate a vehicle. Mr. Kempf certainly should have been aware of this, especially since he has been arrested for DUI three other times in Louisville. He has been charged again with DUI in this case too. However, this time is a little different because he has also been charged with murder.

A similar case is unfolding now, also in Louisville. John Koerner of Clarksville, Indiana was driving on Grinstead Drive with two passengers in his car on February 10th when he lost control of the vehicle and hit a tree. One of his passengers was ejected from the vehicle during the accident. According to witnesses, Mr. Koerner and Kristy Harper, the other passenger, fled the scene. They were both found shortly after they ran. The injured passenger was taken to the hospital and the driver was charged with leaving the scene of an accident, driving under the influence, assault and wanton endangerment. Ms. Harper was charged with leaving the scene of an accident and public intoxication.

Unfortunately, the injured passenger succumbed to a brain injury on February 15th, raising the possibility that Mr. Koerner could now be charged with murder.

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February 7, 2012

Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Ends in $1.5 Million in Indiana, Another Begins in Kentucky

A medical malpractice suit has ended in the victim's favor in New Albany, Indiana, and a new case has been filed in Taylor County, Kentucky. The first case altered a young woman's life forever, and the second case took the life of a woman completely.

A 21-year-old woman went to Floyd Memorial Hospital because of abdominal pain on June 5, 2003. She was told by Dr. William Garner that she required surgery the next day. Dr. Garner changed his mind about the surgery the next day, then left for the weekend. By June 8th, the patient's condition had dramatically worsened and she had emergency surgery to remove her bowel. She filed a medical malpractice lawsuit contending that if the doctor had continued to have her monitored in his absence, her need to have surgery would have been discovered sooner and more of her bowel could have been saved.

As a result of the delayed surgery, the suit alleges that the victim's life has been negatively affected. She finds it impossible to work. Her body processes food in 30 minutes, rather than the normal six to eight hours, so she is unable to obtain proper nutrition from the things she eats. She also suffers from bloating.

In January, 2012, the jury agreed with the victim and awarded her $1.5 million in damages.
The amount was reduced by the courts to $1.25 million due to a state limit on medical malpractice awards. Some may think a jury of the victim's peers may have not been fair because they are not in the medical profession. But Indiana requires all medical malpractice claims to be reviewed by a panel of three impartial doctors before they can go to trial, and all three agreed with the victim and allowed the case to go to trial.

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January 30, 2012

Kentucky Couple Files Product Liability Suit against Kraft Foods

716277_kd.jpgOn September 21, 2011, Leamon Perkins of Pine Knot, Kentucky in McCreary County ate a bowl of microwavable Velveeta Shells and Cheese. He became very ill and ended up in surgery on September 29, 2011. According to his doctors, Mr. Perkins' small bowel was perforated with a small piece of metal that showed up on a CT scan and he had contracted peritonitis. The surgeon removed the portion of his small bowel that had been damaged by the sliver of metal and the metal piece itself.

The next day, Kraft Foods, the manufacturer of the macaroni and cheese recalled 137,000 cases of the product "as a precaution due to the possible presence of small, thin wire bristle pieces," according to the FDA recall press release. The recall was voluntary, as opposed to FDA-mandated, and Kraft stated it had not received any complaints or heard of anyone being injured.

Mr. Perkins filed a product liability lawsuit this month against Kraft. Why he waited so long to file the lawsuit is unknown. It is possible that he was not aware of the product recall until recently, so he did not put the two together. Kentucky law allows individuals to file product liability claims up to one year after the injury occurred, so he was well within the filing period.

In the lawsuit, Mr. Perkins is seeking $6 million in damages. The amount includes both compensatory and punitive damages. His wife has requested $500,000 in damages for loss of consortium. Compensatory damages often include lost wages and medical bills, as well as other less tangible items, such as physical and emotional distress. Loss of consortium is most often claimed by a spouse for lost or interrupted marital relations related to the accident. It can also be claimed by a parent or child of a victim for a reduction or termination of affection because of the victim's injuries. Punitive damages are not related to a particular loss, but instead serve to punish the defendant for the incident that occurred. Many plaintiffs claim punitive damages in an attempt to deter the defendant from allowing a similar incident to occur in the future.

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January 24, 2012

Kentucky Nursing Home being investigated by Attorney General's Office

Placing a loved one in a nursing home or other long-term care facility can be a difficult decision. As people get older, they are unable to care for themselves, and leaving them in a private home or apartment without supervision can be dangerous. Relocating them to a place where they can receive the assistance and supervision they need can be the right choice. Unfortunately, nursing home residents can encounter dangerous or inappropriate situations as well in the form of abuse or neglect.

