Recently in Wrongful Death Category

November 20, 2013

Kentucky Woman Struck and Killed By Train in West Virginia

Recently a 50-year old woman from Kentucky was killed in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, after being struck by a train. At close to 10 pm at night, the woman apparently was crossing the tracks when she was struck by a northbound Norfolk Southern train near the East German Street crossing and South Mill Street. Although emergency medical personnel reached her a short time later, it was too late and the woman was soon pronounced dead.

railway-tracks-1428076-m.jpgThe tragic accident is being investigated, and early reports suggested that the woman was walking with a man on the tracks. However so far, the Shepherdstown police, the West Virginia State Police, and other law enforcement agencies have been unable to find a second victim, or information on where a second person might have gone. It is believed that no foul play was committed.

The Shepherdstown police chief issued the following warning to residents of the area: do not walk on or near the train tracks. One reason is because the trains and their cars are wider than the tracks, so even those who are not on the tracks are still capable of being struck if they are too close to where the tracks lie. Furthermore, it may be possible to misjudge the speed at which the train is approaching, especially during times of darkness. All the individual may see is a light coming closer before the fatal collision.

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November 15, 2013

One Indiana Man Killed, Two Injured in a Steel Mill Accident

Recently, an iron worker from Valparaiso was killed and two others were injured in an accident at the ArcelorMittal Steel West Indiana Harbor. The 39-year old victim was a contract iron worker associated with Iron Workers Local 395 in Merryville. Details about the accident remain unclear, but the victim allegedly died of blunt force trauma near the steel mill's oxygen furnace caused by a falling metal plate. The other two workers -- also contract iron workers -- were transported to a hospital in East Chicago with injuries that were not considered life threatening.

worker-1-week-169773-m.jpgArcelorMittal personnel, along with United Steel Workers, the East Chicago police, and the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration are all currently investigating the situation. They will see whether any corrective measures need to be taken. The victim is survived by a wife and three children.

In situations where a worker is injured during the course of employment, the worker usually receives workers compensation payments until he or she can return to work. That is because most states (including Indiana) require that employers carry workers compensation insurance; if an employer complies, then injured workers are required to accept workers compensation payments and waive their right to file a lawsuit. In some respects, this arrangement benefits the workers, who can collect payments, in most cases, regardless of fault and without having to pay the expenses of litigation.

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September 10, 2013

Two Missouri Men Killed in a Speed Boat Accident on Kentucky's Lake Cumberland

This past weekend, two men from Missouri were killed in a speed boat accident in southern Kentucky. They were driving a high-powered speed boat on Lake Cumberland when, unexpectedly, the boat flipped over, throwing both men into the water. Their bodies were retrieved one hour later. Investigators attributed the accident to driver error.

The driver apparently was new to boat-water-trail-1343298-m.jpgspeed boating and was described by friends as an enthusiast. The two men were participating in an event known as the Lake Cumberland Power Run, which supposedly combined "the raw fury of over 150 of the country's meanest and fastest powerboats with the fun and energy of Mardi Gras." Yet the driver's inexperience may have led him to underestimate the potential speed of the boat he was powering. A Kentucky Fish and Wildlife investigator noted that the boat's top speed may have been as high as 100 miles per hour. When both men were ejected, the driver suffered blunt force trauma to the head, while the other man suffered blunt force trauma to his abdomen and lower extremities.

Despite the deadliness of boat accidents, not nearly as much attention is given to boat safety as car safety. In Kentucky, someone operating a boat unsupervised is required to get an education certificate in boat safety only if that person is between the ages of 12 and 17 and only if the motorized boat has more than 10 horsepower. The state's DMV encourages those who don't fall within the age range to get an education certificate anyway, but does not require it. Therefore, a Kentucky resident of the driver's age, with his level of experience, would not be required to obtain any sort of training prior to operating a high-speed boat. Instead, the only requirement is that the boat must be registered.

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February 16, 2013

Health Inspections Find Numerous Issues at Most Massachusetts Compounding Facilities

1285558_injection_needle_macro_2.jpgIn 2012, hundreds of people became ill and 46 people died as a result of tainted medication. The problem was traced back to a compounding facility in Massachusetts that has since closed. Steroid injections given to people with back pain had been contaminated and caused a meningitis outbreak that affected patients in 20 states. Shortly after the source of the outbreak was discovered, the Massachusetts Department of Health started doing surprise health inspections at the other compounding facilities across the state. Their findings, released in February 2013, were surprising and a little scary.