The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services Office is in place to help protect nursing home residents. If the office determines a facility has acted inappropriately, it issues a citation. Citations range in severity, with a Type A citation being the most serious. This citation level is given when a state regulation has been violated and a resident's life or safety has been put in jeopardy. All Type A citations are reported to the Kentucky Attorney General's office, which reviews the citations and determines whether or not the case should be assigned to a prosecutor.

The Kentucky Attorney General's office is currently reviewing a Type A citation that it received regarding Charleston Health Care Center in Danville, Kentucky. The citation is related to two incidents that occurred in the summer of 2011. On July 20th, a resident alleges that he or she was hit on the head, two times on each side, then covered with a pillow. The aide was suspended for two days while the allegation was investigated, but the nursing home and the family of the resident decided the accusation was probably false because of the mental status of the resident. A medical assistant did notice a small bruise on the resident's face that was not there previously, which may lend some credibility to the accusation.

Later that same summer, on August 10th, the same nurse's aide was found curled up in bed next to a patient by a staff member. When the staff member confronted him, he kissed the patient on the cheek and said "no one cared what he did." Two days after this incident, the administration became aware of it and the aide was fired.

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January 18, 2012

Louisville, Kentucky Settles More Personal Injury Lawsuits from Zoo Train Derailment

1350732_train_tracks_1.jpgOn June 1, 2009, a small passenger train that has run for many years around the perimeter of the Louisville Zoo in Kentucky derailed, spilling all of its passengers out of the cars. While there were no fatalities, 22 people, including 17 children, were sent to hospitals with injuries. Multiple personal injury lawsuits have been filed as a result of this accident.

Shortly after the accident, lawsuits were filed by multiple plaintiffs against different defendants, including Chance Rides Manufacturing, Mary Coffey, and the Louisville Zoo. The first defendant, Chance Rides Manufacturing, is the company that manufactured and sold the train to the zoo. Claims against the company are likely product liability claims, which state that a company knowingly has manufactured and distributed a dangerous or faulty product that has caused property damage or personal injury. Mary Coffey was operating the train when it derailed. She has been charged with negligence in some of the cases based on reports that the train was going too fast and that she was not experienced enough to be running the train when the accident occurred. The lawsuits against the Louisville Zoo could contain a variety of charges including negligence for allowing Ms. Coffey to operate the train without proper training and not properly maintaining the train or the tracks. A couple of the lawsuits also included restraining orders in an attempt to prohibit the zoo from moving the train before it could be examined by experts hired by the plaintiffs.

Over $500,000 has been paid by the city of Louisville to settle 23 claims, including $150,000 this month. This amount does not include legal fees, which are upwards of $175,000 already. Some of the largest claims are still to come, including one filed by a family that had four individuals injured. The father suffered serious injuries to his legs and has already incurred over $350,000 in medical expenses. Damages in this type of case typically will not only include medical expenses, but also lost wages, loss of future earnings, and compensation for emotional distress for both the victim and his family. Considering the extent of injuries and number of people involved, the award in this case may end up being in the millions. This claim is one of six remaining claims that will most likely be mediated and settled without a trial.

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture investigated the accident. The department's final report noted excessive speed, an inexperienced driver, and the poor condition of the train as the most likely causes of the accident. The Louisville Zoo has purchased two new trains since the accident and hopes to have them running in the spring or summer of 2012.

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January 10, 2012

Woman Sues Drug Companies over Drug Given to Her Mother before Birth

72201_prescription_med.jpgBetween 1940 and the early 1970s, millions of expectant mothers were given the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES) to help prevent miscarriages and premature births. A study in 1971 found a potential link between the drug and an increased risk for vaginal cancer in young women whose mothers took DES. Doctors were told to stop prescribing it. Many product liability lawsuits have been filed over the years by women who allegedly have vaginal cancer, cervical cancer, or infertility issues as a result of their mothers being given DES during pregnancy.

In a recent lawsuit, a Boston woman is claiming something different. Arline MacCormack developed breast cancer when she was 44. While many women have breast cancer at that age or even younger, her type of cancer is typically not seen in women younger than 60.

After discovering research that linked DES to a significant increase in breast-cancer risks for women, Ms. MacCormack filed her lawsuit against several drug companies that manufactured and sold the drug to women like her mother in the 1960s. Her suit alleges that the drug companies were not only aware that DES did not prevent a woman from having a miscarriage, but also that there were safety issues with the drug that the companies kept from physicians.

The drug companies have filed pre-trial motions stating there is no scientific evidence regarding this supposed link between DES and breast cancer, and the presiding judge has heard testimony from experts for the companies and Ms. MacCormack. If the judge grants the companies' motion, the case will not go to trial. If their motion is denied, the case will go to trial.

Drug liability cases can become very complex. In the case above, the plaintiff, Ms. MacCormack is seeking restitution for a drug that was not even given to her directly, but to her mother 50 years ago. While this can make a case more challenging, this situation is not that uncommon. Side effects of drugs given to women during pregnancy can take years to show up in their offspring. Other types of product liability cases, such as those involving asbestos, can also have a significant delay between the time of the exposure and the appearance of symptoms. Trying to prove which company manufactured and sold the drug that a particular individual took many years ago would be difficult, so oftentimes multiple companies are included in the suit and may share the liability and be required to pay damages.

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January 3, 2012

Kentucky Ranked as One of Worst States for Driving, but Car Accident Fatalities Decline

In late 2011, collected information from several sources and compiled a list of the best and worst states in which to drive. Factors included the number of accident deaths, drunk drivers and traffic tickets, and how many drivers were cited for failing to obey traffic signals. Kentucky ranked as the seventh worst state for driving. According to the report, this is not surprising since states in the south seemed to fair worse in the ranking than those in the north. It does to say to keep in mind that many of the northern states are smaller than their southern counterparts, which means people are driving fewer miles to reach their destinations. Also, many of the northern states have large metropolitan areas, such as New York City and Boston, where many people do not own cars, relying on public transportation instead.

While drivers may dispute whether or not their state is one of the worst to drive in, it does seem to have an effect on insurance rates. Louisiana, which was ranked as the worst state for driving, had the highest insurance rates according to several different sources. One source ranked Kentucky as being the 19th most expensive insurance, which isn't the worst, but certainly isn't the best news for Kentucky drivers. Other factors are obviously involved in insurance rates, such as the values of the cars being insured in the state and what kind of coverage a state requires their drivers to carry.

High scores for both drunk driving and driving carelessly landed Kentucky in the number seven slot on the list. While the former may seem to be a more serious offense than the latter, careless driving can be just as deadly. Numerous Kentuckians have lost their lives in the last year due to careless drivers, including the 11 people killed in a van that was hit by a trucker distracted by his cell phone.

Kentucky also ranks seventh in car accident fatalities. Fortunately, this number dropped again in 2011. As of December 21, 701 people had died in car accidents in 2011. This is a significant decrease from 750 in 2010 and a large improvement over 845 deaths in 2007. Kentucky State Police attribute this decrease not only to their efforts in educating drivers and enforcing the laws, but also to drivers paying more attention to driving and being less distracted behind the wheel. Police spokesman David Jude said "distracted driving is really on people's minds and it's starting to make a difference."

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December 21, 2011

Fatal Indiana and Kentucky Bridge Car Accident Caused by Seizure

A Louisville, Kentucky man was killed in a car accident on the Clark Memorial Bridge between Indiana and Kentucky on December 2, 2011. He was hit head-on by another vehicle headed in the opposite direction. The driver of the pickup truck that caused the accident was not intoxicated, did not fall asleep behind the wheel, and was not distracted by a cell phone or car radio. According to an eye witness, the driver of the pickup truck appeared to be having a seizure when the accident occurred. The passenger in the truck attempted to keep it out of incoming traffic but was unable to do so. Who is at fault when an accident occurs as a result of a medical condition? Can the passenger be held liable for the accident? Both of these questions arise in this accident.

A few days after the accident, the eyewitness account that the driver had a seizure was confirmed. The Courier-Journal reported that he was on medication for epilepsy, a condition that causes a person to have seizures. While the thought of someone who might have a seizure driving a vehicle may be frightening, it is not illegal. Kentucky law states an individual who is certified by a doctor to have been seizure-free for 90 days can apply for a driver's license. The Kentucky Medical Review Board will review the application and most likely interview the applicant before deciding whether the individual can drive. If the individual is given a license, he must continue to be monitored by his physician and report any seizures that occur. There are several ways that the medical review board can become aware of a person's potential inability to drive, as shown in this excerpt from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet:

  • If the driver has indicated that he has "blacked out", lost consciousness or suffered a seizure prior to a reportable motor vehicle accident;

  • If the driver has been reported by a physician as being incapable of driving safely due to a physical or mental condition, or due to medication prescribed for an extended period of time;

  • If the driver has been reported by a law enforcement officer after being observed driving or behaving in an erratic or dangerous manner which indicates the possibility of a physical or mental impairment;

  • If the driver's official record kept by the Transportation Cabinet indicates a possibility of a physical or mental impairment;

  • If the driver has reported that he suffered an epileptic seizure or any type of syncopal episode;

  • If the driver has been reported by a commonwealth attorney, county attorney, county clerk, circuit clerk, sheriff or judge as being incapable of driving due to a physical or mental impairment.