Inspectors visited 37 of these specialty pharmacies and discovered deficiencies at all but four of them. That means there were issues at 33 of the companies. Of this number, 11 had violations so serious that at least parts of their operations were temporarily shut down. One company voluntarily surrendered its license, and the other 21 had more minor violations and were allowed to stay open. Officials were quick to point out that this is not a one-state issue; Massachusetts just happens to be the one state that did these inspections. Some states don't even require their compounding facilities to comply with the guidelines checked by the inspectors in Massachusetts.

While none of the problems discovered were as bad as those found at the facility that caused the outbreak, it is still good that the issues were found and will be corrected. The state has dedicated funds to pay for more routine inspections of compounding pharmacies, and hopefully other states will follow in its footsteps.

Many victims of the meningitis outbreak have filed product liability lawsuits against the now-defunct compounding pharmacy, and the families of some of the victims who died have filed wrongful death claims. But because the company is no longer in business, it is unclear how much anyone would be awarded. Some of the victims may have also filed medical malpractice claims against the medical personnel that administered the tainted injections, but it remains to be seen if any of them will be held accountable.

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February 8, 2013

Proposed Bill Would Require Board Review of Kentucky Nursing Home Lawsuits

Kentucky nursing home abuse and neglect is far too prevalent already. Numerous residents throughout the Commonwealth suffer from bedsores, malnutrition, dehydration, and injuries from improper handling and medication errors. Now the Senate Health and Welfare Committee has approved a proposed bill that may make it harder for victims to file personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits against nursing homes.

Senate Bill 9 would require that any potential nursing home injury or wrongful death lawsuit be heard by a three-person medical panel before it could proceed in court. The panel would be created by both parties, with each party selecting one person and the third being agreed upon by both. The board's findings would then be admissible in court.

While this seems fair at first, there are foreseeable problems with this arrangement. First, it prolongs the amount of time it takes for a victim to be compensated for injuries or an estate to be compensated for the death of a loved one. Many families need this compensation sooner rather than later for medical bills or funeral expenses. Second, the medical professionals chosen by the victim and by both sides together may still be partial to the nursing home. Some may cast their votes against the victims to ensure that they are not blacklisted at the nursing home and unable to provide services there. There is no financial or professional benefit to being a proponent for a victim of nursing home abuse or neglect.

This seems to be a no-win situation for those who have suffered in a Kentucky nursing home. But there is perhaps a positive side to it. If by chance the medical board would rule in favor of the victim, this information could be very beneficial to the case. Having at least two out of three experts stating the resident's injuries were caused by the nursing home would make it hard for another expert to dispute in court.

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December 20, 2012

$109 Million Awarded to Family of Electrocution Victim in Personal Injury Lawsuit

After reading this title, most people are probably amazed - or even disgusted - by the amount of money mentioned. But once a little more information is given, it may seem more reasonable. Wrongful death cases such as this one take into account many different factors that people who have never been involved in this type of lawsuit don't consider.

First, a little background. In 2009, in Pennsylvania, a woman went into her back yard to call the local power company on her cell phone after the power went out in her home. This was the third time that the power line had failed. While she was outside, the power line, which was still live, fell on her. When her mother-in-law went outside to check on her, she discovered the victim being electrocuted and burned. She went into the yard and tried to help, but was immediately injured by the electricity and was unable to help. The mother-in-law and neighbors who wanted to assist could do nothing to help the victim until the power to the line was cut off 20 to 25 minutes later. She was eventually taken to the hospital, where she succumbed to her injuries three days later.

Not only did a woman lose her life, but she suffered immense pain before her death. To make matters worse, her mother-in-law and two daughters, who were two and four at the time, saw her being burned and electrocuted. That is something these survivors will most likely remember for the rest of their lives. Her husband lost his wife, and her children lost their mother in a horrific way.

Allegedly, this was not the first time that the power line failed. Two other times their house had lost power and the husband had notified the power company of the problem. The attorney for the victim claimed that workers for the electric company had been inadequately trained in how to splice wires so that they would not rust and come apart.

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November 20, 2012

Midland Texas Train Crash a Tragedy

One cannot look online or read a newspaper without seeing an article about the tragic accident in Midland, Texas. Numerous war veterans and their spouses were riding on a parade float being pulled by a semi-truck when it was hit by a train. Four veterans lost their lives and several other people were injured. As the victims and their families try to put their lives back together, investigators are trying to determine what caused this tragic accident.

One of the things they will examine is the train itself. Was it working properly? Did the horn sound at the appropriate time, at the right volume, for the length of time required? Were the brakes and other components of the train in working order? They will question the conductors and engineers who were on board when the train crash occurred about what they witnessed and if they noticed anything that may have contributed to the crash.