  • If the driver has been named in an affidavit by at least two citizens as being incapable of properly operating a motor vehicle due to a physical or mental impairment.

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December 12, 2011

Ice Causing Accidents Already on Kentucky Roadways

929304_icy_conditions_1.jpgOn the last day of November, a Hopkinsville, Kentucky car accident took the life of a woman who was riding in a pickup truck driven by her husband. According to an eye witness, the truck was not speeding, but it appeared to hit a patch of black ice on a bridge. The truck slid into a guard rail on the other side of KY 1682 bypass, went over the rail and down an embankment. The passenger side of the truck ran into a tree at the bottom of the embankment, causing the death of the passenger and multiple injuries to the driver.

In Louisville, Kentucky, multiple accidents appear to have been caused by ice on the interstates during the December 8th morning rush hour. Just on the stretch of I-64 between 9th and 22nd Streets, police responded to 18 accidents between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. Fortunately only three involved injuries that were not life-threatening. Three accidents also occurred on I-71, and 265 was the scene of a multi-vehicle accident. The interstates had not been treated with brine because there was no precipitation in the forecast. National Weather Service hydrologist Mike Callahan attributed the icy conditions to moisture from the heavy rains the area experienced recently still on the roadways.

Icy roads are a fact of life in Kentucky this time of year, and extra precautions should be taken when driving on them. The Weather Channel offers the following tips for driving on ice:

  1. Decrease your speed and leave yourself plenty of room to stop. You should allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you.
  2. Brake gently to avoid skidding. If your wheels start to lock up, ease off the brake.
  3. Turn on your lights to increase your visibility to other motorists.
  4. Keep your lights and windshield clean.
  5. Use low gears to keep traction, especially on hills.
  6. Don't use cruise control or overdrive on icy roads.
  7. Be especially careful on bridges, overpasses and infrequently traveled roads, which will freeze first. Even at temperatures above freezing, if the conditions are wet, you might encounter ice in shady areas or on exposed roadways like bridges.
  8. Don't pass snow plows and sanding trucks. The drivers have limited visibility, and you're likely to find the road in front of them worse than the road behind.
  9. Don't assume your vehicle can handle all conditions. Even four-wheel and front-wheel drive vehicles can encounter trouble on winter roads.

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December 5, 2011

Tis the Season for Kentucky Car Accidents Involving Deer

A tragic accident that began with a minivan hitting a deer on the Indiana tollway early last month ended up taking the lives of seven people and injuring three more. The minivan struck the deer, slowed down or stopped, and was hit by a semi. While the collision with the deer did not actually cause the fatalities and injuries, it triggered the rest of the event.

October, November, and December are the worst months of the year for deer accidents because the deer are breeding. Kentucky State Police state that 47 percent of all car accidents involving deer occur in these three months. The peak times of day are between 5:00 and 8:00, both in the morning and evening. A 21-year-old was driving his Chevy pickup in Christian County in Kentucky in November of this year when a deer jumped through the windshield, killing him and injuring his 14-year-old brother. The officers that responded to the accident said it occurred around 6:00 p.m.

Generally more deer are found near wooded areas, but they can appear anywhere, even in the suburbs and industrial areas. Western Kentucky counties that normally have the highest number of deer collisions include Hopkins, Henderson, Daviess and Muhlenberg. While deer populations are higher in more rural areas, which some may think would increase the number of accidents, the number of vehicles traveling in these areas are fewer, so there are not as many cars for the deer to hit. More heavily-traveled roads may be in areas with smaller numbers of deer, but the increased number of vehicles causes the collision rate to increase.