Investigators will also examine the tracks and crossing gates. Initial reports are stating that the lights were flashing and the crossing gate bells were ringing before the truck attempted to cross the tracks. But witnesses say they don't think the crossing signals and gates are activated soon enough to allow enough time for the gates to be completely down before the train crosses the intersection. News reports have discussed that the speed of the trains at this crossing has increased over the years, and maybe the gates have not been adjusted to take this change into account.

The investigators will also thoroughly investigate the truck that was pulling the float when the accident occurred. The truck was donated by a local Texas company and was driven by a fellow military veteran. The driver of the truck will be interviewed and his background will be checked to make sure he had the proper training to be driving the truck. He will most likely be asked if he heard the warning bells at the crossing or saw the flashing lights or gates. The company that owned the truck will be questioned as well.

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November 13, 2012

Latest Fatal Kentucky Drunk Driving Accident Kills Motorcyclist in Louisville

Yet another Kentuckian has lost his life to a drunk driver in a car accident this year. On November 5, 2012, a motorcyclist was rear-ended by a drunk driver while waiting for red light to change in Louisville, Kentucky. He was taken to a local hospital, but died from his injuries. The drunk driver also crashed into another car, causing it to hit a fourth vehicle. Fortunately, none of the people in these cars suffered life-threatening injuries.

What made this motorcycle accident even more horrible was the nonchalance in which the drunk driver responded to causing the crash. According to a witness, he got out of his car and demanded that someone give him a light for a cigarette. He then told police, "Just take me to jail, I'm drunk." He never once asked about the conditions of any of the people he had hit. Equally frustrating is the fact that this was not his first offense. He was convicted of DUI in 2005 and has a criminal record that includes reckless driving, marijuana possession and alcohol intoxication. This time he was charged with murder, DUI, wanton endangerment, assault, and driving without insurance.

Ideally, the penalty he receives from this latest accident would be severe enough to convince him never to drink and drive again. But this may not be the case. Despite the fact that drunk drivers injure and kill people on a daily basis, the laws and punishments do not seem to be enough to keep it from happening again. One additional way the drunk driver may be punished is if any of the injured victims or the family of the deceased victim decides to file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit against him. They can seek compensation for lost wages, medical bills, funeral expenses, and pain and suffering, among other things. They can also request another type of compensation called punitive damages. This type of damages is meant to punish the alleged defendant for his actions in the hopes that he will not drive drunk again.

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July 31, 2012

Company Faces Numerous Kentucky Nursing Home Wrongful Death, Negligence Suits

In the spring of 2012, Extendicare, a company that operated 21 nursing homes in Kentucky, stated its intent to lease all of the homes to a Texas company. Their reasons were that too many lawsuits were filed against them in Kentucky and that the state was not looking into tort reform to limit the amount of damages a plaintiff could be awarded in a nursing home abuse or negligence case.

Because of the number of lawsuits filed against just one of their long-term care facilities, Kenwood Health and Rehabilitation in Madison County, it is understandable why they would want to no longer operate this Kentucky nursing home. But based on the information reported by the Richmond Register, we think the high number of lawsuits is not because Kentuckians are more likely to file cases, but rather that the company was providing substandard care to its residents. The accusations of the five wrongful death lawsuits and one negligence suit filed in 2012 read like a laundry list of signs of nursing home abuse and neglect.

The first wrongful death case states the victim had bed sores, infections, was injured by falling, was malnourished and dehydrated, and eventually died. The second case also suffered from malnutrition and dehydration, but was also not treated promptly for a broken hip and was not given proper medication. Her suit alleges that the lack of proper care caused her health to deteriorate more quickly and led to an earlier death. Case number three says a resident's health was allowed to decline at the nursing home so drastically that he ended up in intensive care in a hospital with sepsis, dehydration, and renal failure, and he passed away 43 days later. The other cases allege similar neglect at the nursing home and two of the three victims have died. The last resident still lives at the facility.

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July 9, 2012

Heat is Dangerous to Loved Ones in Kentucky Nursing Homes

1134491_hot_hot_hot.jpgIt seems as if the majority of the U.S. has been sweltering in record-breaking heat the last couple weeks, and Kentucky residents are no exception. Louisville, Kentucky has had nine days with temperatures over 100 degrees and we are not even to the middle of July yet. It is important for everyone to be careful in this heat. Try not to stay out in the heat for extended periods of time; head for shade as much as possible if you have to be out; drink plenty of fluids; never leave anyone, people or dogs, in cars without the air conditioning running.

This information has been in the newspaper for the last several days. Something else that has been in the paper under this subject is the reminder to check on elderly relatives. While the articles were most likely talking about seniors who live on their own, it is also important to check on those who live in nursing homes or assisted living facilities.