Deer accidents are frequently unavoidable, but some precautions can be taken. Pay attention to deer crossing signs. Studies have shown that posting these signs has actually decreased the number of deer-vehicle accidents. Do not become distracted by cell phones, food, radios, or other items in the vehicle; focus all your attention on the road. Use high-beam headlights when traveling in the dark. If you see one deer cross the road, slow down and allow any other deer traveling with it to cross before you proceed. Deer are usually not alone. Always wear your seatbelt. According to Kentucky State Police, most people injured or killed in collisions with deer were not properly restrained. If you hit a deer and it remains in the road, do not approach it or attempt to help it. A scared, injured deer could injure you in its attempt to get up and get away from the vehicle.

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November 28, 2011

Are Kentucky Hit-and-Run Accident Penalties Tough Enough?

Up until 2008, leaving the scene of a car or truck accident was a misdemeanor and could result in a fine between $20.00 and $2000.00 and a jail term not longer than one year. In 2006, a 14-year-old boy was killed by a hit-and-run driver in Owensboro, Kentucky. The driver was found and was sentenced to only seven months in jail.

In response to the boy's death, legislators introduced a new law, called "Eric's Law" in honor of the Owensboro victim, which makes leaving the scene of an accident with injuries or death a class D felony. The penalty for this class of felony is one to five years in jail and a fine up to $10,000, which can be reduced by $10 for every hour of community service performed. The law was enacted in 2008.

Numerous hit-and-run accidents have occurred in Kentucky since the law was put in place, including the 2008 accident that killed two young girls when the driver was trying to elude police during a traffic stop. That driver was caught and was eventually found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison. One might wonder if the tougher hit-and-run penalties make a difference in deadly accidents that end in murder charges. But in the case of an involuntary manslaughter charge, or an accident that causes serious injury but not death, it can increase the defendant's jail time and fine significantly, maybe even enough to make the individual think twice about leaving the scene of an accident.

There are several reasons why someone might leave the scene of an accident. In the case of the two young girls that were killed near the University of Louisville, the driver was fleeing from police when the accident occurred. Some drivers may not want to see the damages or injuries they have caused. Others may be afraid of the legal consequences, so they flee in the hopes they do not get caught later. One reason may be how current penalties for leaving the scene of an accident compare to the penalties for drunk driving. Currently the penalty for killing someone while driving intoxicated is five to 10 years in jail. This penalty is much stiffer than the one to five years given for leaving the scene of the accident. This disparity may cause some individuals who have been drinking to flee the scene initially and turn themselves in later when they are sober. Prosecutor Ray Larson thinks the hit-and-run laws need to be even tougher to discourage people from leaving a car accident. A person staying at the scene and getting help versus leaving the scene could mean the difference between life and death for the injured person.

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November 21, 2011

Kentucky Company Found Negligent in Truck Accident

Kentucky trucking company Dunaway Timber Company has been ordered to pay $7 million in damages to the family of a Missouri man who was killed by one of their truck drivers in Yellville Arkansas. On September 3, 2008, Morgan Quisenberry was driving a tractor-trailer when it crossed the center line and hit two passenger vehicles before colliding with the cab of the victim's tractor-trailer. The victim was able to climb out of the cab, but became trapped under the burning vehicle. He died before arriving at the hospital, leaving a wife and two children.

This was not the first truck accident Mr. Quisenberry had caused. Before being hired by Dunaway, he had been in an accident while hauling hazardous materials. He had also lost his license twice for driving under the influence. While Dunaway Timber wasn't aware of these infractions because Mr. Quisenberry lied on his application, the information could have been obtained through a background search that would have taken little time and cost the company about $15.00.

While Mr. Quisenberry was not actually intoxicated at the time of the accident, he was fatigued, which can have the same effect on a person's driving ability as being under the influence of alcohol or drugs. He had been driving three hours longer than allowed. Laws forbid truck drivers to drive more than 11 out of 14 straight hours before taking a 10-hour break. Mr. Quisenberry knew that he had exceeded the number of hours allowed and falsified the information in his log book.

Taking all of this information into consideration, the jury determined that the driver was 25 percent responsible for the accident and the company was 75 percent responsible. How can the company be more responsible than the person actually operating the vehicle? The company hired Quisenberry without doing a background check on his driving record and sent him out only 19 days after he was hired, allegedly without adequate training. The route the company assigned to him could not be completed in less than 13 hours, well over the 11-hour driving limit, forcing him to drive while fatigued. Supervision and oversight by the company were lacking. All of these factors caused the jury to find Dunaway Timber guilty of negligent hiring and negligent supervision. The driver's smaller percentage of fault was most likely attributed to his allowing the trailer of his truck to cross over the center of the road while he was driving around a curve and falsifying the number of hours he had driven in one shift in his log book.

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