In South Carolina, a nursing home resident died on June 30, 2012. The investigators believe her death was heat related and are awaiting the autopsy report. Family members of the victim said they visited her earlier in the day and the nursing home was hot. They did not see any air-conditioners in any of the rooms. The family went back to the nursing home the day after her death and there were air-conditioners in every room. The county coroner said it appeared that one of the air-conditioning units was not working on the day she died. The nursing home director said it was working but it just could not keep up with the heat. If the autopsy confirms her death was heat related, the family may be able to file a wrongful death suit against the nursing home because it was negligent in taking care of the resident.

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July 2, 2012

Wrongful Death Suit Filed Against Kentucky Group Home

There are many Kentucky residents who are unable to live alone, yet don't need the complete care offered by nursing homes. Assisted living is an option usually offered to senior residents. They live fairly independently in a small apartment or efficiency that is attached to the rest of the facility. They can have meals in the dining hall and their apartments are outfitted with pull cords that can be used if they need help. Younger people, however, tend to live in group homes if they are unable to completely care for themselves. A group home normally houses several adults with various disabilities and is overseen by an employee that lives at the home. Group home residents usually have their own room and are able to maintain some of their independence while being kept safe by the live-in caregiver.

Unfortunately that was not the case for a 35-year-old man who lived in a group home in Paint Lick, Kentucky. He suffered the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome and was unable to live on his own. In June, 2011, he was attacked by the home's caregiver - the one who was supposed to keep him safe from harm. The 22-year-old caregiver kicked and beat the victim who died from his injuries at a hospital.

The victim's father has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the employee who killed the victim and the company that ran the home, which was closed shortly after the incident. The suit claims that Community Ties is guilty of negligence because it "failed, refused or neglected to perform their duties to provide reasonable and adequate care" for the victim. The employee named in the lawsuit has already pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter and is awaiting his sentencing. While a guilty or not guilty finding in a criminal case does not always determine the outcome of a civil case, the fact that he pleaded guilty in the criminal case is certainly helpful for the victim's attorney in the civil case.

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May 24, 2012

Kentucky Truck Crash Involving Four Vehicles Kills Two Motorcyclists

A recent Kentucky truck accident involved multiple vehicles and cars, most of whom were not even from the area. On May 22, 2012, traffic on I-24 over the Ohio River near Paducah was moving slowly due to some construction. One driver did not slow or stop in time and rear-ended the car in front of him. Both of these drivers survived the accident with only minor injuries.

Unfortunately, this initial car accident led to another more deadly accident in the same area. Traffic was backed up from the initial accident in both westbound lanes when semi driver reached the scene. He allegedly did not slow down or stop. He hit the mirror on a pickup truck first, then crashed into a motorcycle. Both people were knocked off the motorcycle. The truck driver then hit another semi before coming to a stop. Both truck drivers were taken to the hospital with minor injuries. The motorcycle riders were not so lucky; they were pronounced dead at the scene.

This accident was very tragic in that it claimed the lives of two innocent victims. It was also very unusual because almost every person involved was from a different state and no one was a Kentucky resident. The truck driver who allegedly caused the accident was from Wisconsin. The two motorcycle riders were from North Carolina and Texas. The pickup truck and second semi-truck drivers were both from Illinois. This raises the question of where a lawsuit, if necessary, should be filed.

Generally, lawsuits are filed in the state in which the accident occurred. We'll use the above case as an example. The accident happened in Kentucky, so a lawsuit should be filed in Kentucky. Most attorneys are licensed to practice law in one or two states that are in close proximity to each other. So it is unlikely that an attorney from Texas or North Carolina - the home states of the victims in this accident - would be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Kentucky. It is also unlikely that the victims' families would know any Kentucky attorneys.

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May 6, 2012

As Personal Injury Lawsuits in Indiana Stage Collapse Continue, New Regulations Take Effect

The 2011 tragic stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair in Indianapolis continues to affect numerous people - those who lost loved ones, those who were injured, and those who may or may not have been at least partially responsible for the accident. In an attempt to figure out who other than Mother Nature was responsible, the State of Indiana contracted with two different firms, one to study the stage and the other to review what preparations were made in case of an emergency. The firms were also asked to give recommendations on how the state could prevent tragedies like this at future events.

According to one report, the fair board and Indiana police approached Sugarland, the band waiting to perform, about postponing the show more than once. Each time they asked, they were told the band did not want to postpone the show. However, during a deposition, one of the band members said she was never approached by anyone about cancelling or postponing the show, so attorneys are now looking at the band's touring manager as the one who may have put the concertgoers' lives at risk. The same report also faulted the fair board for not having a clear safety plan or chain of command in case of an emergency.

The other report found fault with the stage design. It was not built to withstand the high winds that brought down the stage rigging on the crowd. Over $80,000 in fines have been issued by the Indiana Department of Labor, including about $63,000 against Mid-America Sound, which built the stage for the fair. As a result of this accident, the Indiana Fire Prevention and Building Safety Commission passed new regulations regarding temporary stages for outdoor events in Indiana at the beginning of May this year. Larger venues will be required to have their stages and rigging plans reviewed by an engineer and will have to provide documented emergency plans. Those smaller fairs or festivals that most likely could not afford the additional cost of an engineer's review would be required to leave additional space between the stage and the crowd. An eight-foot area between the between the crowd and the tallest height of the rigging would be necessary to avoid being in violation of the regulations.

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April 23, 2012

Is Church Partially Responsible for Car Accident Death of Kentucky Teen?

Most Kentuckians are familiar with the tragic story of the death of 13-year-old Jamie Mitchell. On June 6, 2009, he was on a camping trip with the youth minister of his church. The youth minister, Derek Coulter, allowed Jamie to drive his SUV. Jamie lost control of the vehicle and crashed. Derek Coulter initially tried to cover up the actual cause of the car accident by telling everyone from police officers to the mourners at Jamie's funeral that he was driving and swerved to avoid hitting a deer. He also said that Jamie was wearing his seatbelt at the time of the car crash, but investigators could find no marks on his body to show that a seatbelt was on him. The truth was finally revealed by the 15-year-old passenger from the accident, who initially was afraid to say anything because Coulter had told them they would both get in trouble.

After the truth came out, Derek Coulter was arrested and charged with reckless homicide and sentenced to five years in prison. Jamie's mother is still shocked and heartbroken about her son's death and the lies Derek Coulter, who is her cousin, told her. "[H]e told me the whole time on the scene he held my son's hand until he let go and I don't even know if that's true" she said.

In the latest chapter of this tragedy, Jamie's parents have filed a civil wrongful death lawsuit against Coulter and the Big Springs Assembly of God Church in Bloomfield Kentucky, the church that employed Coulter at the time of the accident. Lawyers for both sides of the case have differing views as to whether or not the church could be held responsible for the accident. The attorney for the church claims that the camping trip was not a church-sponsored event, so effectively, Coulter was on his day off when the accident occurred. He also states that the function was not on the church schedule and did not happen on the grounds of the church, but rather on a farm.

Attorneys for the plaintiff have several arguments to counter the church attorney's statements. First, they have witnesses that will state that Coulter let multiple underage, unlicensed teens drive his SUV, both in the parking lot of the church and on the way to church functions. They also feel they can prove the campout was a church event. They state that all 10 children who attended were from the church; Coulter's wife told the kids they couldn't swear because it was a church event; Coulter himself referred to the campout as a church outing during the victim's eulogy; and the farm owner only offered to let Coulter and the kids camp on his property because he was approached through the church about it and was under the impression it was a church event.

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April 20, 2012

Why Those Serving in the Military in Kentucky Cannot File Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

Much of the discussion regarding medical malpractice today revolves around the "caps" being put on damages awards in certain states. People argue for and against these caps based largely on whether they are members of the medical profession or have been injured or known someone who was injured by a doctor, nurse, or other medical person.

One segment of the population is not affected by these caps because they are not allowed to file medical malpractice claims when they are injured by someone in a medical field. These are the same people who protect our freedom both in the U.S. and abroad. They are the members of the U.S. military.

Back in the 1950s, a soldier was killed in a barracks fire. His family sued the government for negligence that led to his wrongful death. The Supreme Court determined that the federal government could not be held liable for his death because he was an active member of the military. Because the soldier's last name was Feres, this decision by the Supreme Court, which has stood ever since, is called the Feres Doctrine. In defense of this doctrine, the government states that service members are compensated in other ways, such as through disability assistance available to veterans, pensions, and VA medical care.

This serves as little consolation to the most recent service member to challenge the Feres Doctrine. In July 2009, and Air Force airman went to a military medical center in California to have his gall bladder removed. During the surgery, a doctor cut his aorta, causing massive internal bleeding that was not corrected until he was transferred to a civilian hospital several hours later. By then, he had lost so much blood that both of his legs had to be amputated. He has so little of his legs left that his prosthetics are uncomfortable to wear and he spends most of his time in a wheelchair. He is only 23 years old. He and his wife have filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the government requesting over $50 million in damages to compensate for lost income, pain and suffering, disfigurement, and loss of a marital relationship, among other things.

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